GAO on the Battlewagons

Issues Related to Navy Battleships (.pdf)

A reader tips me off to this Government Accountability Office report from December on the battleship issue (such as it is). In short, as the battleships don’t really meet current or projected requirements in several key areas as fire support platforms, the report basically comes across as being against keeping the battleships, either by reactivating them or by keeping them in inactive status.

DOD is in the process of reviewing a draft joint fires requirements document for expeditionary operations in the littorals which was developed primarily by the Marine Corps in May 2005. The draft requirements document shows that planned capabilities will help to mitigate existing gaps in joint fires capabilities if programs such as the advanced gun system for the new DD(X) destroyer and the extendedrange munitions for existing DDG destroyers are implemented as currently planned. However, current and planned DOD capabilities for joint fires will not fully meet DOD’s needs because they will not provide sufficient capabilities such as engaging moving targets in restricted weather conditions or providing a sufficient quantity of fires over a short period of time. DOD officials believe that although some gaps in joint fires capabilities exist now and will continue to exist in the future, the risk associated with these gaps is acceptable and will not significantly affect the combatant commanders’ ability to execute war plans. Moreover, they do not believe that keeping or modernizing battleships would be cost effective nor would the modernized battleships significantly reduce the risk in comparison with other planned capabilities that DOD is funding. [emphasis Murdoc’s]

Here are a couple of slides enclosed with the report:



I’ve also uploaded a copy of the report in the event of the GAO link breaking.


  1. Is there a better fire support weapon than the BBs 16inch guns-no. But, the BBs use steam plants and personnel intensive systems. The plants are getting old and the armor makes it difficult/expensive to update or repair them. We need to build 12 dedicated ‘Monitors’ (1 per big deck gator). Arm them with stabilized heavy artillery, MRL and point defense. Attach them to the EBGs.

  2. Shipmates, I can see a kevlar-hulled shallow-draft vessel with an M1A turret mounted on one end, and an M109 turret on the other… :) Actually, the Monitor idea is an excellent one, and one I also suggested to both the Navy, and SuShips BIW, not that they give two hoots about what I think.. but I digress… A single turret forward, with an MLRS box aft might be a nifty idea as well… respects, AW1 Tim

  3. I highly agree with the idea of putting MLRS on boats. THe large warheads have more hitting power then even the a 16 inch gun shell, and the longest range versions are over double even the DD(X) range. The naval application of MRLS missiles seems to have potentional, though I have not seen any formal analysis of it. The specs for ground bases versions are impressive though.

  4. Sigh … In a word, the report is crap. (and not just because I disagree with it. ) A) There is no fire support requirement established. (so how can you make a rational determination – is beyond me) B) The analysis is comparing 1992 battleships vs hypothical weapons future weapons systems. C0 The report states potencial reactivation costs but does not put those costs into context. Lets say that to reactivate a battleship costs 4 billion – but you get a modern drive system, communications, and electronics, plus advanced 16inch gps shells and throw in the 6 AGS mounts. Sounds like you spent a fortune. In reality, you just saved yourself 10 billion beccause you would needed to spend 14 billion on getting enough DDX’s to match your firepower. Basically, this report was written for a specific agenda. Sadly, most likely the Navy is going to get its way. I just hope that some Somali pirate does not blow the DDX out the water with a RPG shot….

  5. One thing to remember when looking at highly sophisticated guided weapons like cruise missiles: You can’t spoof, decoy, seduce, deceive, or dazzle a ballistic round, like a 16′ HE round. AND, the US Army established a few decades back that a 16′ APC shell with appropriate fuzing can defeat targets a tactical nuke CAN’T. Missiles are awesome, but 16′ rifles and MRLS in addition to a cruise missile armament are a freakishly deadly combo for assaults. Add in some serious AAW capability (WWII BBs were the best AAW platform in the fleet, short of CV air wings sinking enemy carriers with birds on board a la Midway). For the same reasons as are done with CVNs, build it as a BBGN.