The Age of the Aircraft Carrier Is Over
War Is Boring
1615

Unless the a/c are refueled in-flight or land elsewhere, combat radius is substantially less than range figures quoted in the paper. The AD-1’s couldn’t carry 4 tons of ordnance 1000 nm and the A-6's couldn’t carry 9 tons of ordnance 880 nm. The F-35C has a range of 1620 nm (matches the F-14) on internal fuel and a maximum stores carrying capability of 9 tons (matches the A-6). It can’t do both at the same time and neither could the A-6 (without in-flight refueling). The range alone or stores carrying capabilities alone are meaningless figures without the context of an ordnance load out combined with a specific mission profile. In short, range was not retreated from. We never had it and we still don’t.

Dr. Hendrix didn’t point out that the second we have a naval strike fighter with a 1000 nm striking range, a DF-21E will be fielded with a range of 1500 nm. There’s nothing too magical about launching a strike mission that takes the fighter 1000 nm from the carrier vs 500 nm, except the amount of tanker gas and aircraft required to complete a mission. Just fire TLAM’s at the DF-21D launchers from submarines or bombers 1500 nm away and be done with it.

I think naval aviation’s continued survival necessitates smaller carriers equipped with roughly quadruple the current number of ready-to-fire air defense weapons organic to an entire carrier strike group combined with effective armoring rather than new naval strike aircraft with marginally greater ranges and staggering cost. I call this concept the assault carrier. It’s a multi-purpose aircraft carrier, amphib, and unrep vessel that’s configurable for varying mission requirements. Several of these configurable vessels would deploy together to provide mutual support for each other and perform functions typically performed by a range of surface combatants.

The bottom line is that our stealth aircraft, aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers are intended to be offensive weapons. Maybe we should equip our Navy in such a way as to actually permit their ships to remain functional in intended roles after the shooting starts.

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