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Old October 25 2009, 02:59 PM   #9
John Picard
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Re: Navy testing two pricey, super-fast warships

USS KG5 wrote: View Post
F. Kreuger wrote: View Post
I agree. As I've stated on this board before, I truly believe the days of the aircraft carrier are numbered due to unmanned UAVs. The Navy started with the Wasp Class carriers and will most likely continue with even smaller carrier type ships.
Why do you think that? Why do you think a fast jet UAV would need a smaller deck than a fast jet piloted aircraft? If anything the new carriers the US Navy is building are bigger, the new RN carriers are bigger than anything they have had before? The Wasp class are essentially carriers in that they have a flight deck but they are amphibious assault ships, with well decks, and are only carriers in a strictly secondary sense.
Ultimately UAVs will take over a LOT of jobs, but you need a pilot up there to fight for and gain air superiority and although eventually this will be accomplished remotely (possibly) there would still be the issue of being able to fell a whole squadron with simple jamming.
Having served on board a Nimitz Class carrier I can tell you that it boils down to one thing - COST. At one time, the crew complement for a Supercarrier was around 4,600 - 4,800. As time goes by, the cost increases and in return the ship/crew is told to do more with less. When I left the ship (1992) the word was that Washington was working to cut the crew complement down to almost 4,000. The Ronald Reagan and the upcoming Gerald R Ford and George HW Bush are the most advanced carriers out there with more automation and reduced parts. The latter two (IIRC) will be outfitted with electromagnetic launch capability rather than the almost century old steam powered catapult. This will result in reduced cost/maintenance along with reduced manpower needed.

The primary purpose of the carriers has been forward deployment of aviation forces. Well, who are they going to fight? The Soviets are gone as are Warsaw Pact nations. There is no need for planes like the F22, which were designed to combat an enemy that no longer exists. That brings up another cost: fighters. In 1990, an F14 cost ~$30 million at acquisition. Start lumping in a lifetime of repairs and operating costs and the price goes skyward. Compare that with the UAVs. I don't believe they break the $100,000 mark yet are more versatile, cheaper to maintain, cheaper to train pilots to fly them, and if one gets shot down -- no major loss.

The same held true with the submarine fleet. Once the Soviet threats dissolved, the Navy had to find a mission for them very quickly. Is China a growing threat? I don't know, but last I knew the US subs were basically acting as a below surface escort guard for the fleet.

Either way, there are no major threats on the horizon that necessitates the need for 10+ carriers and a complement of attack squadrons. The threats and the missions have changed.
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