Convoys..

Flight

LE
Book Reviewer
Intesting, thank you for your thoughts..

I'll caveat this with that I am an engineer, not a Warfare officer, and I may have some of the details wrong. With that in mind:

1. Much depends on the threat. Top-of-the-line SSNs probably have rather better things to kill than merchantmen, especially given that a boat moving fast is detectable over much longer ranges than they used to be, so the time taken to return and resupply is much longer.

2. For low-level shore missiles and fast boats, "Anything with a Phalanx" will probably do you. You could augment this with more Phalanx and soft kill (decoy IR, chaff, etc) if you're not expecting really good Anti-Ship Missiles.

3. Anti-air missiles obviously allow you to defend at range but this should be measured against cost and resupply: a convoy ship with the capabilities of an Air Warfare Destroyer costs very nearly as much as an Air Warfare Destroyer! It also means you need the generation capability and auxiliary systems for high-end radar, which are large and complex.

4. Passive sonar isn't a realistic option given how fast and loud modern merchantmen are. If your enemy has submarines that can be easily placed on your routes (which pretty much guarantees you're going for choke point transits), you would need to speed along on active sonar. However, this is invalidated by:

5. Mines, the single and best means of closing any chokepoint at minimal cost and requiring minimal capability. This requires dedicated minehunting capability, manned or unmanned.

I've revised this a few times in writing it and can't really see a scenario where a near-peer or peer enemy decides the best course of action is attacking merchantmen first. Highly capable assets (air-launched or ground-launched anti-ship missiles, quality SSNs or SSKs) make more sense as weapons to use against our actual fleet. For choke points, the weapon of choice will remain mines until we develop a fast and effective means of removing them en masse, while in the open ocean the sheer increase in speed of modern merchantmen makes intercepting them significantly harder. The easier areas to attack - near ports - are also significantly easier to defend using existing ships.
1. If we were talking about Russia then compared to our forces they would likely have plenty to spare! 40 odd SSN SSK.. If their preferred targets were our rather pitiful fleet then, assuming theiy combined their various fleets, they'd have a considerable numerical advantage.

Whilst designed for many tasks I assumed that the true power of an SSN was it's threat to merchant shipping. Previous strategies adopted by submarine forces saw unrestricted submarine warfare being the successful one. The Japanese tried saving their torps, especially their Long Lances, for warships and were starved into submission. Sinking merchantmen almost did the same to ourselves.

The quantity of supplies imported and exported seems to have increased about 20 fold since WW2, which to me makes the merchantmen juicier targets.

2. Whether talking Russia or elsewhere the vulnerability to FAC and the like of vessels over 80,000 tonnes - I did see a study somewhere - is rather minimal. Bloody inconvenient having holes poked into a large vessel but they carry little crew and can soak up a lot of such damage without much apparent adverse effects.

3. Oddly enough bombs are relatively similar to point 3, unless they cause fires amongst the cargo. Useful having fly swatters but their effects upon the escorts, and efficiency of, are probably the more dramatic. Plenty of 5-6000 tonne merchantmen ate bombs in WW2 though any form of air cover ( catapult lauched fighters and strangely effectively floatplane fighters too) negated the threat. In short I can't see T45s being tasked given their numbers.

4. I thought the tactic for a convoy escort would be sprint and drift ahead of and to the flanks of the convoy itself. Sea state affects the efficiency of an escort greatly, thus assumed this must refer to passive or towed.

5. Quite. The Koreans delayed Inchon by a couple of weeks with a few fishing vessels and some makeshift mines. The gumps had to have the merchantmen they were supposedly escorting line astern them due to the mine threat in the Gulf and seem to recall that the Manxman sank an armoured divisions worth of tanks on a few ships in the Agean. Suspect choke poits would be avaoided at all costs in many scenarios...

Was surprised to see that the speed of merchantmen hasn't necessarily changed much. Whilst the large container ships do speed along quite merrily (24 knots) this was also true of the liners used to ferry gumps across the Atlantic unescorted in most cases. They also don't carry that much, even the 2000+ ISO ships are only trucking a maximum of 50k tonnes. Tankers, bulk ore carriers and the like don't appear to be all that much faster than their WW2 brethren. One would posit that a single torpedo would merely sink hundreds of thousands of tonnes of oil rather than 6000 in WW2... Whereas the speed and endurance of the subs, particularly the SSNs, bears no comparison.

Now I would say a lot of the above is mere speculation, though if the gumps haven't practised convoy escort in 30 years then how long ago since we did? Other than maybe a weak compellance argument, as in stop being mean to our merchant shipping or we'll nuke you, I can't see any evidence for this being a factor in force levels or kit since the end of the Cold War. Maybe the T31...

Which is remarkably odd. Given that the only threat that has come close to forcing strategic defeat on us in almost 200 years is the submarine attacking our shipping... Twice. And with plenty of evidence for Japan, another Island nation, being ruined by such in the Pacific.
 

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