Seaforth World Naval Review 2015'

  • A welcome arrival at the Subsunk RHQ is this year's Seaforth World Naval Review, which is starting to become the reviewer's annual 'state of the nation' for global naval affairs.

    2015's volume follows the standard SWNR format, broken down as it is into a global overview, a high-level summary of world fleets, a series of articles on significant ships, and a look at emerging technology trends.

    SWNR, as always, is a far more measured affair than, say, the monthly 'Warships International Fleet Review' and has a more dispassionate tone.

    For this reviewer, the key sections in SWNR are the reviews of significant ships - these in-depth articles go a long way to explain the tactical thinking behind their development. Last year's SWNR looked at the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force's 'HYUGA' class destroyers - effectively helicopter carriers with the speed and striking power of a destroyer - and the Danish Navy's 'IVAR HUIDTFELDT' class destroyers, which are intended to be general purpose but powerful high-end combatants.

    This year, SWNR has a close look at the Irish Naval Service's 'ROISIN' class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), the Royal Norwegian Navy's 'SKOLD' class corvettes and the US Navy's 'MONTFORD POINT' class Mobile Logistics Platforms.

    The 'SKOLD' is an awesome bit of kit that is just waiting for a Bond film to star in. Designed for a fast-moving, hit and run fight in the littoral, the design is a water jet-driven surface effect ship or sidewall hovercraft. Designed in the 50s and 60s, the SES concept is now mature, with a fast, stealthy and powerfully-armed corvette capable of speeds of up to 60 knots that is admirably suited to operations in and around the Norwegian coastline. The SKOLD herself spent a year on detachment to the US Navy Special Warfare Centre at Little Creek as part of Special Boat Squadron 2, and so the class's capabilities and limitations have been thoroughly mapped out by the Special Warfare community. A SKOLD could be a nasty surprise for pirates, narco-smugglers or insurgents, with a stunning turn of speed, a stealthy profile and a powerful punch. If they have drawbacks, these seem to be habitability (like all fast attack craft, living space is at a premium) and range - the RNoN is looking to retro-fit the SKOLD class with replenishment at sea rigs.
    The MONTFORD POINT class of US Navy auxiliaries are an entirely new class of vessel that may prove to be game-changers for amphibious operations. Based on existing tanker designs, the MLP is effectively a mobile logistics platform which allows cross-decking of people and material to take place at sea, instead of in a port or close inshore. The design is highly adaptable, and future MLPs may be optimised as special mission platforms, aviation platforms or depot ships for mine countermeasures, humanitarian operations, etc, etc. The benefits of having a mobile patch of US sovereign territory to sea-base from are many, especially in today’s global situation, where having a base on the ground entails a lot of risk and demands a lot of force-protection resource.

    Finally, the Irish Naval Service’s new ‘SAMUEL BECKETT’ class Offshore Patrol Vessels, built in the Appledore yard (one of the quiet success stories in British shipbuilding), represent all the lessons the INS have learnt in operating OPVs in and around the East Atlantic and Irish Sea. Particularly versatile and capable for their size, they will be able to operate small unmanned aerial vehicles, underwater Remotely-Operated Vehicles and can embark a recompression chamber for diving operations. The latter feature is a learning from the near-loss of the Canadian submarine HMCS CHICOUTIMI in 2004, where it was the INS vessel ROISIN that was first on scene.

    Strongly recommended. Well-researched, well-written, handsomely illustrated and authoritative. 5/5 anchors.

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  1. Seaweed
    Concur absolutely.

    I found this an extraordinarily useful book from the point of view of bringing me more up to date with what is going on in the world’s navies, principally in the domain of construction and acquisition. The author is particularly good at sketching in the political, strategic, and procurement background of each country dealt with. There is a clear picture, out to generally a five-year horizon, of what other countries will be able to deploy.

    For the main deep-water war-fighting navies the comparisons are educational. The utterly diminished situation of the Royal Navy, while not stressed, is evident. For others the term ‘navy’ extends into and sometimes is entirely subsumed by coastguard and constabulary investment and operations, not uninteresting in themselves, and in some cases the stepping stone to greater ambitions particularly in Asia.

    The text is very strong on equipment. The challenge many smaller navies face is to train the multi-skilled personnel required by the lean manning forced upon them financially, and enabled by increasing automation. How this is achieved is mostly outside the cope of this work although there are hints of the difficulties here and there.

    About the only country of interest that isn’t covered is North Korea.

    A very valuable work and a most welcome addition to my bookshelf, or to that of anybody who strives to keep in touch with the complex investment and technical developments of the global naval scene.