Tag Archives: History

NATO on the Edge: Obama’s Reply of Honorius?

Sometime in the year A.D. 410, Honorius, the last Roman emperor to rule the Western Roman Empire before the sack of Rome by the Visigoths that year, received a request for military aid from Britain, then a Roman province.  The island was under attack by barbarians.  We do not know exactly what the letter to Honorius contained, but Honorius’ response, now referred to by historians as the Reply of Honorius, essentially told the Britons – theoretically Roman citizens who could count on the protection of the Empire – that they would have to make do on their own; Rome had troubles of its own and could not send help this time.

The Reply of Honorius is often considered to mark the end of Roman rule in Britain, as well as the end of Rome’s military dominance over any part of the empire.  Rome had all it could do to protect itself; imperial clients, whatever their legal claims to help from the central power, would have to fend for themselves.  Though the Roman Empire sputtered onward for another two generations after Rome was sacked in 410, this was the point where the central tenet of Roman rule – that Rome protected its own – was exposed as a fiction.  Nothing was the same after that.  Where Britain was concerned, the island was cut off from the Empire and never returned to it; it did, indeed, fend for itself.

There are a lot of bad comparisons made between America’s worldwide defense posture and the Roman Empire.  The two do, however, have one obvious thing in common:  in both cases a powerful state made promises to defend far-flung territories.  As with Rome, the U.S. is finding out how expensive such promises can be to keep.

As of this writing, Russian forces in Ukraine have seized the Crimea.  Ukraine is in the process of a general military mobilization, but Russian forces are already securing the strategic Perikop isthmus to the north of the Crimea, which controls access to the rest of the country; unless Ukrainian forces, with or without assistance, can similarly entrench along these lines, Russian forces will be able to break out of the Crimea and move toward strategic crossing points along the Dnieper river.  If that is the case, protecting Kiev will become very difficult, if not impossible.  It remains unclear how many Ukrainian units are even active at this point; units in the predominantly ethnically Russian east of the country have already defected or surrendered, including the Ukrainian navy’s flagship frigate.  There are an unknown but sizeable number of Russian forces on alert along the northeastern border of the country, leaving open the possibility of a general invasion.

President Obama has publicly stated that Russia would face “serious costs” were it to go forward with plans to invade Ukraine.  It is a matter of speculation what those costs may be, although it is becoming clear that there is little that the U.S. and its allies can do to stop the invasion without intervening directly.  As German Marshall Fund analyst Joerg Forbrig has remarked, there is very little evidence up to now that Putin’s government is motivated by an economic cost-benefit analysis, as opposed to nationalism and, perhaps, calculations of security.  Although the majority-ethnic Russian east of Ukraine may indeed make more sense as a Russian satellite than a fractious part of Ukraine, it is likely that Russia will seek to take Kiev, both to send a message (as was the case with its seizure of Gori in the 2008 invasion of Georgia) and because, as the ancient capital of one of the earliest Russian kingdoms, it has sentimental importance for Russian nationalists.  There is little reason to believe sanctions, or any similar actions, will stop Russia from seizing at least a part of Ukraine, or inflict any meaningful punishment on it for doing so.  Indeed, such sanctions will be hard to impose:  Europe is more dependent on trade with Russia (most notably natural gas shipments, many of which go through Ukraine) than the other way around.

From the point of view of several of the U.S.’ NATO allies, on the other hand, imposing “serious costs” on Russia, even if it could be done, means the game has already been lost:  the challenge is to prevent Russia from taking Ukraine, not punish it once it has done so.  This especially applies if Russia is not content to take the Crimea and the pro-Russian east, but decides to seize Kiev and control the entire country.  Ukraine borders on four NATO member states – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania – and up to now has served as what might pass for a buffer zone between the Alliance and Russia; Russian ground forces in Ukraine in force – particularly western Ukraine – are therefore literally too close for comfort.  What applies to these states applies even more strongly to the three Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia – all of which are also NATO members, have minimal strategic depth or defensible terrain, and share a border with Russia – and are therefore quite concerned about U.S. resolve in the face of Russian aggression.

It might have been advisable in the past to debate or question the appropriateness of NATO expansion or consider the merits of negotiating an arrangement with Russia with regard to eastern Europe; now, however, the U.S. has given its word to defend practically all of eastern Europe from Russian military attack, Russia is now expansionist and hostile to U.S. interests, and the eastern European states are understandably curious whether the U.S. is serious about its commitments.  The legal argument that Ukraine is not a NATO member and that therefore the U.S. has no obligation to it is a hair they are unwilling to split.  What they see is an American patron that was caught flat-footed by a crisis, made empty threats, was unwilling when the time came to confront Russia, and was not substantively concerned about their well-being.  If the situation in Ukraine is not quickly brought under control, America’s nominal allies in eastern Europe may make the same difficult calculation that Finland made in the last century:  that no outside ally can be relied on, and that they would do better to make their peace with Russia.  The result would be a hollowed out NATO, perhaps even leading to a disintegration of the Alliance over the longer term.

Although eastern Ukraine, as a pro-Russian region at odds with the new government, may be too far gone to save, and although its detachment (de jure or de facto) from the rest of the country might in any case form part of a negotiated settlement, there is a rapidly closing opportunity to stave off the worst possible outcome of the crisis – Russian conquest of the country with no meaningful U.S. response.  To deter Russia from making further inroads into the country, the U.S., with Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk’s consent, would need to deploy a rapid reaction force to western Ukraine, effectively signaling that it might become involved if Russia moved to take the western half of the country, and hopefully deterring Russia from moving on Kiev.  (It might still be possible to secure the neck of the Perekop Isthmus and block off the Russian forces’ main route out of the Crimea, but if reports are true, it may be too late.)  The next best option could be the placement of a similar force along the border of any of the neighboring NATO states, as a precaution and show of resolve, and to preserve some options if the situation got worse.  (CIMSEC’s Robert Rasmussen has eloquently summarized the available forces and possible order of battle.)  Unfortunately, the window for action is closing, if it hasn’t already:  it would take a while for forces from EUCOM to get to Ukraine, and time is becoming scarce; arranging logistics would likewise be difficult.  If there was a time for action, it was when Russian forces along the border went on alert for an “exercise” last week – precious time has been lost.  As goes the U.S., so will go other NATO states.  The NATO states that border Russia and Ukraine will be watching what happens.

It may well be the case that a negotiated solution to the conflict is both the best option and even the inevitable one.  Unless the U.S. moves directly to deter a general assault on Ukraine, however, there will be little to negotiate with.

But in fact the U.S. faces a much more difficult set of options than even all this would suggest.  Russia and the U.S. have been cooperating on Afghanistan; as has been noted, Russia is a major link in the tenuous supply line that supports U.S. operations there.  Confronting Russia over Ukraine could jeopardize not only operations in Afghanistan, but potentially the safety of U.S. forces there.  It might be possible to find alternate supply routes, but not at short notice.  The ugly reality is that the U.S. might have to choose between breaking its promises in Afghanistan – drawing down faster than it otherwise would – or failing to demonstrate sufficient resolve in eastern Europe.  At least in terms of preserving a global balance of power that keeps America safe and powerful, Europe is undoubtedly more important – but it will hurt either way, if the choice does ultimately have to be made.

Either way, the U.S. is in danger of issuing its own Reply of Honorius – those whom we have promised protection may have to rely on their own resources.  There may still be opportunities to make the best of this situation and even turn it around, but time is fleeting:  what happens this week may make all the difference in the world.

Martin Skold is currently pursuing his PhD at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, with a dissertation focused on analyzing long-term security competition between states.

What is a Corvette? And What Next?

By Chuck Hill

Classification of surface warships as cruisers, destroyers, frigates, or corvettes, has become like pornography. There are no generally accepted definitions, but “I know it when I see it”–except that everyone sees it a little differently.

Since this is “Corvette Week” what are we really talking about?

Donate to CIMSEC!

My Combat Fleets of the World, 16th Edition, which I have used here extensively for reference, defines Corvettes as, “Surface Combatants of less than 1,500 tons but more than 1,000 full load displacement–essentially, fourth rate surface combatants.”  But goes on to note that “…the designation as used here essentially refers to smaller frigates and does not correspond to the European concept of corvettes as any warship larger than a patrol craft but smaller than a frigate.” I feel to confine the definition within a 500 ton range is too restrictive. In fact it would have excluded the Castle class corvettes of WWII as too large, and other corvettes as too small.

File:HMS Denbigh Castle IWM FL 6032.jpg
Royal Navy Photograph of Castle class corvette HMS Denbigh Castle (K696)

Pre-WWII

During the age of sail, corvettes were originally warships typically smaller than a frigate, but larger than a sloop, usually with guns on a single deck. Some ships continued to be called corvettes as steam was introduced, but in the Royal Navy, in 1877, corvettes along with sloops and frigates were subsumed under the new designation “cruisers.” Corvettes, as a type, essentially disappeared from the English naval lexicon until 1939. The term was kept alive in some navies (including the French, German, and Italian) as a rank that translated corvette-captain, a rank generally equal to Lieutenant Commander.

World War II

Corvettes as a type reemerged just prior to WWII. As it became clear that U-boats would be a major threat, Britain saw the need for an escort vessel that could be built quickly and in large numbers, in yards that had not been considered capable of building warships. Just before WWII, they ordered the first of 267 “Flower Class” corvettes that were built in the UK and Canada. They modified the design for a whale catcher named Southern Pride, enlarging it to 205 feet overall and a displacement of 1245 to 1390 tons. They were terrible warships, weakly armed, cramped, uncomfortable, and slow. Single screw, reciprocating steam propulsion gave them a maximum speed of only 16.5 knots, a knot slower than a typical (Type VII) surfaced U-boat. They were originally intended only for coastal operations, but because of their long range, they were thrown into the Battle of the Atlantic, where they were by far the most numerous transatlantic convoy escorts for the critical early years, taking slow merchant convoys across the mid-Atlantic air gap, while the Home Fleet’s more capable, but shorter legged, fleet destroyers were generally held back to escort the battle fleet or met convoys only as they approached the British Isles.

File:HMS Polyanthus (K 47).jpg
Flower Class Corvette HMS Polyanthus, Source =www.oldships.org.uk, Author =Leidseplein Date =1943-09-

Reportedly Winston Churchill had a hand it designating this new class “corvettes,” probably in an attempt to make them appear more glamorous than the term “patrol vessels” which had been applied to similar vessels previously. Two years after the re-introduction of the term “corvette,” the term “frigate” was also resurrected to describe another war emergency escort program, this one more complex and more capable but still using reciprocating steam propulsion. Larger commercial yards converted to making frigates (301 to 307 ft, 1920 to 2420 ton), but smaller yards continued to make corvettes of the improved Castle class (252 ft, 1590 to 1630 tons), while naval yards continued to produce small numbers of sloops like the Black Swan class that were the true premier ASW escorts of the Royal Navy.

Australia also built corvettes, 60 ships of the similar but even smaller, slower Bathurst Class (186 ft). Initially they were classified as minesweepers, but found more employment as escorts, so were more frequently referred to as corvettes.

File:HMAS FremantleSLV Green.jpg
Bathurst-class corvette, HMAS Fremantle, State Library of Victoria

Japan, Germany, and Italy all made similar escort ships, but only the numerous Italian  Gabbiano class (193 foot, 728 tons, with combined diesel or electric propulsion no less),  were actually referred to as corvettes.

All of the WWII corvettes were primarily ASW escorts, but their were a number of classes of vessels, many built prior to the war, that share DNA with today’s missile armed corvettes. These were small, fast, torpedo armed vessels that resembled destroyers, but most had a standard displacement of 1000 tons or less. Usually they were referred to as “torpedo boats.”  Japan built twelve, The Germans built 48 (the last 15 were large enough to have been considered destroyers in other navies). The French Navy completed twelve. The Italians completed 69 (some of which were closer to frigates or destroyer escorts). The Italian Spica class (269 ft, 885 to 1,030 ton, 34 knots) may serve as an example.

spica class
Italian Spica Class torpedo boat

Generally, the war emergency programs had one thing in common. They were not the ships these navies would have chosen to build in peacetime. In wartime priorities change; planning horizons contract. Producibility may trump quality. They were all compromised in some fashion–in their speed, survivability, weapons, or economy of operation. Corvettes filled a need for large numbers of escorts, but after the war, most were quickly discarded.

The MCM Connection

The Flower Class Corvettes were originally also equipped to sweep mines. As noted the Australian Bathurst Class began life as minesweepers. While the US built no “corvettes” during the war, the minesweepers of the Raven (220 foot/1040 tons), Auk (221 foot/1,250 tons), and Admirable ((180 foot) classes frequently functioned in this role. In fact, with minor modification Admirable class ships were redesignated PCEs (Patrol Craft, Escort). All these minesweepers were built with sonar. By the end of the war, most were equipped with hedgehogs, depth charge projectors (K-guns) and dual depth charge racks, having enjoyed priority for ASW equipment second only to destroyer escorts.

File:PS-74 Rizal.jpg
Former Auk class minesweeper still serving in the Philippine Navy as Corvette BRP Rizal (PS-74), US Government photo, 050822-N-6264C-145 Sulu Sea (Aug. 22, 2005)

Post WWII

Since the end of WWII corvettes have generally fallen into two categories, with some designs attempting to incorporate elements both types. They tend to be either:
—Small, fast, missile armed vessels optimized for ASuW, like Sweden’s Visby Class (40 knots, 239 ft, 650 tons) usually expected to operate in groups, either with others of their kind or acting as flagships for even smaller missile boats, or
—Smaller versions of frigates with moderate speed optimized for patrol and presence in peacetime and escort during wartime like the Damen designed SIGMAs or  India’s Kamorta Class (25 knots, 358 foot oa, 3100 tons).

File:K33 HMS Haernosand Karlskrona Marindagen2008.jpg
Visby class Corvette, HMS Härnösand.
File:Kri-diponegoro-1600-1200.jpg
SIGMA class corvette.

Largest Operators of Corvettes

The largest operator of corvettes is Russia with approximately 53 (3 Buyan, 1 Buyan M, 7 Parchim II, 23 Grisha V, 4 Grisha III, 2 Dergach Project 1239, 13 Nanuchka) (80 if you count the 27 Tarantuls that fall slightly below the 500 ton threshold I have assumed).
India, China, South Korea, Indonesia, and Italy also maintain large numbers of corvettes.

File:Type 056 corvette 583 Ganzhou.jpg
Chinese Type 056 corvette 583 Ganzhou.

Corvettes in the USN

While the US Navy has never built corvettes for its own use, the type is not without precedence in the US.

In the early days of WWII, when the US navy was desperately short of escorts, 18 Flower class corvettes were transferred to the USN. Eight of those were manned by USCG crews.

File:USS Intensity (PG-93).jpg
Coast Guard manned Flower Class Corvette USS Intensity (PG-93), mid-1943. Former HMCS Fennel (K194).

In the 50s the Navy was interested in experimenting with types that might be built hurriedly in an emergency. The result was the four ships of the Claude Jones class (DE-1033-1036) built by Avondale between 1956 and 1959. At 312 feet long and 2000 tons, they were essentially the same size as the preceding Dealey Class, but they were  simplified, diesel powered, slower, and more lightly armed. These ships were really a update of the corvette concept of a cheap simple escorts that lent itself to rapid construction. (Similarly about the same time the British were building 14 HMS Blackwood Class  (Type 14) that were “2nd Rate Frigates” of 1536 tons, powered by a single shaft steam turbine plant with no gun larger then 40mm.)

USS Claude Jones (DE-1033)
USS Claude Jones (DE-1033)

In the late 1960s the US built four corvettes, given US hull numbers PF-103 to PF-106, that were immediately turned over to the Iranian Navy. They became the Bayandor Class (275 feet long, 1,135 tons).

In the early ’70s, two additional PF-103 class ships (PF-107 and 108), built to a modified design, were delivered to Thailand’s Navy. These were the Tapi Class.

Between 1977 and 1983 Tacoma Boat built a class of four CODOG powered “PCG” for Saudi Arabia, the Badr class, 245 feet, 1,038 tons, 30 knots.

Between 1983 and 1987 Tacoma Boat built two diesel powered “PFMMs” for the Thai Navy Ratanakosin class 252 foot, 960 tons, 26 knots.

Between 1989 and 1995 Northrop Grumman Litton built three CODOG Corvettes for the Israeli Navy, the Sa’ar 5 class, (281 foot, 1,275 tons, 33 knots).

6871983192_018b77a92a_z
American built Sa’ar 5 missile corvettes. Photo via Flickr.

Between 2008 and 2013, VT Halter Marine has been building a class of four missile corvettes for the Egyptian Navy, the  Ambassador MkIII class (205 feet, 700 tons, 41 knots). The first has already been delivered.

An undated photo of the ENS S. Ezzat, an Egyptian Fast Missile Craft. VT Halter Marine Photo
An undated photo of the ENS S. Ezzat, an Egyptian Fast Missile Craft. VT Halter Marine Photo.

While the Littoral Combat Ships are not normally considered corvettes, on June 10, 2013, Rear Admiral John F. Kirby, the Chief of Information for the Navy called them Corvettes. Without a mission module or aviation detachment, they are really more like OPVs. But when the Mine Warfare module is mounted they become MCM vessels. When an ASW or ASuW module is mounted, they start to look like corvettes.

The Claude Jones class ships were transferred to the Indonesian Navy and continued in service there until 2006. Of the six PF-103 class ships, two Iranian ships were lost in combat with Iraq, but the remaining four are still in service with the Iranian and Thai Navies and have been updated. The Badr class and the  Ratanakosin class are still in service with their respective navies, and the Sa’ar Vs are still the most advanced surface ships in the Israeli Navy. All but the two Thai Navy Ratanakosin class (PF-107 and 108) have been equipped to launch anti-ship cruise missiles.

The Coast Guard Connection

During WWII Coast Guard Cutters were frequently used as ASW escorts, some quite successfully, filling corvette and frigate roles. After the war, new construction frequently included provision for ASW systems either as built or as planned upgrades in the case of a major conflict.

The 16 Reliance class Medium Endurance Cutters (210 feet, 1,050 tons, 18 knots) delivered 1964 to 1969, were built with provision for adding sonar, hedge hogs, and torpedo tubes. They were originally to have been designated PCs. a designation shared with the sub chasers of WWII.

The 12 Hamilton Class High Endurance cutters (378 feet, 3,050 tons, 29 knots) completed 1967 to 1972, were built with ASW systems installed and their systems were upgraded and provision for harpoon installed 1989 to 1992. As built, they were not the equal of contemporary Destroyer Escorts with their AN/SQS-26 sonars, but were comparable to those built only a few years before. An argument can be made that these ships, as built and later modified, could be considered, if not frigates, at least corvettes.

USCGC Mellon after upgrades including Harpoon, CIWS, and support for LAMPS

The thirteen Bear class cutters (270 feet, 1,780 tons, 19.5 knots) completed 1983 to 1990, were built without ASW systems, but had provision for adding a towed array and supporting a LAMPS I helicopter. If these systems had been provided, then the ships might have also been considered corvettes.

The Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters, of the Bertholf class (eight ships planned, 418 ft/4,500 tons) have no installed ASW systems or ASCMs, but they do have excellent aviation support facilities and the ship has been marketed as the basis for a frigate program. Aside from Exocets carried by the French ships, they are in most respects more capable warships than the Floreal “light surveillance frigates” (307 ft/2950 tons) and similar to the French Lafayette Class frigates (410 ft/3,600 tons) which also currently have no sonar.

USCGC Waesche by Yerba Buena Island.
USCGC Waesche by Yerba Buena Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo ID: 100228-G-2129M-004.
1
French Floréal-class frigate
The Coast Guard is in the process of procuring a new class to replace its Medium Endurance Cutters. The resulting ship is likely to be similar to the Floreal class (90 to 100 meters in length and 2500 to 3500 tons) but faster and will share sensors and some weapons with the Bertholf class and the Littoral Combat Ships. Addition of ASW or ASCM systems would result in ships many would classify as light frigates or corvettes.

Bottom Line–What is a Corvette?

Corvettes slot under frigates but above patrol boats or missile boats as a classification of surface combatants. To me, this means that they are the smallest or perhaps least capable ocean-going warships. This is a bit of a stretch for Corvettes like the Visby, but in fact the Swedes have deployed even smaller warships to the Indian Ocean for counter piracy operations. That sets the low end of the the displacement range at about 500 tons, but when we look for an upper limit, it seems a moving target, with no similar performance based limit.

The US and Britain already build destroyers the size of WWII cruisers. Germany and in the near future Britain will build frigates over 6,000 tons full load. Japan’s Coast Guard has OPVs displacing 9,350 tons full load.  If we tripled the displacement of WWII corvettes as we have done with WWII Frigates and Destroyers, Corvettes could displace almost 5,000 tons, so I don’t think displacement is a reliable determinant.

Strict naval vessel construction standards don’t necessarily distinguish a corvette from an OPV either. They were not applied to the original “Flower” class, and they don’t apply to the Damen designed Sigma class, built or building for Indonesia, Morocco, and Vietnam, or to the French Lafayette class (also operated by Taiwan, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia) and Floreal class (also operated by the Moroccan Navy) which are rated as frigates but which it might be argued are actually corvettes.

The only metric that doesn’t seem to have changed much over the last 70 years is crew size. Corvettes generally have crews of 120 or less, frigates from 120 to perhaps a bit over 200, while destroyer crews begin slightly under 200 and go up to about 350, and cruiser crews are larger still. The DDG1000s will apparently have a frigate sized crew, but their final crew may be larger than currently planned. OPV crews tend to be corvette sized or smaller.

Just as the difference between Spruance Class Destroyers and Ticonderoga Class cruisers was mission and associated equipment, not displacement, the differentiation between the various types of warships and between Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) and corvettes may simply comes down to their missions and equipment. OPVs include a wide range of ships, but the common thread, generally accepted, is that they have no ASW weapons, no heavy anti-ship cruise missiles, and only a self-defense AAW capability. Adding an ASW capability and/or cruise missiles would convert an OPV into a corvette. Perhaps they would not make very good warships, but then the original Corvettes weren’t very good warships either, but they served a vital role. Conversely an old frigate or corvette, stripped of all its weapons except a medium caliber gun and heavy machine guns would become an OPV, even if it nominally retained its frigate or corvette designation as in the case of Portugal’s Joao Coutinho and Baptista de Andrade class or some of Italy’s Minerva class.

If we had no history, and we could start ship designations on “a clean sheet of paper” we might define ships types based on their missions and equipment, saying destroyers are vessels designed with robust capacity to perform well in all three major surface combatant warfare areas, AAW, ASuW, and ASW. Frigates are designed to perform well in only two missions areas  (with possibly modest self defense capability in the third). Corvettes would be single mission specialists with only modest capability in the other two missions (if at all). OPVs would be vessels equipped for missions that did not require robust capabilities in any of these three mission areas. All four types might be called generically “cruisers” which would bring that designation back to its original meaning, a vessel smaller than a ship of the line that can operate independently.

The Future of Corvettes

WWII corvettes were small ships packed with crew and weapons.They were small because there was an urgent need for many ships that could not be met by the shipyards that normally built warships. They were a way of making the small commercial yards serve the war effort. If we are ever engaged in a prolonged conflict against a near peer adversary we may again resort to a similar expedience. If so, the resulting corvette is more likely to be based on a petroleum industry offshore support vessel rather than a whaling or fishing vessel.

But when ships are built in peace time, for a 20 to 40 year life, other factors beside construction cost start to dominate. In the West, crew costs weigh heavily, while increasing hull size appears less important, provided we do not load up the larger hull with additional systems which will in turn drive up crew costs. Larger hulls are more seaworthy, allow greater endurance, and may be made quieter. They may even be more economical to operate and maintain because of easier access.

Some European Countries that formally operated a number of Corvettes seem to have abandoned the type in favor of ships with more range and better seakeeping including The Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway. Denmark has instead produced frigates and a novel class of ships, the Absalon Class “support ships,” (450 ft/6,600 tons) that include a relatively large hull of modest speed, with a relatively small crew of about 100, and a large reconfigurable spaces–an open one topside midships where missile systems can be placed and a “garage” area under the flight deck that can accommodate vehicles and containerized loads. These ships are perhaps too large to be considered corvettes, but they are not nearly so well armed as the frigates of the similarly sized Iver Huitfeldt-class. They do have characteristics I would expect to see on future corvettes, a relatively commodious hull (because “steel is cheap and air is free”), a relatively small crew (because that is the most expensive component over the life-cycle of the ship), and reconfigurable spaces and weapon systems, that allow the ships to be adapted to different missions (because that is allow us to hedge our bets regarding what capabilities will be needed, while allowing that minimal crew over most of the life of the ship).

Because Corvettes are always compromised, they are likely to be controversial. Many will not agree with the compromises accepted. That is certainly true of the new American Corvette, the Littoral Combat ship.

In some respects the LCSs may be the prototype of the future corvette, in that it is not particularly small, but they were made cheap to operate with a minimal crew, and they are single mission ships, but with the advantage that the mission can be changed over time, although not as quickly as once advertised. Other aspects of the ship were perhaps not as well thought out, but they will serve a purpose, and perhaps the next generation LCS  or convertible corvette will better meet our needs.

Chuck retired from the Coast Guard after 22 years service. Assignments included four ships, Rescue Coordination Center New Orleans, CG HQ, Fleet Training Group San Diego, Naval War College, and Maritime Defense Zone Pacific/Pacific Area Ops/Readiness/Plans. Along the way he became the first Coast Guard officer to complete the Tactical Action Officer (TAO) course and also completed the Naval Control of Shipping course. He has had a life-long interest in naval ships and history. Chuck normally writes for his blog, Chuck Hill’s CG blog.  

Donate to CIMSEC!

July 4th: Nation from a Navy

A year before Boston’s infamous “Big Dig” was started.

 

Before the Founding Fathers put pen to paper, formally declaring the independence of these United States, there was a navy. This is a nation birthed by a navy. Our vast nation started with the intrepid explorers, pilgrims, and entrepreneurs who first crossed the vast and often terrifying Atlantic to reach our shores. As the colonies developed, the journey became mainstream, the colonies plied an ever-growing trans-Atlantic trade network supported militarily and logistically by British Naval might .

I’m torn between my love of America, and my distaste for French Rococo.

Founded by sea, defended by sea, and nourished by sea, our Republic found its independence at sea. From the Boston Tea Party to the Continental Marine’s landing at Nassau and John Paul Jone’s raid of England proper, the colonists’ plucky determination to use their hard-won seamanship skills against the mighty Crown served as a source of great courage to the embattled freedom fighters. However, of even greater importance was the interference provided by the French and later Spanish navies. The very ocean that served as America’s source of wealth was also Britain’s greatest source of military strength and a direct link back to the Realm’s stores and armories. No amount of determination could, with that source of power unchecked, defend the colonists from the full might of Imperial disciplines.Indeed, the war itself was won at sea, the French putting the lid on Cornwall’s Yorktown coffin as the colonists hammered in the nails.

 

USS KEARSARGE (LHD-3) transits the Straits of Hormuz.

Here at CIMSEC, we celebrate the transformation from Jefferson’s colonial upstart to Hamilton’s commercial superpower. From the Barbary Wars to America’s modern steady-state Great White Fleet, America is now defined by its global position: an economic, political, military, and cultural presence fed by a world-spanning arterial network of ships both commercial and kinetic. America is a nation born by sea, raised by sea, and living by sea.

That was your obligatory Fourth of July post. Now get some BBQ and set off explosions.

Matt Hipple is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy. 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.