Merchant Aircraft Carriers for the 21st Century?

A BBC Online article on the new generation of container ships:
Kadija_Man said:
Carriers are vulnerable, all ships are. The difference between a commercial hull and a naval hull is the degree of compartmentalisation which is built in. If you ship takes a hit, if it isn't structurally strong and heavily compartmentalised, it will either break the ship's back or cause excessive flooding to the point where it can't be stopped from sinking.
There's another problem... a merchant carrier would be slow. SSKs are a serious threat to any carrier that runs over them, but their lack of speed at least limits their ability to actively patrol-for/hunt-down a battlegroup in open water. A merchant CV would be a lot more vulnerable.
2IDSGT said:
There's another problem... a merchant carrier would be slow.

Slower than a purpose built carrier, of course, but if a modern container ship would be chosen as the basis,
speed would still be around 23 to 25 knots, I think.

And hunting down a battle group may not be its task, but just to be on station at a foreign coast and free
a another (true) carrier for other tasks, that perhaps require greater speed.

The maximum speed of fleet carriers hasn't changed that dramatically since WW II, I think, just it's seakeeping
qualities due to bigger size and better stabilization. And the British light fleets didn't seem to suffer that much
from their lower max speed.
I wonder if there are any plans in the wind for the JCG to use something like this:


[IMAGE CREDIT: Daily Yomiuri Online]

Sorry, I don't see anything about merchant aircraft carriers in the linked story. Can we try to stay on-topic, please?
Sorry, I was just using the Senkaku situation as an example of where MACs or similar could be useful.

Hewing back more closely to the subject matter:

Also, I found the below image at the Shipbucket Archive. The Boxed Ikara was intended for 'auxiliaries and STUFT'. Looks like development started before, and continued in parallel with, the Super Ikara. May explain certain Soviet reports of Super Ikara testing in the late '80s.


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That booklet about MV Astronomer is excellent. Thanks very much for finding it.

We were awash with containerized weapons for STUFT for quite a while post Falklands (up to and including Seawolf and even Sea Dart, I believe). Ikara strikes me as especially unneeded -- STUFT were not likely to have an ASW sensor capable of exploiting it.
TomS said:
Ikara strikes me as especially unneeded -- STUFT were not likely to have an ASW sensor capable of exploiting it.

They would if they embarked an ASW helo...
Hobbes said:
TomS said:
Ikara strikes me as especially unneeded -- STUFT were not likely to have an ASW sensor capable of exploiting it.

They would if they embarked an ASW helo...

Hmmm. What data link systems and the like would have been available for fitting to STUFT vessels in the late 1980s?
Hobbes said:
TomS said:
Ikara strikes me as especially unneeded -- STUFT were not likely to have an ASW sensor capable of exploiting it.

They would if they embarked an ASW helo...

Yes, but by this point, the helo could also carry the torpedo and engage the target directly. The need for separate hunter and killer systems (be they helos or missiles) was pretty much over by the 1980s. (and helos did not yet have the range to detect targets beyond the reach of their onboard weapons).

IMO, ASW standoff weapons only made sense in that era when paired with large bow dome or towed sonars, where the ship might make a credible contact beyond the range of over-the-side torpedoes without relying on a helicopter.
Does anyone have hard info on a containerised system, known at least initially as Sentry, that the USN was considering back in the mid-1970s? It was supposed to be a completely self-contained unit including radars, command and control facilities, and 16 vertically-launched missiles in a single container. Estimated cost around $1 million, in 1975 dollars.
Putting Ikar on ships TUFT would have provided a useful backup to allow ships which were fitted with ASW sensors to be datalinked to them and utilise them as backup launchers. One of the problems with modern ships is that while they may have had the sensor fit to prosecute large numbers of contacts, they lack the launchers and magazines to do so.
Nice stunt, although it may show, that such aircraft could be used from the highest layer of a
container ship as an "anti pirate patrol". Or maybe ships with a sufficient platform width and length,
could carry a fixed wing drone in certain areas.
The MV Oceanic is said to have steamed at 9 knots, but the conoship site gives it service speed as
12 knots and judging the bow wave it at least had that speed, I think !
I agree, a nice stunt but little or no military value. Any intelligence gathering that can be performed by eyeballs in an ultralight can be done from a UAV with much less cost, much less demand on ship volume and services, and much much lower crew risk.
.. and a rotary wing aircraft/UAV probably has a similar performance and can be used from a ship much
more easily. The only point for an ultra-light UAV could be the low price.
Grey Havoc said:
Just trying to illustrate a potential downside of MACs, sorry!

Ah, sorry, didn't get this. Why didn't you say so ? ;)
But perhaps containerised equipment, as quite probably used on MAC ships could even be advantageous ?
Those loads, which are especially risky with regards to fire or explosions (e.g. fuel and weapons) could be placed
as far outside, as possible, perhaps even with provision to be jettisoned overboard in the case of an
emergency ?
But jettisoning the useful stuff again points out a serious disadvantage of a converted commercial ship compared to a purpose built military ship. If a small scale enemy attack can start a fire and force a MAC to jettison the aviation fuel or the aircraft ordnance, the ship is out of effective action just as if it had been sunk. Picture a speed boat with an RPG defeating a carrier.
You're right, that's something to think about. But even if it's "just" a MAC, if a speedboat gets near enough for
an RPG shot, there ws something wrong before, I think. And even fullsize carriers probably could be damaged
by a single shot to an extent, that puts them out of action. But probably only, when they are at anchor in the
Harbour, not at sea. And, IIRC, jettisoning "useful stuff" happened n carriers, too, as aircraft were on fire were
pushed over the rounddown, when the situation arose, instead of extinguished.
My point was that a properly built military ship, with a crew trained in damage control, would only suffer limited damage in such an attack. Pushing one or two burning aircraft over the side is not the same as having to dump all, or even 50%, of the aviation fuel.
Judging the number of crew on a modern commercial ship, if in military use, the majority then would be
military personal either, I think. For that purpose the container used may have in common with a standard
container only the dimensions, otherwise they could be well protected with, say, splinter guards, fire suppression
system and the like. Jettisoning would only be the the last resort. But, just as an example, if the crew of the
"Atlantic Conveyor" could have get rid of fuel and ammo quickly, they may have been able to deliver at least
the Helis and Harriers, not to mention the survival of the ship. Maybe not a solution for a purpose built carrier,
but I think, still today fire is one of the greates hazards and if a fire reaches the magazines it quite probably will
result in a total loss.


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thank you for posting dear Triton. great work.
On a tangent:
Great post!!

I have the same ideia about that!!

If you have some merchant ships with pre designed military installations, it would be much better than the Arapaho or scads doctrine. Miniaturization of weapons and equipment plug and play help in a much better result than 30 years ago.
in fact, no need to possess great ability to combat persistence, because in a strong war of attrition, large or small boats sink in the same way. I know of cases of specialized vessels that have survived to modern attacks, whether by bombs, missiles or torpedoes.

So get multiply the number of ships and spray (dilute) the force seems to me the best strategy.

I advocate this way for the Brazilian Navy.


read the link
I had read somewhere that the Australians had considered converting a civilian ship into an aircraft carrier to replace HMAS Melbourne. Does anyone have any more info ?
Q-ship level of disguise is what I would want.

Say five rows of “containers” down is a flight deck atop empty containers of foam…ammo three levels below that.

Fake containers over the side…elevator up and down… airplanes empty out…instant flat-top that could soak up more punishment that standard carrier….due to inert rows being crush space.

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