In my previous article we looked at how having 100+ VLS cells on a destroyer is a very common sight for vessels built by certain countries. Let us take a very scientific approach to study the other end of the spectrum (sarcasm). Here is a very simple but effective way to judge if a ship justifies its tonnage against weaponary. I took a ratio of the ship’s tonnage and the number of missiles it carries. This is a light hearted attempt of studying ships which are very potent but lack in numbers. The criteria for selection were
- Commissioned within the last 10-15 years.
- Number of missiles includes Sea RAM, number of Mk 41 cells (and not quad packed numbers), AShMs, SAMs etc.
I like to call some of these RIOT CONTROL SHIPS as a joke due to lack or complete absence of respectable capabilities. I have left out some lesser known classes in favor of well known ones and sorted them by tonne per missile.
No. 5: F125 FFG: Baden Wurttemberg class
Germans, sorry for letting you down is what this ship should say! Displacement of 7200 tonnes and (50+8) missiles so 144 Tonne Per Missile.
It sure looks good!! (Crdits: thyssenkrupp Marine Systems)
This 7200 tonne frigate is only 200 tonnes lighter than the next entry in the series. The next entry in terms of on paper armament and sensors is considered as one of the best destroyers in service today. This frigate however has 8 Harpoons and 42 SeaRAM for AD which is pennies compared to any other ship of similar displacement.
Only 9km ranged SeaRAM!
Can I be more dissappointed?
No. 4: Project 15A DDG: Kolkata class
Apologies Indians! 7400 tonnes divided by (32+16) is 154 Tonne Per Missile
The Kolkatas have an excellent radar, possibly the best ship hunting missile in service world wide with an awesome load out of 16. What this class lacks is numbers in the SAM department, just 32. It seems lower especially when the Chinese have launched several 12,000 tonne destroyers (Type 055) with 112 VLS cells each commissioned and launched several more 7,500 tonne destroyers with 64 VLS each (Type 052D).
With this build up right outside the Indian Navy’s area of responsibility the ideal move should be to move to atleast 64 SAMs + 16 AShMs but no! the current crop of Project 15B and Project 17A ships will have the same SAM loadout. It is a perfect 1 to 1 case of Apple sticking to notched iPhone X design 3 years in a row because it worked and will sell anyway.
Two of the best AD destroyers, both of which need better numbers per hull
No. 3: Type 45 DDG: Daring class
My dear Brits, apologies to you to! 9400 tonnes divided by (48+8) is 168 Tonne Per Missile
The Type 45 suffers from a different kind of issue than the Indian Kolkata class. It has a decent SAM loadout of 48 Aster 15 or 30 missiles but if you google photos of the Type 45, how many pictures will you see of these ships with Harpoons? I bet very few. I threw in the Harpoons as an opportunity to boost the ratio from worsening further.
We all know that any sub-sonic ship hunting missile’s capability is questionable at best against modern SAM systems like Barak 8, SM-6 + Aegis etc. The problem is that not all Type 45s even have this basic capability at all times. This makes them very good AD assets which are terrible at defending themselves from surface borne threats at beyond visual ranges. So is this a destroyer which can seldom destroy other ships?
No. 2: Italian FREMM: Carlo Bergamini class
How do we know something is Italian?
- It looks good!: Check
- Its fast!: Check
- It packs where it matters: eh……!
Here is a 6,700 tonne frigate, in my opinion the best looking frigate to hit water ever which is terribly terribly under armed. This class only has 24 missiles onboard making for a ratio of 279 Tonnes Per Missile. It has 16 Aster 15 or 30s and 8 Italian Otomat AshMs. People always look for beauty with brains, for ships it is beauty with guns/missiles. Sadly she has none of it. Ohh and apologies Italians.
No. 1: Aegis FFG: Fridtjof Nansen Class
Thank you for sticking till the end!
If I tell you, imagine an Aegis equipped vessel, what design comes to your mind? It surely will be an Arleigh Burke or Ticonderoga class right? Imagine a ship which has Aegis onboard but doesnt have weapons to put it to use?
Here are 3 of the single Mk 41 module frigates. (Credits-Norwegian Navy)
For this 5,300 tonne frigate the ratio is either a paltry 221 Tonne Per Missile or 331 Tonne per Missile. Now you wonder why two ratios? The answer is because some ships of the class have only 16 missiles. Eight naval strike missiles are complemented by either a solitary Mk 41 VLS module with 8 cells or two modules on the final ship of the class. So 4 off the 5 built have just 16 missiles each. While these arnt as big of a let down in AD capability as the German F125s but just 8 cells? that to assymetrical? atleast satisfy my OCD for symmetry!
Conclusion: Sorry for letting you down but this isnt going to be more rant. The idea behind purposefully under arming your ships has two main motivations.
- Political Spotlight: Almost everyone knew when China launched their second aircraft carrier. Even after 7 years of commissiong the first one, they are using mockups to train new crew on the second one. Atleast a decade will go by before they can actually put these to use. By then, the more experienced navies will already have layers of defenses in place to counter these. Moral of the story: First mover advantage is good but during this period of hostile peace, it is short lived.
- Cost: Air Defense systems for 1 ship are in the top 3 biggest expenses for a ship, if not the first. I guarantee you, all these ships listed here have things listed under “Built for….but not installed” which most of us dont know. Incase of war clouds, within weeks these ships can double what they lack. The Kolkatas can easily house 32 more Barak 8, the F125 can house 2-4 Mk 41 VLS modules with and so on. Moral of the story: The current need for these navies is more ships to stop aggressors from occupying their sea lanes of communications.