Friday, March 08, 2019

LHDs are once again being pushed as solid alternatives to our supercarriers...

via War On The Rocks...
Just as Delilah stole Samson’s strength by cutting his long locks, the carrier has been shorn of its long-range striking power by decisions to focus on short-range F-18s and F-35s. In addition, the Navy’s decision to limit a promising unmanned platform to an airborne tanker role and foregoing its strike capability is unfortunate at a time when enemy capabilities demand greater, not less, range and lethality. In simplest terms, the carrier can’t get to the fight if it involves China and is seriously challenged by Russia in certain areas. China has developed ship-killing missiles that threaten the carrier and its 5,000 crew members well beyond their effective range, while Russia is improving its manned and unmanned undersea forces. Additionally, long-range cruise missiles are proliferating globally and emerging hypersonic weapons will expand the carrier’s vulnerability even farther. Thus, within the context of the National Defense Strategy, the carrier is relegated to a sweep-up combat role. For deterrence missions, a big deck amphibious ship with fifth generation aircraft, paired with medium-altitude long-endurance drones, would be much more efficient than a super-carrier. For these missions, the carrier’s high-sortie generation capacities are not required and its high-signature and iconic value provide an enticing target for a bolt out of the blue attack. Its exorbitant price cannot be justified for bit parts, especially when technology allows for cheaper and more effective alternatives in the form of smaller, more distributed manned and unmanned platforms.

Advocates argue that because the carrier is hard to sink, it is worth the investment. This really misses the point. The carrier is hard to sink when kept out of the thickest weapons engagement zone and fully escorted. Left unsaid is that when so disposed, the carrier’s short-range air wing is ineffective. It also matters that sinking is a bad metric. It is much easier to prevent a carrier from performing its mission by targeting a critical subcomponent, like its radar, either physically with a missile or drone or through a cyber-attack. Such arguments also ignore the tremendous distorting influence the cost of carrier, the carrier air wing, and its escorts have on the Navy’s shipbuilding account. Perhaps these exorbitant costs could be ignored in the immediate post-Cold War Era when we were the sole hegemon, economically and militarily, but those days are gone, and it matters greatly that we receive the greatest possible return on our investments. An ineffectual floating monument to past glories is not the way to win a great power competition.

In contrast to the super carrier, current amphibious ships are less escalatory, more compatible with allied forces, and cheaper and more efficient for the presence and engagement missions called for in the National Defense Strategy. Thus, their mission is not obsolete, but the current design of amphibious ships makes them vulnerable and lucrative targets. Small enemy combatants and long-range precision munitions can slay these very large and capable ships as David did Goliath.

Given the ongoing debate about anti-access and area denial threats posed by peer adversaries, there are those who question the continued utility of currently planned amphibious ships. It is not entirely clear whether these critics are motivated by a belief in mission or design obsolescence, or both, but the reasoning on this matters. It would be a mistake to cut current amphibious ships without a plan to replace them with a new design because a range of traditional and emerging amphibious operations are critically important to deterrence, sea control, and power projection missions, not just traditional amphibious missions.

In sum, amphibious ships have increasing mission utility given that the amphibious mission space has been expanded to encompass sea control and sea denial missions, but they suffer from design obsolescence. Alternatively, carriers suffer from mission obsolescence, since technology is offering more efficient and effective ways to provide ISR and strike to the fleet (unmanned and missiles). Thus, the carrier problem is more fundamental: A new design will not fix its problem. As Adm. John Fisher stated regarding Royal Navy modernization in 1902, “nothing can possibly bring an ‘OUT-OF-DATE’ ship ‘UP-TO-DATE’! You simply can’t do it!”
Story here. 

I am stunned.

I can't believe we're actually here and HQMC isn't seeking to stomp out discussions like these with a quickness!

You do get the force of connection don't you?

There are commentators out there that are attempting to make the LHDs compete with our supercarriers!  This is bad juju.  This will be ultimately the Navy and to the Marines if it isn't checked immediately.

You do know where this talk comes from don't you?

It all has its roots in the L-class carrier talk that came out of nowhere and was pushed to give the F-35 a bit of traction.  Now?  Now it's starting to threaten a part of our naval force important part of it.

The whole thing though on a practical level is insane in my view.  Decreased sortie generation is unimportant?  Carrying fewer strike fighters is unimportant?  The F-35 is short ranged but on an LHD it's irrelevant but on a supercarrier its a detriment?

Am I wrong?

Is the LHD an adequate replacement for the supercarrier?

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