Just how defensible are carrier strike groups against these threats?

December 18th, 2011  

Topic: Just how defensible are carrier strike groups against these threats?

Recently, I've been hearing a lot about threats to U.S. carrier battle groups from Chinese tech. Here's my 0.02 on the situation; however, I'm not a navy man, so I was wondering if I could get some info from people more experienced than I am on whether or not what I'm talking about is true or not. So, here are some threats, and possible solutions:

1) The DF-21D. This seems to be getting A LOT of news. Now, I'm going to assume it actually works as intended (although the Chinese do have a history of fibbing about their tech). In this case, I'm going to assume the Chinese launch ten DF-21D missiles at the group (Popular Mechanics gave a number of five, and one U.S. Admiral said the number in a salvo would be 'several', so I'm going to assume ten would be the maximum, but please correct me if you think a salvo would contain more missiles). So, after coming up on the CSGs radar, a Tico would launch ten SM-6 missiles at the DF-21Ds. The SM-6 has a maximum altitude of just over 110,000 feet, which is low enough to evade any 'mylar balloon' decoys the Chinese could include, as those are only useful in the post-boost, pre-terminal phase of flight. The lowest accuracy ratings I've seen for a SM-6 against a highly agile target such as the DF-21D are 70% (the SM-6 was specifically designed to defend against highly agile designs). I'm now going to assume Murphy's Law plays out, and one SM-6 malfunctions at some time during flight, making it inoperable. The remaining nine, given a 70% accuracy, would take out six of the missiles at just about 110,000 feet, leaving four remaining. In response, the Tico launches a second salvo of eight SM-6s, which take out three of the missiles, assuming one SM-6 fails in flight (I'm REALLY taking Murphy's Law to its fullest extent here ), and the rest get a 70% chance of interception, and intercept at about 20,000 feet (assuming the DF-21D is traveling at Mach 10). The Tico then launches four SM-2s at the remaining warhead. Again, if one malfunctions and leaves three, the SM-2 should be effective so long as it has a 25%+ accuracy rate (even against a highly agile MaRV, I would assume it gets at least that), and they intercept the remaining warhead at just about 1,000 feet (assuming Mach 10 DF-21D speeds). This is low enough so that fragments from the DF-21D cause slight damage to the carrier, but it is obviously less dangerous than being hit be an IRBM. Thus, the carrier is safe, and there shouldn't be any more ballistic missile attacks, since the launch sites could be expecting a fun little surprise visit from Tomahawks shortly after launch.

2) At the same time, a group of Kilo class submarines, which have upgrades to give them stealth capabilities from sonar, are waiting behind rock formations, which hides them still further. They are undetected on the Virginia class submarine's sonar, but apparently the Navy is developing unmanned underwater vehicles that will use a "searchlight" type of sonar that would be deployed by the group to search for subs, and can pick up even the stealthy Kilo, even if the sub is hiding where normal radar would be shadowed. After beaming back the coordinates of the sub to the Virginia class submarine, the U.S. sub destroys the Kilos before they have the chance to fire ASCMs or torpedoes. Thus, the carrier is safe.

3) At the same time, Chinese warplanes approach the group and launch "Sizzler" cruise missiles at it. Because Sizzlers can perform agile maneuvers to beat Rolling Airframe Missile defense systems, these defenses are near-useless. However, the Navy is equipping F/A-18E Super Hornets with AESA radar, which allows these planes to target small, agile targets such as cruise missiles with missiles of their own, such as the AIM-9X, which is even more maneuverable than the venerable Sizzler. I do not know how many Sizzlers could be fired by the Chinese planes (it would be quite helpful if anyone here could elaborate on how many Sizzler missiles Chinese planes would fire in a salvo, and whether or not the F/A-18Es have enough AIM-9Xs to target them. Anyway, the F/A-18s each have six AIM-9s and AIM-7s, giving the twenty-four Super Hornets on the carrier a total of 144 missiles. However, assuming 75% accuracy and Murphy's Law, let's assume 105 missiles effectively impact). This gives the Hornets the ability to intercept 105 Sizzlers -- does anyone here know if that would be enough of a defensive ability, or would the Chinese planes be likely to launch more than 105 at once? Anyhow, if the planes have enough AIM-9s and AIM-7s, the carrier is safe from this threat.

4) At the same time, the group is attacked by a multitude of sea- and land-launched cruise missiles. Because the Kilo-class submarines have been destroyed, and the Chinese air assault dealt with, the cruise missiles in this strike should include, at worst, "Sunburn" style cruise missiles. While these missiles are fast, they are exactly the type of missiles the Rolling Airframe Missile and Evolved Sea Sparrow are built to defend against, and thus the carrier is safe. However, could anyone here give any answers as to how many cruise missiles would be fired by a simultaneous firing of Chinese land and sea launchers (both mobile land launchers and any Chinese missile boats in the area), and whether or not the group would have enough Evolved Sea Sparrows and RAMs to defend against an attack of that magnitude without being overwhelmed?

5) At the same time, the Chinese send J-10 and J-11 fighters to attack the group. In response, the F-15Cs that guard the carrier (since each carrier also normally has air support from a nearby airbase) fight off the Chinese planes with their superior radar systems (the F-15C can track more targets at once, and has a longer range than the J-10 or J-11 radars, and the F-15Cs are currently being upgraded with AESA radars, giving them superior jamming ability whilst making them more resistant to jamming themselves), and thus the carrier is safe. According to a Popular Mechanics article, even if the Chinese launch an attack on Kadena air base (from which I'm assuming the carrier is sailing from in this Taiwan defense scenario), at least twenty F-15Cs would get off the ground in time. If the base is protected from Chinese ballistic missile and cruise missile attacks by THAAD, all forty could make it. This seems like it should be enough to fight off the group of J-10s and J-11s; however, if anyone has information to the contrary, please tell me.

At the end of this "simulation", the aircraft carrier is safe, apart from moderate damaged caused by the low impact of the last DF-21D and a few cruise missiles that managed to slip past the defense system (no system is perfect). Although deck cratering caused by the low impact of the DF-21D would cause trouble launching large numbers of aircraft, and the few cruise missile impacts would damage the ship moderately, the carrier would not be sunk, and it would still be able to reach its destination.

However, here's my disclaimer: I'm not claiming the carrier strike group is invincible. I definitely agree it's nowhere near invulnerable, and it can *obviously* be sunk -- of course its very true that no defense systems are perfect. That being said, based on what I've said, I'd say its safe to assume that carrier strike groups are relatively safe from Chinese attacks in a possible (but unlikely) Taiwan confrontation.

Just to pose a question, here's some info I was wondering if anyone here could supply and/or estimate answers for:

- How many DF-21Ds would be launched in a salvo against a U.S. carrier group?

- How many Sizzler cruise missiles would be launched against a U.S. carrier group by Chinese aircraft, and would the 105 U.S. counterattack rockets be enough to stop them?

- How many cruise missiles would be launched against a U.S. carrier group by Chinese land and sea based launchers (mobile land launchers and missile ships), and would it be enough to overwhelm U.S. Rolling Airframe Missile and Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles from the eight ships in a carrier group? (one carrier, one cruiser, and six destroyers)
December 19th, 2011  
Assuming the amount of missiles they have stockpiled and copied, I think the battle group would be overwhelmed by the massive number of missiles headed their way. Just imagine being on a carrier and watching the horizon become a wall of missiles headed your way.
December 19th, 2011  
I can't say much, but you're making lots of assumptions about capabilities (on both sides) that are not currently backed by fact.
December 19th, 2011  
I think the carriers are going the same way as the battleships. They are getting more and more vulnerable. In a major conflict that is.
December 19th, 2011  
Originally Posted by c/Commander
I can't say much, but you're making lots of assumptions about capabilities (on both sides) that are not currently backed by fact.
This reminds me of the thread I made on the SunBurn threat to the Carrier Strike Group and how it sank to the bottom of the IMF.

Truth is, lets say WW ll never happened, if it were not for a instance where the opprotunity for the development and poineering of the Carrier Strike Group to occur.

Then Battleships maybe would still be the Naval Flagship the world over.

I think it may take another conflict to make this "theory" clear by making these theories valid, and to start a knee jerk reaction in Naval R&D and vessel deployment ideas and strategy.

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