Quotulatiousness

August 17, 2017

HMS Queen Elizabeth enters Portsmouth harbour

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

At The Register, Gareth Corfield reports from Portsmouth as the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth visits her new home port for the first time:

Royal Navy aircraft fly over HMS Queen Elizabeth as she enters Portsmouth harbour. Click to see full-sized photo.

Britain’s newest warship, its biggest warship of all time, HMS Queen Elizabeth, entered Portsmouth Harbour for the first time this morning.

The 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier entered the port at 0710 this morning under the watchful eye of half a dozen tugboats, a small flotilla of police vessels – and crowds of thousands lining the sea front along Portsmouth and Southsea.

In addition, scores of smaller civil vessels accompanied the carrier at a respectful distance. A flypast of Royal Navy helicopters and fast jets – Hawk training aircraft – also took place as the carrier made her stately way towards the naval base.

Admiral Lord West, the former head of the navy and now a Labour Party peer, told The Register as the ship came in: “This is a very joyous day. She looks splendid. We had lost sight of our maritime capability. This is something very special for Portsmouth and the Navy.”

When asked if the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers were necessary, the admiral said: “The one thing you can’t guarantee is what will happen tomorrow. When they’ve got their fixed wing assets, they’ll be one of the only capabilities [the UK has that will have] a strategic impact. It’s 4.5 acres of British sovereign territory.”

July 1, 2017

Hunting the Bismarck – III: A Chance to Strike – Extra History

Filed under: Britain, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on May 25, 2017

Sponsored by Wargaming! New players: Download World of Warships and use the code EXTRA1 for free goodies! http://cpm.wargaming.net/i3v7c6uu/?pu…

The order went out: Sink the Bismarck. Ships converged from all over the Atlantic to hunt down the pride of the German navy, and Swordfish planes launched from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal raced to harry the great warship.

June 4, 2017

The Battle of Midway, 4-7 June 1942

Filed under: History, Japan, Military, Pacific, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Last month, Victor Davis Hanson recounted the American side of the Battle of Midway, which many historians see as the turning point of the Pacific War:

Battle of Midway deployment map, according to Seeschlachten der Weltgeschichte by William Koenig (German version of Epic Sea Battles) via Wikimedia

Seventy-five years ago (June 4-7, 1942), the astonishing American victory at the Battle of Midway changed the course of the Pacific War.

Just six months after the catastrophic Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. crushed the Imperial Japanese Navy off Midway Island (about 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu), sinking four of its aircraft carriers.

“Midway” referred to the small atoll roughly halfway between North America and Asia. But to Americans, “Midway” became a barometer of military progress. Just half a year after being surprised at Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy had already destroyed almost half of Japan’s existing carrier strength (after achieving a standoff at the Battle of the Coral Sea a month earlier).

The odds at the June 1942 battle favored the Japanese. The imperial fleet had four carriers to the Americans’ three, backed up by scores of battleships, cruisers and light carriers as part of the largest armada that had ever steamed from Japan.

No military had ever won more territory in six months than had Japan. Its Pacific Empire ranged from the Indian Ocean to the coast of the Aleutian Islands, and from the Russian-Manchurian border to Wake Island in the Pacific.

Yet the Japanese Navy was roundly defeated by an outnumbered and inexperienced American fleet at Midway. Why and how?

March 30, 2017

Another Japanese “destroyer” joins the fleet

Filed under: China, History, Japan, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Due to a long-standing aversion to calling certain kinds of vessels by their most appropriate name, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (because Japan’s constitution prohibits the country having a “navy”, post-1945) commissioned their latest “destroyer” last week:

JS Izumo DDH-183, sister-ship of the just-commisioned JS Kaga DDH-184, both helicopter-equipped destroyers, officially.

I know what you’re thinking … “That doesn’t look like a destroyer to me” … but that’s what Japan officially designates ships like this to be, so that’s what they’re called. Strategy Page has more:

On March 22nd Japan put into service a second 27,000 ton “destroyer” (the Kaga, DDH 184) that looks exactly like an aircraft carrier. Actually it looks like an LPH (Landing Platform Helicopter) an amphibious ship type that first appeared in the 1950s. This was noted when Izumo, the first Japanese LPH was launched in 2012 (it entered service in 2015). The Izumos can carry up to 28 aircraft and are armed only with two 20mm Phalanx anti-missile cannon and launcher with sixteen ESSM missiles for anti-missile defense.

LPHs had no (or relatively few) landing craft but did carry a thousand or more troops who were moved ashore using the dozen or more helicopters carried. The first American LPH (the USS Iwo Jima) was an 18,400 ton ship that entered service in 1961, and carried 2,000 troops and twenty-five helicopters. Until Izumo showed up, several nations operated LPHs, and Britain and South Korea still do. The U.S. retired its last LPHs in the 1990s, but still have a dozen similar ships that include landing craft (and a well deck in the rear to float them out of) as well as helicopters. A few other nations have small carriers that mostly operate helicopters but carry few, if any troops.

The Izumos are the largest LPHs to ever to enter service. It differs from previous LPHs in not having accommodations for lots of troops and having more powerful engines (capable of destroyer-like speeds of over fifty-four kilometers an hour). Izumo does have considerable cargo capacity, which is intended for moving disaster relief supplies quickly to where they are needed. Apparently some of these cargo spaces can be converted to berthing spaces for troops, disaster relief personnel, or people rescued from disasters. There are also more medical facilities than one would expect for a ship of this size. More worrisome (to the Chinese) is the fact that the Izumo could carry and operate the vertical take-off F-35B stealth fighter, although Japan has made no mention of buying that aircraft or modifying the LPH flight decks to handle the very high temperatures generated by the F-35B when taking off or landing vertically. The Chinese are also upset with the name of this new destroyer. Izumo was the name of a Japanese cruiser that was a third the size of the new “destroyer” and led the naval portion of a 1937 operation against Shanghai that left over two-hundred-thousand Chinese dead. The Chinese remember all this, especially the war with Japan that began unofficially in 1931 and officially in 1937.

IJNS Izumo at anchor 1932 (Colourized), via Wikimedia

February 21, 2017

HMS Queen Elizabeth to be commissioned in May

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

The Royal Navy’s largest ever warship HMS Queen Elizabeth is gently floated out of her dock for the first time in Rosyth, Scotland in July 2014. In an operation that started earlier that week, the dry dock in Rosyth near Edinburgh was flooded for the first time to allow the 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier to float. It then took only three hours to carefully manoeuvre HMS Queen Elizabeth out of the dock with just two metres clearance at either side and then berth her alongside a nearby jetty. Teams continued to outfit the ship and steadily bring her systems to life in preparation for sea trials in 2016. The dock she vacated will be used for final assembly of her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales.
Source: Wikimedia.

The Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier is scheduled to be brought into commission in May this year:

The first new Royal Navy aircraft carrier in thirty years is nearing sea trials. After a brief absence from the world of fixed-wing naval aviation the Royal Navy’s brand new flattop HMS Queen Elizabeth and its sister ship, Prince of Wales, will soon sail the seas, their decks full of new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The result will be the most powerful “Senior Service” in generations.

The Royal Navy was one of the first naval warfare forces to explore the nascent world of naval aviation. HMS Argus, commissioned in September 1918, was arguably the first aircraft carrier with a full-length flight deck. The UK was one of the major aircraft carrier powers throughout World War II, and continued to operate carriers in the postwar period.

By 1982, the Royal Navy had committed to building three Invincible-class carriers. Somewhat scaled back from earlier ships, and dwarfed by the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers, the Invincible class was more suited to antisubmarine warfare duties against the Soviet Navy, keeping the sea lines of communication between North America and Europe clear in the event of World War III. The Invincibles could sail with a complement of up to twenty-two aircraft, typically a mixture of Sea Harrier fighters and Sea King helicopters.

The 1982 Falklands War demonstrated the shortcomings of relying upon such small carriers. HMS Invincible, along with the older HMS Hermes, struggled to provide early warning and combat air patrol over the UK task force sent to reclaim the islands, and were unable to prevent Argentine air power from sinking six friendly warships and supply ships and damaging another nine.

In 2007, despite the general downturn in the size and scope of the navy, plans were announced in 2007 to construct two brand-new aircraft carriers. Each would be stocked with brand-new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and helicopters, and would be up more than three times larger than their predecessors by displacement. The carriers, Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, would be the largest warships ever built by the UK, bigger even than the World War II battleship HMS Vanguard.

Unfortunately, in order to free up funding for the new carriers the older ships had to be retired, and decommissioning of the Invincible class carriers and their Sea Harrier jets during the 2010s was a huge blow to the Fleet Air Arm. The three warships were broken up for scrap, and the remaining Harrier jets, which by now included RAF Harriers, were purchased by the U.S. Marines to provide spare parts for their own fleet of AV-8B Harriers.

March 29, 2016

WW2: British Aircraft Carrier HMS Ark Royal

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

March 28, 2016

Onboard Royal Navy’s largest ever warship – BBC News

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 8 Dec 2015

One of a pair of new aircraft carriers that are being assembled in Rosyth, near Edinburgh, is just one year from being completed.
The Queen Elizabeth will be the largest ship that the Royal Navy has ever built, when it is finished in December 2016. The BBC’s Andrew Anderson was given special access to look around the inside of the huge vessel.

January 24, 2016

Arming the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Last month, Save the Royal Navy looked at the aircraft that will fly off the decks of HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales:

Queen Elizabeth class side and overhead views

Queen Elizabeth class side and overhead views

The SDSR stated that 42 F35-B Lightning aircraft will be delivered by 2023. These 42 aircraft form the carrier’s main armament. A foolish political fudge has given the RAF control of the Lightnings, to be jointly manned and operated with the RN. For Government, this conveniently boosts the RAF’s ORBAT while allowing the same aircraft to be counted again as part of the carrier’s equipment. Although the RAF may not like it, the needs of the carriers will have to dictate their operation. There is simply no place for the “part time carrier aviator” The aircrew need as much time at sea as possible to develop their own skills, the skills of aircraft handlers, the ship’s company and the fleet as a whole. Like all RN vessels the carriers will operate at a demanding operational tempo and need aircraft embarked for much of the time. Any RAF inclination to use the aircraft in the land-based deep strike role will have to be second priority.

The initial 42 Lightnings will be split between 2 frontline squadrons. 809 Naval Air Squadron and RAF 617 Squadron with around 15-20 aircraft each, building up to the full strength of 24 per squadron. There will also be a requirement for at least 5 aircraft to form an OCU (Operational Conversion Unit for training). An OEU (Operational Evaluation Unit for testing and trials) will also require a few aircraft. Allowing for a sustainment fleet of aircraft in deep maintenance etc, then it is clear that many more than 42 aircraft are needed to form just 2 full-strength squadrons. Between 2010 and 2014 the received wisdom was that the UK would only ever purchase a maximum of 48 F35-B but the SDSR announced a planned eventual purchase of as many as 138. This is good news which should give some strength-in-depth, potentially providing 2 more squadrons. Both the RN and the RAF should be able to fulfil their ambitions for the Lighting. Whether the RAF will push for a purchase of the conventional F35-A which would not be compatible with the carrier, but has slightly better range and performance than the VSTOL variant is a discussion for the future.

Of course the caveat to all this good news is the actual performance of the F35. There are armies of armchair F-35 critics and many of their concerns are valid. Although it may prove to be a poor “within visual range” fighter, its networking, sensors, stealth and strike capabilities will be a giant advance over any previous UK military aircraft. Furthermore the RN has a fine track record of taking equipment with many apparent deficiencies and turning them into a great success. (Fairy Swordfish anyone?)

On the other hand, Ben Ho Wan Beng argues that the carriers will not actually be able to project much power:

A tactical combat aircraft complement of 12, or even 15-20, is rather small for traditional carrier operations, especially force-projection ones that are likely to predominate considering the SDSR’s expeditionary-warfare slant. Indeed, it is worth considering the fact that the two British small-deck carriers involved in the Falklands War carried 20-odd Harrier jump jets each, and they were about three times smaller than the Queen Elizabeth-class ships.

In fact, each new carrier might even be operating with a much fighter complement fewer than 15-20 in the years leading up to 2023, giving lie to the phrase “in force” used by George Osborne when he spoke of equipping the carriers with significant airpower.

In any case, the small fighter constituent means that if the Queen Elizabeth carrier were to get involved in a conflict with an adversary with credible anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities, the vessel would be hard-pressed to protect itself, let alone project power. With a displacement of over 70,000 tons and costing over three billion pounds each, the new British carriers will be the crown jewels of the Royal Navy; indeed, HMS Queen Elizabeth is slated to be the RN’s flagship when she comes into service. The protection of the ship would hence be of paramount importance in an era that has witnessed the proliferation of A2/AD capabilities even to developing nations. Hence for a Queen Elizabeth carrying 20 or less Lightnings in such circumstances, it remains to be seen just how many of the aircraft will be earmarked for different duties.

Should a F-35B air group of that size put to sea, at least half of them will be assigned to the Combat Air Patrol (CAP), leaving barely 10 for offensive duties. It is worth noting that of the 42 Harrier VSTOL jets deployed on HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible during the Falklands War, 28 of them – a substantial two-thirds – had CAP as their primary duty. It is also telling that of the 1,300-odd sorties flown in all by the Harriers, about 83 per cent of them were for CAP.

Faced with modern A2/AD systems such as stand-off anti-ship missiles, how likely then would the carrier task force commander devote more resources to offense and risk having a vessel named after British royalty attacked and hit? Having said that, having too many planes for defense strengthens the argument made by various carrier critics that the ship is a “self-licking ice cream cone,” in other words, an entity that exists solely to sustain itself.

The task force commander would thus be caught between a rock and a hard place. Allocate more F-35Bs to strike missions and the susceptibility of the task force to aerial threats increase. Conversely, set aside more aircraft for the CAP and its mother ship’s ability to project power decreases. All in all, with a significantly understrength F-35B air wing, the Queen Elizabeth flat-top would be operating under severe constraints, making it incapable of the traditional carrier operations it could have carried out with a larger tactical aircraft complement. Indeed, one naval commentator is right on the mark when he argues that two squadrons with a total of 24 aircraft should be a “sensible minimum standard” for each carrier.

January 10, 2016

The aircraft carrier as status symbol

Filed under: Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

While I was offline, Colby Cosh discussed the status signalling power of the modern aircraft carrier:

Aircraft carriers are such fascinating objects. With the exception of manned spacecraft, there is probably nothing that signifies national prestige quite as boldly as a flattop. It is almost the best single marker you can identify of the difference between states properly called “powers” and those that are just — well, will I be forgiven for saying “Canadas”? They attract enormous amounts of attention and analysis from military experts and amateur opinionators.

And, in a sense, this is disproportionate nearly to the point of self-evident unreason. The age of battles between aircraft carrier groups began with the commencement of the fight in the Coral Sea: May 4, 1942. It pretty much ended when the Americans sent four Japanese carriers to the bottom at Midway, 30 days later.

Since that abbreviated epoch, the countries capable of operating aircraft carriers have mostly avoided hot wars with each other. American ones have the run of the seas and find no trouble. Others constantly leave their owners wondering if they are worthwhile.

Perhaps this means that on the whole carriers have done their job. But a constant theme in their history is the fear that they make nice fat targets for the weaker side in a conflict. India’s carrier Vikrant played a key role in blockading Bengal during the 1971 war over Bangladeshi independence, but the Indian Navy was nervous about a seemingly foreordained single combat with Pakistan’s diesel submarine Ghazi (formerly USS Diablo), and got lucky when it sank in an apparent accident. The U.K., whose remaining scraps of empire pose a unique defence problem, sent a carrier, HMS Hermes, to the Falklands — and then the Royal Navy held it off, wincing all the while, at the edge of the theatre, barely within Harrier range of the islands.

Hermes is still on duty today as INS Viraat, a successor to Vikrant; one of the interesting things about carriers is that, as with submarines, their lives will often have two acts in different navies. That is the case with China’s existing, first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. She was christened Riga in Soviet days and inherited by independent Ukraine as Varyag. A Hong Kong travel agency bought the hull, claiming it intended to turn it into a floating casino. (Getting the ship out of the Black Sea under the nose of Turkey might otherwise have been tricky, and wasn’t easy anyway.)

August 25, 2015

We finally find someone (not funded by Lockheed Martin) who likes the F-35

Filed under: Britain, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Okay, I poke a bit of fun … there are defenders of the F-35 who are funded by other stakeholders … I kid, I kid! Here’s a contrarian take by Think Defence justifying the UK’s F-35 commitment:

In the 7 years I have been dribbling my thoughts into Think Defence there are a few things on which I have been consistent; the ISO container is the greatest invention since the Bailey Bridge, commonality is not a dirty word, logistics are critically important, and, the F-35B is worth it.

Yet to be discovered tribes in the middle of the Amazonian rain forest could not have failed to notice the untrammelled hype that surrounds the F-35 in general, and the STOVL F-35B in particular. The amount of coverage is staggering, some of it informed, some of it not. Being developed under the un-staring eye of social media and a long line of people who seem to live for being critical has exposed every developmental misstep to ruthless criticism. Reports are often selectively quoted, conclusions drawn without context, over-simplification of complex subjects is rife and correlation confused with causation.

It is also an extremely polarising aircraft, read anything on-line and it seems you are either a Lockheed Martin shill or thick as mince critic who knows nothing.

I suspect, the reality is somewhere between, whilst the F-35 is not the cure for cancer, it is not cancer either.

f35b-power-and-propulsion-740x428

Although I have written about the F-35B many times, including this 5 part series, this is the first for a while

Into this toxic environment I go, a look at the F-35B.

August 12, 2015

Who might buy a Mistral?

Filed under: Europe, France, Military, Russia — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

At the International Business Times, Christopher Harress reports on the two Mistral-class helicopter carriers France built for Russia and is now trying to find new homes for:

The Sevastopol (left) and the Vladivostok warships, two Mistral class LHD amphibious vessels ordered by Russia from STX France, are seen in St. Nazaire, France, Dec. 20, 2014. Jean-Sebastien Evrard/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The Sevastopol (left) and the Vladivostok warships, two Mistral class LHD amphibious vessels ordered by Russia from STX France, are seen in St. Nazaire, France, Dec. 20, 2014. Jean-Sebastien Evrard/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Inside the sprawling dockyard in the ancient town of St. Nazaire in southwestern France sits $1.2 billion worth of unsold naval hardware. Despite having never left the dock, the two Mistral helicopter landing ships, originally built by France for use in the Russian navy, inadvertently have become involved in the growing international dispute between Russia and the West over the annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine.

Now they are causing problems in France.

Two days after managing to negotiate a way out of the deal with Moscow that had become a divisive, ethical and political dilemma in Europe, France faces the fresh challenge of looking for a new buyer that has both the military need and the hard cash for the two 21,000 ton warships.

“I think this will be a difficult product to sell,” said Dakota Wood, senior research fellow of defense programs at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank. “Military ships are highly specialized and designed for a specific purpose that accounts for all the weapons systems and unique specifications that the navy in questions needs. In this case, the spacing and logistics to accommodate the unique aircraft that Russia was going to use. What other country shares those exact specifications?”

With Canada in the middle of a long, long election campaign, there’s no point in pretending that one or both of the ships might end up as part of the Royal Canadian Navy (unlike a few earlier reports), so France is forced to look further abroad for countries that have both the ready money (like Saudi Arabia) and the pressing need (uh, like Saudi Arabia).

June 4, 2015

Installing the forward island on HMS Prince of Wales

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

The second of the Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy is still under construction. Here’s a time-lapse video of the transportation and installation of the forward island:

Published on 26 May 2015

Timelapse video charting the incredible journey of the 680-tonne command centre of the Royal Navy’s latest aircraft carrier – HMS Prince of Wales – as it left its construction hall in Govan, Glasgow this month before being installed on the under-construction carrier in Rosyth dockyard, near Edinburgh.

May 8, 2015

Resolved – aircraft carriers are obsolete

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Jerry Hendrix thinks it’s time the US Navy re-assesses its dependence on the aircraft carrier, specifically that the Navy needs to stop building aircraft carriers altogether:

This might seem like a radical change. After all, the aircraft carrier has been the dominant naval platform and the center of the Navy’s force structure for the past 70 years — an era marked by unprecedented peace on the oceans. In the past generation, aircraft have flown thousands of sorties from the decks of American carriers in support of the nation’s wars. For the first 54 days of the current round of airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, the USS George H. W. Bush was the sole source of air power. But the economic, technological, and strategic developments of recent years indicate that the day of the carrier is over and, in fact, might have already passed a generation ago — a fact that has been obscured by the preponderance of U.S. power on the seas.

The carrier has been operating in low-threat, permissive environments almost continuously since World War II. At no time since 1946 has a carrier had to fend off attacks by enemy aircraft, surface ships, or submarines. No carrier has had to establish a sanctuary for operations and then defend it. More often than not, carriers have recently found themselves operating unmolested closer to enemy shores than previous Cold War–era doctrine permitted, secure in the knowledge that the chance of an attack ranged between unlikely and impossible.

Such confidence in the dominance of the carrier encouraged naval architects to put more capabilities into their design, going from the 30,000-ton Essex-class carrier in 1942 to the 94,000-ton Nimitz-class carrier in 1975. Crew size of a typical carrier went from 3,000 to 5,200 over the same period, a 73 percent increase. Costs similarly burgeoned, from $1.1 billion for the Essex to $5 billion for the Nimitz (all in adjusted 2014 dollars), owing to the increased technical complexity and sheer physical growth of the platforms in order to host the larger aircraft that operated at longer ranges during the Cold War. The lessons of World War II, in which several large fleet carriers were lost or badly damaged, convinced Navy leaders to pursue a goal of a 100,000-ton carrier that could support a 100,000-pound aircraft capable of carrying larger bomb payloads, including nuclear weapons, 2,000 miles or more to hit strategic targets, making the platform larger, more expensive, and manned with more of the Navy’s most valuable assets, its people. Today’s new class of carrier, the Ford, which will be placed into commission next year, displaces 100,000 tons of water, and has a crew of 4,800 and a price of $14 billion. The great cost of the Cold War–era “super-carriers” has resulted in a reduction of the carrier force, from over 30 fleet carriers in World War II to just ten carriers today. While the carrier of today is more capable, each of the ten can be in only one place at a time, limiting the Navy’s range of effectiveness.

And putting the case for continued dependence on the aircraft carrier as the key capital ship, Seth Cropsey and Bryan McGrath say that the situation favours the continued development and deployment of the carriers:

Hendrix invests 2,700-plus words in an argument for eliminating the aircraft carrier, yet undercuts himself effectively with only 32: “The same outside observer would also discern where the difficulty with the carrier design lies. The efficacy of the carrier lies not in the ship but in the capabilities of its planes.” This raises the question of whether Hendrix’s target is the aircraft carrier or the weapons system (airplanes) it employs. And while he wishes to ride the wave of notoriety as a notable carrier critic, his argument essentially boils down to this: “The airplanes the carrier employs require it to operate too close to danger. Therefore, we should get rid of carriers.”

This logic ignores seven decades of history and experience in which the airplanes assigned to the carrier have changed dramatically in response to the missions that were asked of the Navy. And while he quite rightly points to the current airwing’s lack of useful range as highly problematic, he fails to note this was itself a choice made by the Navy to reflect the threat environment. When the Berlin Wall fell, there was no power that could check the U.S. Navy at sea, and therefore the carrier could operate much closer to land. Aircraft range as an attribute was [de-emphasized]. Now that there is a rising threat of powers capable of more aggressively targeting the carrier, it will, in some scenarios, have to operate from farther away. If the Navy chooses to build the right airplanes, the carrier will remain central to U.S. power projection.

Keep in mind, though, that the carrier does not simply charge into the teeth of an aggressive targeting environment and disgorge itself of its strike aircraft from unending sanctuary. It fights as part of a larger combat system, that of the Joint Force. Elements of the enemy’s surveillance network would necessarily be targeted for destruction by precision weapons launched from submarines, other ships, or long-range bombers. An elaborate cyber campaign would also be key to blinding an opponent, creating a window of opportunity for the carrier to launch its strikes before relocating. As this process is repeated over time, the risks to the carrier dissipate, and it can move closer to the defended territory, thereby enabling higher-tempo strike operations.

May 4, 2015

More on the Mistral class

Filed under: Europe, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Last month, Strategy Page looked at the Mistral class ships, both the original French Navy ships and the two that have been built for — but not delivered to — the Russian navy:

Russia has not bought foreign warships for a long time, but the Mistral purchase was largely because of an eagerness to acquire Western shipbuilding technology and construction skills. This has already paid off, although not exactly how the Russians had planned. This became evident when a Russian official announced that the first Mistral would be built entirely in France. It had earlier been decided to have Russian shipyards build some sections of the first Mistral. It was quickly discovered that the Russian shipyard was not capable of building to the French specifications or do it according to the French timetable. The Russians expected to learn some valuable lessons from the French and, while embarrassing, this was one very valuable lesson. Russian shipyard officials have had their faces rubbed in the embarrassment of not being able to compete while using their current practices. Russian experts on Western production methods and techniques have long complained of the antiquated and inefficient methods still favored by Russian shipbuilders. Navy leaders have been complaining for decades about the poor quality of work coming out of Russian shipyards. The Mistral purchase was to put this to the test because additional Mistrals were to be built in Russia, with plenty of French supervision and technical assistance. That is also being withheld because of the Ukraine situation.

The Russian Navy has made some changes in the existing Mistral design. This Russian model will be called the Vladivostok Class and carry 30 helicopters (compared to 16 on the French version). The Vladivostoks will be armed with two AK-630 multibarrel 30mm autocannon for anti-missile defense. There will also be two quad-launchers of shoulder fired type anti-aircraft missiles (with a 5 kilometer range and does well against helicopters) and two or more DP-65 55mm grenade launchers for defense against divers.

The Vladivostoks will also be winterized for use in arctic conditions. The hull will be strengthened to deal with ice and the well deck door will completely close. The flight deck will have a deicing system and the ship will be modified to operate for extended periods in arctic conditions. There is also different electronics and this means a different arrangement of radomes and antennae.

In the aircraft handling areas below the deck, there will be more space made for the taller Ka-52K and Ka-29 helicopters. The Ka-52K is a navalized version of the Ka-52. In addition to being equipped with coatings to resist sea water corrosion, the K model will also have a lightweight version of the high-definition Zhuk-AE AESA radar used on jet fighters. This radar currently weighs 275 kg (605 pounds), but the helicopter version will weigh only 80 kg (176 pounds) and enables the Kh-52K to use the Kh-31 anti-ship missile. This weapon has a range of 110 kilometers and travels at high speed (about one kilometer a second). The Kh-52K can also carry the sub-sonic Kh-31 missile, which has a range of 130 kilometers. Both of these missiles weigh about 600 kg (1,300 pounds) each.

The French navy received the first of their own 21,500 ton Mistrals in 2006, with the second one arriving in 2007. Both were ordered in 2001. These two ships replaced two older amphibious landing ships. This gave France a force of four amphibious ships. The two Mistrals are also equipped to serve as command vessels for amphibious operations. The French have been very happy with how the Mistrals have performed.

I believe the French navy actually has three ships of this class in service: Mistral, Tonnerre, and Dixmude.

April 20, 2015

Twice-nuked aircraft carrier sunk 80 km from San Francisco

Filed under: History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

If you’d ever wondered what happened to the ships that were used in the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests, here’s one that might surprise you:

The sonar image with oranges color tones (lower) shows an outline of a possible airplane in the forward aircraft elevator hatch opening. Credit: NOAA, Boeing, and Coda Octopus

The sonar image with oranges color tones (lower) shows an outline of a possible airplane in the forward aircraft elevator hatch opening. Credit: NOAA, Boeing, and Coda Octopus

The Independence (CVL-22) was commissioned as cruiser, but adapted to become a light carrier as the demands of the Pacific war made mobile air power desirable. The ship served in the Pacific from November 1943 to August 1945, but by 1946 was deemed fit for duty as a test vessel at an atomic bomb test near Bikini Atoll. Independence was stationed less than half a mile from ground zero on a July 1st test, survived that ordeal without sinking so was nuked again on the 25th.

The US Navy then brought the vessel back to San Francisco to assess the damage, and to try nuclear decontamination techniques. By 1951 Independence was felt to be at risk of sinking, so with a colossal radioactive carcass not the sort of thing one wants near a major city it was sunk.

And so the Independence passed into history, its fate largely forgotten … until the NOAA decided to embark on a mission to “to locate, map and study historic shipwrecks in Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and nearby waters.” As part of that effort, Independence was found “in 2,600 feet of water off California’s Farallon Islands”, which one can find here, at what looks to be a distance of about 80kms from San Francisco.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress