Strategy Page has more on the subject of the latest look at small or medium-sized aircraft carriers for the US Navy with a focus on UAVs:
Work on flight control software for carrier operations is well underway. Combat UAVs (UCAVs) weight about 20 percent less than manned aircraft, and cost 20-30 percent less. They use less fuel as well.
While the navy would prefer to design and build the first generation UCAVs for use on existing carriers, these smaller and cheaper aircraft go together well with smaller and cheaper carriers. That’s because UCAVs mean you can get more aircraft on a carrier, and that creates a traffic jam type situation. Moreover, the widespread use of smart bombs means you need fewer bombers over the target. A 50-60,000 ton carrier, with three dozen F-35Bs, UCAVs, UAVs and support aircraft, can be as effective as a Nimitz with 70 F-18s and support aircraft.
While I’m not quite sure I’m buying that last sentence…okay, I admit it, I’m not buying it at all…the rest makes a fair amount of sense.
Light carries (CVLs) were quite valuable during World War II, but we must remember that they were able to operate the same aircraft that the biggies did, just not as many. That probably wouldn’t be the case with medium carriers, and certainly not with small carriers. VTOL aircraft such as the F-35B would be required for them.
Making small carriers work would require an AWACS-ish UAV, but that doesn’t seem unreasonable. Neither does an anti-sub or an EW UAV. I realize that we don’t have these things today, but the technology is advancing very rapidly.
No it wouldn’t come close to a super carrier. But it’s not meant to.
Discussed most recently on MO here. Does anyone out there have an opinion on this subject? [Murdoc: Dives for cover]