Skip to comments.The Rise and Fall of the Battleship (And Why They Won't Be Coming Back)
Posted on 01/06/2014 1:08:10 PM PST by Sir Napsalot
USS Iowa firing all of its 16-inchers. A fantastic spectacle but anachronistic in 21st century warfare. (US Navy Photo)
Those who cover the militarized aspects of the ocean eventually will encounter a group of people who want the U.S. Navy to get back into the battleship business.
The argument goes like this: The four remaining World War II Iowa-class battleships are cheaper to operate, cheaper than building new ships, and provide powerful and much-needed weapons (giant 16-inch gunsthats the diameter of the shell, not the length of the barrel) to the U.S. arsenal. (The 2012 summer movie spectacular Battleship may have reinvigorated some of the calls to reactivate the big ships following the glorious montage of the USS Missouri coming to life to fight maritime aliens).
Before killing the buzz of why bringing back the Iowa-class ships doesnt make sense, lets take a quick history tangent.
The modern armored ship entered popular American culture with the 1862 ironclad battle between the Unions USS Monitor and the Confederacys CSS Virginia (often referred to by its Union moniker Merrimack).
(Excerpt) Read more at popsci.com ...
Don't think any other nation is thinking of reviving Battleships either.
They require far too many crewmen for a modern warship, which is why they were retired again after the Bush I administration. It has nothing to do with their armament, which can reach many of the targets we want to hit. We’re not paying sailors $25 a month any more.
Great for a gun platform for fire support. And for launching cruise missiles. I would got out on a limb and say there will never be another naval battle like Leyte Gulf, but who knows? The Chinese are hell bent on a blue water navy...
I wonder how a battleship’s armor would handle a modern ship killer missile. The destroyers back in the 70’s through the 90’s were aluminum from the main deck up. Not too good for stopping anything.
Yeah....I know all that.
But they are so cool. Can’t we have just a couple?
There were both rocket boosted and terminal guided shells.
I’d keep one running. Sabot rounds, smart projectiles, accepting surrenders...
I’ll always love them Iowa class battleships. Such a beautiful and awesome boat that oozed strength and power. I’ll never forget being on the receiving end of the Iowa as she practiced with her 16”ers and we towed the targets.
The big battleship existed to deliver massive ordnance over long distances. The end began in WWII, and now are so many other ways to deliver massive ordnance now, that role of the battleship is finished. Plus - it is a huge, expensive target for supersonic anti-ship missiles that nearly every tinpot dictator possesses now.
Those wooden decks are so 19th century.
I like the idea of Battleships. But I also recall the Battles of the Falklands. Exocet missiles and their ilk love Battleships too.
What impressed me is the care the Navy took in mothballing the ship. If for instance a boiler has been drained, the drain plug is left wired to the boiler and written instructions for replacing it are attached.
Here is an Electrician's Mate explaining to his sons how to put a turbo-generator on line in correct phase.
Note the tags.
Yep. The heavy cruiser I served aboard had a crew of about 1200. You just couldn't do that these days.
Sure, you could automate the heck out of the thing, but that would constitute a whole new ship design. 16-inch guns and the 600-lb steam propulsion plant were designed to be crewed by people. They'd have to be redesigned. By then you have a whole new ship anyway.
It's all about the mission. Ship-to-ship, it's too big and slow a target and payloads these days are better than any armor. Ship-to-shore, i.e. fire support, you can get better range and accuracy nowadays without the bulk.
But they were good. My late Dad told a story about calling in fire support on a hill in Korea. He was expecting 155's but got the 16-inchers instead. He said it was a little startling when the top of the hill just went away. There's something to be said for that.
Too much deck area to swab?
I think a naval engagement of the future will be at close ranges. Why? Radar counter detection invariable leads to EMCOM - emissions control being enforced. Targeting will be via satellite and final targeting visual, that’s right visual. The old saying is radiate and die. Radar is suicide, same with active sonar.
With modern guided missiles and air capabilities, crossing the T, as well as having big, heavy battleships to put shells on-target is not cost-effective.
Checked to see how many sailors man our carriers?
The combat radius for a 16" gun [full 16" not with a theoretical sabot] is only 22 to 24 miles.
That being said an Iowa makes for a relatively hard target, can carry a butt load of missiles and can I have been told can deliver as much ordinance via its 16" guns in 45 minutes as a carrier can deliver in 24 hours.
Big guns can be automated to a certain degree -- look up Des Moines class cruisers. Coming back? Probably not, in part because they have no sponsorship and partly because of the whole range limitation issue.
Replacement parts are nowhere to be found except on museum ships, if still there and in working condition.
No one has made ammunition for the 16-inch guns for decades. Whatever is left has been in storage since 1991 at Seal Beach NWS and would have to be tested prior to use.
Battleships are wonderful in asymmetrical warfare. Wonderful.
Every argument that can be applied to battleships can be applied to aircraft carriers. They too, are wonderful in asymmetrical warfare. And are vulnerable in symmetrical warfare.
Bring back the battleships, I want to watch third world missiles bouncing off them.
It’d bounce off. The captain of the Missouri said as much during Gulf War I.
A battleship would shrug off almost any of the modern anti-ship missiles needing little more than a paint job afterwards. I do believe there is a supersonic carrier killer missile that the Russians developed some time ago which might be a threat, but that’s about it. Those are some serious ordinance and can only be carried by strategic bombers. I also believe the Chinese have them now.
Awesome part of the movie.
I find your post a little contradictory. You make some good points, but if you could target with satellites or aircraft (even drones), why wouldn't you fire from long distances, rather than make your platform more vulnerable by closing in?
We need more of those (surrenders).
A lot of that was due to US development of radar, and Japanese ignorance of it.
Well, with GPS guided shells the artilery is making a come back. Of course ships can easily be killed and subs make more sense. But if we have ships, makes sense to me to have regular guns on them.
It is a passage of time, as the time for the Battleship had come and gone.
But it won’t stop us from admiring them, or have cherished memories, tales from the elders, etc. Like a great dame, proper tributes need to be paid.
The Belgrano was a light Cruiser, and she was sunk with a torpedo. The Sheffield got hit with a missile, she was a destroyer.
Yep, Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.
The argument for battleships is to bombard enemy beaches prior to landing. The possibility of landing troops on an opposed beach like they did at Tarawa or Iwo Jima is virtually zero, so the usefulness of the battleship is virtually zero as well.
Thanks Sir Napsalot. Guided missiles are superseding artillery on land as well.
Aircraft carriers house squadrons of fighters, bombers, surveillance, control and anti-submarine aircraft, each aircraft capable of attacking or defending against multiple targets. No other vessel does that. I do think that they should look again at the Pykrete concept which was briefly explored during World War II, though.
We could give the Iowa to the Mexican Navy, so Obama and Boehner could sign Amnesty on it in Los Angeles.
Satellites only give crude estimates of location. They tell you the enemy is in an area the size of Delaware. Also, satellites can and will get shot down in a real war. My contention is that naval warfare will get primitive real quick. Nobody is going to radiate unless you want a ARM up your butt.
Int he modern world, there’s just no practical use for them, however as we are aware, technology can suffer disastrous setbacks.
That must have been incredible!!! What were the firing ranges? Any pics of it you could put up, I bet every FReeper would love ‘em!
We need more of those (surrenders).
What? Are we going to rent it to the Taliban?
With Bammy-in-Charge, the Al Qaeda jihadis too.
There was no battleship in the Falklands War. You really in Vt? I lived in Bratt for 13 years.
Today, we need more timely articles like "The Rise and Fall of the Fighter Jet, "The Rise and Fall of the Aircraft Carrier", or "The Rise and Fall of the Tank" that point out the degree to which we are still overspending on the tools of yesterday's wars.
On an EMF closed battlefield where electronics are toasted, old school whips ass!
It'd be a start.
If China gets a blue water navy and engages U.S. interests with it - it will be a submarine/air/space to surface engagement and the Chicoms will no longer have a blue water navy. It would make them feel good to be “just as strong” at sea than those nations that would “hold them down/back”. We need psychologists more than military strategists to deal with them.
Rail guns may lead to new vessels that carry guns as their primary weapons.
If missile and missile-defense developments are such that they cannot be stopped then armored ships will return.
If missile-defense developments are such that they missiles are totally ineffective, then direct fire may return as a primary attack weapon.
Those would not bring back the BB-61s, but they might lead to the development of new battleships.
The rise and fall of the Musket; The rise and fall of the Cavalry; the rise and fall of the Lance; the rise and fall of the Ship of the Line; etc.