In the next few days there will undoubtedly be a glut of post-mortems on the Chávez era and predictions for the future (not least because much of Washington’s “blogging class” is home for a snowstorm)1. Much of it will be by experts on the region or those armed with interesting facts. I’m not aiming to compete or replicate their work; what I want to look at is the implications for defense cooperation, specifically naval and maritime matters.
Danse Macabre Venezuelan America’s tumultuous relationship with Venezuela under Chávez is well documented – from coups to theatrical UN speeches to declaiming Halloween’s frights as acts of “imperialist terror” – but it wasn’t always this way. Prior to Chávez’s inauguration in 1999, the U.S. enjoyed many fruitful defense ties with Venezuela including intelligence-sharing, counter-narcotics, military training, and defense exports.
Most of these ties continued during Chávez’s first term in office, although an initial indication of Chávez’s wariness of the American military may have arisen during floods and mudslides in December 1999-January 2000. After allowing in roughly 100 U.S. troops, he cancelled plans for additional U.S. military construction corps members to assist in the recovery efforts.
The U.S. military came under particular criticism from Chávez, both for allegedly – and without proof – directly aiding the coup attempt and subsequent espionage and coup-plotting efforts. Venezuela expelled a string of military attachés on these grounds, a tradition continuing to this day (see below). Chávez also followed up his words by severing most of the existing military ties between 2003-2005, including ending training-support missions and participation in the annual UNITAS naval exercise. It may have been his calculation that there was greater value in showcasing an external “imperialist” threat to shore up support, in the tradition of Vladimir Putin, than to maintain ties with the U.S. But whatever the reason, military relations after the coup were quickly curtailed.
In 2006, due to a lack of cooperation in anti-terrorism efforts, the U.S. followed suit by sanctioning arms exports to Venezuela. Despite these impediments, informal ties between the two militaries continued as the Venezuelan military backers of Chávez have reputedly been of a more pragmatic strain than their leftist civilian government counterparts.
DOD allotted about $3 million for counternarcotics and related security assistance in Venezuela in fiscal years 2006 through 2011. Through 2009, this assistance was used in part to provide tactically actionable intelligence to both US and select Venezuelan law enforcement agencies.
CD efforts will continue to loom large as avenues for cooperation and potential sticking points if the next election returns a “Bolivarian” government. The Wall Street Journal reported this January that attempts to improve ties between the U.S. and Venezuela are hampered by
…allegations of high-level involvement by the Chávez government in drug trafficking. The U.S. has put seven top current and former Venezuelan officials on a Treasury blacklist for their alleged drug and arms dealing links to Colombian guerrillas based in Venezuela. Those links were exposed in 2008 after the Colombian military captured computers used by a guerrilla leader killed on a cross border raid in Ecuador.
Among the officials put on the Treasury list are Gen. Henry Rangel Silva, the former minister of defense who was recently elected governor of the state of Trujillo. Mr. Rangel Silva and the others say they are innocent.
Venezuela’s immediate future looks to be tumultuous and relations could in fact worsen. Vice President Nicholás Maduro moved to expel two American diplomats and claimed that Chávez had been poisoned with cancer by Venezuela’s “historical enemies.” This may have been mere posturing to aid power-consolidation for the immediate transition and new the elections that are constitutionally required to be held in 30 days – but it is a sign that things are far from certain to improve.
Despite today’s focus on Chávez’s death, however, the more meaningful impact on U.S.-Venezuelan naval and maritime efforts may have come from last week’s enactment of Sequestration. As Sam Lagrone describes, the forced budget cuts have dealt a blow to Operation Martillo’s CD efforts, suspending deployments to SOUTHCOM of U.S. Navy frigates USS Rentz (FFG-46) and USS Thach (FFG-43). Just as an opening may occur for increased cooperation in the next few months or years, the U.S. may not be able to take full advantage of it.
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.
What will your Navy/Coast Guard look like in 5/10/25/50 years, and how is it different from today?
This is the sixth in our series of posts from our Maritime Futures Project. For more information on the contributors, click here. Note: The opinions and views expressed in these posts are those of the authors alone and are presented in their personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of their parent institution U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, any other agency, or any other foreign government.
LT Drew Hamblen, USN: In 25 years we will not use aircraft carriers. Manned jets will also be obsolete. Helicopters will be manned for logistical flights only. Pods of “gamer-like” unmanned aerial system (UAS) operators will rotate out for round-the-clock patrol and surveillance.
Bryan McGrath, Director, Delex Consulting, Studies and Analysis:
I will take on only the 50-year horizon, and I will start by saying that YES, the aircraft carrier will still be in existence. Not just because they last for decades, but because of their continuing utility. At some point in the next two or three decades, we will collectively make the switch to a predominately unmanned carrier air wing. This will then lead to the construction of a totally new aircraft carrier, one built from the keel up to project unmanned power. In essence an assembly line whose product is combat power, this vessel would launch (primarily) unmanned platforms on missions, recover them, harness them to an assembly line in which the aircraft receives required maintenance, fuel, new mission planning and new armament—and is then redeployed almost immediately. Diagnostics would pull aircraft off the line at pre-programmed locations for maintenance that would remove them from the immediate flight cycle. These aircraft would essentially be a wing, a bomb, fuel, and a computer. Manned aircraft would fill C2/ABCCC (airborne battlefield) type missions, to include flight following/control of unmanned aircraft of all types. More combat power will be submerged. The U.S. mastery of the undersea domain will continue and increase. Hybrid warships will operate both on and beneath the ocean’s surface.
CDR Chris Rawley, USNR:
I’m bullish on unmanned systems, which will become increasingly pervasive in the U.S. Navy over the next few decades. Within 10 years, virtually every surface platform from patrol boats to CVNs (aircraft carriers) will carry one or more unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). UAVs in the inventory will likely become more numerous than manned aircraft in the next half-century. Over a decade of combat has demonstrated that unmanned aircraft are capable of conducting a great many of the missions that have traditionally been performed by manned aircraft, especially scouting and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). Strike will be the next mission-area to benefit from long-endurance UAVs, then airborne electronic attack (AEA), and eventually air-to-air combat. The impediments to these changes are more cultural than technical.
Unmanned systems are not a panacea and will never replace the dedicated, capable Sailors that make our navy the most powerful in the world. These systems and their associated concepts are untested, and it remains to be seen if they can take over, or at least complement, the roles of manned platforms. Even so, unmanned naval systems will reduce the risk to our Sailors in many mission areas, and if acquired smartly, will realize savings in defense.
LT Scott Cheney-Peters, USNR: 0-5 Years: Pretty much the same fleet. More drones and hybrid-electric drives. It will be interesting to see what direction the U.S. Navy goes with upcoming design selections on new amphibious ships, and even more so with what capabilities they – and the next batch of destroyers – must have. Most likely the nation’s economic crunch will place the emphasis on modernized versions of what we already know works, but hopefully not at the expense of finding ways to facilitate cheaper upgrades in the future (for example through modularized components).
5-10 Years: Early afloat experimentations with directed energy/electric weapon systems (DEEWS), especially for ships’ self-defense. More ships reach the fleet with drone use integrated into their designs.
10-25 Years: DEEWS starts to be incorporated into ship design. Drones increasingly play a greater role, not only performing ISR, but many other forward missions. If battery capacity and non-traditional energy-generation development trends continue, a lot more widely dispersed, self-sustaining drones that can loiter for months or years deploy on and below the waves. Specialized Arctic drones and Arctic modifications for manned vessels are developed for operations in the opening and warming, but still harsh, far north due to climate change.
25-50 Years: Drones start to factor into presence requirements in ship numbers at the beginning of this time frame as manned vessels (surface or subsurface) become primarily motherships/command and control (C2) network nodes. Additive manufacturing (3D printers) capabilities are integrated into a number of vessels that serve as mobile production facilities. These might either be larger manned auxiliaries or dispersed aboard the motherships to facilitate drone production.
The large networks of naval drones increase the Navy’s MDA capabilities to an almost unimaginable level during this time, but the missions of maritime interdiction (boarding) operations, ballistic missile defense, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, and of course, showing the flag (good news for waterfront bars worldwide), remain the domain of manned vessels – but they are empowered by their naval drone and mobile production facility capabilities.
In the latter part of this timeframe and beyond, key nodes of unmmaned drone production facilities are located at naval bases and maritime hotspots around the globe and aboard mobile and themselves unmanned and automated. Some of these may be based on, or tethered to portions of the sea bed that can be exploited using new mining techniques to support the production activities (as well as those aboard vessels with the facilities). Most manned naval aviation will be over by the end of this timeframe.
One key variable will be whether the militarization of space occurs. If it does, there will be more emphasis placed on the subsurface drones and undersea production facilities outlined above, as well as a greater push for acceptance of increasing levels of drone autonomy. In the event of satellite communication disruptions, the network-node motherships can disperse new relay drones to regain control of their network of drones. For those drone unable to relink to the network the level of autonomy automatically increases upon loss of the connection, allowing the dispersed platforms to continue to carry out their missions.
Rex Buddenberg, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School:
Reread my answer to question 4 – the best clues to a 50-year-ahead question may be found by looking back an equal amount of time. A lot of the ‘maritime domain awareness’ data exists already. I’ve seen the yammer about sensors over the years too. But the extant data is tucked away in some stovepipe. The big change is that this awareness will increase through integration of information systems.
Sebastian Bruns, Fellow, Institute for Security, University of Kiel, Germany:
“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” (Attributed to, among many other people, Yogi Berra)
2018: The last of the four new Baden-Württemberg-class frigates is delivered on time and on budget. Plans for three more frigates are in the making. The versatile K-131 (MKS 180) corvette is being put into service since 2015. Eight instead of the planned six vessels are procured. A marked rise in maritime awareness throughout Germany has led to an increased budget and the establishment of a coordinating position in the Office of the German Federal Chancellor (head of government). The new, lean German Navy is strongly integrated in international operations and mandates. It plays a crucial role in regional stabilization operations and actively and visibly supports NATO missions.
2023: The first of the new Joint Support Ships is already in service, the second is on the building ways. Plans for the replacement of the F-123 and F-124 frigates are on schedule and on budget. Seapower has been officially recognized as a key tool for German foreign policy by way of a Quadrennial Defense and Security Strategy. The new, lean German Navy is strongly integrated in international operations and mandates. It plays a crucial role in regional stabilization operations and actively and visibly supports NATO missions.
2028: The Joint Support Ships and Germany’s strong leadership role in NATO’s Pooling & Sharing Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) project have allowed Germany to play a wider role in international expeditionary operations. Although the threat level for Germany and German maritime units has steadily increased over the past 15 years, no warship has been lost to enemy action. The new, lean German Navy is strongly integrated in international operations and mandates. It plays a crucial role in regional stabilization operations and actively and visibly supports NATO missions.
2063: The German Navy has been fully integrated into a larger North-Central-European Maritime Force. It plays a crucial role in regional stabilization operations and actively and visibly supports NATO missions. The effects of climate change have long been added to the toolbox of naval forces.
2018: The F-125 frigates will be delayed by years. Budget cuts and the sudden demise of the German shipbuilding industry have led to a dramatic loss of building capacity. Politics demand a very isolationist approach to international politics, and the last of the four Baden-Württembergs is subsequently cancelled. After more than a decade of development, plans for a corvette of the K-131 (MKS-180) class are scrapped. Only one unit of the planned eight ships has been delivered. Facing increasingly scarce resources and questionable political priorities, Germany continues to support a Common European Security and Defense policy, or what is left of it.
2023: Not a single Joint Support Ship has been delivered after inter-service rivalry and broader political trends have torpedoed the whole program. Facing a dramatic loss of reputation after years of dragging its feet in dealing with the Euro crisis, Germany has lost all of its influence within NATO. The F-124 and F-125 are pulled out of ballistic missile defense (BMD) roles in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. The effects of climate change wreak havoc on many countries and regions of the world.
2028: The German Navy increasingly returns to being a coastal force, integrated with what remains of an ambitious project to organize a German Coast Guard much like the U.S. model. The North and Baltic Sea with occasional visits to European allied nations are the major operational tasking. Germany has pulled out of NATO SNMG-1 (-2). International maneuvers and exercises largely by-pass Germany.
2063: In the interest of not ending up writing fictional absurdity, I will choose not to answer this question. My major fears have all been mentioned in the other three pessimist predictions.
Felix Seidler, seidlers-sicherheitspolitik.net, Germany: In 5 and 10 years, our navy will not look different from today. However, the known unknown is the impact of the Euro Crisis. Ever-more pressure on our federal budget could lead to the cancellation of projects like the Joint Support Ship or the de-commissioning of several surface vessels. In terms of operations, nothing will change. Germany will continue to contribute to maritime UN, NATO, and EU missions as it does now, because it is the most palatable way for Germans to show themselves as an active ally. Contributing ground troops to missions is highly unpopular over here; hence, sending ships is more comfortable for our decision makers.
How our navy looks in 25 years (2037) and in 50 years (2062) depends on the success or failure of European integration. If the EU handles its economic crisis and, thereafter, pursues a track to deeper integration, our armed forces will gradually integrate further with those of other European countries. The more European integration in politics, the more integration follows among European armed forces. However, the huge question mark is the political will among European governments to pool sovereignty on such a level. At this time it is highly unlikely.
If European integration fails and Europe turns back to the nation state, Germany is likely to give up all blue water ambitions and focus on coastal defense in the North Sea and the Baltic. In 2060 Germany is projected to be only the 10th largest economy in the world with a population of around 65-70 million (1/3 older than 60). Thus, due to its demographic and economic decline, Germany is likely to pursue a much-less ambitious foreign and national security policy, and may even be reluctant to use force abroad. In this scenario, the German Navy may spend most of the time in its shipyards.
CDR Chuck Hill, USCG (Ret.):
Unfortunately the U.S. Coast Guard will not look different enough, if the relatively low level of capital investment continue. Ships being planned now will not be built for 5-10 years. The last of the Offshore Patrol Cutters, expected to replace our medium endurance cutters, will not be fully operational until approximately 2029, and all will likely still be in the fleet in 50 years. The oldest of them will only be 44 years old, younger than ships we are replacing now.
I do believe we will see less distinction between search aircraft and rescue aircraft. Other systems are likely to replace the pure search functions of our fixed wing aircraft, while rescue aircraft will gain greater speed and range as they employ newer technology. Hopefully in 25 years we will see a new generation of rescue aircraft that have sufficient range and speed to eliminate the separate requirement for long-range search aircraft.
There will also, hopefully, be more information-sharing with other agencies, including comprehensive vessel tracking.
LTJG Matt Hipple, USN:
I can’t imagine. Drones and missiles versus potential laser-based kill systems and airborne reflectors for over-the-horizon (OTH) interception or deflection. Ships of increased size due to fuel and power draws for laser systems, if they work, coupled with a mass of smaller automated ships. Autonomy all depends on what our level of acceptance is for the independence of the machine versus the level of risk we’ll accept from interference, interception, and hijacking. Of course, perhaps it’ll merely be a pile of rusting LCSs hiding in Singapore.
YN2(SW) Michael George, USN:
I see the U.S. Navy as a little more contracted from what it is today. With other country’s navies growing, they will want to control their own waters surrounding their country and not as easily permit the United States to do so. This will impact the size of our fleet overall.
LCDR Mark Munson, USN:
If I’m being cynical, I’m not really sure that the future U.S. Navy won’t just be an incrementally better version of today’s fleet (probably smaller due to fixed/smaller budgets and cost growth, and without any major changes in strategy calling for a drastically different kind of fleet). The current focus on Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) will hopefully bear fruit in a fleet that is stealthier, capable of striking from greater range, and has a better ability to detect threats and manage that command and control/threat data within an afloat task force.
LT Jake Bebber, USN:
The signs are clearly pointing to a smaller U.S. Navy, despite the growth in worldwide maritime commitments. We are already at our smallest point in the last hundred years and show no signs of reaching our goal of a 313-ship Navy anytime soon. The Navy faces a choice on force structure: we can attempt to mitigate our smaller size by improving the quality of our limited number of platforms (which are becoming ever more expensive), or we can rethink how we fulfill our maritime mission by producing more platforms with more limited capabilities. A smaller force demands that we will not have a presence in many areas of the world, and our influence there will wane. We have to accept that. Or we can rethink our platforms’ design and mission to mitigate costs and allow the U.S. to maintain a maritime presence in regions critical to national security. We will have to accept the commensurate risk associated with platforms with more limited (and less costly) capabilities.
The U.S. Navy will be smaller and weaker at the rate that budgets and policies are going. Just the other day I openly questioned whether or not we’ll be able to call America’s Navy the finest Navy in the world in 10, 25, or 50 years.
If you are a current Sailor or member of the Coast Guard, what are some of the biggest impediments to getting your job done? What promised development or technology would most aid you in the accomplishment of your assignment?
This is the third in our series of posts from our Maritime Futures Project. Note: The opinions and views expressed in these posts are those of the authors alone and are presented in their personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of their parent institution U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, any other agency, or any other foreign government.
CDR Chuck Hill, USCG (Ret.):
Impediments: The U.S. has the largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world. Its area exceeds that of the total land area of the U.S. and most of it is in the Pacific. However, most U.S. Coast Guard assets are in the Eastern U.S. where most of the population (and political clout) resides.
Expedients: Improved Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) has the potential to assist in search and rescue (SAR), fisheries enforcement, drug interdiction, coast defense, and protections of ports. The Coast Guard cannot afford a comprehensive MDA system solely for its own purposes, but if it can share information with DOD agencies also interested in monitoring the maritime approaches to the U.S., including perhaps cruise missile defense, it could make the employment of assets much more efficient.
LTJG Matt Hipple, USN: Impediments: The answer is simple. The real impediment is people, time, and flexibility. We have fewer people, which leaves us fewer man-hours and perspectives to get work done. Having fewer people means we have less time… less time for schools, fewer people to run the schools, and less time for training. The training regimen itself has been increased, by more required schools for alcohol awareness, marine species safety, and the like, having little-to-no bearing on the actual work of the sailor. This non-essential training, considered more important and tracked more diligently than regular warfighting training, further drains the pool of man-hours for an already diminished grouping of sailors that, having less time to train or go to school, or spots open in school for them to go, are also less ready than they could be.
Added to that death-spiral between people and time, the Navy is increasingly removing the room for flexibility. While an entire article could be written on the cost-effects of our inflexibility, the fact I can’t, for example, install fire-proof hoses that exceed the necessary requirements without special fleet approval, requiring regular renewing, is itself evidence enough.
LCDR Joe Baggett, USN: Impediments: Lack of interoperability (Common data networks). Maritime forces are now and will continue to be employed in confidence-building among nations through collective security efforts in a common global system that links threats and mutual interests in an open, multi-polar world. This requires an unprecedented level of integration among our maritime forces, enhanced cooperation with the other instruments of national power, and the capabilities of our international partners. No single nation has the resources required to provide safety and security throughout the entire maritime domain.
LT Drew Hamblen, USN: Impediments: The amount of required training extraneous to job proficiency (for example, General Military Training (GMT) requirements on Navy Knowledge Online) is cumbersome and only getting lengthier.
The number of passwords required for our systems is unmanageable and results in personnel writing them down, potentially compromising information assurance, or spending inordinate amounts of time on the phone with NMCI.
NMCI storage (and data storage capacity in general) is severely limited and outages are too frequent.
LT Scott Cheney-Peters, USNR: Impediments: Others here already address most of what I view as the major impediments to mission accomplishment in the sea services on a day-to-day basis. At a general level these include a dearth of manning (whether afloat, in aviation squadrons, or ashore) and burdensome administrative requirements.
Expedients: Short of increasing manning (not likely), or reducing requirements (possible, and some real efforts have been undertaken, but truly it’s never-ending struggle), there are two areas of focus that could help alleviate the effects. The first is better collaborative tools and sharing of lessons learned. There’s a lot of ‘reinventing the wheel’ that goes on in the fleet, for instance completely different versions of mandatory instructions that only need to be 5% different. This sort of thing can be reduced through better collaborative tools – especially at the squadron or fleet level.
The second is better integration of data streams. Akin to the low levels of communications interoperability, sailors must deal with a multitude of data streams that often require manual integration in the form of data entry. This wastes time and effort. For example, having to manually search online databases for further information about a ship transmitting AIS data to determine its point of origin or destination.
Luckily disaggregated data steams have not escaped notice, especially those from a ship’s organic sensors, resulting in general trends to develop all-encompassing combat system suites rather than stand-
alone weapon and sensor systems. AIS, for example, is today better integrated into navigation displays, and it seems logical it will be integrated into future combat systems suite upgrades. The trend for aggregated data is also progressing in remote-site monitoring, enabled by better sensors throughout things such as a ship’s engineering plant, helping displace some manually integrated data streams generated by the old Mark I Eyeball. But data streams for administrative tasks – true data entry between different IT and web-based programs, or just plain old excel spreadsheets – still have a long way to go. IT certificates and tokens can reduce some of the most redundant data-entry requirements (e.g. “type in your name, rank, and date of birth”), but there’s still a long way to go. And, with increasing reliance on inter-accessible and integrated data comes the need for better cyber defenses, whether ashore or afloat.
Rex Buddenberg, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School: Impediments: From a programmatic point of view we keep fixating on platforms (i.e. new
cutters, Deepwater, Navy FYDP shipbuilding, and LCS) rather than making
the platforms work together. We need to focus on integration.
YN2(SW) Michael George, USN: Impediments: As a Yeoman dealing with primarily administrative functions, I am usually able to perform my job duties and responsibilities with simply a computer, printer, and some pens, so there’s not much need for improvement on the hardware side. However, the current setup of processing personnel administrative information uses collateral-duty Command Pass Coordinators (CPCs) and an online system (TOPS) that correspond with ashore Personnel Support Detachments (PSDs) for all matters of pay and personnel support. This is a good idea in theory to help reduce shipboard manning, but it’s handled poorly, as it grants junior Sailors at PSDs across the fleet the power to supersede orders simply because the person giving the order is not a CPC. It also causes people like myself in the Yeoman rate (and worse, many ENs, LSs, CMs, and more) to spend an inordinate amount of time on collateral duties, handling personnel paperwork that members used to be able to go directly to their PSD or a true shipboard expert to handle.
LT Jake Bebber, USN: Impediments: The biggest impediment to maritime cryptology is not a piece of equipment … it is the lack of leadership in the cryptologic spaces. We need to refocus our cryptologic space-leaders – the LPOs, the Division Chiefs, and the JOs – and reorient them to emphasize the quality and quantity of cryptologic reporting. This can be done by simply “getting back to the basics” of maritime cryptology and practicing sound fundamentals. Too often, we are complacent because the advanced equipment we use can appear to do the work for us. But the most important piece of equipment in a cryptologic space is what’s between the ears, not the new computers or gear. Our cryptologic leaders – especially Chiefs – need to be present in the spaces, ensuring quality and teaching fundamentals. The JOs need to be there as well, learning from their Chiefs, LPOs and subject matter experts instead of standing watches on the bridge or combat. Too much time is being spent by JOs and Chiefs doing things not related to the cryptologic mission, outside the cryptologic space.
This was inspired by a question raised by Dr. Robert Farleyhereandhere.
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
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) 732133
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:
US 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
China 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
UK Battle Cruisers __ Heavy Cruisers __ Light Cruisers 17 – 17 Type 45 and Type 23 Mini-Cruisers __ Micro-Cruisers 4 – 4 River-class __ TOTAL 21
France 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.