October 07, 2020

Military Sealift Command Part 1

Military operations overseas have always required the support of civilian ships, either government-owned or chartered. These were rarely sent into the combat zone, instead being used to move cargo and troops from one port to another. In the US, these ships were managed by a number of different organizations, who often competed for tonnage. In the aftermath of WWII, it was decided to bring this cumbersome arrangement to an end, centralizing all military water transport under a single organization managed by the Navy, which became known as the Military Sea Transportation Service. The Army's transports were handed over to the Navy, which initially operated a mix of chartered, government-owned but civilian-manned and Navy-manned ships. The chartered vessels received a four-digit hull number and kept their existing merchant prefixes, while the civilian-manned ships were designed USNS, for United States Naval Ship. This was distinct from the USS used by commissioned and Navy-manned ships, which could legally be armed. Both types had their hull numbers prefixed by T- to indicate MSTS/MSC control, although MSTS ended the use of Naval crews in the 1960s.


USNS General A.W. Greely at Thule, Greenland

MSTS, renamed Military Sealift Command (MSC) in 1970, provided cargo transport throughout the Cold War, supporting operations in Korea and Vietnam as well as less-visible military work around the world. It also began to take over operation of various special-mission ships for tasks like laying cables, hydrographic surveys, and tracking missile tests. But in 1971, investigation began on a new mission. The draft was coming to an end, and the cost of manpower was rising rapidly. So far, MSTS/MSC had only moved cargo point-to-point, but it could potentially take over many of the Navy's auxiliaries as well, much as the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) had for the past several decades. After successful tests in 1972, the oiler Taluga was the first vessel decommissioned and turned over to MSC, with her crew of 314 being replaced by a 105-man civilian crew and a 16-man naval detachment primarily responsible for communications.1 Read more...

October 04, 2020

Naval Bases from Space - Hampton Roads

Reader FXBDM has suggested that a look at naval bases from space would be a good series, and if I am to do that, it makes sense to start with Hampton Roads, the spiritual heart of the United States Navy. Hampton Roads is a roadstead, or sheltered body of water where ships can lay safely at anchor, at the junction of the James and Elizabeth Rivers, near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. It's surrounded by a number of facilities, most but not all naval. As I don't feel like making sure I've complied with Google's terms, I'll let you follow along on your own. But to make things easy, here's a map I've made with all the points under discussion marked.

We'll start with Naval Station Norfolk, the home of the Atlantic Fleet. It's located on the southwestern edge of the Roads, and on the western edge are the piers where the fleet is usually tied up. At the time of writing,2 we have carrier Harry S Truman at Pier 14 and Dwight D Eisnehower at Pier 12, along with hospital ship Comfort. Tied up to Pier 10 is Wasp class LHD Bataan, while Pier 9 has a pair of what I believe are Henry J. Kaiser class oilers, and a Lewis and Clarke class cargo ship is at Pier 8. Pier 7 has a Burke on the north side and a Ticonderoga on the south side, while Pier 4 has two Burkes and a Tico. Telling them apart is fairly easy. Ticos are slightly longer and thinner, and they have two guns, a helipad that isn't all the way aft, and a breastwork on the bow that produces a slight indentation in their profile around the forward VERTREP box. The Burkes at Pier 4 are also useful for spotting differences within the type. The one on the left is a Flight IIA ship, with the extended aft superstructure for the hangar, while the one on the right is Flight I/II, with the aft superstructure to starboard cut away almost to the VLS nest. Our tour of the Naval Station's piers is rounded out with Pier 3, showing a trio of submarines. The only one of these that is identifiable is the eastern one on the south side of the pier, which shows diving planes on the sail, characteristic of the early (non-688I) Los Angeles class submarines. All later US submarines have had their forward planes in the hull, where they can retract for under-ice operations. Read more...

October 02, 2020

Open Thread 62

It's time once again for our regular open thread. Talk about anything you want that isn't culture war.

I'm planning to set up a better notification system for our virtual meetups. At least as a stopgap, if you want in, send an email to me at battleshipbean at gmail expressing your interest.

Also, the September DSL effortpost contest is currently running. There's some good writing there. I actually made an effort this time, submitting Territorial and International Waters.

2018 overhauls are Secondary Armament Parts one, two and three, the Wartime Battlecruisers and reviews of Mystic Seaport and Albacore. 2019 overhauls are my look at warrant and enlisted ranks, my first encounter with Iowa, the first part of the story of riverine warfare in China, the McKinley Climatic Laboratory, HMS Warrior and Dumb Bombs and LGBs.

September 30, 2020

Pictures - Iowa Aft Living Spaces

In my slow tour through Iowa's crew spaces, we've finally come to the stuff on the aft of 2nd and 3rd decks. This is where the designers shoved all of the random stuff that didn't really fit elsewhere, mostly on 3rd deck aft of where the armored box steps down.


Iowa's library, on 2nd deck near the Goat Locker. Unfortunately, it wasn't that good as a naval reference library.

Read more...

September 27, 2020

The Falklands War Part 24

In early April 1982, Argentina invaded the British-controlled Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. The British, instead of accepting the fait acompli, mobilized their fleet. After a fierce battle in the air and at sea, the British gained the upper hand, and began landing troops on May 21st at San Carlos Water on the west coast of East Falkland. The Argentinians attempted to defeat the invasion with air attacks, but the British eventually prevailed, inflicting heavy losses. On the 28th, the British began the ground campaign, defeating the Argentinian garrison at Goose Green and opening the way to lay siege to the main enemy positions near Stanley. The first days of June saw the islands shrouded in clouds, but that didn't prevent the British from leapfrogging forward to Fitzroy and Bluff Cove, just to the south of Stanley. There, tragedy struck on June 8th, when an air attack caught several ships unloading. This didn't stop the British from launching their assault on the hills surrounding Stanley on the night of the 11th, securing three major hills. Two days later, the final assault took the last pair of hills, and the Argentine commander surrendered the next morning.3


A Chinook lifts the damaged Wessex from Glamorgan

The weather in the Falklands had been bad, with Wireless Ridge and Mount Tumbledown being taken among scattered snowstorms. But on the 15th, the snow started in earnest, with several ships reporting the worst seas they'd seen since entering the South Atlantic. The ASW Sea Kings were withdrawn from the carrier's screen for the first time in over a month, and a Wessex (borrowed from Tidespring) on the deck of Glamorgan was badly damaged. The North Sea ferry Europic Ferry was being used to prep a Chinook brought south by Contender Bezant, and she rolled so badly that her crew seriously considered jettisoning it. Ultimately, the helicopter came through undamaged, and flew off when the weather moderated on the 16th. Read more...

September 25, 2020

Rule the Waves 2 Game 1 - March 1932

Gentlemen,

The last year has been fairly quiet, as our plans for completing our existing construction have been carried out. We have commissioned 3 BBs, a CV, a CA, 2 CVLs and 2 CLs, although postwar budget crunches have limited new construction to a CA, a CVL and a CL. We have also scrapped the Devastations and Dupetit-Thouars. Fortunately, worldwide tensions are also low, except with Austria, who has been throwing its weight around again.

Our budget is currently balanced, and we have 2 CAs and 3 CLs completing in the next year, so plans need to be drawn up to replace them on the slip. At the moment there are no glaring weaknesses in our fleet, so we have a fairly free hand in deciding what to spend it on. Read more...

September 23, 2020

Territorial and International Waters

The world's surface has been largely carved up among the world's sovereign states, and each piece is owned by one specific state.4 Boundary disputes do occur, but for the last century or more, the largest frontier of international territorial law has been at sea.


Various categories of territorial waters

From the 16th century until the early 20th century, international law was relatively simple. A state was generally accepted to be able to lay claim to and control any waters up to three nautical miles5 from its coast, and anything beyond that was the high seas, which were not controlled by any state, and were free to the use of all nations in peacetime. The three-mile limit is traditionally ascribed to the range of contemporary cannon, although it's more likely that it originated with the distance to the horizon from someone standing at sea level.6 Within this limit, a state essentially had the same jurisdiction that it did on land. By WWII, however, this consensus had begun to crack, and a number of countries began asserting much greater territorial jurisdiction, in some cases up to 200 miles out to sea. Much of this had to do with fishing rights, as conservation of fish stocks was an increasing concern. Expanded claimes sparked conflict between those nations making them, including Peru, Indonesia, Ecuador and Chile, and the major maritime powers, led by the US, who refused to recognize anything beyond 3 miles. Read more...

September 20, 2020

The Arleigh Burke Class

Today, the Arleigh Burke class destroyers are the backbone of the US fleet, with 67 ships in service. The lead ship of the class, named for an Admiral who helped pull the US Navy up from some of its darkest days, was commissioned on July 4th, 1991, and three evolved variants were ordered in FY20,7 with more still to come. This longevity and flexibility is particularly impressive for a design that ultimately dates back to the 1980s and was intended to face a threat which no longer exists.


Arleigh Burke underway

Shortly after entering office, the Reagan Administration came up with a new strategy for fighting the Cold War at sea. Instead of passively trying to protect convoys crossing the North Atlantic, they would dispatch a carrier striking force into the Norwegian Sea, threatening Soviet bases in the Arctic and drawing out their bombers to be destroyed. One of the cornerstones of this strategy was Aegis, which gave reasonable confidence that the escorts could shoot down any incoming missiles, freeing the F-14s to go after the bombers in the so-called Outer Air Battle. Read more...

September 18, 2020

Open Thread 61

It's time once again for our regular Open Thread, and as the count of OTs has reached Naval Gazing's favorite number, the subject of discussion for the thread is "Why the USS Iowa is the best battleship ever."

As usual, you're allowed to talk about anything you want, so long as it's not culture war.

2018 overhauls are the reviews of Salem and Groton, So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Strategy Part 3, Falklands Part 6, the Nimrod program and Auxiliaries Part 3*. For 2019, overhauls are my pictures of the Tinker airshow, Falklands Part 18, Fire Control Transmission, Naval Ranks - Officers, Riverine Warfare - South America and Fouling*.

September 16, 2020

The Falklands War Part 23

In early April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a few desolate rocks in the South Atlantic. The British mobilized their fleet in response. After a fierce battle in the air and at sea, the British gained the upper hand, and began landing troops on May 21st at San Carlos Water on the west coast of East Falkland. The Argentinians attempted to defeat the invasion with air attacks, but the British eventually gained the upper hand. On the 28th, the British began the ground campaign, defeating the Argentinian garrison at Goose Green and opening the way to lay siege to the main enemy positions near Stanley. The first days of June saw the islands shrouded in clouds, but that didn't prevent the British from leapfrogging forward to Fitzroy and Bluff Cove, just to the south of Stanley. There, tragedy struck on June 8th, when an air attack caught several ships unloading. This didn't stop the British from launching their assault on the hills surrounding Stanley on the night of the 11th, securing three major hills. The final assault was scheduled for the 13th.8


Yarmouth and Andromeda seen from Cardiff

The 12th was fairly quiet, with the usual shuffle of ships between San Carlos and the transport area. Exeter, after nearly two weeks guarding San Carlos, was swapped with Cardiff, from the Battle Group screen. Argentine air activity was minimal, with only a transport flight after dark, which the British failed to interdict with their artillery. The most notable event took place thousands of miles away, when transport Norland reached Montevideo and landed over a thousand Argentinian prisoners, who were repatriated across the River Plate by the Red Cross. Even as this was going on, dispatch ship Hecla set off from the Falklands for Montevideo with wounded. Only two frigates, Active and Arrow carried out the nightly bombardment, with Arrow firing the last 103 rounds of 902 she had fired since entering the war zone. She and Yarmouth were the only undamaged survivors of the original escort group, a testament to the brutal attacks the British had endured. Read more...