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Thread: Worst Warship Designs of the Post-WWII era

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    Worst Warship Designs of the Post-WWII era

    We’ve all seen a million What is the best (fighter/bomber/tank/frigate/rifle/pistol, etc, etc, etc…) threads. All are equally dreadful because they miss the point that there is never any such thing as the best this, that or the other.

    While finding the "best" example in any category is at best debatable, the same could not be said for the worst examples. Plenty of room for agreement and/or good discussion here. So here I go with my nominee’s for some of the Worst Warship Designs of the Post-WWII era, in no particular order.

    Type 42 “Sheffield” Destroyer

    Is there a better example of cost-cutting run amok? To start, in the interest of reducing cost the ships were artificially restricted to a length of 394 feet. This in turn causes the ships to be extremely cramped, limiting future growth and causing congestion, particularly among electronic equipment that would have dire consequences later. It also resulted in poor speed, endurance and seakeeping. In the latter instance insufficient bow length meant the ships had a tendency to take water over the bow leading to problems in maintaining the 4.5-inch gun and Sea Dart launcher. No close-range AA armament, other than a pair of WWII-vintage Oerlikon’s could be fitted. The sonar dome was closer to the machinery than was desirable for optimal performance. Only 1 Lynx crew could be accommodated. Silencing, shock hardening and accommodation were to Leander standards. The hulls also proved weak requiring the adding of reinforcements.

    Due to the cancellation of Broomstick (Dutch SPS-01) partially on cost grounds the Type 42 was saddled with outdated 1950’s search and target indication radars. The limitations of these sets in high clutter environments and against low-level targets would have dire consequences later in the loss of HMS Coventry who was unable to detect her attackers in time. The SCOT satellite communications system operated on similar frequencies to a missile seeker. This combined with the close proximity of the SCOT and the UAA-1 ESM antenna’s demanded that ESM be turned off when SCOT was in use since SCOT’s sidelobes could not be kept out of the ESM system. This would ultimately lead to the destruction of HMS Sheffield to an Exocet missile whose active radar seeker could not be detected because SCOT was in use the moment the ship was attacked.

    Improved close-range air defenses were hard to improve. 30mm and additional 20mm guns were initially fitted and later Mk 15 Phalanx (at the cost of the ASW torpedo tubes) but the preferred Sea Wolf could not be installed.

    Batch 3 added 40 feet of hull length which alleviated some congestion and seakeeping characteristics but added very little in terms of armament – and the hulls still proved weak with additional reinforcements having to be added.

    Type 21 Frigate

    Another case of cutting costs only to end up with something quite unsatisfactory. Type 21 was the RN response to criticisms that private industry could do better than Navy ship designers. The result proved otherwise.

    The RN asked for a low-end frigate and that is what it got. The ships as built had limited firepower with some systems – like Sea Cat – already past their prime. They were in essence colonial gunboats. The projected thrown ASW weapon (Limbo or Terne) had to be given up in the design stage due to weight, volume, cost and manpower considerations and torpedo tubes were not initially fitted, leaving the ships with only the MATCH helicopter (Wasp initially) for ASW firepower. To reduce manpower not all weapons systems could be manned simultaneously. ESM systems were not fitted initially and Exocet was only added later which means that as-built, these ships were very austere indeed and of little value in a combat environment.

    Both speed and endurance fell short of the design requirement. Self-maintenance was also limited compared to standard RN practice which resulted in greater reliance on shore support – a problem rectified in the Type 22. The hulls proved weak with considerable and obvious reinforcements as well as ballast having to be added.

    Mid-life modernization proved extremely difficult as the ships, as was common in commercial practice, proved to have very limited growth margins even though these had been specified in the initial contract. It had been hoped from the beginning that these ships would receive Sea Wolf when available. The Sea Wolf point defense missile with its associated 967/968 radar and fire control was far more massive than Sea Cat, even in a proposed “lightweight” version. Initial estimates showed that only 1 director cold be fitted and that would have to be mounted aft, effectively eliminated the dedicated 4.5 gun director. In the end it proved impossible to fit Sea Wolf, at least to RN standards. Type 2016 digital hull sonar could not be installed at all and neither could a towed array sonar which severely restricted the utility of these ships in a NATO context. In the end the RN retired them early without any mid-life modernization.

    The Vosper Mk 10 frigates, designed very slightly later and clearly descended from Type 21 curiously seem not to have suffered many of the problems of Type 21 and were large enough to accommodate Ikara – a very important weapon to the RN at the time but which the RN had assumed could not fit a cheap commercial frigate design.

    Type 14 “Blackwood” Frigate

    These were highly specialized “second-rate” ASW frigates designed to be as cheap as possible for wartime mass production. Unlike some other ships on this list the Blackwood’s did at least achieve their design goals. The problem was those design goals. Yes the RN got a totally serviceable cheap ocean ASW escort but the limitations of the design due to stringent controls on cost meant the Type 14 was not suited to do anything else. Such lack of utility (overspecialization) has been the nail-in-the-coffin for many types of ship over the years. Multi-role ships simply represent better value and tend to have longer, more productive service lives.

    Project 956 Sovremennyy Destroyer

    This is another one that will generate some argument but in my opinion what we have here is an undeniably poor design.

    These ships look powerful but as is so often the case, looks can be deceiving. The fundamental problem of course is that for such large and expensive ships they are still one-trick ponies. This class was essentially built to take on Outboard equipped Spruance class destroyers. Their anti-ship capabilities are optimized for that type of target and they have almost no ASW capability, not even being able to support an ASW helicopter. This overspecialization has made them unattractive for export, other than the units sold to a PRC Navy desperate for anything sort-of modern.

    This class began construction around 1982 yet the ships still used steam turbine propulsion, this coming from the Navy that had pioneered the use of gas turbines in large warships some 2 decades earlier.

    The overly cramped nature of the design is clearly obvious and probably responsible for the MS-196 launchers for the Uragan SAM system being limited to firing arcs within 30-degrees of the centerline. Blast interference is probably also why the AK-130 guns can only fire 40-degrees off centerline. These restrictions seem severe. The 130mm gun mounts themselves, while visually impressive are said to suffer from notoriously poor reliability. The Uragan missile, while adequate for ship self-defense couldn’t contribute much to task force defense, being too short-ranged and with an inadequate rate of fire from its quaint (even by the standards of 1982) mechanically trained launchers.

    Project 11540 Nuestreshimyy Frigate

    OK your saying, what is this perfectly respectable 3,500 ton GP frigate doing on this list? The ship is apparently well-balanced without any major and obvious flaws so what gives?

    The problem here is that the designers were tasked with creating a replacement for the mass-produced 1,000-ton Grisha class coastal ASW corvette. What they came up with was a 3,500 ton ocean going GP frigate far too large to operate in the Grisha’s role and far too expensive to be bought in large numbers. The designers utterly failed in their assigned task on a monumental level.

    Claud Jones Destroyer Escort

    Like the British Type 14 this was an attempt to build a cheap mass-production ASW escort. Unfortunately the ships proved far too slow and under armed to perform their primary mission. USN careers were short and they were mostly tasked with intelligence gathering

    Luda Destroyer

    What can you say about a ship design that is 30 years out of date before the first hull hits the water? About a ship with no CIC let alone a computerized combat direction system? About a ship using WWII-vintage optical anti-aircraft fire control with no fire control radars of any kind? About a ship that doesn’t have sufficient electrical generating capacity to even run all of its primitive weapons simultaneously? How about wartime type searchlight sonar for hunting modern nuclear submarines?

    Replace the HY-2 missile launchers with trainable torpedo tubes and these ships would have seemed quaint in 1945, let alone 1975! Even HY-2 – the most modern system on the ships when built – was yesterdays news. Various improvements have been tacked on over the years

    In short, even the modernized ships have little or no combat capability in the modern sense, yet they have made up the bulk of the PRC surface fleet for 3 decades.

    Jianghu Frigate

    Everything said about the Luda’s applies here except these frigates also suffer from very flimsy construction.

    Improved Godovari Type 16A Frigate

    Other than China, I suspect India is the only country in the world that in the 21st century could still be building ships based on a 1950 hull and machinery design packed with weapons and electronics of such diverse origins (Dutch, British, Swiss, Israeli, Italian and Russian), take 10+ years to build each ship (to Indian quality control standards) and expect any of it to work properly when done.

    One can only look at these ships and wonder at what the heck they were thinking.

    Lehav/Eilat (Sa’ar V) Corvette

    I know I will get some flak for this one because this class seems to have an irrationally devoted fan club but I think I can make a convincing case for failure here.

    When the design went public it was hailed as the most heavily armed warship per ton in the world and stirred up quite a bit of discussion and debate. Here in the states IIRC Cebrowski and Hughes used these ships as an example of what their “Streetfighter” concept could achieve. The brochures claimed these ships would appear powerful indeed. A 76mm gun, two 25mm gatling guns – all director controlled, 64 Barak SAM missiles in vertical launchers with a 3-channel fire control system, 8 Harpoon and 8 Gabriel anti-ship missiles, anti-submarine torpedo tubes and a helicopter.

    The reality is somewhat different.

    The 76mm gun has never been installed, the ships instead carrying a Phalanx CIWS. The 25mm Gatling guns have never been installed and never will be as this system is no longer available. Instead, hand-operated WWII-type 20mm Oerlikon’s are shipped. Only half of the Barak VLS has been installed, the other half permanently taken over by a SATCOM terminal. Only 2 of the 3 planned Barak directors are installed. Gabriel missiles are not fitted and the ships usually put to sea with only 4 rather than 8 Harpoon. The originally intended L-band air search radar is apparently not installed.

    That’s a lot less punch than originally advertised so the obvious question is, what happened?

    Topweight is what happened. The Israeli’s, as they are so often prone to do simply tried to cram 10 pounds of potato’s in a 5 pound bag. The ships lack the volume and weight reserves to carry all of the originally intended equipment and yet may still suffer from stability problems. These 85-meter, 1,200 ton corvette’s are hardly more capable than the 488 ton, 61-meter FAC they succeed. To me this smacks of utter and complete failure both on the part of the shipbuilders but also and especially on the part of the Israeli Navy.

    Honorable mentions…

    I don’t really include these in the list because so little is expected of North Korea but could the Soho and Najin class frigates have been any worse?

    I may add more later but this is a good start.

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    Never cared for the OHP Class FFG's. Always considered them pretty "Mickey Mouse" in armament and construction from their 3/8" hull to the 3" gun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RAL's_pal? View Post
    Never cared for the OHP Class FFG's. Always considered them pretty "Mickey Mouse" in armament and construction from their 3/8" hull to the 3" gun.
    They are cramped and overloaded, but the class has certainly been successful.

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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fitz View Post
    Jianghu Frigate

    Everything said about the Luda’s applies here except these frigates also suffer from very flimsy construction.
    That's funny

    Do you think the Manchester class corrected some of the biggest problems of the Sheffield class?

    Quote Originally Posted by RAL's_pal? View Post
    Never cared for the OHP Class FFG's. Always considered them pretty "Mickey Mouse" in armament and construction from their 3/8" hull to the 3" gun.
    They are actually pretty good helicopter carriers. I just feel bad that their Mk 13 launchers have been deactivated and all they have left is the 3" pop gun.
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnut View Post
    That's funny

    Do you think the Manchester class corrected some of the biggest problems of the Sheffield class?
    Some? Undeniably yes, but these ships had problems of their own. Note the huge hull reinforcements that had to be applied.

    The FFG-7's should have got the RAM system in place of Mk 13 or better yet, a pair of containerized Mk 56 above-deck VLS but these latter are not used by the USN. For the missions they find themselves performing though, the Mk 13 was far more trouble than it is worth.
    Last edited by fitz; 23 Mar 08, at 23:46.

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    Mike 685 class of nuclear submarine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnut View Post
    That's funny

    Do you think the Manchester class corrected some of the biggest problems of the Sheffield class?



    They are actually pretty good helicopter carriers. I just feel bad that their Mk 13 launchers have been deactivated and all they have left is the 3" pop gun.

    I was unaware that the Perry class had their Mk 13's deactivated. Would the fleet be that serious about leaving the ships of the class that vulnerable?

    Why were they deactivated in the first place?

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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Equilibrium View Post
    I was unaware that the Perry class had their Mk 13's deactivated. Would the fleet be that serious about leaving the ships of the class that vulnerable?

    Why were they deactivated in the first place?
    According to my research, there were several reasons:

    1. Perry's Mk 13 launcher fires only the SM1 missile. Since no other US ships use that now, it doesn't make sense to keep the inventory for a minor warship with limited capabilities.

    2. Some allies still keep the SM1 on their warships, so all the navy's inventory was transfered/supplied/sold to allies to maintain their forces. The support for this missile is now entirely by civilian contractors.

    3. It's a substantial investment to remove the Mk 13 launcher and the magazines and replace them with VLS or another weapon system (5" gun, RAM...) so the decision was made to leave the launcher and magazine in place. The launcher arm was removed. I'm only speculating that the magazine is still in the ships because to remove it entirely might unbalance the ship.

    4. The Perrys are still in service because they can carry 2 helos. The early Burkes don't have helo hangers. So the navy now pairs them together. Burkes provide area air defense while Perrys provide helos for ASW work.
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    It doesn't appear the American navy put much thought into frigates, many of the Knox class never received their BPDMS launcher either. Currently, the navy is considering two designs for a littoral combat ship to replace the OH Perrys. Unfortuantely, the LCS have their critics too. They would rather have the new Coast Guard Berthrops NSC for the ocean escort role. The truth is the US Navy has never considered frigates as front line warships, only as behind the lines ASW ocean escorts. The US Navy is attempting to replace their minehunters, and their failed Cyclone patrol boats for the SEALS, and an ocean escort with a single ship.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Equilibrium View Post
    I was unaware that the Perry class had their Mk 13's deactivated. Would the fleet be that serious about leaving the ships of the class that vulnerable?

    Why were they deactivated in the first place?
    The FFG-7 class fire the Standard SM-1 and Harpoon missiles from the Mk 13. SM-1 is both obsolete and the inventory was past its shelf-life meaning either a large investment in new missiles and associated ship mods for ships that don't really need them, or deleting the capability altogether for a considerable savings in cost and maintenance.

    Deactivating Mk 13 allowed the Navy to remove two entire systems (SM-1 and the Mk 13) from the inventory creating a considerable maintenance savings. Since the submarine-launched anti-ship missile threat to convoy's these systems were built to defeat no longer exist and the FFG-7 is primarily used as a patrol ship this is no great loss. Harpoon isn't particularly necessary or useful for the FFG-7's current missions either and their loss is more than covered by helicopter launched weapons anyway.

    Only the above-decks portion of Mk 13 has been removed - again to save cost. The original plan was to mount a RAM missile launcher on top of the Mk 13 but this was shelved on cost grounds. At least one FFG-7 has been spotted with a dummy gun on top of the Mk 13 foundation - for what purpose ??????

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    Other navies have purchased the Mk 13 missile launcher and the SM-1 standard SAM missiles. Since the US navy no longer wanted to support or develop this missile, they pulled the missiles off its OH Perrys and stored them for FMS sales to the other navies.

    I have also heard that every time the missile was fired, the special radar absorbant paint was burned off the launcher. So good bye launcher and missile.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sea Toby View Post
    Other navies have purchased the Mk 13 missile launcher and the SM-1 standard SAM missiles. Since the US navy no longer wanted to support or develop this missile, they pulled the missiles off its OH Perrys and stored them for FMS sales to the other navies.
    The youngest SM-1 in anyone's inventory is now 21 years old - legal drinking age in most states. Missile years are like dog years making these weapons ancient. I doubt very much they are suitable candidates for foreign sale other than those transferred with surplus ships - a process that is now pretty much over.

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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fitz View Post
    The youngest SM-1 in anyone's inventory is now 21 years old - legal drinking age in most states. Missile years are like dog years making these weapons ancient. I doubt very much they are suitable candidates for foreign sale other than those transferred with surplus ships - a process that is now pretty much over.
    Don't many navies still use the SM-1 missile? Taiwan, Spain, France, Turkey, Greece...

    I thought all of them received some ships armed with SM-1s. Most of the European ships should be deactivated soon, but some like Taiwan still uses it.
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnut View Post
    Don't many navies still use the SM-1 missile? Taiwan, Spain, France, Turkey, Greece...

    I thought all of them received some ships armed with SM-1s. Most of the European ships should be deactivated soon, but some like Taiwan still uses it.
    Australia is fitting 8 Mk41 VLS cells on where the SM-1 used to be.


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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    That is one funky upgrade. I thought for sure they would have ripped out the Mk 13 launcher and placed 32 cells in its place.

    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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