A corvette is a small, maneuverable, lightly armed warship, smaller than a frigate but larger than a coastal patrol craft. During the Age of Sail, corvettes were smaller than frigates and larger than sloops-of-war, usually with a single gun deck. Almost all modern navies use ships smaller than frigates for coastal duty, but not all of them use the term corvette (from the French corvair). The rank Corvette Captain derives from the name of this type of ship.
Many countries today operate corvettes. Some of them include Sweden, Germany, India, Israel, Poland, Turkey, Greece, and Russia. Countries that border smaller seas, such as the Baltic Sea or the Persian Gulf are more likely to build the smaller and more maneuverable corvettes.
Arguably, the most advanced corvette in service today is the Swedish Navy's Visby-class corvette. It is the first operational warship to extensively utilize stealth technology.
The United States is developing a Littoral Combat Ship, which will be very similar to a corvette.
The new German Braunschweig class is designed to supplement Germany's fast attack craft and also incooperates stealth technology and land attack capabilities.
The Turkish Navy began construction on the first of twelve Milgem class corvettes in July 2005. The lead ship, named TCG Heybeliada, is scheduled to begin sea trials in October 2010. The design concept and mission profile of Milgem is similar to the Littoral Combat Ship of the United States.
The Hellenic Navy currently operates the Super-Vita class ships, which are 580 tons full load. The Hellenic Navy has categorised the class as fast attack missile craft. A similar vessel is the Kilic class fast attack missile boat of the Turkish Navy which is classified as a corvette by Lurssen Werft, the German designer of the ship.
The SAS Mendi Class corvettes are South African warships that are part of the MEKO family of warships. MEKO warships are a family of German designed frigates and corvettes that are in service with many navies around the world.
The Indonesian Navy will receive indigenously designed corvettes, called 104 M corvette in 2008. It is possible, the corvette will be armed with C-802, which is already installed in the locally-built Fast Patrol Boat FPB-57.
After the attack on the USS Cole, modern navies began to see the importance of smaller, more maneuverable vessels that could operate close to shore, as well as at sea. These ships could defend a country's assets and interests far away from its own shores, with sophisticated weapons and surveillance equipment. But since they were smaller and cheaper than frigates and destroyers, they could more effectively combat the kind of small attack craft utilized in the attack on the USS Cole. Around the same time, navies operated by smaller countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, began to realize that their offshore patrol vessels were lacking the ability to defend themselves in a modern war, especially against air attacks.
Typical corvettes today are between patrol vessels and frigates in both size and capability. They have a displacement between 540 and 2,750 tons (550 and 2,800 metric tons) and measure 180-330 feet (55-100 meters) in length. They usually are armed with medium and small caliber guns, surface-to-surface missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and underwater warfare weapons. Many can accommodate a small or medium ASW helicopter.