Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Small Ship Fleet

Navy Matters has an excellent piece on using small ships as part of a fleet.

I think its absolutely essential to remember there are some key words there, "as part of a fleet".

A fleet of 2000 to 3000 ton frigates is going to be annihilated by a 10,000t destroyer, just because it is going to see them first through a higher mounted radar.

However, if we have a ten thousand ton destroyer and a few 3000 frigates, the Destroyer can sail around with its radar blaring, and the targets acquired can be fed to the silent frigates, who are around the destroyer.
Anyone who tries to attack the destroyer gets a nasty surprise, and the frigates can run and hide behind their big brother in a sustained engagement.

I posited the idea of ship carrying an unmanned CB90 armed with NSM, probably impactical, however, the Skjold Class is already cleared for firing the missile.

An umanned Skjold Class with 4/8 NSMs would be an exciting tool, a fleet towing 8 of them would have frightening amount of options.

Imagine a modern Jutland type scenario.
The Enemy fleet turns in defeat, do you pursue?  And risk running over 8 unmanned stealthish ships carrying 64 AShMs?  Or do you let the enemy fleet escape and live to fight again another day?
Or, You are defeated, you turn to run, dropping mines, laying smoke and chaff, the enemy runs 8 unmanned (so suicide) ships through, 4 are lost, the other four unleash hell on the rear of your retreating ships, a third of your capital ships are damaged and lack the speed to escape.  Do you resume hostilities?  Or abandon a third of your fleet?

Nothing remotely difficult about dropping them off and telling them to wait an hour and then catch up.

Or the Falklands.
Imagine landing at San Carlos knowing 8 of those are prowling?
Sanitise the area?


With a top speed of 75kmh and a range of 185km, clearing the top zone gets you four hours.
Forcing them back to port gets you SEVEN hours.
Fancy landing your liberation force with those sat in port?  A frightening fleet in being.

How do you react to a vessel like that?  Its virtually invisible, its fast on a level the navy isnt geared up to consider, its sustainable to a level they arent either, dropped off, or self deployed, it can run a single diesel engine for, who knows, weeks?


  1. Your consideration about radar ranges is 'a bit' dated. Over the horizon radars were able to occasionally pick up a convoy over unbelievable ranges during late WW2 already. During the same war, submarines were able to hear convoys with their microphones from 50+ nm away.

    Range of surface search sensors is only important close to non-straight coastlines which degrade the sensor effectiveness well below the theoretical limit, and this is an environment which rather serves as an equalizer between large and small ships, save for the influence of helicopters.

    Your map example suffers from a different problem: AShMs (and ARMs) can easily be fired off trucks, as was one Exocet in a LOS scenario during the Falklands War and some ARMs at about the same time against Bekaa Valley targets. There's no justification whatsoever for wasting funds on naval missile platforms if cheap trucks can do the same job.

  2. SO
    Hey dude.
    OTHR are still currently land based arent they?
    Even if they were sea borne, given the signal losses involved, wouldnt the same problems still apply?
    That is, lack of power?

    Trucks are all well and good, but a truck cant cver 500km of ocean and then launch a weapon.

    Germany could close the straits of Denmark with truck mounted NSMs, and of course defend its beaches.
    But little else.

    Stick it on a fast missile boat and you can threaten ships in Riga.

    Not to say thats sensible for Germany to do of course.

  3. Coastal defence is most cost-efficient with land-based forces. Swimming and especially flying costs a lot.

    Once you want to hit ships far away, simply use some multi-role combat aircraft and fly there. You most likely have them in the inventory already because they can do so many different useful jobs.

    Shipborne OTH radars are a reality. Example:

  4. Yes and no, for Germany, the 900 or so miles you can achieve with a eurofighter carrying a pair of AShMs is likely to be sufficient to deal with the sort of targets you will face in the Baltic.

    This is going to be a lot quicker if I say "its like carrier air for poor nations" :)

  5. Think about it. Can it really be about defence if you fight where you cannot set up an airbase in a couple hundred miles radius?

    Now if you couldn't even do so - how would some FACs help? You wouldn't have them there in the first place either (or else you could have an airbase there as well), and moving FACs over an ocean in wartime is no good idea.

    FACs were almost always a poor idea, even back when they were relatively cheap without EW suite and such.
    Norway is a somewhat special case because the Fjord landscape vastly reduces truck mobility.

  6. Regarding distance
    The UK has about a dozen scattered outposts, litteraly all around the world.
    Pitcairn and BIOT being the most isolated, and even the three in the south atlantic are so widely spaced as to be beyond mutual support without extensive tanking of multirole aircraft.

    And of course, we dont share your view on the use of force to beat nations into behaving as we deem appropriate.

    Unescorted, thats very true.
    Im thinking more along the lines of a parasitic vehicle.

    Normal warships, could, carry detachable, unmanned and expendable (if not throw away) parasitic ships.
    They couldnt replace true warships, but they could provide a staggering amount of extra capability to those warships.

  7. The less sophisticated the small ships become, the less capable they are c.p.. Electronic warfare equipment isn't cheap, nor is a low frequency sonar. Seakeeping ability is also in question once you drop to a few hundred tons.

    Last but not least, even the UK has much worse challenges than imaginary threats to distant unimportant island possessions.

    What you did was getting excited ("exciting tool") at some idea you liked for some reason, but it doesn't really add up as a military concept.
    Just watch how you implied those FACs could speed across the sea at high speed. They would have huge range problems (it's utterly unrealistic to expect them to spend almost all fuel on one quick dash and return) and on top of that they would easily be heard by a sub and likely struck by some sub-launched AShMs. Even a radar-invisible ship (and there is no such thing) is easily detected at high speed. The wave pattern it generates can be detected easily, with 1980's and older technology.
    Hostile combat aircraft could take on these FACs, hostile helicopters could detect and attack them or direct shipborne AShMs at the FACs.
    Your "exciting tool" is an expensive live fire practice target against any navy which would dare to go to war against a 1980's technology navy or even a better one.

    Unlike submersibles, small surface warships - no matter "stealth" or not - simply don't have the ability to hide and thus become a great uncertainty and threat factor. You can find them quite easily and take on them even easier.
    The only time they're somewhat survivable is when they can blend with the coastline and just sit there in hiding (or when they can blned in with many decoys). Even this is now in question, as long-range radar (synthetic aperture imaging mode) can now compare coastline radar returns with stored digital coastline maps.

    The Norwegians are special because their almost unique Fjord coastline and the Chinese probably plan to hide their FACs in a fleet of hundreds of transport boats and ships in case of a Taiwan invasion anyway.

  8. "(it's utterly unrealistic to expect them to spend almost all fuel on one quick dash and return!"

    Sounds exactly like what a fighter, or even a missile, does.

    Your trying to force my idea to fit your prejudice, and predictably, failing.

    Its not a "ship" anymore than a rifleman is an army.
    I've fleshed out the thinking some more.

  9. It wouldn't spend almost or all of its range on one sortie because that's plan A, and plan A never happens.
    The boat would be moved a couple times to different hideouts, would sortie once or twice using a freighter as concealment yet return when things go wrong.
    You can assume everything goes by plan A, but that's unrealistic.


Go **** yourself