Sunday, May 04, 2014

It's not about capability, it's about coverage...

Those are "all the worlds aircraft carriers"... at least in theory.

From the story:

"Each of those Nimitz-class carriers has twice the fighter complement of anything else floating (80 vs 40). Each of those fighters is heavier than anything any of the other carriers (except the Charles Du Galle) can launch. They can also sortie much more frequently than their equivalents. In practical terms those carriers are probably something like 4-6x more effective than their equivalents. The smaller ships are amphibious assualt ships, smaller than carriers, but with still more force projection capabilities than most other actual aircraft carriers. This is how overkill our military is, and this is just the navy."

Yeah, both the image, AND the commentary are misleading.

First of all, there are 10 Nimitz Class currently in commission, not 12. All the other decks are not fixed wing non-V/STOL capable (they can't take fighters, bombers, radar, or support aircraft), they're helicopter/jump jet decks... Primarily they're Marine assault ships.

Of the 10 Nimitz class ships, at least 2 (and usually 3 or more) are in overhaul, refit, workup, or maintenance down cycle status at any given time (currently Lincoln is down for major overhaul, and TR just came out of it).

Overhaul on a nimitz class takes FOUR years. Minor refit is 6-18 months. Maintenance down cycle is 3-6 months.

That leaves, at best, 8 available decks for coverage.

Then we get down to the real issue... taskings.

The U.S. is the only nation that has taskings in every ocean, 365 days a year, every year, peace or war.

Congress has set the Navy's mission parameters such that they are supposed to have a deck available to be no more than 300 miles off ANY SHORE in the world, within 3 days steaming, 24 hours preferred; and to be able to have 2 decks operating at any "trouble spot" within 7 days.

Further, they are supposed to be able to task 2 decks to "trouble", and still meet all their other taskings elsewhere.

What it comes down to, is the president is supposed to be able to pick up the phone and say "I need a carrier there NOW", and have it happen.

...More to the point, he's never supposed to have to say "why CAN'T I have a carrier there right now?".

This is NOT POSSIBLE with 8 decks for coverage.

In fact, it's not possible with 12 decks for coverage... but that's the goal. Being able to have 12 decks up means that we can (just barely) do everything we've actually been ordered to do by congress.

Unfortunately that's never going to happen, because of funding.

We're going to get 11 decks TOTAL (not online and operating) in 2016 or so when Ford comes online, but by the time... or IF... we get Kennedy and Enterprise, they won't be augmenting, they'll be replacing Nimitz and Eisenhower.

Oh and even with 12 decks, that discounts the one immutable fact of any military operation, any platform, any piece of gear... "stuff" happens. In particular "stuff" breaks.

So yes, while any one of our carriers is equivalent to ALL of any other nations... It has to be.

We can either build more decks, or we can change the mission... but we can't complain about there being too many decks for the mission.

Let's break it down to a smaller scale example.

If you need four cops to cover a neighborhood, you don't need four cops, you need an absolute minimum of 18 (or ideally more).

3 shifts a day, 7 days a week, 4 man coverage, means 84 shifts (I'm simplifying assuming 8 hour shifts... that rarely happens of course. I'm also not accounting for overlap, which is required, and typically means 25% more hours required... and admin/court time, another 25%... but we're simplifying).

One body covers 5 shifts a week, without overtime.

That means 17 (16 plus 4 shifts means 17) bodies for coverage, and one floater for illness etc... Really you need at least two, but you make up the difference with overtime.

If you want to run at above minimums, accounting for overlap and admin time, have some margin for "in case stuff" and to keep your people from burning out, you need 28.

Nobody does that of course... they run overtime.

You can run carriers at "overtime"... for a while anyway... What "overtime" means for a carrier (and it's crew), is they don't get their required maintenance and downtime, things break more, people get fatigued, mistakes get made...

...and that's when people start dying.

It's not about staffing... it's about tasking. It's not about capabilities, it's about coverage.