Sunday, 1 March 2009

My tips for the Future; but more importantly what do you think?

K130 Class Corvette of the German Navy

Now whilst I am beavering away on many projects at the moment, including the 'Aircraft Carriers; Fully Loaded' set of reports & analysis which is ongoing and may well lead to a few more entries soon, I wanted to lay out some points of view for your considerations (and whilst admitting they might in part be the rantings of an overly stretched mind, which is functioning on barely any sleep), to do with the future of sea power projection, and vessels it will be utilised from.


Now, it is not unknown how much I like these vessels, I personally like their power, punch, versatility, and price will make them a more and more common component of the world’s navies; especially in blue water roles. This is most shown by a recent definition of the corvette (mine, trust me it took a long time to perfect so I will make full use of it!);

A corvette is something of around 550 to 2,800 metric tons, and between 50-120 meters in length. They carry almost any armament going, although it is increasingly common - and advantageous, for them have multi-role capable VLS system which take any combination of surface to air, surface to surface, or even surface to sub-surface weaponry. They carry a small helicopter- the lynx is quite common, although the new German ones have unmanned air vehicles with dipping sonar’s and small torpedoes instead of them. As is expected from the fact they are operated by so many states they exhibit a wide variety of gun armament across the range of corvettes in use. This I know is a nice long list, and I am sorry its style is lacking but its purpose is to show what these vessels are capable of.

The German K130 Braunschweig class is a key example of the flexibility on offer, as is the Omani Project Kareef vessels which are being built in Portsmouth, United Kingdom.

Other Escorts

These are going to have to become General Purpose Guided Missile vessels, whatever their displacement and engine system classifies them as; frigate, destroyer or cruiser. I would also not be surprised if they tend towards being larger; in fact I envision a future where the corvettes make up the mass, whilst destroyer sized vessels provide the extra strength and firepower required for war. In the case of the Royal Navy this could be 2:1 with at least 15 Destroyers, supported by 30 corvettes (although this is probably a pipe dream knowing the Royal Navy’s success with politicians supporting it). Escorts which are a one trick pony (i.e. Area Air Defence) will be shown to be not only not value for money, but also dangerously inadaptable in the fluidity of the modern conflict area.

Aircraft Carriers

I read so many blogs, articles, books decrying these vessels and predicting there imminent demise; what is even better is that some of these date from the 1920s! Nearly 90 years later, you still have people rabbiting on about submarines, or new long range weapons annihilating the aircraft carriers. So whilst I will not state that aircraft carriers in their current form will probably not be so prevalent, especially the really large ones (100,000 ton ones), but the numbers of 60-70,000ton aircraft carriers will increase, especially with nuclear power, and lots of hangar space. Simply because whether it is manned or unmanned it still needs to be maintained and stored out of the weather at some time. They will have nuclear power, because will provide speed, limitless range, and catapults – to enable the operation of heavier aircraft/heavier payloads. Aircraft carriers will also need to be more heavily armed, CIWS only will not hack it in the modern world; Aircraft Carriers need the VLS loaded with SAMs, loaded with Cruise missiles and rocket torpedoes; in order for them to make it in the world with fewer and smaller escorts. They will make it, this is because Aircraft Carriers are needed; they are the most cost efficient, most deployable base for power projection as well as tactical air support/strategic strike ever made; and whilst they still hold this title (and let’s face it only a space station armed with fighters could beat it) they are going to be needed and thus they are going to be built.

Amphibious Warfare

This is possibly the area of greatest importance for future warfare; the light fast equipment which armies had been focusing on the procurement of, has been shown to be very weak in recent wars, in cities their speed counts for nought, and in mountains they are just not as capable. So they either have to be up armoured so much that they loose the speed, and the weight which was desired to make them air portable; and even worse this makes them even less capable at all terrain manoeuvres. The vehicles such as the Warrior and the Bradley APCs, as well Challenger 2’s and Abraham’s, are the vehicles which survive the fire fights best; but moving them buy air is just so expensive, so slow, so laborious, and mostly so difficult; moving them buy sea might not be any faster, but instead of arriving in one weak easily destroyed penny packet after another, they arrive together, ready to fight together.
Amphibious warfare is going to become more and more about the armour and the aircraft the Amphibious shipping can carry, not the numbers; however if a nation has a smaller capacity than a heavy brigade (about 6 battalions plus logistics, artillery and other supporting units) then that nation will not matter all that much.

So, I ask you, what do you think?
thankyou for your time and comments
I have to agree with you on the carriers, 100,000tons are just wastes of money, I know it doesn't sound that different but 70,000tons comes in at about half the price, with a decent airgroup; so why over build?
The Royal Marines have been obssessed with Helicopters for actually slightly longer than their US coleagues, having the first LPH's (Albion and Bulwark; conversly now the names of our LPDs!) and using them in Suez. The thing I see coming is a greater alamgamation of LPH/LHD and Aircraft carrier? why have have multiple types different aircraft carrying ships when you can one which can be easily reconfigured for a different role at a moments notice? the one trouble will be the armour requirment; although with Hovercraft assualt vessels, how big a problem that will be I can not accurately predict.
I personally think that the LCS is not the forebear of things to come in the small ship world, true corvettes with multi-missile capable VLS are; these vessels will thanks to the vls, and the stealth which comes naturally from being smaller, be able to deal with so many of the minor roles/peacekeeping & peace enforcement roles that really do not require their larger cousins attention.
thanks again Mike
yours sincerly
A hypothetical corvette design
They are doing this ultra high tech thing with ships as well, when what you really need is a corvette with only basic stealth (i.e. all vertical surfaces 7degrees of the straight as the Royal Navy have in the Type 23 Duke class), not the thing which looks like the ship from the weird bond movie. This ship needs to have either the type 53 or 41 vls, it because of its size, will probably only need one CIWS although 2 would be nice (mounted fore and aft), a small deck gun could be usefull although this could be a double 50mm radern cannon mount. finnally it will need torpedoes, because it should to save money, space, and to boost its capability carry 2-3 sonar dipping (maybe torpedo dropping) UAVs - like the German K130 Braunschweig class does. This ship would not be that expensive, and as long as it had a launch as well, then it would be able to doo all the jobs that could ever be required of it (if you really wanted to spend some money you might even fit with Harpoon, although you don’t really need to afterall most SAMs have a dual capability and with the type 53 or 41 it could carry Subroc and Tomahawk - both certainly capable of damaging a ship).
posted in response to Mike Burelson's post on corvettes
Your formula is very good ‘keep militaries affordable and relevant in the new hybrid warfare: dumb platforms+smart weapons’, the only problem is that for it to be implemented you need smart people in charge - but might I make a small suggestion; that you substitue simple for dumb, i.e. ’simple platforms+smart weapons’. This I suggest purely due to the lesson of world war II; the Germans built the King Tiger, one of the best tanks ever made, but it was complicated to maintain even by todays standards and very costly to build; on the other hand the Americans and the Brits fielded the Sherman and the Cromwell, two of the easiest to manufacture and maintank tank designs ever concieved and put into production. It was the Americans and Brits who won because they could keep those simple designs in the field for longer than the germans could their complicated ones. To my humble mind therefore there is nothing ‘dumb’ about this simplicity, it is fact the most intelligent and logical position. In fact I would go further to argue that the ‘dumb’ platforms of our modern age are the over-engineered, over-priced, and under-thought platforms such as the Zumwalts, the LCS, and the Type 45 destroyer - all of which are overly focused on one area of warfare and forget that others exist - as well as, due to their complexitiy, being prohibitively expensive.

1 comment:

  1. I am a recent convert to the corvette, a ship around 1000 or so tons, and I'll tell you why. I think the reason that large surface warships are getting harder to build in adequate numbers, and when they do enter service are riddled with faults, is that the design of such craft have reached their limits. Obsolescence is very common with weapons throughout history, and I think the last century concepts of warship building have reached a climax. If the new smart weapons don't do them in, the cost will.

    The corvettes will survive this block obsolescence by being affordable, as well as equally survivable as its bigger kindred. It can be built in large numbers and is quite handy for what appears to be the future of war at sea, asymmetrical engagements in the littorals.

    As for aircraft carriers, I continue to be unimpressed with the arguments that a 100,000 ton warship which owes its very existence because it is handy for those unexpected land battles that crop up now and again. A ship must first be built to fight other ships, and seeing that there are few such vessels in the navies of potential adversaries to America, I think the arguments are weighing thin. Neither does it surprise me that other countries around the world seeking great power status in the new century, naturally turn to the building of aircraft carrier as proof that they have "arrived" on the world scene. Like the large surface combatant, cost and the advent of precision weapons at sea will do in the flattops.

    I am not a big fan of specialized amphibious ships. I do appreciate sealift and prepositioning, which have proved very effective in our recent conflicts. No major beach landing since Inchon gives me an idea that this isn't a very likely scenario for American arms in the future, though medium size navies like Britain have utilized them successfully. if we do need an amphibious arm, I think the helicopter carriers should be enough because they are quite versatile for a number of missions in war and peace. Plus helicopters are a better way to transport troops at decent ranges. Putting Big Ships close to the shore in the cruise missile age is a dangerous idea which even the Marines now recognize, I hear.


Thankyou for taking the time to comment, I endeavour to reply to every comment that I can within the constraints of time