September 16, 2019

Rule the Waves 2 Game 1 - April 1909

Gentlemen,

While Europe remains at peace, international tensions have begun to rise. We recently commissioned Devastation, and two of her sisters will join her in service before the end of the year. This gives us the single most powerful warship in the world, and the only fleet we need really fear is Britain's. Meanwhile, Italy grows suspicious of us, and our budget has begun to increase. We've also begun work on a successor class, with the first ship to be laid down in only a month.


The new Bouvet class battleship design

At least one more ship is planned to follow her. The decision for a third will need to be taken by this council. If we don't, it will free up budget for more construction of some sort. Options from the staff include new destroyers or light cruisers or a new battlecruiser to overmatch the ships inspired by the Duquesne. Read more...

September 15, 2019

Riverine Warfare - South America

South America has the world's greatest river, the Amazon, as well as a number of other large rivers. As a result, despite the rather quiet military history of the region, it has seen extensive deployment and use of riverine forces.1 In fact, the largest ever naval battle between two South American nations took place on a river, about 400 nautical miles inland.


The Battle of Riachuelo

It was the decisive battle of the War of the Triple Alliance, probably the most brutal in South American history. It was triggered in part by tensions over Brazilian access to the Paraguay River, and began when Paraguay invaded first Brazil and then Argentina, using the rivers of the Plate basin for mobility. However, while both countries (and Uruguay, the third partner in the Triple Alliance) were outnumbered on land, the Brazilian Navy was by far the best in the region, particularly when they were able to pick up several ironclads that Paraguay had ordered and then defaulted on payments to the foreign shipyards that were building them. On July 11th, 1865, the Paraguayans attempted to sneak up on the anchored Brazilian fleet and board the ships, apparently hoping to capture them and run off. The plan failed, and the Brazilians sunk four gunboats and all of the Parguayan's towed gun barges, at a cost of only one gunboat stranded and burned. This secured control of the Plate for Brazil, ultimately leading to Paraguay's defeat. Read more...

September 13, 2019

Naval Ranks - Officers

Most military forces use approximately the same set of ranks, traditionally with enlisted men running from private through variations of sergeant while officers run from lieutenant through general.2 But navies depart from this, using their own ranks which overlap some with the more traditional terrestrial lists, but usually mean different things.3

We'll start at the top. Most English terms come from either Romance or Germanic languages, including military ranks. But Admiral is an Arabic word, derived from the Arabic term "amīr al-baḥr", meaning "Commander of the Seas". This passed through Sicily in the 11th century, eventually Latinized as Amiral, to which English added a "d" later on.

Initially, admirals operated alone, but as fleets grew, so did a need for a deputy, who usually commanded the fleet's van (leading portion) while the Admiral stayed in the middle with the main body. He was known as the Vice Admiral (as in Vice President). Later on, as fleets grew even more, they needed a third admiral, to command the rear portion of the fleet, hence Rear Admiral. All Admiral ranks are known as "Flag Officers" because they were officers that had a specific flag that they would fly to designate what ship they were commanding from (hence flagship). In the US, at least, the term Flag Officer has become generic across the services, and is used to include Generals as well as Admirals, but this isn't the case worldwide. Read more...

September 11, 2019

Fire Control Transmission

One of the problems of creating a fire-control system is transmitting data between its various elements. Directors, mounted high up, need to be able to talk to the plotting rooms, and the plotting room needs to be able to issue orders to the turrets. Many different methods have been devised to solve this problem over the years, and they deserve some attention of their own.


The fire-control transmission paths in a late-war US system

At first, all data had to go between the various bits of fire-control apparatus by voice. While shouting was traditional, it was also easily covered by the din of battle. Instead, voice pipes were used. A voice pipe is a simple tube with a cone on each end, the cones shaped to match the impedance of the room so that sound is transmitted well through the pipe. A device of this type can be found on playgrounds worldwide,4 and while it's primitive, it's light, simple, and not reliant on electrical power. The only potential drawback is that it provides a path for fire and flood to spread, but this is easily handled with a plug. Over longer distances, telephones were used. Read more...

September 09, 2019

Open Thread 34

It's time for another open thread. Talk about anything you want, culture war excepted.

Posts overhauled this time include my reviews of Battleship Cove and Salem, Understanding Hull Symbols, Lushunkou and Weihaiwei, SYWTBAMN - Strategy Part 3 and Falklands Part 6.

We just got our pictures back from the wedding photographer, and there were some that might be of interest to you guys.

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Read more...

September 08, 2019

The Falklands War Part 18

In early April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a few desolate rocks in the South Atlantic. The British mobilized their fleet in response. The carriers arrived off the Falklands on May 1st, swiftly defeating the Argentine Air Force. The Argentine Navy tried to interfere the next day, but withdrew after the cruiser General Belgrano was sunk by a submarine. Two days later, the Argentinians struck back, sinking the frigate Sheffield with an Exocet missile. Two weeks later, on May 21st, British troops landed at San Carlos Water on the west coast of East Falkland. The Argentine Air Force quickly got wind of this, and launched numerous sorties against the invasion fleet. The brutal battle ran for five days before the Argentinian attacks petered out. Unfortunately, the 25th saw the destroyer Coventry and the cargo ship Atlantic Conveyor sunk by air attack. Atlantic Conveyor's loss was particularly damaging, as she carried helicopters intended to move the land forces forward. Now, they would have to walk.6


Queen Elizabeth 2 sails for the South Atlantic

But now it was time for the British to take the offensive on land. Stanley was clearly the center of gravity of the Argentinian occupation force, and capturing it would probably end the war. The five battalions7 currently in the Falklands weren't enough to be sure of this, so a second brigade, 5 Infantry Brigade, had been assembled. Normally, 5 Infantry Brigade was largely an airborne formation, built around 2 Para, 3 Para and a battalion of Gurkhas. However, 2 Para and 3 Para had been attached to 3 Commando Brigade, so replacements had to be sourced in a hurry. Two battalions of The Guards, previously tasked with ceremonial duties in London were tapped, and hastily trained for the mountainous, sub-arctic conditions of the Falklands. On May 12th, these battalions, along with the Gurkhas, 5 Infantry Brigade's support units, and various other forces, set sail aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2. Read more...

September 06, 2019

The Tinker Airshow 2019

June 1st and 2nd was the Tinker AFB airshow, and Lord Nelson and I of course went for the first day. Tinker's airshow runs every other year, as do most base airshows since sequestration. As it was, it was fun, particularly as the Blue Angels performed this year.


Lord Nelson and me with a B-528

The one caveat I should get out of the way is this. The last airshow I went to was Miramar in 2016, one of the best military airshows in the country. She hadn't been to one in close to 20 years. My one-sentence summary is "decent, but not as good as Miramar". It reminded me of the Spokane airshow I attended in 2014, and both are probably fairly typical of normal base airshows across the country. Read more...

September 04, 2019

Riverine Warfare - Africa

Moving things over water has always been easier than moving them overland, whether those things are people or cargo and whether that water is the salty or fresh variety. Particularly before railroads and cars arrived, rivers were the superhighways of commerce. And commerce is almost always followed by military force. I've previously discussed the history of riverine warfare in North America, but its use was hardly isolated to that continent.


The ships of the 1841 Niger Expedition

Africa was a particularly fertile ground for riverine seapower. Its history on that continent goes back to the days when man was first learning to use rafts, and the Nile has a long history of military uses, but these fall outside the scope of this post.9 The initial European colonization of the continent was almost entirely restricted to the coast, and rivers provided the only natural arteries for penetrating into the interior. The first major example of this was the 1841 Niger River expedition, which included three iron-hulled paddle steamers, some of the first vessels of that type in RN service. Britain and France each built a few gunboats for the river systems of West Africa, some of which had such shallow hulls that they had trusses built above the deck. Some of these vessels had drafts of only 1-2', and when they got stuck, the locals would be hired to pull the ship off. Read more...

September 02, 2019

Rule the Waves 2 Game 1 - April 1907

Gentlemen,

Europe has been at its most peaceful for at least a decade over the last year. This is probably good for us, but it's been bad for our budget. We have only been able to resume construction on the cruiser Forbin, and propose to resume work on Brennus and suspend Charles Martel to ensure that all three ships of the Devastation class finish while still reasonably modern. The upside is that other nations have also been forced to suspend ships, and we are a clear second in the race for the new vessels.

Beyond that, things have been quiet. We've refitted most of our battleships and armored cruisers with improved fire control, and research continues to go well, with the development of main battery wing turrets, cross-deck firing, and improved 14" guns. Read more...

September 01, 2019

The Spanish-American War Part 9 - Closing Days

In 1898, tensions between the US and Spain over the remains of Spain's Caribbean empire boiled over after the battleship Maine blew up in Havana Harbor. The US declared war and blockaded Cuba, while the Asiatic Fleet under George Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet in the Philippines at Manila Bay. The Spanish dispatched a fleet under Admiral Cervera to break the blockade, but it ended up trapped in Santiago on Cuba's south coast. The Americans landed troops and tightened their blockade, and on Sunday, July 3rd, Cervera finally sortied. Three of his cruisers were destroyed almost immediately, while the last one survived less than four hours. Santiago itself surrendered two weeks later, the last major action of the war in Cuba.


Armed tug Wompatuck, one of the vessels that attacked Manzanillo

However, the end of major actions didn't mean that the waters around Cuba were entirely peaceful. The primitive state of land transportation meant that there was a thriving coastal trade which needed to be cut. Large warships couldn't venture close enough to shore to do so, and the USN had to bring in armed yachts and tugs to do the job. One notable node of this trade was the port of Manzanillo, which American vessels first attacked on June 30th. They managed to destroy a small gunboat, but then ran into a flotilla of armed vessels, the largest Spanish naval force still in Cuba, guarding Manzanillo itself. Their fire ruptured the main steam pipe of the armed yacht Hornet, badly scalding three men, one of who later died. The Spanish suffered only light casualties, and eventually the Americans had to retreat, towing Hornet clear. Read more...