Question: “What trumps aircraft carriers?”
Answer: “Fleets of small stealth corvettes warships armed with carrier killing anti ship missiles.”
How do I know this? Well Taiwan, it seems is arming more of its warships with its new “carrier killer” anti-ship missiles and building up a fleet of 12 corvettes designed with “stealth” technologies to meet the perceived threat from Chinese aircraft carriers, according to a recent press report.
The anti-ship killer missiles are called in Taiwan: “Hsiung Feng” (Brave Wind).
These anti ship missiles reportedly cruise at a speed of Mach 2, or “twice the speed of sound” and have a range of up to 130 kilometers (see article: Taiwan spies increase in carrier threat http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?we_cat=3&art_id=122634&sid=36466713&con_type=1&d_str=20120522&fc=1 ).
I read this article and decided to email a friend, who happened to be a retired Navy Captain , who I asked to comment on all this. My friend declined to comment, instead he did something interesting and put me in touch with a friend of his. A well respected retired defense analyst in Wichita, Kansas.
“This strategy represents a very sound military policy for Taiwan to counter the threat of Chinese aircraft carriers”, said the analyst, who wished to remain unidetified .
The US aircraft carrier fleet it seems is just as vulnerable to a “Brave Wind” type policy as China is – if not more so.
The reason being we have so many more aircraft carriers than China. China iscurrently building one and conducting sea trials on the other one it purchased from Russia.
“All US aircraft carriers are extremely vulnerable to anti ship missiles, especially those on smaller corvettes type warships. Moreover the cost of this kind of countermeasure is a fraction to the cost of building aircraft carriers, which are billion dollar projects in most cases. Compare that with the cost of an anti ship missile like the ‘Sunburn’, for example and you can begin to appreciate the threat we face. It represents a type of asymmetrical advantage, that the US is still trying to deal with…”, the analyst explained.
“The US Navy has never faced anything in combat as formidable as the Sunburn missile”, he suggested.
The analyst sent me a link to an article, which was very shocking to read!
The article explained in clear terms the threat we face from the ‘Sunburn” missiles.
The story goes like this:
“Many years ago, Soviet planners gave up trying to match the US Navy ship for ship, gun for gun, and dollar for dollar. The Soviets simply could not compete with the high levels of US spending required to build up and maintain a huge naval armada. They shrewdly adopted an alternative approach based on strategic defense. They searched for weaknesses, and sought relatively inexpensive ways to exploit those weaknesses. The Soviets succeeded: by developing several supersonic anti-ship missiles, one of which, the SS-N-22 Sunburn, has been called “the most lethal missile in the world today.The Sunburn can deliver a 200-kiloton nuclear payload, or: a 750-pound conventional warhead, within a range of 100 miles, more than twice the range of the Exocet. The Sunburn combines a Mach 2.1 speed (two times the speed of sound) with a flight pattern that hugs the deck and includes “violent end maneuvers” to elude enemy defenses. The missile was specifically designed to defeat the US Aegis radar defense system. Should a US Navy Phalanx point defense somehow manage to detect an incoming Sunburn missile, the system has only seconds to calculate a fire solution not enough time to take out the intruding missile. The US Phalanx defense employs a six-barreled gun that fires 3,000 depleted-uranium rounds a minute, but the gun must have precise coordinates to destroy an intruder “just in time.” The Sunburn’s combined supersonic speed and payload size produce tremendous kinetic energy on impact, with devastating consequences for ship and crew. A single one of these missiles can sink a large warship, yet costs considerably less than a fighter jet. Although the Navy has been phasing out the older Phalanx defense system, its replacement, known as the Rolling Action Missile (RAM) has never been tested against the weapon it seems destined to one day face in combat. The US Navy’s only plausible defense against a robust weapon like the Sunburn missile is to detect the enemy’s approach well ahead of time, whether destroyers, subs, or fighter-bombers, and defeat them before they can get in range and launch their deadly cargo. For this purpose US AWACs radar planes assigned to each naval battle group are kept aloft on a rotating schedule. The planes “see” everything within two hundred miles of the fleet, and are complemented with intelligence from orbiting satellites. But US naval commanders operating in the Persian Gulf face serious challenges that are unique to the littoral, i.e., coastal, environment. A glance at a map shows why: The Gulf is nothing but a large lake, with one narrow outlet, and most of its northern shore, i.e., Iran, consists of mountainous terrain that affords a commanding tactical advantage over ships operating in Gulf waters. The rugged northern shore makes for easy concealment of coastal defenses, such as mobile missile launchers, and also makes their detection problematic. Although it was not widely reported, the US actually lost the battle of the Scuds in the first Gulf War termed “the great Scud hunt” and for similar reasons.”(see article: “The Sunburn – Iran’s AwesomeNuclear Anti-Ship Missile.” Subtitled: “The Weapon That Could Defeat The US In The Gulf”http://www.rense.com/general59/theSunburniransawesome.htm
What started out as a simple article about Taiwanese naval countermeasures to China seemed to morph into a new appreciation for the serious threat we face in the gulf.
At present the US has three US aircraft carrier battle groups near Iran (see: U.S. military moves 3 aircraft carrier strike groups near Iran http://www.defence.pk/forums/iranian-defence/152663-u-s-military-moves-3-aircraft-carrier-strike-groups-near-iran.html#ixzz1vf59xDFI ).
Couple that with a related story, dated February 19, 2011 about how Iran is mass producing a new anti-ship ballistic missile which can travel at more than three times the speed of sound (see article: Iran mass producing new anti-ship missiles http://www.defencetalk.com/iran-mass-producing-new-anti-ship-missiles-31892/#ixzz1vf7DOjog , and the story about US aircraft carriers being “sweet targets” and you begin to see a picture emerge here of just how vulnerable we are in that region of the world. Especially with all this talk about attacking Iran.
See : US Aircraft carriers are “sweet targets” says Iranian Commander http://www.examiner.com/article/us-aircraft-carriers-are-sweet-targets-says-iranian-commander
The other aspect of this story is the added dimension of the Sunburn anti ship missiles combined with the fast stealthy corvette warships – which is a new trend now among smaller countries to countering the threat of today’s billion dollar aircraft carriers (see article: In a class of their own: new corvettes take center stage http://www.janes.com/products/janes/defence-security-report.aspx?ID=1065926963 ).