The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 11-01-2007, 03:26 PM
ChrisBooth12 ChrisBooth12 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
What is the difference between a frigate, cruiser, destroyer?

Does the US Navy still operate corvettes? What is the difference between these types of ships? Is it mainly size or armorment?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 11-01-2007, 03:41 PM
DrFidelius DrFidelius is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Miskatonic University
Posts: 9,875
From here http://www.nvr.navy.mil/class.htm you can click through to see just what the sizes and armaments are for currently designated vessels.

Have fun -- I could spend hours there...
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 11-01-2007, 03:41 PM
solkoe solkoe is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisBooth12
Does the US Navy still operate corvettes? What is the difference between these types of ships? Is it mainly size or armorment?
A cruiser takes 3 torpedoes to destroy and a battleship takes 4.
I sunk your battleship!
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 11-01-2007, 03:42 PM
Sitnam Sitnam is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisBooth12
Does the US Navy still operate corvettes? What is the difference between these types of ships?
A frigate is a faster and less well armed ship-of-the-line.

A destroyer is a quick lightly armed screening ship used for patrol or transport security.

A cruiser is midway between a destroyer and a battleship....more important now since the Aegis missile system.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisBooth12
Is it mainly size or armorment?
Both, but most important is the ships role...which dictates the other two (amongst a load of other factors)
.
Now someone with Navy experience will come around in a minute and get technical, but thems the basics.

Last edited by Sitnam; 11-01-2007 at 03:44 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 11-01-2007, 04:20 PM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Dogpatch/Middle TN.
Posts: 28,552
In WW2, the UK Navy also had Sloops of War, basically an under-engined destroyer, for convoy escort. A cheap alternative.

The US, given the same situation, went for Destroyer Escorts & Corvettes, both smaller & lighter than Destroyers, but quite fast.
__________________
FRIENDS! ROMANS! COUNTRY BUMPKINS!
Lend me your auditory canals!
Ask not what your clones can do for you, but what you can do for country music!
Never in the field of conflict was so much owed by so many who only had a few!
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 11-01-2007, 04:45 PM
Ravenman Ravenman is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 14,016
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisBooth12
Does the US Navy still operate corvettes?
No, but the US Navy is trying to build the littoral combat ship, which is something like a corvette/frigate hybrid.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 11-01-2007, 05:05 PM
thirdname thirdname is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Of course, the meanings of the terms have changed through the different eras, from sail to steam, and from guns to missiles. There are various sub-categories in each class.

The meaning of "cruiser" in the US Navy changed in the 1970s. Before that they were derived from WW2-era cruiser hulls and could displace as much as 15,000 tons, while later they be based more on traditional frigate or destroyer hulls, under 12,000 tons. Our current Ticonderoga-class cruisers displace around 9,500 tons and according to Wikipedia they were originally going to be called destroyers. On the other hand, the planned Zumwalt-class DD(X) (pic) destroyer is supposed to displace 14,500 tons.


See
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warship#Types_of_warship
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruiser
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destroyerer
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frigate
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_...classification

Last edited by thirdname; 11-01-2007 at 05:09 PM.. Reason: sp, pic
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 11-01-2007, 05:20 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Don't let's forget the troubled Arsenal ship proposal.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 11-01-2007, 11:44 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 53,969
Quote:
A frigate is a faster and less well armed ship-of-the-line.

A destroyer is a quick lightly armed screening ship used for patrol or transport security.
Wait, I thought that a ship of the line was bigger than a screening ship? A frigate is smaller than a destroyer, right?
__________________
Time travels in divers paces with divers persons.
--As You Like It, III:ii:328
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 11-02-2007, 12:02 AM
treis treis is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Cruiser- Think smaller Battleship. Their responsibility is exclusively for sinking enemy ships.

Destroyer- Smaller and faster than a cruiser. Primarily responsible for submarine detection/destruction, screening the main fleet, and scouting. They have small guns that aren't very good in ship to ship engagements, but they aren't useless.

Frigate- Smaller, slower, and cheaper than destroyers. Exclusively responsible for anti-submarine action before the introduction of ship borne missiles. They may carry a small gun, but they are basically useless in ship to ship action, excluding their missiles. Submarines are/were very slow, and anti-submarine action doesn't require the speed of a destroyer. Essentially these were made in WWII and beyond because they were/are cheaper than destroyers.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 11-02-2007, 12:10 AM
treis treis is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
Wait, I thought that a ship of the line was bigger than a screening ship? A frigate is smaller than a destroyer, right?
It changed. Sitnam is correct that in the age of sail and early steam powered ships, a frigate was a smaller ship of the line. During/after WWII frigates were ships smaller than destroyers. You don't need a big, fast, or armored ship to fight submarines or launch missiles. That's the role that frigates currently fill.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 11-02-2007, 12:18 AM
treis treis is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Triple post!

Here's what the Navy has to say:

Quote:
Cruisers - multi-mission warships capable of engaging multiple simultaneous targets and employed in force support or independent action

Destroyer- fast warships providing multi-mission offensive and defensive capability, independently or in fleet support

Frigates - warships designed to protect other ships and as anti-submarine warfare combatants
http://www.navy.mil/navydata/our_ships.asp

There are more in depth descriptions at the link.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 11-02-2007, 01:25 AM
Raguleader Raguleader is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by treis
Triple post!

Here's what the Navy has to say:



http://www.navy.mil/navydata/our_ships.asp

There are more in depth descriptions at the link.
Pretty much what Treis said. It's nowadays more a concern of function rather than anything else, and from what I understand, most modern Destroyers can do the same jobs that Cruisers do. Basically a Cruiser is a command ship designed to take on multiple enemies at once, both ships and aircraft (they might be able to engage subs, but I'm not sure about that). A destroyer is a primary combatant ship that for whatever reason gets to play second fiddle to a Cruiser. A Frigate is basically cheaper than either a cruiser or a destroyer, and has more limited combat capabilities, so it usually gets used for screening and escorts.

Other ships used in a modern navy would of course include submarines (attack and missile subs, with missile subs launching nuclear missiles and attack subs being designed to destroy other ships, primarily missile subs), aircraft carriers (floating airbases able to deploy massive amounts of tactical airpower against any target near the sea, and very heavily protected by other types of ships), Oilers (supply ships) and various other specialized ships that do stuff ranging from supporting amphibious assaults to acting as floating hospitals.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 11-02-2007, 08:23 AM
MarcusF MarcusF is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Historically corvette and frigate both designated specific types of ships in the age of sail. Both had a single gun deck but the corvette would generally be smaller. Without checking I think corvette was a French term and the equivalent in the Royal Navy would be a sloop of war. The principle difference in the RN was not size or armament but the fact that the frigate was a “rated” ship and thus commanded by a Post Captain rather that a mere Commander (see Patrick O’Brien for a lot more on this!). Note that frigates were not designed to stand in the line of battle with the two and three deckers and thus were never “line of battle ships”.

Both types of vessel at times cruised independently of the main battle fleet, scouting, and guarding and attacking merchant shipping and ships on this type of mission came to be called “cruisers”. So, when naval steam ships came along and a class of ships designed to operate independently were built they were known as cruisers. Not sure why they weren’t know as frigates – they had the same mission. By the start of the 20th century cruisers had split into armoured cruisers, generally intended to work closely with the main battle fleet and therefore needing to be able to take some punishment from enemy guns, and light cruisers designed for longer range scouting and commerce raiding and defence. (Lets not even start on “battle cruisers”!)

The term destroyer comes from Torpedo Boat Destroyer. At the end of the 19th century small, fast boats were being armed with the new torpedoes which threatened the vastly more expensive battleship fleets when near the enemy coast. To counter this the main navies built somewhat larger vessels designed to match the torpedo boats for speed while carrying a reasonable sized gun able to destroy the torpedo boats before they got too close to the fleet. Inevitably these “destroyers” were themselves soon armed with torpedoes to provide a torpedo boat large enough to attack the enemy fleet away from land.

Essentially, in the modern world, corvette, frigate, destroyer, and cruiser are all pretty arbitrary terms that vary from navy to navy and from year to year. Generally starting from corvette and going up to cruiser they increase in size and power but where the boundaries get drawn is as much a “style” or even political decision. Back in the ‘70s when they were designing the Harrier carrying Invincible class ships for the RN they were designated “Through Deck Cruisers” as the government of the day had decided the Royal Navy did not need aircraft carriers!
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 11-02-2007, 12:46 PM
Meeko Meeko is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Marietta, GA
Posts: 7,758
Quote:
Originally Posted by solkoe
A cruiser takes 3 torpedoes to destroy and a battleship takes 4.
I sunk your battleship!

It's sad when we all have the same few jokes.

What's worse, I still came in to see if someone has made the joke.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 11-02-2007, 12:54 PM
Throatwarbler Mangrove Throatwarbler Mangrove is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Quote:
Back in the ‘70s when they were designing the Harrier carrying Invincible class ships for the RN they were designated “Through Deck Cruisers” as the government of the day had decided the Royal Navy did not need aircraft carriers!Reply With Quote
The Soviet Navy had a similar convention, calling their aircraft carriers "Helicopter carrying missile cruiser" or some such, because of some obscure naval treaty with Turkey that forbade them from sailing ships of certain designations through the Dardenelles.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 11-02-2007, 01:12 PM
bump bump is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by MarcusF
Without checking I think corvette was a French term and the equivalent in the Royal Navy would be a sloop of war. The principle difference in the RN was not size or armament but the fact that the frigate was a “rated” ship and thus commanded by a Post Captain rather that a mere Commander (see Patrick O’Brien for a lot more on this!). Note that frigates were not designed to stand in the line of battle with the two and three deckers and thus were never “line of battle ships”.

Back in the beginning, there were "ships of the line", meaning ships that were fit for service in the "line of battle" meaning that in major sea battles, these ships carried enough guns and were strong enough to take a place in the single-file lines of ships of the time and duke it out with the enemy's ships of the line.

Ships of the line were rated based on the number of guns they carried. A 1st rate ship carried more than 100 guns, a second rate carried 90-98 and 3rd rates carried 64-80 guns, with 74 gun ships being the most common type of ship of the line, on down to 4th rates, which carried 46-60 guns.

Frigates were generally 5th rates (30-44 guns), and 6th rates (20-28 guns), and were used for individual commerce raiding and independent action.

A 6th rate frigate was generally the smallest "rated" ship, meaning that it was the smallest type that a Royal Navy Post Captain would be in command of.

Below "rated" ships were Sloops of War, which was catch-all term for anything under a 6th rate. Sloops were generally commanded by Commanders (i.e. someone with the rank of Master & Commander, but not yet a Post Captain).

The Royal Navy rank system went like this in these days: Midshipman, Lieutenant, Commander, Post Captain, Admiral. Once you made it to Post Captain, your seniority made the difference as to practical rank, and you'd eventually make some kind of Admiral, as promotion was guaranteed from then on out.


Historically, battleships grew directly out of the ships of the line- tactics didn't change much up through WWII for gunfire-related naval warfare.

Cruisers were conceived as something similar to the frigates of the past, but at Jutland, they were used in the line of battle, and suffered as a result. They ended up as more of a 4th rate type ship- the battles around Guadalcanal were primarily cruisers and frigates.

Nowadays, warfare has changed. Without battleships around, the primary type of capital ship is the aircraft carrier. Cruisers were designed to protect aircraft carriers. Ideally, they had the most capable EW suites and armaments against air and surface threats. Destroyers are the most numerous and general purpose ships, while frigates are smaller, and less capable than destroyers, and also much cheaper.

Generally speaking, cruisers stick with aircraft carrier groups, and destroyers are used for that, as well as independent action, as are frigates. Without a "line of battle" as such, the terms are more size and electronics dependent than anything- Burke class destroyers carry Harpoons, Standard missiles, torpedoes and have a gun. So do Ticonderoga class cruisers, and even Perry class frigates. The main differentiator between the ships is the number of targets that they can engage and the ship's size. A Ticonderoga can engage a whole bunch of stuff at once, while the Perrys can't handle nearly so many.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 11-02-2007, 01:34 PM
kidchameleon kidchameleon is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Cecil's basement
Posts: 4,972
Quote:
Originally Posted by solkoe
A cruiser takes 3 torpedoes to destroy and a battleship takes 4.
I sunk your battleship!
No you didn't. A battleship takes five hits.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 11-02-2007, 02:36 PM
mlees mlees is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Heh.

During the budget debates of various nations, a lot of the legislative bodies played word games with the classification of ships to get them funded, or to skirt around treaty restrictions.

For example, the USS Alaska class cruiser: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/u.../cru/cb1cl.htm

Quote:
Originally Posted by Navy Historical Center
As built, the Alaskas were much closer to cruisers in design than to battleships or battlecruisers. They lacked the multiple layers of compartmentation and special armor along the sides below the waterline that protected battleships against torpedos and underwater hits by gunfire. Other typical cruiser features in their design were the provision of aircraft hangars and the single large rudder. Unlike other U.S. cruisers of the day, the hangars and catapults were located amidships, and the single rudder made them difficult to maneuver. On the other hand, the Alaskas' side armor covered more of the hull than was standard in contemporary U.S. cruisers.

<snip>

Alaska class design characteristics:


Displacement: 27,000 tons (standard)

Dimensions: 808' 6"(length overall); 91' 1"(maximum beam)

Powerplant: 150,000 horsepower steam turbines, producing a 31.4 knot maximum speed

Armament (Main Battery): Nine 12"/50 guns in three triple turrets

Armament (Secondary Battery): Twelve 5"/38 guns in six twin mountings.
The size and armament of these bad boys put them in the same league as a WW1 super-dreadnought type ship. The were easily the equivalent of the Battlecruiser type of ship.

But the U.S. Congress was known to have an aversion to anything that smacks of the battlecruiser (probably because of the criticism of the type in their performance in the battle line, like at Jutland), or even new battleship construction, when it was clear that the carrier was the new queen of the seas.

So, the Navy Department had to call them cruisers, and had to do the "song and dance" routines to get them funded by a skeptical U.S. Congress.

Generally, these old ship type names (cruiser, destroyer) used to give an idea of the overall size of the ship. But now, the name is more for what the function of a ship is intended for, not weight. (And that's why a modern destroyer displaces what a WW2 cruiser did, and still bears the destroyer name.)
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 11-02-2007, 02:58 PM
RedSwinglineOne RedSwinglineOne is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by kidchameleon
No you didn't. A battleship takes five hits.
Number Type of ship Size

1 Aircraft Carrier 5
1 Battleship 4
1 Submarine 3
1 Destroyer 3
1 PT Boat 2

I almost said the same thing but then decided to look it up.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 11-02-2007, 03:03 PM
casdave casdave is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Posts: 7,508
IIRC HMS Warrior was classed as a frigate, but in her day she was the most powerful warship afloat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Warrior_(1860)
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 11-02-2007, 03:38 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 53,969
Quote:
IIRC HMS Warrior was classed as a frigate, but in her day she was the most powerful warship afloat.
That's because she was only the third or fourth ship of her type in the world. There weren't yet enough ironclads for "ironclad" to be a designation.

And I'm old enough to remember when the 2-hit ship was a destroyer, the second 3-hit ship was a cruiser, and there was no PT boat. I was very confused as a child when a USN destroyer made a stop in Cleveland on a goodwill tour, and it was much larger than the USS Cod (a WWII sub now moored as a museum in Cleveland).
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:48 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.