Category Archives: Capability Analysis

Analyzing Specific Naval and Maritime Platforms

An Alternate Naval Typology



This was inspired by a question raised by Dr. Robert Farley here and here.

Within a navy the terms ‘frigate’ and ‘destroyer’ may have specific meanings, but there is no international standard.  Governments often choose to call a ship a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, or corvette for political reasons, so the terms have lost much of their meaning.  With the Germans building 7,200-ton F125-class ‘frigates’ and the Iranians calling their 1,500-ton Jamaran-class ‘destroyers,’ the naval typology system has lost its ability to inform. 

Cruisers have all but disappeared.  The term has certainly lost its relevance as a step between destroyer and battleship.  In the few cases they do exist, with the sole exception of the Russian “Peter the Great,” they are  functionally virtually indistinguishable from ships called destroyers, and even from some ships called frigates.

All these classes actually form a continuum of capabilities, influenced most strongly by their displacement.  All fight primarily with gun, torpedo, or missile.  All these ships are cruisers in the classic sense of a ship capable of sustained independent operations.  They are all cruisers in the way Julian Corbett used the term, in that they are the ships that exercise sea control by enforcing blockades and protecting friendly commerce while denying it to the enemy.  Additionally these are the ships that most commonly do boardings and fight piracy. 

When the term cruiser first appeared it was a generic term that referred to a range of ship types with their own names.  Frigates, sloops, and brigs might all have been referred to as cruisers.  I’d like to propose a  a return to something closer to the original meaning, to use cruiser as a generic term for surface warships that are not amphibs or aircraft carriers.  I will suggest a further breakdown based on displacement with this example to show how this might be more informative:

Micro-Cruisers   1,000-<2,000 tons
Mini-Cruisers      2,000-<4,000 tons
Light Cruisers     4,000-<8,000 tons
Heavy Cruisers   8,000-<16,000 tons
Battle Cruisers    16,000 tons or more


...vs Destroyer.
                                              …vs Destroyer.

For illustrative purposes, below is a comparison of five fleets.  I have included ships of the U.S. and Russian Coast Guard, because they are also capable of doing some cruiser-type work, but added a notation.  The numbers may be suspect.  My sources may not be up to date, but I believe the comparison is generally valid. 

                                           US                        Russia                China     UK     France
Battle Cruisers             —                          1                             —             —          —
Heavy Cruisers            84                       4                            —              —          —
Light Cruisers               3  (CG)              13                          42           17        13
Mini-Cruisers               38  (10 CG)      19  (12 CG)       14             —         11
Micro-Cruiser              27 (CG)             34 (12 CG)        17             4           9
                                            —-                       —-                         —-            —-       —-
TOTAL                           152  (40 CG)   71 (24 CG)         73           21       33

There is no reason this typology could not be used in parallel with existing national or alliance systems that retain the destroyer, frigate, and corvette terms.  The numbers above are based on the following:

Battle Cruisers            —
Heavy Cruisers          84
– 22 CG
–  62 Burke
Light Cruisers               3
– 3 Bertholf (CG)
Mini-Cruisers               38
– 28 FFG/LCS              
– 9 Hamilton (CG)
– 1 Alex Haley (CG)
Micro-Cruisers             27
– 13 Bear (CG)
– 14 Reliance (CG)
TOTAL                            152

Battle Cruisers                 1
– 1 Kirov
Heavy Cruisers                4
– 1 Kara
– 3 Slava
Light Cruisers                 13
– 1 Kashin
– 8 Udaloy
– 4 Sovremennyy
Mini-Cruisers                  19
– 3 Krivak (Navy)
– 6 Krivak (CG)
– 2 Neustrashimyy
– 2 Steregushchy
– 6 Ivan Susanin (CG)
Micro-Cruisers               34
– 2 Gepard
– 20 Grisha (Navy)
– 12 Grisha (CG)
TOTAL                               71

Battle Cruisers                 —
Heavy Cruisers                —
Light Cruisers                  42
– 2 Type 052 Luhu
– 4 Soveremenny
– 3 Type 51 B/C
– 9 Type 052 B/C/D
– 17 Type 054
– 9 type 051 Luda
Mini-Cruisers                   14
– 14 Jianghu
Micro-Cruisers                17
– 17 Jianghu
TOTAL                               73

Battle Cruisers                __
Heavy Cruisers               __
Light Cruisers                 17
– 17 Type 45 and Type 23
Mini-Cruisers                   __
Micro-Cruisers                 4
– 4 River-class                __
TOTAL                               21

Battle Cruisers                 —
Heavy Cruisers                —
Light Cruisers                  13
– 2 Horizon
– 2 Cassard
– 1 Tourville
– 1 Aquitaine
– 7 Georges Leygues
Mini-Cruisers                    11
– 5 La Fayette
– 6 Floreal
Micro-Cruisers                   9
– 9 D’Estienne d’Orves
TOTAL                                 33

Chuck Hill is a retired Commander in the U.S. Coast Guard. He writes at Chuck Hill’s CG Blog, with the objective of looking, over the longer term, at the budgets, policies, tactics, roles, missions, and their physical expression – the platforms – that allow the Coast Guard to do its job.

Israeli Naval Options For Gaza

An Israeli Sa’ar 4.5-class missile boat – a likely player in Israeli naval options

As fighting continues Friday between Israel and Hamas, the region braces for an expanded Israel Defense Force (IDF) incursion into the Gaza Strip – a possibility indicated by the government approval of a mobilization of up of 30,000 reservists.  Such a move would consist mostly of air and ground forces, but the Israeli Navy would also have a role to play. 

The bulk of the Israeli Navy consists of these missile boats and patrol craft, plus a handful of more-capable corvettes and subs.  Missile boats have already shelled (and perhaps struck with missiles) Hamas security positions along the coast, and the Navy continues to enforce its blockade of the Strip.  As Dr. Robert Farley and Galrahn, a pair of prominent naval bloggers (see our @CIMSEC twitter stream conversation), say naval options during this and expanded Israeli operations will mostly be confined to further shore bombardment and interdiction, along with ISR and effective surgicial strikes ashore.  Martin Skold, another CIMSEC member, notes that the normal missile load-out of Israel’s naval platforms limits the frequency of such strikes, especially when options such as the F-16 are readily available.  On the flip side, Israeli naval vessels may tempt Hamas as targets – especially as with the case of the Hezbollah attack on the INS Hanit in 2006 if they let their guard down.  It will be interesting to see if Hamas has the capability to attempt a similar strike.

             An Israeli Dabur-class patrol boat

Other scenarios tossed about for expanded fighting in the region include Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Egypt.  The latter would present the greatest naval challenges with 6 American-built frigates, 4 Romeo-class submarines, and roughly 200 other ships and craft.  But as the former showed with the Hanit, one should never count out the damage non-state actors can do to a Navy.

LT Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founding director of the Center for International Maritime Security and holds a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.
The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy. 

Despite Lavish Funding, Russian Navy Dead In The Water

This Old House: The Russian navy HQ moves back to St. Petersburg.

As of 31 October, the Russian Navy moved its headquarters back to the Admiralty building in St. Petersburg where it had been based until 1925. This is further, if superficial, evidence of President Vladimir Putin’s desire to revitalize and modernize the Russian fleet, and “maintain Russia’s place as a leading sea power.” Also on 31 October, the head of the Russian Navy, Admiral Viktor Chirkov, stated that he expects to add “up to five warships and auxiliary ships every year” through 2020. That is not a particularly impressive figure, but it is nothing to scoff at either. The number of ships added to the Russian Navy’s lists is only half the story. If President Putin hopes to strengthen Russian sea power relative to other maritime powers, then the Russian shipbuilding plan must be competitive with what others are doing. After accounting for the rate of decommissioning of Russian ships and the amount actually budgeted for Russia’s shipbuilding plan to 2020, as compared to U.S. plans, for example, it quickly becomes apparent those five ships a year are insufficient to achieve Putin’s desired revitalization of the fleet.

According to the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, the Russian government set aside $156 billion for shipbuilding to 2020, or roughly $19.5 billion annually. This funding is expected to result in eight nuclear missile submarines, 14 frigates, 35 corvettes, six small artillery ships, and six landing ships – a total of 69 vessels. The average cost per unit under this plan is $2.26 billion, with only a handful of the hulls major combat assets. On the surface, the only major concern is the rather high cost for ships with limited capabilities. However, since Putin is concerned with improving the Russian Navy in both absolute terms and relative to its rivals – he wants Russia to be a great power again- it is a useful exercise to compare this shipbuilding plan with those of other leading sea powers.

A recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the U.S. Navy’s 2013 30-year shipbuilding plan notes some interesting differences. The U.S. Navy plans to add 268 ships by 2042, at a CBO projected cost of $599 billion.1 This is just shy of $20 billion per year, with a mean 8.9 ships commissioned annually.2 The cost per ship, however, comes in at $2.23 billion on average, cheaper than their Russian counterparts.3 On top of this, the planned U.S. ships are much more capable vessels. The plan includes 70 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, 12 new ballistic missile submarines, 46 new attack submarines, 18 amphibious warfare ships, 46 logistics and support ships, and several aircraft carriers.4 Furthermore, these figures exclude the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), roughly equivalent to a Russian corvette. When the two plans are held up against each other – admittedly an inexact comparison given the different time frames – the Russian Navy will continue to decline vis-à-vis its U.S. counterpart.

If the Russian Navy is to match President Putin’s ambitions, the rate of construction will not only have to be competitive with other naval powers, but will also have to be sufficient to compensate for the number of vessels decommissioned annually. In 2011, for example, two SSBNs and five landing ships left the fleet while one frigate and six landing craft entered service.5 A net neutral quantitative change, but arguably a net negative qualitative change. In 2010, one SSBN, a cruiser, two destroyers, two frigates, nine patrol craft, 13 mine countermeasures vessels, and seven landing craft entered or re-entered Russian service. This is compared with the loss of one SSBN, 28 patrol craft, an amphibious ship, a landing ship, and 11 landing craft.6 That is a net loss of seven vessels, but an arguable gain in capabilities. In 2009, the Russian Federation Navy added four attack submarines, one destroyer, and a landing ship but lost one SSBN, a destroyer, six frigates, and a landing craft.7 This is a net loss of three vessels, and a definite decline in capabilities. Now, admittedly this is not a perfect record of the comings and goings in the Russian Federation Navy as The Military Balance could be inaccurate. The Russian military is not known for its transparency, after all. The trend over the last three years appears, however, to be a decline in the size of the Russian Navy with, perhaps, some countervailing improvement in capabilities in certain areas. In 2011, seven ships were decommissioned, in 2010, 42 left service, and in 2009, nine were removed from the lists. Given the age of the majority of Russian vessels, it is unavoidable that a significant portion of the current Russian fleet will have to be decommissioned over the next five to ten years. Some of the oldest ships in the Russian fleet happen to be some of the most capable, meaning the loss will not be simply quantitative. The addition of five ships a year until the end of the decade certainly will help rejuvenate the aging Russian fleet, but it will not counteract its decline to the extent desired.

The Russian Navy appears dead in the water at this point. President Putin may wish for Russia to “maintain its status [as] one of the leading naval powers,” but the fact is that the Russian fleet is in decline and present plans are insufficient to absolutely or relatively increase its size and capabilities.8 Russia may or may not be America’s – or any other state’s9 – main geopolitical foe, but in the naval arena it is not much of a contest. Without even more money, the Russian Navy looks set to continue its decades’ long decline.

Ian Sundstrom is a graduate of the War Studies Masters Program at King’s College London.  He is currently engaged on a research project for Imperial War Museum – Duxford in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

[1] Page 3.

[2] Page 7.

[3] Page 3.

[4] Pages 8-9.

[5] International Institute of Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2012 and The Military Balance 2011

[6] International Institute of Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2011 and The Military Balance 2010

[7] International Institute of Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2010 and The Military Balance 2009

[8] The recent firing of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov may signal a change in Putin’s designs for the military, but it is too soon to tell.

[9] Space considerations have prevented me from discussing other navies’ shipbuilding plans. The reader may wish to consider the trajectory of the British, Japanese, and Chinese navies and how they compare to the Russian fleet. My very brief, preliminary look suggests Russia is set to make some quantitative headway against Britain and Japan, but Russia’s position sandwiched between four major seas renders the gains less than impressive. Compared to the Chinese Navy Russia is in clear decline.

The Canadian Forces Naval Reserve

HMCS Haida on patrol in Korean waters

By Enko Koceku

The Canadian Forces Naval Reserve (CFNR), with its headquarters in Quebec City, is the primary Reserve component of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). The Naval Reserve employs around 4,000 citizen-Sailors, 35 percent of whom are women. The Reserves are divided into 24 naval division spread throughout the country, which act as hubs for Reservists.

The history of the CFNR actually begins with the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Service (RNCVS), established in 1914 during the WWI. The initial mandate of the RNCVS created three sub-commands, each responsible for a third of Canada. During WWI, around 8,000 men enlisted for service either at home or abroad through the RNCVS. By the end of WWI the RNCVS had risen to prominence, but was soon neglected once peace had been established. The Reserve was in a precarious situation because of a significant lack of funding. Reservists ultimately had to pay for their own uniforms and were not paid for their weekly muster and drills.

In the end the RNCVS fell apart due to financial strains, but was soon replaced in 1923 by the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR). The organization’s commander, Rear Admiral Walter Hose, thought that the establishment of a robust reserve force would be a strong method of building popular Canadian support for the fledgling Canadian Navy. Rear-Admiral Hose authorized the creation of Naval Reserve Divisions in every major Canadian city.

Like its predecessor, the RCNVR quickly rose to prominence during the outbreak of war. The organization was heavily used by the government of Canada to recruit and build the navy during World War Two (WWII). At its peak the Royal Canadian Navy exceeded 100,000 men, with over half belonging to the Reserves.

The Canadian Forces Naval Reserve was officially formed in 1968 as part of the Maritime Command during the amalgamation of the Armed Forces. Aside from providing manpower for the RCN, the CFNR also crews Canada’s 12 Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDVs). The Kingston-class ships were originally designed for minesweeping, but have been refitted for patrol and various multi-role duties. Aside from their capability to wage war, Reservists are heavily involved in their community.

Naval Reserve Divisions frequently hold community events and initiatives such as holiday celebrations or fundraising campaigns for charities. Naturally, they are also deployment ready during provincial emergencies such as the Red River floods in Manitoba or the forest fires in British Columbia. The Naval Reserve Divisions themselves provide valuable employment opportunities to locals.

The CFNR, however, is a constant target for funding cuts. While the Canada First Defence Strategy advocates for an increase in the number of total Reservists from 26,000 to 30,000 by 2028 in order to meet future challenges, there’s a certain level of uncertainty regarding the future. It remains to be seen if this policy in fact increases the number of Naval Reservists.

Kingston-class patrol vessel HMCS Edmonton (MM 703)

In July 2010, a Canadian Forces spokesperson stated that the fleet of MCDVs would be cut in half, and that there would also be a 50 percent cut in training. The order was soon rescinded however, by outgoing Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk stating that the Reserves “do a great job” and that “we’re actually growing the Reserves.”

The defence policy also has yet to specify any replacements for the aging Kingston-class ships the Naval Reservists use to patrol Canada’s coasts. However, a commitment to new frigates and destroyers based on a common hull design for the Navy, coupled with the numerical increase in Reservists suggest that the Naval Reserve’s MCDVs could potentially be replaced by a variation of the Navy’s upcoming frigate.

While it is clear that a certain level of difficulty lies in the future for the Naval Reserves, it is not for lack of ability. The CFNR has a tradition of service excellence, as exemplified by LT Robert Hampton Gray, a reservist from Nelson, British Columbia, who served with the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. His citation for Canada’s last Victoria Cross of the war stated:

“The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS for valour to: – the late Temporary Lieutenant Robert Hampton GRAY, R.C.N.V.R., for great valour in leading an attack on a Japanese destroyer in Onagawa Wan, on 9 August 1945. In the face of fire from shore batteries and a heavy concentration of fire from some five warships Lieutenant Gray pressed home his attack, flying very low in order to ensure success, and, although he was hit and his aircraft was in flames, he obtained at least one direct hit, sinking the destroyer. Lieutenant Gray has consistently shown a brilliant fighting spirit and most inspiring leadership.”

A memorial was erected at Onagawa Bay, Japan, in 2006, to honour Lieutenant Gray’s heroism. It stands in solitude, the only memorial dedicated to a foreign soldier on Japanese soil.

Despite Canada’s history of frequently defunding the Reserves, the mission in Afghanistan demonstrated the value of a robust Reserve force. 

This article was posted with permission from the Atlantic Council of Canada