The Navy’s demand for aircraft carriers is growing almost as fast as the cost to build them, but there’s one thing that’s not keeping pace, and that’s the budget. To bridge the gap in supply and demand, admirals are looking to a WWII strategy to fill their needs. The U.S. Navy is exploring the idea of converting an amphibious assault ship (LHA) to serve as a mini-carrier. Mike Glenn of the Washington Times writes (abridged):
The U.S. Navy is looking to the past for a possible solution to its current aircraft carrier problems.
Borrowing an idea employed in World War II, the service is seriously looking at retrofitting smaller ships normally used to transport Marines into battle. Instead of troops, the new “Mini Carriers” would have a squadron of F-35B Lightning II jet fighters.
“I have a demand for carriers right now that I can’t fulfill,” Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said Wednesday in a briefing for reporters at the Heritage Foundation.
While aircraft carriers are the centerpiece of the Navy’s forward-deployed military strategy, they are expensive. The U.S.S. Gerald Ford — the first in the Ford class of supercarriers — cost about $12 billion.
Mr. Spencer said the U.S. military’s combatant commanders want the overwhelming combat power aircraft carriers give them.
“Part of the mission of the carrier is presence and forward deployability,” he said.
In World War II, the Navy augmented their fleet with a class of ships called escort carriers, sometimes known as “Jeep Carriers” or “Baby Flattops.” They were smaller and carried fewer aircraft but cheaper and quicker to build. While they couldn’t keep up with fast-moving invasion fleets, escort carriers accomplished a variety of missions including protecting convoys from U-boats in the North Atlantic campaign.
It’s a concept the U.S. Marine Corps has been studying to see if there are modern applications. They are looking to see if an amphibious assault ship called an LHA could be adapted to serve as a new “Jeep Carrier.”