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Pulling out the big guns

Robert Novak, apparently taking a break from playing politics with the CIA, is reporting on a fight on Capitol Hill between the Marine Corps and the Navy. The Navywants to donate the last two battleships it owns, the mothballed Iowa and Wisconsin, into museums. The Corps wants them kept around for possible use. And since the Corps is a part of the Navy, they don't have much chance of winning without garnering some serious political help.

This is a subject very near and dear to me. I am a huge battleship fan. I can discuss the evolution of the Dreadnaught from the USS South Carolina right through the Wisconsin, discussing how certain ships were evolutionary progressions (Utah, Pennsylvania), while others (Texas, Nevada, Washington) represented major revolutionary advances. I can do the same with the Royal Navy, which invented the modern battleship. Hell, I even have an essay mostly worked out that discusses the USS Alaska vessels, and whether they are large cruisers or battlecruisers, but I don't want to bore everyone to death.

That being said, I have to sadly come down on the side that the day of the battleship is over. They pretty much peaked shortly after World War I, but it wasn't until the end of World War II that it was obvious that their time was gone.

The Marines want to keep the battleships around for shore bombardment purposes, to "soften up" places they plan to invade. And there is very little that can wreck a defense quite like fifty pounds of high explosive, wrapped inside six feet and 2660 pounds of steel, leaving the gun barrel at over 1,600 miles an hour. (Figures given for the armor-piercing round, which can go through 30 feet of concrete. The high-explosive round carries 154 pounds of explosive inside 1746 pounds of steel. Full technical specs here.)

That's for one gun. Each Iowa-class battleship carries nine of these 66-foot, 8-inch long monsters, and can fire them twice a minute. That's nearly fifty thousand pounds of incoming shellfire in sixty seconds -- enough to vaporize nearly anything. The can reach out and touch targets nearly 20 miles away -- and a lot of the world is within 20 miles of the ocean.

These weapons represent the peak of American big gun development -- and, arguably, the world. And the Iowas were the peak of battleship development, 57,000+ tons of steel devoted to the sole purpose of moving those guns around the world to where they were needed.

But the battleships were doomed by the airplane. The Iowas have up to a foot of hardened steel along their sides, protecting them from attack, but their decks are only half that thick. By the end of World War II, it became obvious that we simply couldn't build a ship with a deck strong enough to keep out bombs. And even today, most ship-attacking weapons don't hit from the sides -- they either hit from below (torpedoes) or above (missiles), bypassing the armored belt.

So yeah, an Iowa could shrug off most anti-ship missiles out there -- as long as it's obliging to hit it on her armored belt or turret or conning tower, maybe some parts of the deck. But they remain frighteningly vulnerable to a "soft kill" or "mission kill" -- all her radars and other sensors are utterly vulnerable, and a ship that can shoot 20 miles but can't see is virtually useless.

There are numerous other downsides to the battleships, as spelled out by many commenters here (including the formidable Steven Den Beste). Let me recap a few:

1) Their machinery is very, very old. We no longer have the ability to readily make spare parts. We would end up having to cannibalize the two museum ships (the New Jersey and Missouri) for the inevitable breakdowns.

2) The guns are also very old, and we no longer have the industrial base to work them. They need new liners for the barrels every 250 or so shots, and we haven't made any new ones in decades. We've been living on the spares made during World War II ever since, and we simply can't make more without a huge investment in retooling.

3) They are crew hogs. During World War II, it took over 2,700 men to run the ships. Since their rebuilding in the 1980's, their complement was reduced to between 1,500 and 2,000 crew -- enough to run three or four modern combatants.

4) The Iowa herself is "damaged goods." The center gun of her second turret exploded in 1989, and it was never fully repaired -- she ony has six functional main guns.

5) The United States hasn't made an opposed landing in 55 years. We can pretty much "walk" ashore anywhere we might need to. Our military superiority is such that we simply don't have to worry about such things.

If we need a dedicated shore-bombardment vessel, it'd be a lot cheaper to simply build one. During World War I and World War II, the British dealt with the problem by putting a turret or two off an old battleship on a specially-built hull, called it a "monitor," and sent them off into battle. We could do the same, putting one or two of those guns on a new ship, or working on a whole new gun -- the Navy developed a remarkably effective 8" gun in the 70's, for example.

But the battleship's day, sadly, has passed. The one-time queen of the seas lost her crown a long time ago, and to keep dragging them out is a waste of scarce resources. Let them enjoy their well-deserved retirement.

I, too, mourn their passing. The Iowas are some of the most beautiful, graceful, and awe-inspiring vessels to ever sail the seven seas, and they have given fine, honorable service. But the harsh reality is that they simply aren't needed.


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Comments (35)

Nice post for Pearl Harbor ... (Below threshold)

Nice post for Pearl Harbor Day. Thanks for your history passion.

You brought a tear to my ey... (Below threshold)

You brought a tear to my eye, Jay Tea. One of my favorite childhood memories was our trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. While Florida was cool, my favorite part was our stop in Mobile, AL along the way. We spent a few hours touring the U.S.S. Alabama -- and I've been hooked ever since.

I sadly agree -- the ships are past their time. Modern air-to-surface missiles can burrow into concrete bunkers and kill them much more efficiently (and with less collateral damage) than the old BB's could hope to achieve.

I'll raise a glass to the old BB's later today.

Yes, sadly their time has... (Below threshold)
mark m:

Yes, sadly their time has passed but I would still pay big money to see the USS Missouri out in open waters and unloading all the big guns (16inch I think) off to one side. Grandpa said that is beyond impressive.

Didn't President Reagan unleash the Missouri in the early 80's to dig some divets in the middle east????

The Marine Corps is "just" ... (Below threshold)
jim:

The Marine Corps is "just" using the BBs as a forum to demonstrate that:

1) The USN has bias for new technology over old effective technology, and new hulls to be built in some Senator's states for old hulls, and

2) The USN has never lived up to its pledge to provide a replacement for BB naval gunfire support before getting rid of the BBS.

Nam vets have always asserted that the USAF was behind the pulling out of the NJ from Nam.

In a way, the BB debate is similar to the Warthog (A-10) controversy where the Congress over-rode the USAF and made them keep that useful but low-tech plane around.

Naval shore bombardments lo... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

Naval shore bombardments look impressive but in WW2 I think a major feature of most of the amphibious landings was just how ineffectual they really were. However, I'll bow to someone more knowledgeable about the Navy to correct me.

As to the A-10 and the Air Force. There is something I am qualified to comment on. I was an F-16 pilot and the fight by Congress to keep the A-10 was more about keeping A-10 squadrons in Congressional districts rather than a battle of old tech vs new tech.

Gulf War I, a war I flew in, was a showcase for the A-10 and it did OK. What isn't talked about is how the F-16 flew more sorties, delivered more ordinance and destroyed more targets, had fewer friendly fire incidents and lost fewer aircraft than the A-10.

The theory was you needed something slow to kill tanks and provide CAS. Fast movers were thought to be too likely to have friendly fire.

Well, the highest friendly fire aircraft in the war was the Apache followed by the A-10. Hell, the Apache can hover at a standstill and it still had FF. Not slamming the Apache or A-10 for that, FF happens, but it goes to show that speed of the aircraft isn't a factor in those type of incidents.

Americans, in general, like to cheer for the underdog and in the USAF the A-10 is an underdog. Not because it's ugly and not modern. That's a popular myth. It's because it was an aircraft built to fight a war we never fought.

With the Viper C block 40-42 and block 50 there wasn't a single ordinance the Hog could bring the Viper couldn't only we could get there faster and in greater numbers. The 30mm cannon was nice but not really needed. It was impressive.

argh message cut off.... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

argh message cut off.

Last sentence.

It was impressive for a gun but gun kills were only needed if you were low and slow to begin with. I could carry a 30mm gunpod that was just as effective...something else you don't hear talked about much.

The USAF isn't overly in love with new tech. Overly in-love with new, highly effective tech in some cases yes, but if the USAF was shunning old for new then we wouldn't still be flying B-52s for 50 years (my brother flies one now) and planning on flying them for another 2 decades. My brother's co-pilot is a third generation B-52 pilot. His father and grand-father flew them. How is that for keeping old tech around?

I went aboard (twice) the M... (Below threshold)
JAT0:

I went aboard (twice) the Missouri when it was back in commission. Battleships are so beautiful, and so powerful, yet, so out of date today. Sadly, all they would amount to are impressive showboats. Keep them as museums - for all generations to admire!

I also remember the slap in the face when San Francisco refused to accept the Missouri as a museum!

Forgive me for doubting the... (Below threshold)
thomas:

Forgive me for doubting the word of a fast mover pilot, but I'll trust the grunts to know and they love the a-10. I also like the concept of the right tool for the job, if you disagree, take your car apart with a leatherman tool and get back to me. The f-16 and f-18 are great fighters but as close air support- I'll take the a-10.

HMS Hood a good example of ... (Below threshold)
Wright:

HMS Hood a good example of what happens when you hit the ship but miss the armor belt. Repulse and Prince of Wales were a shocking jolt into the new reality of modern warfare for the Brits, showing the superiority of air power over BBs.
This unqualified but interested observer likewise mourns the passing of noble ships but bows to the wisdom and inevitability of that passing.

I wouldn;t be surprised if ... (Below threshold)
Fred:

I wouldn;t be surprised if with a modern 8" autocannon you could but more metal onthe ground than the 16" firing 2 per minute.

Some of theose Naval 5" guns run at 30+ rpm for brief periods can't they? There's no reason you can't scale those up to 8"

Of course, you'd need a couple of turrets to keep it up... I'm sure the barrels would over heat pretty fast and brutal ammo handling gear to keep up with that kind of consumption.

But you could imagine a 1/2 dozen cannons like that doing a 30sec stonk using modern firecontrol would be terminal to just about anything...and aything that can survive that is a job for an "arc-light" style mission by B-52 squadron....and anything that can survive *that* and keep firing back probably shouldn;t be attacked by Marines anyway. not from the sea anyway.

The HMS Hood carried battle... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

The HMS Hood carried battle ship size guns, but didn't have battle ship armor. It gave that up in favor of speed. That experiment resulted in a ship that quickly got itself into a kill zone, but didn't have the armor to survive long enough to make use of it’s guns.

There are several issues at... (Below threshold)
Cro:

There are several issues at play here. The first is survivability. There is almost nothing in an enemy aresenal save a small nuke that could sink one of these BB's. It took a ton of bombs and torpedoes to sink there closest competition Yamato during WWII. No enemy will get that close or have enough munitions to do the same with an Iowa Class.

Another issue is weight on target... with enhanced munitions, no present or projected ship in our arsenal send as heavy a round down range as an Iowa Class BB. None. period.

The last issue is that if the Navy dumps the BB they will be doing so in direct contradiction to LAW. They lawfully cannot do so until a viable replacement is IN SERVICE.

We can re-engine, re-man, and upgrade an Iowa class much more cheaply than we can build the DD(X) which will sink the first time they get popped with a missile.

It's nice to build sleek new ships..but just like the fact that the B-52 MUST soldier on, so too should the Iowa's... because we can't replicate what they can do on another platform. And that's what REALLY ought to bother us.

Cro, you're absolutely righ... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Cro, you're absolutely right about the difficulty in sinking a battleship. But it's not impossible -- look at the Arizona, the Oklahoma, the Bismarck, the Tirpitz, the Scharnhorst, the Hood, the Prince of Wales, the Repulse, the Royal Oak, the Barham, the Fuso, the Yamashiro, the Ise, the Hyuga, the Kongo, the Kirishima, the Hiei, the Haruna, the Ise, the Hyuga, the Yamato, and the Musashi, all sunk during World War II.

Further, cro, one doesn't need to sink the ship to make it useless. A "soft kill" or a "mission kill" hit is far easier -- take out the screws, the radar masts, the radio antennae, the rudders, or a dozen other unarmored parts and the Iowa becomes nothing more than 57,000 tons of floating junk.

Further, while they have found uses in every conflict they've been a part of, every single action they've taken since Inchon could have been done just as easily -- or even more efficiently -- by other ships.

The days of the battleship are over. Let them rest in honorable retirement.

J.

Great article, Jay. I toure... (Below threshold)
stan25:

Great article, Jay. I toured the Mighty Mo when she was mothballed in Bremerton Wa, in the early 1970s. Mighty impressive to a 16 year old kid. Kind ironic that the sinking of the USS Arizona, the pride of the US Navy, started started a war that spread the United States influence all around the world and the most destructive war in the history of mankind was ended on the quarterdeck of a battleship.

The last dying gasp of the battleship was the night action in the Surgaino Strait in the Phillipines, during the Leyte invasion. This action decimated the main Japanese battleship taskforce and brought the demise of the ship faster.

Yes I know that the heyday of the battleship was over the minute the Germans turned tail at the Battle of Jutland, but there sitll something about the mystic of the battleship that holds me in awe.

I salute all of the sailors, from the lowly fireman to the four star Admiral, that served on them and fought and died on them in the performance of their duties. We will never see them in any action again. The world now belongs to the Aircraft carriers and the airplanes that they now carry.

Jay Tea, why don't you see ... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea, why don't you see if you can find the Iowa or Wisconsin a home?

Don't laugh; blogger Ward Brewer of Operation Enduring Service is signing papers in Mexico City to take possession of DD-574 USS John Rogers, the most highly-decorated surviving Fletcher-class destroyer in... about an hour from now.

The Brits figured out the s... (Below threshold)
llamas:

The Brits figured out the shore-bombardment-before-beach-assault problem, along about June 1944.

There are some on-shore targets that are very suited to large naval-rifle fire - but only some. Similarly, aerial bombardment - but only some. The most effective weapons for 'softening up' immediate shore defenses in advance of the over-the-beach phase on D-Day were the mass rocket launching vessels developed by DMWD of the Royal Navy. These consisted of smaller tank-landing craft adapted to fire really huge salvoes opf relatively-small rocket projectiles. IIRC, the best of them mounted over 1200 4" rockets, and the length and width of the beaten zone could be widely varied by aiming the batteries and adjusting the firing rate and the speed of the vessel.

Not without their issues, of course, but the immediate post-landing descriptions of eg LtCdr N.S. Norway RNVR, who was on the beach hours after the landings for technical analysis, showed that, when used correctly, these weapons cleared wide, long paths - of everything. Land-based analogies would be the German and Russian massed-rocket launchers, among the most feared and effective weapons of close-quarter infantry combat.

llater,

llamas

The Marine Corps is not "pa... (Below threshold)
Tom:

The Marine Corps is not "part of the Navy." The Marine Corps is a separate service that, like the Navy, is part of the Department of the Navy. You may have noticed that the present chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is a general in the Marine Corps. That wouldn't be the case if Marines were part of the Navy and therefore subordinate to its leadership.

There is no question the ba... (Below threshold)
Corky Boyd:

There is no question the battleship fills a niche no other weapons system can. It can unload a massive amounts of explosives at a sustained rate. But it comes at a price.

As you point out, they are manpower hogs in an era of tight manpower constraints. The specialties required don't fit with modern technologies. Training career people to operate oil powered steam turbines, which no ship has been built with in 30 years doesn't fit with today's lean budgets. It would be better to install effecient gas turbines, but then again how much money are we going to throw down the drain.

It's easy for the marines to tell the navy what they should have, but would the marines give up three batallions in exchange for keeping two battlesips in the inventory. I doubt it. But that's the manpower tradeoff. The dollar tradeoffs are much larger

Also ask the few marines still around from WWII whether they would have preferred a laser guided 500 poound bomb that can take out a pillbox in a single shot or having to wait in turn for large caliber naval gunfire. Laser guided weapon CEPs are measured in inches, not hundreds of yards.

New naval gunfire systems are in development that will combine laser accuracy and extended range capabilities well beyond a battleship's 16 inch guns, albeit with less tonnage. They won't be on battleships. They will be on new modern warships that can defend themselves in the anti-shipping missile era.


Funny the Marine Corps want... (Below threshold)
Howie:

Funny the Marine Corps want to keep this. Does any of them remember the lectures from Naval Science in NROTC? The age of the battleship is over. An Aegis Cruiser is a much more capable warship. Not sure of how it would soften up shore defenses, but I am sure the LPDs with there AV-8s and helos can do the same thing.

Jay Tea, a battleship geek?... (Below threshold)
tyree:

Jay Tea, a battleship geek? cool. I must say that we need to get serious about developing a replacement for the old Iowas. The 8" gun with automatic loading mechanism and the ability to elevate to 45 degrees would probably be able to put shells at the same range across the same real estate. Missles are fine if you have adequate intel as to the location of the enemy. Add a flying deck on the back for attack helocopters and Harriers. We could use a few of those. The Marines deseve the support. I say we name one them the Roger Young in honnor of the man and Robert Heinlein, who named a starship after him in the book "Starship Troopers".

As I remember it, Reagan se... (Below threshold)

As I remember it, Reagan sent the battleships during the 1980s to fulfill a mission that, fortunately, they were able to carry out -- at a time when the U.S. long-range bomber fleet consisted of big, slow, extremely unstealthy B-52s.

It's true that a battleship is even bigger and slower than a B-52, but who was watching battleships in those days? The day of the battleship was already over twenty years ago!

You can't always go to war with the equipment you want...

Hmmm.The objection... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

The objection the USMC has for the retirement of the BBs is that the replacement hull, the DD(X), is singularly unimpressive at this time and incapable of actually completing the mission.

The DD(X) is a revision of how the USN builds and operates naval vessels since it incorporates massive automation, to reduce crewing requirements, and an all electric drive. The DD(X) is also supposed to, at some future point, be refitted with one of the very first active duty rail guns. The current prototype naval rail gun, for the DD(X) program, involves the ability to shoot a 5kg projectile some 250 miles with an impact energy sufficient to dig a 40' dia, 20' deep hole. About 10 times per minute, per gun.

The problem is that is the *future* plan. The current plan has the DD(X) armed with a 155mm artillery gun and missiles. The missiles will work ok, but they're very expensive and can only be carried in limited numbers before replenishment. And replenishment takes a considerable amount of time. The 155mm artillery guns, similar to what the US Army and USMC use, is frankly a joke.

The issue the USMC has is that the Marine Corps mission is to do the mission, regardless of circumstances. We all hope that the Marines won't get sent into combat without massive air and naval support, but that's not necessarily going to be true at all times and in all conditions. It's very true that air power is decisive, but it's also highly dependent on weather conditions and the presence of SAMs. While most US military aricraft are all-weather, there are some weather conditions that preclude this. Some of the massive sandstorms in Iraq has caused enormous amounts of trouble for US aircraft providing ground support. The presence of SAMs on the ground could also force an immediate switch in priorities from a ground support role to an anti-SAM role. Which would suck if you're the guy on the ground waiting for a JDAM.

I think one problem though is that every is assuming that the Marines primary concern involves an amphib invasion, which is not necessarily so. Naval gun fire is useful in many other situations in both pre-amphib, post-amphib and non-amphib. As long as you're within 20 miles of a coastline, a BB's gun can scratch your back.

Now the disadvantage of a BB's naval gun is that it is a naval gun. It's designed to shoot in a flat trajectory because it's designed to kill other ships, not necessarily to provide ground fire support. But I don't think a 155mm artillery piece is really an adequate replacement either. And the funding numbers also are interesting. The DD(X) program is going to cost something like at *least* $1 billion per DD(X).

IMHO that's ridiculous for a platform providing 155mm support. If it had the naval rail gun, then that's a whole 'nother story. But it doesn't. And I frankly think a lot can be done with refitting the BBs we have on hand. Sure they're old and largely obsolete. I still don't understand why we can't rip out the insides and fully modernize them. Sure a "soft" kill would disable a BB, it would do the same for a CV too, but that hasn't stopped the USN from building new CVs. As for the difficulty in building replacement guns and such, I frankly don't buy that.

The one possible, and flawed, example might be the experience the Israelis had in the 1973 War (I think). due to the performance of aircrafting bombing and the relative cost savings of having aircraft that can cover the country vs artillery pieces that were far more limited in scope, the Israelis bought a lot of aircraft and not a lot of artillery.

When the Egyptians started to use SAMs en masse, that cause enormous problems for the IAF in their ground support role and many ground units were inadequately serviced. An over-reliance on any single system, weapon or platform, is a mistake. Flexibility is a must as a lack of flexibility will result in operational plans to take advantage of it.

Considering that the DD(X) program is unlikely to provide a sufficient gun platform within a decade, retiring the BBs prior to having a proven DD(X) program is unwise.

Tom,"The Marine Co... (Below threshold)
Dave:

Tom,

"The Marine Corps is not "part of the Navy."

Sorry, the DOD begs to differ.

"... The Military Departments (DoD Directive 5100.1) are the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force (the Marine Corps is a part of the Department of the Navy). ..."

FROM http://www.defenselink.mil/odam/omp/pubs/GuideBook/DoD.htm

I guess that also explains why future Marine Corps officers go to Annapolis.

Dave

Jay Tea, you mentioned that... (Below threshold)
Cro:

Jay Tea, you mentioned that all that needs to be done to a BB is a soft kill. The same is EXACTLY true for the DD(X)...and infinitely more achievable. Except after the kill, therre won't be anything left floating to repair.

You make it sound as if it's easy to kill a BB by siting those sunk during the war... but there's nothing comparable out there anymore. Anti-air systems have evolved to reduce the threat of massive waves of aircraft trying to overwhelm defences.

The BB is hard to kill and throws a big round...and it already exists... The DD(x) cannot say the same in any of those categories. Old does not mean worthless.

I recently tourned the New ... (Below threshold)
sissoed:

I recently tourned the New Jersey, a "museum-ized" battleship in Camden, same class as the Wisconsin, and it appears to me that "museuming" a ship does not so transform it that it cannot be turned back into an active-duty ship, if we decide we need it. Indeed, the Wisconsin is already a tourist-attraction, in Norfolk. I haven't been there yet, but comparing the websites for the New Jersey and the Wisconsin, it appears that the Wisconsin is in pretty much the same condition as the New Jersey. Both ships are set up to allow tourists to walk around the ships, and both allow groups to spend overnights aboard. So why all this hullabaloo about making the Wisconsin into a "museum" like the New Jersey, when it appears that the Wisconsin already IS, operationally, in basically the same condition as the New Jersey? Isn't it true that changing the legal status of the Wisconsin won't have any real effect on the effort it would take to make it operational, since it is already the case that even today, it would take a vast effort to make the Wisconsin operational? What will be done to the Wisconsin if it is made a "museum" that has not already been done to it to make it into the tourist attraction it is today? People shouldn't think that "museuming" a ship has the finality of scrapping it. If "museuming" a ship makes it significantly harder to re-activate than "mothballing" it, which is what the Navy does with old ships that aren't scrapped, I would like to know what the significant effects are, and how much additional time and money we would have to spend to de-museum-ize the ships than to de-mothball them.

My two cents:"Soft... (Below threshold)
Wanderlust:

My two cents:

"Softkills" these days will always be a risk: recall the New Zealander, Bruce Simpson, who built a "DIY Cruise Missile" for $5,000 in parts (story here: http://www.interestingprojects.com/cruisemissile/diary.shtml)

And yes, airpower is always a formidable challenge. Recall that Rummy himself is on record as saying the CVN's are hugely vulnerable to air strikes due to their sheer size.

At the same time, if you tear apart a BB hull and rebuild the innards, at the end of the day, you still have a solid hull to work with; one that you do not have to build from scratch. It wouldn't be a pretty project, but at least it can be done, and I can't believe it would cost as much to do as is slated for DD(X).

Hell, for that matter, you could rearrange the real estate occupied by one of the main turrets into a multiple launch platform for Tomahawks.

/just sayin'

I've heard this attributed ... (Below threshold)
Nate:

I've heard this attributed to a USMC officer the last time this discussion came up, "it's nice to have a projectile that costs less than the target." It'd be frikkin' expensive to conduct a bombardment when every piece of ordnance costs a million bucks or more. You could shoot (on the order of) a thousand 16" shells for that cost. The battleship is pretty seriously outclassed for any open water actions. A missile cruiser/destroyer/frigate has more range, for less cost. However, for softening up an area target like a beach, there's nothing that can do what the battleship can. Remember, softening up a beach isn't just blowing up bunkers. At Normandy, the idea was to intentionally have some rounds/bombs land short of the defenders and land on the beach to create cover for the landing force. Think about the economics of cratering a beach with cruise missiles that cost a million a pop. Think about all the stuff you could have blown up with those missiles.

"Forgive me for doubting th... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

"Forgive me for doubting the word of a fast mover pilot, but I'll trust the grunts to know and they love the a-10. I also like the concept of the right tool for the job, if you disagree, take your car apart with a leatherman tool and get back to me. The f-16 and f-18 are great fighters but as close air support- I'll take the a-10."

Taking my car apart with a letherman is a bad analogy. The F-16 has been designed and functioning as the CAS support aircraft for 20 years. It, to this day, delivers more A2G attacks, delivers more ordinance and functions as a CAS aircraft far more than it does as a dogfighter.

Even on intercept we flew with bowling-ball configs that carried more ordinance than the A-10 could carry.

Grunts can say they love the A-10 because it's down in the mud with them...however more enemy armor is destroyed by the Vipers. Mission sortie and effectiveness isn't even close. Friendly fire from the fast movers is also less than 10% than that of the slow movers.

Thems the facts...like them or not.

All of you folks are missin... (Below threshold)
Chad:

All of you folks are missing a couple of very pertinent points.
1.) Modernizing a battleship will cut down on the # of crew required

2.) Modernizing a battleship will give you a floating command and control facility that is unmatched in our current inventory.

3.) Modernizing both remaining battleships will cost less than 1 DDX class destroyer, and we'll still have the baddest SOBs on the water, well, on the water.

Nostalgia for the battleshi... (Below threshold)
K:

Nostalgia for the battleship is natural. The ship is the culmination of natural war design - that is a weapon that is mobile, heavily fortified, and destructive.

But even before the airplane the battleship had becomes more of an ideal than an effective way to run navies. The destroyer was needed to iprotect it from fleets of torpedo boats. And later from submarines. And destroyers, even though better targets than torpedo boats, were themselves very effective in torpedo attactks against battleships.

In reality you needed the battleship mostly when slugging it out with other battleships. But they were a grand vision. And majestic.

HeyJust wanted to le... (Below threshold)
Bfalcon:

Hey
Just wanted to let you know that I've never been to your site, but I am impressed with your writing. Just one small squabble, monitors actually aren't those specialized British ships during WWI and WWII, monitors were around way way before that. In fact a monitor is an early battleship. They are not limited to just one gun, many have numerous ones. However, you may be thinking of the most famous of this class of warship, the USS Monitor (think US Civil War)

Thanks for the kind words, ... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Thanks for the kind words, Bfalcon, but no, I did really mean monitors.

They received little glory, but did their duties honorably. And while not very pretty, they do have a certain charm to them...

J.

The Navy cannot Legally dec... (Below threshold)
Chad:

The Navy cannot Legally decommission the BBs. It's illegal until they have a replacement capability in place. Not just designed, in place. And I have to take exception to the idea that we can just walk up any beach we want. The Chinese, North Koreans, and some others out there might dispute that fact.

A lovely letter to the demi... (Below threshold)
James:

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.


I have read most of the pos... (Below threshold)
Ted:

I have read most of the post and some of you don't have any idea of what a modernized BB can do. In 1968 BB NJ was reactivated and a program began called Gun Slinger. This program cost around $100K. It demonstrated that an Iowa could fire a 280mm Sabot round 50+ miles. That was 1968. Today with the technology available and the advantages of a major caliber gun 200+ miles is feasible. So a BB could carry close to 1300 Rounds for their 16" guns. You also have the advantage of Kinetic Energy. A Mach 3 round weighting 500lbs is going to really do some damage. It will also enable you to take out deeply buried and hardend targets. The next advantage is responsive tactical fires that have sustainment and volume. This is what air power lacks. Will DDX have this? No.

The USMC has said in hearings to congress that they will need a MINIMUM of 24 DDX destroyers in order to have a credible NSFS capability in a Theater of operations. So that means the Navy would have to build about 32 DDX destroyers that cost anywhere from 3.2 Billion to 7 Billion dollars. Where in the first Gulf War we had 2 Iowa Class Battleships that provided all of the NSFS for troops ashore and were HIGHLY PRAISED.

If you have a real interest in this topic you should visit our site.

http://www.usnfsa.org

there you can download a brief that explains the Navy's position and our counter position. I think you will see the Navy has been deceptive about battleships and their capabilities.




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