Anyway, Murdoc was talking about "small" carriers like, say an Essex as opposed to a Nimitz.
That ain't small.....
This is small!!
Here is what I'm talking about....
This is a Bremer Vulkan design that I think was the one proposed to Thailand. The German government nixed the project as they got the vapors over a carrier being built in Germany. I think this resulted in Bremer Vulkan's going bankrupt.
As you can see the vessel, while having a through deck arrangement and carrying aircraft, is hardly what we think of when we think of carrier. At 5000 tons it is smaller than many frigates and looks to be armed like an offshore patrol vessel.
Note however, that while hardly offensive, such craft might well be useful. Carrying 5-8 helicopters gives a wide reach for search and rescue operations , law enforcement, or, in a hot war, ASW. I don't think the above design could really operate harriers with a useful load, but if fitted perhaps with the excellent ESSM it might make a good complement to the Navy's Littoral combat ship.
Such a vessel might be a useful Coast Guard cutter (which is what the above design was really intended for) with a larger complement of SAR helicopters and surveillance drones than a regular cutter. The vessel would actually be pretty cheap though more choppers might have to be procured (alternatively those at air stations could be forward deployed aboard).
In a more combat oriented vein we have this overview of small carrier proposals from the last 26 or so years....
Crossbow, also known as Sea Archer, and Corsair was a proposal for a super,-high-tech, cutting edge laser armed catamaran vessel that was intended to replace supercarriers on about a 12 for one basis. more on that here, here, and via Murdoc there is a congresscritter interest shown here.
The second one down is the Vosper "Harrier Carrier" concept. Proposed in the late '70s and early 80's as force multipliers for third world nations. The design was interesting in that the turbines were all above the waterline, and the ship had electric transmission. This has all sorts of space and damage control worries but makes for a VERY quiet ship in ASW operations.
Next is a Vickers design I know nothing about, and beneath it the Thai version of the US Sea Control Ship, followed by this interesting design from Austal in Australia. Basically putting a flight deck on their successful HSV design that is being tested, quite successfully by the US Army and Navy.
There are a number of problems with these small designs though as escorts or patrol ships they could be quite useful. The big problem is this.....They are carriers and will be seen as a replacement for a fleet carrier.
Note that Sea Archer, would require 12 to equal one Nimitz, and that doesn't take into account that the Nimitz aircraft would have longer legs than the F-35s the small carrier MIGHT be able to carry. Thus there are things a Nimitz could do that a HUNDRED Sea Archers couldn't.
OTOH 12 sea archers might be more survivable than a single Nimitz, but often the people who advocate these see them as a cadge to seem to be buying a bigger military when spending less. I could easily see A Kerryesque President or congresscritter boasting about how he'd gotten the navy 4 times as many carriers with the little Corsairs, when in fact he'd havecut the navies capability by two thirds.
According to Friedman, the US Navy looked at small carriers in the 70s (really medium ones...bigger than these in the 30-50,000 ton range). There was a HUGE decrease in capability, but the feeling was that if 2 or three times as many could be bought then there would be a net increase in survivability and an ability to keep planes in the air longer.
Those plans were abandoned when it became clear the Dems in Congress were only interested in cost savings and that the navy would suffer a severe reduction in capability. That is, to my mind the biggest argument against them now.
IF Congress would authorize enough then they might have merit, say 48 of these and 6 big NIMIT's, but I have no confidence that enough would be built to avoid a huge loss in capability.
On the other hand, given the increasingly hostile nature of Naval Warfare, they might be necessary in any event.
More discussion of this sort of thing on this very interesting thread here.
Update: Got 2 stubborn images to post. Added HSV link.
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