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Dare I even say the word “battleship”?

Big Guns Go Silent (also cross-posted at Defense Tech)

Jason Sigger the Armchair Generalist has a post up on battlewagons. First, he points out a Robert Novak column called Marines fear scuttling battleships which includes:

The Navy’s anti-battleship bias began Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese surprise attack destroyed the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s battleships. Although admirals in 1946 vowed never to bring back battleships, they served effectively in the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf wars. Congressional pressure brought the USS New Jersey to Vietnam for six months, leading the Marine Commandant, Gen. Leonard Chapman, to conclude, “Thousands of American lives were saved.” The Marines calculated that 80 percent of 1,067 U.S. planes lost in Vietnam could have been saved had battleships fought the entire war.

The admirals moved to get rid of battleships forever when GOP Rep. Richard Pombo proposed sending the USS Iowa to Stockton, Calif., as a museum. The Navy supports that as well as making the USS Wisconsin a museum in Norfolk, Va., and repealing the existing requirement to keep two battleships in reserve. The Navy’s anti-battleship campaign began March 15 when Adm. Charles Hamilton briefed the House Armed Forces Committee. It is no coincidence that Hamilton has been the Navy’s point man promoting DD(X).

Never has it been clearer how the military-industrial complex functions.


Jason writes:

These battleships are old, they’re expensive to maintain, and the industry doesn’t support manufacture of the ammunition for the big guns. The Marine Corps does have air support and field artillery systems for fire support. I don’t see the justification to keep battleships just so you have an option to fire on North Korean military structures, as Novak alludes. Maybe it’s time for the big guns to go silent.

Vietnam was a great place for battleship fire support because, geographically, so much territory was within the New Jersey’s range. That’s not the case with Iraq and (obviously) landlocked Afghanistan. But Korea and that other big country with all the people to the south both fit the bill rather nicely. It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a DD(X) critic, and I think that there’s a place in the Navy for battleships. At the same time, I realize that they are old girls and that the manpower requirements (even with full-modernization plans) are pretty significant.

Another factor against the battleships is that precision munitions have taken the place of artillery barrages for the most part. One reason that 16 inch naval fire is so valuable is because it just plain levels everything. But a perfectly-placed smaller round can often complete the mission without cratering the neighborhood. Yes, I know that there are proposed precision shells for the 16 inch guns, and that the large size makes cramming the guidance system easier than it is on smaller rounds, but developing that program would add considerable expense to the battleship scenario. And one of the prime attractions of the battleships is the relative cheapness of reactivating them.

Still, Murdoc is a traditionalist in many ways and would sure like to see these monsters at least remain on inactive inventory. You can bet that ten minutes after they’re signed over to become museums crews of workers will be boarding to make sure they’re incapable of reactivation. I like having the option available.

One thing I’d like to point out, though, to battleship critics is that the “vulnerable to modern weapons” claim is pretty much rubbish. These girls were not built only to fire 16 inch guns. They were built to fight other ships with comparable weaponry and survive. They were built to take hits from 16 inch guns. Back then, in the good old days, capital ship vs. capital ship fights were extended slugfests. Getting pounded by the enemy was part of the plan.

Just because virtually every ship built since WW2 relies on compartmentalization and damage control parties to survive hits to the tinfoil hull doesn’t mean that “ship killer” missiles are going to have the same effect on a beast like an Iowa-class battleship. A couple of days ago I noted that some spies for China had managed to steal, among other things, sensitive information about the survivability of battleships. Here’s what I said about it:

I haven’t seen the document, but I imagine it says “Real damn survivable. I mean, really, really survivable. When planes with bombs crashed into them, they cleaned up the mess with a broom and a can of gray paint. Use the missiles on other ships.”

These things were designed to go toe-to-toe with others like them.

Finally, here’s an article that a reader pointed out some time back about the battleships that I meant to post about but never got around to it: Marine Corps and Naval Surface Fire Support

Follow the links. Read. Discuss.

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Comments

  • James says:

    Skrip00 – A lovely letter to the demise of the battleship. The only problem is that the 5 points as stated are not true. 1 & 2 – Spare parts and gun liners. http://www.defensetech.org/archives/cat_logistics.html 3 – Crew hog. Firepower wise the battleship as currently configured has the firepower greater then aany 8 current surface (non-carrier) ships and arguably has the firepower equal to 2 carriers. That said, you could par the crew down to 1000 by installing the modular ACS guns on the BB. (replacing the old 5 inch gun decks) 4- Iowa as damaged goods. The ship is mostly repaired already and the remaining parts have already been made. 5- Military Superiority – Well if we are never going to do an opposed landing because we are so superior – then lets disband the Marines. The superior arguement is a strawman, and if actually used, could justify anything. Why build the F-22, we are so superior that no one is going to challenge us in the air. You could undercut any and all future procurement plans… The bottomline – the battleships represent a unique investment that should not be tossed out because the Navy is looking for its own glammour ship to counter the Air Foces F-22 or the Army’s FCS program.

  • Jay Tea says:

    James, thanks for the thoughts. I’m no metallurgist, but do we really have the capability to reproduce a 16′ gun liner? We’re talking about a piece of steel tubing 16′ in diameter, almost 67 feet long, I dunno how thick, and rifled, with very fine tolerances and needing great strength. There’s also the issue of gun rounds and powder. We don’t have any industries that can start cranking them out — we’d have to rebuild that capacity, too. Finally, this one is pure speculation on my part, but it’s drawn from bits and pieces I’ve read and heard. The engines of the Iowas are oil-fired boilers — just how much infrastructure do we have to support that? Do we have tankers that can carry that fuel still? Are there enough other vessels that burn it to keep those tankers from becoming dedicated BB-support? Do we have crews trained in running the engines, guns, and other old equipment aboard? I love battleships as much as any civilian can, and can discuss their history, design elements, and sheer aesthetics with a fair degree of comfort. But I fear that bringing them back is a solution in search of a problem. J. (Who’s surprised that no one’s discussed ‘fixing’ the Iowa’s turret 2 by swapping it with one from the Missouri or New Jersey…)

  • Steve says:

    Had a post that hasn’t shown up so I will just mention this, with respect to the 16-inch guns (out of the bottom murdoc link) One extended range munition, the EX-148 munition, a 13′ Sabot round (NAVSEA Project No. S-1894) was developed in 12-18 months and repeatedly and successfully test fired over 100 times from USS IOWA from April 1987 to June/July 1990 reaching an ultimate range of 45nm. During these tests none failed or melted in the barrel as the ERGM munitions tended to do. The 13′ sabot round was designed to carry a 450 lbs. warhead of 555 M-46 sub-munitions which is a warhead 19 times bigger than the new Long-Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) round. So the BB(X) 16 inch guns could have a extra 10 miles range with these. Yes, it was experimental, but then again so is the LRAP and, for matter the entire DD(X) program. If a 155 mm gun really does turn out the be that much better than the 406 mm, then the BB(X) could use a mix of the 406 and 155s, or perhaps 155s exclusively. Somone mentioned the Heli deck size issue one the ‘BB(x)- its quite big AFAIK larger then what is planned for the DD(X). There is a lot of space back there, as before helicopters, there was space for seaplanes, cranes to lift them out of water, etc..

  • yvgeny says:

    A lot of these arguments for retaining the battleship don’t take into account the overall big picture strategy. Do we want to go around with a large relic as the center of our operations? Does it fit into our current situation and mission? With all the money being wasted by the DOD, do we need to be spending money on this? Even if DD(X) were not an issue, the BB remains outmoded, outdated, outclassed and unaffordable. Brute force is no longer the solution, why anybody continues to insist on sledgehammers to perform surgical operations is beyond me. Tying up even a ‘slimmed down’ 1000 sailors to man a glorified gun platform is preposterous. An entire modern amphibious landing usually doesn’t land more than 2000 marines. It is smart to want a number equal to 50% of the landing force to support just the naval gunfire portion? And all the anecdotal evidence of blown up Iraqis is not going to change the fact that it does not make sense strategically, operationally and even tactically. All I’m hearing is nostalgia. The M-1 Garand was a great rifle, why don’t we just issue those out again? In a comprehensive approach to naval operations, one must consider the threat posed to the platform. By air, the BB is very vulnerable regardless of its armor. Sea-skimming ASCMs also do a pop-up maneuver and penetrate ships from the top down. Historically, in the armor vs weapon race, armor is usually one step behind. Something always comes along that can defeat it. By sea, the greatest threat is underwater. The navy has a hard enough time as it is trying to do anti-submarine warfare. A big target like a BB, especially with it’s vulnerability below the waterline (as was pointed out) would be no problem for subs. Diesel submarines are everywhere, they are quiet and they are not that expensive. Even Iran’s got some. Most of the countries in the Pacific ocean have some. Even cheaper than subs are mines. Sea mines pose a real problem for the US Navy. They are show-stoppers. Even one will halt any progress until mine-clearing assets can be used. How much progress have we made in mine warfare? Almost none since the Gulf War, where it was a huge problem. If I can use Iraq as an analogy, the US is finding assymetrical warfare very difficult over there. I don’t see anyone suggesting bigger artillery, bigger tanks to solve the issue there. It’s about distributed systems, pushing decisions down to the tactical level, precision, flexibility and adaptability. The battleship is none of those. It is a giant hunk of metal challenging all comers to ‘bring it on’ and waiting to be humbled by a single missile or explosive laden boat. You don’t have to sink it to render it ineffective.

  • Steve says:

    Just calling something a outdated relic doesn’t actually make it one- a updated BB(X) (e.g. new missiles, radar, and sonar), is going to be faster, more surviable, and have more endurance then any ship in the fleet. The BB’s are more surviable, not less in regards to all those weapon system. Entire class of Anti-ship missiles and torpedoes aren’t going to be effective. With any defense spending the question is how much capability do we get per dollar. Its valid point defense systems need to adaptble, and more of the ‘the network’, but a BB(X) could just as easily be a part of that network as any other ships in the fleet. Descriptions of the cost and crew estimates tend to be subjective. Its true its more expensive then smaller ships, but then again it can offer a lot more to host of situations. If we are building a ‘peactime navy’, that only does small support opertions and doesn’t have to worry about getting shot at- yes its not justified. However, if going to build a peace time navy, rather then one that can fight a real war- say one with China- then we mines well get rid of a lot other stuff too. The ‘big picture’ is that we can’t have a peace time navy if China is going to take us seriously about taiwan, and to a lesser degree NK. In that scenario, the the BB give them a lot to worry about for what amounts to a bargain in the world of defense spending. As for the fielding heavier weapons in Iraq and Afghan- yes people have suggested more armor and bigger/harder hitting weapons, and they are much in demand.

  • Steve says:

    I should clarify a typo- ‘Entire class of Anti-ship missiles and torpedoes aren’t going to be effective.’ I meant classes- as in the smaller ones designed to take out smaller displacment hulls. (e.g. destroyers)

  • A cruious man says:

    Chad why would it be illegal to decommission the BB class ships?

  • yvgeny says:

    Steve, There is a real lack of understanding of naval warfare in many of the arguments you make. Just plunking on new technology to an old hull doesn’t make it new or capable. Adding a new radar, missiles, sensors, C4I equipment-oh yeah, that’s called a DDG or CG or even the DD(X). Calling something a relic doesn’t make it a relic, being a relic makes it a relic. Survivable does not mean heavy and slow. Progress means avoiding getting hit in the first place. Do you see the air force designing planes that are bigger and more armored to counter the missile threat? Or bigger bombs? Do you see them using the MOAB everywhere we go? I don’t see how that would work for ships. When there are bunkerbuster munitions that penetrate dozens of feet of concrete and steel protection and are dropped from small jet fighters, you propose that some a few extra inches of steel will help? It’s a sitting target! It takes an entire air wing and a group of escorts just to defend a carrier. And even that’s a concept left over from WWII. I would really like to see anybody realistically try to operate a battleship out there by itself. I personally would not want to risk thousands of lives like that. I mean, for example, your suggestion of adding sonar to a BB is laughable. No one in their right minds would try to prosecute an ASW problem with a ship like that. For one, it’s prohibitive to get something like that quiet enough and for another, it’s just too big. Heavy armor cannot protect against 90% of torpedos. Torpedos do not work by penetrating ships’ hulls. They work by causing a pressure differential underneath the hull of the ship and causes the ship to break under its own weight. And the BB has plenty of weight. The bigger the ship, the more vulnerable they are. Historically, battleships could not fight tin cans because they were too fast and had torpedos. Big battleships were scared of little old destroyers! And that’s without modern missiles (which by the way are not classed by small ship killers and big ship killers, they are just designed to cause damage regardless of size). I’m not trying to get into specifics, that is just an example. I’m just saying look at the cost vs. benefit. Not only is it more expensive than smaller ships, it will require more smaller ships to help it. The navy is having trouble filling the need for ships that it wants now. Where are they going to get the money to retrofit, operate and support/protect a battleship group? You make the point of capability per dollar, and you are not getting much bang for your buck. Yes, it would be impressive. Yes, it may survive attacks other ships may not. But to what end? It looks like 16′ guns are the only real advantage. It’s just a fetish for big guns. They do not serve our purposes. It’s time to move on. Look, read up on naval warfare, technology, strategy. Then you can make a coherent argument. And I don’t mean that as a personal attack. I just detect this same lack of knowledge in most arguments for BB revival.

  • James says:

    Just plunking on new technology to an old hull doesn’t make it new or capable’ Navy ships have a life span of around 50 years. It is common practice, to continually upgrade a ships various systems and provide additional capabilities.For example upgrade the AGEIS system for anti-ballistic missile defense. ‘ Do you see the air force designing planes that are bigger and more armored to counter the missile threat?’ No, but significant armor on a plane is not possible (unless you are an A-10). That said, plane have multiple redundant systems for control battle damage. ‘When there are bunkerbuster munitions that penetrate dozens of feet of concrete and steel protection and are dropped from small jet fighters, you propose that some a few extra inches of steel will help?’ The Iowa is armored against 2700 lb armor piercing round moving at far higher speeds then a bunker busting bomb. Its basic physics. Only the heavier GBU-28 would have realistic chance of penitrating, and its only carried by the B-2. Sonar- Installing a hull sonar unit on the Iowa’s is not worth the cost. That said, a towed array would function just fine. In general, any surface ship makes a poor sub hunter, that is what the attack subs are for. Amy Iowa upgrade should include anti-torpedo torpedo’s. ‘Torpedos do not work by penetrating ships’ hulls. They work by causing a pressure differential underneath the hull of the ship and causes the ship to break under its own weight’ A rather simplistic description and one not entirely incorrect. A warhead, capable of breaking a Iowa’s keel, would destroy any ship in the fleet. However, I doubt that there is a non-nuclear torpedo with a large enough warhead to do what you propose. (as a side bar – battlships have survived being targeted by nuclear weapons) That said, the Iowa’s have significant protection from the torpedo overpressure damge. Size, compartmentalization, alternating areas of void and oil, is a defense against torpedoes. This is one reason why Battlships often took several torpedo hits before sinking. ‘Historically, battleships could not fight tin cans because they were too fast and had torpedos. Big battleships were scared of little old destroyers!’ That is a historically innaccurate statement. http://home.att.net/~wellsbrothers/Battleships/obsolete.html

  • Jay Tea says:

    James, three points about that page you cited: 1) The Yamato and Musashi were, in all likelihood, ‘overkilled’ by bombs and torpedoes. I believe (and so do a lot of others) that they were doomed earlier in the attacks, and the remainder of damage merely hastened their end. 2) There’s no mention of the Prince of Wales and Repulse — an old battlecruiser and a brand-new, modern battleship caught at sea, in full fighting trim, and sunk by land-based aircraft. 3) There’s also no mention of the Bismarck — true, she was sunk by surface ships, but had she not been crippled by a torpedo attack launched from an airplane, she could have used her superior speed to escape. That air attack cost her fuel and the use of her rudders, dooming her to being run down and destroyed. And on a point you raise, not that page: the Iowas were designed to resist ‘dumb’ torpedoes, that would impact the ship directly. Modern ones are smarter, and detonate below the ship, assaulting the vulnerable bottom. It’s a shame that none of the scrapped fast battleships were subjected to a SinkEx from a modern torpedo, but it’s the opinion of many that they would have a hard time withstanding an attack of that type. As much as I love the battleships, I just don’t see bringing them back. It strikes me as a solution seeking a problem. J.

  • James says:

    Jay Your right, the page does not list everything. For example – after Pearl Harbor, no american battleship was ever sunk. In any event, there is no cliam that the battleship is unsinkable. Only that in comparision to everything else, they are lot harder to sink. For example their torpedo defenses. Direct vs indirect contact torpedoes. The ship has to survive 1) the overpressure wave that buckles the hull, 2) The keel strain due to the buoyancy differentials. The Iowa’s defenses are geared to the 1st. To my knowlege, no one has come up with solution to the 2nd. The point remains, that a Iowa is far more resistant to a torpedo hit then other ships. The other point remains, that a battleship can and has taken damage that would sink other ships and still continued with its mission. Modern ships rely on ECM, anti-missiles, and other active defenses. The passive defenses are virtually non-existant. A dirty little secret is that all the damage control activity – is militarily useless. A modern ship that is hit – is out of combat. Damage control at best allows you to save most of the crew, and allow the ship to limp to port. Now with respect your statement about the Iowa as a solution to seeking a problem. There is a real problem. The lack of naval gun support. To date we have been able to cover this difficency with massive use of air power (ironically the 50+ year old B-52 has been saving our collective asses) However, BUFF’s can only really be used in uncontested enviornments. Ok senario time – North Korea / China. At issue is range. The tactical fighters lack the range to provide cover for the BUFF’s. The Navy carriers normally would fill this gap, but the F-18 is a second rate fighter and high end russian made fighters will blow them out of the sky. The end result is that you are going to have ground troops without heavy firesupport. The DD(X)’s LARP’s are not very effective rounds. They have a small payload, and minimal ability to effect hard targets. (They can kill infantry and unarmored vehicals) More damming is that the LARP’s are glide rounds, meaning that they have long delivery time. So not only do you have ineffective firesupport, its late too. Missiles at million per copy are too expensive to be firesupport. The DD(X) LARP rounds cost 196K per shot – also to expensive. Tactical fighters have limited endurance and limited firepower. A battleship, provides firesupport that is continous, affordable, and has the bust chance of surviving in hostile zones. In accounting parlance – the battleship reflects a high but predicable & inelastic cost curve. That is what the navy is crying about. However, the DD(X), reflect a low but highly elastic cost curve. Once you build it, the mainence cost is relatively low, but once you use it, its like throwing money out window. Unfortunately, the Navy budgeting system does not take this into account. Fixed costs are seen as a negative and variable costs are encouraged. Why, in wartime, you basically have unlimited funds, so the high mission (variable) costs can be ignored. The net result of this accounting insanity is that we build ships that are disposable. You want to have as low continous cost as possible (read small crew) so as to maximize you ability to have multiple ships. Conversely, investing in ships that have real, substancial ability to survive combat damage is viewed as negative. Why, those ships have a higher build cost and a higher continous cost (larger crews – more maintence) In addition you would have to build a larger infrastructure to handle repairing those ships. (if a major war ever breaks out – keep in mind that any Navy that is hit, if not sunk will be out for the duration) Ironically, buy throwing out the passive defenses, the Navy is encouraging greater costs in the form of electronics. In the past, the most expensive part of a ship was the hull and propulsion. Now, hull and propulsion costs are secondary to the huge electronics cost. In end result is the DD(X) a disposable ship costing as much as Nimitz aircraft carrier. Yet firepower wise, is only marginally more effective then the current destroyers.(a missile is a missile reguardless what ship fired it) Actually from a firesupport standpoint, we would of been better off with the Arsenal ships – the Navy’s Carrier lobby killed that concept. The DD(X) is has low maintence costs, thus looks attractive to the navy as procurement and upkeep costs use different budgets. However,from the view of guys depending on the fire support from the navy – the DD(X) is the great white elephant. Thankfully to all involved, its also a stealthy – so we don’t have to see the white elephant. Take a poll of any 100 Marines and ask them which would they prefer – a battleship or a DD(X).

  • Steve says:

    Great post there james! Jay Tea: I would point out that torpedo that detonate under ships have been around at least since WW2. This type of detonation has advantages, but its not all gravy. For this type of attack to be effective on a BB you need a very large warhead. The shockwave has to a magnitude more energy to be effective than with smaller ships. Just like other types of ordinance, there are, not suprisingly, different size warheads on torpedos. A great many torpedoe models fielded by modern navies are simply just not big enough to do ship-threating damage to a ship the size of a BB. There are indeed torpedos that are only good for small ships. Not to mention a whole host of other weapons like limpets mines, regular mines, and AS missiles do not have warheads that are effective enough. Also, unlike during WW2 and for a time after, there are viable anti-torpedo systems that can offer further defenses against torpedos even after there in the water.

  • Steve says:

    The last time we made a opposed landing was in the gulf war- and the BB’s did a excellent job wiping out iraqi positions. As for the liners, I would not underestimate the ability of industry to supply even these. Also, there are still a lot spares stored for these- part of deal when they are not stricken. Barrel is much less of issue anyway, for firing HE shells. http://yarchive.net/mil/barrel_liner.html As for the oilers- no they burn current fueld just fine. Its just another way of burning fuel. Newer gast turbine engines still burn oil. Here is the iowa refueling a frigate. The DD(X) would be bit bigger, but not much. http://www.navsource.org/archives/01/016183.jpg I would take a moment to point out that bigger and longer ships are more effecient and can be made faster than smaller ships. This is because the displacment hulls bowline speed is a function of length. Ships cannot just keep going faster and faster- one they hit their bowline speeds they top out. Speed boats avoid this by having planing hulls, which, for a number of reasons is not usefull for very big ships. The other is that that the volume of a ship increases by the cube, but the drag increase by a area. The result is that all else being equal, bigger ships are more effecient for the amount of cargo they carry. This is why everbody kept making bigger and longer cruiseliners and transport ships- you can go faster and carry more cargo for burning less fuel. It also effected BB development, as its very hard to make a smaller BB compete with a bigger one. Newer Radars and missiles can be added to a BB(X) design. If the new 155 mm are reall so great-heck they can added to the BB(X) to. However, there size means that there is speed and effiency advantages that are very tough for smaller ships to compete with, even when they have dangerously thin armor and newer engines. The Cole should be a wake up call to how little damage Navy ships can withstand. Never mind whatever tactical lessons about speed boats and harbors can be learned- that amount of explosive should have left a brown smudge, not put the ship out of action. Granted, that ship was designed for different purpose than brown water operations- but its good predictor of what we can expect from the new thin-skinned brown water if they actually have to fight.

  • James says:

    Jay – Capasity to build 16inch liners. In reality, there is only one part of the Iowa’s for which we do not have the capasisty to reproduce – the Armor Belts. That is one of main reasons for the arguement to return the BB’s to service. Some backround on your concerns- http://www.manufacturingnews.com/news/05/0222/art1.html http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_42/b3904112.htm Gun rounds & Powder – The powder is not an issue. There are several plants that currently produce the powder. Then again, there is nothing written in stone that says we have to use the old powder bags. We can use liquid propellants or other propellent types. The rounds – production is not currently needed. We have around 16,000 16inch shells in inventory. The inventory can hold out till production is needed. On the logistics issue – The navy currentely maintains 14 fleet oilers. In addition, the BB’s themselves can resupply other navy ships – this was dune during the Gulf war. Crew training – We would have to do what we did the last time we pulled the BB’s out. Retired sailors could be brought back either to man the ships or train new recruits. Every time the subject is brought up, thousands of sailors volunteer. The Naval Fire Support has a pretty good report on the Battleships http://www.usnfsa.org/Articles/News/USNFSA.PDF Final point – worst case it would cost 3 billion to bring the Iowa’s up to speed. But lets say it costs 6 billion – It basically comes down to 1 DDX = 1 modernized BB. Which vessel, is capable of sitting a couple of miles off the cost and intimidate the hell out of the locals? Which ship gives the best chance to survive a conflict? Personally I see the Iowa’s a bridge force. They can hold the fort – until such time as technology develops so that a suitable replacement can be built.

  • Dustin says:

    We are the United States. We can afford to keep them in port for now. Let’s keep the BB’s around until we need them. If we ever get in a ‘real’ war again, like a conventional war with North Korea or China or somebody…We can modernize the big ships and send them out for shore bombardments and escorting the carriers directley.

  • Steve says:

    The last time we made a opposed landing was in the gulf war- and the BB’s did a excellent job wiping out iraqi positions. As for the liners, I would not underestimate the ability of industry to supply even these. Also, there are still a lot spares stored for these- part of deal when they are not stricken. Barrel is much less of issue anyway, for firing HE shells. http://yarchive.net/mil/barrel_liner.html As for the oilers- no they burn current fueld just fine. Its just another way of burning fuel. Newer gast turbine engines still burn oil. Here is the iowa refueling a frigate. The DD(X) would be bit bigger, but not much. http://www.navsource.org/archives/01/016183.jpg I would take a moment to point out that bigger and longer ships are more effecient and can be made faster than smaller ships. This is because the displacment hulls bowline speed is a function of length. Ships cannot just keep going faster and faster- one they hit their bowline speeds they top out. Speed boats avoid this by having planing hulls, which, for a number of reasons is not usefull for very big ships. The other is that that the volume of a ship increases by the cube, but the drag increase by a area. The result is that all else being equal, bigger ships are more effecient for the amount of cargo they carry. This is why everbody kept making bigger and longer cruiseliners and transport ships- you can go faster and carry more cargo for burning less fuel. It also effected BB development, as its very hard to make a smaller BB compete with a bigger one. Newer Radars and missiles can be added to a BB(X) design. If the new 155 mm are reall so great-heck they can added to the BB(X) to. However, there size means that there is speed and effiency advantages that are very tough for smaller ships to compete with, even when they have dangerously thin armor and newer engines. The Cole should be a wake up call to how little damage Navy ships can withstand. Never mind whatever tactical lessons about speed boats and harbors can be learned- that amount of explosive should have left a brown smudge, not put the ship out of action. Granted, that ship was designed for different purpose than brown water operations- but its good predictor of what we can expect from the new thin-skinned brown water if they actually have to fight.

  • James says:

    Jay – Capasity to build 16inch liners. In reality, there is only one part of the Iowa’s for which we do not have the capasisty to reproduce – the Armor Belts. That is one of main reasons for the arguement to return the BB’s to service. Some backround on your concerns- http://www.manufacturingnews.com/news/05/0222/art1.html http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_42/b3904112.htm Gun rounds & Powder – The powder is not an issue. There are several plants that currently produce the powder. Then again, there is nothing written in stone that says we have to use the old powder bags. We can use liquid propellants or other propellent types. The rounds – production is not currently needed. We have around 16,000 16inch shells in inventory. The inventory can hold out till production is needed. On the logistics issue – The navy currentely maintains 14 fleet oilers. In addition, the BB’s themselves can resupply other navy ships – this was dune during the Gulf war. Crew training – We would have to do what we did the last time we pulled the BB’s out. Retired sailors could be brought back either to man the ships or train new recruits. Every time the subject is brought up, thousands of sailors volunteer. The Naval Fire Support has a pretty good report on the Battleships http://www.usnfsa.org/Articles/News/USNFSA.PDF Final point – worst case it would cost 3 billion to bring the Iowa’s up to speed. But lets say it costs 6 billion – It basically comes down to 1 DDX = 1 modernized BB. Which vessel, is capable of sitting a couple of miles off the cost and intimidate the hell out of the locals? Which ship gives the best chance to survive a conflict? Personally I see the Iowa’s a bridge force. They can hold the fort – until such time as technology develops so that a suitable replacement can be built.

  • PFC Stewart says:

    I think that the BB(X) concept posted above would be the best direction. Either gut the Iowa class and use the hull and armor to start, or build from the ground up to a new class of BB. Also, by the time the next conventional war breaks out we may have perfected railgun technology that would allow us to attack targets hundreds of miles away with kinetic energy rounds. Imagine equipping a future BB with railguns of a 7′ or greater caliber, this size allows plenty of room for guidence and payload while keeping the shells at a reasonable size; we could even up it to 10′ if power output allowed.

  • NavyVet says:

    The one aspect of retaining the BB’s is that they are just plain intimidating. Imagine being a terrorist state, and one day being informed that there is a 45,000 ton battleship sitting 16 miles off of each coast. Not only that it has been upgraded with more lethal weapons since last used. So just two ships can blow you to hell either with 16in guns, perhaps with a rocket assist add on. Or with a tomahawk missle. High tech is not necessarily best. The thousands of 16in shells still in inventory cost us nearly nothing to use. While a cruise missle or a bombing run by the B-52′s are expensive (with a cruise missle at over $1,000,000 per copy) It seems that we have forgotten that war is a nasty, horrible, bloody and messy business. We as Americans want no collateral damage, and basically no mess to clean up. And death of non-combatants even if the non combatants really are, has to be avoided. And if we don’t the lawyers get involved. Plus a 16in shell does a couple of other things. They provide instant foxholes for Marines, and the sound of incoming is very terrifying to those on the wrong side.

  • Coolhand77 says:

    Just one point I would like to bring up about the (way) earlier comment about Rangers probably would have wanted BB support in Mog. IIRC, alot of the hostiles, at night, were in abandoned buildings, hence the reason minigun and 4.75′ rocket fire from strafing little birds was used to help suppress them. Wouldn’t it have been more efficiant to use the little birds to suppress street movement and then LEVEL those buildings with a few 16 inch shells? Yes there will be collateral damage, but that is WAR. Second thing I would like to point out is that with as much space as you have in one of those 16′ cannon turrets (and the supporting underhull structures) you can use the BB as a test platform for a variaty of new cannon systems…not to mention the 5 inch platforms along the sides, and we could STILL keep the 16 inch guns in case the ‘uber railgun’ or ‘laser cannon’ or what ever high tech piece of crap they decide to try out. Use it as a battle field test bed. Most weapons systems look great on paper, but after the first week in an operational environment, it goes back to the factory cause it broke and you are breaking out ‘ol’ faithful’. One problem with pulling the aft turret is unbalancing the ship. One solution, stick your nuke plant in the space, to run the ship. Then you have the whole back deck available as a ‘STOVL carrier’. The battleship is not just mobile artillary. Its also mobile replenisment, helicarrier (light), a marine support ship, a hospital ship, and a sensor platform. In reality, because of its size, once you modernize it with less crew intensive systems, you have so much room left over, that you can do alot. A point on speed. You know why they came up with the CGN Nuclear Guided Missle Cruiser idea? Because a big ship like a Carrier with a nuke plant can outrun its support fleet. IIRC Destroyers were designed as picket ships to hunt torpedo boats, which were a threat to the battleship of the day. Of course the destroyers were light, weak hulled, but fast and manuverable, and armed with guns to take out the very light, cheap, and fast torpedo boats, which could harm the battleship. The Cruiser was kindof a compromise between the destroyer and the battleship. I think the guys that came up with the DDX have been watching too much Star Wars. The ‘Imperial Star Destroyer’ is not a destroyer. The equivalent in our ocean going navy would be…yep, you got it, a Battleship…or more appropriately a Battleship/STOVL carrier. THey are trying to replace a large, multipurpose, heavily armored and armed ship, with a small, light, not as fast, thin hulled, undergunned ship.

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