Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Roles - The Frigate

Why do we have or want frigates today?

Sadly, the most accurate answer is probably just because we’ve always had them.

We’re going to take a look at the role of the frigate, its historical function, and how that role translates into today’s naval force, if it even does.

Frigates originated in the days of sail.  They were single deck ships designed to be fast.  They were not part of the line of battle.  Their role was patrol, scouting, commerce raiding, escort, communications, and diplomacy (often of the gunboat variety!). 

It was their scouting and patrol functions that were most valuable in that they provided what we now refer to as ‘situational awareness’ for the fleet commanders.  In many respects, fleet commanders valued frigates more than ships of the line.

As the age of steel and steam emerged, the traditional frigate somewhat disappeared.  The scouting role for the fleet became the responsibility of the cruiser – more so when aircraft appeared and cruisers could launch their own planes.  Cruisers were the eyes of the fleet commander until the rise of aircraft when carrier and land based, long range scout planes largely took over the role.

By the time of WWII, frigates were relatively rare.  However, the advent of submarines gave rise to the small anti-submarine ship which, in the US Navy, was referred to as a destroyer escort (DE) although in terms of size the DE slotted into the space between a destroyer and a corvette which would be the frigate space.  The DE’s role was anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and escort.  Other navies referred to the same function/size vessel as corvettes or frigates.  Thus, we see the beginning of today’s widespread overlapping designations.

So, by the end of WWII the frigate’s traditional role of situational awareness had given way to ASW and escort.

During the post-war period the US continued building destroyer escort (DE) classes such as the,

  • Dealey, DE,  1952
  • Claud Jones, DE, 1956
  • Bronstein, DE,  1963

In 1975, the Navy redesignated many ship classes and introduced the formal use of the frigate (FF/FFG) designation.  Subsequent classes such as the Garcia, Knox, and Perry were now frigates. 

Regardless of designation, they retained the DE’s role of ASW and convoy escort.

As the Cold War developed and Western military planners contemplated the need to move convoys across the Atlantic to support a land war in Europe, Soviet submarines were seen as the major threat with some additional, less likely, threat from long range, cruise missile armed bombers.  Thus, the convoy escort was mainly an ASW vessel with a nod to self or near area air defense – hence, the Perry FFG’s fit of Standard missiles.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union the need for massive cross-Atlantic resupply convoys disappeared and, to a large extent, so did the need for frigates, at least in the convoy escort role.  There just wasn’t any need for convoys and this remained the case until the rise of China.  A China war once again raises the specter of trans-oceanic convoys, this time across the Pacific.  As with the Soviet scenario, submarines will, again, present the major threat to convoys.

Concurrent with the rise of the Chinese threat, small, conventionally powered submarines (SSK) proliferated and created a need for up close ASW although, in this case, the need is for pure ASW without the need for convoy escort or even limited area AAW.  Thus, what is needed is a small, cheap, expendable, pure ASW vessel along the lines of a WWII Flower class corvette.

Another chapter in frigate development has been the world-wide tendency of budget-limited navies (almost everyone except the US and China!) to try to pack as much firepower and capability as they can into their frigates since those ships are what constitute the major suface combatant of those navies.  If a frigate is your biggest ship, it makes a certain kind of misguided sense to load it with as much capability as you can to try to make it your ‘capital’ ship.  So called ‘frigates’ now perform almost every naval role:  ASW, AAW, ASuW, cruise missile land attack, etc.  Unfortunately, this trend has led many US Navy observers to call for similar frigates for the US Navy.  We’ve already debunked this desire in previous posts so I won’t belabor it further, here.  Suffice it to say that the US Navy has no need for a frigate and would benefit much more from a small, cheap, ASW corvette.

We see, then, that there have been three major incarnations of the frigate:

  • the original sailing frigate with its role of fleet scout

  • the oceanic convoy escort with its role of ASW and limited AAW

  • the pseudo-capital ship of budget limited navies

Today’s frigates are, by and large, just generic surface ships of as a great a size and capability as the building nation can afford.  Generally speaking, frigates with a specific role no longer exist.

Hopefully, this little review has shed some light on the historical development of frigates.  In the end, though, this is just a semantics discussion.  Lacking a specific role, a frigate can be anything and trying to compare one country’s frigate to another’s is pointless since it is not comparing apples to apples.  So, sit back, relax, and enjoy your favorite version of ‘frigate’.

USS Ford – aviation frigate?


  1. Very nice description.
    I'd love to see more posts like this tackling other modern and historical ship types. I've often tried to understand what some types are 'supposed' to do but Wikipedia can only tell me so much.


    1. Thanks. That's a good idea and I'll give some serious thought to doing this for other ship types. The cruiser comes to mind. No modern navy has a traditional cruiser and it would be interesting to see why and whether there is a use/need for a modern cruiser.

    2. Cruisers are definitely one that comes to mind. Not so relevant now but the division between light and heavy, etc was a bit fuzzy. It seems that the difference was historically just gun size but I suspect there was more to it.

      How the different ship types could/should be defined and whether they have relevance today (and tomorrow) is an interesting topic.


    3. Cruisers were originally "independent cruisers" and were the frigates of their day.

      The battleships were harbour queen's, fiendishly expensive to operate they spent their lives at port.
      But steel armour and steam propulsion had rendered wooden and sail frigates useless.

      Cruisers were small economical vessels that "flew the flag" and carried out peace time duties.
      In wartime they attacked merchant shipping or scouted for the battleships.
      As airpower grew in importance they became dedicated air defence platforms culminating in the Ticonderoga and whatever that Russian Cruiser is called.
      But underneath them, as Torpedo boats ceased to be a thing, torpedo boat destroyers overtook much of the AAW role.

  2. "Lacking a specific role, a frigate can be anything and trying to compare one country’s frigate to another’s is pointless since it is not comparing apples to apples"

    Yeah, but you forgot to mention how hi tech and compact most of todays sensors and weapons systems are. Thanks to that you can have modern multi purpose frigates.

    1. For example look what beast a frigate build on the same OHP hull with similar architecture would look like with todays weapons.

      In the Bow you could stack up at least 32 ESSM's in VLS and you would have space for two RBU'like' rocket launchers.

      Since modern radar mast are more compact than those on the Perry you could have extra space for two universal quad pack box launcher's with the ability to use both types NSM and LRASM .

      The gun remains the same, the CIWS will be a Sea RAM with the launcher having a bigger missile load.

      ASW equipment state of the art + two choppers.

      Now that sounds like a multi-purpose frigate to me.

    2. What's your point? Is it that it's possible to build a multi-purpose ship? We already know that. Just because it's possible, doesn't mean it's a good idea.

      What you failed to mention is that such a modern, multi-purpose ship no longer meets one of the main, traditional characteristics of a frigate - inexpensive. Those, modern smaller sensors are very expensive. That aviation capability comes at a large price (150 ft extra ship length, hangar, additional magazines, more aviation fuel, maintenance shops, spare parts storage, additional crew size and berthing, etc.). VLS, LRASM, quad-packed ESSM are expensive. And so on. That multi-purpose frigate is going to cost $1B-$2B. The Navy's new frigate program is already calling for a near $1B ship and you know the cost is only going to increase!

      So, again, what is your point?

    3. " what beast a frigate"

      You know, if we added just a simple 50 foot plug to the hull, we could add an additional 32 VLS cells and maybe a 5" gun. In fact, if we strengthened the hull a bit we could add an 8" gun for some real fire support capability. Properly designed, we could add an AMDR radar sensor (probably not a full size one but still quite capable!) which would allow us to do Standard missiles, area air defense, and even ballistic missile defense. What a beast of a frigate! And for just $5B or so. Why, we could build an entire class of three, just like the Zumwalts!

    4. My point was that no one anymore builds single-purpose frigates, only quantity today is the possibility to drive the price down.

    5. "no one anymore builds single-purpose frigates,"

      And we've already dealt with the foolishness of that.
      "Frigate? That's a Battleship"

    6. @Storm
      It always comes back to why?

      The vast majority of navies are pointless vanity projects.
      It's hard to see what these multi-purpose frigates do that couldn't be done by an F16 with drop tanks and AShM and coast guard cutters with 30mm cannon?

    7. There's no such thing as a truly single-purpose frigate. An ASW ship that's incapable of defending itself against aircraft is merely a defenseless target for aircraft and missiles. Now Aegis-level AAW is ridiculous unless it was cheap. But an escort absolutely MUST be able to defend itself and ships nearby against missiles. Unless we build (and man!) so very many ships that we can split them into purely AAW and ASW roles, but if we could do that, we'd have a Navy with double the manpower. We don't. :(

    8. "There's no such thing as a truly single-purpose frigate. An ASW ship that's incapable of defending itself against aircraft is merely a defenseless target"

      You are completely off base. Come back when you've read the link below.

      Single Purpose

  3. I often view the insistence on single role warships as akin to those on the land side who staunchly resisted giving every solider and marine Aim Points, EO-Techs and ACOGs - optics were the domain of dedicated marksmen and snipers.

    The future is now.

    Politically no ship can be considered expendable.

    The technology is there for small multi-role combatants. One can debate the balance of capabilities of specific designs, but any modern government and Navy will demand ASW, ASuW and at lease limited area AAW of a ocean going combatant.

    1. You contradict your own final statement. You note,

      "Politically no ship can be considered expendable."

      Presumably, your statement is recognition that the exorbitant cost of modern ships renders them risk averse for the very missions they're designed to conduct.

      Oddly, you then make your final statement of the inevitability (if not need) for these exact same unaffordable and risk averse multi-role ships.

      "One can debate the balance of capabilities of specific designs, but any modern government and Navy will demand ASW, ASuW and at lease limited area AAW of a ocean going combatant."

      Multi-role and unaffordable costs go hand-in-hand. You seem to recognize the problem and then, contradictorily, call for multi-role ships. Baffling!

      You also completely misunderstand what single-role means. It doesn't mean single function. I just did an entire post of this. Thus, your example of optics for soldiers, which is supposed to demonstrate the folly of single role, actually perfectly supports single role. The single role of the infantryman is to destroy the enemy in one-on-one combat (most commonly using a rifle but including other weapons). Thus, providing improved optics simply enhances the ability of the infantryman to perform his single role!

      Please go back and reread the single role post.

    2. @Paveway

      Not every single soldier needs a M68, ACOG, or Eotech. The fact that dentist assistants, S3 clerks, and just about every single non-combat MOS has them, is a waste of money. A M68 cost nearly $400, an ACOG $1k. Likewise, not every soldier needs a $3.5k NVGs or on the reverse, no infantry company needs 6-7 Enfire kits that cost 40k...

      Just going off on the M68 being issued to every single soldier currently, not including spares, comes to $183.7 million. For the NVGs, it $1.6 billion.

    3. @Purple Calico: Ironically, if your combat support MOS are your shit hit the fan reserve, it makes sense to give them red dots. Going from iron sights to an Aimpoint is like going from grainy black and white to 1080p HD color. The red dot makes life a lot easier for the user and means that your combat support troops who haven't been regularly getting as much trigger time as your combat MOS troops will be a bit more effective in combat. Consider all the times the cooks and bakers platoon and HQ staff have been pressed into serving as base defenders in the Pacific War and in Vietnam.

      $183.7 million to issue a red dot to every soldier is chump change for the US military. The combat kit of a common American soldier is the kit of most other nations' special forces. Being America is Pay 2 Win in a Free 2 Play world. :V

    4. @Wild Goose
      Ironic, no. Theoretical, yes.
      As an NCO that has overseen training troops from BMI to being the Range safety officer in charge, the M68 is a decent tool, when properly zeroed and maintained, which it rarely is.

      But lets take a look at what that low-balled 183 million could have gotten us: The M855 costs around $.20 per shell

      183.7mil/.20=918.5million rounds of M855 5.56mm ammo.

      It takes 58 rounds to qualify, so:

      918.5mil/58=15,836,206 times we've could have sent someone to the range, or 500k soldiers twice a year, for 15 years... alleviating the problem of support troops not being not being sufficiently trained.

      I've trained and overseen active duty, non-combat MOS's that see as little as once in 3 years of actually firing their weapons at a range. Their knowledge of their weapon, let alone on how to properly zero the M68, was extremely limited. The fact that we're spending comparatively small amounts for all this equipment then while not training our soldiers in its use, is my justification for not buying it for everyone. My opinion applies to ACOG, Pac14, NVG, thermals, etc. as well...

      Why buy something, regardless of how good an idea it seems on paper, if we don't regularly train people to use it?

    5. "Why buy something, regardless of how good an idea it seems on paper, if we don't regularly train people to use it?"

      That's valid!

    6. "Why buy something, regardless of how good an idea it seems on paper, if we don't regularly train people to use it?"

      Fair enough, but then that's not a problem with buying the optics, that's an issue with training and doctrine and priorities.

    7. "Fair enough, but then that's not a problem with buying the optics, that's an issue with training and doctrine and priorities."

      Exactly! We waste so much time training on extraneous BS that it's not funny. And yet spend little enough time training on what's truly important that it makes one weep. Issuing clerks and cooks ACOGs makes little sense, but the Marine ethos of "every Marine a rifleman" makes damned good sense given WWII and Korea, so why not? TRAIN them yearly. How long will it take compared to all the nonsense BS they're subjected to now? Replace BS with useful stuff, for once in the last half-century?

      For ships, it would be useful for every ship to be able to defend itself from a missile (or aircraft with a bomb), stream a Nixie, or fire a torpedo back down the incoming torpedo's azimuth, just to keep the shooter busy.

    8. " it would be useful for every ship to be able to defend itself from a missile (or aircraft with a bomb), stream a Nixie, or fire a torpedo back down the incoming torpedo's azimuth"

      This is ridiculous. Adding an optic to an infantryman's weapon fully supports their primary purpose. Adding torpedoes to an amphib or carrier does nothing to support the primary function and just adds cost. There are other ships whose job it is to deal with the subs.

  4. At least overarming frigates is an American tradition. I believe the Brits complained quite a bit about over-armed and larger the USS Constitution was compared to theirs at the time. Ironically those 6 original frigates met your 3rd definition as they were the closest we do for capital ships In the early days of the US Navy.

    Unfortunately your third definition makes sense for a small European power. But not for the USN.
    I personally wouldn’t mind frigates once more being the eyes of the navy. Filled with signals surveillance and ECM and defensive armaments even the silly LCS could be a “frigate” and have the word mean something. I also like the term Destroyer Escort for ASW as it gives the WW2 vessels as something to compare to.

    I’m with the others who’d like to you post on class definitions. To me the flight 3 Burke’s are closer to cruisers which were originally meant to be somewhat multi use and capable of independent operations.

    1. "I personally wouldn’t mind frigates once more being the eyes of the navy. Filled with signals surveillance and ECM and defensive armaments even the silly LCS could be a “frigate” and have the word mean something."

      What a great comment! SigInt capability is a great use for smaller ships either as a primary function or, depending on cost and impact, a secondary one. I've done a post or two in the past on alternative uses for the LCS and that was, indeed, one of them. Peruse the archives and you'll eventually stumble across it - and think of all you'll learn while you're looking!

      Really good comment!

    2. The damned LCS really ought to be some sort of frigate given its size. Unfortunately, it's got to be sized up 40%+ for the Navy, and that's ridiculous! When I saw the original "Streetfighter" concept, I said, "Yes!" But then as it morphed into the Loathed Crappy Ship, I banged my head on my desk. Especially now that it's damned near both toothless and defenseless.

  5. So do you not feel that an ASW-centric frigate is worthwhile or did I misunderstand? I realize that the Navy will probably want the new frigate to have AMDR, VLS, 16 inch guns and an air wing, LOL... But have we heard any actual plans and specs for it?? Could it be an ASW focused ship or is it going to be another multi mission, overly expensive, unriskable platform??

    1. JJ
      The US frigates were designed to protect ReForGer from Soviet SSNs.
      There is no more ReForGer, so no reason for those frigates.

      Now, there might be other requirements that can be met by a frigate, but they should be spelled out and a ship designed for them.

      We need an X to replace our old X is rarely sensible
      The ASW needs of a convoy in the Atlantic are unlikely to be similar to those of a battlegroup in the Pacific, they might be do different as to require entirely different ships

    2. "So do you not feel that an ASW-centric frigate is worthwhile or did I misunderstand?"

      I'm not sure who this question was directed at but I'll toss in my answer. I absolutely see no need whatsoever for a multi-role frigate (a mini-Burke) and I've done posts on this. I see no need for even an ASW focused frigate although this would be a better choice than a multi-role frigate. What I see a need for is a small, cheap, expendable ASW corvette. For a better overall explanation, see the Fleet Structure page, tabbed in the main menu at the top of this page.

    3. Domo, succinctly and correctly put!

    4. Umm, a ship to escort resupply ships across the Pacific is definitely needed. If not right now, then within a few years. If a near-peer opponent can cripple our fleet by killing AOs, AOEs, AKs, etc., what good is the fleet, pray tell?

    5. Larry,

      I'd venture that in the modern battlefield a small SAG would probably be necessary to provide even the limited ASW, AAW, ABM, and ASuW capabilities required to protect trans-pacific logistical convoys. Serious threats exist from submarines, long-range bombers, and (if it works after the first salvo) a complex ISR-A2AD network of sensor and long-range missile platforms. A frigate/DE can't do that alone and still be a frigate (see "That's A Battleship"), but an ASW frigate with multiple "functions" may have a place in small SAGs, while CNO's ASW corvette would be preferable as an escort to CVBGs where more (nearly all) of the non-ASW (and some ASW) functions are provided by the other ships/aircraft of the CVBG.

      Even a small group of up-gunned and up-hulled ASW-focused frigates probably would need to be paired with another, more capable vessel to provide additional survivability. The "battleship" of this group would be able to provide area AAW, ABM, and ASuW coverage without having to play tag with submarines - a good job for a Burke/Tico if we can spare some for this role. If not, we probably need more.

      As CNO regularly points out, anything you want to have play tag with submarines needs to do so economically. That means high kill or mission kill probability against a sub, low attrition, and low cost. At the same time, you're never going to get cost low enough - even for a corvette - to accept losing these (and their convoy) to mid-scale missile saturation attacks. You have to pair the corvette/frigate with a CVBG or at least a Burke-level escort for it to be worth more than dust in the wind. That said, I think both are great concepts.

    6. "protect trans-pacific logistical convoys."

      You may be ascribing near-magical capabilities to the enemy! No enemy (we're talking about China, right?) can be everywhere on the globe. For the next 20 years, at least, China will not have the ability to project significant firepower outside the E/S China Seas except for sporadic events, meaning an occasional submarine or an occasional, maximum effort long range bomber/cruise missile raid. Even with a sub or two loose in the open ocean, the odds of the sub locating a convoy within weapon range is very low. Thus, without doing anything at all in the way of escort, most convoys would be safe. Of course, the threat increases as the convoy gets closer to China. Thus, a convoy from the west coast of the US to Pearl Harbor would only need a couple of ASW corvettes. A convoy from Pearl to Guam would need some corvettes and a couple destroyers (see the Fleet Structure page).

      Obviously, if intel indicated that there was reason to believe a higher threat existed (a max aviation effort raid being mounted, for example) then additional escorts would be warranted.

      We have a tendency to think that every weapon an enemy possesses will be available and focused on any platform/convoy we're discussing and this is overwhelmingly not true. Remember, while our convoys are sailing, the Chinese would be fully occupied fighting their own battles and defending against our attacks. There simply won't be all that many resources sitting around the open Pacific waiting for a possible convoy to happen by.

      Check out the distances on a map of the Pacific. Until a convoy nears Guam, it's pretty safe even totally unprotected. China just doesn't have much that can reach that far and what can reach that far will still have to find a tiny, tiny, tiny spec of a convoy on an immense ocean - no easy task!

    7. If China's not deploying radar naval surveillance satellites yet, it's only a matter of time. What we can do to take them out is limited. It is looking more and more likely that within a decade, sending in less than 4 CBGs close to China's "1st island chain" will be near-suicidal. And retreating out to the 2nd island chain or further to refuel and rearm. Which is pretty much reverting back to the early days of the Pacific War with Japan when Pearl Harbor and Australia were our forward bases, and I'm not sure the Navy has thought that through. Actually, I'm not sure the heads that count in the Navy are thinking much beyond retirement and lucrative civilian paychecks from defense contractors. But were I the Chinese, I'd be looking long and hard at how to target our all-too-few fleet replenishment vessels since without them, we're a one-shot and gone. Flame away, and I'll go hang my head in shame.

    8. " radar naval surveillance satellites"

      Most analysts seem to think that satellites will be destroyed very early in any war. China performed a confirmed, successful anti-satellite test in 2007 and, since then, is believed to have conducted several more. The US also has anti-sat capability. Neither side will have much in the way of satellite capability when war comes.

      "how to target our all-too-few fleet replenishment vessels"

      You're quite right that these represent a significant Achilles Heel for the US Navy. I've posted on other types of 'Pearl Harbors' that would be crippling.

      Good comment.

  6. "staunchly resisted giving every solider and marine Aim Points, EO-Techs and ACOGs - optics were the domain of dedicated marksmen and snipers."
    And that is a complete must on todays battlefield, especially in urban.

  7. Agree, a cost effective ASW ship (Frigate/corvette....) in my opinion will become more and more important in the next few years. SSK's are becoming ever more numerous and sophisticated. And the PLAN nuclear fleet will only get bigger.

    I'm still undecided on the requirement for helicopters tho'. The cost is substantial and availability relatively low. However the options for speed and range away from the mother ship I think are a great for multiplayer.

    I suppose the compromise for the US who can justify two classes is a littoral (don't like using that word)corvette where air support can come from land and a larger "Frigate" with helicopter for true blue water work.

    Or do you send a "Burke" with helicopter and half a dozen ASW corvettes for blue water work?

    1. @Clive
      But it depends whst sort of ASW you want to do.
      The current ASW fleet is designed to clear large areas over a long time frame

      They simply can't turn 90 degrees, all ahead full *and* fight submarines.
      The sonar just doesn't work that way.
      Towed array sonar requires long times spent at low speed and one heading.

      If a carrier group wants to rapidly move about to stay elusive, it's going to need a lot of rapidly deployable long range ASW, that's possibly going to mean a lot of rotary and fixed wing and very few frigates.

    2. Surely we have the means to improve that nowadays? There are a number of signal processing solutions to a catenary towed array that simply weren't available 30 years ago (which is the limit of my knowledge). Rapid changes in speed is harder, but also possible to deal with, but perhaps at extra systems cost (unlike better algorithms and far faster compute systems). I agree with lots of fixed-wing and rotary ASW, which we've neglected for far too long. Along with SOSUS and whatever, if anything, that's replaced it.

  8. Great clarity on frigate meaning 'capital ship' for many countries, while we really need it to mean 'escort.' If we want to look for international comparisons, it's probably helpful to look at something called a 'corvette.'

    It sounds like the goal is something like the old FFG Perry's - primarily ASW focused, with limited AAW in a pinch. No AEGIS. Not quite as fast as a carrier group at top speed. Cost optimized.

    The key cost questions are with or without a helicopter hanger, and whether or not any VLS would be included. Both of those are related to ASW weapon range - some kind of standoff weapon is needed to keep a safe distance from the enemy sub. The light Mk54 torpedoes are much shorter range than the heavyweight torpedoes on subs. So you either need a helicopter or a (VLS launched?) ASROC to engage subs from a safe distance in blue waters. The ASROC could also be in canisters on deck, but I'm not sure that is a better option. One might also consider a heavyweight Mk48 torpedo option, both as an ASW weapon and an ASuW under the right circumstances. Otherwise, a small gun, RAM, and Phalanx for survivability.

    There are corvettes that we could consider as a starting point: Gowind, Sigma, Avante, or even C Sword 90. They are too AAW heavy, not ASW heavy enough (although some are quiet, with rafted machinery), and may not have the needed endurance, but they are probably in the small size/cost range. And that's important because we probably need a bunch of them!

    1. " with or without a helicopter hanger"

      Too many people fall into the trap of thinking we can only have one type of ASW vessel and, therefore, it MUST have a helo. This is wrong. We need multiple types of ASW platforms. For ASW surface ships, we need a true destroyer (this is the one with helos), destroyer escorts, and corvettes. The destroyer escorts and corvettes don't need helos. See the Fleet Structure page at the top of the blog for a more detailed description of how these various elements fit together.

      When you realize the need for a multi-type ASW fleet then the helo question becomes easy to answer.

      "engage subs from a safe distance"

      This is another pseudo-fallacy in the sense that not every ASW platform needs to be a sub-killing platform. An ASW corvette, for example, can simply detect a sub and then call in killing assistance from other, more capable ships or aircraft. A corvette can accomplish a mission kill simply by making the enemy sub 'keep its head down' and this is accomplished through numbers. If [seemingly] everywhere a sub turns it runs into a corvette then the sub is forced off of its mission - a win for the corvettes without a kill.

      All that said, I would advocate ASROC in the old box-style launcher for corvettes and DE's. It provides a cheap, fairly light, relatively inexpensive kill capability.

      Overall, good comment. You clearly grasp the essentials.

  9. If the principal purpose is now convoy escort, why not look at putting containerised units on the merchants/sealift ships? Many of these could take a temporary hangar and some helos (probably more than you'd need for a dedicated frigate to maintain a presence away from the convoy noise and no towed arrays) plus containerised Phalanx and ESSM and sensors. Maybe even utilise some of the weapons being transported. Sheer bulk provides some damage resistance and even proper warships seem to be weak on damage control these days so are you losing a lot?

    1. Generally, there's nothing wrong with certain bolt-on weapon/sensor platforms like CIWS, SeaRAM, and box launchers. However, CNO has highlighted repeatedly that large numbers of bolt-on weapons does not a warship make, and that hangars are not "modular" by a long shot. Hangars require a lot of infrastructure for refueling, rearming, maintenance, crew, air traffic control, etc.

      I'm not against putting certain assets on logistical ships (CIWS and SeaRAM), but even ESSM probably only belongs on warships with dedicated Radars and fire control systems. If you want helos to support your ASW frigate, you probably want a classic DD, maybe a dedicated helicopter/UAV/UUV/RIHB carrier.

    2. "If the principal purpose is now convoy escort"

      I assume you're referring to a frigate. Note that I've not called for ASW frigates. In fact, I've not called for frigates, at all! I see no use for them.

      Setting that aside,

      "containerised units on the merchants"

      It takes more than a container to make an effective weapon or sensor system. For example, helos for ASW require munitions storage (magazine), maintenance shops, spare parts storage, fuel storage, specialized repair/maintenance equipment, command and control, extra berthing, radar guidance from the host ship, etc.

      Further, helos rarely find subs. Ships generally detect subs and then helos are vectored to the suspect target. This is where the whole command and control comes in. A shipboard ASW command center coordinates the entire ASW effort. That command/control center requires comms, computers, analysts, battle management software, etc.

      In short, it's not just a matter of dropping a container on a ship and calling it a frigate.

      All that said, the concept of a commercial based, large cargo 'frigate', properly designed and constructed may have some merit but the cost would soar compared to the base commercial ship cost. Still, it's an idea worth exploring. Why don't you price out such a ship for us? You can get equipment costs from the annual Navy SCN budget docs.

  10. Regarding helicopters
    The RN built a fleet of frigates, the type 12, with helipads, but no further facilities.
    These were approximately 2000t vessels
    Helicopter support was the job of the carrier's.

    The carrier's then became fixed wing assets, and the next generation of frigates were expected to carry out most if not all of their helo support
    This turned them in to 4000t vessels.

    There was also the installation of the seawolf point defence system that was quite large, , but even if it's a 50:50 split, proper (light to medium) helo facilities costs in excess of 1000t

    I wouldn't personally delete the flight deck, it's pretty flexible multi purpose space.

    1. Without meaning to do so, you just made the argument against helos when you noted the increased size and cost of the host ship. Multi-purpose gains you an occasional non-core capability for a continuous cost. It's not cost efficient if the helo isn't part of the primary function.

      That said, for smaller navies that can't afford large numbers of specialized vessels, there may be no choice but to go multi-function. It's not cost efficient but it does provide the capability.

      People constantly make the argument that xxxwhateverxxx is flexible or useful or handy to have without noting the impact on cost and ship numbers. A supercarrier with a full 16" battery, minesweeping, Aegis, 100+ VLS celss, and ballistic missile defense would be handy, useful, and flexible but no one, including the US could afford it.

      Handy, useful, and flexible are flawed design concepts. The ONLY design concept is providing the MINIMUM capability that fully meets the intended single function. Anything more is simply wasteful and decreases fleet size.

    2. I was a bit unclear there, Id keep the helipad, but lose the maintenance facilities.

      A Modern ASW Frigate might have, if we stick to the Leander as a base,
      A forward mounted gun, maybe a normal 5" naval gun, maybe an intermediate 3", or maybe just a Phalanx, or a combination of.
      A Pair of SeaRAM at the waist, no need for anything AEGIS related, but something
      A helicopter landing pad, nothing fancy, just a section of deck at the back big and strong enough to land (and refuel?), at least a light helicopter, if not a medium.
      And then the usual smattering of sonar and anti submarine weapons.

  11. I could really use some support here reviewing NRF FFG Manning. I was a SAM Sea Air Mariner enlisted assigned to Copeland and Sides 1994-1999. I for example have found

    COMNAVSURFRESFOR INSTRUCTION 5040.1 states- "Navy Inspector General report documenting systemic weaknesses in the training and administration of SELRES (SELECTIVE RESERVE) personnel assigned to NRF SHIPS."

    COMNAVSURFRESFOR INSTRUCTION 5040.1A states- "Navy Inspector General report documenting systemic weaknesses in the training and administration of SELRES (SELECTIVE RESERVE) personnel assigned to NRF SHIPS."

    These discoveries I hope to discuss.

    1. I had never heard of this program although a cursory search shows that it did exist. I know nothing about it.

      Regarding reserve fleet FFG manning, there currently is no reserve fleet for practical purposes and I'm unaware of any Category B FFGs. If you're talking about historical manning from the 1990's, I have no information about that. Sorry.


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