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On Auxiliary Cruisers and Such…

December 20, 2009

I’ll be offline most all day. Meanwhile, please check out an excellent post at the Dignified Rant titled “Forward … to a Thousand-Ship American Navy“, by Brian J Dunn. I promise we will discuss this further next week, with a little twist on the idea of “warships off the shelf”.

Brian-I saw no place for comments at the site. Just wanted to say well done for a timely and informative article. Proceedings’ loss is the naval blogosphere’s gain!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Graham Strouse permalink
    December 22, 2009 5:23 pm

    Mike,

    This is an EXCELLENT idea. The UKs Q-ships were not terribly effective in WWI & their auxilliary cruisers, by & large, were not so effective in WWII. Germany, however, deployed offensive auxilliary cruisers in both world wars–WWII in particular. And I think the technology exists now to equip, ah, “A-Team Cruisers” with fairly little effort.

    Modern pirate vessels are not, comparatively speaking, all that well-armed or equipped. Deploy a decent smattering of otherwise innocuous seeming merchant ships equipped with Navy crews, combination RCWS gun/missile stations, independent UAV recon, updated electronics & communications & piracy suddenly becomes a lot less appealing. The trick (something the Germans did brilliantly with their disguised merchant killers in WWII especially) is to LOOK LIKE A MERCHANT SHIP. Stealth doesn’t always mean you need Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak. Sometimes it’s more effective just to look like something you’re not.

    With sufficient encrypted communication capacity, these auxilliary cruisers could deliberately position themselves in harm’s way…and make life very hard (and short) for the pirates that attempt to take them.

    It’s simple economics. You don’t eliminate supply. You make the demand curve way too costly to make the endeavor worthwhile.

  2. Graham Strouse permalink
    December 22, 2009 5:11 pm

    Red Team Thoughts: Let’s say a second or third-tier power with SSKs makes a deal with a particularly desperate African nation or a power faction in said nation (*cough*Somalia.) The 2nd/3rd tier country makes a deal with the faction to make pirate love to every merchant ship passing through the African country’s waters. This draws in the Type 23s & Burkes & so forth. Close enough to shore. One day a Type 23 or DDG-51 is blown to pieces by a salvo of torpedos from a skulking SSK while conducting anti-piracy operations. Risky move? Yes. But I can think of ways to make it plausibly deniable. In the interim, the US or UK freaks out in a post 9/11 fervor (more likely in the US, the Brits are a little more stoic about these things). All hell breaks loose in Washington & we start some more wars we can’t finish & drop our own economy to 4th world status in the process. Risky, like I said, but viable.

  3. leeseas permalink
    December 20, 2009 11:14 pm

    What he leaves out is details about construction standards. Many folks do not realize that ABS and DNV and others have rules for construction of naval auxiliaries aka warships not build to NVR or similar military standards. There are cost savings and some more risk in the approach.

    I can see more armed naval auxiliaries but warships in “civilian” hulls is little simplistic.

    While Araphao was the birth of modularized aircraft transports, it was not the first T-AKV. Maerask has been marketing an AFSB which I would clasify as T-AKV, but it has many more capabilities and a higher price tag hindering its adoption. NAVAIR is always the stumbling block when it comes to aviation facilities on ANY ship flying aircraft. Maybe we’ll get some relief for UAV pads?

  4. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 20, 2009 9:20 pm

    “When these auxiliaries ships are doing all these missions world wide what do we do with the real warships?”

    Do you mean the DDG-1000 that shrank in orders from 30 to 3? Or the Type 45s that were reduced by half to only 6 ships? How about the CGX? Oh, wait, looks like thats not going to happen.

    Anybody see a trend here? The very few “real” warships we can afford apparently needs some help, unless we want to buy the world’s most expensive coast guard.

  5. December 20, 2009 4:47 pm

    When these auxiliaries ships are doing all these missions world wide what do we do with the real warships?

    Surely peace time tasks contribute to training?

    They sound just as complicated as the real thing. SOLAS standards are nearly as rigorous as military ones. Modern steels are all good quality.

    Didn’t containerised aircraft support prove to be not worth the trouble?

    And of course for containerisation to work you need a biggish hull.

    For all that it is a wonderful article and I will visit the site again.

  6. B.Smitty permalink
    December 20, 2009 3:45 pm

    In the ’80s, the US experimented with modularized aviation facilities on cargo ships with the ARAPAHO program.

    More recently, the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) concept is somewhat similar.

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/afsb.htm
    http://www.maersklinelimited.com/PDFFiles/2009_AFSB_FINAL.pdf

  7. D. E. Reddick permalink
    December 20, 2009 1:41 pm

    Reminds me of the proposed Shipborne Containerised Air Defence System (SCADS) ship concept developed by British Aerospace for the RN. This arose from the experiences gained with merchant container ships converted into aircraft ferries and improvised aircraft carriers during the Falkland’s war of 1982.

    Pre-packaged decking and ski-jump could be used to convert a standard container ship into an auxiliary warship capable of supporting six Sea Harriers and two helos. Standard-sized containers would provide required support equipment and personnel spaces. Sea Wolf SAMs and decoy launchers would have been provided on standard-sized container base units.

    I would imagine that a RAM launcher could be fitted to a container base along with the proposed 57 mm gun. If a double height / depth container were used then might not a VLS system for ESSM be possible. I’m thinking of Mk 48 and Mk 56 VLS systems rather than the larger Mk 41 system.

  8. CBD permalink
    December 20, 2009 12:42 pm

    He should submit it to the USNI blog. They seem a bit more open to such ideas and could properly present it to a larger audience.

    I have to say that I’m not entirely convinced about the capability of such a ship for forward presence or deterrence, but they’d definitely make great ships for convoy duties, maritime security (anti-piracy), and disaster response.

    I especially like the point (which Mr. Dunn does not dwell upon) that these could be configured to support F-35s, V-22s (and UCAVs), just like the WWII converted merchantment. The ability to deploy STO(V)L aircraft from one of these could offer the Gator navy a way of augmenting air power without sacrificing the core amphibious capacity (as with LHA-6). It could also allow the USN to be a bit more comfortable with a smaller CVN fleet as these ships would be available for minor strike and patrol duties.

    One mission Mr. Dunn omitted is quite possibly the best one for a low-manning, large-capacity vessel: BMD. A powerful radar system and enough large VLS cells to accomodate current BMD means the Burkes can respond to forward threats while these vessels take over the defense against the long-ranged threat.

    I’m sure NASSCO would love to get a crack at such a vessel…they could even use the T-AKE hull (so we could have T-AKE, T-AOE(X), Auxiliary Cruisers, and whatever replaces T-OE all on a common/similar hull).

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