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Sventex

Jeune École, Method or Madness?

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The Jeune École ("Young School") was a strategic naval concept developed during the 19th century. It advocated the use of small, heavily armed vessels to combat larger battleships, and the use of commerce raiders to cripple the trade of the rival nation. The idea was developed among French naval theorists: the French government had the second largest navy of the time, and the theorists desired to counteract the strength of the larger British Royal Navy.

The Jeune École embraced commerce raiding, torpedo boats and submarines and would be the doctrine used by a number of navies during short periods of naval history.  But was this doctrine have merit?  Was it truly a recipe for victory?

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Not an expert but I don't think such a tactic would be able to counteract completely a superior navy on the long run or ensure victory. It could  definitely tie up ships and resources that could be used for other purposes and possibly give other armed branches the time needed to get a critical advantage. However as sub warfare has shown us during WWI, provided the countermeasures weren't developed yet, there was a method to this madness for sure. 

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16 minutes ago, Sventex said:

The Jeune École ("Young School") was a strategic naval concept developed during the 19th century. It advocated the use of small, heavily armed vessels to combat larger battleships, and the use of commerce raiders to cripple the trade of the rival nation. The idea was developed among French naval theorists: the French government had the second largest navy of the time, and the theorists desired to counteract the strength of the larger British Royal Navy.

The Jeune École embraced commerce raiding, torpedo boats and submarines and would be the doctrine used by a number of navies during short periods of naval history.  But was this doctrine have merit?  Was it truly a recipe for victory?

Jeune École borns out of the necessity of a minor power to devise a plan engage a vastly more powerful adversary. IMO, Jeune École greatest merit is having enough humility to understand and accept your relative weak position. From an economic perspective it is also a sound proposition as it considers and is structured on a limited budget.

As a recipe for Victory, it is much more dubious since it isn't a "positive" strategy. It isn't based in achieving but in denying the free use of Sea communications to the stronger power. Its effectiveness is at best relative. Maybe the  best example of Jeune École methods is the Battle of the Atlantic, judge it by yourself.

IMO, Jeune École is a very sound concept whose greatest defect lies in the tacit admission of being a minor power. This has been proved thought history to be a very hard pill to swallow for many countries.

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18 minutes ago, ArIskandir said:

Jeune École borns out of the necessity of a minor power to devise a plan engage a vastly more powerful adversary. IMO, Jeune École greatest merit is having enough humility to understand and accept your relative weak position. From an economic perspective it is also a sound proposition as it considers and is structured on a limited budget.

As a recipe for Victory, it is much more dubious since it isn't a "positive" strategy. It isn't based in achieving but in denying the free use of Sea communications to the stronger power. Its effectiveness is at best relative. Maybe the  best example of Jeune École methods is the Battle of the Atlantic, judge it by yourself.

IMO, Jeune École is a very sound concept whose greatest defect lies in the tacit admission of being a minor power. This has been proved thought history to be a very hard pill to swallow for many countries.

At least in my eyes, the unofficial Vieille École "Old School" doctrine of basing a navy around it's capital ships is perfect viable for a second rate navy as they work very well allied with other navies based around capital ships.  Spain and France could not compete with the Royal Navy separately, but when combined they achieved local superiority and naval victories in the American Revolution.  And the combined capital ships of France, Britain and Italy kept the Mediterranean an Entente lake for WWI.  Not something they could have necessarily achieved with Jeune École navies.

Or perhaps I'm overthinking it as perhaps the Royal Navy alone could have handled the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Navies single handed?

Edited by Sventex

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8 minutes ago, Sventex said:

At least in my eyes, the unofficial Vieille École "Old School" doctrine of basing a navy around it's capital ships is perfect viable for a second rate navy as they work very well allied with other navies based around capital ships.  Spain and France could not compete with the Royal Navy separately, but when combined they achieved local superiority and naval victories in the American Revolution.  And the combined capital ships of France, Britain and Italy kept the Mediterranean an Entente lake for WWI.  Not something they could have necessarily achieved with Jeune École navies.

Or perhaps I'm overthinking it as perhaps the Royal Navy alone could have handled the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Navies single handed?

As a "minor" sea power, "Old School" considers you work along with your coalition of allies against the greater power. In the particular time frame of Jeune École formulation, France was the dominant continental power and could probably face herself a coalition backed up by Britain, so they could only relay on their own resources against a Coalition including Great Britain.

At Trafalgar, being in a coalition with Spain wasn't enough and I don't have any doubt RN alone would had been enough to deal with everyone else in the world, consider they were at the peak of their power at WW1, and two decades later, being greatly diminished they still had no problem in securing the Mediterranean against everyone else, all alone. 

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2 minutes ago, ArIskandir said:

At Trafalgar, being in a coalition with Spain wasn't enough and I don't have any doubt RN alone would had been enough to deal with everyone else in the world

I view the Napoleonic era as being somewhat of an exception because during the French Revolution, the literal Vieille École artillerists had been kicked out and the French Navy lost several generations of naval tradition in an instant.  The American Revolutionary war had not been that long ago and they were capable of defeating the Royal Navy in large engagements, but Revolutions being what they are, gutted the elite of the French Navy.

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4 minutes ago, Sventex said:

I view the Napoleonic era as being somewhat of an exception because during the French Revolution, the literal Vieille École artillerists had been kicked out and the French Navy lost several generations of naval tradition in an instant.  The American Revolutionary war had not been that long ago and they were capable of defeating the Royal Navy in large engagements, but Revolutions being what they are, gutted the elite of the French Navy.

Aye, but the diplomatic big picture was still somewhat similar. France remained quite isolated in terms of allies and while remained the continental strongest power, at sea they were hopelessly outmatched, hence the Jeune École made total sense at the time and was a very pragmatical approach to realpolitik instead of the traditional french lust for Gloire.

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17 minutes ago, Sventex said:

but Revolutions being what they are, gutted the elite of the French Navy.

When party loyalty is valued far above competence at the job. Why does that sound currently familiar?

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14 minutes ago, Sabot_100 said:

When party loyalty is valued far above competence at the job. Why does that sound currently familiar?

I don't think it had a thing to do with party loyalty, most militaries keep their officers apolitical by necessity.  The outcasts were the elite artillerist of the Navy and were seen as symbols of the Ancien Régime.  At the same time, the French Revolutionary Army would reorganize and develop the concept of army corp formation, the Corps d'Armée.  This reorganization gave Napoleon a great advantage over his contemporaries so there was a real movement during the French Revolution to shake out the old ways for new ideas, but this of course came at a devastating cost to the skill of the French Navy by ousting the elite.

Edited by Sventex

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2 hours ago, Sventex said:

The Jeune École ("Young School") was a strategic naval concept developed during the 19th century. It advocated the use of small, heavily armed vessels to combat larger battleships, and the use of commerce raiders to cripple the trade of the rival nation. The idea was developed among French naval theorists: the French government had the second largest navy of the time, and the theorists desired to counteract the strength of the larger British Royal Navy.

The Jeune École embraced commerce raiding, torpedo boats and submarines and would be the doctrine used by a number of navies during short periods of naval history.  But was this doctrine have merit?  Was it truly a recipe for victory?

Well Destroyers with their torpedo tubes allowed them to equalize the playing field against battleships. Seen in the 1940 sinking of=f HMS Glorious, HMS Acasta was able to score a pretty damaging hit on Scharnhorst with torpedoes despite being heavily outgunned, forcing Scharnhorst to return back for repairs and not attack the convoy that was crossing the Atlantic at the time behind HMS Glorious

 

similar thing happened with Battle fo Leyte Gulf, where Taffy 3, a groups of escort carriers and destroyers, fended off Yamato, 2 heavy cruisers, and 5 destroyers, where does other torpedoes were used to sink one and damage another heavy cruiser, and force Yamato to turn back. The bravery fo USS Johnson was essentially a David vs Goliath story, although Taffy 3 did not do much damage to yamato.

Edited by Boomer625

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22 minutes ago, Boomer625 said:

Well Destroyers with their torpedo tubes allowed them to equalize the playing field against battleships. Seen in the 1940 sinking of=f HMS Glorious, HMS Acasta was able to score a pretty damaging hit on Scharnhorst with torpedoes despite being heavily outgunned, forcing Scharnhorst to return back for repairs and not attack the convoy that was crossing the Atlantic at the time behind HMS Glorious

 

similar thing happened with Battle fo Leyte Gulf, where Taffy 3, a groups of escort carriers and destroyers, fended off Yamato, 2 heavy cruisers, and 5 destroyers, where does other torpedoes were used to sink one and damage another heavy cruiser, and force Yamato to turn back. The bravery fo USS Johnson was essentially a David vs Goliath story, although Taffy 3 did not do much damage to yamato.

But than you see the exact opposite at Casablanca, a fleet of French Destroyers, a cruiser and several submarines accomplish nothing against the Battleship USS Massachusetts and her supporting Aircraft Carrier USS Ranger. Meanwhile the Massachusetts racks up kills and wreaks a hostile port.  The battlefield against capital ships vs screen ships seemed far from equal.

Or you have the Second Battle of Guadalcanal where the Battleship USS Washington, the last combat capable ship on the USN side, racks up multiple kills while the Japanese screen ships struggled to even locate USS Washington.

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1 hour ago, Sventex said:

But than you see the exact opposite at Casablanca, a fleet of French Destroyers, a cruiser and several submarines accomplish nothing against the Battleship USS Massachusetts and her supporting Aircraft Carrier USS Ranger. Meanwhile the Massachusetts racks up kills and wreaks a hostile port.  The battlefield against capital ships vs screen ships seemed far from equal.

Or you have the Second Battle of Guadalcanal where the Battleship USS Washington, the last combat capable ship on the USN side, racks up multiple kills while the Japanese screen ships struggled to even locate USS Washington.

I guess it is situational then. Open ocean verses superior force? Submarines and potentiall supporting maneuverable fast cruisers or battlecruisers. Coastal areas with lots of cover? Motorboats/torpedo boast for fast boom and zoom tactics..

 

I believe the US successfully used motor boats in the island areas to hunt Japanese ships/make them disorganized

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18 hours ago, Sventex said:

But than you see the exact opposite at Casablanca, a fleet of French Destroyers, a cruiser and several submarines accomplish nothing against the Battleship USS Massachusetts and her supporting Aircraft Carrier USS Ranger. Meanwhile the Massachusetts racks up kills and wreaks a hostile port.  The battlefield against capital ships vs screen ships seemed far from equal.

Or you have the Second Battle of Guadalcanal where the Battleship USS Washington, the last combat capable ship on the USN side, racks up multiple kills while the Japanese screen ships struggled to even locate USS Washington.

Jeune École was very close knitted with technological developments, at the time of its formulation, the torpedo was quite revolutionary and countermeasures were still immature. As technology progressed (Radar, modern fire directors) the torpedo vectors lost survivability and by WW2 I think the power relation between Battleship and torpedo vectors had somewhat reverted. As vector technology progressed (Guided missiles, better subs), I think in a way, Jeune École based doctrines ended being the dominant idea for modern day warfare (for minor powers), it still endures and I dare say is healthier and more reasonable than ever.

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On 4/14/2021 at 4:35 PM, Sventex said:

The Jeune École ("Young School") was a strategic naval concept developed during the 19th century. It advocated the use of small, heavily armed vessels to combat larger battleships, and the use of commerce raiders to cripple the trade of the rival nation. The idea was developed among French naval theorists: the French government had the second largest navy of the time, and the theorists desired to counteract the strength of the larger British Royal Navy.

The Jeune École embraced commerce raiding, torpedo boats and submarines and would be the doctrine used by a number of navies during short periods of naval history.  But was this doctrine have merit?  Was it truly a recipe for victory?

Early version of asymmetric warfare?

Using less-expensive vessels to compete by using quantity and efficiency has merit, in my opinion.

As a separate problem, attacking the merchant fleets and supply lines of the opposition has merit, I feel.
But, it depends upon finding the oppositions' assets and having vessels in place which can sink them without significant losses in return.

Seek & destroy only works if the "home team" actually does so, though.
French practices and French naval theory haven't always aligned, from what little I remember of history.

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4 minutes ago, Wolfswetpaws said:

Using less-expensive vessels to compete by using quantity and efficiency has merit, in my opinion.

Capital ships acted as a force multiplier, being able to destroy lesser ships while taking no damage in return.  It created efficiency in reverse.

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2 minutes ago, Sventex said:

Capital ships acted as a force multiplier, being able to destroy lesser ships while taking no damage in return.  It created efficiency in reverse.

By themselves?

A few torpedoes would put them in port for months or longer.
They acted in concert with other ships, most often.

In WW-II, Italian mini-submarine attacks on British assets in ports demonstrated the concept, and also eventually were discovered and counter-measures were taken.
A few limpet-mines here or there and a ship was stuck in port.

Torpedo boats on the open seas making a night attack on a capitol ship?  Possible, if one could get past any screening vessels and remain undetected throughout the attack, eh?

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The British weren't entirely stupid, though.
They had their own ideas and reconnaissance gathering methods and they learned from discoveries and mistakes.

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1 minute ago, Wolfswetpaws said:

By themselves?

A few torpedoes would put them in port for months or longer.
They acted in concert with other ships, most often.

In WW-II, Italian mini-submarine attacks on British assets in ports demonstrated the concept, and also eventually were discovered and counter-measures were taken.
A few limpet-mines here or there and a ship was stuck in port.

Torpedo boats on the open seas making a night attack on a capitol ship?  Possible, if one could get past any screening vessels and remain undetected throughout the attack, eh?

But that's only if the torpedoes hit.  During the Deathride of the Battlecruisers at Jutland, the massed torpedo attack scored no hits.  At the Second Battle of Guadalcanal, the Japanese torpedoes managed to hit the destroyer screen ships leaving USS South Dakota and USS Washington unmarked.  Battleships being at the center of a fleet are very difficult to reach with torpedoes.

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1 minute ago, Sventex said:

  Battleships being at the center of a fleet are very difficult to reach with torpedoes.

I agree.
Provided the screening vessels are doing their job.  (And are there in the first place, eh?)

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I think it had it's place.

My observation would be that light forces could inflict attrition and reduce the freedom of action of heavier ones, but they could rarely stop them.

If you look at the occasions heavy forces went out to do something and with determination then they usually managed it. Invasions of Norway, the Philippines, Overlord, Torch... etc. Very hard to stop.

Nabbing the occasional kill or damage was a periodic risk.

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3 hours ago, Sventex said:

But that's only if the torpedoes hit.  During the Deathride of the Battlecruisers at Jutland, the massed torpedo attack scored no hits.  At the Second Battle of Guadalcanal, the Japanese torpedoes managed to hit the destroyer screen ships leaving USS South Dakota and USS Washington unmarked.  Battleships being at the center of a fleet are very difficult to reach with torpedoes.

 

The final phase of the Battle of Tsushima Straits saw Japanese destroyers and torpedo boats attacking the Russian fleet at night, scoring hits and sinks, with the Russians losing two battleships and two armored cruisers, while the Japanese lost three torpedo boats.

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On 4/15/2021 at 6:35 AM, Sventex said:

The Jeune École ("Young School") was a strategic naval concept developed during the 19th century. It advocated the use of small, heavily armed vessels to combat larger battleships, and the use of commerce raiders to cripple the trade of the rival nation. The idea was developed among French naval theorists: the French government had the second largest navy of the time, and the theorists desired to counteract the strength of the larger British Royal Navy.

The Jeune École embraced commerce raiding, torpedo boats and submarines and would be the doctrine used by a number of navies during short periods of naval history.  But was this doctrine have merit?  Was it truly a recipe for victory?

 

In both World Wars, the German torpedo boat fleet --- note their torpedo boats range from patrol craft to destroyer sized ships ---  were the next best thing after the U-boats and did a much better job than the capital ship fleet.  The duties of the small ships also include mine laying.  Great Britain may still have won both world wars, but the ensuing bill marked the sunset of their economic empire --- over a hundred years later, the UK is still paying the bills.    The horrific cost of asymmetric wars brought upon the larger power has in turn make larger powers think twice before they go into another military adventure.  

Edited by Eisennagel

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26 minutes ago, Eisennagel said:

 

The final phase of the Battle of Tsushima Straits saw Japanese destroyers and torpedo boats attacking the Russian fleet at night, scoring hits and sinks, with the Russians losing two battleships and two armored cruisers, while the Japanese lost three torpedo boats.

It certainly would have vindicated the Jeune École doctrine if they achieved this success before the Russian fleet had been hammered by Japanese Battleships.  As is, it looks as though they applied both Vieille École and Jeune École doctrines as the torpedo boats were meant to capitalize on the fact that the Russian crews would have been exhausted fighting a long protracted battle with the capital ships.  I suppose France historically did split into both Vieille École and Jeune École and made parallel developments with both capital ships and a focus on smaller ships but generally I'd think these doctrines mere mutually exclusive because if you already have capital ships, you'll have the accompanying smaller escort ships with it anyway so it wouldn't really be a Jeune École fleet.

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On 4/15/2021 at 6:35 AM, Sventex said:

The Jeune École ("Young School") was a strategic naval concept developed during the 19th century. It advocated the use of small, heavily armed vessels to combat larger battleships, and the use of commerce raiders to cripple the trade of the rival nation. The idea was developed among French naval theorists: the French government had the second largest navy of the time, and the theorists desired to counteract the strength of the larger British Royal Navy.

The Jeune École embraced commerce raiding, torpedo boats and submarines and would be the doctrine used by a number of navies during short periods of naval history.  But was this doctrine have merit?  Was it truly a recipe for victory?

 

Jeune Ecole works when the two competing naval powers are nearby.  For France, they were obviously right next to the UK with only the Channel separating them.  The success German torpedo boats had during the two World Wars is due to Germany also being close to the UK.  In the case of the Russo-Japanese war, the Russians came to them and Tsushima Straits is right next to Japan.  

 

For the most part, it works with regional powers vs. regional powers.  Greece vs. Turkey for example, both countries fielding FACs and corvettes.   The Arab Israeli wars of '66 and '73 saw the first ever missile boat engagements, with the first ever sinking of ships via modern antiship missiles, as well as the Indo-Pakistan wars where Indian FACs and missile boats conducted a number of successful raids against Pakistani ports.   In 1974, two Chinese minesweepers and two sub chasers engaged three Vietnamese frigates and one corvette in the Paracels.  Despite the heavier displacements of the Vietnamese ships, the smaller and faster Chinese ships won and the Paracels fell under Chinese occupation since then.   Despite having blue water navies, both modern Japan and South Korea maintain sizable fleets of corvettes, FACs, and missile boats in a multipolarity race with each other, China and Russia.    

 

When you look at the modern market for corvettes and FACs, they are alive and well, and you might even say we're entering into a golden age, where shipbuilders offer naval buyers with glossy catalogs of different models small frigates, corvettes and FACs you can order with all the options you want to have or not.   You might even say its a robust industry.   The rest of the world, or the vast majority of the world, is all about one regional power vs. another.   In peacetime deterrence, there are many functions these small vessels can also offer, such as being secondary Coast Guard services, search and rescue, protection of sovereignty waters, such as including the observation or escort of other naval vessels passing through.  There is interception of drug smuggling, human trafficking, and anti piracy duties.    Many of these duties are too uneconomical to do with an Arleigh Burke sized vessel.  

 

Edited by Eisennagel
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15 minutes ago, Sventex said:

It certainly would have vindicated the Jeune École doctrine if they achieved this success before the Russian fleet had been hammered by Japanese Battleships.  As is, it looks as though they applied both Vieille École and Jeune École doctrines as the torpedo boats were meant to capitalize on the fact that the Russian crews would have been exhausted fighting a long protracted battle with the capital ships.  I suppose France historically did split into both Vieille École and Jeune École and made parallel developments with both capital ships and a focus on smaller ships but generally I'd think these doctrines mere mutually exclusive because if you already have capital ships, you'll have the accompanying smaller escort ships with it anyway so it wouldn't really be a Jeune École fleet.

 

The Japanese success scared the living daylights of the European powers, that it led to a Jeune Ecole strategy to fight Jeune Ecole, fight fire with fire.  This led to the development of the Torpedo Boat Destroyer, and the name would become shortened to only Destroyer.  

 

Ironically, Germany was among the first builders of such, but they were for export markets like Russia, who naturally saw the need for such from their first hand experience.  This led to the Novik class destroyer, which in all irony, did well fighting its builders in the first World War.  

 

Jeune Ecole itself become modified with new technologies, the torpedo boat is replaced by the submarine, and the airplane which are both torpedo boats in concept except going underwater and overwater.   

 

The Destroyer in turn, evolved to deal with the new form of "torpedo boats" above and below water.

 

Edited by Eisennagel

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