August 5th-11th was Navy Week, and in Milwaukee, observance was marked by the visit of US Navy frigate USS De Wert
, the coastal patrol ship Hurricane
, the cutter USCGC Neah Bay
and the Canadian frigate HMCS Ville de Québec.
The ships were in from the 8th through the 13th, and were open for tours most days. Georgie and I took time Friday afternoon, and went aboard both the Ville de Québec
and the De Wert,
which were docked adjacently at Jones Island. Both are classed as frigates and are grossly similar, although with some significant differences.
It was a nice day to be down at the lake front. Even the stiff wind blowing in off the lake was not uncomfortable. A good thing, since, getting there just after the ships opened for the day, the line for admission was a quarter-mile long. However, it moved quickly, and we were able to watch aircraft practicing for the next day's airshow flying up and down the coast.
Both are armed with a combination of missles, guns, and torpedoes. Ville de Québec's
heaviest weapons system is Harpoon anti-ship missiles, which were unshipped for the Great Lakes tour. She also carries Evolved Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft missles, antisubmarine torpedoes, and has an automatic 57-MM cannon on the foredeck, and a Phalanx Close In Weapons System aft, a Gatling gun capable of shooting down incoming missiles.
The De Wert
actually marginally smaller (by a few feet and a few tons displacment) than the Ville de Québec,
but looms larger due to its boxier superstructure. The De Wert
carries torpedoes and mounts a CIWS like the Ville de Québec,
but carries its main gun, a 76mm autocannon, amidships. It had been fitted with a Harpoon launcher also, but Harpoon missles were removed from all frigates of the De Wert's
class in 2004.
It was very pleasant strolling around the Ville de Québec's
more open decks. The De Wert
seemed more crowded, and by the time we got aboard, having visted the Canadian frigate first, there was a long line to filter into the bridge, which was a major bottleneck of the tour. The De Wert
seemed somehow more warlike, although it's hard to say exactly how: partially it may have been the obvious presence of gun-totting fatigue clad Marines. I could not help but contrast our long-ago visit to the then-new USS Stark,
a sister ship to the De Wert,
in the early 80's, prior to it's having been subject to an Iraqi missile attack in 1987. In those halcyon days, there were no metal detectors to pass though, and, if armed guards were present, they were discreetly out of sight--.
Personnel aboard both ships were cheerful, friendly, and helpful. Chatting briefly with one of the sailors on the De Wert's
bridge, we were interested to find that her immediately previous deployment had been to the "Somali basin" on anti-piracy patrol, and they had in fact captured a number of pirates while there.
Ville de Québec has also been deployed on missions throughout the Atlantic and to the Indian Ocean; specifically the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea on anti-terrorism operations and in 2008, supported World Food Program efforts in Somalia.
The Navy is putting out extra effort for "Navy Week" this year due to it being the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812. It occurred to us to wonder what the seamen of those days would make of these modern frigates; so big, so fast and so powerful compared with a frigate of 1812, yet among the smallest class of regular warships these days.
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