Destroyer Tender
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Basic Information

The destroyer tender is a (largely historical) form of Fleet Auxiliary (that is, a naval vessel that is not a warship) which serves as a "mothership" to a group of destroyers or other smaller, limited range craft. Typically converted from a merchant ship (although a few examples were either custom built or converted from obsolete warships) the tender carries stores of ammunition and fuel for the destroyers and may well have other support functions including medical facilities, mechanical workshops, additional water purification and food storage, messing and barracks/reserve crew to rotate men in and out of the dependent craft (less so in destroyers, but apparently common in torpedo boats and other small craft where the accommodation could make long term living a struggle). A common feature of these ships was the provision of specialised cranes (or at any rate specialised fittings for general purpose cranes) allowing torpedo launchers to be re-loaded at sea. The tender will typically be barely armed - if at all - often with only anti-aircraft defences (and even those quite limited) and rely on concealment and the protection of the dependent destroyers to resist attack.

Deploying a tender allows the dependent craft to operate further from friendly bases and to stay out for longer - arguably serving as a sort of mini-base. Arguably a standard fleet oiler could serve in this role, but those tend to be less specialised and often higher specification ships given that they are expected to keep pace with a battle fleet rather than serve as a re-locatable depot.

Similar types of ships were deployed in the early twentieth century (especially during WW2) to support flying boats and submarines. The nominally similar seaplane tender was generally differently designed and should be considered more of an ancestral aircraft carrier. The general term depot ship is used of tenders of various kinds, as well as others used as assorted forms of floating base. During WW2 the German Kreigsmarine even managed to deploy submersible submarine tenders (the Type XIV U-boat or milchkuhe) - these carried reserve fuel and were also equipped with bakeries and freezers to resupply the attack boats with fresh food and a small medical facility for sick or injured men.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Often a big deal in a low intensity naval campaign - finding and knocking out a tender can put a whole squadron of destroyers, submarines or whatever out of action (or at least force them to leave the area depending on their supply state).
  • PCs can be on either end of this, the tender can be their HQ, or the target they need to hunt down.
  • Obviously, especially in wartime, these could show up in some fairly remote places - the Pacific Theatre of WW2 was particularly known for them setting up shop in tiny and otherwise deserted atolls or in obscure inlets of some god-forsaken jungle-hell island. And sometimes being stumbled upon by some very surprised people.
  • A sudden infestation of short ranged craft - or flying boats - could be the signal that one of these has moved in nearby.
  • After the war, potentially a good base ship for PCs who need to travel the world with lots of facilities. Adding some heavy duty davits (assuming they aren't already fitted) could even allow the ship to carry a landing-craft on deck and thus bus the PCs' wheeled vehicles ashore (otherwise they need to buy a DUKW or related vehicle or pay docking fees).
  • Easily recycled in space, especially in a setting where artificial or simulated gravity is not universal and/or smaller vessels lack an FTL stardrive - would probably suffer further conflation with carriers, but again as a depot ship should have a niche of its own.
  • A similar role can be played in the age of sail, probably by a downgraded ship of the line, as a mobile base for a squadron of smaller ships.
  • In the China Miellville novel The Scar, the pirate city of Armada, faced with destruction by the navy of New Corbuzon, manages to steal a victory by concentrating all of its available fire on the largest enemy ships, which as well as capital ships, also serve as bases and tenders for the swarm of smaller vessels. With those destroyed, the otherwise superior force of smaller Corbuzoni warships are forced to surrender, as even if they win, they will not to be able to make it home, and probably not even to landfall on their remaining fuel and supplies.
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