In the provocative spirit of boyish charms and youthful inexperience, allow me to suggest an idea that is sure to boil your blood and sizzle your sailor soul. The Iowa class battleship is NOT the greatest battleship in American naval history.

Heresy you say? To many Americans, naval history began the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Most Americans know little about Lord Nelson and to many worldly American travelers, Trafalgar is a square in London where the protesters demonstrate. Stephen Decatur has become a footnote in American history, even though forty-six communities in the United States have been named after him. History has a way of shaping perceptions, and the emphasis of WWII history in the American education system explains why the term battleship calls forth the image posted on the right in our minds.

When one even uses the term battleship, the mind is filled with the strength of the nine 16″ guns, the mass of armor plate, the speed of a race horse, and the glory of victory in the fall of ’45. The word has become an icon that represents naval strength, and in the minds of most Americans an image of American military power.

But the term battleship predates World War II and has a meaning that transcends the iconic image of American naval supremacy. “Battleship” was a word coined around 1794 and is a shortened form of the phase “Line of battle ship”. The term became a description given to the age of sail ships-of-the-line in the Royal Navy and later came into formal usage during the late 1880s to describe the new type of Ironclad ships produced at that time. By the time naval scholars and strategists like Julian Corbett and Alfred Thayer Mahan began writing historical and strategic observations about the Age of Sail period, the term battleship had been adopted and thus etched into the rhetoric of naval conversation.

More important than the history of the term was the nature of the ship the term defined. In 1677 the Secretary to the Admiralty Samuel Pepys developed a ship rating system for administrative and military use within the Royal Navy. The rating system was used to determine the size of crew needed on a ship based on the number and weight of the guns on the warship. Revised a half dozen times over a period of 150 years, the rating system as it was during the Napoleonic Wars became the most widely used system by scholars and historians. Below is that rating system, from Wikipedia:

Type Rate Guns Gun decks Men Displacement in tonnes
Ship of the line 1st Rate 100 to 120 3 850 to 875 2,500
2nd Rate 90 to 98 3 700 to 750 about 2,200
3rd Rate 64 to 80 2 500 to 650 1,750
4th Rate 48 to 60 2 320 to 420 about 1,000
Frigate 5th Rate 32 to 44 1 or 2 200 to 300 700 to 1,450
6th Rate 20 to 28 1 140 to 200 450 to 550
Sloop-of-war Unrated 16 to 18 1 90 to 125 380
Gun-brig or Cutter 6 to 14 1 5 to 25 220

Observe the ratings system is simple with only a single metric: guns. The thickness of the armor, ship survivability standards, the speed of the vessel, the volume of space the ship had, the crew size, the displacement of the vessel, and any additional technologies carried by the vessel had no influence whatsoever on this simple system of rating surface combatants. The only standard that mattered was offensive capability as defined by the prominent weapon system of the era.

I believe a similar standard can be applied today for surface combatants to suggest the relevant strength of a naval vessel in context for comparison with another naval vessel in the current naval era. I also believe a modern rating system allows naval scholars to place today’s vessels in context for comparison during strategic discussions across different naval era’s.

A few years ago Bob Work of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments produced a modern rating system for warships (PDF), and with his permission I have adopted this modern rating system when discussing surface combatant force structure in the context of strategy. In the spirit of Samuel Pepys, Bob Work classifies ships in this modern rating system by the single standard of the prominent weapon system in the modern era: the precision guided missile.

Bob Work’s Battle Force Missile Ship Rating System For Surface Combatants

First-rate battle force ships (battleships): Ships armed more than 100 battle force VLS cells, and/or more than 100 battle force missiles;

Second-rate battleships: Ships armed with 90-99 battle force VLS cells, and/or 90-99 battle force missiles;

Third-rate battleships: Ships armed with 60-89 battle force VLS cells, and/or 61-89 battle force missiles;

Fourth-rate battleships/frigates: Ships armed with 48-59 battle force VLS cells, and/or 48-60 battle force missiles;

Fifth-rate frigates: Ships armed with 20-47 battle force VLS cells, and/or 20-47 battle force missiles;

Sixth-rate frigates: Ships designed specifically for the protection of shipping role, armed with either VLS cells or legacy missile systems, and armed with local air defense SAMs and anti-submarine and anti-ship cruise missiles for convoy defense; and

Unrated Flotilla: Warships optimized for a single role, usually either anti-submarine or anti-surface warfare, or for general-purpose naval missions. The distinguishing feature of these ships is that they carry only terminal missile defenses—either in the form of rapid fire guns or short-range terminal defense SAMs.

The following range break points are used to distinguish between SAMs: area air defense SAMs have ranges greater than 48 kilometers (km; approximately 30 miles); local air defense SAMs have ranges between 16 and 48 km (10-30 miles); and a terminal defense SAM has an effective range of less than 16 km (10 miles).

A “battle force missile” is a missile approximately 13 inches in diameter or greater, which covers area SAMs, ASCMs, anti-submarine rockets, and land attack missiles. As PVLS is 28 inches in diameter, for the time being PVLS cells count as 1.5 battle force missiles for purposes of highlighting the combat power of ships with PVLS. Under those terms, the DDG-1000 would be a first rate battle force ship with 120 battle force missiles. AGS and other weapon systems are not rated at this time. Under this model, missiles like ESSM and PAMS do not count towards a “battle force missile.”

So let us apply the rating system, shall we?

There are currently 23 first-rate battleships today including the 22 Ticonderoga (CG-52) class in the US Navy and the Russian nuclear powered Peter the Great. The US Ticonderoga (CG 52) class have 128 strike length VLS cells, six of which are not operational, and 8 Harpoon missiles for a total of 130 battle force missiles. The Russian Peter the Great has twelve, eight-cell revolver VLS launchers, 20 SS-N-19 anti-ship missiles, and 20 SS-N-16 anti-submarine missiles for a total of 136 battle force missiles.

The Japanese Atago class has 90 strike length VLS cells (1×61-cell and 1×29-cell) and 8 Type 90 (SSM-1B) missiles scoring it as a second-rate battleship.

While this is all interesting, I am sure you are wondering why I am claiming how the Iowa class battleship is NOT the greatest battleship in American naval history. The reason is because I believe the Arleigh Burke class second-rate battleship is by far and away the greatest battleship in American naval history… and the numbers suggest it.

To put the Arleigh Burke class into perspective, if the Navy builds 8 more as is currently being discussed, DDG-123 commissioned around 2022 would be expected to serve in the US Navy until 2062 to meet a 40 year service life, meaning the entire Arleigh Burke class would be expected to span at least 70 years of service in the US Navy. That would be longer than the Iowa class battleships that served in WWII and fought in Gulf War I.

Greater longevity is only half the story though. The Arleigh Burke class is more flexible and more capable in the current era of naval warfare than the Iowa class was during any naval era it participated in. The Arleigh Burke class, 62-70 strong, represents greater AAW capability, greater ASW capability, greater land attack capability, and greater ASuW capability than the sum total of all surface ships that make up any other single Navy in the world. We even reconfigured a few of our Burkes to deploy unmanned vehicles for MIW, you know, like the cherry on top. That is before we add ballistic missile defense capability, making this class of battleships not only the master of the seas, but we intend to give the entire battleship class military reach into space.

The comparisons are not close, indeed they can be extended beyond comparisons to just the Iowa class. Has any single class of “Line of battle ship” ever represented as high a percentage of the total global naval firepower at sea in any era? Even during the glory days, the Royal Navy never had a single ship class constitute as much authority of global naval firepower as the Arleigh Burke class does today.

But while you embrace the sense of strength and national pride that the Arleigh Burke class battleship should give every American, we should ponder the strategic warnings of Julian Corbett regarding fleet constitution; in no case can we exercise control by battleships alone. With the LCS falling into the category of an unrated ship, the United States Navy is in full blown pursuit of a ‘battleship only’ fleet constitution.

It is no wonder the fleet is too expensive to maintain, as Julian Corbett warned it would be for all battleship Navy’s, or that we cannot cover the necessary ground, as Corbett also warned. Corbett is still right when he statescruisers are the means of exercising control;…the true function of the battle-fleet is to protect cruisers and flotilla at their special work.” Too bad we don’t have any cruisers in our fine fleet, as per the definition applied by Corbett (or Nelson).

The US Navy today is an all battleship Navy intent on building more battleships and an unrated flotilla of Littoral Combat Ships, and both our nation and Navy enjoys all the perks and pitfalls that comes with this force constitution strategy.




Posted by galrahn in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Total

    Carriers?

  • galrahn

    Aircraft Carriers are not surface combatants.

  • Philip O’Leary

    I would agree with this assement due to the fact that it is the USN’s mainline surface combatant also enjoys a greater range and endurance and most importanly double of the standard missile load and armerment out of NATO and Competitor warships.

  • Byron

    “Aircraft Carriers are not surface combatants”. You got to be kidding me, this argument again? Tell me, Galrahn, what’s the tally, Battleships vs. Carriers? Please, elucidate us.

  • Byron

    Oh, one more: How long that battleship of yours going to float with the bottom blown out of your ship by torpedos?

  • Chap

    Not surface combatants? Maybe to N86, or maybe you mean the offensive capability of the platform without planes is limited, but they sure look like one in the periscope crosshairs….

  • Total

    “Not surface combatants”?

    This is just a little weird. The “Iowa” was a lovely battleship, and in 1945 its main job was to serve as a floating AA battery for the carriers. Today, carriers are the dominant surface ship, and the Arleigh Burke’s primary weapons system (AEGIS + Standard) is aimed at airplanes, not other ships. Contrast that with the original first-rates, which _were_ actually the most powerful ships in the fleet and whose weapons were aimed at other ships.

    And that’s without even considering submarines.

    You’re criticizing the Navy for moving to an all battleship force, but you’re doing it (at least partially) by eliminating from consideration any ship that’s *not* a battleship.

  • pinebull

    “The Arleigh Burke class, 62-70 strong, represents greater AAW capability, greater ASW capability, greater land attack capability, and greater ASuW capability than the sum total of all surface ships that make up any other single Navy in the world. We even reconfigured a few of our Burkes to deploy unmanned vehicles for MIW, you know, like the cherry on top.”

    One of the ways to interpret that statement is that we have spent an enormous amount of money building a capability most other navies find unnecessary and hence don’t invest in (the fact the US has 22 of 23 first-rate battleships illustrates that fact quite nicely).

    In regards to MIW – if we are using Burkes for MIW, that sounds like we either have too many Burkes so we’re using them for missions they aren’t really suited for or not enough MIW assets.

  • http://informationdissemination.blogspot.com/ Galrahn

    “How long that battleship of yours going to float with the bottom blown out of your ship by torpedos?”

    This argument applies for any surface vessel, battleship or not. Submarines and surface combatants serve entirely different roles in the fleet. Engaging a submarine vs surface combatant discussion in this thread would be to drift way off topic.

    Chap, why do we say aircraft carriers and surface combatants if they are the same thing? Because we need surface combatants to protect our aircraft carriers. While aircraft carriers certainly have capabilities that go far beyond what any surface combatant can do, in fleet constitution strategy we must treat aircraft carriers as part of the flotilla due to their requirement for battle-fleet protection to do their work.

  • Raymond III

    The BB, CC/CL dichotomy you’re referring to is a pre-WWI formula, where the French Navy, knowing it could not compete with the RN in a decisive battle, started building cruisers to raid commerce, harass lines of communication, etc. The advantage of cruisers was that they were too fast for the BBs, so if they ever encountered one, they could just run. They were also cheap and therefore plentiful.
    Is your contention that DDG-51s aren’t fast enough or that there aren’t enough of them to adequately cover the required surface area? If the latter is the case, what would you suggest that we do to remedy this? A heavily-armed version of LCS with VLS and Harpoons? Add VLS to the Perrys like the Australians did? Get an entirely new light ship design?
    I completely agree with using the Pepys rating system; it always seemed strange to me that our largest ships were called cruisers and destroyers.

  • Jim

    Well, it would certainly make it politically challenging to build any large surface combatant (a.k.a. “target” to the sub contingency) in that whatever part of the public actually pays attention knows that “battleships” were made obsolete by carriers. Why would we buy obsolete ships?

  • doc75

    The rating system proposed is one-dimensional. Byron has a point about torpedoes. The modern combatant also can employ unmanned assets: surface, subsurface or aerial, and the capabilities of those assets fail to be counted in this system. Meanwhile, amphibious ships like LPD-17 are left to inclusion only in the flotilla. Prior to Pearl Harbor, people weighed the relative power of navies based on the number of battleships they contained which soon proved to be a false metric. I fear that this rating system while indeed capturing the power of AEGIS fails to incorporate the other capabilities needed in a surface force. Based on this metric system, the most powerful ship ever proposed would have been the arsenal ship of the 90s which lacked the C4ISR suite of the AEGIS platforms.

  • http://informationdissemination.blogspot.com/ Galrahn

    doc75,

    That is certainly true, when the metric is singular to precision missiles it will not tell the full story.

    I do think amphibious ships and aircraft carriers must be treated as part of the flotilla when discussing fleet constitution strategy though. These platforms require battle-force protection to do their work for the fleet.

    I don’t think carrying unmanned platforms influence the rating system, the LCS with a full module load is still flotilla, even if every unmanned system had some form of payload.

    There are no instances where an unmanned platform carries a kill weapon, and the role of unmanned platforms is scouting. A flying or floating camera with a small weapon payload is not presence, nor can it replace naval vessels for any role other than scouting or deal with any problem without shooting.

  • Michael H.

    Galrahan: I’ve been following your rating arguments on your blog and here, and I have a question. Could you define your cruiser in the modern sense? Or, from your point of view, what would be the ideal “cruiser” for the USN or a European counterpart? What’s the tonnage, weapon, and drone/helo load out? What would be your target cost? Thanks.

  • Total

    “Because we need surface combatants to protect our aircraft carriers”

    But that’s a different role than the one earlier ships of the battle line had. In the latter case, they were the dominant ships of the sea, in another they are adjuncts (important ones, true) to the dominant ships.

  • Spade

    Raymond: “A heavily-armed version of LCS with VLS and Harpoons? Add VLS to the Perrys like the Australians did? Get an entirely new light ship design?”

    Check out the LCS-I design (Israeli LCS Proposal).
    http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/files/LCS_Lockheed_Israel_Variant_Brochure.pdf
    Torps, VLS, Harpoons, bunch of guns. I dunno about ditching the 76mm for a Phalanx, but Typhoon guns are neat and Springbored said the Israeli Navy was using them for NGFS in Gaze recently. There’s worse ideas and then you’d have a common hull thing going on for logistics and whatnot.

    Although I personally would think a new light ship design wouldn’t be a terrible idea either. Or, hell, one of the many European designed small ships.

  • Larry Schumacher

    G; In the spirit of arguing semantics I would like to suggest the term Battlecruiser for our CGs and DDGs because a Battleship is “supposed” to be able to withstand a hit from any of its own weapons at expected engagement ranges. Although it is reasonable to equate defenses with armor for this discussion these ships have no defense from 5″ AP shellfire thus rating the designation Battlecrusier.

  • Byron

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but your metric does not make sense. Your metric only works if your “battleships” can engage other “battleships”. Our destroyers and cruisers don’t even carry TASM any more, and I rarely see more than 4 Harpoons. That means you aren’t attacking other “battleships”. That leaves sub-surface. It’s a mission that DDGs and CGs do poorly at best, and Navy-wide, is not the threat they are focused on (incorrectly, IMHO). Next is aircraft and missiles: This is the primary mission for the missile ships, killing archers and arrows, and not only protecting the carrier, but the amphibs as well. This, as was said before, was the job of BBs and CLAs in WW2. Your “battleships” now turn to land targets, which they have some ability to perform with TLAM, but political constraints have proven to restrict the use of these weapons.

    So other than protecting the fleet, just what the hell good are your battleships?

  • http://newwars.wordpress.com Mike Burleson

    So, with a single post Galrahn turns the naval blogosphere upside down! More, more!

    But if you are right about the Burkes being the greatest battleship in US history, where do we go from here and how do we top this? I get the impression like the M-1 Abrams tank and the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, we have reached the end of an era. There’s nowhere else to go with the last century platforms updated for the 21st Century. In less than 100 years the destroyer went from less than 1000 tons to breaching the 10,000 ton mark.

    This new century battleship must be something radical, and back to basics. Will it be a tiny FAC, lithe and nimble and available in huge numbers, or something massive like a double-hull arsenal ship able to take numerous missile strikes and keep on fighting? Time will tell.

  • http://midwatchcowboy.blogspot.com midwatchcowboy

    We have another combatant that has 154 VLS cells and the capability to operate as a single unit battle force. It just isn’t on the surface much. The SSGN will be around for about the next 20 years.

    IMO, we haven’t done enough to leverage the sheer capacity of that ship. For example, why haven’t we put ASMs on it? A potential adversary would have to pause to consider the risk to their own fleet, if there is the potential for 100+ ASMs coming at them from underwater.

  • http://informationdissemination.blogspot.com/ Galrahn

    “Correct me if I’m wrong, but your metric does not make sense. Your metric only works if your “battleships” can engage other “battleships”.”

    Why? It is as if you don’t know what a surface combatant is, which i know to be untrue. Today we call them CGs, DDGs, DDs, FFGs, FFs, corvettes, FACs, etc… etc…

    Carriers and Amphibious ships get counted as flotilla. Why? Because they require surface combatants for protection. This is hardly new, brigs were used to move troops in the Napoleonic Wars, very similar to an amphib today. Sure carriers have all kinds of great capabilities, but which nation deploys them without sufficient protection?

    But it really came down to three types of ships historically; battleships, frigates (what Nelson and Corbett called cruisers), and the flotilla. The flotilla did the work of the fleet, the frigates were numerous and dispersed to be the eyes of the fleet (what we would call presence today), and the battleships protected the fleet. Over three hundred years later, things haven’t evolved much beyond the basics here.. with the only real insurgent in the conversation being the submarine.

    Submarines aren’t surface combatants though, so they are pretty much irrelevant to the rating system or a debate on the best battleship.

    Finally, with all due respect to Total, my read of history, including my read of both Mahan and Corbett, would suggest protecting the fleet has always been the role of surface combatants. Whether they were the dominant or adjunct capability at sea in any specific era is completely irrelevant to their role of protecting the fleet to do its work.

  • doc75

    Galrahn,

    Making a rating system for the modern fleet is difficult. I’m wracking my brain trying to come up with one that doesn’t end up like the computer model that selects college teams to go the BCS bowl games.

    If as you say the flotilla includes carriers, amphibs and LCS, then the flotilla has greater significance today than say during the age of the dreadnought. How does one quantify that?

    Unmanned systems should carry payloads and we need to encourage the Navy to take that route. The Air Force has already taken that step starting with small munitions like Hellfire on Predator and moving up to larger ones like SDB, LGB and JDAM on Predator B. As an analogy, naval aviation started with scouting but eventually the fleet realized that scouts should be armed.

    I think Spade has a point. The LCS design is not fixed. It will be redesigned and will evolve just like DDG-51 has (Flights I, II and IIA). Perhaps we need to make the case for a better weapons suite.

  • Byron

    G, the aforemention “ships of the line” do not carry weapons which can attack other ships. They carry SAMs, and TLAMs (which puts them in shore bombardment role. Forget Harpoon. Only a handful of them are equiped nowadays.

  • Total

    “Finally, with all due respect to Total, my read of history, including my read of both Mahan and Corbett, would suggest protecting the fleet has always been the role of surface combatants. Whether they were the dominant or adjunct capability at sea in any specific era is completely irrelevant to their role of protecting the fleet to do its work.”

    The only way I can come up with your interpretation is by thinking of some bizarro-world version of Mahan and Corbett.

    By your logic, an opponent of the United States would be able to wrest control of the sea by building more battleships. Enough Chinese Arleigh Burke-type ships and the Chinese would own the oceans, right? Is that what you’re arguing?

  • Total

    Or that Japan could have won in WWII by building more and better battleships…

  • Cynic

    I think ‘protecting the fleet’ gets it wrong. The role of surface combatants has always been control of the seas. That’s a broader mission than simply ‘protecting the fleet.’

    Three things have changed since Nelson’s time, in respect to battleships. The first is that when Nelson sailed, ships of the line were indomitable in single combat, except by other ships of the line. Second, ships of the line could bring more ship-to-shore firepower to bear than all but a handful of the most heavily fortified ports could return, and certainly more than any other vessel in the fleet. And third, sail was the fastest means of moving around. So a ship-of-the-line was as powerful as its broadside, likely the heaviest concentration of force in the areas in which it would be operating, and could outrun any potential threat other than other ships.

    In that circumstance, it made sense to rate ships. A first-rate taking on a third-rate would almost always win; any frigate going up against a ship-of-the-line would almost certainly lose. Since the only real combat threats to ships were other ships, this was the most useful gauge of force and capability, and a fairly accurate one at that. It helped admirals array their ships in the line of battle, and allowed combatants in fleet actions to pair up appropriately. And it allowed fleet planners, looking solely at tables of ships, to have a fairly good sense of how conflicts would play out.

    Today, the most powerful battleship in the world could be destroyed by a single ASM launched by a far smaller vessel, a shore installation, an aircraft or a submarine. Moreover, surface combatants almost never directly engage each other. So a ratings system, such as the one you propose, has little predictive value, and the outcomes it might have predicted are extremely rare. We have 22 of 23 first-rates in your table; but if China had ten carriers, and we had none, I’d rather favor their odds in any engagement.

    The old functions of battleships have been separated out. For the most part, ship-to-shore bombardment and force-projection is now a naval aviation function. VLS systems are a complement to that core capability. Establishing control of the seas now also entails controlling the space above and below the surface, a far more complicated task, and one which is distributed among an array of forces: aircraft, submarines, screening vessels, and battleships among them. So of all of its original functions, the battleship now retains the lead in only a single task – ‘protecting the fleet’ – and even there its primacy is questionable.

    Combat has splintered; no unified rating system is going to capture it all.

  • http://informationdissemination.blogspot.com/ Galrahn

    “If as you say the flotilla includes carriers, amphibs and LCS, then the flotilla has greater significance today than say during the age of the dreadnought. How does one quantify that?”

    This isn’t new. In Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat one of the points Captain Hughes hits on is that every single ship leading into WWII changed roles during the war and served a function in the fleet it was never intended. Mine ships were the only exception.

    Battleships were thought to be how firepower would be delivered by naval forces, and carriers were intended to protect battleships. Obviously the reverse decided the war.

    We should be comfortable by now with the importance of vessels other than surface combatants, but the whole development of the LCS suggests to me there is still some confusion between the distinctions… which is another reason I use the rating system. As we face more irregular warfare challenges, I believe the flotilla will be even more important.

    The reason I accept that the flotilla is so important, and I have blogged on this extensively over at ID, is because technology has enabled us to leverage the sea in ways previously only able to be done on land. The way we leverage the sea as base has enabled many changes since the Dreadnaught era. We don’t use coaling stations anymore, we replenish at sea. An aircraft carrier is a mobile air strip on the sea, and god knows what the MPF(N) come 2050 will look like, but I bet it looks different than the MPF(F) planned for 2015.

    The rating system has limited usefulness. For me I find it useful in thinking strategically about fleet constitution, or how to describe what a ship is relative to another ship in history. For example, with the modern rating system we can rate vessels and determine relative comparisons, and in general it works. I use it in this context to note the Arleigh Burke qualifies as a second-rate battleship, not quite the very top warship capability on the sea today, but damn near. It is useful for the purposes of noting we have become an all battleship Navy, which maritime strategists like Julian Corbett have suggested comes with pitfalls.

    I think it is noteworthy our Navy today is struggling with the exact pitfalls he discussed, perhaps I should make that my next column.

    Finally, one point on the LCS design. It will be a complete redesign to suggest modularity can be translated into weapon systems. Modularity only applied to payloads, weight allowance for the weapons bays is very limited, as is space for the weapons bays. Indeed, if I was betting, I’d bet Freedom is having a redesign of those weapons bays while in dry dock right now, because from what I saw everything up there was built with only generic knowledge of the weight/space requirements for the weapon systems intended for those spaces. Honestly, it looked like LM just got frustrated and enclosed the space while letting the weapon system designs catch up.

  • http://- Rob

    Guys
    You are mostly looking at these numbers like an accountant. Todays DDG/CG’s can only be compared to Battle Cruisers of the past. allot of punch but at a cost. The Iowa owned the surface(water/land) out to 25 miles and if the 100+ mile 11 inch round had been employed well you know. The Aegis is gods gift to fire control but it is only a pile of scrap if the ICBM inbound is targeting you and there is no friendly up range to track it for you. The hole thing comes down to the platform you would want in a one on one match up or if that lonely Marine calls for fire support. Iowa wins every time.

  • Total

    “The Iowa owned the surface(water/land) out to 25 miles ”

    I think there would be a large number of dive bomber or torpedo plane pilots who would be surprised by that statement.

    “. For example, with the modern rating system we can rate vessels and determine relative comparisons, and in general it works.”

    Except it really doesn’t. In Nelson’s time, a first-rate would be the dominant ship on the sea. Now, a first-rate is the dominant ship on the sea except for aircraft carriers and submarines. That’s a pretty big “except.”

  • http://render64.wordpress.com Render

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNGqwzh-fSk

    If you cannot put a single regiment of US Marines ashore anywhere on the planet, by stealth or by brute force, and keep them there, you cannot project persistent power from the sea.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwonlHm66VE&feature=related

    Everything is vulnerable to something, some where.

    5 SECONDS
    TO IMPACT,
    R

  • Byron

    Total, those fellows that think of skimmers as targets think the same way ;)

  • Total

    “Total, those fellows that think of skimmers as targets think the same way ”

    Heh. :)

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Quite an impassioned debate! It would be interesting to compare not the missions of individual ship types from the world wars with today’s rough equivalent, but the missions of the NAVIES (US,UK,JP) as they were perceived, and what assets and vessels were either built or used to fill those missions, and try it with today’s blue-water and littoral environment, and today’s vessels and assets.

    Ironically, I am reading Churchill’s The World Crisis, and in discussion of the beginning of the naval war at sea (WWI) the absolutely critical role played by a relatively new type, the fast light cruiser, in tracking and bringing to battle those German warships on foreign station in Aug 1914…

    URR

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “For the most part, ship-to-shore bombardment and force-projection is now a naval aviation function. VLS systems are a complement to that core capability.”

    Not a good situation. Neither is proven in the least to be able to accomplish what an effective NGF platform can, especially in sustained operations.

  • Rob

    “I think there would be a large number of dive bomber or torpedo plane pilots who would be surprised by that statement”

    we are talking ship v ship or ground support. also BB61 in 1990 not 1945
    I was on CV63 when we passed the Russian BC Kirov going the other way. the numbers and the two subs say we owned her, it still worried the Capt/Adm enough to put our defense systems on alert.

  • Total

    “we are talking ship v ship or ground support. also BB61 in 1990 not 1945″

    I see; as long as we rule out anything that might actually cause the Iowa problems, she’s the queen of the oceans!

  • billswift

    Galrahn is making a similar mistake to Archer Jones’s in “The Art of War in the Western World”. He is taking a system which works well for a particular historical mix of arms and trying to make it fit everything. In “The Art of War in the Western World” the system of heavy and likght infantry and heavy and light cavalry and which could successfully attack which worked very well for describing Medieval combat systems. But it started to slip when firearms started becoming common and Jones’s attempts to apply it to aircraft and tanks just looked weird.

  • billswift

    Sorry, I misunderstood the thrust of your argument. I just checked the comments on Information Dissemination and saw your pointer to “86 the Battleship…” I agree that we need more smaller frigates/cruisers for greater coverage at reasonable cost. But also, and I think more importantly, because the “battleships” are almost as vulnerable as frigates and tie up a larger amount of resources.

  • DensityDuck

    The problem with this article is, as many commentors have pointed out, that combat ships are no longer employed in the same way as when we called them “battleships”, “cruisers”, “destroyers”, etcetera.

    It’s the whole “system” concept again. A modern fleet is effectively a single inseparable unit. You don’t just have a random agglomeration of combat ships; you have a “battlegroup” which includes several types of units. But those units are not capable of detached duty; a battlegroup without its destroyers is no longer a functional unit, rather than just being a reduced-capability version. And a destroyer has little use except as part of a battlegroup.

  • sid

    Warship monikers that we all grew up with were solidly codified by the Washington Naval Treaty…

    A modern fleet is effectively a single inseparable unit. You don’t just have a random agglomeration of combat ships

    You are spot on here…

    But those units are not capable of detached duty; a battlegroup without its destroyers is no longer a functional unit

    But history does not support that assertion at all.

    We are in the waning days of a fleet structure this process forged.

    I will submit it was the organizational process that allowed a coherent strategy to guide the most successful shipbuilding program this navy has seen.

    You want to fix shipbuilding?

    Revamp the organizational process.

  • Byron

    That, and some selective firings. This thing is seriously broke, and part of the fault is the contractors (that build the ships), and part of it is Congress (which distributes the pork through the budget).

    Good luck. Be kinda like cleaning out the Temple of them bankers back in the day, maybe He’ll come back and give us a hand.

  • sid

    This thing is seriously broke, and part of the fault is the contractors (that build the ships)

    I would argue there is too much of the thinking done by those whose main motivation is to maximize shareholder value…

    Also, due to the consolidation of the defense industry which was started by Les Aspin and William Perry, it appears this problem may become even more acute. From the jan 18 Aviation Week:

    A defense arsenal system has been discussed, as well. Under this approach, the Pentagon would fund select companies for their competencies and provide stable financing for related research. “The CEOs wouldn’t make $28 million a year,” Payton says. “They have a guaranteed mission and a guaranteed set of funding.”

    Does anyone think for a second LM or GD or NG will be recommending acquisition decisions that will hurt their bottom lines?

    The Navy -all of the Services really- needs to take their thinking back inhouse…no matter how inefficient that may look on a MBA prepared spreadsheet.

    From “Agents of Innovation” (p21)

    The General Board’s membership was structured in a way that favored a multi-branch, “multi-ship-type” approach to force structure and strategic policy. Everyone – submarine officers, aviators, battleship sailors, engineering officers, and so on – had a seat at the table. The General Board provided the forum for the interaction of these officer communities.

    In addition to consensus and structure, the organizational location and authority of the General Board within the overall hierarchy of the navy tended to reinforce the influence of its decisions across the Navy. This role conferred upon the General Board a weighty responsibility which it took seriously. Adm. William V. Pratt once refered to the General Board as the “balance wheel” of the Navy. Pratt was referring to a wheel that could be used to regulate movement in a machine (sometimes known as a speed governor). Similarly, the General Board – in Pratt’s metaphor – was central to the process of developing naval policy.

    However, the establishment of the General Board as the nexus between policy, plans, and shipbuilding was by no means a peaceful exercise

  • http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/ Sven Ortmann

    Just my 2 cents:

    Modern CGs and DDGs are more reminiscent of WW2 AA cruisers than of BBs.

    Battleships were – 17th to 20th century – the main fighting force in major naval battles for naval superiority (excluding cruiser/battlecruiser combat like Falklands 1914), with an emphasis on fighting alike (that’s why they were BBs, not BCs or monitors).

    Today’s DDGs and CGs are neither classic cruisers (exercising sea control as lone ships in peacetime and hunting enemy raiders in wartime in addition to assisting battleships as screen) nor are they battleships (because submarines and aviation are the decisive ship killing forces in modern naval combat).

    The Kirov class was imho the last battlecruiser class, coming close to a true BB in a sense like the Latin American BBs of the early dreadnought period (not being part of a BB/BC fleet, but still being a BB/BC).

    DDGs and CGs are rather successors of AA CLs (Dido class) and less so successors of DDs.

    Today’s FFGs are either (the AAW FFGs) successors of AA CLs or of DDs.

  • Robert Lundgren

    Has Sven Ortmann says modern surface combatants are not battleships. There design evolution all comes from destroyer design history which are not to the same construction standards that led to the Iowa class. Modern ships do not have any significant armor and are really not designed with the expectation of taking multiple hits by the largest weapons and keep fighting and this included torpedoes. Even the exterior hull plating of an Iowa is 1.5″ STS or armor grade steel. The Iowa’s system redundancy, subdivision, side protection, deck protection,splinter protection for the superstructure, and even triple keels designed to at least contain under the keel damage far exceed any standard a modern surface combatant design is built too. Battleships were expected to be hit by weapons equal to their own and thus designed to survive. Very few modern weapons impact a ship with a force equal to the kinetic energy of a BB caliber projectile. Modern shape charged weapons can penetrate the armor but a 1000 lb charge to burn through 12″ of class A armor may produce a hole on the other side of the plate one inch in diameter. Just saying modern missles can penetrate the armor is deceiving as to the amount of damage it will really cause. So blowing one inch holes into a ship the size of Iowa Vs cutting in half a DD51 again demonstrates just how different Iowa’s design standards are.

    Of the five battleships at Bikini only two sank and all survived the air burst bomb. Poor Arkansaw had the second bomb placed directly under her keel which no ship would survive. Nagato in extremely poor condition sank 2-3 days after the second bomb but she barely made it to Bikini in the first place without sinking.

    Pennsylvania, New York, and Nevada did not suffer any significant damage below their armored citidels and could still operate their main battery and machinery despite the first bomb detonating within one ship length of Nevada and the tons of water coming back down on the ships from the below water detonation.

    A modern surface combatant under similar circumstances would be vaporized even by a WWII nuclear weapon. I only say this to demonstrate how different the design and construction standards of the physical ship is between an Iowa or true battleships Vs a modern combatant. I am not saying that a nuclear weapon would still not render an Iowa unusable due to radiation.

    For the US Navy the battleship died with Iowa. The heavy cruiser died with Des Moines. The light cruiser died with Worchester. The modern surface navy is made up of the aircraft carrier, submarine, and destroyer escorts. The Tico’s started life designated as frigates. This is also true of the cold war nuclear powered “Cruisers” which were only called cruisers for political reasons that the Soviet Union had more “Crusiers” than the US Navy and this somehow gave a perception that the US Navy was weaker. So frigates and destroyers were redesignated as “Cruisers”. Tico’s and DD51 are all developments of Spruance Class destroyers.

    As others have already pointed out the modern surface navy have completely different missions and are basically a defensive escort and are not envisioned as the main striking force of the fleet and all other ship types built to support them. They have been built to support the carrier.

  • sid

    Pennsylvania, New York, and Nevada did not suffer any significant damage below their armored citidels

    This may well be one of the last pics taken of the New York and Nevada, seen here moored in East Loch in c. June/July ’48, before they were expended as targets off Oahu that summer.

    This is also true of the cold war nuclear powered “Cruisers” which were only called cruisers for political reasons

    Don’t forget this was done to two of the three DLG “Frigate” classes as well. However, these ships were more Atlanta CL analogues anyway…and the redesignation did provide 4-striper sea commands for Blackshoes, which were in short supply as the CAs and CLGs went away.

    All of this brings up a very good post by Yankee Sailor over at Galrahn’s which critiques the applicability of Work’s notional warship designation system. He is right that it really doesn’t fit the modern realities of warships and weapons systems.

    No wonder there is so much confusion in shipbuilding plans…its hard to figure out what to call them.

    Perhaps its time convene a “2009 Newport Naval Conference”, close the doors, and hammer all this out.

  • Byron

    Yup, Sid at the chair, me at the door, and God help anyone between us ;)

  • sid

    Yup, Sid at the chair, me at the door, and God help anyone between us

    Actually Byron, in keeping with the way things got done then, they wouldn’t let us “sandcrabs” anywheres near the place…

    ;-)

    Tongue back out of cheek, its interesting how, in the wake of the Congressional hearing held after the controversial McClure’s article (authored by Sims) hit the street, the USN went to some lengths to keep the prospects of likely further acrimony regarding shipbuilding issues under wraps.

    From the 1908 NYT article linked above:

    The greatest precautions are being taken to keep the public in ignorance of the discussion. Armed sentries will surround the War College during the conference, and none will be permitted to pass. In this way it is hoped to avoid the publicity that followed the attacks on rear Admirals Capps and Converse. who replied openly to the criticism of Henry Reuterdahl, the marine artist

    Bet Mr. Reuterdahl would be saying what he thought in a blog these days…

    But Byron, we can set up the outer perimeter (I’ll bring the beer and brisquet).

  • sid

    Seems shipbuilding controversies were the stuff of “Breaking News Alert! back in The Day…

  • sid

    And if y’all think comments in this venue are edgy, check out the depth of the ire comments generated back then!

  • sid

    Sorry for the “Burma Shave sign” succession of comments…but here is another NYT article from the period

  • RaiulBaztepo

    Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

2014 Information Domination Essay Contest