Low-Profile UCAV Carrier
The Low-Profile UCAV Carrier is a quick brain exercise of what could be done to increase the survivability of aircraft carriers. It came from chatting to defense writer Kyle Mizokami who always has thought provoking questions.
Aircraft Carriers are continuously evolving. EMALS (Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System), twin islands, smaller islands and so on. Yet some of the basic characteristics of carriers hark back to their inception in World War One: they are large, tall, flat-topped ships. Consequently, despite some efforts in current designs, they have massive radar cross-sections. Today’s carriers cannot be considered stealthy. Can we conceive of a way to reverse this, and have a carrier which has a very low radar signature, certainly compared to the current carriers?
One general solution, put forward at regular intervals throughout carrier history, is to have a submarine aircraft carrier. When not conducting launch or recovery operations it would be hiding beneath the waves, invisible to surface-based radar.
Aircraft carrying submarines
The problems with this idea are immense however. Submarines do not like having massive hangar doors on them, and the hydrodynamics involved are ‘challenging’. This concept takes the in-between route. It is a Low-Profile carrier which is semi-submersible like the US Navy SEAL’s SEALION, but without the fast planning mode. And by not fully submerging it avoids all the engineering complications of submarines. It can change how low it is in the water by changing the seawater ballast to maintain flight operations in most sea states.
Main features of Low-Pro UCAV carrier:
- minimally crewed, deck robots, only UCAVs
- uses ballast to ride low, can rise if sea state dictates
- minimal sensors etc, mostly off-platform networked warfare. Has missiles for self-defence but concept is more like an arsenal ship or escort carrier
- skijump to simplify, plus avoid problem of catapulting so low to sea
- no safety helicopter required so another factor reducing signature, and also simplifying operational complexity
- UCAVs have an advantage over loitering munitions or cruise missiles because they can return home. Even in war zones most missions don't drop ordinance
- automated hangar, stacked parking etc
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