Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Good news for the RN, and USN eyes a new CGN class.

It's been a fairly interesting week, navy-wise. First off, the Royal Navy is going to get it's new Carriers. Second, Defense News ran an article indicating that the USN is interested in a CGN as a following on to the Venerable Ticonderoga class cruisers.

First, the CVF. One of Tony Blair's first acts as PM was to commence a study to determine what the British military's force structure should look like in the early 21st Century. Surprise surprise, the study revealed that the CVLs built in the '70s and '80s to combat the Soviet sub threat were of decreasing utility in the modern area. Large carriers that carried big airwings are of more use in likely future actions, as the USN carrier fleet has proven again and again. And so, the decision was made to procure two large carriers and retire the 3 Invincibles. Only one problem.

The procurement process dragged on. And on. And on. Eventually, 10 years passed and the damned things hadn't even been ordered yet, while retirement of the mediocre CVLs had begun. Eventually, French participation in the project(the French requiring a back up for the infamous Charles de Gaulle) breathed new life into it, and, I suspect, saved the project entirely. The CVFs will use the F-35 "Joint Strike Fighter" in STOVL configuration, which will be a step up from the Harriers and Sea Harriers. One big problem though is that the RN has opted to use gas turbines instead of nuclear reactors.

Which brings us to our second subject. The USN is eying a return to nuclear propulsion for surface combatants. Why? Well, oil prices are high, and they are only going to get higher. The largest single "coast of business"(besides human lives) in Iraq has been fuel. Fuel for tanks, trucks, Helos, planes, and ships. And so much of that fuel comes from the Middle East. So not only is it increasingly costly to operate "conventional" powerplants, but it isn't very secure either. And eventually we will start hitting a wall in oil production, which means we'll have a lot of idle ships. Following Saint Rickover's example can lead the USN into continued global dominance, while the rest of the world struggles to protect their own coasts, much less project power. Blessed be Saint Rickover.

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