Should America Build More Mini-Aircraft Carriers?

"Italy has two aircraft carriers, and India recently bought its second from Russia, with its first indigenously built aircraft carrier being in the works. This shows that having two or more aircraft carriers is normal for a regional or global power."
-- Zhang Junshe, deputy head of the Naval Research Institute of the People's Liberation Army of China

America's mini-aircraft carrier, the USS America (LHA-6). Source: U.S. Navy.

China has an aircraft carrier. It's building a second, and in a few years, could have three or even four brand-new carriers. Meanwhile, the U.S. is paring back its aircraft carrier-building program, and delaying completion of the new USS Gerald R. Ford supercarrier.

At an estimated completion cost of nearly $13 billion, can you blame us? The Ford is by all accounts a beautiful ship, but it's incredibly expensive -- six times the cost of the carriers China is building. And it gets a taxpayer to wondering: Might there be a better alternative?

Alternative No. 1: Run silent, run deep
One option -- an option that America's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is actively looking into -- is building a new generation of underwater "aircraft carriers" that can move invisibly to any part of the globe, there to deploy unmanned, robotic seaborne, land-roving, and aerial drones. No one knows how much it might cost to build such boats, however.

The good news is that America has another kind of aircraft carrier in its toolbox. It's smaller than the USS Gerald R. Ford. Probably a bit less capable. But -- and this is key -- it costs a whole lot less.

Alternative No. 2: Introducing America's mini-aircraft carriers
We call it the USS America, and technically, it's not an "aircraft carrier." The Navy calls it a Landing Helicopter Assault ship, or LHA -- but as you can see in the following picture, an LHA does look an awful lot like an aircraft carrier.

USS Peleliu (LHA-5) at sea. And yes, that's an aircraft it's carrying up there in front of the tower. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Don't let the "Landing Helicopter Assault" name fool you. Yes, an LHA packs an assortment of helicopter gunships, transports, and anti-submarine choppers from United Technologies (NYSE: UTX  ) and Textron (NYSE: TXT  ) . But these "helicopter" carriers are fully capable of carrying V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and even Lockheed Martin's (NYSE: LMT  ) new F-35B Lightning II fighter jet as well. Displacing 45,000 tons, each America-class LHA can carry up to 20 F-35B fighter jets -- nearly as many fighters as China's full-sized carrier Liaoning carries.

China's newest naval toy, the Liaoning (PLAN CV-16). Source: Author photo, using Google Earth.

Packing a punch on a budget
On an ordinary mission, an America-class LHA might be equipped with:

  • A dozen MV-22B Osprey transports.
  • Six F-35B Lightning IIs.
  • Four CH-53K heavy transport helicopters.
  • Seven AH-1Z attack helicopters.
  • A pair of MH-60S Seahawks. 

That's an incredible, and versatile, amount of firepower we're talking about. More than 30 aircraft, all packed aboard one boat. Best of all, it costs defense contractor Huntington Ingalls (NYSE: HII  ) only about $3.4 billion to build an 844-foot long, 106-foot-wide mini-aircraft carrier like the America. To put that number in context, $3.4 billion is $100 million cheaper than the cost of our newest guided-missile destroyer, the USS Zumwalt.

The upshot: For less than the cost of buying a destroyer, the U.S. could build a whole -- albeit small -- aircraft carrier. That's an attractive proposition, and in a world of shrinking defense budgets, it's a rare bit of good news for the company that builds the carriers: Huntington Ingalls.

Psst! America has a secret weapon
Aircraft carriers are all well and good, but they're kind of 20th-century technology. A better idea to invest in might be the X-factor that U.S. News and World Report says "will drive the U.S. economy." Business Insider calls it "the growth force of our time." And in a special report titled "America's $2.89 Trillion Super Weapon Revealed," we'll tell you all about it -- and explain how to capitalize on this massive growth opportunity. Act now, because this is your shot to cash in before the fat cats on Wall Street beat you to the potentially life-changing profits. Click here now for instant access to this free report.


Read/Post Comments (48) | Recommend This Article (17)

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  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 12:35 PM, peterwolf wrote:

    The answer is no. We should not build mini-carriers. This debate has been going on for decades, yet it never seems to go away. This question has studied until the cows come home and the answer ALWAYS comes up that big carriers are far superior. They sail better (thus making the lives of the sailors better), they last longer (thus are more cost effective over the life of the ship), they're FAR more powerful ( thus doing the job they were built for better), and finally, they simply scare the blazes out of the enemy far more than mini-carriers do. Case closed.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 12:44 PM, ilsm50 wrote:

    India, Italy, China, UK, France, all nearly as dumb as US Navy.

    Aircraft carriers are far cheaper than their airplanes and not more useful! The STOVL F-35 needs small carriers! Small carriers are no more than make work for shipyards. CV version of F-35 is to keep the big 100000 ton nuclear aircraft carrier variety seemingly useful,

    Main uses: fleet actions, and air raiders.

    Fleet actions are rare, and considering WW II in Atlantic carrier quite low impact.

    Air raiders have two issues: cannot operate within aircraft (aeroplanes less than useful with small decks) radius of shore based anti ship and land based air without extensive self defense fleets make woirk for the 95 destroyers the US navy is selling which are falling behind in air defenses..

    Air raiding only works to invest remote islands aka Tarawa.

    Old plans looking for uses.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 12:53 PM, RobAllen wrote:

    Yes the US needs to build many more mini aircraft

    carriers for many reasons below :

    1) It will cost less to build and operate these.

    2) You can build 2 instead of 1.

    3) When there is an emergency response time

    will be faster.

    4) They are smaller so they will be less of a target.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 12:57 PM, Bazerkly wrote:

    The Super Carrier is quickly becoming Obsolete much like the Battle Ship! The Supper Carrier is a Big Target! Smaller attack carriers are the way to go. Many small carriers were used by the US during WWII!

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 1:35 PM, copykon wrote:

    A few big badass U.S Super carriers with it's fleet ...gets the message across. (don't forget the nuclear subs either).

    Hopefully, china's "carrier" comes with a 1 year warranty.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 2:02 PM, SwK0212 wrote:

    Doing the math you can get almost 4 of these smaller carriers for the cost of one really big one. Considering that China now has a super sonic missile that goes 6 times the speed of sound and as of yet we don't have a way to stop it and it is designed solely for the purpose of our super carriers one would clearly see that these smaller carriers would be more economical and a far better investment. The USS Enterprise was a carrier in a class all by herself but she went and served this county for just over 50 years. Considering that the oldest of the Nimitz class carriers was commissioned in 1975 and the newest was in 2009 these boats still have a lot of life in them. Cut back on the new Ford class carriers (but not stop, only used to replace the oldest of the Nimitz class) and make more of these smaller carriers for more bang for the buck.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 2:43 PM, tdjjr wrote:

    In Bremerton we have 3 aircraft carriers in mothball and just sitting in the water. I suggest the following lets take these aircraft carriers and change their launching platform that is probably obsolete and use them as a helicopter and landing platform and use harrier jets or F22 or F35 with vertical landing and use these mothball carriers as a troop carrier transport in which they are proposing . It would probably save millions and put people to work. Changing the engine is also possible in dry dock. I think this would be more a viable solution.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 3:16 PM, pwm02176 wrote:

    The cost comparison of the 'America' to the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is invalid. The America is built on a tried and true design that has been around for a lot of years. The cost of the Zumwalt includes all the research and development cost of an entirely new design and concept. The next two DDG 1000's will be a deal less expensive than the first ship in the class. A better comparison of costs of the two ships would be to provide the average cost per unit of the three 1000's vs. just the cost of the Zumwalt.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 3:46 PM, vwarren wrote:

    Truth is it costs about the same to operate smaller carriers as it does for larger carriers. In the long run the Navy doesn't save proportionally. You still have to outfit with air wings, and the nuclear refueling costs are about the same regardless the size of the carrier.

    So you definitely want something with greater firepower and survivability. Also, larger carriers can operate in most any types of weather, whereas smaller carriers are more vulnerable.

    Those who strictly offer some sort of graduate school MBA cost benefit analysis in support of smaller carriers don't know much about the art of war or about sea power. Need to level set the financial types who only see things in costs.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 3:53 PM, ghelmz21 wrote:

    Since China and even India are nuclear equipped the aircraft carrier is sort of outdated. There was a report issues years ago that in the event of a nuclear war the estimated survival of an aircraft carrier was about 19 minutes! Both we can use them against places like Vietnam and Iraq, and places we feel we need to bully!

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 5:12 PM, MarineTanker wrote:

    The one crucial capability of an LHA, and its cousin the LHD, that was completely overlooked and not mentioned is its abilities as an amphibious assault launching platform. In addition to the ship's crew complement, an LHA/LSD can carry over 2,000 Marines, their equipment, vehicles, ammunition, food, and other supplies to support sustained combat operations up to a month. This is in addition to the fixed and rotary wing mix of AV-8B's/F-35B's, V-22's, UH-1Y's, and/or AH-1Z's

    An LHA well deck can accommodate two LCU (Landing Craft, Utility), each able to carry up to three USMC M1A1 tanks, plus three LCM (Landing Craft, Mechanized) that can carry one M1A1 tank each. An LHD has no center island within the well deck so that it can accommodate up to three LCAC (Landing Craft, Air Cushioned), each capable of carrying one M1A1 tank each.

    Even with all these landing craft and pre-positioned vehicles, the forward area of the well decks hold the remaining vehicles and artillery of a Marine Expeditionary Unit, queued for subsequent amphibious assault waves.

    Whereas a "Super Carrier" is limited to essentially flight sorties only, with extremely limited helicopter-bourne Marine assaults, the "mini-carriers" have been in successful amphibious combat and humanitarian operations since the 1970's.

    Indeed, after an amphibious deployment in Desert Storm our Amphibious Ready Group was diverted to the Indian Ocean to support Operation Sea Angel, it was the Marines along with the Navy's landing crafts and Helo's from the LHA and supporting LSDs that provided the boots-on-the-ground humanitarian support, while simultaneously detaching a couple Marine infantry platoons via CH-53's to reinforce and prepare for a possible extraction of an American embassy compound in Africa due to a local civil war. A "super carrier" is in no way equipped to handle such unforeseen and extremely varied missions that an LHA/LSD is.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 5:31 PM, Paladin127 wrote:

    Apples and oranges people.

    A super carrier is a strategic weapon system. It's used to dismantle entire air forces and countries when friendly air bases are not within range of the target (think war in Iran, or over Taiwan). It carries a wide variety of aircraft specifically designed for that purpose. It also serves as a fleet command ship for surface and sub-surface combatants, as well as providing 360 degree air control around and above the fleet. For those who don't remember, air craft carriers have also provided humanitarian aide, using their nuclear reactors to power entire cities and provide world class medical care.

    The LHA ships can carry aircraft, yes, but those aircraft are almost entirely dedicated to transporting and supporting the Marines carried within and on other assault ships like LSD's. They are not designed to dominate an air space the way a super carrier is designed to do. You'd need 3 LHA's to do the job of one Ford-class ship, and at that ratio, you're not really saving any money.

    The US Navy has already reduced the size of the fleet drastically. In the 1950's, the navy had nearly 30 fleet carriers and about a dozen "Helicopter carriers". Today, we have 10 super carriers and about a dozen LHA's.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 6:04 PM, vet212 wrote:

    Not really, what we need is a ship armed with heavy guns and thickly armored just like say the Iowa class BB's fast and in todays world virtually undefeatable and they can be really effective in force projection INSHORE better than any Carrier as the Carrier is thin skinned and easily rendered unusable by only light damage to its flight decks thus is kept over the horizon and out of sight a BB on the other hand can come within easy view from the beach and man seeing that big grey hull you have no weapon capable of hurting is psychologically damaging

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 6:23 PM, kduble wrote:

    This is the right move to make. While the big CV carriers got publicity in WWII in big battles like Midway, what made our island-hopping campaign possible was having so many CVLs and CVEs. These were the WWII counterparts of today's LHAs and LHD, that is to say, smaller aircraft carriers.

    The successful Pearl Harbor assault woke up the Navy to the fact this would be a different kind of a war. Construction was suspended on 8 cruisers. These became what eventually amounted to a total of nine CVLs. There were scores of CVEs as well. These were even smaller, and they were ubiquitous in our Pacific campaigns.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 6:37 PM, ochairman wrote:

    China is NOT competing with the US. China

    doesnot have the Jewish, German, English brains.

    China doesn t want to buy any opium. That s


  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 6:48 PM, VSFSF wrote:

    Author should do some more research. LHA ships are not a new idea, nor are they simply "mini-carriers". They are amphibious assault class ships, designed to carry and support Marines for ship to shore operations. The author highlights all the possible aircraft that the LHA-6 can carry but forgets to mention the fact that it is also designed to carry over 1,000 Marines or that future ships of this class will have "well decks" which enable the launching and recovery of landing craft.

    So to use these ships simply as "mini carriers" would be inefficient and ineffective. If the Navy wanted to to make these into effective mini carriers they would scrap the well deck and storage area for combat troops to have room for more aircraft/aircraft support. This is basic information that professional, being paid to write on military policy, ought to know. Failing that, it is readily available on wikipedia or many other places.

    I recommend the Motley Fool focus on articles regarding subjects they are knowledgeable on.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 7:32 PM, marker585 wrote:

    FOOL, it seems you're now pushing defense related topics given the drawdown of Afghanistan is on the horizon and someone has to push forward to keep the defense industry fat and happy because cuts are coming. No better way to do that than through supersized weapons projects.

    I'm not a navy man so can't really talk what's best but as a taxpayer $26 billion for a single boat is ludicrous. (Yeah, I know they "quote" $13 billion but that's just a tease). Then on top of the supercarrier is a super sized task force to accompany and protect it. This is a costly endeavor with long term spending to keep the ball rolling. However, America is broke. Americans don't want to pay taxes to support the military nor do they want another costly project. I know I don't. We can get a much better bang for the buck by looking at low cost alternatives.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 9:01 PM, Marvo76 wrote:

    there are valid points for both side, big carrier does equal big firepower also equals big target, New hypersonic missiles make them hard to defend, LHD's as well...Drones are now in the forefront, as a former Navy air controller, (amphib) What i do see on the horizon is a LHD sized carrier loaded with drones ( which are smaller ) performing a big carrier's tasks. there is still no substitute for a pilot in a cockpit, for final control of an aircraft but for longer range missions short of bringing in strategic aircraft (B1, B2, B52) a Large carrier is needed, Drones can be jammed and taken over. at some point, all of these have to be taken into effect, then balanced against who's Congressional district is in good graces and has votes for sale.....The service man or woman will just ride what ever they get...and like it because they have no other choice...

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 9:41 PM, stockingshorts wrote:

    Build more; faster; silent and well armed nuclear subs. An aircraft carrier is a floating island with a motor and a couple of propellers. It shows up real nice on both radar and a sub's high tech listening equipment can pick up surface ships from extremely long distances. Our torpedo advancements mean we're able to fire them from distances (many miles) and still hit their subs.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 9:46 PM, causeman1 wrote:

    The small carriers cannot do what the super carriers do. One super carrier can put AWACS in the air, allowing them to dominate an entire theater. An air wing with aerial control is unstoppable. The enemy cannot even get close. The big carriers establish their own air supremacy.

    Another issue is the humanitarian role the super carriers can fill. How many times have maritime countries been devastated by typhoons, only to have a carrier come in, roll out a few miles of cable, and power entire mega-cities?

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 11:14 PM, navyfalcon wrote:

    Before we decide the type of ships to build, first we should evaluate the threats and which country or area poses these threats. Then decide on what is the most effective way of countering these threats.

    All large ships need a screen of destroyers. We are now updating these ships to extend their range of protection. These ships make the large ships more effective by giving a multilayer of protection for air, surface and sub-surface threats. Without evaluating the threats and the defense, How can we intelligently make a decision on our defense.

    Motley Fool is an investment company, not a threat evaluation and defense company. Can they name the greatest threats we will be facing in the next 10 years and the best defense ??

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 1:13 AM, locsphere wrote:

    As long as we keep their larger counterparts running and operational you could build more regular carriers with a supplemental smaller carrier for smaller missions.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 1:35 AM, rocket7777 wrote:

    US already have enough big ones which are somewhat floating duck lol. It cost like 3 times as much so 3 smaller ones would be better because all it takes are few missiles to sink them.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 4:15 AM, jstyson68 wrote:

    The main role of carriers is force projection I served on them they can be in any part of the world and provide the US with multi-role assets from fighter protection to humanitarian assistance and also diplomatic statements are made without firing a shot there isn't a country who does not get scared when a carrier is parked off their coast with over 80 planes ready to attack sticking 6 birds on a LHD/A is not going to get the job done you can not run 24-hour flight operations you don't have enough ordnace onboard to even make a difference.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 4:50 AM, Bradknowsall wrote:

    Everyone's whining about China building 4 carriers so let's do a little math shall we. When they get their fourth carrier completed, the US will still have about 70 fast attack subs in service, along with 10 super carriers and a couple of hundred screening and support vessels. The US has the largest servicing navy on the planet, more than capable of handling anything China can put up. Or Iran for that matter. What I don't get is why The Motley Fool thinks it means that China is up to something. First its an LHA and as the article points out it looks an awful lot like an aircraft carrier, but what else would it look like. I suppose since helicopters are aircraft, technically you can call it an aircraft carrier but it holds no fixed wing aircraft. Its also classified as a support vessel if I remember correctly. I was a jet mech in the Navy and I've been on several super carriers and an LHA is too small and doesn't carry catapults for launching fixed wing aircraft or arresting cables, no need. China is still playing catch up and will be for several decades.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 8:15 AM, 67alfa wrote:

    No, we should not build more of ANY more carriers. Why would we borrow money from the Chinese to build even more carriers? We need to reign in spending!

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 9:23 AM, jamblish wrote:

    Sometimes this discussion about super carriers reminds me of similar conversations at the turn of the 20th century when people were trying to decide if adding another 2 or 4 horses to the carriage would be worthwhile. Its time to stop building super carriers and consider building a new game changing ship capable of meeting US military and diplomatic needs for the next 50 years. Let the Russians, Indians, Chinese and Iranians figure out how to build super carriers with their attendant support ships while we consider how to make those carriers even more obsolete.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 10:49 AM, cityperson wrote:

    Small carrriers are fine in some cases. However, we need a super carrries to carry out multi missions when aclled upon. Moast of the newer and some of the older super carriers can be converted in a matter of hours or less and converted in to another mission type. The smaller carriers can not. This is something to think about for people that have never been in the U.S.Navy or worked in the ship yards on various carrier types from large to small LHAs..

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 12:51 PM, rw93003 wrote:

    We Need to go back to the drawing board and build small, UAV/Cruise missile carriers that we can better afford to lose. And be vigilant in keeping cost-creep under control so little carriers that are 1/4 the size don't cost twice as much.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 1:25 PM, DanInKansas wrote:

    Pretty simple reasons to say yes:

    Uses of small carriers include: infantry projection, anti-submarine patrols, merchant ship escorting and humanitarian relief.

    Uses of large carriers: establishment of air superiority, force projection, and sea lane control.

    Large carriers need to be maintained and used in case of a hot war in the Pacific, but overall, if you look at the need for maritime force for the United States, small carriers win.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 1:58 PM, sschwie45 wrote:

    I was on the USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3) in 1978. Needless to say, this ship is not a new model. Also, as one other commenter posted, this is an amphibious assault ship. It's purpose is to put Marines on the beach, either by the air via it's flight deck or by the water, via it's well deck. While it has an important role in America's Navy, replacing an aircraft carrier is not one of those roles.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 2:33 PM, grogie wrote:

    I say maybe a couple would be nice but to be honest I would build 10 subs for every one of their ships!! those subs are the best weapon you can have what you don't see under water can hurt you the most! ships can be sunk with five torpedo's coming at it from all angles! use solar panels between the last two outer metal plates it oborbs radar waves! undetectable! for that info you can email me the bonus check :)

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 2:39 PM, Djadu wrote:

    One idea that seems to be completely off the radar screen is the idea of 2 to 4 battleships. I'm not talking about un-moth balling the old Iowa class ships. Superb as they were in their day, they use too much dated technology and age related wear and tear have taken their toll, along with being too manpower intensive. Why should they be even considered? Well, the biggest reason is cost of delivery. Naval ordinance while not super cheap is a whole less expensive vs. $135 million dollars a copy F-35 assault planes if you lose one to triple A or missles. Range - most targets needing to be "re-arranged" are within 40 miles of almost all of the world's shorelines. Ranges of 100,000 yards (56 miles) were obtainable firing 13" sabot rounds through the 16" 50 caliber barrels of the Iowa class battleships. With longer barrels - say 60 - 62 caliber, higher training angles (45 degrees was maximum with the Iowas) such as 55 degrees, and rocket loads ranges of 200,000 yards or longer would be obtainable. The Wehrmacht long guns (281 - 310 MM) of World War Two were getting ranges of 160 kilometer (100 miles) with smooth bore sabots. By firing at a 55 degree angle the round actually leaves the atmosphere for enough time in its trajectory to extend its range dramatically because of the decrease in air resistance. Larger length of barrels increases range also. A new ship would be far cheaper and a sounder investment then trying to convert an old Iowa. Even if only 4 barrels were carried per ship the increased accuracy of new rounds would multiply their effectiveness over manned aircraft dramatically. 2 barrels per turret would likely be the max due to weight increases of the barrel (though new metallurgical advances since WW2 would obviously help. A modern stealth design would go a long way to insuring the survival of the ship. New armor formulations would cut weight of this requirement and more efficient or possible nuclear plants would endoubtedly increase speed over the old Iowas 34 knots. One of these ships should be obtainable for 50-60% of the cost of a baby carrier.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 2:44 PM, JimBoJeff wrote:

    to whom it may concern, the ARTICLE writer/delineator/well-chosen-word-deliverer, I, jeff(rey) Castillo, whiteMEXICAN - call{SlAnG}board name on AVIATION WEEK & Space Technology MAGaZINE, i.n.t.e.r.n.e.t. "HAWAIIAN CORK BORD" call board MESSAGE (-T-R-A-N-S-M-I-S-S-I-O-N-) 'BRASS TACK-POST-IT-NOTES-), a McGraw-Hill publication, believe the D(epartment) oF(unky) D(efense) should build water-borne-sea-faring-craft based on TRI_CATAMARAN_HOST_, since it said in the earth science college level text-book, learning laboratory, 22nd street and lambert road, that little (sparce) known CRITICAL-SUBTEXT-BASIS is known about the ocean (land animals are simpler_based_information THAN AQUATIC 'cultural' LIFE), due to the OCEAN "DYNAMISM" earth mantle c o n s t r u c t I o n . THE AGEAN SEA (since plato's time) IS THE MOST (elucidated) STUDIED (mineralogically torent) SEA (graphed) studied sea in the world, and "READERS" still don't think it's that studied. sincerely and yours truly. JEFFREY ALAN CASTILLO>

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 2:54 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    LOL as an out of date, drydocked submariner, fast attack version, I invite every Navy in the world to build more carriers, especially the mini type. You know.... the BFT's...Big (Fat) Targets.

    I highly recommend you armchair strategists read some Naval History Books and some easy reading historical renditions of the last use of Mini Carriers in the last general war. Its called "Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors" detailing the sinking by gunfire of the only (mini) US Carrier so lost, USS Gambier Bay. I can also recommend the book "Silent Running".

    Late in my active duty time the debate over the Soviet Union's version of "mini-Carriers" threat was in full swing. One of my CO's classmates attended a conference in which he offered the opinion that the USSR HAD NO CARRIERS. A very smart and inexperienced Analyst put up a picture of Moskova, which they had just launched and said "Well then WHAT's THIS?" The response from this fast attack CO was: "THAT is a Navy Cross that hasn't happened yet"

    Of course those were the days when we had nearly 50 fast attacks instead of (gulp) 30 I think now...

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 6:03 PM, CrowdControl wrote:

    The Question needs to be revised:

    "How should USN fundamentally restructure it's Procurement strategy (surface vessels, aviation, munitions and submarine force) given the austere budget environments going forward and given the current unsustainable and broken acquisition process!!"

    Sure, deciding how to best recapitalize and replace retiring nuclear super-carriers with a possible mix of alternative solutions, should be one of the critical questions to ask.

    I think all can agree however, that the current 'strategy' of procuring $13B super carriers + unsustainably expensive F-35C strike fighters will simply need to be restructured ASAP, as the current strategy will 'Eat' the USN's budget and Navy itself. By default, the current acquisition strategy will cause significant reduction of fleet size/force structure, deterrence value and capabilities before the end of the decade (via reducing acquisition budgets of other critical programs).

    I'd personally contemplate and study a radical restructuring of strategy to include mix of smaller (off-the-shelf) conventional or nuclear catapult-operating Carriers (foreign design) + LHA + even smaller 'next-gen' High-speed ships with helicopter and UAV ops (e.g., for ASW) + future Block V/VI Virginia-Class (incl. UAV/UUV) + next-gen stand-off + land-based UCAV strike-capable. But contemplate MQ-8C and modified A-29 Super-Tucano operating from LHA though -- cancel fuel-hogging and ultra-expensive/unreliable/delayed F-35B.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 6:34 PM, paul10101010 wrote:

    Why dont they make an armada of drone speed boats with mini c4 torpedos

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 7:45 PM, RyanBooBOO wrote:

    Are we crazy for war or not ??? I think we watch too many Hollywood movies. Pls clam down and go back to work. If war can solve problems, then we shud rule the whole world 60 years ago. Pls dont waste our taxpayer money on the arms race.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 7:55 PM, sigman58 wrote:

    Several people have summed this debate up properly - the supercarrier task force is a more capable sustained force projection platform in every conceivable way. Only a few nations can take on a single such task force with any chance of success. As for being big targets - of course, but an enemy may find them harder to take out than they think. If nukes are used all bets are off, because then the boomers get to have their "fun" - and nobody is interested in 16 or 24 times 4 to 14 warheads being delivered from merely one out of fourteen+ unknown sources. Lets all hope it does not come to that.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 10:13 PM, maxoverload wrote:

    where do they get todays defense / offense design engineers . build a multi million dollar or billion dollar ship , with 1 forward deck gun ?? are they nuts , have they any idea what a battle arena is like , The way they scuttle the operable floating navy ships we have our ports is a disgusting shame , especially with the current budget constraints , the best they replace them with , are in comparison - tin cans , with modules that do not fit or dont work or even sustain stress cracks , while New on sea trials alone , It would be better to use some Diversity , Sure keep the Super Carriers , but the way the battle front continues to expand , we need more capability over a broader area . Do we build a ship around a rail gun , or take an existing ship , fit it with the latest guns and missles , and turbines , and - along with a yet Unproven rail gun or lazer system , all while keeping the proven means of offense And defense . To use the feared Bismark as an example , it took many lives , did much harm , was feared , but when its steerage failed , its fate was written . No one battle system is perfect , they all have a weak spot , and you cant be everywhere at once . Thus , Diversity is needed . Stop trashing what we have invested in America , New is great , but Improvement to what we have would certainly stretch the ever loving dollar . Build a better military web , not just a hot spot .

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 10:45 PM, maxoverload wrote:

    If you are going to send a ship thousands of miles to deter or battle , be sure it has a Wide range of armament on board.

  • Report this Comment On February 11, 2014, at 1:42 AM, garagehero wrote:

    I understand these newer Chinese aircraft carriers will have 400 rowers. I guess that's scary to some folks.

  • Report this Comment On February 11, 2014, at 2:08 AM, ellaerdos wrote:

    It's not the size of your aircraft carrier but what you do with it.

  • Report this Comment On February 11, 2014, at 4:58 AM, metou wrote:

    what they should of done is stripped the old ones down to the hull and rebuilt them with new electronic and everything else inside them like new missle system , guns, newer type of propulsion system ,etc, this would of cost a lot less than sending the old one to the scrap yard to be cut up. recycle them instead. they could build a couple new ones along recycling the old ones.

  • Report this Comment On February 11, 2014, at 10:07 AM, Thontor wrote:

    One issue that seems to be missed here is that short-deck carriers take away a lot of options in the armament of the aircraft being launched.

    For example, China's Liaoning (and basically all other short-deck carriers) is too small to allow fighters taking off from it to carry heavy air-to-surface weapons. This means the Liaoning is basically only useful in the role of air-to-air fleet defense. LHA's in addition to carrying only about 1/4-1/5 the war-load of fighters that an American long-deck carrier can take into battle, also faces this limitation on air-to-surface weaponry that can be carried by its F-35B's, and given that the F-35B is shaping up to be a poor dogfighter in comparison with other modern aircraft and with a lighter weapons payload than any other F-35 variant (with flight characteristics little better than the F-16,) we're probably going to want more than even-numbers against Chinese Flanker-D's/J-15s and other dedicated air-superiority fighters should it ever come to that point.

    Basically, the short-deck carrier option will require us to build twice as many, move them in groups and then completely reorganize the fleet in order to push the surface attack role off onto other platforms, and in doing this, we gain very little in terms of savings or capabilities.

  • Report this Comment On December 08, 2014, at 3:39 AM, waterxero wrote:

    72 navy carriers can bright a world what are the carrier is probing new jeopardize

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2015, at 11:09 AM, JoelGoodman1 wrote:

    Putting aside the assault ships, which are not carriers, yes - we should have a balance of large super carriers and Essex sized "mini-carriers".

    They should be nuclear fueled with speed approaching 35 knots for fast deployment.

    These are large enough for attack and CAP aircraft and the small savings will allow more to be built.

    They are still very sea worthy, can sustain damage and will be able to transit the Panama Canal of today.

    These would be the CVL's and CVE's of today; which are necessary.

    I did propose a Nimitz sized Iowa configured battle carrier with an aft placed flight deck for jump jets and a hanger deck; utilizing electric rail and traditional powder large guns, but was shot down as being foolish. I still believe a few nuclear powered battle carriers capable of launching several companies of Marines and supporting them once ashore is a valid ship.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2015, at 11:14 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    I'm sure the Pentagon will listen to Fools and fools.

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