The end of the battleship

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The Basket

Senior Master Sergeant
Jun 27, 2007
So when did the Battleship have it's day?

What year? what event?

Would the battleship have use today?

Too expensive?
Too precious?
Too vulnerable to air attack?
Too many crew?
So when did the Battleship have it's day?

What year? what event?

Assuming you're talking about dreadnoughts, Jutland comes to mind, and it goes into the early part of WWII. I think both Pearl Harbor and the fate of Force Z were the big wake-up calls for the Gun Club, but there were slugfests both before and after those events (Bismarck before, Washington vs Kirishima and Surigao Strait afterwards, though the latter was more a mugging than a battle.)

I don't think it can really be pinpointed to one event, but 1941/2 marked the change, it seems to me.
Would the battleship have use today?

Sure, in some circumstances, but they'd be very expensive to build or rebuild, and then operate, while the guns themselves suffer limits that modern guided weaponry don't.

Building a new class of BBG would probably get killed off early in the procurement process from a cost/benefit analysis.

Too expensive?
Too precious?
Too vulnerable to air attack?
Too many crew?

All of the above.
They would be great to have, if already built and paid for. The Iowas are national monuments now (I think) and can't be touched. If you have them then great. If you want to get a nation's attention, parking one of those monsters off its coast will do it. They're damned impressive. Sometimes ya' just gotta' really stand off and SMASH something even if it takes a while.
With that said, they're too costly in personnel and resources. The lead time for a new one would be at least that of a carrier. If a new build, modern tech has to be designed in. It wouldn't be your dad's battleship. The new BB would be designed with a crap load of air defense systems and missile chuckers. I doubt it would be any more vulnerable than a CVN if we compare ship to ship, sans air group. What are we using for propulsion? For the resources required, there are better uses.

I agree with The Thumpster. I just like talking battleships.
The exact end of the age of Battleships would be hard to pinpoint.
The last hurrah would have been the battle of Surgaio Straight and the demisenof the Yamato showed how modern warfare (of the day) had surpassed the age of the battlewagons.

However, the modernized Iowa's showed how potent of a weapon platform they can be. Aside from their 16" guns, they were bristling with Phalinx, Delta Darts, Tomahawks and so on.
In the 21st century, why nit build a battlewagon using new tech?
The age if the rifled gun may be past, so cast the old basement-diggers aside and load the monster down with the most advanced offensive/defensive tech available.
If you look at say 1939 and battleships are getting built and super duper battleships are getting designed. So 1939 is certainly a bumper crop plus this is numerous nations not just traditional naval powers.

Of course, you could point at a single event such as sinking of Yamato and say the Battleship concept was over.

But if you give it a twist then let's say Iowa faces the same air power. Iowa would have better radar and fire control and proximity fuses and was a flak farm plus the escorts and also be faster. So Iowa would have been a stiffer test. Plus the USN would have been able to give air cover so, under these circumstances then Iowa could have survived.

Plus to say battleships are vulnerable but aircraft carriers are even more vulnerable. Plenty of carriers have suffered damage which a battleship could have survived.

Or PoW and Repulse and say those ships were sunk. But then again it showed weakness in terms of better fire control or better flak.

So crazy case in point is Yamashiro and Kirishima. Both were night battles when no airplane is flying so unless you had your own big gun ships then air power is no good then you are vulnerable.

One could argue that Kirov class could have created a new battleship class although relying on missiles rather than big guns
The 2nd phase of the Iowa's when they were reactivated for the last time was the the rear turret was to be replaced with a flight deck and vertical launched tomahawks would be installed. Today equipped with the F-35Cs it would have made a lethal weapon. During the first Gulf War, the US Navy fired hundreds of 5" shells to knock out oil platforms, a single salvo from the 16" would have done the same thing.
Interesting items relative to when Billy Mitchell sank the Osfriedland:

1. The USN attacked the target ships also, using their best flying boat, the Curtiss F-5, and the bombs hit but did not go off.

2. Mitchell did not bomb the ships. In reality he torpedoed them. The specially made bombs dropped from the Martin MB-2's deliberately did not hit the ships but hit right next to them, caving in the sides like a torpedo hit would. Obviously, this would not work very well with ships that were under way.

3. Washington Times headlines screamed that Mitchell had proved that battleships were useless and airpower would be the country's main defense. They were right!

4. It's hard to say whether the atomic bomb or the USN's development of the Bat radar guided missile did more to put an end to battleships. Which is worse? One very big bomb or hundreds of PGM's that are launched out of AAA range and don't care if it is day or night? They never got past building the hull of the USS Montana Class, which was like an enlarged Iowa Class with four 16 in turrets.

5. The creation of the USN carrier force was spurred by Mitchell's airpower demo. They really ought to name a carrier after him.
Mitchell proved you can bomb an obsolete German battleship.

Which wasn't moving. Or shooting back. Or had no escort. Or any damage control. Or any air support.

And if you bomb it enough times it would sink.

I can be heavy weight boxing champion of the world based on the science of that test.

The Ostfriesland proves nothing at all. Nothing at all.

(Stupid Sexy Flanders)
How many naval targets stay stationary for bombers?

The target practice off Hampton Roads, and that's what it was, shed no more light on combat bombing missions than any other peacetime target practice, except to show that aircraft could deliver explosives onto a stationary target, too.
Tough one.
Arizona, Tirpitz, Gneisenau, Haruna,

Off the top of my head.

But they were all stationery.

Roma was hit by a guided bomb. So Roma was the only battleship under way sunk by bombs alone. I think

Did Mitchell have Fritz X? So no.
So then, we need to look to WWII to see if Mitchell's theory was valid.

How many ships were sunk by bombs?

We could even go one further: how many moving ships were sunk by bombs?

Sims, with the tanker Neosho, plastered by Vals, no Kates attacking. Cornwall and Dorsetshire, all Vals. A couple or few Brit ships during the evacuation from Crete, as well. Note that none were sunk by level bombers in those instances, and level bombers sinking anything other than their own bombs was a very rare occasion.

The question, in context, seems to me to be how many battleships were sunk by bombs of any sort, which was, after all, the aim of Mitchell's demonstration, which of course weren't the dive-bombers used to better effect in WWII.

Mitchell's demonstration was almost pointless.
Before we go any further, we need to eliminate everything we know that's transpired in the past 80 years and go back to Billy Mitchell's time, when aircraft was still viewed by some, as a novelty. Even after the Great War.

Now, Mitchell was convinced that aircraft (read: aircraft, not a specific type) would one day become a dominant factor in warfare.
The Navy guys laughed at him and the Army guys laughed at him.
He then stated that ships would be vulnerable to bombers - remember, they didn't have D3As, SBDs or Stukas yet, but they had level bombers, so this is what he used.
Keep in mind that he wasn't supposed to prevail in his demonstration regardless if it being stationary or not.
When he sank it, all hell broke loose.

So his point that aircraft can challenge naval assets created a stir in the Battleship club and was a herald of things to come.

Fast forward to the Pacific 1942 and level bombers were most certainly taking their toll on surface shipping.
While they weren't traditionally bombing, they'd were instead, skip-bombing.
And the aircraft being used were B-17s, A-20s, B-25s and so on.

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