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Destiny of the Frigate Pt 1

December 28, 2009

Netherlands frigate HrMs Kortenaer (F 807).

The Vanishing Escorts

The days when the modern naval frigate might be seen as a low cost, numbers building alternative to large and pricey missile battleships is long past. Nothing is such stark evidence of this than the 3000 ton gun, helicopter, and missile armed littoral combat ships–LCS Freedom and Independence. On these ships rest all the Navy hopes in rebuilding its drastically shrinking force structure, and defeat low tech enemies such as pirates and smugglers on the High Seas. Except at up to $700 million each they can never be bought in the numbers desired.

Blame this in part on the helicopter. First introduced on Navy frigates in the 1960s, as on the excellent British Leander class, the USN Knox, also on Canadian subs hunters, the helos offered a substantial increase in anti-sub capabilities, especially against the exquisite nuclear boats then entering service. Suddenly the range such vessels could be detected and destroyed increased dramatically for the hunter-killer surface combatants, since the aircraft loaded its own sonar-buoys and ASW torpedoes.

The price paid to carry and support aircraft on small ships was substantial, however. A noticeable increase in the size of frigates became apparent in the 1960s, to allow for a stable launching platform. Later high price and high performance helos like the USN Sea King, Seahawk, up to today’s Merlin on European ships, contributed to the call for high end ships to launch from. Some like the superb Canadian Iroquois was so capable as to receive the moniker of destroyer, though it was then still just a low end general purpose escort, as was the 5000 ton American Spruance.

Note the rise in size from the 1950s to the 1970s of both non-helicopter and helicopter ships:

New Weapons and New Roles

Kirvak I class frigate

A further contributer to the decline of frigate numbers occurred in European navies. There, the idea was to fit long-range area anti-aircraft, later anti-missile missiles on low end frigate hulls to to avoid the great expense of new USN guided missile cruisers and destroyers. This was a logical response to the growing cost of deploying new weapons at sea, yet, there still was a need for a low end escort that has yet to be adequately met.

It is completely sensible for the West to deploy such vessels, hoping to keep the costs of shipbuilding down while still deploying an extremely important weapons system to the fleet. The problem is, this is mostly all they are building and planning, while the bulk of operations at sea of late have been of the low tech variety. The general purpose escort remains elusive, as does replacements for Cold War era platforms like the American Perry’s and the British type 23 frigates.

The ship is a Batch 3 (broad-beamed) Leander with a Sea Wolf/Exocet conversion.

As we see with the LCS, the British have proposed a new “Future Surface Combatant“, perhaps in recognition that the frigate role has changed dramatically, initial plans for the C-2” design is for a 6000 ton ships, which some estimate costing at least $1 billion each. We see then, the frigate no longer meeting the need for cheap and plentiful escorts, always a requirement for keeping ship numbers up and not using your most expensive space age warships in sundry duties such as anti-piracy or anti-smuggling missions, plus keeping watch over small but dangerous fleets like North Korea or Iran, while still managing the few but important peer enemies such as China or Russia.

Tomorrow-Rebirth of the Frigate.

43 Comments leave one →
  1. bob tolland permalink
    January 5, 2010 10:12 pm

    Thanks Mike, I suspected something like that. Also, I believe I read somewhere that a lot of the old SM1s were sold to some of our allies to give them an antiair/anti-missile capability. The thing that I am really wondering about now is, since they have effectively had their teeth removed, what do we use them for nowadays? I am a strong believer that we need good numbers of small to medium size (perhaps under 2800 tons?) effective frigates that can be suited for different types of missions. Thats what got me on to the Perry’s. They seem like good boats but I just cant see what they can really offer without any types of anti air or anti shipping missiles. Once again, thanks for your reply.

  2. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 5, 2010 7:38 pm

    Bob, our readers might have more technical details, but specifically I think the disarming of the Perry’s was for reasons of economy. My suspicions also is that they were reduced in armament so as not to make the new littoral combat ship look bad, which are about the same size but are very much underarmed, with absolutely no area air defence weapon like the older Standard SM-1 carried by the FFG-7 class, also no Harpoon missiles and a smaller caliber main gun. Admittedly the SM-1 was obsolete, but recently the Australian Navy upgraded their own “Perry’s”, frigates based on the same design with the SM-2 into a very advanced ship.

    I think we need guided missile destroyers/frigates and patrol boats. The LCS comes with the price of a frigate but a patrol boat’s armament.

  3. bob tolland permalink
    January 5, 2010 7:26 pm

    I have a question about the Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates that we apparently still operate a good number of. Since the removal of their missile launchers around 03 or so, what exactly is their purpose now? I’m not sure what type of offensive punch they could have. Also I dont see them as good escorts because they can’t shoot down any missiles. If anyone has a free moment and can fill me in on what these venerable old ships are still used for I would highly appreciate it. Thanks

  4. Nigel.R permalink
    December 29, 2009 9:59 pm

    Sorry, forget to add the bit about the Type 21 being the best class I worked on.

  5. Nigel.R permalink
    December 29, 2009 9:57 pm

    Great posts if I may say, I will follow where this goes with interest.
    Just a note on the RN Type 81, although I have never had the pleasure of setting foot on one, I understand that they were single-shaft, not a good idea and a fault they share/shared with most recent USN Frigate classes. Aside from the initial construction and later maintainence cost savings, it has always amazed me how this flaw seems to have been brushed under the carpet. I understand all the stuff about “CHEAP SECOND TIER CONVOY ESCORTS” etc, but a huge chunk of redundancy goes out the window.
    Just to add to the ‘favouite boat’ topic, as a Royal Naval Dockyard Mech Fitter for over 20 yrs, I had fun pulling apart and putting back together RN Escorts from Leanders to Type 23’s, and although they had the same propulsion plant of most of the 42’s and the first five 22’s shoe-horned into a far smaller hull, they were a real pleasure(sometimes challenging)to work on. Also, worked on Australian Navy FFG’s in a later life, not so pleasurable even with only one shaft!
    I guess that with four engines and four water-jets each, both LCS classes have solved my little gripe?
    Keep up the good work Mike.

  6. D. E. Reddick permalink
    December 29, 2009 9:26 pm


    That class name and description is the Iver Huitfeldt class “patrol craft,” which are to be sorta, semi-, maybe 6,645 tonne AAW frigates. ;-)

    The Danes do appear to have mastered the art of naval classification redirection and obfuscation. The Absalom class are support ships and the Iver Huitfeldt class are to be patrol craft. But such impressive little PCs are they to be! ;-)

  7. Jed permalink
    December 29, 2009 9:04 pm

    Mike – ref manning and fleet size. I honestly don’t think having a few nights decent sleep and some better meals on the ‘tender’ would cut it for today’s young sailors. However another way of ‘sweating your assets’ as they say in the commercial world is to do what the submarine community has done for years (and is in use for the LCS I believe) multiple crews per ship. Of course that is not a perfect answer either, as the other similarity to the commercial world is a sensitivity towards the wages bill – lots of people is expensive !

    Again this is something where the US seems to lag behind Europe. I have had an interesting dicussion with Gahlran at Information Dissemination on this subject before, but the big deal the USN is making about “multi-function” sailors on the LCS is just staggering to me. That was my whole life in the RN – “multi-function” ! We used to make fun out of the fact that the RN had two different types of Communicators, both of which had the same core skills to work in the Main Communications Office, but if I walked signals across to a USN ship, they would not let me in the MCO because my branch badge as ‘Tactical” communicator was crossed flags – in the USN crossed flags is a “Signalman” – someone who does flashing light and semaphore ONLY and is absolutely not cleared to the required levels to be allowed into the “office”. We used to be very mean, and I hope non of the other readers will be upset by this, but we used to joke about how stupid American’s must have been to need such massive crews !

    So, not bragging here, but we were all highly trained (even more so after the Falklands) in damage control and firefighting. On various ships I had secondary jobs either manning a bridge wing 7.62mm MG or a 20mm GAM-B01 cannon. I did a flight deck fire fighting course, “internal security platoon” course (oh oh, sailors with ‘small arms’….) , shipboard Naval Gunnery Support training, a VBSS course which included learning how to fast rope out of a Lynx, an intelligence photographers course, etc etc, and yes I was ‘keen’ but not abnormally so ! Informally I could use any system in the Ops Room, including the UAA1 ESM an the CAAIS or ADAWS consoles to at least ‘lock up’ a surface contact and give it a ‘track number’, I also taught myself navigation and used to join the Midshipman to do ‘star shoots’ etc.

    My point, other than blowing my own trumpet (!) is that perhaps the size of crews and thus the wages bill could actually be lowered for the USN, allow less sailors to man more hulls (based on the Iver whats-his-name class !!).

  8. Jed permalink
    December 29, 2009 8:47 pm

    Very good point ref U*V’s being manpower intensive, however it kind of depends. If an MQ8B can stay aloft 80 miles from mother for six hours, then that might be a single senior rating at the console for the full shift. This compares well to the two officer crew of a Lynx which could only manage 1.5 to 2 hours max. The maintenance staff of the ships flight might be less for the U*V than for the Lynx.

    BUT – if you also have a RHIB based USV out and about at the same time, then thats another operator at a console too.

    Don’t even get me started on satcom bandwidth, LOS datalink jamming etc etc, just remember, the reason Galactica survived the start of the second Cylon war was because she was not a ‘network centric’ platform…. :-)

  9. B.Smitty permalink
    December 29, 2009 4:47 pm


    Good point on the need for ‘non-stop’ manning for these long-endurance U*Vs. One has to wonder if, assuming more capable SATCOM U*V datalinks, you could take a page from the USAF and do remote split ops?

    The Swedes went though with the tail chop on their AW109s, and they are being cleared for deck ops on the Visbys, but do they actually plan on using the hangar? I thought they gave up on that idea.

  10. Marcase permalink
    December 29, 2009 2:51 pm

    Re Visby; it still has a hangar. In fact, they cut a piece of the tail of the HKP15/AW-109 to make it fit.


  11. Marcase permalink
    December 29, 2009 2:49 pm

    What is often overlooked is that UAVs/UUVs/USVs are very manpower intensive. Because they are so “expendable” and easily deployable on smaller platforms, and (as is the intention) increase the capability of these smaller vessels (either corvettes, seabarges, GOPLATs or submarines, the unmanned systems will be running actively nearly non-stop.

    That means you also need specialists working ‘non-stop’ to handle and act upon all the information gathered by the various unmanned systems. Especially (passive) sonar data requires trained specialists, and having your ASuW team running 24-7 means more embarked specialists, which increases your crew, which increases required bunk spaces etc. etc.

    This is were the frigate comes from; basic (affordable) weapon systems mounted on a larger hull for better seakeeping, survivability and crew comfort. Destroyers and up are true role specialists, and so are the current fashionable smaller corvette and OPV types.

  12. B.Smitty permalink
    December 29, 2009 10:46 am


    I actually said “U*Vs”, which is the nerdy short hand for USVs, UUVs and UAVs. The former two are more valuable for ASW at this point than the last one. IIRC, there was talk of arming Fire Scouts with the new 6.75″ torpedo for ASW, and possibly integrating a dipping sonar, but I don’t know what the time frame was.

  13. James Daly permalink
    December 29, 2009 9:11 am

    I’m reminded of the last Portsmouth Navy days. My Grandad and myself were looking round the new HMS Enterprise, a new survey ship. My grandad’s brother served on the WW2 era HMS Enterprise, and my Grandad said something along the lines of ‘this would have been luxury in the war’ when we got to the accomodation. The rating showing us round sniffed: she clearly didnt agree. But, if you think about it historically, my grandads dad – WW1 Iron Duke, L class subs – would probably have thought that the WW2 era Enterprise was luxurious.

    I’ve got the utmost respect for anyone who spends so long away from home on a ship like that, certainly for a landlubber like me your experiences help shape my opinions.

    I’ve noticed that RN ships are spending more time on deployments, with smaller gaps in between: this year HMS Lancaster came back from the Gulf, spent 6 months or so in Portsmouth, and now shes headed for Somalia. That must have a considerable effect on morale.

    Where would you place the balance between: the frequency of deployments, the length of deployments, and the living conditions onboard?

  14. Matt permalink
    December 29, 2009 8:18 am

    B.smitty / leesea,

    I believe I’m in agreement with leesea when it comes to ship-board UAVs and ASW. IMHO anyone who proposes using small ship-board UAVs to conduct ASW either a) grossly underestimates the complexity of Air ASW, or b) greatly overestimates the capability of UAVs.

    I believe that relying on UAVs which can be embarked on an LCS-sized vessel are a losing proposition for the next 10-20 yrs simply because the sensor technology isn’t there. In ASW it’s all about platform payload — greater payload translates to more sensor/weapons capacity, which translates to greater effectiveness on-station. Exactly how many sonobuoys/torps can a Fire Scout carry? And can it carry a dipping sonar?

    All that being said, I think an off-board UAV type solution (where one isn’t constrained by the size/weight characteristics of an LCS) would be a better path of investment. Why exactly does the FFG/LCS need to be able to carry everything itself? I know that a regular poster on this site regularly proposes lighter-than-air platform — believe UAV blimp would be a good ASW complement to the FFG/LCS.

  15. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 29, 2009 7:12 am

    Jed,m.ridgard, Marcase and all the rest:
    Thanks so much for the personal stories. It means alot you who have served would take time to read this blog and provide us with your insights, which are much appreciated and needed in this critical time for Western navies.

    Part of the reason I promote building a bigger fleet here, is to bring a dramatic reduction in which crews are forced to deploy from home. In the post Cold War era Britain and America are forced to do more with less available hulls, but the missions don’t seem to have reduced at all, perhaps having increased because of the Gulf situation. Am I right?

    Certainly the frigates today are vastly more capable than those built in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, one ship replacing four and all that. No matter how capable they are, still we haven’t figured out how they can be in more than one place at a time. And no matter how comfortable you build a ship concerning accommodations, there’s no place like home, right? We see this happening with Australia’s Collins subs, very large for a d/e sub, but still the sailors are not reenlisting. They are over-worked and over-deployed.

    Small ships should also deploy with motherships, historically they were with Tenders. On board these larger vessels were special accommodations for those who didn’t posses such essentials on their own tiny vessels. With large multi-mission ships, you are pretty much on your own for a while. This is expected.

    So you build the fleet bigger, allowing the sailors to spend more time at home, with plenty of hulls to take up any slack. It’s a tough job, I know and I am in constant awe of you guys who spent so much time away from your loved ones, putting your lives on the line so a new generation will remain free and safe.

  16. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 29, 2009 6:48 am

    Scott B, welcome back. And apparently the navies agree with you about bigger frigates since that’s all they are building these days.

  17. Scott B. permalink
    December 29, 2009 5:04 am

    Jed said : “So if you can build a ship as big as the Absalon as cheap as the Danes have done, then it will be better than a Visby if your deploying as part of USN ‘global stations’.”

    AMEN !!!

    Destiny of the frigate ? THINK BIG, not small !!!

  18. leesea permalink
    December 29, 2009 4:18 am

    Bsmitty you may be right about offboard weapons systems especially MIW,

    BUT can the LCS carry them in terms of payload adequacy? That means both lift capacity and numbers of mission packages onboard and right mix of both?

  19. B.Smitty permalink
    December 28, 2009 11:02 pm


    With ASW, I think there is a lot of room to grow for surface combatants when paired with offboard U*Vs. The LCS has the right idea here, IMHO. Let the robots do the dangerous work.

  20. Matt permalink
    December 28, 2009 9:38 pm

    It strikes me that if we get to the point where we’re talking about putting a DDG/FFG/LCS up against a modern SSK/SSN, something must be very wrong with our strategy or doctrine. Why would we even consider fighting a submarine on what amounts to equal terms?

    If ASW capability is such a key concern, it’s my opinion that small surface combatants are a path of diminishing return unless paired with properly equipped long-range ASW aircraft. MPA can cover A LOT more water, have a much faster dash speed, and have the nice advantage that they can’t be torpedoed. It’s truly a shame that the RAF has all but gutted its often overlooked (but extremly competent) Nimrod force.

  21. Jed permalink
    December 28, 2009 7:48 pm

    Just to join in with m.ridgard and Marcase – my first frigate with HMS Hermione, broad beam Leander, last ship to be refitted in Chatham dockyard. I joined for her second commission as a Sea Wolf / Exocet equipped vessel. 21 radio ops and EW ratings in 3 Lima mess – if more senior ratings wanted to watch the tv in the mess square, I and the two other Junior’s (sailors less than 18 years old) could not go to bed, our bunks being folded up or down to provide extra seating…. :-) The good’ol days eh ! And I have been very drunk on a few Dutch Kortaenar class ships, being more modern they definitely had better accommodation.

    My point in this reminiscing is that habitability is key for vessels that you want to deploy to far flung bits of the world for anywhere between 6 and 9 months. I have done ‘standard’ RN six month gulf deployments on Hermione and HMS Glasgow, I have done a 9 month deployment of minesweeping and mine hunting in the gulf during the Iran-Iraq war on a small MCMV – not fun living conditions in two layers of fire retardant battle dress, anti-flash gear etc when the boats were built for the North Sea / English channel – and thus had ‘minimal’ air conditioning !

    So if you can build a ship as big as the Absalon as cheap as the Danes have done, then it will be better than a Visby if your deploying as part of USN ‘global stations’.

  22. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 28, 2009 7:40 pm

    Marcase said “Imho they were good examples of what a frigate should be”

    I think we’ve pretty much perfected the type, and which is why some have argued that the LCS should have been a traditional frigate. I am tempted to agree, if it wasn’t for the price and shrinking numbers of even these “low cost” escorts. I’m expecting a sea-change in frigate design anytime now, and the budget will drive new hulls.

  23. B.Smitty permalink
    December 28, 2009 7:11 pm


    I think the Swedes gave up on that “space reserved” for a hangar. It was too small.

  24. leesea permalink
    December 28, 2009 5:58 pm

    For larger vessels I think a helo deck goes hand in glove with a hanger in order to accomplish M&R undercover and with handling gear. It would also allow for a one spot deck with one in the hangar. Also adding to the capability is the Beartrap system or whatever the USN calls it?

    Apparently the Visby can fuel helos and has a space reservation for a hangar? So that would put it in my corvette category which is how the Swedes rate it also.

    Smaller gun also. goto this URL

    Marcase you make good points for an older frigate design

  25. Marcase permalink
    December 28, 2009 4:38 pm

    Crew comfort/fatigue is something that cannot be ignored, especially since crews keep shrinking due to automation. Standing watch, battle damage repair and boarding duties are some of the tasks a crew must perform BESIDES their assigned task. Smaller corvette-type vessels with crews of 50-85 just lack in endurance.

    Case in point is the former RN Type-21s. Cheap to build, but expensive to upgrade – on of the reasons they were sold early. They were meant to be fully replaced by equally capable yet light and cheap vessels. Those replacements however, merged with the Type-23s which may have increased the RNs effectiveness and capabilities, but reduced the number of deployable platforms.

  26. Marcase permalink
    December 28, 2009 4:38 pm

    Aah, the S-type Kortenaer class… I was lucky enough to serve a stint on the Piet Heyn (F811), these frigs were beauties, and it still is a damn shame they were sold off (to Greece among others) due to budget cuts. They were partially replaced by the M-type Doorman class (nearly all of which were also sold due to budget cuts), but the loss of the Kortenaers really hurt.

    Imho they were good examples of what a frigate should be; large (two) helo-hangar, torps, towed array sonars, SeaSparrow point defence missile, Harpoons, 76mm, torpedoes and later on a Goalkeeper CIWS, all tied together in a single combat management system.

    These type of frigates can’t protect whole flotillas all by themselves, or attack (deep) land targets, but instead they do all the menial work; long range (as in world wide) patrol & presence, low intensity (littoral) ops scalable to all-out Tom Clancy-style naval warfare. All that on a reasonable budget too.

  27. B.Smitty permalink
    December 28, 2009 4:10 pm


    Does it also include a hangar? Or is that requirement separate?

  28. leesea permalink
    December 28, 2009 3:18 pm

    One has to go into that thick Air-Capable Ships bulletin to see all the details and specifications which NAVAIR demands for USN, USCG, and MSC ships to see what I mean by”full”. It is not just a matter of size or number of spots. There are also such things like POL & ammo storage for aviation assets, firefighting personnel & systems, flight deck controls, ATC systems, and as I mentioned the accomodations for air crew and support det personnel. All leading to a larger ship.

    Sure Visby is probably a better small ship design but specific capabilities need to be examined for a detailed comparion.

  29. December 28, 2009 1:42 pm

    I’m confused. What makes a “full NAVAIR helo deck”? The Visby is much smaller than the LCS but it can support helicopters. It mounts the same size gun as the LCS and its crew size is comparable. Are the traditional definitions no longer applicable?

  30. leesea permalink
    December 28, 2009 1:32 pm

    I like to make this distinctions between small combatant types:

    Corvettes do not get full NAVAIR helo decks and hangars/M&R due their size, cost and crewing impacts. A small UAV pad should be installed (but NAVAIR must be constrained from making this a mini-airport exquisite design). Thus allowing a smaller hull size and simpler rqmts mix. I would add that in today’s world a good fast boat and hefty launch system is now required. Sensors for littoral warfare and endurance are a given need.

    Frigates are larger with hull suitable for extended blue water TF escort ops. They should get the helo deck etc. as well as more weapons and at least two boats plus spaces to to support all of the above.

    I know there will lots of arguments about weapons. My 2cents is a minimum 76mm gun is required on frigates but something smaller may fit better on a corvette. More important is a range of weapons i.e. mulitple barrels/tubes and launchers scaled to fit each of the above types. Standardizing weapon types (instead of buying every new thing the corporate types offer) is another way of containing ship acq costs allowing for what everyone desires – MORE hulls.

    BOTH the LCS and Absalons are too large to fit in my types as described above but of course the USN is trying to shoehorn the LCS into one of the sub-types. Absalon type support ships are not even being considered by USN as yet much the pity!

  31. Scott B. permalink
    December 28, 2009 12:38 pm

    Solomon asked : “What’s the answer?”

    I’ll spell it for you : A-B-S-A-L-O-N

  32. December 28, 2009 10:37 am

    I think the Mike’s concept is already in action, its just not being taken to the level that he would like. The LCS as designed was to be a low end platform that was able to participate in the big fight. Its costs just got out of control because the requirements were unrealistic. 50 knots???? WHY! But otherwise the design and the idea are good ones. Again. The costs got out of control!

    The real question is this. Are cheaper platforms available that can perform the same role? The answer is yes. That is the biggest feather in the hat for this concept. Its really a mix of budget and capability. Mike’s siren song is that we can’t afford to keep doing business as usual. On that I totally agree. What’s the answer? I don’t know.

  33. December 28, 2009 10:18 am

    No insult intended…I was just trying to convey what I believe are strong opinions. And trust me, there is nothing wrong with a strong opinion.

    I wish you would consider pitting your hypothetical force against the US fleet as its currently designed. No cheating but a cold, analytical view of how a force designed your way would do against ..

  34. m.ridgard permalink
    December 28, 2009 10:10 am

    I completely agree,all we seem to hear from Mike is a never ending call for cheaper simpler ships,corvettes seeming to be his favourite theme.
    Along with this is his other passion for the demise of large carriers and the building of so called mini carriers after the British ‘Invincible’ class.
    For a nation such as the U.S.A to remain a world power,they must build top of the range cutting edge blue water ships capable of deploying anywhere in the world with the best systems available.
    The escalation in costs of such vessels is I would suggest more to do with the management side of things, I am sure a more rigorous regime in ensuring the shipyards are monitored more closely could play a large part in keeping costs down.
    The U.S. is not in the same dire straits that we are in the U.K. apart from us having a government that has always seen the armed forces as a secondary issue,we have never had the resources to build sufficient numbers of high end vessels.
    Do you think we built mini carriers because they were what the R.N. wanted? of course not they were all the government in its wisdom said we could afford.
    Can you honestly envisage the U.S. navy wanting a vessel that is capable of deploying with only 8 vstol aircraft and a few helicopters.
    In the U.K. our forces have always had to fight at a disadvantage because politicians will never fund them as they should be, we have always been good at using what we have to the best advantage but on numerous occasions this means we have won conflicts by the skin of our teeth.
    We are very near to becoming a force ‘not to be reckoned with’ follow our governments example at your peril.
    Corvettes in the second world war were built as a necessity,if they were so good why then were they not followed up after the war.
    They did the one job they were built for and that was convoy escorts and anti submarine warfare,that job done so were they.

  35. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 28, 2009 10:07 am

    Michael-Thanks for bringing up the Type 81s, and everyone feel free to list their favorites from that era. Space limited me into going further details so I listed just a few of some interesting designs.

    Militant Solomon? I’ve been called worse but that is definitely a new one! Concerning Mr Wheeler, if he had been listened to in the 70s and 80s, perhaps we would long ago had replacements for these same F-16s and F-15s, now several decades old and forced to soldier on without replacement well into another decade, instead of the superb but useless F-22.

    One reason for advocating smaller, simpler designs, is for launch platforms for new weapons. Currently placing new missiles, sensors, perhaps even UAVs soon, you get fewer high cost vessels you can’t afford to lose.

    The helicopter is one of the first of these new weapons which are force enhancers, but we use them like warship substitutes. I don’t think aircraft should ever be a substitute for hulls, just increasing the attack and surveillance range of a fleet. The Japanese back in the 1960s began creating a right mix by building many non-aviation destroyer escorts, which we would call frigates, and several large helicopter destroyers, thus sparing numbers in the fleet.

    they are now building high end multi-purpose ships only, then sending the same, as we are, to fight pirates in the Gulf. These immaculate and capable large frigates and destroyers are very impressive, but also expensive, not needed in many numbers, and contributing to the decline of Western navies.

    I understand how some of the vets may feel about the classic small warships as Michael pointed out, yet I think warship design has come along way since. Corvettes will never be as roomy and comfortable as a 3000-5000 frigate, but they are better today than ever before, with increase automation and habitability. they should also work with motherships, and be near larger aviation ships which we have plenty of to go around.

  36. December 28, 2009 9:28 am

    I always considered New Wars to be a revolutionary website. I was wrong. The more I hear about his proposal the more I realize that its a very traditional view of naval warfare. Mike is almost militant in his call for simpler warships. In this light he can be compared to Wheeler (except with a naval view of things). Wheeler wants F-16’s instead of F-22’s…Mike wants Visby’s instead of LCS’. F-15’s are good enough for Wheeler, for Mike the Absalon can get the job done.

    The end goal for both guys is that a medium tech big force will beat a high tech small one. We won’t go in that direction but it is fun to read.

  37. m.ridgard permalink
    December 28, 2009 8:43 am

    Whilst I agree with you to a certain extent there is a danger of going to far into the ‘low tech’ end of ship design.
    Take for instance the type 14 ‘Blackwood’ design, the only good thing in my opinion was the design of the hull which appears in modified form in the Leanders.
    As for everything else, it was an exercise in how to build something cheap and nasty and completely useless as a warship.
    It was my misfortune to have served in one of these vessels for 18 months and it was a floating slum.
    I was a communicator,and as far as I can remember there were approx 12/14 of us living in a messdeck designed for 4 midshipmen.
    We had four bunks and the rest of us slept either in hammocks,on the deck or even on the mess table. Two or three slept outside in hammocks in an alleyway.
    The armament was negligable,if memory serves me correct with had two single bofors mounts and I think a Limbo anti submarine mortar.
    Please in advocating smaller cheaper frigates/corvettes lets keep some capability,the Blackwoods still linger as a very bad memory for me and should serve as a lesson in what not to build.

  38. Jerry Hendrix permalink
    December 28, 2009 8:33 am

    Really looking forward to your post tomorrow. I think you are right to identify a helo and helo hangar as a necessary element of a modern frigate.

  39. James Daly permalink
    December 28, 2009 8:15 am

    From what I have read the Tribal class do seem to have been very well regarded. Funnily enough the Type 21 Frigates – another class of cheap, general purpose patrol frigate – also seem to have been well regarded for their living conditions.

    There does seem to be a feeling that unless a ship is as big and as hi-tech as possible then its something for a ‘coastal force’. Yet look at the role Corvettes played in the battle of the Atlantic. Vosper Thorneycroft spent years building patrol boats and Corvettes for foreign navies, and you could see that influence in their design of the Type 21’s.

  40. m.ridgard permalink
    December 28, 2009 8:07 am

    You forget to mention the excellent (for its day) type 81 tribal class frigate which I believe I am right in saying beat the leanders in carrying a helo.
    It also was a new era in RN ships in that it had air conditioning throughout and every crew member had a bunk as opposed to hammocks.
    It was also one of the first to have cafeteria messing,in my time in the RN I consider this vessel to be the best I served on,I was part of the ships company that commissioned HMS Eskimo at J.Samuel Wrights yard on the Isle of Wight in 1963 and served in her for 3 happy years.
    I also served in a Leander class for two years (Euryalus) which couldn’t compare with the conditions on board a Tribal class.


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