21st Century Battleships

     An article by Christopher Brown in the February 1997 issue of US Naval "Proceedings" describes candidates for future "Q" command flagships.  He listed several options, but overlooked the Iowa class battleships, which are perfect for this role.  Each of the Navy's four old flagships (LCCs) require a crew of 500-800 sailors and provide no combat power.  Battleships require a crew of 1550 sailors, but this can be reduced to 1200 by removing their old 5-inch guns. The Iowa class battleships are already configured to serve as flagships and operate unmanned aerial vehicles (below) to relay real-time information back to a battle staff.  They can steam at 33 knots, which is twice the speed of current flagships, so they can accompany modern surface ships and react faster to world events.  Removing the 5-inch gun crews would provide extra berthing spaces for Joint Task Force personnel, and the option of adding more missile launchers to increase firepower. 

     Two battleships should return to service and replace the two 35-year old Blue Ridge class flagships, and to fill several other roles.  One battleship could serve as the 7th Fleet's flagship in Japan, and another as the 6th Fleet's flagship in Italy.  Fleet flagships do not make lengthy deployments, so fuel costs would be low.  Since battleships carry anti-ship, and 32 Tomahawk missiles, plus nine 16-inch guns, they do not require escorts when reacting to most world events, and can provide a sea control capability if necessary.  Finally, no ship can "show the flag" better than a battleship.

     Another role battleships can provide is defense against Theater Ballistic Missiles (TBM)s.  An April 1996 Naval "Proceedings" article by ballistics expert Commander Rick Denny "A Better Naval ABM System" describes the battleship's 16-inch guns as "the quintessential anti-TBM system".  Firing nine 2000 lbs air-burst shells at a missile will guarantee a kill; like skeet shooting on a massive scale. Current anti-TBM plans require MACH 3+ missiles to hit MACH 3+ missiles, referred to as "hitting a bullet with a bullet". Tests have been very expensive and mostly disappointing.  Cost is a factor since experts insist that two missiles should be fired at each target to increase chances for a kill. Therefore, for every $100,000 SCUD launched, two million-dollar missiles will be launched is a desperate attempt to shoot it down.  In contrast, a 16-inch shell costs around $500 and can create a huge airburst to guarantee kills.  

     When all four battleships were decommissioned a decade ago, the Navy said it could fill the shore fire support void with new "arsenal ships".  However, none were built because counter battery radar can easily determine the precise origin of missiles and naval gunfire offshore.  A single missile hit, torpedo, or a volley of rocket fire could instantly destroy an arsenal ship loaded with missiles and no protective armor.  A heavily armored battleship cannot be seriously damaged by modern anti-ship missiles, so its the only ship which can safely approach a shoreline and engage hidden coastal defense forces.  

     Navy ships today have just a quarter inch of armor, while the battleships are protected by several inches of steel.  During World War II, one Iowa battleship was hit directly by a solid steel 5-inch round, which caused a small dent.  A battleship suffered a direct hit by a 152mm shell off Korea, but it only broke open one hatch. Since Pearl Harbor, when semi-manned World War I battleships were sunk in port, no US battleship has been sunk, let alone severely damaged.  In contrast, over the past 20 years, whenever a modern cruiser, destroyer, or frigate has been hit by a single missile or mine, they have struggled to stay afloat.  The Navy is always in need of target ships, so why not use one of the older battleships.  Navy task forces could fire hundreds of harpoon missiles, tomahawk missiles, hellfire missiles and even 5-inch gun projectiles at the target battleship and cause only minor damage.

     The firepower of the battleships nine 16-inch guns is well known, and new sabot shells allow ranges in excess of 100 miles.  Naval guns are especially effective because they fire shells like bullets, e.g. faster than the speed of sound.  While radar and the noise of aircraft, missiles, howitzers, and mortars provide time to take cover, a battleship can explode nine 2000 lbs shells on a target without warning.  In addition, troops can fire back at aircraft and ground pieces, but they can only hide and wait for the battleships to go away.  Unfortunately, U.S. Navy only has 5-inch guns left in the fleet which deliver only 90lbs projectiles, and its new $50,000 5-inch extended range munition delivers just a 19lbs payload.

        During an interview about the 1944 Normandy landing published in "The German Generals Talk", German Field Marshall von Rundstedt said, "Besides the interference of the Air Forces, the fire of your battleships was a main factor in hampering our counter-stroke.  This was big surprise, both in its range and effect."  German General Blumentritt remarked that US Army officers who interrogated him after the war did not seem to realize what a serious effect naval bombardment had on German defenders.  In Korea and Vietnam,  the battleships boldly cruised just off the coast destroying targets whose air defenses had downed hundreds of US attack aircraft.   

     The planned construction of two flagships will cost ten times more than reactivating two Iowa class battleships, which were refitted just 15 years ago.  A battleship with 1200 crewmen can combine the capabilities of a flagship (800 crewmen), a cruiser (350 crewmen), an artillery regiment (2000 men), and an anti-TBM system into one warship.  Many Congressmen are anxious to field effective missile defenses, perhaps anti-TBM funds could be used to reactivate two Iowa class battleships, a cost the Navy estimates at just $200 million.  This is certainly wiser than spending one billion dollars for each new command ship.

      The Navy claims that battleships are expensive to operate and manpower intensive, ignoring the fact that an aircraft carrier with air wing costs five times more to operate and requires four times more sailors.  Defense contractors have pushed the idea that million dollar Tomahawk missiles can provide precision firepower, ignoring the fact that only 288 Tomahawks were fired during the entire Persian Gulf war because of a lack of suitable targets, while battleships fired over 1000 $500 16-inch shells with twice the explosive power.  The Navy could truly leap ahead by modifying the battleships to use liquid propellant rather than the manpower intensive "powder bag" system used for over 100 years.

      The Navy’s only rational excuse may be that manpower limits make reactivating two battleships an impossibility. This is where the Marines, who are big battleship supporters can save the day. (see the January 1998 issue of the "Marine Corps Gazette")  The Marine Corps provided gun crews for Navy ships until World War I, however, it may be easier to just transfer personnel funding.  A Marine Corps with 168,000 active duty Marines and two Iowa class battleships will be far more effective than the current force of 172,000 Marines and no battleships.  If the Marine Corps truly wants the firepower of 18 16-inch guns, it should agree to transfer funding for 4000 personnel to the Navy. This will provide 3000 sailors for two battleships, and 1000 for shore-based training and logistics support.  Decommissioning the two old LCC Blue Ridge Class flagships will cover operating costs, and free another 1000 sailors.

      As a result, the Navy could add two battleships which can serve as flagships, cruisers, anti-TBM systems, and shore bombardment ships and save money with Marine Corps manpower. This is far cheaper than building new ships, and any battleship system deemed outdated can be replaced.  21st Century battleships represent a chance to boost America's military power at little cost.  

                                     Carlton Meyer  editorG2mil@Gmail.com

Expert Commentary - FORWARD TO THE PAST

The four Iowa Class battleships represent the pinnacle of the gun shipbuilder's art.  They combine speed with protection and massive firepower.  They epitomize the idea of "naval presence" wherever they go.  They are too valuable to waste in an uncertain world.  Unfortunately, the New Jersey  (BB-62) and the Missouri (BB-63) are in process to become tourist attractions, while the Iowa (BB-61) has been illegally towed to San Francisco at the behest of an anti-war senator who wants it for tourist purposes.  I say this even though I live less than 6 miles from where BB-62 will spend its days, and had a letter published in a large South Jersey newspaper on ways to make it a great attraction.

You can't build ships like this today.  Much of the armor was forged on site at the yards where they were built.  The tooling is long gone.  They are very low mileage ships and have been upgraded within the past 20 years.  Not my idea of upgrading, but I'm an Army puke, so what could I possibly know?  Quite a bit, since I'm an Artillery Airborne Ranger Army puke who has a good understanding of reality and fantasy, although the people in the Department of the Navy far exceed me in the latter category due to their daily practice.

If we rescue the Iowa and Wisconsin (BB-64) from the touristas, they could serve as fleet flagships in the Med and Western Pacific.  Their presence means any landing force (Marine or Army Airborne) can be supported with serious firepower that stays close to shore.  Can you visualize an Aegis cruiser sitting a kilometer off a hostile shore, daring an enemy to fire at it?  With two 5" guns and no armor plate?  Four .51 caliber heavy machine guns would cause $100 million in damage in less than a minute, if you were LUCKY.  If you weren't, those guns would detonate exposed Harpoon missiles and punch through the hull to detonate the warheads of the SM-2 or Tomahawk missiles.  Then you have a real debacle for the Navy to explain.  To prevent this, the small ships will stay too far out at sea to be harmed by machineguns.  But rocket salvoes from cheap launchers would do the same thing, so the ships have to be over the horizon.  And if they are over the horizon, there is no NAVAL PRESENCE. 

Missiles are high value target weapons.  You can't fire million dollar missiles at hundred dollar targets for long, and expect to have any war reserve left.  You can't get missiles off an assembly line at 100 per day.  You CAN'T AFFORD to fire 1,000 Tomahawks/Harpoons at a Third World army.  You CAN AFFORD to build massive shotgun rounds for battleships that cover a large portion of the sky with 10mm steel balls and 3" flechettes to knock down distant missiles.  You can afford to sabot 1000 # 11" rounds for a 16" gun to give you 80 km range, even if you use Army Copperhead technology for the 11" rounds.  A half-ton 11" round is the same weight as a Tomahawk warhead; it moves faster with more metal for fragmentation and can be built with a penetrator nose that would drive deep into anything before detonating.

  If sanity takes hold in the Pentagon and two battleships are recommissioned, the Marine Corps or the ARMY should fund further firepower upgrades.  I'd have the Tomahawks removed and replaced with 6 MLRS "six packs" and 2 ATACMS missiles per side.  Why?  MLRS and ATACMS are ground support weapons, not strategic attack systems.  I'd keep Tomahawks on the little ships.  I'd double the number of Phalanx 20mm Close In Weapons Systems to 8, at least double their magazine capacity to 6,000 rounds, and play with some other anti-missile/rocket/torpedo/mine ideas for more cheap protection.  The center 5" mount on each side would be replaced with a Slammer Six style 70mm HYDRA rocket launcher that can fire 240 17 # HE warheads into six football fields within 10 km of the ship in less than a minute.  And the cost is peanuts, compared to virtually anything else.  That's more weight of metal (240 x 17 # = 4080 #) than a single AP 16" round (2900 #) or 2 HE 16" rounds (1900 # each).  It's far more than any salvo of 5" rounds (4080 divided by 70 = 58 rounds) could hope to be delivered in a timely fashion.   

Battleships also can provide revolutionary long-range firepower by firing ramjet rounds, an idea suggested by Carlton Meyer.  Ramjets are quite simple in operation (fuel sprayed into a chamber where incoming air has been heated by the intakes, the chamber and friction), but tricky to utilize because you need a high initial speed (Mach 2 at least) to start the ignition process.  The launcher to get the round to ignition speed is the expensive component, UNLESS you already have a launcher available like 16 inch guns aboard the Iowa (BB-61) and Wisconsin  (BB-64).  The cost per round is rather low since it needs few moving parts (fuel pump and nozzle from fuel tank to spray fuel into the ignition chamber, some sort of device to allow the heated air to build up before putting fuel in the chamber) and the potential for speed/range is enormous, since it moves at speeds up to Mach 5.   

Let's start with the shape of the Ramjet Round (RR).  I make it with thin steel walls (maybe 5mm thick, reinforced by engineered polymers [plastic]) at critical points.  The combustion chamber has to be hardened against heat, but a ceramic liner could do that.  The RR is lengthened to provide room for fuel forward of the chamber.  The air intakes are formed into the round and maintain the structural integrity of the round for launch.  A guidance package is placed in the nose; it can be a homing (laser) package, a GPS system for autonomous long-range missions, or other systems for other targets.  If we go with a total RR weight of 1000 kg, existing battleship 16" propellants will be sufficient to give it a high boost speed.  We can also use a Base Bleed (BB) adapter on the round to reduce drag and a Rocket Assisted Projectile (RAP) motor for a final burst of speed, if desired.  The RR could carry some HE, depending on the mission, or be used as a kinetic energy penetrator/kill vehicle.  It would be launched as a non-spinning projectile, to make things easier on the guidance package.  Think of this as a REAL BIG Copperhead  (laser spot seeking) artillery round, or GPS guided round like the Navy's puny 5-inch ERGM round.

As I write this, I'm thinking of one drawback: if the RR is, say, 14 ft long, it would be too big for the magazine of either the Big Corn or the Big Cheese.  Hmmm; but wait!  If the RR was made in multiple sections that could be assembled (screwed together) as the round is prepared for firing, the problem could be solved.   By using interrupted step threads similar to those used on a 155mm howitzer breech, the assembly rotation would be minimized to a quarter turn. The lower section would have the combustion chamber and rear steering fins, the middle section would have the air intakes, fuel tank/fuel pump/nozzle and main steering fins, and the upper section would be air intakes and the guidance package.  The BB/RAP assembly could be screwed on the base before loading.  As the sections are connected, they are tested for electrical connectivity and the entire assembled round would be tested before loading.  Connections can be hard wired and placed so the locking of the threads makes the circuit.  Electrical power for the RR would be battery augmented with a small wind powered generator.  The wind generator rotor blades are in opposite intakes to allow one set of rotors to turn the armature and the other to turn the magneto in opposite directions, generating more electricity for the weight. The generator would be mounted perpendicular to the guidance package nose.  This generator would allow for high electrical power in a smaller package than a standard generator.

 RRs come perilously close to negating the need for Tomahawk cruise missiles on a BB, which could be replaced with MLRS/ATACMS for ground support missions.  If the task force had early warning of incoming cruise missiles or aircraft, RR HE rounds with heat seeker heads could be used to dive on a target and destroy it by impact or proximity fuzed detonation.  Long range RR could be used to disrupt air defense systems by impacting on radar sites, missile sites, ADA gun sites and  C3I centers.  They could clear the way for manned aircraft and cruise missiles, because they are much faster and far less costly than either one. 

If I was REALLY off my medicine, a RR makes an interesting ABM interceptor to put a small missile near an incoming warhead.  Think of the late Dr.  Gerard Bull's HARP (High Altitude Research Program) that used a sleeved 16" gun in Puerto Rico to put small telemetry packages some 40 miles up in the atmosphere.  You could almost use a Phoenix missile hardened to Copperhead standards on a RR as an ABM/ATM interceptor.  Use a smaller fuel supply, lighten up the RR, put a booster on the Phoenix to give it additional range and speed, and it might work.  Put Aegis systems on land and let them be the C3I for the system.  The available technology and current gun manufacturing expertise might make this a distinct possibility.  Consider using aerostats on borders and shorelines, with look-down radar and sensors, tied into an Aegis directed system so not even a sub-launched cruise missile would be safe from identification and interception.   

Imagine, the Navy supplanting the Air Force as the ABM lead service, placing 16" naval rifles around the country and covering our allies with the same weapons.  What a boost to funding and manpower; heck, the Marines could man a few sites, as well as the various Army National Guard units.  Full circle, as the Navy is, once again, the guardian of the nation.  Do you think they'll make me an honorary Navy person?  I doubt I'd get an "attaboy" each.  But, I'm not in this for the glory; I want to make it very difficult for the bad guys to do great harm to this nation.  BATTLESHIP = PRESENCE.  BATTLESHIP = UNSINKABLE FIRING PLATFORM.  BATTLESHIP = 24/7 ON-CALL DESTRUCTION.  BATTLESHIP = AEROSTAT WATCHING/ SENSING EVERYTHING WHILE TETHERED TO THE BATTLESHIP.  BATTLESHIP = NO MORE PROBLEM.  All aircraft are transitory; they can't hold the ground or the sea.  Troops hold the ground, gun warships hold the sea.  Battleships are the ULTIMATE gun warships, and with a little imagination, can do things that people thought impossible. 

                                     Larry A. Altersitz     rgrlarry@aol.com                                                                                

The U.S. Naval Fire Support Association link has several detailed articles arguing for battleship reactivation.

©2002 www.G2mil.com


The Value of Battleships

     Your article on modern amphibious operations highlights the need for battleships.  In 1987, the Naval Historical Center published an extraordinary account of the value of battleships in modern warfare "Operational Experience of Fast Battleships; World War II, Korea, Vietnam".  Here is the document in two parts, PDF format:

Fast Battleships in World War II

Fast Battleships in Korea and Vietnam

                                                            Ted Yadlowsky

Scramjet projectile tested

Wanted to give you some info on the 16" Scramjet projectiles tested under the HARP project with Gerald Bull back in the early 60's.  They successfully test fired 16" Scramjet Projectiles: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/pse/docs/63-4.pdf

I have been emailing back in forth with Andrew J. Higgins, Department of Mechanical Eng., Assistant Professor at McGill University Shock Wave Physics Group, Montreal, Quebec CANADA.  He has been quite helpful and also seems interested in the subject of using the 16" Iowa Class Battleship guns.  He has also said that Sannu Molder, who designed the 16" Scramjet Projectile for HARP is still around and is currently working with Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto and would be happy to discuss his work: smolder@acs.ryerson.ca

Andrew's background is from a project called the Ram Accelerator, which is a ramjet/scramjet that does not carry fuel on board, but rather flies down a tube filled with premixed fuel & oxidizer at high pressure (50-200 bar).  Due the high pressure, the accelerations of the projectile are tremendous (50,000g's) and nearly constant, making the device capable of accelerating projectiles to velocities greater than conventional guns: http://students.washington.edu/~buckwadl/RAM/ram.html

The Ram Accelerator has already been successfully scaled up to 120 mm bore by the US Army Research Lab, and is currently being funding by the U.S. Navy as a possible "muzzle extension" to the current  5" guns to increase muzzle velocity and  range.  If you want to learn more about the ram accelerator, you can contact Prof. Adam Bruckner at the University of Washington:


Bruckner also worked on Project HARP at McGill in the 1960's.

                                                                              Ted Yadlowsky

scramjet.jpgEd.  Coincidentally, the 8-27-01 issue of "Aviation Week" carried an article "Gun Launched Projectile Reaches Hypersonic Free Flight".  This is an Air Force/DARPA project at a test facility in Tennessee which successfully fired a scramjet projectile, although just 1000ft in a enclosed range.  The projectile was launched with a gas gun to a speed of Mach 7.1 followed by the ignition of an  ethylene fueled scramjet.  (Ramjets which exceed Mach 5 are called scramjets).  I often get ridiculed for proposing wild ideas like pneumatic guns and ramjets rounds, so its always a thrill to read that others already employed the idea and conducted actual tests.  Building a compact ramjet is no problem since this projectile (above)  had a diameter of just four inches.  Development and testing cost only $230,000.  The Army and Navy should jump on this breakthrough so their guns can fire Mach 7 rounds hundreds of miles.  More information and the article can be found at this link: AEDC Scramjet

Scramjet Anti-Ballistic Missile Rounds

Ed.  David Maker e-mailed me that long-range 16-inch scramjet gun rounds would be interesting for National Missile Defense, too bad they would burn out in the upper atmosphere.  I agreed, until I realized the obvious and e-mailed him: "Yes scramjets would burn out in the upper atmosphere, but if they are going Mach 7, with little air resistance, how far could they continue to travel on course with their kinetic energy?  Sounds like a math problem."   He wrote back:

     For vertical flight in a ballistic (i.e.,unpowered) trajectory it could travel another vertical 290 kilometers~180miles(=h),  indeed putting it in exoatmosphere (use v(2)=2ah, a=9.8m/s(2), v=mach7=2.4km/sec, solve for "h", added height gained (need ~mach24 to orbit). If such an ekv had small thrusters for controlling the direction of motion it might even target something I presume. This is still marginally exo but extremely interesting.  The scram jet wouldn't have to carry oxygen, could be fired pneumatically so that no heavy jet turbines are needed (It goes to scram-ram jet mode immediately), would give high speed ballistics an order of magnitude more range and height.  I am coming at this with an interest in human space flight  so my hope is that pneumatic propulsion with ram-scram jet mode (or even just an assisted launch X-33) would make to orbit space travel cheap.

                                                                                            David Maker

Ed.  I later realized this would be a great low-orbit anti-satellite weapon, it could even bag a high flying Mach 3 recon jet like the SR-71.  I shared this information with some others in DOD and have heard the idea is quickly making its way to the top.

Battleships Aren't Needed

Ed. The battleship article generated a lot of mail from informed people.  Evidently, the battleship debate, which started in the 1930s, continues on the Internet today, with some people simply hating battleships.  I have read nothing but praise about the battleship support in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, and Kuwait, but some readers insisted that all those accounts were wrong.  Due to the large number of letters, I'll just summarize comments.

1. I mentioned that a battleship did not need escorts when responding to most world events and can provide the sea control of a cruiser if needed.  It is true the battleships have no anti-submarine capabilities and almost no anti-air weapons, so my comparison to a modern cruiser was an exaggeration.  However, when I wrote "most", this accepts that few nations have navies and the only threat are commandos in small boats.  The comparison I made was really with today's LCC command ships, which have no combat capabilities at all.  Having served aboard an LCC, the USS Blue Ridge in 1990, I informed several critics that command ships must go close to shore to communicate with ground elements using backpack radios.  One reader who ridiculed the use of battleships as flagships was not aware they were used as fleet flagships during World War II and Korea.

2. One reader pointed out that the max elevation for a 16-inch gun is 45 degrees, which limits its anti-missile ability.  I agreed, but even at 45 degrees it could eventually hit ascending or descending missiles.  I should have mentioned that it would require a data link with a ship with Aegis radar for targeting.

3. There is tremendous debate about a battleships survivability.  Although I implied they are invulnerable, they can be sunk.  A larger Japanese battleship of an older design, the USS Yamato, was sunk after direct hits from 10 500lbs bombs and 12 torpedoes.  Several former Soviet Admirals said they were terrified of the battleships since they couldn't stop them with massed cruise missile attacks.  Unfortunately, the Navy has never conducted anti-ship missile tests against the battleships.  Former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman has stated that the French Exocet anti-ship missile, which sunk British ships during the 1983 Falklands war, can penetrate 2.75 inches of steel.  An Iowa battleship has steel armor from 6-17 inches thick, compared to just a quarter inch on modern Aegis cruisers and destroyers. 


     The first cruise missiles were Japanese Kamikazes which sunk dozens surface ships during World War II.  The battleship USS Missouri was hit by a Japanese A6M "Zero" Kamikaze, while operating off Okinawa on 11 April 1945. (above) The plane hit the ship's side below the main deck, causing minor damage and no casualties. 

4. One reader claimed that mines make battleship operations almost impossible, citing the 1991 Persian Gulf war.  I  explained that the US Navy's reluctance to devote resources to deal with the mine threat should not reflect badly on the battleships, especially since the battleships still fired 1100 rounds while the Navy fired no 5-inch guns from their billion dollar destroyers and cruisers. The Navy must remove mines before any shore assault anyway.

5. I also learned more about projectiles as two readers questioned the explosive power of 16-inch shells.  A 2000lbs high explosive shell uses only 145 lbs of explosive.  Shawn Welch explained: 

      "That bursting charge is actually pretty large by major caliber shell standards.  Most of the weight is taken up by the walls and such of the shell.  Also, for these big shells, you want the walls and point to have some measure of strength or you can't do things like crater runways or pierce 5 or so feet of concrete.  One of the serious problems with British major caliber rounds was the lack of strength of the HE round...it would break up on hard targets.  This round did not generally break up against hard targets and with a delay fuse will crater a runway rather nicely.  Also, this shell (and especially later ones from the 1980's) were designed to fragment well.  With this sized bursting charge, they are quite lethal to ships when burst in 100 feet or so over the target. But, when compared to the normal weight of the shell, the bursting charge will always seem small." 

      Larry Altersitz added: "145 pounds of dynamite, a less-powerful explosive, makes a big hole and a massive boom.  Modern USAF/Navy bombs may have a better percentage of explosive to weight, but it's still well under 40%.  Fragmentation is the primary killer of people and things; secondaries are usually caused by metal impacting a sensitive explosive and getting it started.  In WWII, the filler was TNT; many of today's projectiles/bombs use something like RDX or C-4, which is a good deal more powerful."

     I looked up a 5-inch shell, only 18.5 lbs HE for a 70lbs projectile, meaning that a 16-inch gun fires seven and half times more explosive power.  The new $50,000 ERGM 5-inch missile with a 19lbs payload must have less than 5lbs spread in quarter pound blocks in submissions, it would have trouble taking down a Nipa hut.   Debating the effectiveness of 50-year old projectiles is pointless since superior 16--inch ammunition can be purchased today.

6. One reader wrote that removing the 5-inch guns to add more Tomahawk missiles was not needed since the Navy already has 7300 tomahawk launchers on its ships, far more than it needs.  I agreed with him, but pointed out the Navy plans to spend billions of dollars to convert two Ohio SSBN ballistic missile submarines to SSGNs with 154 tomahawk missiles each.  Here is yet another example of funds which are better spent on converting battleships.  (see Sept 2001 Naval Proceedings, pp. 89 and the SSGN Scandal.)

7. Two readers disputed the costs to renovate the two battleships, and some people cannot grasp the idea that any outdated system on the battleships can be replaced.  Perhaps new battleships would be better, but I'm sure they would prove far more expensive.  No one disputed my claim that two renovated and fully modernized battleships will cost less than the requirement for two new fleet flagships.

8. One reader noted that it was the destroyers and cruisers which provided the best naval gunfire support to Marines ashore because the battleship rounds were too powerful and too inaccurate for close support.  I agreed, but pointed out the battleships unmatched shore bombardment support was vital, a concept he was unable to grasp.  (See article on ERGMs).  In addition, the accuracy problems of battleships were caused by their use of very old reblended powders.  New 16-inch powder bags would be extremely accurate, and the options for pneumatic fired or liquid propellants offer even greater advantages in range, accuracy, and safety.   Also, cruisers once had 8-inch guns, but now have only 5-inch.

9. Several readers disputed the need for Navy ships to operate close to shore.  This is a more complex issue which I will address in a future article.  In short, when the airpower gods announce that all shore based threats have been destroyed and it is safe for the minesweepers, landing craft, and even cargo ships to go forth, who will lead them into harm's way?  A professional enemy will manage to hide most of his shore batteries and small boats from airpower waiting for targets to appear.  A battleship is an inviting target which can see these threats as they open fire and return fire immediately.  A billion dollar Aegis destroyer is likely to sink after one shore round penetrates and sets off its large stock of missiles.

10. Finally, one reader asked why battleships were mothballed after each war.  The truth is they don't generate huge  peacetime profits like aircraft carriers.  A carrier requires billions of dollars for new aircraft every few years, and expensive aircraft  parts, constant aircraft upgrades, and replacements for crashes.  Industry reps even have cabins onboard carriers and deploy overseas.  There are dozens of aircraft lobbyists tossing millions of dollars into the pockets of Congressmen, but no "battleship" lobbyists.  Ironically, the best known battleship advocate was a naval aviator, former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman.  Aircraft carriers are more powerful and flexible than battleships, but they cost four times more to operate and can't fill the battleships fire support niche.  Any sane person who reads about this issue will discover that a US Navy with 11 carriers and 4 battleships could provide far more land attack power than 12 carriers, and would require less manpower.

Another Battleship Article

     I believe you will find this recent article about battleships informative and useful.  To read the "PDF" file, you need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is free off the internet.  The website below takes you to the Military Review publication proper.  Enjoy! http://www.cgsc.army.mil/milrev/English/JulAug01/indxja01.htm

                                                             Shawn Welch