Fate of the Carriers in a 1983 exchange

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by creighton, Feb 9, 2019.

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  1. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    If a war starts off nuclear, with pre-planning that is one thing. That means the Soviets spend a lot of effort in locating the CVBGs as best they can and if possible putting either a surface or sub trailer on them, and send out the strikes with nukes as the first attack. Part of the problem is timing - nuke a CVBG even 15 minutes before a general attack at in that extra 15 minutes of warning other US/NATO assets go to first alert, even more bombers get off the ground etc. Do the big launch too much before the carriers are hit and again the CVBG is at max readiness AND expecting a nuclear attack. With "Able Archer" if the USSR had responded to what they thought was an attack, the carriers would be pretty home free. Unless there was a Soviet sub with a nuclear torpedo or missile close enough who got "the word" before the USN hit them, airstrikes won't be out looking for them any time soon. First they have to find the CVBG, also getting nuke warheads on the ASMs is going to be time consuming - and this assumes those airbases won't be vaporized before those aircraft are armed and flying.
     
  2. steamboy Well-Known Member

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    RE Warheads for their missiles. I'd not be surprised if Soviet SSGN's left port with at least some of their missiles fitted with nuclear warheads, even if it was one or two, one or two might be all you need. They can't carry the warheads onboard as all the missiles are outside the main pressure hull (where the squishy organic parts of the sub are) and can't be swapped out, so they'd probably be pre-loaded before sailing.
     
  3. gatordad699 Well-Known Member

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    No idea how a CVBG would have handled an all out air attack. Who’s missiles would have worked? Who’s ECM/ECCM would have worked?

    What I do believe is that Soviet subs would have been a non-factor. Their subs in 1983 mostly sucked. They were very loud and easily tracked. They only had 1 Oscar. 2nd one was commissioned in November 1983. The US had a few of the still capable 594 class and a crap ton of 637 and 688. In 1983 the 688 class was way beyond all but a few Soviet boats. The 688 class was designed to escort CVBGs. The GIUK SOSUS system was a huge advantage. It let NATO track Soviet boats as they entered the Atlantic.

    And if the Soviet surface Navy came out to play. Well, there’s a reason we say that there are only two types of ships, submarines and targets (This is the reason that CVBGs always have an SSN or two attached.)
     
  4. Jellico Well-Known Member

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    I have started calling carriers "peace" ships rather than warships. Very very good and useful in peace and low intensity conflicts. See how minor nations are starting to buy them again?

    High intensity conflicts? Goodness knows how they will perform and whether the effort to protect them will be worth the benefits.

    But since we have had 70 years of peace and low intensity conflicts the carriers built have been well worth the effort.
     
  5. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    Let's assume a Soviet sub fires four SSMs at a CVBG. Usually they went to sea with only one nuke. These missiles are going to have to avoid being shot down by the layered defenses of the CVBG, and the missile with the nuke is as likely to be shot down as the ones with a conventional warhead. Assuming the missile with the nuke gets to the general area of the CVBG, it now has to target the right vessel, all of the ships are going to be jamming, and also enhancing to sacrifice themselves to save the carrier. Unless the carrier takes a hit from a nuke very close aboard, it will be back in action. As I have noted unless the war is "preplanned" getting the Backfires/Badgers loaded with nuclear armed ASMs is going to take time. much longer than loading them up with conventional weapons.
     
  6. Riain Well-Known Member

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    A Charlie in firing range of a carrier isn't going to withold half of its missiles, it will either fire the 7 conventional or all 8 missiles. Any follow up will be with torpedoes, however the counter attack will be fast and vigorous.

    But the rest is right, 7 or 8 missiles will have to get past several defensive systems on several ships and the nuke is just as likely to be shot down as the rest.

    However, only 1 attack will be the first and the CBG will likely suffer losses in its own strikes. The SSGN might be totally unsuccessful, but the afternoon Tu22m attack might fare better and an SSN torp attack the next day might get the kill.
     
  7. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    Not all subs had eight missiles, and a skipper might very well not fire all as once that happens their offensive potential is marginal, but I agree some subs might salvo everything - the nuke(s) only going if Moscow said so. As long as the war is conventional, you'll see waves of attacks, air or sub. If and when things go nuclear, several things happen. The ability to locate CVBGs and also to communicate that is markedly degraded. Furthermore the bases of SNA are going to eat nukes and while aircraft may be dispersed to secondary bases, how many missiles would be with them and how many if any nukes - those require special storage areas and special troops to guard them.
     
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  8. kio Well-Known Member

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    Because we are on an alternate history site, and because we are discussing the fate of carriers in a nuclear exchange, any thoughts on a change in balance of naval power of the Soviet R-27K asbm came into service? I have to imagine the threat of a nigh-uninterceptable high-precision nuclear missile specifically designed to target ships would force the US to re-think their naval strategy in some way. (The R-27K was taken out of service due to SALT)
     
  9. Riain Well-Known Member

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    The 29 (obsolescent, surface-firing) Echo II class and 17 Charlie classes had 8, the single Papa had 10 and the single Oscar had 12 SSCMs; Soviet SSNs relied on torpedoes.

    As you said, firing a half salvo makes it likely that the CBG defences will soak them up. I would compare an SSGN to a regiment of Tu22Ms; a one shot, all or nothing weapon. However while the Tu22ms would land and survivors be consolidated for another raid the SSGN would take up hunting with its torpedoes.
     
  10. Histor32 Well-Known Member

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    sunk
    soviet carrier faster than the US .. but the results are pretty much the same. a couple invariably will survive. but sunk ..

    that said.. if there is/was a WW III .. I might not be so concerned about my carrier fleet as after about 190 minutes of war it just really isn't going to matter much in 1983
     
  11. GarethC Donor

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    It's the targetting that's the trick.

    It goes something like this: a CVBG has a carrier, two guided missile cruisers for area air defence, maybe an UNREP ship, and a handful of DDGs (or maybe FFs, though they are slow and the USN would rather put them with convoys or the Marines). They're in a sort of blob centred on the carrier, with the cruisers within couple of miles, maybe a FF as a goalkeeper and plane guard, and then the DDs in a ring up to 10 miles out from the carrier as they put on a burst of speed and then slow down to maintaining steerage to give their sonars the best chance to hear stuff without making much noise.

    Around the formation are helicopters with dipping sonars making sure the DDs don't miss anything.

    Out another dozen miles at least (sprinting and drifting like the DDs) is an SSN, going where the carrier goes along its axis of advance, because it's a lot quieter than those ASW DDs and can hear better.

    Off-axis a bit and maybe 50 miles out an E-2 does a slow oval keeping an eye on air and ocean for about 200 miles in every direction. There's another one on the other side of the carrier, just in case anybody on the Red team is getting sneaky.

    Loafing around drinking coffee is an S-3 waiting for somebody on the surface to hear a submarine, at which point it will zoom over to the contact and try to localize it with sonobuoys and then kill it with lightweight torpedoes. and possibly if the tensions are high there's also an EA-6 (whose crew are drinking coffee that tastes even better because of the gold in the canopy).

    About 80-100 miles from the carrier in the vague direction of the E-2 closer to the expected threat direction (i.e. towards the Kola Peninsula, if we're in the North Atlantic) are a couple of pairs of Tomcats with four Phoenixes and a pair each Sparrows and Sidewinders.

    The Soviet challenge is to get a big fat lumbering 550kt turboprop (giant radar-cross-section from those propellers) Bear maritime patrol aircraft within 200 nm of the carrier at a high enough altitude that it's got line of sight, then to switch on the surface search radar (which, electronically speaking, is like jumping up and down and screaming "HEY GUYS, LOOK AT ME, I'M OVER HERE!"), not get fooled by decoys, chaff, jamming, spoofing or the other ships in close company with the carrier, and then pass on the contact information to the loitering regiments of Soviet Naval Aviation bombers when contested by the EW of an EA-6 Prowler, before that Bear is itself found by a Mach 5 active radar-homing AAM.

    The E-2s are trying to find the Tu-95 and tell the F-14s where it is in time for them to kill it (and they will - the AIM-54 Phoenix is really designed specifically to do this one job) before the Tu-95 can find the carrier and tell the lurking SSGNs (and SSGs Golf for the R-27K) and loitering Soviet Naval Aviation bomber regiments where it is.

    The USN plan has the Tu-95 getting splashed 50-100nm short of detection range of the carrier. The SNA plan has the F-14s having to lob their AIM-54s at incoming Kh-22 missiles headed for the carrier group, at which point the bombers and MPA run away.

    At the start of the war, the Tu-95 can get within radar range of the carrier group without being shot, but the bomber regiments can't, because flying a regiment of Backfires over Finland and Norway to hunt a Nimitz-class is a dead giveaway that the balloon is going to go up in the next few hours, and the Shock Armies and Frontal Aviation will be rather cross if their surprise is spoiled like that. So the opening shots have got to solely be from SSGNs not-very-near the carrier (because big fat slow SSGNs which are also very near the carrier get found and sunk by the 688 class, S-3s, or SH-60Fs with the carrier).

    Equally, there's a pretty decent chance that the SSGNs have picked up a completely separate trailer NATO SSN if they cross the SOSUS line, sitting within torpedo range and trying quite hard not to be heard. Cue lots of clichés from Red Storm Rising about playing Cowboys and Cossacks. But as was pointed out upthread, there just aren't that many SSGNs and there are quite a few 688s and Trafalgars whose day job is to hunt them down. If a Charlie or Golf starts launching missiles, depending on the ROE at the time, it may not survive to flush all its tubes.

    But there's a much better chance of at least some of the Soviet pieces being in place at the start of the war, than after it goes hot and the USN is free to engage anything flying near a CVBG to make extra sure that nobody gets targetting data on the carrier.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019 at 2:15 PM
  12. Puzzle Donor

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    If the war goes nuclear how many strikes can there be? The US or USSR would get their first strikes in, but then if the ICBMs launch who’s going to be there to rearm and retask the Soviet bombers? It seems like if a carrier group makes it through the first wave they get to deal with sailing through a nice peaceful ocean with almost everyone on land who could help or hurt them dead.
     
  13. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    @Puzzle : That's the point of CVBGs. While they are vulnerable to an attack, especially with nukes, if everyone is at max pucker factor the odds of this being successful is much reduced. If the carrier is not too badly damaged (or even damaged at all) in the first strike, unless a Soviet sub gets lucky the CVBG has a lot of ocean to disappear in and at 25kts (or more) can clear datum rapidly. Even assuming that there is someplace for the maritime strike aircraft to return to refuel and rearm with nukes, by the time they take off again (let's say 6 hours to return, rearm/refuel, and be ready to go again) the search area is now a circle 300nm in diameter with the center at the last known position. For every hour after takeoff it takes for the next strike to reach the general area the circle increases by 50nm in diameter (this adds π{(r2)2-(r1)2} where r1 is the original radius (150nm) and r2 is the second radius (150+25nm per 60 minutes between takeoff and arrival in general area). You are looking at an area where the CVBG can be at least 100,000nm(2) in area. In the aftermath of even a partial nuclear exchange data from any ocean surveillance satellites the USSR may have had in 1983 is going to take a long time to get to the strike force, if ever. During the time between the first strike and takeoff of the second, the odds of any of the Bear recon aircraft finding the CVBG and reporting back are small - any launched before the strike need to get to the area and stay alive long enough to report (and between when they report/die and when the second strike arrives the CVBG moves). Any subs that attempt to keep up with or intercept the CVBG are going to make a lot of noise, not goods for them. Basically only some sort of chance/lucky encounter will give the second strike a datum.
     
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  14. Puzzle Donor

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    I recognize that, I’m more wondering who’s still going to be fighting six hours after WWIII kicks off. The USSR and US will both be utterly gutted, Germany is glowing, and presumably every Soviet airbase is going to have been visited by something hostile. Say some carrier group in the middle of the Atlantic survives the first wave, is there ever going to be a second or was that their war?
     
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  15. kio Well-Known Member

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    Great explanation. Thank you.
    Also, I never knew there was so much protection around carriers. I assumed it stopped at the E-2s and the helicopters.
     
  16. BarbaraChandler Well-Known Member

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    “Pillaged by a Viking”.

    Thanks for that phrase XD
     
  17. Mike D Well-Known Member

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    There'll also be additional shore based cover, depending where they are in the world - RAF Lightnings and Phantoms and USAF F-15s from the UK in the North Atlantic along with RAF Nimrods and Shackletons on their own ASW patrols or JSDF and USAF F-15s and a huge number of Japanese MPAs in the Pacific, for example.
     
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  18. Barry Bull Donor

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    There are post first strike warplans. What's the point of stopping until one is sure that the opponent is dead, dead and dead.

    There is also the issue the shift to counter force strategy in the 70s would leave a lot more cities in relatively good shape. If one side still do not surrender, the other side may decide to go for the cities.

    As long as there is still operational forces left, the war can continue.

    Welcome to the bleak war of nuclear war strategic studies, which can taken by collage student.
     
  19. Barry Bull Donor

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    The key to targeting is the transmission gap time. While the Soviet built a first class satellite and aircraft based ocean survilliance system, the time need to transmit the intel from satellites and to interpert the satellitr data means that when the Bear or other survilliance assets that are needed to provide finer intel needed for missile guidance and targey takes over, it is likely that the CVBG has already moved away from the original site detected by the satellites.

    Therefore, the survilliance aircraft would need to tail the CVBG in order to guide the incoming bomber regiments, hence it is going to be the first to be shoot down in case war.

    The incoming bomber regiments and the missile they carried may have some guidance and targeting abilities, but the worst point for them is that they are unlikely to be escorted if the CVBG is located in mid Atlantic.

    There is a reason why some Soviet designers thought up anti ship ballestic missiles, which is difficult to intercept. But there is the risk of triggering a strategic nuclear exchange as the actual target of the BM cannot be identified at the launch stage and may get interpreted as a BM attack against Continetial US.

    Also, anti ship BM still be external intel to ensure smooth targeting as the CVBG is constantly moving. However, communicating with BMs has always been a difficult issue due to the EM effects generated in re entry stage.
     
  20. PSL Information not passed on is lost.

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    Friedman book on NETWORK CENTRIC WARFARE , recounts a string of exercises from the early 1950s through the 1970s [& 80s?] and the results were grime. Consistently the CAP attacked their own jets , while the bombers got through to attack the fleet . The big difference was that early attacks had 1/3 of the bombers shot down , with another third hitting most of the battle group, while the last third were just driven off. Many more friendly targets were hit than enemy targets....which went both ways.


    By the 60s NTDS was coordinating 50% of the intercepts @ 100nm , while the rest of the bombers got through to the fleet. As computer automation increased the problems multiplied like the law of diminishing returns .It didn't matter how many tracks a system could generate, the operators could still only handle a few at a time.


    It seems the fleet air-defence eventually was delegated to warship; and to that end - "SAMID" & NTDS network was the critical change, through these networks, SAM/AA fire was finally being controlled. Analogue based systems could reliably engage only 2 targets but took several minutes to complete the FCS. The digital systems could reliably track 5 targets and completed FCS in less than 30 seconds.


    This AEGIS type technology was a giant leap forward in coordinating the increasingly chaotic situation. Through the E2B of the 1960s they could control 10 intercepts, while the mid 70s the E2C could control 75 intercepts. More importantly with a carrier borne AWACS- the taskforce could remain in EMCON, while E-2B could patrol for the group at some remote distance.


    In the cruise missile attacks of this time- the trials showed- only 1% of the missiles actually hit the intended targets, the rest hit targets but not the intended one... again the demon of friendly fire. If this is a Soviet combined massed missile attack on a large troop convoy reinforcing NATO , the advantage of unintended consequences would work in their favor.