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The MegaCarrier

By Hugin.

Introduction
The inventory of aircraft carriers, known as CVNs, is considered a cornerstone
in US military establishment. This is illustrated by the myth that the US
president’s first question in times of crisis’ always is – where are the
carriers? Whether a myth or not, the US Navy’s CVNs is a potent tool for power
projection and have been so since the end of the Second World War. While the
present generation of aircraft carriers are undoubtedly the most potent and
powerful naval vessels in service anywhere in the world, there are nevertheless
good reasons to investigate if they are the best possible option in the
post-Cold War era that we have now entered.

Cost is an overriding concern of many - if not all - present-day military
matters, and this pertains especially to the large and very specialized
nuclear-powered aircraft carriers of the Nimitz-class in service with the US
Navy. This type of CV is becoming increasingly unaffordable, even for the US
Navy. Cost of procurement, cost of manning, cost of maintaining and - eventually
- cost of disposal are all becoming excessive drains on the navy’s resources,
and it will therefore be of great interest if an alternative, cheaper way can be
found to offer those same capabilities that are today offered only by the
Nimitz-class CVNs.

Another important consideration advocating a thorough review of the aircraft
carrier is the altered strategic situation after the end of the Cold War that
also changed the likely role of existing aircraft carriers. During the Cold War
were US CVNs often tasked with sea dominance, air superiority and ASW – while
the name of the new game is – littoral warfare! Littoral warfare, introducing a
long list of new tasks and missions that existing aircraft carriers are not that
well suited for. It would therefore be prudent to study if these new tasks and
missions could somehow be incorporated into future generations of aircraft
carriers, thereby giving them an increased capability in the littoral wars that
seem likely to dominate the coming decades.

What will however remain unchanged is the aircraft carriers’ value as a symbol
of power. Also future generations of aircraft carriers, however different they
may appear, will radiate political will, military power and invincibility just
as much as the current generation of CVNs do.


Purpose & Scope
This paper is an attempt to radically rethink the aircraft carrier. It’s an
attempt to incorporate many novel ideas and concepts into a realistic and
economical proposal for a new type of aircraft carrier: A ship suitable for the
needs of the US – and the new littoral warfare role thrust upon its navy. The
proposal is for a new type of aircraft carrier generally referred to as a
‘MegaCarrier’

The paper is not the result of systematic analyses, nor does it offer detailed
calculations or comparisons between alternative options. It is the work of a
single individual with an interest in the subject, and it is structured more
like a brainstorm than like an analytic report, introducing some out-of-the-box
ideas that attempt to solve many of the problems inherent with the existing type
of US CVNs. The text is kept relatively short without comprehensive
explanations, as the purpose is to present a number of ingenious ideas, nothing
more!


Introducing the MegaCarrier
One new concept introduced by this proposal is the notion of a very BIG, but
also very SIMPLE, naval vessel. The proposal makes full use of the maxim ‘air is
free and steel is cheap’ by avoiding expensive and maintenance intensive
technologies and pieces of machinery, substituting these with a larger, but very
simple steel construction. The operation of the aircraft carrier will be greatly
simplified compared to the current crop of CVNs, and this will in turn drive a
development to reduce the manning. ‘Lean manning’ is an integrated part of the
proposal, as manpower is becoming increasingly expensive as far as it’s indeed
possible to even recruit the personnel needed by the US Navy at all.

Another idea introduced is the concept of modularised and/or standardized
support systems throughout the vessel wherever it is practical. This covers not
only the crew accommodation, repair shops, command facilities and storage
facilities but extends also to the power generating systems, the propulsive
system and even part of the onboard communication suite. Again, this is very
much cost oriented, but the widespread use of modularised and exchangeable
systems will also accommodate quick and easy updates whenever necessary without
the need for extensive and time-consuming refits/rebuilds, just as it will be
possible to transfer systems from a worn out or damaged hull to other hulls,
thereby always utilizing all systems most efficiently.

Part of the modularised concept introduced in the MegaCarrier is made up by the
ship’s propulsion system. The propulsion system chosen is the well-known
Diesel-Electric principle, in which diesel generators are used to generate
electricity, which in turn power large, but very simple and reliable electric
motors coupled directly to the vessel’s propellers. Diesel-Electric propulsion
offers very good fuel economy, good reliability, simple and cheap components,
automated operation, redundancy through numbers and the possibility of
positioning diesel generators in such a manner that battle damage will never
take out more than a few generators from a single hit.

The MegaCarrier will be of a new type operating most of its embarked aircraft in
the STOL-mode (Short-Take-Off-and-Landing). STOL-mode aircraft operations is
much simpler than when catapults and arresting wires are employed to launch and
recover aircraft, but it requires a long runway, thus the required length
effectively becomes a primary design driver for the MegaCarrier. STOL-mode
operations on an aircraft carrier requires not only a long runway on the flight
deck, but also various other means to facilitate fast acceleration and effective
braking of aircraft. A so-called “Sky Jump” will also be included on the bows of
the MegaCarrier.

Having presented one of the overriding design considerations will I continue to
introduce probably the most controversial – but also most intriguing and
promising – aspect of this proposal: Namely, the ability to launch a C-130
Hercules aircraft from the flight deck of the MegaCarrier, recover it back on
the flight deck and support at least a handful C-130 Hercules aircraft in
routine operation as part of the air wing. Yes, that’s exactly what it said!
Hercules aircraft will be part of the MegaCarrier’s air wing! This is obviously
yet another indication that the MegaCarrier and in particular its flight deck
will have to be very big.

As already stated in the introductory remarks will the MegaCarrier concept have
an increased emphasis on mission adaptability. A very large and despite its
simplicity very expensive ship needs to be an effective contributor/combatant in
numerous very different situations. This adaptability is obtained by making sure
that many different types of aircraft can operate from the ship, and also by
introducing architecture of exchangeable modules with mission specific
capabilities within the vessel’s internal quarters. It will be possible to
exchange some capabilities (e.g. crew accommodation modules) for others (e.g.
command facility modules), thereby tailoring the vessel for specific upcoming
tasks.

The final cornerstone of the MegaCarrier is simply the provision of a much
larger hangar bay than on the current crop of CVNs, so that the entire air wing
(except some of the C-130 Hercules aircraft) can be protected from the harsh sea
environment. Military aircraft are becoming ever more technically complicated
and expensive. Keeping them permanently on a windy, cold and often wet flight
deck will add wear and tear to these aircraft, which in turn will shorten their
operational lives. The corrosive salt from the sea is making things even more
complicated. Providing a snug and dry hangar will save money, just as it will
provide a benign environment for first class maintenance and preparatory work on
aircraft. The huge size of the MegaCarrier makes it relatively easy to provide
the necessary large hangar bay.


Enormous but very simple
As already forewarned will the MegaCarrier be truly enormous. It will be 480m.
(1575ft.) long, thereby surpassing the largest existing naval vessel, Jahre
Viking about 20m. (70ft.). The displacement will be around 2½ times the
displacement of existing USN CVNs although Jahre Viking’s enormous displacement
is still in a class of its own. The chosen dimensions is a compromise honouring
the need for a long runway on the flight deck to accommodate STOL, the need for
large stocks of aviation fuel and munitions, a requirement to accommodate the
entire air wing in the hangar, but avoiding a severely compromised vessel in
terms of speed and manoeuvrability. Also the full load draft has been a
consideration, thus the hull has a relatively shallow profile in order to
facilitate that the MegaCarrier (in principle at least) can access the same
ports as the current generation of US CVNs, but in reality will there be few
ports around the world able to receive such a huge vessel to quayside.

The empty steel hull of a warship represents only a modest percentage of the
ship’s overall procurement cost, thus the very large steel construction of the
MegaCarrier will only add little to the cost, compared to the CVNs of the Nimitz
class. The omission of many complicated pieces of machinery will effectively
make the MegaCarrier substantially cheaper than CVNs of the Nimitz class.

First and foremost will there be no nuclear reactors or their associated control
and safety systems. There will be no steam catapults on the flight deck and
therefore no need to produce steam from corrosive salt water. No pipes leading
the steam to catapults and turbines. No arresting wires for landings with their
associated enormous hydraulic brake. No aircraft lifts on the deck edge with a
need to lift many tons at the extreme overhang of the hull. And due to the
enormous size of the flight deck will it be practical to do away with the need
for Jet Blast Deflectors (JBDs) and their cooling systems as only the port side
of the deck, separated by a wide margin from deck personnel and parked aircraft,
will be used for take-offs. All in all will the MegaCarrier be so much simpler,
mainly due to its enormous size; it will end up being much cheaper to build than
the current crop of US CVNs.


Modular Systems
One of the main objectives driving the modularised scheme introduced here is to
offer a vessel where each component or sub-system will be fully utilized until
such time that it is either technically obsolete or worn out. Come that time
will a component or sub-system be exchanged for a new one independently of other
components and sub-systems.

E.g.: The steel hull of a CV could have a life expectancy of, say, 30 years, the
machinery 20 years, C3I-systems 15 years and aviation support systems 25 years.
The different life expectancies make it impossible to utilize ALL sub-systems in
an optimal manner. While the hull expectancy coincides with 2 subsequent sets of
C3I-systems will a second set of machinery still have 10 years life left by the
time hull life comes to an end. Worse, a replaced aviation support system will
be almost new (only 5 years old) when the hull is worn out.

This problem can of cause be alleviated if the hull is kept in operation beyond
its scheduled retirement, but then will it be necessary to install a new
C3I-system, which will then outlast both the hull and machinery. And so
on....and so forth... The dilemma is obvious – and further aggravated by the
fact that there are far more systems to consider than the mere 4 systems
included in this example.

The MegaCarrier will therefore employ an internal architecture where most
equipment and systems will be mounted in exchangeable standard containers or, if
this is impractical, they will be adapted to a modular plug-in/plug-out format.
Thus, containerised equipment and modular systems can quickly be exchanged for
new missions or be replaced with newer, more modern systems as they become
obsolete or worn out. Systems and equipment subject to this arrangement range
from power units and propulsive motors to weapon systems, repair shops, command
facilities, crew accommodation, medical facilities, storages etc. etc.

The modularisation and standardization of support systems also serves the
purpose of separating the operational status of the ship from maintenance cycles
and necessary repair work, thus the average operational readiness of the
MegaCarrier will dramatically improve compared to more traditional aircraft
carriers. This means the ship will spend fewer days unavailable for operations
and/or training, thereby maximising the utility of the investment. This
maximized utility is achieved by simply exchanging most malfunctioned or
degraded systems with fully functional ones, thus performing repairs of and
maintenance work on sub-systems totally independent of the ships operational
status, as these things are done while the sub-systems are removed from the ship
and replaced by others. The exchange of systems will usually be done in port,
but can sometimes even be done while at sea if a spare system is somehow
available (brought along or flown in).

As the power & propulsion systems are mostly standardised modules of the
plug-in/plug-out type will these elements continuously be rotated, exchanged and
modernized, thus these systems will not have a defining say in the vessels life
expectancy. As it is furthermore expected that most of the ships weapons systems
and internal architecture (command centre, repair shops, magazines etc.) are
also standardised modules or even mounted in exchangeable containers will also
these systems and facilities be without defining influence on the ships life
expectancy.

This means that it is by large only the hull’s condition that will determine
when decommission is due. When the ship is decommissioned will all functional
modules and containerised equipment be removed and put in storage for later use
in other vessels. Only the empty hull with a few systems unsuitable for other
uses will be scrapped. This system, where equipment from decommissioning ships
is to a large degree transferred to other ships, also means that it is not
expected that a SLEP (Service Life Extension Programme) will be cost effective.


Diesel-Electric Propulsion
The machinery providing electricity to the electric motors driving the
propellers, are standardized diesel-generator sets mounted on vibration-damping
rafts. Each diesel-generator (hereafter referred to as power unit) is entirely
automatic, controlled and monitored by a PC type computer and yields 10 MW. All
together will there be a total of 24 identical power units yielding 240 MW
combined; of which maximum 192 MW are used for propulsion.

The power units are evenly distributed in the hull, located near the skin (side)
of the hull, as low as possible but above the waterline. Air-inlets for the 24
diesel-generator sets are embedded in the flight deck leading directly to each
individual set below. The exhausts from the sets are vented through the hull
side along the shortest possible route, thus very short piping ease the supply
of fresh air, cooling air and disposal of exhausts.

Furthermore will it be possible to exchange a malfunctioning or worn power unit
(including mounting raft) with a new one in a matter of hours. This means there
will be little need for maintenance of power units (beyond the most basic) while
at sea, as they are simply exchanged in port and overhauled/repaired ashore.
This in turn reduces the manning requirement for the power generating equipment
to near zero.

The power units will be installed one level below the hangar deck, so that a
malfunctioning unit as well as units due for overhauls can be replaced from the
hangar bay. The palletised diesel-generator sets can then be evacuated from the
ship using the aircraft elevators and lifting it off of the flight deck with a
crane. It will even be possible to replace a malfunctioning power unit with a
stored reserve unit while the vessel is underway.

Diesel-generators are cheap, economical, available from numerous manufacturers,
easy to maintain and can today be entirely automated. The generator sets will be
dispersed in the large hull as a precaution against critical battle damage. The
high number of generator-sets will in itself provide a significant redundancy
against power breakdowns and redundant routing of electricity will be provided
for.

It is therefore very unlikely that more than a few power units will be rendered
inoperable for any one reason including serious battle damage to the vessel.
Each power unit provides only a few percent of the total available output, thus
there will be no need for auxiliary or reserve power systems beyond the 24
primary power units. Even in the extremely unlikely instance that 25% (6 power
units) are inoperable, will it still be possible to maintain normal operations
at 20+ knots.

Summary of Propulsion Machinery and Performance Estimate:

Machinery: Integrated Full Electric Propulsion (IFEP), 4 shafts w. electric
motors and fixed propellers for 192 MW total, which is exactly the same power
range as for the existing CVNs.
..
Power supply: Integrated electric distribution network. 24 diesel-generator
sets, each delivering 10 MW for 240 MW total.

Speed: Maximum: 24-25 knots
Cruising: 20-22 knots.

Range: At least 19200 nm. at 20 knots.


STOL Operations
Contrary to current operational practises will aircraft embarked on the
MegaCarrier take off and land unassisted on the flight deck. Aircraft will be
launched and recovered without the use of catapults, arresting wires or any
other ship-mounted machinery. The long runway, a gentle Sky-Jump and the forward
motion of the ship will be the primary means enabling aircraft to take off and
land utilizing only their own power. The operative mode described here is called
STOL (Short-Take-Off-and-Landing), while a few aircraft will be able to use
STOVL-mode (Short-Take-Off-and-Vertical-Landing).

It will be necessary to modify some aircraft slightly in order to operate
aircraft in the new STOL-mode when they originally were intended to be launched
by a catapult and stopped by arresting wires. Some aircraft will need
modification simply to enable self-propelled take-off, while others will only be
able to take-off with maximum payloads if modified. In all instances will the
modifications be relatively modest. The two primary modifications is the
adoption of RATO (Rocket-Assisted-Take-Off) for launch and RAL
(Rocket-Assisted-Landing) with forward-firing rockets for short landings
respectively.

Unlike the present class of CVNs will it usually not be possible to conduct
take-off and landing events independently from each other, as the MegaCarrier is
designed around ONE very long runway used both for take-off and landing The key
to efficient aircraft operations is therefore in the procedures quickly clearing
the 480m. (1575ft) long runway for the next take-off or landing event.

It is anticipated that a take-off or landing event can be completed every 30
seconds on average. It is possible to conduct multiple near-simultaneous
take-offs and landings, thus effectively reducing the needed time per event.
Take-off or landing of a Hercules will likely take at least twice as long time
as for smaller aircraft. Flying operations will be aided by the fact that some
of the embarked aircraft are capable of performing vertical landings
(F-35/STOVL, AV-8B Harrier II, V-22 Osprey) on the stern, thus relieving the
runway of traffic. To ensure adequate handling space on the flight deck will
aircraft only be brought from the hangar bay to the flight deck immediately
before take-off, just as recovered aircraft will be taken down into the hangar
bay as soon as possible.

The air wing embarked on MegaCarrier will follow the British invented Tailored
Air Group (TAG) concept typically consisting of 40 to 80 aircraft but with a
surge capability to around 120 aircraft. All contemporary helicopters could
operate from the MegaCarrier, just as up to 8 standard or specialized Hercules
aircraft can be routinely supported (more on that below). The entire air wing
except the Hercules aircraft will usually fit in the hangar bay. This is
contrary to normal USN practise where more than half of the air wing is parked
on the deck. A number of fighters and/or helicopters will probably have to
remain on the flight deck during surge operations, but even then will there be
plenty of deck space for flying operations.

The following existing aircraft types could be included in the air wing, but the
list will obviously expand as new types are brought into service: F/A-18E/F
SuperHornet and F-35(CV) can operate off of the bow Sky-Jump in STO mode without
modifications, however RATO would enable higher TO-weight. RAL will be
introduced for short landings. F-35(STOVL) and AV-8B Harrier II+ will utilize
STOVL or occasionally VTOL. These two aircraft will not require any
modifications at all. The E-2C+ Hawkeye AEW will be able to take-off over the
bow Sky-Jump and land unaided in STOL-mode, but will probably need RATO for max.
TO-weight. The C-130 Hercules has demonstrated impressive STOL capability during
testing, so no modifications are required, however again will RATO be useful to
increase max. TO-weight. Finally can the V-22 Osprey operate in STOVL or VTOL
without modifications. Any contemporary helicopter could obviously also use the
MegaCarrier as base - as could future UAVs/UCAVs.

The RATO (Rocket-Assisted-Take-Off) system will provide the extra “push” that
some aircraft types need in order to make it airborne from the flight deck. The
RATO program will probably be updated and improved versions of already existing
rockets, setting new standards for reliability, performance and economy of use.
The burnt out rockets will be dropped into the sea immediately after take-off
and will therefore not impose any weight penalty throughout the mission. It’s
envisioned that only a small percentage of all missions will need RATO for
take-off.

Likewise will the RAL (Rocket-Assisted-Landing) system slow down aircraft very
quickly once they touch down on the flight deck of the MegaCarrier. It’s
envisioned that the forward firing rockets will be automatically ignited
immediately when the aircraft’s wheels have firm contact with the flight deck.
They will probably be carried in streamlined pods under the wings or (requiring
more development work) mounted on the aircraft’s undercarriage, thus not adding
any drag to the aircraft. Either way will there be a small, but acceptable,
weight penalty from carrying these rockets the entire duration of a mission.

The landing procedure envisioned for the MegaCarrier’s air wing will offer much
reduced loads and stress on airframes compared to the “full-afterburn”
controlled “crash” that is standard landing procedure on the current generation
of US CVNs. In other words will the landings on the MegaCarrier be far less
dramatic. This will in turn prolong the structural life expectancies of
airframes, which traditionally is much shorter for carrier-based aircraft than
for their land-based brethrens.


Hercules Operations
As already mentioned will the MegaCarrier include the very versatile C-130
Hercules aircraft in the air wing, as this aircraft has capabilities far beyond
any other current or previous carrier embarked aircraft. The first question that
comes to mind, when one hears mentioning of a Hercules on a carrier deck, is:
“Can a Hercules even land on an aircraft carrier?” And just as important: “Can
it take off again with a useful payload?” The answer to both these questions is
a surprising but resounding: Yes, easily! And it can even be done without the
use of arresting gear for landings or catapults for take-offs!

Tests conducted by the US Navy with a KC-130F Hercules on the USS Forrestal
(CV59) in 1963 revealed that there was plenty of space on the deck for landings
and take offs due to Hercules’ outstanding STOL ability. The tests can best be
described as “straightforward and easy-going” and there are even considerable
room for improvements by using the latest mark (C-130J Hercules), introduce
minor modifications to aircraft, provide special landing aids etc.

The Forrestal tests: The tests took place in the Northern Atlantic, late October
1963. The seas were moderately rough; one bystander estimating Forrestal’s bow
went up and down 30 ft. The aircraft was a KC-130F Hercules on loan to the USN
from the USMC with only minor modifications made for the tests. The deck was
cleared of other aircraft during testing and the Hercules used a specially
painted axial line down the middle of the deck. The aircraft made 29
touch-and-go landings, some using the angled landing deck, before it completed
21 unarrested full-stop landings and unaided take-offs. It was demonstrated that
the aircraft could stop in only 270 ft. weighing 85 000 lb. and in 460 ft.
weighing 121 000 lb. Take off required a run of 745 ft. weighing 121 000 lb. In
all cases was there a 40 knots wind over the deck.

October ’63 on Forrestal: Hercules F, 121 000 lb, 4x4300 horsepower, normal
4-blade props, 40 knots wind over deck = 745 ft. necessary for take-off.

Near-future on MegaCarrier: Hercules J, 4x6000 horsepower, more effective
6-blade props, 30 knots wind over deck, RATO if no wind, 1500 ft. runway
available, gentle Sky-Jump = take-off possible at 155 000 lb. ???

It appears paradoxical to choose an almost 50 years old design as “the system
for the future”, but the Hercules is still going strong and the newest version,
C-130J must be considered an entirely modern aircraft which will remain in
production for many years to come. Moreover, there is no direct successor on the
drawing board, at least not any adequately funded successor. The few sketchy
projects for a Hercules replacement (i.e. ATT) seem to offer increased payload,
smaller dimensions and better STOL (SuperSTOL) ability, so any successor will in
all likelihood be able to operate from a CV deck at least as well as a Hercules
– if not better.

The C-130 Hercules is a very versatile aircraft, that exists in countless
variants. It’s continuously upgraded and more variants are added, and it’s
inclusion in the carrier air wing opens up entirely new possibilities. The
Hercules is much larger and heavier than any other aircraft ever routinely
operated from an aircraft carrier and the huge size therefore require a very
large CV to support it. Due to it’s large size will it be impossible to
accommodate the Hercules in the hangar bay below the flight deck. The
MegaCarrier is therefore equipped with a deck-edge hangar with folding doors.
The hangar is tailored to accommodate two C-130 Hercules aircraft and almost all
maintenance work on embarked Hercules aircraft will be done in this hangar. It
will be necessary to utilize deck parking if more than two Hercules aircraft are
embarked. This means that excess Hercules aircraft will be parked on the flight
deck to starboard, secured by wires and with the tail overhanging the deck edge.
In this way will it be possible to deck park up to six Hercules aircraft without
hampering normal flight operations in any way, for a total of eight permanently
embarked Hercules aircraft during normal operations.

It is also possible to operate land-based Hercules from the MegaCarrier using an
innovative “pit-stop” scheme. Pit-stops are used in the famous 24-hour Le Mans
race, where cars enter the pit area to refuel, change driver, have oil checked
and occasionally have quick repairs done. A pit-stop on the deck of a
MegaCarrier would do exactly the same – refuel the aircraft, change the crew,
provide very basic maintenance as well as the occasional emergency repair. There
could be three plausible reasons for using the “pit-stop” scheme:

A. It’s easier and more practical to service/support aircraft and their
personnel from a secure land base.
B. The weather conditions can be very harsh, thus long-term deck-parked Hercules
aircraft cannot be satisfactory serviced/supported.
C. A larger number of Hercules aircraft can be simultaneous supported using
pit-stops than if all the aircraft are permanently based on the MegaCarrier.

The pit-stop scheme will enable land based Hercules aircraft to fly missions in
support of the aircraft carrier task force (CVBG) almost as effectively as if
they had been permanently based on the MegaCarrier. Furthermore would it be
possible to base Hercules aircraft on a land base many flying hours from the
operational area of the CVBG, although it will obviously strain personnel as
well as equipment (aircraft accumulating lots of flying hours) if the land base
are very far away.

Example: An AEW Hercules makes a six hour transfer (with only flight crew
onboard) from a remote land base to a MegaCarrier, do a short pit-stop on the
deck (taking the mission crew onboard) before a ten hour AEW patrol, return to
the MegaCarrier for a longer pit-stop (allowing basic maintenance), doing a
second ten hour AEW patrol (with a new crew), then making a final short pit-stop
(dropping off the mission crew) on the MegaCarrier before transferring back to
the land base where the aircraft will receive all necessary service and
maintenance.

It will probably be worth the trouble and expense to introduce a few
modifications even though a standard Hercules can land on and take off from a
carrier deck. First of all will it predominantly be the newest mk. J that will
be employed in the naval role, as it has better STOL ability, stronger engines
and requires far less maintenance. To facilitate shorter landings will better
brakes be of importance. It will also be a good idea to install RATO-gear
(Rocket Assisted Take-Off) for use in zero-wind conditions or to assist
take-offs at maximum (war-rated) weight.

The standard Hercules tie down system is obviously not intended for CV deck use
and is limited to wind speeds up to 80 knots, so an improved tie down system for
use on a moving deck (if possible also usable in winds above 80 knots) must be
considered a necessity. A very useful feature would be a tail-rudder surface
modified to fold down to horizontal, so that the wind pressure on a deck-parked
Hercules would be significantly reduced.

As mentioned are there many variants of Hercules that could be embarked on the
MegaCarrier, among these: Large COD (Carrier-Onboard-Delivery), General Military
Transport, AEW&C, Spec Ops Variants, Air Assault, IFR-Tanker (Air-to-Air
Refuelling), Gunship Aircraft, Maritime Minelayer, Rescue & Evacuation. The
versatile Hercules will also be adaptable to a variety of other roles if need
should dictate (and funds allow) it. For example could it be developed into a
very capable ASW/maritime patrol aircraft. Also the Elint/EW mission is already
somewhat familiar to the Hercules and there’s a requirement for jamming
capability in the SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defences) role where Hercules
could provide at least standoff jamming.


Missions & Roles
The MegaCarrier will add substantial capabilities compared to existing aircraft
carriers in alternative roles like AirAssault, Spec.Ops./Special Forces
deployment, Disaster & Humanitarian Relief as well as for other support
missions. These new capabilities will dramatically improve the MegaCarrier’s
utility in littoral warfare and other post Cold-war assignments. Also the
traditional missions like Air superiority, Strike missions, Close Air Support
and Surveillance are fully supported, so only missions and capabilities that
substantially differ from what the current class of CVs support are mentioned in
the following.

The USN CVNs operate the E-2C Hawkeye in the AEW (Airborne Early Warning) role.
The MegaCarrier will be able to do the same, but also has the option of using a
special variant of the C-130 Hercules for AEW. A Hercules AEW variant already
exists in US inventory, known as the EC-130V Hercules AEW&C, equipped with radar
and mission systems from the E-2C Hawkeye AEW aircraft or as a even better
concept known as EC-130J-30 incorporating the latest Hawkeye updates. Its AEW&C
performance is equal to the E-2C Hawkeye in every aspect, but it is able to fly
further, remain on station longer and offer the crew much better comfort, just
as it has the potential for further upgrades (usually causing weight increases);
an option the E-2C Hawkeye cannot offer.

An AEW platform based on the proven C-130 Hercules aircraft combined with the
equally proven systems of the E-2C Hawkeye AEW aircraft will have enormous
advantages. First and foremost will a Hercules AEW be able to remain on station
for 10+ hours (probably even longer for the newer C-130J). This is a lot longer
than the E-2C Hawkeye with a mission endurance of 4-6 hours in most
circumstances. That would roughly halve the number of necessary AEW missions,
thus reducing the number of aircraft necessary for continuous coverage – or
alternatively cover larger areas further away from the CVBG. The large Hercules
fuselage will offer far better crew comfort and space for extra crewmembers
during extended AEW missions.

The Hercules aircraft exists in a number of air-to-air refuelling versions,
generally given the prefix KC. Air-to-air refuelling using Hercules Tankers will
be a totally different thing than the usual buddy-tanking scheme often used by
CV-based fighters. Almost the entire air wing would be able to reach further
with heavier payloads when refuelled in the air from Hercules Tankers, and this
longer “reach” would to a large extent enable the carrier air wing to operate in
a littoral environment while the MegaCarrier itself was kept reasonably out of
harms way.

US operations in countries like Panama, Grenada, Somalia and Afghanistan have
demonstrated the value of airmobile troops and Special Forces units. These
forces could easily deploy from a large platform lying off the coast and would
subsequently not be dependent on secure bases ashore, which will often only be
available at a (political) price. The MegaCarrier proposed here will have
substantial capability in the role as a floating base for various airmobile
forces.

A MegaCarrier could be used for AirAssault operations and would in that role be
able to operate large numbers of helicopters (any contemporary type, including
attack helicopters) supported by a couple of Hercules Tankers to improve the
range of the helicopters (assuming they are fitted with air-to-air refuelling
probes). Another major advantage will be the ability to fly the troops in on
Hercules Transporters from distant and secure locations immediately before each
mission. It would obviously also be possible to retain a reduced number of
fighter aircraft on the MegaCarrier for self-protection if deemed necessary.

Another option will be to stage an all-Hercules AirAssault from the deck of the
MegaCarrier using Paratroopers or Light Infantry. It will be possible to
temporarily pack up to 12 Hercules aircraft on the deck (assuming no other
aircraft there) without blocking the “runway”, so a fair number of troops could
go in just one “wave”. The US Army’s IBCTs (Interim Brigade Combat Teams) can
also deploy some of their elements including the new Stryker AFV from the
MegaCarrier. Such a scenario would require that vehicles and other equipment be
loaded onboard the vessel before it leaves its homeport. The MegaCarrier is so
big that it will be possible to store at least a battalion’s worth of vehicles
and equipment onboard without impeding the vessels other missions. A storage
deck one level below the hangar deck will function as garage for vehicles and
equipment until needed, by which time everything will be brought to the flight
deck and loaded onto Hercules aircraft together with crews and personnel who
have been flown out to the MegaCarrier earlier.

There are two distinct advantages to pre-positioning vehicles and equipment
equivalent of an IBCT battalion on a MegaCarrier: First, it establishes a mobile
“rapid deployment” capability where only the personnel need to be flown the long
distance from the US (or an US base). Second, if and when the battalion is
needed can it typically deploy from a much shorter distance since the
MegaCarrier will often be able to close the distance prior to deployment. This
in turn means that deployment will speed up and/or fewer Hercules aircraft will
be needed for the airlift.

Finally could a MegaCarrier also be used as a base for Special Forces, elite
units etc. These forces will often use helicopters and again will a couple of
Hercules Tankers help extend the “reach” of these helicopters. It is also
possible to base the AC-130H Spectre and AC-130U Spooky Hercules gunships used
for clandestine operations and support of Special Forces on the MegaCarrier.

The MegaCarrier will also have a substantial capability for Disaster &
Humanitarian Relief operations. Again will it be the ability to operate large
numbers of helicopters from the deck that is the main attribute, but it is also
worth mentioning that supplies like tents, medical equipment, medicine, food,
even off-road vehicles and so on could be flown in from distant locations
onboard Hercules Transporters for final distribution to areas of need by
helicopter. This means that relief operations will not be dependent on a runway
ashore; nor will it be necessary to establish command and/or distribution
centres ashore, as everything can be coordinated on/from the MegaCarrier.

No serious attempt has so far been made to address the issue of a replacement
aircraft for the CVBGs important COD (Carrier-Onboard-Delivery) mission, but
(almost) standard Hercules aircraft used in the COD role will enable the USN to
reach a MegaCarrier anywhere in the world with urgent deliveries. Important
personnel, crucial spare parts, other equipment and mail for the crew can be
flown out to a CVBG using fewer stopovers and therefore with less dependence on
a fine-masked network of friendly airbases; a major concern these days when only
few friendly bases can be considered unconditionally available.

The tests in 1963 on Forrestal were originally intended to clarify if Hercules
could be used as a kind of SuperCOD aircraft. Although the tests proved its
viability the issue was never pursued. Some sources simply state that it was
considered ”too risky” while others claim it was the configuration of the USN
carrier decks that made the idea impractical, as all other flying operations
would have to be suspended and the deck cleared completely every time a Hercules
COD aircraft were expected. Indeed an impractical and ”risky” undertaking
considering that USN carrier decks are more or less packed with aircraft most of
the time.


Lay-out & Features
The MegaCarrier has simple inboard aircraft elevators, which will make it easier
to construct a strong but structurally simple flight deck as opposed to the
complex structures necessary when deck-edge lifts, arresting wires, jet blast
deflectors and steam catapults are incorporated in the construction. The
MegaCarrier will also have a 6-8 degree ski-jump forward to assist launching all
aircraft at maximum TO-weight. Furthermore will the flight deck have a large
island to starboard incorporating a hangar for a number of aircraft, including
two C-130 Hercules aircraft.

The flight deck will have a simple rectangular form without “cut corners” as
opposed to the complex shape of the flight decks on the Forrestal-class and all
subsequent US CV/CVNs. The ship is of a slightly imbalanced design, as it has a
larger deck overhang to starboard than to port due to the deck hangar for the
two Hercules aircraft. This imbalance must be countered by ballast to port and
it is therefore envisioned that a number of large fuel tanks in the port
overhang will act as ballast; fuel tanks that will be filled with salt-water as
ballast after the fuel are expended.

Normally will all aircraft be accommodated in the main hangar bay and/or in the
deck hangar. This is in order to ‘spare’ the expensive aircraft from the harsh
and salinated naval environment, thus the life span of each aircraft will be
stretched. This is particularly of importance with the introduction of new and
very expensive combat aircraft, like F-35. The MegaCarrier has enough stored
aviation fuel to support extended operations including A2A-refuelling and
‘pit-stop’ mode operations with Hercules aircraft.

There are 6 identical ‘double-deck’ aircraft elevators between the flight deck
and the main hangar bay. All are installed inside the hull beam, with 3 offset
to starboard and 3 offset to port. The elevators are of a very simple and
reliable push-up/drop-down type, capable of transferring a load between the two
levels in less than 10 seconds. When in its lowest position will the lower
elevator deck (which always carries the load) form part of the hangar deck,
while the upper elevator deck will form part of the flight deck. The upper
elevator deck will also seal the hangar bay from the outside environment, thus
keeping it snug and comfortable for the maintenance/handling personnel. When the
elevator is in its top position will the lower elevator deck form part of the
flight deck, while the upper elevator deck will protrude in a position above the
flight deck. The elevators are of a ‘drive-through’ type substantially speeding
up transferral of aircraft between the hangar bay and the flight deck, as
precise positioning of the aircraft on the elevator is not necessary.

Measurements and other empirical data:
Length, oa: 480,0 m.
Hull beam, waterline: 60,0 m.
Width, flight deck: 96,0 m.
Width, oa: 108,0 m.
Draft, full load: 12,0 m.
Displacement, standard: 192 000 metric tons.
Displacement, full load: 240 000 metric tons.
Hangar size: Approx. 15 000 sq.m. including the 6 lifts.
Complement: Approx. 2400 w. 40 aircraft embarked.
Approx. 4800 w. 120 aircraft embarked.
Ships complement alone: Approx. 800


Conclusion
USN aircraft carriers have often been touted as 4½ acres of deployable sovereign
US territory and the MegaCarrier proposed here could similarly be considered 8
acres of sovereign US territory. Due to its very versatile design would it
however be far more useful in regional conflicts and littoral warfare than the
existing CVNs of the Nimitz-class.

Most new ideas seem impossible, impractical or outright ridicules at first
thought – and remains impossible, impractical or ridicules until proven by
undaunted pioneers, throwing themselves into uncharted waters. This proposal
represents radical out-of-the-box thinking, so there are undoubtedly many who
will consider it impossible, impractical and probably even ridicules; however –
so be it!

All new concepts face obstacles, often also irrational prejudices. The severity
of these obstacles - and the money and time necessary to overcome them - will
determine if a concept is viable or not. I will argue that this proposal in all
respects are relatively low risk and the limited but indisputable operational
compromises outlined will be acceptable, given the many advantages a very large,
Hercules compatible CV promises to deliver. It appears the technical and
operational obstacles can be overcome at reasonable expense and in a relatively
short time. Off cause others may argue otherwise

If you have any comments, please mail me