According to the degree of compliance of the combat effectiveness of the ship with its destination, our aircraft carrier is inferior to the “American” in local conflicts about 14 percent, in a large-scale war - approximately 10 percent. At the same time, Kuznetsov surpasses Chinese Liaoning in 10 and 6 percent by the same indicators, respectively.
Aircraft carriers - the foundation of the American fleet. They should have taken their rightful place in the Soviet Navy. Did not happen. However, they can become, and in the short term, in 15–20 years, the core of the surface forces of the PLA Navy. Therefore, a comparison of such ships is very important for assessing the combat capabilities of the fleets as a whole.
In addition, the aircraft carriers reflect the highest achievements in the field of not only shipbuilding, but also aviation. Therefore, a comparative analysis is also important for assessing the technological level of states in the respective sectors.
The comparison technique for regular readers is known (“Sea battle with a shadow:“ Moscow ”against“ Ticonderoga ”). It begins with a selection of matching ships. One of them, naturally, should be our only aircraft carrier (more precisely, a heavy aircraft carrying cruiser) of the 1143.5 Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov project or simply Kuznetsov. The main competitor of Russia in the seas and oceans has been and remains the United States, so it is quite correct to choose for comparison the main type of the American aircraft carrier - the Nimitz. We could stop at this, but today we are actively developing water areas, starting to build up a naval confrontation with the United States and China. Therefore, it is advisable to take for comparison also the Chinese "Liaoning", he is the former Soviet "Varyag".
The next stage is the analysis of the tasks that aircraft carriers intend to solve. Ships of this class in various states, despite their versatility, have specificity. Some are designed primarily for solving anti-submarine defense tasks (PLO), such as the British Invincible type, others are focused on the air defense of naval connections in the sea, this directly applies to Kuznetsov, others are truly universal. An example of the latter are just American.
Aircraft carriers vary in size with the corresponding differences of air groups and combat capabilities. The number of aircraft of various classes varies widely: from 8 – 12 on light aircraft carriers with a predominantly anti-submarine mission to 90 – 95 in heavy universal ones. At the same time, the specificity of fleets is such that giants are far from being needed by everyone. Ships of this class are built in relation to specific tasks that arise from the concept of the combat use of fleet forces. Therefore, comparing aircraft carriers from different countries as ships colliding in battle against each other is incorrect, because they will act as part of different groups. And even if it happens that the aircraft carriers will be in opposing groups, they will solve different tasks. Some will perform the main striking force, others will ensure the actions of the compound solving the main tasks. Therefore, it makes sense to compare aircraft carriers from different countries only in the degree to which their capabilities correspond to what is required of them.
Analysis of the tasks shows that the nomenclature of those for all aircraft carriers is about the same, but the value of each is strictly individual and in accordance with the assessment methodology it must be assigned a “weighting factor”.
According to the experience of the post-war years, aircraft carriers are actively used in armed conflicts and local wars of various sizes. And they will be one of the main components of the groups of opposing fleets with the start of hostilities between them. Accordingly, when comparing, it is necessary to consider two variants of conditions of application: in a local conflict against a weak naval enemy and in a large-scale war.
In general, all three types of aircraft carriers will participate in solving the following main tasks, according to which we will compare them: the destruction of enemy carrier strike and multipurpose groups, the defeat of large groups of surface ships (KUG and KPUG), the fight against submarines, the repelling of air strikes attacks, fire impact on ground objects.
In a local war against a weak enemy, we can estimate (taking into account the likelihood of attracting carrier-based aviation) the weights of the significance of the tasks as follows: defeat groups of surface ships and boats - 0,1, destruction of submarines - 0,05, repelling enemy air attacks - 0,3, attacking ground targets - 0,55. The proportions are derived from the analysis of the use of aircraft carriers in the wars of the late XX - early XXI century and apply equally to both the Russian and the American and Chinese ships. Obviously, the task of destroying enemy carrier-carrying forces is not worth it.
In a large-scale war, the weights are distributed differently and differ with respect to the ships of the countries in question. For Kuznetsov, the values can be estimated as follows: the destruction of enemy carrier strike and multipurpose groups - 0,15, surface ships - 0,15, submarines - 0,25, reflection of air attack - 0,35, work on ground targets - 0,1.
For Nimitz, the coefficients are distributed differently: the destruction of enemy aircraft carriers - 0,05 (the main geopolitical opponents of the United States - Russia and China each have one aircraft carrier with limited impact capabilities, which determines the minimum significance of this task for the “American”), the defeat of surface ships - 0,3, submarines - 0,05, reflection of air attack - 0,15, work on land objects - 0,45.
The distribution of the significance of the tasks for Liaonin can be done only with great approximation, since the tasks of this ship are not formulated in the open press. It is known that this is essentially an experimental ship, the operation of which will further allow you to create your own aircraft carriers, optimized for the specific tasks of the Chinese fleet. However, the particularities of the aircraft group of the ship, as well as the specifics of the theater of war, suggest that the destruction of enemy carrier strike and multipurpose groups for Liaonin may be 0,2, groups of surface ships - 0,3, submarines - 0,05, repelled air attack - 0,4, work on ground objects - 0,05.
The main striking force of the compared ships is the air group. Own air defense and anti-aircraft defense systems are designed for self-defense and therefore do not affect the assessment of operational and tactical capabilities for solving the above-mentioned tasks.
The most important indicators for any aircraft carrier are the possible duration of active combat operations up to the moment of replenishment of stocks and the disposable daily life of aviation. The experience of military operations in the course of local wars and calculations show that the American Nimitz, when conducting intensive military operations by its air group, after seven or eight days, needs to be replenished with material and technical resources, primarily fuel and ammunition. During this time, he will be able to perform up to a thousand sorties, including up to 600 - the multi-purpose Super Hornet fighters. The aircraft carrier has 40 positions for aircraft training. This means that the limiting composition of simultaneously used sides is 40 units.
The Russian aircraft carrier, as shown by calculations based on open data, can operate with full voltage with its air group for five to six days, having completed flights before 350, including Su-150 and MiG-33К / KUB before 29. The number of positions for their preparation limits the limiting composition of the 16 group to units.
Evaluation of the operational capabilities of the Chinese "Liaoning" may be based on the fact that its ability to support the activities of the air group are comparable to the "Kuznetsov." Accordingly, the air group must be able to perform the same 350 departures, but for a longer period of time (up to seven days). Of these, 200 will be fighters. The limiting composition of the group of aircraft - 16 machines.
The task of fighting the enemy aircraft carriers can be solved in the course of a sea battle lasting up to a day. In it, the parties will use all the available potential, since the carrier group is an extremely powerful and well-defended enemy.
Kuznetsov will be able to fly up to 50 Su-33 and MiG-29K / KUB sorties in 24 hours. Only the latter can inflict strikes on an aircraft carrier, since the regular Su-33 is currently not ready to use the Moskit anti-ship missiles (although the tests were carried out). Less than at least four positions for the use of helicopters and air defense fighters in the defense system of the compound at the same time, up to 12 vehicles can be involved in the strike. Of these, at least four must be in the airspace clearance group. There are eight MiG-29K / KUB left, on each of which no more than four anti-ship missiles X-35 (on the other nodes of the suspension air-to-air missiles are placed). Total - 32 PKR. With a 800 – 900 radar depth of kilometers (including coastal AWACS airplanes), Nimitz will be able to counter our air strike with a combat air patrol (BVP) consisting of two to four cars and another four to six from on-duty duty. Of these, our air-fighter clearing groups will be linked by a battle of four to six aircraft. As a result, the strike team will be approaching the turn of the task in pairs, evading enemy fighter attacks with the loss of two or three cars. As a result, the probability of a breakthrough to an aircraft carrier of at least one missile will not exceed 0,5 – 0,8. That is, the possibility of its failure - the maximum 0,03 – 0,05. Our aircraft carrier will be able to inflict two such strikes. The overall probability of putting an “American” out of action will not exceed 0,06 – 0,09.
Approximately the same result will be in the Chinese aircraft carrier.
In turn, “Nimitz” is able to use up to 34 fighters to strike at our compound. Including up to 8 airspace clearing machines and 16 in a shock group with numerous software. This will allow even taking into account the opposition of Russian ship fighters to provide an approach to the line of accomplishing the task of the attack groups in one or two links with a volley in the 16 – 32 RCC “Harpoon”. In this case, the probability of decommissioning our aircraft carrier during one strike reaches 0,15 – 0,2, and a day before it reaches 0,3 – 0,35. The capabilities of the Nimitz for the defeat of the Chinese aircraft carrier, taking into account the less efficient ship defense systems, are increasing to 0,35 – 0,5.
The task of dealing with groups of surface ships will be one of the main tasks during the operation to gain superiority at sea in a designated operational-critical area. Its duration is from three to four to six to eight days. In local conflicts, the objects of ship (deck) aviation strikes will primarily be groups of missile boats. In a large-scale war, the main efforts will focus on the defeat of large surface ships: KUG from cruisers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes of URO, amphibious detachments (DESO), convoys (KOH), KPUG and APG (airborne search and attack groups).
In local conflicts, judging by experience, the task of countering 2 – 5 KUG with two or three missile boats each can be important. For the defeat of any such group, it is enough to single out two or three pairs of strike aircraft with anti-ship missiles and NURS. In total, the solution of the problem will require up to 30 aircraft, which is quite achievable not only for Nimitz, but also for the Russian and Chinese aircraft carriers, for which it does not exceed 15 – 20 percent of the total available resource. And the probability of the destruction of enemy boats will be close to the guaranteed - 0,9 and more.
When solving problems of fighting ship groups in a large-scale war, the Federation Council will operate up to 14 of various ship groups, including 4 – 5 KUG of cruisers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes URO, 1 – 2 DESO, 2 – 3 KON, XNUM –3 CPUG and APUG. To defeat each of them, our carrier will be able to identify a group in the composition, similar to that given in the calculations of the strike on the AUG. Such a group, with probability 4 – 0,3, can crush the KUG, 0,5 – 0,4 - DESO with the US Marine Corps Expeditionary Battalion, 0,6 – 0,6 - KPUG, 0,7 – 0,4 - APUG, or destroy up to a quarter of the ships from the middle convoy. Given the possible resource allocated to this task, two or three groups can be subjected to the strikes of deck aviation. The expected efficiency of solving this problem by Kuznetsov can be estimated in 0,6 – 0,07.
In the area of responsibility of the PLA Navy, the number of ship groups can be up to 20 (including the Japanese fleet). However, this task is more important for the Chinese aircraft carrier. Under the assumption that his carrier-based fighters may carry a similar anti-ship weapon, we estimate the expected effectiveness of Liaoning in 0,12 – 0,14.
The American aircraft carrier in the war against Russia or China will have to solve the task of defeating the grouping of surface ships as part of 6 – 8 KUG (including 2 – 3 KUG with cruisers and destroyers), 5 – 6 KPUG (including 2 – 3 KPUG with fleet and 4 – 5 KPUG (including 10 – 8 KPUG with fleets and 12 KPUG with FFGS-32 KNUG). large anti-submarine ships) and 0,2 – 0,23 small coastal KON. For strikes on these forces, Nimitz will be able to strike up to XNUMX with groups of XNUMX – XNUMX (in small ship groups) to XNUMX machines (in large groups with powerful air defense). Without going into details of the calculation, we will evaluate the effectiveness of such actions in XNUMX – XNUMX.
It is advisable to determine the capabilities of an aircraft carrier to combat submarines by the criterion of the probability of their destruction before entering the short-range RCC salvo position on the war-core ships. This indicator depends on many factors, but the most important of them is the number of helicopters and PLO aircraft that are simultaneously in duty zones, as well as the ability of their search engines to detect submarines. Our and American (in the shock version - without PLO aircraft) aircraft carriers here have approximately the same capabilities. Taking into account the whole complex of factors, the probability of failure of the submarine to reach the line of short-range missile attack can be estimated at 0,2 – 0,4 depending on the hydroacoustic conditions and the type of submarine. For the Chinese "Liaoning", which has only six PLO helicopters, this figure does not exceed 0,05 – 0,07.
The capabilities of aircraft carriers to solve air defense tasks can be estimated by the proportion of foiled enemy aircraft strikes against the ships of their formation and other covered objects of the total number of such attacks.
Kuznetsov, having this task as one of the main targets, can provide for the interception of an air enemy by 12 – 14 groups of two or three pairs in four to five days of operation. During this time, in the zone of responsibility of the Federation Council, it is possible to expect actions against surface forces at sea up to the 20 – 25 tactical and carrier-based aviation groups from the link to the squadron. The probability of failure of each of them to complete the task as a result of interception by our group of ship fighters can be estimated from 0,2 – 0,3 to 0,6 – 0,8. On the whole, the share of reflected strikes at sea targets by the Russian aircraft carrier will be 0,3 – 0,4.
In Liaoning, the indicator is about the same. This is due to the fact that with the anticipated vigorous activity in the likely Japanese Air Force TVD, we should expect the allocation of a greater resource of carrier-based aviation in China to solve air defense tasks.
For the US aircraft carrier, the main factor in this situation will be a reflection of long-range missile strikes and naval missile-carrying aircraft (MRA). He will be able to accomplish this task mainly by BVP and fighter aircraft from the duty position on deck in readiness number 1, in total up to six to eight vehicles. This is explained by the fact that long-range anti-ship missiles, having a supersonic speed and launch range of about 300 – 500 kilometers, reach the target of accomplishing the task in a time that allows only BVP aircraft to enter into battle. And to counter the MRA, which has the line of launch of 300 – 350 missiles kilometers from the main order, even with the depth of the AUG 800 – 900 radar field, only 30 – 40 minutes remain. Given the need for fighters to reach the line of interception not less than 400 – 450 kilometers from an aircraft carrier, only vehicles on deck in readiness number 1 can be brought into battle. These forces can only really weaken the blow, destroying 15 – 20 percent of air targets, which should be considered an assessment of the effectiveness of the American aircraft carrier in solving air defense tasks.
It remains to compare the possibilities for the destruction of ground objects. Kuznetsov in a large-scale war, taking into account the allocated resource, will destroy no more than two or three point objects to a depth of 600 kilometers from the coast, which roughly corresponds to 0,05 – 0,07 of general operational needs. In a local war, opportunities are significantly higher due to the allocation of a much larger resource. Calculations give the indicator 0,2 – 0,25. The Chinese aircraft carrier has about the same capabilities. Nimitz can hit ground targets up to 800 kilometers from the coast to 25 – 40 depending on their type and security, which is up to 0,35 – 0,45 from the need for a limited, operational area in a large-scale war. In the local, this figure can reach 0,45 – 0,55.
The analysis performed allows us to derive the integral comparative index of the three ships. The Russian aircraft carrier, he is in relation to local conflicts 0,3, and for large-scale war - 0,25. The "American" - 0,35 and 0,28, respectively. Chinese "Liaoning" has 0,27 and 0,21. The low compliance rates of our and the Chinese aircraft carriers compared to the American ones are due to the fact that the latter is more versatile and this allows it to more effectively solve the entire range of tasks. “Kuznetsov” and “Liaoning”, being focused on the tasks of providing air defense, in practice will have to be attracted to a substantially larger range of tasks, which reduces their indicators of compliance with the combat mission.
"Fleet Admiral Kuznetsov": over 50 aircraft. Including the 12 fighter Su-33, 14 multipurpose MiG-29K / KUB, about 20 anti-submarine helicopters Ka-27, three DRLO helicopters Ka-31 and four Ka-27 in search and rescue version.
Length - 306,5 meters
Width - 72 meter
Displacement - 61 400 tons
Nimitz: 48 – 60 F-18 Super Hornet multi-role fighter jets, up to 12 anti-submarine Viking S-3, four DRLO “Hokai” and EW “Prowler” EA-6A aircraft (or coming to replace machines based on F-18), four trucks KA-6А, 12 helicopters "Sea King" and four search and rescue.
Length - 332,8 meters
Width - 78 meters
Displacement - 106 300 tons
"Liaoning": X-NUMX multi-purpose fighter J-24 (unlicensed copy of the Su-15 with Chinese avionics), four DRLO helicopters Z-33J, six anti-submarine Z-18F and two search and rescue Z-18C. Total - 9 machines. In terms of their performance characteristics, the Chinese helicopters, the DRLO and anti-submarine helicopters, are close to their Russian counterparts, the Ka-36 and Ka-31, respectively.
Length - 304,5 meters
Width - 75 meters
Displacement - 59 500 tons