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Sunday, December 18th 2005, 11:49am

Comments on Indian Naval Actions in the Philipines


i.Additionally, the new construction would incorporate some of the lessons that the FAA learned during the Abyssinian Crisis about intensive flying from carriers. It was estimated that a month’s intensive flying in semi-wartime conditions would lead to a loss rate of 20% crashed or damaged beyond repair, and 10% needing major repair. Even the major maintenance work could not be carried out within the hangars of an operational carrier without interfering with flying operations. Carrier operations required a large supply of replacement aircraft, and either a chain of support depots or bases near to the fighting, or an aircraft maintenance ship (or both). This ship became HMS Unicorn.

I'm still trying to figure out; how many aircraft India deployed; how long it went on for; and how Indian experience compares to reality.


-The navy should ensure that training operations provide an acceptable cadre of aviators to substitute for lost, injured, or fatigued aviators. Training methods should be updated to draw combat experiences wherever possible.

Definitely the most important recommendation.


First, it was to search for and destroy revolutionary MAS craft rather than expose fleet destroyers to this risky task.

Destroyers or Torpedo Boats would be better to deploy in this role. They are faster than the MTBs in all but flat calm and their heavy weapons guarantee one hit-one kill. It is also considerably safer than using other MTBs. It is hard to hit a fast, maneuvering destroyer with a torpedo and the light gunfire will not cause extensive damage. Surprise attacks would be the worst thing, but against your own MTBs results would be much worse. It doesn't take a lot to sink these frail craft, which have no protection for their crews.


Once detected - one assumes from the engine noise

Most MAS are fitted with 5hp electric motors for "creeping" and general patrol/ASW work. The MAS were originally designed as ASW vessels, speed not being considered. The only thing that lead to their speed was the adoption of aero-engines as the marine engines were not delivered due to the war. The high-rpm of the aero-engines made them uneconomical for ASW and so a pair of electric motors were added.


-The navy should develop a “motor gunboat”, geared specifically at the destruction of enemy light craft. These craft should train for aggressive hunter-killer operations.

I'm not sure that you can fit 88mm or 75mm guns onto such a small hull. Some of the WWI MAS were used as "canoniere" or MGB with addition of 3-pdr guns. In WWII, the British MGBs used 6-pdr, 3-pdr, 40mm and 20mm cannons in addition to mg. Unless you get up to Grey Goose size ships, it is hard to mount 75mm gun(s).


Sunday, December 18th 2005, 5:13pm

Thanks for commenting so far.

Urumi embarked 16 Marut fighters, 16 Toofani scout-bombers, and four utility aircraft, plus eight crated spares (initially - probably saw a few more shipped over mid-campaign). Over four and a half months of on-and-off action she lost:

6 shot down (15%)
4 lost to accidents (10%)
1 lost to unknown causes (2.5%)

That's a quarter of the airgroup lost over the time period. Arguably low, but there were no high intensity actions involved, and the ship was probably not doing a great deal for some periods.

I did reference increased maintenance issues, but didn't go into detail. I expect write-offs that made it to the ship were not considered "losses" as such, either.

On the motor gunboats - current thinking is possibly a mix of generic motor gunboats with a couple of 35 mm guns, and perhaps some larger craft in the 400 - 500 t range with a heavier gun suite.


Sunday, January 1st 2006, 5:47pm

Comments on the analysis

I'm somewhat surprised that the analysis does not include discussion of air-to-air actions or the impact of airborne scouting on the campaign. Particularly, the initial shooting down of the recon aircraft that sighted the Indian group on the 25th certainly deprived the revolutionaries of vital intelligence as to the composition, heading and likely intentions of the Indians.

Similarly, the destruction of the observation aircraft over Murat likely deprived the revolutionary commanders of good intelligence on the force being landed against them.

Conversely, the Indian use of the Toofani to scout the terrain surrounding the landing area gave good intelligence to the (lack of) revolutionary troops. The use of non-carrier shipborne aircraft to locate the revolutionary naval forces could be said to be the key use of recon in the campaign. The sighting lead to a strike by Urumi's aircraft, the strategic withdrawl of the carrier, battleship and transports away from the surface forces threat and prevented the revolutionary light forces from being able to inflict any significant damage on the Indian forces (ashore or afloat).

As a final point about this, had the revolutionaries had any artillery around in the area, the Toofani would have sighted it. This would have resulted in a call for fire support from surface forces or a strike from Urumi's already hard pressed aircraft. India should examine coordination of fire support from non-indigenous (ie, not from the firing ship) air assets. Also, armed reconaissance, for both ship borne seaplanes and scout bombers should also be examined.

1. Air to Surface Actions


-SR Urumi (6 Marut, 12 Toofani) vs. 2 DD, 9 MAS. 26 January 1929.

-Revolutionary Air Force (2 Aero A.24) vs SR Urumi. 15 June 1929.

-SR Urumi against various land-based targets. 27 January - 6 June 1929.

The attack by Urumi’s air group against the revolutionary strike force demonstrated the potential for Urumi to attrite enemy light and medium surface forces in support of battleline operations. The attack was well-executed, and the loss of two aircraft against a destroyer and an MAS is considered acceptable. Given additional time to locate and attack enemy MAS, it is probable that some of the later losses to the navy could have been prevented. This, however, speaks to a prematurely launched amphibious operation rather than a tactical error on the navy’s part.

The late raid against Urumi was singularly unsuccessful, with no damage or casualties sustained by the carrier and both attackers shot down by defensive aircraft after the attack. Level bombing attacks by slow aircraft at high altitude were not expected to be effective, and this one certainly was not. Nonetheless, the fact that the aircraft did have an opportunity to drop on Urumi suggests a shortfall in existing defensive fighter coverage operations that bear examination.

Ongoing support of ground operations cost Urumi several aircraft over the course of the Luzon campaign. Four Maruts and five Toofanis were lost - four aircraft to accidents, one to enemy aircraft, three to ground fire, and one to unknown causes. Generally speaking, the Urumi group functioned well, though heavier attack aircraft would have performed ground attack functions better than the Toofani. In general, both types demonstrated acceptable utility, damage tolerance and durability. However, the air group’s overall effectiveness was declining towards the end of the campaign as a result of accumulating pilot fatigue (despite some rotations) and maintenance requirements. Ideally, a second carrier would have been in place to alternate with Urumi, but this will evidently not be possible for some time yet.

A note on flight crews: three Marut pilots and eight Toofani crew were killed in flight operations, out of Urumi’s initial complement of twenty and thirty-two respectively. In total, however, thirty-one Marut pilots and forty-eight Toofani crew flew from Urumi over the course of the war, some replacing combat losses, others relieving fatigued crewmen.


-Fighter coverage operations require further examination. Only two fighters were on station at the time, perhaps this should be doubled, with two aircraft orbiting the carrier and the other two orbiting along a likely threat axis outside the squadron.

-The Marut fighter should be modified to include racks for light bombs or grenades, for use in anti-MAS actions. Fighter crews should be trained to successfully engage MAS boats.

-The Toofani scout-bomber should be improved to carry a single heavy bomb in the 200 to 250 kg range, making the aircraft more effective against medium surface forces such as aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers.

-The army and navy should investigate options to rapidly transport army air force units to distant shores aboard Urumi or other vessels.

-The navy should ensure that training operations provide an acceptable cadre of aviators to substitute for lost, injured, or fatigued aviators. Training methods should be updated to draw combat experiences wherever possible.

Funamentally, I agree with this analysis.

To the point on additional fighters on the threat axis, the navy should examine the possibility of earlier detection along the threat axis. This could invovle light forces in the form of pickets down to even MAS or torpedo boats. The aircrews of the carrier were already pressed enough with their assignments, and a ship can remain on station much longer than aircraft.

The Murat's 15mm canons were enough to damage the revolutionary MAS boats. In addition to the point above about light bomb/grenades, perhaps an alternate amament for the Murat such as larger number of machine guns, more 15mm cannons or fewer, larger caliber cannons would prove more effective against MAS boats. They navy should also consider examining a hub or cowel mounted large cannon in conjunction with standard smaller caliber armament. This will undoubtedly affect the current aircrafts' performance, so perhaps this should be a consideration in a future design.

The second carrier mentioned would have been useful not only in lessening pilot fatigue, but would have also eased airfcraft arming, maintenance and damage repair. Since India won't have this luxury for some time, perhaps the navy should examine operating a seaplane carrier in conjunction with Urumi. The seaplane carriers aircraft could take on patrol/scouting/recon missions that the carriers scout bombers. They might even be able to undertake level bombing of land target in a minimal threat environment.

Finally, with respect to the attrition/replanishment of Urumi's airgroup, the navy might examine the possiblity of having carrier trained squadrons at naval air stations in India proper. These could then be ferried via India's island bases to provide new aircraft and crews to the carrier. While this probably wouldn't have been possible in case of the Philippine operations, this was an out-of-theatre operation. The Indian navy will most likely fight any significan conflict in the Indian ocean, where this kind of renewal would be more useful.


Sunday, January 1st 2006, 6:49pm

2. Light Surface Force Operations


-Two revolutionary MAS against SR M-13, M-24, off Calapan, Mindoro, 26 February 1929

-Two revolutionary MAS against SR M-21, M-22, M-30, off Nasugbu, Luzon, 15 March 1929

-SR M-21, M-30, M-32, M-33 in support of a commando raid at Boac, Marinduque, 9 April 1929

-One revolutionary MAS vs SR M-13, M-32, M-38, off Roxas, Mindoro, 10 April 1929

-Interdiction operations, Sibuyan Sea, 8 March 1929 to present.

The Filipino Revolution was the first occasion in which Indian motor torpedo craft were used in combat. Eight motor torpedo craft were initially deployed, using a requisitioned Formosan ferry as a tender. Two additional torpedo craft were moved to the area of operations after the mid-March action.

The flotilla was charged with three missions. First, it was to search for and destroy revolutionary MAS craft rather than expose fleet destroyers to this risky task. Second, the flotilla was to investigate coastal traffic in the northwestern Sibuyan Sea and detain any vessels involved in transporting revolutionary troops or supplies. Finally, the boats were used to deliver army commandos on raids against land targets.

Events demonstrated that the motor torpedo boat, while the best available option for these missions, was not the best option overall. Configured for attacking larger vessels with torpedos, they were underarmed for combatting MAS craft with light cannons and machine guns - hence the loss of two MTB to one MAS in the three actions, despite having numerical superiority on both occasions where a boat was lost. The MAS, with a medium caliber gun and two twenty-five millimeter cannons, significantly outgunned the smaller MTB with their two fifteen millimeter cannons and two machine guns.

The raid at Boac was a dismal failure. Four MTB carrying two platoons of commandos were supposed to execute a high speed run into a wharf and then provide fire support to the commandos as they struck a rebel command post. Once detected - one assumes from the engine noise - and taken under fire by shore batteries, the boats lacked the firepower necessary to suppress protected gun positions, and lacked the protection and durability necessary to withstand much fire from those positions. The loss of one boat and a quarter of the commandos must be considered relatively light under the circumstances, and I approve of the quick decision to abort the attack by the strike leader.

In both situations, an exclusively gun-armed boat with some combination of eighty-eight, seventy-five, and thirty-five millimeter guns would probably have fared better against their opposition. On the other hand, in the interdiction role, the presence of torpedos was necessary as a real incentive for suspect vessels to submit to MTB command. This operation utilized two-boat patrols, sometimes guided by aircraft, to detect ships that might be trafficking men and material to Luzon to oppose the loyalist ground campaign. If a suspicious vessel was detected, one boat would circle at a distance while the other closed to make a visual inspection and provide verbal orders. If a vessel did prove to be under revolutionary control, it was either escorted to a friendly port or a destroyer was called in to take aboard prisoners and scuttle the vessel. In this fashion, seven successful intercepts resulted in the capture of approximately nine hundred soldiers, thirty artillery pieces, and a considerable amount of ammunition.

From the logistical perspective, the use of a tender was essential for operations. The flotilla commander has reported that the arrival of the Jagan Rane in early June has made for a huge improvement over the improvised ferry, despite Rane’s new condition and inexperienced crew. The accommodations are better and the fuel and munition transfer systems more efficient. Rane’s workshops sufficient to deal with light-caliber arms damage, and obviate the need for damaged MTB to journey to wherever the repair ship Otta happened to be - generally up near Iba, well away from the MTB’s usual operating area.


-The captured revolutionary MAS (the one supposedly destroyed on 19 March) should be extensively tested at sea and examined in drydock to gauge its capabilities. There should be an effort to maintain operational security as the capture of this boat is not public knowledge.

-The navy should develop a “motor gunboat”, geared specifically at the destruction of enemy light craft. These craft should train for aggressive hunter-killer operations.

-Operational experiences from the flotilla complement should be collected and incorporated in the training regime, and should also be used to guide future MTB design developments.

-The navy should continue acquisition of the Jagan Rane class tenders and practice the deployment of such vessels and their “flock”.

-Future exercises undertaken by the Navy should seek to integrate MTB operations where possible.

Again, I agree with the bulk of this analysis.

All three missions allocated to the MTB/MAS forces would seem well within their capabilities.

That said, while their speed would make them useful for opeations such as the Raid at Boac, the cost of surprise, survivability and capacity seem to make them poorly suited to the mission. It would seem that for such commando operations, alternate delivery systems using stealth (such as inflatible boats from a submarine) or more firepower (a sloop, TB or DD sized combatant) might have been more successful. Partnering a larger combatant with the MTB would seem to make it less of 'raid' and invite damage to the larger combatant, which would likely be targeted first. This may however, make the entry of the MTB easier. Should MTB still be considered for such operations, the navy might explore some sort of 'bolt-on' muffling for the MTB's engines. (A permament muffler would likely cost horsepower, and wouldn't be necessary in most MTB operations.)

Alternatively, a 'raid' relying more on the movement of the commandos overland could still use MTBs for fast insertion. The disembarkation point would have be well away from enemy land forces. Recon and intelligence would be key to such an operation, but are outside the scope of this discussion.

I like the idea of an anti-MAS gunboat. This could vary in size, but I would say the small end should be in this neighborhood:…warshipprojects

Tactically, I wonder if the navy shouldn't examine incorporating the anti-MAS gunboat as part of an MTB squadron, as a dedicated counter to be part of other naval force or as an independent force. Might be something to be explored in future exercises/wargames. Existing MAS could even play the part of the anti-MAS gunboat.

The point of the logistical advantage of the dedicated tender is excellent. However, the use of the chartered ferry was an acceptable if not perfect interim solution, enabling operations to proceed before the arrival of the Jagan Rane. One would wonder how the MAS operations would have proceeded had Rane been lost. The navy might explore the conversion of some type of civilian vessel such as ferries to act as a back-up tender. While not as good as the dedicated tender, they could relieve them or assist them necessary. With such a ship in attendance, a single dedicated tender could support more than it's usual 'flock', concentrating on things like damage repair and maintenace while the conversion takes on the more mundane tasks of rearmament and refueling.

All in all, I think India is going to have some VERY interesting Fleet Exercises in the near future.


Monday, January 2nd 2006, 4:25pm

Rich - I appreciate the comments. I'll respond in a bit, as I'm just now back after several days of hardware problems.


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Monday, January 2nd 2006, 5:49pm

Weren´t the british MGBs the answer to the german S-boats? So is this the answer asked for regarding an anti-MAS gunboat?