An Alternate Naval Typology

This is a guest post from Chuck Hill, a retired Commander in the U.S. Coast Guard and writer at his excellent Coast Guard Blog

The content has been previously published at the CIMSEC web site and is reproduced with kind permission of the CIMSEC Director

This was inspired by a question raised by Dr. Robert Farley here and here.

Within a navy the terms ‘frigate’ and ‘destroyer’ may have specific meanings, but there is no international standard.  Governments often choose to call a ship a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, or corvette for political reasons, so the terms have lost much of their meaning.  With the Germans building 7,200-ton F125-class ‘frigates’ and the Iranians calling their 1,500-ton Jamaran-class ‘destroyers,’ the naval typology system has lost its ability to inform.

HMS Cornwall
HMS Cornwall
Type 45 Destroyer Royal Navy
Type 45 Destroyer Royal Navy

Cruisers have all but disappeared.

The term has certainly lost its relevance as a step between destroyer and battleship.  In the few cases they do exist, with the sole exception of the Russian “Peter the Great,” they are  functionally virtually indistinguishable from ships called destroyers, and even from some ships called frigates.

All these classes actually form a continuum of capabilities, influenced most strongly by their displacement.  All fight primarily with gun, torpedo, or missile.  All these ships are cruisers in the classic sense of a ship capable of sustained independent operations.  They are all cruisers in the way Julian Corbett used the term, in that they are the ships that exercise sea control by enforcing blockades and protecting friendly commerce while denying it to the enemy.  Additionally these are the ships that most commonly do boardings and fight piracy.

When the term cruiser first appeared it was a generic term that referred to a range of ship types with their own names.  Frigates, sloops, and brigs might all have been referred to as cruisers.  I’d like to propose a  a return to something closer to the original meaning, to use cruiser as a generic term for surface warships that are not amphibs or aircraft carriers.  I will suggest a further breakdown based on displacement with this example to show how this might be more informative:

Micro-Cruisers   1,000-<2,000 tons
Mini-Cruisers      2,000-<4,000 tons
Light Cruisers     4,000-<8,000 tons
Heavy Cruisers   8,000-<16,000 tons
Battle Cruisers    16,000 tons or more

For illustrative purposes, below is a comparison of five fleets.  I have included ships of the U.S. and Russian Coast Guard, because they are also capable of doing some cruiser-type work, but added a notation.  The numbers may be suspect.

My sources may not be up to date, but I believe the comparison is generally valid.

Battle Cruisers 1
Heavy Cruisers 84 4
Light Cruisers 3 (CG) 13 42 17 13
Mini Cruisers 38 (10 CG) 19 (12 CG) 14 22
Micro Cruiser 27 (CG) 34 (12 CG) 17 4 9
TOTAL 152 (40 CG) 71 (24 CG) 73 21 33


There is no reason this typology could not be used in parallel with existing national or alliance systems that retain the destroyer, frigate, and corvette terms.  The numbers above are based on the following:

Battle Cruisers            –
Heavy Cruisers          84
– 22 CG
–  62 Burke
Light Cruisers               3
– 3 Bertholf (CG)
Mini-Cruisers               38
– 28 FFG/LCS
– 9 Hamilton (CG)
– 1 Alex Haley (CG)
Micro-Cruisers             27
– 13 Bear (CG)
– 14 Reliance (CG)
TOTAL                            152

Battle Cruisers                 1
– 1 Kirov
Heavy Cruisers                4
– 1 Kara
– 3 Slava
Light Cruisers                 13
– 1 Kashin
– 8 Udaloy
– 4 Sovremennyy
Mini-Cruisers                  19
– 3 Krivak (Navy)
– 6 Krivak (CG)
– 2 Neustrashimyy
– 2 Steregushchy
– 6 Ivan Susanin (CG)
Micro-Cruisers               34
– 2 Gepard
– 20 Grisha (Navy)
– 12 Grisha (CG)
TOTAL                               71

Battle Cruisers                 –
Heavy Cruisers                –
Light Cruisers                  42
– 2 Type 052 Luhu
– 4 Soveremenny
– 3 Type 51 B/C
– 9 Type 052 B/C/D
– 17 Type 054
– 9 type 051 Luda
Mini-Cruisers                   14
– 14 Jianghu
Micro-Cruisers                17
– 17 Jianghu
TOTAL                               73

Battle Cruisers                __
Heavy Cruisers               __
Light Cruisers                 17
– 17 Type 45 and Type 23
Mini-Cruisers                   __
Micro-Cruisers                 4
– 4 River-class                __
TOTAL                               21

Battle Cruisers                 –
Heavy Cruisers                –
Light Cruisers                  13
– 2 Horizon
– 2 Cassard
– 1 Tourville
– 1 Aquitaine
– 7 Georges Leygues
Mini-Cruisers                    11
– 5 La Fayette
– 6 Floreal
Micro-Cruisers                   9
– 9 D’Estienne d’Orves
TOTAL                                 33

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January 11, 2013 2:21 pm

But!..but…You can’t do that! Thats not…Really it’s…I mean its just… *whimper* I’m scared!

Seriously it has something going for it. Certainly better than keeping names aligned to ever changing tonnage or assigned to fixed roles that are increasingly irrelevant with multiple-role capable vessels. That path already gives you Frigates the size of WWI Lt Cruisers; Destroyers the size of WWII Cruisers; with both more than capable of engaging a wide range of air & subsurface threats and usually equivalent in anti surface capability.
Keeping with this list, I would however, insert ‘Medium Cruiser’ or simply ‘Cruiser’ and drop the lowest category from the naming scheme due to a typical lack of endurance, or in other words – cruising. ‘Mini’ and ‘Micro’ are just so damn unmilitary! This would give you: Battlecruiser, Hvy Cruiser, Med Cruiser/Cruiser, Lt Cruiser, and your choice of label for 1-2000 tons (eg new consistent use of one of: Corvette, OPV, re-introduce sloop, naval cutter, etc?)

January 11, 2013 2:57 pm

Problem is that tonnage itself does not inform. In one of the examples mentioned, the F-125 “frigate” mentioned carries a jaw dropping array of guns, but pitching that against even a general purpose “built for war” micro-cruiser (7,200 tons vs 2,000 tons) would end up with a sinking Light/Heavy cruiser.

Maybe we can split the baby and assign a “role” identifier as well as the tonnage identifier, for example “Light Patrol Cruiser” for the F-125, Heavy Battle Cruiser for things like the Ticonderoga class (Battle not being a weight class but a role classification)

Peter Elliott
January 11, 2013 3:42 pm

Think you are on to something here Observer. We tend to call things ‘Frigate’, ‘Destoyer’ or ‘Patrol Vessel’ becuase of their size and shape. But their level of equipment fit is just as relevent.

The meaningful distinction is actually between a ‘fighty ship’ designed for war and presence and ‘non fighty ship’ designed only for presence.

Its a moot point whether building frigate shaped ships without the sensors and main armament for fighting is a good idea or not. Its one of those confidence tricks that are very effective with public, politicians and opfor right up until the point when a gambler somewhere decides to roll the dice.

Probably far safer to make your non fighty ships look like supply vessels of one sort or another (from OSV right up to LSD). They will probably be more funtional for presence than a Frigate shape and people will be less tempted to start using them for a game of chicken.

Peter Elliott
January 11, 2013 4:08 pm

Does anyone see a role coming back in for Battle Cruisers?

With missile technology and radars having come on a long way the survivability of a T45, for instance, against peer air attack seems limited mostly by the size of its magazines.

At the same time a credible ability to ‘bombard’ the land now revolves more around cruise missiles than NGS. But these also need a lot of space in a VLS.

Is it too big a leap to imagine a 20,000T Battle Cruiser equipped with Sampson, Sea Viper, Perseus and hanger for 4 Merlins? It would be a pretty effective weapon of war against anything except a First Rate Carrier Group. Certainly able to set about an LHA or Amphibious Group, or do a lot of damage to on-shore intallations.

Only thing it would fear is the SSN – so probably go about in company with a couple of ASW Frigates to be on the safe side.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
January 11, 2013 6:16 pm

Excellent idea Chuck.

“Think you are on to something here Observer. We tend to call things ‘Frigate’, ‘Destoyer’ or ‘Patrol Vessel’ becuase of their size and shape. But their level of equipment fit is just as relevent”

What about number of missiles?

Could the two systems be combined?

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
January 11, 2013 6:23 pm

@ Peter – “Does anyone see a role coming back in for Battle Cruisers?With missile technology and radars having come on a long way the survivability of a T45, for instance, against peer air attack seems limited mostly by the size of its magazines.At the same time a credible ability to ‘bombard’ the land now revolves more around cruise missiles than NGS. But these also need a lot of space in a VLS.”

Something like this?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 11, 2013 7:09 pm

Looks like a T45 on steroids – anyone for a T46 “Area Domination Destroyer” about 20% bigger – does the modular construction of the T45 make that possible?

January 11, 2013 7:46 pm

Aren’t we just replacing one term for another by using cruiser though?

I see “Anti-Submarine Frigate” and “Anti-Air Destroyer” the same way as I see “Landing Pad Dock” or “Amphibious Assault Ship”. Just a convenient name for now, that will probably later in meaning again at some point down the line.

January 11, 2013 8:58 pm

“What about number of missiles?” – Some people cheat though with empty tubes ;-)

Do 21 RAM trump 16 TLAM?

As others more knowledgeable than I have noted, gone are the days of specialist ships, which makes it all the harder to classify them.

Jeremy M H
January 11, 2013 10:22 pm

I think the destroyer/cruiser dynamic is a bit thrown off. I would look at it differently at this point and use the following classifications.

General Purpose Destroyers- Ships with at least the following, 48 full-sized VLS cells (Tactical or A-50 or bigger) equipped with long-range SAM’s and strike weapons as well as helicopter aviation facilities (hanger, not just deck) and a full on sonar suite.

Air-Defense Destroyers- Ships that have the missiles but omit either the strike weapons or the helicopter or have scaled back sonars.

ASW Destroyers- Ships that have the aviation facilities and sonar but not the missiles.`

Frigates- Any ship fitted for the above missions but with less than tactical length or A-50 cells or less than 24 VLS cells overall. Apply the same classifications.

Cruisers- Any ship fitted for the above missions but with more than 100 VLS cells.

January 11, 2013 10:48 pm

The only categories for foreign warships are friend or target.

paul g
January 11, 2013 11:20 pm

“General Purpose Destroyers- Ships with at least the following, 48 full-sized VLS cells (Tactical or A-50 or bigger) equipped with long-range SAM’s and strike weapons as well as helicopter aviation facilities (hanger, not just deck) and a full on sonar suite.”

on those numbers can suggest BFO (big f**k off) destroyer for this;

Sejong the Great class destroyers’ main gun is the 127mm/L62 Mk. 45 Mod 4 naval gun, an improved version of the same gun used on other warships from several foreign nations. Point-defense armaments include one 30 mm Goalkeeper CIWS and a RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile Block 1 21-round launcher, the first Aegis platform to carry RAM.[4] Anti-aircraft armament consists of SM-2 Block IIIA and IIIB[5][6] in 80-cell VLS. Anti-Submarine Warfare armaments consists of both K-ASROC Hong Sahng-uh (Red Shark) anti-submarine rockets and 32 K745 LW Cheong Sahng-uh (Blue Shark) torpedoes. Anti-ship capability is provided by 16 SSM-700K Hae Sung (Sea Star) long-range anti-ship missile, each with performance similar to the U.S. Harpoon. Land-attack capability is provided by the recently-developed Hyunmoo IIIC (Guardian of the Northern Sky) cruise missile, which is similar to the U.S. Tomahawk.Destroyers of the Sejong the Great class will have a capacity of 128 missiles


[edit] Missile batteries
VLS: 128 cell Mk 41 VLS 48 cell (Fwd)
Mk 41 VLS 32 cell (Aft)
K-VLS 48 cell (Aft)

January 12, 2013 2:00 am

@ Chuck,

I think I see where you’re coming from, like an Internationally recognised classification for warship types?

January 12, 2013 6:57 am

The problem would be when you present the treasury with a new build program as soon as they see battle cruiser or AAW cruiser you can imagine they’d vision a huge 20,000 ton ww1 size ship and it would send them into a fit scaring the pants off them of how to pay for it

January 12, 2013 8:09 am

How about using a “generation” rating as well (like fighter a/c) in combination with size and primary role.

Generation would indicate a level of sophistication.

For example, a T45 could be a 5th generation AAW Light Cruiser.

We would need to agree a generation classification scale, but the overall criteria could be broad, e.g.. stealth, radar, weapon systems etc.

January 12, 2013 8:55 am

I must say that the only one I really struggle with is T45 as a destroyer.

What exactly is it designed to destroy? It is an air defence vessel. One that is unlikely to shoot-the-shooter.

Arleigh-Burke is a destroyer, as is anything with offensive long-range anti-ship/surface/land missiles, but T45 (as it stands) is hardly a destroyer at any stretch of the imagination.

It’s also not really a frigate since a “frigate” should be an agile, simple ship and in modern times defensively biased.

I’d suggest the T26 is more of a “destroyer” than T45 until T45 gets its land attack missiles.

However, I still think 1st rate, 2nd rate, etc is a reasonable way of classifying a nations ships as it simply tells the enemy which ones are more valuable ;-)

January 12, 2013 9:15 am
January 12, 2013 11:41 am

@ Simon re T45

Um. Well the RN wanted to procure T42 the original idea was to buy about 24 in B3 specification. They ended up 12 with 9 in B1 form and only 3 as originally specified. The RN wanted 12 T45 ended up with 6. That was purely for budgetary reasons but camouflaged behind the reason SeaViper is so much more potent than SeaDart. Now SeaViper is very potent. But all new systems are very potent; but one ship can only be in one place. Um. You could say a modern soldier despite being one man carries more firepower and thanks to CC is a lot more potent than say a platoon of Napoleonic era soldiers. But he is still a man with rifle and he can only be in one place at one time just as a ship or anything else can be in just one place.

I do see some validity in the idea that T45 thanks to SeaViper is perhaps a capital ship in its own right. And perhaps SeaCeptor’s purported capabilities filling the gap between mere PDMS and area weapon (SeaViper) adds to that idea too. The fact is the RN wanted 12 destroyers to replace T42 (as I explained elsewhere a GP ship thanks to a proper sonar) and ended up with 6 fast missile barges (with a small VLS capacity for their size) that “might” need escorting themselves. As you know with only 19 escorts on the cards I would prefer the escorts not to be needed to escorted themselves.

Would we have been better off with something “cheaper” like the De Zeven Provinciën class frigate? Probably but knowing the MoD they would have probably gone to sea without certain systems too. We would have probably been better off with 12 DZP if CVF’s airgroup and ASaC/AEW was a bit firmer. If we knew CVF was going to go to sea with 36 FJ and 4 AEW/ASaC from the get go so there was a definite outer layer of air defence then sure. But the only certain thing about CVF’s air defence is SeaViper. It is a bit mish-mash due to funding and politics. Imagine 12 full cream T45 with CVF and the air group just mentioned.

Um. Going into fantasy warship territory yes T45 would have been better with two big silos (Aster, Sea Ceptor, TLAM, SS-navy, perhaps even ASW VL missile), a flight deck but no hanger, and perhaps cannon covering each arc. That would have be some departure for the RN. It seems that T45 was being pushed along the escort route and CVF was proceeding along its own path, and there was no need to think about the former as something special.

As for using the word destroyer for anti-air escorts I have no problem with that at all. The term destroyer came from “torpedo boat destroyer”. Look up Jeune École and the idea of small fast boats using torpedoes to sink large expensive battleships. Today it is fast aircraft launching missiles and not boats shooting torpedoes.

January 12, 2013 12:22 pm


My point was only supposed to be about the use of the word “destroyer” to describe T45 – it’s an excellent ship, one which we cannot really do without. I have no problem with its design and leaning towards being an escort. I only have a problem (well, not really, just find it a little quirky) with the label of “destroyer”.

You mention the “torpedo boat destroyer” and then point out that it was used to sink large battleships. T45 cannot do this. It cannot strike land. It is anti-missile and anti-aircraft – the destruction of which doesn’t really warrant the term “destroyer”.

Perhaps things will change when Sea Ceptor comes along… 6 x 8-cell Aster VLS may change to the full 8 x 8-cell with 16 Aster 30, 32 TLAM and 64 quad-packed Sea Ceptor? Then it is truly a destroyer :-)

January 12, 2013 12:38 pm

Simon said ” torpedo boat destroyer ”

No and yes. No because “destroyers” destroyed “torpedo boats” using fast firing gun and being high speed vessels themselves; I explained it badly because I knew what I was saying!

And yes because the torpedo boat of the late 19th century was a bit fragile. And navies moved “torpedoes” on to destroyers and used flotillas of destroyers as screens against the other team’s destroyers and indeed yes to attack the other team’s HVU’s. I was going to mention that and the lack of T45 carrying a AShM but thought it muddied the waters a bit. And mainly because the term destroyer from “torpedo boat destroyer” came first; a ship for attacking high speed threats against the fleet. Um. I suppose yes a missile only T45 would be a good a place to base a large AShM say like BrahMos. Don’t want to get into another navies are for sinking ships rabbit hole. :)

January 12, 2013 12:44 pm

@ Simon

I would say T45 leans away from and not to being an escort. As I said SeaViper is very good. And a ship designed from the get go to carry just SeaViper would have a been a different beasty altogether. That T45 looks like, well is, an escort hull points towards the RN’s aspirations for the class and not with what they ended up.

January 12, 2013 1:18 pm


I think I misunderstood what you were getting at. Your “destroyer” term comes from “defending the fleet” originally against torpedos and more recently against missiles?

Trouble is T45 is unlikely to shoot-the-shooter therefore never actually destroying any part of the enemy war machine ;-)

January 12, 2013 2:38 pm

@ Simon,

There were torpedo boats. Those boats could sink a battleship with a few well aimed torpedos. So a vessel was invented to destroy the torpedo boats before they had a chance to fire their torpedos (at least accurately). This became the “Torpedo Boat Destroyer” or just “destroyer”.

Then during world war 2 things changed. Destroyers were still designed to destroy torpedo boats, but they also took on the role of destroying incoming enemy air attacks against high value vessels (With battery upon battery of AAA).

Hence why we call modern AA ships “Destroyers”, while Frigate has stuck for anti-submarine vessels, even though a lot of the anti-submarine work done in WW2 was done by “destroyers”.

January 12, 2013 4:16 pm

and sloops and trawlers…

The Americans even had boats (literal) imaginatively called subchasers to well chase submarines.

@ Simon

No as Chris says “destroyer” comes from “torpedo boat destroyers. If an expensive missile is a pilotless aeroplane that goes just one way a destroyer will be seeing and killing the enemy and causing attrition. Look at Argentina and Exocet in the Falklands. And doesn’t seeing the enemy on a screen count as seeing them or not?

January 12, 2013 4:27 pm

I KNOW How about seafighters:)

January 12, 2013 5:05 pm

Torpedo = Missile
Torpedo boat = Jet fighter

A destroyer therefore needs to cause attrition to the jet inventory not just the cheap projectile? Surely?

January 12, 2013 6:02 pm

@ Simon

Why do you T45 will never shoot down aeroplanes?

A missile is quite cheap compared to a FJ, but compared to a single round of rifle ammunition not quite as cheap. Attrition happens across the scale of expenditure.

January 12, 2013 6:56 pm

As a blogging friend of mine put it, the confusion about torpedo boat/torpedo boat destroyer/destroyer vanishes if you think of their role as “fighting for the torpedo battlespace” – defensively, keeping the other side out of the space you need to enter to launch torpedoes, offensively, fighting your way into that space and launching torpedoes. In practice, which side would launch a torpedo attack depended on who got the upper hand in the destroyer fight and therefore occupied the space. Submarines started off as submersible, slow torpedo boats, and therefore it was a destroyer mission to keep them out of space from which they could attack the line of battle.

And as someone said above, an air defence destroyer is there to deny the air space from which an anti-ship missile would be launched to the enemy.

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 12, 2013 7:07 pm

Old fossil that I am, I judge a minimum for a cruiser by the old County class. In the late 1950s the RN wanted a modern guided missile cruiser. The Treasury said no. So the RN designed the County Class & called them Destroyers. As the Treasury did not know what a Cruiser looked like, the RN got away with it. So my definition of Cruiser minimums is/are: at least 6200 tons full load, at least 520 ft long, reasonable gun armament(either 2x 4.5″ or 1x 155mm), at least one serious missile (SeaSlug then, Aster 30/Standard/Tomahawk now), a minor missile(SeaCat then, SeaCeptor/Sea Brimstone now), hull tough enough to cope with rough seas/small arms fire + at least one helicopter & an ability to command a mini taskforce.

January 12, 2013 7:14 pm

Maybe instead of a weight range for a “cruiser” designation, we should have a “minimum range” limit? After all, “cruisers” as the name implies are meant for long range deployments, anything else that doesn’t have the legs can be regulated to “corvette”. This goes back into the “role” application of ship designations, as the short range would automatically imply defensive usage of the craft.

In the case of your example JH, it would be a “Light (6.2k tons) Battle (Role) Cruiser (Deployment range)” if we used the mixed role/weight system by mixing Chuck and my idea together. What generation is the ship, I leave that to others to figure it out. Maybe an A/B/C/D ending designation after the model name?

January 12, 2013 7:30 pm

What are the stocks of anti ship missiles around the world?
The UK has none…
Russia and China expect to keep 500 of their Brahmos each and sell the same again.

Not quite as rare as fighters, but they are a limited commodity.

January 12, 2013 8:01 pm

UK has none? You sure? That sounds very far fetched.

January 12, 2013 8:10 pm


I don’t think T45 will shoot down many jets simply because of discussions I’ve had with you about the value of CAP/SHAR/AMRAAM and the fact that 100km is not really a huge distance for AShM (well at least in a few years it won’t be).

I hope it will shoot down loads of jets, but have this feeling this is unlikely… However, I’m sure an Aster50 will soon exist to make me feel happier on the subject ;-)

January 12, 2013 8:26 pm

Simon, if we called it a defender to fit the role instead of the historical destroyer, it’ll sound too much like a soccer match. :)

January 12, 2013 8:26 pm

One thing that a lot of people either seem to forgot or not realise is that a lot of the Arleigh Burke destroyers don’t carry any anti ship missiles. The earlier ones do, but from what I’m aware, the later ones (flight IIA onwards) don’t. Later ones also seem to either only have one phalanx or none at all.

They do carry Tomahawk missiles, but they aren’t anti ship missiles. Although there is meant to be work on making a new anti ship version.

They also of course carry a lot more missiles than the Type 45, but it just surprises me when I repeatedly see people complaining about the fact the Type 45 doesn’t carry harpoon missiles or that some of them don’t have phalanx fitted yet, and then in the same breath hold up the Arleigh Burkes as examples of a ship that has those weapons.

Of course the US have a lot more ships than the UK, and as a lot of people say, can we really afford to have a ship that isn’t general purpose.

January 12, 2013 8:55 pm

The RAF no longer has anti ship capability.
It never bought harpoon, and Sea Eagle went some time ago.
JCA might lead to a NSM purchase, but for now, nadda.

It does seem to be quite a gap, we better hope astute really is that good.

Stormshadow could wreck all but the largest ships, but my understanding is it has to be targeted on the ground before take off.

Even with very long ranged missiles, you still need to generate accurate targeting information somehow.

Think Defence
January 12, 2013 8:57 pm
Reply to  Matt

Welcome to TD Matt

January 12, 2013 8:59 pm


The anti shipping role is with the RN, not as strong but there still is a capability within the UK. Other weapons can be used, but that is where the specialised role lies.

January 12, 2013 9:15 pm

I thought nimrod had harpoon when it was in service back in the day when the uk had 3 different anti ship missiles and everyone else just bought 1 type. Harpoon is on type 23 and would a lack of such systems be because there is next to no large open ocean ship objects to shoot at?

Jeremy M H
January 12, 2013 10:08 pm


That is a slightly different situation as the SM-2 actually has an anti-ship capability that is fairly robust. For a variety of reasons you can’t use Aster that way.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
January 12, 2013 10:30 pm

RE: County Class and definition of a Cruiser:
“The RN studies of new generation guided missile ships (G.M.S) resulted in a very large (for the time) 6,000 ton destroyer. During the requirements generation process, the RN naval architects were asked “what would change if the ships were considered cruisers instead of destroyers?” Naval architect W.G. John produced, in October 1957, the comparison contained in Table 2.liii The Royalist mentioned in the table is a member of the Bellona class anti-aircraft cruisers (four 5.25-inch twin mounts) completed in 1943 with similar overall dimensions to the G.M.S. study. The G.M.S. studies evolved into the eight ships of the “County” class DDGs of 6,800 tons full load.
Table 2 Royal Navy Destroyer vs Cruiser Practice in 1957
Protection – Splinter protection added to cruisers around magazines and gunbay, action office, steering gear.
Size/ComplementG.M.S.RoyalistW.L.505 ft506 ftBeam55 ft50.5 ftDraught (deep)16 ft18 ftDisplacement (deep)6000 tons7500 tonsOfficers3646Senior rates125142Junior rates334413Marines049 ———- 495650
Cruiser manning necessarily greater:
(a) More self maintenance. Destroyer 3 months, Cruiser 6 to 8 months.
(b) Flagship. Accommodation and offices and provision for more ceremonial work – marines and band.
Workshops and Spare Gear Stores Space requirements about doubled for cruiser
Communications Scale for cruisers requires space of order of 950 sq.ft. increased to 1800 sq. ft.
Offices About 50% increase [700 sq.ft. to 1000 sq.ft.] for a cruiser
ProvisionsDestroyerCruiserFood and Stores45 days70 daysFresh Water50 g.p.m.60 g.p.m.
Bakery & Captain” galley – Separate in cruiser (300 sq.ft.)
Medical – Add examination room, dispensary and dental surgery to cruiser (about 300 sq.ft.)
Recreation, etc. – Add recreation space, bookstall and church to cruiser
Damage control – Add redundant H.Q. (DC central) to cruiser
General – The above features bring a number of complementary items in their train, i.e., as the ship becomes bigger the question of separation of the main machinery units need reconsideration increased electric power, and more elaborate electrical distribution system, all ship systems grow bigger, additional boats are required.”

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 12, 2013 10:41 pm

Swim T
Is that a yes or a no?

January 13, 2013 2:44 am

@ Chuck,

See the problem I’m having is understanding why we need a new classification, other than for a sort of international comparitive basis, which I don’t know what that would be used for but hey.

I dunno. To me it doesn’t seem like a huge issue that the Dutch for example call everything a Frigate and then later we have to apply non-official terms like AA Destroyer or whatever.

Do we need a new classification system? It might help for our service chiefs when talking to politicians, but other than that, I can’t see as their being much point.

January 13, 2013 7:05 am

Pity the arsenal ship concept died :)

January 13, 2013 7:35 am

@ Chuck,


January 13, 2013 8:46 am

Hi Chuck, putting together your article and the 1st comment (by Wstr) is pretty much what I think. Of course, having not read enough naval history, would have found it hard to articulate.

As in “would give you: Battlecruiser, Hvy Cruiser, Med Cruiser/Cruiser, Lt Cruiser, and your choice of label for 1-2000 tons (eg new consistent use of one of: Corvette, OPV, re-introduce sloop, naval cutter, etc?)” I also think that the lowest category should have a different label.

But as ‘independent operation, or being capable of’ is the only characteristic that one can universally use as the dividing line, you shot down this with your example
“Even these small ships can have great endurance if properly designed. The USCG’s Reliance class ships, 1000 tons and 210 ft loa have a range of over 6,000 miles and 30 days endurance, so even they can do some of Corbett’s cruiser tasks.”
– I had thought that the dividing line was below the Floreals that are already in the next category up

January 13, 2013 10:00 am

T45 = Air Defence Cruiser then?
T26 = Sea Control Cruiser/Frigate?

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 13, 2013 11:10 am

Well to me, a light cruiser is County class or larger, while proper cruisers are in the 9000 to 14000ton class, above that battlecruisers.

January 13, 2013 1:37 pm

I didn’t realise what a relic the last of Kirov class is, probably kept in service mainly so that one at a time the other four Russian cruisers can be refitted?
“Modern gas turbine and diesel propulsion plants are quite a bit easier to run and less expensive to maintain than [Peter the Great’s] steam (nuclear or [alternatively] fuel oil).”
– isn’t the proposed dividing line between the two uppermost classes in a wrong place as the Zumwalts won’t make it and soon we will have no others in the battlecruiser class either?

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
January 13, 2013 2:53 pm

@ John Hartley – RE: County class. Technically not a cruiser (lacks the additional capabilities and crew listed) but performs similar role so I’d call it a cruiser. Interesting the endurance of a cruiser then was 6 months, which I believe is the “standard” deployment for our Frigates and Destroyers today?

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
January 13, 2013 3:01 pm

@ ACC – “A reassessment in 2007 suggested splitting the CG(X) into two classes, fourteen Zumwalt-sized “escort cruisers” and five 23,000 ton ballistic missile defense (BMD) ships. There was political pressure for some or all of these ships to be nuclear powered, which would have given them the hull classification symbol of CGN(X).”

January 13, 2013 10:19 pm

@Jeremy M H

ref the SM-2 being used in a anti ship role.

The SM-2 is semi active guided, so doesn’t that limit its range in the anti ship role, to attacking ships that are in radar range of the destroyer? So around 25 km ?

For longer ranges, maybe you could use a e-2 and Cooperative Engagement Capability to guide it to a longer range, but I wouldn’t think that would be likely to be used. (not actually sure if the CEC in the e-2 includes the terminal trackers? I guess it does otherwise it wouldn’t be all that useful)

Or maybe you could just use the data link to the SM-2 to try to guide it to the target without any terminal guidance, but then if you could do that, wouldn’t using a Tomahawk be better as they can being given target position updates.

So if the range is limited to 25-30 km, then it basically limits it to extreme emergencies or to be used against a swarm of fast attack craft. Which can still be a useful capability but its not really what people think of when think of a destroyer having anti ship weapons.

Also against any ship that had decent self protection weapons, wouldn’t the flight profile of the SM-2 most likely make it easier to shot down than a sea skimming missile?

Jeremy M H
January 13, 2013 11:20 pm

The SM-2 most commonly in service is the block III missile in its various versions. It actually has a dual seeker, with IR or semi-active radar homing for terminal homing. No one who will talk publicly has really said what role the IR homing capability would have in anti-ship mode but there is no technical reason it wouldn’t work. People I have talked to have pointed out that the decision to stop putting Harpoons on the Burkes was taken right about the same time that dual-mode seeker started to hit the fleet.

And yes, it would be an easier target in theory than a sea-skimming missile in theory. But it would be whipping in at something above Mach 3.5 and probably in pretty good numbers. The SM-2 probably comes in on a similar profile to something like the old, fast ASM’s the Russian’s had on their bombers. Fast and diving. It is still a challenging target set considering that most of the targets that would be facing the incoming weapons don’t have an AEGIS like system to defend themselves.

Certainly as a get by weapon until the threat built to the point that LRASM was deemed necessary (just recently really) it was a fairly cheap and easy alternative. And as you said it would be flat out deadly against small boats who are even more horizon restricted than an AEGIS when it comes to targeting their weapons.

January 14, 2013 9:32 am

Think someone once mentioned that to use the SM in an anti-ship mode, you needed a seperate designator, and that all of the designators were stripped off the O.Perry class during their refits, so they can’t be used against surface targets now.

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 14, 2013 11:09 am

I had a wander around the Salem, near Boston, in 2004. Nice photo of me in the turret next to an 8 inch shell, trying to figure how we could get an 8 inch gun on a modern RN cruiser,

January 14, 2013 11:54 am

Observer said ” SM in an anti-ship mode”

The easier way would be to stick a young promising officer on the launcher and do it by line of sight.

January 14, 2013 11:59 am

@ John H

USS Hull was a bit smaller than a T45…….

Jeremy M H
January 14, 2013 2:26 pm


The AEGIS system can designate a surface target and has the appropriate designator (AN/SPG-62). In SARH mode engaging surface targets is a well known capability. What does not seem to be agreed upon is if you can use mid-course updates, which the system can do, and the IR terminal seeker to take shots from further away. My presumption is that you could but I have never seen it confirmed and I doubt the USN wants to put that piece of information out there. But a ship is a pretty large IR target in the end so if they wanted it to do that it would.

You are correct the Perry’s can’t use the system. All the necessary components of their SM-1 system were taken out. There was some level of talk about putting RIM-116 on it which would give some level of anti-boat capability to the ships but I am not sure if that ever happened or not. My guess is they studied it and could do it but won’t bother unless it appears a shooting war is about to kick off.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 14, 2013 3:55 pm

The SM is subject to the same limitations as the Harpoon, which put simply apply to littoral waters where there are “white” targets in abundance as well as your red/orange/black (delete as current fad) target of interest.

The reason Harpoon “fell out of favour” with the USN is not that it’s a poor missile (far from it – I’ve seen what the end result is when it goes bang!), but that in a non all-out war scenario in littoral waters (where marine traffic is fairly dense) it is very difficult to target. It can be done, but the effort required tends to require assets close in (exposing them to threat and losing element of surprise). In that case (and against the sort of targets currently in vogue) you might as well have the sensor as the shooter (ie aircraft).

In an open ocean scenario (or where you could be confident you had a relatively clear range) it is still a very cost-effective weapon against surface targets.

SM (even with an IR head) is still essentially a within horizon range weapon for the same reasons. Because it’s faster your range clearance problem is a little easier, but not by much. Not entirely sure that the IR head is set up to defeat CM though….

Your SPG is largely irrelevant in that it can only see around 10nm to the horizon even on a CG.

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 14, 2013 6:51 pm

With you on that. Fantasy fleet stretched T45 cruiser. 8 inch gun, sylver A70 VLS, 2 x 21″ torps, hangar for 4 Merlin (2 ASW, 2 CSAR), hull toughened for light ice.

Mike wheatley
Mike wheatley
January 14, 2013 7:59 pm

I’m pretty sure the t-45 has a very good anti-ship missile, called lynx?

5th generation?
I think ship generations are defined like this:
5th = new product made by our company
4th = ships we want to sell replacements for
4.5 = competitors products

But seriously: I fully agree with the idea that most modern warships would be better labelled as “Cruisers”.
Particularly post 1982.
To me, a Cruiser is a ship intended for independent operations,
In contrast to a ship that is intended to operate under the cover of allied air power – eg in the uk-Iceland gap, or escorting a carrier and hence itself protected by the aircraft of the carrier.
So maybe Frigate and Destroyer can be kept as terms for ships that are less complete / less self-reliant?

But yes to the T45 being better described as a Light (possibly Medium) Cruiser.

January 14, 2013 8:54 pm

Hi Mike, RE “I’m pretty sure the t-45 has a very good anti-ship missile, called lynx?”
– SeaSkua has been retired
– The French have been presented with a carrot and a stick regarding getting the replacement finally started: UK will pay for the early stages, and France is to backfill for that as we go along, to arrive at the original arrangement in a cumulative way(or else part… there might be no more joint projects)

January 14, 2013 9:10 pm

@ John H

Um. I do wonder whether the RN will ever get one of those rail guns. That MK71 was problematic but there was nothing that couldn’t be solved. If you google you will find pictures of the Hull with that huge turret.

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 14, 2013 9:39 pm

The USS Hull needed,um, a beefed up hull to withstand the 8 in firing. Should not be a problem if designing in from new. Might/would be a problem trying to retrofit it.
MK-71 had the firepower of 3 x 5 inch guns.
If there was money for defence R&D , I would push electrothermal guns. Could be used by tanks & ships. Probably 135 or 140mm.

January 14, 2013 10:05 pm

@ John H

You must admit it looks way scary though doesn’t it? The Mk71 is so outsize the brain has difficulty scaling the ship. Actually the reverse of what happens when you look at a T45 with its large bridge windows and lack of clutter make the Mk8 look wrong.

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 14, 2013 10:53 pm

Off to sleepy bobos to dream of 8 inch guns on stretched T45s. Theres lovely.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
January 22, 2013 9:44 pm

Spent ages looking for this page and then found it in my bookmarks when researching something else… typical!