USS Gerald Ford (artists rendition)
My thought is this....the use of UAV's (unmanned aerial vehicles - like the Pradator drone) is becoming so commonplace in today's military that maybe its time for the Navy to think about a dedicated UAV launching platform that it can use to project air power over the horizon at a fraction of the cost of a dedicated manned flight carrier would cost. I mean if you are going in to bomb targets can't a drone get the job done without putting a pilot at risk? Lets think about it....
- The ship could be a third of the current carrier's length, if not less.
- UAV's could be launched via rocket assisted ramps and do away with a normal flight deck.
- Recovery could be done by flying them into a net or other restraint system or simply landing them in friendly areas to be picked up and reused.
- "Pilots" would stay aboard the ship in relative safety..hell, the Air Force has pilots in the states controlling craft in Afghanistan...the pilots could sun themselves in San Diego in the day and bomb the hell out of terrorists at night.
- Give it some 5" guns, the normal AA systems (R2D2) and ship-to-air and ship-to-ship missles.
- Maybe incorporate some unconventional warfare stuff..high tech intel gathering gear and ability to host a SEAL team.
- Helicopter pad on the aft for search-and-rescue or recovery of UAV's.
- Being only a third of the size of a carrier it would be more fuel efficient and having UAV's wouldn't need a crew nearly as large.
- It would not replace the standing aircraft carrier fleet but supplement it...for dedicated single target missions the reduced size and radar signature would make it a viable strike option..like it is currently from land based platforms.
- Conforms to the transition of parts of our current Navy to a littoral (shallow water) fleet.
Just a thought.
Most people don't know this but I often thought of joining the Navy when a younger man. I often checked out the large color picture books from the library of Naval ships from WWI and WWII..it just amazed me how large those things were and floated. I went to the recruiters...Navy guy was off sick..Army guy was taking people out for pizza and movies....the rest is history.
USS Bohica UAV assault craft (Bad Artists rendition)