Sunday, May 6, 2012

Eponymous

The 240 ton patrol boat "Kazakhstan" is about to set sail:

The ship "is designed to destroy surface ships, boats and transports of the enemy on their own and in collaboration with naval strike forces," said an MoD release. The Kazakhstan will thus become the most powerful ship in the eponymous country's nascent navy, and the first that is really a naval ship, as opposed to a coast guard vessel. By next year, two more ships of the same class are scheduled to be launched as well. Kazakhstan naval officials had earlier said they were planning to buy three corvettes (a somewhat larger ship), as well, from South Korea, but little has been said about that lately. The ship will have a displacement of 240 tons, has a top speed of 30 knots and is armed with "modernised anti-aircraft missile and artillery units,"
While I appreciate the pride associated with a new naval vessel and the desire for a regime to associate its military achievements with national honor, the history of eponymous naming hasn't been particularly inspiring. Panzerschiff Deutschland (one of several ships with the name) represented an impressive technical achievement given Germany's legal constraints, but was renamed to avoid an unpleasant Allied propaganda victory. The Italians went the opposite way, with fascist-themed Littorio becoming the more safely patriotic Italia upon the fall of Mussolini. The unluckiest pair of eponymously named warships were probably France and Espana, dreadnoughts which ran afoul of rocks exactly one year apart (August 26 is apparently an unlucky day for battleships). A second Espana (thus dubbed following the fall of her first namesake, Alfonso XIII) hit a mine and sank in 1937.

Nor has "United States" been an especially successful name for the USN. The frigate USS United States led a successful career, but the battlecruiser (CC-6) never made it off the slip, and the abortive aircraft carrier (CVA-58) helped produce a crisis of civil-military relation and inter-service rivalry. The fate of SS United States remains undetermined.

On the upside, the names Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have worked out reasonably well, even if the main service of such ships came with the Royal Navy rather than the dominion fleets.

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