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The Impending Rebirth of the Flotilla Pt 1

July 5, 2010

USS Tacoma (PGM-92), an Asheville class gunboat.

Contrary to popular opinion, New Wars doesn’t possess a crystal ball where we can prophetically predict the Navy of the future with some accuracy. A close study of history can reveal the continued changes in warfare, where ships get too big, too complicated, and too expensive to procure, and must be updated or replaced in time. For this reason I have  highlighted constant changes in warships design and development, and previously described the transformations of various ship-types, from carriers to cruisers, destroyers and submarines, corvettes plus frigates. Throughout this ongoing survey of 20th century sea power, you can observe how warships have a tendency to increase in hull-size and purpose, very often taking on roles not originally envisioned. Some types have disappeared, such as the battleship, the battle cruiser, the traditional cruiser, and the PT boat, their roles superseded by other vessels.

One ship-type which has yet to find a proper placement in new-century force structures has been the flotilla vessel, which I think is a glaring omission that needs answering. Every warship in US Navy force structure possesses the capabilities of a capital vessel, most having a power-projecting ability, and are extremely difficult to procure. Attempts to fit last century designs into new problems, which generally involve low-tech patrolling or riverine combat operations, has so far evaded the strategists.

A flotilla ship, in contrast to exquisite warships which may take a decade to procure, is a small escort warship, cheap and of light construction. During the age of sail, the flotilla would consist of sloops, schooners, bomb vessels, fire ships, ketches, dispatch vessels, and corvettes. Also small lighters would be used for amphibious landings, and cutters for revenue patrolling. During the age of steam, such squadrons would consist of gun boats, minesweepers and layers, torpedo boats, sub chasers, destroyer escorts, frigates, sloops, etc. Even destroyers might be listed in the group, early in the century weighing in the hundreds of tons to 1000, though by the end of the Second World War had grown considerably in size and abilities.

In the Cold War, various attempts were made by the Navy to restore the flotilla, for the purpose of a mass production fleet in wartime. With the lessons of the recent U-boat campaign so fresh, the logical conclusion was that it took masses of hulls for an effective anti-submarine warfare. In the 1950s and early 1960s various failed attempt sought to produce spartan hulls which would be useful in a future war at sea, yet still be affordable. These included:

All were considered too slow, poorly armed to contend with even the advanced German Type XXI submarines of the late war, let alone advanced nuclear boats then entering service. The later Brookes, sisters of the Garcias were armed with Tartar missiles and didn’t pretend to be a low-end escort. None were procured in the numbers of the succeeding Knox and Perry escorts, which solidified the trend for larger, more capable escorts as the Europeans were building. The decline in numbers had begun.

The Knox and Perry’s were the final attempt to build a ship for mass production, which succeeded to an extent, however they were quite expensive. All carried the now essential ASW helicopter, plus missiles which seem to distract from their primary patrol functions. They were more seen more often than not sailing in conjunction with the large aircraft carriers. Ironically, by the 1980s, a Perry FFG-7 pricing some $250 million each cost about the same as a Forrestal class supercarrier from the 1950s (before inflation)!

*****

Meanwhile, a different revolution at sea was having more success. With the interest on land now leaning increasingly toward counter-insurgency, so did some far-seeing naval officers start thinking in these terms for their own service. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the notion of shallow water vessels needed for inshore operations received enhanced study, and the revival of the Gunboat Navy had begun. While some 80 ft PT boats were bought from Norway, the famed Nasty class, something with better endurance and seaworthiness was also sought. A 1975 Sea Classics article (via Gunboatriders.com) explains the reasoning:

Before elaborating on the ship itself, it should be understood that In 1961-62 the most immediate guerrilla threat to the United States was not remote Indochina, where we had a small advisory staff, but the bellicose Marxist regime 90 miles off our coast—Cuba. Throughout 1961 and 1962, Administration and Congressional spokesmen advocated taking direct action short of war to halt the rapid build-up of Castro’s Soviet-supplied war machine, then threatening to plant and nourish Guevara-style cells of revolutionaries throughout our southern flank.

The concept of the “Pacific blockade” or “declaration of contraband” was advanced and finally tested in the Second Fleet’s quarantine line during the October ‘62 Missile Crisis. Some 190 ships, headed by destroyers, spread 500 miles east of Guantanamo, intersecting Cuba’s sea lanes.

The core of the task force consisted of eight carriers. The destroyers on blockade barrier patrol might, on a moment’s notice, be called upon to reinforce the CVA anti-sub or anti-air screen (six Soviet missile subs were reported to be in the area).

The Second Fleet was stretched to the limit manning the picket line and would have been in a sad plight had the Soviet sub threat materialized. What was called for was the short-sea gunboat…

At the heart of these problems facing the 1960s navy were warships geared mainly for carrier escort, that could hardly be spared for coastal patrolling. Yet it was the same navy that saw little need for the earlier Dealeys and Claud Jones, which at the time seemed so less capable. This belatedly spurred the need for the Asheville’s, whose specs are here:

  • Length-50.14 meters
  • Width-7.3 meters
  • Draft-2.9 meters
  • Displacement-240 tons
  • Propulsion-diesels and gas turbines
  • Speed-16 knots on diesels, 35 knots on turbines
  • Range-1700 nm
  • Crew-24
  • Armament-Missiles: 4 × Aérospatiale SS 12M;
    1 × USN 3 in (76 mm) /50 Mk 34; 50 rounds/min to (7 NM) 12.8 km;
    1 × Bofors 40 mm/70 Mk 10. 4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns (2×2)

Of these small gunboats it was said:

Ounce-for-ounce, the PG was the most lethal weapons platform in the US Navy arsenal during their lifetime.

Currently every major USN warship project is bloated in cost and price, especially for the type of warfare it conducts in shallow seas. Also for important though secondary functions such as disaster relief, you do not need a $6 billion aircraft carrier or nuclear submarine, handy as these ships are. The fleet is top-heavy with such ships and growing less capable in the midst of some fantastically capable vessels, as they become stretched thin and over-worked for lack of numbers. This is why I see the need for the USN to return to basics in warship design, to find what is truly important in war at sea.

Tomorrow-Lessons from the Navy’s Forgotten War.

*****

USS Asheville (PGM-84)

40 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2014 7:20 pm

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  3. July 22, 2010 4:59 pm

    Salam,
    If you care for the gazan people:
    a. Don’t send expired medication as this only cause trouble.
    b. make sure you deliver through the UN or the Red Cross because otherwise goods are being confiscated by Hamas which just sell them on to raise money and this never goes to the people who needs it.
    c. make sure it’s actually needed. A lot of people just assume everything is needed although many goods are being sold for half price than in egypt/jordan/lebanon because there is so much. So pay attention to what you choose to donate.
    d. don’t listen to Hamas and Abbas because they steal everything they can and never invest the money in us. A lot of us work in the Israeli settlements, when you ban their products you are actually causing our people to lose a lot of their jobs.

    Thank you
    Salim Abdul-Karem (writing from Gaza)

  4. Scott B. permalink
    July 6, 2010 3:39 pm

    B. Smitty said : “Just for fun, here’s my take on Dr. Dalsjö’s 10 critical attributes,”

    I’m sorry that I don’t have enough time right now for the kind of detailed reply that your proposal certainly deserves. I’ll try to post something later on this week. If I don’t, simply post a reminder for my attention.

    Meanwhile, I’d suggest you take a look at the FC65 frigate briefly marketed as a design exercise by DML back in 2005.

  5. Scott B. permalink
    July 6, 2010 12:50 pm

    Hudson said : “the call for more small ships/boats begins to make sense”

    The call for building an hypertrophied coastal force might indeed make sense if we were required to set up such a blockade in the Caribbean again, which, as you also acknowledged, is a very unlikely scenario, and certainly not one that on the strategic horizon.

  6. Hudson permalink
    July 6, 2010 11:29 am

    I didn’t realize that the Cuban Missile Crisis blockade involved so many vessels: 190 ships including 8 carriers spread across 500 miles of ocean. Though it is unlikely that we would be required to set up such a blockade in the Caribbean again, clearly, we don’t have the ship numbers to do so and maintain a strong presence worldwide. Looking at things in this light, the call for more small ships/boats begins to make sense, despite the limitations of such craft.

  7. Distiller permalink
    July 6, 2010 5:43 am

    What mission are those small boats supposed to fulfill? And how shall they serve overall strategy?

    Small (networked) crafts might well come back – unmanned, that is.

    In the meantime, the need for stand-alone capable, survivable, offensive-defensive balanced ships with a suitably large avaition complex and ISR capability, being trans-ocean capable dictates a min displ of around 4.000 tons.

  8. B.Smitty permalink
    July 5, 2010 9:07 pm

    Hey Scott B,

    Just for fun, here’s my take on Dr. Dalsjö’s 10 critical attributes,

    http://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0ByVQu4lA4SjvM2Y1MDJhNTctN2Q5Zi00NTM3LTg0N2EtMWIzNjczZjcyZWVj&authkey=CNmbtOkP&hl=en

    Cost may be one attribute I failed on though.

    Here’s the original G&C design I started with,

    http://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0ByVQu4lA4SjvM2QzODA2NzgtNTVhYi00YWYyLWJmMzktYmM5ZmZiNmNlMzA0&authkey=CMv7te0G&hl=en

  9. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 7:54 pm

    Scott B. said : “And I am supposed to believe that the way to go is to build small HSVs with as much firepower (which they won’t be able to use effectively anyway) and speed as possible ?”

    And did I ever mention that no matter how much horsepower they are given, they won’t be able to use much of it except in the most benign sea states because of their poor seakeeping qualities ?

    Which brings us directly to :

    Popular Myth #2 : good seakeeping is a leisurely peacetime requirement

    Yet another horse already beaten to death in the past, though it seems able to resurrect periodically !!!

  10. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 7:43 pm

    Scott B. said : “A commander who believes that one hit will finish his ship will be much more prone to make expensive mistakes than one who thinks he can, in a pinch, accept a hit and fight back.”

    Many moons ago, I attended an interesting brief by General Israel Tal (the father of Merkava) where he explained that protection (i.e. passive survivability) was to be seen as a crucial multiplier for mobility and firepower :

    1) for mobility in that it increased the freedom of movement under enemy fire.

    2) for firepower because it restricted the conditions under which an enemy could engage, thereby forcing him to make himself vulnerable.

    So much for all the Transformation crowd who keep advocating for Streetfighter stuff or the like, proclaiming that speed and firepower will make passive survivability obsolete *in the missile age*.

    Didn’t history tell us that such disdain for passive survivability wasn’t such a wise move anyway ?

    And I am supposed to believe that the way to go is to build small HSVs with as much firepower (which they won’t be able to use effectively anyway) and speed as possible ?

    This is pure folly !!!!

    The only way ahead is to THINK BIG, not small.

  11. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 7:15 pm

    And Dr. Norman Friedman to observe during a recent conference on Naval Strategy held in Sweden (bold emphasis added) :

    “It can be argued that the appropriate insurance against such reduced capability, which amounts in part to vulnerability to surprise attack, is the kind of passive survivability which has largely been abandonned in modern warships (the US Arleigh Burke class is a notable exception). Passive survivability generally entails size, but not necessarily much additional cost. It probably does entail duplication and dispersal of key shipboard functions.

    (…) If ships are much likelier to survive than to sink, surely we can design them so that they can take a few hits and keep fighting. Accepting that a few hits can be survived would cap requirements for either extreme stealth or extreme ability to deal with saturation, and that in turn would bring down the cost of high-end warships, perhaps dramatically. This is not a call to abandon active defense, but rather to consider it on a more realistic basis.

    (…) Finally, remember that current expeditionary operations often involve ambiguous circumstances. A commander who believes that one hit will finish his ship will be much more prone to make expensive mistakes than one who thinks he can, in a pinch, accept a hit and fight back.

  12. sid permalink
    July 5, 2010 7:14 pm

    sorry for the typos…let me try again:

    Your experience in the Falklands is quite instructive …or should be at least…to the USN.

    And has pertinent parallels as Mike hammers out his notional fleet.

    You can’t be a Maritime Power without a powerful navy. As you may remember, the RN had shrunk into a “Nato niche” by ’82.

    You can’t be a Maritime Power and not have forces capable of conducting opposed access ops.

    Read Clapps’ book to get a feel about all the difficulties STUFT ships caused him.

    You can’t be a maritime Power, and have a fleet built on “mercantile standards”.

    Just one more hit like the one that burned out the Atlantic Conveyor ( the kind of ship Mike wants as his “capital” ships), and every map in the world would be calling those islands the Malvinas today….

  13. sid permalink
    July 5, 2010 7:10 pm

    Sid, I think we both now there are many reasons for 1982 and one might argue that one of them was the planned withdrawal of the type of vessel I am talking about.

    Your experience in the Flaklands is quite instructive …or should be at least…to the USN.

    And has pertinent paralells as Mike hammersout his notional fleet.

    Firstoff, you can’t be a Maritime Power without a powerful navy. As you may rmember, the USN had shrunk into a “Nato niche” by ’82.

    You can’t be a Maritime Power and not have forces capable of conducting opposed access ops.

    You can’t be a maritime Power, and have a fleet built on “mercantile standards”.

    Just one more hit like that on the Atlantic Conveyor ( the kind of ship Mike wants as his “capital” ships), and every map in the world would be calling those islands the Malvinas today….

  14. sid permalink
    July 5, 2010 6:59 pm

    What Scott said

    (way better than I can…)

  15. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 6:48 pm

    @ Sid

    I hope you don’t mind me pulling one of the quotes from the much regretted Charles Hamilton where he explained that speed was life, that LCS was different, that old think would not be permitted, etc…

    ******************************************************************
    Question: Does your modeling simulation get into the area of survivability? Are you looking at some shock test with these [voice drop, word inaudible]?

    RADM Hamilton: As you know from reading the requirements documents, the survivability piece on LCS is different than DDG 51 or DDX or several of our other combatants. And what we’ve chosen to do here is couple high speed and maneuverability and situational awareness in ways that allow LCS to be in the right place at the right time and to be out of the right place at the wrong time. Okay?

    ******************************************************************

    LCS Lessons Learned :

    1) Too much transformational Kool Aid irremediably damages brain cells.

    2) Too much powerpoint vaporware makes people blind.

  16. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 6:38 pm

    Popular Myth #1 : vulnerability reduction is expensive

    Unquestionably a very popular myth among the reformers, one that lead some to develop concepts calling for *expendable ships*.

    However this common myth among reformers is not supported by serious research, for instance the infamous NATO 2004 SLC study.

    One of the sensitivity analyses conducted in the infamous NATO study involved quantifying the impact (in terms of cost and displacement) of adding a comprehensive ballistic protection to the notional 2,000-ton Littoral Combatant.

    Here is how the authors defined what they called *comprehensive ballistic protection* for this class of vessels :

    “The baseline design did not have ballistic protection. Its relatively light superstructure and hull scantlings offer minimal protection against various threat weapons. While it is inherently obvious that it is impossible to protect a small littoral combatant against large caliber weapons, this study addresses:

    · 23mm armor piercing rounds fired at a stand-off range of 500m and impacting at an obliquity angle of 90 degrees.

    · Reinforcing transverse W.T. bulkheads to withstand a 250kg high-explosive warhead at a standoff range of 5 meters.

    · Protection of topside magazines against penetration by RPG-7-type shaped charge warheads.

    · Provision of port and starboard longitudinal protective trunks for vital fore-and-aft distributed systems.”

    And here is the quantified impact they come up when adding this so-called *comprehensive ballistic protection* to the baseline 2,000-ton Littoral Combatant :

    * Light Ship Displacement : +7.9%
    * Full Load Displacement : +6.9%
    * Acquisition Cost : +7.8%

    The bottom line is that VULNERABILITY REDUCTION IS AFFORDABLE and that it could be (much) more than paid for by NOT trying to factor insane sprint speed requirements into low-end (war)ships.

    Because, at the end of the day, no matter how glamorous speed might be, it won’t save lives on the contrary to what most reformers seem to believe and like to proclaim !!!

    Just like our beloved Mike B., this is why I see the need for the USN to return to basics in warship design, to find what is truly important in war at sea.

  17. July 5, 2010 6:30 pm

    Sid, I think we both now there are many reasons for 1982 and one might argue that one of them was the planned withdrawal of the type of vessel I am talking about.

    There were also consequences

    I am not saying it is the perfect solution because that would be a frigate/destroyer/carrier for every mission.

    I don’t think anyones navy has that deep pockets though

  18. sid permalink
    July 5, 2010 6:17 pm

    yes and no Sid, the model of low cost forward deployed vessels gos back decades as an integral part of naval strategy.

    Yeah….It worked so well deterring the Argies in ’82 didn’t it?

  19. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 6:15 pm

    sid : “No tons of Krupp Steel, nor (quite profitable to the contractors) gazillion dollar gizmos needed.”

    Critical Attribute #7 = Survivability : being able to take a hit from a RPG or even a SSM, without undue casualties and while remaining not only afloat but also able to operate.

  20. sid permalink
    July 5, 2010 6:10 pm

    First link fixed here

  21. sid permalink
    July 5, 2010 6:08 pm

    The PGs are textbook example of what can be done through “Vulnerability Reduction” techniques to enhance Survivability…

    Check out this <a href="http://brownwater-navy.com/vietnam/SeafltPG.htmview of the Crockett…

    Note that she is being towed, and that her 3’50 mount is slewed to starbord.

    Now if she had had a redundant 200v supply -and one routed away from the unarmored aluminum hull- to the mount, a relatively minor hit would not have so quickly disabled her “main battery.

    Its those kinds of design details that “mercantile” standards do not address…And are much more expensive to incorporate after the fact.

    No tons of Krupp Steel, nor (quite profitable to the contractors) gazillion dollar gizmos needed.

  22. July 5, 2010 5:54 pm

    yes and no Sid, the model of low cost forward deployed vessels gos back decades as an integral part of naval strategy. They fly the flag, keep the sea lanes lubricated and generally do the mundane things, if they get attacked then that has consequences, so the big boys show up. It economical in all senses

  23. sid permalink
    July 5, 2010 4:58 pm

    (sure can’t wait to crack open my copy of US Small Combatants when I get home

    The pot of cash at the end of the rainbow isn’t there and hope isn’t an effective strategy

    Hope not an effective strategy?

    You mean like sending vulnerable ships to act as a geostrategic tripwire?

    Of course, the RN is about 15 years ahead of the USN in inexorable decline…

  24. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 4:45 pm

    Think Defence said : “So I support Mikes overall assertion that we need workhorses, designed down to cost but where I depart from him and join you is in the need for size.”

    I think Mike’s case for reform will gain enormous traction whenever the disconnect between size and cost is acknowledged and accepted.

    Until then, the very reasonable case that’s being made for number will continue to stumble upon the basic real life fact that small ships don’t fit the bill (unless what you want to do is build an oversized coastal force).

    Starting point is to emancipate oneself from the *Small is Beautiful* tyranny, and from there start to THINK BIG, not small.

  25. July 5, 2010 4:42 pm

    Sid, I agree and sympathise but we have to be practical because going down the road of preparing for every eventuality, including Guatemala attacking a Royal Navy vessel, invading Belize and causing all sorts of other mayhem is the situation where we get 6 destroyers, 6 frigates and precisely nothing else

    The pot of cash at the end of the rainbow isn’t there and hope isn’t an effective strategy

  26. sid permalink
    July 5, 2010 4:35 pm

    Whilst all the crusty old retired Admirals have been bemoaning this the RFA logistics vessels have actually made rather a good job.

    Unless the Guatemalans ever decide to put a round or two in one.

  27. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 4:28 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Before elaborating on the ship itself, it should be understood that In 1961-62 the most immediate guerrilla threat to the United States was not remote Indochina, where we had a small advisory staff, but the bellicose Marxist regime 90 miles off our coast—Cuba. […] What was called for was the short-sea gunboat…”

    Which shows that, historically, the oversized coastal force being proposed might be find to fight an enemy at the gates, i.e. 90 miles off our coastline, but will be entirely inappropriate otherwise and as such will end up in an unprecedented waste of taxpayer dollars.

    The question is : where is this enemy at the gates which might justify building the kind of oversized coastal force advocated ? Is there even such an enemy out there ?

  28. July 5, 2010 4:24 pm

    Scott, I agree completely

    A large size also allows you to be effective.

    Here is an example (sorry if you already know this)

    The RN have a standing patrol slot in the Caribbean that we regularly send a frigate or destroyer. Lately, not because of any change in strategic thinking but because we don’t have enough frigates/destroyers we have been sending large Royal Fleet Auxiliaries. Whilst all the crusty old retired Admirals have been bemoaning this the RFA logistics vessels have actually made rather a good job.

    Why

    Because the mission does not require a frigate or destroyer. The mission is more or less about smuggling interdiction and disaster support in hurricane season which does not need anti aircraft missiles, towed sonar, area air defence radar, passive countermeasures and everything else. What it needs is space for stores, loads of small boats, reasonable sensor fit and a helicopter or two. The problem when you send a frigate is you only have one helicopter and not much room for anything else.

    That is why I suggested a 5 or 6 thousand tonne offshore supply vessel derivative for the RN C3 requirement.

    This can carry, to coin a phrase, a sh1t load of stuff

    Whether that stuff is disaster supplies, an embarked Royal Engineers force, loads of Royal Marines and RHIB’s. In the countermine mission, instead of carrying one or two ROV’s it could carry a dozen plus divers and a helicopter or two.

    Its not a first rate vessel of the line but it doesnt need to be

    So I support Mikes overall assertion that we need workhorses, designed down to cost but where I depart from him and join you is in the need for size.

    Big can still be cheap

  29. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 4:19 pm

    (pls delete previous post : wrong tags)

    Mike Burleson said : “Please understand I believe in the mix of warships. I would hate to see an all Asheville flotilla”

    Here is what you said last week when you delivered your vision of what the US Navy would (should ?) look like in 2050 :

    1) “The most numerous surface combatant will be small attack craft of around 200-400 tons, and available in many hundreds.”

    2) “The surface capital ship will be a modular mothership on a common hull”, which “will replace the carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and frigates of the last century” and “can also act as sea lift vessels, fleet replenishment ships, carry Marines or act as command ships”.

    This is (somewhat) consistent with the vision you’ve advocated earlier, for instance in this blog entry where :

    1) The Leviathan Fleet, i.e. aircraft carriers, missiles cruisers & destroyers, nuclear submarines, amphibious assault ships, would be reduced to a mere 100 units.

    2) The Sysadmin fleet, i.e. motherships (whatever they are…), high speed vessels, corvettes, offshore patrol vessels, fast attack craft, conventional submarines, mine warfare ships, ect, would represent the overwhelming majority of the Navy with 400 units (or more).

    While this may indeed be considered a mix of (war)ships, this doesn’t qualify as a balanced fleet and actually reflects a desire to turn a global Navy like the US Navy into an oversized coastal force, without any kind of global reach.

    Which would in effect signal a major strategic shift in which the emphasis would become the defense of a Fortress America Under Siege, struggling to *keep out waves of desperate refugees* and other hordes of fanatic terrorists.

  30. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 4:17 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Please understand I believe in the mix of warships. I would hate to see an all Asheville flotilla”

    Here is what you said last week when you delivered your vision of what the US Navy would (should ?) look like in 2050 :

    1) “The most numerous surface combatant will be small attack craft of around 200-400 tons, and available in many hundreds.”

    2) “The surface capital ship will be a modular mothership on a common hull”, which “will replace the carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and frigates of the last century” and “can also act as sea lift vessels, fleet replenishment ships, carry Marines or act as command ships”.

    This is (somewhat) consistent with the vision you’ve advocated earlier, for instance where :

    1) The Leviathan Fleet, i.e. aircraft carriers, missiles cruisers & destroyers, nuclear submarines, amphibious assault ships, would be reduced to a mere 100 units.

    2) The Sysadmin fleet, i.e. motherships (whatever they are…), high speed vessels, corvettes, offshore patrol vessels, fast attack craft, conventional submarines, mine warfare ships, ect, would represent the overwhelming majority of the Navy with 400 units (or more).

    While this may indeed be considered a mix of (war)ships, this doesn’t qualify as a balanced fleet and actually reflects a desire to turn a global Navy like the US Navy into an oversized coastal force, without any kind of global reach.

    Which would in effect signal a major strategic shift in which the emphasis would become the defense of a Fortress America Under Siege, struggling to *keep out waves of desperate refugees* and other hordes of fanatic terrorists.

  31. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 5, 2010 3:39 pm

    “What would be the mission of whole flotillas of new Ashvilles?”

    Please understand I believe in the mix of warships. I would hate to see an all Asheville flotilla as much as I would all LCS. But the gunboats are the ancestors of what we need to day. Stay tuned tomorrow for the evolution.

    Cutters could work in conjunction with more heavily armed vessels, corvettes, monitors, etc. Consider the foes we are facing and build toward the threat. They could stand uparmoring and uparming as well if needed.

  32. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 3:12 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “This is why I see the need for the USN to return to basics in warship design, to find what is truly important in war at sea.”

    In his paper entitled “We No Longer Need a Sports Car, We Need a Station Wagon : Conceptual Challenges and Issues for the Royal Swedish Navy”, discussed so many times on the blog, Dr. Robert Dalsjö listed the 10 critical attributes which were truly important for a surface combatant :

    1. endurance : the ability to operate at sea for an extended time without replenishment or service.

    2. seakeeping : the ability to operate in or transit rough waters while maintaining not only safety, but also operational effectiveness.

    3. versatility : the ability to solve several different tasks in differing circumstances.

    4. adaptability : the ability to reconfigure the ship’s capabilities in order to meet changing circumstances.

    5. air defense : not only for self-defense, but also for local area defense.

    6. interoperability : including C3I and replenishment at sea

    7. survivability : being able to take a hit from a RPG or even a SSM, without undue casualties and while remaining not only afloat but also able to operate.

    8. crew comfort : quite important during extended deployments, especially with an all-volunteer crew.

    9. free spaces : for additional elements, functions or equipment.

    10. embarked helicopter : at least one medium-sized helo.

    As discussed so many times on the blog, a low-end WARship possessing ALL of these critical attributes can be made AFFORDABLE : one example of what such a WARship might look like is the Danish ABSALON.

    The *Small is Beautiful* mantra, further corrupted by the glamour of high speed, is a complete FALLACY for it fails to deliver WARships that possess these critical attributes, and actually advocates EXQUISITE designs that, ounce-for-ounce, are the MOST EXPENSIVE TO PROCURE and the LEAST SUSTAINABLE in the long run.

    If such a SUICIDAL course is to be avoided, the only way to go is to THINK BIG, not small.

  33. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 2:51 pm

    Hudson said : “What would be the mission of whole flotillas of new Ashvilles?”

    The new Ashvilles would only make sense in the context of Mike’s vision for the US Navy in 2050, which is essentially an oversized coastal force rather than a fleet meant to deploy globally.

  34. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 2:32 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “All were considered too slow, poorly armed to contend with even the advanced German Type XXI submarines of the late war”

    Leaving aside the obvious chronological mismatch, can you provide credible sources supporting this claim that the Bronsteins and the Garcias *were considered too slow poorly armed to contend with even the advanced German Type XXI submarines of the late war* ?

  35. Hudson permalink
    July 5, 2010 2:15 pm

    The Ashvilles were built in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis and were sold off after that. There is no comparable mission for them today in U.S. coastal waters that are beyond the abilities of Coast Guard vessels. The Navy has stationed five of the slightly larger Cyclone class boats in Bahrain. I have read that the Navy is upgrading these boats and could presumably transfer more of this class to the Gulf if needed.

    What would be the mission of whole flotillas of new Ashvilles?

  36. Scott B. permalink
    July 5, 2010 1:21 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Of these small gunboats it was said”

    The same source also reminded its readership of the very poor seakeeping qualities of the Ashevilles :

    “With only 10 feet from waterline to the tips of the propellers, these shallow draft vessels had excellent in-shore capability for they could maneuver into places that larger ships couldn’t possibly travel. On the open seas, even in calm weather, this shallow navigational draft sometimes made the gunboat an uncomfortable ship to ride. Heavy seas would cause these boats to roll, pitch and yaw relentlessly. It was not unusual for a patrol gunboat to experience 45 to 55 degree rolls for days on end. In a harbor without a breakwater, rolls of 10 to 15 degrees was not uncommon. During one particular storm, the crew of one gunboat saw their ship heel over to the point that the inclinometer bubble reached 65 degrees. It was during this storm the ship lost one of the radio whip antennas, all the stanchions and lifelines on one side, and the ship’s boat –all torn off by waves and heavy weather. If the constant side-to-side rolling wasn’t bad enough, the pounding fore-to-aft motion of the ship’s bow in up and down angles of 15 to 25 degrees, followed by the inevitable slam against the uncompressible ocean surface would seem to rattle the brains, bones and teeth of the gunboat sailors. Resting, sleeping and eating were all but impossible under these conditions, and fatigue overwhelmed even the most durable sailors. It was at times like this that the gunboat sailor understood why the first question asked of him upon his arrival onboard was “Ever been seasick?”! (emphasis added).

    Ever been seasick, Mike ???

  37. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 5, 2010 11:35 am

    The new Webber Class fast Responsse Cutters, which I understand will be designated WPCs, are a bit bigger than the Ashevilles, will be a bit more sea worthy, have good boat handling facilities essential for a vessel doing a lot of boardings, and have a longer range.
    Upgunning them to 30 or 40 mm is probably relatively easy. The mount they use is a verrsion of the Israeli Typhoon, which can be equipped with missiles like the Spike-ER. Adding the facility to fire one of the several laser guided 70mm rockets being developed should make them a dangerous opponent out to about 8,000 yards.

    http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/sentinel/features.asp

  38. Anonymous permalink
    July 5, 2010 10:33 am

    “The solution is simple: copy the USCG ‘Deepwater’ fleet – including the low-end PBs. The designs are complete, build in the US and available in sufficient numbers within the next decade.”

    Coast Guard ships probably wouldn’t make great warships because of their lack of heavy weapons. Most USCG ships are armed only with machine guns and even the largest of the Deepwater ships, the NSC, is armed only with a 57 mm cannon and machine guns.

  39. Marcase permalink
    July 5, 2010 8:07 am

    The USN tried to do the ‘little big ship’ at affordable price, and that became the LCS.

    Buy American, Build American if needed, but ‘borrow’ the design abroad, and start cutting steel.

    The solution is simple: copy the USCG ‘Deepwater’ fleet – including the low-end PBs. The designs are complete, build in the US and available in sufficient numbers within the next decade.

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