Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Eisenhower is taking on the Pirates

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69)
The piece of the Vikramaditya is finished, but I have decided to put this out first. Right then, I have read a lot of (for want of a better word) garbage written recently about the deployment of the Eisenhower Battle Group to Western Indian Ocean , so this is what I will deal with first. The really important thing for dealing with the pirate problem is watching them/monitoring such a vast expanse of water. The dispatch of carrier group is therefore a collosal bonus for dealing with the pirates, not because (as some people have asserted with great vemhenence) FA-18 Hornets/Super Hornets are going to be diving out of the sky sending a maelstrom of lead at any small boat they see; because that is the way to lose the moral ground that the governments are assuming over the pirates. Why would they lose this ground, I hear so many people ask? Well it is simple because when all you are doing is seeing and then shooting, you end up making mistakes; shooting up fishermen who use the same style of boats as the pirates, or turning the pirates into heroes as they battle the evil inhuman technological lords of war. So in what way will the carrier group be useful; well it is those venerable, beautiful all seeing eye in the sky, the E2C Hawkeye, that are going to be so very useful. This is primarily because they can monitor such a large area of ocean without be seen by the pirates; then the SEAL team and the helicopters, which I am sure have been tucked aboard the Eisenhower, will be dispatched to the pirates; thus providing a truly synergous detection and interdiction force – something which is currently missing from all the deployed forces currently in theatre.
Up till now nations have been sending escorts; not even Britain has sent one of the Royal Navy’s carriers to support the operations against the pirates, and there is a reason for this. Whilst sending regular naval frigates or destroyers to assist the efforts at combating pirates within region, as Europe, Russia, India and China have done, is good for showing the flag and protecting specific vessels or very narrowly defined sea lanes; as well as being relatively cheap. However, you need the AEW system, that can be provided only through a Carrier Air Group (CAG) and therefore a carriers presence to improve the slim odds of being able locate and interdict the pirates when they are at sea; although the idea that such a vessel will allow piracy to be eliminated is preposterous, purely from the point of view that attacks on Somali ports are not allowed, and you will not get rid of the pirates until you provide Somalia with the sea security it desires (from illegal dumping and fishing), and the people of Somalia with a better source of income. However, it is true that before these changes come about, the only vessels that can really enable a naval commander to interdict the pirates effectively is an aircraft carrier. It is even more true to say, that as so often usual the American nuclear-powered ones are actually much easier to deploy and much more effective for the job than smaller, conventionally powered ones such as the Royal Navy’s Invincible class or even the projected larger but still conventionally powered Queen Elizabeth IIs.
The most obvious, and the coincidentally the most pertinent of the reasons for this superiority The obvious reason for this is that American nuclear-powered super carriers, because they are nuclear powered can stay at sea for an infinite period of time without being refuelled. This simple fact vastly reduces the logistical problems of keeping an aircraft carrier operationally active and deployed on station for long periods of time; for example the Eisenhower has been sent to the Gulf for a five-month mission, and has served longer when the situation required it. The other thing they have is a far higher operating speed and tempo, they are capable of maintaining a constant speed of 30-33kts over infinite range; almost double that of the Invincible, which is 19kts for 7000nm (maximum speed is 28kts). It is also far cheaper, over a lifetime of 40 years a nuclear powered carrier will cost less in fuel and engine costs than two Daring Class Destroyers will (sums based on my own bad maths – I did A Level, and official figures) or the Queen Elizabeth IIs which will only have maximum speed of 26kts (less than the Invincible class) and its range and cruising speed are yet to be announced. I also used the word Tempo, and the reason the super carriers have a better tempo than others is that their nuclear power produces not only enough steam to power catapults allowing larger aircraft with more useful payloads to be launched, but also enough energy allowing the future magnetic based catapults to work; all these things cannot be done by a gas powered vessel because it does not create steam or enough energy (unless you really want to ramp up the expense by adding in special plants).
The American carriers also have the advantage that because they are much larger than most of the conventional carriers employed by the remainder of the world’s aircraft carrier operating navies; they can carry a far larger and more formidable complement of aircraft including the E2C Hawkeye. This combined with a far larger air group; which has a far larger space to operate from allows them to patrol far larger areas of sea at the same time as maintain capability launch fast interdictions with potent forces more often and easily than their equivalent conventional cousins.
So all in all, it is the correct thing for this vessel and her attendant group to be deployed; it is also very difficult to see how under peacetime circumstances other nations, with conventional powered vessels which cost so much more for the value they provide on operations, would manage to match this deployment. In the therefore one rule shines through; if a nation is going to maintain a navy with true power projection capabilities, then the nation need to build nuclear aircraft carriers of a decent size and air group, and most importantly that nation needs to build three; for after all what is the point of going to the expenditure of build carriers if the nation the does not have enough of them to guarantee the capability. If any of those criteria are not met then the nation is crippled by false economies, enforced by those who do not understand the true requirements and even truer benefits of sea power.
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Pete
In clarification, I do not think that a Super Carrier is the right way for Britain to go either, but a 70,000ton nuclear carrier is the upper end of the medium carriers; and in actual fact whilst costing slightly more to procure they actually cost less over the long term due to fuel, ease of upgrade (due to the more powerful power supply), and often a larger more versatile airgroup which means you have more choice in selection of aircraft; finnaly they are far more flexible in operational capability compared to their conventional powered comrades.
The UAVs you speak of quite correctly are maxed out in other theatres, and whilst they do provide a lot of information very far from all American ships (let alone their allies) have been fitted with terminals to directly recive information from them.
Most importantly the supercarrier is actually more easy to absorb the burden economically than foreign bases, as building them in your own yards, maintaining them there keeps the money largely within your own economy; and often have very positive affects on technology and manufacturing sectors. Whereas the foreign bases you are highlighting are nothing but finacial drains which just take money out of the economy, whether in overseas pay for personal, renting the facilities, the extended logistics supply, and upgrading facilities which might in the end be denied to you when you need them because of that countries domestic policys (Kazakstan is a good example of this).
Finnaly I will reiterate a point I made above, which I think has got lost in the weight of other information; "However, you need the AEW system, that can be provided only through a Carrier Air Group (CAG) and therefore a carriers presence to improve the slim odds of being able locate and interdict the pirates when they are at sea; although the idea that such a vessel will allow piracy to be eliminated is preposterous, purely from the point of view that attacks on Somali ports are not allowed, and you will not get rid of the pirates until you provide Somalia with the sea security it desires (from illegal dumping and fishing), and the people of Somalia with a better source of income. However, it is true that before these changes come about, the only vessels that can really enable a naval commander to interdict the pirates effectively is an aircraft carrier
****
Pete
I am not sure why, but I do not seem to be able to comment on your rebuttle, but I was just going to ask how you got the audio player.
yours sincerly
Alex
****
Kummar
yes it is sea denial, but Somalia is not harbouring pirates, the pirates are the Somalians, they are their response to the complicated situation which has evolved in this failed state. The largest problem is that whilst we can use warships and other methods of 'seapower' projection to minimise the problems of piracy off the somarlian coast; it can not be eliminated until somalia itself is rebuilt and there are far more legitmate opportunities for fiscal renumiration available to the populace.
The carrier group helps, because it is the ultimate in sea control and wide area monitoring. However, possibly its biggest assistance is as a political statement of commitment.
yours sincerly
Alex

4 comments:

  1. Hi Alex

    In response to some of the many points you make. I think:

    - multibillion dollar carriers aren't essential for AEW coverage. Orion aircraft or Global Hawk level UAV's could be (and I think are) based in Oman or other nearby land bases and can do a similar job - in some respects better - probably more cheaply.
    - AEW on carriers could handover to carrier strike aircraft BUT the scenario of first world (US) carrier aircraft blasting African speedboats, perhaps with pirates, would not look good diplomatically (Has anyone been doing airstrikes on the pirates?) Hence much of the carrier's firepower capabilities might be wasted in the Somali policing role.
    - However a supercarrier sends a clear political signal to the Somali government that it should put its house/pirates in order or face a US led "War Against Pirates"
    Rather like gunboat diplomacy on a huge scale.

    I think with the sheer cost/opportunity cost of supercarriers the Somali example does little to support a case that other countries should build them:

    - a Nimitz class carrier would cost between US$4.5-6 Billion these days. With the followon Gerald R. Ford class estimated around $11 Billion for the first launch. The cost of the essential defensive screen (a cruiser, destroyers, smaller craft, replenishment ships for conventional screen and one or more SSNs) is more difficult to estimate, but probably upwards of US15 Billion.

    - unless it gets into a conventional shooting war many of the high tech aircraft (built for air to air or deep land strike) would sit around expensively on a supercarrier's decks.

    - only the US and perhaps China and Japan would have the money to build 3 nuclear powered supercarriers (90-100,000 tones). I believe the US now fields 11. Japan is far politically from using reactors for defence purposes. China (no operating carriers) perhaps has to progress through 2 or 3 carrier generations - of carriers over 25 years to build such vessels.

    - France, UK, India and Russia would like them and in near wartime conditions may have the national will to build them, but simply can't afford them.

    Carriers have the strategic and political value of being a supreme show of force but that value is largely potential rather than politically viable in many situations.

    Demonstrably only the US can currently afford the supercarrier approach noting that such carriers also need a large defensive screen of escorts even in the Somali theatre - as these are also strategic and terrorist frequented Middle Eastern waters.

    In summary as the US has a supercarrier available it may provide effective help in the Somali situation - but that is not a compelling reason for other countries to build them.

    Regards

    Pete

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Alex

    I have to admit I don't know enough about the pirate war in Somalia to make other than generalised statements.

    Certainly the US can afford the costly highend solutions - effectively/politically denied all other countries in the short to mid term. This mainly means supercarriers and the vast foreign air and naval bases the US is so skilled at building.

    In these stringent economic times already stretched budgets can't meet the upfront costs of supercarriers, especially with nuclear power, (except for the US).

    I also suggest it would be easier for the UK to deploy 4 AEW Nimrods in Oman or Qatar then deploy a large QE carrier as an AEW airfield.
    --------------------

    On technical issues.

    - for some reason your Comments box tries to resist long comments. There may be a fix or the software mix may be a bit erratic.

    - on placing hyperlinks in the test: when you go into Dashboard, click New Post, write some text in the writing box, highlight (click/drag across) a word you want to use as a hyperlink,
    now just above the writing box there is a line of icons, "b" "i" "T" click the next icon (it should call itself "link" or be a picture of one, up comes the hyperlink prompt, highlight the website string in the document you want to link to and copy (Ctrl + C) it, go back to hyperlink prompt and drop (Ctrl + V) the string in the URL box, click OK. It is now hyperlinked. You may want to make the link a highly contrasting colour for ease of use.

    All may sound complicated but after some practice its quick and easy.

    - Re the Audio Player. Most is explained in http://www.playlist.com/ Once you have compiled a personal list of songs (say 20) please get back to me (perhaps at petemate@fastmail.fm ) and I'll explain the next steps.

    Regards

    Pete

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Alex
    The objective of the naval forces operating around the Somalian coast should be sea denial; make Somalia pay for harbouring pirates. Pirates move around in small boats or dhows. How a carrier group can help matters, I know not.

    regards
    Kumar

    ReplyDelete

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