Thursday, February 1, 2018

What Are They Thinking?

An alert reader poses the question -
So, what do we have for ASW capability now, with submarine launched weapons (especially carrier killer stuff) having greater ranges? What do we have that can pass gas with any quantity and range?
John Blackshoe
To which I could only answer -
Aerial ASW assets? From a carrier? Helos, that's it.

Midair refueling? From a carrier? Think F/A-18s.

Yeah, don't expect any help from the F-35 either...

Sad, innit?
That article in Jalopnik, which is linked under the photo of USS Nimitz (CVN 68), makes for some interesting, but very anger-inducing, reading. Or sadness if you lean that way.

From World War II when our carriers had specific aircraft to perform certain roles: fighter, dive bomber, and torpedo bomber, to today's Navy where the carrier carries it's own airborne early warning platform, the E-2 Hawkeye, but it's fighters, bombers, and electronic warfare aircraft are all based on the same airframe, the F/A-18.

Today's air wing has very short legs compared to its predecessors, which Jalopnik talks about in the article linked above. Now the Navy looks to the F-35 for the future of Naval Air. But squadron size is being reduced (probably because the damned thing is so expensive). The Navy and Marine versions of the F-35 will not have an internal gun, though the Air Force version will.

Hello! Remember back in Vietnam when the Phantom was fielded with NO GUN? The missiles it fielded, the radar guided AIM-7 and the heat seeking AIM-9, in their early versions weren't as capable as they should have been. And when you're out of missiles, it's time to head home. Quickly. The enemy jets have GUNS!

I've seen indications that the F-35 will carry two missiles, yes, very advanced and capable missiles, but last I checked, the Chinese and the Russians both have a crap ton of aircraft. At two kills each, those F-35s might be up to their butts in bad guys with nothing more to rely on than stealth and speed. In lieu of a cloaking device, the Mark One, Mod Zero human eyeball can still see the F-35.

As has been said, quantity has a certain quality all its own. If I had a strike force of a hundred Backfires inbound, I'd hope my destroyers and cruisers could handle the incoming anti-ship missiles while the F-35s scramble to get airborne. Sure the raid might lose a lot of aircraft, but all it takes is losing one carrier to make the American public pause and ask, "So what is so important that we just sacrificed 5000 Americans?"

I don't know. The carrier is really the only power projection platform the Navy has right now. Sure our submarines are very lethal, crewed by some of the best people the nation has to offer, but nothing gets a potential adversary's intention than a haze gray capital ship just off the coast. As we don't have battleships anymore, the carrier is all we have to practice "gunboat diplomacy."

Here's a couple of good articles to whet your appetite, this one, from the Naval Institute, and this one from a nice German website (get your cruise books there, no, seriously). Good background.

I think we need aircraft carriers, but what do I know, I was in the Air Force. Oh right, our bases didn't move, we had to find someplace to put our aircraft in order to fight a war, the Navy can drive their airfields to where they're needed.

This is power projection...

(U.S. Navy photo)
What say you?


  1. We desperately need a fighter, an attack plane, and an ASW plane for our carrier s. Expecting a light attack aircraft to do all those things is foolish. It did not work with the all F4U wings in the late 1940,s, and it isn't working now.

    1. Scott/

      The Father (now deceased) of one of my best friends flew both Hellcats an F4Us in WW II. I hadn't realized that the Corsair was America's first F-111 until my conversations with him, lol.

    2. The Hellcat was twice the fighter that a Corsair was. But the Corsair made it's name as a fighter bomber, so it was a plane that could be a fighter, and replace SB2Cs and TBMs, so it was seem as a very cost effective buy. It was also much sexier than the Hellcat. Which didn't hurt it's future. Corsair, Ginger, Hellcat, Marianne, don'tcha know. My Uncle Darrell flew Hellcats. Badgers tool about the sky in Grummans!

    3. Ah, Grumman. Solid aircraft there.

  2. From what I have read the Air Force F35 has 182 rounds of 25mm for it's internally mounted rotary cannon and this is what the Air Force generals wants to replace the A10 with. That aircraft, designed around a 30MM rotary cannon had OVER 1,100 rounds. And was designed to loiter and survive the 70's German battlefield. Now missile systems have improved since then but what are those perfumed princes in the Pentagon thinking? They are not gonna be the ones in the cockpits of these planes are they? You made good points Sarge..... TWO missiles?....ppffffttt...... America seems to go in for the weapon that can do it all while quantity has a quality all it's own. God save the American(suck it ACLU!) serviceperson at the point of the spear. Rant over.

    1. I think you see to the heart of the matter.

    2. Rutan offered the AF a helluva replacement for the A10 yrs ago that covered all the shortcomings the big-kids claimed the A10 had, but the idiot/fool big kids turned up their noses at the very thought. "Pearls before Swine."

  3. I was going to use the famous quote, "Quantity Has a Quality All Its Own," and I wanted to get the attribution correct.

    I found at that it probably wasn't Stalin who said it, and I also stumbled across this blog post from 2012 entitled, Quantity Has a Quality All Its Own. (I think it should be in italics, but I found no way to do that.)

    The author covers the points of numbers far better than I could, and his mention of the LCS is a foreshadowing of the LCS problems.

    A very thought provoking post. Well done.

    1. Navy Matters, nice, I've added it to my blogroll. The author has a good recent post on the travesty which is the F-35.

      Thanks for pointing me to that John.

  4. Reading elsewhere, the F35 has wing hard points and can be configured for all-air, with 8 AMRAAMs and 2 Sidewinders. But then stealth is out the window and range degraded.

    And on air capabilities, don't forget that the C-2 is being replaced by Ospreys - shorter range, smaller cargo load, and if I remember, loss of the ability to deliver a/c engines due to insufficient dimensions in the cargo space. Logistics, logistics, logistics.....


    1. Ignore logistics, lose wars.

      That lesson has been written in blood for centuries.

  5. The writing quality at Jalopnik/Foxtrot Alpha has really gone down since all the good writers left for The Drive and other, better sites. But that's a rant for another day.

    I don't disagree with the fact that the air wing shrinking is a Bad Thing, but it seems like there's some misinformation in the comments. F-35C is only carrying two missiles internally when it's in mixed configuration with internal bombs and no external stores. Full internal A2A armament is, I believe, 4x AIM-120s. No internal gun is still amazingly stupid though.

    MQ-25 program seems like it has good promise to solve the refueling issue, if Naval procurement can avoid turning it into an overpriced do everything program. Remote control flying gas truck sounds like a good idea.

    Last news I saw on the CV-22 was that they'd solved the internal engine carriage problem.

    Not saying there aren't problems, but some of them aren't as bad as some people are making them out to be, at least in my opinion.

    1. The major problem, as I see it, is the expense. The F-35 is just too damned expensive. I'm hoping the CV-22s work out as the C-2 is just plain worn out.

    2. No argument from me that the F-35 is too expensive. A shame that the lesson ultimately learned from the F-111 debacle was "But we're 30 years smarter, it'll be totally different this time!"

      Unfortunately it's what we're stuck with. My guess is that most F-35 pilots in 15 years will be flying with one to three armed UAVs, and the single pilot in the loop will be mostly tasked with target cueing for the drones to attack.

    3. That's a reasonable assumption.

      You know they won't stop building them. Using them as a Mother Ship for drones makes some sense.

    4. I don't see us having any choice but to keep building and buying them. What's the alternative? The F-35 series is the only new US developed fighter to have its first flight in this century.

      Meanwhile, in the same time span China has gone from churning out MIG-21 clones to flying their own F-22 and F-35 equivalents.

    5. Our Super Hornets, Eagles, and Vipers are still excellent aircraft. With our pilots, we can compete and defeat any, repeat any, adversary. The only guys who are on a par with ours are the Israelis.

    6. You'll get no argument from me on any of those points. (Interestingly enough, today is the 44th anniversary of the YF-16's first flight.) The airframes coming off the assembly line now are vastly more capable than ever envisioned in the '70s.

      But, and this was all I meant, at some point those lines are going to close, presumably before the F-35. The pace of American military aircraft development seems to have gone from fast to slow to glacial over the past seventy years, while other countries are racing to catch up.

      The entire procurement system seems like it's busted from the top down, and I can't think of what, short of a major global war with a peer state, would be sufficient to shake up the seemingly constant drive towards bigger, more complex, more expensive, and fewer platforms. (And I really don't want us to be in a major peer state shooting war)

    7. It's hard to believe the F-16 is that old. Especially as I remember it when it was introduced to active service, I was still on active duty! Midway through my career!

      Yes, I'm old.

  6. Two words...."Peace Dividend". Spoken by the second most vile, corrupt politician alive. He's married to the #1 in the vile/corrupt categories. Started us down this path and turning around will be difficult at best and probably impossible.

    1. Difficult yes, and very expensive even without the LCS, F-35, and Zumwalt Class. If it's impossible, then I guess we are well and truly screwed. There are days that I worry about the kind of country that we are leaving to our grandchildren.

  7. There has been talk of so-called battery ships that would accompany a CVBG and they could launch hundreds of standard missiles to help protect the battle group. I don't know if there has been traction on the idea, but it has merit. Low intensity conflicts have been the name of the game for a long time, but if things change, we need to plan and train for waves of incoming aircraft (Russian strategy to defeat CVBG's) armed with anti-shipping missiles. The F-14 was designed and deployed to counter that threat. The F-35 isn't ready for prime time. What a waste of money.

    1. Do you mean the "Arsenal Ship" proposed back in the '90s?

      Proposed by the U.S. Navy in 1996, it had funding problems, with the United States Congress cancelling some funding, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) providing some funding to individual contractors for prototypes. Some concept artwork of the Arsenal Ship was produced, some images bearing the number "72", possibly hinting at an intent to classify the arsenal ships as a battleship, since the last battleship ordered (but never built) was USS Louisiana (BB-71).

      The arsenal ship would have a small crew and as many as 500 vertical launch tubes for missiles to provide ship-to-shore bombardment for invading troops. The Navy calculated a $450 million price for the arsenal ship, but Congress scrapped funding for the project in 1998.

      The U.S. Navy has since modified the four oldest Ohio-class Trident submarines to SSGN configuration, allowing them to carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles using vertical launching systems installed in the tubes which previously held strategic ballistic missiles.

      In 2013, Huntington Ingalls Industries revived the idea when it proposed a Flight II version of the LPD-17 hull with a variant carrying up to 288 VLS cells for the ballistic missile defense and precision strike missions.

      China has reported to begin testing model arsenal ships built by Bohai Shipbuilding Heavy Industrial Corporation.
      from Wikipedia

      The idea does have merit.

  8. Let's not forget that for decades we operated ASW Aircraft Carriers with a solid mix of ASW platforms.
    ASW was the most truly network centric warfare we knew for over 50 years. After the Cold War we decommed almost 100% of Fixed Distributed Arrays (SOSUS), decommed most of the VP squadrons and the SWO community came to a general professional opinion that conducting ASW from the surface was a sure and certain form of suicide.
    The SSNs are going to wage the ASW of the future because without SOSUS cuing there is no hope of detecting submarines using air platforms alone. At this point, again, it really does come down to the quality of the vessel we mean to use in a given role.
    Curt's corollary, don't forget that the easiest place to kill a submarine is in port. Barring that, the easiest way to render them useless is to mine the harbor approaches to submarine's ports.

    1. Great observations Cap'n. I rather like Curt's Corollary, to paraphrase that, if you see a wasp in your house, kill it, then find the nest and kill 'em all.

  9. Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

  10. I understand the Airboss, NAVAIR, and others deciding to decom the Viking and move to the 2 helo squadron configuration, even though I hated it. The Superhornet was costing us a ton in development, the Cold War and the sub threat had diminished, so it was a fiscal decision more than anything. But those types of decisions are very short sighted, and it left the Strike Group without a mid-zone ASW capability. If a helo happened to find a sub in the inner zone, we're already dead. Now that we have a credible Chinese threat, a growing and irritating Russian one, we're still behind, especially with so few Fast Attack subs. Destroyers and Fighters are sexy so they get the attention and money, to our detriment in other areas.

  11. MSgt Mark USAF (Ret)February 7, 2018 at 12:21 PM

    I sure hope the F35 is the last time the Pilot Union forces another Death Star on the US taxpayers.
    Remove the meat puppet from the vehicle and you can gain 40-100% improvement in a mix of climb, turn, speed, weight capacity, loiter time
    and stealth.

    Oh and you can make 20 40X drones as F35's for the same budget. And you don't need a mega target launching platform.

    We're gonna get out lunch et by a country that can figure that shit out AND implement it.

    1. Many of the Naval Aviators of my acquaintance HATE the F-35. Passionately.

    2. MSgt Mark USAF (Ret)February 7, 2018 at 3:11 PM

      Because they're not stupid?

      Yeah typos galore in my previous post.

      Oh and you can make 20 to 40X drones as F35's for the same budget. And you don't need a mega target launching platform.

      We're gonna get OUR lunch et by a country that can figure that shit out AND implement it.

    3. Well, you did get your message across Mark. We don't mind typos here, it happens.

      The F-35 is too expensive and yes, it'll be lunchtime for a peer adversary. They have real jets, and lots of 'em!


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.