Ozair
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USN carrier air wing 2040 suggestions

Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:17 am

The following report has generated a fair bit of comment and news articles over some of the suggestions being made to change up the carrier based air wing, including a couple of reports on modifying the F-35C.

I thought I would post the link to the article here, https://csbaonline.org/research/publica ... ublication and see what people’s thoughts are. Some of the interesting suggestions is to change up the carrier air wing by 2040, as posted by Janes here,
In its report released 7 February, 'Regaining the High Ground at Sea', the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) think tank proposes a carrier air wing mix fielded by 2040 that is built around 18 unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs), 10 F/A-XX strike fighters, 10 Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs), and six UCAV-based airborne electronic attack (AEA) aircraft.
Although the aggregate payload capacity of the proposed carrier air wing is about the same as the USN's plan, CSBA believes its carrier air wing would improve range, endurance, survivability, and payload capacity compared with today's carrier air wings. The USN's planned carrier air wing would centre around 20 F-35Cs and 24 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or F/A-XX strike fighters.

https://www.janes.com/article/86258/new ... ice-as-far

The intent between now and 2040 is to have twenty-four F/A-18E/F, twenty F-35C and five EA-18G (once the classic Hornets are replaced and production of the F-35C increases). The current intent of the USN is to finish their F-35 acquisition in approximately 2031 to model the air wing above. Obviously the presence of the MQ-25, and potentially derivatives of it with a strike focus, will emerge post 2025 on carrier decks and enhance the capability of the airwing in different ways.

What are people’s thoughts on how the carrier air wing will change? The USN, as well as the CSBA, see the replacement of the F/A-18E/F occurring by 2040 with the F/A-XX. CSBA are also keen to see a UCAV replace portions of both the F/A-XX and F-35C fleets as well as the EA-18G. The emphasis also seems to be on a reduction in manoeuvrability of the UCAVs, even for the fleet air defence mission, while increasing mission loads and fuel to allow for greater persistence. The quote from the CSBA report suggesting the emphasis for F/A-XX shouldn’t be on speed but on sensors and weapons carriage.


Instead of emphasizing speed, the FA-XX program should prioritize sensor capability and weapons capacity. Sensors, especially passive sensors, could enable CVW fighters to detect enemy fighters or SAMs before being detected themselves, allowing the U.S. fighter to evade or attack first. The emerging generation of long-range IRST sensors in the long- and medium-wave IR frequency ranges, passive RF receivers, and EO cameras could provide these capabilities, but they will require more and larger apertures on the FA-XX airframe or to be carried in pods, which may impact speed. FA-XX weapons capacity will also be more important than speed. Given the long ranges needed to conduct OCA operations, the CVW will not be able to quickly send fighters to replace those that have expended their weapons.
Except for range, the sensor capability and weapons capacity described above for the FA-XX or future long-range fighter could be provided by a version of a current production fighter or strike fighter, such as the Block III F/A-18 E/F or F-35C. A modified aircraft could avoid the potentially unsustainable cost of a new fighter development program, with some of the saved funding being reallocated to the UCAV development effort.


Some of the recommendations that start from page 121

Using a derivative of either the SH or F-35C for F/A-XX

To reach the proposed CVW by 2040, this study recommends the following actions, starting with the President’s Budget for FY 2020:
Sustain procurement of F/A-18 E/Fs as planned through 2023. Although the future CVW requires half the strike fighters of the Navy’s planned CVW, these aircraft will fill near- to mid-term capacity gaps. F/A-18 E/Fs still in service by 2040 can be used in place of UCAVs or F-35Cs if those aircraft are not yet fully fielded. Another reason to sustain procurement of F/A-18 E/Fs is to address the increasing cost of main¬taining older aircraft. The planned service life of a new or modernized Block III F/A-18 E/F is 9,000 flight hours, and CVW strike fighters fly an average of 400 hours a year, resulting in a 20-year replacement cycle. Beyond 20 years, the cost to main¬tain older aircraft for another 5–10 years may exceed the cost of replacing them with new aircraft that have 20 years of more reliable service life.
Sustain F-35C procurement as planned through the first half of production, ending in 2024, to support the proposed 2040 CVW’s squadron of ten F-35Cs.
Develop the FA-XX fighter during the 2020–2024 timeframe as a derivative of an existing aircraft, with production starting in 2025. Block III F/A-18 E/Fs and F-35Cs will be in production during the FY 2020–2024 FYDP, and either they or another in-production fighter or strike fighter could be modified into an FA-XX. Although this approach will require some additional funding for non-recurring engineering between about 2020 and 2024, it will save billions of dollars in the Navy’s planned funding to develop a new fighter aircraft from scratch.


Replacing the EA-18G mid 2030s with a UCAV


Retire E/A-18Gs as they reach their end of service life during the 2030s, replacing their capability with EMW UAV and missile expendables and NGJ-equipped UCAVs.



and develop a UCAV to to augument and then replace most of the strike fighters,

Develop a low observable UCAV attack aircraft as described in Chapter 5 during the 2020–2024 timeframe, with production starting in 2025. Although the UCAV could be based on an existing design such as the X-47B, 1–2 years of development may be needed to create a missionized version. If this development effort starts in 2020, low-rate production should be able to start by 2025. Although fiscal and industrial base constraints may prevent reaching 200 UCAVs by 2040, the CVW of the mid-2030s will have a significant number of UCAVs. The rest of the attack aircraft can consist of F/A-18 E/F strike fighters still in service.

Continue development of the MQ-25 and increase the overall procurement of refueling aircraft to support twelve per CVW. The Navy should also develop a refueling variant of the UCAV attack aircraft described above for production in the mid to late-2030s once sufficient attack UCAVs are fielded.


While there is some serious speculation and perhaps some pie in the sky suggestions on development between now and 2040 some interesting things to discuss.
 
bobinthecar
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Re: USN carrier air wing 2040 suggestions

Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:50 am

Its a really good (long) read. To my mind, the graphic on page 112 (wish I could figure out this editor) shows the biggest problem of the current CAW. The range of current strikers including the F-35 leaves the wing without a long range strike option. The MQ-25 should go a long way towards helping with the range issue. Hopefully they don't overthink the F/A-XX and come up with an F-35 derivative that has the range of an A-7. Trying to engineer a true striker that is fully unmanned in my opinion is just not worth it. Save the money and put it in to longer range weapons, stealthy tankers, and better ASW.
 
Ozair
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Re: USN carrier air wing 2040 suggestions

Tue Feb 12, 2019 3:51 am

bobinthecar wrote:
Its a really good (long) read. To my mind, the graphic on page 112 (wish I could figure out this editor) shows the biggest problem of the current CAW.

Agree, some great graphics in the doc but hard to extract them for this forum. The graphic on page 112 is interesting in the context that the range has not overly increased (over the WWII and Korean era aircraft) while the payload, and in some cases operational speed, of the aircraft have (let alone all the rest of the systems allowing detection and engagement at much longer ranges).

bobinthecar wrote:
The range of current strikers including the F-35 leaves the wing without a long range strike option. The MQ-25 should go a long way towards helping with the range issue. Hopefully they don't overthink the F/A-XX and come up with an F-35 derivative that has the range of an A-7.

The AETP engine should go a long way to solving the range issue. P&W are already looking at thrust and efficiency upgrades of approx 5-6% for range, 6-10% for thrust for Growth Option One for the F135 and I believe some similar upgrades for Growth Option Two. The crown jewel is the AETP which is looking at a 30% increase in range over current profiles. That engine won’t appear till after 2025 but that would push the F-3C out to 1000nm, comparable to A-6 and A-7 ranges and should satisfy the option for F/A-XX (with a few other revisions/changes).

bobinthecar wrote:
Trying to engineer a true striker that is fully unmanned in my opinion is just not worth it. Save the money and put it in to longer range weapons, stealthy tankers, and better ASW.

Interestingly the document suggests that some of the UCAV operations will have to remain man in the loop with some long chain LOS datalinks but some operations will require a more rapid automated response such as ASCM defence. I also agree the four years of development seems short for a UCAV with the capabilities and range required.
 
bobinthecar
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Re: USN carrier air wing 2040 suggestions

Wed Feb 13, 2019 4:51 am

Interestingly the document suggests that some of the UCAV operations will have to remain man in the loop with some long chain LOS datalinks but some operations will require a more rapid automated response such as ASCM defence.


How do you guarantee the integrity of the data links? I do understand that its cheaper in some ways to have an unmanned platform. I also understand that if the platform is unmanned then pilot endurance is no longer an issue. However I still think certain missions shoild be manned even if you have two pilots.

A few random, related thoughts:

The CSBA also published a study on the future fleet architecture not too long ago. It goes in to a lot of other details. One of which is expanding the ARGS in the short term to field 20 F-35B and in the long term to replace the LHAs with CVLs. These ARGS would then be able to relieve the carriers of some of their deployments in peacetime and also supplement the carriers during crisis. This would either enhance the striking power of the carriers or lessen the number of super carriers needed.

In the near term. Carriers can efficiently handle far more aircraft than they currently or are projected to embark. They can easily take 20 more. Why not beef up the wings. Add more MQ-25s. Come up with an ASW variant of the MV-22 as was planned in the late 80s. Maybe even hang tanks off it and use it as a recovery tanker. Lastly beef up the VFA squadrons. Add 2 more F-35s and 2 more F/A-18s to each.

Come up with a variant of the B-21. It could tank/ISR/Jam. They are building at least a hundred bombers. Building a 100 more that can just tank would be an amazing leap in capability. If they could be modified for other missions as well that would be even better. Having stealth tankers flying from Guam or Iceland that could accompany the strikers would automatically extend the range far better than the MQ-25 could. There is a lot of money being put in to developing the B-21. It would be foolish to not study the feasibility of using modified air frames for other missions.

Is there really a need for 12 carriers? Why not 10. If your ARGs are doing some of the deployments the operation tempo of the carriers is reduced. At least two would always be ready to sortie from the West Coast and two from the East Coast.
 
Ozair
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Re: USN carrier air wing 2040 suggestions

Wed Feb 13, 2019 9:42 am

bobinthecar wrote:
How do you guarantee the integrity of the data links?

Likely it would require a form of datalink similar to MADL which is a much higher frequency than Link 16 and able to transmit larger data packets. Given it is directional and LPI a variant should be able to provide the bandwidth and range required as long as there were platforms, such as E-2 and MQ-25, acting as the middle men back to the boat and preserve the stealthiness of the platform.

bobinthecar wrote:
I do understand that its cheaper in some ways to have an unmanned platform. I also understand that if the platform is unmanned then pilot endurance is no longer an issue. However I still think certain missions should be manned even if you have two pilots.

Given the proposal is to still have 20 manned aircraft I think the trade-off is well made. Note as well this proposal doesn't expect full autonomous operation, likely there will be a bunch of aircrew sitting inside the carrier (could even be a custom made vessel or just spread across the battlegroup) at the end of those links (as well as intelligence staff like imagery and SIGINT analysts analysing the data in realtime).

bobinthecar wrote:
A few random, related thoughts:

The CSBA also published a study on the future fleet architecture not too long ago. It goes in to a lot of other details. One of which is expanding the ARGS in the short term to field 20 F-35B and in the long term to replace the LHAs with CVLs. These ARGS would then be able to relieve the carriers of some of their deployments in peacetime and also supplement the carriers during crisis. This would either enhance the striking power of the carriers or lessen the number of super carriers needed.

I'm have read some parts of that. I see both good reasons and some bad consequences to moving from an LHA to a CVL. The USN returned the well deck on subsequent LHAs so I expect it was clear from operational experience that they struggled to land the weight of firepower they needed. Unless the CVL is supplemented by another vessel to take the LCACs I wouldn't be in favour of giving up that capability.

bobinthecar wrote:
In the near term. Carriers can efficiently handle far more aircraft than they currently or are projected to embark. They can easily take 20 more. Why not beef up the wings. Add more MQ-25s. Come up with an ASW variant of the MV-22 as was planned in the late 80s. Maybe even hang tanks off it and use it as a recovery tanker. Lastly beef up the VFA squadrons. Add 2 more F-35s and 2 more F/A-18s to each.

I expect they have the surge capability to do add more aircraft, they just don't need to today. The mission over Afghanistan and in Iraq/Syria didn't really need more aircraft per deck, especially with land based air available. An MV-22 ASW variant seems unnecessary to me now, that should definitely be a role that is taken over by a UCAV that transmits its data back to the vessel for processing.

bobinthecar wrote:
Come up with a variant of the B-21. It could tank/ISR/Jam. They are building at least a hundred bombers. Building a 100 more that can just tank would be an amazing leap in capability. If they could be modified for other missions as well that would be even better. Having stealth tankers flying from Guam or Iceland that could accompany the strikers would automatically extend the range far better than the MQ-25 could. There is a lot of money being put in to developing the B-21. It would be foolish to not study the feasibility of using modified air frames for other missions.

I agree with increasing the B-21 buy. It makes sense to use the airframe for a host of roles. I expect the USAF will fill the nuclear role out first and then look for additional roles including tanking, perhaps an arsenal aircraft that can operate within a near-peer IADS and support fighters and whatever else. It seems crazy to spend money on development of a stealth tanker when the ideal platform is about to enter production. They just need to come up with a stealthy way to boom refuel.
 
bobinthecar
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Re: USN carrier air wing 2040 suggestions

Wed Feb 13, 2019 3:26 pm

I'm have read some parts of that. I see both good reasons and some bad consequences to moving from an LHA to a CVL. The USN returned the well deck on subsequent LHAs so I expect it was clear from operational experience that they struggled to land the weight of firepower they needed. Unless the CVL is supplemented by another vessel to take the LCACs I wouldn't be in favour of giving up that capability.

The CSBA report proposes a second LPD-17 Flight II for additional LCAC and Helo spots. They also suggest a 32 cell VLS in those ships which I think is a really good idea and a low cost way to increase firepower.

I expect they have the surge capability to do add more aircraft, they just don't need to today. The mission over Afghanistan and in Iraq/Syria didn't really need more aircraft per deck, especially with land based air available. An MV-22 ASW variant seems unnecessary to me now, that should definitely be a role that is taken over by a UCAV that transmits its data back to the vessel for processing.


Right they don't need the additional AC today but we are talking 2030 and near peer conflict. More tankers, more ASW would certainly be a good thing. Remember we arent talking about bombing a bunch of terrorists or a 3rd rate dictator.

The ASW version of the MV-22 would be useful for additional reach, staying power and the ability to carry multiple ASW torpedoes. Again, near peer adversary. Defense in depth. UUVs, SSNs, P-8s, MV-22s, ASW helos.The sub is still a far greater threat than China's DF-26.
 
Ozair
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Re: USN carrier air wing 2040 suggestions

Thu Feb 14, 2019 9:20 pm

bobinthecar wrote:
The CSBA report proposes a second LPD-17 Flight II for additional LCAC and Helo spots. They also suggest a 32 cell VLS in those ships which I think is a really good idea and a low cost way to increase firepower.

Both logical decisions especially in the context of additional missile bays being used by the cooperative


bobinthecar wrote:
Right they don't need the additional AC today but we are talking 2030 and near peer conflict. More tankers, more ASW would certainly be a good thing. Remember we arent talking about bombing a bunch of terrorists or a 3rd rate dictator.

Sure, but if we take the premise that there will likely be four to six carriers deployed at any one time in a near-peer conflict then there should be enough aircraft available to mass those four to six vessels, especially if the USN actually solves the depot funding issue.

bobinthecar wrote:
The ASW version of the MV-22 would be useful for additional reach, staying power and the ability to carry multiple ASW torpedoes. Again, near peer adversary. Defense in depth. UUVs, SSNs, P-8s, MV-22s, ASW helos. The sub is still a far greater threat than China's DF-26.

Agree that subs pose likely the greatest threat. The MV-22 is a big frame though so I would suggest a smaller UCAV airframe, that could use a dipper sonar instead of buoys similar to the Romeo, would be a better long term option, especially if you could carry two for every one MV-22 and spread them further amongst the fleet. Your right it likely doesn’t provide as long a range as an MV-22, or the S-3 did, but I question how much value so far away from a task force that type of protection provided.

UUVs may end up being a better platform for ASW defence anway. Long duration missions around a carrier battle group or deployed along projected routes to sit and listen seems a more permanent and viable solution. In that context perhaps the MV-22 is better placed as a delivery vehicle for a UUV than to do the ASW work itself.
 
bobinthecar
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Re: USN carrier air wing 2040 suggestions

Fri Feb 15, 2019 3:01 am

Sure, but if we take the premise that there will likely be four to six carriers deployed at any one time in a near-peer conflict then there should be enough aircraft available to mass those four to six vessels, especially if the USN actually solves the depot funding issue.


During GW I there was I think still 15 deployable carrier battle groups yet they still only managed to get 5 or 6 carriers in theater. Do you really think that with 12 of them they will be able to mass more than 3 or 4 in theater? Even if massing carriers was not a problem why would you spend billions of dollars on a warship and not give it as much combat power as possible. To me (and really what do I know) it just seems a waste to operate these ships with a less than optimal air wing. I would go a step further, maintain only 10 large deck carriers. Use the money saved to beef up the airwings and build out the ARGs. They then get at least two carriers with 90 AC each rather than three with 60 each, plus you have at least an additional 20 F-35Bs in the attached ARG.

Your right it likely doesn’t provide as long a range as an MV-22, or the S-3 did, but I question how much value so far away from a task force that type of protection provided.


Keep the sub out of cruise missile range. Allow more time to prosecute the target. Deny the enemy a clear firing solution. There are lots of reasons to keep subs far away.

UUVs may end up being a better platform for ASW defence anway. Long duration missions around a carrier battle group or deployed along projected routes to sit and listen seems a more permanent and viable solution. In that context perhaps the MV-22 is better placed as a delivery vehicle for a UUV than to do the ASW work itself.


I like that idea. The UUVs detect and fix the sub. MV-22 has the speed and endurance to loiter in shifts. It carries a dipping sonar and six or so Mk 50s, maybe more. The UUVs are the hunters and the MV-22 the killer.

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