Friday, September 21, 2012

Crazy idea of the week - have Canada buy the

Not far from the Esquimalt naval base there are four retired US Aircraft Carriers - the Forestal Class USS Ranger and USS Independence and the Kitty Hawk Class USS Kitty Hawk and USS Constellation.   Their current fate seems to be either to be disposed of as artificial reefs or become museum ships.  What if Canada were to acquire one or two?  OK, I admit I am thinking about this because of the cool image from Google Maps.  It is also an off the wall idea being put forward a religious pacifist.

The four aircraft carriers currently sitting at Bremerton Washington
I know the idea sounds utterly nuts, but what if the ships were not used as primary aircraft carriers but were used as a floating multi-purpose Canadian Forces Base?   Right now Canada is proposing to spend $1.3 billion for each of the new Joint Support Ships.   How far would $1.3 billion go in buying and refitting these retired carriers?

Yes, I crapped all of the New Arrow as a replacement for the F35 idea that was floated the other week, but  that idea had no useful merits to it that I could see on any level.  The CF105 Arrow was a bad idea in 1959 and half century does not improve it.

The Kitty Haek carriers are large enough to house 5000 people but can also carry  large amounts of supplies and still have aircraft based from it.  It is large enough to move Canadian Army armoured vehicles.  It allows the needs of a support ship to be combined with the need for some sort of amphibious assault ship which Canadian military actions since 1990 seems to indicate are needed.   A dozen to two dozen helicopters and 500 infantry troops could easily be based from a ship like this and still allow for it to be a resupply ship.
Also, if Canada is going to procure the F-35s, the carrier version could just as easily be acquired so that they could operate from the the Kitty Hawk carriers.  Canada could also buy second hand US F18E/F Super Hornets to use on the ships, I am sure they would be much cheaper than the F35s and we have the existing know how with the plane type.

The proposed Joint Support Ship for the Canadian Navy has an estimated range of 10,800 km, for a Kitty Hawk class aircraft carrier is 19,000 km.  The new ship would have a displacement of 28,000 tonnes, about 1/2 the displacement of a Kitty Hawk carrier.   The scope and scale of the new Joint Support Ship is not dramatically out of scale with these carrriers.  The speed of the carriers is faster than the Joint Support Ship with them being able to cruise at close to 60km/h.  The 12,500 km from Esquimalt to Sydney Australia could be done without refueling in less than 9 days.  Halifax to the Eastern Mediterranean in 6 days and the Gulf in 9 days.

The Kitty Hawk class carriers are about 60% the displacement of the Nimitz class carriers the US are using now.

Would the Americans sell to Canada?   With these ships I can not see are reason as the Kitty Hawk class carriers were the last non nuclear US carriers.   It also means keeping two more carrier like ships available in the NATO arsenal.   Basing one in Esquimalt and one in Halifax would cover areas of the Atlantic and Pacific the US does not have large naval presence in.

If the role of the Canadian military continues to be UN related interventions around the world, shifting to these ships I think would likely be a smart direction to consider.  Canada has not really had the ability to properly engage in the missions since 1990 without relying on other nations to support Canada.   Buying a couple of used Kitty Hawks could give Canada the independence of action that it does not currently have.

Ultimately think of this idea as a way to get Canadians to discuss what they expect the role of the Canadian Forces will be over the next 20 years.  If it is what it has been, buying some second ships like carriers may be the best way to move forward, if it is not we have to have make it clear why we have the Canadian Forces and what we expect them to do.

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