Meet America's Mini-Warships: The Key to Taking on Iran?

David Axe

Key point: These small ships pack a punch and are important to American security.

The U.S. Navy should acquire small, heavily-armed missile corvettes and deploy them like modern versions of World War II torpedo boats.

And the service also should buy carrier ships to transport and support the short-range corvettes in combat zones.

That’s the advice of U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel Colin Smith, writing in Proceedings, the professional journal of the U.S. Naval Institute.

“The U.S. Navy has long identified threats in the littorals and the need to fight within these close waters, but it still struggles with creating a capable fighting force that provides speed, lethality and a deterrent,” Smith wrote.

The Navy in the 1970s developed a class of missile-armed hydrofoils, but canceled acquisition of the type after building just six. More recently, the Navy conceived of the Littoral Combat Ship as a small fighting vessel, but in development the type grew to the size of a frigate and shed much of its weaponry.

Smith advised the Navy to try again. “The solution to the naval littoral problem is merging sea-basing with the Navy’s World War II and Cold War fast-attack concepts.”

Older dock landing ships, such as the USS Whidbey Island (LSD-41) class, have a large well-deck designed for transporting Marine connectors (landing craft air cushioned [LCACs] and landing craft utility [LCUs]). Instead of connectors, why not load dock landing ships with two Skjold-class missile corvettes (currently used by the Norwegian navy) or similar boats.

One of the fastest naval platforms afloat, the Skjold can do 60 knots, carries eight Naval Strike Missiles (a weapon coming to the U.S. inventory), a 76-millimeter OTO Melara cannon (also familiar to the U.S. Navy) and a crew of 20 or fewer.

Loaded with fuel and missiles for rearming, a corvette carrier could rapidly deploy two stealthy corvettes such as the Skjold with an 800-nautical-mile range, capable of threatening an adversary surface fleet or naval base with a barrage of surface-to-surface missiles.

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