How did the design of the hull differ between an Indiaman and a frigate?

How did the design of the hull differ between an Indiaman and a frigate?


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Indiamen and frigates look similar. The Indiaman seems a little bigger, but both are similar in the following ways:

  • full rigged
  • design for overseas operation (able to cross oceans)
  • armed

As indiamen are not designed to go to war, its hull may not be as strong. Thus, my question is: Is there difference between both hull designs such as heavier wood or thicker hull?


There was no standard design for an East Indiaman and, similarly, there was no standard design of frigate, so the exact answer will vary considerably based on exactly which sample vessels you choose to compare. As a general rule, ships of both types grew in size from the start of their development to the end of the Age of Sail. This was mainly due to improvements in materials and technology that allowed longer, stronger vessels to be built.

The first "classic" frigates, i.e. warships with their main battery in a single deck, started to appear around 1750, at which point they were still considerably smaller than the ships-of-the-line that they supplemented and supported. The earliest examples were about 750 tons burthen. A hundred years later, at the time they were replaced by ironclads, these ships had grown considerably, so that the distinction between a large frigate and a small ship-of-the-line was very blurred. As an example, HMS Vernon (built in the 1830s) was just over 2,000 tons burthen, similar in size to a Napoleonic period Third Rate ship-of-the-line.

For Indiamen, their size depended on the roles for which they were used and different sized vessels could be deployed on different routes in the same time periods. For example, the British East India company had different vessels for the China and India routes.

In 1793 the company decided that they should be two classes of ships: 36 ships of over 1000 tons for the China trade, and 40 regular ships of 800 tons for the India trade. In addition there should be ships of smaller tonnage - extra ships - of 500 to 600 tons burthen, employed for several voyages or for a single voyage as circumstances demanded…

Lords of the East, the East India Company and its Ships, J. Sutton (1981)

It's interesting to note that the HEIC's replacement for the classic Indiaman, were much closer in appearance to their naval equivalents. Consequently, they were referred to as Blackwall Frigates (combining the name of the yard where they were built with their style).

In terms of the key differences between the ships, the most obvious arise from their different purposes. The East Indiaman, like all merchant vessels, was designed to carry as much cargo as they could, so their hull cross-sections were deeper and squarer than those of the naval frigates (which only abandoned the traditional tumblehome at the end of the period in question).

In many ways, the larger East Indiaman resembled the smaller ships-of-the-line rather than frigates. The Indiamen kept a double gallery at the stern, which was similar to the style of the two-decker warships. It was this similarity that allowed the HEIC's vessels their finest hour. A fleet of sixteen Indiamen and smaller ships, under Nathaniel Dance, managed to ward off a French squadron under Admiral Linois, largely by bluffing the French into believing that their Indiamen might actually be warships.

There was however a large difference in firepower between the two ship types. The Indiaman carried fewer guns, and these were smaller, lighter and of a lower quality compared to those of a warship. The smaller crew carried by the merchant ships also meant that their guns had a lower rate of fire so they were far from a match when it came to battle.

In terms of construction, the methods of construction were very similar. This shouldn't be too surprising as many shipyards built vessels for both the navy and merchant fleets. Naval vessels were the first to adopt coppering to keep their hulls clean but when the advantages were seen the Indiamen were similarly sheathed.

In other areas, the Indiaman were technologically ahead. For example, during the long period of the French Revolutionary & Napoleonic Wars, demand for timber for ship building was at a height. As the Navy were given priority on timbers, the builders of the East Indiamen were driven to use metals to replace timber in key areas, such as the knees and brackets. This actually improved the strength of these joints and this construction was subsequently introduced into the warships.


As noted in the two Wikepedia articles you link to, typical East Indiamen were much larger:

  • Frigates:

    Royal Navy frigates of the late 18th century included the 1780-vintage Perseverance class, which measured around 900 tons burthen and carried 36 guns; this successful class was followed by numerous other classes that measured over 1,000 tons burthen and carried 38 guns.

  • ** East Indiamen:

    They measured 1426 tons (bm) on dimensions of approximately 175 feet overall length of hull, 144 feet keel, 43 feet beam, 17 feet draft.

As you can see, the Frigates mentioned were 40 feet shorter in length and barely 2/3 the burthen. This is not surprising because frigates were built to maximize speed afloat, while retaining the ability to fight, while East Indiamen were designed to maximize cargo space.

Ad for hull design itself, both were three masted square-rigged vessels. That was the most effective sail plan of the time for large vessels, and limited hull variations. The biggest difference would have been a thicker hull for Frigates, being a vessel specifically desingned for combat.


Ship Hull Designs in Naval Architecture - An Overview

The hull is one part of the ship that requires extra concern during design and construction. In the history of naval architecture, hull designs has evolved over a period of time, from cylindrical wooden shanks to steel columns. Engineers have been continuously innovating hull designs to provide greater structural strength. As hull is continuously in contact with water, it is under the effect of different types of forces acting at the same time. Not only that, a hull requires high durability and resistance to prevent structural damage in case of collision or grounding.

Naval architects use different methods for hull construction keeping in mind the purpose and type of ship. In this article we will have a look at the basic ship hull designs which are commonly used.


Blackwall Frigate

Blackwall Frigate was the colloquial name for a type of three-masted full-rigged ship built between the late 1830s and the mid-1870s. They were originally intended as replacements for the British East Indiaman in the trade between England, the Cape of Good Hope, India and China, but from the 1850s were also employed in the trade between England, Australia and New Zealand.

The first Blackwall frigates were designed and built by Wigram and Green at Blackwall Yard on the River Thames. Under different owners these yards had built East Indiamen since the early 17th century as well as warships for the Royal Navy.

Whereas the traditional East Indiaman had double stern galleries, the Blackwall frigate had a single gallery and was so named partly because it was superficially similar in appearance to a frigate of the Royal Navy. With only a single gallery, the hull-lines at the stern could be very fine and combined with relatively fine underwater lines at the bow, Blackwall frigates were fast sailing ships, although not as fast as the clipper ships that appeared in the late 1840s. Another feature of early Blackwall frigates was a highly rounded hull at the bow above the waterline, such ships being referred to as "apple-cheeked". The first two Blackwall frigates, the 871-ton Seringapatam and 951-ton Madagascar launched in 1837, carried the names of two slightly larger Indian-built frigates in the Royal Navy, as did a number of their successors. This also appears to have been part of the inspiration for the popular terminology. The yard built warships as well as merchantmen and so some techniques and features from warship-design inevitably crept into the design of the Indiamen, leading to the similarity in appearance, a feature which probably inspired both the formal name choices, and the adoption of the informal terminology.

Over 120 Blackwall frigates were built by British and Indian yards before the last, the 1857-ton iron ship Melbourne, was built at Blackwall by the Green family in 1875. They were generally considered to be safe and comfortable ships and were employed in premium trades, but were the victims of some of the most celebrated shipwrecks of the 19th century. These included:

  • Madagascar, missing between Melbourne, Australia and London in 1853 with the loss of about 150 lives,
  • Dalhousie, sank off Beachy Head on 13 October 1853 with the loss of about 60 passengers and crew,
  • Dunbar, wrecked near Sydney Heads on 20 August 1857 with the loss of 121 lives,
  • Northfleet, run down and sunk by a steamer in the English Channel on 22 January 1873 with the loss of 320 lives,
  • Cospatrick, destroyed by fire south of the Cape of Good Hope on 18 November 1874 with the loss of 473 lives.

A well-known example of later Blackwall frigates was the True Briton of 1046 tons built in 1861, which made frequent voyages to Australia and New Zealand carrying passengers, convicts and cargo. Photographs of this vessel are on display in the State Library of Victoria.

The semi-clipper Clyde (1860) 1151 tons

By the 1860s the main difference between Blackwall frigates and clippers was the stern gallery (which "true clippers" never had, though many "semi-clippers" did) and the residual "tumble-home" or hull curvature such that the hull was narrower at deck level than at the waterline) which was greater in a Blackwall frigate than in a clipper or semi clipper.

Both types became superseded as passenger carrying vessels by steamships during the 1870s and later sailing ships of the type colloquially called windjammers were built for cargo carrying only.


External links

  • National Maritime Museum catalogue entry for painting entitled "The Indiaman Seringapatam arriving home"
  • National Maritime Museum catalogue entry for print entitled "The Seringapatam East Indiaman, 1000 Tons"
  • National Maritime Museum catalogue entry for a hull model of The Seringapatam
  • National Maritime Museum catalogue entry for painting entitled "The Blackwall frigate Owen Glendower at anchor off a coastline"
  • National Maritime Museum catalogue entry for print entitled "The Owen Glendower, East Indiaman, 1000 Tons (Entering Bombay Harbour)
  • National Maritime Museum catalogue entry for a hull model of The Owen Glendower
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CONFEDERATE IRONCLADS

Union Ironclad Examples:

Look for similarities and differences between these later “monitors” and the original U.S.S. Monitor.

When news of the Virginia arrived in the North, the Union sought plans for an ironclad of their own advertising for:

“…the construction of one or more iron-clad steam vessels of war, either of iron or of wood and iron combined, for sea or river service, to be not less than ten nor over sixteen feet draught of water…”

Originally three different designs were selected these became the Monitor, the Galena, and the New Ironsides. In addition to building several dozen variations of coastal Monitor class ironclads (Onondaga), the Union converted paddlewheel river boats on the Mississippi into ironclads (Essex, Choctaw, Osage, & Ozark) and experimented with ironclad designs that would be sea worthy on the open ocean (Keokuk & Roanoke).


More Hulls Now: What Treaty Cruisers Can Show the Navy About Innovating Ship Design

“‘I am forced,’ said Mr. Balfour, ‘to the conclusion that now, for the first time in modern history, we are face to face with a naval situation so new and so dangerous that it is difficult for us to realize all its import.” 1 Germany had launched its fourth dreadnought in four years and Britain was nervous. The Royal Navy had ruled the waves since Admiral Horatio Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar. But the international situation in the early 20th century was anything but certain as Britain and Germany embarked on an arms race, and with the United States and Japan close behind. After World War I, most of the major naval powers realized these enormous ships would only get larger, keeping all of them locked in an arms race when the world was supposed to be permanently at peace.

Today, the United States finds itself again in a multipolar world, with the Chinese and Russian navies looking more threatening by the day. Yet the Navy continues to wrestle with defining target ship counts and fleet sizes, and is struggling to find enough funding to substantially grow the fleet while adequately maintaining it. An op-ed in Breaking Defense called it the “spectacular collapse of Navy force planning.” 2

In response to mounting tensions after WWI, the five major powers negotiated the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, limiting capital ship development to stabilize the arms race. The treaty, followed by the 1930 London Naval Treaty, created a new class of ship—treaty cruisers—and launched a long period of innovative naval development. The Navy responded with tremendous shipbuilding activity, producing 18 cruisers across five classes in 20 years. Treaty cruisers would go on to play a pivotal role in the outcome of World War II in the Pacific and were present at every major fleet action. The story of the treaty cruisers offers lessons for today’s Navy to creatively solve problems around hard constraints and innovate at the fleet level while building up for great power competition.

Early Cruisers

In 1915, the Navy learned through its annual fleet exercises that it needed a ship somewhere in stature between a destroyer and a battleship. Before this, the major maritime powers focused primarily on building ever-larger battleships and small destroyers to fight between them. At the time, cruisers served primarily as long-range scouts for the battle fleet—an important role. But the Navy only had a few of these ships. In an annual letter to Congress in 1915, Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, Admiral Frank Fletcher, noted that on two fleet maneuvers, conducted while en route to Guantanamo Bay, the lack of cruisers for scouting allowed inferior forces to evade the battle fleet. Several days later, that same battle fleet found itself being tracked by destroyers for lack of cruisers to provide advance warning and keep the destroyers at bay. 3 Admiral Fletcher noted:

[T]he lack of heavily armored fast vessels and light cruisers was especially felt for seven days from the start of the problem until it ended. The Blue commander in chief has no reliable information of the position or movements of the enemy while the enemy due to superior cruiser force was well informed of our movements and dispositions at all times. 4

Admiral Fletcher noted that destroyers filled an admirable role here, but that their performance and seakeeping, especially during the winter months, made them unsuitable for long-range scouting and attack. 5 Destroyers had vital roles to fill, but scouting was not one of them. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels noted in his letter with Admiral Fletcher’s report that “fast armored ships and fast light cruisers” were his third-highest priority, only behind the shortage of officers and Sailors. 6 Out of this would rise the 10-ship Omaha class. It was a start.

The Battleship Holiday

In 1922, as the USS Omaha (CL 4) was being fitted out prior to commissioning, the United States negotiated the Washington Naval Treaty with Britain, Italy, Japan, and France. It contained a number of provisions designed to lessen the tensions between great powers by ensuring approximate tactical parity existed between them and that no fleet could become overly dominant.

The U.S. Navy light cruiser USS Omaha (CL-4) passing through the Panama Canal, circa 1925-1926. (Photo via Naval History and Heritage Command)

The treaty limited the total tonnage and armament of capital ships, generally seen as battleships and battlecruisers, limited aircraft carriers, and set tonnage and armament limits on a non-existent class of combatants: 10,000 tons and 8-inch guns. 7 Importantly for the United States, Article XIX forbade improvements to shore fortifications in the Pacific, meaning that bases in the Philippines and Wake Island could not be strengthened further. This played a major role in shaping the strategic purpose of the new class and the decision to retire the oldest, most-costly, coal-burning ships in the fleet to free up tonnage for these new ships. 8 The five powers immediately set to work developing this new class.

This new, unknown class presented a number of constraints for the Navy, in particular the General Board, to wrestle with. Combined with the 10,000 ton and 8-inch caliber gun limits, the prohibition on improving fortified shore bases in the Pacific and the limits on capital ship tonnage created additional degrees of complexity. The ships had to fill a strategic role, and wargaming War Plan Orange against Japan revealed that the fleet needed to be much larger than previously thought. The treaty’s 5-to-3 American advantage in capital ship tonnage over the Japanese was driven by the Navy’s desire to have at least a 7-to-6 advantage on reaching the Western Pacific, assuming the fleet lost 10 percent of the battle force for every thousand miles steamed. 9

Ship readiness became of paramount concern. Planners quickly realized that they needed readiness levels in peacetime of greater than 90 percent to achieve the required wartime superiority against Japan. 10 That threshold, especially when factoring in modernization, maintenance, and overhaul periods, became a pipe dream. Therefore the General Board worked aggressively to maximize combat power in the treaty cruisers, where individual ships would have a lesser individual impact on readiness figures. Simply put, they needed many more ships coming off the building ways than previously thought.

Constraints Foster Innovation

Given the complex constraints, the debate within the Navy and the General Board was understandably heated. The differences between “the General Board, and various bureaus representing the engineering, ordnance, and ship design communities” led to a protracted design process, and by the time the Pensacola was finally laid down in 1926, “work had already begun on an alternative design with a radically different hull configuration and armament layout,” which would become the Northampton class. 11 Budgetary pressure from Congress in 1924 and 1925 complicated matters further as Congress refused to appropriate funds for the recommended eight new Pensacola-class cruisers.

Common wisdom considers the freedom from constraints to produce more creative solutions, but constraints actually produce better outcomes. Creativity is enhanced by embracing constraints. 12 The Navy knew that it needed a new class of warships rapidly—the competing powers were all doing the same. The General Board felt international pressure to produce an affordable, minimum viable design to the maximum limits allowed by treaty as quickly as possible. Only an iterative approach would work to optimize these constraints, and the Board knew that it could not wait for new technologies to mature before producing the new class. The Pensacola-class cruisers were therefore designed for fast, independent steaming and long-range gunnery performance, reflecting the Board’s desires. Achieving this required the Board to sacrifice much of the armor and cram as much weaponry as they could into the design, earning the class the nickname ‘tinclads.’

The U.S. Navy heavy cruiser USS Pensacola (CA-24) underway at sea in September 1935. (Photo via Naval History and Heritage Command)

Today’s Navy faces a similar predicament. In an eerie parallel, the Navy has about the same number of surface combatants as it did in the mid-1920s when the Pensacolas were being built. It faces an even more complicated strategic environment and the curse of geography. Similar concerns over unrealistic force generation models, such as those that drove the 5-to-3 advantage, are echoed by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s recent comments to Congress. When asked why he rejected the Navy’s proposed shipbuilding plan, Secretary Esper said because in part “it kept the old deployment and readiness model, which is broken: It hasn’t worked for years, so why should we assume it will work in the future?” 13 Current congressional budget challenges, especially with the coronavirus pandemic and the lagging Large Surface Combatant (LSC) timeline, are reminiscent of the challenges faced by the General Board and the ship design community in 1925.

The interwar Navy found a constrained solution through the iterative design and production of classes of ships. In fact, the recent award of 10 ships for the next generation frigate, FFG(X), could be considered the first iteration on a previous design. 14 With longer construction times than in the 1920s, the Navy should consider iterating on the industry-proven frigate design to continue the production of successive flights when the first ten ships complete to keep the production lines hot.

Innovating Ship by Ship

From 1922 to 1941, the Navy commissioned 18 treaty cruisers. While that seems like a good production run when compared to today’s Arleigh Burke destroyers, those 18 ships were from five different ship classes. By 1926, the General Board had approved the design for the Pensacola class and the first ships began construction. The Pensacola cruisers featured four 8-inch gun turrets—two turrets with three guns, and two turrets with two guns—extensive, but thin armor belts, two seaplanes, and a host of smaller armaments. In terms of dimensions and handling, she was comparable to the Ticonderoga class cruisers in service today: nearly 600 feet long, almost 60 feet wide, and top heavy with mediocre seakeeping. 15

At the time cruiser production took approximately three years per ship. The Navy would normally have waited for the Pensacola to deliver and be put through sea trials and a myriad of experiments before making revisions or designing a new class. But other major powers were laying down cruisers just as quickly, forcing “successive classes…to be designed and ordered before their predecessors had been completed (or even launched), so modifications had to be made on a theoretical basis without the benefit of trials and operational service.” 16 Thankfully the Navy only ordered the Pensacola and the Salt Lake City. The class did not keep well at sea. Their dimensions and top-heavy design made them prone to large rolls and the low freeboard meant that water shipped over the sides easily. 17

The Navy quickly modified the base design to eliminate the unusual turret configuration and correct the stability issues before the Pensacola even launched from the New York Navy Yard. The six-ship Northampton class delivered with three triple turrets and vastly improved seakeeping. The class also delivered 1,000 tons below the treaty threshold, an unexpected bonus, allowing the Navy to proactively add armor and other enhancements after commissioning. Taking advantage of the improved seakeeping that Northampton displayed, the Navy ordered the two Pensacola cruisers be retrofitted in the 1930s to match. Retrofitting the classes of treaty cruisers with designs from newer classes would be a hallmark of the Navy’s cruiser fleet through World War II.

USS Northhampton (CA-26) underway, August 23 1935. (Photo via Navsource)

CNO Admiral John Richardson learned these lessons and incorporated them into the Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority. Admiral Richardson thought that “the large combatant and others could be designed and fielded rapidly through an approach that focused on a good hull design and significant power margins now, and worried less about systems that would be upgraded throughout the life of the ship.” 18 But today, the Large Surface Combatant program continues to slip further right as the Navy seems focused on getting mostly everything right in a single step. Admiral Eugene Black, recently the Director of the Surface Warfare Directorate OPNAV N96, stated that the Large Surface Combatant was pushed to the right as part of a broader, lower risk approach while waiting for other technologies, like directed energy and advanced combat systems, to mature. 19

The Navy has the opportunity to evolve its surface combatants more rapidly, and it must do so. While the Flight III Arleigh Burke has some improvements over previous flights and will continue building to pace the threat from China, the Zumwalt-class destroyer represents the best opportunity for the Navy. 20 Despite their success, the Burkes have reached maximum structural capacity for innovation—there is simply no margin left. 21 But there is hope. Recent at-sea testing of the Zumwalt, with its tumblehome hull, shows excellent stability in high seas. 22 The class has many advantages and drawbacks, similar to what the Navy experienced with the early Pensacola and Northampton cruisers. In many ways, the improved seakeeping characteristics, integrated electric propulsion system, and large surplus of design margin gives the Navy an excellent platform on which to innovate. Indeed, the drawbacks for the Zumwalt class, such as the procurement costs and the armaments, are excellent constraints to build a better ship. The Navy has done this exercise before in transforming the improvements from the Seawolf class submarine into the more affordable and more capable Virginia class. 23

CHESAPEAKE BAY, Md. (Oct. 17, 2016) USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) passes under the Gov. William Preston Lane Memorial Bridge, also known as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, as the ship travels to its new home port of San Diego, California. (U.S. Navy photo by Liz Wolter/Released)

As the General Board iterated on the Northampton class, seeking to improve seakeeping and armaments, the world situation took another turn. In April 1930, the five naval powers met in London and signed the London Naval Treaty. The treaty created two distinct classes of treaty cruisers, with no limitations on ships with armaments under 6.1 inches and more restrictive limitations on the heavier treaty cruisers with 8-inch guns. 24 The Navy gained an 18 to 12 advantage in heavy cruisers over Japan.

The Portland class, originally planned for eight ships, had already started construction on the first two ships of the class when the London Naval Treaty was signed. The General Board allowed Portland and Indianapolis to complete and again suspended the rest of the class. The twist reflected the slow deterioration of the international environment and the attempt to prevent a future war by enforcing a further degree of parity among the competing powers. The Navy, with great foresight, took the opportunity to shift the remaining Portland hulls to the fresh New Orleans class design.

Rapid Innovation

The New Orleans class proved pivotal. The Pensacola and Northampton cruisers attracted widespread criticism for their lack of armor, but these designs reflected Captain Frank Schofield’s 1923 General Board decision that the cruisers “forsake nearly all attempt at passive defense of these vessels—armor—in order to have weight available for the full development of steaming radius and gun power.” 25 Before the London Naval Treaty, the General Board envisioned the future New Orleans class to show only modest changes from the Northampton class, but the treaty changed all of that.

The General Board acted boldly, ordering seven ships with three different designs to try out experimental technologies and configurations. The New Orleans class featured a complete redesign of the propulsion spaces, to spread the boilers and engine rooms out to improve performance, and the introduction of “immune zones,” which hardened vital areas, such as magazines, to better protect them without armoring the entire ship. 26 The reduction in weight from redistributing armor allowed the designers to improve protection in key areas. As a class, these ships featured a better layout and continued the use of dedicated command spaces for flagship activities, which the Board first inserted in the truncated Portland class.

The U.S. Navy New Orleans-class heavy cruiser USS Astoria (CA-34) operating in Hawaiian waters during battle practice, 8 July 1942. (Photo via Naval History and Heritage Command)

Overall, the highly successful New Orleans class laid the foundations for the light and heavy cruiser classes, the Cleveland and Baltimore classes, that the United States would produce in large numbers after the passage of the Naval Expansion Act of 1938 (more commonly known as the Two Ocean Navy Act) which authorized the U.S. Navy that won World War II. The mature design and features of the New Orleans, which were included with one eye toward looming conflict and the other on the lessons from the prior classes, allowed the Navy to rapidly upgrade these ships as new weapons and radar-directed fire control systems came online, with devastating combat effectiveness. 27

Prompt and Sustained Combat at Sea

The evolutionary improvements in cruisers in the interwar period helped the Navy hold the line against the Japanese early in World War II. All classes of treaty cruisers, from the unstable, ‘tinclad’ Pensacola to the New Orleans classes, the last of the official treaty cruisers, fought in every major fleet engagement of the war, and their names are some of the most hallowed in naval history: Vincennes, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco.

Had the Navy waited, whether to perfect its requirements, for radar systems to mature, for the treaties to expire or to be renewed, it would have been deprived of ships that proved badly needed when war broke out. The General Board shows today’s Navy the path forward as it looks toward an era of renewed great power competition and constant congressional pressure to increase the battle force count. Several specific lessons include:

  • Older ships cost more to sustain. Aggressively aim to retire them in favor of new ships.
  • Embrace constraints to accelerate innovation while still delivering the needed ships.
  • Long production runs produce stable build times and lower procurement costs, but iterating through smaller production runs across multiple classes allows the Navy to deploy newer capabilities sooner.
  • Take modestly successful designs and continue to improve on them with each successive ship to the limits of naval architecture.

The Navy has already laid the groundwork to leverage our history with the new frigate class and the Zumwalt class. The Navy should not wait for new technologies to fully mature, but continue the evolutionary improvements to each successive flight of ships, inserting the technologies, like directed energy, when they are combat ready. As Vice Admiral Joseph Taussig remarked: “good men with poor ships are better than poor men with good ships.” We cannot predict when war might emerge, but should it start, we know that we will need more ships than we have today. Start building them now.

Lieutenant Commander Ryan Hilger is a Navy Engineering Duty Officer stationed in Washington D.C. He has served onboard USS Maine (SSBN 741), as Chief Engineer of USS Springfield (SSN 761), and ashore at the CNO Strategic Studies Group XXXIII and OPNAV N97. He holds a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. His views are his own and do not represent the official views or policies of the Department of Defense or the Department of the Navy.

1. “Germany’s Navy Scares Britain.” New York Tribune. 17 March 1909. Page 1, Image 1, Column 3. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1909-03-17/ed-1/seq-1/

2. Mark Cancian and Adam Saxton. “The Spectacular & Public Collapse of Navy Force Planning.” Breaking Defense, 26 January 2020. https://breakingdefense.com/2020/01/the-spectacular-public-collapse-of-navy-force-planning/

3. “The Atlantic Fleet in 1915: Letter from the Secretary of the Navy.” United States Congress. 64th, 1st Session, Senate Document No. 251, 1916, pp. 14-15. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015025950596&view=1up&seq=7

7. “Limitation of Naval Armament (Five-Power Treaty or Washington Treaty).” 43 Stat. 1655. Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States: 1922, Vol. 1, Treaty Series 671, pp. 351-371, https://www.loc.gov/law/help/us-treaties/bevans/m-ust000002-0351.pdf

8. John Keuhn. “The Influence Of Naval Arms Limitation On U.S. Naval Innovation During The Interwar Period, 1921 – 1937.” Ph.D diss., Kansas State University, 2007, https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/5164353.pdf.

9. Trent Hone. Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2018, pp. 124-125.

10. Edward Miller. War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1991, p. 144.

11. John Jordan. Warships after Washington: The Development of the Five Major Fleets, 1922-1930. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2011, p. 110.


Frigate

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frigate, any of several different types of small and fast warships, usually either the square-rigged sailing ships of the 17th–19th century or the radar- and sonar-equipped antisubmarine and air-defense ships of World War II and after.

The Seven Years’ War (1756–63) marked the definite adoption of the term frigate for a class of vessel that was smaller than the three-decked ship of the line but was still capable of considerable firepower. A frigate was a three-masted, fully rigged vessel, with its armament carried on a single gun deck and with additional guns on the poop and forecastle. The number of guns varied between 24 and 56, but 30 to 40 guns were common. Frigates could not stand up to ships of the line in fleet engagements, but, sailing at greater speed, they served as scouts or as escorts protecting merchant convoys from privateers and enemy raiders they also cruised the seas as merchant raiders themselves. With the transition from sail to steam, the term frigate gradually gave way to cruiser.

During World War II, Great Britain revived the name frigate by assigning it to a small escort ship used to guard convoys from submarines. This vessel displaced about 1,500 tons, was capable of 20 knots, and was equipped with asdic, or sonar, and depth charges. In the guided-missile age, the frigate also has adopted an antiaircraft role, adding radar and surface-to-air missiles to its antisubmarine gear. Many frigates now carry helicopters to aid in submarine hunting. Such a vessel displaces upward of 3,000 tons, has a top speed of 30 knots or more and carries a crew of about 200.


EF78 Nebulon-B2/I

This variant represented by the Rebel Privateer Ships Corsair and Huntress replaced its Missile Launchers with Ion Cannons for the use of capturing enemy ships. Besides the Ion Cannons nothing else is different with the design.

EF79 Nebulon-C Strike Carrier

A design developed by Swann and Blissex soon after the first four EF78 Nebulon-B2 Heavy Frigates where finished which answered a lacking need in the Alliance Fleet a dedicated carrier vessel. This design while not officially a variant of the Nebulon-B2 still used some of the design and data from its design. The Strike Carrier basically added a series of large hangers along the bottom of the center spar reinforcing it while keeping the same weapon load-out of the regular Nebulon-B Escort Frigate.


Contents

Origins

The term "frigate" (Italian: fregata Spanish/Catalan/Portuguese/Sicilian: fragata Dutch: fregat French: fregate) originated in the Mediterranean in the late 15th century, referring to a lighter galleass type ship with oars, sails and a light armament, built for speed and maneuverability. [ 1 ]

In 1583, during the Eighty Years' War, Habsburg Spain recovered the Southern Netherlands from the rebellious Dutch. This soon led to the occupied ports being used as bases for privateers, the Dunkirkers, to attack the shipping of the Dutch and their allies. To achieve this they developed small, maneuverable, sail-only vessels that came to be referred to as frigates. The success of these Dunkirker vessels influenced the ship design of the Dutch and other navies contending with them but because most regular navies required ships of greater endurance than the Dunkirker frigates could provide, the term was soon applied less exclusively to any relatively fast and elegant sail-only war ship. Even the mighty English Sovereign of the Seas was described as 'a delicate frigate' after modifications in 1651. [ citation needed ]

The navy of the Dutch Republic was the first navy to build the larger ocean-going frigates. The Dutch navy had three principal tasks in the struggle against Spain: to protect Dutch merchant ships at sea, to blockade the ports of Spanish-held Flanders to damage trade and halt enemy privateering, and to fight the Spanish fleet and prevent troop landings. The first two tasks required speed, shallowness of draft for the shallow waters around the Netherlands, and the ability to carry sufficient supplies to maintain a blockade. The third task required heavy armament, sufficient to fight against the Spanish fleet. The first of these larger battle-capable frigates were built around 1600 at Hoorn in Holland. [ 2 ] By the later stages of the Eighty Years War the Dutch had switched entirely from the heavier ships still used by the English and Spanish to the lighter frigates, carrying around 40 guns and weighing around 300 tons.

The effectiveness of the Dutch frigates became most visible in the Battle of the Downs in 1639, encouraging most other navies, especially the English, to adopt similar designs.

The fleets built by the Commonwealth of England in the 1650s generally consisted of ships described as "frigates", the largest of which were two-decker 'great frigates' of the third rate. Carrying 60 guns, these vessels were as big and capable as 'great ships' of the time however, most other frigates at the time were used as 'cruisers': independent fast ships. The term "frigate" implied a long hull design, which relates directly to speed (see hull speed) and also, in turn, helped the development of the broadside tactic in naval warfare.

At this time a further design evolved, reintroducing oars to create the galley frigate such as the Charles Galley of 1676 which was rated as a 32-gun fifth rate but also had a bank of 40 oars set below the upper deck which could be used to propel the ship in the absence of a favourable wind.

In French, the term "frigate" became a verb, meaning 'to build long and low', and an adjective, adding further confusion. [ 3 ]
In Danish, the word "fregat" is often applied to warships carrying as few as 16 guns,such as HMS Falcon (1802) which the British classified as a sloop.

Under the rating system of the Royal Navy, by the middle of the 18th century, the term "frigate" was technically restricted to single-decked ships of the fifth rate, though small 28-gun frigates were classed as sixth rate. [ 1 ]

Classic design

The classic sailing frigate, well-known today for its role in the Napoleonic wars, can be traced back to French developments in the second quarter of the 18th century. The French-built Médée of 1740 is often regarded as the first example of this type. These ships were square-rigged and carried all their main guns on a single continuous upper deck. The lower deck, known as the "gun deck", now carried no armament, and functioned as a "berth deck" where the crew lived, and was in fact placed below the waterline of the new frigates.

The new sailing frigates were able to fight with all their guns when the seas were so rough that comparable two-deckers had to close the gun-ports on their lower decks (see the Action of 13 January 1797, for an example when this was decisive). Like the larger 74 which was developed at the same time, the new frigates sailed very well and were good fighting vessels due to a combination of long hulls and low upperworks compared to vessels of comparable size and firepower.

The Royal Navy captured a handful of the new French frigates during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748) and were impressed by them, particularly for their inshore handling capabilities. They soon built copies and started to adapt the type to their own needs, setting the standard for other frigates as a superpower. The first British frigates carried 28 guns including an upper deck battery of twenty-four 9-pounder guns (the remaining four smaller guns were carried on the quarter deck) but soon developed into fifth-rate ships of 32 or 36 guns including an upper deck battery of twenty-six 12-pounder guns, with the remaining six or ten smaller guns carried on the quarter deck and forecastle. From around 1778, a larger "heavy" frigate was developed with a main battery of twenty-six or twenty-eight 18-pounder guns (again with the remaining ten smaller guns carried on the quarter deck and forecastle).

Royal Navy frigates of the late 18th century included the 1780-vintage Perseverance class, which measured around 900 tons burthen and carried 36 guns this successful class was followed by numerous other classes that measured over 1,000 tons burthen and carried 38 guns.

In 1797, three of the US Navy's first six major ships were rated as 44-gun frigates (or "super-frigates"), which operationally carried fifty-six to sixty 24-pounder long guns and 32-pounder or 42-pounder carronades on two decks by all regards they were exceptionally powerful and tough. These ships were so well-armed that they were often regarded as equal to ships of the line, and after a series of losses at the outbreak of the War of 1812, Royal Navy fighting instructions ordered British frigates (usually of 38 guns or less) to never engage American frigates at any less than a 2:1 advantage. USS Constitution, preserved as a museum ship by the US Navy, is the oldest commissioned frigate afloat, and is a surviving example of a frigate from the Age of Sail. Constitution and her two sister ships (USS President and USS United States) were created in a response to deal with the Barbary Coast pirates and in conjunction with the Naval Act of 1794. The three big frigates, when built, had a distinctive building pattern which minimised "hogging" (in which the centre of the keel rises while both ends drop) and improves hydrodynamic efficiency. [ 4 ]

The hull was designed so that all the weight from the guns was upon the keel itself. Joshua Humphreys proposed that only live oak, a tree that grew only in America, should be used to build these ships. The method was to use diagonal riders, eight on each side that sat a 45 degree angle. These beams of live oak were about two feet wide and around a foot thick and helped to maintain the shape of the hull, serving also to reduce flexibility and to minimize impacts. [ 4 ] These ideas were considered revolutionary in the late 18th and early 19th century. A three-layer method was used in which the planks along the sides of the hull were laid horizontally across the ribs, making a crossing or checker board pattern. The sides of the ship could be as thick as 25 inches, and were able to absorb substantial damage. The strength of this braced construction earned USS Constitution the nickname "Old Ironsides".

Frigates were perhaps the hardest-worked of warship types during the Age of Sail. While smaller than a ship-of-the-line, they were formidable opponents for the large numbers of sloops and gunboats, not to mention privateers or merchantmen. Able to carry six months' stores, they had very long range and vessels larger than frigates were considered too valuable to operate independently.

Frigates scouted for the fleet, went on commerce-raiding missions and patrols, and conveyed messages and dignitaries. Usually frigates would fight in small numbers or singly against other frigates. They would avoid contact with ships-of-the-line even in the midst of a fleet engagement it was bad etiquette for a ship of the line to fire on an enemy frigate which had not fired first. [ 5 ] Frigates were involved in fleet battles, often as 'repeating frigates'. In the smoke and confusion of battle, signals made by the fleet commander, whose flagship might be in the thick of the fighting, might be missed by the other ships of the fleet. [ 6 ] Frigates were therefore stationed to windward or leeward of the main line of battle, and had to maintain a clear line of sight to the commander's flagship. Signals from the flagship were then repeated by the frigates, which themselves standing out of the line and clear from the smoke and disorder of battle, could be more easily seen by the other ships of the fleet. [ 6 ] If damage or loss of masts prevented the flagship from making clear conventional signals, the repeating frigates could interpret them and hoist their own in the correct manner, passing on the commander's instructions clearly. [ 6 ]

For officers in the Royal Navy a frigate was a desirable posting. Frigates often saw action, which meant a greater chance of glory, promotion, and prize money.

Unlike larger ships that were placed in ordinary, frigates were kept in service in peacetime as a cost-saving measure and to provide experience to frigate captains and officers which would be useful in wartime. Frigates could also carry marines for boarding enemy ships or for operations on shore.

Common armament was one gundeck with 32 to 44 long guns, from 8- to 24-pounders (3.6 to 11 kg), plus a few carronades (large bore short-range guns).

Frigates remained a crucial element of navies until the mid-19th century. The first ironclads were classified as "frigates" because of the number of guns they carried. However, terminology changed as iron and steam became the norm, and the role of the frigate was assumed first by the protected cruiser and then by the light cruiser.

Frigates are often the vessel of choice in historical naval novels due to their relative freedom compared to ships of the line (kept for fleet actions) and smaller vessels (generally assigned to a home port and less widely ranging). For example the Patrick O'Brian Aubrey–Maturin series, C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series and Alexander Kent's Richard Bolitho series. The motion picture Master and Commander features a reconstructed historic frigate, HMS Rose, to depict Aubrey's frigate HMS Surprise.


Post-War/Later Career

With the end of the war, United States was fitted out to join an expedition to deal with the resurgent Barbary pirates. Under the command of Captain John Shaw, the frigate crossed the Atlantic but soon learned that an earlier squadron under Decatur had forced peace with Algiers. Remaining in the Mediterranean, the ship ensured an American presence in the area. Returning home in 1819, United States was laid up for five years before joining the Pacific Squadron. Thoroughly modernized between 1830 and 1832, the ship continued regular peacetime assignments in the Pacific, Mediterranean, and off Africa through the 1840s. Returning to Norfolk, it was laid up on February 24, 1849.

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the rotted hulk of United States was captured at Norfolk by the Confederacy. Recommissioned CSS United States, it served as a blockship and later was sunk as an obstacle in the Elizabeth River. Raised by Union forces, the wreck was broken up in 1865-1866.


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