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
in the opening hours of the
war. Resistance had been fierce but,
ultimately futile and Taiwan 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 China and open the southwestern flank to
future penetrations and attacks. Taiwan
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
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. U.S.
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 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
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. US
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
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 had forcefully reintroduced
battleships to modern naval combat. United States
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
· EO/IR 360 deg