Carrier readiness threatened by budget woes

Carrier readiness threatened by budget woes

Until last week, the Navy was hard-pressed for money even to pay for the tow of the aircraft carrier Lincoln on the short haul from Norfolk to Newport News, much less begin the $2.6 billion overhaul the ship needs to rejoin the fleet.

“The funding is now in line,” for the Lincoln, but the complex overhaul involving switching out her nuclear fuel will make the ship unavailable for duty until 2015, said Lt. Dan Day, a spokesman for the Fleet Forces Command at the Norfolk, Va., Naval Station.

The Lincoln served as the prime example of the Navy’s problem in keeping the carriers at sea. The challenges the budget cuts pose in maintaining the Navy’s carrier fleet will garner attention when Navy leaders gather next week at the Sea Air Space 2013 symposium sponsored by the Navy League at National Harbor, Md.

The Navy had 11 nuclear carriers to meet the constant demand for forward presence until last December when the carrier Enterprise was de-activated after 51 years of service.

Until recently, the service has maintained a two-carrier presence in the Arabian Gulf. The past 12 years supporting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have worn down the ten remaining carriers.

Currently, the carriers Lincoln and Roosevelt are at the Huntington Ingalls-Newport News  Shipyard for what the Navy calls RCOH — Refueling and Complex Overhaul. The looming budget cuts from the Congressional sequestration process had forced the Navy to delay maintenance on the Lincoln.

The carriers Vinson and Reagan were in overhauls in San Diego, unavailable for deployment until 2014. The carrier Nimitz was in training exercises off the West Coast, as was the Bush in the Atlantic.

The Stennis was returning to homeport in Bremerton, Wash., after a lengthy deployment to the Arabian Gulf; the George Washington was at homeport in Yokusuka, Japan; and the Eisenhower was on station in the Arabian Gulf.

That left the Navy with the Truman, now in Norfolk, as the only carrier available to deploy to the Gulf or another crisis area immediately. Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of Naval Operations, made that point to Congress repeatedly in testimony in February.

Because of the cost-cutting demands of sequester “we will have only one additional or ‘surge’ CSG (Carrier Strike Group) certified for major combat operations in fiscal year 13 and throughout fiscal year 14, down from three on the average,” Greenert told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Navy has faced numerous challenges to acquire its newest carrier, the Gerald R. Ford. The estimated cost overrun for the CVN-78 is estimated to run over $1 billion. The original target price for the ship was $5.16 billion.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took aim at these cost overruns at the March 16 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The cost of acquisition of the USS Gerald Ford aircraft carrier has grown over the original estimate by over $1 billion. I repeat, has grown over cost by $1 billion,” McCain said.

Navy leaders have worked to lessen the costs on the carrier and lower the risks for similar cost overruns on the second Ford-class carrier, the John F. Kennedy (CVN-79). McCain said he’d restrict funding for the Kennedy until the Navy could provide it had learned from its mistakes on the Ford.

“I’m also reluctant to support additional funding for the second carrier, CVN-79, until the Navy and the shipbuilder get Ford Class carrier costs under control,” McCain said.

Long seen as a shining example of the U.S. military’s might, there are some critics who are questioning the carrier’s place in future conflicts. Retired Navy Capt. Henry Hendrix, an analyst for the Center for a New American Security, wrote a report in March that questioned the strategic place for the carrier when China is developing a new generation of anti-ship missiles and the costs of maintaining and building carriers has skyrocketed.

“After 100 years, the carrier is rapidly approaching the end of its useful strategic life,” Hendrix said. The carriers are now dinosaurs of the sea and “may not be able to move close enough to targets to operate effectively or survive in an era of satellite imagery and long-range precision strike missiles,” Hendrix wrote.

But as Greenert testified, “the requirements for Navy carrier forces to be on station to respond to a crisis have only increased in the last 25 years.” His predicament now is getting the carriers ready to go on station.

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Captain Hendrix’s comments have ruffled quite a few feathers in leadership circles. But he’s making the right points. Reminds me of the controversy over battleships in the 1930s.

All I know is that if we were to lose one in combat, the psychological impact would be as grim as the losses in men and material.

Is there a better way to do naval presence, sea control, and power protection? I don’t know, but I hope that we have smart people looking into this.

we should thank the GOP for their pursuit of sequestration and crippling of our military and send them packing in 2014.

Clearly the F-35 program is the highest priority. Forget funding carriers right?

It gets people asking good questions for sure. This isn’t the only talk from the navy either. That memo over the LCS asked alot of the same questions about that as well. Overall I have to say the Navy is about the only branch asking the right questions, the rest in my opinion appear mired in the status quo and being unable to ask if they are spending how much they should on what they should.

Ruffled feathers for sure, but his proposed changes highlight the continued need for big decked carriers — smaller LHA sized boats are more vulnerable, slow, and unable to operate the unmanned aircraft types he envisions.

Sequestration only cut $68B out of the entire bloated federal budget. Seeing as it was President Obama’s idea (which he and his media lackeys have conveniently forgotten), it’s sad that the sheeple leap at blaming the GOP.

It was the White House, that is Barrack Obama, that pushed the sequestration on Congress. Please engage your brain and get your facts straight prior to posting.

It’s easy to play quarterback when the good Caption is safe and sound in this cushy retirement and high paying ‘consultant’ gig. It’s also easy to critical of a community or branch of the Navy you never served in Caption Henrix of P-3 patrol aircraft fame.

It’s easy to say “the aircraft carrier is vulnerable” of course it is dummy!. Everything is vulnerable that goes into war. I wonder how vulnerable he thought his P-3’s were when the bullets started to fly. In fact, the aircraft carrier was MORE vulnerable 20 years ago at the height of the cold war when the USSR was planning on sending fleets of Backfire bombers with dozens of Sunburn missiles at the CBG from many directions all at once. So now that the USSR threat is gone, where is the massive threat? China with their “vaporware” all knowing and all killing ship killing missiles that have yet to be proven?

The last and perhaps most important question is, if not the carriers then what? SSGNs, SSNs, and surface ships can only hold so many million dollar land attack missiles. They are a very important part of the game, but when they expend their precious load out, which won’t take long, then what? The bulk of any offensive power is still in the carriers, they will account for over 80% of the offensive strike ability of the battle group. and Caption Hendrix, the P-3 will never replace the carrier, even if you wish it.

What Caption P-3 Hendrix doesn’t seem to get (which he should since he is from a patrol squadron) is that in any war, the very first thing you do is to take out the enemies ability to “see” you. We’ll take out the Chinese ocean surveillance satellites and other assets before the first bullet or missiles flies. Then they will be hard pressed to find and attack us.

CVN costs seem to be becoming prohibitive, considering the Navy’s ship building plan shortfall. Does it make sense to have two CVNs patrolling the Gulf? Could LHDs support one of those CVNs? Could a smaller and less costly carrier somewhere between a LHD or CVN serve us better going into the future?


How about just considering scaling back the # of carriers period and developing a new cruiser. Adm Greenert has written about cost effectiveness in regards to tacair vs TLAMs. He has mentioned a dedicated BMD ship. There was mention of the San Antonio hull perhaps as a fit for a BMD vessel with the larger area for radar and power generation. We clearly like lobbing TLAMs and such as opposed to flying into contested air space. Maybe a missile cruiser could be a cheaper option for waving the flag while still having significant punch. At least the navy is having those conversations. The army and air force are in budget denial imo.

I never said I could speellll ;-P

TLAM, Tomahawks, etc are all very good but very expensive and sometimes the missile is worth more than the target. In any war scenario, we will of course use every land attack missile in inventory to take out the bad guys command and control. But once all of the ‘golden” bullets are gone (they won’t last long if facing a 1st tier enemy) the carriers will provide the remaining bulk of the offense for the duration.

If we’re looking at bang for buck nothing beats a JDAM for cost effectiveness

You clearly didn’t read Adm Greenert’s essay. When you calculate the costs associated with delivering that JDAM on target it isn’t cheaper.

Yes thats because we use “Strike” aircraft. These cost 300% more than a aircraft like a Modern A-6 would. Using luxury cars to deliver pizza’s.

We fly them off of $14 billion carriers, that require task forces with 6000+ sailors, that have to defend against a myriad of threats from above and below. That’s the gist of the cost issue. A CSG costs $1.5 billion annually to deploy. An Ohio class SSGN can sail up, fire off 150 TLAMs in less than 6 mins and slip away like a thief in the night. I never said do away with carriers, but spending more and more money to keep them in a fight where they are just too vulnerable is dumb.

They already did studies where they showed that it would be far cheaper to use some “missile boats”, literally barges that house hundreds of cruise missiles, to deliver the same amount or higher amount of ordinance than it would with a carrier+planes.

It’s just the fighter mafia and the MIC stealing from the American taxpayer that has stopped such a thing from happening. After all, who would we sell a trillion dollar program that doesn’t work to then?

Yup, the Admiral is right on this one.

I remember the INSS also making a similar case for the Israeli Air Force, and showing the same thing. It’s just the fighter mafia refusing to slip quietly away that is preventing this.

Folks… it’s ‘ORDNANCE’, not ‘ORD_I_NANCE’. Use the correct spelling when discussing ‘ordnance’ as the main plank in your argument and you’ll have a little more credibility when making your point.

Hey ST, I never read the good admiral essay, while I do agree with the general theory, the reality of the situation is that ships and subs ONLY carry very very expensive land attack missile. Does it make sense to fire off a >$1M missile at every target out here? No it doesn’t. While we absolutely need those capabilities, they are a very expensive way to destroy a single target. While aviation may be expensive, you can fly lots of sorties while dropping cheap bombs to destroy the same target. As they say “numbers have a quality of their own” and they only way to get tonnage on the enemy is by doing it cost effectively, not by firing million dollar plus missiles at them. Someone mentioned that we need a new A-6, that’s the right way to go, a big bomb truck. Why do you think the AF still keeps the B-52 around? Because it can carry a massive amount of cheap bombs to drop on the enemy. Not every bad guy is deserving of a land attack missile or even a Hellfire!

Big D,

The issue isn’t a matter of how cheap the JDAM is to procure. That’s the distraction.

The issue is that the required delivery system (a critical node in the calculus) to deliver said cheap JDAM (on enemy IADS and air bases?) would be denied by your 1st tier adversary that you note.

No doubt there is and will be a requirement to deploy a sufficient ‘mix’ of capabilities making up the future strike package — both stand-off munition, unmanned air and manned — but the more economical and technological deterrent and actual capability (per target destroyed vs a potential 1st tier adversary) will increasingly tilt to favor the actual stand-off munition itself and next-gen unmanned delivery systems able to make suppression/strike sorties.

Did I say do away with all carriers? No. Neither did the Admiral. What I said is the myth that it is cheaper to deliver a JDAM from the US to a target overseas is just that, a myth. It costs a ton of money to effectively move that JDAM into range of the target, whereas a TLAM does not have that issue. Those costs are going up also, as anti access efforts increase. The money being spent on tacair and carriers is antiquated thinking.

the GOP which previously stood for strong defense chose sequestration and no tax increases vs no sequestration and some tax increases. The President never was pro-defense to begin with, and now the GOP has adopted the same position which is sad. Where are the pro-defense Repulicans?

The Democrats already got their tax increases, how much do you want the GOP to roll over for them?

Big D,

It would be far cheaper to simply evolve the existing Super Hornet airframe with say, CFT, and expand integration of new weapon classes (such as Brimstone?), than to develop a whole new bomb-truck a la next-gen A-6.

If your target is a couple of guys in a mountain fox hole or a couple trucks on a desert road, or pirate boat, it would still come out to be more economical to fire off a small precision guided round or two than make a carpet bombing run. For one thing, the extra fuel cost of lugging around your 6k lb dumb bomb load wherever you went, would just set you farther and farther back.

Besides, the R&D costs alone put into developing your new A-6 NG could probably buy you at least 2,000 additional long-range strike cruise missiles.

Yet, when indeed requiring only a couple guided LJDAM on your sortie though, would not the Life cycle cost savings of employing those couple JDAM’s on an existing Strike Fighter platform instead, rather than on an F-35C, likely buy each said Super Hornet jet an extra personal stock pile of 50–100 stand-off munitions!?


The Sequestration came straight out of the White House-not the GOP.

if it protects the military from unnecessary cuts, roll over and raise taxes

tell me what you’re thinking ST, if tacair isn’t going provide the bulk of the offensive then what will? You can possible suggest that we going to TLAM every target, we won’t and will never will have enough golden missiles to do that. We’ll bankrupt the country by doing that. oops…we’re already bankrupted

Bottom line, we all trying to figure out an effective way to take out the bad guys, taking into account reality of anti-access and the need to be cost-effective at the same time. So where do we go from here?

I repeat, Did I say do away with all carriers? No. Neither did the Admiral.

This has been mentioned by Chop Chop but when you get into a cost analysis tacair isn’t cheaper. It isn’t just the cost of the munition, it’s the money you spend moving that munition into range of the target. Also define what bulk of the offensive means, because we already do the majority of the SEADs mission with very expensive stand off rounds. I’m not suggesting CAS with TLAMs, Im just saying the notion of the F35 hitting SEADs targets with JDAMs simply isn’t going to happen anyway, so why not simply spend money smarter.

Whatever happened to “Need to Know”?

“Is there a better way to do naval presence, sea control, and power protection?” …anybody miss the modernized Iowas yet? :)

It took a backseat to “need a sound byte” a long time ago.

I am not retired. I remain on active duty, so I do not have a high paying consultant gig. I don’t know why they reported that I was retired. The rest of your personal attacks don’t require an answer.

I think we should replace ships with UFV’s (unmanned floating vehicles).

You forget — the Bamster requested the sequester

The Carrier/Aviation smokestack circle of excellence refuses to accept cheaper market based acquisition.
NIH is their call sign.

I forgot to throw the nukes in with that finger pointing

wrong dude , the dems are the ones who cut funding not the gop in congress , because reid and pelosi who did nothing but spend ‚spend , spend monies for stupid stuff like phones for welfare bums and putting more people on welfare than anybody else ! they are the jerks , by letting obama in the white house again and ruining America !

so take your blame the gop in congress for all the failure lies , take them and shove them where your head is at in between your legs where the sun don’t shine !

the “superraptor” comment is a “myopic” one—it doesn’t include the BIG PICTURE—it requires a broader perspective and should be all inclusive, i.e. EVERYTHING ELSE including defense, of what our “fiscally inept” federal and most state legislatures (democratic and republican) AND appointed administrators have and continue to demonstrate they are incapable of fiscally managing—the Department of Defense AND it’ defense contractors, for all the ARMED SERVICES, in their product development initiatives, have worked hard to earn the “lack of trust” millions of hard working taxpaying Americans have for them. WE CAN’T HAVE WHAT WE CAN’T PAY FOR!! Are you familiar with AMERICA’S DEBT PROBLEMS, as well as the WORLD’S DEBT PROBLEMS??

The F-35 is a BAD EXAMPLE of how the AIR FORCE and it’s civilian contractors spend America’s money. This entire program has been ludicrous for over a decade. This program would have been cancelled a long time ago IF it had been a “product development initiative” of a properly managed profit making corporation

Dear Blog Overseer:
Last week I dared write on your “public site” and referred to others’ comments which seemed to slam the current administration. All I did was to refer to them, not rewrite or correct their blatant criticisms. You, or your relief, must have thought my comments were offensive and so, deleted them. I would like to be able to respond to some of the submittals, pointing out any glaring inequities or mistakes, but now I hesitate to do so because it appears that the “overseers” are allowed to delete such answers to other’s such answers, if they do not agree with the slant they may take. Please indicate where you folks draw the line. I had thought it was appropriate to comment without fear of editing or deletion if the comments did not use foul language. Do you do so if you do not agree with the comments?

I have served in the submarine service and worked in or around the DoD since the i950’s. It appears to me that the biggest threat to our carriers, fleets, servicemen and/or nation is the seemingly endless, mindless, clueless and relentless criticism of those who actually serve, from those who have never, will never and are nor willing to serve in the Armed Forces of the country. Having done so, then reentered the civilian workforce for many years I have always observed that the above mentioned “less” crowd makes foolish and mindless statements based on personal opinions and not upon any experience which would tend to be supportive of their positions. Guess what? That is OK because that is why the country exists…free speech and the freedom to be uninformed and still voice your mind, vote and even to influence the military and its mission is great. I can listen to and fail to understand such mindless stupidity while allowing such opinion to rail on. Vive le USA!

Bamster? Was the previous guy the “Bushter?” How about the Commander in Chiefster? Don’t forget, the previous “sters” spent 3 Trillion on liberating Iraq while “Ster Ronald” spent another 3 Trillion on the 600 hundred ship navy and Star Wars. Its a dang good thing we get to vote on a new “Ster” every 4 years.

Thank you for serving Skipper. I have a great respect for those who DO serve and less respect for those who simply grumble, criticize, rant and spout anti-military drivel at any service personnel and especially those who speak.
Just an old “Bubblehead” who tries to stay abreast of where the country is going.
Again, Thanks.

Hey BD
Consider this, too. We built 41 “missile boats” in the 60’s which kept us from a Nuke war by merely providing the deterrence which we do today with around 14. We must keep this deterrent fleet extant because of rogue state insanity. (Think No. Korea, Iran and Pakistan among others.)
At the same time we must keep tabs on any organizations or individuals who would send mindless martyr types against anyone or anything with which they disagree. That requirement means we must keep both a large Carrier Strike Force, available in case the insane ones (above) decide a Nuke is appropriate to make their point, and a fleet of drones so we can suppress the smaller threats in an efficient, cost effective manner. I am for the strict maintenance
of both options. An example: If N. Korea decides to attack S. Korea, we have the capability of simply carpet bombing any large “waves” of attackers with napalm, bomblets or other ground suppression devices or systems I am not even aware of. Simultaneously, we are capable of air superiority and at sea superiority. Do you see ay way we could do all this with less?

Hey BD
Watch out! The “Overseers” axed my comments because I actually said (paraphrasing) that persons like yourself do not actually do their homework. You have either not been reading and studying what has been going on or you are simply biased towards anything which does not support the GOP or anyone in it. In all my years (many) I have not seen so many persons supportive of any proposal put forth by the GOP which cuts into middle class needs and yet keeps giving the Super Rich Upper Class ( an Oxymoron) anything they want.

Everyone out there needs to keep up with the news. But do they? How can they do so with reading or listening to only ONE side of the political spectrum?

Yup. The debt “problem”, as previously stated in answer to another’s comments above stem largely from unfunded wars and interventions which any administration can launch without congressional approval (only oversight). After 9/11 (not 911) unnamed persons decided to take out Saddam Hussein. (3 trillion dollars later). But back in the Ronald Ray Gun years it was decided that we needed a 600 ship navy and a Star Wars program) (3 trillion dollars later), and so on and on. But here’s the Rub…we also did all this when the ’29 crash led to FDR’s CCC, TVA and other “spending” right after the “Manhattan Project” allowed us to win the war. (unknown trillion dollars later). My point being simply this…we do this deficit thing periodically and we need to be able to do so whenever it is needed. Hang the Debt Problem! If anyone out there is worried about their investments in American Notes, let ‘em invest in Iranian or N. Korean securities (another oxymoron). Thanks for your service Colonel.

the carrier is the best way to put aircraft into position for combat. all the advanced ways to detect the presence of the battle group will be put out of action immediatly in war. maintaining a battle group at sea is also the best threat there is for keeping an enemy at bay while not firing a shot or landing a person. intimidation is the best defense scare hell out of them and last of all attack. a carrier should be treated like the subs, rotate crews not ships, keep the vessel at sea. what good is a vessel sitting in port in the CONUS? we can spend less money and get our $$$ out of the vessels if they are at sea as we will need less of them.

It sounds to me that most of these brillant people do not really know what they are talking about. The carrier is and always have been our eyes and ears of the world. Remeber when we were in the Gulf of Tonkin and on Yankee station we saw every thing we needed, because our eyes were launched off of a number of GREAT different Carriers with AD5’s, F9Fs, A4s, F4s, S2Fs and many more. So go TAIL HOOKERS you are our winners Past Present and Future.


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