December 23, 2022

Open Thread 120

I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas (or other solstice-adjacent holiday, as appropriate) and a happy New Year. Other than that, rules are as usual. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't Culture War.

As an experiment, I've set up a Discord server. I make no promises about what I'll do with it, but expect at least some behind the scenes/off the cuff stuff from me.

Overhauls are The Death of Force Z, along with Phalanx and The Two-Power Standard Today.


  1. December 25, 2022Rusty Foster said...

    Hi I have a dumaresq mk 8 in its original box. I have contacted Tony Loveall from the Dreadnought project who advises me he only know of 1 in a Museum. I want to sell it, does anybody know of anyone or an organization who would want one. Problem is i'm in Brisbane Australia. Contact me at

  2. December 25, 2022Neal said...

    The Economist had an interesting article last week on Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs). Did anyone else see it? The 29 October attack on the Admiral Marakov and the 18 November operation against the oil terminal at Novorossiysk were apparently carried out with USVs.

    Is this something that is going to remain a niche area of research or is it going to require an ever growing financial underwrite for reworking defense tactics and equipment? These attacks were certainly a surprise, but just how big of game changer does the readership here reckon them to be?

  3. December 28, 2022Basil Marte said...

    Neal: Putting on the Yellow School (Jaune École) hat, it's more or less a surface-bound oversized torpedo. Better range (but still not an independently operating vessel), lower speed, no stealth, better targeting. If a navy patrols outside its harbors well enough to deal with offensive mining, it ought to see them coming (and probably also see the parent ship). If not -- the original Admiral Stepan Makarov died when his flagship Petropavlovsk ran onto a mine the Japanese laid outside Port Arthur.

  4. December 31, 2022bean said...

    Reminder to everyone that the USNI sale ends tomorrow. Not sure exactly what time, and it's been slightly earlier than expected in previous years.

  5. January 01, 2023ike said...

    Putting on the Yellow School (Jaune École) hat [...]

    Shouldn't it be a New School hat? (Jeune École) Or is there a joke there that I am missing?

  6. January 02, 2023quanticle said...


    I don't think they're much of a game changer. Frankly, I think they're less of a game-changer than uncrewed aerial vehicles. The problem with uncrewed surface vessels is that, in order to be undetectable, they have to be small. And if they're small, that means they're either slow or short range. Plus the fact that they're small means that they have pretty terrible sea-keeping. The fact that they were successful against the Russian Black Sea Fleet is due to two factors. First, the Black Sea is a pretty small place, and Ukraine is pretty close to Russia, so it can launch these things from its own shores. Secondly, the Russians have been fairly lax in their naval security thus far (see also: Moskva sailing around with its air defense radars turned off).

    That said, with the USV attack, there was at least an attempt by the Russians to take the USVs out with helicopters. That's the right idea, and even if it didn't work in this instance (possibly because the USVs were detected too late), it's the sort of approach that would work. I would hope that US Navy ships would be a more difficult target, especially given that the USS Cole was damaged by a very similar attack (though, in that instance, the suicide boat was crewed by Al Qaeda terrorists).

  7. January 02, 2023muddywaters said...

    The "surface torpedo" USV is probably the oldest kind of guided weapon, but never seems to have been a major weapon. They existed in 1869 Russia, and were used by 1879 Peru (unsuccessfully) and 1916-18 Germany (probably 2 hits, 2 sunk by the target's guns, 3 failed on their own).

  8. January 04, 2023FXBDM said...

    So what would be the use case for a large drone carrier for Iran, of all countries?

    Their larger drones can cover the Gulf from end to end from land bases, and their loitering munitions are shot from relatively small launchers that could be fit on smaller ships.

    Wild theories welcome!

  9. January 04, 2023bean said...

    Either they're trying to project power outside the Persian Gulf, or they're doing it as a prestige project. It's better for the Navy if they fly drones from a ship, rather than letting someone else operate them from land bases.

  10. January 05, 2023Anonymous said...

    Who could they actually get away with projecting power against?

    Probably just prestige.

  11. January 05, 2023Bernd said...

    Seems like it would be useful for presence patrols off Africa if piracy ever cropped up again. Certainly cheaper than having a 1st world nation do it, which maybe would be enough to get the Europeans on board with letting them?

  12. January 05, 2023Doctorpat said...

    The big advantage of a USV is that they can have radio/sat-link to a controller so you can operate them over MUCH longer distances than a torpedo.

    The torpedo would also need expensive air-independent propulsion systems to cover even the distances in the Black sea.

    Torpedos are more desirable in most other ways. Harder to detect, harder to intercept, hit the target in a more vulnerable spot.

    As an engineer I'd try to combine the two concepts. Have something that ran on the surface for most of the way, then submerged for a final attack run? Or an AIP torpedo that had good enough inertial guidance to follow a map to a target zone, then wait for passive sensors to detect a target. (Risk of hitting civilians goes way up then.)

    Also, USVs date back to the fire ships from the Battle of Red Cliffs.,firstuses

  13. January 05, 2023Doctorpat said...

    And, my (completely uneducated) assumption is that when someone like Iran suddenly builds themselves a drone aircraft carrier, it's because it's the cool new thing that everyone thinks will take over the world.

    Iranians, like everyone else, want to be the cool kid with the latest toy.

    Iranian politicians, if not actual naval experts, may well believe that this IS the cool new thing that will take over the world.

    Maybe their naval experts do too. I mean they don't exactly have a lot of open water naval experience, and it's not as though other, more experienced, navies (coughrussia) aren't devoting huge resources to aircraft carriers that don't seem to have a point.

    Even if the Iranian navy and Iranian government see it's a bit naff, maybe other governments in the region will believe it's a major game changer? Weapons don't need to work if everyone thinks they will work.

    And yeah... maybe it'll turn out to be more useful that we suspect? We're right in the process of seeing drone applications that we didn't know about 1 year ago. (Where "we" means someone like me, regardless of if military drone experts had all this written up in 2019.)

  14. January 05, 2023Lambert said...

    How much does one of those drone carriers cost them? (or, more precisely, what else could they have done with the resources they used?) Apparently it's a conversion of a container ship that would have been sitting idle anyay due to sanctions.

    And bear in mind that Iran has two parallel armed forces, the pre-revolutionary Artesh and the revolutionary IRGC, each with its own ground, navy and air force. So there's another layer of inter-service rivalries to deal with. This ship in particular seems to belong to the more hit-and-run focused IRGC Navy.

  15. January 05, 2023John Schilling said...

    The important question is, how many years and gigabucks will the United States Navy spend on a Drone Combat Ship that is narrowly optimized for fighting off drone swarms and useless against any other threat?

  16. January 05, 2023bean said...


    The obvious target is Yemen, where Iran keeps backing the rebels. But they occasionally pretend to have global ambitions.


    Good point about the IRGC. They are far from the most stable/sensible military around.


    Thanks for that rather depressing thought.

  17. January 06, 2023Anonymous said...


    The obvious target is Yemen, where Iran keeps backing the rebels. But they occasionally pretend to have global ambitions.

    Looking at a map, I can see that they'd either overfly Saudi Arabia or have to take the long way over the Indian ocean so a small drone carrier might be useful.

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