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

Yokel

LE
@Not_A_Useful_Dr is this thread of any interest to you?

@ECMO1 - how important was air to air refuelling to the planned employment of the Tomcat etc in the Atlantic/GIUK Gap/Norwegian Sea? How much of this could be provided organically by the carrier air wing?
 

Yokel

LE
@bob231 this thread was/is about the role of aircraft carriers in protecting NATO shipping in the Atlantic, and therefore might interest you.
 

ECMO1

Old-Salt
@ECMO1 - how important was air to air refuelling to the planned employment of the Tomcat etc in the Atlantic/GIUK Gap/Norwegian Sea? How much of this could be provided organically by the carrier air wing?

Hugely important. And it wasn’t just in the Atlantic but also the Pacific. The equation faced was that the Tomcat carried the AIM-54 Phoenix (Wiki range 100nm). The Backfire carried the AS-4 Kitchen with a Wiki range of 320 nm. So if you wanted to kill the archer (the Backfire) you needed to be in a position to launch at around 250+ nm from the High Value Unit (HVU). That meant that the fighters were beyond radio range from ship controllers, placing a significant reliance on the E-2C. In order to maintain a significant coverage (45 – 60 degrees) you needed several CAPs for the radar coverage, so it made sense to establish a Tanker King orbit at about 150 nm and shuttle gas out to that platform. The fighters would then only have a 100nm run back to their gas and reset their orbits. The tankers could also set up a radio relay so that the ships had a clue what was going on. You also need to keep in mind that that this was being done under EMCON conditions, so the running of the whole out-air battle fell on the aircrew since the ships weren’t talking, but they could listen for both voice and data link.

VL Grid.JPG


It was done primarily with organic tanking. At that time you had A-6 and A-7s, all of which could be configured as a tanker with the addition of extra drop tanks and a D-704 package. If you were fighting the outer air battle to stop a Soviet strike against the convoys, you were probably too far out to be conducting strikes against the Russian mainland, so it wasn’t a big loss in capability. Four of the A-6s were dedicated tankers (KA-6) one of whom would normally take the role of Tanker King. We found that we still needed a Navy tanker crew out there even when we were blessed with a big wing tanker because the USAF aircrew weren’t trained in what we were doing and had no idea what we were talking about or what was important to relay back to the fleet. Inorganic tanking was also hard to arrange or place correctly in an EMCON environment.
 
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Yokel

LE
I am particularly interested in Communications aspects - I presume that coordination would be less of an issue now? Just out of interest, did the KA-6 crew also act as communications relay for low flying ASW aircraft below the VHF/UHF horizon of their ships?

How have modern datalinks and modern, digitised, HF systems changed things?
 

Yokel

LE
Thinking back to an earlier misunderstanding, I used the term 'localise' to mean that the helicopter with dipping sonar can precisely locate (and attack) the enemy submarine found by ships' sonar - particularly towed arrays providing long range detection. @ECMO1 correctly used the term for ships or aircraft locating the approximate location of the target and cuing the ASW helicopter.

Doh!
 

ECMO1

Old-Salt
I am particularly interested in Communications aspects - I presume that coordination would be less of an issue now? Just out of interest, did the KA-6 crew also act as communications relay for low flying ASW aircraft below the VHF/UHF horizon of their ships?

How have modern datalinks and modern, digitised, HF systems changed things?
No. If the KA-6 was out to be tanker king, they only had two radios and those were on the AW nets, not AX.
Have no idea but the EMS still obeys the laws of physics and is mostly bounded by curvature of the earth.
 

Yokel

LE
No. If the KA-6 was out to be tanker king, they only had two radios and those were on the AW nets, not AX.
Have no idea but the EMS still obeys the laws of physics and is mostly bounded by curvature of the earth.

Hopefully I do know something about electromagnetic wave propagation - direct waves versus sky waves, radio horizon, and so on. What I was trying to ask was:

1. Do datalinks that did not exist in Cold War days reduce the workload of aircrew?

2. Technologies such as Automatic Link Establishment and Automatic Repeat Request have given HF a new lease of life. This must have an effect on aircraft communications. What looking into what modification were performed to turn the Spitfire into the Seafire I learnt that an HF radio was fitted as part of turning it into a naval aircraft.

3. Helicopters in the dip sometimes use an aircraft at a higher attitude as a communications relay. Did the USN SH-3 do that? Perhaps the S-3 Viking could act as a communications relay for helicopters in the dip?
 

Yokel

LE
This article by a former US Navy S-3 Viking aircrewman helps demonstrate the wartime role of the carrier in fighting the naval war:

As we prepared to engage in a wartime penetration of the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom (GIUK) gap on our way to the aircraft carrier bastions that were, and still are, the Norwegian fjords, we were joined by over 200 allied warships and auxiliaries and over 500 aircraft of all types. Some of those ships would form an amphibious strike force that would conduct a landing on the northern part of Norway on the 16th of September to practice repelling an anticipated Soviet invasion. German and Dutch warships would form a Task Group that would escort a resupply convoy sailing from England to Central Norway. From there, a Norwegian Task group would takeover escort duty and resupply allied warships and bases at Bodo and Narvik.

The United States’ first supercarrier, the USS Forrestal (CV-59) would join the nation’s latest supercarrier in a simulated battle. A third flat top, the U.K. Royal Navy's HMS Illustrious (R06), would meet us off Iceland as we ran the GIUK gauntlet.

The Brits would act as overall anti-submarine warfare (ASW) commanders for both carrier battle groups (CVBG) and the amphibious group.


BREAK

Over the next few days, we fought an opposed penetration of the GIUK Gap, simulating NATO’s failure to anticipate Soviet preparation for a war. Ideally, our forces would already be in the Norwegian fjords before the deployment of the Red Banner Northern and Baltic Fleets….ideally.

With the addition of some of our escorts with towed sonar arrays and the full Canadian task force, the NATO ASW Strike Force set about clearing the waters between Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe and Shetland Islands. The Ticonderoga class cruisers worked with our E-2s and Tomcats to defend against the various Soviet Naval Aviation threats...


The follow on article just shows how differently ASW helicopters are thought of and used on the two sides of the Atlantic:

I will always remind anyone who asks how two or three helicopters with dipping sonar are the very best air ASW threat to a submarine. However, let me qualify that statement with the fact that this is true only after the submarine has been localized.

For these helos to be effective, the submarine’s general location must already be known, and in today’s and tomorrow’s environment, just like during the Cold War when we had assets a-plenty, a flaming datum may be the only way an initial detection is provided. Simply put, helicopters, by themselves, are not very good search platforms. Unless things have changed, a helo with a dipping sonar brings nothing to an initial search that the carrier’s escorts don’t already provide with their bow sonar in active mode—it is a waste of fuel, of crew endurance, and system use.

Once a potential contact has been gained, then the helo is the ideal sub-hunting platform. A sonobuoy search by a helo is also a waste since only a relatively small number are carried and the helo's range and relatively slow speed prevent it from meeting the typical demands of the search phase of ASW. Oh, and there simply aren’t the numbers of helos aboard the ships of a CSG to perform all the missions expected of them while also performing a very time-consuming blind search.


The towed array sonar, particular low frequency active sonar, provides that long range detection.
 

Yokel

LE
Rather than arguing over whether ASW or air defence were more important carrier missions in Cold War NATO planning, I have another question. One of the reasons I started this thread and was so interested by the US congressional document is because it illustrates the importance of carriers in the maritime domain.

Yet many of the public and the media seem to think that the carrier is first and foremost a platform for ground attack. Why? Up until 1945 the carrier was mostly used to protect friendly forces and convoys, and to attack enemy naval forces. Although these things have continued as roles throughout the Cold War and beyond, and conflicts such as the Falklands and things such as US carrier based fighters intercepting Iranian P-3 Orions during the 'tanker war in the 1980s, this belief persists.

In 1990, pretty much at the end of the Cold War, a defence related publication claimed that the role of the US supercarrier was (ground) attack. During the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam carriers provided ground attack - I am not sure if carrier aircraft took part in the few naval battles. Did that influence the authors?

Since then, in the Gulf, Adriatic, and Afghanistan carriers have provided various capabilities but mostly ground attack. Now we are waking up to a return to having adversaries with conventional capabilities across the environmental domains.

Can the media and public be educated? Can the media be dissuaded from talking about fighters being carried 'to defend the carrier' or ASW helicopters 'defending the carrier'. In a documentary in the nineties the Captain of a Royal Navy CVS described the role of the carrier as providing local air superiority around a naval force. Is that too complex for the public?

I wonder what the likes of @alfred_the_great or @Not a Boffin would say?
 
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Yokel

LE
To quote myself from another thread, and a brief discussion of how the Royal Navy nearly got put out of the carrier game in the sixties (and sadly not for the last time):

The really major and unforgivable f*** up was shoddy staff work by the naval staff - for example no alternative to the CVA-01 design was considered, and the case for the carriers was based around East of Suez contingencies at the time that NATO and the Soviet threat was the main focus. Why was the case not built around ASW and air defence in the Atlantic?

The Navy and nation had the saving grace that the Cold War ASW requirement for putting multiple ASW helicopters to sea led to a large vessel with a through deck, which was large enough for Harrier, which could be navalised (radar added, engines upgraded, etc) and become Sea Harrier - although again the justification was Cold War ASW related - dealing with the Soviet Bear aircraft that worked with their submarines.


In 1990, a few months before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, a British magazine called Firepower published an edition about the Carrier Air Wing of a US carrier, and it include this:

Carrier - wrong end of stick.jpg


In an ideal world, there would be nothing but strike aircraft, for it is as a striking force that the carrier exists at all.....

Likewise I am sure that there was a documentary called Weapon Races not so many years ago that seemed to think that the Hawkeye and Tomcat existed only to protect the carrier.
 
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Yokel

LE
As for ASW and helicopters, the above link to the tales of a former S-3 Viking crewman includes a reference to the aircraft working with a frigate. Surely the helicopter should be able to do that? I am surprised the learn that US Sea Kings had no radar.



Why does the USN not put a Naval Flight Officer in ASW cabs?

The video mentions the ASW activity on 1 May 1982 during the Falklands War, and carrier based Sea Kings working with the frigates for a prolonged hunt, but as they stopped the Argentine SSK from getting into a position to fire is it fair to describe the ASW activity as a failure?

I have seen the same written about the other ASW activities in 1982. @jrwlynch would you consider them a failure for not sinking the enemy submarine, or a success for stopping submarine attacks against our ships? I guess it is like judging air defence solely by the number of bandits splashed.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
Why does the USN not put a Naval Flight Officer in ASW cabs?

The video mentions the ASW activity on 1 May 1982 during the Falklands War, and carrier based Sea Kings working with the frigates for a prolonged hunt, but as they stopped the Argentine SSK from getting into a position to fire is it fair to describe the ASW activity as a failure?

I have seen the same written about the other ASW activities in 1982. @jrwlynch would you consider them a failure for not sinking the enemy submarine, or a success for stopping submarine attacks against our ships? I guess it is like judging air defence solely by the number of bandits splashed.

It's an abiding issue with operational research (and one reason the US had such a bloodbath of merchant shipping off the Eastern Seaboard in 1942). What are you trying to achieve? Success in ASW is primarily about being able to go where you want to go and do what you need to do without intolerable losses; if you sink lots of enemy submarines, which join your ships on the seabed, you've probably failed to win.


The example oft used, was trying to allocate "not enough guns to too many ships" to arm merchantmen on the Malta run. One argument was to penny-packet weapons out, so every ship got at least a couple of Hotchkiss or Lewis MGs and an old twelve-pounder or two; another, was to concentrate weapons on a smaller number of "flak ships", with more firepower and the chance of some fire control, that would shoot down more enemy aircraft.

A check of the loss rates, produced the statistic that 25% of unarmed ships were being lost, but only 10% of those that had even rudimentary armament, and the decision was made to spread the weapons as widely as possible. Because is the mission at hand, to try to shoot down the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica? Or, was it to get ships to Grand Harbour? The DEMS gunners didn't "fail" by shooting down very few aircraft, they succeeded by giving enemy bomb-aimers a faceful of tracer and turning "bombs hit" into "bombs miss".

For ASW, the priority is keeping your ships afloat: again, sinking the enemy sub is a bonus (he can't come back tomorrow if he's dead) but, given that you can lose an armoured brigade's worth of kit per Strat RO-RO sunk, the enemy may decide that losing a SSK is worth the trade.

Good article from 1990 here and a longer monograph here.
 

Yokel

LE
It's an abiding issue with operational research (and one reason the US had such a bloodbath of merchant shipping off the Eastern Seaboard in 1942). What are you trying to achieve? Success in ASW is primarily about being able to go where you want to go and do what you need to do without intolerable losses; if you sink lots of enemy submarines, which join your ships on the seabed, you've probably failed to win.


The example oft used, was trying to allocate "not enough guns to too many ships" to arm merchantmen on the Malta run. One argument was to penny-packet weapons out, so every ship got at least a couple of Hotchkiss or Lewis MGs and an old twelve-pounder or two; another, was to concentrate weapons on a smaller number of "flak ships", with more firepower and the chance of some fire control, that would shoot down more enemy aircraft.

A check of the loss rates, produced the statistic that 25% of unarmed ships were being lost, but only 10% of those that had even rudimentary armament, and the decision was made to spread the weapons as widely as possible. Because is the mission at hand, to try to shoot down the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica? Or, was it to get ships to Grand Harbour? The DEMS gunners didn't "fail" by shooting down very few aircraft, they succeeded by giving enemy bomb-aimers a faceful of tracer and turning "bombs hit" into "bombs miss".

For ASW, the priority is keeping your ships afloat: again, sinking the enemy sub is a bonus (he can't come back tomorrow if he's dead) but, given that you can lose an armoured brigade's worth of kit per Strat RO-RO sunk, the enemy may decide that losing a SSK is worth the trade.

Good article from 1990 here and a longer monograph here.

Your first link takes me to a page telling me it is members only for USNI members. The paper by Cdr Reader mentions this paper (also members only):

Carrier ASW: Can Do

Submariners jokingly separate ships into two categories—submarines and targets.

But carrier skippers can counter hostile nuclear submarines by shifting from power projection to defense and launching subhunters. Culture shock? Perhaps. But aviators have long known that the next best thing to winning is not losing.




 
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Yokel

LE
Last night I caught the last twenty minutes or so of a 1990s (I think) programme called Aircraft Stories. That particular one was about American naval aircraft. All good - but when they came to talk about the S-3 Viking and P-3 Orion they only mentioned 'protecting the carrier', yet they mentioned the S-2 Tracker, the Viking's predecessor. They even talked about the old ASW carriers with Trackers and Sea Kings.

It did not occur to the writer that ASW carriers existed for a reason, and that when the Vikings and Sea Kings moved to the big deck carrier they took the ASW mission with them.
 

Yokel

LE
Six of the 15 currently commissioned carriers are CVN’s. All 15 support antisubmarine warfare (ASW) operations with at least one ASW helicopter squadron and a fixed wing ASW squadron aboard, as well as serving the more traditional roles of fleet air defense and attack missions (bombing). Most carrier air wings (CVW’s) are configured with nine squadrons and a detachment of photo reconnaissance aircraft. Carriers defend themselves with their speed (in excess of 28 knots), with missile batteries of surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles (point defense), and with the extended umbrella of carrier air wing fighters performing barrier or force combat air patrols (BARCAP and FORECAP) at some distance from the ship.

Configured as an attack ASW carrier, the various missions of the aircraft carrier become more apparent. Conceptually, the carrier encompasses both tactical and strategic defensive and offensive capabilities. Offensively, it can wage conventional or nuclear war or deter such warfare by its presence. It attracts military attention wherever it goes, thus diverting potential military offensive resources that could be employed elsewhere. It serves as an integrating vehicle for surface warships in company, aircraft deployed overhead, and attack submarines working below. Combining the advantages of each of the air, surface, and subsurface capabilities, threats can be neutralized quickly to both tactical and strategic advantage. This three-dimensional coverage for fleet offense and defense, coupled with modern electronic hardware and software technology, provides an unparalleled tactical and strategic capability.


From page 14-3 of the US Naval Flight Surgeon's Manal - Third edition - 1991.
 

PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
Six of the 15 currently commissioned carriers are CVN’s. All 15 support antisubmarine warfare (ASW) operations with at least one ASW helicopter squadron and a fixed wing ASW squadron aboard, as well as serving the more traditional roles of fleet air defense and attack missions (bombing). Most carrier air wings (CVW’s) are configured with nine squadrons and a detachment of photo reconnaissance aircraft. Carriers defend themselves with their speed (in excess of 28 knots), with missile batteries of surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles (point defense), and with the extended umbrella of carrier air wing fighters performing barrier or force combat air patrols (BARCAP and FORECAP) at some distance from the ship.

Configured as an attack ASW carrier, the various missions of the aircraft carrier become more apparent. Conceptually, the carrier encompasses both tactical and strategic defensive and offensive capabilities. Offensively, it can wage conventional or nuclear war or deter such warfare by its presence. It attracts military attention wherever it goes, thus diverting potential military offensive resources that could be employed elsewhere. It serves as an integrating vehicle for surface warships in company, aircraft deployed overhead, and attack submarines working below. Combining the advantages of each of the air, surface, and subsurface capabilities, threats can be neutralized quickly to both tactical and strategic advantage. This three-dimensional coverage for fleet offense and defense, coupled with modern electronic hardware and software technology, provides an unparalleled tactical and strategic capability.

From page 14-3 of the US Naval Flight Surgeon's Manal - Third edition - 1991.

But all the USN rotary ASW capability is delivered by SH-60’s, a helicopter you relentlessly claim is rubbish at ASW.
 

Yokel

LE
But all the USN rotary ASW capability is delivered by SH-60’s, a helicopter you relentlessly claim is rubbish at ASW.

When exactly did I say that? Can you find a single post where I said that? The only things I have mentioned are that RN ASW doctrine and tactics make an aircraft with more endurance desirable, and that the USN do not put an NFO in it, and miss an opportunity to make the most of the aircraft.

By the way, in polite circles it is now called the MH-60R.
 

Yokel

LE
When exactly did I say that? Can you find a single post where I said that? The only things I have mentioned are that RN ASW doctrine and tactics make an aircraft with more endurance desirable, and that the USN do not put an NFO in it, and miss an opportunity to make the most of the aircraft.

By the way, in polite circles it is now called the MH-60R.

I am still waiting for @PhotEx to point out exactly where said this - instead of just pointing out that the Merlin's extra ninety minutes of endurance and Observer reflect RN ASW doctrine and helicopter usage. As I recall I have flagged up and highlighted the role of carrier borne MH-60Rs in ASW exercises.

Maybe I should have given him a dumb?

Anyway - I am sure that a major ASW exercise was meant to be part of the ongoing CSG21 deployment, in addition yo ASW aspects of Exercise Steadfast Defender 21 and routine NATO activities in the Mediterranean. Did I miss it?
 

Yokel

LE
A PPRuNe thread about the scrapping of the former USS John F Kennedy and the former USS Kitty Hawk has resulted on some interesting posts by an ex USN guy - firstly here.

USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) was my home away from home 1985-1989. I made two Mediterranean cruises on her. Before Desert Storm, my claim to fame was being on watch in Combat Information Center when we shot down two Libyan MiGs in the Gulf of Sidra. F-14s are gone. The ship is gone...

Great memories.

Side story - we made a port visit to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, right after Top Gun and the US Navy forcing down the airliner carrying one of the Achille Loro (spelling?) high jackers. I couldn't buy my own drinks when out in uniform.


Secondly here:

At that time I was in Strike Operations w/in the Operations Department, helping to develop the daily Air Ops Plan. We were in four-section duty and I stood watch on the bridge (Conn or deck-under-instruction) and in Combat. So, eight on, eight off, with the office job and sleep to be worked into the eight off portion.

Funny you should ask about Ward's video. I have seen it. He and I have corresponded briefly and know some of the same people. I suspect Ward knows what he's talking about with his F-14 RIO background. His description of how movement affects the radar display seems to link US actions and Libyan actions pretty tightly.

When I was a little kid in the early 70s my dad was part of the special weapons school staff at Sandia Army Base/Kirtland Air Force Base. One of his USAF Lt Col counterparts had been a US Military Assistance Mission person to Libya as a captain. One of his trainees was a Captain MuammarGaddafi. It's an incredibly small world.

My retired Navy fighter pilot dad had the chance to ride with me on the ship for a few days on a "Tiger Cruise." Airshows were prohibited, but the "airpower at sea demonstration" was pretty impressive; my dad commented on the F-14's turning radius - "you could double that for the F-4."


Thirdly here:

I was a SWO with an interest in aviation. I knew enough about timing, logistics, flying, navigation, and math to pick up building a daily air plan pretty quickly. My boss was an A-6 pilot and his deputy an A-6 bombardier/navigator.
 
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