Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Return Of The Broadside

The 16”, 2200 lb shell arced up, reached its peak, and nosed over as it began its plunge towards the airbase on the artificial island that was its target.  It was one of 36 shells simultaneously following a similar trajectory and that collectively comprised the first salvo by the four battleships of the Battleship Strike Group (BSG).  None had been given a specific target.  This was an area saturation bombardment that would, literally, leave nothing behind.  The battleships hadn’t even slowed down to fire.  True, that degraded the accuracy slightly but accuracy didn’t count when the shells gouged out overlapping 50 ft diameter craters.  Firing at a leisurely rate of one salvo per minute, each giant gun fired 10 times.  The 360 total shells completely obliterated the artificial island.  There were no recognizable pieces of man or machine left when the battleships completed their fire mission. 

The battleship’s Tomahawk missiles had earlier temporarily incapacitated the airbase’s aviation capability and damaged or destroyed most of the anti-ship missile emplacements and radars as the BSG raced towards the island base.  The battleships had used dozens of medium range UAVs to pinpoint the specific targets for the Tomahawks.  Attrition of the UAVs had been severe but enough had survived to relay target data back to the group.  No one particularly cared about the UAV losses.  The UAVs were cheap and the battleships carried several dozen each.

Despite the Tomahawk attack, some mobile anti-ship missile launchers had survived and had fired their C-80x type anti-ship missiles when the group had gotten close enough for the badly mauled base to finally get a fix on the group via its own remaining aviation assets.  The couple dozen anti-ship missiles that launched against the group were intercepted, jammed, and decoyed by the group’s ten Burke and two Ticonderoga escorts.  One Burke had taken some superficial damage from the debris of an incoming missile that was shot down a hair too late and another had taken a clean hit by a missile that had defied the odds and gotten through the defenses unharmed.  With no armor to speak of and a crew that, while augmented somewhat for combat, was still too small to conduct effective damage control and lacked the expertise to repair the delicate electronics that comprised the heart of a modern ship, the unlucky Burke had been rendered a mission kill and was, even now, limping away from the group towards home and what would be an extensive stay in drydock.

The island base no longer existed and the group continued on toward the next base to repeat the process as the next step in its mission.

The Chinese had, of course, seized Taiwan in the opening hours of the war.  Resistance had been fierce but, ultimately futile and China was solidifying its hold on the large island.  America had resolved to retake the island and the Battleship Strike Group had been tasked with creating a major diversion by conducting a flank attack to the southwest of Taiwan with the objective of eliminating the southern arc of artificial island bases and then destroying China’s massive Hainan naval and submarine base.  This would divert Chinese forces away from Taiwan and open the southwestern flank to future penetrations and attacks.

As the group completed the destruction of the last island base and began the turn north towards Hainan, the battleships maintained a steady flow of scout UAVs out to a couple hundred miles in front and along the likely threat axes.  It was highly unlikely that the Chinese Navy would allow the group to approach their main naval base in the area without challenge and it wasn’t long before the far flung UAVs detected a Chinese surface group approaching.  The group consisted of six Type 052D destroyers and two Type 055 cruisers, one of the largest warships built since the old Soviet Kirov class battlecruisers.  The Chinese group was the epitome of missile-based combat with a combined total approaching 600 VLS cells and all manner of surface-to-air and anti-ship cruise missiles.

The American group also carried a heavy allotment of VLS but lacked any vertical launched anti-ship missile and had to depend on the small handful of eight Harpoons that each Burke carried and the 16 Harpoons on each battleship.

As the two groups approached each other, the U.S. group rearranged itself into the new defensive AAW tactical configuration developed just for a battleship group.  Instead of the conventional concentric rings of Burke escorts around the high value battleships, the Burkes dropped several miles behind the battleships which formed a line abreast out in front.

The longer range, subsonic, sea-skimming, Chinese YJ-100 anti-ship cruise missiles struck first.  Warned of the missile’s approach by their UAVs, the battleships executed a 90 degree turn just prior to the missiles appearance in order to present their broadsides.  This hugely increased their radar signature which, given their immense size anyway, wasn’t really much of a drawback and, on the plus side, it allowed the battleships to present their full broadside weapons capacity.  In moments, 93 incoming missiles crossed the radar horizon which, due to the battleship’s massive size and towering superstructure and mast, extended out to around 30 nm. 

The moment the missiles appeared, the trailing Burkes, using their cooperative engagement capabilities and the linked radar picture provided by the battleships, augmented by the circling UAVs, launched a massive salvo of medium range ESSMs over the top of the battleships.  The ESSMs destroyed 31 of the incoming missiles.

As the aerial debris began to settle, the four battleships fired a salvo of 36 of the new 16” AAW air burst projectiles.  The salvo was coordinated to produce an immense three dimensional cube pattern that literally created a gigantic wall of shrapnel with both area and depth.  The 62 remaining incoming missiles flew into the aerial wall and only 5 emerged.

Three of the surviving missiles were quickly dispatched by the nearest battleship’s SeaRAM mounts.  The remaining two missiles each became the focus of the battleship’s four starboard side CIWS mounts and were obliterated.


As the range to the Chinese group decreased, the BSG launched its own volley of Harpoon anti-ship missiles.  Unfortunately, the limited numbers and the slow speed of the Harpoons allowed the Chinese force to largely swat the missiles aside.  One Chinese 052D destroyer was hit by two Harpoons and dropped out of formation to fight extensive fires while another was hit by a single missile that caused no significant damage.

Another volley of anti-ship missiles from the Chinese group produced no significant results and depleted their inventory.  It was obvious that the engagement would turn into a gun match and with a closing speed of close to 60 kts, it didn’t take long to happen.

As the groups closed to about 40 miles, the Chinese launched a final, enormous volley of surface-to-air missiles in surface mode and anti-radiation missiles intended to destroy the battleship’s sensors and render the ships combat ineffective.  Again, the battleship’s 16” air burst patterns destroyed many of the incoming missiles but the missiles were too numerous, too small, and too fast to stop them all.  The battleship’s SeaRAM and CIWS defenses destroyed dozens more but each battleship was hit by five to ten of the missiles whose proximity fuses filled the air around the battleships with shrapnel.  However, the battleship’s main TRS-4D radar sensors were no longer exposed.  As the anti-radiation missiles drew near to their targets, the battleship’s main sensors “retracted” into their armored mast citadels which contained sufficient armor to protect against shrapnel.  Just as the old WWII era battleships had their conning stations enclosed in vertical extensions of the armored citadel, so too did their modern counterparts have their main sensors enclosed when needed.  The loss of the main sensor radar picture due to retracting the radars didn’t matter at this point since the incoming missiles were close enough for the individual SeaRAM and CIWS sensors to pick up.  Thus, the main sensors were protected while the scattered and numerous SeaRAM and CIWS units defended the ships on their own.

The missiles did damage many of the SeaRAMs and CIWSes but the vital main sensors all survived.  While the battleship’s topsides were bruised a bit, nothing critical was damaged.  Even the bridge was unaffected since there was no bridge.  The battleship’s “bridge” was buried deep inside the armored core of the ship and consisted of dozens of cameras providing 360 deg optical coverage.  Many cameras were destroyed in the attack but more than enough survived to maintain complete 360 degree visual and enhanced EO/IR coverage.

As the range approached 20 miles the battleships again turned broadside on and began firing their main guns with fire control provided by the now re-exposed main sensors.  The Chinese, having assumed that the battleships would be rendered blind were stunned to find that the battleship’s were not only firing but doing so with deadly accuracy.  The first hits by the battleship’s 16” guns occurred at about 18 miles and single hits proved to be catastrophic.  With the exception of the US battleships, modern warships have no significant armor and the Chinese ships were no exception.  The Chinese group was decimated and by the time the range closed to within 12 miles the entire Chinese group was sunk or sinking.  The firepower of the 16” guns combined with the accuracy of modern fire control systems proved devastating.

With the way now clear the BSG turned and accelerated towards Hainan and the naval and underground submarine base there.

Not unexpectedly, the Chinese submarines made every effort to protect their base.  Unfortunately, the Burke escorts, while equipped for ASW, had rarely practiced ASW during peacetime and were not proficient at it.  Despite their best efforts, two of the escorting Burkes were hit by multiple torpedoes and sunk. 

A Chinese Type 039A Yuan class diesel-electric SSK submarine managed to close to within firing range of the battleships and launched two salvos of 533 mm Yu-6 heavyweight torpedoes.  Two torpedoes hit the first targeted battleship and three hit the second. 

In each case, a number of the battleship’s bottom mounted, v-shaped, shock absorbing armor plates were destroyed but they served their purpose by absorbing and deflecting much of the initial shock wave from the torpedo explosions.  The more conventional alternating bottom layers of liquid and void spaces absorbed the remainder of the shock and both battleships sustained only minor flooding which slowed their top speed by several knots but did nothing to impair their combat capability.

The surviving escort’s MH-60R ASW helos quickly jumped on the Chinese sub and kept it occupied until the group ran past.

As the BSG neared the Hainan naval base, the battleships launched a final volley of UAVs.  This time, the battleship’s bombardment would not be an area attack but would be directed at specific targets.  First, the UAVs identified the Chinese air defenses and the battleships began slow, deliberate, long range fire, methodically destroying each anti-air battery in turn. 

With the way largely cleared for the UAVs to act as gunfire spotters, the battleships began bombarding their specific targets.

The major target was, of course, the underground submarine pens.  These were almost impervious to aerial attack but were ideal targets for the 16” guns using a combination of ground piercing (GP) and high explosive (HE) shells with the GP shells penetrating and creating openings that the HE shells widened.  The sustained bombardment eventually collapsed the entrance and tunnel passages, permanently trapping any subs inside.

With the destruction of the Hainan submarine base complete, the BSG turned away and began their withdrawal at maximum speed.  The United States had forcefully reintroduced battleships to modern naval combat.


As with all ComNavOps’ naval combat stories, the writing is not intended as a true simulation of combat but, instead, as an exploration of equipment and tactics. 

The Battleship – The battleship in this story has a traditional heavy 16” gun fit and massive armor for protection from missiles and torpedoes.  The ship’s main mission is land attack including infantry gun support and long distance Tomahawk strike with a secondary role of anti-ship.  Naval and air base destruction would be prime missions.

As noted in the story, one of the key design aspects is the armored citadel which contains a wholly enclosed bridge and armored extensions containing retractable main radar sensors.  This preserves the command element and ship’s sensors during battle.  Closely related to this is the use of Phalanx CIWS and SeaRAM point defense.  Both weapons have their own radars and do not need fire control guidance from the main radar which allows the main radar to retract when under attack.

Construction of a modern battleship must go hand in hand with development of modern munitions such as the 16” AAW projectiles described in the story and new tactics.  This recognizes the changes that have occurred in naval warfare since WWII.

Here are some characteristics of the ship.

·        3x 16” triple mount
·        6x 5” single mount
·        16x Harpoon in Mk141 bolt-on mounts
·        12x Phalanx CIWS
·        8x SeaRAM
·        64x Mk 41 VLS (ESSM, Tomahawk)
·        TRS-3D/4D radar
·        SPQ-9B
·        EO/IR 360 deg


  1. ...and then the battleships were all sunk by submarines. The end.

  2. How'd the BSG successfully navigate the 1,000nm-deep Chinese A2/AD zone to get within 20nm of the Chinese islands, and how will they get back out?

    1. Clever. ;)

      How does it survive the 2,000+nm round trip? At 20kts, that's 100+ hours in the danger zone (cue Kenny Loggins), not counting time spent actually performing the missions.

      Potential for lots of visits from enemy aircraft, subs, and missiles. Potentially mines placed in its path (See HMS Irresistable, HMS Oceaan, and Bouvet in the Dardanelles).

      You can expect, once detected, the BSG will receive a lot of sustained attention. Sinking battleships make great propaganda headlines.

    2. You noted in the article that this was expressly not a combat simulation, right? With that in mind, I don't really care too much about the details of the overall penetration. The point was to illustrate some concepts and tactics in a more entertaining way and to remind about the potential firepower and usefulness of battleships.

      With that said ... you also caught the part about the Taiwan invasion and counterattack, right? So, that would "soak up" a LOT of the Chinese assets that might otherwise respond to a BSG attempting a wild, suicide mission all by itself.

      Speaking of all by itself, the US doesn't fight that way. We fight jointly. So, what wasn't explicitly covered in the several paragraphs of space I had to work with was the myriad layers of joint assistance that an operation of this magnitude would actually have. There would be friendly subs clearing the path of both enemy subs and surface ships, friendly air cover including where/when possible F-22/35s, co-ordinated Tomahawk strikes against land based air bases from friendly subs in order to suppress enemy air responses, friendly supporting AF bomber strikes against enemy air bases and missile sites, friendly air strikes against mine laying vessels, regional surveillance support when/where available, possible SpecOps against island bases, long range Air Force fighter sweeps to mitigate enemy air, etc. Of course, not all of these would be continuously available but, planned carefully and executed at propitious moments, the overall effort would significantly enhance the prospects for survivable penetration and successful mission execution.

      You can probably think of other ways that we could jointly support such an operation to further increase the chances of success.

      Did you really need me to lay all that out for you? If so, if you really didn't know all that, then you need to go back and study the fundamentals of how the US fights before you comment again.

      If you did know all that, and I suspect you did, then why did you ask?

    3. "You can expect, once detected, the BSG will receive a lot of sustained attention."

      And that was why I postulated new munitions, new tactics, and new battleship design features - all to enhance the ability to survive modern combat. You'll also note the presence of a significant escort group. We've forgotten just how many assets are required to survive naval combat. Read up on the US naval actions in WWII and note the sheer number of ships that allowed us to sail into the teeth of Japanese naval and land firepower and survive.

      I would hope that a story like this also serves as a reminder and wake up about the realities of naval doctrine.

    4. All the effort needed to get the BSG into range of their guns and back out again would be better spent just attacking the BSG's targets in the first place.

  3. I love this, and feel you answered the surface, air and ASW threats conclusively. My concerns would be mines (nothing new) and perhaps most importantly, ASBM's. Would this expensive ship be vulnerable to a 1-shot kill from an ASBM once it gets close to the coast (and targeting sensors).

    1. "Would this expensive ship be vulnerable to a 1-shot kill from an ASBM once it gets close to the coast "

      Well, that's what the Burke escorts are for. The Navy claims they're capable of ballistic missile defense.

      I still think anti-ship ballistic missiles are far more theoretical than practical. To the best of my knowledge, no one has actually demonstrated a ballistic missile hit against a moving ship. There are a host of difficulties in doing so. I don't think it's a practical capability, yet.

      In any event, a battleship is no more susceptible than any other ship.

    2. the Chinese talk up ASBMs a lot, but the reality is they can't exploit the 1700 km range of DF-21 because they don't have the sensor assets to maintain coverage at that range: the problem is that you need 1) a long ranged sensor asset to actually fly 1700km out to find the target ships, and 2) that sensor asset needs to maintain coverage for the 8 minutes of flight time to transmit midcourse updates. Satellites can't do that, they lack persistence and resolution for targeting discrimination and orbits can be avoided. That leaves long range AWACS and MPA, and those are pretty much sitting ducks.

      This is the problem at 1700 km, let alone the 4000 km range of DF-26.

      My personal opinion is that China talks up ASBMs to distract people from how the new ASBMs are literally China recapitalising its MRBM inventory - all it needs to be a strategic weapon is to swap the conventional warhead for a nuke warhead.

      Alternately, if China intends to use ASBMs on US warships, there's the possibility is that they'll use them in the taiwan strait, but then take advantage of that 1700km range to base the TELs far enough inland that they're immune to attack from a carrier. I.E. if DF-21 can only be targeted within 500km of the shore because of sensor asset coverage, then you move it 1200 km inland.

  4. Hmm, if I could find some time, would love to sketch this out and some renderings for what a modern BB would look like.

  5. As I recall, there were proposals to substantially refit the radars and electronics on the Iowas, and give them srsface SAMs, but the problem was that the shock from firing the main battery breaks the SAM radars. That, I think, is going to be the first issue that needs working on if the big guns are going to come back - though, for the sake of argument, I'll assume that matter has been solved.

    I understand that you intended the above post as a thought excercise, but I feel you've modeled the scenario engagement as a blue water fight, and that's led you to overlook how going into gun range of Hainan means that you're entering a littoral engagement and putting the BSG within range of land-based air, which means the Chinese response is going to be more of a multi-axis thing.

    Otoh it's not like I haven't done the same thing before, albeit it was modeling potential ASEAN vs China engagement, and I'd overlooked how any PLAN attempt to project power in the South China Sea or force the Malacca Strait puts their ships smack in range of land-based aircraft.

    1. I'm in agreement with you regarding the scenario with PLAAF strike aircraft being left out. That has to be taken into account that J-20's would be employed.

      "Little over a year after the fighters first entered service, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force has deployed its elite Chengdu J-20 heavy stealth platforms to conduct maritime combat training missions for the first time. While the fighter entered service years before the majority of Western analysts predicted, it has demonstrated high levels of combat readiness in a number of exercises"

    2. You appear to understand that the story is not a full-fledged combat/war simulation and that I have only a handful of paragraphs, not a book length to write in, so I'll ignore the operational questions.

      You'll note that while I may have simplified or ignored some enemy land-based air, for example, I also ignored joint friendly contributions and support from friendly subs clearing the path, friendly air cover, co-ordinated Tomahawk strikes on land based air bases from friendly subs, friendly supporting AF bomber strikes, etc. So, in the interest of balance and objectivity perhaps you'd like to also cite those omissions, all of which would enhance the chances for the group and aid it in penetrating to the target?

      I really don't mind the critique at all if it's objective and considers both sides of the issue. When it considers only one side it comes across as nitpicking and argumentative.

    3. "has to be taken into account that J-20's would be employed."

      You get that this was not intended as a full-fledged combat/war simulation that considered every factor, right? That it was just intended to illustrate some basic concepts and tactics, right? That I only have a few paragraphs of space, not a book, right? That I also left out any contribution from friendly aircraft, subs, bombers, etc., right?

      I was illustrating some points in a more entertaining way.

    4. I apologize for misunderstanding your intention earlier with the narrative. Is the "BSG" concept a thought provoking enterprise on a modern Iowa based Surface Action Group like in the Reagan era?

      The NYT had a period based scenario that could lay out the needed basis for a modern BSG group. If the industrial knowledge could be rediscovered to manufacture these capital ships that is.


      It is June 1983. The Government of Fidel Castro has been overthrown. A mob gathers outside the northeast gate of the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay - long a source of contention between Cuba and the United States. Insults are shouted at the marines on guard and demonstrators fire shots in the air. At first, there seems little danger of an actual attack. ''Gitmo,'' as the 45-square-mile enclave is known to American sailors, is surrounded by the largest mine field in the world, and air support is only minutes away in Key West. But then aerial reconnaissance reveals disturbing signs. Emplacements for antiaircraft guns and missiles, long abandoned by the Cubans, have been reoccupied, and troop concentrations are forming near Guantanamo.

    5. "Is the "BSG" concept a thought provoking enterprise on a modern Iowa based Surface Action Group like in the Reagan era?"

      No, not really. Well, kind of yes, kind of no. The battleship envisioned in this story is not a modernized Iowa. It is a new design although it certainly shares some conceptual commonalities with its ancestor Iowas.

      One of the key concepts is that our carrier fleet is steadily shrinking both in numbers of carriers and size of the air wings. As an alternative, the battleship has just as much, or more, firepower but with less range. Thus, a battleship group can perform SOME of the carrier tasks thereby freeing up the carriers to do what only they can do.

    6. "So, in the interest of balance and objectivity perhaps you'd like to also cite those omissions, all of which would enhance the chances for the group and aid it in penetrating to the target?"

      Sure, why not. ;) :P Although the impression I got was that the BSG was supposed to be operating independently of the things you omitted. *shrug*

      Ultimately as a work of fiction it's a bit... lacking, in the entertainment factor; as a thought excercise it's kinda limited and artificial. Not to put you down, but IMO you've fallen into the same trap as Pentagon people doing these sorts of scenarios, where what the author likes works, and what the author doesn't like, doesn't work as well.

      Like I said, it was a littoral environment and you modeled the engagement as a blue water SAG battle. That's what affected my SoD. I think it's indicative of your biases and is something for you to keep in mind.

      Also, it's your blog, man, you can take as much space as you want. There are people who drop 100 thousand word updates. :p :V

    7. "IMO you've fallen into the same trap as Pentagon people doing these sorts of scenarios, where what the author likes works, and what the author doesn't like, doesn't work as well."

      If the story were intended as a realistic representation of combat then you'd be absolutely correct. IT WAS NOT INTENDED AS SUCH. As stated in the post, it was intended to illustrate some concepts in a more entertaining way than dry lists. Here's the relevant quote from the post:

      "As with all ComNavOps’ naval combat stories, the writing is not intended as a true simulation of combat but, instead, as an exploration of equipment and tactics."

      I'm not quite sure how to make it any clearer than that.

    8. "it was a littoral environment and you modeled the engagement as a blue water SAG battle."

      A. From a combat perspective, there is no such thing as littoral. That's a made up concept the Navy used to justify the LCS. Ships have operated near land for hundreds of years before the LCS came along.

      B. Who cares?! The point was to illustrate some concepts. Whether they took place 10 ft from shore or 10,000 miles is irrelevant.

    9. "Ultimately as a work of fiction it's a bit... lacking, in the entertainment factor"

      This is your most valid comment so far and I say valid in the sense that, because it's your personal opinion it is, by definition, correct for you. This is also the comment that I'll give the most consideration to since part of the purpose was to entertain. Thanks for the feedback.

    10. "it's your blog, man, you can take as much space as you want."

      Actually, no, I can't. The issue is attention span. There's a balance between information conveyance and attention span. Most blog readers are looking for fairly short "sound bites" of information. I've tried longer posts in the past and the results have been poor.

      I write to a broad audience. Anyone will read anything for a few paragraphs. However, with each additional paragraph, readers drop out as their interest and attention spans wane. Ultimately, very long posts are left with very few readers who just happen to be intensely interested in the specific topic.

      Too simple and too brief and I don't convey the info that I want to pass on. Too long and too detailed and I lose readers and, again, fail to convey the info. The current average post length is what I've found to be the optimum balance between information and attention span for the cumulative audience.

      The philosophy and mechanics of blog writing is really a fascinating subject.

    11. "If the story were intended as a realistic representation of combat then you'd be absolutely correct. IT WAS NOT INTENDED AS SUCH. As stated in the post, it was intended to illustrate some concepts in a more entertaining way than dry lists."

      I feel it might have been better to put that up first, instead of at the end. ;P I think we'll have to disagree on the "entertaining" part - you've got a writing style that quite naturally lends itself to lectures and exposition, but it doesn't quite work as well with prose. I know you wanted to avoid dry lists, but your prose is still rather dry and suspension of disbelief wasn't quite fully attained, so I don't think you were quite sucessful in that regard. It definitely didn't work for me.

      A large part of that, I feel, is in the tone of the writing - the voice and tone of the writing is kinda... monotone, is the best word, perhaps. There's no peaks or lows, no excitement, the narration is quite flat. "This happened. Then this happened. This happened. Then this happened." There is no sense of conflict, no sense of urgency - the Chinese just show up to be obstacles easily swept aside by the might of the battleships. Oh, sure, there's ways to portray that in writing - a curbstomp becomes much more enjoyable when it's being handed to a smug antagonist who's getting their comeuppance, or when it's the Enterprise showing out of nowhere riding to the rescue - but it just feels flat here.

      That said you went outside your comfort zone, which is good - skill as a writer only increases when one tries new things, afterall.

      "Too simple and too brief and I don't convey the info that I want to pass on. Too long and too detailed and I lose readers and, again, fail to convey the info. The current average post length is what I've found to be the optimum balance between information and attention span for the cumulative audience."

      It depends, IMO. To me, it's more about what's going on, how you write, how you set the scene. I've read 2,000 word updates that were a slog to read through, and I've burned through 200,000 words in a single setting because of how engaging the story was. Mind, I'm talking about ficposts, vs lectureposts. With lectureposts, one has to balance being thorough with the truism that less is more; with ficposts, there's a bit more leeway, I feel.

  6. Wait a second! AWW Shells?
    This seems very familiar.......
    At least the shells are programmable instead of a simple delay fuse.

    1. WWII also saw the attempted use of battleship guns to fire into the water ahead of torpedo planes to create a wall of water that the planes would impact.

      To the best of my knowledge, none of the few attempts at using large caliber guns in anti-air mode were particularly successful. However, there is nothing wrong with the concept and modern fire control and fusing ought to greatly enhance the probability of success.

  7. How much does a 00buckshot weigh and how much does a 16" shell weigh?
    Repeat for volume

    Just curious

    1. One's big, one's small, one's heavy, one's light. No idea what you're driving at.

    2. Just curious as to how many individual pellets you could be putting in the air

    3. Ahh ... okay. We can generate hundreds and thousands from much smaller projectiles. I'll have to try a calculation some time.

    4. You got my interest enough to do a quick, wild calc. If the 150 lb burst charge were, instead, 150 lb of pellets and each pellet weighed, say, 20 g, that would equate to 3500 pellets.

      I assume that a AAW projectile wouldn't need an armor piercing or even a moderately heavy nose section so that would, presumably be part of the shrapnel as well. So, hundreds of additional pounds? So, several times 3400? 10,000 pellets???

      I'm using the word pellets even though many shrapnel producing munitions used pre-scored fragments rather than pellets but the concept is the same.

      Pure, wild speculation.

    5. 1200kg shell, say one third explosive, 800kg projectiles,
      25g each, 32,000
      Sounds a lot but much would rely on shaping the dispersion pattern, 1ft apart, 100ft high, 300ft wide, per gun

  8. On the ammunition, the AAW rounds are an interesting suggestion. But, the idea of a single broadside taking out 57 out of 62 missiles seems a little too optimistic. In this scenario, I would imagine each battleship firing several broadsides (maybe more time permitting), creating multiple walls of shrapnel for the missiles to pass through.

    Another possibility is a guided 16-in round, with canards and fins that deploy after the round is fired, and is guided by commands from the ship. Essentially a gun-launched SAM.

    In the land attack and anti-ship roles, when the Iowa's were brought back in the 1980's, there were efforts to develop sub-caliber rounds to engage targets up to 100 nmi away. If those rounds could be fitted with a terminal guidance system, you could go after specific targets further away without having to deploy a generally more expensive missile. (Assuming we can avoid another the LRLAP fiasco.)

    In this scenario, with extended range ammunition, the battleships could, with targeting data from the UAV's, go after the surviving targets after the Tomahawk strike before coming in closer to finish off the base. The same applies in confronting the Chinese surface action group. Now, if you could fire a torpedo or depth charge out of a cannon, you could go after subs too.

    Because of the potential cost to build a battleship and everything that goes with it, especially the development a 16-in gun and ammunition, I'm not entirely sold on the idea of a modern battleship. But, as described, it would be a formidable weapon.

    1. "the idea of a single broadside taking out 57 out of 62 missiles seems a little too optimistic."

      Did you completely grasp the concept? The BB group fires a salvo of 36x 16" 2000 lb air burst shells in a three dimensional pattern creating an aerial kill box of solid metal. Hard to imagine much coming out of that unscathed!

      My live fire testing in the backyard with my 16" guns confirms this.

    2. Well, based on the success of your live fire test, I withdraw that part of my concept.

    3. "a guided 16-in round, with canards and fins that deploy after the round is fired, and is guided by commands from the ship. Essentially a gun-launched SAM."

      I'm uneasy about this concept but, to be fair, I can't really say why. Would we gain enough to make it worthwhile to duplicate existing capabilities? Would it be worth the loss of a significant portion of the ship's magazine (BB 16" guns typically had a magazine of around 100 shells per gun - presumably, you'd want 10%-20% to be AA in your concept?)? Can an unpowered, ballistic path projectile effectively guide on a powered, high subsonic/supersonic aircraft or missile?

      Your idea has enough merit to warrant further study.

    4. According to Navweaps, the Iowa battleships carried 1,220 rounds for an average of 135 rounds per gun. Assuming the same loadout for a modern battleship, you could designate 16-18 rounds per gun for AAW leaving almost 120 rounds for full-size and sub-caliber rounds.

      My suggestion for a guided 16-inch round for AAW is probably feasible but not practical. The the Army is looking at Hyper Velocity Projectiles (HVP) fired from 155-mm artillery cannons to defeat cruise missiles and other airborne threats. If an HVP could be adapted to a 5-in gun, AAW could be a secondary role for those guns. Conversely, you could adopt 155mm guns as secondary weapons.

    5. Guidance allows relatively small munitions to destroy relatively hard targets by exploding relatively closely

      A 5lb hellfire warhead knocks out a tank via direct hit

      A 500lb bomb knocks out a tank by hitting nearby

      A 2000lb bomb knocks out a tank by hitting in the same area code.

      Innacurate gunfire will be relatively accurate over a large enough volume of shell fire.

      A 10x10 fire grid isnt going to score 1 direct hit and 99 misses directly on top of the hit, they will still be accurate enough, relativel to explosive yield and volume of fire to destroy the target.
      We dont make guided cluster bomblets or saturation rockets.

    6. I did the same calculation some time back using the 12 inch gun from the Alaska class cruiser. Using a 6 inch 125kg submunition with discarding sabot would have a muzzle velocity of 1500m/s giving it a range of about 70 to 90 km.

      Given that 6 inch guided rounds already exist (vulcano) I think this offers a better route to developing a long range bombardment capacity. The 12 inch gun with auto loading like the des moines class guns would be a highly formidable bombardment system.

    7. "developing a long range bombardment capacity."

      Here's something to ponder ... why do we need a long range bombardment capability?

      The Navy jumped on this with the Zumwalt but I could never understand the need. We have plenty of long range "bombardment" capabilities: Tomahawk, Air Force air launched cruise missiles, B-1/2/52 bombers, Army ATACMS, Navy carrier strike aircraft, etc. Why does the Navy need to duplicate a capability that is already in existence in multiple forms?

      I see a need for naval gun support up to about 20 miles inland since that's where the bulk of need is and where the Marines would operate when they need gun support but I don't see a need to build a $8B Zumwalt (or equivalent) just to add another few dozen miles of range when we already have plenty of ways to achieve the desired effect.

      We so often get caught up in "how" to do something that forget to ask "why". What do you think?

    8. Probably has to do with the limitations of the existing "bombardment" capabilities. Consider OIF: the Navy fired 700 TLAMs into Iraq, which was more than half the total inventory. Otoh, Hornets from 5 carriers and USAF bombers dropped 5,000 JDAMs on Iraq in the same timeframe...

      Like I've said elsewhere, Navy thinking at the time was that with Zumwalt and LRLAP hitting out to 100-odd miles, that allows you to do long range fires inland, or you stay out of the relatively short-ranged percentage threat while raining down naval gunfire with impunity. If your gun shoots to 100 miles, but you only need to service targets 20 miles inland (at most), this means you can be 80 miles to sea and safely outside of range. This was true during the 90s, when the Zumwalts and their doctrine were thought up. It's not so today, given the proliferation of sensors, ESM and drones - a safe distance from shore-based percentage threats would be 100 miles to sea, which tbh is pretty ridiculous.

    9. Like, TLAM is a great weapon, but the problem is that there's only so many TLAMs in Navy inventory, and it takes time to move ships around, and once your ships fire off their TLAMs they need to sail back pierside to reload, which is a PITA.

      JDAMs are great things, they turn any aircraft carrying them into a precision bomber, but they're also pretty short ranged and not something you want to be carrying if you have to enter the teeth of a srsface IADS, what with the short range.

      Bombers + JDAM are a winning combo, but they're also pretty unsurvivable in contested airspace, so that places limits on when and where you can use them.

      The USMC doesn't use ATACMS, and given they carry all their equipment in amphibs, probably don't have the logistics footprint to ship ATACMS in decent amount to support a landing force.

      Carrier aircraft are a winning option, and I personally think it's highly unlikely that an MEU is going to be dropped on a beach without carrier support, but I suppose it could well indeed happen. *shrug* I think it would be foolhardy to go it alone without a CVN backstopping the landing tho.

      That said, none of these limitations above are strictly dealbreakers. They're all things a commander needs to take into account, but these are things that you can work with.

    10. "the idea of a single broadside taking out 57 out of 62 missiles seems a little too optimistic"

      Well, one of the advantages of a modern missile attack is the ability to simultaneously mass a LOT of missiles into one small space and moment in time. Of course, the flip side of that is that when you simultaneously cluster a LOT of missiles in a small area you make them susceptible to mass destruction by a relative few handful of airburst munitions, as described in the story.

      Thus, we see that the ability to simultaneously mass attacking missiles is both a potential advantage for the attacker and a potential advantage for the defender! The question is which side can better exploit their potential advantage. In the story, the defender's massive 16" airburst wall of shrapnel wins.

  9. Some thoughts on the story:

    On AAW shells:
    1) The size, weight, and inertia of both 16" shells and turrets will necessarily impact both fire rate and engagement speed. To me, they seem to be much more useful against threats coming from a known direction (mobile AShM shore batteries, for instance).

    2) The effect of the proximity fuse and shell splinters will necessitate a beaten zone that the BB's escorts will need to keep clear of. Being pelted by the equivalent of a 2000 pound frag grenade is probably not great for thin-skinned Burkes

    3a) The story scenario (saturation AShM strike) actually plays against the limitations of the BBs as AA platforms if the AShMs arrive with a simultaneous time on target from multiple vectors to prevent a AAW volley from crippling the strike or in a continuous attack to slip through the gaps in coverage during reloading.

    3b) The best analogy I have would be nuclear bombers using dispersed formations in areas defended by SAMs with nuclear warheads or infantry patrols spacing out so that a single IED or grenade can't take out the whole squad.

    On armor:
    1a) Once BBs show up, I wonder how long it would take for AShMs to start sporting HEAT warheads. I'm not sure how viable adding spaced armour to a ship is. I wouldn't expect all AFV armour technologies to translate well to a ship.

    1b) The upside might be that warheads optimized for penetrating a BB's belt might do less damage to unarmored combatants versus a more conventional blast warhead with delay fuse, in the same way that lightly armored IFVs and APCs have survived being shot through by tank AP rounds, suffering the mechanical equivalent of a clean through-wound.

    2) Traditionally, the protected parts of a ship are low in the hull, leading to cases where the ship can remain floating and mobile, but completely ineffective because the superstructure and all of the associated systems have been pounded into scrap. I imagine there are hard limits on how much armor can be applied to the superstructure before seaworthiness or structural considerations are impacted.

    3) Since there's already all this protection anyway, it seems like it would make sense to use the BB as a EW node

    On engagement strategy:
    1a) I think a more productive strategy for the OPFOR would be to avoid the hard target and engage their escorts. Burkes are neither cheap nor expendable (this is also the case for CVBGs).

    1b) While the loss of any individual escort is survivable for the fleet, it represents a real and immediate reduction in capability, something that might not be true of damage inflicted to a CV or BB.

    1c) Escorts by definition won't be as mutually well-protected as ship they are escorting. Getting a sub close enough torpedo a Burke or throwing enough AShMs at one to overwhelm local missile defence should be much easier compared to making it past the escorts to strike the capital ships.

    2) War is ultimately a political exercise and each side has thresholds for acceptable losses that their militaries, populace, and political masters are willing to sustain (yes, this applies even to autocratic, theocratic, or dictatorial groups as well. The thresholds just shift a bit depending on the usual factors affecting group cohesion). Video of multiple exploding/burning/sinking Burkes (or heaven forbid, LCS) may have a greater impact than a single large casualty.

    1. "a beaten zone that the BB's escorts will need to keep clear of."

      Did you note where the escorts in the story were during this tactic?

      "if the AShMs arrive with a simultaneous time on target from multiple vectors to prevent a AAW volley from crippling the strike"

      "if the AShMs arrive with a simultaneous time on target from multiple vectors to prevent a AAW volley from crippling the strike"

      Is it possible to concoct a scenario where we lose? Sure! You did note the presence of several Aegis escorts which would, one supposes, attempt to prevent that scenario, right?

      "I'm not sure how viable adding spaced armour to a ship is."

      It's completely viable and only an idiot would think armor will stop every weapon ever developed or that ever will be developed. You're not an idiot, are you? Armor serves multiple purposes but, presumably, you know that.

      "the superstructure and all of the associated systems have been pounded into scrap."

      In a properly designed, armored ship the superstructure would contain nothing critical to combat effectiveness - helpful, yes, critical, no.

    2. The Soviets had a shaped charge warhead for the AS-4 Kitchen missile. Its has a 900 kg shaped charge warhead that will blow a 5 meter diameter hole, penetrating 12 meters deep

    3. "900 kg shaped charge warhead that will blow a 5 meter diameter hole, penetrating 12 meters deep"

      I've looked into that claim in the past. What I found was that it was a single, unverifiable claim that has been repeated ad infinitum. There is no actual data or even a detailed description of the test conditions that I could find. Indeed, there is no evidence that the claim is even based on actual tests as opposed to, say, a manufacturer's claim.

      I note that the Russians/Soviets were/are notorious for exaggerated claims.

      To be fair, there were sources in Russian that I can't read so maybe there is more information out there.

      If you have any actual data or test description, please let me know.

    4. Surely the physics of this AS-4 warhead, as described are just inherently wrong. The AS-4 only has a cross-section of 92cm, from which I infer a warhead with a smaller diameter. This would be the first shaped-charge warhead I have ever heard of that produces a jet approximately 6 times the diameter of the warhead.

      Perhaps the concept involved a precursor shaped charge to breach the armour with a follow on warhead that could penetrate the compromised armor section before exploding wither within the armor or within the ship itself?

    5. "This would be the first shaped-charge warhead I have ever heard of that produces a jet approximately 6 times the diameter of the warhead."

      I know nothing about shaped charge explosive behavior but it seems like a good question! Maybe someone can offer a thought?

    6. Many modern anti-tank warheads have > x6 diameter penetration vs homogeneous tank armor.

      But an anti-ship missile with a HEAT plus follow-through warhead would probably need to produce a wider hole to accommodate the follow-through warhead, as well as account for non-homogeneous structures in the ship. So it likely would have different penetration characteristics than an ATGM warhead.

      Look at the BROACH warhead used by JSOW and Storm Shadow, for example.

    7. An antitank HEAT warhead is going to be less relevant for an AShM warhead because a ship is much bigger than a tank and is full of compartments. A tank just has the fighting compartment after the armor: breach it and you take out the tank, because the ammo is there, the systems are there, the crew are there, your round has a good chance of fucking up something. A ship is full of compartments and everything is spread out, so it's less vulnerable to a single hit (or at least that's the idea). Sure, a HEAT jet might go through 40 inches of armor and fuck up a fighting compartment: that's a different thing from going through a few hundred feet of ship.

      If you look at the big russian shipkiller missile, the P-700 Granit, it's basically a 7 ton missile slightly smaller than an F-16 traveling at Mach 1.6 with an armored nose, relying on all that kinetic energy to punch into the ship, where the 750kg HE warhead (that's 1500 lbs) detonates and sends all that shockwave and blast into the ship, as opposed to an external detonation where physics means a lot of that shockwave is going into the air or away from the ship.

      Or at least that's what the Russians want to happen.

    8. Re-reading my earlier comment I realize now that I didn't write as clearly as I should have. My "doubt" about the accuracy of the claimed AS-4 warhead capability was directed at the idea that the shaped charge warhead could produce a penetration 5 meters in diameter from a 90cm warhead. The actual depth of penetration didn't seem all that problematic.

      As several have noted the problem with a shaped charge warhead directed against a large warship is that the odds of such a warhead hitting anything vital are relatively slight, unlike in an attack against an tan or other armoured vehicle which is typically packed tightly with fuel, explosives, and a small space filled with crew.

  10. CNO, in your scenario they got Taiwan- that's the point all along from Beijing's stance (i.e. ships can be rebuilt, Hainan's buried tunnel can be undug..etc). SCS fake islands..well, they are expendable anyway. After all, they got Taiwan (i.e. cut the chain and throttle the sea lane nonetheless).

    Now, the million dollar question: will re-taking-Taiwan be fought as an isolated 'WW2-Pacific-island' battle, or an extension of continental battle due to its proximity to China ?

    Part 2?

    1. "will re-taking-Taiwan be fought as "

      How it will be fought, indeed, if it will be fought, will depend on our geopolitical strategy at the time. As you know, I view war with China as inevitable and any such war will be bloody and devastating on both sides. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that there is no repeat. In other words, a simple return to status quo would mean that all who died, died for nothing. China has to be crushed to the point that it can never again threaten the world. Interestingly, the military strategy to accomplish this (my version, at any rate) does not require Taiwan though it would be nice to at least deny its use as a base to China.

      So, my personal answer is "neither". From the US perspective, as long as we deny Taiwan's use as a base, we don't need to do anything about it while the Chinese will be forced to expend a great deal of focus and resources trying to pacify it. A "win" for the US.

      To answer your question on a more traditional basis, retaking Taiwan would be akin to Guadalcanal in the sense that both sides would attempt to resupply their forces on the island across large sea bodies and both sides would attempt to prevent the other side from doing so.

  11. How about a 16 inch version of this?

    1. Once we add ramjet, guidance, control surfaces, comms, terminal seekers, etc, are we running the risk of making another LRLAP with rounds costing $1M each?

  12. It's interesting that in your narrative universe, congress can be convinced to fork over tens of billions for new battleships, but not a dime to replace Harpoon with LRASM on those ships.

    My bigger question is when the Chinese see that we're laying down battleship keels, would they not follow suit with their own battleships? After all, it would be impossible to build a BB in secret, and the PLAN has been more than willing to hack us and steal ideas/concepts/systems from the USN in the past.

    1. "My bigger question is when the Chinese see that we're laying down battleship keels, would they not follow suit with their own battleships?"

      Possibly. On the other hand, they haven't copied our LCS or Zumwalt or JHSV or SSGNs. Perhaps they see no value in them. Perhaps they, like so many others, see no value in battleships - viewing them as obsolete relics of the past.

    2. Just a note: While China hasn't copied LCS per se, they do have a decent number number of ASuW corvettes, missile boats, submarine chases and minesweepers. China has not copied the JHSV because it's primarily a land power, and their naval buildup is prioritising their blue water fleet and recapitalising their older vessels over building up amphibious assault and transport capability.

      On the other hand, if you look at their newer destroyer classes, they're doing a Chinese iteration on the Burke format, and while their first batch of carriers are STOBAR carriers in the Russian style, the PLAN carrier roadmap calls for future carriers to be American CATOBAR style carriers. So I think whether the Chinese copy the US or not will depend on how relevant they think the platform is for them.

    3. "China has not copied the JHSV because it's primarily a land power"

      I don't know why China hasn't copied the JHSV but the JHSV's role is intratheater, high speed transport which would be absolutely ideal for servicing the first island chain of bases that China has set up.

    4. The Chinese use copies of the Soviet Zubr heavy LCAC for that role. They have the high transport capacity and speed of the JHSV, and add on substantial armament and full amphibious capability.

      Unlike the United States, China has zero experience with battleships (not counting the pre-dreadnoughts used disastrously against Japan in the late 19th century), which suggests a lack of institutional support for the concept.

    5. The Chinese had zero experience with carriers and yet is embarked on a maximum effort program to develop them!

    6. The Zubr class is fairly short ranged with Wiki citing around 300 nm at speed. Contrast this with the JHSV with a claimed range of 1200 nm. The Zubr is not really an intratheater transport though it could be used as such for very short distances.

    7. I wouldn't say zero experience with carriers. They studied the HMAS Melbourne in the 80s for steam catapult know-how, bought the Minsk and Kiev to learn from before turning them into parks in the 90s, and have expressed official interest in carrier ops for decades. Other publicly known attempts include trying to buy the Clemenceau and some Spanish light carrier designs, but those fell through. None of that applies to battleships.

      And yes, the Zubr is a much more short ranged craft, but for hops between one militarized island and the next, it suffices. After all, their requirements differ from the US due to fewer global commitments and a focus on regional operations.

    8. You suggested that the lack of institutional experience with battleships precludes any Chinese interest in them.

      Prior to embarking on their carrier program, China had zero institutional experience with them. Once they made the decision to start a carrier program THEN they carried out the various steps you noted. They didn't acquire various carriers and then start a program, they started the program and then acquired the carriers for study so that they could gain experience and design their carriers. Their program didn't start when they began building their first indigenously produced carrier - it started years/decades before. Arguably, it began when they Chinese first encountered American carriers in and around the Taiwan strait during the crises of 1979 and 1995-6, among others.

    9. "for hops between one militarized island and the next, it suffices. "

      Technically true for some of the islands but it's interesting to note that the nearest island, the Paracels, to the Chinese mainland is still 400 miles or so which is beyond the range of the Zubr. I've seen no indication that China uses the Zubr for intratheater transport and, if they did, if would be useful only in limited circumstances.

      Do you have a reference indicating China uses the Zubr as an intratheater transport?

    10. @ComNavOps: Like I said, China has not copied JHSV because 1) They are a land power and the main focus is on the land, 2) the priority for their present naval buildup is the blue water fleet over amphibious assault & transport capability. Which I can't fault them for: you need to have a serious modern navy first, before you can start thinking of launching amphibious assaults (and there's also the thinking in China that they don't *need* to invade Taiwan, because China's economy is growing while Taiwan's is stagnating, and China can afford to play the long game and wait, especially as there's a growing reunification sentiment in Taiwan).

      I suppose they figure that what they have currently is good enough for servicing and supplying their island bases (and in the case of Woody and the Paracels, they've got the option of flying in supplies to those airbases in the worst case).

    11. "On the other hand, they haven't copied our LCS or Zumwalt or JHSV or SSGNs. Perhaps they see no value in them. Perhaps they, like so many others, see no value in battleships - viewing them as obsolete relics of the past."

      On the LCS, I submit the Chinese have their version of an LCS in the Type 056 corvette. There are 41 in service today and are expected to build 60 or so. The Type 054A is an ASW variant.

      I have no comment relative to the Zumwalt and JHSV. Though, China is fielding the AG600 sea plane which could be used to bring supplies to their forward bases.

      As for SSGNs, China has only a handful of SSBNs at present, so they don't have enough to dedicate one as a SSGN. However, the improved Type 093G Shang SSNs are supposed to VLS cells. Between their forward bases and growing surface fleet, I don't think they need an SSGN.

  13. Wouldn't a war with China end up nuclear, with us all getting instant sunshine?

    1. Why would it? The Chinese would have no more incentive to go nuclear than we would.

    2. Would they prefer death to loss of face?

  14. A few thoughts...

    Don't expect Taiwan to be a speed bump. They have one of the best trained airforces in the world (which operates on highways in wartime), powerful coastal defenses and huge manpower. They would be a tough nut to crack for China, provided that their political will is strong enough.

    Here's a thought about your battleships : why don't you reduce the number of triple 16" mounts to 2 ?
    The british 16"/45 Mk IV developped during and after WWII was designed for a RoF of 3 RPM instead of 2. Thus, the last version of the Lion-class battleship designed after the war (65,000 tons standard) sacrificed one turret in order to reduce the lenght of the citadel and increase its vertical protection to a whopping 12 inches.

    1. "reduce the number of triple 16" mounts to 2"

      I can't find any reference to this modification. For the Lion class, Wiki says,

      "When it became clear the original 1944 'Design A' was not technologically feasible, it was abandoned in favour of a simpler modification of the 1942 plans for the Lion class. This was subsequently christened 'Design B'. The 'B' proposal scaled back heavily on underwater protection, top speed and reduced the size of the citadel to the minimum possible while dramatically increasing freeboard and retaining much of design A's armour and firepower. Two further design series; 'C' and 'D', considered alternative ways of saving weight via reduced armament or belt thickness, but these were quickly deemed unsatisfactory. 'Design B' became the primary focus ..."

      Interestingly, the next US BB would have had four triple turrets on a 70,000+ ton displacement hull!

      Given the battleship's intended mission, what would be the advantage to eliminating a turret? Unless the additional armor granted total immunity the loss of a third of the offensive weaponry seems a pretty stiff penalty!

    2. I was not refering to the 1944 design, but the post war developments on which the info is pretty scarce:

      I think you didn't understand me. Since the rate of fire of each gun is 3 rounds/minute instead of 2, there is no reduction in the number of shells you fire over one minute (6x3=9x2=18 rounds). There is , however, a reduction of broadside firepower...

      The British sacrificed 1 turret in order to make the battleship's vertical armor as thick as its horizontal armor by reducing the length of the citadel. The goal was to keep the future battleship manageable by Britain's dockyards.

      Now that I think about it, the US can afford to keep all 3 turrets while still installing maximum underwater and horizontal protection, though I don't expect such a battleship to have less than 80,000 tons of standard displacement. By comparison, the Montana-class' projected standard displacement was about 60,500 tons...

    3. Actually, scratch that, it'll be closer to 70,000 tons.

    4. The Montana was projected to be around 72,000 tons full load, if I recall correctly.

      You're correct, that the US approach would be to incorporate BOTH maximum armor and maximum firepower - no need to choose one over the other.

      You bring up another interesting point and that is rate of fire. For most scenarios, rate of fire is relatively unimportant. For example, in any ground support fire mission, rate of fire differences of 2 rpm versus 3 rpm is irrelevant. The only scenario where rate of fire is critical is BB vs BB and, even then, accuracy is far more important - one hundred wild rounds in some time period is not as useful as ten accurate rounds (I don't mean this as real numbers, just illustrating the concept).

  15. We've been there done that. Sounds like Lebanon 1984... 50 foot craters for sure...


  16. I have just two thoughts to the story. For me, most interesting part of the battleship description is in the first paragraph:

    “The ship’s main mission is land attack including infantry gun support and long distance Tomahawk strike with a secondary role of anti-ship. Naval and air base destruction would be prime missions.”

    I am not a naval expert but I believe that for battleships of the old times it was the other way around. Their primary mission was to engage capital ships of the enemy in a decisive battle (or scare him as the Fleet in being -- if my fleet is weaker than the fleet of the enemy).

    Old dreadnoughts were not good in this role. Jutland was a draw. Bismarck was sunk after she was crippled by an aircraft from a carrier. Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk by airplanes. That’s why carriers took over the role of the capital ships.

    Battleships were used for coastal bombardment, because they were no longer useful in naval combat. There was also a specialized warship for coastal bombardment, the monitor (or the bomb ketch, if you go more to the past).

    My second thought about battleships is that once you start to build them, your enemy will start build them as well. The use of Iowa class by the US after the WW2 was a success, because your enemies did not have battleships of their own. Will this be the case of your hypothetical conflict with China?

    1. "most interesting part of the battleship description is in the first paragraph:"

      Astutely spotted! This recognizes the change in modern warfare to a missile based system. Thus, the BB's primary role becomes land attack.

      "My second thought about battleships is that once you start to build them, your enemy will start build them as well."

      Maybe. It depends on whether the enemy sees value in them. Most naval observers believe the BB is an obsolete relic of a bygone age. If China/Russia believe the same then they wouldn't build them.

    2. " Most naval observers believe the BB is an obsolete relic of a bygone age. If China/Russia believe the same then they wouldn't build them."

      To be fair, it's hard to argue with the Pacific War, where battleships were dethroned by carriers, although I've read an argument that what really killed battleship viability in the eyes of most navies was the antiship missile, because now you have a weapon that's the same firepower whether you fire it off an FAC or a battleship, and this lets you get battleship-killing firepower at a cheaper price point, allowing you more hulls and vectors of attack.

      Consider Surigao Strait, where PT boats engaged the Japanese fleet for hours without success; had the PT boats been carrying Harpoons it would have been a much different story.

      I think what the Russians and Chinese will do is go for "cruisers", or maybe "large destroyers" (ah, semantics games!); the Type 055 is already there anyhow. Bigger ships with more VLS cells for a heavier throw weight, because until they get CATOBAR carriers that's the only way they're going to be putting together massed missile salvos.

      As for shore bombardment... my observation of the Chinese military suggests that they don't seem to view it with the same priority as the US. They're a land power: China has fought no big naval battles in the last 70 years, but has had short land wars with India, the Soviet Union, and Vietnam.

    3. "They're a land power: China has fought no big naval battles in the last 70 years."

      True. But they are trying to become a global power and 71 percent of the globe is covered by water. Also 90 percent of the world's goods are transported by sea.

    4. That is true, and they are serious about building up their blue water fleet, but it doesn't change that their priority has been their army and air force for the longest time, and while they will indeed have a legit srsface blue water navy in the future, it's going to take time to get there.

      But my point was that not having been a sea power the way the US is, not having fought the pacific war with the island hopping campaign and thus not having used battleships for shore bombardment, China doesn't have the same romanticism towards battleships that the US has.

  17. China won three land warsrecent history
    It suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of two naval powers, Great Britain & Japan.

    They want Tibet, Xianjing and the other outer provinces as buffer zones to protect China proper, and they want the islands for much the same reason, and they are far more fearful of what comes from the sea

  18. "I am not a naval expert but I believe that for battleships of the old times it was the other way around. Their primary mission was to engage capital ships of the enemy in a decisive battle (or scare him as the Fleet in being -- if my fleet is weaker than the fleet of the enemy)."
    The primary purpose of warships was to destroy, or capture, merchant ships.
    Ships are expensive and absolutely necessary for commerce.
    8 gun sloops were plenty to seize fishing vessels and small coastal cargo vessels
    16 gun frigates were needed to engage the 8 guns, which meant 32 guns to deal with those.

    Iron and steel armour, and coal and oil steam engines changed things, but not the fundamentals
    The two largest battleship fleets ever deployed, the Grand Fleet and the High Seas Fleet, and the express purpose of defeating their opposite and then destroying the enemy merchant marine, or blockading them in port.

    The goal of the Navy is to deny enemy access to the sea and preserve your access.

    Shore bombardment is an important if perhaps not key part of that
    If you bombard Chinas oil terminals, they cant import oil, if you bombard their submarine pens, they cant hunt your surface ships.

    1. I was referring to Alfred Mahan. To my knowledge, he claimed that naval war can be won only by a decisive battle. I admit, however, that I have not read anything from him. I know him just from secondary sources, probably simplified.

    2. In much the same way that we say a land war can only be won by "Schwerpunkt", yet the small battles of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq defeated the US.

      As fleets move to fewer, bigger ships, battles, de facto, become decisive, if you only have three capital ships, the loss of one represents the loss of 30% of your fighting power, pretty decisive.
      Not that I am suggesting a fleet of partisan ships could beat a modern naval fleet.

  19. What is this constant desire to bring back obsolete weapons like the 16in guns, when technology has advance to the point were we can build better weapon systems, that don't require crews of 75 men per 3 gun mount? Which as maximum range are less than our current 5in guns.

    It will be far more cost effective it we go ahead a develop a rocket power missile equipped with a guidance system that hit targets five at over 5 times the range of the old 16in guns, and require less than 20 percent of the crew needed for a 75 year old gun mounts?

    1. "bring back obsolete weapons like the 16in guns, ... require crews of 75 men per 3 gun mount?"

      So, you're suggesting that we get rid of soldier's rifles since they've been around since forever?

      There's nothing that says we have to bring back an exact duplicate of the WWII 16" gun. We can streamline and automate the loading/firing process significantly.

      A weapon is not obsolete until it can be replace by something that can do its job better. As yet, there is nothing that matches the sheer firepower of the 16" gun.

      "far more cost effective it we go ahead a develop a rocket power missile equipped with a guidance system that hit targets five at over 5 times the range "

      We just did that with the Zumwalt AGS/LRLAP and it was an abysmal failure! And you want to repeat it????

    2. According to your logic our 5 inch and 155 mm guns are from 19th century. Who says the writer is talking about same 16in mounts used in WW2. Imagine the range of a modern 16in gun.

    3. @Anonymous: The problem with a modern 16" gun is 1) we'd have to rediscover and recreate the skills in making said gun - though for the sake of argument and ComNavOps' scenario I'm assuming that could be done - and 2) dispersion. The current practical limit for unguided artillery is 40 kilometers, or 21 nautical miles. There are already 155mm guns that can shoot beyond that range, but that capability is not regularly used because beyond 40km, wind and dispersion serve to reduce accuraccy. Even 40km is pushing it, but you can get by with that because you can just fire a shitload of 155mm HE and get good enough hits (mind you this is the land-based artillery context, which has its own nuances vs naval artillery). 40km also puts you within percentage threat band for shore-based SSMs, which can fire at you with impunity from outside your gun range.

      There's reports of experimental ammo from the 80s that managed to push the range out to 46km, I think it's quite possible that you could in fact get range beyond 50 km with new guns and ammo, but that's still within SSM threat range. And then there's the accuraccy to consider: NavWeaps reports that teh 16" gun had a circular error probable of 250 yards - that's a circle 750 feet from the target center! In the best case 8 shells hit within 150 yards (450 feet) of the center, which is a problem when the shell crater is 50 feet. At least with JDAM, the CEP is smaller than the blast crater. :/

      So this means that in order to exploit that range, you need to make guided shells, which is where you run in problems: it's a lot easier to harden and protect electronics against the relatively gentle acceleration of a missile launch; it's a lot harder to do that against the massive shock and G-forces and acceleration of being fired out a 16" gun. It's not impossible, but it's questionable if the effort is worth it - there's a reason on the land why heavy artillery guns above 6" went away: rocket artillery (MRLS, Katyusha, Scud, ATACMS, etc) gives you more punch and range.

      So tl;dr any new 16" gun would need to be able to push out range much further than the 40km the 16"/50 Mark 7 guns did, and the shells need to be guided shells in order to exploit that range and make the best use of limited magazines.

  20. I know the 16 inch guns offer an unmatched amount of firepower, but have you considered the benefit of using several Fletcher-class like ships for the same purpose? With 5 x 5in guns on each ship, my math says 11.5 Fletchers can put the same amount of lead downrange as a battleship. Would that obliterate everything? Definitely not. But it would be sufficient to blanket large areas and disable/kill anything in it.

    1. Of course there's a use for 5" guns! Not everything needs a 16" shell. However, when you want to totally obliterate an area, nothing can take the place of a 16" shell.

      The 5" gun is like the sniper and the 16" gun is like the large bomb ... sort of.

    2. Right. But if you can use snipers to put the same amount of lead downrange and ultimately achieve the same purpose, Why not do it? Having more ships decreases the chance of catastrophic loss, it increases flexibility, I'm guessing building 11 2000 tons ships is cheaper than building 1 40,000 ton ship, and it may have the added benefit of getting more lead on target faster. It takes two hours for each 16 inch gun to expend its 130 shells. You can get a lot of planes off the ground before most of the ordinance can be delivered. On the other hand, my impression is you can unload 600 rounds from a 5 inch a lot faster.

    3. Ideally, it's not an either/or situation. You'd like to have both options.

      BTW, the 16" gun of WWII had a firing cycle of 45 sec so it could expend its magazine in 97 min, theoretically. The point of the 16" HE shell was that you could fire salvos of 9 shells and be reasonably guaranteed that the target was gone. Nine overlapping 50 foot craters eliminates the need for lots of 5" shells. 5" shells leave a lot of material and men behind and alive because their kill zone is so much smaller.

      It does no good to put 1000 5" shells on target in 10 seconds if none of them can penetrate the target (hardened bunkers, for example). Thus, the mix of weapons is preferred.

  21. “Nine overlapping 50 foot craters eliminates the need for lots of 5" shells.“

    Yes, and lots of 5” shells eliminates the need for nine overlapping 50 foot craters...

    Your point is taken and I like battleships. I’m just pointing out that the potential advantage you describe in the story is not unique to battleships. The deeper takeaway is that in a world where missles are the weapon of choice and ships don’t have heavy armor, a group designed to optimize their guns could be devastating to the enemy.

  22. I've been fascinated with and studied obsessively the US Navy vs IJN in the Pacific and naval gun support there and in Normandy and Mediterranean landings. This and your other posts on the battleships have given me a study guide to modern tactics and weapons, thank you very much.
    I was an infantry officer in a mech BN in Germany, the biggest weapon systems I lead was a weapons platoon with a a 3 gun 81mm mortar section and 2 TOW Anti-tank systems. One of my squad leaders was a very young FO in Vietnam who actualy got to call in a fire mission from USS New Jersey. They advised him that Danger Close was 1000 meters!!!

    All this is just to tell you that Marine and Army ground pounders would dearly love the big guns back, just as they fight the Air Force over it's numerous attempts to early retire the A-10 Warthog in favor of the POS (At least for CAS) F-35.

    I just discovered your blog tonight and glad I did!

    1. Welcome! Enjoy perusing the archives.

      Any thoughts on the Marine's decision to drop tanks, artillery, and large mortars?

  23. Sorry for the delay...age and illness of an aging Boomer couple.

    I researched this, and it appears the Marines have reversed positions as the overall national strategy has switched to peer to peer conflict. The tanks are still in, and looks like they will reverse course and add back more.

    They did pull the 120mm mortar, but that was a function of it was a bit of a dog, its Growler based mover sucked, and it was a bitch to load on the Osprey. It didn't perform as well as the Army's 120mm. And what's with the Navy Department? Like the supposed super 155 for the Zumwalt class, there was no commonality with the Army weapon or it's ammo!!!

    The Marines decided to gradually pull it from active units and only use it for training at the Marine FO school until all the ammo is gone. The newer, updated M777 155 howitzer will fill the 120 mortars niche with it's longer range and bigger bang.

    Meanwhile the BN 81mm mortars are getting a more powerful shell and efforts are ongoing to produce a PGM for it like the Army's 120mm already successfully used in Afghanistan.

    1. "The tanks are still in, and looks like they will reverse course and add back more."

      As we have now seen, the tanks are out and much of the artillery is gone, too. Any further thoughts on the wisdom (or lack thereof) of this development?

  24. I truly enjoyed this article. I only finding it so late, since this is certainly one that I would have loved to participate in.

    Good job!


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 7 days in order to reduce spam.