Thursday, August 22, 2019

Naval Bombardment Philosophy Recap

Well, our discussion wandered off into a land artillery discussion which is, admittedly, more than a bit related to naval bombardment.  The upshot of the discussion seemed to be that there are good reasons for the semi-standardization of land artillery on 155 mm guns.  The reasons include logistics, cost of the gun, ease of movement of the guns/munitions, munitions inventory, and general applicability/effectiveness of the 155 mm caliber.

I would note that most of those reasons don’t apply to naval guns in any significant way.  The cost of the naval gun is small compared to the overall cost of the ship, movement is effortless since the ship moves anyway, logistics are no more of a burden/challenge than for any other aspect of the ship’s logistical needs, and ships have relatively large magazines and sufficient inventory of munitions for their mission needs.

Beyond that, naval guns have a few advantages over land.  Modern naval gun loading is largely or totally automated which allows the rate of fire to be maintained indefinitely as opposed to hand loaded land artillery.  This allows the extended operation of larger caliber guns, if desired.  Being on ships, naval guns are inherently more survivable due to ‘stealth’, continual movement, and armor (well, guns used to be in armored mounts and ought to be today).

The conclusion seems to be that land artillery has settled on a reasonable compromise in the 155 mm gun but that naval guns are not bound by the same limitations.  Therefore, there is no reason not to have larger caliber naval guns.  Larger caliber guns produce bigger ‘booms’ and that is generally good.  For those cases where bigger is not better, ships, both individually and as a fleet, traditionally have a range of gun sizes and can choose the appropriate size. 

As with most things, a range of naval guns offers the best overall performance and value.  Too many people want to argue for one-or-the-other options when a mix is almost always best.  I don’t think anyone would argue that there are times when having a 16” gun available is highly desirable but that doesn’t mean the entire fleet should be armed with them.  A fleet mix of 5”, 8”, and 16” would seem reasonable. 

Some commenters have made the case for naval 155 mm guns and that’s a fair discussion.  Whether the benefits of moving to that size would be worth the disruption of the current 5” logistics, training, and support train is debatable.

In short, nothing about land artillery experience precludes larger caliber naval guns and I see no reason why they should not be part of the fleet gun mix.


  1. The Germans had a experimental program called MONARC (Modular Naval Artillery Concept). in 2002. They mounted a PzH 2000 turret on the Frigate Hamburg. They claimed the Oto Melera 76mm and the Pzh 2000 turret were close to the same weight, although special dampers had to be installed for the greater recoil of the 155mm. The trials were semi succesful, but they had corrision issues with the land based turret. They eventually went ahead with the Oto Melera 5inch gun on future ships as the volcano ammo has a reported range of 100km. Interesting concept though.

    1. It was also an object lesson in the difficulty of adapting a land weapon to naval use. Everyone thinks it's so easy but the practical challenges are almost prohibitive. A gun that isn't designed from the start for naval service is very unlikely to successfully adapt.

    2. Installing dampers and solving corrosion issues still seems a lot easier than dealing with the mess that is Zumwalt's AGS.

    3. Seriously, though, the corrosion issue alone is almost insurmountable. Every piece, seal, nut, and bolt has to be replaced with corrosion resistant materials. Saltwater and sea air penetrate 100%. The entire gun would have to be re-spec'ed and rebuilt. No easy task.

      Then throw in the continuous vibration and oscillation issues that land weapons don't encounter and the challenge grows even more daunting. Even tank mounted weapons which are stabilized are stabilized for a different type of movement (different vibratory and harmonic frequencies). They would require a completely new stabilization and fire control system.

      And the list of challenges goes on.

      So, yes, it can be done but it's not easy and I'm hard pressed to think of a successful example although I'm sure there are some - maybe. By the time you've adapted the weapon you've created a brand new gun, for all practical purposes.

    4. "Oto Melera 5inch gun on future ships as the volcano ammo "

      Range is nice but it isn't everything. In fact, range is often irrelevant. Of more concern is 'boom'. For example, as I understand it, the 5" Vuclano round is a sub-caliber round which means it has a smaller warhead (I've not been able to find any warhead size data - anyone have any?). So, we're decreasing 'boom' to get more range. That's generally not a great trade especially considering that the 5" round is not exactly massive destructive to begin with.

      And, as always, there's the long range targeting challenge that everyone glosses over.

    5. The Monarc concepts corrosion issues should be a lesson for all the Marines and sailors who want to chain M-109s and MLRS launchers and anti UAV jammer-buggies to helicopter flightdecks for shipborne artillery.

      It may work in theory, of evem for an exercise or excursion, but your equipment is going to suffer mightily for your thriftiness, and you'd be better served by a built-in solution.

  2. "Oto Melera 5inch gun on future ships as the volcano ammo has a reported range of 100km. Interesting concept though."

    Does that have reported cost per round with it as well?

    Also on problem I have is with all the extended range shells of 5" supposed current of past, is they are often cited as eliminating the need for say a 8" gun because see we can make a 5" shoot farther or just as far... But I rally do not see any discussion of payload lose, cost per round, or what would an extended 8" shell look like?

    1. Volcano shells are $50,000 each and that figure is a couple of years old. If you Need the range or accuracy, $50k isn't too bad.

  3. Different gun, same round, might be worth pursuing for a joint 155m project,
    But, the teeny cost of ammunition means thats highly questionable

  4. Navy 155mm for ships. In my opinion, the 8" Mk 71 could be downsized for the 155 shell, keeping the ammo semi-fixed so NO redesign is needed. Just scale down the powder case to fit the scaled down chamber. Easy-peasy...

    One of the big benefits would be the ability to mount the gun/s on a much smaller, less expensive ship than a cruiser. A Fletcher sized ship of ~2500 tons would be able to carry 2 guns and 16 Mk 41 vls. This is the land attack ship that the LCS was supposed to be. Five to 600 hundred shells total and about the same armor level of the Fletcher would be a pretty potent little ship.


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