by Jethrow H. Sanderman
First it is reasonable to ask why our blog for men has political and other posts of this nature. It is simple, when we go to war–the males of our country do most of the fighting and dying. So we we reserve the right to talk about politics and military stuff because it’s us guys that may well do most of the dying. Also, when we see things that can cause us (in our humble opinion) to lose a war or really get hurt we should speak up, today that is what this post is about.
There is an old saying that goes something like “we fight today’s wars with yesterday’s weapons.” The real question is in today’s modern era can we afford to do that anymore? The answer is no in case you are curious.
We want to address the aircraft carrier and its task group. A few years before WWII and during WWI the heavy cruiser and battleship were the kings on the seas. Tossing 1,000 and 2,000 pound bullets filled with explosives some 22 miles miles with great accuracy was and still is incredible. During WWI these massive steel wrapped dreadnoughts slugged it out face to face in famous battles such as that of Jutland.
Then came WWII and while the battleship was incredibly formidable, its role quickly turned to less ship to ship fighting such as when the Bismark Vaporized the pride of the British, battleship Hood. But the Bismark was later shot to pieces by several attacking British war ships after it was wounded by some out of date slow 110mph and low torpedo packing carrier launched biplanes from far over the horizon.
Capitol ship to ship gunfights were rare in WWII and never again. The big battle wagons did a lot of good in shore bombardment prior to landings by troops in WWII and Korea. But now these are different times with much different weapons.
It was during WWII that the truth came out the aircraft carrier with lots of little planes could take on and win against battleships and do so at ranges in the hundreds of miles, all well out of the range of the big guns on the battleships. The WWI trained naval staff which became the flag officers (admirals) of WWII gritted their teeth and fought to keep the big ships they knew so well and loved in the inventory after WWII.
The battle of the Coral Sea was the first naval battle in history to be fought where neither side saw the other side’s ships directly–only aircraft attacking each others ships saw the enemy.
During the Korean War the more modern Iowa class battle wagons were used as shore bombardment to support landings and a means to reach in 24 miles with big bullets.
In Vietnam they performed what might be called long range sniping–but that was all. Years later in the 1980s the New Jersey was brought out of moth balls and refitted with cruse missiles and used for Desert Storm, etc. with guns and missiles as a really long range sniper system.
Her crew of younger hi-tech young sailors had to be trained by a few WWII sailors and many from Nam and the Korean War era who once operated her and her low-tech running gear and big guns.
But the writing was on the wall and with the last of the battleship loving admirals and their influence gone, so are the battle wagons. No there are no more active duty battleships OPERATING at sea in the U.S. Navy. Having toured the New Jersey in the 1980s I admit I do miss them and still think they would be great if retrofitted with lots of missiles because they are so tough and fast.
One high ranking naval officer told me that they are so tough with their up to 17 inch thick armor it would could take a dozen U.S. Navy Harpoon missiles before sinking where a carrier might go with s little as one or two hits. Regardless, battleships are now out of date with the airborne threat.
But so are our aircraft carriers with the missile threat! Carriers can weigh a bit more than 100,000 tons and house up to 90 various mission type aircraft and a 5,000 member crew. Our carriers operate in a carrier task force–which is generally a bunch of surface ships protecting the carrier along with an always hidden hunter killer sub no one talks about. A task force can have up to 50,000 sailors in it.
Compared to a battle wagon’s construction a carrier is little more than a large aluminum soda can. The idea of the fast and well armed supporting ships in the task force are there to shoot down missiles–and they will, up to a point. They also have anti-ship missiles and a rapid fire main gun for shooting pirates and other smaller threats.
In today’s world the carriers are effective against lessor powers not navies and air forces like Russia the Chinese would bring to the table.
Launch a bunch of our anti-ship missile packing aircraft towards a group of war ships like these navies have and they will be shot down almost as quickly as theirs would be if attacking our ships. We are much past the day of aircraft launched anti-ship missiles such as used in the Falklands war. Reason being is our and their anti-aircraft and anti missile missiles can each out at very long ranges and kill each others attacking aircraft.
Carriers and the carrier task force represent a large naval air station and impressive chunk of very expensive American soil where ever they go but they are crazy ass vulnerable in today’s world of many missiles.
So, much like the battle wagons, the carrier is pretty much relegated to longer range bombing much like the battle ships were relegated to longer range gunning in their time. Are our carriers bad news? You bet but just one lucky deck hit and the carrier is out of business.
What about that lucky hit? The Chinese in particular and probably the Russians have developed long range surface to surface missiles specifically designed to take out ships and especially carriers–get rid of the one carrier and the task group is just a bunch of gun and lighter missile ships for the most part and they can be killed quickly too.
The Chinese DF-21D a large missile with a 1,600 mile range and 7,000 mile per hour speed is specifically designed to kill our carriers. This single missile threat has forced our navy to rethink things at sea and try their damnedest to counter this particular threat with deep water tactics and improved weapons–good luck!
The Chinese tactic is relatively simple for the time being—TO CONTROL THE SOUTH CHINA SEA! How to do that? Sure, with a few ships and their new smaller ski jump carrier they got from the Russians and rebuilt, but…
The Chinese are taking over or actually building unsinkable islands in the South China Sea where they can and have put dozens if not hundreds of relative low cost (compared to an aircraft) missiles and some aircraft. Bottom line, a swarm of these will not be all stopped before they hit the ships and the Chinese boast they will have them in the thousands–I believe them!
Also, a few years ago I spoke with a commander of a U.S. Navy nuclear attack sub. He told me that the newer diesel subs the Middle East bad guys (and others) have as well as other major player countries could take out our carrier task forces in no time especially when they are operating in relatively confined areas such as any of the various Middle East waters such as Gulf of Suez, etc.
Nowadays with the long range fast moving high-quantity missile threat the carrier is vulnerable as were the battle wagons of WWII from aircraft even in big ocean deep water. Our aircraft are limited in range and speed as well as armament–the missile threat has a far greater range and speed.
The South China Sea is one area in the world where something not good will happen as the Chinese continue to badger and challenge ships and aircraft going through it–it is NOT their property, but the time will come…
What can be done? Quit building these super expensive and incredibly vulnerable carriers in this missile age. Go with lots of lighter faster meaner missile loaded warships. Also, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why, other than the carrier admirals who succeeded the battle wagon admirals are still running things, we don’t convert at least portions of our current carriers to vertical launch missile silos for both very long range defense and offensive operations. Our carriers could carry much larger seaborne missiles and still have some aircraft as needs arise–though less of them but serious enhanced capabilities.
Regardless, if we get into it I fear those carriers in the battle area will be DOA very quickly and our offensive and maybe even defensive capabilities will be gone with them.