Aircraft carrier has to be able to do following things:
a) carry as many aircraft as possible
b) launch them as quickly as possible
c) recover them as quickly as possible
d) have as many aircraft on deck as possible
While ski ramp is simpler, more reliable, and is safer than catapult-assisted takeoff, it puts heavy limits on payload carried. While two catapults can launch two aircraft in the air nearly simultaneously, there isn’t much difference in long-term launch rate. Thus ramp-equipped carrier is better for fleet defense, while catapult-equipped one is better for attack.
Both Navalised Typhoon and Rafale M are able to take off from ramp-equipped carrier with no catapult assistance. Rafale version will also carry E-2 Hawkeye AWACS, and A-262 Panther multipurpose helicopter.
Carrier would have four elevators, so that aircraft can be brought on deck as fast as possible. Bridge and Air Control Tower will be on opposite sides of the carrier, so there is no need to compensate for their weight, as they cancel each other out.
I have also decided to propose two possible sizes. First, smaller carrier will be 271,5 meters long and 46,4 meters wide (not counting superstructure). It will carry 21 Rafale and 2 Panthers on flight deck, and either 30 Rafales and 6 Panthers or 41 Rafale and 4 Panthers in hangar. Total will thus be 51 – 62 Rafales and 6 – 8 Panthers.
Second, larger carrier, will be 362 meters long at 69 meters wide, not countring superstructure. It will carry 31 Rafales, 3 Hawkeyes and 4 Panthers on flight deck, and either 35 Rafale, 2 Hawkeye and 10 Panther or 74 Rafale, 5 Hawkeye and 11 Panther in hangar. Thus, total will be 66 – 105 Rafales, 5 – 8 Hawkeyes, and 14 – 15 Panthers.
I personally prefer smaller carriers due to smaller number of eggs in one basket, and better handling in closed seas. While smaller EU carrier cannot launch AWACS, it can rely on AWACS from land bases, or use fighters for reconnaissance. They would also be used to escort larger carriers.
For United States, F/A-18C Hornet with IRST and DRFM jammer, EA-18G Growler, E-2 Hawkeye, C-2 Greyhound and SH-60 seahawk will be used. However, these have to use catapults for launch.
Carrier dimensions would remain same as EU carriers, but fighter compliment would differ. Small carrier would have 26 F-18s, 1 Hawkeye and 2 Seahawks on flight deck and either 29 F-18s, 3 seahawks and 2 Hawkeyes or 27 F-18s, 5 Seahawks and 2 Hawkeyes in hangar. Total would thus be 55 F-18s, 3 Hawkeyes and 5 Seahawks, or 53 F-18s, 3 Hawkeyes and 7 Seahawks.
Large carrier would have 31 F-18, 3 Hawkeyes and 3 Seahawks on flight deck and either 40 F-18s, 2 Hawkeyes and 10 Seahawks or 65 F-18s, 8 Hawkeyes and 20 Seahawks in hangar. Thus, total would be 71 – 96 F-18s, 5 – 11 Hawkeyes and 13 – 23 Seahawks.
28 thoughts on “Aircraft carrier proposal”
The Super Hornet CAN be ski-jumped in to the air…never read that the Rafale could…
My proposal for US is Hornet, not Super Hornet,* and in any case US do seem to prefer catapults over ski jump ramps. And yes, Rafale can take off from ski-jump equipped carrier.
*F/A-18 variants A, B, C and D are regular Hornet airframes, E, F and G are Super Hornet airframes. You’ll notice that I proposed usage of F/A-18C, not E.
Why the legacy Hornet?And why sky-jump?
Legacy hornet is smaller and lighter than Super Hornet; as for ski jump, it allows for equally fast launch rate as catapults, but with less complexity.
The F/A-18E/F is only good for low and slow dogfighting. The F-18C is more like the F-16 though.
The bridge and the control tower on different sides is an interesting point, but I guess it would be difficult to realize since such a design would not pay attention to security rules (the bridge or control tower would be too close to the ski ramp). Another aspect which should be mentioned concerning security is the ability to start aircraft while others land (this brings logistical advantages). Due to that, all CATOBAR an STOBAR carrier have an angled flight deck. It´s quite another thing with STOVL carriers, because their fighters do -obviously- land the vertical way.
Yes, maybe I should move control tower backwards. As for simultaneous take off and landing, how likely is that feature to be required? Modern carriers don’t use CAP, they carry aircraft on deck, which means that they have to launch them all as quickly as possible. As for massed strikes, you also have to launch as many aircraft as quickly as possible, and CATOBAR carrier doesn’t launch fighters faster than ski-jump carrier when it comes to sustained launch rate.
Well, the launch rate might be equal or slightly better on ski ramp designs (in comparison to CATOBAR). But I am rather refering to to sustained missions, when carriers are to launch a certain number of aircraft while taking others back… Of the current carriers, only small doesn´t have an angled flight deck… So I guess, most navies take this feature into account due to better logistical outcomes (which are also important to them).
You forget that fighters CANNOT take-off with max.load with ski-jump…this reduces their fuel and weapons load…its a more simple but less effective method of operating naval aviation…
Also dont forget that you cannot operate aircraft like the E-2 and C-2 with this method.
And why not the SuperHornet?Its a much better plane than the legacy Hornet,its cheap and as lots of improvement potential…
It definetly is more effective for strike missions, but not for air superiority, and it does require larger carrier. Difference is that US is busy acting like world policeman, not EU (for now).
Super Hornet is simply too large and heavy. It is better for strike missions, but you can carry fewer of them, and its dogfighting qualities are not very good.
Not sure about C-2, but E-2 can take off from ski-jump (NAS Patuxent River during the 1980s), though I’m not sure wether ski-jump on my design is too inclined for that.
I always thought the normal Hornets had a too small fuel capacity (and that´s the reason for the Super Hornets being 25% bigger)?
Which was modification done to improve its capability to carry out strike missions…
Oh, my mistake… So your fictonal carrier´s air wing would rather gain and hold the air supremacy?
My first proposal was for EU carrier, whose main mission would be exactly that. Though I did decide to modify proposal for larger version with catapults, in light of Mali and similar crap.
I am a neophyte on these matters but it is my understanding that in wide open sea the aircraft carrier is the most efficient ship-killer there is and a major thrust of any carrier strategy is to destroy the other fellow’s carriers before yours gets wiped out.
Once you sink his carrier while preserving yours… it means that you have won the air supremacy battle since no carrier means no aircrafts. And now your aircrafts can roam undisturbed and sink everything else they come across. To do this you need long range strike aircrafts. And the catapult equipped carrier is better than the ski-jump type of carrier for this.
As a matter of fact, a ski-jump type carrier will have difficulties not only against a US carrier but also operating in littoral waters of an adversary like China. This is due to improved anti-ship missiles as well as land based aircrafts. Too risky.
The ski-jump carrier is more for naval constabulary duties or to project power where there is no opposition from long range aircrafts whether flown from shore or from a catapult.
My vote is for a catapult carrier with the longest range strike aircrafts available (Super Hornet) with ancillary aircrafts including a group flying air combat patrol (not available now) just in case a straggler gets through the screening warships (has happened).
Sidebar: China’s new carrier poses no threat to the US. If there is a conflict it will be promptly sunk. It can’t be used against Taiwan for the same reason we are having trouble with littoral waters… mines, diesel electric submarines and land based aircrafts and missiles. Operating in hostile littoral waters is right now the biggest challenge to any Navy seeking to project power far away from its shores and that includes us.
You also need carrier to protect your own ships, and for that you don’t need heavy load on aircraft but capability to launch aircraft rapidly. AKA, ski-jump carrier. As for killing ships, craploads of anti-ship cruise missiles work quite well. In fact, most efficient ship killer is submarine, no matter the type, but carrier is good for supporting troops on the ground and for gunboat diplomacy.
My opinion on the matter of the carrier is that right now in the face of advances of anti-ship missiles, SAM missiles and fighter technology it might be in the same position that the battleship was before WWII. Let me explain before you gut me.
Carrier tactics in WWII relied on generating large strike packages of hundreds of airplanes to overwhelm AAA fire of enemy ships and CAP screen. In the battle of Midway while the strikes that sunk the Japanese carriers were delivered by a handful of dive-bombers it took the whole air wings of the 3 American carriers and land based fighters to erode the defense of Japanese fleet through a combination of forcing the CAP fighters to retreat due to low fuel and keeping the AAA occupied with low altitude attackers while the dive bombers “sneaked in” at high altitude.
Had the American forces not had an overwhelming numerical superiority (there were a total of 304 aircraft on the 4 japanese carrier and 300 aircraft on the 3 American carriers plus the aircraft deployed from Midway) in aircraft the battle might have ended in a draw.
Generating such large air strikes in impossible today. American Supercarriers carry 50 something fighters. Also unlike WWII were the only defenses were CAP fighters and WVR AAA artillery a modern battle group is defended by long range SAM, medium range SAMs, point defense missiles, computer controlled AAA cannons with much more accuracy then human controled AAA in WWII and fleet defense fighters. Practically to overwhelm with fighters the defense of a single American Carrier Strike Group you would need hundreds of expensive manned fighters, and even if they would succeed many of them (and their highly trained pilots) would not be returning.
On the other hand an anti ship missile even a supersonic one like the Russians make is much more cheap then a fighter much more easy to carry and use and can be launched form submarines at stand-off ranges in huge salvos capable to overwhelm the defenses of a Carrier strike group through shear numbers. Practically only 4 Oscar class submarines displacing together less then a Nimitz class carrier, can put in the air 100 Mach 3 missiles that would have more chance of penetrating the layered defenses of a carrier strike Group then the 50 something strike fighters carried by a carrier which would be limited to subsonic speeds due to carrying heavy Harpoon missiles . The Mach 3 missiles would be unengageble by the CAP fighters and the short range point defense missiles and guns (at Mach 3 the missiles would pass through the 10 km range of point defense in about 12 seconds) and only the long and medium range SAM missiles would have any change to engage them. Considering the low pk of SAM missiles from the 100 anti-ship missiles at least 10 would pass to engage the carrier.
So my opinion is that the submarines carrying long range high-speed anti-ship missiles is the future “sea-superiority” weapon (Russian naval strategist seem to agree with me since that has been their plan starting in the 60s. 🙂 ).
However that doesn’t mean that the aircraft goes the way of the battleship. It’s much more versatile. Air superiority will still be very important as the best weapon against the submarine is the aircraft. And the carrier still has the capability to carry successive strikes on land which the submarine dose not have.
For establishing air supremacy the carrier proposed here I think it’s better then CATOBARs.
One note: shipborne defenses have never fared well against very-low-flying aircraft or missiles.
“My opinion on the matter of the carrier is that right now in the face of advances of anti-ship missiles, SAM missiles and fighter technology it might be in the same position that the battleship was before WWII. Let me explain before you gut me.”
I know it’s a year later… lol… but I’ve just finished writing a revision of this article, so I’ve remembered this post and decided to answer it more thoroughly.
1) You are correct about submarines… in fact it is submarines that are real sea supremacy ships, all other ships can be useful only for supporting ground troops. This, among other things, means that seaborne air power should be split among larger number of smaller carriers, and surface ships in general should be smaller and cheaper, as many will definetly be lost to submarines.
2) I don’t believe that carriers are actually useful as sea supremacy ships, but primarly as a support for ground troops, amphibious landings et cetera. This still requires ability to launch heavily loaded aircraft, which means CATOBAR. That being said, long-range SAMs and radar-guided AAA have never fared well against aircraft. Main danger were always short-range IR SAMs and optically-aimed AAA. Even these may not be particularly effective against low-flying aircraft and missiles, as Falklands war has demonstrated (quite few ships were sunk by unguided bombs, and many more would have gotten sunk were Argentine bombs reliable… none of Argentine attack aircraft had speeds above 1.000 kph when armed). So in a pitch, carriers can be effective sea superiority ships… but it should not be their primary role.
3) 12 seconds is enough for missiles to be engaged by guns… but it is unlikely that limited number of PD guns on modern ships would be able to shoot them down unless a significant number of missiles has already been destroyed by SAMs (which, as you point out, is unlikely). Torpedo is still far more dangerous as it will typically sink a targeted ship, which happens more rarely with missiles.
China’s carrier is not for use in close proximity to Taiwan, but as the core of a future expeditionary presence in Africa. China has great interests now in Africa having recently become the biggest investor on the continent and seeing Africa as a source for much needed resources. So the most probable battle ground for a Chinese carrier would be the Indian Ocean and the most probable opponent the Indian Navy.
Yeah they really need to stop building colossal 100,000 ton+ nuclear carriers.
I wonder for the money, how many conventional carriers could be built? Plus with lighter weight fighters, well, you don’t need large carriers either. It’s the fact that there are aircraft like the F-14 that dictated carrier size historically.
Probably 2 or 3 for each Nimitz.
I was thinking about building something like the Escort Carriers of WWII. When we look at WWII, it was really Escort carriers that played the decisive role in the Pacific, combined with submarines (which devastated the Japanese merchant fleet), land based aircraft, and seaplanes. Battleships arguably played a role too.
I think that the current “fleet super carrier centric” mentality is very bad for several reasons:
Too much of the total percentage of resources put into a few baskets in case a carrier is lost. And in war, you are going to lose carriers against a competent enemy.
For the cost of 1 supercarrier, many could be built, giving “force presence”
Promotes excessively complex naval aircraft (F-14, now JSF, and there are proposals for a heavy stealthy fighter – essentially an analogue to the F-14 of what the F-22 was to the F-15).
Ties down the fleet to defend super carriers and promotes high tech surface warships.
Worse, other capabilities are neglected because this is so expensive, like diesel submarines.
Yes, but you can’t go too much towards smal carriers as they have to be able to use conventional aircraft. My FLX can take off in 150 meters, so it would not need catapult.
“Yes, but you can’t go too much towards smal carriers as they have to be able to use conventional aircraft. My FLX can take off in 150 meters, so it would not need catapult.”
150 meters would be enough for a pretty small aircraft carrier. A WWII Casablanca-class escort carrier was 156m long at 7,800 tons displace (about 10,500 tons full load). That’s about as small as it gets while retaining some capacity to carry aircraft.
Either way, a 200m long runway could be done with a 20 to 25 thousand ton vessel. That should be more than enough to carry the FLX aircraft.
With the advent of Hyper sonic anti ship Missile like Tsircon & high supersonic long range Klub ( 3M 14 T ) , the game is set to change . Kirovs are to come back with more than 300 VLS carring 80 anti ship Tsircon & Klub rest are for air defense along with S 400 & Pantsir . Klubs can be fired from more than 1000 km distance & Tsircon from 600 km or so. Klubs are fired in 6-8 salvo at a time oneof which goes to high altitude commands the rest who are sea – skimming . Defending against these will be difficult forUS c/ or any other carriers.
Indeed. That is one of reasons why I’m not a fan of large carriers – not only are they easier to hit, but you loose more of an air group once they are hit.