Classification of surface warships as cruisers, destroyers, frigates, or corvettes, has become like pornography. There are no generally accepted definitions, but “I know it when I see it”–except that everyone sees it a little differently.
Since this is “Corvette Week” what are we really talking about?
(Note: unless otherwise specified, lengths are over all and displacements are full load)
My Combat Fleets of the World, 16th Edition, which I have used here extensively for reference, defines Corvettes as, “Surface Combatants of less than 1,500 tons but more than 1,000 full load displacement–essentially, fourth rate surface combatants.” but goes on to note that “…the designation as used here essentially refers to smaller frigates and does not correspond to the European concept of corvettes as any warship larger than a patrol craft but smaller than a frigate.” I feel to confine the definition within a 500 ton range is too restrictive. in fact it would have excluded the Castle class corvettes of WWII as too large, and other corvettes as too small.
I’ll just note that in our Navy, typically the smallest surface combatant we’ve built in peacetime is the Frigate or (as designated prior to 1975) the Destroyer Escort.
Our Navy currently is pretty well stocked with Destroyers, with some 62 of the excellent DDG-51 class in service. But our Frigates of the FFG-7 class are nearing the ends of their service lives. The LCS is being built, but since day one, Big Navy has denied the LCS is a replacement for the Frigate.
And to a great extent, that’s true. Our Frigates, while always general purpose warships, have been optimized for the open ocean Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) role.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the blue water ASW mission has declined greatly. But there is still a pressing need for a numerous class of warships to fulfill missions that don’t require the capability of a multi-billion dollar DDG-51.
Is there a place for a low-end corvette combatant in our Navy? What roles and missions would it perform? Where is it likely to serve? How should it be armed?
Hopefully, the Corvette Week series at CIMSEC will provide answers to those questions.