Thiarian Frigates and Corvettes – modern era
A. 1950 - 1970
When the Second World War was over, the Thiarian Navy was left with a considerable number of escorts which were not claimed as prizes. US surplus vessels with superior electronic and ASW equipment were to be had virtually for free in the late 40s and early 50s, and Thiarian escorts were not of interest to anyone.
In 1945, nineteen hulls of this robust and efficient escort type were available, six of the first and thirteen of the second batch. Ten more were on stocks. All Batch 1 vessels were transferred to the Coast Guard (plus two new Batch 2 boats completed in 1953/5); the Batch 2 units remained with the Navy. When Thiaria introduced a comprehensive system of pennant numbers similar to USN practice, all escorts received numbers starting with the letter G (Long Garda, literally Guard Ship). The numbers were assigned starting with the first of the respective type, all the way back to the beginning of the age of steam; that way, a lot of ships which no more existed also received pennant numbers. The remaining Iaguar-class vessels were thus numbered in no discernible sequence, the missing numbers being borne by their lost, unfinished and demilitarized sisters and half-sisters. In 1950, the Navy’s inventory included Cugar / G73 (Cougar), Borrnathair / G77 (Adder), Crogall / G78 (Crocodile), Puma / G80 (Thiarian Snow Puma), Ollbhear / G81 (Grizzly), Ailegeadar / G 84 (Alligator), Mhoanatora / G86 (Monitor Lizard), Madra / G 87 (Wildhound), Fiachu /G 88 (Staghound), Margae / G 92 (Dwarf Ocelot), Crotail / G 94 (Rattlesnake) , Maistin / G95 (Mastiff) and Diongo / G 96 (Dingo). Between 1951 and 1954, three unfinished hulls were completed: Bobchat / G99 (Bobcat), Racun / G 101 (Raccoon) and Tiogrin / G105 (Tigrina). During the 1950s, the Iaguar-class escorts looked little different from their WWII appearance.
In 1956, a complete rebuild of the still relatively new ships was decided upon. They had their engines gutted and replaced with an all-new diesel plant with the same speed of 24 knots, but more than twice the range. Their entire superstructure was replaced with an all-new arrangement of relatively low profile, with a lattice mast and US-sourced electronics. A completely new domestically developed sonar was installed, and they were among the first warships worldwide to receive towed array sonars, although quite primitive ones. Surface armament now was two fully automatic 76mm guns, and for ASW work, two 400mm triple ASW torpedo tubes and Weapon Alfa were embarked. A total of twelve were rebuilt that way; Cugar, Ollbhear, Maistin and Diongo were scrapped instead. Reconstruction lasted from 1957 through 1962.
The twelve modernized frigates (they were called that from 1955) remained in service till the early 1970s. Although they were in fair shape by that time, the Thiarian Navy shifted its focus from ASW to anti-surface operations during the time oft he Soviet alliance and decided there was an abundance of antisubmarine units. All remaining Iaguar-class ships were decommissioned from 1972 through 1975 and handed to the Coast Guard as spare donators for their own Iaguar-class vessels. They were gradually used up to extend the service life of their older Coast Guard half-sisters, and the last one was scrapped in 1987.
The definition of ocean-going changed in the years after the war. The Iaguar-class had easily qualified in 1940, but in 1955, they were considered too small to effectively operatr for extended periods of time in South Atlantic weather conditions. They were also considered too slow; in the early 1950s, more and more submarines were capable of 15 – 20 knots submerged, and to reliably catch them, a 50% speed surplus was considered essential. A larger hull, flush-decked like contemporary Thiarian destroyers and toting the newest US ASW equipment, was prepared in 1954. Particulars were as follows:
Displacement: 1.800 ts standard, 2.450 ts full load
LOA: 104,5 m
Beam: 12,5 m
Draught: 3,5 m mean without sonar dome, 4,45 m deep load, 5,8 m maximum including sonar dome
Machinery: Two-shaft CLTI or TDA steam turbines, two Llanhaudh 750 PSi boilers, 36.000 shp
Design Speed: 28 knots
Range: 4.000 nm @ 20 kts
The hulls were of robust longitudinal frame construction, and machinery was arranged in two autonomous units; indicated by the unusual twin-funnel arrangement. A central gearbox allowed for each unit to power either (or both) screws. It was a complicated and troublesome arrangement which frequently broke down, but helped the Thiarians master the construction of efficient COSAG and later CODAG plants earlier than most other nations. The ships were armed with four automatic 76mm guns with a central radar-guided fire control system, four 37mm autocannon with on-mount radar, a Weapon Alfa ASW mortar forward and four triple banks for 400mm ASW torpedoes. Radar was US supplied, Sonar was of indigenous design. Four ships were ordered in 1955, two from each naval yard: Daonlathas / G125 (Democracy) and Poblacht / G126 (Republic) were laid down in Nuatearman in 1956 and 1957, and Oireachtas / G127 (Congress) and Bunreacht / G128 (Constitution) at the same time at Abernenui. Their names were a break with Thiarian tradition to name escorts for predatory animals, recycling old battleship and cruiser names from the late 19th century; this naming convention stuck and is observed for frigates to this day, with animal names now being assigned to corvettes and patrol craft. The gap between their pennant numbers and those of the Iaguar-class represents the ships of the 1944 vintage Tradghaoth-class AAW escorts, none of which remained in Thiaria after the war. All four units were complete by late 1959.
Compared with the contemporary B-class destroyers, they looked old-fashioned, but by the standards of their time, they were effective ASW platforms. A shortcoming was their outdated bridge design and their obsolete WWII-vintage US fire control arrangement. Both issues were tackled with the second batch (see below), and as soon as all Batch 2 ships were in service, the first four were rebuilt with new bridges and domestic Thiarian radars and electronics. The 37mm cannon were landed. The refit took six months per hull; they re-entered service between early 1968 and late 1969.
By the early 1970s, French VDS, an early Satcom system and Russian RBU-6000 ASW rocket launchers were becoming available, and all four were again refited between mid-1973 and early 1975. The unpopular Alfa launchers – their exhaust flame blinded the bridge crew every time they were fired – were landed and a new integrated commo mast was installed. The heavy VDS aft necessitated removal of the aft 76mm twin mount, reducing gunnery to two 76mm guns.
Although the removal of the aft gun mount had created space there, these ships were unsuitable for the heavy P-15 (SS-N-2) missiles then acquired by the Thiarian Navy. But when Thiaria received the first French-made MM38 Exocet missiles in the early 1980s, Poblacht and Bunreacht had their aft superstructure – no longer required after removal of the aft gun director – razed and four Exocet launch canisters installed between 1983 and 1984. Countermeasures launchers were added, and Satcom arrangements modernized.
By that time, they approached the end of their designed 25 year service life. Daonlathas and Oireachtas were transferred to the Angolan Navy in 1985; Thiaria continued to support Angola against South Africa even after the end of its Soviet Alliance. The Angolans however lacked training and infrastructure to operate the complicated steam plant of these vessels and never deployed them; they were on their navy list till 1995 despite never being used, then scrapped. The other two were retired in 1990 and scrapped by 1992.
Before the first Daonlathas-class unit was in service, a second batch was approved in 1957; they were also ordered from naval yards and laid down in 1958 – Cumas / G129 (Power) and Ardcheannas / G131 (Supremacy) – and 1959 – Dail / G130 (Parliament) and Fianna / G132 (ancient irish warrior council) – respectively. All four were delivered in 1961. They were two meters longer and 50 tons heavier than the first batch, had the new bridge from the beginning and mounted their aft gun mount one deck higher, because they were fitted for, but not yet with the expected VDS. They however still had their obsolescent US radars.
Between 1968 and 1969, they landed their 37mm cannon and swapped their US with Thiarian radars, and the long-expected French VDS system was installed in all of them; the aft gun mount and director was retained. In 1970, Dail trialed Thiaria’s first Satcom system.
During another refit in 1974/5, the Alfa ASW launcher was replaced with a pair of RBU-6000s and the commo suite was revamped.
In the early 1980s, all four received a new bow sonar, new Satcom and improved countermeasures.
These units served longer than the first batch, mostly because of their more reliable engines, although they usually did not operate with the core fleet. Dail was attacked by Patagonian naval forces with gunfire while on neutrality patrol during the 1982 war; she was considerably damaged, but her skipper Domhnall Buachalla refused to return fire, exposing himself to a shitstorm for alleged cowardice. He was later decorated for preventing Thiaria from being dragged into the war and became Minister of the Navy in 2000; his name is on the list for the second batch of Conaire-class submarines. His ship and her sisters were replaced with Spleodar-class multirole frigates between 1993 and 1996 and retired at the ripe old age of 35. Like many 1950s and 1960s Thiarian vessels, the country’s socialist episode put off their replacement well past the time they outlived their usefulness.
Although the Daonlathas-class was considered big for a frigate in the 1950s, by the time they were all complete, the USN was already building frigates exceeding 3.000 tons full load deplacement amd featuring a modern stand-off ASW missile launch system. To keep up with this development, a similarly sized frigate was designed in 1964/5 and approved in 1966, under the last budget before the 1966 electoral fraud scandal resulted in a red front government. It came out a little bigger than the USN’s Garcia-class, three knots faster, four meters longer and 200 tons heavier, and was armed with the French-designed Malafon ASW standoff weapon. The particulars were:
Displacement: 2.650 ts standard, 3.600 ts full load
LOA: 130,0 m
Beam: 13,5 m
Draught: 4,15 m mean without sonar dome, 5,05 m deep load, 6,85 m maximum including sonar dome
Machinery: Two-shaft CLTI or TDA steam turbines, two Llanhaudh 1000 PSi boilers, 44.000 shp
Design Speed: 30 knots
Range: 4.000 nm @ 20 kts
They had an unusual gunnery complement consisting of an automatic 127mm gun forward and one automatic 76mm gun with on-mount radar control on either beam; Malafon was installed aft and augmented with the usual four triple banks for 400mm ASW torpedoes. Like all Thiarian post-war frigates so far, they were single-purpose ASW ships with an excellent sonar suite for their age, and they were specifically designed to protect the two Essex-class carriers acquired from the USA in the early 1960s. Accommodation and seakeeping were outstanding.
But politics very nearly killed the project. The new frigate already did not use many US components – it was the first ship class with entirely Thiarian radars and sonars, and the guns and their fire control were license-produced – but the Agaidh Dearg government harboured a deep institutional distrust towards its own navy and drew up some plans of varying weirdness on future coast defence, most of which favoured a mix of corvettes, FACs and land-based missiles. Consequently, none of the class was as much as laid down by 1970, when they were to be delivered according to the original project timeline. Ironically, it was the victory of the Agaidh Dearg in the 1970 elections that resulted in the ‘unimportant’ Ministry of the Navy passing to their junior partners of the Labour Party and saved the project. The Soviets were interested in a strong Thiarian fleet and provided technical support for a re-design before the ships were re-ordered in 1971, resulting in several important changes. Machinery was changed to a COSAG arrangement consisting of two gas turbines (license-produced Soviet M8K) and two small CLTI steam turbines with a single 750 PSi boiler each, increasing total power to 48.000 shp (at no discernible gain in speed, but better range at 5.000 nm @ 20 kts). The forward funnel was much enlarged due to this feature; interestingly, the arrangement was the other way around (gas turbines aft) on the contemporary C-class destroyers which also had COSAG plants. The main guns and Malafon remained, but the number of ASW torpedoes was halved; in exchange, the ships received two RBU-6000 ASW rocket launchers forward and four AK-20H (Soviet AK-230 turrets with Thiarian 20mm Hispano Atlantach HS 804 cannon) CIWS mounts. The commo suite was revamped, and a modern Soviet ECM suite replaced the 1950s vintage US gear of the original design. In this shape, four units were laid down in 1971 and 1972, as usual on both Naval yards: Saoirse / G133 (Freedom) and Tirghra / G134 (Patriotism) at Abernenui and Braithreachas / G135 (Fraternity) and Chothroime / G136 (Justice) at Nuatearman. Construction was delayed by political turbulence, and the class became available from 1975 through 1978, twelve years after project launch.
All except the class ship Saoirse were with Thiaria’s single carrier battle group during the Patagonian war, shadowing the British expeditionary fleet and narrowly avoiding an incident. Saoirse was under refit at that time to serve as a testbed for the new R10S missile, a Thiarian development of the Soviet Kub missile, navalized and with greater range (20 nm) and an improved guidance system similar to Crotale (SARH with backup infrared). The fire control system was digital and included two tracker/illuminator radars and an early 3D-radar, all of which was entirely Thiarian designed, as was the twin launcher fed from a 32 round magazine. Tests of R10S on Saoirse commenced in 1983 and were successful, although the Thiarian Navy preferred the longer-ranged R11S missile, consisting of the same basic missile with a booster increasing range to 32 nm (later versions achieved 50). The R10S was however installed in two speculation-built Thiarian frigates and introduced in France in 1988 for the Cassard-class destroyers. After the end of tests in 1984, Saoirse served as an air defence training ship.
Her sisters were refit with improved radars, new Satcom, four MM38 Exocet and a twin R7S-1 (unlicensed copy of Osa-M) air defence missile launcher with 20 rounds instead of Malafon in 1986/7, when the new Oirirceas-class frigates with ASW helicopters became available for ASW duties; they still could look after themselves in ASW scenarios due to their good sonar equipment and their torpedoes and RBU-6000s, but were mainly antisurface platforms now and assumed patrol duties.
While the class ship was mostly performing training duties after 1985, the others frequently showed their flag all around South America and Africa; when piracy became a problem off the Horn of Africa after 1992, Chothroime was the first Thiarian warship to deploy there as part of UN antipiracy forces. The class was retired between 1996 and 2000 and replaced by Spleodar-class frigates after only 21 – 22 years of service; as they were still in good condition, they were sold abroad. Saoirse went to Chile in 2001, being renamed Ministro Zenteno (pennant number 09); Braithreachas also went to Chile to serve as a spares donator and was never commissioned (or named). Zenteno, who received MM40 Block 2 SSMs and replaced its Thiaraian ECM with a British set in 2003, remained in Chilean service for another 18 years. She was retired in 2019, pending replacement with a newly built Muirbhreid-class frigate, and will be scrapped afterwards.
The other two were sold to South Africa in 1998, becoming Mzilikazi (F143) and Cetshwayo (F144). They were only an interim solution until the German-built Amatola-class became available in 2004/5. Cetshwayo served as a testbed for the new Umkhonto SAM system, which was installed aft instead of the R7S and Exocet missiles.
After 2006, Cetshwayo was used as TS, while Mzilikazi was cannibalized. The latter was scrapped in 2013, but Cetshwayo remains afloat. She is no longer seaworthy, but still in commission as a moored training ship.
2. Coast Guard
Four 1918 vintage Ursan-Class gunboats, which had seen service in two world wars, were transferred to the Coast guard in 1948: Cadhoit (Coyote), Mactire (Wolf), Siota (Cheetah) and Faolchu (Jackal). The Coast Guard introduced its own pennant number system in 1957, using the same letters as the Navy, but counted only extant vessels; the four Ursans became G1 through G4. As the Coast Guard did not start painting pennants on ship’s hulls before 1968, none of this class was ever marked that way.
Despite their age, they continued to give sterling service for another 20 years, in the best tradition of the Thiarian Coast Guard, which has always managed to maintain truly ancient ships in perfect working order, decade after decade. They were replaced by Corcaigh-Class patrol craft in 1967 – 1969. When Siota was scrapped as the final unit of its class in 1972, she was 54 years old; Faolchu was preserved in the Thiarian Coast Guard Museum in An Thuaid.
The first Batch of the Iaguar-class – minus two war losses - was handed to the Coast Guard in 1948, alongside the Ursans. They received the following pennants: Iaguar / G5 (Jaguar), Osalat / G6 (Ocelot), Glutan / G7 (Wolverine), Liopard / G8 (Leopard), Claiomhfhiacail / G9 (Sabretooth Tiger), Caracal / G10 (Caracal). Two unfinished hulls of the second batch were also completed for the Coast Guard: Cat Coille / G11 (Polecat) and Neas / G 12 (Weasel). The last two featured a single 37mm gun in a new mount with local radar control, four 13mm MGs and extensive firefighting and rescue gear, plus a well equipped sickbay in the forecastle; the others were refit to the same standard from 1954 to 1957.
Robust and reliable as they were, they served the Coast Guard well and remained in service till the early 1980s; when they retired between 1982 and 1987, all were over 40 years old.
During the Second World War, the Thiarian Coast Guard provided a backup for the Navy with full military capabilities. Coast Guard ships served as escorts, minelayers, minesweepers and picket craft. After the peace treaty, the Coast Guard had to be limited to police and rescue duties, and military training of Coast Guard personnel was prohibitied. This change of role also changed the nature of its equipment. The first postwar custom-built frigate sized ship type for the Thiarian Coast Guard bore no resemblance to a warship; the 2.000-ts hull was based on a French oceangoing trawler design instead, with the fishing equipment aft replaced by a helo deck big enough for a HH-34 helicopter, to be stowed in a telescoping hangar. Two rescue launches were carried in a well below the helicopter deck and could be launched via a stern ramp. Armament was a single 37mm gun with autonomous radar control forward, plus some machineguns; like all Coast Guard vessels, the ships had firefighting equipment, a brig and a sickbay. Unlike the converted warships previously employed, these vessels had extra accommodation for up to 50 personnel to provide boarding and prize teams. As they were a basically civilian design, speed was limited to 16 knots; 2.400 bhp diesels powered a single shaft. This class reverted to the old Coast Guard practice to name its largest patrol vessels for port cities, and they were named Corcaigh (G13), Firinnea (G14), Abernenui (G15) and An Trionaid (G16).
They were commissioned from 1967 through 1969. Like all Thiarian Coast Guard vessels, they were robust and durable, although they did not achieve the very long service periods of their Ursan- and Iaguar-class predecessors. Lacking stabilizers, they were not entirely satisfactory as sea boats, featuring a lively roll in heavy weather. They were retired around the turn of the century and re-converted to trawlers; all four were sold to private interests in Africa. Two of them are still in service.