Marines fear scuttling battleships
December 5, 2005
BY ROBERT NOVAK SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST Advertisement
U.S. Marines, while fighting valiantly in Iraq, are on the verge of serious defeat on Capitol Hill. A Senate-House conference on the Armed Services authorization bill convening this week is considering turning the Navy's last two battleships, the Iowa and Wisconsin, into museums. Marine officers fear that deprives them of vital fire support in an uncertain future.
Gen. Michael W. Hagee, the current Commandant of the Marine Corps, testified on April 1, 2003, that loss of naval surface fire support from battleships would place his troops "at considerable risk." On July 29 this year, Hagee asserted: "Our aviation is really quite good, but it can, in fact, be weathered."
The Navy high command is determined to get rid of the battleships, relying for support on an expensive new destroyer at least 10 years in the future. This is how Washington works. Defense contractors, Pentagon bureaucrats, Congressional staffers and career-minded officers make this decision that may ultimately be paid for by Marine and Army infantrymen.
Marine desire to reactivate the Iowa and Wisconsin runs counter to the DD(X) destroyer of the future. It will not be ready before 2015, costing between $4.7 billion and $7 billion. Keeping the battleships in reserve costs only $250,000 a year, with reactivation estimated at $500 million (taking six months to a year) and full modernization more than $1.5 billion (less than two years).
On the modernized battleships, 18 big (16-inch) guns could fire 460 projectiles in nine minutes and take out hardened targets in North Korea. In contrast, the DD(X) will fire only 70 long-range attack projectiles at $1 million a minute. The new destroyer will rely on conventional 155-millimeter rounds that Marines say cannot reach the shore. Former longtime National Security Council staffer William L. Stearman, now executive director of the U.S. Naval Fire Support Association, told me, "In short, this enormously expensive ship cannot fulfill its primary mission: provide naval surface fire support for the Marine Corps."
The Navy's anti-battleship bias began Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese surprise attack destroyed the U.S. Pacific Fleet's battleships. Although admirals in 1946 vowed never to bring back battleships, they served effectively in the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf wars. Congressional pressure brought the USS New Jersey to Vietnam for six months, leading the Marine Commandant, Gen. Leonard Chapman, to conclude, "Thousands of American lives were saved." The Marines calculated that 80 percent of 1,067 U.S. planes lost in Vietnam could have been saved had battleships fought the entire war.
The admirals moved to get rid of battleships forever when GOP Rep. Richard Pombo proposed sending the USS Iowa to Stockton, Calif., as a museum. The Navy supports that as well as making the USS Wisconsin a museum in Norfolk, Va., and repealing the existing requirement to keep two battleships in reserve. The Navy's anti-battleship campaign began March 15 when Adm. Charles Hamilton briefed the House Armed Forces Committee. It is no coincidence that Hamilton has been the Navy's point man promoting DD(X).
Never has it been clearer how the military-industrial complex functions. Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics and BAE Systems are mobilized behind DD(X). Congressional staffers, eyeing a future in the Pentagon or the armaments industry, know the way to future advancement is not to be pro-battleship.
"The Marine Corps supports the strategic purpose of reactivating two battleships," said a Nov. 19, 2004, General Accounting Office report. Since then, current Marine leaders have adhered to the naval position, but not retired Marines. Gen. P.X. Kelley, the renowned former commandant said in a June statement: "I would hate to see a premature demise of the battleships ... without a suitable replacement on station. In my personal experience in combat, the battleship is the most effective naval fire support platform in the history of naval warfare."
The Army is an interested but silent listener to this debate. Its generals have failed in their fight over stressing tube artillery. If Congress now turns the last battleships into museums, the losers will be the grunts who carry rifles.
Battleships last fired in anger over 10 years ago.
We really miss them.
The IOWA class battleships each carried nine 16" 55 cal guns. Rate of fire for each gun is about two rounds per minute. That equals about 18 rounds per minute per ship. That means that both ships could put out a max of about 324 shots in nine minutes.
That rate is not fixed. The actual firing rate depends on several factors. During WW II the actual rate was well below max.
I don't know where this guy got his info but it is flawed. This is a propaganda puff piece.
The cost to re-activate the BBs would be exhorbitant. The Navy can accomplish the fires support mission without the BBs.
God this mule will just not die! This battleship thread keeps getting resurrected by those who have no real Navy experience, especially in the acquisition of new ships and weapons systems.
Let it die already! The battleships are NOT coming back into active service...for a ton of very good reasons.
Pre-assault bombardment via gun is a pretty ineffective way of prepping a beach head, look at when it was in its heyday it normally had little effect on the beache defenses.
The only real strong selling point is that it is effective for those few times enemy are caught in the open and there is not another fire agency able to support.
except they can now fire rocket assisted, laser guided or gps guided shells...
From the Washington Times
By Dennis Reilly
Published July 13, 2005
James Zumwalt's 7/7/05 Commentary "Dread not the DD(X)" could not have been more
aptly named. As was stated in the 6/21/05 Op-Ed "Battling for battleships", the Navy's
misguided effort to develop the DD(X) is effectively dead. Our purpose here is to correct
misstatements regarding the battleship, presumably obtained from the Navy.
Mr. Zumwalt appears unaware that his famed father was a proponent, not an opponent, of
battleship reactivation during his tenure.
Contrary to the Commentary, Admiral Hamilton did not provide "an honest... assessment
of the DED(X) versus the battleship", as is clear from James O'Bryon's 6/17/05 Op-Ed,
"Distortions about ships". A document, now under review by the GAO, and available at
http://www.usnfsa.org/ , presents a side by side comparison of official Navy Claims with
detailed rebuttal by USNFSA.
The Commentary implies that the battleship would be vulnerable. The latest Rolling
Airframe Missiles provide competent anti-air / anti missile protection to our carriers, and
even destroyers. Modernization of the battleships would surely include this protection.
The battleship's, deck and turret armor, not just the belt, as claimed in the Commentary,
were designed to, and proven to, take hits. Should a weapon get through, no other ship
would have a greater chance of remaining operational.
But, one has to ask why, in a high threat environment, would not a battleship, like a
carrier, be entitled to its own battlegroup with overlapping protections against threats
from above and below the sea surface. After all, within the range of its guided projectiles
(near term 52 miles, mid term 115 miles, long term 450 to 600miles) the battleship has
firepower comparable to that of a carrier. But, unlike the carrier, the battleships firepower
is all weather with tactical response times. Because its projectiles are immune to
antiaircraft defenses, the Hanoi Hilton problem disappears.
The Navy has failed in its attempt to discredit the battleship's firepower potential, so it
has turned its attention to the cost and availability of manpower. The rational way to
discuss costs of any weapons system is in terms of costs per unit firepower.
It would take nineteen DD(x)'s to put the same number of pounds on target per minute (at
the Marine Corp's near term goal of 52 miles range) as can a single battleship. The 1,100
men crewing a battleship with a $1.5B modernization and reactivation cost, will be doing
the work of the 1900 men manning nineteen DD(X)'s costing a whopping total of $32B to
build (at the unrealizable Congressionally mandated $1.7B per copy). Would not the
$30B savings pay for crew training and reconstitution of the spare parts, ammunition, and
support infrastructure trashed by the Navy, with some of this in clear violation of the law,
The battleship's boilers are fired by "Diesel Fuel Marine", not oil, as stated in the
Commentary. It uses the same power plant and the same fuel as the AOE-1 fast supply
ships that support our carriers today. Presumably AOE-1 ships will be replaced by the gas
turbine powered T-AOE(X). There is wonderful synergy going on here. This would free
up a considerable pool of sailors who would be quite familiar with the battleship's
propulsion system, answering another manpower issue cited by the Navy.
Contrary to the Commentary, the battleships would be far from single mission platforms.
They would, in the near term, 1) meet the Marine Corp's near term requirements for naval
surface support, 2) be an extremely effective antiterrorist platform in the Pacific littorals
because of their unique capability to obliterate training camps before the "students" could
disperse, and 3) serve as deterrent to Chinese adventurism in Taiwan, and North Korea's
threat to the South. On the longer term, the battleship's long range guided projectiles
could 4) open a new strategic and tactical dimension, with guided ballistic projectiles
arcing over uncooperative states to reach targets many hundreds of miles away in a
matter of minutes.
The Navy has made decisions that 1) there never again will be a need for forced entry by
the sea, and 2) invasions, should they be called for, will be accomplished by audacious 50
to 100 mi incursions using the unproven V22 "Osprey" tilt-rotor aircraft. The Navy
suggests that fire support will be provided by $500,000 per copy cruise missiles and by
the (endangered) aircraft launched Joint Standoff Weapon, a GPS guided gliding bomb of
The slow speeds of these weapons compared to battleship launched projectiles result in
inadequate tactical response times and vulnerability to antiaircraft defenses, severely
limiting the viability of this form of fire support. The costs per round are more than ten
times that of the tactically responsive, antiaircraft fire immune, battleship launched
What in the world can the Navy be thinking? As detailed in the 6/6/05 Op-Ed
"Battleships fit for Duty", they do even not recognize the real strategic threats we face.
The Marine Corp Generals (Semper Fidelis?) dare not contradict their Navy bosses. It is
time for Congress to impose some rational supervision.
Dennis Reilly, a physicist, serves as science adviser to the United States Fire Support
Note: a PDF file of last Summer's Battleship Debate can be found at:www.usnfsa.org/Articles/News/WT-OpEds.pdf
With only two battleships still in a position to operate, the costs are stupendous. There's no way the current cash-strapped military will be able to justify re-activating them, and finding/building the spare parts, and training new sailors to use them.
Guys- the cost of mothballing them for a single year could send every Marine to Gunsite for a week. When you figure reactivation costs- you could send every Marine to a 5 week CQB class and still give him a raise.
No they can't; not with out extensive (from scratch) development of new 16" shells.
It isn't as simple as slapping a PGM seeker on a 16" shell. Want to guess what the pressure and shock is like on those delicate little electronics riding the tip of that shell?
One of the Iowa's suffered a turret explosion and was never repaired.
The ships are one trick ponies, and they don't do that trick really well. If the op is so big you need lots of explosives on a beach, a B-52 or B-1 with a load of 500lb JDAM's would be far more effective and accurate, plus they can fly against targets past fifteen miles inland on the next sortie.
As much as i am a huge Iowa Class fan it would be useless to fix em up. The usage i foresee is something like China attacking Taiwan or whatnot and we using them to nail shore defenses. The chinese have a whole arsenal of different antiship missiles that a Iowa would certainly get nailed by. Sure they would take several hits to go down but they'd go down.
We should keep them as museums until the aliens come and we need to rearm them with pulse cannons and a warp drive system
I used to be a big proponent of battleship reactivation. Because it used to seem absurd to think that we would use heavy bombers as close air support aircraft. Then came Afghanistan and we did use B-1s and B-52s as CAS aircraft. That ended any argument. There is no place in any time or any weather condition that the B1/2/52 fleet cannot be available except maybe Antarctica. The JDAM has completely re-written the rules. The Iowas cannot be so modified to compete.
But battleships will probably make a comback in the next few years as the first Electromagnetic guns become available. The Iowas however cannot be converted. Railgun armed battleships would be best to start from scratch using nuclear/electric or fuel cell/electric power, Chobham type armor, and of course the special automated ammo handling for the coilguns and their high rate of fire.
A EM gun equipped battleship would have most of the throw-weight of a bomber and within the 'limited' range (still between 4 and 10 times that of the 16" gun) it would have truely unlimted endurance. It could fire guided rounds of similar capability to the JDAM OR iron dumb rounds for area targets. And it could do all this for less money and fewer man hours than the huge number of bombers and tankers needed to keep a handful over the target.
Was that a reference to the anime Yamato?
+1 What he said. If we have the air superiority to bring in a Battleship, then we have the air superiority to orbit heavy bombers. Battleships were obsolete with the advent of GPS guided munitions, if not long before.
Nice picks. I wear a BB-63 hat sometimes when I shoot. Hits close to home.
The BB has been dead for a long time. RIP
Scuttling them is really stupid. What it costs to keep them in reserve is a drop in the freaking bucket.
I'm so glad everyone intent on scuttling them has a crystal ball which assures them they will never again be needed.
We need another Billy Mitchell to counter the success of the first.
The big-wing admirals are in charge of the navy and we may lose our cherished freedom due to thier shortsighted devotion to thier cherished carriers...
A ship with a big gun will be needed.
But THESE guns on the Iowas are just are too short ranged and inaccurate for modern use. Even if range were doubled they would still be inadaquate.
Although its only been in the last ten years that I could say that. When we decomissioned them again in 1992 it really WAS premature. But since 1997 when the JDAM reached IOC and the USAF decided it would take CAS seriously they have been.
Carrier aircraft are NOT competition for the battleship. They are too short in loiter endurance and no one has built, or is planning to build a carrier compatiable tanker aircraft that would solve the problem. Even then, a carrier air wing would have to be something like 1/3rd to 1/2 tanker aircraft!
The USAF has something like two tankers for every heavy bomber. And that is still not enough to use more than a quarter of the bomber fleet at once.
The Marines big gripe is that they do not control the heavy bombers and are at the mercy of the whims of the Air Force, this current emphasis on tactical precison strikes could fade. I dont think the Marines like the AFs fondness for RPVs either. I think they fear the manned heavy bombers will be cut for a RPV fleet that would be inadaquate in numbers and in payload volume for CAS work.
However I also think that they are ignoring the progress made in EM gun technology. If the current small bore Navy EM Gun for the DDX/CGX does work once the lessons are learned a seriously big EM gun for launching projectiles up to a ton could follow.
A RPV aimed EM gun would trump even the payload of heavy bombers, but it would have to hav a range of at least 100 miles to be viable.
I think I'll get myself in trouble here and point out that it was only by the "the definite partiality of Almighty God." That the Japanese Battleships did not make Leyte Gulf a disaster for the Americans similar in scale as Midway was for the Japanese whilst the carriers were all but irrelevant.
So much institutional inertia built up on learning the wrong damn lesson.
the use of the word "scuttle" was hyperbole. They mean remove them from ever being restored to service ever again, not literally sink them.
They are horrendously expensive to run, to man, to maintain, to repair, to do anything with. If the Marines want them, give one to them and let them play with it.
Now some kind of 16" gun platform would be nice, but you don't need to wrap it up in a battleship. Could you pull a turret system and put it in a reinforced hull and remove the armored turret and replace it with a lightened gun house (that could withstand the muzzle blast). Build it into the stern of an LPD or similar ship. They would have the room and could take the reinforcing and are deep enough to accept all the lower deck systems requirements (handling rooms, etc).
What "wrong" lesson.
WWII aircraft could not attack in bad weather or at night.
WWII submarines had only 1/5th to 1/6th the speed of a battleship when submerged. The few cases where battleships or carriers were sunk by subs it was only possible because intelligence sources told the sub where to go and the warship almost literally ran the sub over- the sub became a self propelled mine.
Todays aircraft can hit precision targets at night in all weather, submarines are now as fast as a battleship while remaining submerged.
World War II was the pinnical of battleship performance- because they had reached a high level of techology (speeds in excess of 30 knots, radar to accurately aim their guns in all weather day or night out to the guns maximum range) and aircraft, while now capable of easily carrying ordinance that could slay a battleship could only use them in limited conditions -in daylight and in good weather.
Battleships could- and did- use bad weather and darkness to make high speed sprints to force surface engagements, before aircraft could locate them and mass against them. Carriers and battleships needed each other therefore for mutual protection.
And with regard to the US v any of the other navies in the world, in a surface action- which today would only happen in a "meeting engagement" like in Operation Preying Mantis in 1987- yes a Iowa would swat down FACs, corvettes, and frigates- but so would a Arleigh Burke with 1/5th or less the manning requirement. Much less one of our SSNs.
The wrong lesson in particular being that Airsupport is sufficient..
I am a HUGE proponent of airpower, however it has its limitations and its expenses, both of which limit its ability to be leveraged in protracted and highly contested scenarios.
Who invades fortified beach heads anymore?
Probably, but the 26 mile range of the three surviving usable Iowas is no longer sufficent to be the required substitute.
The best projected performance for a substitue round - the 11 in saboted, guided projecile- was figured at best to extend the reach to 50 miles at a significant reduction in payload and increase in cost.
That would still not be enough.
Chemical powered cannon techonology is not adaquate for the task.
While the Iowas air defense could be substantially upgraded, (VLS/TAS/ESSM, RAM combination like fitted to the San Antonio class LPDs) little can be done with the lack of underwater protection.
So really the Iowa could not be used in a "protracted, contested" situation as it would require extensive resources to ensure that mines and submarines were kept far away. Something that would be difficult when the short range of the guns requre them to move so close inshore.
If the defenses were attrited enough to allow the Iowas and their escorts to come in that close, heavy bombers could be used with impunity.
Does anyone remember when we thought the threat of nuclear war and a huge arsenal of bombers were enough for any conflict? And then we couldn't even muster enough conventional forces to fight some shit-hole country effectively? Why are we playing the same dumbass tune again?
This is like the argument against the Raptor- "oh, nobody we're fighting now has a competent, modern air force, we'll only have to fight half-assed sand geurillas in the foreseeable future so we don't need these now." Bullshit.
War with China is a definite possibility in the upcoming decades. We'll need everything we have to fight a war with another major nation; we're straining our resources fighting some arabs with no real military for pete's sake.
It's more cost effective to have these battleships NOW than these destroyers we won't have for another decade.
"Oh, China has modern anti-ship missiles. They'd just sink a battleship, even if it took a bunch of hits to do it." WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK THEY'RE GOING TO DO TO CRUISERS, DESTROYERS, AND AIRCRAFT CARRIERS?!?! Launch hippies at them and watch them bounce off the hull? They don't have nearly the armor protection the battleships have and if a battleship is going to be sunk then they'll all be sunk even faster because they have the exact same anti-missile and anti-aircraft defenses! I'd rather have a ship that can pound the shit out of them, survive a few hits that get past the screens, and then retreat out of range than one that mosies in, gets off maybe two shots, and then has to be abandoned because of the big fricking hole in the hull.
"Oh, we'll never need the big guns on a battleship. We'll just bomb the shit out of them with B-2's and fighters and cruise missiles!" Aircraft can't bomb something if they're grounded because of severe weather. It takes longer to ready an aircraft, launch it, and fly to the target to drop bombs or missiles on it than it does to swivel a gun and fire it. Ditto for cruise missiles, each of which costs a LOT more than an entire barrage of heavy gun fire. Oh yeah, and shells can't be shot down or deflected with ECM; aircraft and cruise missiles can.
Geez. Get your heads out of your asses people; it's cheaper to reactivate and modernize (how much modernization is needed on a ship last used ten years ago anyway? Aren't most of our aircraft thirty years old?) the battleships even if you wait until the last minute to do so, they're effective, they'll survive things no other ship can, and they can ass-rape any other ship or military installation in range before the carrier boys can even get their flight suits zipped up.
Not correct. Remember the limitations of HEAT warheads.
Yes it will penetrate the Iowas armor, and then some. But then what? There is nothing to burn or detonate like on the aircraft carriers those Russian missiles were designed to attack, unless by luck it hits a turret. But then the results would be little different than what happened when Iowa had the turret accident. A chain reaction like that which killed Hood is unlikely. Just punching holes in a ship above water will not sink them. You must either punch holes below the water line or cause uncontrollable fires.
By their sheer size one of those large warhead Russian missiles will probably sink a modern warship. But it would still take many of them to kill a Iowa.
Surface to Surface missiles are NOT the reason while the Iowas are obsolete.
Given how far the Navy says it has to keep the Landing Ships out to sea its probably correct even if the 155mm rounds can reach 50 miles.
Wrong on every count.
Our bombers have never been grounded due to severe weather. Since the JDAM was introduced they have never failed to bomb a target. As long as someone on the ground can send up coordinates they will hit it.
Aircraft do not start on the ground, we keep them orbiting. Shells can be shot down, we have installed two Phalanx guns in Bagdad to protect the Green zone, thats all they do is shoot down mortar bombs and rockets.
The CEP of the 16in gun with the HC shell is far larger than with the JDAM. And also the blast radius of a 16in shell is so large there would be many situations where we could not use it- we had the same problem in 2002 when all we had were 1000 and 2000 pound JDAMS, now we have 500 and 250 pound JDAM that can be used as close as a couple hundred meters from frendly troops.
Battleship reactivaton was only viable as long as aircraft precision weapons remained rairly used "silver bullets". That is no longer the case. More than 90 percent of the ordinance we have dropped in Iraq and Afganistan is some form of precision guided weapon. Because they so rarely miss far fewer rounds are needed, so we CAN keep supporting aircraft in the air.
Granted there is still the "what if" case of how to break up a modern, integrated air defense on short notice But the 16" guns are too short ranged and inaccurate to be the tools for that.
that raises doubt by the title.
Marines fear NOTHING!
All magazines are below water line.
There are just too many compartments for a shaped charge or EFP to cut through. And even if it could the aim would have to be soo precise you would almost need a command guided or laser guided weapon to hit exactly the right spot. A radar guided missile cant even CHOSE something like a turret, it goes for center mass. On a BB that would be pretty high up.
Certainly its the best availible choice in a warhead- unless someone has a hypervelocity KEM they are hiding- but it would still take many rounds or a lot of luck. Most airforces in the world could not get enough rounds past the AEGIS escorts.
But the whole point of taking the battleships out of service was that WITHOUT said escort people could get enough rounds past (even as good as Phalanx has proven to be), and sending the escorts in put the escorts in danger. If a round or a plane did leak through AEGIS it would just as easily select one of the CGs or DDGs and they can be taken out by one round. It was a lot of risk to the tin cans for minimum gain. If there is so little risk that you COULD sail in ships like that than there is nothing to keep bombers or AC-130's from flying where they want, whenever they want.
Tag just because.
I really do get quite a laugh out of the people attempting to argue with the USN and Royal Navy guys.
Our government is poor as it has to borrow money to stay afloat. In doing so, changes will be forced upon us. One change is that our labor rate versus technology acquistion will start to favor labor. Or in other words, labor will become cheaper. Should this trend continue, and it shows every indication that it will, artillery will become more attractive than today rather than the high-tech jets, smart bombs, and cruse missles.
Like it or not, the standard artillery is coming back whether that is ship-based or land-based. I do think the battleships are not an attractive platform, however. Largely because petro will be a large concern in the next large-scale or WW. Ships need to be nuclear.
Battleships are sitting targets.
The new destroyer cuppled with air support hopefully works. 155mm (6") guns are automated, but are sorta small
Talking fire support...Why would you call in nine inaccurate 16 inch projectiles and put your team at risk when you could call in a precision guided munition that will impact within 1 meter of the target?
The biggest reason to have the BB's activated is simple, because we can. As the world's foremost in wealth and power there should be ZERO problems with retaining two ships of the line. This country wastes more money yearly on aiding illegal immigrants, I'll be damned if I care what we spend on the BB's!
I don't know about that. Sure, a carrier has greater throw weight in a single strike (60 F/A-18s will carry a decent weight of explosives), but if you start talking about sustained engagement, combined with the need to trap, rearm and launch, I wonder if a battlewagon lobbing 18,000lbs of shell every thirty seconds mightn't be able to close the gap over a period of, say, half an hour.
FINALLY! After two separate threads someone acknowledges my pictures! About damn time!
Modern anti-ship missiles and torpedos may be more potent and negate the heavy armor of the Iowa Class BBs but that would mean they would make mincemeat of all other surface ships as well. In a future warfare scenario I would think that a BB or SSN would the most survivable vessels around. Now this is all academic since naval aviation and the anti-air defense from the escorts will play a instrumental role. I also have faith that our 688Is and Seawolfs would play a strategic role in introducing future enemy vessels to Davy Jones locker.
Bring back the BBs!
I think we should upgrade the hell out of at least one BB, and put her back in service.
Nothin' better for gunboat diplomacy. It's "there's a CVN you can see over your horizon with planes" vs "look at the big fucking guns off your shore."
B-b-but not super cool battleship armour!