Sunday, March 27, 2011

The UK has a carrier problem...The USS America was the solution.

Think Defence has an article up which documents the current woes that the UK is operating under when it comes to placing their new class of carriers into service in the near future.

The perfect solution is being built right here in the US.  The America class Amphibious Assault Ship.  Think about it (how do you like that play on "Think Defence"!)

A medium power like the Royal Navy/Marine Corps could quite effectively deploy these ships almost independently to certain actions.  As a matter of fact anything short of war would allow independent deployment.

War time contingencies would allow a tailored airwing to operate for expected circumstances.
- a show of force and air strikes over Libya?  Simply go with a sea control type manning...20 F-35B's with a mix of utility and attack helicopters...
-peace keeping operations in North or Central Africa?  Go with a standard air compliment.

A better solution was to be found.  The UK simply didn't reach for it.  Heck, even the LPD-17 could have provided almost as much aviation capability as they'll have on their new Queen Elizabeth class carriers! I'm being dramatic but you get the point.


  1. well also sol i think this also allows us to have a footprint (so to speak) in more places than we already do. why send a supercarrier when only a few planes are necessary? a few burkes and an america class carrier will overwhelm most air forces in the world in smaller conflicts, and in things like anti-piracy operations it could control alot of ocean.

  2. why would you think the Brits would buy ANYTHING build by Ingalls? Expecially a new design coming from the new HII corporation?
    Talking about a pig in a poke?

    Other than that it is a good suggestion!

  3. It's a good ship, but not suited for a foreign operator, even the UK. Instead I'd go for a pair of Navantia LHDs, which is supposed to be optimized for (8-20) F-35B ops, but still has a dock and full amphib assault capability.

    The USS America is a variant of the Wasp LHD minus dock, but still retains the 'wet well' hull - which isn't the most streamlined (ie economical) hull. There are also several unique internal (re-)designs which make it a good ship, but still a trade-off compared to a dedicated CVF.

    Then again, the LHA/CVL America has the advantage of economy of scale; having a fleet of LHD (half-) sisters allows a reduction in operating/support costs, compared to the unique QE CVF.

    In a perfect world, 20-20 hindsight and such, France and the UK could've shared a basic carrier platform, preferably nuclear, and add their own unique island, C4ISR, weapons and cat/STOVL ramp - all within a reasonable budget.

    But as TD often correctly states, the QE CVF was more of a political than a pure naval project.

  4. USS America doesn't have a well deck...that's a big controversy for the Marines.

    its almost a throwback to the LPH days of the Iwo Jima class ships. all troops have to be landed via aviation assets.

  5. Marcase,

    IIRC, France and UK were to develop a CV jointly. France wanted to keep the nuclear expertise, the UK didn't want anything to do with it.

    OTOH, "I read it on the Net", not any Govt. paper / release, so it might be wrong.

    Take care.


  6. Sol, I agree, we could have probably had 3 America's for the price of 2 CVF's (not sure, haven't looked at the prices) but the point of the post was, we are getting CVF, best make the most of it

    In my view, making the most of it means ditching the fantasy land and building up from a position of strength.

  7. Mistral for VMF is a also political-industrial-military decision.

  8. Future French aircraft carrier is to be a derivative of Queen Elizabeth class CV designed by Thales UK/BMT.

  9. Anyone who reads 'Think Defence' will soon realise that it is a serious website with knowledgable people onboard.
    Having said that so was 'New Wars' which has sadly gone into voluntary liquidation,the link between the two is that both TD and Mike Burleson were vehemently against large ships and carriers in particular.
    It does not matter how much TD seems to compromise and throw bones at the CVF it is obvious from his history that it holds no future in his opinion and that the RAF are the be all and end all of British air power.
    No doubt the RAF will use the media to the full in regards to its current use in Lybia to suggest that it can carry out its duties without CVF,whilst I applaud the aircrews/groundcrews and all involved in its current missions to use them as red herrings against CVF would be a huge mistake.
    It has taken a huge effort to fly a small number of aircraft from the UK and back and this is completely unsustainable,we have at least the benefit of the Italian bases which we can now use but even the Italians are making noises over our use of them against lybia.
    No,CVF is needed and is needed with a full complement of aircraft.
    The only problem is the bloody UK government of whatever party,they all have a history of drasticly underfunding our defence with a contempt that defies logic until it is needed.
    At which time they suddenly become fervently patriotic and all the members of the armed forces are 'hero's'
    Our forces are at their lowest since the 1930's and look what that led to,we are no longer a global power but we are getting to the stage where we are becoming a third rate power and that is not only sad but dangerous.
    Rant over.

  10. shugyosha - you're correct. Besides the nuclear propulsion issue, the UK also wanted a ramp and the "for but not with" catapult kit - France just wanted cats and barriers.

    It would've been nice if for both the UK and France if the UK could just sell the second carrier to France. This would cost French jobs, but could save the UK defense budget - or at least a big chunk of it.

    Ah well, coulda-woulda-shoulda...

  11. (Unrelated, RNLMC boat-platoon having some fun in South Caroline with RIVRON3)

  12. Michael, thanks for the compliment (the fivers in the post) but what characterises Mike and I was we both had a sense of realism and never indulged 9well not that much!) in fantasy fleets that were simply unaffordable.

    I tell you, it is a lonely place to be and would be far simpler to cheerlead for carriers

    I am not against carriers per se, just the cost in the context of a reducing defence settlement and I think my last post at least tries to be pragmatic.

    As for a dislike of large ships, quite the opposite. I am no fan 9unlike Mike) of the corvette and if you read back through the various posts you will see a tendency to think big when looking at maritime issues

  13. Oh well, with CdG in service French could be somewhat content without another carrier; not so with the British.

    On the flip side, if pride (lol) were taken into consideration, RN would [probably] rather fly the Super Hornet than consider the Rafale.

  14. Hello,

    from the United States' Navy' FY 2012 Budget,the U.S.S. America/L.H.A.6 class costs (U.S.)$13,419 Million/(U.K.)£8,387 Million for 3 ships or an average of $4,473 Million/£2,796 Million each.

    From the National Audit Office Major Projects Report 2010,the Queen Elizabeth class costs £5,900 Million/$9,440 Million for 2 ships or an average of £2,950 Million/$4,720 Million each.

    It is important to note that the decision to delay construction of the Queen Elizabeth class is responsible for £1,560 Million/$2,496 Million of that £5,900 Million/$9,440 Million total cost.

    Had the ships not been delayed to free up money for other over budget projects like Typhoon,the 2 ships would have cost £4,340 Million/$6,944 Million or an average of £2,170 Million/$3,472 Million per ship.

    If the United Kingdom had been building or buying the U.S.S.America/L.H.A.6 class instead of the Queen Elizabeth class they would have been delayed due to the same budgetary problems with similar cost penalties.

    The U.S.S.America/L.H.A.6 class will have significantly higher operating costs than the Queen Elizabeth class as it requires almost 1,100 crew members compared to almost 700 crew members for the Queen Elizabeth class.

    The U.S.S.America/L.H.A.6 class can only operate the vertical landing F35B which has lifecycle costs 25% higher than the F35C (according to the British Prime Minister) which can be carried by the Queen Elizabeth class.

    While a single Queen Elizabeth class ship can supply all of the United Kingdom's expeditionary air power needs in most conflicts,the less aviation capable U.S.S.America/L.H.A.6 class cannot and would require either additional ships or land based fighter and tanker support at an additional cost which far exceeds that of the aircraft carriers themselves.


  15. Hello,

    I neglected to mention that the production cost of the second Queen Elizabeth class carrier is just £987 Million/$1,579 Million.
    Which is something of a bargain for a 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier.


  16. btw Sol, the third america class and on will have a well deck according to testimony from Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, U.S. Navy

    from wikipedia

  17. Grand Logistics.

    I'm gonna have to check your numbers. The US Navy is undergoing an intense effort to cut back on the number of crew members. are you sure you weren't counting embarked Marines? The numbers seem way off too as far as price is concerned. I'll get back to you tonight though.


    I didn't know that. If true then thats great news.

  18. Hello Solomon,

    you will find links to the appropriate documents here:

    British ships generally have more automation and smaller crews than American vessels.

    Some specifications for the L.H.A. 6 class can be found here:

    THe American will carry about 1,900 marines in addition to their crew of about 1,100 for a total of 3,000 souls.

    The British carriers accommodate up to about 1,800,normally a crew of 600-700 and an air group of around 900.
    The crew is similar in size to that of the 20,000 tonne Invincible class,operating costs are expected to be extremely low.

    That lack of troop capacity is one of the things I criticise the Queen Elizabeth class for but I never criticise them on cost.

    A 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier for production cost of £987 Million/$1,579 Million (a lot less than an Arleigh Burke class destroyer) is pretty impressive.

    They really are very cheap (British warships in general cost far less than American ships) the problem is the incompetent management of the Ministry of Defence which made them cost more than the Americas.

    With more troop capacity they would have made excellent air assault ships as well as carriers.


  19. thanks Grand Logistics.

    question. does the troop carriage explain the extra cost? I can't think of a comparable ship of the QE anywhere.

    the Mistral and the Navantia designs are both smaller, have smaller air wings but carry troops and vehicles.

    the America is almost in the same weight class but carries troops.

    the QE is best comparable to old Soviet Union aircraft carriers both in role (i believe) and aircraft carried.

  20. QE is bettered compared to Rxx, aka French Future Aircraft Carrier currently in advance level design. Both are in 70–75,000 tonnes class & designed in similar time frame for nearly identical role.

  21. All very good points about the relative value of LHA-6 vs CVF, which suppor my premise that the US amphib is a pig in a poke (colonial slang).

    I would give TD his point about building fleets from new vessels as being fanciful, but there are a number of large L-type warships in production whose costs are pretty much known (as opposed to LHS-6).

    BTW the USN has given up on optimal manning and so I don't think our crew sizes will be going down.

  22. Sol, you can find the testimony from the long link above but here is where he talks about LHD/LHA future:

    The LHA Class will provide flexible, multi-mission amphibious capabilities that span the range of military operations from forcible entry to HA/DR. AMERICA (LHA 6), and her sister shipsships, will replace our TARAWA Class ships that reach the end of their already extended service lives between 2011 and 2015. The AMERICA (LHA 6) is now more than 30 percent complete and is scheduled for delivery in FY 2014. The decommissioning of USS PELELIU (LHA 5) has
    already been extended to accommodate the late delivery of AMERICA and to mitigate any
    possible gaps in future deployment cycles. However, given PELELIU’s age and material
    condition, further extensions are unlikely. In support of the Navy’s commitment to advancing
    our energy security, the hybrid propulsion drive in use on USS MAKIN ISLAND (LHD 8) is
    being installed in AMERICA. The second increment of full funding for LHA 7 is requested in FY 2012. Beginning with LHA 8, the Navy will reintegrate the well deck into this class of large deck amphibious assault ships. Our budget for FY 2012 requests funding for research and
    development to support reintegration of the well deck into the design of the large deck
    amphibious ship and the construction of LHA 8 in FY 2016. Funding has been added to install a
    critical self defense capability for LHD 2-6 during their Mid-Life Upgrades . The Capstone
    Ships Self Defense System is essential to ensure these ships remain survivable in any

  23. jp thanks for thate extract. Several thoughts:
    1 - IF the USN had not been sending all of its amphib construction to two (I'll be kind) under-performing shipyards perhaps it would NOT be in the extension predicament?
    2 - The fixaiton on wet well docks MUST be questioned. Large lanidng craft are CARGO haulers. Is there that much cargo in an aviation centric LHA?

    Changing designs in mid-production cost many many millions in change orders - simply stated the Navy's plan is illogical and expensive.
    3 - The wet well dock consumes MUCH internal volume, take many sailors and sytems to operate and maintain, AND is subject to breakdowns.

  24. oops those last two sentence should be swapped

  25. Solomon, you say that if the UK bought the America-class they would load it with F-35Bs but, didn't the UK choose the F-35C because of all the problems? Didn't Marines choose to purchase a few C-models? Solomon, wake up, the F-35B is as good as dead as soon as Robert Gates leaves office, if not the entire F-35 program.

  26. you haven't been paying attention to the F-35 debate. first when Gates leaves office he will be replaced with more than likely the current Secretary of the Navy...a supporter of the F-35.

    second the Marines buy of the F-35C was for enough airplanes to keep Marine Aviation on Navy carriers. that was more about the carrier Navy flexing its muscle than the Marines actually wanting the airplane. they didn't want to allow B's on deck because it would mess up (according to them) launch and recovery operations. they won, we big deal and out of over 400 purchased we're getting what...80?

    lastly, you've been paying too much attention to Sweetman and the APA mafia. the F-35 is doing fabulous in testing now and is ahead of schedule.

    this program will survive

  27. i dont think the 35 will be canceled because frankly we have no options, the superhornet will not be a match for other aircraft for long as russia, china and india push their 5th gen fighters. Also all three branches need it, the AF is running out of hours on their 15s and 16s and with production running down on the 22s, thats all thats left.

  28. Hello Solomon,

    accommodation is probably not the reason for the sost difference,it is one of the cheaper elements in a warship.

    I don't know the intimate differences between the ships well enough to say what is but I do know American warships are often 2-3 times the cost of their British counterparts.

    The Queen Elizabeths are designed to carry 36 F35Cs and 4 E2D Hawkeyes,they can probably manage a bit more than that,it would be surprising if you couldn't get at least a half dozen more aircraft on board.

    That is a very similar airgroup to what the Nimitz class are sailing with these days.

    Theoretically the nuclear carriers have more capacity but the Queen Elizabeths come very close to what the C.V.N.s manage in combat.



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