The original littoral stealth ship

I began a wave of naval-related posts with the "hidden ship" post. That was a short post about fast attack crafts that were greatly camouflaged right next to a cliff/coastline.

Here's what appears to be the original littoral stealth ship:

That doesn't look stealthy to you?

Well, it's not THAT kind of stealth. These photos tell the story:

The ship was stationed in the Dutch East Indies when Japan invaded in 1941. After the Allied fleet was destroyed in the Battle of the Java Sea in February 1942, Abraham Crijnssen was ordered to escape to Australia. The crew covered her thickly with tree branches, so that to observers she looked like one of the many small jungle islets of the area, and she was able to pass Japanese forces undetected.

For comparison: Camouflaged FACs

A shallow draft and small size are obviously of great advantage for such camouflaging efforts.

I'd love to build a whole gallery of photos like these. It happened much more often on exercises.


  1. Sven,

    Your essays/analyses are absolutely fascinating.
    Your blog is less than 3 year old, yet you have covered
    just about every subject imaginable. And I notice that
    your readers can enjoy the materials without having
    to endure the typical right-wing anglo-gung-ho, euro-bashing
    dribbles commonly found on english-language
    military/defense sites.

    If you ever get bogged down by a writer's-block (unlikely,) or if you are simply looking for a fresh subject or a historical subject for an upcoming article,
    perhaps I could persuade you to analyze/write about Panzerzüge ?

    Do you think that this 20-century idea can make a come back ? or other contemporary techno-solutions will prove more appealling to military planners.

    Lately, I have been wondering why the railways
    have not come under guerilla-ambushes already
    (internal conflicts in places such as Colombia,
    Peru, Nigeria or Myanmar.) When/if these events
    occur in frequency, I suspect we will hear more about

    I am vietnamese-american, born in Vietnam.
    I first learned of these fighting platforms from the
    stories/anecdotes recounted by the survivors of the
    anti-colonial campaigns.

    In the early part of the 1950's, the French copied
    many German ideas in their efforts to protect their
    railways. Or it could be just that Vietnamese
    (not knowing any better) tend to blame the German
    for the introduction of Panzerzüge into Vietnam in
    the early '50.

    The logic being that before the French went to war
    against Germany, vietnamese Trotskyites
    revolutionaries in the 1920's and 1930's could
    attack French railcars without ever having
    to deal with this type of high fire-power defense.

    When the French returned to Indochine after 1945,
    they brought back ideas developed/witnessed during the
    days 'La Resistance' (FFI) were fighting the Wehrmacht. 'Le monstre allemand' was
    one of them. Thankfully, the colonial government did not have the resources for mounting rotating turrets found on German Panzerzüge or Polish Danuta
    railcars. The legionnaires' steel-plated machines
    simply had many wagons and armed with many Bofors and Reibel guns.

    According to the surviving partisans, those
    vietnamese who were sent to disrupt the railways or to
    intercept the food cargo suffered terrible loses.
    Even when immobilized by destroyed tracks or by dead
    locomotive engines, the multi-wagon french Panzerzüge (they called it 'La Rafale')
    still proved very deadly for anyone trying to loot the
    cargo. The few Panzerzüge's in a train column provided sufficient fire support for the escorting
    regiments of algeriens or tunisiens.

    An example of the french perspective can be found


    Currently, there are hardly any information about the
    original German Panzerzüge development, their war service
    history, or their impact on the opposing partisans. At least not in Vietnamese, French or
    English anyway.

    Alas, I wish I had gotten myself some schooling in German. I can't read very enticing sources such as


    If Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel were in Vietnam,
    I suspect he might have ordered a few M24 Chaffee tanks
    (which the french had aplenty) welded to the wagon-cargo
    platforms... et voila... instant Panzerzüge with
    rotating turrets.

    Luckily for the vietnamese rebels, the french never
    thought of doing anything like that.

  2. Today's logistics don't depend that much on trains any more, so the emphasis has switched as well.
    Railroad security in still interesting, but I suppose the solutions for railroad security would be very much the same as for road convoy security - except that you need a railroad repair capability.

    The railroad traffic's greatest problem is the vulnerability of the track in combination with the inability to leave the same.

    A modern solution to the security problem would likely look like
    a) drone surveillance
    b) use of diesel-powered locomotives
    c) armour, roll protection and remote-controlled weapon stations for all manned railway cars
    d) EOD and engineer detachment
    e) helicopter-based quick reaction force (attack helicopters, infantry in helicopters and medevac)

    I doubt that armoured trains would make sense for offensive purposes (except missile launch) today.

  3. As an addition to your thoughts on stealh ships I have an anecdote from the cold war era. During one maneuver in the baltic sea a frigate had been separated from its fleet by opposing forces. At night, the navigational light were repositioned to the front, additional lights were mounted on the outside and the deck speakers were used to play music. Although easily detected the frigate was able to return to its fleet without being intercepted by "enemy" ships.
    I don't know if this story is true, but it backs up your point that today deception might be a stronger concept than stealth.

  4. I heard a similar story about an U.S. exercise - a destroyer faked a cruise ship with lights and came into gun distance to a CVN. The captain radioed his presence seconds before the simulated impact of his missiles.

    Such tactics work, but they depend on the presence of civilian ships in the area or the disguise won't work.
    It's a kind of guerrilla tactic that enhances survivability with deception (pretending to be a harmless civilian).

    Likewise, the extreme 'islet' camouflage only works if islands/islets are common in the area.