We don’t need Carriers for Libya

Written by Ryan Crierie on Saturday, March 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Over at the USNI Blog they are posting annotated maps such as this one:

Followed by a statement such as this:

There is only one way to do this: Carrier Aviation. American Carrier Aviation.

If you have access to actual data, like I do; it is relatively easy to disabuse the USNI of it’s delusions.

F-15C Eagle (CFT) Standard Aircraft Characteristics – February 1992 (Multi MB PDF)

From reading this, you can deduce that the F-15C with CFTs and carrying four AIM-120 AMRAAM can perform anti-air operations out to an astounding 840 nautical mile combat radius.

That’s more than enough to cover Libya operating from NAS Sigonella, which has a quite decent USAF contigent there to support F-15C operations.

You might ask what is the difference between the 840 nm combat radius I quote and the more common 400~ nm combat radius encountered when the F-15C is talked about?

Well, if you read the SAC in detail, you find out that the 840nm combat radius is achieved by F-15Cs cruising at high altitude to and from the target. Their combat is five minutes at 50,000 feet at full power. This is Radius Mission V on the SAC sheet.

The more common 400~ nm combat radius is also in the SAC, and it’s described as the F-15Cs descending to 10,000 feet for combat, where they burn enough fuel to generate 144,000 feet of manouver energy. This is Radius Mission I on the SAC sheet.

Clearly in 2011, Captain Dahl of the USAF is not going to engage a pair of Libyan MiG-23s by descending to 10,000 feet and dogfighting with them until he can get a missile lock on with a Sidewinder. No, he’s going to shoot them down from long range and altitude with AIM-120s, avoiding the wasteful fuel-wasting high energy dogfight that restricts his combat radius.

Same thing would also occur with Lieutenant Pettibone of the USN.

If you look at the other assets the USAF can bring to the table, it becomes even more a case that the USN isn’t needed here.

A single B-2A can carry more than a hundred small diameter bombs, meaning that in a single night, a pair of B-2s operating from CONUS could wipe out pretty much the entire Libyan military, and do it for less expenditure than the roughly $100~ million dollars we just expended with Tactical Tomahawk missiles from USN assets.

The no-fly zone could then be enforced with USAF Predator or Reaper drones diverted from Central Command to loiter over Libyan airbases. If someone tries to taxi for takeoff on those bases, then a USAF Lieutenant in Nevada can command the drone to place a hellfire into the offending plane.

This is a situation uniquely suited to the USAF’s strengths of being able to place intense concentrated quantities of high explosive to any point on the globe within 48 hours, via strategic bomber flights lasting over thirty hours.

The USN’s own strengths come into play when you need to keep raining explosives down onto an enemy over a period of several days with no interruptions.

This is clearly not the case here, given the total decrepitude of the Libyan armed forces.

EDIT: There is also the case of the USN’s own operations over Afghanistan in October 2001 as part of the initial strikes against the Taliban. VF-14 flew a mission that was 1,700 miles round trip for a combat radius of 740~ nautical miles against targets near Mazar-e Sharif.

Categories: Aircraft, Strategy

2 Comments on “We don’t need Carriers for Libya”

  1. F-15C models do not fly with CFT’s. Only F-15E models fly with them.

  2. When did the shift over take place then in the F-15 community regarding CFTs?

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