IS US SUPER-CARRIER CARL VINSON UNSINKABLE ? UNBIASED ANALYSIS
On April 10 the US Navy’s Carl Vinson strike group suddenly changed course from Australia to the Korean Peninsula amid concerns that North Korea could soon conduct its 6th nuclear test or more missile launches.
USS Carl Vinson is one of the most powerful weapons platform in the world, being 3 football fields long, having a displacement of 100000 tonnes, and is capable of carrying more than 60 strike aircrafts.
It must be noted that, USS Carl Vinson is not alone, but it leads the US Navy Carrier Strike Group One.
It is accompanied by other vessels including an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the USS Wayne E Meyer (DDG 108). Arleigh Burke class is considered to be one of the most potent destroyers in the world.
It is also expected to be accompanied by 1 or 2 submarines, though details are classified.
Let us analyze if USS Carl Vinson aided by the other vessels of the strike group is unsinkable or not.
ATTACK BY AIRCRAFT:
Traditional but this method has been effective. In case of conflict, USS Carl Vinson will certainly be coming under attack from enemy bombers or fighters.
Here Carl Vinson can use its own aircrafts to meet the challenge. Carl Vinson has F 18 Hornets and F 18 Super Hornets to engage enemy aircrafts. It will also deploy F 35 in near future. It will be aided by 1 or 2 Awacs for long distance target detection apart from its own high performance radars.
Aegis air defense system will also provide cover and is capable of mounting strong defense.
It can be safely assumed, the carrier group is capable of strong and aggressive retaliation against attack by aircrafts, and should be able to thwart it.
TORPEDOES FROM SUBMARINES
Modern torpedoes can achieve speeds in excess of 40 knots and operate at depths of 400 m. These can have range of 40 to 50 km, and carry 250 to 500 lb high explosive warhead.
The warhead size may be not so large, but the important thing is that a torpedo will hit a surface vessel below its waterline. Though aircraft carriers and large surface vessels have system of compartments, to seal off parts which is damaged, a single hit in delicate region like propeller area can have a crippling effect.
USS Carl Vinson does have Kevlar protection to minimize damages, but against an enemy submarine, its biggest defense will be its own submarine escort. Every US carrier group has submarines to detect and hunt enemy submarines.
Also, USS Carl Vinson will have cover from P-8 Poseidon. The P-8 is specially designed to conduct anti-submarine warfare and will keep scanning the waters in the vicinity of the aircraft carrier with its specialized equipments.
So it can be concluded that, there will be no easy way to target USS Carl Vinson with torpedo, but will required deployment of multiple submarines with proper strategy.
Cruise missiles are by far the most potent threat to an aircraft carrier like Carl Vinson. Cruise missile tends to be versatile have the ability to be launched from different platforms like surface vessels or land. These also have the range to be launched from far off and are relatively cheaper when compared with an aircraft carrier, hence can be fired in large numbers to saturate the enemy defenses.
In between the cruise missile and the carrier will be US’s state of art Aegis Air Defense System.
Here are 3 most lethal weapon in this category and how they are expected to perform:
1. Russian 3M14 Kalibr is equivalent to the American tomahawk cruise missile in many parameters such as range, warhead and propulsion.
It has a 2500 km range, a 450 kg high-explosive warhead and has a speed of 0.8 mach.
The Kalibr is highly maneuverable, but lacks speed, and is expected to be intercepted by the Carrier Group’s Aegis system. Even if 1 to 2 missile is not intercepted, they will not to be able to deliver lethal blow to a super carrier like Carl Vinson.
2. Indo Russian Brahmos is currently the most formidable challenge to a carrier like USS Carl Vinson. It has speed of 2.8 to 3 Mach, range of more that 450 km and is highly maneuverable. Being supersonic, it has almost 16 times the Kinetic energy of a missile like Kalibr or Tomahawk. Brahmos is known to break ships in half in test scenarios. Since it is so fast, the Aegis defense system will find it difficult to intercept, specially if it faces a barrage of 4 to 8 Brahmos .
The result is hard to predict, but can be concluded to being 50 50.
3. Russia’s 3M22 Zircon hypersonic cruise missile is expected to enter production in 2018. The new weapon—which is capable of speeds of around Mach 6 is currently in testing.