Fast attack craft

A fast attack craft (FAC) is a small, fast, agile and offensive warship armed with anti-ship missiles, gun or torpedoes. FACs are usually operated in close proximity to land as they lack both the seakeeping and all-round defensive capabilities to survive in blue water. The size of the vessel also limits the fuel, stores and water supplies. In size they are usually between 50–800 tonnes and can reach speeds of 25–50 knots.[1]

A fast attack craft's main advantage over other warship types is its affordability. Many FACs can be deployed at a relatively low cost, allowing a navy which is at a disadvantage to effectively defend itself against a larger adversary.[2] A small boat, when equipped with the same weapons as its larger counterpart, can pose a serious threat to even the largest of capital ships. Their major disadvantages are poor seagoing qualities, cramped quarters and poor ability to defend themselves against aerial threat.

Teniente Orella LM37
A fast attack craft of the Chilean Navy


19th century

As early as the mid-19th century, the Jeune École's poussiere navale theory called for a great number of small, agile vessels to break up invading fleets of larger vessels. The idea was first put into action in the 1870s with the steam-powered torpedo boat, which was produced in large numbers by both the Royal Navy and the French Navy. These new vessels proved especially susceptible to rough seas and to have limited utility in scouting due to their short endurance and low bridges. The potential threat was entirely extinguished with the introduction of the Torpedo Boat Destroyer (TBD) in 1893, a larger vessel which evolved into the modern destroyer. It could mount guns capable of destroying the torpedo boat before it was within range to use its own weapons.

USS PT-105
US Navy 80 ft Elco PT boats, led by PT-105, at high speed in 1942

20th century

The idea was revived shortly before World War I with the craft using new gasoline engines. Italy and Great Britain were at the forefront of this design, with the Coastal Motor Boat (CMB) and the Motobarca Armata Silurante (MAS) (Italian: "Torpedo Armed Motorboat"). The outstanding achievement of the class was the sinking of the Austro-Hungarian battleship SMS Szent István by MAS. 15 on June 10, 1918. The equivalent achievement for the CMBs was a lesser success; during the Russian Civil War CMBs attacked the Red Fleet at anchor at Kronstadt on 18 June 1919, sinking the cruiser Pamiat Azova for the loss of four craft.

The design matured in the mid-1930s as the Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs) and Motor Gun Boats (MGBs) of the Royal Navy, the PT boats of the US Navy, and the E-boats (Schnellboote) of the Kriegsmarine. All types saw extensive use during World War II but were limited in effectiveness due to the increasing threat of aircraft; however, some successes were achieved in favourable conditions, as showcased by the crippling of the cruiser HMS Manchester (later scuttled), in the night of 13 August 1942, by Italian MS boats.

Post-World War II

After World War II, the use of this kind of craft steadily declined in the United States and Britain, despite the introduction of safer diesel engines to replace the highly flammable gasoline ones, although the Soviet Union still had large numbers of MGBs and MTBs in service.

A Komar-class missile boat launching a Styx missile
HMS Ystad R142
The Swedish Ystad-class missile boat HSwMS Ystad (R142)

With the development of the anti-ship missile FACs were reborn in the Soviet Union as "missile boats" or "missile cutters". The first few missile boats were originally torpedo boats, with the torpedo tubes replaced by missile launchers. Again, small fast craft could attack and destroy a major warship. The idea was first tested by the Soviet Union which, in August 1957, produced the Komar class which mounted two P-15 Termit missiles on a 25-metre (82 ft) and a top speed of around 40 knots (74 km/h; 46 mph). Endurance was limited to 1,000 nautical miles (1,900 km; 1,200 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) and the vessels had supplies for only five days at sea. 110 Komar-class vessels were produced, while over 400 examples were built of the following Osa class with a significant portion of the total being sold to pro-Soviet nations.

The first combat use of missile boats was by the Egyptian Soviet-built Komar-class craft fire of four Styx missiles on the Israeli destroyer Eilat on 20 October 1967, shortly after the Six-Day War, causing the latter's sinking with 47 dead.[3]

Schnellboot Gepard-Klasse Typ 143 A
A Gepard-class vessel of the German Navy

The Soviet FACs prompted a NATO response, which became more intense after the sinking of Eilat. The Germans and French worked together to produce a new FAC, resulting in 1968 in the La Combattante class fast attack craft. Built on a 47-or-49-metre (154 or 161 ft) hull with four MM-38 Exocet missiles, a 76 mm gun forward and 40 mm twin guns aft, these vessels have a top speed of 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph). Built until 1974, a total of 68 Combattante IIs were launched. The design was immediately followed by the Combattante III, and a great many other shipyards produced their own versions of the Combattante, notably the Israeli Sa'ar/Reshef variants.

Size has also increased, some designs reaching up to corvette size, 800 tonnes including a helicopter, giving them extended modes of operation. While the Israeli Sa'ar 4-class missile boats, for example, had a 58 metre hull and 415 ton displacement, the Sa'ar 5 is 85 metres in length and displaces 1,065 tons, and is officially rated as a corvette.

Iran and North Korea have some of the largest numbers of FACs in operation today. North Korea alone operates more than 300,[4] while Iran has been seen developing "swarm boats" to be used as harassing vessels in the heavily contested littoral waters of the Persian Gulf. To counter the threat, the US Navy has been developing an ASUW Littoral Defensive Anti Surface Warfare doctrine, along with vessels such as the littoral combat ship.

See also


  1. ^ "AMI International - Definitions of Vessel Types [ ]". Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  2. ^ "Taiwan must rethink naval strategy: expert". Taipei Times. 2015-03-04. Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  3. ^ John Pike (1967-10-21). "Eilat Destroyer". Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  4. ^ Hy Sang Lee: North Korea: A Strange Socialist Fortress, p. 85
Albatros-class fast attack craft

The Type 143 Albatros class was a German class of missile bearing fast attack craft. Each vessel is named after a bird of prey including the albatross, condor and cormorant. Constructed by German shipbuilders Lürssen and Kröger, the vessels were intended to replace the Type 141 Seeadler class. The German Navy retired the class in 2005 and sold the boats off to Tunisia and Ghana.

Car Nicobar-class patrol vessel

The Car Nicobar class of high-speed offshore patrol vessels are built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) for the Indian Navy. The vessels are designed as a cost-effective platform for patrol, anti-piracy and rescue operations in India's exclusive economic zone.

The class and its vessels are named for Indian islands. They are the first water jet-propelled vessels of the Indian Navy.

Doğan-class fast attack craft

The Doğan Class is one of the Fast Attack Craft / Missile Boat classes of the Turkish Navy.

Designed by Lürssen Werft in Germany, these ships are almost identical with the Yıldız and Rüzgar classes, having the same hull, machinery and weapons. They were fitted with LIOD Mk.2 electro-optical fire control and TACTICOS command control systems during their mid-life modernization program.

TCG Doğan was built in Germany, other ships of the class were built in Turkey.

Fast Attack Craft War Badge

The Fast Attack Craft War Badge or S-Boat War Badge (German: Das Schnellbootkriegsabzeichen) was a World War II German military decoration awarded to members of the Kriegsmarine for service on fast attack craft or patrol/torpedo boats. The award was instituted on 30 May 1941. Requirements to receive the award included: an outstandingly successful sortie, wounded in action, 12 sorties against enemy vessels or installations, or outstanding leadership.

Gepard-class fast attack craft

The Type 143A Gepard class was a class of missile bearing fast attack craft (German: Schnellboot) and the last one in service with the German Navy before the remaining four operational ships were decommissioned on 16 November 2016.

It is an evolution of the Albatros class, the main difference being the replacement of the second 76 mm gun by the RAM system. It is planned that Gepard-class vessels will gradually be supplemented by Braunschweig-class corvettes and to be replaced by a new class of corvettes in the 2020s.

The ships in class are named after small to medium-sized predatory animals; Gepard is German for "cheetah".

Hamina-class missile boat

The Hamina-class missile boat is a class of fast attack craft of the Finnish Navy. They are classified as "missile fast attack craft" or ohjusvene, literally "missile boat" in Finnish.

Intrépida-class fast attack craft

The Intrépida class is a class of fast attack craft that was built by Lürssen for the Argentine Navy in the early 1970s. The ships are based on Lürssen's TNC 45 design.

Jaguar-class fast attack craft

The Type 140 Jaguar-class fast attack craft is an evolution of the German torpedo boats (E-boats) of World War II. The design was developed by Lürssen and designated Schnellboot 55. The 20 boats that were built for the German Navy were in service from 1957 to 1975. Then the Jaguar-class boats were replaced in service with the Bundesmarine by the Tiger class.

The Jaguar-class boats were relatively well suited for high sea action. In NATO strategy it was their duty to intercept landing operations in the Baltic Sea, prevent transfers of ships of the Soviet Union and to keep the transatlantic supply lines open through the North Sea.

The Seeadler class differs from the Type 140 only in the model of engine.

Kartal-class fast attack craft

The Kartal class is a class of fast attack missile and torpedo boats of the Turkish Navy.

The vessels of this class were built by Lürssen Werft in Germany, and were based on the Zobel class. However, unlike the Zobel class, which were armed with only torpedoes, the Kartal class are armed with missiles and torpedoes, and can carry up to four mines.

TCG Kartal was the first vessel of the class to be launched, but TCG Denizkuşu was the first to be delivered and commissioned. TCG Meltem sank after colliding with the Soviet training ship Khasan in 1985. Meltem was salvaged, but never repaired.

Končar-class missile boat

The Končar-class is a class of six missile boats built for the Yugoslav Navy during the late 1970s at Tito's Shipyard Kraljevica, SR Croatia. The boats featured a mixture of Western and Eastern equipment, including Soviet anti-ship missiles and Swedish guns.

During the Croatian War of Independence one ship, Vlado Ćetković, was captured by Croatian forces while being overhauled. It was eventually commissioned with the Croatian Navy as Šibenik and is still in use. The remaining five ships were relocated to Montenegro, entering service with the new FR Yugoslav Navy, with three of them being decommissioned in the early 2000s. The last two ships of the class are planned to be modified as patrol boats for service with the Montenegrin Navy.

Kılıç-class fast attack craft

The Kılıç class is one of the fast attack craft / missile boat classes of the Turkish Navy. It is defined as a corvette by Lürssen Werft, the German designer of the vessel.

The ship has a specially developed superstructure and mast for low radar cross-section. It is suitable for operating in the open seas and under bad weather conditions, with the ability to cruise at speeds of up to 24 knots (44 km/h) in Sea State 5.

The first batch of three ships are designated Kılıç I and the second batch of six ships are designated Kılıç II.

P-330 Kılıç was built in Germany, the other ships of the class were built in Turkey.

La Combattante III-class fast attack craft

The La Combattante III type missile boats of the Hellenic Navy are a class of four fast attack craft ordered by Greece in September 1974 from France. The vessels had no class name but are referred to by type. They are similar to the La Combattante IIa-class fast attack craft already in service, but are larger and armed with torpedoes. A second group of six were ordered in 1978, to be built under license in Greece and use Penguin Mk 2 Mod 3 missiles.

La Combattante IIIb-class fast attack craft

The La Combattante IIIb type missile boats of the Hellenic Navy are a class of six fast attack craft built in Greece to a French design. The vessels had no class name but are referred to by type.

They are a similar but newer design than the Greek La Combattante III-class fast attack craft, with the main difference that they use Kongsberg Penguin Mk 2 Mod 3 missiles. The six ships were built at Hellenic Shipyards (first launching in 1979). Kostakos (P 25) sank after collision with a ferry in November 1996.

La Combattante IIa-class fast attack craft

The La Combattante IIa fast attack craft is a class of fast attack craft originally built for the German Navy as Type 148 Tiger-class fast attack craft. They were later transferred to the Hellenic Navy and the class was renamed Combattante IIa, as with similar French made ships. All the ships were under mid-life updates in 1980s. Two vessels in the class, P-74 and P-75, were fitted with RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a new ESM was fitted after transfer.

A version called the Beir Grassa class, of which 10 were built and 8 were operational as of 1995, were used by the Libyan Navy. One had been sunk and another disabled during a 1986 confrontation with US forces.

Iran ordered 12 ships of the same class (known in Iran as Kaman class), nine of which were delivered in 1977 and 1978, and three of which were delayed until 1981 as a result of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Iranian fast attack craft Paykan was sunk during Operation Morvarid in 1980, while Joshan was sunk by USS Simpson during Operation Praying Mantis in 1988. These ships are not to be confused with the new Joshan and Paykan, which were named in their memories. Iran built a heavily upgraded version of this class called the Sina class. As of 2012 Iran has built 4 Sina-class vessels and is building 5 more of this class.

Roussen-class fast attack craft

The Roussen class is a seven-strong class of British-design fast attack missile boats improved and customized for the Hellenic Navy, also known as Super Vita. The class is named after its lead ship, which in turn is named after Lt Nikolaos Roussen, a World War II submarines officer who was killed in the suppression of the Navy mutiny in April 1944.

Rüzgar-class fast attack craft

The Rüzgar class is one of the Fast Attack Craft / Missile Boat classes of the Turkish Navy.

Designed by Lürssen Werft in Germany, these ships are almost identical to the Yıldız and Doğan classes, having the same hull, machinery and weapons; but are lighter and faster. All four ships of the class were built in Turkey.

Seeadler-class fast attack craft

The Type 141 Seeadler-class fast attack craft differs from Type 140 Jaguar-class fast attack craft only in the installation of other, later more powerful diesel engine.

The Seeadler class was replaced in service with the Bundesmarine by the Type 143 Albatros class.

Tiger-class fast attack craft

The Type 148 Tiger-class fast attack craft is a modification of the French La Combattante IIa design for the German Navy. The La Combattante IIas had been designed by Lürssen of Germany for Israel, but were built in France by Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie in Cherbourg (CMN) for political reasons. Eight of the boats were laid down by CMH, but completed by Lürssen.

The boats were commissioned into the Bundesmarine in the mid-1970s, replacing the Jaguar-class vessels of the 3rd and 5th Squadrons. At first the boats did not receive names, only numbers, but these were introduced later at the insistence of the crews.

The ships served for 30 years, and received major updates in 1982–84 and 1990–92. After decommissioning they were scrapped or sold to different countries. No direct replacements were procured as due to the changed operating conditions the Deutsche Marine has reduced the number of these fast attack boats drastically and procured instead a smaller number of corvettes.

Zobel-class fast attack craft

The Type 142 Zobel class was a German class of torpedo bearing fast attack craft (torpedo boats). They were in service with the Bundesmarine during the Cold War to protect the Baltic sea coast. The class was designed by Lürssen.

The Zobel class was replaced by the Type 143A Gepard class, they were the last fast attack craft with only torpedoes as main armament, all later classes have anti-ship missiles.

The Kartal-class fast attack craft of the Turkish Navy is an advanced version of the Zobel class; vessels of this class are armed with Penguin anti-ship missiles and mines in addition to torpedoes.

Aircraft carriers
Patrol craft
Fast attack craft
Mine warfare
Command and support


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