A flotilla (from Spanish, meaning a flota of small ships, and this from French flotte), or naval flotilla, is a formation of small warships that may be part of a larger fleet. A flotilla is usually composed of a homogeneous group of the same class of warship, such as destroyers, torpedo boats, submarines, gunboats or minesweepers. Larger warships are grouped in squadrons.
A flotilla is usually commanded by a Rear Admiral, a Commodore or a Captain, depending on the importance of the command. (A Vice Admiral would normally command a squadron.) A flotilla is often divided into two or more divisions, each of which might be commanded by the most senior Commander. A flotilla is often, but not necessarily, a permanent formation.
In modern navies, flotillas have tended to become administrative units. As warships have grown larger, the term squadron has gradually replaced the term flotilla for formations of destroyers, frigates and submarines in many navies.
A naval flotilla has no direct equivalent on land, but is, perhaps, the rough equivalent in value of a brigade or regiment.
US Coast Guard
In the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
, a Flotilla
is the smallest building block and consists of members at a local level where the majority of the work of the Auxiliary is done. A Flotilla is led by an elected Flotilla Commander assisted by an elected Vice Flotilla Commander assisted by appointed Flotilla Staff Officers as described at the Flotilla Organization
page of the U.S. Coast Guard. A Division consists of multiple Flotillas and a District consists of multiple Divisions. Auxiliary Districts are organized along Coast Guard District lines and are administered by a Coast Guard officer (usually a Commander or Captain) who is called the Director of the Auxiliary.
In the Russian Navy
, the word flotilla
tends to be used for naval units operating not in the oceans and "real" seas, but in inland seas (the present-day Caspian Flotilla
, early 20th century Satakundskaya Flotilla
or the Aral Flotilla
of the 1850s) or rivers (e.g. the Red Volga Flotilla
, which participated in the Kazan Operation
during Russian Civil War
, or the Danube Military Flotilla
). In the 18th century, the term also applied to the fleets on those seas where Russia did not have much naval presence yet, e.g. the Okhotsk Flotilla