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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
 

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