Aircraft Carrier top speed a State secret? Why?

pergau, GMRyujin:smiley:

I imagine it’d be a lot of fun trying to get those monster ships up the Rhine. Either that, or use the carrier’s hull design and power plants to plow through southern France. I can imagine:

[Scene. An idyllic town in southern France. Jacques and Frances are taking a break from their grape-harvesting and poodle-judging.]

Jacques: Mon dieu! Eet ees hard work, judging ze poodles!
Frances: D’accord!


Jacques: What ees zat?
Frances: I do not know.

[Over the horizon, shapes are seen. Jacques and Frances squint and try to identify the shapes.]

Jacques: Eet looks like…
Frances: A carrier battle group!

[The carrier plows by, leaving a gaping trench. The wake knocks over Jacques and Frances. It also ruins the grape harvest and scares the poodles.]

Jacques: Sacré bleu!


One of the presumptions in this thread is that the greatest danger to a carrier (or any naval surface craft) is a sub. Not true. Air borne missiles are the real danger, widely available on the arms market (1-800-F****e). Syria-class nations could equip jets with adequate missiles if they desired. So carrier escorts are designed mainly to screen those out. But they haven’t been battle tested. Which the British found out in the Falklands War is completely different from test drills.

The more "?"s you introduce into the thinking of an opponent about what it might take to get a carrier, the better. Speed is just another “?”.

BAHAHAHA! Oh, man, that was beautiful. But I can see that big freakin’ carrier just rolling up on land and that’s when we discover all Nimitz-class carriers are equipped with MONSTER TRUCK TIRES!

True, but the problem you have with jets is they’d have to fight through the CAP and I’m sure the carrier would start scrambling fighters as soon as possible. And I believe the Phoenix air to air missile (used on F-14s) has a range of 100 miles or so, so right there you have a problem. The Silkworm or Exocet have probably half the range. And then there’s the SAMs on the escorts. And even if you get your missiles off, they have to dodge AEGIS and any of the anti-missile guns the battle group might have.

Probably the biggest threat is small, quick missile boats.

Can we drag any Navy dopers into this?

I don’t think you’re asking the correct question here. The real question is, “what is the range of a particular type of torpedo at top speed?” If you can find the answer to those two variables, and can’t find the top speed of a carrier, there is a damned good reason for it: it means submarine commanders don’t know the extreme range at which they can fire and be assured that the torpedo will reach its target.

Imagine a there’s, say, an Iranian Kilo-class diesel electric sub sitting on the bottom of the Persian Gulf when an American carrier passes by at eight thousand yards. If that Iranian fires off a 45-knot torpedo, and the carrier suddenly cranks up to a never-before-seen 42 knots, there is a good chance the torpedo will expend all of its fuel before it makes up that mere three-knot differential and eight thousand meters.

In the meantime, the Iranian submarine just took the one shot its ever going to get, and one-third of the business end of the Iranian Navy just got cashiered.

Neck snapping acceleration has never been a long suit of aircraft carriers. A Nimitz class carrie typically displaces about 95,000 tons or 96,520,000 kilograms. Despite the significant power of its nuclear powerplant it doesn’t do anything “suddenly.”

Related to what was discussed further up; about the ability of a particulary navy to locate a carrier group, and that would mean that keeping the top speed secret would make things harder for such a low-tech-shoe-string-budget-navy that can´t even afford air patrols… why worry about them? what risk could such a flimsy opoinent represent for a mighty carrier and company?

Did I wrote “opoinent”? :smack:

Well, I’ll give you the accelleration angle, Padeye, but do you agree with me that one of the primary reasons for keeping a carrier’s top speed classified is to obscure the upper-limit range calculations of a potential torpedo-firing enemy?

Perhaps public relations (aka propaganda) is part of the reason. Judging from this thread, many Americans think this information should be classified. That may be enough reason to keep it classified, i.e. to keep the public happy.

I think everyone’s missing a couple important points here. Remember that an aircraft carries airraft. All kinds which each require runway length wind speed etc. The speed of the runway can have a helluva lot of influence on the carriers ability to do it’s job of deploying and land aircraft. Ask yourselves the landing airspeed of different types of aircraft, factor in head wind, it’s effect on the actual top speed of the carrier etc, and you will soon see that it can get very complicated. Also remember that the calculated hull speed may be very different from the actual tested speed. These speed tests are normally doneduring "seatrials"after an overhaul. They also test the turning radius at different speeds, the stopping distance, and they see what happens when going from full ahead to full reverse. The most important of the above as far as tactical use as related to maximum speed would be the turning radius. ie if we need to launch a plane and the wind is wrong, how long does it take to turn into the wind etc. (Answer to the op 45+, destroyers could do 34+ back in the '70’s)

Sure, almost any serious enemy could calculate the hull speed of a carrier. But what if the carrier is faster than that? It probably is, slightly, due to the sheer power of their engines.

And that’s exactly the what you’re trying to hide. The enemy is not only good enough to calculate your hull speed, but they are good enough that, if you give them the top speed of the carrier, they could work backwards and figure out how much shaft HP the beast has. And that may fill in another hole in an equation, say the audio data from a carrier’s screws, and allow them to reverse engineer things. Or whatever.

As someone else said, you don’t just give away fundamental data. Make the enemy expend its own resources.

Look, we already have three good reasons for the US NOT to disclose this information:

  1. If a carrier is spotted at a known point, it’s potential location after that becomes a larger and larger unknown as time goes by.
  2. Bad guy does bad thing X in country Y, knowing that the nearest carrier battle group is W days away, based on the carrier’s top speed. Imagine his surprise when the Abe Lincoln shows up a day early.
  3. Long range torpedo shots. Bad sub captain X calculates his longest shot (based on carrier’s top speed) and takes it - imagine his surprise when the carrier outruns the torpedo and the entire world comes crashing down on him in the form of ASW airplanes from the carrier.

I’m sure there are MANY more strategic and tactical situations where the known top speed of a carrier would affect the outcome.

Given this, as Philster has already said, the question is “How exactly would it benefit the USN to disclose this information?”

Answer: It wouldn’t. Period.

As long as it does not benefit the USN, and can introduce ANY amount of doubt into ANY enemy’s plan, this information will stay classified.

Whenever you see shows or written reports on the capabilities of current US aircraft carriers they mention that its real top speed is a secret. Why?

Hmmm seems to me the real question should be if you give out all the other information and allow shows to be made giving it out why this single piece of information is so much more secret. Surely it would be more appropriate to say nothing at all.

Dang…beta me to it.

For all of the people here stating how silly it is to just givew away information then why does the military give away any at all? Go buy a copy of Jane’s Fighting Ships for tons of detailed specs. Go to for yet more info on all sorts of weapon systems.

It is fair enough to say that we shouldn’t just publish the top speed of an aircraft carrier to make it tougher on our enemies but I find it hard to see why that info…compared to everything else you can get…is so hush-hush. If you are a country about to do something that might get an aircraft carrier off your coast then maybe you should figure on a 50 knot top speed and any extra time it takes to get there is gravy for you (actually you should probably rethink what it is you are about to do). Besides, it is hard to envision an aircraft carrier leaving its escorts behind and the speeds of many of those ships are known. On top of that the US can have bombers overhead anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours…troops too. A carrier isn’t our only option.

The thread posts are interesting, but, unfortunately way out in left field.
Having had duty on two of the nukes and a few of the fossil fuel carriers
the only thing I will say is that when we went out for builders and acceptance
trials, the thing that the designers and builders look for is making sure that
the ship can at least do the designed speed. In either case of top speed or
designed speed, neither one would be found on a forum such as this one, or
one would hope that would not occur. Top speed is something that only the
designers would have a close estimate of. Of interest is Padeye stating that
the nukes can do nothing suddenly. End of statement.

Do they check for zombies on acceptance trials? Specifically 10-year old zombies?

Yes, so interesting that no one has had anything to add to the conversation for 10 years.

At least this resurrector doesn’t appear to be 13 years old.

Well sure. The problem is finding enough brains to put into the reactor vessel.