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Even Battleships Need Motherships

September 23, 2009

090823-N-9123L-007The following goes along with a debate we’ve been having in the comments about the utility of logistical motherships, and whether small ships with their smaller stores and weapons load are adequate for the rigors of sea duty. Well, according to journalist David Axe, embedded with the International Piracy Patrol off Somalia on the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook, such large multi-mission warships have their limitations as well:

The Navy’s Combat Logistics Force — the tankers and cargo ships that resupply warships at sea — doesn’t spend much time in the Gulf of Aden. So DC has to pull into port herself when she runs out of fruit and vegetables. Today she tied up to the pier in Djibouti, near a German frigate whose Lynx helicopter buzzed overhead…

DC’s experiences raise some important issues. Might a bigger logistics force be a better way to boost the Navy’s overall combat power than more warships? If 3,000-ton Littoral Combat Ships are eventually going to take over the counter-piracy mission, how will they manage, in light of their limited stores capacity? Naval operations in African waters are all about logistics, logistics, logistics. Are we taking the right steps to ensure we can feed and fuel a sustained presence?

This experience reinforces my belief on the need for more motherships, motherships, motherships deployed with the fleet, to ease our dependence on foreign resupply, and ensure ships can deploy longer under less strain. Obviously, if smaller spartan warships like corvettes and OPVs were utilized more, there would be less of a strain on the logistics chain. Besides this is the absurdity of using ships geared for high tech warfare, with Aegis ships like the USS  Cook as the new battleships, for such low tech operations. For such sundry but important sea duty make the ships smaller, then use the savings to build more and back them up with motherships!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    September 25, 2009 2:11 pm

    RASing is amazing. I never get board watching one. But I am sad like that.

    Mr Burleson you should read what DK Brown says about VLR ships.

  2. Hudson permalink
    September 25, 2009 1:59 am

    If you watch the Lockheed Martin LCS-1 videos, you see the ship radioing ahead to pick up module A, which is all nice and ready in advance at the port of destination like a bag of groceries. So, yes, the LCS will make another stop in port for maintenance as well, I suspect.

    All fine and dandy in peace time, but hardly practical when port of destination has been bombed, and your module never reached port because the ship carrying it was torpedoed.

    This whole module concept is a European idea, which might work if you know far in advance when you are going out on patrol and you don’t expect to be attacked by a peer enemy. Thus the idea that LCS can replace the Perry frigates, as the Navy intends, is highly risky. The frigate as built was a complete warship with sea, air and underwater capabilities. The LCS is not.

  3. leesea permalink
    September 24, 2009 12:34 pm

    Logistics support is about more than provisions. IVO the LCS fuel consumption POL is pretty damn important too. How do the intend to refuel LCS-1 when it gets on station. UNREPs are going to be pretty tricky given slow speed ship handling.

    ASR astern refueling may be possible? Don’t know that its been done? My guess is some alongside time to an NFAF oiler will be the solution.

    Next on logistics topic is where do the helos, boats, and mission modules get their intermediate maintenance done? Certainly not a trip into port again? Say time OFF station.

    How about a stop next to a good German Berlin class small AOE?

  4. Mike Burleson permalink*
    September 24, 2009 6:27 am

    elgatoso-I am waiting breathlessly for the USN’s nuclear-powered patrol boat proposals! Not as unlikely as we may think!

    Hudson-so you add all these stores is spaces geared for weapons, you are no longer a fighter but a cargo ship! We need to separate stores, as much as reasonable, from the naval combatants, and you can have more of the latter at less cost.

  5. Hudson permalink
    September 23, 2009 9:58 pm

    Mike wrote: “If 3,000-ton Littoral Combat Ships are eventually going to take over the counter-piracy mission, how will they manage, in light of their limited stores capacity?”

    Depending on how many mission modules it is carrying, LCS-1, designed on a ferry hull, has quite a large interior space. The Lockheed Martin site used to have a virtual tour of the ship, but seems to have taken that down. The “month in the life” video conveys some sense of its interior. If it’s cans of fruits and vegetables you’re worried about, I’d say skip it. Also, remember, it has a small crew for a ship that size.

  6. elgatoso permalink
    September 23, 2009 9:31 pm

    Nuclear reactors don’t need resupplying.And I ain’t talking about gen1 reactors ,the Navy need gen4 reactors.

  7. leesea permalink
    September 23, 2009 8:26 pm

    David Axe is NOT a good source for naval information, he is patently a landlubber!

    To set the record straight go over to Galrahn’s site and look at the 5th OOB series. I can tell you for a fact that there are several MSC NFAF ships servicing the fleet off the HOA and south. While we are on the subject the CLF is an obsolete term. ALL combat logistics ships in the US Navy are in fact part of MSC’s Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force.

    Next we have already identifies the need for a smaller naval auxiliary to support both large warships and small warboats. Not all naval auxiliaries meet my definition of mothership.

  8. Scott B. permalink
    September 23, 2009 4:55 pm

    Byron said : “And by the way, that’s a guided missile destroyer in the picture, not a battleship…”

    The *battleship* is the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG-89).

    The *mothership* is the fleet oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO-197).

    The picture was taken Aug. 23, 2009, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

  9. Scott B. permalink
    September 23, 2009 4:43 pm

    BTW did I ever mention that the Danish ABSALON has :

    1) a range of 9,000 NM @ 15 knots.

    2) galley and personnel facilities for up to 300 embarked passengers and crew.

    3) enough stores for 28 days (assuming 170 people on board).

    4) a 80 square meter workshop for self (and third-party) maintenance.

  10. Byron permalink
    September 23, 2009 4:38 pm

    And by the way, that’s a guided missile destroyer in the picture, not a battleship…

  11. Scott B. permalink
    September 23, 2009 4:33 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “This experience reinforces my belief on the need for more motherships, motherships, motherships deployed with the fleet, to ease our dependence on foreign resupply, and ensure ships can deploy longer under less strain.”

    Then why is your Navy After Next, full of small guys with short legs and no maintenance capabilities, has even less auxiliaries (I suppose that’s what your *motherships* are for) than we have today ?

    Not being a marathon poster here : I am merely repeating one question I asked yesterday and that may, for some reason, have remained unnoticed so far…

  12. Scott B. permalink
    September 23, 2009 4:26 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Obviously, if smaller spartan warships like corvettes and OPVs were utilized more, there would be less of a strain on the logistics chain.”

    It works the other way around : smaller warships like corvettes would represent an ENORMOUS (as in CONSIDERABLY MORE THAN TODAY) strain on the logistics chain.

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