Defining a Mothership
What is a mothership you ask? Recently within the comments I gave small boat and shipbuilding expert Lee Wahler my definition and he mostly concurred with my ideas. I will repost here:
I see the mothership as a force enhancer, the multi-mission platform that the USN tries to make put of every single surface combatant. If we can place things like the aviation facilities, helicopters and UAV hangers, extra accommodations for small boat crews, high band radars, ect. you could forgo putting these tonnage and price raising extras onto surface combatants, reducing their cost and size. You could then affordably increase numbers dramatically…
The mothership might also carry the extra fuel to top off these smaller ships, much like Illustrious did recently for the RN, and garnered a lot of heat. The battleships use to do this all the time for their escorting tin cans. It is not uncommon. Like you I agree there need be no set size, though I’d stop at 20,000 tons at least!
Occasionally Lee will send yours truly suggestions for mothership designs. Here is an interesting proposal via Ship-Technology called “Blue Giant – Heavy Transport Ship“. Click the link for photos and more info:
Here is another T-MMS Multi-Mission Support Ship candidate. It has cranes, a wet well dock, the cargo capacity and accommodations to support boat, small ships, amphib ops and perform sealift too. A small helo deck fwd could be augmented. MSC could charter it. German built.
The 11,000t Blue Giant provides diving support, platform inspection, well
maintenance, dry dock (for vessels up to 130m long) and onboard workshop
facilities. In addition, it is designed to transport floating cargos and has
a 700t Ro-Ro capacity.
The ship is equipped with two starboard Liebherr electro-hydraulic cranes
with a single lift capacity of up to 350t (18m outreach) and 700t combined,
and a single portside Liebherr crane with 200t (31m radius) capacity. The
Blue vessel is also equipped with a DP2 dynamic positioning system;
accommodation for 199 crew; a 6.00m × 6.00m moonpool; and a 16.7m × 16.7m
The Blue Giant has a gross tonnage of 17,341t, an overall length of 172.5m,
a breadth of 25.4m, a docking draught 11m, and a fully loaded summer draught
of 6.6 m. The cargo hold is 132m × 18m × 9.4m and it can hold 1,383
There are 20 pontoon-type tweendeck covers to subdivide the hold at a height
of either 6m or 4.7m. The main deck is strengthened to withstand a loading
of 16t/m² and the centreline docking blocks can support a load of 150t. The
side docking blocks are strengthened for 90t.
The cargo holds are fitted with SOLAS -II-2, REG 54 systems along with CO2
and sprinkler systems. The vessel is equipped with two Becker rudders, twin
screw and three bow-thrusters and can achieve a speed of 16kt at 5.6m
draught and 15.5kt at 6.6m draught. The main engines are two diesel units of
4,500kW output and there are three bow thrusters (2 × 1,000kW and 1 × 760kW)
and two stern thrusters of 600kW.
Some of you have expressed concerns in another post how small offshore patrol vessels like the River class can be used in place of high end frigates. A class of ship that would be adequate for fishery protection or anti-smuggling might be at risk against another enemy frigate or even a small submarine. These concerns are understandable but the OPVs and corvettes would not be alone.
The mothership would act as the supercharger for an Influence Squadron. By its mere presence it would transform a force of ships adequate for presence but not much else, into a fleet to be reckoned with for low intensity combat situations. The mothership would load helicopters allowing the corvettes to become a lethal ASW hunting group. If the ships are equipped with SAM like the ESSM or Sea Wolf, then the larger ship would engage over the horizon radar (Aegis?) dominating the immediate air space.
If an amphibious raiding operation is called for, the mothership would ferry the troops. Then she would disperse them among the smaller vessels better equipped for shallow sea operations. The mothership would also deploy RHIBs and even small landing craft for Marine excursions. She would provide extensive command, control, and communications gear.
For sustained operations, the larger ship will load extra fuel, compensating for the smaller vessels’ shorter range and endurance. Ammo stores could also be carried. She would be a hospital ship, also a barracks vessel, providing essential comforts for long tours often not found in small spartan warships.
For most operations at sea, experience in the last decade which will likely continue, even expand into the new, point to low tech anti-insurgency operations on the sea. These will include anti-piracy, showing the flag, anti-narcotics, anti-arms smuggling, disaster relief, ect. For these missions plus sustained presence dealing with the population of the sea, large surface battleships are so much over-kill, and since even multi-mission frigates have priced themselves out of range for adequate numbers, then low cost patrol ships, corvettes, and cutters are more than adequate for these missions. They will return numbers to the fleet, while countering the forces of anarchy at sea. If something more is needed for the occasional “hot” war, in most instances a carrier strike group may not be needed. Instead of “send in the carrier” it will be “send a mothership!” to supercharge vessels already present.