Lawmaker Calls for Study on Small Carriers
“I think we need to have a working group that’s involved in a more deliberate consideration” of the issue of reducing the size of traditional aircraft carriers to enable procurement of more vessels that may be smaller, but can be distributed across the globe, House Armed Services projection forces subcommittee Chairman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) said.
The lawmaker’s comments are in part based on discussions from a closed-door roundtable held last week where subcommittee members, Defense Department officials, Navy leaders and defense analysts discussed “the benefits and limitations of smaller carrier platforms as an alternative to the supercarrier,” according to a July 7 panel memo.
The light carrier concept has been discussed previously on MO at Comparing carriers and at European CVLs. I think that the idea has some merit, especially if the F-35 turns out to work as advertised, but I’d caution against writing off the super carrier any time soon. (Comparison pics below the fold)
A port beam view of, from top to bottom, the amphibious assault ship USS GUAM (LPH-9), the aircraft carrier USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CV-67) and the British aircraft carrier HMS ARK ROYAL (R-07) underway. Camera Operator: PHCS D.W. HOLMES Date Shot: 18 Feb 1993
Pic from DVIC.
A view of four ships of the battle group gathered for the NATO exercise Display Determination ’91. The ships are, from foreground to background: the Spanish aircraft carrier PRINCIPE DE ASTURIAS (R-11), the amphibious assault ship USS WASP (LHD-1), the aircraft carrier USS FORRESTAL (CV-59) and the British light aircraft carrier HMS INVINCIBLE (R-05). Camera Operator: PH2 R.C. WITHAM Date Shot: 7 Oct 1991
Also from DVIC.
More from the story:
The issue of building smaller carriers has emerged periodically over the last few years, with the most recent instance coming last year when OFT [the Office of Force Transformation], under the leadership of then-director Arthur Cebrowski released an Alternative Fleet Architecture Design study, which proposed building smaller warships and aircraft carriers to distribute Navy assets more widely across the seas.
Shrinking an aircraft carrier was also considered as part of an analysis of alternatives conducted in the late 90s before efforts to develop the Navy’s next-generations carrier, CVN-21.
Bartlett believes it is time to revisit the issue because the increased used of precision guided weapons that raise the probability of destroying a target, may be reducing the need for carriers that in the past launched multiple planes to ensure a hit.
“I’ve been asking the question, with the vastly improved capabilities and weapons today, why do we need a carrier that is larger than the minimum size necessary to launch and retrieve a plane,” Bartlett said.
Small carriers mentioned include a 57,000-ton medium-sized carrier, a 13,500-ton high-speed carrier, and the 6,000 ton ‘Corsair’ pocket carrier. The Nimitz-class super carriers weigh in at about 97,000 tons.
I’m not sure what the plan is for the Wasp-class LHDs when the F-35 comes online. Right now, LHDs usually carry six Harriers, but can max out at about twenty if they forgo helicopters. I imagine that the number of F-35s is going to be similar. Maybe additional LHDs, with some of them dedicated to air power first (and carrying about a dozen F-35s and a lighter load of choppers and Marines), might be a smarter way to approach this. The Wasps are 40,000-ton ships.