[section_title title=Where can an Aircraft Carrier go in the New Age of Lethality]
Where can an Aircraft Carrier go in the New Age of Lethality
If manner fighter aircraft are facing extinction in the next 40-50 years, what can be said about aircraft carriers? These real big floating cities, visible on the high seas, operating manned fighter aircraft, has defined power – political and military global power, for last 70 years or so. They have been the key instruments of global military reach and have definitely carried the stick whenever, the sole superpower wanted to cajole or influence any other country in the strategic shaping that US has been involved in for last 20 years or so. They are the instruments of sea-control. However, in the age of accurate, long range missiles and very efficient, effective and stealthier submarines, aircraft carrier has been described as “sitting duck”. To protect an aircraft carrier requires large number of other ships. The age of 40-70 manned aircraft carriers controlling high seas and projecting power may be ending.
During this phase, if Indian navy is planning, continuing the previous century’s lethality thinking, to operate 3 manned aircraft carriers – and committing large number of other ships to escort, protect and support these aircraft carriers – it can only be explained in terms of very slow process of understanding of shifts in the modern warfare – may be limited understanding of new revolutions in military affairs.
If indeed aircraft carrier (the manned aircraft carrier) is not the right choice, are we saying death of aircraft carrier? Just like many other weapons systems and platforms, typical evolution of technical systems leads to changes in the way these systems are designed and used. Potential ways in which the concept of aircraft carrier and the investment made in these ships still can be optimally utilized and meshed in a new doctrine. Most likely future of manned fighter aircraft is what people call Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV). Technologies exist to make such systems viable and robust to the extent they can be used at the fraction of the cost fighter aircraft and without endangering the human life as in the case of fighter planes.
Indian Navy should integrate UCAV and other possible unmanned remote systems to be placed on smaller ships instead of the big aircraft carriers. These remote unmanned systems can be aerial vehicles, submarines or even unmanned missile boats. The future of networked smaller ships with multi-dimensional capabilities that can disperse and re-assemble to swarm an enemy ship, positions or systems, will prove to be true network centric capability.
Given the shift to the new age of lethality which is network centric rather than platform centric, too much focus on platforms such as manned aircraft carriers will actually do more harm in future war making capabilities of the nation. We propose a rethink to integrate network centric concepts of smaller nodes connected through robust links with remote lethality capabilities that has more unmanned and virtual. We propose a focus on unmanned aircraft carriers – or more appropriately UCAV carrier groups which are smaller, swifter and we conjecture more lethal in the new age of lethality.
Navneet Bhushan (Navneet) is a founder director of CRAFITTI CONSULTING (www.crafitti.com) – an Innovation and Intellectual Property Consulting firm focused on co-crafting Innovation in global enterprises. He is the winner of Indira India Innovation award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Leadership for 2012. He is the principal author of Strategic Decision Making- Applying the Analytic Hierarchy Process published by Springer-Verlag, UK, as part of the Decision Engineering Series. Read Navneet Bhushan Profile. Read Navneet Bhushan Columns.