Why battleships are no longer used?
World War II gave the world’s navies a crash course in the next phase of war at sea.
The pointy end of the spear became aircraft, guided weapons (missiles and torpedoes) and submarines—not the guns on board a ship—thus largely ending of the utility of the battleship in the open ocean.
Battleships were once the most powerful and feared naval vessels in the world. They were massive, heavily armored, and carried an array of powerful guns that could devastate targets at long range. However, despite their once-dominant status, battleships have become largely obsolete in modern warfare. There are several reasons for this, including changes in technology, shifts in naval strategy, and the rise of air power. In this essay, I will explore these factors in more detail to explain why battleships have become obsolete.
To understand why battleships have become obsolete, it is important to first understand the history of these ships.
Battleships first became developed in the late 19th century.
Moreover, as naval powers sought to build larger and more powerful warships. The first modern battleship was the British HMS Dreadnought, which was launched in 1906. Dreadnought was revolutionary in several ways, but perhaps its most important innovation was its use of an “all-big-gun” armament, which meant that it carried a large number of heavy guns capable of firing shells over long distances. This made it vastly more powerful than any previous battleship, and it set a new standard for naval warfare.
In the years that followed, other naval powers began to build their own battleships, and a naval arms race ensued. The most significant of these powers were Germany, which sought to challenge British naval dominance, and the United States, which emerged as a major naval power in the early 20th century. Battleships played a key role in World War I, where they were used to blockade enemy ports, protect convoys, and engage in fleet actions against enemy battleships.
Despite their important Naval standing in World War I, battleships began to face significant challenges in the years that followed.
One of the biggest of these challenges was the development of new technologies, particularly in the area of naval aviation. The first successful carrier-based aircraft were developed in the 1920s, and by World War II, aircraft carriers had become the dominant force in naval warfare. This was due to several factors, including the ability of aircraft carriers to project power over long distances, the ability of aircraft to attack targets beyond the range of battleship guns, and the ability of carriers to launch surprise attacks against enemy fleets. See our piece: Battle of Taranto : The Battle that Changed War & Battle of Taranto 1940 : The Emergence of the Carrier in Naval Combat
Another factor that contributed to the obsolescence of battleships was changes in naval strategy.
In the years leading up to World War II, naval strategists began to focus more on the importance of speed and mobility in naval warfare. This led to the development of smaller, more agile ships. Such as destroyers and cruisers, better suited to the kind of fast-paced, mobile warfare that was becoming more common. Battleships, with their massive size and slow speed, became seen as increasingly outdated in this new era of naval warfare.
The rise of air power was another factor that contributed to the decline of battleships. In the early days of naval aviation, aircraft became limited in their range and payload capacity. As a result became primarily used for reconnaissance and scouting. However, by World War II, aircraft had become much more advanced, and were capable of carrying powerful bombs and torpedoes that could sink even the largest battleships. This made battleships vulnerable to air attack, and forced naval strategists to rethink their approach to naval warfare.
Despite these challenges, battleships continued to play a role in naval warfare throughout World War II and into the Cold War.
Battleships were used extensively in the Pacific Theater of World War II, where they played a key role in amphibious assaults and provided fire support for ground troops. Battleships were also used in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, where they provided fire support for ground troops and attacked enemy positions along the coast.
The Cold War period became a time of intense geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted from the end of World War II in 1945 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. However, Battleships played a relatively minor role in this conflict.
During the early years of the Cold War, battleships were seen as an important symbol of military might and a key component of naval strategy. The United States and the Soviet Union both maintained large fleets of battleships, which were used for a variety of purposes. One of the primary roles of battleships during this period was to act as a deterrent against potential aggression by the other side. The mere presence of a battleship in a region could send a powerful message to other nations, and both sides used battleships to project their power and assert their dominance in key regions around the world.
Another important role of battleships during the Cold War was to provide fire support for ground troops. Often used to provide artillery support for amphibious assaults and other military operations. Particularly in areas where air support became limited or unavailable. Battleships also became used to attack enemy positions along the coast and to provide cover for troops on the ground.
In addition to their combat roles, battleships also played a key role in intelligence gathering and reconnaissance during the Cold War.
Equipped with advanced radar and surveillance systems, which allowed them to detect and track enemy ships and aircraft. Also used to collect signals intelligence. And other types of intelligence that could become used to inform military decision-making.
Despite their continued importance during the Cold War, battleships began to face significant challenges in the years following World War II. As naval technology continued to evolve, battleships became increasingly vulnerable to attack from other naval vessels and from the air. As a result, this led to a shift in naval strategy. With both the United States and the Soviet Union placing greater emphasis on aircraft carriers. And other types of ships better suited to modern naval warfare.
By the 1980s, battleships had largely become relegated to a secondary role in the American and Soviet navies. Many battleships became decommissioned and scrapped. While others became converted to other types of ships or used for training and research purposes. Despite their decline in importance, battleships remain an important part of naval history. And lastly, many still preserved as museums or monuments to the naval battles of the past.
Did the USS New Jersey sunk an island?
There is little evidence to support the claim that the USS New Jersey, a US Navy battleship, sank an island in 1969. The story is likely a myth or urban legend.
Yes, there is a New York Times article that cites an article “Battleship Sinks An Island.” However, no other information about this exists. So many believe it is a hoax and the New York Times screwed up. RETURN OF THE BATTLESHIP – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
However, there are some variations of the story that have circulated over the years. One version of the story claims that the USS New Jersey fired a salvo of shells during a training exercise off the coast of Puerto Rico, causing an island to sink. Another version of the story claims that the USS New Jersey fired a single shell during a training exercise off the coast of the Philippines, causing an island to disappear.
Another is in 1969 a fortified North Korean island was taken by the Battleship and the soldiers became allowed to escape before the ship unloaded her guns on the island. As a result, an article supposedly became written saying “Battleship Sinks Island.” However, no evidence exists beyond the above article.
Does the U.S. still have battleships?
Despite these claims, there is no credible evidence to support the idea that the USS New Jersey, or any other US Navy ship, sank an island in 1969 or at any other time. The US Navy has conducted many training exercises involving the firing of live ammunition, but it is highly unlikely that any of these exercises would have caused an island to sink or disappear.
In conclusion, the story of the USS New Jersey sinking an island in 1969 is likely a myth or urban legend with no basis in fact.
What Happened to the USS New Jersey Battleship? (rebellionresearch.com)
Does the U.S. still have battleships?
Does the U.S. still have battleships?
Moreover, the age of the battleship lives in history only, sadly.
Missiles can pack a punch for a much more efficient return on the dollar!
Many Americans ask, will the Iowa-Class Battleships become Reactivated? And here we have an even more emphatic No! As a result of the age of the ships, if the US wanted battleships, building new ones would probably cost less. And thus, become more appealing to the US government bean counters!
Battleship vs Aircraft Carrier : How Did the United States Defeat Japan.
The Iowa class battleships consisted of four ships:
USS Iowa (BB-61), USS New Jersey (BB-62), USS Missouri (BB-63), and USS Wisconsin (BB-64).
The Iowa class was designed in response to the growing threat of Japan and the need for a fast battleship that could keep pace with the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier fleet. The ships were built at the New York Navy Yard and the Philadelphia Navy Yard. With construction beginning in 1940 and all four ships commissioned by 1943.
The Iowa class was designed to be the fastest battleships in the world, with a top speed of 33 knots (61 km/h). They were also heavily armed!
The Iowa class saw action in World War II, with the USS Iowa and USS New Jersey participating in the Pacific Theater and the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin participating in the European Theater. All four ships became involved in the Battle of the Philippines and the Battle of Okinawa. And the USS Missouri was the site of the Japanese surrender in 1945.
After the war, the Iowa class became decommissioned and placed in reserve.
However, the U.S. Navy retained the four Iowa-class battleships long after other nations abandoned their heavy fleets in favor of rapid aircraft carriers and discrete submarines.
All four Iowa-class battleships received modernization enhancements, upon their eventual reactivation at the direction of the United States Congress in 1981. Furthermore, armed with missiles during the 1980s, the battleships were key members of the 600-ship Navy initiative. They received modern weapons including:
Eight new armored box launchers for Tomahawk cruise missiles and four quadruple canister launchers for 16 anti-ship Harpoon Missiles.
During the Iraq War, the ships were highly effective in shelling the Iraqi Army with impressive accuracy. Of course, they were nowhere near the striking range of a carrier’s air fleet or long-range missiles.
Today you can still visit the 4 battleships as museums.
The USS Iowa in Los Angeles, the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, the USS New Jersey in Philadelphia & the USS Missouri in Hawaii.
Queen Elizabeth Class Battleships
None of these ships have turned their engines on since 1992. Rather, they receive electrical power from the mainland.
We spoke with The Naval Postgraduate School’s Professor of Practice & former Deputy Director of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet Jeff Kline on the issue. Professor Kline sees the issue from an efficiency standpoint:
“There is little doubt the Iowa class battleships are impressive war machines and are designed with more ‘staying power’ than any other in naval history. However, in today’s age of robotics warfare, if I had the choice of employing the 1500 sailors required to man an Iowa or to man 100 missile boats. I’d buy the boats. It is no longer about the ships. But about the missiles and the resilience of the whole fleet to deliver them.”
We also posed the question to the USS New Jersey’s curator Ryan Szimanski who added:
“The Iowa-class battleships still have life left in them but their age and the manufacture dates of the equipment on board make them a maintenance and manpower nightmare. Nothing is automated and sailors would have to be completely retrained on the ship’s older style equipment. If you think about changing all of that over to more modern stuff why spend the money on an old ship when you could buy a new one.“
We also asked the Naval mind CAPT Anthony Cowden, USN (Ret.), co-author of “Fighting the Fleet: Operational Art and Modern Fleet Combat”
“I am a big fan of the IOWA-class battleships, but at the end of the day I agree with my friend Jeff Kline on this one: there is just better use for the personnel and resources that each one of these ships would require to re-activate it.”
USS New Jersey’s Curator Ryan Szimanski on her history!
But how much life is left in these ships? Especially with state of the art missile technology replacing these primitive cannons .
When you look at the B-52, possibly a lot!
We can look at the Air Force where the B-52 represents a major part of their bomber-strike capability.
The B-52’s design began in 1946 and 76 years later they are still employed for military purposes on a daily basis.
B-52H aircraft of the 23rd Bomb Squadron landing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
We asked Jeremy Knopp, Technical Director at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, about bringing back the Iowa’s and he felt it was possible, especially when looking at the B-52. Knopp became “astonished to learn that his predecessors in Nondestructive Evaluation research at AFRL were already talking about extending the service life of the B-52 in the mid-1970’s before he was even born”.
While many argue for missiles to replace the 16-inch guns in order for the Navy to present a domineering show of force, the destruction that a 16-inch shell unleashes is still frightening.
With a range of up to 24 miles, the shells fired weigh from 1,900 to 2,700 lbs with a maximum speed of 2,690 feet per second. Unfortunately, the cost of fuel and 1,500 sailors make any reactivation simply a pipe dream with today’s military technology and efficiency.
Of course, when you compare the 16 inch gun with a P-700 Granit cruise missile onboard a Russian Kirov-class with 388 miles of range at Mach 2.5+— well that’s that.
USS Missouri’s Curator Meghan Rathbun on Missouri’s History!
There is also the issue of cost. Replacing the big guns is very expensive. USS Iowa’s Curator Dave Way told us the US Navy would focus on:
“Removing the 16-inch guns and replacing them with missile tubes inside the protection of the thick armored guns’ barbettes.”
But, the problem is that:
“To remove and replace these ship’s propulsion plants means removing and replacing her armor belt which would be too costly. Each of the Iowas’ armor plates around her hull are bolted into place.”
But from a Naval tactics standpoint, is there any value for the battleshipin the next few decades?
How good was the USS Iowa at AA Engagements?
USS Iowa’s Curator David Way on her History
We found a retired Submarine Officer and tactical strategist who just wrote to us the following:
“It appeals to me out of pure nostalgia and because it would be an awesome beast of a warship. That said, it would be a case of too many eggs in one basket. In a world of finite resources, I’d rather have more subs/destroyers/corvettes than just a few big capital ships.
Everything needs to revolve around how we’d deter / fight in East and South Asia.
Supporting Marines in littorals, taking key chokepoints, harassing / crippling Chinese forces and supply lines, etc.
I worry that defense spending will become crimped due to the profligate spending elsewhere in the years ahead. So we need to be smart about getting as much bang for your buck for what we do spend.
All else equal, I’m going to overweight submarines.
We retain a large tech advantage here and can cripple China’s Navy and shipping quickly. So long as we have sufficient boats to handle it. In a shooting war, we probably lose 6-10 subs to the bottom. But that’s the cost to totally gut their Navy and leave them landlocked and cut off from maritime supply”
The Iowa class battleships were an important part of U.S. naval history and played a significant role in World War II. Their advanced design and powerful armament made them a formidable force on the battlefield, and their speed and endurance allowed them to keep pace with the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier fleet. These ships remain an important part of the U.S. Navy’s legacy and became remembered for their service and sacrifice.
The Battleship In A Mountain
Battleship Armor & Protection
The Concrete BattleshipMusings
Why battleships are no longer used?
Why battleships are no longer used?
Battleships Are Back! Navy Abruptly Boosts DDG/CG Building Targets For 2045 (forbes.com)
The U.S. Navy: The Battleships Are Back! | Proceedings – August 1998 Volume 124/8/1,146 (usni.org)
USS New Jersey (BB-62) – Wikipedia
Full History – Battleship New Jersey
ex-USS New Jersey | Monitor National Marine Sanctuary (noaa.gov)
What Happened to the USS New Jersey Battleship?