This is the first of a 2 part post by Chuck Hill’s CG Blog. Part 1 uses The Battle of the River Plate to help explain the difficulties of just stopping a large ship, never mind actually sinking one.
Part 2 shows the potential weapons systems, tactics and difficulties today’s USCG could use to stop a large ship being used for nefarious purposes, either as a weapons carrier or as the actual weapon.
As a naval history buff Part 1 is the most interesting to me but both parts are well worth the time to read.
Photo: Heavy cruiser HMS Exeter seen after the battle, looking aft from the bow. Both forward twin 8″ gun turrets and the firecontrol system were disabled and the bridge destroyed by “splinters.”
Admiral Graf Spee in the English Channel in April 1939. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 89566.
Photo: After superstructure of Admiral Graf Spee showing 15 cm/55 and 10.5 cm/65 guns. Note the burned-out Arado Ar 196A-1 floatplane on the catapult and the after main-director rangefinder. Photograph taken at Montevideo, Uruguay in mid-December 1939, following the Battle of the River Plate. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 80976.
Note, this has been edited from the original, based on feedback particularly with regard to the ammunition remaining on Graf Spee after the engagement. I don’t believe the thrust of the post has been changed.
This is the first of two parts. Part one will tell a story. Part two will talk about the implications of lessons learned, applied to how the Coast Guard might deal with the threat of terrorists using a medium to large merchant ship to make an attack.
These are themes that will be discussed in part 2 before looking at specific tactics to make the best use of what we have. Hopefully you will see these illustrated in the following story.
- In comparing guns, at any given range, the longer ranged weapon generally enjoys an advantage in accuracy.
- It is very difficult to sink a ship by gunfire alone.
- Ships’ structure provide a degree of protection that makes it difficult to comprehensively target the crew of a ship without sinking the ship.
- It is difficult to forcibly stop a ship with gunfire alone.
- You can run out of ammunition before you accomplish your mission. The depth of your magazine may be important.