Navy Must Boost Carrier Air Wings’ Range, Size & Lethality

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spazsinbad

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Unread post19 Jun 2017, 09:56

You will be pleased to know JIMI Hendrix thinks the F-35C is 'somewhat effective'; how condescending can this guy be?
Navy Must Boost Carrier Air Wings’ Range, Size & Lethality
19 Jun 2017 Jerry Hendrix

"...the Navy is already working on a partial solution for the A2AD environment challenge. The carrier variant of the Lockheed Martin’s stealthy Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, is designed to operate with some effectiveness within high threat environments populated with advanced surface to air missile systems. The Department of the Navy intends to purchase 340 F-35Cs, 260 for the Navy and 80 of the Marine Corps. These aircraft will combine to place two F-35C squadrons of 10 aircraft on every deploying American super carrier. In addition, the Marine Corps will purchase 340 of the Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) F-35B variant of the new aircraft, which will operate from shore bases and smaller amphibious carriers. The Navy’s goal is to have the F-35C reach Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in February 2019....

...Much has been written in the past about the fact that the carrier air wing’s average striking range has shrunk from 900 to 500 nautical miles over the past 25 years while China and Russia have invested in new A2AD systems such as the carrier killing DF-21 missile, designed to keep the super carriers from coming within 1,000 miles of their shores in war time. Future air wings composed of F-35Cs, which have an unrefueled combat range of 630 nautical miles, and Block III FA-18 Hornets, which, with their conformal fuel tanks carrying an additional 3,500 lbs. of fuel, could reach out to 750 miles. However, neither of these alone can bridge the gap imposed by enemy A2AD systems. To reach enemy targets, the carrier will need to bring a mission tanker back to the flight deck.

Mission tankers, as opposed to smaller capacity recovery tankers, have been in the Navy since the 1950s, when the concept of being able to fully refuel a strike package composed of multiple aircraft near their maximum range first appeared. During Vietnam, a modified 85,000 lb. A-3 Skywarrior would be launched early from the carrier carrying nearly 30,000 lbs. of fuel which it transferred to A-4s, A-7s and A-6s, topping them off before they continued towards targets in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. These aircraft were retired in the early 1990s but they left a memory and a metric. The ability to fully refuel a strike package near its maximum unrefueled range.

Today a strike package sent into an A2AD environment would almost certainly be comprised of F-35Cs being supported by FA-18 E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growler jamming aircraft. The mission tanking requirement would be centered around a basic goal of being able to fully refuel six to eight F-35Cs near the 500 to 600 nautical mile range from the carrier. Given the fuel burn rates associated with Pratt and Whitney’s F135 engine, each aircraft would require a little over 8,000 lbs. of fuel to top off in the 500-600 nautical mile refueling zone. Working from this math, the planned new unmanned MQ-25 Stingray mission tanker should be able to carry the 16,000 to 17,000 lbs. of fuel for transfer to other carrier aircraft at the critical range. Four MQ-25s (80% of a squadron of five) would be required for a six-to-eight aircraft mission package to be able to reach and attack targets over a thousand miles from the carrier, keeping the large platforms both survivable and relevant....

...without a large enough, lethal enough and long-range carrier air wing the super carrier will not be the preeminent symbol of its national power. If the aircraft are not capable of penetrating the enemy’s advanced defenses, if there are not enough of them to sustain the fight, or lack the basic mission tanking ability to enable them to reach their targets, then all other basic assumptions regarding American naval power are placed in doubt. Given the nature of international competition today, doubt is not a word the nation should wish to have associated with its Navy and its Navy’s carriers."

Source: http://breakingdefense.com/2017/06/navy ... -lethality
Last edited by spazsinbad on 19 Jun 2017, 19:33, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post19 Jun 2017, 19:12

"... Future air wings composed of F-35Cs, which have an unrefueled combat range of 630 nautical miles, and Block III FA-18 Hornets, which, with their conformal fuel tanks carrying an additional 3,500 lbs. of fuel, could reach out to 750 miles. However, neither of these alone can bridge the gap imposed by enemy A2AD systems. To reach enemy targets, the carrier will need to bring a mission tanker back to the flight deck."

"...The ability to fully refuel a strike package near its maximum unrefueled range."

I don't know, he still hasn't figured out that RADIUS and RANGE are not synonymous. He also hasn't figured out that the F-35C has a longer range than any variant of the F-18E/F carrying the same payload. It would be funny if he wasn't trying to be serious. Boeing, in their Block III pitch indicated a F-18E Block III carrying an air superiority load would have the same range as a F-35C with a strike payload.

As proof of this I would submit that, although I am not a pilot, it would seem the height of folly to plan to refuel near the aircraft's maximum range while doing so near the maximum radius makes all kind of sense.
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Unread post19 Jun 2017, 19:34

Thanks 'usnvo' - I guess that is why I name him JIMI - he just riffs on the same BS time after time - blackshoe crapola.
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Unread post19 Jun 2017, 23:20

spazsinbad wrote:Thanks 'usnvo' - I guess that is why I name him JIMI - he just riffs on the same BS time after time - blackshoe crapola.


"Given the fuel burn rates associated with Pratt and Whitney’s F135 engine, each aircraft would require a little over 8,000 lbs. of fuel to top off in the 500-600 nautical mile refueling zone. Working from this math, the planned new unmanned MQ-25 Stingray mission tanker should be able to carry the 16,000 to 17,000 lbs. of fuel for transfer to other carrier aircraft at the critical range. Four MQ-25s (80% of a squadron of five) would be required for a six-to-eight aircraft mission package to be able to reach and attack targets over a thousand miles from the carrier, keeping the large platforms both survivable and relevant...."

He also seems to be a little fuzzy on his math. If the F-35C needs 7000-8000lbs of fuel at 500-600nm, then two MQ-25s are required for each four F-35Cs. Now we know that they payload/endurance trade-off they are looking at for the MQ-25 is 14000-17000lbs of give at that range. So the numbers are in the ballpark but... You still have to refuel the planes on the return trip. Even with the F-35Cs range, going another 500nm to the target (with full weapons and fuel load) and then returning 1000nm+ to the CVN is probably not possible. So you will need tankers (probably one depending on give but lets say two for redundancy.) to refuel the four F-35Cs on the way back. You could probably use the F-18E tankers for the return refueling at say 300-400nm but someone with gas will need to be there for them with another 5000-6000lbs or so to get them back to the CVN. Better would be someone at 500-600nm again which means you need two more MQ-25s. And, since the F-35C will be faster, the same MQ-25s can't tank the strike package outbound, return to the carrier, refuel, relaunch, and then tank the strike package inbound. So four MQ-25s for 4 F-35Cs at 1000nm. But, 4 MQ-25s could probably get 8 F-35Cs to 800nm without an issue.
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Unread post24 Jun 2017, 07:36

So what's stopping air force tankers from doing what they already do with long range Navy strike packages? I get having your own on deck capabilities but if this is a big strike package I don't see the carrier being able to launch anything that really has a lot of give to it (not to mention your using up your on board fuel stores faster) for any major strike a KC-10 or KC-135 can meet the strike package and escort them to the refuel point fly back to the carrier so it's under carrier CAP protection then meet the strike on it's way back. Endurance on those large tankers seem to be over 20 hours and in areas like the pacific we have lots of places to launch from.
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Unread post24 Jun 2017, 07:55

In other posts or at least one IIRC 'blindpilot'/'BP' has posited this possibility - USAF tanker - mebbe he will explain further?
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Unread post24 Jun 2017, 08:48

spazsinbad wrote:..."Mission tankers, as opposed to smaller capacity recovery tankers, .. when the concept of being able to fully refuel a strike package .. .., a modified 85,000 lb. A-3 Skywarrior would be launched early from the carrier carrying nearly 30,000 lbs. ... The ability to fully refuel a strike package near its maximum unrefueled range"......


.....okay, so "which is the MQ-25" or do you envision it can be both?....
....a 100K "Whale" can be launched from the cat, but obviously the additional 15K will involve a lot more drag, that is not required for "recovery"...
....so on the "Clean Sheet" design, Strike or Recovery??? for the MQ-25(ISR)???....
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Unread post24 Jun 2017, 16:02

I think we're getting a little carried away here. I'm really skeptical that a carrier needs to be more than 1000 miles away (at the most!) from the threat/target area to remain "safe" and away from all the localized battle 'noise' (tactical aircraft, diesel subs, costal defenses etc. etc.).

That's absurd. I highly doubt the Chinese have perfected this vaunted anti ship ballistic missile capability to effectively target a carrier in such a manner at such range and overall area. It's not easy to track a carrier that does not want to be found in the vast and complex geography of the Pacific. And that's when no one is trying to blind you and turn you deaf.

We're making it seem like a carrier has to be near Guam to conduct ops in the East China Sea/Taiwan area. That's laughable. As long as our flattops remain beyond the first island chain during the initial period of combat I believe they are 'safe' and free enough to conduct ops without much worry. Look at a map, and what any Chinese missile or strike package or submarine would have to go through to make it out into the open Pacific basin.

And when F-35s comes online, it will be that much harder to even detect naval combat aviation in general, let alone the specific point from which it originated. It will be like whack a mole for the adversary, except the moles have missiles and bombs to release everytime they pop up.

There is a good read somewhere on the web written by a former carrier captain. He talks about running mock attack 'mirror ops' off the coast of Kamchatka/Petropovlosk in the 80s, and the Russians could never find him. And no, he was not 2500 miles off coast.

EDIT:

http://www.rulit.me/books/the-dead-hand ... 75-18.html

https://blog.usni.org/posts/2013/05/31/1983-revisited

Not specifically the account I referred to. But these two links talk about that event/operation. The USN just has to relearn and remaster old skills in order to accomplish difficult, but not impossible missions.
Last edited by PhillyGuy on 24 Jun 2017, 16:23, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post24 Jun 2017, 16:17

The importance of tanking ability, can't be overlooked, but there are a few other considerations here. The range estimates (using current engines, with assumptions about degraded performance, and suboptimal cruise profiles) understate the current radius of the F-35C. Secondly, as improved engines become available, that are claimed to offer 20 to 30 percent range improvements become available, that will further mitigate the issue of a carrier's reach. Lastly, if we consider the range of the JASSM-ER, that allows carriers to threaten targets 1300 to 1500nm distant (with current engines.)
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Unread post24 Jun 2017, 16:48

spazsinbad wrote:In other posts or at least one IIRC 'blindpilot'/'BP' has posited this possibility - USAF tanker - mebbe he will explain further?


Well all I can add is that in my day they (US Navy) had carrier tankers (KA-6's replacing KA-3s etc.) for strike packages and the attackers had greater combat radius, (esp. with the Intruders) ... and the operating environment off coast was safer and closer.

However, We did refuel F-14s with our Q's for replacement deployments. (Actually we refueled Iranian F-14s to get them to Iran) The A's also did deployment support regularly. It certainly is possible, and Air Force tankers still constantly support Joint strike packages, including Navy, from the Gulf Wars until today in Syria.

The tankers would not run out of fuel, deploying orbits from Okinawa or Mildenhall, England in my experience. (or Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, although the runway was WAY shorter, and the motel was a Quonset Hut, when I landed there.)

BP

PS. There's a war story in that DG deployment, where we argued with the mission commander about how long we could stay on orbit. He yelled that we could carry more fuel than that, and we yelled "Not if we want to get off the runway we can't!" We supported the orbit for ... let's say "hours" ... but only because, as far as I know we were the only crew to ever take off EWO for an operational mission. (got an AFCM out that, and other stuff)
(the Falkland Victors may have stretched that for whatever Britain calls EWO. That (the Vulcan mission) was an impressive operation for tankers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2Yl8ntVS-4 -start at minute 21.00 and 31:00. Bob Tuxford is one of the tanker pilot's hero of heros. Basically a "just give them the fuel and hope someone figures out in time how we don't die" story)
Last edited by blindpilot on 24 Jun 2017, 17:42, edited 10 times in total.
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Unread post24 Jun 2017, 16:53

PhillyGuy wrote:I think we're getting a little carried away here. I'm really skeptical that a carrier needs to be more than 1000 miles away (at the most!) from the threat/target area to remain "safe" and away from all the localized battle 'noise' (tactical aircraft, diesel subs, costal defenses etc. etc.).

That's absurd. I highly doubt the Chinese have perfected this vaunted anti ship ballistic missile capability to effectively target a carrier in such a manner at such range and overall area. It's not easy to track a carrier that does not want to be found in the vast and complex geography of the Pacific. And that's when no one is trying to blind you and turn you deaf.



Are you accounting for SAR satellites? China is launching more and more satellites into space. With the possible exception of the Zumwalt-class, the USN ships are not particularly stealthy, least of all looking down from space. Would it not be "relatively easy" for China to put up enough satellites to keep a near continuous, if not continuous, radar "map" or "monitoring" of at least the East and South China Seas from space? A lot has changed since the '80s - not nearly as many satellites then as now.
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Unread post24 Jun 2017, 17:18

steve2267 wrote: ...Are you accounting for ..


Check post above. Especially the Falklands story link. The Victors out of Ascension continued to support the "Naval" operation throughout the war (including Nimrod operations).

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Unread post24 Jun 2017, 18:19

steve2267 wrote:Are you accounting for SAR satellites? China is launching more and more satellites into space. With the possible exception of the Zumwalt-class, the USN ships are not particularly stealthy, least of all looking down from space. Would it not be "relatively easy" for China to put up enough satellites to keep a near continuous, if not continuous, radar "map" or "monitoring" of at least the East and South China Seas from space? A lot has changed since the '80s - not nearly as many satellites then as now.


In theory that concept seems legitimate but in practice reality is otherwise. First what orbit? LEO or Geosynchronous? The former would require dozens of satellites to have constant coverge. The latter is too far away for radar or optical tracking of surface targets. LEO is also susceptible to ASAT weapons. Then come the links, how is this data relayed, hypothetically assuming the Chinese organize such a SAR/SIGINT constellation. Can it be jammed, or hacked etc... Then comes the enormous amount of raw data to process and analyze. Do you know how many surface ships and all sorts of disturbances and anomalies and geophysical phenomenon are present and occuring at any given time in the Pacific basin? You would need an army to filter and categorize the signals. The sea itself does not lend to clean radar returns even on normal conditions. And if you lost track of the Carrier for a few hours, now you have to sort so much false contacts to find it again. The Chinese would need to corroborate any space based reconnaissance with fixed winged aircraft and other terrestrial based sensors in order to produce a weapons quality track. It's not as simple as, oh, thr carrier is somewhere off Okinawa, that area can be anywhere from the size of Michigan to Texas. Your missiles are flying blind and hitting the water. They have very little chance of hitting a moving carrier using countermeasures, both passive and active, to evade. You need extreme fidelity, constant tracking, and datalinks to update the missile in flight. All weakpoints to be exploited qnd taken apart.

The Navy talks about the kill chain because nothing exists or works in isolation, but as part of a network. And this network can be attacked and weakened. And remember, the Chinese are not in some quiet room, sipping tea and listening to Mozart figuring this out. It's happening as they are being confronted on a front from Singapore to South Korea, with hundreds, thousands of moving parts and both friendly and enemy pieces to sort out. I would be shocked if they are more organized and connected and well trained to out maneuver and achieve information and situational superiority on the US Military. If their intelligence and command and control capacity goes offlime for even an hour, they might as well call it quits. That's how fast moving and unforgiving and decisive a future war between near peers will be.

ISR, Logistics and C&C are king in the modern battlefield.
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Unread post27 Jun 2017, 04:32

usnvo wrote:
spazsinbad wrote:Thanks 'usnvo' - I guess that is why I name him JIMI - he just riffs on the same BS time after time - blackshoe crapola.


"Given the fuel burn rates associated with Pratt and Whitney’s F135 engine, each aircraft would require a little over 8,000 lbs. of fuel to top off in the 500-600 nautical mile refueling zone. Working from this math, the planned new unmanned MQ-25 Stingray mission tanker should be able to carry the 16,000 to 17,000 lbs. of fuel for transfer to other carrier aircraft at the critical range. Four MQ-25s (80% of a squadron of five) would be required for a six-to-eight aircraft mission package to be able to reach and attack targets over a thousand miles from the carrier, keeping the large platforms both survivable and relevant...."

He also seems to be a little fuzzy on his math. If the F-35C needs 7000-8000lbs of fuel at 500-600nm, then two MQ-25s are required for each four F-35Cs. Now we know that they payload/endurance trade-off they are looking at for the MQ-25 is 14000-17000lbs of give at that range. So the numbers are in the ballpark but... You still have to refuel the planes on the return trip. Even with the F-35Cs range, going another 500nm to the target (with full weapons and fuel load) and then returning 1000nm+ to the CVN is probably not possible. So you will need tankers (probably one depending on give but lets say two for redundancy.) to refuel the four F-35Cs on the way back. You could probably use the F-18E tankers for the return refueling at say 300-400nm but someone with gas will need to be there for them with another 5000-6000lbs or so to get them back to the CVN. Better would be someone at 500-600nm again which means you need two more MQ-25s. And, since the F-35C will be faster, the same MQ-25s can't tank the strike package outbound, return to the carrier, refuel, relaunch, and then tank the strike package inbound. So four MQ-25s for 4 F-35Cs at 1000nm. But, 4 MQ-25s could probably get 8 F-35Cs to 800nm without an issue.


The Navy and industry are really quiet regarding the MQ-25A, especially considering it is suppose to be flying from carrier decks in by 2020 or so. Via Hendrix, there is the requirement to offload 14,000-17,000 at 500 nm. There is also indication that the refueling requirement may necessitate a change in planform to a wing, body, tail design.

Unless the MQ-25 can carry large external fuel tanks, I suspect that it will be a large aircraft. 70-80 ft wingspan. Close to 100,000 lbs. I'd like to know what a top off at 500 nm would look like in terms of fuel amount. Is it really 8,000 lbs? How much of an increase in combat radius would you get if you didn't tank on the way back? 100 nm? More? Less? And what sort of tanking requirement would you need to extend the range of 4 F-35C to 1,000 nm? Is it 4 MQ-25s? The problem is that we have nothing to compare the MQ-25A to except legacy manned tankers like the KA-3, KA-6, S-3, and Super Hornet - the latter 3 being a poor comparison in term of fuel capacity.

Hendrix mentioned the 29,000 lbs fuel capacity of the KA-3, but this was the aircraft's total fuel load load. I haven't not been able to find anything information as to how much it actually could give at say 500 nm.

Another issue is whether extending the range of the CVW to 1,000 nm with organic assets is something worth pursuing. The Navy can employ the Tomahawk Block IV if its CVBGs need a long range land attack capability. It has a two way data link giving it an ability to retarget in flight. It also has some ability to attack moving targets. It might be more efficient to pair a carrier based, unmanned, low observable ISR platform with the Tomahawk Block IV or the JASSM-ER. The Air Force also has B-2s if a man in the loop is required. You might be able to imagine scenarios where F-35s or Growlers/SHs might be needed to supplement a B-2 or Tomahawk strike, but with the exception of a conflict with a near peer power like China or Russia in most cases Air Force tanking will be available like it has been in the Middle East.

But to be honest, the best solution might be a modernized version of the A-12 Avenger II. Instead of being able to send 4 F-35s out to 1,000 nm, each CVW would be able to send out a squadron to 1,000 nm plus. The big issue of course is the lack of funds to develop another low observable strike aircraft. This is even less likely than a F-22 production restart.
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Unread post27 Jun 2017, 13:28

It almost like the super hornets are the weakest link. Growler suffers even more with built in additional weight and those big pods on canted pylons. Its almost like that exactly. Almost
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