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.


  1. Yes! I sincerely hope their are enough members of Congress not on the take from Lockheed Martin to see through the Navy’s ploy. Yes – Most of Korea and Taiwan are within range of battleship guns. So is a good chunk of China. Yes – The battleships are the last heavyweight brawlers. They can take a hit and continued to administer a beating unfazed. Precision munitions are overrated – especially when you are talking about 16 inch shells. All they would save is a little time and a dumb round or two. Even back in the Gulf War, the battlewagons were using UAV’s to locate targets. The UAV’s gave the fire control people back on the ship a look at where their rounds landed and allowed them to adjust fire very accurately. I serve with a couple soldiers who have direct experience with battleships. One was a Sailor on the Wisconsin during the Gulf War. He has great stories about the ship blasting at everything that moved on the shore and miles inland. Another was a Marine who landed in Kuwait and went through areas where Iraqi units had been obliterated. His recalls being on a transport ship going full speed through the Gulf. From behind, the USS New Jersey sailed by them like they weren’t moving. The Marines all stood on deck in awe as 50,000 tons of whup-ass blew by.

  2. http://www.raytheon.com/products/ddx/ watch the video… very propogandish. But i think, overall, we need to stop living in the past. 1. In GW1991, the BBs did not fire their guns in support of any marine assault. 2. Since then, the BBs havent been needed. The DD(X) offers alot compared to the BBs. 1. Less manpower. 2. Stealthy. 3. Firepower support, while not equaling one BB, is equal to a USMC fire support battery. 4. Supposedly fuel efficient. Sure, it costs alot… but new high tech stuff always does. In the long run, all these advances will add it up in savings. Primarily in crew size, maintenence, and usefulness. Also, 20 DD(X)s can be in 18 more places than 2 BBs. This is the same exact deal as the F/A-22. We need as many as we can get. We also need to be building more ships. Not because we have any enemys, but to keep an industry alive and efficient. -Adam

  3. Also, 20 DD(X)s can be in 18 more places than 2 BBs.‘ They’re going to build a max of 8 DD(X). Maybe as few as 5. And I’m not suggesting cancelling the DD(X) because of battleships. There are enough other reasons to cancel DD(X) if that’s what we’re talking about…

  4. Wait? They’re arguing that a DD(X) is /more/ survivable than an Iowa-class? The Iowa class displaces 3x as much and has armor up to a foot thick? (data from globalsecurity.org as well as http://www.microworks.net/pacific/ships/battleships/iowa.htm) I do agree with Adam’s point that 20 DD(x) can be in 10x as many places as 2 BB. Also, if a ship is damaged and needs to return to a port, less firepower is lost due to losing 1/20 of the DD(X) rather than 1/2 of the BB. However, I feel like we need /both/ ships. Today’s military seems to think that one technology/vehicle can accomplish everything as well as a whole set of specialized vehicles or vessels and that’s just not that case. Theoretically their setup is more cost effective, but not when it takes 20+ years and billions upon billions to implement. And do we really want a cheaper military or a better military?

  5. Skip – I have to disagree. ‘In GW1991, the BBs did not fire their guns in support of any marine assault.’ They certainly did. The Marine Amphibious into Kuwait assault turned out to be a ruse in terms of timing. We even told the BBC the Marines had landed a day early. The Iraqi units that came out of hiding to oppose the Marine assault that did not happen were met with barrages of 16′ shells. A day later, the Marines landed basically unopposed. That is when my buddy hit the beach. They moved through 50′ wide craters that made the landscape look like the surface of the moon. Along the edges of the craters were strewn pieces of equipment and body parts. They found evidence of dug in Infantry units but nothing living in the areas that had been shelled the BB’s. To be clear, however, the Battleships did fire many missions in support 1st Marine Division units as they moved (assaulted) up towards Kuwait City. Like the beach missions, the battleships did a great job blasting a path for the Marines – that’s why they want to keep them. The Navy doesn’t give a damn and wants new toys. I don’t oppose the DD(X)’s – I just can’t stand the B.S. that they can replaceme a battleship. As far as savings are involved, they better get real good gas mileage if they are going to make up the at least $4 Billion each they cost over an updated battleship.

  6. 2. Since then, the BBs haven’t been needed.’ I can think of some Rangers who would have appreciated a little battleship fire support in Somalia.

  7. The DDX is supposed to have 1, I repeat, 1, 5 inch gun mounted on deck. how is that supposed to be the equal of a marine battery? Even if it has a high rate of fire, they have never gotten it to the range or ‘danger close’ diameter they wanted. The DDX has the same thickness and materials that armored the Cole. I’d take my chances on the Iowa, thanks.

  8. The DDX will have 2, remember 2, 5 inch guns. That is a lot of fire support considering that the gun has already been tested over 60 miles. I’m sure the marines would love that kind of early response if say the destroyer hasn’t reached it’s staging position or if the marines are pressing deeper inland. And what about all this armor deal? It doesn’t mean so much anymore. CIWS and jamming have made up for the armor bit. And with the stealth, it will be hard for a missle, say the Sunburn or Yakhont, if it cant find it’s intended target AND it has to deal with jamming, decoys, and the CIWS. The DDX is much more needed that the battleship. With stealth it can provide fire support without being seen by enemy sensors, while the battleship will get a whole range of incomin

  9. I’ll have to quote skrip00 here… The DD(X) offers alot compared to the BBs. 1. Less manpower. 2. Stealthy. 3. Firepower support, while not equaling one BB, is equal to a USMC fire support battery. 4. Supposedly fuel efficient. 5. Does not exist yet. Any bets as to which of those points I think is most significant? 🙂

  10. Yes, it doesnt exitst. But it will soon. As for cutting it down to 8? Worst decision ever. We’ve already put the expense in. Thats the point. Why abort the project at birth? No matter what, the navy’s next ship is going to cost a bundle. Thats the case of everything. But in the case of DD(X), the cost is automation. Automating everything to cut down manpower costs alot. But once youve completed the one-time costs of design and testing, youll have a ship run by 95 people! 95! This frees up more sailors for other ships. Survivability: Murdoc, it seems to me the armor of the Iowa is a bit too much for today’s ships. The threat it was supposed to take on: The Imperial Japanese Navy, is long gone. SM-2s, ESSMs, CIWS, RIM, Can stop threats way out there as well. Suicide boats can be dealt with by using better security measures. Firepower: DD(X) uses 2 155mm cannon analagous to what is used on land. They both fire at a rate of 10round/min. Coupled with PGMs they can pack a very accurate whallop. Someone earlier said Army Rangers wouldve preferred a lil 16′ action. Too bad we went into Somalia to feed people, and not level entire city blocks. We cant afford to use 16′ swimming pool makers near civilian populations. That kind of fire is just unneccessary. I mean, look at aerial bombs! We’re moving from 2000lb to 250lb SDBs. More firepower while being more accurate is the way to go.

  11. Curses! I need to use the preview feature… But in general, im sad to see the BBs go, seeing as i have a USS New Jersey liscence plate. But sometimes. -Adam

  12. The DD(X) is an extreme example of theory being presented against the reality of combat. Stealth – in operation, the vessels stealth is nearly useless. A) As a successor the AGEIS system, its radar would give it away. b) As a gun support platform – its weapon fire would negate its stealth- as would its feature of ‘reloading while firing capability’ Firepower – The 155mm guns have an effective range of 30 miles or so. With special rounds, you have a range of 60-70 milies but you only have 24 rounds. With standard ammo – the DD(X) cannot support ground troops as the Navy requires an over the horizon deploymnet (25miles) from the shore. This is to stop the mark I eye ball – and artillery bombardment. Protection – ECM and close support weapons and so on…. They only work if you turn it on. Remember the Stark? Next – a dirty little secret – no one has ever tested the CIWS system vs a saturation attack. (under a saturation attack – IMO say 6-8 missiles would defeat any existing defenses) The next point – without armor and with only 95 crew men – the defenses have to work perfectly everytime – a single hit (say on the peripheral missile launchers- litterly ringing the DD(X) with explosives – How anyone thought that was a good idea, must be nuts. That system turns a minor hit into instant disabled vessel) The Navy has real issues – however the DD(X) even if we made the 20 originally planned, would not of addressed these issues. The combat projection power of the navy is carriers, the sea control is the subs, the surface fleet is to protect the carriers, escort the transports, and provide firesupport. The DD(X) does not really fit any of those needs & due its extreme cost – drains the funds available to the navy to address its needs.

  13. In my opinion, fitting submarines with 155mm artillery pieces would be a more sensible move. Submarines are more stealthy than any surface ship when they’re submerged, and they can be made pretty stealthy while surfaced too, most of them can remain below water. They can pop up, open some hatches, fire off a few rounds, then run away… ‘shoot and scoot’. I don’t think it would require too much modification to a boomer design to fit artillery and shells inside instead. IMO this would be cheaper and better than the DD(X). They could more safely sit closer to shore too, since they’re harder to spot and their exposure is so much less. Oh well, it’s a crazy idea, nobody will ever go with it. Almost as crazy as my submarine SAM platform idea (imagine the surprises that could generate). If the DD(X) is so great, how come there are no DD-based proof-of-concept vessels, mating an existing DD hull to some of the new concepts like the 155mm guns, to show how accurate and effective they can be? Basically, I’ll believe it when I see it. Who knows, it could turn out to be really good (if really expensive). But for now the DD(X) seems like vapourware to me, and in some ways sounds TOO good to be true.

  14. Stealth: While operating in a Carrier Battle Group formation, the vessel will be in EMCOM relying on feeds from the Hawkeyes. However, this is the case with any warship’s radar. Its stealthy features also assist versus imbound missiles or even enemy search radars on shore batteries. Firepower: For someone who brought up the issue of the ‘reality’ of warfare, the whole point of sea-based fire support is to get the USMC on land. After that, as they go inland, they rely on their own artillery. 10 rounds/min for 2 guns is 20 shells landing accurately for a sustained period of time. Fact of the matter is, you probably wont need that many anyway. Also, from what I understand, those guns can shoot 100 miles. They arent regular land based 155mm cannons. But the ship also has missiles too. Stark affair: Wasnt the Stark an ASW frigate? With limited AA capabilities? Not to mention caught of gaurd? But good point that these systems havent been tested for real. Peripheral Launchers: Good Idea. Have you heard of Explosive Reactive armor? If a missile happens to hit one of those VLS cells, the explosion would flow outward and upward as the inner lining is thicker than the outer one. Better than having them in a cluster in the center of the hull. One goes, they all go. Bye bye ship. LCS deals with the littorals. DD(X) deals with enemy missiles, fire support, and enemy subs. CVN(X) projects power. Overlapping systems that do more or less the same job, but in different ways.

  15. I would point out the shells can be made again. In fact, making new GPS guided shells would be a big boost to capability. Also, new rocket boosted shells (typical for other types of arty) would further extend range. People say they are expensive, but a re-fit is still less then cost of many new navy ships. The operating costs are higher, but then again so are the capabilities. Coming close to a shoreline is a very dangerous area for ships and airlines, because its much easier for things to hide. Blue water capabilities like fancy sonar and radar mean a lot less when you get close to the shore. Anti-ship and anti-air installations are to ships, like a IED in a Urban Area for a hummvee. The solution for the Navy has just been to avoid the shore. This is not a option for the Marines which are going to have deal with coast line sooner or later. Its true V-22s can go much farther inland, but they too have to deal with anti-aircraft installations along a costal area. Unless these are taken out, its a turkey shoot. As long as you can do this with aircraft, your fine. However, having a battleship around gives another option. Immune to all but the larger ships missiles, a battleship can lead up landing invasion and wipe the shore with 406 mm of destruction. With GPS shells, landing troops can have pin-point strikes within seconds, rather then minutes or hours. Also, they would not have to worry about endangering pilot lives, or rely on the Air Force to actually have any aircraft available. Granted the range is limited to dozens of miles- but by the time there is that much land covered they have already done their job. One you have enough new combat vehicles on the ground you push the enemy back more traditionally. Even for blue-water combat the battleship offers advantages. Part of why modern fighting ships can have so little armor is that most of the ‘battle’ is how good of a radar you have, and how good/many missiles you have (Throw in a CIWS for good measure too). However, what is rarely pointed out about the iowa’s is that they are excellent radar platform. Because they are big, and heavy, and have lot of space for generators they can put a much bigger radar higher up then other ships. Higher radars are good because you can see farther over the horizon. The more wattage you put into a radar, the bigger signal you can send out. A big mobile radar is also very handy for when you get close to the shore also. AWACs type aircraft are very good in a blue-water situation, but they have drawbacks too (some obvious, some less so). Ships radars remain important part of fleet detection. Comparing to the DDX is not the best comparison, as have to build a ‘next gen’ blue-water navy either way. The question is what capability we want for a coastal invasion- and brown water operations. Putting lightly armored blue-water ships next to the shore and expect them bombard with 150 mm is not a good risk when for about the same tonnage per dollar you can first risk a couple of 50 year old relics that can take more damage, and deal more tons of explosive then any other ship in the fleet. Its always nice to think you can detect and destroy from affar. However, in the case of brown water operations, often its the coastal hideout that gets to strike first. In this scenario, having armor, and having big guns, starts to matter in a way it does not on the big ocean. In a amphibious assault and costal operations, it has the potential to save many Marine lives and avoid risking many types of aircraft. The Navy is always talking about how it wants to get its hands dirty- well here is a ship that can actually get into a brawl. The sad fact of battlship lives, is that they have often not been risked because they were ‘too valuable’. To many designs spent their days at the rear, in harbors, or scuttled out of fear they would be lost. Nations seemed so afraid of risking them, that they are scrapped out of embarrssment the moment they are to expensive to keep for the jobs they were never let to do. The iowa’s have at least gotten to buck the trend somewhat, but there is no reason to stop here. For a trivial amount of cost, they offer a lot of capability for rainy day.

  16. Why does everyone just look at it as Battleship versus DD(X) in a head to head competition in terms of capability. This isnt a video game. AAA, SAM sites fall under the domain of EW aircraft, smart bombs, and missiles. We have the very stealthy F-35, F/A-22, B-2, and F-117 to deal with these obstacles. So marines in V-22s will be safe. Not to mention theyll have AH-1Z escorts. And the F-35B. Also, the USMC has its own land based artillery. So once it establishes its beachhead, it doesnt need to rely on ship based artillery. Also if theyre on the beach, Naval vessels can come closer to shore. As for going near the coast? LCS deals with this. It is designed to sweep the littorals and make it safe for the big boys to come in. Also, DD(X) has something Battleships dont, and thats two SH-60 as well as sonar platforms. The SPY-3 radar system is also very awesome in power. You cant just stick one on top of a Battleship, and throw some generators on board. That just ludicrous. Modern radar systems require a vessel built from the ground up. Also, they require power. Something the electric drive and distribution system DD(X) aimed to deal with. Also, as for fire support… Technically we have 1 and 2/3 Battleships as the Iowa still has a broken turret. And just like how they dont make 16′ munitions, i doubt they make new turrets either.

  17. Okay. Let’s have both. We’ll see which one sails first – and which one makes the bad guys cringe when it shows up offshore. I’ll take a battleship at the other end of my call for fire radio freq any day. If you really want to make a battleship a shore bombardment monster, install several Multiple Launch Rocket Systems on deck, and develop a 16′ round capable of releasing Rockeye type submunitions against armor. We make laser guided mortar shells now, it shouldn’t be too difficult to transfer some guidance technology to a shell the size of a car. The battleships in their last tour of duty had long range (100+ miles) sabot shells still capable of sinking any ship afloat – other than their sister battleships. They also supposedly had nuke shells just in case the Russians decided to really throw down. With the improvements in weapons guidance and UAV’s, a modernized battleship should be able to almost instantly swat anything out of the water out to 150 miles.

  18. I would point out I said ‘Comparing to the DDX is not the best comparison, as have to build a ‘next gen’ blue-water navy either way. The question is what capability we want for a coastal invasion- and brown water operations.’ As for going in close to the shore- yes there is many ways to kill stuff. Aircraft, LCS, etc. are all options. The battleship is more options. Sure, once the LCS and Aircraft magically kill everything, a beach head and arty base can easily be established. This CAN work, but if it doesn’t. For the money the BS offers a lot more firepower and surviabilty for a beach invasion and coastal support. Saying aircraft can do this is convient- but there is a lot hidden espense. For AF aircraft it means long missions tankers and actual bases. For Navy aircraft it means having a carrier battle group around. As for the 406 mm munitions- guess what- they can make them again. Never mind there is still 16000 stockpiled. Either way, some serious new capabilties can be gained if they do make some new types (e.g. GPS guided and Rocket boosted). When you get close to the shore the reality is you cant always detect first and see first. The result is you have to take casulties or be able to take damage. Aircraft strikes will always have a role to play, as would sending in the V-22 to secure forward objectives. However, having a battleship around means being able to not HAVE to send in a aircraft. It also means being able to dish out more and take more damage- which translates into saving lives. Re-fitting old battleships is a way to get a lot of capability for a minimum of cost. Keeping two ships around just that much longer has the potential to save a lot of lives and money.

  19. For my money the Navy made a tragic mistake when it scrapped Alaska and Guam in 1961. Smaller, cheaper, and a bit newer than the Iowas, their 12′ guns would be more the sufficient for shore bombardment operations, and their armor more than enough to survive ASM attacks.

  20. Yes, I agree. Plus that would free up the iowa’s for more dramatic changes, like replacing the rear turret with a heli-deck or more missile launch space.

  21. Stealth – EMCOM? not likely. Not with all the money making its vaunted dual band radar. ’10 rounds/min for 2 guns is 20 shells landing accurately for a sustained period of time. Fact of the matter is, you probably wont need that many anyway.’ Er? Name one opposedlanding that only required a few minutes of fire support. ‘Also, from what I understand, those guns can shoot 100 miles. They arent regular land based 155mm cannons. But the ship also has missiles too.’ Actually they are a lot like the land based 155mm’s. The orginal AGS system was quite different, but after several years and a billion or so, the program fell flat on its face. So the navy revised its plan and installed navalized 155mm’s to take advantage of the army’s guided shells. The 100 mile range as advertised is with special rocket assisted shells. Of which the ship will carry only 24. It could carry more, but the shells cost is extreme. Peripheral Launchers ERA armor is especially designed to disrupt and deflect shaped charges. To the best of my knowledge the Tactical Tomahawk Block IV missile is designed to be an ERA explosive. The solid rocket propellant burns at several thousand degrees which some might call a fire hazard. Not to mention most anti-ship missiles are kenitic energy AP missilies, so your comparision to ERA armor is off track. So you are going to have two senarios 1. The antiship missile is going to blow through the magazine, then detonate. In this case the magazine design is helpfull as the magazine will blow up but will not take the ship with it. 2. Some yahoo is going to shoot the ship with a RPG. The RPG is going to penitrate the outer hull and most likely ignite the magazine. The magazine will catch on fire, and the warheads will cook off. The ship should survive but will be crippled. The bottomline remains the same – we have a 3 billion dollar ship that can take only one hit. ‘Also, DD(X) has something Battleships dont, and thats two SH-60 as well as sonar platforms.’ Battleships have a great big landing pad at one end. If you wanted to get snarky, remove the rear turret and you have carry 10 helos. The sonar? – towed array anyone? The SPY-3 radar system is also very awesome in power. You cant just stick one on top of a Battleship, and throw some generators on board. That just ludicrous. Modern radar systems require a vessel built from the ground up. Also, they require power. … actually you can. The BB’s have plenty of room and in fact have the generators on board. (though you most likely would want to upgrade the existing generators – to reduce maintence costs. ) WIth respect to the Iowa. A the turret is 90% repaired already. b) The remaining parts needed to repair it are already made and are stored with the Iowa. c) We have several thousand 16 inch shells in the inventory.

  22. Isn’t the Heavy Cruiser USS Des Moines still in mothballs? It has 9 – 8′ auto cannons capable of firing 10 rounds a minute each.

  23. I had an interesting Idea. In order to make the BB’s more fuel efficient, why not replace the boilers with nuclear reactors? And a modernization program to digitize the BB could reduce manpower requirements. And let’s not forget that the BB itself is a very powerful psychological weapon as well. Also, the number of the DD(X) ships planned for production has been getting smaller each year and some suggest that there could ultimately be as few as 5 DD(X) ships so with so few ships we may want as much bang for our buck.

  24. Somone mentioned using MRLS to highten capabiltiy- have to say this a interesting option. http://www.army-technology.com/projects/mlrs/ Check out the ATCMS- 160, 300 km range models. These could be a nice cost/range between the 2(?) million a pop tomahawks, and stock-piled 406 mm shells. Granted they would need a seperate launcher (perhaps that damaged turret)- but 186 miles strike range out of box is impressive. If not for the BB, maybe for DD(X) or a next gen cruiser.

  25. The point is the USN wont replace battleships with new battleships. DD(X) is a destroyer mind you. DD(X) has 2 – 155mm guns. Firing at a rate of 10 round per minute. The ship can carry a total of 920 ERGM rounds. This equated rougly to sustained fire for 46 minutes. This means the ship is putting 1 shell in the air every 3 seconds. So its 920 rounds, not 24. I do not see how you could need any more firepower than that. If you do, call up 4 more DD(X)s. The peripheral launch system is much better than a centralized missile pack. 1. On the stern section, it means a larger helicopter pad. Easier on pilots. 2. Less chance of catastrophic ship loss. The PVLS are primarily above water. If they all go, youll lose alot of the external hull, but water-tight integrity is retained. Plus, i very much doubt an RPG can cause a catastrophic loss. OR that some yahoo can get close enough without being engaged by LCS or the DD(X)’s autocannons. Most naval warships, while having AEGIS, dont actually use it all the time when in a CBG. The E-2C Hawkeye provides the same picture an AEGIS or SPY-3 can. In general, its the computer systems that count offering greater resolution and tracking over long distances. Even so, if the enemy sees the SPY-3 in action, its a good bet whatever they shoot at it will be intercepted. The Battleships are still useful, but in no way do we need their firepower anymore. I say, give DD(X) a chance. The biggest advantage is its small crew size, allowing the USN to man more ships more easily. -Adam

  26. Risking a ‘billion’ dollar destroyer for brow-water coastal support is a waste of money-they belong out in the ocean looking for commie subs or escorting carriers. Keeping two old battlships around for a rainy day, never mind re-activating them, should have nothing to do with our next gen desttoyer.

  27. Keeping two old battlships around for a rainy day, never mind re-activating them, should have nothing to do with our next gen destroyer.

    I’m not sure about that, but I’d say doing both would be called ‘hedging one’s bets’ and it’s something the US Navy doesn’t seem to be a big fan of, while they really ought to be. It seems to me the cost of modernising the two BBs is pretty much chump change compared to what’s being thrown around these days. Call it ‘insurance’. Murdoc, are you sorry you said the word now? 😉

  28. CIWS and jamming have made up for the armor bit. Tell that to the families of the 37 sailors who died on the USS Stark when it was hit with two Exocets. It had CIWS. And jamming. The only saw the missiles seconds before they hit and by then it was too late to do anything. Look, arguing that the DD(X) is like the F-22 and is going to replace battleships is kind of like saying that the F-22 is a good replacement for the B-52. How many 5 inch shells do you need to fire to do as much damage as, say, 10 16 inch shells? My guess would be… hundreds. A BB can fire 10 16 inch shells in one shot. How long will it take the DD(X)? How long until it has to reload? When will the DD(X)s be built? Do we even KNOW they’ll work as advertised? As I heard someone else say recently ‘that’s way too many ifs, ands and buts for my liking’.

  29. What ever happened to the cruisers? They had some great shore bombardment capabilities, and decent armor to boot, yet had decent sprint speeds. I think it was Newport or some such that gave the NVA fits about 35 years ago. Just sailed it up the coast, hammering everything it’s guns could reach. The DDX class ships have a lot of propaganda going for them, but I have yet to see anyone telling me how they would accomplish in-shore bombardment BETTER than a battleship. Oh, I’ve seen the rate of fire, and I’ve heard about the ‘extended range’ shells, but how much of that has worked properly. Do a little searching, and you’ll find that the cost of those shells is so prohibitive that the DDX ships will only receive 24 of them at a time. Which means that if I’m 28 miles inland, I only get 2 dozen shots to support me when that brigade of Iranian or Syrian armor rolls out to hammer me into paste. Bad weather has limited visibility so the planes are useless, and the artillery pieces that have come in over the beach are busy helping to hold other parts of the line. Who do I call when those 24 rounds have all been fired in the first 2 minutes of the engagement? This battle could take all day. You have 2 minutes of support fire. How do you hold the line? You call the Iowa, and you watch the bastards go up in smoke.

  30. Chad, It was the USS Newport News, which was a Des Moines class Heavy Cruiser. The Salem and Newport News are gone but the Des Moines is still in mothballs in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. It has 8′ Auto Cannons that can fire 10 rounds per minute each. There were also a couple of banks of 5′ inch guns. The armor belt is only 6 inches, which would make it the most heavily armored ship in the Navy right now, but a lightweight by battleship standards. Right now the Navy is trying to get rid of the Des Moines quickly and quietly – just like the battleships. http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/butowsky1/desmoines.htm

  31. Ooops. I responded earlier to Bram’s first comment on the Des Moines but it seems to have been lost. What sor of nutjob poser is running this joint, anyway? Anyway, the Des Moines was going to become a museum (there we go again with the museum thing…) in Milwaukee, but the plan fell apart. Last I heard she’s still just sitting there rusting. I noted the Des Moines here. At the time I hoped that they’d get her for a museum. Now I’m wondering if she might not come in handy in the fleet. One thing, though, is the upgrades to the Iowas will have the benefit of building on previous upgrades. The Des Moines is pretty much as she was in 1946. Cool if you’re building a museum, not so cool if you’re trying to come up with a modern warship. And, no, I’m not sorry that I mentioned ‘battleship’ again. But, geez, guys. Is this a hot-button issue or what???

  32. Look, im just going to end on this note as this has been a great discussion. Firstoff. The DD(X) is a destroyer. Not a battleship. Its not a direct replacement for those leviathans. However, it is a replacement for previous classes of destroyers, like the Spruance and Arleigh Burke. It offers greater stealthiness, greater protection, and uses far fewer crew to operate. In addition to which, it departs from traditional warship design, and offers greater potential in terms of sensors, computing technology, and automation. Secondly, the need for sea-based firepower is a bit overblown. As I said earlier, 1 DD(X) != 1 BB. However, the plan was to have multiple DD(X)’s with the fleet, and to have them provide fire support together. As for the range? DD(X) wont need to go up to the beach to provide fire support, its range will be good enough for long shots thanx to ERGMs. In fact, looking at the numbers, ERGMs can go up to 100km out. A 16′ can only shoot 38km?! Im not too sure about this. But if DD(X) can fire more accurately, further out, then the BB’s may have an issue. Also, lets not forget about air power as well. Today the military has the capability to put a bomb anywhere from 30 mins, to 38 hours when needed. Where the DD(X) cant reach, an aircraft can. All in all, we cant keep the Battleships forever. And I seriously doubt we’ll need a huge gun ship like that again, nor will it ever be built. Im going to give the DD(X) a chance. Sure, it costs alot, but in the long run, it may be the best buy.

  33. Arguing the relative merits of the BBs versus the DD(X) is all beside the point. Functionality has nothing to do with it, it all has to do with politics. Program Managers who don’t get their programs into the fleet might as well pack it in. Congressmen look at whether some piece of the program will be built in their district or state. Defense contractors want to get rid of any competitor that could possibly do the job cheaper, threatening their program with cancellation, or perhaps even worse, cost restraint. This last factor is particularly important. The cost of maintaining the BBs in mothballs until the DD(X) comes on line is insignificant. Why get rid of them now? Because as the cost of the DD(X) continues to escalate, they don’t want to have the BBs sitting there to threaten the cancellation of the program. Once the BBs are gone, it will be IMPOSSIBLE to cancel the program, no matter how expensive they become. We’ll be lucky to get a one-for-one replacement of the BBs out of the program. The best reason for keeping the BBs, at least in mothballs, untill the DD(X) comes on line is to force at least some measure of cost restraint and minimal functionality on the DD(X) program, although I think the fact that the Marines seem to want them should count for something. What’s the marine equivalent of a warthog?

  34. The issue of politics is a good one. Keeping around the BB’s for coastal support- what the Marines want- is essentially a navy favor for the marines. It certainly seems of late there has been more tension between the two, so perhaps this is just a extension of that. The marines on one hand becomine larger and more independent, and the Navy trying re-establish a ‘new’ marine force (e.g. master at arms, Naval Expeditionary Combat Command, etc.). If the marines can keep the BBs around, it will be something of test of there clout in washington. I guess what im trying to say is coastal support is to the navy for the marines, what close air support is to the air force for the army. Neither wants to foot the bill to actual do it, yet they refuse to let the other force have the mission. Well I say if the marines want the BBs, give them the funding and let them operate them rather the Navy. The Marines AFAIK use the Harrier for close air support, and eventually a JSF version. A navalized A-10 version would be superior in many ways to both. Both the AF or Navy would never let that happen though.

  35. Hey Navy, thanks for the favor of helping the Marine Corps project power in the world. Wouldn’t want to interrupt the Navy’s other mission of– Hmm– Protecting our maritime fleet from pirates? I don’t think the Navy is going to allow the Marine Corps to operate a battleship. Would be funny if the Corps called their bluff.

  36. As a military guy, I understand the points that all of you are making. I’m not saying the DDX class isn’t worth making. I’m just saying we can upgrade both of the BB class ships for the cost of one DDX, and still make 7 DDX destroyers. Makes perfect fiscal sense to me. I think one of the biggest things going for the BB class is their size. You can put in Command and Control suites, a new radar, rangefinder and gunnery control (if you need it), and still have room to cut down the size of the superstructure, add a hangar deck (helicopters) by removing the rear turret (maybe even marine harriers). The big thing is still survivability. You can hit a BB class ship with a saturation attack, sure, but will it sink it? You’d better have one hell of a missle, and hit it below the waterline, or it’s just a fart in the wind. Shooting it’s main guns puts more wracking stress on the ship than most missles can impart. Yes, I think we need to build the DDX class ships, but I think we need to modernize the BBs too.

  37. I think the marine equivalent of a warthog is a dugong. The Marine equivalent of an A-10, at least politically, might be a battleship. There’s more pork in a warthog, though. The answer to getting the BBs reactivated would be to make them more expensive. Throw in $100 million worth of radar, maybe replace their 5′ turrets with the guns from the DD(X), get some fancy new PGM shells. Just find a potential prime contractor with deep enough lobbying pockets to put together a pork barrel, and make sure that the upgrades impact the maximum possible number of congressional districts.

  38. So it’s decided. We will modernize a couple of Battleships and do a cost benefit on the Des Moines. When the DD(X)’s hit the water we’ll re-evaluate. Somebody get Rumsfield on the phone for me.

  39. Upgrade for a need. Unless the US really has a legitimate use for the BBs, they should remained mothballed. Spending money on upgrades when there is no mission to fight is a much larger waste of money than building a DD(X). At least DD(X) can do other things as well. Heh, i see it as an intel issue too. Itll be no secret if the US brings those boats back online. Everyone will know the US intends to use those 16’ers on someone. =) But this is political and economical. Firstoff, Upgrading BBs wont make nearly as many jobs as the DD(X) program will. Its a trickel down theory, several dozen contractors and subcontractors benefit. Whereas the BB-upgrade just isnt popular to the powers that be. Is it wrong when a senator pushes a program to bring more jobs to his constituents? If the system is total crap, yes. But for the most part it is all good political fun.

  40. The idea of doing re-fit that includes DD(X) tech on the bb’s (As TW suggested)- shall we say ‘BB(X)’ reveals a lot for a comparison. It also makes we wonder if the DD(X) is the wrong kind of ship entirely for the future- and if we should be building something more like the existing BB, and not a computerized tin can. The suggestion of a BB(X) with 12- 155mm ddx guns in place of the 16 inch guns is interesting. Yes, reduction from 406 mm to 155 mm seem a waste, but it puts the dd(x) firepower in perspective. Plus, if it were actually done it would ease logistics between the BB(X) and new DD(X)’s. Granted were missing out on a lot stealth for the two hulls, but the reality is once you start firing shells (thats what this is about isn’t it) your going to give away your position. A large sonic signature is going to be detectable for many miles- even after you’v killed enemy radar. To provide coastal support for day long invasion, your going to have just sit there and keep firing anyway- even if you want to run. Leave the stealthy suprise and quick exit to the aircraft- a coastal support ship needs to hang around. Which brings me to my next point–the ‘BB(X)’ in addition to potentially having 6 times the number of guns as DD(X), isn’t going to be put of action anywhere as easily by mines, enemy coastal arty, or all but the largest anti-ship missiles on the market. This brings up the issue of DD(X) survivability and endurance. Its seems downright foolish to spend 1-2 billion a pop on a overburdened destroyer hull that is going to have turn tail once it ‘detects’ the enemies. Im sure the marines asking for fire support as they fight there way inland will be overjoyed to hear their ‘advanced’ fire support ships needs to leave the area because its ‘detected’ the enemy. Granted it could stick around, but its going to end up like the USS Cole. Regardless of if we want to keep the BB’s around, lets stop pretending the DD(X) is a good idea. Forget multi-role, build a solid blue-water destroyer (Goodness knows we need it for the Taiwan straight). In the long run we should have a ship thats at least as survivable, as fast, and has as much firepower as proven coastal support platforms. In other words, our next-generation coastal support ship needs to have more of the qualities of the BBs, not less.

  41. … My comment on the weapon load of the DD(X). My bad, I said 24 – should of been 70. LtGen Mattis and LtGen Magnus stated: ‘Each ship will be designed to carry 600 long-range 155 mm munitions plus 70 long-range land attack projectiles to provide high volume support.’ Thus DD(X) will only carry 70 LRLAP Rounds. The other 155mm Rounds are conventional rounds with a range of 24 miles* By way of comparision the load out of a battleship is A Battleship Carries 1,220 16′ Rounds (any mix of conventional and long range) weighing up to 2,700lbs each and 8,000+ 5′ Rounds for the Battleships Secondary Armament. Back in the 70’s the airforce had a great idea. Build the F-15 as a top of the line fighter with the F-16 as a low cost slugger. Personally my only objection to the DD(X) is cost vs capability. Now, a DD(X) and a Battleship together would make an excellent combo. The Battleship plays point and the DD(X) plays cover. That way the two ships can cover each others weaknesses. If that was the plan – then I think the Navy can create viable surface action groups (minus the carrier) that have enough power to dominate a sea zone. This would help cover areas where a carrier is not available.

  42. Hmm, a very interesting discussion. So far I see lots of good arguments for having BOTH the DD( x ) and the BB (the arguments against either one seem a little nuts to me). A BB(X)? So we’re talking a beefed up DD(X) with say 4ft Ceramic/Kevlar/Titanium armor 16 rapid fire 16′ guns, with ERGMs, 20 CIWSs plus all the other features of the DD(X) – stealth ect.? Boy, you think the DD(X) is expensive, just wait till you see the price on this baby. $$$$$$ The two debates seem to be: 1 Survivability — Stealth vs. Toughness Granted were missing out on a lot stealth for the two hulls, but the reality is once you start firing shells (that’s what this is about isn’t it) your going to give away your position. Well, lets see: you know when a B-2 is around when your city gets blown to bits that doesn’t mean you can hit it with anything. Not the perfect analogy I know but ya get the point. You can hit a BB class ship with a saturation attack, sure, but will it sink it? Umm, Yeah. Hello, WW2 aircraft could sink them. So you say armor is better now, well so are warheads. When it comes to the aspect of survivability that involves being able to take a hit it’s a matter of degrees. Nothing is indestructible. Does anyone think the designers of the DD(X) have relied totally on stealth and ignored being able to take a hit? The way some of you are talking you’d think you could kill one with an AK-47. Computerized tin can – please. Obviously a BB(X) (see above) would be more survivable but hey. Anyway there is more than just the brute force method (add armor inches) to make a ship tough. their ‘advanced’ fire support ships needs to leave the area because its ‘detected’ the enemy. Why? The enemy hasn’t detected you and you’re about to blow him away. it could stick around, but its going to end up like the USS Cole. Oh please. That attack should never have happened. No one was on guard cuz we didn’t want to offend the locals by pointing guns at them. That attack could have been stopped by an M-16 – sheesh. The best argument for the BB is that Littoral combat is the naval equivalent of urban warfare. Meaning you can’t avoid the possibility of being engaged first and hit. So maybe we need something out there (be it modified BB or BB(X)) That’s got enough punch to make it a magnet for enemy fire and enough armor to survive it. Now, a DD(X) and a Battleship together would make an excellent combo. The Battleship plays point and the DD(X) plays cover. That way the two ships can cover each others weaknesses. Exactly! 2nd Debate – Cost: is it Pork or Capability? Goodness knows we should spend our limited defense dollars as wisely and efficiently as possible. But the goal is to get the best POSSIBLE defense capability, not balance the budget. It always ticks me off that when anyone begins to get a conscience on gov’t spending it’s the military that gets cut first. That’s the last place we should skimp on spending. Having the best equipment and the best training and the money that it takes is NOT PORK!! Hence the DD(X) or the BB(X) 8) , are not pork. Building a ship (whether it be upgraded BB or BB(X) or DD(X)) is a total waste of money if its designed for a use that we don’t need right now. RIDICULOUS! The ship needs to be built before the mission becomes necessary or else you’ll find that you need a ship that hasn’t been built yet. Same goes for things like the F-22. The goal (in terms of desired capability) isn’t to just barley counter the threat and accomplish the mission (so as to save money). The goal is maximum overkill (so as to save lives and WIN).

  43. In practice it seems as if the main replacement for the battleship has been the B-52. A B-52 has repeatedly been used to dump large quantities of big, dumb bombs (similar in size to a 16′ shell) on targets. No, you don’t use it the same way as a battleship. Rather than spending a day bombarding a coast in something approaching a tactical capacity, the B-52s spend a week or two bombarding several counties worth of territory. But, if the basic idea is to fill a large area with big craters until nothing moves, B-52s do that, while putting far fewer people in harm’s way than a battleship does. Indeed, really what the military has mostly done is use a combination of cruise missles from cruisers and destroyers and heavy air based bombardment for weeks or months, until it decides that the situation is secure enough to move in ground troops. This was the primary strategy in the Gulf War, Kosovo and the Iraq War. It would likely be the strategy in any other major confrontation — say a Syria or Iran invasion. The concern with a battleship’s vulnerabilities is not so much that a suicide speed boat or naval gun could penetrate its hull. One of the biggest concern would be a diesel powered coastal submarine from say N. Korea or China using a torpedo to, at least, cripple it and take it out of action. As far as the DD(X) goes, the big question in my mind is why one needs to spend $3 billion a shot on a boat whose primary armament is a couple of glorified howitzers. Wouldn’t it be possible to mount a couple of Army self-propelled howitzers on landing craft, ditching the wheels or tracks, have the landing craft approach shore so that you didn’t need 100 miles of range, and keep the ship deploying those landing craft safely over the horizon for considerably less $$? Or, alternately, why not build a cruise missile for much less than $2 million that has a 60 mile range and less precise guidance systems, instead of a several hundred mile range and sophisticated guidance systems of existing cruise missiles.

  44. Well, lets see: you know when a B-2 is around when your city gets blown to bits that doesn’t mean you can hit it with anything. Not the perfect analogy I know but ya get the point. I see your point, but I think you missing a couple of factors. 1) The B-2 is a 3d area traveling 500 miles an hour. So a for sensor system that does not have precise location and has a processing time lag, forces a blind. Now a DD(X) is moving no more then 35 miles an hour. So if you have a sensor system that limited initial precision and a processing lag, the target box is small enough that LADAR or visual based target seeker will have enough endurance to find and hit the DD(X). So you can use the DD(X)’s wake, near real time satilight immagery or radar, passive EM radiation, passive sonar… and so on to give you an approximate location (even if it had as small RCS as a B-2. Which it does not) Does anyone think the designers of the DD(X) have relied totally on stealth and ignored being able to take a hit? The way some of you are talking you’d think you could kill one with an AK-47. ummm actually yes, they are depending on stealth to keep the ship alive. Yes it has automated damage control – but most any hit is going to be a mission killer. And yes, you can sink or disable a DD(X) quite easily with a RPG. The peripheral launch system, is designed to blow outward – away from the ship. So this precludes it from being armored vs external attack. (Otherwise – it does not blow outward ) An RPG can penitrate 400mm or so of armor. (under ideal conditions)So the RPG plasma jet is going to slice through the external wall and ignite the rocket fuel or set off the warheads and or both. And yes, a battleship can be sunk. The Yamamto: Near Okinawa three attack strikes a total of 13 torpedoes struck the ship within 2 hours she was beginning to sink. After she had listed 120 degrees, one of the magazines back aft exploded. The Musashi: After 20 torpedo hits and 17 bomb hits the Naval career for the Musashi had come to a bitter end. So how many hits do you think a DD(X) can take?

  45. James beat me to it. Battleships can be sunk by massive concentrated attacks with heavy weapons. The Nevada, the Bismarck and the Japanese battleships were sunk with torpedo hits below the water line and / or bombs from directly from above – which is not how modern anti-ship missiles attack. Today’s anti-ship missiles are designed to open tin-can destroyers like the Cole and the HMS Sheffield by approaching from the side at high speed. They would have relatively little affect on a battleship which were designed to take far more massive hits to the sides. Two battleships, armed with close-in defenses like phalanx, and part of a fleet that includes screen of missile cruisers, destroyers, and subs, would force our enemies to spend time and money trying to figure out how to deal with them.

  46. I think the points have been made, and you all know I’m the last one to step out of an argument. I’ll just leave this discussion with one last note. It’s illegal for the navy to decommission the BB class ships. They’re trying to do it anyway. Damn squids.