They are falling all over themselves to turn the battleships into museums

Opening Wisconsin’s interior will come with a cost

The word has been, over the past few years, that if the Navy managed to get the battleships decommissioned, ten minutes after the ceremony ended workers would board them and immediately make damn sure that they could never possibly be activated again. Between the rush in California to bid on the Iowa (noted here) and this talk in Virginia about the Wisconsin, one might get the idea that folks are in a hurry to be sure battleship supporters don’t have any more chances to get their beloved battlewagons held in reserve.

For the record, Murdoc believes that holding the two ships in reserve would be the correct plan.

He also wonders exactly how it is that the ships can have been retired in the budget when they were not supposed to be permanently cut until equivalent shore-support firepower was available.


  1. The battle ships can be decommishioned and mothballed because the ‘shore support firepower’ has been replaced. Anywhere in the world the US can put f-18’s with JDAMs, SDB’s, and other PGM’s to support troops on the beaches. Include B-1’s, B-2’s, and B-52’s, f-15’s, f-16’s, f-22’s with PGMs and you have far better support for troops on the ground than the old battlewagons. I visited the Wisconsin in Norfolk this summer, and our ship worked with the Iowa in ’83 off Lebanon…but I have to say the BB’s are museum pieces. Nothing more. Precision guided munitions have rendered them obsolete (and any DDX requirement for heavy shore bombardment). Give the USN any beach with troops to defend and they will put dozens of f/a-18’s on it. A jdam from 20,000ft is much better a weapon than a flat shooting 16in. museum piece. IMO

  2. Wasnt this done to death a while back? I figured the BB-crowd wouldve learned by now that the Battleship lacks the spares and equipment neccessary to operate over prelonged periods of time. There was a news post earlier that dealt with the issue. But I agree with the above, the US military has enough readily available firepower to deal with any enemy at the moment.

  3. ‘Any Enemy’? When I think about real threats, I think of Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China (ascending order of threat). I don’t want to hear about how unlikely those threats are – that’s the job of politicians not the Navy. The Navy’s job is to be ready to fight NOW – not 10 years from now. Do you really think you can fly F-18’s and B-52’s up and down the coast of China unmolested if they attack Taiwan? Without F-14’s flying cover it would be very very ugly. We’ve been fighting cream puffs for a so long (which is a good thing in terms of loss of American life) that we forgot what a real war is like. I was trained at the height of the Cold War and learned a little fear and humility in the process. The Red Chinese Army is not going to get out of their tanks and run. Their Air and Naval Forces will stand and fight. They will use vastly superior numbers, good discipline and training, and technology that’s catching up quickly. Overestimating our capabilities and dismissing our rivals is very dangerous. Read the history of the Korean War – we were humiliated and thousands of our men paid with their lives because we threw away so much of our capabilities at the end of WWII. To throw away such a valuable military asset without a replacement for purely political reasons is criminal. I’m disgusted by the lack of leadership in the Navy.

  4. You think that modern aircraft with precision weapons are not the answer to bombard a shore or beachhead… And you cite a conflict with China as an example of the ‘danger’ of having highly maneuverable and flexible air assets engaged in delivering ordnance to a coastline from high altitudes free of a lot of the AA and shoulder fired threats. You say the Chinese won’t allow the airpower to go unmolested… Yet you think the answer is a 60 year old antique parked within 20 miles of the coast line? Sure… the Chinese (or any nation) will spank our air power, but be impotent against our slow moving antique BB’s parked in Littoral waters….. ?? That is cold war/Vietnam/dumb bomb thinking in a modern air-dominated netcentric world.

  5. Heh, ‘famous last words’. Remember, the Nazis didn’t need artillery. They had aircraft. And aircraft are as good or better than artillery in all situations, right? Right? They found out the hard way… you will too. When your grunts are copping a packet and wondering ‘where is that air support?’ because you’ve temporarily lost air superiority, or you can’t spare any more planes, or they have another more important mission… it’s just no fun.

  6. Firstoff. In the case of China, we would never invade. In any situation involving Taiwan, the US mission is to negate the Chinese Invasion threat. This means sinking ships, shooting down aircraft, and possible taking out chinese land assets (shipyards, air and naval bases). The BB is useless in this scenario. As for the other nations? Russia is no military threat. We have forces in South Korea and Iraq. Venezuela putting up a fight? Please. US airpower is unrivaled at the moment, and will probably be that way for some time. The other point many of you neglect is that there was a well-written, well thought out article about putting the BBs back into service, and it pretty much made clear that doing so is just impossible and really unneccessary. The US has great land based artillery. DD(X) will be able to deal with shoreline threats and allow Marines to bring their own artillery into the equation. Combine this with the shear might of US air power, and you have a damned good combination of forces to deal with the enemy land threat. Also, in no way will the US send in US Marines when they do not have air supremacy. Also, the F-14 has been replaced by the highly capable F/A-18E,F which shoots the AIM-120C-7. A missile with greater capability than the AIM-54 Phoenix. Its also coupled with a better AESA radar than the Tomcat’s. As someone put it earlier, we cant see things in the cold war manner when the technology we have today allows for greater force multiplication.

  7. Yeah, the Navy would never dump the Marines on a beach and take off before their equipment is half unloaded. Oh, wait, nevermind.

  8. US airpower is unrivaled at the moment, and will probably be that way for some time.’ Not if you keep replacing good equipment with not-so-good-equipment (or in some cases, like the DD(X), non-existant equipment). The F-14 has been replaced with the ‘highly capable’ F-18E/F which is only slower, has worse acceleration, less maneuverable, shorter ranged, less loiter time, with shorter-range missiles (although quite possibly better ones). Can someone give me a good reason the F-14s couldn’t be fitted with AIM-120s and AESA radars? Still, I don’t see how ‘capability’ comes into it if you can’t reach the area you’re going to support and stay over it for a reasonable period of time… You’d have to pay me an awful lot of money to take an F-18E/F up against an SU-30MKI or SU-30MKK, or in fact any of the breed. Plus I’d want to be real sure the ejection seat worked properly and there was a rescue helo nearby… One long-range semi-autonomous R-77 launched from a high speed maneuverable platform can really ruin your day that way. Hell, so can a MiG-21 cluster attack. ‘Quantity has a quality all its own.’

  9. So the ‘anywhere in the world’ thing was a little exaggerated? The differences between a JDAM and a battleship fire mission: 1. If the JDAM misses or more targets pop-up – oh well. Call the Direct Air Support Coordinator again and see when another flight can be tasked. If a BB misses – adjust and repeat fire mission. 2. The JDAM is delivered from a fragile plane coming from far away. The BB is a big, tough, ship that can stay for a while. Obviously both need some air cover. Call me crazy, but I want it all. I want arty, MLRS, mortars, naval guns, attack helicopters (close-in fire support (CIFS)), and close air support at my beck and call. If one or two of them go down (we lose air superiority for instance, or a naval battle ensues) I can count on the others to fill the gap. It also gives a commander the option of concentrating all this firepower at the point of attack if he wants to penetrate enemy lines.

  10. Firstoff. In the case of China, we would never invade. In any situation involving Taiwan, the US mission is to negate the Chinese Invasion threat. This means sinking ships, shooting down aircraft, and possible taking out chinese land assets (shipyards, air and naval bases). The BB is useless in this scenario.

    Exsqueeze me? Baking powder? I was unaware that China’s transport ships and its destroyers and frigates were so damned invulnerable to 16 inch guns. Perhaps we should start an espionage campaign to get this incredible technology that allows them to hide from our sensors and outmanuver precision artillery. How in the hell did we get so freaking focused on shore bombardment that we came to the conclusion that battleship launched guided missiles and thousand pound shells were useless against enemy ships? That’s what battleships were born to do!!!

  11. Phelps, very true, but I think the point is that aircraft are particularly good at sinking ships compared to shore bombardment, and ships are particularly good at shore bombardment compared to sinking ships. It’s not that both aren’t good at either, it’s just relative strengths. Of course a BB can sink an enemy ship but a BB is somewhat more vulnerable to ship fire (torpedos and missiles) than they are to shore-based defenses, which typically are not so deadly to a BB. And of course an aircraft can soften up a target for an amphibious landing but you need so many to get the volume of fire you need to truly suppress the enemies. Whereas a single aircraft with a couple of cruise missiles can cause havoc for all but the biggest ships (i.e. large cruisers and BBs). Yes, modern ships have good air defense systems, but they can’t always outrange cruise missiles. I do agree that this discussion is getting rather silly though :) Yes, of course battleships are not invulnerable, of course they will require air cover etc. But they’re tougher than most ships and can really dish out the damage. As Bram says, you don’t want all your eggs in one basket. It’s one of the laws of war. If you have only armour, they will destroy you with infantry missileers. If you have only infantry they’ll shell you with arty. If you have only arty they’ll overrun your positions with armour, etc. You need to have as many options as possible and use them in combination to the fullest effect.