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Tuesday 22 November 2016

FACTS & TRIVIA #1: Modern torpedo launchers, USS Hull, HMS Victoria, Mississippi class and HMS Vanguard

Written by D-Mitch

This is the first of a new category of articles where all the significant and interesting facts in naval history as well as "strange" and unique features of naval combattants' equipment, will be described in brief. Enjoy the first part of my collection!

1. Non-trainable torpedo launchers in unusual positions on modern surface combatants

There are various torpedo launchers on modern large warships; some of them are trainable such as the popular US Mk32 triple/twin torpedo launcher, the B515 (ILAS-3) and the Russian ChTA-53, and some are not such as the US Mk32 Mod 9 twin launcher, the SEA TLS or the Cray Marine twin launcher. What do all these launchers have in common? They are located mainly amidships on large warships and on small vessels across the deck (Pauk class, torpedo craft etc.) or at the stern in a two-single torpedo launchers configuration (Combattante class etc.). But there are some large warships in modern era that had/have torpedo launchers in fixed position in quite unusual positions and configuration. Such ships are the following:
  • Hamburg class destroyers and Deutschland training cruiser of the German Navy

Hamburg class destroyers of the German Navy with the initial triple torpedo launcher at the bow.

Triple torpedo launcher
Deutschland's twin stern launcher
During the '50s, Germany began building her Navy. Some of the first major surface combatants that entered service with the post WWII German Navy were  the four (4) Hamburg class destroyers (1964 - 1994) and the training  cruiser Deutschland (A59) (1966 - 1990). The Deutschland was constructed and used as a training cruiser in peacetime and planned for multi-role missions in the event of war: troop ship, hospital ship, minelayer, and escort vessel. These five large vessels had something unique for warships of that era. Like the old battleships, had non-trainable torpedo launchers located at the bow and the stern (not the Deutschland). The Hamburg class destroyers had a triple launcher at the bow and a twin at the stern while Deutschland except the trainable 533 mm ASW torpedo tubes, they had also two fixed 533 mm torpedo tubes aft at the stern. These launchers were later removed from all the ships mid-1970s and both the stern and bow were redesigned.

Triple torpedo launcher of a Hamburg class destroyer
Bayern's twin stern torpedo launcher

Deutschland with twin torpedo tubes

The training cruiser Deutschland

Hamburg class after modernization

  • Audace class destroyers of the Italian Navy
Modernized Audace class destroyer of the Italian Navy
Audace without the twin 533mm
torpedo launchers.
Ardito with the twin 533mm
launchers inside the stern
The Audace-class destroyers, Audace and Ardito, were two guided missile destroyers built for the Italian Navy during the Cold War. An improvement of the Impavido class, these ships were designed for area air defence and also had a heavy gun armament. The ships wad two types of torpedo launchers: the regular triple trainable 324mm but also two twin 533mm launchers enclosed at the stern. During their MLU in the late '80s, these big launchers were removed.

  • Maestrale class frigates of the Italian Navy
The lead ships of the class, Maestrale, with her aft torpedo launchers

533mm aft torpedo launcher
A Maestrale class frigate without her
aft torpedo launchers
The eight (8) Maestrale class frigates (1982 - present) of the Italian Navy were primarily designed for anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Therefore, except the two 324 mm ILAS-3 triple torpedo launchers they were equipped initially with two Whitehead B-516 21in (533mm) non-trainable torpedo launchers at the stern below the helicopter hangar, for Whitehead A-184 heavyweight torpedoes. These launchers and the torpedoes were later removed as they were considered inadequate.

  • Neustrashimy class (Project 11540) frigates of the Russian Navy
Frigate Neustrashimy, lead ship of the class

The huge torpedo launchers
The hatches are opened
There are two ships in the class, the Neustrashimy (commissioned 1993) and her much younger sister Yaroslav Mudry (commissioned 2009). As usually, the Russian warships carry an impressive armament for their size but these vessels have something unique hidden in the superstructure. Six 533mm torpedo launchers, mounted in the superstructure, are capable of firing Starfish (RPK-2 Vyuga, known also as SS-N-15) or Stallion (RPK-6 Vodopad/RPK-7 Veter, known also as SS-N-16) ASW missiles or Type 53 ASW/ASuW torpedoes. The Starfish missile has a maximum range of up 45 km while its payload is either a simple depth charge or a 200 kt nuclear warhead! The Stallion missiles are dual-role; they can be armed with either a 400 mm anti-submarine torpedo or a nuclear depth charge in a range of approximately 100 kilometers, an impressive boost over its predecessor the SS-N-15 Starfish. Watch how this impressive system work in this video. So the next time you spotted Neustrashimy without her anti-ship missile launchers (only Mudry has them till today), you will know that the ship is not unarmed but it carries a hidden deadly weapon system mounted in the superstructure.

  • Al Riyadh class frigates of the Royal Saudi Navy
Al Riyadh, lead ship of the class, with her ffour torpedo launchers located at the stern
Makkah, second ship in the class
View of the torpedo tubes of Makkah
The three Al Riyadh-class stealth frigates (commissioned in 2002) of the Royal Saudi Navy, are the most modern warships today that are armed  with non-trainable torpedo launchers at the stern. The frigates of the class are an expanded anti-aircraft warfare version of the French La Fayette class frigates, displacing about 4,700 tonnes and extended to 133m in length. The ships are armed with four (!) 533mm (21.0 in) aft torpedo tubes for DCNS F17 heavyweight anti-submarine torpedoes.

The rear torpedo launchers of frigate Makkah

  • Garcia and Brooke classes of frigates of the United States Navy
USS Bradley (DE-1041) stern view
with torpedo tubes circa 1965
Garcia class frigate USS Bradley
Garcia-class frigates were United States Navy warships, a larger version of the Bronstein class frigates. These frigates were originally ocean escorts bearing the hull classification DE until 1975. The ships were commissioned between 1964 and 1968 and decommissioned between 1988 and 1990. The Brooke class was a United States Navy frigate class that is based on the Garcia class, but with the addition of the Tartar Guided Missile System. The first unit was commissioned in 1966 and the final sixth unit was decommissioned in 1989.Both classes had two fixed Mk37 torpedo tubes at the stern which were removed later on during their service.
  •  Rmah-class of the United Arab Emirates Navy
Rmah-class of the United Arab Emirates Navy
The two 58-meter Rmah-class, officially categorized as multi-purpose supply ships of the United Arab Emirates Navy can also operate as disguised carriers of the 533mm ultra-long-range SeaHake Mod 4ER torpedoes which are launched from four covered (hidden in hatches) rear torpedo tubes. These torpedoes can reach more than 140km range (theoretically up to 185km) and therefore to attack enemy ships from great distance.

2. The last 8in gun developed for the US Navy

The destroyer USS Hull with her impressive 8in gun turret

The 8in gun of USS Hull
The 8in gun in action
The USS Hull (DD-945), was a Forrest Sherman class destroyer that during her major overhaul in 1974-75, her forward 5 in./54 Mark 42 gun mount was replaced with an 8 in./55 Mark 71 gun mount. This Major Caliber Lightweight Gun ("MCLWG") was the result of a project dating back to the 1960s, when it was realized that heavy gunfire support for amphibious operations would die with the existing force of heavy cruisers unless a big gun could be developed for destroyer-size ships. Hull was its test ship for seagoing trials, after which it was expected that several of these guns would be installed on board destroyers of the new Spruance class. The firing tests were reportedly partially successful. Unfortunately, when the gun was fired as far to the rear as possible, the shock was too great and some strakes were broken. The MCLWG project was cancelled in 1978. This was the last 8in gun developed for the US Navy and USS Hull was the only modern destroyer to carry such a heavy gun. Someone could notice that the Mk55 gun turret resembles a lot to the modern Mk45 5in gun turret. The introduction into service of the USS Zumwalt destroyer with her 6.1 in guns, makes it the largest caliber gun today in US service and in the world together with the Peruvian cruiser Almirante Grau.

3. The largest wooden warship which ever entered service

ΗΜS Victoria last of Royal Navy ship of the line
The 121-gun HMS Victoria was the last wooden three-decked ship of the line built (first rate) for the Royal Navy. With a displacement nearing 7,000 tonnes and an overall length of 79.2 meters, she was at the same time the largest wooden warship which ever entered service.She was armed with a total of 121 guns. Read more about the ship and other large ships of that era here.

4. The only US Navy battleships to fly a foreign flag

HS Kilkis and HS Limnos after the Balkan Wars

HS Kilkis
HS Kilkis
The two Mississippi class battleships were the only US Navy battleships to pass out of American service and to fly a foreign flag! Idaho and Mississippi were two pre-Dreadnoughts of 14,500tons displacement at full load and of 116m length while they were armed with four 12in, eight 8in and eight 7in guns. Greece purchased the two vessels from the USA in 1914; Idaho renamed Kilkis and Mississippi renamed Lemnos. With their 12in guns and 14,500 tons displacement at full load, they were the most powerful ships in the Greek fleet and they were the largest surface combatants ever (Elli was the longest) operated by Hellenic Navy. Both battleships sunk while at anchor at Salamis by German diver bombers in 1941.

5. The last British battleship and the final battleship to be launched in the world

The impressive HMS Vanguard, last British battleship

Bow view of HMS Vanguard
Stern view of HMS Vanguard
HMS Vanguard was the last British battleship which participated in Queen Elizabeth's Coronation Fleet Review at Spithead on 15 June 1953 (video). She was the only battleship in service that time with Royal Navy and one of the very few in the world. HMS Vanguard, the only ship of her class, was the biggest, fastest and last of the Royal Navy's battleships! The ship was built during World War II and commissioned after the war. She was also the final battleship to be launched in the world. She had a displacement of about 50,000tons, length 248m, max speed 30knots and main armament of eight 15in guns in four twin turrets. She was never the absolute best battleship in any category, but consistently among the best in every important characteristic: speed, protection, battery (main, secondary, and AA combined), fire control, seaworthiness, habitability and range. And except that she is considered one of the best balanced battleship of all time, she is also considered one of the best looking. Vanguard was decommissioned in 1960 after a short career.

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