Daily Archives: 25 November, 2009

The Coral Sea 1942

The Coral Sea 1942

The Coral Sea 1942

One of the most striking effects of the second world war was the supplanting of the Battleship by the Aircraft Carrier as the most important Naval vessel. By 1945 the era of the big gun Dreadnought Battleships was long gone.

Nowhere saw more Aircraft Carrier battles than the Pacific. Former US Navy Commander Mark Stille takes a look at one of the earliest battles in the South Pacific, the 1942 battle of The Coral Sea. The US Navy’s carrier succesfully thwarted a Japanese attempt to invade New Guinea. It was pivotal in that it represented the first reverse for the Japanese since Pearl Harbour, and set the US on the long road of ‘island-hopping’. It was not perhaps as decisive a battle as Midway, fought less than a month later. But the lessons learnt by the Americans and the losses suffered by the Japanese at the Coral Sea had a profound effect on the outcome of Midway.

Mark Stille takes a very detailed look at the opposing plans, from the Japanese intent to invade New Guinea and the tactics that the US Navy deployed to frustrate them. We are given very informative biographies of the senior Naval Commanders in question, and also a glimpse into the respective Naval ethos of each country. As a former Naval Officer, Stille is well placed to write about Naval tactics and strategy. And of course, this book contains Osprey’s trademark maps and illustrations. One thing that really impresses me is the ‘3D’ maps, showing the height of waves of aircraft as the attacked.

This is a rather narrow account, however, as it focusses almost exclusively on one specific battle. Although it has clearly been written for the American market, there are very broad contexts to the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Royal Navy had been using its Carriers to great effect in the Mediterranean and in the sinking of the Bismarck. Furthermore, it could be argued that the point at which Aircraft Carriers truly gained the ascendancy was the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse when sent to Singapore without adequate air cover. Yet this episode only receives the briefest of mention. Stille does focus almost exclusively on the US Navy, and what is an interesting and thorough account does miss out on some comparative and contextual depth in this respect.

The Coral Sea 1942 is published by Osprey

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BAE systems to create plans for new Frigates

An artists impression of the Future Surface Combatant

An artists impression of the Future Surface Combatant

BAE Systems have signed a £3.4m contract to create designs for the Royal Navy’s next generation of Frigates, the Portsmouth News reports. Staff at BAE are working on two designs under the Future Surface Combatant Programme, called the C1 and C2.

C1 is larger than the current Type 23 Frigates, and provides air defence for Carrier groups, but also has a small ‘mission dock’ – not unlike the dock on assault ships – for the rapid launching of small, fast boats. The second design, C2, would be more of a general purpose vessel, designed for patrolling and other duties. Plans are said to be taking shape for ten C1’s and eight C2’s.

Project Director Brian Johnson said: ‘Subject to MoD approval at later stages, we’ve got an outline plan that would see the first ship launched in 2016, and then one ship a year enter service from 2020 or 2021. They would be expected to have a 25-year lifespan, so would be in service until 2050.’

It is a much needed boost to the Royal Navy to have this project advancing. It is arguably more important than the planned new Aircraft Carriers, as 95% of the time it is the Destroyers and Frigates that are out around the globe patrolling the seas. While designs are not the same as signed contracts, at least something is happening.

There are a few areas for concern, however. Why is an air-defence Frigate being planned, when we have the Type 45 Destroyers that are supposedly designed for protecting the new Carriers? And why are we only having six of them, wouldn’t it be better to have say 8 or 10, and just have one class of General Purpose Frigate? Or are the C1 Air Defence Frigates a cheaper alternative for the cancelled Type 45’s?

The C2 design sounds encouraging. A smaller, more general purpose Frigate would be far more ideally suited to tackling small and fast suicide boats and Somali Pirates. The mission dock sounds especially capable.

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