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1000 Ships to Fight Piracy

December 9, 2009

I know what you are thinking. Building 1000 ships and then deploying the same to the Indian Ocean is impossible, even for several navies in participation right? You would be justified since with almost the entire world currently engaged in anti-piracy patrol against the impoverished Somali state, only 30 are available for the thousands of square miles of patrolling required. But here is a need, according to Tim Brooks at The National:

“It is a concern from a naval perspective that we do not have enough vessels to reduce piracy in the Indian Ocean because of the huge area,” said Cmdr Stein Hagalid, the branch head of the Nato Shipping Centre. He said 30 vessels are committed to counter-piracy now and 50 could be available within a year, “but to effectively suppress piracy in the Indian Ocean we would need a thousand”.

I think if navies would build as they fight, this problem would be easily solvable and affordable. In other words many small patrol craft with good qualities and fair armament instead of exquisite and over-large battleships, which are constructed to fight the worse possible scenarios, like a Chinese missile destroyer, with an anti-piracy mission as an afterthought.

If ships were built to fight pirates, you would have more Cyclone patrol craft, River OPVs, HSVs for deploying naval infantry, and small conventional subs as coastwatchers. The large frigates and missile destroyers could still be there, only as backup, on call but rarely on station. With low cost corvettes costing hundreds of millions instead of billions, patrol craft in the tens of millions, and many small boats, you can easily deploy a very large fleet able for long-range patrol, less the cost of a squadron of modern destroyers or nuclear submarines, or even a single USN supercarrier.

It isn’t that we don’t have the means, just the will power to make this happen.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 11, 2009 6:45 pm

    I’d say your opinion is worth a lot Bill! And thanks.

  2. Bill permalink
    December 11, 2009 4:11 pm

    “My guess, around 2000 tons, more or less?”

    Exactly the guess I came up with….for what that is worth.

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 10, 2009 12:13 pm

    Wonder of we can get a hint from the length

    MRV-79.8 meter or about 262 feet
    Perry frigate-450 feet-4100 tons
    LCS 1-380 feet–3008 tons full
    LCS 2-418 feet–2800 tons full, also 608 tons deadweight
    USCG Medium Endurance Cutter-270 feet 1800 tons

    My guess, around 2000 tons, more or less?

  4. Sarcastic ShockwaveLover permalink
    December 10, 2009 11:33 am

    My pleasure Mike. You’ve got some interesting ideas; I enjoy reading your blog, in fact I’ve got it set to open automatically when I boot up my browser. (Along with about 12 other military sites :P)

  5. B.Smitty permalink
    December 10, 2009 11:20 am

    Hard to say Mike. HSV Joint Venture has a full load displacement of ~1700 tonnes and a DWT of 741 tonnes, but to run at 42kts it’s DWT drops to 320 tonnes. So it really depends on other factors.

    That could be the max DWT, or expected DWT given some range/speed profile.

  6. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 10, 2009 11:03 am

    Are you talking higher than 3000 tons, because that is the impression I got?

  7. B.Smitty permalink
    December 10, 2009 9:45 am

    MRV is 400 tonnes deadweight, so it’s full load displacement (empty + dwt) is MUCH higher.

  8. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 10, 2009 4:25 am

    Shockwave, I saw that and will post more on the subject this morning!

    And I agree that is a very promising design from Austal. I’d guessed it was more than 400 tons, though.

  9. Sarcastic ShockwaveLover permalink
    December 10, 2009 12:11 am

    You might be interested in this:

  10. Heretic permalink
    December 9, 2009 10:50 pm

    Okay, that MRV *looks* mighty promising … especially at a deadweight of 400 tons (no mention of heavy loaded weight). The video doesn’t clarify if the upper flight deck has helicopter hangar/stowage space forward of the landing pad (although that’s the implication). Only other thing that’d be “missing” on this MRV is a (main) gun … although given the layout and size, I’m hard pressed to think of where you’d put it (since that canted forward nose might not be the best place).

    Definitely a coast guard/pirate chaser ship though. It certainly has 2 of the 3 main things you need as a coast guard/pirate chaser … small craft launch capability for Board/Search/Seizure, a helicopter, and … a gun?

  11. CBD permalink
    December 9, 2009 10:37 pm

    It looks like the only armament is a small gun forward (it’s hard to tell if there’s room for other systems). No apparent space elsewhere for anything other than a 21 cell RAM launcher over the hangar. Good mini-LPD, not so much as a surface combatant.

  12. elgatoso permalink
    December 9, 2009 10:16 pm

    From Solomom blog Snafu a very interesting vessel. Must see!!!

  13. CBD permalink
    December 9, 2009 9:25 pm

    Nicely put comments re: force structure.

    To clarify, you’d look for a littoral fleet consisting of several corvettes, a light frigate and an Absalon-style ship for organic air and amphibious assets?

    Personally, I’d look to generate several classes of lower-end ships, with reasonably little political upheaval, I believe that the following is within reach:

    DDGs (~9,000t Burke follow-on, for fleet work and patrol flagship, 90 VLS)
    FFGs (~5,000t Perry follow-on, for patrol, F100/Nansen, 48 VLS)
    LCS (~3,000t, serving as a light frigate, preferably LCS-2, 16VLS)
    KPG(~1,000t, Patrol Corvettes, up to 8 VLS SD-length)

    An F100 copy would be fairly simple to integrate as its major systems (AEGIS, 5″ Mk 45 gun, Mk 41VLS, etc.) are in line with the current USN systems. It has a significant number of VLS cells and is a size that allows it to conduct independent blue water patrols.

    In the light frigate category, things get a bit more confused.
    Why the LCS? Because it’s already been developed (somewhat) and the LCS-2 at least has the capacity to make it interesting. If there was a point at which the program was abandoned then other options might open up, but I’m afraid that the LCS will survive to produce just enough light frigate-sized vessels that it would crowd the market for both light frigates and larger flexible support ships.

    I’ve played with your idea about lighter frigates (especially the Formidable, which seem great), but I was concerned that the existing Formidable design would require some modification in armament and systems (Swapping in 32 SD-length Mk41 VLS cells for the 32 Sylver A50 cells, swapping European radars and FCS for American equivalents). Compared to the LCS boondoggle, the development costs would likely be low, but the similar displacement of the Formidable and the continued lack of flexible ships in the USN don’t favor it.

    Also nice would be a smaller-sized amphibious station, or FSS (~6,000t Absalon-like amphibious/frigate hybrid). A mixed force of Formidable-style light frigates and Absalon-style LPD-lite ships could make the core of a nice light/littoral patrol group.

    Without anything smaller, my current vision of such a patrol group has a surface command group consisting of a DDG, an LPD or LSD, and a tender and smaller groups of 1 LCS and 4 Corvettes. Given free reign, you’d see a F100-styled frigate, an Absalon-styled command ship, and a tender overseeing groups of Formidable-styled light frigates and corvettes.

  14. D. E. Reddick permalink
    December 9, 2009 6:53 pm


    You used the wrong analogies regarding automobiles. Better would be a Landrover or a Toyota Landcruiser in a narrow mountain pass versus a pair of M1A1 Abrams parked in a cantonment down on the plains. Different capabilities and intended uses define what is needed in each sort of environment. The same should apply to brown / green water littorals versus blue water deep sea operations.

    You are fundamentally correct in our need for smaller OPVs and warships to counter shoreward threats and piracy from nearly undetectable skiffs. It’s just the details of the mix of vessel types and actual vessel characteristics which need better definition. A capable corvette type of vessel based upon the U.A.E. Baynunah class would be quite useful in many littoral situations. A more capable frigate type based upon the SAN Valour class would be suitable for backing up littoral operations and conducting blue water escort functions. A yet larger frigate or support type vessel of the Danish Absalom class could backup the corvettes and provide them with support by forces that the corvettes themselves could not embark.

    The USN used to maintain a tiered system of variously sized warship types suited to different tasks (PCs, PGs, PFs, PHGs, PHMs, DEs, FFs, FFGs). That does not appear to be the case in this first decade of the 21st century. Burke class DDGs and Tiko CGs are being mis-assigned to chase pirates when a FFG or PC would be more appropriately suitable to such missions. Better yet would be the availability of smaller OPVs and corvettes to chase pirates and counter littoral threats. Of course, that’s your mantra. But, other forces will be needed. Medium displacement FFGs and larger frigate / support warships will also be needed (besides inshore patrol craft and corvettes). And I cannot even address replenishment or amphibious forces which will be needed to support such brown and green water interventions. Anyhow, just keep expounding upon this subject. Sometime, someone is going to wake up and notice the needs of the nation in regards to this issue.

  15. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 9, 2009 5:50 pm

    Smitty, $50 million delivered! Probably higher now since the facelift!

    Jerry, you inspired me, man!

  16. Mrs. Davis permalink
    December 9, 2009 5:30 pm

    The career path to flag rank does not pass through command of the small ship.

    Perhaps that is part of what is wrong with those who populate the flag ranks. One wonders what Nimitz learned from grounding the Decatur (420 tons) and whether there are any commands from which a career can continue after grounding.

  17. December 9, 2009 4:49 pm

    I tend to agree with Heretic. No up-and-coming officer is going to want to command a force of patrol craft, even if they are of the “Ford” caliber. However, officers will go where told and if it’s made out to be an incentive, then it might work. However, training and fighting that war will never make a man a strike group commander. DesRon at best.

    Still, it’s the right way to go, in my opinion.

  18. Heretic permalink
    December 9, 2009 4:25 pm

    The career path to flag rank does not pass through command of the small ship. Therefore, small ships are unnecessary to the modern navy.

    Wash, rinse, repeat.
    (until war breaks out)

  19. Jerry Hendrix permalink
    December 9, 2009 3:23 pm

    Nice new poster for my office collection. Might have to show these to the wife someday.

  20. Marcase permalink
    December 9, 2009 3:16 pm

    All fine and dandy, but from where are you going to stage all those small craft? Especially if they go ‘kinetic’ against well armed pirates, which nation would allow such combat ops be launched against a neighbouring country?

    Patrol boats and even the slightly larger corvettes suffer from their small crew and size: limited range, limited sea worthiness and crew fatigue, those are Real World issues, especially if they have to self deploy half a world away. Resupply at sea only goes so far, and small craft aren’t well suited for RAS.

    Yes, they are expensive, but destroyers and frigate sized ships have the room, crew number and beans & bullets for longer independent deployments. Add the advantages of better radar, radio/SATCOMs and onboard helicopters (with their OTH sensors and MGs) and RHIBs, their effectiveness is greater than just their tonnage.

    It is absolute and utter nonsense to confront the piracy problem on economic terms. Just because the Somalis don’t have frigates or destroyers doesn’t mean confronting their skiffs with similar small craft just because it is cheaper to do business that way. Net effect is the key, not doing it on the cheap.

    But even with small, medium or large ships, the Indian Ocean is still too fast with naval combattants. Affordable satellite recon and P-3 or BAMS maritime patrol is one of the main keys in reducing the pirate threat.


  21. B.Smitty permalink
    December 9, 2009 3:06 pm

    Seafighter is a “Ford”??

    It may look like an F150, but it drives like a GT500! :)

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