Land based versus carrier aviation

uk 75

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
27 September 2006
Messages
5,744
Reaction score
5,618
The Soviet Union developed long range strike aircraft with missiles as its alternative to and main weapon against the aircraft carrier. It did, however, also develop a large carrier with a range of aircraft similar to those used by the USN.

The US has used its long range aircraft (B52, B1 and B2) to strike targets around the world more often than the short legged F18s on its carriers. B21 will offer similar options.

The UK had a debate about this in the 60s and came to the conclusion that RAF aircraft could respond faster and with greater strike power than a carrier with its aircraft. Even now that the RN has built its carriers again it is RAF aircraft that have made strikes on Syria and Yemen as envisaged in 1966.
 
The Soviet Union developed long range strike aircraft with missiles as its alternative to and main weapon against the aircraft carrier. It did, however, also develop a large carrier with a range of aircraft similar to those used by the USN.

The US has used its long range aircraft (B52, B1 and B2) to strike targets around the world more often than the short legged F18s on its carriers. B21 will offer similar options.

The UK had a debate about this in the 60s and came to the conclusion that RAF aircraft could respond faster and with greater strike power than a carrier with its aircraft. Even now that the RN has built its carriers again it is RAF aircraft that have made strikes on Syria and Yemen as envisaged in 1966.
Sure, assuming you can get overflight rights and arrange tankers. But 70+% of the world's surface is ocean, and something like 80% of all population are accessible from the coast.

Naval aviation is a very handy, blatant suggestion that the owning country cares very much about what is going on in the area. Especially when it's a US carrier with its "100,000 tons of diplomacy".
 
Events suggest otherwise. In every major post war conflict from Korea to Ukraine land based aircraft have delivered the bulk of air operations.

There have been a few minor exceptions involving the UK in its colonial roles such as Tanzania and the Beira Patrol in the 60s and the Falklands in 1982 but these were down to political rather than military choices
 
Events suggest otherwise. In every major post war conflict from Korea to Ukraine land based aircraft have delivered the bulk of air operations.

There have been a few minor exceptions involving the UK in its colonial roles such as Tanzania and the Beira Patrol in the 60s and the Falklands in 1982 but these were down to political rather than military choices
And how many events haven't blown up because 100,000tons of diplomacy just showed up off the coast?
 
Events suggest otherwise. In every major post war conflict from Korea to Ukraine land based aircraft have delivered the bulk of air operations.
No, it is not an either or choice. Carrier aircraft were never to replace long range bombers. It is just another option, sea control, and a negotiation tool.
 
Events suggest otherwise. In every major post war conflict from Korea to Ukraine land based aircraft have delivered the bulk of air operations.

There have been a few minor exceptions involving the UK in its colonial roles such as Tanzania and the Beira Patrol in the 60s and the Falklands in 1982 but these were down to political rather than military choices
What land bases could the RAF have operated out of (realistically) in the Falklands?
 
Events suggest otherwise. In every major post war conflict from Korea to Ukraine land based aircraft have delivered the bulk of air operations.

There have been a few minor exceptions involving the UK in its colonial roles such as Tanzania and the Beira Patrol in the 60s and the Falklands in 1982 but these were down to political rather than military choices
But the politics, even with your "friends" can't always be relied on. Elderado Canyon 1986. France, Spain & Italy refused overflight rights. So the aircraft from the 48th TFW in the UK had to fly around the Iberian Peninsula and through the Straits of Gibraltar using up a considerable amount of tanker support, as well as adding some 6,000 miles to the round trip.

IIRC in 2003 Turkey refused the US basing rights in Turkey for aircraft to support the Iraq invasion, but after the war had started granted overflight rights.
 
The Soviet Union developed long range strike aircraft with missiles as its alternative to and main weapon against the aircraft carrier. It did, however, also develop a large carrier with a range of aircraft similar to those used by the USN.

The US has used its long range aircraft (B52, B1 and B2) to strike targets around the world more often than the short legged F18s on its carriers. B21 will offer similar options.

The UK had a debate about this in the 60s and came to the conclusion that RAF aircraft could respond faster and with greater strike power than a carrier with its aircraft. Even now that the RN has built its carriers again it is RAF aircraft that have made strikes on Syria and Yemen as envisaged in 1966.
The first one seems to be an "apples to oranges" vs the other examples simply due to the USSR's very different maritime context. The AV-MF's bombers were the offensive component of a primarily defensive sea denial strategy against the perceived Western naval threat to itself, rather than instruments of power projection in the same way the USAF heavy bomber fleet or the USN carrier force are. The development of carriers by the USSR was meant to complement the AV-MF bomber force by providing a fighter and eventually AEW&C screen out at sea where land-based fighters and AEW&C would struggle to provide round-the-clock protection to VMF surface groups or the bombers. But then the USSR fell, and we all know the rest.

Re: the heavy bomber vs carrier force dichotomy; the examples of USAF heavy bomber strikes show their utility as relatively responsive punitive instruments. However, USN carrier battlegroups, as Scott Kenny notes in his post above, are presence-deterrence instruments, i.e. reinforcing local deterrence. Its less about the alpha strike throw-weight and more establishing a credible armed presence (that can do things other than just bomb/destroy the foe, like defend air and sea space). While the USAF has tried to provide similar deterrence effects via occasional flybys of (usually) B-52H in trouble spots recently such as in Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea, they aren't sustainable in the same way as a CVBG or even ARG are.

The UK's 1950s-1960s debates on carriers vs land-based air, were really debates about the UK's future as a great power (whether they should bother trying to project power East of Suez like the US or just be Europe-focused). And ultimately even those conclusions were predicated on the RAF actually getting high-payload and long-range strike craft like TSR2 or F-111K. As good as they are, Tornado and Typhoon only give them roughly the same payload as USN F/A-18E/Fs at roughly similar. Good if you have friendly airbases in the hotspot, but not assured especially if the hotspot will take it into conflict with, say, the PRC.
 
Just remind us all how many days endurance does a B52 have?

When you send a carrier to conduct operations near somewhere, it takes quite some time to get there, but can stay there for quite some time in turn and can be sustained there for even longer.

The Bomber can act in a matter of hours, but it cannot sustain for more than a few hours. It must be replaced by another and in a few hours another and again and again and again.

While building a port and a road and an airbase, and an Air Defence System, and barracks and logistics hubs....takes a lot longer, but can endure for decade's.....
So time is a factor.
 
The UK's 1950s-1960s debates on carriers vs land-based air, were really debates about the UK's future as a great power (whether they should bother trying to project power East of Suez like the US or just be Europe-focused). And ultimately even those conclusions were predicated on the RAF actually getting high-payload and long-range strike craft like TSR2 or F-111K. As good as they are, Tornado and Typhoon only give them roughly the same payload as USN F/A-18E/Fs at roughly similar. Good if you have friendly airbases in the hotspot, but not assured especially if the hotspot will take it into conflict with, say, the PRC.
The UK's debate about carrierborne vs. land-based air power also assumed that the mission was to land and support a brigade group.

Showing up once a day, blowing stuff up, and leaving again is something land-based aircraft are perfectly good at. You can do it at quite considerable ranges, and blow up substantial amounts of stuff, if you have the right aircraft in your Inventory.

Running a fairly major land operation entirely dependent on air support from a single airfield a thousand miles away starts to look a little optimistic, though. You're burning four hours of flight time just getting to the theatre of operations and back. On every sortie.

The kind of operations the UK planned on carrying out in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia were never really carried out by the UK, apart from in the Falklands. Operation PALLISER was similar in some ways, but smaller scale and didn't really face the kind of opposition expected in the East of Suez debates.
 
What land bases could the RAF have operated out of (realistically) in the Falklands?
Port Stanley Airport had the only hard-surfaced runway on the Falkland Islands.
During the re-invasion (British) Royal Engineers built a temporary pressed steel plate landing strip over-looking Falkland Sound. That was mainly used by Harriers until one of them blew up (as in inflated) one end …. reducing the useable lenghth.
Post war, the RAF built a new hard-surfaced airbase at Mount Pleasant, west of Port Stanley.
There are also dozens of short grass airstrips scattered about the Falkland Islands.
 
Events suggest otherwise. In every major post war conflict from Korea to Ukraine land based aircraft have delivered the bulk of air operations.

There have been a few minor exceptions involving the UK in its colonial roles such as Tanzania and the Beira Patrol in the 60s and the Falklands in 1982 but these were down to political rather than military choices
Consider what percentage of aircraft can land on ships. The consider what percentage can land on land.
Of course more damage was done by land-based aircraft.
Finally, consider how many air forces can afford long-range (trans-oceanic) strategic bombers.
 
The kind of operations the UK planned on carrying out in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia were never really carried out by the UK, apart from in the Falklands. Operation PALLISER was similar in some ways, but smaller scale and didn't really face the kind of opposition expected in the East of Suez debates.
Thinking about it, URGENT FURY was similar in scale and general concept, but against rather weaker opposition. I wondered if France had done something in that vein, but it doesn't seem to have done.
 
Thinking about it, URGENT FURY was similar in scale and general concept, but against rather weaker opposition. I wondered if France had done something in that vein, but it doesn't seem to have done.
I don't know of any French carrier-based interventions. Most of their work has been under the model of "land the troops needed in a place with no resistance and then drive to the sound of the guns"
 

Similar threads

Back
Top Bottom