Category Archives: littoral

Warship Wednesday, May 5, 2021: De Gaulle’s Pearl

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 5, 2021: De Gaulle’s Pearl

BuShips photo 19-LCM-67592 via the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.

Here we see a great surface view of the Free French Saphir-class minelaying submarine (sous-marin mouilleur de mines) Perle (Q-184) while off the Philadelphia Navy Yard, 5 June 1944– the day before the Normandy invasion to begin the liberation of her homeland. Perle, in the above photo, was preparing to sortie from PNSY to continue her already active war, having just completed an overhaul. Sadly, she would never see France again.

The six minelaying boats of the Project “Q6” Saphir-class were ordered across a series of naval programs in the late 1920s. With a double-hull construction, the 216-foot subs were small enough for work in the confined waters of the Mediterranean, displacing less than 1,000 tons when fully loaded and submerged. Using a pair of Normand-Vickers diesels and a matching set of electric motors they were not built for speed, capable of just 12 knots on the surface and less than that while under the waves. However, they could remain at sea for a lengthy 30-day patrol, able to cover 7,000nm without refueling.

Saphir

Besides the capability to carry and efficiently deploy 32 Sautter-Harlé HS 4 2,500-pound contact mines double-loaded vertically into a series of 16 Normand-Fenaux chutes built into the hull on either side of the sail, the class had three 550mm torpedo tubes and two smaller 400mm tubes (but only stowage for six spare torpedos) as well as some modest deck guns.

Drawing of a Saphir-class submarine. The black circles are the vertical mine launchers, which worked on compressed air to eject their mines. You can also note her 75mm deck gun forward and twin 13.2mm MG mount, aft. She also carried a pair of 8mm Hotchkiss MGs that could be mounted on her tower. Via К.Е.Сергеев/Wikimedia

Our Perle was something like the 18th warship used by the French to carry the name of the jewel of the ocean-going back to a circa 1663 34-gun ship of the line. Of note, the 17th Perle was also a submarine, a tiny (70-ton/77-foot) Naïade-class boat of the Great War era, complete with Russian-style Drzewiecki drop collar torpedoes.

Laid down in 1931 at the Arsenal de Toulon as the final member of her class, our Perle was commissioned 1 March 1937 and was assigned to the 21ème Division des Sous-Marins (DSM) at Toulon.

The Phony War

When the war kicked off against Germany in 1939, the French Mediterranean fleet was left where-is/how-is just in case the Italians decided to enter the game. When Mussolini obliged on 10 June 1940, Perle was dispatched to sow a defensive minefield off the Corsican port of Bastìa and patrol alongside sistership Diamant.

Vichy Boat

The general French ceasefire on the 22nd ended Perle’s initial involvement in the war. However, after the British plastered the Vichy battleline at Oran two weeks later, she and three other submarines were ordered to head to Gibraltar for a bit of revenge that was called off at the last minute.

Then came deployment to the strategic West African port of Dakar, which was under pressure from the British and De Gaulle’s nascent Free French movement. There, Perle joined the 16ème DSM, which consisted of several smaller submarines, to prepare for a second Allied assault on Senegal that never came. Instead, once the Torch Landings in North Africa triggered the German dismantling of the Vichy French republic and the order to scuttle those ships still in European French waters, Dakar came over to De Gaulle and Perle switched sides by default.

Working for the Liberation

By early 1943, Perle had been integrated into Allied efforts in the Med and was in Oran and was soon running patrols off Cannes and Marseille in between landing operatives and agents where needed, helping no doubt to spread the deception at play across the region as to where the Allies would strike next.

From December 1942 (Operation Pearl Harbour) through November 1943, the “Algerian Group” Free French submarines to include Perle, Casabianca, Marsouin, and Arethusa were heavily involved in running “Le Tube” along the Riveria. Run by intelligence officer Colonel Paul Paillole, the subs made regular runs to Southern France and Corsica, dropping off OSS, SIS, and French resistance agents and supplies ranging from STEN guns to suitcase transmitters.

On one of these missions, in October 1943, Perle landed Guy Jousselin Chagrain de Saint-Hilaire, who used the nomme de gurree “Marco” in the hills outside of Cavalaire sur Mer in Southern France. He would set up the Marco Polo network which played a key role in the liberation in 1944.

Those landed ran the gamut from single operatives, such as Marco, to teams of exiled field-grade French Army officers complete with regimental banners that had been spirited out of France in 1940, eager to reform units to spring into action for the liberation. The trips, coordinated with local Resistance cells, would also pick up Allied agents and downed pilots looking to exfiltrate from Nazi-occupied France and carry back important dispatches, reports, objects of intelligence, and film.

In short order, Perle, along with the other Algerian Group subs, conveyed shadowy individuals to Barcelona (where she planted Deuxième Bureau Capt. D’Hoffelize on the beach), Cap Camarat in Corsica, and elsewhere.

Speaking of Corsica, Perle was used to deliver 30 operators of the Bataillon de Choc near Ajaccio in early September to help pave the way for the Firebrand landings. The larger Casabianca would land 109 commandos of the same unit.

Free French soldiers from the Bataillon de Choc, a commando unit created in Algeria in early 1943. The Bataillon was decisive in the liberation of Corsica and Elba. This picture, with a recently repurposed camouflaged German 7.5cm Pak 40, was taken after they landed in Provence during Operation Dragoon, during the fight to free Toulon, August 1944. Note the mix of gear including British watch caps, American M1903 rifles, boots, uniforms, and gaiters; and Italian Beretta MAB 38sub guns. Also, note the open 75mm shell crate with two rounds ready, no doubt fixing to get back into service against its former owners.

The French commandos, meeting no opposition, soon linked up with Corsican partisans, some 20,000-strong, who had been in open revolt against the German occupation force. The campaign evolved rapidly and De Gaulle, on his arrival in Ajaccio on the 8 October 1943, declared Corsica to be the first part of Metropolitan France to be liberated – eight months before Overlord.

The final “Tube” mission was one of Perle’s. On 29 November, she appeared at the designated point and time off the French coast only to find their comrades ashore had been recently scooped up by a German patrol, resulting in two French prisoners and one killed on both sides.

The results of the covert efforts in Southern France were evident in the Dragoon landings the next year, where it seemed that well-organized FFI units were everywhere. 

Free French Resistance meeting Allied troops on the beach at Saint Tropez, Aug.1944 During Dragoon (Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-212383 via NARA)

Refit

At this point, Perle was in dire need of an overhaul and made for Philadelphia, one of numerous Free French vessels to do so at the time. There, arriving just before Christmas 1943 by way of Bermuda, she would land her 13.2mm machine guns for a set of American-made 20mm Oerlikons, as well as undergo general modification for continued work with the Allied fleets.

A great series of photos exist of her from this time in the states. 

Cleared to return to the war, she sailed in late June 1944 for Holy Loch via Newfoundland in the company of the destroyer escort USS Cockrill (DE-398). Leaving St. Johns with the Flower-class corvette HMCS Chicoutimi (K156) on 3 July.

Five days later, while some 1,000 miles out into the Atlantic, Perle came close to the outbound 94-ship convoy ONM243, sailing from Halifax to Clyde, while it was roughly between Greenland and Iceland. The convoy was protected by a pair of merchant aircraft carrier (MAC) ships, MV Empire MacColl and MV Empire MacCallum who, tragically, were not notified of the possible presence of the Free French submarine until it was too late.

In the early afternoon of 8 July, a Fairey Swordfish Mark II torpedo bomber flown from Empire MacCallum by a Free Dutch Navy pilot of 836 Squadron FAA, was flying ahead of the convoy performing routine a sweep and spotted the mysterious submarine, and subsequently executed a textbook attack that proved successful.

From an article by Dr. Alec Douglas, a former Canadian Forces Director General of History, in the Autumn 2001 Canadian Military Journal:

The pilot, Lieutenant Francoix Otterveanger of the Royal Netherlands Navy, assumed that the submarine, surfaced and on a northeasterly course, was a U-boat, as did the senior officer of the Canadian Escort Group C5 in HMCS Dunver [a River-class frigate]. That officer, Acting Commander George Stephen, the colorful and widely respected Senior Officer Escorts (SOE), is reputed to have exclaimed “Sink the bastard!”, as he ordered the two MAC ships in company to get all available aircraft up.

The ‘string bag’, a slow old biplane, had to give a wide berth to U-boat flak. Lieutenant Otterveanger put his Swordfish into a position upwind between the sun and the target. He waited for the other aircraft from Empire MacCallum and Empire MacColl to join him, and then held off for another ten minutes or so while the six Swordfish (four from Empire MacCallum and two from Empire MacColl) formed up, flying clockwise around the submarine, to carry out a series of attacking runs.

It was just about then, at 1358Z, an hour and five minutes after receiving the sighting report at 1253Z, that Commander Stephen suddenly passed a voice message to the MAC ships: “Have aircraft been informed that submarine ‘La Perle’ might be in our vicinity?”

The bewildered air staff officer in Empire MacCallum knew nothing about La Perle, nor exactly what to do about the message, but tried to alert the aircraft with a belated warning: “Look out for recognition signals in case the sub is friendly. If not, attack.” Only one aircraft heard him over the RT (radiotelephone) traffic that filled the air, and asked in vain for a repetition, just as Lieutenant Otterveanger was beginning his attacking run between 1404 and 1408Z, about an hour and fifteen minutes after the first sighting.

When Otterveanger saw a series of “L’s”, the correct identification for the day, flashing from the conning tower of La Perle, and not having heard the last-minute caution, he concluded it was simply a ruse de guerre and fired four pairs of rockets at the target. All the other aircraft followed up with rocket attacks and (now running into light machine gun fire from the submarine), in the last instance, with two depth charges on the order of Lieutenant Otterveanger, “who had conducted operations in a most proper manner from the start”.

So effective was the operation that the air staff officer in Empire MacCallum was moved to comment, in a more triumphal tone than probably was intended: “The attack was extremely well coordinated and was over in the space of a minute. At least eight hits were scored on the submarine which sank within four minutes of the attack.”

By the time escorts from Convoy ONM-243 reached the scene, only one man out of a crew of sixty men, a Chief Petty Officer machinist [Émile Cloarec, rescued by HMCS Hesperler], was still alive.

A board of inquiry into the loss pointed a lot of fingers, largely at Acting CDR Stephen, and exonerated Ottervaenger.

She was not the only Free French submarine to be lost during the war. The mighty cruiser submarine Surcouf would vanish on her way to Panama in 1942, taking 130 men down with her.

Epilogue

Documents on “the French submarine Le Perle” including her PSNY repair log and the report of her sinking by a Swordfish aircraft are on file in the U.S. National Archives.

Of her five sisters, Nautilus, Saphir, and Turquoise were captured by the Axis in North Africa in 1942 who tried to put them to use but instead scuttled them. Diamant was likewise sunk at Toulon by her own countrymen.

Rubis, like Perle, would join the Allied effort, escaping the Fall of France in 1940 by nature of already working out of Scotland with the Royal Navy at the time. She would carry out an impressive 28 war patrols including almost two dozen mining operations off Norway, sowing deadly seeds that could claim at least 15 Axis vessels.

French submarine Rubis as seen from the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Curacoa in the North Atlantic. Photo via the Dundee Submarine Memorial

Rubis would have a stacked Jolly Roger by the end of 1944.

What is left of the 6-submarine Saphir class in the 1946 edition of Jane’s.

One of a handful of submarines in the immediate post-war French Navy, Rubis would retire in 1949. She was scuttled as a sonar target in 1958 off Cape Camarat. Her wreck is in 135 feet of water between Cavalaire and Saint-Tropez and is a popular dive spot.

The French Navy has carried on the legacy of both of the hardworking WWII Saphirs with the Rubis-class attack boat SNA Pearl (S606) commissioned in 1993. She is currently under extensive repair and refurbishment at Cherbourg-en-Cotentin following a fire last summer.

Rubis-class SSN Perle (S606) surfacing. Just as the previous Perle was the sixth and final boat of the Saphir-class in the 1930s, the current boat is the sixth and last of the Rubis series.

Specs:

A scale model of the Saphir class with a net cutter forward and no 13.2 twin mount. If you look close, you can see the doors to the mine chutes. Via Wikimedia Commons

Displacement: 761 tonnes (surfaced), 925 tonnes (submerged)
Length: 216.5 ft.
Beam: 23.3 ft.
Draft: 14 ft.
Machinery: 2 Normand Vickers diesels of 650 hp ea., 2 Schneider electric motors of 410 kW ea., 144 batteries
Speed: 12 knots (surface), 9 knots (submerged)
Range: On 75 tons diesel oil- 4000nm @12 knots, 7000nm @7.5 knots surfaced; 80nm @4 knots submerged. 30 days endurance
Hull: 13mm shell, 80-meter operating depth
Crew: 3 officers, 10 petty officers, 30 enlisted
Armament:
2 550mm bow tubes with four torpedoes.
1 trainable 550mm tube
2 400mm tubes with four torpedoes
1 x 75mm/35cal M1928
1 x Twin 13.2mm Hotchkiss M1929 machine gun mount
2 x 8mm Hotchkiss M1914 machine guns
32 Sauter-Harlé HS4 mines (2,400lbs each with 704 pounds of explosives)

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Queen City Slammer

Here we see, 70 years ago today, the Cleveland-class light cruiser USS Manchester (CL-83) alongside the ammunition ship USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) at Wonsan Harbor, Korea, on 3 May 1951. To save time the re-arming took place within sight of enemy-held Wonsan. Rows of propellent canisters can be seen on the deck of Mount Katmai, projectiles, and canisters on the deck of Manchester.

NARA 80-G-428168.

USS Manchester (CL-83) replenishing ammunition while alongside USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) in Wonsan harbor, North Korea, within sight of enemy gun batteries, circa early 1951. Note projectiles on deck on both ships, powder tanks stacked on Mount Katmai, and wooden planks laid on Mount Katmai’s decks. It appears that projectiles are being brought on board Manchester, while empty powder tanks are being carried off of her. Projectiles are being hoisted into Manchester’s turret number two (in the lower left). NH 97184

Completed too late for use in WWII, Manchester was commissioned on 29 October 1946. All of her 26 sisters were decommissioned before the Korean War with Manchester being the only active Cleveland during the conflict.

And she was very active.

Operating with TF 77, she provided support for the Inchon landings in September 1950, go on to bombard North Korean troop concentrations on Tungsan Got, supported the invasion at Wonsan, stood by for the evac of Hungnam then switched back to the Wonson area to lend her guns to the blockade there.

In her second tour in Korea, the cruiser covered the grounded Thai corvette Prasae where she prevented the vessel from being swarmed by Norks. In addition, “Manchester patrolled along the Korean peninsula shelling military targets in areas such as Chinampo, Chongjin, Tong-Cho‑Ri as well as regularly returning to Hungnam, Songjin, and Wonsan to add to the destruction of those tightly held enemy positions,” notes DANFS.

Although completed with catapults for seaplanes, they had been removed by Korea and replaced with a wooden deck for a whirlybird.

Sikorsky HO3S helicopter, of squadron HU-1, lands on the cruiser’s after deck after a gunfire spotting mission off the Korean coast, March 1953. Note Manchester’s wooden decking with aircraft tie-down strips and hangar cover tracks; 6/47 triple gun turrets; 5/38 and 3/50 twin mounts in place of WWII-era 40mm Bofors– the only such Cleveland to receive this conversion. NH 92578

Speaking of which, one of Manchester’s choppers, an H03S1, flown by enlisted pilot Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic ADC(AP) Duane “Wilbur” Thorin of HU-1, became a lifesaver of international renown. Besides earning a DFC in saving 126 Thai sailors from Prasae over the course of 40 sorties, the NHHC elaborates that he:

[M]ade over 130 rescues in hostile territory before his helicopter crashed under fire during an attempted rescue in February 1952 and he was captured. He escaped from a POW camp in July 1952 but was recaptured. He was awarded a Silver Star and two more DFCs for his rescues. With his trademark green scarf, he was the inspiration for the fictitious Chief Petty Officer (NAP) Mike Forney in James Michener’s book, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, played by Mickey Rooney in the movie adaptation. Thorin was commissioned after the war and served as an analyst at the National Security Agency.

On Manchester’s third Korean war tour, she was again a regular sight on the gunline, often dueling with enemy shore batteries.

USS Manchester (CL-83) returns enemy counter-battery fire with her forward turret’s 6/47 guns, while operating off the North Korean east coast, March 1953. Note life rafts and floater nets stowed atop turret two. NH 97186

USS Manchester (CL-83) fires the left 6/47 gun of turret three at enemy shore batteries while operating off Wonsan, North Korea. NH 97185

USS Manchester (CL-83) engaging shore batteries off Wonsan, North Korea. Note splash from an enemy shell that has hit over. The small island on right is Hwangto-Do. 80-G-483203

She wrapped up her last tour just a week before the truce at Panmunjom.

A lone sailor observes the enemy coastline as the cruiser USS Manchester (CL-83), her shore bombardment completed, steams away from Wonsan Harbor. Photo and caption released by Commander Naval Forces Far East, under date of 7 July 1953. NH 97187

In all, she earned nine battlestars for the conflict and suffered no major battle damage. It would be her only war, being decommissioned 27 June 1956 after just 10 years of service and was scrapped four years later.

Of the rest of the Clevelands, most never left 1940s mothballs and were sent to the razor blade factory by 1960. Five were given a new lease on life and modified post-Korea as Galveston- and Providence-class guided missile cruisers, going on to see duty in the Vietnam era– with some receiving shells from USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) ironically. Just one of the class, the converted USS Little Rock (CL-92/CLG-4/CG-4), is preserved, serving since 1977 as a museum ship at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.

Referred to as the “Queen City” reportedly due to being the most populous city in northern New England, Manchester, New Hampshire’s name is currently carried by an Independence-class littoral combat ship, LCS-14, commissioned in 2018.

Royal Navy Reboots Dazzle

Through the magic of 50 gallons of paint in “four shades of grey, plus black,” workers at the A&P yard in Falmouth gave the River-class Batch 2 OPV HMS Tamar (P233) what I think is a great upgrade to her scheme during a recent maintenance period. Headed to the Asia-Pacific region for an extended deployment, she is the first Royal Navy warship to receive a “dazzle” style camo since the Battle of the North Atlantic concluded in 1945.

“We’re really proud of our new paint scheme and the historical significance that it comes with,” said LCDR Michael Hutchinson, Tamar’s skipper. “Different styles of dazzle were used by the Royal Navy on ships in various stations throughout the world and were are pleased to have been given an iconic new look before we deploy in the summer.”

The Rivers are the equivalent of 19th Century station ships, based for years at a time in far-flung parts of the empire and Commonwealth such as the Caribbean, Falklands, and West Africa.

The 296-foot/2,000-ton OPVs only mount a 30mm gun and some small arms manned by their 40-person crew, which is fine as they are intended for low-risk constabulary-at-sea duties (anti-piracy, counter-smuggling/drug-trafficking, counter-terrorism, et. al). Capable of operating small UAVs alongside a Merlin-sized helicopter and hosting up to a platoon of Royal Marine Commandos, they are much like an LCS or a blue-water coast guard cutter in concept, only much more affordable and realistic.

Tamar has even been experimenting with using jet suits for boardings, which just looks like the coolest thing ever, although sets up a very real game of shooting skeet in the event of a contested boarding. 

The Admiralty says all five of the Rivers of the Overseas Patrol Squadron will receive similar dazzle patterns.

Notably, two vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy– HMCS Moncton (MM708) and HMCS Regina (FFH 334)– are sporting WWII-style North Atlantic patterns in an ode to that campaign. Perhaps they started a trend…

Photo by CPL Naples, Canadian Forces

Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Moncton (MM708)

First pic of the Marines’ new Ship Killing Trucks

Raytheon just released a Navy-credited image of the Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System, or NMESIS, at work at Point Magu Mugu. The vehicle, which looks to be Oshkosh’s unmanned variant of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) known as “ROGUE Fires,” is loaded with a containerized module that includes a Norwegian Kongsberg-developed Naval Strike Missile, which is dramatically taking flight.

U.S. Navy photo via Raytheon

The planned successor to the 1970s-developed Harpoon as the Navy’s dedicated OTH anti-ship weapon, NSM has a greater range as well as a laundry list of attack profile updates. JLTV, meanwhile, is amphibious, helicopter, and fixed-wing transportable.

With the assumption that at least two, if not four, of the 900-pound NSMs could be carried on each of the ROGUE Fires trucks, a battery of six vehicles could carry up to 24 missiles linked to a central CCV truck with a platoon-sized crew (or smaller). That’s a small footprint for two dozen AShMs. Like atoll-sized or even oil platform-sized small.

Worst case scenario on a “shoot and scoot” after the missiles are expended from such pieces of tiny real estate: blow the vehicles with WP grenades and evac the battery crew by fastest means possible, e.g. MV-22, or provide them with rubber raiders to fall back just offshore for a submarine recovery– something the Marines have been revisiting lately. 

Of course, the scale is the key to something like this. If you only have a couple of these batteries the whole concept is academic. However, if you could sow, say, 50 batteries around a battlespace on every strip of sandy beach, hidden in every mangrove thicket, and hiding under netting on every coral reef, that is a serious distruptor. Like a “don’t bother going to battle” type of disruptor, which is the point of peace through superior firepower, right?

The current buy is set to field 14 new Marine expeditionary precision strike units with 252 launchers.

However, these units could also be of use afloat. 

The Marines are already theorizing using their NMESIS batteries while underway on amphibious support ships if needed. The same concept could quickly arm ships taken from trade, such as old RO/ROs and tankers, giving the 1990’s Arsenal Ship theory an ersatz rebirth, at least for anti-ship purposes.

From USNI News:

“Going back to uncoiling the lethality of the MAGTF, I see containerized weapon systems that the Marine Corps is using: when we jump onboard a ship, that becomes available to the ship’s captain. So maybe we don’t need to install launchers and NSM; maybe the Marine Corps [expeditionary advance base operations] forces serve as the main battery when we’re moving out,” Maj. Gen. Tracy King, who until recently served as the expeditionary warfare director on the chief of naval operations’ staff (OPNAV N95), said.

“To me, that just makes sense. We give the latitude and the flexibility to that ship’s captain to use those assets when he needs to. There’s been some naysayers to that, mostly in my tribe, because if you use all my missile before I get there, I don’t have my missiles. But I’m a little bit dismissive of that complaint because the ship’s got to get there first. So I think you’re going to see us employing containerized weapon systems that we can use wherever we want to use them.”

Hitting the Beach: 60 Years Ago Today

Porto Tramazzu, Sardinia: The first assault wave hits Blue Beach, landing the Teufelhunden of the Third Battalion, Sixth Marines (3/6) for an exercise, on April 27, 1961. The assorted LCVPs are from the Bayfield-class attack transport USS Fremont (APA-44) and the Andromeda-class attack cargo ship USS Muliphen (AKA-61/LKA-61).

The 3rd Battalion had just three years prior taken part in the landings in Lebanon and, four years after this image, would go on to take part in the wildly confusing intervention in the Dominican Republic. (National Archives KN-2431 via NHHC)

The scene looks much like the landings during WWII. Heck both Fremont and Muliphen were built during the war as were likely the landing craft, whose hull numbers look right out of D-Day.

Besides the easy propaganda purpose that such shots sent to Moscow during the Cold War, ops like this were also good fodder for camera crews to shoot high-quality B-roll for Hollywood movies on the war, which always helped as recruiting tools. Sure, the Devils are wearing ODs instead of HBTs or frogskins, but Tinsel Town wouldn’t care.

While the concept of such “wet” landings fell rapidly out of popularity with the USMC in favor of vertical envelopment via helicopter during the 1960s and the following on air-cushioned landings by LCAC, the use of landing craft never fully went away and, in the near future, Marines could once again be getting their feet wet more often.

The 2nd Squadron of Evolution

The “White Squadron” or “Squadron of Evolution” underway off the U.S. East Coast, circa 1891. Ships are, (I-R): YORKTOWN (PG-1), BOSTON (1887) CONCORD (PG-3), ATLANTA (1887), NEWARK (C-1) CHICAGO (1889) NH 47026

In 1883, after years of neglect and the “Great Repairs” scheme of creating new ships by recycling old equipment from derelict Civil War-era vessels into new hulls with the same name old name, Congress authorized the construction of the country’s first modern steel warships: the protected cruisers Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and the gunboat Dolphin.

Known as the “ABCD Ships,” these four warships were soon augmented by others, the gunboats Bennington and Concord, bridging the gap between the old wood-and-sail navy (augmented by iron) and one of steam and steel (which still had some auxiliary sail rigs), to form the Squadron of Evolution between 1889 and 1891 to figure out how to work together.

It was the mark of technological advancement that left the ships familiar to centuries of sailors and mariners in the past and moved into what we know today. Just eight years later, the all-steel Navy proved itself handily in the Spanish American War.

Speaking of which, if you aren’t paying attention to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem 21 (UxS IBP 21), you are missing today’s Squadron of Evolution, whose motto is:

“Haze gray and unmanned.”

As noted by Third Fleet, “UxS IBP 21 integrates manned and unmanned capabilities into the operational scenarios to generate warfighting advantages.”

“The integration between unmanned and manned capabilities shown today provides an operations approach to strengthening our manned-unmanned teaming,” said Rear Adm. James A. Aiken, UxS IBP 21 tactical commander. “Putting our newest technology into our Sailors’ hands directly enhances our fleet.”

210421-N-FC670-1009 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 21, 2021) Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) leads a formation including the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS Spruance (DDG 111), USS Pinckney (91), and USS Kidd (DDG 100), and the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21, April 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe)

You are seeing the Sea Hawk and Sea Hunter medium displacement unmanned surface vessels (USVs), equipped with what seems like VDS, working in tandem. It is not hard to imagine squadrons of these cleared to conduct autonomous ASW inside “kill boxes” where no Allied subs are hiding, with man-in-the-loop authorization before weapons release of course.

210421-N-FC670-1034 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 21, 2021) A Sea Hawk medium displacement unmanned surface vessel sails by Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21, April 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe)

 

210421-N-PH222-2863 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 21, 2021) Sea Hunter, an unmanned ocean-going vessel, participates in an Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem training exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Breeden)

Speaking of which, the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) seems to be interacting with Sea Hawk/Hunter, as witnessed by a large SATCOM array on her stern.

For protection, long-range unmanned surface vessels (LRUSV) have been seen operating alongside surface assets as stand-off watchdogs for the fleet, ironically a task that destroyers were originally created for: to “destroy” torpedo boat swarms before they could reach the precious battleships.

210424-N-NO824-1007 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 24, 2021) A long-range unmanned surface vessel (LRUSV) operates alongside the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) in the Pacific Ocean during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21, April 24. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Benjamin Forman)

Speaking of which, how about the MANTAS T38 Devil Ray unmanned surface vehicle?

210421-N-GP724-1001 SAN DIEGO (April 21, 2021) System technicians perform a safety test on a MANTAS T38 Devil Ray unmanned surface vehicle (USV) in San Diego Bay for an operational test run during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21, April 21.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex Perlman)

Then there is the super low-profile SeaLandAire ADARO X-class unmanned surface vehicle, a sort of pocket USV that can be deployed in 5-minutes and incorporates a modular payload bay for snooping around coastlines in a recon role or augmenting ship protection in a counter frogman/sapper capacity. Alternatively, they could be filled with enough of an EW beacon to be used as a seductive decoy countermeasure, adding to the layered defense to counter anti-ship missiles.

Acting as a mothership for dozens of such craft could be the silver lining for the LCS program. 

210422-N-GP724-1364 SAN DIEGO (April 22, 2021) An ADARO unmanned system interacts with the Navy’s newest Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Oakland (LCS 24) during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex Perlman)

210422-N-GP724-1202 SAN DIEGO (April 22, 2021) An ADARO unmanned system operates during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex Perlman)

210422-N-NO824-1003 SAN DIEGO (April 22, 2021) An ADARO unmanned system participates in U.S. Pacific Fleet’s UxS IBP 21, April 22. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Nicholas Ransom)

To the air

Navalised Predator UAVs, MQ-9 SeaGuardians, keeping watch in the air, equipped for surface search and surveillance but with pylons available for ordnance if needed. It can also drop sonobuoys. 

210421-N-FC670-2103 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 21, 2021) An MQ-9 SeaGuardian unmanned maritime surveillance aircraft system flies over Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21, April 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe)

You want a squadron of persistent fixed-winged ASW/ASuW aircraft to fill the void left with the P-8 Poseidon replacing the P-3 Orion at a 1:3 ratio and the dry socket leftover from when the S-3 Viking left the fleet? Add a squadron of these to a secondhand container ship or tanker converted to a UAV flattop and hit the repeat button as many times as you need to if the experiment works. Bring back retired naval aviators to fly them via secure datalink and call the ball. 

Add to this other UAVs with a smaller footprint. One small enough to be used from far-flung island outposts akin to how the U.S. and Japanese sprinkled seaplane bases around the Western Pacific in WWII, only much easier and with far less infrastructure. 

210422-N-UN492-1058 POINT MUGU, Calif. (April 22, 2021) A Vanilla ultra-endurance land-launched unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) undergoes operational pre-flight checks during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21 at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu. (U.S. Navy photo by Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Michael Schutt)

Talk about a glimpse into the future. 

Happy National Book Day

Official caption:

With a loaded M2 .50-caliber machine gun close at hand, one crewman reads a book while another keeps watch off the stern as their PB Mark III patrol boat cuts through the water of the gulf. This patrol boat is among the Navy assets operating in support of efforts to provide security for US-flagged shipping in the Persian Gulf.

U.S. Navy Photo 330-CFD-DN-ST-89-08778 by PH1 Smith, labeled 1/1/1989

U.S. Navy Photo 330-CFD-DN-ST-89-08778 by PH1 Smith, labeled 1/1/1989

Now go grab a book, you heathen.

Parabéns Fuzileiros!

One of the oldest marine corps in the world, the Corpo de Fuzileiros of the Marinha Portuguesa, are celebrating 400 years of service this month.

The Fuzileiros date back to 1621, with some arguing they go back even further into the 16th Century.

Formed originally as the Terço da Armada da Coroa de Portugal, today they form two light battalions geared towards force protection and a special forces unit focused on maritime raids.

And are still users of the HK G3 battle rifle! (Marinha Portuguesa)

They have a rich history including centuries of colonial warfare, the Napoleanic wars, WWI, the Cold War– some 14,000 Fuzileiros fought in Portuguese Guinea, Angola, and Mozambique against Soviet-backed insurgents in the 1960s and 70s– and in international peacekeeping. Naturally, the Brazilian Marine Corps traces its origin to the Fuzileiros as well.

Happy Tax Day: First LCS makes last deployment

210412-N-NN369-1046 SAN DIEGO (April 12, 2021) Littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) returns to Naval Base San Diego from her final deployment, April 12. Freedom returned after supporting Joint Interagency Task Force South’s counter illicit drug trafficking mission in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jessica Paulauskas)

Via 3rd Fleet:

SAN DIEGO (April 12, 2021) – The inaugural littoral combat ship returned from a U.S. Fourth Fleet deployment, April 12.

Littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) was deployed to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.

“The success of this deployment is a testament to the hard work and dedication of Freedom’s Sailors and our embarked detachments,” said Cmdr. Larry Repass, Freedom’s commanding officer. “Every Sailor and U.S. Coast Guardsman on this mission has lived up to Freedom’s motto of ‘Fast, Focused, Fearless,’ and they have made great contributions to maritime security in the region.”

During their deployment, the crew of Freedom and a detachment from Helicopter Sea Combat squadron 23 completed joint operations with a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment in support of counter-illicit trafficking, improving Navy-Coast Guard naval warfighting readiness and interoperability. Additionally, Freedom sailed with naval assets from both El Salvador and Guatemala, strengthening naval partnerships and improving regional readiness.

Written off by Big Navy as a beta test vessel for an increasingly troublesome class of under-armed warships not even worthy of being deemed a frigate and too expensive to upgrade, Freedom is set for decommissioning in September just shy of her 13th birthday.

In related news, it turns out these ships, designed to be inexpensive and, let’s face it, expendable, cost almost as much ($70 million per year per hull) as a full-sized guided-missile destroyer ($81 million) to operate. 

Turn of the Century Sub Designs

So I’ve been spending a lot of time browsing the USPTO files on early (pre-WWI) submarines from the 1900s and came across some really groovy maritime art, all worthy of gracing a pulp fiction novel of the age.

Check some of these out:

John Hays Hammond 1913 “long-range remote control torpedo” US1641165

Edward Lasius Peacock, Lake Submarine co, patent US1067371

Check out the torpedo tube arrangement on the Peacock design

Now that is a lot of torpedos

You have to admit that the Peacock design looks like a forerunner of Gene Rodenberry’s Enterprise. 

Could you imagine the Peacock boat in service?

Sloan Danenhower, torpedo pilot boat, patent, 1912 US1111139 b

The Danenhower patent in turn looks very similar to the German Molch type midget sub of WWII. 

Of course, none of them ever took to the water that I know of, but that doesn’t make them any less fantastic.

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