July 14, 2020

Naval Gazing Virtual Meetup

For our slightly delayed meetup this Saturday (4/17), I'm going to do the usual 1 PM Central slot. Teams link is here. Conversation is likely to be eclectic, as usual. Also, send me an email at battleshipbean at gmail if you want email notifications.

May 05, 2021

The Littoral Combat Ship Part 2

The Littoral Combat Ship did not have a smooth birth. Initially conceived as a sort of coastal corvette, it was adopted by Donald Rumsfeld in his attempt to transform how the US military did business, and soon morphed into a quite large and very fast ship that was supposed to carry modular systems to allow it to fulfill a variety of missions in dangerous coastal waters. Cost overruns drew Congressional ire, but the program survived, and 35 ships are either in service or under contract.

An unmanned MQ-8B Fire Scout comes in to land aboard Coronado (Independence class)

But what sort of ships are they? Two different variants have been procured, the LCS-1/Freedom class, built by Lockheed Martin and Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisconsin, and the LCS-2/Independence class built by Austal USA at their yard in Mobile, Alabama.1 Despite being built to the same specifications, they are radically different designs. The Lockheed ship is a semi-planing monohull made of steel, while Austal's is a striking aluminum trimaran, both forms driven by the requirement for a speed of around 45 kts, which isn't really practical with a conventional hull.2 Read more...

May 02, 2021

The Littoral Combat Ship Part 1

The largest new addition to the American fleet over the last decade has been the two classes of Littoral Combat Ship. The LCS was trumpeted as a revolutionary new platform that would greatly enhance American capability in coastal waters, but which has proved intensely controversial both during development and in service.

LCS-1 Freedom (top) and LCS-2 Independence

The LCS originated in the 1990s, as the USN struggled to find missions in the aftermath of the Cold War. The first result was a destroyer dedicated to the land-attack mission, which eventually became the Zumwalt class destroyers. But this was obviously going to be a large and expensive ship, and various officers were quick to propose a smaller, cheaper alternative. The most prominent was Arthur Cebrowski, president of the Naval War College, who proposed a concept called Streetfighter in a 1999 Proceedings article. Streetfighter would be small, fast, and thanks to a complex of buzzwords would be able to enter the enemy's coastal waters, which were too dangerous for bigger ships. Exactly how this would be done was not entirely clear, nor was what "Streetfighter" itself would look like. Read more...

April 30, 2021

Open Thread 77

I have a couple of housekeeping things. First, apologies for the lack of Aurora last week. I've been distracted, and just didn't get around to it. Second, I'm planning to scale back the virtual meetups to about once a month, now that the lockdown is winding down. Third, I'm going to designate this the semi-regular thread for ideas on what to write about. As usual, I make no promises, but anything good will go on my idea list.

2018 overhauls are British Battleships in WWII*, Sea Stories - The Swimming Pool and the Fuzes, Main Guns parts one, two and three, Life Aboard Iowa and So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Strategy Part 1. 2019 overhauls are Shells Part 2, the Four Chaplains, Continuous At Sea Deterrent, Megasilverfist's review of Polly Woodside and So You Want to Build a Battleship - Construction Part 3*. 2020 overhauls are my review of Historic Flight Spokane, Falklands Part 21 and Merchant Ships - Bulk Carriers.

April 28, 2021

Battle Stations

While I've previously written about the process by which ship are kept running during normal operations, warships in particular often operate in ways that are far from normal. This involves a set of what are known as "Conditions", which apply to both the crew and the ship itself, and which are worth looking into.3

Sailors man the bridge of Gerald R. Ford during a General Quarters drill

The most famous of these is General Quarters, more popularly known as Battle Stations (or Action Stations for the Brits) and also called Condition I. As the name implies, this is what the ship does when action is imminent, or in any other circumstances when the ship needs to be ready to deal with problems on a moment's notice. This is typically announced with a klaxon and a call of "General Quarters, General Quarters. All hands man your battle stations. Forward and up to starboard, down and aft to port. Set material condition 'Zebra' throughout the ship." Every member of the crew is to drop whatever they're doing4 and head for their assigned station, following the "forward and up to starboard, down and aft to port" directions to avoid major traffic jams. Read more...

April 25, 2021

Naval Airships Part 5

In the aftermath of WWI, navies worldwide looked to the rigid airship to augment the light cruisers traditionally used for scouting. Despite the failures of the German airship force in the North Sea, the allure of a fast, long-range scout with a great view was strong, particularly in the United States. Some of this was the American fascination with new technology, but it probably owed much to the chronic USN shortage of light cruisers due to a decade of Congressional preference for buying battleships and destroyers.

R34 lands on Long Island

Initially, the plan was to build the force around a pair of German Zeppelins that the US was slated to receive as war reparations, with later units built in the US. However, the German crews, in the finest traditions of their navy, chose instead to sabotage them. To replace those as its nucleus, the USN turned to the British. The Air Ministry had decided to shut down the British military airship program due to the financial crisis facing Britain and repurpose the existing airships for commercial use. Despite the successes of the commercial program, most notably the first round-trip crossing of the Atlantic by air in July 1919 with R34, the existing airships under construction were to be scrapped, at least until the USN agreed to buy R38 from them. Read more...

April 21, 2021

A Brief Overview of the Chinese Fleet

Today, the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China controls the world's second most powerful navy. A quarter-century ago, it was essentially a coastal-defense force, focused on keeping China's maritime frontiers safe from outside interference. Today, it is a true blue-water force with global capabilities, and it continues to develop into a true rival for the US Navy. This progress has been the deliberate result of strategic choices to emphasize Chinese maritime power in the face of increasing reliance on the oceans for trade and resources, as well as concern about Taiwan and the threat of US naval power. Now, it is focused on operations past the "first island chain", stretching from Japan to Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Liaoning, symbol of China's new naval power

Serious operations past the first island chain began in the mid-90s, when the People's Liberation Army Navy began annual visits to other countries, including a 1997 cruise to Hawaii, San Diego, and Latin America. Over the next decade, the tempo of deployments increased, and Chinese ships showed the flag on every continent except Antarctica. But the real sea change took place in 2008, when China joined the UN-sponsored antipiracy patrols off Somalia. Since then, they have kept two surface combatants and a replenishment ship continually deployed, and the mission has served as a crash course in the lessons necessary to operate as a true blue-water navy. Issues faced and overcome ranged from logistics and personnel issues to communications and command structures to the heat and sand of the Gulf of Aden. Today, these deployments usually involve about 4 months of antipiracy duties,5 followed by two months of port visits and exercises with other navies. Read more...

April 19, 2021

32 Years Ago

32 years ago today, while conducting gunnery exercises off the coast of Puerto Rico, Turret II exploded aboard Iowa. 47 members of her crew were killed. Every year, a memorial ceremony is held for them, and I was able to attend in 2019 and honor the men who died.

  • Tung Thanh Adams - Fire Controlman 3rd class (FC3) Alexandria, VA
  • Robert Wallace Backherms - Gunner's Mate 3rd class (GM3) Ravenna, OH
  • Dwayne Collier Battle - Electrician's Mate, Fireman Apprentice (EMFA) Rocky Mount, NC
  • Walter Scot Blakey - Gunner's Mate 3rd class (GM3) Eaton Rapids, MI
  • Pete Edward Bopp - Gunner's Mate 3rd class (GM3) Levittown, NY
  • Ramon Jarel Bradshaw - Seaman Recruit (SR) Tampa, FL
  • Philip Edward Buch - Lieutenant, Junior Grade (LTjg) Las Cruces, NM
  • Eric Ellis Casey - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Mt. Airy, NC
  • John Peter Cramer - Gunners Mate 2nd class (GM2) Uniontown, PA
  • Milton Francis Devaul Jr. - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Solvay, NY
  • Leslie Allen Everhart Jr. - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Cary, NC
  • Gary John Fisk - Boatswains Mate 2nd class (BM2) Oneida, NY
  • Tyrone Dwayne Foley - Seaman (SN) Bullard, TX
  • Robert James Gedeon III - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Lakewood, OH
  • Brian Wayne Gendron - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Madera, CA
  • John Leonard Goins - Seaman Recruit (SR) Columbus, OH
  • David L. Hanson - Electricians Mate 3rd class (EM3) Perkins, SD
  • Ernest Edward Hanyecz - Gunners Mate 1st class (GM1) Bordentown, NJ
  • Clayton Michael Hartwig - Gunners Mate 2nd class (GM2) Cleveland, OH
  • Michael William Helton - Legalman 1st class (LN1) Louisville, KY
  • Scott Alan Holt - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Fort Meyers, FL
  • Reginald L. Johnson Jr. - Seaman Recruit (SR) Warrensville Heights, OH
  • Nathaniel Clifford Jones Jr. - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Buffalo, NY
  • Brian Robert Jones - Seaman (SN) Kennesaw, GA
  • Michael Shannon Justice - Seaman (SN) Matewan, WV
  • Edward J. Kimble - Seaman (SN) Ft. Stockton, TX
  • Richard E. Lawrence - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Springfield, OH
  • Richard John Lewis - Fire Controlman, Seaman Apprentice (FCSA) Northville, MI
  • Jose Luis Martinez Jr. - Seaman Apprentice (SA) Hidalgo, TX
  • Todd Christopher McMullen - Boatswains Mate 3rd class (BM3) Manheim, PA
  • Todd Edward Miller - Seaman Recruit (SR) Ligonier, PA
  • Robert Kenneth Morrison - Legalman 1st class (LN1) Jacksonville, FL
  • Otis Levance Moses - Seaman (SN) Bridgeport, CN
  • Darin Andrew Ogden - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Shelbyville, IN
  • Ricky Ronald Peterson - Seaman (SN) Houston, MN
  • Mathew Ray Price - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Burnside, PA
  • Harold Earl Romine Jr. - Seaman Recruit (SR) Brandenton, FL
  • Geoffrey Scott Schelin - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GMG3) Costa Mesa, CA
  • Heath Eugene Stillwagon - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Connellsville, PA
  • Todd Thomas Tatham - Seaman Recruit (SR) Wolcott, NY
  • Jack Ernest Thompson - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Greeneville, TN
  • Stephen J. Welden - Gunners Mate 2nd class (GM2) Yukon, OK
  • James Darrell White - Gunners Mate 3rd class (GM3) Norwalk, CA
  • Rodney Maurice White - Seaman Recruit (SR) Louisville, KY
  • Michael Robert Williams - Boatswains Mate 2nd class (BM2) South Shore, KY
  • John Rodney Young - Seaman (SN) Rockhill, SC
  • Reginald Owen Ziegler - Senior Chief Gunners Mate (GMCS) Port Gibson, NY

They came to the Navy as strangers. Served the Navy as shipmates and friends and left the Navy as brothers in eternity. - George H.W. Bush

April 18, 2021

Naval Airships Part 4

While the Americans were the first ever to operate manned lighter-than-air devices from ships, they abandoned the idea after the end of the Civil War, and didn't return to the LTA arena until quite late. Their first naval blimp, DN-1, was ordered in 1915 and took two years to build. It's first flight failed completely, with the craft sinking into the water, and it was only after extensive work to lighten it that it was able to get into the air. Even then, it was less than successful, and it was quietly retired after the Navy accepted delivery.

DN-1 is maneuvered into its floating hangar

However, another class was already on order, and the so-called B-class, very similar to the British SS class, proved quite successful. 9 of the 16 envelopes were built by Goodyear, who would remain at the forefront of lighter-than-air aviation in America to the present. The B-class patrolled the American coast and gave valuable service as trainers for the burgeoning American naval airship arm. Kite balloons were also developed in the US, with trials on the battleships Oklahoma and Nevada souring the US on the concept of using them with the fleet. Most likely, the British method of simply servicing the balloons ashore was seen as unworkable for the USN, who expected to fight much further from its bases. The kite balloons and early blimps gave good service after the outbreak of war, countering the German U-boat offensive in the western Atlantic. Read more...

April 16, 2021

Open Thread 76

It's time for our regular open thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it's not culture war.

The big news this week is that my appearance on Russell Hogg's Subject to Change podcast is out. If you want to listen to an hour of me rambling about Yamato, the Japanese Navy in general, the French Fleet, the obsolescence of the battleship and the future of the aircraft carrier, then it can be found here. Thanks to Russell for having me on. He's also done interviews with other interesting people,

Overhauls for 2018 are Early Dreadnoughts, ASW in WWII Forces, Sensors and Weapons and my review of Iowa. 2019 overhauls are A Brief History of the Destroyer, my review of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, the Iowa Class, Shells Part 1, Sea Story - Black Oil and Falklands Part 13. 2020 overhauls are Container Ships, Coastal Defenses Part 1, O'Callahan and the Franklin and French Battleships in WWII.

April 14, 2021

The Fate of the French Fleet Part 3

In 1940, the French fleet was the 4th-largest in the world, and the French defeat raised the very real possibility that it would fall into German and Italian hands, tipping the balance of naval power in Europe. The French were determined that this would not be allowed to happen, and evacuated as many ships as they could to their African colonies. But Churchill wasn't willing to accept their assurances, and on July 3rd, took more forceful measures to make sure the French ships didn't become a threat to British interests. Ships in British ports were seized, while a task force arrived off Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria, with an ultimatum for the ships there to either join the British or be sunk. The French chose the latter option, and the British opened fire, sinking two battleships and badly damaging a third, Dunkerque.

Andrew Cunningham

This caused major problems for the last major French force within easy reach of the British, Force X at Alexandria, sent to aid the British in protecting the eastern Mediterranean. The British commander, Andrew Cunningham, received orders to give his French counterpart, Rene-Emile Godfroy, the same ultimatum that had been delivered at Mers-el-Kebir, but the two men agreed that no actions would be taken that day, despite both sides receiving orders over the radio that would have caused a massacre. Tensions remained very high on the 4th, and Cunningham ordered his ships to stop aiming at the French, while Gensoul insisted that his crews adhere as closely as possible to normal peacetime routine. The sight of French sailors scrubbing the decks, painting, and even swimming did as much as anything to lower the risks of shooting breaking out. Read more...