Surface 'Skimmer' Life - The Technical Stuff

  'Let me tell you a bit about being a 'Skimmer' or surface sailor.  Sure we ain't as quiet as the submariners, but I get well fed, fresh air, and all the sun I can handle on a good day.  Unlike them 'dolphins' I also get better mail and even email these days.  In the Twilight campaign, the deep ocean navies duked it out, and now we have to live with the rag-tag fleets that are left.  The other gameworlds still have strong navies, though budget cuts mean that we sail less and less.  We may have the biggest guns of the forces, but we cost the most to run.  This here is just the basics to the Navy world, to get your feet wet, if you will.'

 - Petty Officer - 2nd Class Robinson, RN

The Art of the Navy

  Back in WWI and WWII, 'blue water' navies, as they were called, hunted and attacked each other with guns.  They drew close, then let loose on each other, the stronger one tending to win.  In the Rocket Age, however, ships still hunt each other, though they rarely use their guns.  Missiles are the new cannons of the seas, while the gun has been reduced to anti-air or anti-missile capability.

  Naval combat is all about maneuvering.  On the hunt, ships will often put up deceptive lighting, run on one shaft to 'act' as a civilian ship, and limit their emissions.  The winner of naval combat tends to be the ship who can find the other first, then launch a missile down its throat.

  There are two main battlefields of the Navy.  In the 80's, and Cold War era, it was the Deep Ocean.  Naval engagements were to take place in the oceans, where long range ships were needed for extended patrols with far reaching weaponry.  The second, and today's most common, is called Littoral.  This is in-shore warfare, best suited for guns and fast patrol craft and corvettes.

Weapons of the Navy

Guns:  Though limited in today's arsenal, the gun still has its use.  Used for attacking civilian ships, littoral combat, or even ground support, the gun varies in size from the 20mm anti-missile Close-In Weapons System (Phalanx) to the large battleship guns of the Iowa Class BB.

Missiles:  Over the horizon capability and satellite control have turned the missile into the weapon of choice.  Capable of sinking minor ships with one shot, the missile can incapacitate most ships with just one hit.  They normally are carried in canisters and cannot be reloaded at sea, though several types can be mounted with a variable launcher.

Torpedoes:  Not often used against other surface ships, 'fish' are used mainly to attack submarines.  Not many ships use depth charges or mortars anymore, as the Torp is much more effective.

Tools of the Navy

Radar (RAdio Detecting And Ranging):  First invented in WWII, this is an active search method.  Radio waves are sent out, and bounce off the target.  This gives the receiver the benefit of a visual picture (though resolution is not good enough save to tell if the contact is really big or just big).  Bearing, range, course and speed of the target can be gained by Radar.  There is one drawback to this, as with all active systems.  Radar sends out emissions, meaning that other warships can detect and track the signal back to the emitting ship.  Navigation radar is a normal emission, that all ships must keep on.  Some warships will use this only, to simulate a civilian ship, though their range of detection is greatly reduced.  There is also air search Radars which can detect height of aircraft and missiles.

Electronic Warfare:  This broad category covers the sensors which passively detect active sensors of other ships.  By letting the signals come to the warship, it can often determine the nation of the ship emitting.  This is a great way to remain silent, though the other ship can detect your warship, based on active sensors.  There is a balance here, between emitting to get the better range, and 'listening' to remain quiet and hopefully not get caught first.

Active Sonar (SOund Navigation And Ranging):  Another invention of WWII, the ASDIC, or SONAR is the familiar 'pinging' sound made famous in many a submarine movie.  The Sonar is an active sonar which sends the 'ping' into the water, and receives the bounced signal.  This gives an indication of range and bearing, with limited course and speed.  Depth is not given.  Due to the ocean environment, the active Sonar (or HMS for Hull Mounted Sonar) is not as reliable as the Radar, and trained operators must take their time to analyze the signal.  Fish, whales, and even the water itself can bend sound and create 'false' targets.  Like all active sensors, Sonar can give the enemy the ability to range in on the emitting ship.

Passive Sonar - Towed Array:  The towed array revolutionized the way that ships hunt submarines and other louder ships.  By dragging a long series of hydrophones in the water behind them, a warship can detect sound signatures.  Since each ship has a unique sound signature, it can be used to located, classify and track other ships, and the eternally silent submarines.  This is not Hunt For Red October, however.  Fish, and the water environment make their own sounds, and this adds to the difficulty in finding targets.  A submarine, for example, hidden under a large merchant vessel will not be seen as the vessel will drown out the submarine.  As this is a passive device, it does not make the ship more vulnerable to detection, though it must maintain speeds of under twenty knots while the 'tail' is deployed.

General Quarters - Float, Move, Fight.

  Known as Action Stations in the UK, this is the highest form of ship readiness there is.  When attacked or readying for combat, the ship will take this position, where everyone is up and at their station.  From here, the ship can fight, relax or quickly go to Emergency Stations, to repair combat damage.

  Unlike the last two great wars, modern ships are computer controlled.  The Operations Room is the heart of the ship, where the officers and men control the sensors and external data (from aircraft, other ships, satellites) to fight the enemy.  The missiles and guns are remotely controlled from here, as this is the most important part of the combat team.

  The engineering sections are responsible for keeping the ship moving and at top speed.

Emergency Stations

  A true team, when damage is taken, the ship must act as one, for no one else will be there to help them out.  Although a Harpoon may not destroy a medium size ship, it will certainly created battle damage.  Even a carrier can be taken out, if her flight deck is hit, then there is nothing she can launch to defend herself.

  Warships are normally two shafted, meaning they have two or more propellers.  While able to run on one, they use both for increased speed.  The military advantage to two shafts is so that if one is damaged, the ship can still move.  Likewise, the ship is broken down into watertight compartments.  This allows water to flood in, only to certain compartments, while allowing the rest of the ship to survive.

  Fire is the enemy of all ships, so all naval personnel are trained in the basics of firefighting.  Chemox, SCBA and similar breathing appratus is used, as are internal fire hydrants.