The fifth U.S. Navy warship built for the first city constructed after the War of Independence was commissioned into the Fleet this weekend.
USS Cincinnati (LCS-20), an Independence-class littoral combat ship, follows on the heels of a Los Angeles-class SSN, two cruisers (more on that later) and a City-class ironclad gunboat that was sunk and raised twice during the Civil War. This, of course, all befits the mold of storied Roman statesman and military leader Quintius Cincinnatus.
I attended the ceremony– which had Adm. Jamie Foggo (COMNAVEUR-NAVAF) in attendance, who spoke eloquently about Cincinnatus and, in the end, broke his flag aboard the Navy’s LCS– met her crew and toured the vessel.
For a 420-foot/3,100-ton frigate-sized (although not frigate-armed) warship, the wardroom is small.
Her skipper and XO are both CDRs, while OPS is an LCDR. Ten O2/O3s flesh out the rest of the departments (NAV, CSO, 1stLT, EMO, Weaps, Ordnance, Chief Engr, Main Prop Aux, Aux, Electrical). There are 25 Chiefs including an HMC who serves as the ship’s independent duty corpsman. The rest of the crew is made up of just 33 ratings and strikers. This totals 71 souls, although it should be noted that some of those were from other LCS crews. Notably, Crew 214 recently commissioned a previous Independence-class LCS only months ago.
Of interest, her first watch was just four-strong (including two minemen) with just two watchstanders on the bridge.
A few other things that struck me was the size of the payload bay on the trimaran– the ship has a 104-foot beam, more than twice that of the FFG7s!– which was downright cavernous for a ship that could float in 15 feet of brownish water. This translates into a helicopter deck “roof” that is the largest of any U.S. surface warship barring the Gator Navy and, of course, carriers.
She also has a lot of speed on tap, packing 83,410 hp through a pair of (Cincinnati-made) GE LM2500 turbines and two MTU Friedrichshafen 8000 diesels pushing four Wartsila waterjets. She is rated capable of “over 40 knots” although Foggo noted with a wink she could likely best that.
Sadly, she doesn’t have a lot of firepower, limited to topside .50 cals, her Mk-110 57mm Bofors and C-RAM launcher.
She is expected to be optimized for mine countermeasures with the MH-60-based ALMDS and AMNS systems along with an Unmanned Influence Sweeping System (UISS) and AN/AQS-20A mine detection system. She has a missile deck for the new Mk87 NSM system, although the weapon itself is not currently installed.
Still, should she be headed into harm’s way, I’d prefer to see more air defense/anti-missile capabilities installed, but what do I know.
USS Cincinnati will join her nine sister ships already homeported in San Diego: USS Independence (LCS 2), USS Coronado (LCS 4), USS Jackson (LCS 6), USS Montgomery (LCS 8), USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10), USS Omaha (LCS 12), USS Manchester (LCS 14), USS Tulsa (LCS 16) and USS Charleston (LCS 18).
Built just at Austal’s Alabama shipyard, an hour away from where she was commissioned, five sisters are currently under construction in Mobile. Kansas City (LCS 22) is preparing for sea trials. Assembly is underway on Oakland (LCS 24) and Mobile (LCS 26) while modules are under production for Savannah (LCS 28) and Canberra (LCS 30), with four more under contract through to LCS 38.
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday: Oct. 2, 2019, HMs Unlucky Killer No. 13
Here we see the Royal Navy’s K-class steam-powered (not a misprint) submarine HMS K22, bottom, compared to a smaller and more typical example of HMs submarine fleet during World War I, the HMS E37. As you can tell, the two boats are very different and, by comparing specs of the 800-ton/2,000shp E27 with the 2630-ton/10,000shp K22, you can see just how different.
A brainchild that sprang from the pipe-dream by Jellicoe and Beatty of creating submarines fast enough to operate with the Grand Fleet, these massive 339-foot submarines were designed on the cusp of World War I and a full 21 were to be built. Whereas other subs around the world were gasoline-electric or diesel-electric, the K-class would be steam-electric with a pair of Yarrow oil-fired boilers (! on a submarine!) for use with turbines on the surface, giving them an impressive 24-knot speed.
When you keep in mind that the standard British battleship of the time, the brand new Queen Elizabeth-class “fast” battleships had a max speed of 24-knots, you understand the correlation.
The K-class would use their speed to their advantage and, with a heavy armament of eight torpedo tubes and three 3-4-inch deck guns, press their attacks with ease. For all this surface action, they had a proper bridge (with windows!) and even stacks for the boilers.
In short, they were really large destroyers that happened to be able to submerge. When using one boiler they could creep along at 10 knots for 12,500 nautical miles– enabling them to cross the Atlantic and back and still have oil left.
When submerged, they could poke around on electric motors. With all this in mind, what could go wrong?
Well, about that…
The K-class soon developed a bad habit of having accidents while underway. This was largely because for such gargantuan ships, they had small and ineffective surface controls, which, when coupled with a very low crush depth and buoyancy issues meant the ships would often hog and be poor to respond under control, along with having issues with dive angles like you can’t believe.
In short, they were all the bad things of a 300-foot long carnival funhouse, afloat.
Further, since the boilers had to be halted to dive (who wants burnt oil exhaust inside a sealed steel tube?) if these submersibles could dive in under five minutes it was due to a well-trained crew. Then, due to all the vents and stacks that had to seal, there were inevitable leaks and failures, which on occasion sent seawater cascading into the vessel once she slipped below the waves.
Of the 21 ordered, only 17 were eventually completed and these ships soon earned a reputation as the Kalamity-class because ships sank at their moorings, suffered uncontrolled descents to the bottom of the sea, ran aground, and disappeared without a trace. This led to improvements such as a large bulbous bow (note the difference in the bow form from early images of these subs to later), though it didn’t really help things all that much.
With all of this, we should double back around to the K22 mentioned above in the very first image. You see, she was completed as HMS K13 at Fairfield Shipbuilders, Glasgow, Scotland.
Launched 11 November 1916, K13 was sailing through Gareloch on 29 January 1917 during her sea trials when Kalimity raised its head.
On board that day were 80 souls– 53 crew, 14 employees of a Govan shipbuilder, five Admiralty officials, a pilot and the captain and engineer of sister submarine K14. While attempting to bring the decks awash, icy Scottish seawater poured into the engine room of the submarine, killing those stokers, enginemen and water tenders working the compartment. A subsequent investigation found that four ventilator tubes for the boilers had not closed properly.
Fifty men were left alive on the stricken ship, which by that time was powerless at the bottom of the loch. The two seniormost present, K13‘s skipper Lieutenant Commander Godfrey Herbert and his K14 counterpart, Commander Francis Goodhart, tasked themselves to make a suicidal break for the surface on a bubble of air released from the otherwise sealed off conning tower to get help– though only Herbert made it alive.
Once topside and picked up by another waiting submarine, Herbert helped pull off a what is noted by many as the first true Submarine Rescue which involved dropping airlines to the submarine while the 48 remaining men trapped inside endured a freezing, dark hell for 57 hours until they were able to be brought to the surface as the buoyant end of the submarine, pumped full of air pressure, broached the surface and a hole was cut to remove the survivors while the ship was held by a hawser.
The crew of E50 witnessing K13’s rapid dive closed in on the area discovering traces of oil and escaping air breaking the surface. The first rescue vessel arrived around midnight. Divers were sent down to inspect the submarine and just after daybreak on the 30th morse signals were exchanged between the divers and the trapped crew. At 1700 an airline was successfully connected, empty air bottles recharged and ballast tanks blown. With the aid of a hawser slung under her bows K13 was brought to within 8 feet of the surface. By midday of the 31st K13’s bow had been raised ten feet above the water. By 2100 the pressure hull had been breached using oxy-acetylene cutting equipment the survivors being transferred to safety
However, K13 slipped below the surface once more, taking her dead back to the bottom with her. Raised two months later, she was repaired, the bodies of 29 lost in her engine room removed as was the fallen skipper of K14 (while one body other was recovered from the loch, the remaining men were never found), and she was recommissioned as K22.
Seeing some war service with the 13th Submarine Flotilla (again with that number!) K13/22 was involved in a collision at night with sistership K14 in a chain reaction event that left two other sisters, K6 and K17, sunk. In all 105 of HMs submariners were killed in one night in 1918 aboard K-boats without a single German shot fired.
By this time, the “K” had changed from Kalamity to Killer and volunteers assigned to these boats called themselves the “Suicide Club.”
Soon after the war, the RN divested themselves of the K-class though they were still relatively new, scrapping most of them in the early 1920s.
K13/K22 survived until she was sold for scrap in December 1926 in Sunderland.
A third, erected in 1961, is in Carlingford, New South Wales, Australia, and was paid for by the widow of Charles Freestone, a leading telegraphist on K13 who survived the accident and emigrated down under.
The Submarines Association Australia (SAA) visits and pays their respect to the marker in Oz every January 29 while Sailors from HM Naval Base Clyde and the RN Veteran Submarine Association pay theirs at the markers in Scotland.
“Although technology has revolutionized submarine safety over the past century, the special bravery, ethos, and comradeship of Submariners and the Submarine Service endures,” said Command Warrant Officer of the UK Submarine Service Stefano Mannucci on the 99th Anniversary service in 2016
Last week, Veterans and serving submariners at Helensburgh unveiled a plinth to mark the sinking of the Submarine K13.
“The plinth was commissioned by the West of Scotland Branch of the Submariners Association and before it was unveiled, the Branch President, retired Commander Bob Seaward, OBE explained how the plinth represents a link connecting the town and its residents to the Naval Base and the submarines which have been sailing past the town for over 100 years,” noted the Royal Navy.
K13/22 is also remembered in maritime art.
As for her skipper on that cold January day a century ago, Capt. Godfrey Herbert, DSO with Bar, having served in the Royal Navy through both World Wars, died on dry land in Rhodesia at the ripe old age of 77.
Displacement: 1,980 tons surfaced, 2,566 tons dived
Length: 339 ft. (103 m)
Beam: 26 ft. 6 in (8.08 m)
Draught: 20 ft. 11 in (6.38 m)
Twin 10,500 shp (7,800 kW) oil-fired Yarrow boilers each powering a Brown-Curtis or Parsons geared steam turbines, Twin 3 blade 7 ft 6 in (2.29 m) screws
Four 1,440 hp (1,070 kW) electric motors.
One 800 hp (600 kW) Vickers diesel generator for charging batteries on the surface.
24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph) surfaced
8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) submerged
Surface: 800 nautical miles (1,500 km; 920 mi) at maximum speed
12,500 nmi (23,200 km; 14,400 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Submerged: 8 nmi (15 km; 9.2 mi) at 8 kn (15 km/h; 9.2 mph)
Complement: 59 (6 officers and 53 ratings)
4 × 18-inch (460 mm) torpedo tubes (beam), four 18-inch (450-mm) bow tubes, plus 8 spare torpedoes
2 × BL 4-inch (101.6 mm) Mk XI guns
1 × 3 in (76 mm) gun
Twin 18-inch deck tubes originally fitted but later removed.
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From U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs:
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) — The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) successfully demonstrated the capabilities of the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) Oct. 1 (local date) during Pacific Griffin.
Pacific Griffin is a biennial exercise conducted in the waters near Guam aimed at enhancing combined proficiency at sea while strengthening relationships between the U.S. and Republic of Singapore navies.
“Today was a terrific accomplishment for USS Gabrielle Giffords crew and the Navy’s LCS class,” said Cmdr. Matthew Lehmann, commanding officer. “I am very proud of all the teamwork that led to the successful launch of the NSM.”
The NSM is a long-range, precision strike weapon that can find and destroy enemy ships at distances up to 100 nautical miles away. The stealthy missile flies at sea-skimming altitude, has terrain-following capability and uses an advanced seeker for precise targeting in challenging conditions.
Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific, who oversees security cooperation for the U.S. Navy in Southeast Asia, said Gabrielle Giffords’ deployment sent a crystal clear message of continued U.S. commitment to maritime security in the region.
“LCS packs a punch and gives potential adversaries another reason to stay awake at night,” Tynch said. “We are stronger when we sail together with our friends and partners, and LCS is an important addition to the lineup.”
The NSM aboard Gabrielle Giffords is fully operational and remains lethal. The weapon was first demonstrated on littoral combat ship USS Coronado in 2014. It meets and exceeds the U.S. Navy’s over-the-horizon requirements for survivability against high-end threats, demonstrated lethality, easy upgrades, and long-range strike capability.
Gabrielle Giffords’ deployment represents a milestone for the U.S. Navy and LCS lethality and marks the first time that an NSM has sailed into the Indo-Pacific region. The successful missile shoot demonstrates value for long-range anti-ship missiles.
Gabrielle Giffords, on its maiden deployment, arrived in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility Sept. 16, for a rotational deployment to the Indo-Pacific region. This marks the first time two LCS have deployed to the Indo-Pacific region simultaneously. Gabrielle Giffords is the fifth LCS to deploy to U.S. 7th Fleet, following USS Freedom (LCS 1), USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), USS Coronado (LCS 4) and the currently-deployed USS Montgomery (LCS 8).
Gabrielle Giffords will conduct operations, exercises and port visits throughout the region as well as work alongside allied and partner navies to provide maritime security and stability, key pillars of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. Its unique capabilities allow it to work with a broad range of regional navies and visit ports larger ships cannot access.
Littoral combat ships are fast, agile and networked surface combatants, optimized for operating in the near-shore environments. With mission packages allowing for tailored capabilities to meet specific mission needs and unique physical characteristics, LCS provides operational flexibility and access to a wider range of ports.
With that being said, I have an invite to check out the newest Independence-type LCS this weekend and will report more on that, later.
While I knew that the SEALs had a program to use surplus old 1,400-pound Mark 37 (NT37) homing ASW torpedoes in an anti-ship role to zap enemy warships in coastal/harbor raids via a hand-launch, I never knew the Navy had a dedicated Swimmer Launched Charge program. Apparently, this 1970s experimental small torpedo looked pretty elaborate. Photos via the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum.
The U.S. Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, or HITRON, is celebrating its 20th anniversary and shows no signs of slowing down. In 1999, six pilots and four newly USMC-trained aviation gunners were brought together to prove the concept of armed helicopters — a mission the USCG had steered away from in the past.
Armed with stun grenades as well as M16A2 rifles and an FN M240 general-purpose machine gun for warning shots, they carried a Robar RC50 long-range heavy rifle for disabling fire. During this early phase, the group encountered five go-fasts and stopped all five with disabling fire. They arrested 17 smugglers — none of whom were injured thanks to the accurate fire of the Coasties.
After this test, the Coast Guard gave the go-ahead to move forward with a full-scale squadron sized unit and HITRON was born.
Starting with a leased helicopter (an MD Explorer dubbed the MH 90 Enforcer), they eventually moved to field eight sweet Augusta AW109s (also leases) designated as MH-68A Stingrays from 2000 to 2008.
Today, more than 200 USCG personnel are currently assigned to the squadron, based at Cecil Field’s Hangar 13 in Jacksonville, Florida. From there, helicopters and crews are deployed to wherever they are needed most, now using the standard Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin.
The precision heavy hitter of the aviation gunner today is the Barrett M107A1 .50-caliber heavy rifle. Braced against the doorframe and the strap of the rescue hoist, the 28-pound Barrett can be balanced in a way that’s familiar to any rifleman using a standard sling just on a much larger scale, providing a surprisingly stable platform from which to shoot.
The gunners train with M33 ball ammo to hit a 16×16-inch target — roughly the engine housing of an outboard motor.
HITRON is the only unit of its kind in the U.S. military and officials say they have stopped more than $21 billion worth of illegal drugs in the last 20 years.
Nice loadout on this Zulu Cobra for littoral warfare in The Strait: M197 3-barreled 20mm gun (with 750 rounds likely loaded), a four-pack of Hellfire missiles for big boats, a seven-cell LAU-68C/A APKWS rocket pod for small boats, a drop tank for extra loiter, and a pair of AIM-9X Sidewinders for the possible random IRIAF F-5 or F-4 that wants to get muscular.
Official caption: “STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Aug. 12, 2019) An AH-1Z Viper helicopter attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) takes off during a strait transit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 11th MEU are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the Western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.”
The largest Australian-led amphibious landing and offensive assault in history were the OBOE 2 landings at Balikpapan, Borneo (then the Japanese-held Dutch East Indies) in which some 33,000 troops hit the beach in July 1945. We’ve talked about that operation a couple weeks ago on a Warship Wednesday.
Therefore, it is fitting that this month’s Talisman Saber ’19 exercise saw the largest Australian-led amphibious landing since OBOE with an extended multi-day combined force assault on Langham Beach, near Stanage Bay, Queensland, involving not only the Australians but also U.S. Marines, New Zealand troops, and elements of the British MoD, Japanese Self-Defense Force (ironically) and Canadian Forces.
As part of the exercise scenario, the fictional Pacific nation Kamaria invaded nearby “Legais” island, sparking global outcry and a response from the Blue Forces to liberate the occupied territory. Recon elements were inserted on D-3 with a full-on landing on D-Day with amphibious assault vehicles, landing craft, and helicopters bringing troops to shore.
The imagery was great.