Warships are vessels constructed for naval warfare by the government of a sovereign nation.
Their main function is to protect a country’s territory and nautical assets. They detect, deter and destroy any threat that intends to harm its sovereignty or its allies.
Warships are extremely capable of conducting surveillance operations.
I remember one time when we were drifting somewhere in the Mediterranean. Our Captain switched off AIS for security reasons.
On our 3rd day, a warship called us via VHF radio and asked our intention.
It was a bit surprising they knew our ship’s name when our CPAs to passing vessels were at least 10 miles away!
And yes. Switching off AIS is a bit suspicious
What is the difference between warships and merchant ships?
We build Merchant ships for transporting goods. A sovereign nation builds warships for naval warfare.
Warships have completely different hull design. They are thicker which makes them more damage resilient.
Their shape creates the least radar reflection while optimizing speed and maneuverability.
Commercial ships have hull arrangements developed for cargo handling and stability.
Warships carry armaments for defense and destruction. Merchant vessels carry cargoes such as oil, potatoes, coal and the like.
Merchant ships can berth on different ports worldwide. Warships restricts their port stays to allied countries.
Types of Warships
Intended for war, warships are further classified into different kinds. This depends on their size, function and capability.
We can see this on how they play out in movies, documentaries and military clips.
Their formation indicates which ships are the most important in the fleet and which ones are capable of quick response whenever a threat suddenly arises.
Some of them can work and do missions on their own. Others function best in convoys.
To know more about them, let us take a look at the different types of warships.
1. Aircraft Carriers
Aircraft carriers are the capital ships link of a navy fleet. Their presence alone projects power and supremacy.
To show their dominance, carriers carry fighter planes, drones and helicopters. They have long unobstructed deck which serves as a runway for aircraft take off and landing.
This floating airbase also carries jet fuel, munitions, spare parts and crewmen.
Aircraft carriers are the biggest types of warships.
Due to its size and versatility, countries owning aircraft carriers have the advantage of deploying their military assets anywhere its needed.
Cruisers are warships capable of performing various tasks depending on the mission. Simply put, Cruisers are general purpose warships.
Their name alone tells us they can work on operations remotely from land or or other naval ships.
Cruisers are built for speed and maneuverability and are bigger than Destroyers or Frigates.
The Washington Treaty of 1922 defined the limits of a Cruiser to be 10,000 tons.
However, many countries violated that treaty especially during the World Wars.
The main function of a Cruiser that sets it different from other warships is its lone mission capability.
These warships are capable of acting alone far from base or without escorts.
All these ships can literally destroy enemies but why is this one specifically named Destroyer?
We can uncover that looking into its history first.
Originally, Destroyers were called torpedo boat destroyers. Spanish navy fleet built them in 1885 to counter torpedo boat attacks which plagued the seas during mid-19th century.
The obsolescence of those enemies evolved their function evolved over time and their roles changed together with its name.
Sometimes, their role overlaps with that of Cruisers or Frigates.
Have you seen the movie “Greyhound” by Tom Hanks?
He is commanding a Destroyer assigned to escort merchant vessels crossing the Atlantic.
And yes, they defended the convoy against German submarine attacks.
Today, Destroyers have more capability than anti-submarine warfare.
They are now able to respond to aerial attacks and anti-surface combat.
Yet, they are still highly used as escort vessels in a convoy.
Prior to 1975, Frigates were capable warships somewhere between a Destroyer and Cruiser.
Today, that definition changed.
Frigates are now smaller than Destroyers. Having said that, their weapons capability is also less compared to the latter.
These ships sometimes conduct raid on commercial enemy vessels. Their small size makes them nimble with armaments strong enough to sink them.
But Frigates can not go toe to toe with other warships.
They function mainly as escort vessels for convoys due to them being less costly than Destroyers and Cruisers.
However, Frigates specialize in anti-submarine warfare making them highly capable in responding to underwater threats.
Corvettes are the “smallest” types warships. Their size is between 500 tons to 3,000 tons. To put it simply, Corvettes are the smaller versions of Frigates.
The main task of Corvettes is the protection of inshore territorial waters. They are sent to patrol near coasts and respond to threats whenever applicable.
Corvettes are capable of launching surface to air and surface to surface missile. They can also fight underwater threats with their anti-submarine systems.
Due to their small size, their weapons systems and range is quite limited. They are less sophisticated and have less crew compared to their “big brothers”.
6. Amphibious Warships
Amphibious warships got their design from aircraft carriers. Instead of fighter jets, they focus primarily on moving troops from ship to shore and vice versa.
Hence, amphibious warships carry transport helicopters instead of strike aircraft. They do carry a few aircraft and even drones.
These ships can also perform amphibious assaults using amphibious watercraft launched in their well deck.
However, there are amphibious assault ships not fitted with well deck. Instead, they have bigger hangar decks for more storage capacities.
The design is very similar to that of aircraft carriers but largely differs on their function as stated above.
Amphibious assault ships also have defensive weapons in their arsenal. Their decks have missile launchers, machine guns and self defense system for attack countermeasures.
Even if a country dominates the sea surface and the sky, their naval fleet would be useless against underwater threats.
This is where submarines come in.
Submarines are water craft designed to operate underwater for an extended periods of time.
Their main forte is stealth.
When submerged, they are very difficult to find unless you employ sophisticated sensing and tracking equipment.
Submarines can identify which type of ship is running on the water surface just by the sound of their engine alone.
Nuclear type submarines can stay submerged even for hundreds of years. The only thing that’s keeping them from not doing it is the availability of food supplies.
Normally, they take in provisions that lasts for 90 days.
Submarines’ main weapons are torpedoes. However, they are now also equipped with long range missile strike capability including nuclear weapons.
Warships are an important component of a country’s armed forces. The vessels listed here are not exhaustive. Warships are only a part of a country’s naval fleet.
There are also military vessels having different roles not actively sent to the frontlines. These ships are called Auxiliaries.
Their roles are for transport, replenishment, support, repair, research and hospital for injured people.
Though working on the background, they are an important part of a navy’s fleet.
Even merchant ships such as tankers can be commissioned as auxiliary vessel if deemed necessary.
May the winds be in your favor.