Some comments with which I disagree do make me think. Sometimes I'll rethink my position and go forth a better man. Sometimes I still disagree, give it an "Oh well" and continue with life.
Now there are two fellows who comment here, with varying frequency, with whom I actually served in the Air Force. Both of them were Staff Sergeants on Okinawa when I was nobbut a lowly airman. I learned from both, both were good men to have around in a pinch. Especially if maintenance on the Weapon Control Systems of the mighty F-4 Phantom II was involved.
And what, pray tell you are asking yourself, does all this have to do with aircraft carriers? (For those of you of a certain age, I'll bet you thought I was going to say, "the price of tea in China," neh?)
Anyhoo, the two SSgts were yclept Russ and Bruce. Russ comments here under his actual name, Bruce prefers a pseudonym for his family name. Not a problem either way. Before I go too far off track, let's get down to it.
In my post from last month regarding the flattop, aka bird farm, aka aircraft carrier, Bruce left this comment. I gathered that he's not a fan of Uncle Sam's aquatically mobile airfield -
Bruce Brews March 24, 2017 at 9:43 AM
I'm going to voice what may be an unpopular opinion: I think building supercarriers is not the way to go. Compared to land bases they're obscenely inefficient, extremely vulnerable, and "too many eggs in the basket" both financially and in terms of morale.
Land bases are a much cheaper way to base aircraft than any carrier battle group ($4.5B to $13B for the carrier alone, depending on how you price it out, plus at least as much--maybe double--for the escorts). Land bases can be hardened so that you will only take out one plane or key building with a bomb (Tab-Vees, hardened maintenance facilities). You can't sink a land base: you can hole the taxiways and runways, but that's a relatively quick fix compared to months in dry dock for a damaged carrier--assuming the carrier makes it back to a friendly port. Land bases are also much more flexible in terms of the aircraft they can deploy: you can always use land bases for carrier aircraft. Using land-based planes on a carrier is much more problematic, the Doolittle Raid to the contrary.At the time I responded with a simple, "We agree to disagree."
Aside from the enormous financial cost, there's also the cost to morale if a carrier is lost. The Japanese were able to hide the loss of four carriers at Midway due to their total control of the press, but if we lost one or two supercarriers that's also a loss of 5000 sailors apiece: 100 per U.S. state. We could never hide that from the public. Can you imagine what a blow that would be?
I suggest it would be better to build smaller carriers with about 1/3 the displacement (50% heavier than the first Yorktown, 100% heavier than the first Wasp) and crew size of a super-carrier. I'm not a naval designer, so this is a pure guess on my part, but I think such a ship could carry up to 50 modern aircraft and would cost a lot less, maybe under a billion dollars. In terms of "showing the flag," a smaller carrier would be just as effective as what we have now. In terms of combat mission, a 40- or 50-plane air group would be adequate to carry out strikes in the initial stages of most wars. After the first days of the war, more carrier- and land-based aircraft (plus cruise missiles) could beef up the attack.
The biggest argument for carriers is their mobility, which allows you to apply airpower where you might not be able to. This is true. On the other hand, if we reduced the super-carrier force to five (one Atlantic, two Pacific, one Indian, one in drydock at any one time) and added seven to ten smaller carriers (let's say one North Atlantic, one South Atlantic, one Mediterranean, two Pacific, one Indian, one or two in drydock) we could have at least as much effective airpower around the globe.
The big-carrier lobby will never go for this, of course, but the battleship admirals would never have gone for a strategy that centered on submarines and aircraft carriers before the Pearl Harbor attack. I think it's something to be considered.
In my defense for this less than cogent rely, I was under the weather suffering from the slings and arrows of diverticulitis. So to speak.
Now that I am once again the picture of semi-good health, I felt a more reasoned reply was in order. However, as I am an inherently fair fellow, I thought, "Why not give the readers a shot at this?" As many of you have actually served on those floating airfields and held key staff positions while serving, I count you as perhaps better qualified to answer Bruce's comment. He makes some good points, though again, we agree to disagree.
I will say one thing first, and it's something I believe in, heart and soul...
Si vis pacem, para bellum.What say the commentariat? Have at it!