This one's for Chris. The idea of a pykrete carrier may not jell with the "Swarm" idea, but commenter "Goat Guy" suggests that building ships out of cheap materials like ferroconcrete would be just as plausible, and probably much more feasible.http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2015/04/churchill-pykrete-carrier-would-have.html
There's something really awesome about the idea of building a gargantuan super-carrier out of a synthetic iceberg. Just kind of breathtaking. Thank, Brian Wang… whilst this may not be “the next big future”, it certainly was “the last big boondoggle”.
Or, to put it differently, when you think about it, what exactly was the big savings that an immense hull made out of iced paper pulp supposed to be? Even in 1942, we were making “ferro-concrete”⁴ out of a common sedimentary rock¹, left-over iron smelting slag² and endless streams of rebar³. It was cheap. Durable. Didn't melt. Did I mention cheap?
I guess in WW2, there being lots of paper pulp and not so much iron, lots of water, and not so much oil to make cement⁵, big ideas and even bigger budgets, such a contemplation could be explored. All the rest of the iron, concrete, cement, was going into building weapons, roadways, airports, conventional carriers, battleships, destroyers and the endless stream of PT-boats.
Ice, wood. Lordy.
¹ limestone - hydrated calcium carbonate CaCO₂ and dolomite MgCO₂
² smelting slag - was found to be remarkably durable for salt-water ferroconcrete.
³ rebar - reinforcement steel circular bar. Made from low-quality steel, but is dirt cheap.
⁴ ferro-concrete - concrete copiously reinforced on all shear axes with rebar³
⁵ cement-making fuel - is almost always either low-sulfur crude oil, nat gas or coke
… because higher levels of sulfur in the burning-fuel exhaust gasses (which for efficiency pass directly thru the clinker-bed of limestone and dolomite) markedly decrease strength of the portland cement thus roasted. Gotta keep the sulphur out.
If one of the main issues with modern military forces is the enormous cost of the actual hardware, then perhaps looking at alternatives to traditional building methods might be another focus of where we can go to increase the numbers of platforms. While casting hulls out of concrete is probably not
the way to go, we do live in an age where material science and technology are changing the way we are able to get the job done.