Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, is reportedly preparing for a major naval exercise involving dozens of small boats to demonstrate its ability to close off the highly strategic Strait of Hormuz, which separates the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman, to international shipping with mines and other hazards. The snap drill follows a new surge in tensions between the United States and Iran and comes amid efforts on the part of Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen to block the equally vital Bab Al Mandeb Strait linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden.

Reports of the impending exercise first began to emerge on Aug. 1, 2018. Though the drill in of itself is not unusual, the timing is, with the annual event typically occurring later in the year. There are also indications from various outlets, including Fox and CNN, citing unnamed sources, that this year’s iteration will be larger than normal, featuring over 100 watercraft of various descriptions.

“We will make the enemy understand that either everyone can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one,” the IRGC’s commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said on July 5, 2018. The powerful quasi-military organization has hundreds of small boats and semi-submersibles and often works with the regular Iranian Navy's midget submarines. Any of these boats could lay mines and otherwise harass both civilian maritime activities and foreign military operations in and around the Strait.

“The Americans have claimed they want to completely stop Iran’s oil exports,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also said in July 2018 before making what could be considered to be his own veiled threat. “They don’t understand the meaning of this statement because it has no meaning for Iranian oil not to be exported while the region’s oil is exported.”


A map showing the Strait of Hormuz, the main neck of which is seen between the marker for Bandar Abbas in Iran and Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates. 
Rouhani made those comments while in Switzerland trying to maintain support for the international deal over his country’s controversial nuclear program. In May 2018, the U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration withdrew the United States from the agreement and pledged to re-enact various sanctions against Iran, including efforts to block its oil exports.
Subsequent comments from Rouhani prompted a fiery tirade from Trump on Twitter. The U.S. military has made it clear that it, along with its regional partners, will take steps necessary to keep the Strait open in the event Iran decides to follow through on its threats.


The US president tweeted  that “Iran is playing with fire,” warning Tehran that he won’t be as “kind” as his predecessor, Barack Obama.
A landmark deal, brokered during Obama’s time in office, stated that Iran would dramatically curb its nuclear potential, but not completely, cutting the number of its centrifuges by two-thirds.
The deal also obliges Tehran to cap its uranium enrichment program below the level necessary for bomb-grade material, and involves Tehran agreeing to reduce its enriched uranium stockpile from around 10,000kg to 300kg for 15 years. In exchange, long-standing international sanctions against Tehran were lifted.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also took to social media to respond to Trump’s allegations, saying that Iran was “unmoved” by US threats and “will never initiate war.”Laser weapons, silent subs and battleships that sail themselves: Experts reveal how navy fleets of the future will rule the waves

  • The Royal Navy in the UK has designed the Dreadnought 2050 concept, a high-tech trimaran vessel
  • USS Gerald R Ford, also known as CVN 78 is the first aircraft carrier to be designed using 3D computer modelling
  • Diesel-electric subs are considered to be the quietest in the world, leading Nato to nickname them 'black holes'
  • Other high-tech upgrades include laser weapons, drone boats and electromagnetic railguns fitted to carriers 
They are the ultimate symbol of military might, capable of providing a dominant presence in almost any region of the world where there is a nearby ocean.
But as technology has advanced, the hulking weaponry and armour of warships that have ruled the waves are having to change and adapt to these high-tech times.

President Barack Obama has committed the United States to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran seems determined to acquire them. As the United States and Iran approach confrontation and possible war to halt Tehran’s nuclear program, it is useful to remember that America has already fought one war with the Islamic Republic of Iran. During the late 1980s, President Ronald Reagan intervened in the Iran- Iraq War in support of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein, ultimately leading to an Iraqi victory. The United States engaged in an undeclared yet bloody naval and air war, while Iraq fought a brutal land war against Iran. The lessons of the first war with Iran should be carefully considered before the United States embarks hastily on a second.
In hindsight, the central lesson of the war in the 1980s is that it is easy to start a conflict with Iran and very difficult to end it. The Islamic Republic of Iran is not easy to intimidate and is likely to retaliate asymmetrically. Another key lesson is to beware the advice of your allies, both Arabs and Israelis, who are prone to give irresponsible recommendations on how to deal with Tehran.
The Toll of the Iran-Iraq War
The Iran-Iraq War was devastating. It was one of the largest and longest conventional interstate wars since the Korean War ended in 1953. A half million lives were lost, and perhaps another million were injured. The economic cost of the war exceeded one trillion dollars.1 Yet, the battle lines at the end of the war were almost exactly where they had been at the beginning of hostilities. It was also the only war in modern times in which chemical weapons were used on a massive scale.
Although the war ended in 1988, it led to numerous aftershocks that rippled throughout the region including the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the liberation of Kuwait a year later, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The bloody U.S. war that President Obama recently ended in Iraq was the finale in this march of folly. The seeds of multigenerational tragedy were planted in the Iran-Iraq War. The world will live with its consequences for decades, if not longer.

There were no “good guys” in the Iran-Iraq War, only two brutal dictatorships. Saddam Hussein was a megalomaniac who built enormous, ugly monuments to his ambitions and dreamed of becoming the dominant power in the Persian Gulf, controlling the world’s oil supplies, and destroying Israel. At the end of the first Gulf War in 1988, Hussein waged genocide against his own Kurdish population. Ayatollah Khomeini created a theocracy in Iran which imprisoned and executed thousands of its own citizens, forced tens of thousands into exile, and even took American diplomats hostage.
U.S. Policy During the War
America had no natural partners in the Iran-Iraq War, but its interests dictated that the United States allow neither Saddam nor Khomeini to dominate the region and the world’s energy supply. For most of the war, it was Iran that appeared on the verge of victory, so Washington had little choice but to support Iraq.
For those who aspire to a national security policy built on the principles of the United Nations Charter or a moral high ground, Iran-Iraq was an immoral swamp. For American policymakers in the 1980s, there was a simple difference. When the war began, Iran held dozens of American diplomats hostage and even tortured some. Only after 444 days in captivity did Iran let the American hostages go. In contrast to Khomeini, many Americans hoped that the Iraqi leader was somehow redeemable and could be worked with as a difficult but manageable partner. We realize now that this was a mirage, but in the 1980s it was still a hope. Thus, America tilted toward Iraq, hoping it would hold back the “medieval fanatics” to the east from gaining control of the world’s oil reserves.
But “our side” kept breaking the rules. First, Iraq was the aggressor in September 1980. Certainly Iraq had been provoked by Iranian actions along the border, but the main act of aggression was carried out by the Iraqi army in the form of a massive attack. As long as Iraq held Iranian territory, Washington did not call for the restoration of the status quo ante as would be the norm for most international conflicts; only when the tables turned did the United States call for respect for the international border. Then Iraq began using chemical weapons—first, in a piecemeal and largely ineffectual fashion, but by the war’s end, on an industrial scale and with decisive effect. The threat of Iraqi chemical warheads on long range missiles cleared Tehran of many of its inhabitants in 1988, and Saddam began using chemical warheads to systematically kill his own people. Rather than fall silent, the guns of war merely changed theaters with the 1988 cease-fire, as the Anfal campaign against the Iraqi Kurds began, an act of pure genocide by the government that the United States had supported during the war.
The conflict was not President Ronald Reagan’s finest hour. At first he tilted toward Iraq, sending the CIA to Baghdad with critical intelligence in 1982 to thwart Iran’s war plans. It worked. Then Reagan tilted toward Iran, sending sophisticated arms to Tehran in an effort to get American hostages in Lebanon freed. It didn’t work. A few hostages were released but more hostages were taken. Then Reagan tilted back toward Iraq and Washington’s undeclared war followed in 1987 and 1988. The principal architect of the policy was Reagan’s Director of Central Intelligence, Bill Casey, who died before the Iran scandal forced his resignation and possible indictment.
Lessons for Today
So what are the lessons of this war for America today? The first lesson is that we should expect to be blamed for all that goes wrong. Both Iraqis and Iranians came to believe the United States was manipulating each of them during the war. Ironically, and perhaps naively, the United States tried to reach out to both belligerents through the course of the war— in great secrecy both times—to try to build a strategic partnership. The disastrous arms-for-hostages policy, which came to be known as the Iran- Contra affair, convinced Iraqis rightly that the United States was trying to play both sides of the conflict. The result was that when the war ended, the Iraqi regime and most Iraqis regarded the United States as a threat, despite Washington’s support during the war. That support had taken the form of critical intelligence assistance to Baghdad, considerable diplomatic cover, and largesse from our Arab allies who loaned tens of billions of dollars to Baghdad to sustain Iraq’s war effort.
Iranians call the war the “Imposed War” because they believe the United States subjected them to the conflict and orchestrated the global “tilt” toward Iraq. They note that the United Nations did not condemn Iraq for starting the war. In fact, the UN did not even discuss the war for weeks after it started, and it ultimately considered Iraq to be the aggressor only years later, as part of a deal orchestrated by President George H.W. Bush to free the remaining U.S. hostages held by pro-Iranian terrorists in Lebanon.
Although the war had tragic consequences for Iran, by portraying the conflict as a “David and Goliath” struggle imposed by the United States and its allies, Iranian leaders managed to consolidate the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The Revolution was fairly short in duration and its cost was miniscule in comparison to the Iran-Iraq War. For the generation of Iranians who are now leading their country, including men like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the war was the defining event of their lives and a major force in shaping their worldview. Their anti-Americanism and deep suspicion of the West can be traced directly to their understanding of the Iran-Iraq War. We should thus expect the next war to make Iran more extreme and more determined to get the bomb.
Another lesson of the first war is that Iran will not be easily intimidated by the United States. By 1987, Iran was devastated by the war, many of its cities had been destroyed, its oil exports were minimal. and its economy was shattered. But it did not hesitate to fight the U.S. Navy in the Gulf and to use asymmetric means to retaliate in Lebanon and elsewhere. Even with most of its navy sunk by U.S. Naval forces, Iran kept fighting and the Iranian people continued rallying behind Ayatollah Khomeini.
Iran fought a smart war, avoiding too rapid and too dangerous an escalation. As General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has noted, Iranian behavior is rational, not suicidal.2 Iran will not take steps that endanger the revolution’s survival; the country will look to exploit America’s vulnerabilities in Afghanistan and Bahrain, as well as Israel’s in Lebanon and the Saudis’ in Yemen. In the 1980s, Iran created Hezbollah in Lebanon to attack American, French, and Israeli targets as punishment for American support of Iraq. Hezbollah then tried to assassinate the emir of Kuwait to punish that country for being Iraq’s outlet to the Persian Gulf. In essence, Iran expanded the battlefield of the Iran-Iraq War to other countries where it could exploit security vulnerabilities. We should expect the same in a future war, one for which Iran and Hezbollah have had decades to prepare. Indeed, Iran and Hezbollah are already waging a low intensity terror campaign against Israel from Bulgaria to India, and they have reportedly used cyber warfare against Saudi and Qatari oil companies.3
Another lesson is that ending a future war will be a challenge. In 1988, Iran sued for a cease-fire only after suffering catastrophic defeat on the ground against Iraqi forces and after Saddam Hussein threatened to fire Scud missiles armed with chemical warheads into Iranian cities.4 Iranians feared they would face a second “Hiroshima” if they did not accept a truce; indeed many evacuated Tehran in fear of an Iraqi chemical attack. For Khomeini, accepting the truce was like “drinking poison.”5 No two wars are identical, but history suggests that Iran will not back down easily.
The final lesson is to always scrutinize the advice of allies. Ironically, in the 1980s the closest U.S. partner in the region, Israel, pressed Washington hard and repeatedly to essentially switch sides and offer assistance to Iran. Israeli leaders, generals, and spies were obsessed by the Iraqi threat in the 1980s just as they are preoccupied by the Iranian threat today, and they longed to restore the cozy relationship they had with the Shah in the 1960s and 1970s. Through the Iraq-Iran War, Israel was the only consistent source of spare parts for the Iranian air force’s U.S.-made jets.6 Israeli leaders, notably Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, brought considerable pressure to bear on Washington for an American engagement with Tehran, and Iran-Contra was in many ways their idea. American diplomats and spies deployed abroad were told to turn a blind eye to Israeli arms deals with Tehran, even when it was official U.S. policy (in the Washington euphemism of the day) to “staunch” all avenues by which the Iranians might obtain weapons or other material needed for their war effort.7
America’s Arab allies provided equally bad advice. Egypt’s President Mubarak, Jordan’s King Hussein, and Saudi King Fahd all urged support for Saddam and Iraq, while turning a blind eye to Saddam’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. Egypt sent arms, Jordan sent volunteers, and the Saudis bankrolled Saddam’s war, while telling America that he was a born-again moderate who could be worked with and trusted. It was not to be.
Looking back a quarter century after the war in 1988 is revealing and sobering. America accomplished its immediate goals in the first war: it halted Iran’s advance into Iraq, defended the tankers in the Gulf, and contained the war from spreading into the Arabian Peninsula. Khomeini did not conquer Basra and Baghdad and march on Jerusalem as he dreamed he would. But today, Iran is the dominant foreign power in Baghdad, thanks in large part to another war America fought in the Gulf. President George W. Bush toppled Saddam and ended his brutal dictatorship, but in doing so, Bush opened the door to a Shia majority government which is much friendlier to Tehran than to Riyadh or Amman, or Washington. These are sobering reminders of the unintended consequences of wars.
The first American war with Iran helped make Iran a more radical and extreme country. A second war may well do the same. Thus another war with Iran to stop its nuclear program may ultimately prove to be the catalyst that pushes Iran to acquire a dangerous nuclear weapons arsenal. Rather than stopping proliferation, it could incite it further.

The U.S. Navy stands ready to ensure free navigation and the flow of commerce, the U.S. military’s Central Command said on Thursday, as Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned they would block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if necessary.

FILE PHOTO: The Sterett Destroyer escorts the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) during a transit through the Strait of Hormuz, February 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh/File Photo
With tensions rising over the strategic waterway, the European Union is proposing a plan for salvaging a multinational nuclear deal with Tehran after Washington withdrew, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told leaders in Paris and Berlin on Thursday that the package did not go far enough.
Rouhani and some senior military commanders have threatened in recent days to disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf countries if Washington tries to strangle Tehran’s exports.
Praising Rouhani’s “firm stance” against the United States, the head of the Revolutionary Guards said their forces were ready to block the Strait of Hormuz which links the Gulf to the open sea.

The most commonly proposed alternative to carriers is building a much larger number of smaller, nimbler vessels, including submarines and surface ships. Submarines don´t require escorts and can hit distant targets on land. And carriers have not been tested in battle against an enemy able to fight back since World War II - more than 70 years ago.

Darpa, the Pentagon's Virgina-based military research agency, claims these flying fortresses will overcome the limits of speed, range and endurance typically associated with drones. 


A fleet of these crafts and submarines can do the job with greater numbers. The need for tankers will be minimal with the use of the US base in Djibouti by these surface skimming crafts.  Although there has been much speculation about emerging threats to big capital ships, the Navy invests heavily in new offensive and defensive technologies aimed at countering such dangers.  The most important advance of recent years has been the netting together of all naval assets in an area so that sensors and weapons can be used to maximum effect.  Initiatives like the Naval Integrated Fire Control - Counter Air program link together every available combat system in a seamless, fast-reacting defensive screen that few adversaries can penetrate.  Numerous other advances are being introduced, from the penetrating recon capabilities of stealthy fighters to shipboard jamming systems to advanced obscurants that confuse the guidance systems of homing missiles.


Iran confirms it held war games exercises in the Gulf this weekend to train military in 'confronting possible threats'

  • Iran's Revolutionary Guards said it held war games in the Gulf this weekend
  • US officials reported last week of increased activity in Gulf's Strait of Hormuz
  • Iran said the military drills had been aimed at 'confronting possible threats'
  • Iran was left furious after Donald Trump pulled out of international nuclear deal 

Iran has confirmed that it had held war games in the Gulf over the weekend, saying they were aimed at 'confronting possible threats' by enemies.
The drills, said to involve more than 100 warships, were carried out by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, a paramilitary branch of its army which is dedicated to protecting the country's Islamic system.
U.S. officials reported last week that they believed Iran had started carrying out naval exercises in the Gulf, apparently moving up the timing of annual drills amid heightened tensions with Washington. 
It happened: Iran's Revolutionary Guards confirmed that it held war games in the Gulf this weekend. Pictured: Iranian navy vessels take part in a military exercise in the Strait of Hormuz in January 2012
It happened: Iran's Revolutionary Guards confirmed that it held war games in the Gulf this weekend. Pictured: Iranian navy vessels take part in a military exercise in the Strait of Hormuz in January 2012
Confirmed: US officials reported last week that ther had been an  increase in naval activity in the Strait of Hormuz - a strategic waterway for oil shipments
Confirmed: US officials reported last week that ther had been an increase in naval activity in the Strait of Hormuz - a strategic waterway for oil shipments
Iran has been furious over U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of an international nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Tehran. 
Senior Iranian officials have warned the country would not easily yield to a renewed U.S. campaign to strangle Iran's vital oil exports. 
'This exercise was conducted with the aim of controlling and safeguarding the safety of the international waterway and within the framework of the programme of the Guards' annual military exercises,' Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif said, according to Iranian state news agency IRNA.
Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari 'expressed satisfaction over the successful conduct of the Guards naval exercise, emphasising the need to maintain and enhance defence readiness and the security of the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz and to confront threats and potential adventurous acts of enemies'.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the drills appeared designed to send a message to Washington, which is intensifying its economic and diplomatic pressure on Tehran but so far stopping short of using the U.S. military to more aggressively counter Iran and its proxies. 
Iranian naval officers salute during the military exercises in the Persian Gulf in January 2012
Iranian naval officers salute during the military exercises in the Persian Gulf in January 2012
Video playing bottom right...

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The U.S. military's Central Command said last weak that it had seen increased Iranian naval activity in the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway for oil shipments the Revolutionary Guards have threatened to block. 
But Iran did not appear interested in drawing attention to the drills. Iranian authorities had not commented on them earlier and several officials contacted by Reuters this week had declined to comment.
Last month, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backed President Hassan Rouhani's suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are stopped.
Rouhani's apparent threat earlier in July to disrupt oil shipments from neighbouring countries came in reaction to the looming U.S. sanctions and efforts by Washington to force all countries to stop buying Iranian oil

The flying ship is a ground effect vehicle (GEV) is a vehicle that is designed to attain sustained flight over a level surface (usually over the sea), by making use of ground effect, the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface. Among the best known are the Soviet ekranoplans, but names like wing-in-ground-effect (WIG), flarecraft, sea skimmer, or wing-in-surface-effect ship (WISE) are also used.

It will carry UAV's like these advance Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) designed for carrier-based operations. Developed by the American defense technology company Northrop Grumman, the X-47 project began as part of DARPA's J-UCAS program, and is now part of the United States Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. The X-47B first flew in 2011, and as of 2014, it is undergoing flight and operational integration testing, having successfully performed a series of land- and carrier-based demonstrations.[2][3][4] Northrop Grumman intends to develop the prototype X-47B into a battlefield-ready aircraft, the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) system, which will enter service by 2019.[5] In August, 2014, the US Navy announced that it had integrated the X-47B into carrier operations alongside manned aircraft.

Today, the ekranoplans are produced with a displacement of up to three thousand tonnes, though craft betwenn 1500 to 2000 tonnes are typical, and both the engineering and technological issues have been resolved. Such displacement will allow the installation of various weapons and hardening of the airframe, including by armouring important components. It will also allow the installation of a power plant giving the ekranoplan cruising speeds of 400 km per hour, and maximum speed of 500 km/hr, with fuel reserves ensuring range of 5000 to 7000 miles. Current airplanes, weighing 200-300 tonnes can fly without refuelling 10,000 to 12,000 kilometres.
The main reason for the interest in the ekranoplan is its incomparably higher speed than that of naval ships’. This provides an opportunity for operational and tactical group manoeuvres in terms of approaching similar levels of aircraft. Thus the ekranoplans are invulnerable to current anti-ship missiles which can only engage slow-moving targets. They may be engaged by air-to-air missiles, though the ekranoplan’s ability to alight on the water limits their effectiveness.
When comparing with traditional aircraft, the advantages of the ekranoplans, in the cruise control mode at extremely low altitudes over the entire route and with the ability to alight on the water with minimal fuel usage, allows to significantly increase the on-station time and the weapons load. An important advantage is the prolonged endurance, potentially reaching several days.
The weaknesses of the ekranoplans include the limits of weaponry that can be used, be it naval or aircraft.
The main use of the ekranoplan is combatting surface ship groups, such as aircraft carrier groups. The high-speed ships deprive the enemy of time (for distances greater than 500 kilometres) to detect the ekranoplans traveling directly over water and attack them.
Their significant size will allow them to carry anti-ship weapons sufficient to inflict enough damage to the aircraft carrier group by four or five ekranoplans, as well as SAMs to counter enemy fighters. The technical aspects of such ekranoplans will probably be of 1500 to 1800 tonnes displacement, with speeds of up to 500 kilometres for distances of 5000 to 6000 miles, with main weapons systems of 12 to 16 anti-ship missiles with an effective range of up to 300 kilometres, SAMs with range of 120 to 160 kilometres, 1 or 2 30mm guns for close-range fights, 4 small drones for surveillance. This machine is capable of quickly reaching the launch point for anti-ship missiles, launch, then swiftly evade return fire.
For the destruction of enemy surface ships in closed marine theater, ekranoplans can be used against groups of ships of relatively small displacement, primarily in zones of powerful anti-aircraft and anti-ship defences. There exist designs with displacement between 100 and 150 tonnes, with speeds of 450 to 500 kilometres per hour, and  range of 500 miles while carrying 4 to 8 anti-ship missiles.
The Navy and some outside defense experts say that despite increased threats, carriers remain fully viable and perform an essential service. They laud carriers´ mobility and swiftness, enabling the United States to project air power to places otherwise unreachable.
Carrier proponent Bryan McGrath, the deputy director of the Hudson Institute´s Center for American Seapower in Washington, said carriers are less vulnerable than stationary, land-based air bases.
"A carrier is a big floating airport, and not only a floating airport, but it moves at 40 knots," says McGrath, a former captain of a guided missile destroyer. "How much more vulnerable are airfields on land that don´t move?"
But Sprey, the former Defense Department official and longtime Pentagon procurement critic, says carriers waste funds that could be used to build more cost-effective weapons systems.
"Every Ford-class carrier we build detracts from U.S. defense," Sprey said.
Both strong supporters of carriers as well as opponents agreed that there is a serious flaw in the current configuration of U.S. carriers: their complement of strike aircraft. Almost all are short-range jets, the F-18 Hornet, whose range could render the planes useless in some conflicts.
The Chinese, in particular, have established sea zones bristling with anti-ship weapons meant to make it impossible for enemy flotillas to enter.
Top U.S Navy commanders, including Pacific commander Swift and Vice Admiral Mike Shoemaker, the Navy "Air Boss" in charge of carriers, say carriers could safely enter such zones long enough to carry out a mission. But many outside analysts say a U.S. president would be hesitant to risk such an expensive ship and the lives of up to 5,500 crew members.
In order to be relatively safe, a carrier would have to stand off by 1,300 nautical miles, or 2,300 kilometers - out of range of the Dong Feng missiles. And the F-18s have a range of only 400 nautical miles (equal to 460 statute miles or 740 kilometers) to a target with enough fuel to return.

Experts on both sides of the debate say that if the carriers have to stand off, the Hornets would have to be refueled in midair an impractical number of times while flying to and from their targets. It thus would be all but impossible for carriers to send air power into war zones.

This study concludes that while the operational environment for the aircraft carrier is becoming increasingly dangerous, with proper enhancements to concepts, capabilities, and capacities, the CSG will continue to play a critical role in the Joint Force architecture in high-end warfare, even as it continues to be the option of choice for naval presence and response throughout the entire range of military operations. The process of periodically evaluating the effectiveness and relevance of the aircraft carrier is an important one, and policymakers should continue to ask cogent questions and force carrier proponents to examine their assumptions. Accordingly, the Ford Class should not be considered the final word on the subject of naval power projection, nor should policymakers feel constrained to fifty years of acquiring these ships. That said, the decision to move away from the large, nuclear powered aircraft carrier-centric Navy to some other fleet design must be held up to similar levels of scrutiny. Those who would build smaller, conventionally-powered carriers need to account for the major decrease in warfighting capability and capacity. Those who would build smaller, nuclear powered carriers in order to harvest savings to distribute to other parts of the Navy (or elsewhere) need to account for the mismatch between actual savings and actual capability decrements. Those who would de-emphasize the carrier altogether need to account for the decrease in Navy capability across the span of operational states and the gaping hole left in Joint warfighting, especially in the absence of forward, land-based airfields. And those who would attack the carrier solely on the basis of its cost must also account for its value, its flexibility, and its durability. The Chinese A2/AD complex represents the greatest threat to the aircraft carrier; paradoxically, the requirements of this highend engagement argue strongly for the CVN. Put another way, whatever the degree of risk that applies to the carrier and its strike group in a war with China, that risk is greatly T 102 exceeded by the risk to U.S. land-based power projection, sea-control, and ISR activities; and if the Joint Force is to prevail in such a conflict, the operational contributions of the nation’s carrier fleet will prove essential. This continuing utility and Joint Force interdependence argues strongly for increased investment in concepts, capability, and capacity to enable the CSG and other naval forces to operate with acceptable levels of risk against high-end A2/AD opponents. These investments include a sufficiently sized carrier force to service the nation’s strategic requirements in peace and war, an air wing optimized for the high-end A2/AD threat, escort ships with the capacity to stay in the fight longer and rejoin it quicker, a logistics force up to the task of sustaining multipleCSG operations at extended ranges from forward operating and logistics bases, and innovative concepts of operation to tie them all together. Perhaps some other platform, or combination of platforms, or combination of platforms and capabilities, could more effectively and efficiently provide all of the capabilities currently fielded and anticipated to be fielded in the future in the CVN. Our survey of the alternatives to the large CVN leads us to conclude that while there are some capabilities that offer portions of the capabilities that the carrier provides, no approach provides them all. Furthermore, to the extent that these approaches attempt to replicate the CVN’s capabilities at a lower capacity and cost, we find that the savings are modest and the performance decline is considerable. We do not advocate for these enhancements simply to “save” the aircraft carrier. If our research had concluded that ridding the fleet of carriers added in some demonstrable way to U.S. naval effectiveness in both peace and war, the navalists associated with this report would have so stated. But late in 2015, the country finds itself in a quandary, in that such an argument has not been persuasively made, while at the same time, the resources going into the present instantiation of the carrier and the CSG poorly account for either the advances made by threats or the increasingly obvious requirements of future Joint Force warfighting. Without a change in the allocation and amount of these investments, after eight decades of trying, the critics of the aircraft carrier will justifiably be correct, and the value of the aircraft carrier to the nation will have sunk. 

History of course does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Lessons of old wars should be carefully considered before entering new ones. Many Americans have forgotten the lessons of our undeclared war in the 1980s. We have fought so many other wars since: in Iraq (twice), in Afghanistan, and in Libya. While it may be easy for Washington to forget, no Iranian has.

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