Excerpt fromThe Admirals Lobby regarding vulneablity of surface ships

The extreme aviation enthusiasts, beginning with Curtiss himself, made the fundamental mistake of thinking that vulnerability was an absolute quality. It is, of course, all relative- relative to the vulnerability of competitive weapons systems that could possibly perform the same mission, relative also to the ability of the target to protect itself or be protected, and relative to the urgency of the mission that a weapons system is designed to perform even though it might be subjected to damaging counterattacks. This last criterion might more accurately be described as the balance between vulnerability and expendability. But the extremists seldom if ever considered that the aircraft might have some important vulnerabilities and limitations of its own, that surface forces might be needed for urgent roles even if their susceptibility to damaging counterattacks had been substantially increased, that surface ships might be better able to defend themselves against air attack than other forces with similar capabilities, or that the aircraft might add more to the offensive and defensive punch of surface ships than it would detract in increased vulnerability.

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Naval aircraft carriers are obsolete in modern warfare between highly developed nations. Land based missiles made the aircraft carrier obsolete once missiles launched from land gained the capability to fly a further distance than the carriers planes, which is one reason most countries do not bother with building carriers and the needed support vessels unless they have designs on undeveloped countries as it is simply not worth the cost. Submarines made the need for most surface warfare ships obsolete. But, there is a lot of money to be made and promotions to be had by continuing to build, maintain and man surface warfare ships.


I fully concur. Those aircraft carrier dinosaurs are sitting ducks, no match for the modern missile warfare.

Are you sure? I would think they do the job USA needs from them, pretty good. It’s a big floating fuck you to other nations. Who wants to mess with a nation who can burn money as a hobby?

The logical solution for a non nuclear war would be kinetic strikes from space, but until someone starts WW3 I think we should expect USA to continue flaunting muscle with the most expensive warships ever built.

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Tanstaafl, eh?

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I have 360 sci-fi books on my Kindle, so yes maybe I picked up the idea from Heinlein.

Mhm we need a book thread.

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Not to mention Thuktun Flisithy and their Foot from Footfall, Lucifer’s Hammer etc.

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Quiet comforting to think that you’re at sea in five and a half acres of target that can be seen from space and you can run but you can’t hide.
The film “On the Beach” resonates in my memory where the last people living on Earth were the crew of a nuclear submarine and their prognosis wasn’t good.


Yes and think about it that navy ships and especially an aircraft carrier, within that relatively small confined space, is fully packed with all kinds of explosive munitions, bombs, fuels such as kerosene, diesel oil and whatnot. On top of that you put 4000 crew in that same space. Apart from enemy fire there always is the danger of accidents. The Navy’s greatest fear is not Russia or China.

According to studies that have been done the accident rate on aircraft carriers is much lower then would be expected given the operation.

Studies of safety of operations on carriers was the basis for a lot of Karl Weick’s work on HROs.

Aircraft Carrier Operations At Sea: The Challenges of High Reliability Performance. Final Report

The number of U.S. sailors and Marines that have died in and around aircraft carriers is shocking — 8,500 from 1948 to 1988. More than 12,000 aircraft were lost. That number includes the aircraft and airmen lost in combat, but combat losses are tiny compared to the number lost in just attempting to take off and land on a carrier. Running an carrier safely is like a juggler who has to catch every object without error…

With the help of modern technology auto-landing is about to be implemented on US carriers which will undoubtedly be a large safety improvement.

Raytheon’s Joint Precision Approach & Landing System (JPALS) is a differential, GPS-based precision landing system that guides aircraft onto carriers and amphibious assault ships in all weather and surface conditions up to the rough waters of Sea State 5. It uses an encrypted, jam-proof data link, connecting to software and receiver hardware on the aircraft and an array of GPS sensors, mast-mounted antennas and shipboard equipment.

Early in 2018, U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II fighters, deployed to the Pacific aboard the USS Wasp amphibious assault ship, used Raytheon’s JPALS to guide them onto the carrier’s deck in extreme weather and surface conditions. The system will go into production in 2019 and will be outfitted on the U.S. Navy’s newest fighter — the F-35 Lightning II.

However, I suppose that it still necessary to maintain manual landing capabilities in case that the auto-landing system fails.

The article I linked to had almost nothing to do with technology, but rather had to do with culture and the way the crew is organized.

Here’s a paragraph:

We also have noted with great amazement the adaptability and flexibility of what is, after all, a military organization in the day-to-day performance of its tasks. On paper, the ship is formally organized in a steep hierarchy by rank, with clear chains of command and means to enforce authority far beyond that of any civilian organization. We supposed it to be run by the book, with a constant series of formal orders, salutes, and yes-sirs. Often it is. But flight operations are not conducted that way.

Yes, I think that culture, mind set, awareness, alertness and also the often present informal organization are key to success. In my opinion technology has an important role but only as a support for the organization never as a goal in itself. There should always be room to make other things possible that could lead to better experiences.


And unsinkable, no doubt.

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Thanks for that. It was an extraordinary insight into the culture operating on US carrier. It would be interesting to do a comparison today with the change of society mores and the introduction of women to the complement.
In the British Royal Navy senior lieutenants and those above up to commanders rank are specialists. Engineer specialists stay within their disciplines whereas seaman officers including aviators who move up the ladder go back to surface warfare after command school. The Brits have got to relearn it all now.
The mirror landing system was invented by a RN aviator noticing the reflection of candle in the mirror of his wife’s compact and he drew a line across it with his wife’s lipstick. His wife’s reaction to this was not recorded.
The angled flight deck and the steam catapult were also Brit inventions

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There’s an excellent Scientific American article that arose out of that work. Talked about the common factors in flight deck operations, Pacific Gas & Electric grid maintenance, and I forget the third outfit. Air traffic controllers maybe?

Yes it’s interesting, I haven’t closed the loop here but the books in this thread are related in that it’s how I see how crews interact with each other and the ship.