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Late 1970s US Congress Report - The US Sea Control Mission (carriers needed in the Atlantic)

Yokel

LE
Whilst lazily looking on the net, courtesy of Google, I found this old (late seventies) report from the US Congressional Budget Office:

Congressional Budget Office - the US Sea Control Mission

This looked at the problem of maintaining US and NATO Sea Control in the North Atlantic, GIUK gap, and Norwegian waters. It discussed the naval and air forces needed, Of particular note:

1. Equations are given for the size of a fighter force expected to achieve a certain response time and level of coverage.
2. Equations are given for aircraft numbers needed for 24/7 AEW coverage.
3. Equations are given for the costs of projects and programmes.
4. The need to put carriers in the Atlantic to defend reinforcement convoys is mention.
5. In addition to the carriers, convoys, amphibious forces, and underway replenishment ships are listed as things that need defending (including by carrier aircraft).

We seem to be going back to those times. I wonder what @ECMO1 and @jrwlynch would say about it? Not forgetting @Archimedes of course
 

ECMO1

Old-Salt
It is comparatively easy to carry out this level of analysis when you are looking at a single mission and a single threat. It is not so easy when you are faced with a variety of threats in two or more different oceans.

That said, it was interesting skimming through the document and seeing what they recommended versus what was actually acquired. I also liked the fact that they did include the capabilities of the NATO allies in their calculations, which is a little more challenging these days. They did acquire the FFG-7 class of ship for convoy escort paired with the SH-60B for ASuW/ASW. They did start stationing F-15’s on Iceland along with AWACS, which was part of the reason for acquiring NATO AWACS, to free up American platforms for the mid-Atlantic fight. As a sidebar, there was discussion of the USAF acquiring the F-14/Phoenix system for Air Defense, apparently the Air Guard was very enthusiastic, the active duty Air Force, not so much. But fits with their discussion in the paper of using a land based F-14 for protection of Iceland.

The one area this falls down on concerns their analysis is logistics. They are very good at coming up with the numbers that it cost to acquire a system and even the yearly operating costs of that system. What they don’t look at is the costs of buying the number of weapons or disposable sensors (sonobuoys for instance) needed to counter the threats. Also, how much more would it cost to equip a Navy squadron (designed to fall onto the repair and supply capabilities of the CVN) to forward deploy to land bases?

Interesting historical document.
 

Yokel

LE
It seems that the authors of the paper thought that the A-6E Intruder was not needed for the sea control mission, presumably this was before the integration of Harpoon and Skipper. It did see a need for the Prowler though.

The super carrier, aircraft such as the Tomcat, and both fixed and rotary wing types, was a major the Americsn response to Soviet Navsl Aviation and the Soviet submarine forced. Likewise the CVS this side of the Arlantic.

@Not a Boffin might have a few words to say tom about the idea that a carrier exists only to hit targets ashore, and that the frigates destroyers can do all the ASW and AAW.
 
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Yokel

LE
Another historical question - in the old days USN carriers carried six SH-3 Sea Kings for ASW and SAR. Is there any reason the number of Sea Kings was not higher? I am thinking of things like the S-3 Viking performing an ASW role at greater range, and having less ships with towed array sonar so perhaps dipping sonar was seen as less important for target localisation?

Too many of the anti carrier seem to forget carriers were and are key to NATO plans to keep the Atlantic open.
 
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ECMO1

Old-Salt
Another historical question - in the old days USN carriers carried six SH-3 Sea Kings for ASW and SAR. Is there any reason the number of Sea Kings was not higher?

Everything on the carrier is a trade-off when it comes to numbers. One mission set does not necessarily trump another mission because you were never quite sure what the carrier was going to be tasked with next. So 6 Sea Kings gave you enough airframes to have one broken in the hangar, 2 flying SAR at night (NATOPS requirement), and then 3 more available to do ASW. Before the advent of the SM-2-ER the primary mission for the CV/CVN in the North Atlantic was not ASW (it was an additional role) but rather AAW to prevent the Backfire/Bears from attacking the convoys. The A-6/A-7s were the organic tankers to push the F-4/F-14 CAP stations out to a range to shoot the archer, not the arrows. Obviously, those roles swapped a bit when you started facing a surface threat or got close enough to land to start contemplating strikes against those Soviet Naval Air Arm airfields.

Additionally, there was a view that if you were doing ASW from the carrier within the normal range of the Sea King, then you were already in trouble. Much better to use the outlying CG, DD/DDG, FF/FFG to host embarked ASW helicopters, while using their installed sonars (both bow mounted and tails) to work the ASW problem. Of course, that was in addition to the battlegroup’s S-2/S-3s, then theater P-3s, SSNs and the IUSS also working the problem set.
 
see also the forward deployed nuclear TLAM armed reactivated Battleships.
their mission was to put the Soviet home bases under direct threat and force the Soviets to divert heavy forces to deal with the threat in bring they presented, taking the Soviet eye off the crucial Convoy Battle.
 

Yokel

LE
Everything on the carrier is a trade-off when it comes to numbers. One mission set does not necessarily trump another mission because you were never quite sure what the carrier was going to be tasked with next. So 6 Sea Kings gave you enough airframes to have one broken in the hangar, 2 flying SAR at night (NATOPS requirement), and then 3 more available to do ASW. Before the advent of the SM-2-ER the primary mission for the CV/CVN in the North Atlantic was not ASW (it was an additional role) but rather AAW to prevent the Backfire/Bears from attacking the convoys. The A-6/A-7s were the organic tankers to push the F-4/F-14 CAP stations out to a range to shoot the archer, not the arrows. Obviously, those roles swapped a bit when you started facing a surface threat or got close enough to land to start contemplating strikes against those Soviet Naval Air Arm airfields.

Additionally, there was a view that if you were doing ASW from the carrier within the normal range of the Sea King, then you were already in trouble. Much better to use the outlying CG, DD/DDG, FF/FFG to host embarked ASW helicopters, while using their installed sonars (both bow mounted and tails) to work the ASW problem. Of course, that was in addition to the battlegroup’s S-2/S-3s, then theater P-3s, SSNs and the IUSS also working the problem set.

Many thanks for that authoritative reply. Too many media talking heads think that the F-14 was developed solely to defend the carrier, as opposed to being a response to long range threats over two large oceans. Many anti carrier types seem to insist that a carrier can only carrier fighters for self defence.I have even read claims by some fools claiming it is better to engage the ASMs and not the launch platforms.

As for ASW, I imagine the carrier would carry more helicopters if the S-2/S-3 did not exist, as the CVNs carry greater numbers of helicopters. I suppose that active dipping sonar is more relevant now due to ships having low frequency towed arrays.
 
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Yokel

LE
They say a picture paints a thousand words. Whilst these two are not the best in terms of quality, they should make the point.

1. An illustration from a book, describing task group air defence/AAW. Whilst the distances stated are questionable, particularly as naval SAMs have longer ranges than when that book was written in the early nineties, and the range of a CAP station is given as 100 nm, it does prove a point. The blue area represents the ared that can be defended by aircraft from the carrier. A similar thing applies to ASW protection involving carrier based aircraft.

AAW Zones.jpg


Moving the battle outwards and defence in depth are for winners.

2. From the eighties periodical Warplane, a map of the GIUK gap and the Atlantic theatre. The text mentions particularly the role of the F-14 Tomcats and E-2 Hawkeyes aboard the American carriers, and the Sea Harriers and Sea Kings aboard the RN ones. The illustration includes all the US carrier based aircraft types, and our Sea Kings.

CarriersColdWar.jpg
 
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Yokel

LE
Also, looking at the diagram of defence zones, the carrier's fighters provide protection in which the ASW aircraft can work - just a few MiGs could represent a great threat to ASW helicopters and prevent them from working too far from a suitably armed surface warship, which would be detrimental to task group ASW.
 

ECMO1

Old-Salt
Yes, but at the time that was written the Soviet Union did not have any fighters with a range to pose that sort of threat. Maybe now with the Mig-31 and SU-30 but not then
 

Yokel

LE
Recently the US Navy has announced plans to augment the CVN force with a number of light fleet carriers - based on an LHD design.

I assume that:

1. These will operate largely in the Atlantic as the CVNs focus on the Pacific.
2. They will operate F-35B as putting EMALS and arrestor gear in a ship of <50 000 tons is unlikely to gain support in the DOD or wider Navy.
3. The jets will perform air defence as well as attack roles.
4. Unlike an LHD, ASW helicopters will be embarked.
 

ECMO1

Old-Salt
Recently the US Navy has announced plans to augment the CVN force with a number of light fleet carriers - based on an LHD design.

I assume that:

1. These will operate largely in the Atlantic as the CVNs focus on the Pacific.
2. They will operate F-35B as putting EMALS and arrestor gear in a ship of <50 000 tons is unlikely to gain support in the DOD or wider Navy.
3. The jets will perform air defence as well as attack roles.
4. Unlike an LHD, ASW helicopters will be embarked.
And some of your assumptions would be incorrect.

1. The light carriers are viewed as a way of 1.) supplementing the CVNs with presence missions and 2.) complicating an enemies targeting problem by having several potential targets instead of just 1-2 lucrative targets. Therefore they would be deployed worldwide, but would most likely follow the current basing and deployment strategy of at least 60% in the Pacific.

2. Concur.

3. They already do.

4. The MH-60S has been embarked on the LHD and LHAs for years for SAR and ASW.

Reminder, for the US Navy, the Pacific is the main focus. Russia and the Atlantic is a minor sideshow, except when it comes to the Russian submarine force, which given the reconfiguration of the carrier air wing is not its current strength. Land based P-8 are the primary force for long range ASW.
 

Yokel

LE
I had no idea that ASW was done from the LHA/LHD - but surely the Romeo would be better as it has a dipping sonar? I do remember you posting on the F-35 thread that on occasions the USMC AV-8B+ (with APG-65 and AMRAAM) had provided air defence for an amphibious force, and the AH-1 had performed an ASuW role.

NATO needs more helicopters with dipping sonar.

As for the light carriers, will the F-35B by USMC or USN manned, and what will they use for AEW?

As for your last paragraph, NATO does sea control, Russia does sea denial, but the PRC does both.
 
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I had no idea that ASW was done from the LHA/LHD - but surely the Romeo would be better as it has a dipping sonar? I do remember you posting on the F-35 thread that on occasions the USMC AV-8B+ (with APG-65 and AMRAAM) had provided air defence for an amphibious force, and the AH-1 had performed an ASuW role.

NATO needs more helicopters with dipping sonar.

As for the light carriers, will the F-35B by USMC or USN manned, and what will they use for AEW?

As for your last paragraph, NATO does sea control, Russia does sea denial, but the PRC does both.

Well both USMC and USN latter just on the C while the former north B and C. Thr Flying Leathernecks will operate the C off the CVN likewise what they do with the F/A-18. The C won’t be able to operate off the LHA .

cheers
 
I remember reading something (I forget where) about one of the RN's roles in the N Atlantic being a mad dash up north to allow the Harriers to attack (Murmansk?). It would, essentially, be a suicide run.

I am pretty sure it was fiction but could there have been any basis in fact? I would assume 1980s.
 
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Yokel

LE
I remember reading something (I forget where) about one of the RN's roles in the N Atlantic being a mad dash up north to allow the Harriers to attach (Murmansk?). It would, essentially, be a suicide run.

I am pretty sure it was fiction but could there have been any basis in fact? I would assume 1980s.

Not sure about that - their main role would have been in the GIUK gap - ASW with Sea King HAS5/6 and using Sea King AEW and Sea Harrier to intercept (and splash) Bears and the like. The mighty Sea Jet also had an anti surface vessel role with the Sea Eagle missile (as did RAF Buccaneers based in Scotland) or WE177A.

The US Congressional report did mention the Royal Navy and the Sea Harrier.

Question for @ECMO1 - the the F/A-18 replaced the A-7 in USN carrier air wings, was the significance of having a sudden increase in aircraft that could fired Harpoon at the Red Fleet appreciated?
 

Yokel

LE
With respect to an increasing interest in the Indo Pacific, I wrote: Remember that the Euro Atlantic region is where we (Britain/European NATO) live and subject to geopolitical tensions with Vlad and even Xi on our doorstep, and the Atlantic gives us access to the Northern coast of Europe, Eastern coast of the Americas and beyond the Panama Canal or Cape Horn, and the East coast of Africa and through the strait of Gibraltar or around the Cape of Good Hope..

The Atlantic is the United States' gate way to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as Atlantic ports in the Americas.

Going back to what @ECMO1 said, you may be interested in this report into the value of the SH-60R (now called MH-60R) and CH-60S (now MH-60S) to a carrier strike group.

From page 21:

With the retirement of the S-3, the lion's share of the middle zone tasks—ASW search, ASW contact investigation, and surface contact identification—will fall to the SH-60R. The P-3 can also contribute, but generally there will be tactical incentives not to divert the P-3 from its high-altitude surveillance role. These tasks are likely to lead to a requirement for an SH-60R continuously airborne in the middle zone for ASW search and alert helicopters for contact investigation and identification. Engagement of surface targets would be done with attack aircraft from the carrier air wing or a pair of SH-60R/CH-60S helicopters

and

Search and surveillance. Although the P-3 will be the primary wide-area search platform, the SH-60 will play an important role in the middle zone using its advanced low-frequency active dipping sonar and employing its radar in a periscope detection mode. It can also deploy sources for IEER detection, with towed arrays on the surface combatants serving as the receivers.

Contact investigation and attack. The SH-60R will have a primary role in prosecuting ASW contacts. The ALPS dipping sonar should be very effective for contact investigation. When a contact has been identified as valid, a second SH-60 will likely be called in so that a pair of helicopters is on scene to track and attack a maneuvering, evading target.


@alfred_the_great has also commentated on the need to keep the ASW helicopters together.
 
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Yokel

LE
Question for @Raven2008 - a historical question but you might know the answer. With a thought to the comments of @ECMO1 and the helicopter related paper linked and quoted in my last post, how did the Westland Sea King HAS 1/2 differ from the Sikorsky SH-3?

I know that for RN service the Sea King was fitted with additional systems, but did these increase its ability to operate at range from the carrier and provide long range dipping? A Cold War tale from an ASW Sea King Observer described his cab as a 'flying Ops Room'.
 
Question for @Raven2008 - a historical question but you might know the answer. With a thought to the comments of @ECMO1 and the helicopter related paper linked and quoted in my last post, how did the Westland Sea King HAS 1/2 differ from the Sikorsky SH-3?

I know that for RN service the Sea King was fitted with additional systems, but did these increase its ability to operate at range from the carrier and provide long range dipping? A Cold War tale from an ASW Sea King Observer described his cab as a 'flying Ops Room'.
Our SK was better than the USN H-3D/H with likes of Searchwater radar etc R-R Gnome engines , AFCS.

Thing is though historically with USN and their ship based helos its more of a case of being extensions and Controlled by destroyer / frigate / cruiser / carrier (hence how IBM got into helicopter maintence and systems as they had contract to maintain the ships computer and weapons systems. The shipborne LAMPS — either SH-2D/G Seasprite and SH-60B/F Seahawk counted as that so IBM had t9 learn fast about maintaining, upgrading helos.That division of IBM ended up under Lockhedd Martin).

Where as our shipborne assets are independent , and have to do More ...hence why the Observer -TACCOs is a commissioned officer from BrNC Dartmouth. Whereas the US Navy has 2 pilots (commissioned officers up front) and 2 enlisted guys in the back, (rescue diver / crew Chief) in the then SH-3. and in the Seahawk is two pilots and one enlisted aircrew as sensor operator in the back

cheers
 

Yokel

LE
Our SK was better than the USN H-3D/H with likes of Searchwater radar etc R-R Gnome engines , AFCS.

Thing is though historically with USN and their ship based helos its more of a case of being extensions and Controlled by destroyer / frigate / cruiser / carrier (hence how IBM got into helicopter maintence and systems as they had contract to maintain the ships computer and weapons systems. The shipborne LAMPS — either SH-2D/G Seasprite and SH-60B/F Seahawk counted as that so IBM had t9 learn fast about maintaining, upgrading helos.That division of IBM ended up under Lockhedd Martin).

Where as our shipborne assets are independent , and have to do More ...hence why the Observer -TACCOs is a commissioned officer from BrNC Dartmouth. Whereas the US Navy has 2 pilots (commissioned officers up front) and 2 enlisted guys in the back, (rescue diver / crew Chief) in the then SH-3. and in the Seahawk is two pilots and one enlisted aircrew as sensor operator in the back

cheers

You have told me nothing I did not already know, yet they way you have explained it puts it into perspective that I can understand. Traditionally the USN viewed helicopters as an extension of the ship (as opposed to task group assets), but I never stopped to think this might have applied to carrier based ones, hence some of the comments on this thread.

Did the Sea Sprites aboard other ships have dipping sonar, or was constant dipping less important to them than it was to the RN?

Sadly many media types seem to think the same applies to our carrier based aircraft.
 
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