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2007-11-09 Home Front: WoT
U.S. Aircraft Carriers Vulnerable to Attack?: The Ticking Time Bomb
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Posted by anonymous5089 2007-11-09 09:21|| E-Mail|| Front Page|| [1201 views ]  Top

#1 Sure they're obsolete. It's just there hasn't been a real shooting war for so long, the carriers have simply been unopposed. The next real war, carrier-using nations are going to find out real fast that guided missiles have gotten much much better since WWII.
Posted by gr(o)mky 2007-11-09 09:31||   2007-11-09 09:31|| Front Page Top

#2 I agree more or less that they vulnerable unless they have a good escort with a working anti-missile capability. The problem is that a reliable anti-missile capability isnt proved yet.
Posted by Pholugum Stalin1270 2007-11-09 10:10||   2007-11-09 10:10|| Front Page Top

#3 The main advantage of the CVN is its ability to project power (especially if any of our "allies" reneg on their basing agreements). No other ship comes close.

I would have to say the CVN is indispensible and worth the investment in escorts.

Posted by Frozen Al 2007-11-09 10:22||   2007-11-09 10:22|| Front Page Top

#4 I believe the manuver where the fishing boats, etc. were so effective included ROE where the Navy didn't sink the little turds on general principles. That kind of thinking is what got the Marines killed in Beirut.
Posted by Richard Aubrey">Richard Aubrey  2007-11-09 10:28||   2007-11-09 10:28|| Front Page Top

#5 The purpose of the CVN is to prevent little wars from becoming big wars. If a country, or a group of countries wish to kick things up a knotch with the United States of America, tackling a US carrier group will be the least of their problems.
Posted by mrp 2007-11-09 10:59||   2007-11-09 10:59|| Front Page Top

#6 All of these "gloom and doom" analyses manage to forget that carriers, and all warships, have ALWAYS been vulnerable. One has only to look at the battles of Midway and Coral Sea to understand that.

Carrier battles are a case of "eggshells armed with hammers" going after each other.

Warships are "sent in harm's way." Some will be lost. It's the nature of the job.
Posted by Ralph">Ralph  2007-11-09 11:18||   2007-11-09 11:18|| Front Page Top

#7 Reminds me of a story I heard...

"Then there was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American. During a break one of the French engineers came back into the room saying, "Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intend to do, bomb them?"

A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: "Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 5,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck.. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?"

There was dead silence in the room."
Posted by Mullah Richard 2007-11-09 11:23||   2007-11-09 11:23|| Front Page Top

#8 "The problem is that a reliable anti-missile capability isnt proved yet."

How reliable does it have to be? Id hate to be a sub commander assigned to fire missiles at a Carrier Battle Group (or whatever they call them these days) knowing that my missiles have to get through Aegis, etc, BEFORE Im found and sunk myself by aircraft.

Of course all depends on geography. If youre off the coast of China, where the carriers can be hit by land based missiles, thats different from a fight in the open sea.
Posted by Liberalhawk 2007-11-09 11:28||   2007-11-09 11:28|| Front Page Top

#9 Couple months old - couple decades old. The 'concerned' faux scientists in public interest lobby has been hawking this since Ronnie's time. Bunch of small carriers [with - multiple cost of appropriate number of support ships] were argued to be better. Strange that every major event since, the big boys have carried a lot of load that the unlikely to be funded multiple tasks forces would have been needed to shoulder. Instead of having the real capability on hand, we would have had inadequate down sized keels like the Brits had at the Falklands, except it wouldn't be the Argies we'd deal with. This is just another unilateral disarmament argument.
Posted by Procopius2k 2007-11-09 11:30||   2007-11-09 11:30|| Front Page Top

#10 i dont know all the naval tech stuff, but I would question the following

"Chances are, the Shkval isn't the most advanced supercavitating torpedo they've got. Remember, they don't have as open a press or society there as we do (especially under Putin), so theoretically it should be easier for them to keep the latest advanced military weapons a secret. "

Russia isnt the USSR, not yet. Putin has taken over the TV networks, which are most important in influencing the voters, but the print press is still relatively lively, and in general the society is still alot more open that it was pre-Perestroika.
Posted by Liberalhawk 2007-11-09 11:36||   2007-11-09 11:36|| Front Page Top

#11 About the Indonesia story.

France has the small iarceft carrier Charles de Gaulle (who wasn't sent to Indonesia). Instead they sent French Navy's school ship "Jeanne D'arc". In peace time Jeanne d'Arc carries 6 (six) anti-subamarine (ie small) helicopters on board. In war time their number can reach 20 or 25 but they are still relatively small helicoptes with limited internal payload. I don't know in which configuration it was when she was sent to Indonesis. She arrived a month after the events.

In addition to the Roosevelt aircraft carrier the US sent the "Bonhomme Richard" assault ship carrying 48 troop transport (ie laaaarge) helicopters and half a dozen anti-submarine helicopets.

BTW, I am sure I have seen this story presnted as his own by ERic Svane in
Posted by JFM">JFM  2007-11-09 11:40||   2007-11-09 11:40|| Front Page Top

#12 The fact is a carrier group is awesome. With nuclear attack subs and frigates watching below and aegis and the air wing and the AWACs watching above they are nearly invincible. The only way really is luck or a first strike using civilian vessels to get close. That trick would only happen once and probably wouldn't get close enough to the carrier anyway.
Posted by rjschwarz 2007-11-09 11:50||   2007-11-09 11:50|| Front Page Top

#13 Furthermore, it is the battlegroup protecting the CVN that is missing when it comes to most other nations carriers, rendering them into the category of target.
Posted by rjschwarz 2007-11-09 11:51||   2007-11-09 11:51|| Front Page Top

#14 Source of the carrier in Indonesia story is varifrank, I believe. A classic tale of BDS and America bashing by the clueless. Read it. Be proud.
Posted by SteveS 2007-11-09 12:17||   2007-11-09 12:17|| Front Page Top

#15 This ship, and eventually the rest of the BG will get directed energy defensive weapons to counteract any threat within the horizon. Clouds or not.

We are going to need a bigger Navy. Global Warming means more ocean.
Posted by Penguin 2007-11-09 12:53||   2007-11-09 12:53|| Front Page Top

#16 Many swabs have spent their entire careers pondering how to keep aircraft carriers from being sunk, for about 80 years now. It's kind of a personal thing with them.
Posted by Anonymoose 2007-11-09 12:59||   2007-11-09 12:59|| Front Page Top

#17 We are going to need a bigger Navy. Global Warming means more ocean.
Posted by: Penguin

Us Two Liver peeps can think reel gud eh!!!
Posted by Red Dawg">Red Dawg  2007-11-09 13:08||   2007-11-09 13:08|| Front Page Top

#18 Does somebody have the link to the invulnerable weapons systems list?
Posted by Nimble Spemble 2007-11-09 13:08||   2007-11-09 13:08|| Front Page Top

#19 Great post, Mullah Richard!

Short of a MIRVed ICBM, nothing ... effing N.O.T.H.I.N.G. projects power like an American nuclear powered aircraft carrier and its escort. A single BG with nuclear submarine cohort has the ability to irreversibly cripple any other nation ON EARTH.


We are going to need a bigger Navy. Global Warming means more ocean.

Hot contender for Snark O' The Day¬ô.
Posted by Zenster">Zenster  2007-11-09 13:09||   2007-11-09 13:09|| Front Page Top

#20 The only vessel I can think of that has been lost to a supercavitating torpedo was the Kursk. It has yet to be seen if new ChiCom military tech is any better than the crash protection on their estate sedans or quality control on pet food or children's toys.
Posted by Excalibur 2007-11-09 13:10||   2007-11-09 13:10|| Front Page Top

#21 Mr. Svane's first-person account indeed seems to be where the 'Indonesia Story' originated. Unfortunately, it was modified over the last two years before I heard it and I will notify the person who told me the story of this fact.

The original is MUCH better.
Posted by Mullah Richard 2007-11-09 13:18||   2007-11-09 13:18|| Front Page Top

#22 PS: Excellent link, SteveS. Definitely a must read, along with the added link about Retired Col. Gail Halvorsen that appears at the article's end.
Posted by Zenster">Zenster  2007-11-09 13:19||   2007-11-09 13:19|| Front Page Top

#23 What kills ships is fire. And a CVN has the fire fighting capacity of a small city. And the USN is very skilled in damage control. Oriskany, Forestal and Enterprise all suffered fires in the 1960s. None of them sunk. Does any one seriously think those lessons have been forgotten. But that said of course a CVN is sinkable. Its made of steel and floats. Poke enough holes in it and one will sink. I just wonder how many holes it would take.
Posted by Chedderhead 2007-11-09 15:11||   2007-11-09 15:11|| Front Page Top

#24 Couple of observations as one who spent a total of 11+ years on the flattops:
First if a conflict started heating up, small boats would not be able to get in close to explode and do any harm, the CWIS and or helos would take them out (an HH-60 with a 50 cal sticking out each side is a pretty awesome sight.)
Second, i do have concerns about distance: space is your friend, and if the bad guys launched missles at a CV, time is needed for defense. The loss of carrier-borne long range aircraft hinders that distance thingie. Relying on the USAF for in flight refueling requires a lot more hoses in the air than are available right now if the going gets really tough.
Third: the USN recently sank the USS America in order to test the defenses of the boat against various weapons. for obvious reasons, the results are under some serious wraps.
Fourth: there are no subs too quiet for our sensors to detect.
more concern is running into an unlit tanker in the Straits of Mallaca ( happened at least 2x that i know of)
Posted by USN,Ret. 2007-11-09 15:15||   2007-11-09 15:15|| Front Page Top

#25 I al not sure that Mr Svane put it in first person. In fact I rember the detail of the Indian and it makes highly unlikely it would have been in a first person account from Mr Svane. He must have linked the story.
Posted by JFM">JFM  2007-11-09 15:52||   2007-11-09 15:52|| Front Page Top

#26 I do have concerns about distance: space is your friend, and if the bad guys launched missles at a CV, time is needed for defense. The loss of carrier-borne long range aircraft hinders that distance thingie.

So do I. When the F14 was retired I warned that the Super-Hornet was no substitute for F14's crucial mission: down enemy airplanes before they come in striking range of the carrier. For several reasons (radar, poorest supersonic performance, range of missiles) the Hornets could fail to do the job in time...

It is a pity that no super-Tomcat has come to fill the gap until the next generation is ready.
Posted by JFM">JFM  2007-11-09 16:02||   2007-11-09 16:02|| Front Page Top

#27 JFM, not only that, but the Navy's organic refuelers are the same Super Hornets you speak of. hanging drop tanks and buddy stores on them in order to carry gas takes away hard points for ordnance.
There was a move afoot during the Intruder retirement frenzy ( championed by the hornet mafia, IMO) to refit a few of the newly rewinged A-6s with the IFR package (from retired KA-6Ds)and assign them to the EA-6B squadrons. a dedicated tanker platform with more 'give' as well as longer legs would have been an asset. The Prowler and Intruder are airframe- and powerplant-wise virtual twins so it was not like there would be a huge training obstacle for the wrench twisters; in fact it was commonplace for these guys to go back and forth between platforms if they wanted to 'homestead' at NASWI.
NAVAIR planners, searching for the 'one size fits all' airframe are betting the boat on the Lawn Dart in all its substandard variants.
Posted by USN,Ret. 2007-11-09 17:01||   2007-11-09 17:01|| Front Page Top

#28 Not too long ago a Chinese sub surfaced behind a US carrier BG. I don't remember if it was during some kind of war games or while they were moving from point A to point B. In any case, it begs the questions of how did this happen, could it happen during wartime, is it OK if it were to happen again or have changes been made to minimize the chance of a sneak attack along similar lines?

And how the heck did a carrier run into an unlit tanker? If the carrier didn't detect the tanker at night, what is to protect it from being attacked at night by a rowboat loaded with high explosives? Or an unlit tanker loaded with HE?
Posted by gorb 2007-11-09 17:32||   2007-11-09 17:32|| Front Page Top

#29 "And how the heck did a carrier run into an unlit tanker"
I do not know, all I do know is the during that transit ( the Straits are very constricted, not a lot of room to manuver) we hit one. I think he was either just drifting or anchored but had no lights showing and the entire bridge crew missed it. we ended up with some dents and pieces of tanker mast on board....
regarding the chinese sub incident: funny how that story just fell off the table, huh? i have no answer for that.
Posted by USN,Ret. 2007-11-09 17:45||   2007-11-09 17:45|| Front Page Top

#30 Lot of doom and gloom in that article, but I'm guessing the only real vulnerability are when the big ships get into brown water.

Also, I wonder how plausible the Sea Hog scenario is. Wouldn't you need a major redesign of the Hog for that, considering the larger wingspan?

Is there a solution for creating a naval version of the AC-130? Load up the C-2 with a gun or two. Heck, maybe you can make a UCAV with some sort of short-range terminal defense. I wonder how well a hellfire would work on a torpedo in transit?
Posted by Anon4021 2007-11-09 17:52||   2007-11-09 17:52|| Front Page Top

#31 OT but just watched my son playing Call of Duty 4 on the XBOX 360. His mission was a C130 Spectre gunship mission and it looked just like the real Liveleak videos posted here and there - verrrrrry cool!
Posted by Frank G">Frank G  2007-11-09 18:29||   2007-11-09 18:29|| Front Page Top

#32 "Fourth: there are no subs too quiet for our sensors to detect."

I am sorry but there is. The navies are going back to active sonars because of that. There is a reason US have a rented Swedish sub and crew to train with. Of course a silent sub isnt much mobile but can make a TF get a bad day only with torpedos to not go into missiles.

F14 or 18 arent able to intercept Mach 3 ramjet missiles launched from 300km distance. The capacity of Standart/Aegis is dubious against a saturation attack. Tiny RAM missiles only with a direct hit. Vulcan is an old outdated system made for 0.9Mach Harpoon types and well it never worked everytime it needed( USS Stark, Israeli Corvette).
The procuration system in US is corrupted with too much rules and powerpoint types. I am afraid only a disaster will change that.
Posted by Pholugum Stalin1270 2007-11-09 18:52||   2007-11-09 18:52|| Front Page Top

#33 The procuration system in US is corrupted with too much rules and powerpoint types. I am afraid only a disaster will change that.

That's been true before every war in American history. It's part of our heritage. So is finally winning after initially coming dangerously close to losing.
Posted by Nimble Spemble 2007-11-09 19:02||   2007-11-09 19:02|| Front Page Top

#34 NEW UN SEA TREATY CONTROVERSY + "1000-FLAG/NATION" OWG GLOBAL NAVY, SEA BASING/MOB, GLOBAL PROMPT STRIKE, SPACE STRIKE, etal. > prob more correct to argue that 20th Century/Cold War-era large-crewed throughdeck carriers wid manned aircraft NO LONGER HAVE A HIGH-PROFILE, STRATEGIC WARFIGHTING MISSION in the absence of war amongst the great powers. IMO, the next evolution would be as HYBRID, MULTI-PURPOSE/SYS "ARSENAL SHIPS" andor "BASE SHIPS/ SEA FORTS", but even the two latter are subject to the USA successfully dev HIGH ATMOSPHERE DIRIGIBLE + MAGLEV TECHS etc., i.e. AIRBORNE/LOW ORBITING + EXTRA-ORBITING ARSENAL-BASE SHIPS = BATTLE STATIONS???

For time being though, RUSSIA-CHINA > "War/Local Zone" defensive warfighting strategy > dependent on "SEIZE/TAKE-AND-HOLD", RAPID NUKE REINFORCEMENT, ACTIVE DEFENSE includ ASYMMETRIC WARFARE, + iff necessary IMMEDIATE REGIONAL-GLOBAL NUKE ESCALATION [defense to offense], wid warfare [ideally] limited to Conventional,
"jungle/brush wars"/ "police actions" + sectarian or local strifes, AT WORSE NOT BEYOND LIMITED NUKE WAR-EXCHANGE [at least among organz Great Powers]. * NK-TAIWAN > besides facing LR Commie IRBMS + ICBM + Strategic-Tac Air attacks, CHINA's strategy also includes using LR SUBMARINES for "PREEMPTIVE" STRIKES AGZ MAJOR OR SELECTED US BASES, e.g. PEARL HARBOR, GUAM, WEST COAST, to destroy US Carriers at anchor = destroy selected "nodal" vital bases before US Carriers even arrive. E.g. China long ago made it crystal clear that it is not above defensive PREEMPTION = offensive LIMITED/ALL-OUT STRATEGIC FIRST STRIKE to defeat the USA in war. IMO, GMD > the USN should add one or more "ARSENAL SHIP" to contempor Carrier task forces-groups in support of new multi-taskings.

*RUSSIA > total overhaul of its aircraft industries/programmes > desires to construct improved, larger FAST AMPHIBIAN/OCEAN-SKIMMING PLANES.
Posted by JosephMendiola 2007-11-09 19:09||   2007-11-09 19:09|| Front Page Top

#35 One take away from this, which I believe is applicable to our super carriers, is for us not to get too cocky.

The same types of things were said of the battleships before the era of carriers. They are the supreme power, nothing can stop them, etc.

We should not be too arrogant to think it can't happen to the carrier.

That being said, yes they are awesome for projecting power, but we should consider the possibility that just as the era of the battleships of yore came to end, so likley will the era of the carrier - and we, the US, should not be the ones caught off guard by this inflection point - when it comes.
Posted by bombay">bombay  2007-11-09 19:47||   2007-11-09 19:47|| Front Page Top

#36 Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise, leaving military chiefs red-faced

Posted by Red Dawg">Red Dawg  2007-11-09 21:12||   2007-11-09 21:12|| Front Page Top

#37 I think the point is not that they are invicible and nothing can stop them, but that they are very tough to take out and we've got eleven or so. Nobody an take down all of them in a single surprise and they allow us incredible flexibility of action that would take decades for any other nation to equal at this point.
Posted by rjschwarz 2007-11-09 21:15||   2007-11-09 21:15|| Front Page Top

#38 Just a quibble really : we have more than 11 carriers, but only 11 super carriers. Counting all of our aircraft-capable Gators, we {the US} have 27 carriers. Just look at the specs of the WASP class Gators if you think they are not true carriers - not super carriers but what used to be called light or fleet carriers.
Posted by Shieldwolf 2007-11-09 21:40||   2007-11-09 21:40|| Front Page Top

#39 Several anti-US Navy Carrier articles today - See INFORMATION CLEARING HOUSE [] > THE NEW PEARL HARBOR: THE NEWCONSERVATIVE AGENDA TO SINK THE US FIFTH FLEET. Fifth Fleet left vulnerable by so-called US "Neocons" to Iranian Yakhonts + Sunburns in Gulf; + BLOOMBERG [older] > US NAVY [still] LACKS PLAN TO DEFEAT "SIZZLER" MISSLE [UPDATE 1]; + IRAN:THE DEATH OF AMERICA'S CARRIERS.
Posted by JosephMendiola 2007-11-09 21:47||   2007-11-09 21:47|| Front Page Top

#40 and we do more active exercises than all teh rest combined, I'd bet. My (current - I'm moving, dammit) office window looks out on the Carrier berths at North Island and south along the bay. I can see ship movements, constantly. There are three CVN's assigned to Coronado, but rarely is more than one there. There are constant LH movements out to sea. That kind of at-sea activity makes a difference in readiness, I believe
Posted by Frank G">Frank G  2007-11-09 22:01||   2007-11-09 22:01|| Front Page Top

23:17 Unutle McGurque8861
23:15 SteveS
23:07 JosephMendiola
23:02 Zenster
23:01 JosephMendiola
22:49 Zenster
22:47 trailing wife
22:44 newc
22:41 newc
22:41 trailing wife
22:41 Zenster
22:40 newc
22:38 Six Gun Neo-Con
22:37 newc
22:28 rjschwarz
22:22 mom
22:15 Beavis
22:12 Pappy
22:10 Sock Puppet of Doom
22:05 Pappy
22:04 JosephMendiola
22:03 Frank G
22:03 Sock Puppet of Doom
22:01 Frank G

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