Educate me on naval warships and fleet formation

I meant during exercises, not wargames.

Well, the thing with this is it is unknown if an attack sub was in position to stop them prior to their attack, which also would have been suicide to the sub if it was war time. One thing that doesn’t usually come out in those press coverage reports of the exercises is that the US often plays them with the gloves off, so to speak. I’ve seen where some systems would be turned off or deliberately degraded for the exercise. I can imagine that some attack boats might not have participated fully so as to test the surface ships screen alone and evaluate how it was working. Then there is the suicide aspect. You might be willing to pull such a stunt in peace time because you probably aren’t going to die…but in war time you probably aren’t going to be so willing. Especially since you won’t know that you’d even be able to get in position.

The best bet for that sort of thing is you use it to start the war at the sacrifice of the sub and her crew. Once the war is on I seriously doubt it would work.

Another problem with the Death[del]star[/del]ship concept is what happens when you get really busy. With a fleet of any number of classes, you can send lesser ships to deal with lesser problems. Otherwise you’d have your USS Vader parked off the Persian Gulf when the South China Sea blows up, for example. Better to be able to send a cruiser group here, a destroyer group there, a carrier where you really want to project power, etc.

Or even, these days, the new littoral combat ship’s in squadrons or even solo commands. What we use destroyers today could and probably will be done by those in the future. You want fleet diversity. What the right mix is, of course, is going to depend on the nation in question and what they can afford, but more diversity gives you a lot more flexibility and options, which you wouldn’t get with One Ship To Rule Them All(tm…arr)…

We will swap out the battleship for carrier, and the formation is more or less the same. Frigates are nominally anti submarine warfare at this point in history, with a marginal anti air capability and a naval rifle thats at least 3 inches for gunfire support. Destroyers are mainly an anti aircraft/ missile platform that has a bigger sensor suite and travels as consort for carriers. Cruiser is a ship platform that has started to mostly phase out. Bigger than a destroyer, and historically used as trade protection ships.

So your main power projection capital warship is the Carrier ( previously known as Battleship diplomacy or gunboat diplomacy), So any nation that has a coast, The US can repo the airspace and kinetically counsel the incumbent leadership. Sort of a come to Jesus moment for them. Everything the Carrier has is offensively oriented, and practically naked defensively and it requires screening vessels to provide this shield. So think of one of those snow globe things, in the center is the carrier and positioned at various points are the Destroyers and the Frigates, and usually a Submarine or two acting as a gunslinger underwater.

Unfortunately for the frigates, is that one of their duties is to interpose themselves between the threat and the carrier, so at worst, you lose 300 guys rather than 6000. The idea of building larger ships is that they can only be in one place at a time, rather than thirty or forty places that you can cover with Frigates and Destroyers.

I know its already been mentioned in the thread already, but don’t count out the idea of a capital ship in the BB class coming back. It’s not going to be an Iowa class, but the mission defines the platform. Require a BB class ship, and its going to be built.

Nicely put. :smiley:

And really, absent the “War On Terror,” what land-locked country is ever going to be a threat?

The OP asks why we need so many classes of ships, and that has mostly been well-answered. However to the extent that the US does maintain several classes of ships and that these classes are well-stocked, it’s because of the power of sweeping the field (or the sea, if you like). Russia has made feints towards a blue-water navy, and China is getting a little more serious, but it’s a long way to peer capacity for either. Too expensive to bother.

This is why you hear about the supposed Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile. If it exists and if it can be targeted accurately, the carrier at the center of the carrier group, and its planes, are gone in a flash. Suddenly China’s fleet of amphibious landing ships look a lot more threatening to Taiwan.

Of course a nuke could take out a carrier group in a flash. Or multiple nukes would take out every single one. But this would start something no one wants.

How hard would it be to fit the Aegis SPY-1 system onto a (new and not yet existing design) aircraft carrier, give the carrier several hundred VLS cells, and let it be its own Aegis defense? Do away with the Arleigh Burkes and Ticos.

Or would the SPY-1 pose a radiation health hazard to all the flight crews flying off and on the carrier in close proximity?

Where would you stash all the surface-to-air missiles and their launchers? Aegis cruisers/destroyers are more than just radar platforms.

VLS cells - maybe a portion of the deck set aside for a thousand missiles? It would just be a big rectangle section. VLS = pretty tight and compact.

Anything on that deck is going to be hit by random jet wash and occasionally random jets. Better to have multiple launch systems that can move around to best address the axis of the threats.

The Midway class were just that, 3 ships of the same class, same design. All built from the keel up as carriers, not battleships.

Exercise results are a doubtful predictor of combat results, I agree.

Another aspect in exercises, though actual combat too, is how restricted are the movements of the surface ships, and whether the sub has any means of finding them beyond its own sensors. For example in WWII Japanese subs managed to torpedo two US carriers in a pretty short period, Saratoga (damaged) in late August 1942 and Wasp (sunk) in September. Both acting as covering forces to engage any major Japanese fleet movement toward Guadalcanal. The USN concluded their movements had been too restricted and predictable. Otherwise Saratoga had been torpedoed and damaged in January 1942 by a Japanese sub near Hawaii pretty much at random but otherwise besides sinking the crippled and immobile Yorktown after the Battle of Midway, Japanese subs never got into successful firing positions on US fast carriers. It wasn’t that they were sunk by US carriers’ destroyer screens, that almost never happened either. They just didn’t manage to get into firing positions much otherwise. Also US antisubmarine hunting groups took the initiative, with the help of codebreaking info, and the Japanese subs were increasingly diverted to supplying isolated garrisons. But the key point is that finding US carriers became too easy (from USN POV) in the set piece situation of the two sides carrier forces shadow boxing for an extended period near Guadalcanal. Once US carrier movements became less predictable, Japanese subs had a hard time finding them.

In contrast US subs had additional information about the movements of Japanese carriers based on code breaking. Early in the war that didn’t pay off against major Japanese fleet units because of problems in the US sub force (torpedoes the best known but not the only one, another was doctrinal over-caution…a result of misleading pre-war excercise results which made it seem US destroyers would be more effective against subs than either US DD’s initially, or Japanese ones particularly, actually were). Later on US subs found and torpedoed Japanese carriers in several cases usually based on codebreaking info giving the general area to look.

These general ideas would still be relevant now even if the specifics have changed. But carriers and other surface ships now face an even more difficult threat from anti-ship missiles launched from subs. Those require more reliance on offboard sensors by the subs, but don’t require submarines to take great risk in attacking surface ships. The surface ships might shoot down or decoy all the missiles but the subs would not be at much risk of immediate counterattack, so the valid argument about how daring a sub commander might be in an exercise v real combat wouldn’t apply as much.

This would require making the ship much larger.

Remember: It’s not just the space for the systems themselves, but you will need a crew to operate, maintain, and repair those systems, you will need space to berth that crew, you will need space to carry the spare parts and ammo for those systems, and the food for the additional crew, and you will need to expand the fresh water production capacity for them, you will need to add extra electrical (and redundant) power generation for that weapon system(s), and expand the fire fighting systems in those compartments, and increase the ship’s damage control teams’ gear (and maybe manning levels).

The above is why U.S. destroyers have gone from 1750 tons in WW2 to 10,000 tons now. :slight_smile:

Actually, the Dreadnought class is much more interesting than that :slight_smile: It single-handedly brought about WWI, and by extension WWII. (At least, you can make a case for it playing a part).

When the British introduced the Dreadnought, it was so much better than all other capital ships in existence at the time that it by a stroke rendered all other capital ships obsolete, including Britains own vast fleets. This meant that suddenly the hitherto invincible and menacing British fleet was no longer top dog by default - the position was up for grabs by any nation that could build new Dreadnoughts as fast, or faster than, the British. Que Germany that suddenly realised it had a brief window of opportunity to achieve parity - and it launched a massive naval armament project, which in turn caused the British to respond, which lead to a pan-european massive build up of forces - setting the stage perfectly for WWI.

Sure, but what would the role be? Shore bombardment can be taken care of by something a lot simpler and cheaper than a literal battleship.

I mean, you could come up with something monitor-like, or even lamer, if we expected to have air and naval superiority, like a big-assed barge mounting some kind of bombardment system- like the way that railroad guns were created from battleship sized guns in WWI.

I suspect that drones and autonomous systems are going to change things, but I’m not sure how. I don’t know what capital ships in light of that will end up being, or if there will be capital ships as such that we’d recognize.

Who knows? There’s been a lot of research into railguns in recent years. Maybe it’ll lead to a return to big gun ships.

Just some random thoughts on the subject. A direct energy weapon heavy armament is going to need a big ship at the moment just to punch a laser up to orbit and a sensor suite to go with it. Usually the main argument regarding the battleship follows with manning, then escort consorts, followed by mission or lack there of. Does the navy require a sixteen inch naval rifle, at the moment no, but those Chinese artificial islands make for a good glass of scotch and cigar discussing the maybe’s.

Consider that previously in the thread, someone brought up that a ww2 fletcher class DD weighed in at 1200 tons displacement, while a current modern Burke runs at 10k tons displacement. Thats a toss up between a ww2 light cruiser and a heavy cruiser in tonnage. If the displacements keep trending up, the Navy is going to commission a surface warship with the same displacement as an Alaska class BC, at that point you might as well add an Eight inch battery for shits and giggles.

A few things on speed : Most ships have a design speed that depends on hull length, beam, , shape/streamlining and power. Adding power beyond a point gets to diminishing returns as the ship starts riding up/climbing its own bow wave.

Most US surface combatants would have little variance in top speed as a design goal is to be part of a carrier strike group.
The carrier does need to build up speed so that the air speed over plane wings makes launch and landing easier. There’s some secrecy about the top speed, but report of speed in huge excess of the public figure tend to be exagerrations

But sustaining the speed is another factor.

The US builds nuclear supercarriers (France alone has a nuclear carrier; a smaller one)

Thus the carrier can accelerate and stay at that speed for a very long time,essentially outrunning its escorts. It might do that for short periods to take on aircraft, for evasive action etc.

Its also true that a fleet doesnt always travel in a straight path.

Sending a carrier without escorts across the ocean would be foolish.

Getting information on the location and getting it back to the strike/missile launch and guiding it to kill the carrier in a timely fashion is a bit of challenge for any carrier killer. The carrier and fleet may go silent (radio emission) or disrupt any of the elements in the recon-strike-guide/kill chain eg with its own planes etc. Masking a carrier with another large ship as substitute and escorts could potentially be one of teh tactics to fool observers; these are not always spoken of openly, for obvious reasons.

Also, regarding size and diminishing returns :

Study after study has shown that bigger carriers offer better power projection. ie.
some amount of the tonnage/planes/sorties has to be devoted to self protection. Thus make it bigger and you get more excess striking power than just a linear scale.

So 1 big 100,000 tonnes is far better than 2 x 50,000 tonne carriers (even leaving aside that modern planes are bigger and heavier and require some deck space/size and stowage volume) for delivering power/strike.

However a big ship still cant be in two places at once.

A rule of thumb is close to 3 carriers to have 1 out on duty away (allowing for training,maintenance, steaming to and back from the area)

And capital cost is a factor, as also cost of manpower to operate it (the us prefers to have more manpower for damage contro etc rather than high automation)

Hope this helps …

Also, there is a lot of looseness in names.

A modern US destroyer is the size of cruisers of old or more… etc. The old cruiser could operate on detached duty - eg for commerce raiding…

An aside… hydrofooils,missile boats etc (or the LCS) can often attain higher speed. But not sustain it,.Nor are they meant to take on the long ranges, sustained operations amid the high seas resilience…including for transit etc…
Thus the terms blue water navy, green water navy,littoral or brown water navy etc…may be of use/interest…

Getting good information and preventing the enemy from getting good information is where there’s the most intense competition. THrough what ways could an enemy go through that kill chain and through what ways could the US prevent that?