Sunday, March 25, 2012

Getting it right; Naval Ship classifications

If there is one thing that continues to plague people in naval Affairs it is the classification of ships. Namely the fact that a naval force will classify a Warship in a way that does not properly denote it’s fighting capabilitiy. This I have noticed too often today and can elucidate many excellent examples. Among the major culprits are the Iranian, EU/NATO naval forces, and Janes Defense.
Most famously the Iranian Navy has the habit of calling it’s Frigates Destroyers, it’s Corvettes and Fast Attack Craft Frigates, and it’s Command/Logistical Support Ship Kharg a Battleship. While the Kharg can deploy commando units which can take out a Battleship it certainly does not have the armament of a Battleship. In the other instances Iran’s navy has been basing it’s classification on size rather than fighting capability. For Instance Iran classifies the Jamaran class and Alvand class FFG’s as Destroyers, yet the only Destroyers they have the same fighting capability as are the WWII clunkers operated by countries like Pakistan and Taiwan, the Canadian Iroquois class DDG’s which are slightly larger than the Jamaran and most Frigates but have a fire control system more advanced than any FFG, and the Sachsen, Brandenburg, De Zeven Provincen, and Alvaro de Bazan Destroyers, which NATO classifies as frigates, but which in reality have an armament heavier than most Destroyers, in the case of the first two a reduced weapons payload to comply with an antiquated WWII treaties, the same which has plagued Japan, which I will describe later. Interestingly, by this classification Iran has both inspired foreign powers to step up it’s naval arms, for instance Saudi Arabia was going to buy some Type 45 class DDG’s from the UK because of Jamaran until the specifications of Jamaran became public, and continued scorn.
However, a similar type of scorn exists Worldwide for the EU and NATO’s similar underclassification of their Warships. In this instance tonnage and displacement take precedence over fighting capability when deciding how to classify a Warship. In doing so they are giving the false impression that how much a Warship weighs is more important than how it performs in a combat situation. For instance if the FGS Sachsen were to find itself in a combat situation with either a Jamaran class FFG or an Arleigh Burke class DDG the Sachsen could easily neutralize either Warship in a combat situation, not because of it’s tonnage but because of it’s armament. The fact that not only Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain, but also Sweden, Denmark, France, Argentina, and other NATO countries do this shows a lack of understanding of the combat role a Warship plays, focusing instead on the political aspect of such names. In the case of Germany there is a degree of understanding with the constitution they had to adopt after WWII, though with the current World situation this constitution is anachronistic, as is the classification by the other NATO powers. In the case of such ships like the Swedish Visby and Danish Theits class Frigates to call the former a Corvette and the latter a Patrol Boat is simply ridiculous. Not as ludicrious as the British, with their dearth of overclassification names, like offshore patrol vessel, inshore patrol vessel
Most notably Russia and Japan have been messing with these NATO classifications with their new warships. For instance the Russians classify the new Admiral Gorshkov Destroyers as Frigates, the Tatarstan, Steregushchy, and Gremyashchy classes of Frigates as Corvettes, though in the case of the Steregushchy the Russian Navy does call them Frigates on their website, though in doing so the Russians are belittling the combat capabilities of these ships. India behaves in a similar manner, calling the Kamrota, Kora, and Khurki classes of Frigates Corvettes, and the Shivalik class of Warships could be classified as Destroyers with their combat capability.
With the Japanese for them to call their new Hyuga class Helicopter Carriers Destroyers and their Osumi class Amphibious Assault Ships Landing Craft is ludicrous, though like Germany Japan has a constitution given to them after WWII which limits their armed forces, and like Germany the current World situation makes this constitution anachronistic.
Curiously the US navy is now getting in on this, by classifying the new Freedom and Independence classes of Frigates as Littoral Combat Ships. While this demonstrates one of the purposes of construction, the terminology is overelaborate.
When naming classes of Warships one should make sure the name fits the function, and not some political agenda. This is something even the best people in Naval affairs forget.

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