Your Mission, if you choose to accept it...CVLN's

Could the USCG make good use of disaster relief aircraft carriers?


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I read a recent thread that once again got me thinking about modern day aircraft carriers, but NOT navy aircraft carriers.

So, list of things it must have:
1) Nuclear Power.
2) Ability to share said power ship to shore.
3) Airgroup containing fixed and rotary wing aircraft and UAV's. (Non-combatant, no jets)
4) Must be able to haul massive amounts of goods of all kinds, from fuels, to food & water, and doctors & medicines.

Things that it would be nice to have:
A) Propeller powered seaplanes/amphibian aircraft in addition to helo's, if there is any gap that they can plug that rotary wing lack (range, speed, payload etc...), really good flying drone command and control craft, as well as drone carriers that can be used to take huge numbers of cheap, tiny little throwaway drones right into the area where they are needed most, no matter if such a location is beyond their own range, so think of small little drones all the way down to the size of delivering packs of cell phones, batteries, bottled water and medicines.

B) A really good engineering capability/force, capable of flying in and delivering mobile generators and fuel supplies to disaster stricken areas, anywhere within 100+ miles of the coastline.

C) Disaster relief supplies of all kinds, including medical.

D) and beyond, put in your own items for a wishlist.

So, I'm thinking about a US Coast Guard force, that gets one or more classes of 'aircraft carriers' that are mission specific to USCG needs, and NOT USN uses.

And if anyone is so inclined, posit situations, like Hurricane Katrina or other disasters, where one or more notional USCG carriers could have help in the aftermath, be that by providing doctors/medical treatment/supplies, or just tying into the downed local power grid from off-shore (one of the parts of having a large engineering capability/force), and getting the local hospitals up and running again ASAP.

Anyone interested?
 
There's not a hope in hell of this happening, it's just too expensive.
The only way something like this could conceivably ever be built is if some damn fool built a nuclear container ship as a naval supply ship, realised it was useless as due to lack of access to foreign ports and had it converted rather than scrapped. The chances of that happening is so remote as to be A.S.B.
 
I could just imagine it turning up to a disaster in any country in the world to be greeted by Greenpeace trying to stop Nuclear power etc etc. This is not as dumb as Nuclear mining but it's not possible.
 
A disaster relief carrier does seem a decent project to me IF:
  • Drop nuclear, there are endless practical, political and especially financial issues with it
    • Frankly if the concept of using the reactor to provide power ashore is such a vital capability, keep the carrier at sea where it can operate it's air contingent and build an interface for an SSN to act as a dock-side battery.
  • Use a retired LHA as a base, Nassau and Peleliu come to mind
    • I know you wanted fixed wing, but what aircraft are you actually losing by going to an LHA? Bear in mind that Greyhounds are already on the way out in favor of the V-22. Frankly this mission gains a lot more from a well deck than fixed wing, to the point that I almost wonder if the San Antonio's wouldn't be a better starting point.
  • Keep them in a high readiness state akin to Comfort and Mercy rather than active duty
  • Also like the hospital ships, involve civilian crews in their operation.
  • Seriously consider if they should actually be Coast Guard ships as such, or might be better suited to Military Sealift Command with a heavy emphasis on long service reservists for their naval contingent with the Coast Guard having a status more akin to Marines aboard ship than the actual operating authority.
For all that, lets go back to the drawing board with this. What are we trying to accomplish? Frankly I came out of this quick look at it thinking that it's an interesting concept, but that we've really identified a good case for a Mercy Class replacement to have a more general set of disaster relief capabilities, integrating medical, sea-lift, lots of flex-space and some kind of organic air-lift. From what I've heard the Navy is already headed in the direction of wanting more, smaller hospital ships. I'm picturing this as as fleet of around six San Antonio derived hulls that take advantage of the large hangar, having a well deck and sealift capability while being primarily configured as hospital ships.
 
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I could just imagine it turning up to a disaster in any country in the world to be greeted by Greenpeace trying to stop Nuclear power etc etc. This is not as dumb as Nuclear mining but it's not possible.
Are you saying that a ship cannot provide power to shore?!?!

Or something else.

Here is an interesting article, that perhaps I should have included in the OP.

Particularly interesting to me was the converted WWII Liberty ship, equipped with a nuclear reactor, to provide the Panama canal with power from 1968 to 1975...

One notable case is that of the Sturgis/MH-1A, A WWII era Liberty ship equipped with a nuclear power plant used to provide power to the Panama Canal Zone from 1968 to 1975 . The MH-1A power plant on the Sturgis generated 10MW electrical power which allowed the canal locks to be operated more frequently.
 
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A disaster relief carrier does seem a decent project to me IF:
  • Drop nuclear, there are endless practical, political and especially financial issues with it
    • Frankly if the concept of using the reactor to provide power ashore is such a vital capability, keep the carrier at sea where it can operate it's air contingent and build an interface for an SSN to act as a dock-side battery.
  • Use a retired LHA as a base, Nassau and Peleliu come to mind
    • I know you wanted fixed wing, but what aircraft are you actually losing by going to an LHA? Bear in mind that Greyhounds are already on the way out in favor of the V-22. Frankly this mission gains a lot more from a well deck than fixed wing, to the point that I almost wonder if the San Antonio's wouldn't be a better starting point.
  • Keep them in a high readiness state akin to Comfort and Mercy rather than active duty
  • Also like the hospital ships, involve civilian crews in their operation.
  • Seriously consider if they should actually be Coast Guard ships as such, or might be better suited to Military Sealift Command with a heavy emphasis on long service reservists for their naval contingent with the Coast Guard having a status more akin to Marines aboard ship than the actual operating authority.
For all that, let go back to the drawing board with this. What are we trying to accomplish? Frankly I came out of this quick look at it thinking that it's an interesting concept, but that we've really identified a good case for a Mercy Class replacement to have a more general set of disaster relief capabilities, integrating medical, sea-lift, lots of flex-space and some kind of organic air-lift. From what I've heard the Navy is already headed in the direction of wanting more, smaller hospital ships. I'm picturing this as as fleet of around six San Antonio derived hulls that take advantage of the large hangar, having a well deck and sealift capability while being primarily configured as hospital ships.
Nuclear is one thing I HAVE to have, as smaller ships, with conventional power plants cannot provide long term electricity, and the ships I would build for this function would not be restricted to power levels anything like as small as the ship's own power needs.

I have to admit to a secondary personal agenda with regards to fixed wing and nuclear power, but those are for somewhere other than this thread.

I think that if the USA was going to spend some $$$ on HR/DR ships, it could definitely do so, and I'm trying to find additional missions for such ships to do when not intervening in a natural disaster, and I most certainly like your thoughts regarding having a large, fully trained force, that is activated and deployed on an as needed basis. Additionally, I think that one or perhaps two classes of carriers could have designed roles very different from each other, but each filling in a part of the whole operation.

I'm starting to drift, so will shut up till after my nap...
 
Go with helicopters (or VTOL at least) only, fixed wing aircraft will be of limited utility in a disaster-hit area. You'll also want some sealift capacity to deliver earthmoving equipment (making roads, clearing rubble, etc).

Instead of nuclear, would you accept a mass of solar panels and some wind turbines?
 
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Australia has used it's Navy for Disaster relief many times during the last several decades. I am no expert so please take that into account.

Ok so you just had a disaster and you need help from your large neighbour to provide disaster relief etc. The mission has no end point you just know you need help now.

The first actions are purely political as the help requires military personal. (Indonesia and Australia showed how to be good neighbours after the Tsunami)

Military maritime Patrol aircraft make good first response as the FLIR and side scan radars etc plus communications. They will fly over potential airfields and the disaster site.
An assessment of response needed is made. At this point it becomes a civilian lead military operation with no guns.

If the runway you need is blocked equipment to get it operational and people can be airdropped or helicopter deployed.

Now the reason why military forces are great is because they are trained to go into rough conditions and have transportable power, food, water and medical facilities.
The large transport aircraft like the C-17 and C-130 will take supplies to as close to the disaster as possible. From that marshalling point helicopters are the go to because of capability.

The Maritime forces can be as simple as a frigate with a single helicopter and some RHIB. they can provide fresh water food, a location for air drops and many other features.
The Engineers on board and the crew can and have built field hospitals from nothing.
Ideally a LST or LHD/LPH can be deployed with emergency supplies. The helicopters spread out looking for survivors and helping them help each other.

Power is better provided by portable generators which the army knows how to use. Again they do this all the time. Fuel can be dropped in bladders and keep power going.
Nuclear power is great but it assumes power lines are up and usually they are not. Also in some disasters the possibility of a second event is high so mobility is important.

Now i come to cost. Maintaining a ship whose only job is to deploy to disasters will be difficult. Also you may well be on the wrong side of the world and be 2 or 3 weeks away.
Right now militaries fly cargo aircraft with supplies to a close point. Then civilian agencies like Medicine Sans Frontiers etc join in and quite often get transported by the military helicopters.

I love your concept of helping but from a financial point of view only a military can preserve the kind of skills and equipment needed.
 
NAVSEA 08 (Naval Reactors) would never let the USCG operate a nuclear powered ship.
NNSA would want the fuel to be <5% enriched. That means refueling every 2-3 years.
Would need around 5-7 nuclear trained personnel to operate. That’s just one shift. Including 1 officer and 1 senior enlisted. You would need 2-3-4 shifts onboard at all times. Navy Nukes are very expensive.
US Navy nuclear powered ships can’t go to any harbor. They have to meet minimum security and emergency preparation requirements. This would hamper places they could go.
Maintenance on a nuclear ship is very expensive.
Interesting idea but IMHO not viable/cost effective with nuclear power.
 
You could pretty much do most of the proposed CVLN disaster relief tasks using smaller, cheaper conventional vessels.

Hospital ship
Generator ship (with expanded fresh water making equipment)
Helicopter platform - use a USN one
Need larger fixed wing capable carrier for what ever reason - use a USN one

You cannot operate fixed wing aircraft and be hooked up to the local grid at the same time.

My old little mine sweeper had the ability to power the port town it was docked in - so a larger vessel would have the same/greater ability using its conventional engines as generators

Even better would be palletised generators that can be airlifted by large helo to the source as the location may be inland from the nearest port - which is pretty much how it is done as I understand it.
 
Nuclear is one thing I HAVE to have, as smaller ships, with conventional power plants cannot provide long term electricity, and the ships I would build for this function would not be restricted to power levels anything like as small as the ship's own power needs.

I have to admit to a secondary personal agenda with regards to fixed wing and nuclear power, but those are for somewhere other than this thread.

I think that if the USA was going to spend some $$$ on HR/DR ships, it could definitely do so, and I'm trying to find additional missions for such ships to do when not intervening in a natural disaster, and I most certainly like your thoughts regarding having a large, fully trained force, that is activated and deployed on an as needed basis. Additionally, I think that one or perhaps two classes of carriers could have designed roles very different from each other, but each filling in a part of the whole operation.

I'm starting to drift, so will shut up till after my nap...
This is your daily reminder that the carrier USS Lexington spent a month in 1930 powering the entire city of Tacoma, a city of over 100,000 people at the time. Nuclear is not needed, just a high-power turboelectric plant and hose connections to refuel from a tanker.
 
Australia has used it's Navy for Disaster relief many times during the last several decades. I am no expert so please take that into account.

Ok so you just had a disaster and you need help from your large neighbour to provide disaster relief etc. The mission has no end point you just know you need help now.

The first actions are purely political as the help requires military personal. (Indonesia and Australia showed how to be good neighbours after the Tsunami)

Military maritime Patrol aircraft make good first response as the FLIR and side scan radars etc plus communications. They will fly over potential airfields and the disaster site.
I too am just a hobbyist, and the origin of many a half baked idea, it's just that some of them are actually drawn from little known historical events. I would love to hear more about Australia and Indonesia working together in the aftermath of the 2004 disaster.

I agree with the above, and would interject the immediate dropping of some communications gear, with all the antenas, power supplies/fuel needed to establish contact with folks on the ground in the immediate areas affected, to coordinate the folks bringing stuff in with the folks that will be receiving it on the ground.

On the broad canvas, I would want liaison personnel aboard the communications centers, but would also want some technical personnel on the ground, to interface directly with the locals, and get all the tech items up and running properly, and get the local's up to speed and on board with the nature and schedule of more stuff being brought in and being properly distributed/utilized.
An assessment of response needed is made. At this point it becomes a civilian lead military operation with no guns.

If the runway you need is blocked equipment to get it operational and people can be airdropped or helicopter deployed.

Now the reason why military forces are great is because they are trained to go into rough conditions and have transportable power, food, water and medical facilities.

The large transport aircraft like the C-17 and C-130 will take supplies to as close to the disaster as possible. From that marshalling point helicopters are the go to because of capability.
I wouldn't be so sure about the 'no guns' part, but if possible, the guns should be local civilian law enforcement personnel, and not foreign military troops. For the rest, I agree that the best option for initial deployment of supplies and workers would likely be by air, and then, once more heavy equipment can be brought in to the restored airports, the likely far more difficult and time consuming task of clearing the flooded areas of debris to reopen the ports can begin.
The Maritime forces can be as simple as a frigate with a single helicopter and some RHIB. they can provide fresh water food, a location for air drops and many other features. The Engineers on board and the crew can and have built field hospitals from nothing. Ideally a LST or LHD/LPH can be deployed with emergency supplies. The helicopters spread out looking for survivors and helping them help each other.
For a reasonably sized event, one which would need to have a major response sent in, I don't think a single frigate would be much of a help. To be sure, any help is better than no help, but when Fukushima or the 2004? Tsunami hit, even a flotilla of LHD's would just be a drop in the bucket. However, if a LHD could have been on scene, and able to land some generators right at the Fukushima reactors, could they have restarted the cooling system, and prevented the meltdowns?
Power is better provided by portable generators which the army knows how to use. Again they do this all the time. Fuel can be dropped in bladders and keep power going.
For small scale, short term, I agree with you, but not for long term, or heavy (electrical) loads.
Nuclear power is great but it assumes power lines are up and usually they are not. Also in some disasters the possibility of a second event is high so mobility is important.
Both true, but restoring power includes repairing downed power lines/poles. In PR, was it something like 80% were down?
Now i come to cost. Maintaining a ship whose only job is to deploy to disasters will be difficult. Also you may well be on the wrong side of the world and be 2 or 3 weeks away. Right now militaries fly cargo aircraft with supplies to a close point. Then civilian agencies like Medicine Sans Frontiers etc join in and quite often get transported by the military helicopters.

I love your concept of helping but from a financial point of view only a military can preserve the kind of skills and equipment needed.
Yep, cost is the downfall of most of my wacky ideas for sure, but if only there was a way to make these ships turn a profit when not doing an intervention...
 
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There just isn't a reason to make these carriers nuclear (hell there isn't really a reason to make them carriers)

You're better off filling a ship with cargo and a number of auxiliary generators and a big fuel oil tank. Helos and other can fly in if required. If you are that remote (pacific island, small pop) then evacuation is the first choice not sustaining the population
 
I'll add to what has been said with this:
while we are talking in terms of US forces here, that incredible humanitarian capability, combined with what the RCN is actually used for is a big part of why I wholeheartedly support Canada acquiring 2-3 Canberra like LHAs. The Russian Mistrals going to Egypt were a huge lost opportunity, and while I grant that Mistral 140s would be excellent in practice I'd like to keep the door open to V/STOL if we are buying new build ships.
 
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NAVSEA 08 (Naval Reactors) would never let the USCG operate a nuclear powered ship.
NNSA would want the fuel to be <5% enriched. That means refueling every 2-3 years.

Would need around 5-7 nuclear trained personnel to operate. That’s just one shift. Including 1 officer and 1 senior enlisted. You would need 2-3-4 shifts onboard at all times. Navy Nukes are very expensive.
US Navy nuclear powered ships can’t go to any harbor. They have to meet minimum security and emergency preparation requirements. This would hamper places they could go.
Maintenance on a nuclear ship is very expensive.
Interesting idea but IMHO not viable/cost effective with nuclear power.
I would presume that the first two lines refer to folks that answer to somebody else, in a higher political position, and that, should such ships be placed on order, that alone would require support from said 'higher authority' in the first place, and thus it would be redundant to look at this part of your response, not because it isn't true, reasonable, or likely to be as you posted, but because if there were to be support for this project, their objections would simply be over-ruled by those above them.

Basically, I won't get into a debate about the (admittedly) Highly unlikely situation coming to pass that these ships are designed and built, because that is probably best reserved for a thread where everything else has been ironed out (Meaning, we somehow have a viable path forward for something like this to be done --- which we don't, and that we have also worked out how to make these ships affordable, and what other missions they are going to have to be able too carry out --- NOT combat missions, obviously, and that is the kind of thing I hope to debate in this current thread.)

What I would like to do is use this thread to identify:

1) Disasters that historically were of such vast destructive power that the cleanup could have used such a fictional CVLN to help sort things out, from the perspective of getting to the site quickly, and being able to stay till the cleanup no longer required it (or them).

2) Try to get an idea of just what kind of scale disaster would require such a ship to take part, as one of many ships involved in the relief efforts, as well as the challenges commonly facing relief workers, so that we can know what these ships would have to have in order to make any difference at all. I suspect that folks are not thinking in terms of really big disasters, nor things like, what do you do when the local waste water treatment plants are flooded out, and waste water is all over everything, and posing a great health risk to anyone that gets scratched up, cuts & contusions, that then get infected...

3) Once we get some ideas on these issues, we will know just what kind of mobile disaster relief forces we would need to have. I think that history would repeat itself, and the first class of CVLN's would quickly prove to be to cramped, tiny, and needing to be replaced/supplemented by something far bigger, like with the whole Langley/Lexington situation in our TL. I would think that the initial class would be something like 50-70,000 tons, and would hope to see something vastly larger built in the future.

4) Considering the nature of the (Primary) mission, I would expect these ships would hopefully have more down time than active duty, and this requires that the ships have as many other missions/roles as possible. And realistically, this is going to require that the ships can provide a return on their investments, or even turn a profit outright, and that requires either cargo carrying for hire, or large scale engineering projects around the globe. For example, in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, what large scale construction projects could have made a difference and saved lives? Mega Fortress/Hotels right on the beaches, built to be able to not only withstand the force of such waves, but to provide high ground in close proximity to those most at risk by having the space to accommodate 1,000's of folks short term?

5) Defining how such ships/forces/highly trained personnel are going to get paid, and by whom. Things like what I want cost money, as many folks have already pointed out, so how do we build multi-tasking into this in order to make it a paying proposition, because only that is going to make changes possible. Run this whole DR effort as a for profit business, and make it pay for itself, and then some.

For the rest of your points, I like the info provided about the staffing needs for the reactors, as well as the insight into problems with allowable access for warships/security and nuclear powered ships in particular, and these points would indeed need to be worked out, probably after the ships are built and used first in the United States successfully, and then folks decide that they would like to be able to get such help, should bad things happen, and so only then would I see laws being changed.

For you final point, that is well taken, but then again, I cannot see nuclear power getting vastly cheaper anytime soon, unless we start building and using it more, and thus driving down the costs, but hey, good point, and I am interested in hearing your thoughts on how to potentially make it possible to do.
 
You could pretty much do most of the proposed CVLN disaster relief tasks using smaller, cheaper conventional vessels.

Hospital ship
Generator ship (with expanded fresh water making equipment)
Helicopter platform - use a USN one
Need larger fixed wing capable carrier for what ever reason - use a USN one

You cannot operate fixed wing aircraft and be hooked up to the local grid at the same time.

My old little mine sweeper had the ability to power the port town it was docked in - so a larger vessel would have the same/greater ability using its conventional engines as generators

Even better would be palletised generators that can be airlifted by large helo to the source as the location may be inland from the nearest port - which is pretty much how it is done as I understand it.
I agree with the first bolded portion, if we are talking about a small event, and only concerning ourselves with the immediate cleanup operations, but I have bigger events in mind. That link I provided upthread gives a little bit of useful information about the realities of using ships to provide power to shore, especially with regard to getting a hospital back up and running. Here it is again. If we scroll down, we see the part where a nuclear sub really cannot 'power a small city', but rather much less than that.

The second bolded part is both true and inconvenient! :)
However, the fixed wing is only part of the airgroup, and wouldn't be immobilized until the ship is unable to sail freely, but then too, it isn't like the fixed wing aircraft need be as big and heavy as current combat capable jet aircraft, so even there, the lighter aircraft (especially the unnamed ones), are probably not needing WOD to operate, so...

I agree that most times, we could borrow assets from the USN, but if things happened when the Navy was over-extended with defense commitments, and then a big natural disaster takes place, and we lacked a seperate from national defense/global power projection force, what happens then?

I'll harp a little about this again here, my "wishful thinking" force would need to be able to have other roles to play, and preventative engineering projects that actually make money would be something they could do, while a navy carrier task force cannot.
 
I agree with the first bolded portion, if we are talking about a small event, and only concerning ourselves with the immediate cleanup operations, but I have bigger events in mind. That link I provided upthread gives a little bit of useful information about the realities of using ships to provide power to shore, especially with regard to getting a hospital back up and running. Here it is again. If we scroll down, we see the part where a nuclear sub really cannot 'power a small city', but rather much less than that.

The second bolded part is both true and inconvenient! :)
However, the fixed wing is only part of the airgroup, and wouldn't be immobilized until the ship is unable to sail freely, but then too, it isn't like the fixed wing aircraft need be as big and heavy as current combat capable jet aircraft, so even there, the lighter aircraft (especially the unnamed ones), are probably not needing WOD to operate, so...

I agree that most times, we could borrow assets from the USN, but if things happened when the Navy was over-extended with defense commitments, and then a big natural disaster takes place, and we lacked a seperate from national defense/global power projection force, what happens then?

I'll harp a little about this again here, my "wishful thinking" force would need to be able to have other roles to play, and preventative engineering projects that actually make money would be something they could do, while a navy carrier task force cannot.

It would be a pretty bad day in the office where the USN is sooo busy that it could not spare a CVN or LSH for a civilian disaster support operation that required a CVN and /or LSH!
 
This is your daily reminder that the carrier USS Lexington spent a month in 1930 powering the entire city of Tacoma, a city of over 100,000 people at the time. Nuclear is not needed, just a high-power turboelectric plant and hose connections to refuel from a tanker.
I like that, and that is, IIRC, one of the things I read about, sometime in the very dim past, that gave me the idea for using the nuclear powered ships surplus capacity. Difference in scale of power needed in the 1930's, and the 2010's in Puerto Rico, or the loss in Japan following the Fukushima disaster, of some 4.7 GWe output. What was the "Lady Lex's" total power output back then? Let me look that up right quick...

Ok, so here is the incident, and some quick reading gives me me the information that only one of her main propulsion generators was used. The article lists the USS Lexington as having 4 steam turbines for ship propulsion, each rated at 35,200 kW, 5,000 volts alternating current (am I right to read this as, 35.2 mega watts, or is the small 'k' not meaning thousand's of watts in this context?), in addition to the 6 internal power generators each rated at 750 kW, 240 volts direct current, so that gives us what exactly...

4 X 35.2 MW (140.8 MW), plus 6 X .75 MW (4.5 MW), for a total of 146.3 MW total electrical power output!!!
Of course, volts AC and volts DC are not going along the same line, and 5,000 vs 240 will not work either, but then again, it is impressive that the electrical shortfall of Tacoma was able to be made up by just ONE the Lexingtons main drive generators, and that at just about 1/3 power output potential, making this even more exciting!!!

The “Lady Lex” arrived at Tacoma’s Baker Dock in the rain to the sounds of a brass band and the applause of City Light customers. The Lexington’s boilers supplied a quarter of Tacoma’s power for about 30 days, leaving on January 17, 1930. That month, the skies opened and rain filled Tacoma’s reservoirs.

So yea! USN ships can, and historically have, provided electricity from ship to shore in the past. Thank you for the reply and information.
 
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I agree that most times, we could borrow assets from the USN, but if things happened when the Navy was over-extended with defense commitments, and then a big natural disaster takes place, and we lacked a seperate from national defense/global power projection force, what happens then?
What happens whenever there's a sudden need existing ships can't meet?
S.T.U.F.T.
Ship Taken Up From Trade.
 
So, list of things it must have:
1) Nuclear Power.
2) Ability to share said power ship to shore.
What about a class of nuclear ice breakers? That could also be used for power?

As the Soviet/Russian ships show Nuclear icebreakers are possible and might actually be economical due to the massive power required and not needing to go anywhere but USA/CAN that could be under a specific treaty?

Aircraft wise they might only have a hangar for a couple of helicopters so not much of a CV.... but they could also have a nice cargo hold for disaster supplies or to supple Arctic and Antarctic bases?
 
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