Monday, December 4, 2017

Supertanker Frigate

An issue of Proceedings has a short article by Dr. William Stearman in which he proposes a new Navy warship based on a super tanker with a 250,000 long-ton, full load displacement, 1075 ft in length, 170 ft beam, and 80 ft draft (1).  Stearman’s proposed vessel is, in turn, based on a comment he quotes from Kenneth S. Brower, as follows.

“Very large supertanker hulls, that are well designed, approach being unsinkable.  I would bury a FFG/DDG combat system somewhere inside these vital hidden areas with advanced armor and would trade speed for survivability and reduced cost …”

The article goes on to describe some of the benefits of such a large ship

  • Greatly reduced vulnerability to under keel torpedo or mine explosions due to reduced likelihood of hull girder failure

  • Side structure with alternating layers of water and steel bulkheads would likely defeat even shaped charge missile warheads

The author then proceeds to describe a do-everything version of this ship which includes almost everything that has ever been installed or proposed for a naval vessel: a flight deck for MV-22, F-35B, helos, etc., 5” guns, 8”-12”+ guns, VLS, amphibious craft, and a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) – all in one ship!

Let’s set the do-everything ship aside as fantasy and instead contemplate the much simpler concept of a frigate/destroyer based on a very large commercial hull.  There is, actually, something to be said for such a ship.

The immensely large hull, if built to commercial standards and patterned after a tanker, would, indeed, be very, very difficult to sink.  The example of the mining of the SS Bridgeton in 1987 and the almost complete lack of relevant impact and damage from the explosion attest to the inherent resilience of large tankers. 

The idea of embedding the actual combat elements deep inside the ship’s internals and protected by additional localized armor, offer the possibility of a ship that could absorb immense amounts of damage and still continue to operate.


The flaw in this is that the sensors and actual weapons would have to be exposed and would be as susceptible to destruction and subsequent mission kill as any other ship.

In addition, the sheer size and non-stealthy nature of the ship would make it the equivalent of a beacon, proclaiming its location.  An enemy would have no trouble finding this ship – sinking it, however, would be a challenge. 

Taking the discussion a bit further, even if we didn’t want to actually build a tanker-frigate, we might want to consider modifying warship designs to incorporate some scaled down aspects of the design of a commercial supertanker such as the alternating water/bulkhead sides, increased beam and draft, etc., if those modifications can gain us significant survivability.

I’m not necessarily advocating this approach – a naval architect/engineer would have to evaluate the concept – but it’s interesting and worth a few moments of thought especially given the flimsy nature of today’s warships.


(1)Naval Institute Proceedings, “Revolutionary New Ship For The Navy?”, Dr. William Stearman, Aug 2017, p. 87


  1. I hope the author did note that a supertanker sized warship would look supertanker sized on the radar.
    Anyways, even if you don't sink it there are many other ways to render a warship inoperable for a long time during a conflict.
    First that comes to mind, hit the radar with a Anti-radiation missile, and its out of the game.

    1. "First that comes to mind, hit the radar with a Anti-radiation missile, and its out of the game."

      Wow! That's easy. So, what you're suggesting is that we buy, if we don't already have, one anti-radiation missile for each ship in the Chinese navy and that will be the end of that threat. We can save a TON of money if that's all we need to win the naval war!

      Slightly more seriously, though not much, you also seem to be implying that there's no point having frigates or, by extension, any naval vessel, because they all depend on radars?

      Your comment was sophmoric and did you no credit. There are many aspects to the post that are comment-worthy and thought provoking. Put some thought into it and try again.

    2. My point was, that a ship this big as proposed in this idea would be a great missile magnet with a huge RCS.

      There is a point why they apply some measures of low observable technology on modern ships.

      And yes i stand to my point hitting the fire control radar of any warship be it a frigate, destroyer or cruiser -
      Takes that vessel out of the game for a long time!

      whats a Burke with its Aegis damaged?

      I am not speaking of sinking the vessel or vaporising it, like during a ground battle a tank is hit with some kind of missile or projectile, sure i can survive and limp back under own power sometimes and being repaired, but if you damage the optic sights whats it good for during the heat of the battle.

      And yes there is a reason why most russian supersonic anti-ship missiles have anti-radar modifications.

    3. There would be great value in having a missile magnet that is unsinkable. It would absorb all the missiles that might otherwise go after higher value naval vessels! That's a plus, not a minus. In fact, if I were commanding a naval task force, I might well like to have just such a missile magnet to protect my carriers and Burkes!

      Any ship can be mission killed by an engine failure. Should we not have engines in ships? If you truly think that the fact that a supertanker frigate could be mission killed by taking out its radar is a reason for not considering such a vessel then you have to apply that same reasoning to every ship. Is that what you're saying?

      Is the mere threat of damage a reason to not have a unit? If so, then there's no reason to have a military because every unit and person is susceptible to damage.

      Come on, up your game and give me something worthwhile or just pass on this topic.

    4. " It would absorb all the missiles that might otherwise go after higher value naval vessels! That's a plus, not a minus."

      Now that sounds like some sort of decoy vessel, that makes the enemy waste missiles, could work but has to be unmanned.

    5. Or, a couple of well placed torpedoes to take out her props and rudders.

    6. "a couple of well placed torpedoes to take out her props and rudders."

      I hadn't realized that but you're right! Every ship has props and rudders. We need to immediately disband our entire Navy. They haven't got a chance against well placed torpedoes. Good comment!

    7. Interesting discussion. One of the things that popped into my mind was the carrier. Similar size but infinitely harder to hit. The thing that keeps the carrier in one piece is the tactics of how it moves, i.e. speed and location.
      This becomes a balance between ability to maneuver well enough to strike the enemy before they strike you. Difficult to sink is great. But being very slow then helps the enemy find and blind me before I can find and blind them. Sinking the enemy is good but not the only way to win a war.
      I'm not sure being virtually unsinkable is as great an asset when balanced against everything else that is required to obtain victory.

    8. "I'm not sure being virtually unsinkable is as great an asset when balanced against everything else that is required to obtain victory."

      You've leapfrogged out of this narrow discussion and right into an overall strategic military victory discussion! Nothing wrong with that but it is an immense subject and is wholly dependent on the geopolitical victory conditions that we want. Unfortunately, I don't think we have any idea what geopolitical goals we want.

      Returning, a bit, to the narrower discussion, one of the aspects of an "unsinkable" ship that hasn't been addressed is the impact such a ship, or fleet of ships, would have on the enemy's weapon's calculus. Where a single, large, supersonic cruise missile might have been sufficient against a normal ship, the enemy now has to devote many more assets, missiles, and effort to the same task. Those assets are taken away from other enemy offensive operations. Thus, an "unsinkable" ship is a defensive concept that actually impacts enemy offensive capacity.

      The Soviets faced this problem. Modern carriers, while not unsinkable, are very hard to sink and, surrounded by rings of aircraft and escorts, are hard to even get near. The Soviets had to build regiments of bombers, each regiment dedicated to one carrier, just to have a hope of sinking a U.S. carrier. All that time, money, resources, and assets that went into aviation regiments took away from other aspects of the Soviet military capacity. Thus, the mere existence of U.S. carriers impacted overall Soviet military capacity.

    9. You've answered your own question. When we finish this thought experiment what we end up with is a navy that looks a lot like what we already have.
      So when we are done making our super tanker a war wagon what will it look like? The U.S.S. Nimitz.
      At that point it is much more logical to start the conversation on how we want to distribute our weapons in the form of which weapon, it's capacity and it's distribution on various hulls. There is a reason super tanker sized hulls that are armed become carriers.
      Now, the navy has had a conversation on how to expand the use of it's larger supply ships. They have over the years used them for a variety of unique purposes. But they are not, nor will they every be a frigate or battle ship because of a variety of tactical realities.
      One of the very important concept that sometimes are lacking in these thought experiments is the use of each ship during peace time and war time.

    10. "But they are not, nor will they every be a frigate or battle ship because of a variety of tactical realities."

      Interesting statement. What do you see as the "tactical realities" that impact the possible use of a tanker type vessel?

    11. Size vs. Speed

      Size vs. Ability

      Size vs. Cost of loadout

      Loadout vs. cost of protection

      Ability to place some of the loadout on the protectors.

      Cost vs. Number of hulls

    12. Okay, those are factors but what is their impact?

      For example, size vs speed. We can build very large vessels, both commercial and naval, that can make 30 kts so size does not necessarily mean slow speed. Further, speed may not be tactically useful. A frigate acting as escort for merchant ships doesn't need much speed.

      You've listed factors but not how they would act as limits. I get the impression that you're rejecting a tanker-frigate because it wouldn't be a carbon copy of a convention frigate. Well, it wouldn't! It would be different but might well be able to perform the mission - just differently.

    13. Two things...

      We can call a carrier a frigate but we would just disagree about semantics.
      The factors I discussed tend to bracket design for some type of efficiency with the biggest factor being money.
      So I take my tanker and make it fast. But I've got a sunk cost with the upgrade. It's hard to make it go that fast and be cheap. So it's more expensive and big. So I want to get the most bang for my buck and put more weapons on it. That cost more money. At some point we decide it is too expensive so we reduce the size a bit and therefore reduce the size of the engines. We could go down that road until we have what? A destroyer. Or we could go big and end up with what? A carrier. Or we could make a carrier a super frigate but the trade off becomes a singular. We can buy a few of them but not a hundred. No matter how unsinkable something is, it can only be in one place at a time.
      When we are done with the thought experiment there are a lot of things we could build that work, if we had an unlimited budget. But no one does. What we end up with is classes of ship that can be changed around a set of thresholds (manning, capability, capacity).

  2. "Very large supertanker hulls, that are well designed, approach being unsinkable."

    The Newport News built 975 feet supertanker SS Torrey Canyon taking a short cut struck the rocks off south west England in 1967 and in effort to stop the 120,000T oil spill a total of 161 bombs, 16 rockets, 1,500 tons of napalm and 10,000 gallons of kerosene were required to sink the ship.

    Following the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster double hulls were mandated, though bringing drawbacks presumably making sinking these ships harder to sink.

  3. Its probably worth looking into, in the least as a conversion for civilian ships.

    Even if all the critical sensors and weapons are knocked out, how would the enemy know? That's when the concept of "dwell time" comes in, and I do believe the Chinese, for example, have the same issues with reloading at sea that we do.

    It should be wargamed at the least and conversion prototype tested. Not to sure about a from-the-ground up version, don't really seeing it being economically viable for such a specialist vessel.

  4. The Supply-class, while not a super-tanker, does have a double-hull and some of the other features of a super-tanker. She also has 4 LM2500's for propulsion for greater speed.

    That would be my starting point for a tanker-based warship. Give it an Aegis radar system, a few-hundred VLS cells, and a helo detachment of 4-6 ASW helicopters. Basically, its an arsenal ship. I would also make provisions for firing an IRBM or some other type of long range surface-to-surface missile.

    1. "a few-hundred VLS cells"

      The problem with an arsenal ship has always been the disproportionate risk. Sure, we can make a ship with hundreds of VLS but if it's sunk we lose a LOT of missile inventory. There's a balance point somewhere - my thought is that if you're getting much beyond 100 VLS you're starting to risk too much.

      "provisions for firing an IRBM"

      Now that's a very good idea. China isn't hesitating to develop and deploy IRBMs and we're handcuffing ourselves by not doing the same. Locating them on a ship that is held well back from the front line of combat provides a mobile, secure firepower pulse. Good thought.

    2. Short of a nuclear weapon, such a ship is suppposed to be highly resistant to sinking. Therefore, more missiles could be carried.

      Also, the INF Treaty doesn't cover sea-launched missiles.

    3. Honestly, just put in an order for 20 Maersk EEE class ships @ $4 billion total. They appear to be double hulled will do 23 knots in a pinch, can cruise at 16, and we can put just about anything on them using container stacks for rapid configuration changes.

    4. "just put in an order for 20 Maersk EEE class ships"

      That's not a bad idea. Having some large, adaptable vessels lying around would just have to prove useful somewhere down the road.

    5. Only problem is that is the SK manufacturing price, but honestly for that much cost savings, why not. SK has gotten so efficient at making large ships that even the Chinese have trouble competing.

  5. If were talking concepts, i suggest a big mother ship ( around the super tanker size described above ) with a well deck being able to deploy tens of well armed and low observable missile armed craft.
    It would be hard to sink that mother ship but even if its damaged beyond repair those small craft remain fighting for a while.

    1. I like motherships, in general - any type! Did you have a specific missile boat in mind that would fit the size requirements?

      How would these missile boats get their targeting data?

    2. Well, a modern missile boat has a displacement of around 200/250 tons, in that package you generally have
      one 76mm gun, eight ASM missiles of any type and some sort of CIWS for self defense.

      So if were talking about this then a big mother ship could house maybe six or eight.

      However if we use some tailor made fast attack craft with a displacement of less then 100 tons then we double the number.

      Targeting you say, well that would be easy because having plenty of deck space would allow you to launch UAVs, and i mean serious vehicles not those small ones.
      Witch, oh could also be armed with say two missiles in the Penguin class/weight range .

      So there you have it, a ship with the size displacement of a super tanker could haul this much hitting power. Even if you loose the ship itself, the deployed craft would stay afloat and continue to fight another day.

    3. About the craft them self a tailored smaller version Skjold-class corvette, comes to mind as a LO platform.

      And here is a pic of a model of a small but heavily armed craft, in that case with eight! Bramos missiles.

    4. "Targeting you say, well that would be easy because having plenty of deck space would allow you to launch UAVs"

      Yes, I understand that the mothership could supply targeting data either directly from its own sensors or indirectly via UAVs. I was asking about the case you mentioned where the mothership is sunk or disabled but the missile boats continue to fight. Where do they get their targeting data from in that case? Targeting has always been the weakness in the distributed lethality concept, of which this concept is similar.

      Your idea is appealing but the targeting after the mothership is disabled needs to be addressed.

      I like the concept but I have to ask, while the mothership is operational, why do we need missile boats. For a large tanker-ish mothership, why not just give it an equivalent number of VLS cells as the missiles on the boats and let the mothership launch anti-ship missiles? In other words, what do the missile boats add to the force that the mothership couldn't do by itself?

      Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to argue against the concept, just trying to explore the operating concept behind it.

      What do you think?

    5. "pic of a model of a small but heavily armed craft"

      That's almost an exact replica of the Soviet/Russian Tarantul class missile boat - one of my favorite Soviet designs. The earlier Osa class missile boat is another example.

    6. The most important thing with this is that you get.. numbers!

      You have numerically more surface shooters dispersed around you covering a wider area while at the same time being protected under the Aegis umbrellas.
      Other wise we have a huge sea fortress/arsenal ship that has one main disadvantage.. its just one unit, no matter how hard to sink.

      Imagine it like this, a tank needs a infantry squad around it to protect the tank form enemy infantry just as the squad needs the tank for fire support, they complement each other .

      About targeting, if the main mother vessel is damaged then you have the on board sensors on the small craft ( witch if at sea still remain afloat, for some time at least, still better than taking off form a carrier with you're planes only to come back seeing that you're carrier is sunk :D ) and of course "the network"

      Its a carrier concept only this one does not launch airplanes but instead small missile craft around a littoral zone where you expect to encounter many Chinese missile craft and other vessels.

  6. VLCCs max out at 12-14kts. Going much past that would be a major undertaking. A large container ship might be a better starting point.

    However, you will quickly encounter operational issues using these sized ships as frigates.

    How do you escort a VLCC transiting through the Straight of Hormuz when your "frigate" has the same navigation limits (e.g. draft) as the VLCC? Can't position the "frigate" along the most likely axis attack, has to stay in the deep-water channel.

    Lately, we've had enough trouble navigating "nimble" DDGs in congested areas day-in/day-out, without hitting something or being hit. Can't imagine how we'd do with VLCC/Suez Max-sized ships.

    1. How bout this instead. Look to the Maersk B-class container ship. It can hit 30kts on 68MW.

      Design a combined FFG/AOE of similar size to the B-class. Except VISMOD it to look like a CVN, complete with dummy aircraft. Doesn't have to be perfect, just good enough to fool ASBM/AShMs and confuse IMINT sensors.

      The flattop could be rated for helicopters but don't bother with anything more than that.

      Multiple FFGAOEs in a CSG would look like multiple carriers, making it harder to target the real carrier. The Chinese would have to fire many more ASBMs to guarantee a hit on the real carrier, increasing their costs.

      The size of the FFGAOE wouldn't be wasted. It would carry fuel, munitions and stores for the carrier, freeing up T-AO/AKEs to act as shuttle ships - their original role.

    2. The more I think about this, the more I like it, at least for a study phase.

      The key point to me would be cost and effectiveness?. I like the idea of size lending 'armor' and with the Maersk ships even speed. But Could you add the weapons and sensors needed to make it a viable warship within a reasonable cost?

      I.E. could you even add VLS to these things without huge cost? Or a sensor just enough to launch the weapons you'd need?

      You could have a HUGE sonar array, but can you install it cheaply enough? I'd think quieting is out of the question so can the size of the array overcome the idea that the ship isn't ideal?

      And, of course, there is the 10K ton meth addict elephant in the room:

      Could we do all that with discipline as to capabilities and not get rogered by the vendors?

  7. Not much to add to this very interesting idea, agree with Andrew, this is an idea that USN should try and that wouldn't cost a fortune. Just looked at used oil tanker prices, USN probably could fetch a used 1 for $100 million, maybe $50million to clean it up,$350 to militarize it and just saying $500 million to rearm it and install a radar, don't see why you need AEGIS, just run of the mill radar probably would work for trials, hey, could you install a PATRIOT battery on board? Just kidding....but the idea would be interesting as a test bed for a bunch of systems, you have plenty of space and maybe try different combos that you can't try on a regular DDG or FG....I guess I would see it as more as as 1 off test bed that could lead to some of the lessons learned going thru the fleet than necessarily buying a fleet of them.

    Would make for an interesting MCM for sure,probably lot better and safer than an LCS as an MCM ship.....

    I tried to find some illustrations or drawings of a military supertanker that we are talking about, not really found anything, maybe somebody would like to take a crack at that? Who knows, even just drawing one up would be an interesting exercise....

    1. "just drawing one up would be an interesting exercise...."

      It would! I wish I was more of an artist. Good thought.

  8. Way i see it its all about Armour with this concept, in the case a big hull like this offers you a huge amount of spaced Armour, thats the only benefit.

    1. That was the whole point - enhanced survivability.

    2. Well, given that the actual tanks aren't going to be filled with oil, it would also allow some pretty extreme modularity. Should be fairly easy to slot pretty much anything you wanted into each tank space.

      A single tank space can probably hold 200+ VLS, multiple AGS/5"/155mm guns, etc.

  9. Take this idea all the way will be modular assembled (with floating/propelling sub-units) floating platform (where you can stick whatever you want on top or within). Its sink-ability/maneuverability will be sum of all these sub-units, which can be sized to be mission capable beyond what ordinance opposition can afford per 'island'. Imagine several of these floating 'Kadena-AFB' puttering around the 1st island chain water.

    All it takes is industrial capacity and $$.

  10. IMO there are two different issues here.
    First issue
    To confirm that the Oil tankers are very durable ships and better than other civilian vessels, we can take a look to tanker war during Iran-Irak war.
    “Oil tankers are not very vulnerable to damage. 61 percent of the ships attacked during the Tanker War were oil tankers. In total, only 55 of the 239 petroleum tankers (23 percent) were completely sunk or declared CTL, compared to 39 percent of bulk carriers and 34 percent of freighters.”
    Anyway, tanker conversions already exist in USN, so you don’t need to develop nothing new, all sea basing concept and expeditionary transfer dock is related to tanker conversion, all came from Alaska class VLCC tanker, also I found (I didn’t now) that Mercy class hospital ships are converted tankers.
    The second issue is… do we really want or need more armor on navy ships??
    Few days ago we were talking about torpedo myth, now consider number of USN vessels attacked by missile, hit? and sunk?, Even an OHP can deal with two exocets. So, are the ships so fragile and vulnerable? Do we really want to improve armor? Missile myth maybe?
    Usually, generally speaking, we consider defensive systems as secondary, as a new ship proposal or design appears, all comments are focus on number of VLS missiles, range of the same, new guns, and no one is asking for improved defense, no one ask for an increase on protection, an armor belt, stealth shape or improved jammers…
    Passive armor and protection was forgotten time ago and now, something as simple as a tanker looks like an “unsinkable ship”.
    Tankers are so interesting and durable because they are big, double hulled and divided in different areas in order to isolate damaged areas, prevent spills and have extensive firefighting systems. There is nothing new on this, it’s “cheap”. No high tech systems.
    We don’t need to modify a tanker into a destroyer; we need to design a proper frigate/destroyer/cruiser including defensive measurements.
    You don’t need a decoy vessel to resist and receive enemy attacks, you need a fleet capable to receive some kind of damage and continue fighting, improve the protection of the ships and implement the idea of being hit in the design of new ships, instead spending money on a tanker to be a decoy. Doing this you prevent that during design stages of new vessels someone could consider that the new ship will never receive damage as the enemy will shoot to the decoy.
    And remember, if finally, in wartime you need a decoy, then you can use STUFT.

    1. Part of the thinking in armoring and up-gunning ships is that neither side will want to radiate in high-end warfare, which paradoxically means that there's an increased likelihood of ships running into one another within naval gun range. I don't think anyone's really talking about bringing back Iowas for naval combat just yet, but armoring the important stuff against 127mm and 155mm might not be a bad idea. And we really need at least 208mm guns to fulfill our naval gunfire support obligations.

    2. I like the idea of armoring and up gunning for precisely those reasons.

  11. I like it! Load that baby up with missiles and put some torpedo tubes on there too... a dozen helos.. AND tada.. best of the best.. have it REMOTE controlled! This I like. When it needs to replenish, it picks up human pilot and rope throwers. Genius. Build 10 of them. In a shooting war, you could launch more at an enemy than they could throw at you and not run out. And make it known that these will usually have a sub with them. You'd have room on there for a rail gun. And a nuke plant, so you could have laser weapons when they come on line. How many drones could operate from something like this? I see a LOT of money well spent... and I'm serious btw.

    1. I'm afraid you just destroyed the "low cost" concept. As a former Navy nuke plant operator, I beg you please, no nuke plant on this ship.


    2. Yeah, good point on that. I got carried away there with the lasers and rail gun and nuke to power them. heh

  12. I think this idea has merit as an aviation platform. Something that can augment existing capabilities like those found within an amphib group. A mine warfare mission might be a good fit for one, as would 'sea control'. Their handicap is their speed, but anything involving an amphib op would probably have ships occupying the same ocean 'real estate' for some number of days. A big platform that could house and operate lots of vertical assets like F-35C's, helicopters, Ospreys, and drones would probably be quite nice for a commander to have around.

  13. I got nothin except the idea is interesting, Every PO3 could have a stateroom. Great for basketball games and jogging, too. Downside to exceptional habitability would be few port calls.

  14. While a super tanker frigate may be a big radar target, it is also a super tanker. You could place it in a convoy of other supply vessels like the Q-ships of WW1. Just another innocent tanker to a radar so long as you’re not emitting like crazy with an over sized SPY-1 that is not needed for an ASW ship.

    And the hull is big enough to house a huge passive sonar array longer than the old SURTASS vessels for detecting subs.
    If you keep it focused on ASW and short range AAW—i.e. not trying to be a Burke—a 32 cell vls could carry 20 ASROC and 48 ESSM.
    And you would still have room for actual cargo and merchant level comfort for the crew.
    Basically a convoy—I’m talking wartime—with a few of these Q-ship ASW vessels could provide escorts while blending in with the convoy, freeing up other Navy ships for fleet ASW protection.

    1. "big radar target, it is also a super tanker."

      Well, that's just a great point that I hadn't thought of!

  15. I like that idea alot.

    I also wonder if we could buy these used for the Navy's desire of a 'self deployable presence/ anti piracy' assett.

    Don't even do much to it. Maybe you want a Helo for patrolling for pirates. Maybe just drones.

    I've seen used prices for these ships at around $150 million, way cheaper than the LCS, and they are highly automated so they don't have a huge crew cost.

    Sure they aren't fast but for 'presence' missions I don't think they need to be. And they have gobs of range. If you use a bulk carrier now its a 'humanitarian' ship.

    Just off the top of my head. You have to accept the navy's arguments for that type of ship, but if you do, or in my case if you think the Navy will do it anyway, its a cheaper way to handle it than building an LCS.

    1. "its a cheaper way to handle it than building an LCS."

      Yes, it would be. Of course, for simple presence/anti-pirate work, a $20M Cyclone would be just fine and we'd save even more money. Or, maybe a mothership and a small squadron of Cyclones.

    2. Okay. One of these with 10 Cyclones hanging off the side... ;-)

  16. And another thing that came to my mind.

    What if in a hurry the US needed to some sort militarize, for defensive purposes at least, civilian cargo vessels?

    What comes to mind first, bolt on systems, here as an example below is the Russian Tor SAM system being able to autonomously work on deck. Of course you could add the container version of the Klub missile.

    1. I was half joking when I said could you bolt on a PATRIOT or THAAD system on board BUT you raise a good question, in a pinch, could some of these weapon systems just be bolted on real fast and rig some sort of fire control? It wouldn't be perfect but if we had nothing else, better something than nothing? Could you fire ATACMS from a supertanker? Don't see why not?

      Personally, I'm against up armoring or building extensive aviation centric modules on a supertanker, we already have carriers, amphibs,etc that have extensive aviation capability, I would be against anything more than a landing platform and rapidly deployed hangar on the deck. I think we should keep the costs down and up-armor and aviation are expensive. In my book, lets keep it cheap and simple....let's try things that are out of the box like the idea of the tanker being a mother ship to fleet of Cyclone. That's general ideas I think are right 2 cents.

    2. In concept, yes, one could quickly bolt on a weapon system and integrate it with a fire control system, however, the reality is that weapon programs spend months or years integrating their systems with existing Navy ships and software. To think that we can cobble together a fully functioning fire control system overnight is heavy on the wishful thinking.

      Consider a MLRS (ATACMS) launcher on a ship. It is continually moving in all directions. Since the launcher is not gyroscopically stabilized (as far as I know), you would need some type of gyroscopic sensors to even be able to begin to calculate a firing solution. On land, you simply point the launcher and it stays, rock solid, where you point it. On a ship, it's constantly moving. You can't launch unless you can compensate by continually adjusting the launcher. I don't even know if the launcher has that kind of continual adjustment capability.

      So, yes it could be done but not quite as quickly or easily as you may be envisioning!

    3. One thing I have wondered about is for low end ships can they make bolt on weapons systems? I know that the fire control is an issue, but (way) back in the day Sea Sparrow was a contained unit.

      And... from a software perspective if you have a bolt on box launcher, a smart seeker (Like ESSM) could you have a standard sensor to go with it that you could configure from ship to ship... I.E. if you know the sensors specs and they don't change, and you can input the hight of the sensor, the roll of the ship, etc.... you could conceivably make a 'bolt on' weapons system. Almost like CWIS is.

      Where I'm going with this is you could create a way to A) quickly modernize older ships with newer equipment if you can make the room, much like Sea Sparrow did, and B) it makes things like a Frigate'ized Supertanker or Container ship more viable on the cheap.

      I suppose it would be something like STANFLEX but I'm thinking more of using box launchers.

    4. ATACMS is GPS guided with fins for stabilization and maneuvering. Because it is guided, it may be able to tolerate small disturbances from the movement of the ship without greatly affecting range.

    5. "bolt on weapons systems?"

      Yes, with varying degrees of difficulty and success. Even a bolt on system has to have some sort of sensor/targeting input. Sensor placement is a critical issue. You've almost described the Navy's attempt at the Ship Self Defense System wherein a single software fire control and sensor integration software program was intended to incorporate every Navy sensor and weapon so that any combination of sensor and weapon could work on any ship. The reality is that the attempt has met with mixed success and one of the major stumbling blocks has been sensor placement. As they got into the project, they realized that many sensors were not optimally placed and the system had significant coverage gaps.

      So, yes to bolt on but where do you put the sensor to achieve full 360 degree coverage? You can see that the simple concept of "bolt on" is beginning to become complicated.

    6. Self contained systems, that are specific tailored.
      Some only for air defence, others for ship to shore.

  17. This reminds me of something....

    Project Habakkuk. A plan by the British during the Second World War to construct an aircraft carrier out of pykrete (a mixture of wood pulp and ice) for use against German U-boats in the mid-Atlantic. Basically an unsinkable, and self repairing, aircraft carrier. Pycrete is 14 times stronger than ice, and stronger than concrete. If it gets damaged you can repair at sea using onboard supplies of word pulp and water.

    Freeze six feet of pycrete to the outside of a oil tanker, The outer layer would be thin sheet metal.
    Replace the engines with nukes. Arm with missiles, drones, and railguns. Resupply by air. That would be pretty unsinkable and likely unstoppable ship. Even a direct missile, mine or torpedo strike would do very little - and that could be quickly repaired.


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