Monday, July 15, 2019

What Use is a Frigate?

Practical experience is a tough teacher.

For well over two decades, we have been told that escorting merchants was "old think" - that it simply is no longer needed.

We have been told that general use frigates were jack of all trades, master of none. Not a useful tool.

We have been told that the tanker wars and the confines of the Persian/Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman told us that we needed a LCS type ship. Everyone will need a LCS type ship.

Behold what reality lay-bare in the last week! Behold the experience that puts the lie to all the pet theories of the Potomac Flotilla and their cadre of rent seekers!
A Royal Navy frigate trained its guns on three Iranian boats seeking to force an oil tanker off its route through the Strait of Hormuz, it emerged today.

The military clash took place late evening, local time, yesterday when three Iranian vessels, believed to be manned by forces from Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, were spotted speeding towards the BP-operated British Heritage tanker.

They are reported to have ordered it to change course to make it stray out of international waters near the island of Abu Musa as it was heading out of The Gulf....
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz.

HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away.

“We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to deescalate the situation in the region.”
As we've discussed on Midrats, though the USN has foolishly abandoned merchant escort as a duty, it will and must be done. Not just in soft-posturing quasi-confrontations like this, but in a peer fight as well.

Though I don't want to turn this in to a LCS bash, the facts bash LCS just fine themselves, I note that LCS cannot do this mission as well as a frigate, she wasn't designed for it, and would be sub-optimal if asked. Better than nothing, but still. Ironic, being that this is the body of water that helped promote the entire LCS concept at the start, whatever frankenship it later became.

Enough of rehashing that failure of vision, but instead we should ponder which of the FFG(X) fills this requirement.

A quick note about the Type-23 frigate. It is a solid design greatly influenced by the Royal Navy's experience in the Falkland Islands War. HMS MONTROSE (F236) is the 7th of her class of 16. Though only 4,900 tons and a compliment of 185, she is not playing around.
Anti-air missiles:
- 1 × 32-cell Sea Wolf GWS.26 VLS canisters for 32: Sea Wolf (range 1–10 km) or Sea Ceptor missiles (1-25+ km)

Anti-ship missiles:
- 2 × quad Harpoon launchers

Anti-submarine torpedoes:
- 2 × twin 12.75 in (324 mm) Sting Ray torpedo tubes

- 1 × BAE 4.5 inch Mk 8 naval gun
- 2 × 30 mm DS30M Mk2 guns, or, 2 × 30 mm DS30B guns
- 2 × Miniguns
- 4 × General-purpose machine guns
Her big sister is coming over to help out - the RN is a bit thin on numbers (numbers matter) as the international community (read USA) tries to cobble together an international solution to the escort challenge.

UPDATE: Bringing up to the post a great video from the comments section.

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