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ASW Carrier - messing with a few ideas

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ASW Carrier - messing with a few ideas - 7/25/2016 11:50:25 AM   

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Like many on here I like to run a few "what if's" in the scenario editor, just trying thing out.

I've recently been looking at a modern 'hypothetical' ASW carrier.
Think along the lines of a modern version of the USS Essex / USS Bennington of the late 50's & early 60's.

There is currently an ever increasing threat posed by the growing number of small, quiet and well armed conventional submarines some able to carry long range ASM's, these mostly operate in fairly shallow water and pose a real threat in any maritime choke points.
Then there are the SSN's capable of operating far from home in deeper water and carrying some long range, hard hitting ASM's.

Scenario setting:
A hypothetical situation where in the nr future (2018) the US finally decides that an amphibious carrier without a well deck isn't the best option.

Faced with the ever increasing threat posed by the growing number of small, quiet and well armed conventional submarines the US converts the USS America from an air optimised amphibious carrier LHA to an ASW optimised carrier CVA operating the hypothetical ASW variant of the Osprey along with a reduced F35B wing. (let's assume the flight deck heat issues are resolved!). There is also the ever present and resurgent threat from Russian submarines in the N. Atlantic and not forgetting China in the Far East/Pacific.
In my scenario I'm using the hypothetical ASW Osprey variant along with some F-35's for CAP.

There is debate about the usefulness of an amphib carrier with no well deck. LHA-6 & 7 don't have a well deck. LHA-8 onwards will have one.

That prompted me to look at an alternate but still potentially viable use for them.
Could they do it? - Yeah, probably without too much difficulty.
Should they do it & is there a need? - Far more open to debate!

Interested on any thoughts on how or if a modern, capable ASW carrier could be used to fill in any gaps in ASW coverage in both a deep water and shallow water environment.

The UK currently have no MPA aircraft until the P-8's come online and there is an ever increasing need for ASW aircraft to work out of Iceland covering the G-I-UK gap.
Around the South China Sea there are numerous nations upgrading their conventional submarines and the potential for at least a limited conflict in that region is pretty clear.

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RE: ASW Carrier - messing with a few ideas - 7/25/2016 7:57:39 PM   

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Japan uses ASW carriers (er.. "aircraft-carrying destroyers".

I just wonder if there's enough of a sub threat to warrant the concept now, at least for the US. Nobody has hundreds of submarines anymore like the Germans in WWII or the Soviets in the Cold War had, nor do I think nayone has the capacity to build that many very quickly short of an all-out war. And even so, most of the threat submarines today (North Korea and Iran, especially) are midget subs that can't operate far from shore. Even the Chinese subs rarely go on long range deployments, and I don't know how many of Russia's total are actually available for regular service anymore. It strikes me that, except for Russia, nobody is terribly comfortable operating their diesel electric/AIP subs far from their own shore, largely negating the need for a dedicated blue-water ASW carrier for all but the most vulnerable sea lines of communication (like Japan - a lot of their trade goes right through Chinese waters).

< Message edited by hellfish6 -- 7/25/2016 7:58:04 PM >


(in reply to AlGrant)
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RE: ASW Carrier - messing with a few ideas - 7/25/2016 10:14:57 PM   


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I think the concept of ASW carrier is awesome on paper, but it runs into several problems:

1) The carrier itself is a high valuable unit. It can't escort itself, because the usual armament of carrier is for point-defense only. For ASW duty, landing ships can be scratched from group roster, but a proper escort(s) must stay.

2) Helicopters used for ASW can't defend itself against an air attack. Air supremacy will be necessary for undisrupted ASW work. Against an opponent who has a functional air force, you need to provide an air cover for your helicopters. Who will provide the cover? There will have to be a friendly supercarrier, or an airfield in the vicinity. The half of a dozen of F-35B would be hard pressed to deal with a concentrated attack.

3) Also, some kind of AEW is necessary to warn against an imminent air or cruise missile attack. The first downed helo is not enough warning. The F-35 can run CAP, but the ASW carrier will have only a limited number of them. AFAIK the smallest ASW airplane in the US inventory is E-2, which can't take off from an ASW carrier. Fortunately, other countries have helicopters with air search radar (UK, Spain and China come to my mind).

4) Short range surface-to-air missiles poses no threat unless the ASW is done very close to the shore. Long-range SAM systems are something different. They have to be neutralized beforehand. The stationary sites can be taken down with cruise missile barrage from escorts, but the mobile ones will be much harder to find before they shoot.

5) An increased amount of VTOL aircrafts can mitigate some of the above mentioned points. However, the carrier deck is not inflatable. If you increase the amount of fighters for air cover (or other tasks), you have to decrease the number of ASW helicopters, which will limit your primary mission.

My experience with VTOL aircraft carriers usually goes into two ways - either the opponent can't defend itself and the carrier is a serious overkill for the situation, or the opponent can effectively fight back and then the situation goes quickly to hell, because I overestimated the offensive power of my carrier. I think the scenario balance can be challenging, but doable.

(in reply to hellfish6)
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RE: ASW Carrier - messing with a few ideas - 7/28/2016 12:20:40 PM   

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I've been attaching a group of 4 P-8's to my carrier groups with a lot of great success. I keep 1 in the formation about 25nm away from the flat top, spitting out sonobouys all day long. I'll have them refuel from tankers based at the same location the remaining units are at. This is a very effective ASW screen as long as nothing interdicts them on the way to or from the CSG. Of course a proper escort is a good idea, too.


Though surrounded by a great number of enemies
View them as a single foe
And so fight on!

(in reply to Luidzi)
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