June 09, 2024

Distributed Maritime Operations and the LUSV

The latest hotness in the USN is Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO), which is their strategy for dealing with the rise of Chinese maritime power. I'd love to give you the official definition here, but I can't, because despite talking about this for 6 years now, they have yet to give an official unclassified definition for it.1

Two USV prototypes

The best definition I've been able to find from DoD sources, and it took a bit of looking,2 is "An operations concept that leverages the principles of distribution, integration, and maneuver to mass overwhelming combat power and effects at the time and place of our choosing. This integration of distributed platforms, weapons, systems, and sensors via low probability of intercept and detection networks, improves our battlespace awareness while complicating the enemy’s own scouting efforts. Applying combat power through maneuver within and across all domains allows our forces to exploit uncertainty and achieve surprise." Translated out of five-sided thought,3 this is sort of a turbocharged version of network-centric warfare, seamlessly linking together all of the various sensors and weapons wherever they may be so we can face the PLAN with whatever assets are best-placed to destroy them while avoiding providing the enemy with juicy targets. Read more...

June 07, 2024

Open Thread 158

It's time once again for our regular Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't culture war.

First, apologies for not having a Jutland post this year. I didn't really have anything to cover, so I left that slot empty.

Second, I recently watched the Prime documentary on the Blue Angels, and very much enjoyed it. Would recommend.

Overhauls are Coastal Defenses Part 3 and for 2023, The East Asia Squadron Part 2, my review of Rules of the Game and RTW3 and Information.

June 02, 2024

Museum Reviews - 2024 New England Meetup

During the 2024 Naval Gazing Meetup, I got a chance to revisit several museums I'd been to years ago, and I thought I should take the chance to update my impressions based both on what has changed there and on the fact that I have spent the last few years thinking about how best to run a museum ship.

First was Battleship Cove, where the biggest change was the loss of Hiddensee, which had to be scrapped in 2023 because she was in bad shape and it would have been too expensive to keep her. This is an unfortunately common fate for Soviet-bloc museum ships, and I am aware of at least three others that were ultimately consigned to the scrapyard for similar reasons, but at least I got to see her before she went, unlike the others. This has had a knock-on effect, as previously visitors got onboard Lionfish via Hiddensee, so Lionfish is currently closed while they get alternate access set up. I believe they're hoping to get her open sometime this summer. Read more...

May 26, 2024


Navies have long believed that seamanship and shiphandling are best learned at sea, particularly on sailing ships. Initially, virtually all naval training was conducted at sea, but as ships grew more complicated, some work began to move to shore facilities and hulked ships. And even as sail gave way to steam in the 19th century, many clung to this belief, with rather odd results, such as the existence of a small fleet of sailing ships with unpaid crews, as many nations required sail experience to get a merchant mariner's license. The argument advanced by proponents of sail was that it taught seamanship, particularly an understanding of wind and current, in a way that simply couldn't be matched by powered vessels, as well as giving cadets a chance to learn leadership and teamwork.

Horst Wessel in Nazi service

How seriously this was taken varied greatly between navies. Some, such as the USN and RN, were quick to abandon sail training on seagoing ships, although small-boat sailing remains part of the curriculum at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis to this day. Others took it far more seriously, building new steel-hulled training ships for the benefit of future officers. Among the leading proponents of this view was Germany. The German training ship Niobe was sunk in a squall in 1932 with heavy loss of life, and public support was rallied for the building of a replacement, named Gorch Fock. She was a steel-hulled barque,4 and proved successful enough that the Kriegsmarine ordered two stretched sister ships, Horst Wessel and Albert Leo Schlageter, named after heroes of the Nazi party. A fourth ship was built for Romania, while a fifth, Herbert Norkus, was cancelled incomplete when war broke out. Gorch Fock spent the war primarily as an accommodations ship, while Horst Wessel and Albert Leo Schlageter, now equipped with light AA guns, continued to conduct training cruises in the Baltic. Read more...

May 24, 2024

Open Thread 157

It's time once again for our regular Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't culture war.

Overhauls are Millennium Challenge 2002, Auxiliaries Part 1, FFG(X), Tomahawk Part 1, Tomahawk Part 2 and for 2023 Drydocks and my review of RTW3.

May 19, 2024

Museum Reviews - Boston 2024

While in Boston ahead of the Naval Gazing meetup, I was able to tour some of the city's coastal defenses, and go back to one of the ships I saw during my last visit to the northeast that had not been on my iternary.

One of the casemated walls at Fort Independence

First, there was Fort Independence on Castle Island, the oldest continuously fortified site in British North America. Fort Independence is a fairly typical third system fort, a masonry star fort with casemates in the walls facing out to sea. These days, it's a public park, with easy access by car if you're on the south side of downtown (it's not an island any more), although public transit access seems to be lacking. Read more...

May 12, 2024

Museum Review - Bovington Tank Museum

Reader DampOctopus here, with a review of the Bovington Tank Museum, which I visited in April 2024. First, some context...

The tank was originally developed under wartime conditions, and the need for advantage on the battlefield naturally took precedence over preservation of the historical record. After the conclusion of WWI in 1918, Bovington Heath was littered with the debris of this development effort along with surplus tanks salvaged from the battlefields of France, abandoned to slowly rust. There they might have remained but for a visit in 1923 by Rudyard Kipling who suggested that they should be preserved for posterity. His suggestion prompted an effort in that direction over the following decades and today the Bovington Tank Museum is both the home of the earliest artifacts from the history of the tank and the largest collection of tanks in the world.

Achtung - Panzer!
Type: Tank Museum
Location: Bovington, UK
Rating: 5/5
Price: £21.50 (US$27) for normal adults


The curators of this museum have gone to considerable effort to display their collection to good advantage. Take the Trench Experience exhibition. It starts with a replica recruiting office and leads on through a recreation of a WWI trench system, with mannequins in period-appropriate costumes sheltering in dugouts and listening to background radio chatter. Then you turn a corner and see a soldier shouting in German and cowering away from a shape looming over the trench ... which turns out to be a Mark I heavy tank. Continue onwards and you see a series of examples illustrating the development of the classic rhomboidal British heavy tanks of WWI: the later Marks IV and V, a Mark IX armoured personnel carrier,5 a Mark V** with stretched chassis for crossing wider trenches and a Mark VIII of an Anglo-American design that didn't see service until after the armistice. Read more...

May 10, 2024

Open Thread 156

It's time once again for our regular Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't Culture War.

The 2023 Naval Gazing meetup was last weekend, and a great time was had by all. Besides the planned events, we also had a special bonus tour, which confirms my theory that you should all come next time, because you never know what will happen.

Overhauls are SYWTBABB Construction Part 3, Shells Part 3, my review of Ft. Sill, Coastal Defenses Part 2, LCS Parts two and three, and for 2023, my review of Seawolf Park in Galveston and The East Asia Squadron Part 1.

May 05, 2024

Museum Review - USS Cod

While on a recent trip to Ohio, The Fatherly One got a chance to visit USS Cod in Cleveland, unique among the country's museum submarines in having been extremely minimally modified, and was kind enough to write a review.

Cod pierside6

USS Cod – SS-224, WW II Fleet Submarine USS COD Submarine Memorial North Coast Harbor Cleveland, OH

The Cod is the only WW II Gato class fleet submarine in its original wartime configuration. No stairways and/or doors have been cut in her pressure hull. Access for the tour is via the escape trunk which deposits you in the forward torpedo room. From there the tour heads to the stern. On the outside, there are dents from depth-charging and bullet holes from a strafing run. Read more...

April 28, 2024

Air Attack on Ships Part 4 - US Torpedoes

Torpedo bombing had begun during WWI, but it only reached full deployment during the second world war, when all of the major combatants made use of it in various forms.

A Mk 13 torpedo undergoing maintenance

The outlier in how they used torpedoes was the Americans, who tended to do things slightly different from everyone else, although my sourcing on their practice is far better than I have for any other power, so they get their own post. The US Mk 13 aerial torpedo was distinguished in a number of ways. Most notably, it was relatively short and fat, 22.4" instead of the 17.7" that was standard in the rest of the world. This configuration was adopted as it was thought that a longer torpedo would be a serious constraint on the performance of future torpedo bombers.7 Also unusual was the range/speed combination, which was initially 6,000 yards at 30 kts, although this was later altered to 4,000 yards and 33.5 kts,8 still leaving it substantially slower and longer-ranged than was typical for an aerial torpedo.9 It also lacked the gyro-angling feature that most navies fitted their torpedoes with, which allowed the pilot to set a course different from the airplane's before the torpedo was dropped which it would then turn to after entering the water.10 Read more...