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Subject: Light carrier and cheap fleet air arms solution
YelliChink    4/5/2011 12:29:47 PM
Could an Independence-class be any useful to deal with weak enemy or interventionist operations? Will it cost less than maintaining and operating full size carrier battle group? There's an article on USNI Proceedings recently, calling for the revival of light carriers (around 20,000t). The problem is that, to make a viable carrier today, the full displacement would still be around 30,000t, which is exactly the size of CDG. That is not "light" at all. So the viable alternatives are: Use smaller and much less-capable aircrafts such as A-4SU and something similar to navalized F-20. Or use a fleet of UCAV. Light carriers will not be able to operate E-2, and air-refueling capability will be limited. Thus this concept requires land-based aircraft such as E-3 and KC-135 to provide support. Is it really a viable option at all?
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JFKY    Read Friedman   4/5/2011 2:12:27 PM
Carriers of 20,000 tons are pretty useless....CV's are the size they are, because they have achieved an economy of scale.  A 20,000 ton carrier gives you the HMS Invincible, Harriers, and ASW helicopters, no AEW, no Growlers.  The Independence class CVL's were out-dated in 1945, for G*d's sake!  They were replaced by the Saipan class CVL...
They did not provide all-weather launch, due to small size, they had a greater accident rate, and they could only carry 2nd rate A/c..AGAIN, IN 1945!  The ONLY wartime carriers to see extensive post-war use were the ESSEX CLASS...and even they were Second-Rate CVS'.....there is a a reason the "Super-Carrier" the USS Forrestal was built.  To carry a useful load of heavy jet aircraft, ordnance, jet fuel, all on a survivable platform, brought the displacement in at 50,000 tons.
Short Answer: No, we DON'T need more Independence Class CVL's...the USN got rid of them as soon as they could, 60 years ago, for good reason.
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YelliChink    JFKY   4/5/2011 4:52:26 PM
Very good analysis. Indeed light carrier, even the Saipan Class, is not sufficient for as primary fleet arms as it can't operate heavier modern jets. Even Midway and Essex were considered too small by 1965. However, light carriers are always considered as auxiliary. In that role, the CVLs are considered launch platform for secondary or utility aircrafts. At that role, even A-4 Skyhawk/Harrier/Gripen/LCA class aircraft still possess some ability, plus other types of naval-air assets. Whether it is adequate investment for the USN is up for debate. For smaller navies such as Italian, Spain, Brazil and especially Japan and Korea, this might be the only way.
In the future, UCAV might change the game.
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JFKY    The CVL   4/5/2011 6:58:24 PM
could operate only the Wildcat and TBM' could NOT operate jets.....20,000 tons is too small to operate fixed wing jets of a CTOL variety...20,000 tons gives you a "Harrier Carrier" no more.
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YelliChink       4/5/2011 8:49:56 PM

could operate only the Wildcat and TBM' could NOT operate jets.....20,000 tons is too small to operate fixed wing jets of a CTOL variety...20,000 tons gives you a "Harrier Carrier" no more.

British Colossus class carrier design is about 20,000t. People have been operating F9F, A-4Q and Sea Venom on those.
It looks like a good UCAV launch/recover platform as well, to supplement fleet carriers.
The major problem is that you can only operate airplanes of similar capability, even though modern technology can make better airplanes. The gross take-off weight and landing weight are the limiting factors for light carriers of about 20,000t.
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JFKY    Please note   4/5/2011 9:52:02 PM
The most advanced a/c operated on the Colossus was the A-4...and the Super Etendard...neither of which are very advanced a/c, even in the Third World.  Again 20,000 tons gets you AV-8's as your most advanced a/c and ASW Helicopters and AEW helicopters.
You'll discover that 20,00 tons doesn't get you 40% of a 50,000 ton CV, you get a LOT less...let's examine the HISTORY, the last 20,000 ton carrier was the Invincible Class, 18 AV-8's, 10 Helicopters.  Please note that the RN HAS operated 20,000 ton carriers, and when given the chance to repeat the class or build a CVA, they opted for the 50,000 ton CVA.
The USS Nimitz is more than 4 times better, than the HMS Invincible.  It is much better in terms of a/c operated, endurance (air group and vessel), and survivability.  In an age of shrinking defense budgets the USN can't afford to waste money on second-rate CV's.  ANY CV has to be able to operate off the Kola Inlet, or Shanghai, Canton, OR Liberia....
Lastly, you might understand that the CVL is NOT a convoy escort, that mission is a large level.  There may be convoys to Taiwan or Korea, but there isn't going to be another Battle of the Atlantic, and even when there WAS ONE POSSIBLE, NATO had begun to move beyond the idea of the CVE/CVL as convoy (Defensive ASW) and moved toward Offensive/Barrier ASW.  By the end the CVS Essex or the RN Colossus mission was to escort the CVA and "sanitize" the area of Soviet SSGN's, not escort convoys across the Atlantic.  The CVN/A replaced the CVS in the ASW role by the 1970's because the CVN/A could ALSO process the ASW information from the S-2/3's and the ASW helicopters, eliminating the need for the aging, and expensive CVS.  The politics of the Battle of the Atlantic and the SSGN's are long-gone and the need for a lighter CVL/CVS has passed, leaving only the need for the larger multi-purpose CVN/A.
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YelliChink       4/5/2011 11:55:22 PM
It would be funny to see if ROKN decided to operate F-35B from Dokdo class, even though that didn't solve the problem to be cheap.
The whole idea that CVL may be useful is to relieve fleet carriers for more important matters. It seems that 20,000t is simply not enough, so can we agree that a secondary carrier should be no smaller than 30,000t in order to operate F/A-18C/D and Rafale?
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albywan       4/6/2011 12:45:34 AM
where do carries such as the Garibaldi, Principe de Asturias and the Chakri Naruebet fit into the reckoning? they're all less than 20,000 ton...
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gf0012-aust       4/6/2011 3:16:48 AM

as has been already stated, the smaller US carriers were regarded as tactical woftams and transitioned into ASW carriers for a very brief cold war role.

the baseline carriers for decent effect were seen as a minimum of Midway sized and preferably Forrestal +

one of the reasons why the majestics were not further developed was because the cost to bring them up to capability levels where they could use jaguar sized aircraft was seen as throwing good money over bad.  they were fine for scooters etc... but outside of that.... granted you could drive scooter sized UAV's off smaller carriers, but its not going to be useful if you are using USN derived conops...

smaller navies might see a benefit, but eventually, cost effectiveness, tasking advantages etc lie with bigger vessels.

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JFKY    It would seem   4/6/2011 9:32:46 AM
the MINIMUM size to operate something like the F/A-18 is 50,000 Tons.  Again read are joining a long line of folks who have balked at the size and cost of "modern" CV's, starting with the reaction to the USS Lexington and Saratoga, the result of which was the abortive and wasteful USS Ranger.  The MINIMUM useful size has grown, steadily, since the 1930's.
By 1945 the Essex Class, were too small, for the required crew and too overweight, from added a/c weight, top-hamper, and weaponry.  Note the prime CVA, the war-winning Essex Class, were too small in 1945!  The result, after much infighting and re-design was the USS Forrestal, in at nearly 60,000 tons, light load!
So, if you're going to operate a/c in the F-4/14 or A-4 range, even 30,000 tons is too little.  On that frame you can, probably, have either a/c , fuel, and ordnance, but very little survivability, endurance, and speed-given engine room volume OR a decent ship, with very little room for A/c, parts, fuel and ordnance.
People far brighter than us have wrestled with this question since 1928.  What they have discovered is that bigger, IS better.  UCAV's are nice, but not a substitute, yet, for F/A-18/35's in the A2A role. 
You're future CVA is going to require F-35's, F-18G's, quite possibly something akin to the S-2/3 for UCAV control, and UCAV's for strike missions.  You're going to have to fit several dozen large, manned a/c onto the ship, lots of UCAV's, several thousand tons of JP-6, and several thousand tons of ordnance, too.  Fit the ship to move at 55 Kilometres per hour, and be able to survive the hit of several, large AShM, or homing torpedoes.  That is NOT likely to fit on 30,000 tons, is my guess, and will NEVER fit on 20,000 tons.
Again note, the Royal Navy COULD have built a better HMS Invincible, instead it opted for the HMS Queen Elizabeth CVA.  If you're Italy or Spain and all you can afford is a Garibaldi or Principes Austurias, then that's what you take, because that's what you can get.  But REAL Naval Air requires something significantly larger.
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LB    Roles and Mission   4/6/2011 10:52:12 PM
First question you want to ask is what you want a light carrier to do?  That dictates the air wing which gets you the size of the carrier.
Consider the moment you go to AEW aircraft you then want a minimum number of fighters to make that viable.  Is 20 fighters too few to support the operation of say 3 E-2's?  Perhaps 30 is the minimum?  Throw in some supporting helicopters and you're at 40+ aircraft.  Now decide how many sorties you want to put up between replenishment and decide how much aviation fuel and ammo you need.
You're probably at 50,000 or so tons now.  You could operate a dozen harriers and a few AEW helicopters off a 20,000 ton carrier but is that what you want and is it cost effective?
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