How to reduce US defense spending without harming the capability

Defense spending must be cut to help economy (hint: no economy – no money to support military); charts show that US debt exploded after 2001 – in FY 2001, US Government ran a budget surplus of 1,3% GDP, which was expected to increase. If that had continued, entire public debt would have been paid by 2008 – 2012. However, it did not continue – it could not, due to the massive rearmament of 2000s as well as tax cuts aimed primarly at the rich. On the contrary, 1993 tax increase fell mostly on the rich.

While Federal spending in 2011 equated 24,1% of GDP, revenues were 14,8% of GDP. 36% of 2011 spending was borrowed. While Social Security and Medicare were largest spenders (33,5% of GDP) defense spending was next-largest (20,1% of GDP). Meanwhile, corporate taxes brought in only 8,9% of federal receipts, and income tax 41,5%.

Is it possible to solve this? It is, by transferring tax burden to the rich, by returning production jobs to United States, by reining in fast food, tobacco and alcohol companies – therefore reducing health care expenses (first and foremost, fast food companies should be thrown out of educational system), and by reducing defense spending. It is the last point that I will take the look at here, and I have already adressed the health care issue.

Defense spending can be cut without reduction in overall military effectiveness through elimination of waste and replacement of costly existing and proposed weapons with more effective and efficient weapons.

Now, savings proposal:

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

Both Dassault Rafale and Harrier II are cheaper and more effective than F-35; rebuilds of F-16, F-18 and Harrier II also can serve as stopgap measure. Thus, replacing variants of F-35 with variants of these jets could save a great amount of money. At the same time, US industry should focus on designing new non-VLO aircraft.

USAF standard is 240 hours a year of operation per aircraft.

Out of 2.443 F-35s, 340 will be CATOBAR F-35C, another 340 will be STOVL F-35B and 1.763 will be CTOL F-35A. F-35s R&D costs have been paid, so I’ll use weapons system flyaway costs – 197 million USD for F-35A, 237,7 million USD for F-35B and 236,8 million USD for F-35C. 15 F-35s – likely A variant – are in service.

In next 10 years (2013 – 2022), 424 F-35As are planned to be delivered – 29 will be delivered each year from 2013 – 2016, 32 in 2017, 48 in 2018 and 2019, 60 in 2020, 2021 and 2022. If we cut orders from 2014 on, it cuts 395 F-35As, totalling 77.815.000.000 USD, plus 81.984.000 USD in maintenance costs.

Rafale C costs 82,3 million USD, Rafale M costs 90,5 million USD, and Rafale’s operating costs are 16 500 USD per hour of flight. Harrier II costs 34,28 – 44,11 million USD and operating cost is 18 900 USD per hour of flight.

Replacing F-35As with (far more capable) Rafale C on 1-on-1 basis, we get cost of 32.508.500.000 for procurement plus 7.801.200.000 USD for operation over next 10 years.

CONCLUSION: 37.587.204.000 USD can be saved over next 10 years by replacing F-35A with Rafale C.

Next-generation bomber

Next Generation Bomber is assumed to have program cost of 55 billion USD for 100 aircraft (up from previous estimate of 40 – 50 billion USD). Given US history, however, it is unlikely to provide on time and on budget – in fact, it is likely to have program cost of more than 100 billion USD and production run of 20-25 aircraft. Its utility is also questionable, as it will be easily detectable by space-based surveillance systems, long-wavelength and multistatic radars as well as ground- and aircraft- -based IR detection systems. In all likelihood, it will follow the path of overexpensive, underperforming B-2 bomber. In fact, it is more likely that NGB is USAF’s “budget insurance policy” than an actual attempt at useful weapons system. That is supported by the fact that design is being accelerated while its operational priorities have not been clearly defined, virtually assuring large cost overruns. Another thing making cost overruns a near-certainity is USAF’s wish to stuff it with all possible technology – including the capability to fly unmanned (which basically means that Chinese can steal it while airborne.).

Operationally, it is unlikely that USAF will let its super-expensive toys run across China without fighter escort – and F-22 fighter can be easily detected by VHF radars. In fact, attacking China directly is the last thing US should do in case of war – containing it from breakthrough into Pacific while at the same time cutting off its trade and supply lines is a far cheaper, more effective and less dangerous alternative – especially when having in mind traditional numerical advantage required from attacker. If direct attack is required, cruise missiles can be used to deal with air defense networks (another possibility are relatively small armed drones).

While I do not like to judge aircraft before it has actually flown, B-2s operational history suggests that NGB will cost far more than expected, while being next-to-useless in a war. In fact, any stealth aircraft in service or proposed is in danger of being detected by HF radars operated by China, Australia and United States.

Conclusion: 55 billion USD can be saved over the next 10 years by cancelling Next Generation Bomber

Aircraft carriers

If there is a war against China, aircraft carriers will not be very relevant, as Western Pacific is filled with islands to brim. Islands are less vulnerable (for example, they can’t be sunk) and air bases can be made. Moreover, aircraft carriers are very vulnerable against enemy cruise missiles, air forces and submarines, and as such are very bad choice for destroying enemy troops, merchant marine and supply convoys – tasks possibly more important than any other in naval war. Nimitz class carriers are large, putting too many eggs in a single basket. Nuclear carriers are not environment-friendly – aside from very expensive nuclear waste disposal, they routinely release irradiated coolant water into sea. Due to that, most countries refuse to allow them to make port, and even less to homeport them, reducing long-term deployment capability.

Thus, two of Nimitz class carriers could be retired. Average operating cost of each was 243 million per year in FY 1998 USD or 340 million USD per year in 2012 USD. Retiring two early would save 6,8 billion USD for next 10 years. Gerald R Ford will be comissioned in 2015, and Navy hopes that its operating cost will be 173 million USD per year. It could replace third Nimitz class carrier, thus saving further 1,169 billion USD over next ten years as opposed to putting it in service without retiring additional Nimitz class carrier.

Decomissioning Nimitz-class carrier costs 750 – 900 million USD.

As such, retiring two Nimitz class carriers would save 5 – 5,3 billion USD over next 10 years

Conventional carriers are a better option, as same force can provide 10% larger force presence. Maintenance of conventional carrier is easier and takes up smaller percentage of lifetime compared to nuclear carrier, and they are easier to replace if lost. While nuclear carriers don’t have to replenish their own fuel, aviation fuel and ammunition still have to be replenished, and conventional carriers are less maintenance-intensive. At no time was USN deployment adversely affected by deploying conventional, as opposed to nuclear, carrier. Conventional carriers can carry more aircraft than similar-sized nuclear carriers, can deploy equally quickly, and spend same amount of time on-station. Meanwhile, air wing size is most important factor in carrier’s combat performance during time on station. Losses in conventional carriers can be replaced far more quickly than nuclear carriers – in peacetime, nuclear carriers take 71% longer to construct than conventional ones – 7,2 against 4,2 years between funding and comissioning. As proven in World War 2, construction time of conventional carrier can be reduced to one-third in case of massive war, whereas such reduction in construction time of a nuclear carrier is questionable at best.

Retirement of six Nimitz-class carriers can be compensated with having five conventional carriers. Retiring of six Nimitz-class carriers would save 20,4 billion USD over next 10 years, whereas six similar-sized conventional carriers would cost 8,568 billion USD to operate over the same time, while providing greater force projection capability. Assuming two carriers per year enter service, with Nimitz retirements being designed to fit timeframe, total costs would be 4,284 billion USD, with to-be-retired Nimitz class carriers adding 10,2 billion USD over the same timeframe.

Decomissioning Nimitz-class carrier costs 750 – 900 million USD. For comparision, decomissioning conventional carrier would cost no more than 60 – 90 million USD. This plan would cost 21,684 billion USD, compared to 20,4 billion USD of operation of nuclear carriers plus 23,748 billlion USD for Gerald R Ford-class procurement, thus saving 22,464 billion USD.

Conclusion: Replacing six Nimitz-class carriers with conventional carriers at rate of two per year would save 22,464 billion USD over the next 10 years. This is my preferred option, as it does not lead to reduction of combat capability of USN surface combatants (in fact, this proposal would increase US carrier capability), and even carriers, while not being very useful in naval warfare, are very good at providing support for troops during amphibious landings, and can be used for transporting aircraft to land bases (as they were in World War 2). For that reason I will not make any change to number of Marine amphibious ships, which would be ideal for convoy escort duties.

V-22 Osprey programme

V-22 programme is another very expensive but not so useful program. It offers very few advantages over helicopters, and has far lower mission capable rate. Cancelling it would save 9,15 billion USD.


Nuclear submarines are an effective weapon. However, they have many shortcomings too. Compared to AIP submarines, they are very costly to both buy and operate, very large and very loud. They are designed for open ocean warfare in the East Pacific and Atlantic; in Western Pacific, nuclear submarines can easily fall prey to smaller and more agile subs without even detecting them, due to being outmaneuvered. While nuclear submarines are much faster than AIP ones (over 30 kts vs ~20 kts submerged), that is not advantage in the Western Pacific.

Thus, a mix of nuclear and AIP submarines would be best suited for large-scale warfare, especially in the Western Pacific. Nuclear submarines cost over 1 billion USD per sub. AIP submarines cost 100 to 250 million USD per sub, and can operate submerged for a month, carrying 25 – 40 crew members.

Per-year operating cost for nuclear attack submarine is, on average, 21 million USD, and typical service life is 30 years. Midlife refuelling and modernization costs 200 million USD. USS Dolphin, US last diesel-electric submarine, has cost 18 million USD per year, however that cost is unusually high for a non-nuclear submarine. UK WWI J-class submarine had operating cost of 28 300 GBP per year in 1921, or 6,023644 million 2012 USD (I have been unable to find figures for modern diesel AIP submarines, so I have to use this). Here, I will use estimate of 7,45 – 12 million USD for modern AIP sub, to stay on the safe side. Swedish Gotland sub costs 100 million USD.

Cost of decomissioning nuclear submarine is 36,5 – 38,8 million USD.

Decomissioning 40 nuclear subs would save 8,4 billion USD over next 10 years, whereas costs incurred would be 8,44 to 10,35 billion USD. However, over the next 20 years savings would be 16,8 billion USD, whereas costs incurred would be 11,42 to 15,15 billion USD.

Conclusion: replacing 40 nuclear submarines with AIP ones would save 1,65 – 5,38 billion USD over the next 20 years. However, cost saving for next 10 years would be 0,04 to 1,95 billion USD in negative – that is, replacement would cause additional costs to be incurred.

As for effectiveness, in WW2 US submarines sunk more Japanese aircraft carriers and (more importantly) supply ships than all USN surface assets combines, despite having only 2% of total US manpower in the Pacific. In World War I, Germany lost 187 submarines, sinking 5.234 merchant ships, 10 battleships, 20 destroyers and 9 submarines. (dodati težinsku i cjenovnu usporedbu)

In exercises, diesel subs routinely sank disproportionately large numbers of surface vessels and nuclear submarines. During RIMPAC 2000, the Australian Collins Class diesel sub HMAS Waller “sank” two US fast attack nuclear submarines and almost “sank” the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Similar record has repeated itself in exercises to follow, where diesel and AIP subs routinely sunk large numbers of nuclear submarimes and surface assets. Unlike nuclear subs, diesel submarines can shut down powerplant, lie on seafloor and monitor activity in their surroundings.

Using submarines, United States could easily keep China bottled up in Western Pacific at low cost.

DoD contractors

DoD contractors are very inefficient, and should be replaced with military personnell and DoD civilians wherever possible.

In 2011, contractor employees cost 2,94 times more than DoD civilian employees doing the same job. 622.000 DoD service contractors have cost $253.8 billion and 778.000 DoD’s civilian employees have cost $72 billion (base) or $108 billion (base plus overhead) in FY 2010. Similar ratio is when comparing DoD contractors with military personnell. Contractor jobs are also not easy to cut when not necessary, possibly harder than military or civilian ones.

By taking numbers above, it can be calculated that replacing said 622.000 contractors with equal number of civilians and military personnell can save 167,46 billion USD per year, or 1,67455 trillion USD over next 10 years.


US military only needs one-third of generals it has right now. Many generals are, in fact, professionall lobbysts, pushing for increases in defense spending; and many members of Congress are reluctant to oppose a “distinguished top officer” – even though many, if not most, of them are really bureocrats of questionable leadership ability and military knowledge. Even after they retire, they retain rank and can be called back; most of them go into armaments industry, continuing to work to influence active officers of lower rank.

There are 970 generals and admirals in armed forces. Average salary is 14.000 – 17.000 USD per month, or 168.000 – 204.000 USD per year. Thus, by cutting number of high officials in US military to appropriate number, 1,08696 – 1,3192 billion USD can be saved over the next 10 years just on their salaries. In fact, while in World War 2 there were 130 ships per admiral, and three ships per admiral at the end of the Vietnam War, in 2011 Navy had 254 admirals and 285 ships.

However, staff provided to generals and admirals can cost 1 million USD per general. That is 647 million USD that will further be cut over the next 10 years.

DoD also spends 500 million USD annualy on marching bands. That amount could be cut in half, saving 2,5 billion USD over the next 10 years.

There are 79.000 US military personnell stationed in the Europe. Removing them, and turning bases over to European militaries, would save 110,6 billion USD over the next 10 years. However, as withdrawal per person costs 8.800 USD, actual savings would be 695,2 million USD less

In total, 114,1 – 114,36 billion USD can be saved in next 10 years by cutting personnell costs.

War in Afghanistan

In 2013, War in Afghanistan is expected to cost 97 billion USD. Assuming average of 90 – 100 billion over the next 10 years (it is expected to last until 2025), it comes to 900 billion to 1 trillion USD.


Measures proposed above would save 2,8 – 2,9 trillion USD over the next decade, while at the same time increasing US combat capability. It is important to remember that larger defense spending does not necessarily increase combat capability – in fact, it can decrease it, by reducing the discipline in the weapons design process and other practices.

Cuts are even more important because military that is not reined in by civilian authorities is, in itself, a serious danger to democracy. For the last 60 years, we were witnessing Prussization of United States, a process that may have serious repercussions on democracy beyond United States themselves. Thus processes going on in United States must be carefully observed even by people not living in US themselves.

It is nonsense that defense cuts automatically lead to job losses – workers can transfer to civilian industry, and civilian shipyards can easily build aircraft carriers and other warships – especially if they are not nuclear. Simpler weapons will make it easier to increase production during war, and thus sustain force levels during protracted war.


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14 replies

  1. Very nice blog. I disagree about comments regarding nuclear carriers vs. island bases as well as with the comment regarding conventional aircraft carriers. I think that will be a loosing proposition. Ditto for the conventional submarines in lieu of nuclear ones.

    The carrier vs. island is easy to explain. Islands do not have mobility and aircraft carriers do. Tied to this lack of mobility is the problem that islands require supplies of all sorts including aviation fuel and must build, maintain and defend fuel storage facilities, airfields capable of handling military aircrafts, depots, personnel, etc. As soon as an island base becomes a problem to its enemy it will be attacked and so it has to be defended. Defense of the base consumes scarce naval resources AND if you knock out the fuel storage for the its aircrafts then the entire base is out of commission. Islands as aircraft carriers in front-line fighting environments where surrounded waters are contested or dominated by hostile Naval forces are no substitute for a carrier.

    Large nuclear carriers are far better than large conventional ones. They are more efficient and more cost effective. Plus the US Navy has a fleet of small carriers that they use to support amphibious operations and can handle aircrafts like the Harrier. Conventional aircraft carriers seem to be better than nuclear only below a certain size… too small for many of the tasks that the Navy has.

    The submarine is interesting. In wide open sea the nuclear submarine has the speed and endurance that is needed to hunt almost any other vessel including other nuclear submarines. A lot of unfair comparisons are made between conventional submarines that operate in littoral waters or astride of known trade routes or close to harbor entrances that ship traffic must by necessity congregate around in a predictable way. But if they go out into the open sea they will need a good deal of luck to catch a fast moving navy ship that is not following any predictable route.

    The big problem for an maritime country is defending those unavoidable trade routes. Places like the Straits of Malacca, the Persian Gulf, etc. Not just from submarines but also from naval mines, aircrafts, missiles, fast patrol boats, swarms of small boats and even pirates now. But most countries that operate conventional submarines do so in an access denial role. Trying to keep other vessels away from these specific areas. This is a problem for us if we want to use those areas but having conventional submarines instead of nuclear ones will not solve this problem for us and will open a can of worms when it comes to the wide open sea.

    • Carriers are just as vulnerable to attack as island bases, if enemy has carriers and major operation is underway then you know carrier(s) will be nearby.

      Nuclear carriers are not more efficient, they have loads of perishable supplies and no matter how good, no single carrier can be in two places at once.

      Submarines usually operate in littoral waters or hunting slow merchant ships, furthermore in WW2 slow diesel submarines have been effective against far faster warships simply because there were so many of them they couldn’t be evaded. And yes, having conventional submarine is currently only way to effectively deal with enemy conventional submarines.

      • As a former sonar operator in the US Navy, I can vouch for the fact that, when submerged and running on electric motors only, conventional subs are MUCH quieter than their nuke counterparts. Also, it takes less training to operate a diesel, so manning diesel subs would be easier. Nuclear reactor operators aren’t that numerous, and it takes a long time to train them-like 1.5-2 years.

        Back when I served, I tried to get into the nuclear reactor operator training program; I didn’t make it. I missed the exam by four questions. The training is (or I should say was, as I can’t speak for what it is now) rigorous. I knew a couple of VERY smart guys who washed out of the nuke program; these guys were NOT dummies! Rigorous is good, of course, but it limits the number of trained operators you have available. It doesn’t matter how many nuclear capable ships or subs one has; if there aren’t the operators to man them, they may as well not exist.

        That said, nuke subs have much greater range and endurance; they’re only limited by the provisions they can carry. OTOH, diesel subs are limited by their fuel. Like everything else in life, there are tradeoffs to be made…

        • Which means that it makes no sense, for major military powers at least, to have an either all-nuke or all-conventional submarine fleet. Smaller countries can use all-conventional fleet.

          Thanks for the comment.

      • Since you’re a proponent of AIP submarines, what form of propulsion would be good? What about using H2O2, you know, hydrogen peroxide? What about using a fuel cell arrangement?

      • I could see how the French MESMA system would work, but I’m not quite sure how a Stirling engine would work. Siemens was experimenting with fuel cells in the U31; I think that would be the best AIP system to use.

        • It is used, which means that it does work. I’m no expert on engines though, so it is possible that there are limitations (likely range related – Sweden doesn’t need long range subs but France does).

    • You’re right; if it didn’t work, it wouldn’t be used. That reminds me: the Swedes have unique defense needs, which is reflected in their S Tank, the Gripen, and other military vehicles.

  2. Some added points from me :
    Note that in more than a case, I consider some of these for the EU as I fear that as their foreign politic is, US defence procurement is hopeless : the goal is not to have an efficient defence and spend taxes in healthcare, schooling, etc, but to soak everything possible from tax-payers into MIC pockets. Actually, there is a clear collusion between most of biggest defence contractors, high military brasses and a serious number of lawmakers and senators. Many totally delirious overcostly programs with clearly unfit gear while effective but low cost programs getting scrapped are typical of all RICO cases

    F-35 Joint Strike Fighter :
    I’d take thins further than you.
    1st, Rafale also has stealth features that are somewhat even more advanced than those in F-35. French Govt unclassified it on Dec.2015, it was confirmd by Indian air-marshall SB Deo on Dec.2016. I’d take matters further by nonetheless cancelling F-35 but also retiring F15, F-16, F-18 but also F-22 and Harrier.
    What? Harrier too? Yes!
    Rafale-M has been validated for STOBAR use in 2012 for a 5400kg. Since, Safran M88-9 with 91kN thrust was issued and Safran is working on the Kaveri/M88-10 with 98kN thrust. Vectoring thrust will be available in 2018 too.
    The US LHA/LHDs could simply be equiped with a ski-jump and as many WW2 CVs when the jets became the norm, an angled deck could be added. Well, these could surely even be made foldable.

    Next-generation bomber (B-21)
    $21.4bln are put in the program R&D for a $80bln program of 100 aircraft. Thus, before the B-2 program was scrapped, NGC proposed to build 20 more for $566M/unit. The goal, for 100 B-21, is $550M/unit but add R&D, you end with a $800M/unit. It would be much simpler to create a B-2B while taking in account progress that occurred since. As the goal is to build 175 units, I tink that cost could easily be kept under $550M/unit could be accomplished. B-21 isn’t a “budget insurance policy” for NGC : they make a lot more through the ships they sell to US Navy.
    “including the capability to fly unmanned (which basically means that Chinese can steal it while airborne.)”

    >>> Why did I thought the same thing? Iranians have also hacked and recuperated RQ-170 stealth drone 😉

    >>> Dassault could do something much more interesting by teaming with HAL as visibly, Sukhoi isn’t hot for a full transfer of technology about the FGFA/PAK-FA. It’s a 35t MTOW heavy fighter, right? F-111 was mostly of the same class of weight. Now remember the stretched FB-111H project? This was considered the alternative way to go when B-1 was near to end like B-2 and it’d had half its payload for 40% of the price. Now Safran is creating a 98kN M88-10/Kaveri for India. M88 has reduced radar+IR signatures and weights 900kg only with a pretty small size package. Even more powerful versions are to come from this initially 75kN engine which has great advantages in maintenance (modular, FADEC). Consider now a 12.5kN version : it’d half the thrust of Tu-22M’s NK-25 or Tu-160’s NK-321. FGFA is already supposed to have a 10.3t payload. Let’s stretch it to about 27-30m long with 4x”Kaveri +” much smallers than the Saturns or the Kuznetsov engines and a serious weapon bay. There may even have advantages from Dassault radar-transparent surfaces or their ‘active stealth’. There may be room for a huge weapon bay, not counting some lifting body principles, I don’t think it would be too optimistic to consider a 24 tons payload over 7000km with a much smaller platform than a Tu-22M. Bays could be considered to carry 2 MOABs, 16 BrahMos-NG or, French deterence style, 28 ASMP-A. 24 tons also mean more than 200 SDB/KAB-100/Mk-81 but why considering such an aircraft only as a bomber? Size allows powerful AESA+L-band radars and not only in the nose (lateral, tail, wings) and huge IRST so it may be a powerful anti-stealth AEW platform, Such a payload allows +120 MBDA-Meteors and +200 Micas. It may inflict a serious blow to a classic ‘strike-package’ or a swarm of cruise missiles and the powerful radars would help small fighters to finish the job. Some refuelers don’t have such a payload, so… Didn’t I red that USAF was considering stealth refuellers? A 7000km range (and small toilets+microwave oven+fridge) allow some Mar-Pat/ASUW, maybe some ASM too but now, let’s consider one of the Rafale’s planed capabilities, launching satellites through a 12t ‘trimaran’ launcher. This may allow interesting commercial use or… Some re-entry vehicle with bombs or AAM missiles or warhead in, launching ASATs or killer-sats, Goldeneye, or a PGS (prompt global strike) system. Another point : isn’t Safran working on some turbofan/scramjet combo? Nevertheless, with a FGFA/PAK-FA estimated to a $50-100M tag price, well, as there is already a 2/3 scale working platform, I wouldn’t be too surprised if it was possible to build it for a $250M per plane. Some teaming between EU, Russia and India (or at least EU/India) should be considered for a Next-generation omnirole-bomber

    Aircraft carriers
    It’s french DCNS that conceived the new Brit STOLV-CVs. Thus, smelling the habitual BAe dirty tricks, they prefered to give some flawed plans that would make ships’ prices sky rocket. The drty trick ended being done, Brits end paying $5bln/unit.
    Thus, DCNS proposed a CATOBAR version with a single island to French govt for… €2.3bln and had the 3 been built, it may have felt to €2bln. IMHO, there may even be some easy sparing which would even allow larger decks while calculating them would be easier as it’d be symmetrical : get rid of classic island, just put a kind of FREMM frigate mast with optronics!

    Nonetheless, it’s not forcedly more expensive to put nuke power in : new generation of Siemens turbines allow a 60% efficiency. The €150M Alstom K15 reactor produces 150MWt. You so get 90MWe from it, now, consider the 21.5MW Mermaid pod, 4 of them propell the 345m/76k tons Queen Mary 2 Ocean liner to 30kts.

    $800M EMALS? Get the C14 compressed-air catapult back! You’ll spend $25M for the 1st then $5M for any additionals. Except the classic rails, what you need to compress air, using 4 gallons kerosene per launch, can be had off the shelves on civilian market and a C14 is just 4x as powerful as an EMALS!

    Wanna get even cheaper? Just consider the Mistral-BPC LHDs : these are modular ships that can be extended by 15.5m sections. You need less than 300 sailors for such a chip, the 199m ones cost €462M. Just build a let’s say 245.5m version, add a large deck with superstructures, no island but a frigate mast, the whole area under the bridge being used as a hangar will be as big as a Nimitz-class hangar, the dock well, vehicle hangars etc being ‘sacrificed’, there’d be plenty of room left in. now, as there was a dock well, nuke reactor and turbnes could be installed near the aft and on rails, so being easy to extract/replace, add a SATRAP for stability, no matter if you make it CATOBAR or STOBAR, you have your super-carrier for probably no more then €1.5bln. Another interesting point : French CVN Gaulle, with 24 Rafale-M onboard, is able to sustain 80% of a Nimitz-class air operations but… she can carry 36 Rafale-M. The air crew being of 600, considering the bigger hangar here, a 1200 air-crew with a 300-400 ship crew would mean around a 1500-1600 crew where a Nimitz-class total crew is around 5500
    Did I pointed that an USS America-class LHD price is $3.4bln while USS G.Ford cost is $12.8bln to build with $4.7bln R&D adding? Note that Huntington Ingalls Industries that builds both classes is a division of Northrop-Grumann. Is this the reason why such US ships are so expensive if compared to DCNS?

    “Decomissioning Nimitz-class carrier costs 750 – 900 million USD”
    => Much less by sinking it into the Marianas’ fault.
    I don’t totally agree with you about the construction of nuke carriers : if done the way I pointed, it becomes pretty easier and much cheaper including for maintenance : electric pods are outside thus leave more room inside (incl. for kerosene), turbines and reactor can be taken out and replaced rapidly, no island simplifies the building and R&D, it’s even better to lower RCS but also turbulances on deck landing, Mistral class hulls are higher than habitual CVs’ hulls so a full underdeck hangar is OK, actually, even some huge (and hugely modified) MV-Toner style Ro-Ro’s can be considered as interesting clients for a CVN as they could easily be modified as cheap CVE(N)s, WW2 style. Even container-carriers could be considered as CVEs ‘on budget’ while potentially retaining serious cargo capability. Thus, I doubt that WW2 style convoys would have it as easy as during WW2 with today’s means. Let’s be clear : a peer or near peer war would directly go nuclear with the weakest striking first. The aircraft carriers are nothing else than old-style “gun-boat policy”
    Now, some have thought about movable airbases in some megalomaniac patterns. It’s pretty easy to consider these in other ways : just consider floating modular bridges army-engineers have to cross rivers, load enough on a container-ship then… Or just consider some container-ships like Maersk Triple E-class @185M each, make em flat-top with a square landing deck, make 6 of them stuck at sea and you have a 1200x118m airstrip that can operate an A400M. With 16, 1600x236m although having 2 taken from the sides to be put along for a 2000m strip may be a better idea, so operating C-17! Anyway, the CV-converted civilian ships or even battleships were numerous during WW2, is it really necessary to spend $17.5bln in some USS G.Ford, especially as I consider the way CVs are built a bit outdated. The way the Mistral-BPC were conceived mixing cost efficient civilian technologies with military ones end in a really effective class of LHDs! When the sale of 2 units to Russia (due to US violent threats to ‘sink’ the biggest French bank with a $9bln fine in the US on grounds of some operations with Cuba. In such case, EU should threaten to ban Coca-Cola, Ford and get out from some commercial treaties : such diktats shouldn’t be tolerated), a dozen of proposals came to buy these from many countries.

    – Zumwalt-class destroyers : $3.5-4.4bln/ship for the 1st generation of US stealth destroyers. Do they know that FREMM are the 2nd generation of DCNS’ stealth frigates? Most of EU serious navies adopted these. For such a price, you’ve got 3 Barracuda-class nuclear attack submarines from DCNS. For half the price, I’m sure they could build 2 on the 1932 Surcouf submarine-battlecruise principle with 2x203mm navy-gun turret and a chopper hangar! DCNS’ SSBN ‘Le Triomphant’-class price is €2.5bln/unit. Such destroyer price is simply ridiculous!

    – Independance class LCS (Litoral combat ship) : Never heard of DCNS’ stealth Gowind class?
    => Isn’t it strange that, if all these ships have stealth features, the US made ones are much much much more expensive? Malaysia ordered a customisation of Gowind LCS made bigger, bought a transfer of technology, the right to sell these constructions. These have better armament than an Independance-class and with everything around in the tender, with the number they are building for themselves (4 or 6), they end half the price of their US competitor… The Gowinds are modular and can be built from a patrol boat to a corvette size. Note these two classes are under fire of DOT&E and seem near as plagued as F-35 with numerous issues…

    V-22 Osprey programme
    It also has a hard time to be used vertically in unprepared terrains due to the thrust as turbopropellers don’t act only by their fans. It already had some issues in dirt areas and V-22 seems to have an ill-fated record of accidents. Actually, re-creating the 1961(!) Bréguet 941 should be highly considered! With a 8t payload, it could take-odd in 185m, land in 120m @ only 50kts.
    With modern composites and engines, payload would surely be increased to +12t with extended range, the 4 engines could surely fit in 2 pods with contra-rotative propellers, so allowing folding wings for carrier purposes, while the exhausts of two engines could be funnelled to outer wings to have the flaps act as reverse thrust. Such a cargo plane could so operate LHDs even the ‘small’ 199m ones, especially as their relative speed could be as slow as 30kts with a 20kts ship. Nonetheless, they could pretty nicely replace Greyhounds for COD job but also be fitted radar radome thus becoming a replacement for Hawkeye not needing catapult or arrestor cable. Packages for ASM, ASUW, tactical refueller or gunship use can be considered and it’d also may have many civilian use, especially in remote areas, allow town micro-airports, firefighting could be made easier (bigger payload than classic Trackers or Canadairs). Br.941 was totally underestimated by the time it was created. Some interesting features from the XFC-130H Credible Sport could even be considered as an option (hadn’t the SecDef decided to override the automatic system to have the sequencing operations made manually, the prototype wouldn’t had been damaged beyound repair). With already tremendous STOL capabilities, such system would simply allow to operate from a tablecloth. Br.941 was also known as McDonneel-Douglass 188 as MDD was supposed to license-build ’em in the US. Unfortunatelly, only French govt bought just a few while, even by actual standards, this aircraft is/was a real marvel and I don’t think the building/use costs would be high while Osprey…

    100% agree with you about AIP subs, especially if considering smaller powers like France : it’d be more interesting to have AIP attack subs in numbers than a few nuke ones.

    Consider some EU nations, especially France, well, 60,000 civilians state servants were useful at MinDef when we had a numerous draft army, colonies, etc and there weren’t computers. Many of these spend more time at the coffee machine than at simulating being at work. When you consider the numbers of active (professional now) militaries, it has even became simply ridiculous.

    “There are 79.000 US military personnell stationed in the Europe. Removing them, and turning bases over to European militaries, would save 110,6 billion USD over the next 10 years.”
    >>> Especially if one consider that Russia is FAR to have USSR military capability! Cumulated EU armies are much more powerful than Russia which BTW is an imaginary threat, only used as a boogey-man on the MIC behalf. Actually, as long as US do not interferes, Russia entering the EU woud be more easier than many may think, they even got rid of death penalty BTW and it’d be a win-win relation as both entities are really complementary! Russia in the EU wouldn’t feel threatened by NATO anymore and wouldn’t be felt as a threat by Washington at the same time while they aren’t at all.

    Guided weapons
    The ($5k) LOGIR fire’n’forget guidance kit for Hydra70 rockets has been abandonned. Strangely, many laser guidance kits appeared on market for $30k/unit from all builders (MBDA, Rayhtheon, LockMart, Rocketsan). Strangely, all need to keep the laser locked on target and all seem being at the same price. With LOGIR, you point the laser once, you shoot, the rocket will find its way alone… Moreover, this kit should better be adapted to CRV7 which is the standard NATO rocket and normally enough for a T-72 tank on any angle. It’d be perfect for swarm attacks, i.e. against boats but also for CAS from airplane, choppers, drones but not only : consider ATGMs : I won’t include things like the overexpensive $80k Javelin but more oldschool things like TOW or Milan with an about $15k missile or Eryx with a €10k one. Launchers are over-expensive : $1M+ for TOW. Nonetheless a LOGIR+CRV7 would cost half the price but as you have to just illuminate the target once, a very simle cheap launching system with just a laser and a beep confirming the seeker is locked, connecting to a CRV7 in a disgarding tube, M72 LAW style, would be enough and cheaper than dirt. Again, the MIC is simply soaking big money, period! LOGIR should also be made compatible with Zuni and other bigger rockets (note that the Russian Ugroza kit adapts on S-5, S-8, S-13 and Grad rockets)

    CAS (close air support)
    Here again, we see assets being ridiculously expensive while much smth better could be fielded. AH-64 costs $35-65M, Eurocopter Tiger? €44M. Last AC-130U? $252M (!) Some say it’d take 15 years R&D to replace A-10. This is absolutely laughable while there may be much much more efficient solutions. DEVGRU (usely) thrieved (against infamous Sen. McCain) to reintroduce OV-10 Bronco through the (only) $20M ‘Combat Dragon II’ project (that McCain torpedoed while the 81 days test campain in Iraq proved it absolutely successful). Well, the idea wouldn’t really to re-create OV-10 as it was but more considering its form factor as it’s the most adapted for CAS and nothing is more cost-efficient than a turboprop plane. Another point is that long loitering time (and low costs at both purchase and use are very important)
    So, what to do?
    – Consider a kind of stretched Bronco made more powerful, keeping all its features (very STOL on rugged terrain, ease of maintenance, etc)
    – Nexter 30M791 30mm gun assumes a 2500 RPM rate of fire and weights 120kg. Let’s have 2 underbelly turrets, each with one and 3000 rounds (825kg). Here we have a firepower even more interesting than an A-10.
    – Basic armament : 6 pods of 32 LOGIR/CRV7 rockets. Inspiration could be taken from old Matra JL-100 that was at the same time a drop-tank, thus allowing long loitering time. 2 additional hardpoints should be considered for a 6-8 MER where KAB-100/SDB/Mk-81 could be fitted, some pod for a dozen Zunis could be considered too, maybe XM395 guided mortar shell ($10k) could be also an interesting guided bomb when one consider that a SDB cost is about $100k (!!! And an AGM-114 Hellfire price is in the same range. I personally consider that spending $7.3k in a LOGIR/CRV7 is already too expensive to go after a Toyota HiLux fit with a KPV or ZU-23-2 and 3 jihadists in sandals onboard). It’s clear that many other payload may be considered. Wingtips could be fit with AAMs.
    – With good aerodynamics, it’s no surprise being able to fly at 750-850km/h with turbopropellers, some variant of Tu-95 is even known to be able of +900km/h and Convair Pogo was supposed to be 980km/h able. This is faster than an A-10! The plane could be enough fast to be included in a strike package, specially when you know that fully loaded jetfighter are usually subsonic anyway.
    – some gearbox may allow to use the 2 propellers on a single engine for long time (6-10h) loitering purposes or in case of mechanical failure.
    – Folding wings would ease storage on LHDs from where it shall be operated even if these are only 199m long.
    – There are very efficient ceramics/composites that may allow effective armour up to 23mm for pilots and engines while lighter than titanium. Most of the skin of the aircraft could be made of multiple kevlar/Dynema etc layers to avoid being punctured by small arms, canopy could be made of reinforced glass able to take 14.5mm from a KPV. Engine exhaust should be on the top to reduce IR seen from the ground. There are efficient ECMs against ManPADS nowadays too. The two turrets could auomatically switch into CIWS mode in case of incoming missile.
    – Fixed refuelling probe.
    >>>> Note : The hourly cost of an A-10 is told to be about $16k. For a Bronco, it’s $1k and about $4.5k for an Apache. With two 2000HP engines, such machine is not likely to cost more than $2k/hour.
    >>>> CONCLUSION :
    Here we’d have an even more interesting platform than A-10, AH-64 and AC-130 and clearly much cheaper, not counting being able to do some trainer and small cargo duties.
    >>>> OPTIONS :
    The aircraft could be modular. A pure cargo OV-10T was planed for 12 passengers and 2 pilots. The combat central fuselage could be removed and the size/payload being more serious, a pod for very likely around 24 passengers or 5t payload could replace. Note that such payload is on par with C-2 Greyhound so an AEW pod with radome, Hawkeye style could also be considered and again, as for the Br.941, this may be operated from STOLV/STOBAR aircraft carriers and other LHDs. Nevertheless, again, it’d offer large opportunities of civilian use. Systems like BRS can also save such plane, making them even more secure, a dual system may even be considered : one for the full plane and one for the central pod that so could abandon the wings/tails/engines. Maybe some self inflating balloons, space-capsule style could be considered to keep afloat or simply soften the landing.

    – A unified caliber for riffles and light medium machine guns would greatly help logistics and a single weapon could do the job of four while not being heavier than some AR-15, thus, I advise to go bullpup in order to allow a 24-25″ barrel.
    I’d highly consider .243WSSM in some kind of IWI X95/Tavor which so wouldn’t be longer than 90-92cm. As there are extended STANAG magazines, the bigger diameter of the ammo wouldn’t be a problem. Ballistics of .243WSSM are much better than both .223R and .308W and it could even be considerated to replace the Minigun by Microgun. Nevertheless, by doing so, the assault-rifle gets 1km sniper capability, is able to do a SAW/MiniMi job as much as an M-60 mid-machinegun job. Recoil is near the one of an AK-47 while shooting burst from a .308W riffle is unbearable for most of people, it’s even why things like M14 were abandonned and HK G3, FN FAL etc were rarely used for burst fire.

    – Pistol as side-arm has became ridiculous in a time a hundred million+ of AKs have spread everywhere. For a lot of military personnel, but also police, carrying a riffle is not practical at all. Small SMGs are not very potent due to short range so PDWs should be considered. Thus, the habitual calibers are far to be great having serious lack of stopping power : FN 5.7×28 and H&K 4.6×30 are not a lot better than .22winchester-magnum. There was already something pretty efficient for its era during WW2, the US-M1/M2 carbine. A wildcat caliber has been created out of .30carbine, the 25Garin. It has an energy on par with 5.45x39ru while just a little longer than a 5.45×28 bullet (40.5mm OAL) : OAL is 41.91mm. A modified version of the multi-caliber ST-Kinetics CPW could be pretty interesting, could be carried in a thigh holster and a polygonal barrel would make such thing asefficient if not more than an AK-74U in a much lighter/compact package. If one consider most of aircraft pilots carry only a pistol as a survival weapon, this would be very interesting for them as it would be for vehicle drivers, tank crews, MP’s, all secondary personnels that are not

    directly in combat but may end in an ambush, SOFs, SWATs, cops. CPW being modular, another

    -unexisting for now- wildcat caliber could be considered : a 220-250gr bullet from .300winch-magnum with a 320m/s velocity for use with silencer : energy would be on par with .357magnum and near Russian 9×39 subsonic with less drag. Another interesting point is that, as rounds are tiny, a lot can be carried and 4 ranks casket magazines with 50-60 rounds wouldn’t be a burden. CPW being modular, longer barrels could also be considered, making it a still very practical light carbine with greater accuracy. Note that I’m not sure this is THE thing and if it would withstand some .30carbine derivative with an energy to compare with some of the lighter loads in .44 magnum so maybe other mechanism would be necessary but it’s clear that, as much for PDW as for a riffle, not taking in account advances in ballistics is a bit stupid. Note that Automag III was using .30carbine so there even was a pistol made that could be customised for .25Garin.
    Nevertheless, by adopting such kind of small arm, you get rid of the pistols, SMGs, short barreled carbines (M4/AK-74U).

    – .408 CheyTac or .416 Barrett seem more interesting to me than .50BMG (longer range, better accuracy+energy conservation)

    Hector said:
    “Large nuclear carriers are far better than large conventional ones. They are more efficient and more cost effective.”
    >>>> Not forcedly! This added efficiency dates a lot and if a small CVN is made the way I pointed, it ends more efficient. French CVN already proved being 80% as efficient as a Nimitz-class with only 2/3 of the full airgroup she can carry. The poor way of thinking CVs helps to this misconception and what is sought is not doing something smaller/cheaper more efficient but to soak maximum money.

    Hector said:
    “The submarine is interesting. In wide open sea the nuclear submarine has the speed and endurance that is needed to hunt almost any other vessel including other nuclear submarines. A lot of unfair comparisons are made between conventional submarines that operate in littoral waters or astride of known trade routes or close to harbor entrances that ship traffic must by necessity congregate around in a predictable way. But if they go out into the open sea they will need a good deal of luck to catch a fast moving navy ship that is not following any predictable route.”
    >>>> I don’t think the idea is totally getting rid of nuclear ‘hunting’ subs but relying only on them is costly and ends being less efficient than many may think. In times of satellites, it has became pretty difficult to hide a fleet and think about it : if French transhorizon Nostradamus radar can locate a B-2 or F-22 from +3000km, there’s a specialized naval version that is likely to detect a fleet from ???? (classified but surely very far). In case of warfare, the case of North-Korean +450 mini-subs with 6-8 torpedoes (or anti-ship missiles?) could be absolutely devastating : it’d be like entering a swarm of pirhanas… It’s a very clever strategy for litoral defence against attempts of beach landing.


  1. Ongoing

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