I've watched as many F-35B advocates, to include many of the Marine Corps leaders (especially the Assistant Commandant for Aviation) talk about the F-35 acting as a mini-aircraft carrier with plans to put aboard 20 F-35's and leave the Ground Combat Element on the dock back in San Diego or Lejeune.
That's dangerous thinking, not only for the Carrier Navy but also for the Marine Corps itself. The problem? There is more...much more to carrier ops than being able to launch a certain number of strike/extremely marginal fighters.
First let's look at Carrier Strike Group mission...via Navy Fact Files (here)...
The Carrier Strike Group (CSG) could be employed in a variety of roles, all of which would involve the gaining and maintenance of sea control:Yeah. That's right. We have 10 (and really need more) big deck carriers that are on call to protect Marine Corps ass if we have to take a beach or conduct a raid. Additionally if you look at the composition of a Carrier Strike Group, you'll see that it's well equipped to deal with most nations short of an assault against maybe China or Russia (and there you would see multiple carriers assigned as well as nothing short of a full Marine Expeditionary Force).
**Protection of economic and/or military shipping.
**Protection of a Marine amphibious force while enroute to, and upon arrival in, an amphibious objective area.
**Establishing a naval presence in support of national interests.
So with that being the case why would we even consider making mini-carriers and breaking up the world's best combined arms force? Simple. Because the zealots in and out of the Marine Corps are desperate to get the F-35 into service. Fuck the fighting capability of the Navy and Marines. Fuck the loss in combat power, everything must die so the F-35 can live...including a Navy Carrier if necessary.
So how did all this come into being? Besides the zealots pushing the F-35 I believe that the Navy contributed to the issue by emasculating the carrier air wing. A carrier does MUCH more than simply strike missions. It was once the premier asset when it came to....
*Anti-ship strikes.*Maritime patrol.
*Deep strike from the sea.
*Fleet Air Defense.
*Combat Air Patrol.
Yeah the list is off the top of my head but understand where we came from. The A-6E was the deep strike platform of choice...slower than a F-111 but long ranged and accurate. The EA-6 was the electronic attack platform. The A-7 was the light attack along with the A-4. The F-14 provided fleet air defense and combat air patrol and finally the S-3 provided aerial refueling, electronic attack AND superb long distance anti-sub work.
The Navy "necked down" to a single fighter and the carrier air wing has suffered because of it. The solution isn't to talk about mini-aircraft carriers that will destroy Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, the answer is to either make more specialized models of the F-18 and perhaps bring back the S-3/ES-3 to make the wing viable again or its to follow this foolishness and watch two great pieces of our combat power become castrated by the needs of the F-35.