Saturday, 5 June 2010

Survivability: Sea Basing Versus Land Basing

Analysis of warfare is a bit like mathematics.

You have to treat both sides of the equation equally or your conclusions will not make sense.

Such unbalanced nonsensical analysis is often used to claim that aircraft carriers are not capable of surviving in the modern battlespace.

An aircraft carrier can be attacked by an aircraft (if it can get past all the aircraft in the carrier's air wing) but that aircraft has to come from somewhere.

It may come from a sea base,another aircraft carrier,which is just as vulnerable to being attacked.

It may come from a land base which is far more vulnerable to being attacked than any aircraft carrier.

In the 65 years since the Second World War over a hundred air bases on land have been attacked,damaged,put out of action or even overrun in various conflicts.

In the 65 years since the Second World War not one aircraft carrier has ever been damaged by enemy fire let alone put out of action.

Why are air bases so much more vulnerable than aircraft carriers?

There is an oft repeated saying in the military.

"If you can find it, you can hit it. If you can hit it, you can kill it."

To find an aircraft carrier one must use submarines,surface ships or aircraft,all of which can be destroyed before they locate the carrier.

To find an air base one need only buy a map.

To attack an aircraft carrier one needs submarines,surface ships or aircraft to overcome it's air wing and escorts.

To attack an air base and the lines of communication it relies on one needs a road side bomb or a mortar;a rocket propelled grenade;a sniper rifle;a heavy machine gun or a ballistic missile based on Second World War era technology.

It is inherently easier to find and kill an airbase than to find and kill an aircraft carrier.

Which is why air bases have been destroyed so frequently both during and since the Second World War.

Not one aircraft carrier has been damaged by enemy fire in sixty five years because attacking an aircraft carrier is exceedingly difficult to do.

Particularly for a land based air force whose fixed air bases are subject to attack by the air wing of the aircraft carrier it has not located yet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Much nope.

If you don't plan on having a fight with some fellow living across distant seas, CVs are lousy investments. Also: they stack up badly against simply reinforcing the Mt. Pleasant airbase.

It is simple to build facilities to protect an airfield's essential functions. 4-5 metres of alternate layers of hardened steel and high PSI concrete (50k upwards, commercially available) will foil anything but the largest penetrator carried by a B2. Fact. Check the literature or Google it.

Runways and taxiways can be heavily reinforced with hard-facing surfaces. The Russians have long experience of using slag from steel production to do this, and there are other hardening techniques incl. metal plating, high psi concretes, etc. They are available now, and used by non-NATO air forces. Fact.

Damage can be repaired in hours using modern repair methods, ploymers and low cost damage repair equipment. Bomblets can be removed with specialsed clearance vehicles. Fact.

Taxiways, slipways and runways can be extended, widened, and given multiple links - giving huge redundancy. These are simple measures, quicker to enact than building a CVN (weeks or months, not years) yet offering an improvement in redundancy of an order of magnitude: all for the cost of 1 modern jet fighter. Fact. (Check airbase constructions costs and extension costs.)

Vital facilities can be camouflaged. Decoy facilities can be built. This has worked excellently for the RAF, plus the air forces of Russia, Serbia, China, Vietnam and elsewhere. It massively degrades 'pk' against structures.

All the technology required is off the shelf, cheap, and sold my military engineering firms right now. The knowledge and skills required are in wide use, and are not hard to learn.

All of these techniques have been used with great success from the British in WW2 to the Serbs in 1999 and - should there ever be a US war with China - these techniques will be a vital part of China's defences.

I know of no CVN or CV capable of taking multiple JDAM hits with nothing more serious than a six hour halt in operations on a solitary section of runway, as the damage is repaired - and whilst 80% of airfield operations continue as normal.

When the bombs effectively 'bounce off' the runway or cause 10% of the damage expected (i.e. modelled on a wimpy Nato runway built to piffling civilianesque standards) your air base does not need to be mobile to survive. It is all but invulnerable.

NATO has long overlooked base hardening because it expected to rule the skies, it expected nuclear war rather than hardened penetrators, etc etc. Consequently, NATO has lagged behind others for many, many decades. No theories built on NATO air bases should be seen as universally valid. Far from it. NATO air bases are fancy parking lots.

One last thing: an airbase won't run aground. It can't be crippled in a busy shipping lane by a fishing boat full of semtex. It can't face the possibility of sinking because some twerp started a fire in a fuel store. In fact, the air base enjoys having a fuel store that is hundreds of metres from other structures. Not feet.

You haven't thought about the full nature, capabilities, and dynamics of air bases. You can infer all you want from previous wars, but if you don't understand the full 'envelope' of the weapons systems you seek to judge, your theory will be outdated from the moment the first shot is fired.

A bit like someone in 1913 saying: "Why do we need motorised vehicles in the army? Horses have had an excellent record up to now". Such opinions were ignorant of the full, real-world issues. Far sighted men don't simply pore over the past: they seek to understand the future of the battlespace.