Keep the Essex class as a strike carrier

Something that hasn't really been addressed with all the talk about having an Essex operate Phantoms is that the VFX programme selected the Grumman 303 in January 1969 to replace with Phantom. The first Phantom sqns converted to the Tomcat in 1974 and IIRC by about 1982 there were only 2 Phantom sqns left on carriers, so keeping Essex's in commission is shakleing the USN to either the very old F8 or old F4.

Before anyone starts crowing 'F18', that comes with it's own significant issues. The USN primarily replaced A7 sqns with F18s, IIUC only 2 F4S sqns were replaced with F18s, it was the USMC who were the big user of F18s in the fighter role, replacing USMC F4 sqns. The mid 80s deployments of Midway class carriers with F18s were 2 USMC sqns in the fighter role and 2 USN sqns in the attack role. There were a few deployments in the early-mid of CVWs with 2 F14 and 2 A6 sqns because A7s sqns had converted to F18s but these ships (including JFK in 1983 when it bombed Lebanon) hadn't had the refits needed to operate the F18. So if Essex are retained into the 80s with the idea that the F18 will fly from them they will need significant refits to operate this aircraft.
There were definitely more than two USN Phantom squadrons in 1982 because both Coral Sea and Midway had them and they were still deploying on some of the bigger decks as well in the early 1980s plus there were the USMC squadrons. The F-18 did not deploy with a carrier until late 1985 (Connie) and did not see service on Coral Sea and Midway until 1986. I think there is a general misconception that the F-18 entered operational service with the CVWs a lot earlier than it really did (the RAGs don't count, obviously they were in service with those earlier). Most CVWs did not swap out their A-7s for F-18s until 1988 or 1989.
 
Let's not forget the US production of the Phantom didn't end until 1979 so they could add in a final batch for USN service without too much effort, or just run the production line for a few extra months to build up a stockpile of factory fresh spare parts.
 
Of note, the last F-4 squadron to deploy on a carrier was the USN Reserve squadron VF-202 on USS America in 1986. The squadron transitioned to Tomcats in 1987. The last USMC unit (also a reserve squadron) VMFA-112 gave up its Phantoms in 1992.
 
I can't contradict anything you write, because I don't know about it in that depth.

I based what I wrote on this.

View attachment 549661

30th June 1968 is the height of the Vietnam War. 30th June is the end of the Fiscal Year before President Carter took office. 30th September 1980 is the end of the Fiscal Year before he left office. So depending upon how the table is read he inherited 536 or 523 active ships when he came to office and passed 530 or 521 ships to President Reagan when he left office. There were more surface warships and submarines in 1980 and 1981 than there were in 1976 and 1977.

I know that statistics aren't everything.

Furthermore, that ships completed while Jimmy Carter was president were ordered when Nixon and Ford were president. Similarly the ships completed during President Reagan's first term were ordered when Jimmy Carter was president.
I understand, please don't take offense. During the post Vietnam era the personnel issues and support numbers (spare parts, delay in receiving cold weather gear, etc) were a big issue. The leadership of all branches of the military finally decided that by keeping marginal equipment in order to keep numbers up was actually hurting their cause. Maybe that is why I feel so strongly about these threads about 'Keeping the {insert favorite ship or airplane here] for another X number years' They neglect the real world issues of balancing budgets and capabilities. Keep pushing to make people justify their views. I never mind it when someone questions my views. Sometimes I can actually change my mind. Your chart is good and does represent one important part of the story.
 
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So if an essex and presumably the FDR were kept on how difficult would it be for the USN to put together CVWs? They would be dependent on an ever declining fleet of F4N/S that are only suitable for the old carriers as the new ones receive the F14 in ever increasing numbers.
 
Riain mentioned USS Ranger's unique air wing although it may have been more than just the ship not being ready for the F-18. I didn't realize she deployed with the "Grumman Air Wing" from 1986-1993. Probably a variety of factors came into play - not enough F-18s for every carrier (JFK deployed with two A-7 squadron for DESERT STORM), the fact that the A-7s were starting to get retired, to a desire to add some additional all weather 24 hour PGM punch to a CVW.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/12452/the-uss-ranger-sailed-with-a-unique-grumman-air-wing-in-the-late-1980s

 
So if an essex and presumably the FDR were kept on how difficult would it be for the USN to put together CVWs? They would be dependent on an ever declining fleet of F4N/S that are only suitable for the old carriers as the new ones receive the F14 in ever increasing numbers.
You keep planes in service longer and you rely more USNR and USMC squadrons to round things out, for example the Marines operated A-4s through the early 1990s but they did not deploy on carriers anymore. As I understand it, the extent to which the USN deploys USMC squadrons on the carriers tends to ebb and flow with how much difficulty they are having filling out the CVWs with USN squadrons.
 

SsgtC

Banned
So if an essex and presumably the FDR were kept on how difficult would it be for the USN to put together CVWs? They would be dependent on an ever declining fleet of F4N/S that are only suitable for the old carriers as the new ones receive the F14 in ever increasing numbers.
Not very difficult at all. IOTL, the USN converted enough F-4Js to F-4S standard to equip 25 squadrons. And they will still have all their unconverted B and J models. And the J, in an air superiority or Iron Hand configuration, could easily fly from an Essex. So you're likely to see the Essex class air wings flying F-4Js until other Phantom squadrons convert onto Tomcats, at which point they'll upgrade to either N or S models. For their attack squadrons, they'll just hang on to their A-7 squadrons or possibly swap in a Marine squadron if needed
 
Assuming Nimitz construction proceeds as OTL, the Essexes only need to hang on until 1982, at which point three Nimitzes are active and forming the full 15-carrier fleet; FDR can retire in 1986 once Carl Vinson commissions.
 

SsgtC

Banned
Assuming Nimitz construction proceeds as OTL, the Essexes only need to hang on until 1982, at which point three Nimitzes are active and forming the full 15-carrier fleet; FDR can retire in 1986 once Carl Vinson commissions.
The only way I see the Essex class being retained is if the USN is required to maintain at least 18 CVAs into the late 70s/early 80s.
 
And then once the early 80s come along they decide the retain the older carriers instead of re-activating the battleships because the carriers are already in the fleet and frankly a lot more useful.
 

SsgtC

Banned
How about they reactivate two Battleships and two Essex in the 80's to work in partnership rather than all four BBs?
Honestly, once the Essex class are out of the fleet, they're not coming back. They cost too much to reactivate them and then build an Essex only air wing. If they're simply staying in the fleet, it's a lot more cost effective and a better argument to retain them on active duty.
 
Honestly, once the Essex class are out of the fleet, they're not coming back. They cost too much to reactivate them and then build an Essex only air wing. If they're simply staying in the fleet, it's a lot more cost effective and a better argument to retain them on active duty.
That's the scenario I am working on...
 

SsgtC

Banned
That's the scenario I am working on...
Same. The TL I'm working on has a POD in the mid 50s and gets an extra angled deck Essex into the fleet. IOTL Lake Champlain had her SCB-125A refit cancelled (this would have brought her up to the same standard as Oriskany). In the TL I'm working on, she gets it when Independence goes up in a cloud of smoke after a fire during construction sees her written off as a total constructive loss. Plus some other changes to warrant the Navy keeping as many carriers as practical.
 
Not very difficult at all. IOTL, the USN converted enough F-4Js to F-4S standard to equip 25 squadrons. And they will still have all their unconverted B and J models. And the J, in an air superiority or Iron Hand configuration, could easily fly from an Essex. So you're likely to see the Essex class air wings flying F-4Js until other Phantom squadrons convert onto Tomcats, at which point they'll upgrade to either N or S models. For their attack squadrons, they'll just hang on to their A-7 squadrons or possibly swap in a Marine squadron if needed
While the USN converted 302 of 522 F4Js into F4S how many active USN squadrons were equipped with the type and went to sea? Same with the 228 of 649 F4Bs converted to F4Ns? There might have been enough raw planes to equip 25 sqns with F4S but there wouldn't be close to that number actually converted, and USMC and USNR sqns are used more in the exception than the rule so aren't fully interchangable with USN active sqns.

My main thought was be that by about 1980 the F14 would have replaced the F4 in most sqns and CVWs, and the USN can pick and choose CVWs to go on whatever supercarrier they have around. But then they have to maintain some strange CVWs in service to keep the ~4 carriers that can't operate the F14 and even a CVW without A6s, RA5s and other cats and dogs so that when the Essex came back it's CVW couldn't be seamlessly sent to another carrier.
 

SsgtC

Banned
While the USN converted 302 of 522 F4Js into F4S how many active USN squadrons were equipped with the type and went to sea? Same with the 228 of 649 F4Bs converted to F4Ns? There might have been enough raw planes to equip 25 sqns with F4S but there wouldn't be close to that number actually converted, and USMC and USNR sqns are used more in the exception than the rule so aren't fully interchangable with USN active sqns.

My main thought was be that by about 1980 the F14 would have replaced the F4 in most sqns and CVWs, and the USN can pick and choose CVWs to go on whatever supercarrier they have around. But then they have to maintain some strange CVWs in service to keep the ~4 carriers that can't operate the F14 and even a CVW without A6s, RA5s and other cats and dogs so that when the Essex came back it's CVW couldn't be seamlessly sent to another carrier.
In a TL where the USN will be required to maintain a larger carrier force, and with more smaller carriers unable to operate Tomcats, it makes sense that the USN will order more F-4Js to begin with (probably between 50-100 more) and more B and J models will be upgraded to equip more squadrons then in OTL.
 
In a TL where the USN will be required to maintain a larger carrier force, and with more smaller carriers unable to operate Tomcats, it makes sense that the USN will order more F-4Js to begin with (probably between 50-100 more) and more B and J models will be upgraded to equip more squadrons then in OTL.
I think that level of foresight and budget is not in keeping with retaining an Essex, it's more in line with buying a 2nd Nimitz sooner and keeping the FDR.

In my mind keeping an Essex is a last ditch decision that has to be done with stretching existing, crappy stuff out well beyond it's regular US service life, because all the better decisions have fallen over.
 
Perhaps if they screw up the Nimitz design so badly that they have to do a complete redesign delaying them for several years?
 
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