Saturday, May 9, 2015

All @ Sea! Photo of the Day 09 May 2015

A warship, like any large engineering project, is a collection of compromises.  How many tons displacement, how many guns or missile launchers, what sensors (radar, sonar, etc.) will it bring to the fight?  Engines, defenses, armor, fuel capacity, damage control and fire-fighting equippage, what is the proper balance? What kind of endurance should it have, and how many spare parts.  How large should its magazine capacity be?  Will our hypothetical dreadnought operate in deep ocean waters or coastal, "brown water" environs, or perhaps both?  How large a crew should we plan for, and how will they be provisioned, heated, cooled, trained, fed and bedded?

These and a thousand other considerations go into the process of designing a combat ship.  And they must be considered in light of the fact that the ship will not actually kiss water for years--even decades.  What will the naval environment be like when our warship finally is ready to sail?  We need to plan for flexibility, the ability to change-out weapons systems, sensors and electronics, to replace damaged and worn components, all in an effort to keep our new design current and effective in the coming years.  To keep it relevant.

Now, take all of the hardware, plumbing, shops and parts, and work out the most efficient means of fitting it all together.  Decisions, deletions, modifications, compromises upon compromises, seemingly without end. 

The average time for a new-design warship from beginning of the above consultations and considerations, moving on to debate in Houses of Parliament or other legislative bodies, into funding and legal wrangling, compromising at every step of the process, adding this and subtracting that, and finally to the moment when steel is first cut and keel laid, can be measured in decades. 

For a new-design submarine or aircraft carrier, add a few more years.

For your consideration I offer the French Ship (FS) Forbin. Built at Lorient and commisioned in 2010, she represents the hard work of thousands of draftsmen, artisans, welders, and technicians over the final years of the last century and the first decade of this one.  With a crew of 195 and displacement of just over 7,000 tons she is somewhat smaller and more lightly manned than an American Burke-class destroyer, but with comparable firepower and speed.  Fifteen years of compromise and integration have brought her into being, and a fine, handsome, well-found ship she is.

In keeping with modern warship design principles, Forbin is built to have a minimum radar "signature"; to reflect the least amount of an enemy's radar beams as possible.  Not truly "stealthy" (something that NO commisioned warship has accomplished, to my knowledge), her "low-observable" form makes her more difficult to detect, track, and attack than earlier designs.  By hiding most of her weapons and equipment within radar-distracting shapes and special materials, Forbin  presents fewer details for radar energy to reflect from, fewer "angles" to stand out on a hostile receiver. In a naval environment dominated by the active-radar-homing supersonic cruise missile, this is a valuable characteristic for any warship!

This is a warship of the future, the shape of things to come.  I am quite impressed!

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