Skip to comments.Saving the Battlewagons of the U.S. Marines
Posted on 09/18/2006 7:41:46 PM PDT by neverdem
On Dec. 4, 1983, 28 aircraft from the USS Independence Carrier Battle Group attacked Hezbollah and Syrian anti-aircraft positions in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Two U.S. Navy A-7s were lost on the mission and a third aircraft was damaged. One of the downed pilots died of wounds in captivity and the other, Lt. Robert Goodman, was taken prisoner and paraded before the cameras. Though Lt. Goodman was eventually released, the U.S. Navy had learned a hard lesson.
Ten days later, U.S. reconnaissance flights were fired on again -- but this time the response was different. Instead of launching air strikes, the battleship USS New Jersey opened fire -- and with just 11 2,700-pound, 16-inch rounds, silenced the anti-aircraft sites. This feat was repeated on Feb. 8, 1984, when Syrian artillery opened fire on Christian West Beirut -- inflicting heavy civilian casualties. Less than two hours of fire from the New Jersey's 16-inch guns eliminated the Syrian artillery threat. It wouldn't be the last time the World War II-era "battlewagons" would serve our national interests.
During the 1981-1988 Iran-Iraq War, the Ayatollahs running Tehran decided the best way to influence the outcome of the conflict was to attack Western oil tankers transiting the Persian Gulf -- through which passes 20 percent of the world's oil. The United States responded by beefing up the 5th Fleet -- and deploying the USS Iowa. The battleship's captain, Larry Sequist, described the effectiveness of the 45,000-ton armored behemoth: "When we would sail the Iowa down the Strait of Hormuz, all southern Iran would go quiet. Iran's Revolutionary Guards were steaming around in boats with rockets, shooting at ships. When we arrived, all of that stuff stopped."
When Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the battleship Wisconsin was among the first capital ships to arrive in the Persian Gulf. By the time Operation Desert Storm concluded on Feb. 28, 1991, the Wisconsin and her sister battleship, USS Missouri, had delivered more than 1 million pounds of ordnance on the enemy from their 16-inch guns, Tomahawk TLAM-C cruise missiles and 5-inch gun batteries. Fire from the battleships was so overwhelming that an Iraqi garrison actually surrendered to one of the USS Wisconsin's unmanned aerial vehicles.
Despite the effectiveness of the vessels in modern warfare -- and pleas from the U.S. Marine Corps to retain them for Naval Surface Gunfire Support -- two of the four battleships, the New Jersey and the Missouri, were decommissioned and turned into floating museums. Until now, however, Congress has insisted that the Wisconsin and Iowa be maintained in "a state of readiness" for "rapid reactivation" in the "event of a national emergency."
But all that may be about to change. A House-Senate Conference Committee is now considering lifting the requirement that the last two "heavy gun" ships in the allied arsenal be kept ready for action. Apparently the lessons of recent history have been lost on the administration -- and perhaps even in the corridors of Congress -- despite new threats from Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and interfere with shipping in the Persian Gulf.
Just three weeks ago, Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval craft attacked a Romanian oil rig, assaulted the offshore platform and briefly took the crew hostage before evicting them. And last week, as President Bush was preparing to remind the world of the threat posed by Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a cheering crowd of supporters that "Iran has the ability to control the flow of oil the world needs."
Given the Jihad being waged against the West in much of the Islamic littoral, Iranian "saber rattling" and the lack of any replacement for the well-protected firepower of the Wisconsin and Iowa, turning them into floating museums now seems foolhardy. Yet, according to the green-eyeshade procurement wizards at the Pentagon, the two remaining battleships are too old, too expensive to operate and too costly in crew size to be deployed.
Instead of keeping the heavily-armored battlewagons maintained and ready, the brass at the five-sided puzzle palace and big spenders on Capitol Hill want the Marines to bide their time until 2012, when the Navy says it will deploy seven new DDG-1000 class destroyers -- at $3.3 billion apiece. These slower, thin-skinned vessels are to be equipped with an unproven Advanced Gun System designed to fire rounds weighing only 63 pounds but costing nearly $100,000 each. Even if the new ships eventually perform as advertised by their promoters, that's scant solace to the soldier or Marine who needs naval gunfire support at any point during the next six years.
People in Washington who ought to know better -- like Sen. John Warner, R-Va., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee -- have turned a deaf ear to the plight of the Marines. Thankfully, a handful of stalwarts led by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., have taken up the cause of preserving the Wisconsin and Iowa as mobilization assets. He believes that keeping the battlewagons ready to fight will save American lives. He's right.
When the Iowa was in the Med, friend and foe alike saluted the fearsome arsenal that was the storied Iowa.
Every American walked taller. Every foe walked and talked smaller.
Yeah, why not keep a couple?
A picture of simlicity.
To speak "Middle-Eastern", you have to BE STRONG.
I was excited about them when they were brought back from the grave almost a quarter century ago, but should we keep pouring money into them now?
There must be many more options on the table today, if a similar situation arises like it did 23 years ago.
I'm no expert but I remember reading somewhere that they're incredibly expensive to maintain at sea.
That said, mothballing them might turn out to be penny wise and pound foolish.
i don't get it.. why are we CONTUNEING to down-grade our military.. STILL closing basses, scrapping military planes, ships and equipment.. i just don't understand, ESPECIALLY NOW.. after 9/11..
Battleships have been just a masturbatory fantasy ever since 300 planes sank the Yamato.
Duncan Hunter is taking up this cause as well and I'd be willing to bet John Kline and Sam Johnson are on board; my guess is that were the voting limited to those who'd seen combat...there would be no issue here.
Tey weren't a fantasy in Vietnam; they were an extremely effective platform.
How does that compare to similar vessels and if the costs are significantly higher, why is that?
Hulls age as well, seawater literally wearing them away with use. My own heavy cruiser was "showing her bones" long before she finally hit the scrap heap.
We can't afford sentiment in matters like this (he says with a tear running down his cheek). If the Marines need a gunfire-support platform then we should design to suit. If the best cost-benefit analysis comes up in favor of rebuilding these incredible ships then we'd better be ready for the expense, and it won't be cheap.
That said, I'd stand in line to stand an underway watch on one.
Combined arms are needed more now than ever.
They are expensive to maintain.
But I would recommend gutting their engineering plants, installing gas turbines, and make them both fuel efficient and allow gs types (not boilermen) to have a chance to serve on the Battleships..
Maximum ordnance on target is what will be needed often and repeatedly.
Getting rid of these platforms would be a mistake.
Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see the Iowa back in the fleet but is sadly isn't going to happen.
If all we were talking about was ship-to-ship combat, you'd be right. But since the great percentage of the world's population, trade, and resources are located within 22 miles of the coast (16" gun range) the Iowa's would still be extremely effective.
As to their expense to operate, the best overhaul would be replacing the old steam boilers with gas turbines. A nuclear powered ship would be even better. The crew savings would pay for the upgrade.
In a blue water fight with an adversary like Japan, you'd be right. That's highly unlikely to ever happen again. For the kinds of adversaries we do figure ot have in the next two or three decades, the Iowa class ship is far and away the best thing in our arsenal. Nothing much short of a direct hit with a nuclear weapon can do much damage to one of them, they can hit eighty percent of the targets we'd ever want to hit, and they can hit them as hard or harder than a carrier could in any kind of weather, with no risk to pilots. That's unbeatable.
One more thing: Modern satellite-guided rounds would be a great compliment to the Iowa's 16" guns. Imagine lobing shells 100 miles inland with the precision of a JDAM but with fantastic kinetic energy as well.
An antiship missile or 2 or three could disable any on these. These gun platforms have to sit well within range
of a mille launch to hit anything. And with a 2 thousand
or so man ships company, thats a real liabilility for the
dubious ability of launching unguided projectiles.
The BB's day is over.
Look! It put a dent in the ocean!
"We can't afford sentiment in matters like this (he says with a tear running down his cheek)."
You don't have to be navy for this to be a tough discussion, I have never met any man that didn't love the battleship.
That's a FANTASTIC picture. It really shows the changes that were made to modernize the ship...looks like they added lots of missile launchers, removed the old 5" turrets along the sides amidships, added the helipad on the stern, and generally cleaned things up.
Sadly, the old battlewagons probably are impractical to modernize and redeploy, but I'd sure love to be proven wrong. They'd be somewhat vulnerable to modern anti-ship missiles, but probably no more vulnerable than any other ship, and maybe less than most since they're built so strongly. Then combine the sheer power of those 16-inch guns with modern artillery technology, and the mind boggles to think of the hell one of those ships could rain down within thirty miles of a coast.
Build more subs is the answer.
Hardly the first battleship to be sunk by airpower...
The Iowa class ships were built to do battle with the Bismarck, the Tirpitz, the Yamato, and the Musashi, and to survive hits from their guns. No antiship missile which I am aware of begins to compare with anything like that. In all likelihood, the damage could be repaired with a paintbrush and a bucket of paint. That's aside from the fact that the deck of an Iowa class ship offers 900 feet on which to mount phalanx guns and the latest generation of THEL, and it would be highly unlikely that a missile would ever get through.
BTAIM, an BB is the only ship that could survive a near miss by a nuclear missle. They don't (can't) make them like that anymore.
We can't build as good a platform. The men who could are in resthomes or in their graves.
For one there is likely no one In the service trained to operate them.
When Ronaldus Magnus brought them out of mouthballs they had to dig up WWII and Korean War Vets to train the Seaman to operate them.
The powder bags and shells they used were left over from WWII.
That stuff has to be past its use by date.
I think the old battle wagons are great. I wish we could use them to shell the Iranians Nuke Sites, but unless they make new munisions for those big guns I think they should be retired.
Remember the men that lost their lives when the turent blew up while firing those 16 inch shells.
A couple of battleship groups in the strait of Hormuz would settle the argument about its being "closed" by the Iranians. An ounce of prevention by putting the fear of allah into the savages on shore and afloat in their little boats with rpg's at the ready. The onshore guys at the silkworm launchers would be busy throwing away what used to be clean underwear.
Some things are so obvious it takes an "expert" to miss them.
"An antiship missile or 2 or three could disable any on these. "
That isn't likely in my opinion. The battleships had real armor, they were designed to go broadside with other battleships. That doesn't mean they are cost efficient now, but don't underestimate the amount of steel in these monsters.
"he General Belgrano was not a battleship,"
I believe the Belgrano was aluminum, or was that the British ship?
the Navy needs some new thinking.
navy ships are lavishly overmanned
why can the electronics be operated from shore?
perhaps some old timers could be found who would
work for cheap, as the gun crew
you don't have to sail the ship home
just to change the crew.
tow it with a carrier, to save fuel
lots of ways to save money
One Mark 48 torpedo would break her spine and send her to the bottom'
The torpedo explodes under the ship creating a void which causes the ship to break in two of its own weight.
The next generation of Navy ships will have tiny crews relative to the ones of today.
Is there anyone who has hard data on survival of a battleship hit by conventional anti-ship missiles?
I would think all that steel might be an effective barrier, but that's just a guess.
Some hard data would be appreciated.
The british one
"The next generation of Navy ships will have tiny crews relative to the ones of today."
They prefer "little people"
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