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Battleships and Motherships

April 24, 2010

“Cleaning house” this weekend, with a few posts I couldn’t fit in elsewhere. Enjoy!

Part of the reasons I associate almost every class of warship, from carriers, destroyers, SSNs, amphibious ships, etc, to the battleship category is to get us thinking in a new direction, in conjunction with a new era of warfare. Because the modern warship is so capable, thanks to the revolution in sensors, in guided missile technology, precision targeting, GPS satellite for navigation, they are amazingly more powerful than their last century ancestors of the same type.

So if you consider modern ships geared for conventional sea combat as battleships, or more specifically “motherships“, you get to thinking you can do so much more with less, as I often insist that because they are so capable. The motherships are enablers of other assets, especially less capable platforms from small craft to unmanned systems.

So I think the USN and Western navies have an excellent conventional capability with the “5 Battleships“, perhaps a little too good since the former has more fighting power than 13 other navies combined. I think she is very weak in sea control, stemming from the fact that all her warships are enablers, with few if anything to enable. This is why the admirals can discuss a 1000 ship navy, with the giant battleforces of American fleet works with allied navies with plentiful low end frigates, corvettes, patrol vessels, and fast attack craft.

She has an excellent reach with her massive expeditionary aircraft carriers and amphibious ships, but only in places where there are no anti-access forces poised against her, such as Saddam’s Iraq, or landlocked Afghanistan. With all her power, the Navy is hesitant (and rightly so) to extend her reach into the dangerous littorals where the primary threats are today. This is why you see the ancient Perry frigates and aging Cyclone patrol boats still in service, performing double duty despite their apparent lack of capability. They are yet extremely valuable, going where the Big Ships dare not tread, or should not.

These are the charges, or worker drones, or fighters. They may be more important, or as equally important as high-end battleships. Each has a specific function, and the small warship can cruise in and out of the littorals, the Green and Brown water environment, far safer than giant warships which are at risk from mines, submarines, suicide boats, or even shoals, rocks, and sandbars etc. Of course, all warships are at risk in such waters, but the larger ones especially so, and neither are they so easy to replace with all their capabilities. Not since the First World War have large warships dare venture into coastal waters teaming with many and varied threats, except proceeded by small warships.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2010 3:16 pm

    Very good commentary. I’d often jokingly referred to the Zumwalt destroyer as a “battleship”–it’s about the same size and serves a very similar function to the WW2 era battleships.


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