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"Converting Merchant Ships to Missile Ships for the Win" Topic

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian10 Jan 2019 4:46 p.m. PST

The Navy wants and needs more capability to ease the strain on its slowly growing fleet, a strain amplified by global great-power competition. The pace of the 30-year shipbuilding plan as envisioned falls short in fielding the offensive power or the number of ships necessary to challenge adversaries. Achieving "the Navy the nation needs" warrants an innovative approach. The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts…


pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2019 6:07 p.m. PST

Maybe-able. But merchies are not designed with damage control or combat redundancy as important factors, thus will take less damage to sink---which is generally not good for the crews.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2019 7:05 p.m. PST

True, but there are far fewer crew members on merchants, and the ships cost a lot less relative to warships, so I suspect both can be deemed "expendable", though no doubt, every effort would be made to save personnel in the event of a sinking.

The neat thing about so few crew on them is that they could carry their own lifeboats to get out of harms way, if/when needed, far easier than warships can.

Personal logo David Manley Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2019 10:34 p.m. PST

Return of the Arsenal Ship concept…..

Tired Mammal11 Jan 2019 4:25 a.m. PST

The hull is the cheapest part of a warship.

Merchant ships are also optimised for fuel efficiency not high speed.

The only ships that might have use would be Ferries with their speed, manoeuvrability and accommodation but beyond sticking a radar for extra coverage and some self defence cannon there is not much they could be used for except free up a frigate form escort duty.

And why are we talking about this? I could see it for 2 South American countries who wanted a cheap navy quickly due to a diplomatic crisis but the US could take on the worlds Navies combined and still win easily.

Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2019 9:38 a.m. PST

The article does mention "arsenal ship", and while it doesn't use the word "expendable" it does say you can't put so many missiles on the converted ship that you'd have to defend it properly.

A merchant ship wouldn't have speed, maneuverability, damage control, but less obviously it lacks the electronics – ECM, ten kinds of radar, datalink, comms, etc.That's what make s warship today.

On the other hand, it's a place to park a Patriot battery, right?

If all it has is datalink and missile cells, it's basically just an accessory to an AEGIS ship, more launch cells. It doesn't need much else. That could work.

If you developed an electronics module, one or two containers that gave it some ECM and comms, that would be the next step. Beyond that I think the next step is enough radar to do fire control, but that's a tall order.

And we haven't talked about submarines. You can't do much to the merchant ship, but if you give it a helicopter it could gain some ASW. But putting a helicopter on a merchant ship might be hard.

My opinion, this is worth exploring. You're never going to get a destroyer out of it but you may end up with something useful.

Ghostrunner11 Jan 2019 10:23 a.m. PST

If we're talking way-out concepts, how about an un-upgraded merchant with a lot of TLAMs, Link, and remote-controlled navigation?

Send it to the edge of a combat zone with a crew, then offload them to the controlling vessel / escort?

The escort is not so much charged with defending the merchant/launch platform as it is there to ensure safe navigation.

Lion in the Stars11 Jan 2019 3:06 p.m. PST

Merchant ships don't need the crew of a warship because they don't have all the systems of a warship.

Add radars, missiles, and maybe guns, and you're looking at another 30+ crew. And now you're up to a lot closer to an LCS in crew count.

john snelling12 Jan 2019 8:22 a.m. PST

This is nothing new. US had plans in the 80's to arm merchants.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP12 Jan 2019 10:08 a.m. PST

"But putting a helicopter on a merchant ship might be hard".

Actually, that's very easy. Even some civilian yachts have them.

Merchants were used in the Falklands as helo/jet carriers, and with added deck plating, it was even planned to have them serve as "carriers" for the Sea Harriers too, if they lost one of their purpose-built aircraft carriers.

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