July 14, 2020

Naval Gazing Virtual Meetup

For the next meetup, let's do a Sunday slot. 3 PM Central (GMT-6) on January 17th. Teams link is here. I expect the Aurora game to be discussed, along with anything else we happen to wander into. Also, send me an email at battleshipbean at gmail if you want email notifications.

January 17, 2021

Merchant Ships - Whaling

Whales have been hunted for thousands of years, and indigenous people still hunt them today from small boats, seeking meat and other products. But deep-sea whaling didn't become a major industry until the 17th century, and the main objective was not meat. It was instead whale oil, extracted from blubber, and baleen, the strainers that many whales use to filter their food out of the ocean.1

Whaling ship Charles W. Morgan, the oldest merchant ship afloat, at Mystic Seaport

Demand for both products ballooned in the late 18th and early 19th century. Whale oil was the best fuel for new, brighter oil lamps, and also a vital lubricant for the developing industrial revolution, while baleen was used anywhere where a combination of strength and flexibility was required, ranging from buggy whips to corset stays. Whale stocks in the North Atlantic quickly collapsed, and whalers had to venture further and further in search of their prey, often to the remote corners of the Pacific or the Southern Ocean. This trade was initially dominated by Americans from New England, with a high proportion concentrated in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Read more...

January 16, 2021

Aurora Game 1 - 1968


It has been an exciting year, with several new technologies arriving. Our biggest focus has been on resolving the fuel crisis, and as such, we've improved general fuel economy, increased engine size, and decreased power multiplier. The end result is that our latest commercial engine uses only 42% as much fuel per unit power as the one in our current transports. This, when combined with our increased fuel production, should let us supply a new colony relatively easily. We've also finished the jump gain chain to Gliese 892, so it's probably time to look at new transports.

The other major development is major improvements in our research, as our scientists have gotten better and allowed us to allocate labs more efficiently. This has paid major dividends, particularly in Construction and Production research. We also suspect we've found another civilization in the Gliese 785 system. Unfortunately, we have no direct contact, but there's a habitable planet in the system and we've discovered jump gates leading from it, so the conclusion isn't hard to reach.

Database is here.

January 13, 2021

Naval Airships Part 1

The history of naval aviation is often told as the history of the aircraft carrier and its planes. But naval aviation is a broader topic, and focusing on even the most important element gives an incomplete picture. I've talked about this some, with my look at aircraft operations from battleships, but it's time to turn our attention to one of the less successful and less explored aspects of the field, the use of lighter-than-air craft to support operations at sea.2

Raddampfer (sidewheel steamer) Vulcano

The first known use of lighter-than-air devices at sea dates back to 1849. Austria was attempting to put down a revolt by the Venetians, and someone came up with the idea of using hot-air balloons to carry explosive charges over the city. Timers would drop the explosives, hopefully persuading the inhabitants to come to terms. The plan, carried out from the deck of the steamer Vulcano, failed when the wind turned contrary and the balloons were blown back over the ship. Obviously, the experiment was not repeated. Read more...

January 10, 2021

The New Navy

In 1865, the US Navy was the second-largest in the world, and a close rival to Great Britain's. It had chased Confederate commerce raiders and enforced the blockade that had strangled the South. It had fought the world's first battle between ironclads, and perfected the art of coastal attack. But in the aftermath of the war, it all came crashing down. Raiders had driven American merchant ships to foreign flags, and the government prevented them from returning postwar. Railroads opened the west, and the US turned its attention from the sea to the inland frontier. Robbed of its public support, economy was the order of the day and the Navy shrank drastically, falling from 671 ships in 1865 to only 238 in 1867. Even those that were retained were in poor repair, and many sailors on foreign stations (greatly reduced thanks to the absence of merchantmen in need of protection) wrote about their embarrassment next to freshly-painted foreign warships.

The US European Squadron, 1872

Making matters worse, much of the Navy's leadership was ineffective or downright reactionary. David Porter, a Civil War naval hero, was promoted to Admiral and effectively dominated a series of weak Secretaries of the Navy, including one who was surprised to find that ships were hollow on his first visit. He emphasized sail, threatening to take the cost of any unnecessary coal used out of the Captain's pocket. Occasional war scares with various countries, such as the Virginius Affair of 1873, emphasized the Navy's weakness, but any appetite for new ships died with the crisis that spawned it. Read more...

January 08, 2021

Open Thread 69.25

As you might have noticed, the title of this OT is slightly different from normal. I'm mostly just amazed that the Naval Gazing OTs have reached the point that SSC's were at when Naval Gazing started almost four years ago. Commenter IrishDude asked about people's hobbies, and I answered about my tour-guiding efforts. Some discussion ensued, and I ended up giving a text version of my standard fire-control spiel. And I just kind of never stopped throwing random battleship/naval stuff onto the internet.

Also, as 2020 is now behind us, it's time to announce the winner of the William D Brown Memorial Award for the biggest screw-up that didn't kill anybody. This year's goes to the US Navy, for managing to write off an amphibious assault ship in a fire, which also allowed the judges to dodge the tricky question of Thomas Modly's eligibility.

As usual, talk about anything you want, even if it's not military/naval, so long as it's not culture war.

Overhauls for 2017-2018 are Armor Parts three and four, A Spotter's Guide to Warships of the World Wars and today, Why the Carriers Aren't Doomed Part 1 and Reactivation of the Iowas. 2018-2019 overhauls are Great White Fleet parts two and three, Commercial Aviation Part 4, Information, Communication and Naval Warfare Part 2, Auxiliaries Part 4 and my review of the Stafford Air and Space Museum. Lastly, 2019-2020 overhauls were Anti-Radiation Missiles, New Year's Logs, The Range of a Carrier Wing and Billy Mitchell Part 4.

January 06, 2021

The Ticonderoga Class

While the Arleigh Burke class destroyers are the backbone of the US surface fleet today, the older Ticonderoga class cruisers are still important, particularly in the high-end air and missile defense roles. As such, it's worth taking a look at these ships. The Ticonderoga class is closely associated with Aegis, the US Navy's integrated air defense radar/tracking system, and rightly so. It was the final result of a long and difficult process of figuring out how to take that system to sea, and its arrival revolutionized the world of naval air defense.

Leyte Gulf of the Ticonderoga class

Aegis development began in 1963, after the cancellation of the previous Typhon system, which was intended to implement a very similar track-while-scan multitarget system, but with analog electronics. It didn't really work, so it was cancelled and development started again on a digital system. By 1969, all of the conceptual problems had been solved, and it was merely a matter of figuring out what sort of ship would carry it. Unfortunately, this is where things went wrong, as two powerful elements within the Navy clashed. On one hand, there was Admiral Hyman Rickover, the head of Naval Reactors, who continued to serve long past the mandatory retirement age at the behest of Congress. His close relationship with many in Congress (often helped by naming ships after them or their towns) had resulted in a legal requirement that all surface warships over 8,000 tons needed either nuclear power or a good explanation why they wouldn't use it, and to him, Aegis was the obvious system to equip the next generation of nuclear-powered cruisers. On the other hand, there was Elmo Zumwalt, who took over as Chief of Naval Operations in 1970 despite being 20 years Rickover's junior. Zumwalt was primarily concerned with the impending collapse in warship numbers as WWII-era vessels were retired en masse, and had a strong focus on keeping unit costs down. He even considered cancelling Aegis, as it didn't fit with his focus on sea control. Read more...

January 03, 2021

Nuclear Weapons at Sea - Cruise Missiles Part 2

Naval strategists on both sides of the Iron Curtain quickly saw the potential of the submarine as a platform for delivery of nuclear weapons. Unlike any other means of delivery, it offered the opportunity to get in close to the enemy's coast, even in the face of enemy forces, and emerging cruise missiles gave it a weapon capable of striking targets far inland.

A Shaddock missile

The Americans were the first to get a system to sea with Regulus, but the Soviets were close behind. Like the Americans, their program began with captured V-1s, but they soon developed new designs of their own. Several missiles were prototyped, but in 1957, the decision was made to concentrate on a single missile. This missile, the P-5, also known to NATO as the SS-N-3 Shaddock. The P-5 had several advantages over other missiles. It was supersonic, with a speed of Mach 1.2, and had a range of 300 nautical miles, but most importantly, its wings extended after launch, allowing it to be fired directly from its canister. This capability, which Regulus and most other contemporary cruise missiles lacked, allowed it to be launched much more quickly, and without sending personnel topside. The first could be launched after about 5 minutes on the surface, with others following at 10-second intervals. Read more...

January 01, 2021

Aurora Game 1 - 1965

Progress continues. We've had little further contact with the alien race, although we were able to get a scout within range to confirm the location of their homeworld. Our biggest problem at the moment is fuel, which we are essentially out of. As a result of this (and an infrastructure shortage on Earth) we've suspended colonization of Luna with over 25 million there, and the civilian freighters are working on supporting our colonies on Mars and Wolf 1061. We've some technology in hand to deal with the fuel crisis, including the development of tractor beams and sorium harvesters, and the researchers are working on improving the production of our refineries. But we're going to have to be careful with our fleet for a while.

Database is here.

OK. I've played through 1967 (database), and things are looking up a bit. Thanks to new technology and the first four fuel harvesters, fuel production is twice what it was two years ago, although our stockpiles are dangerously low. We've also got jump gates all the way to Gliese 892, although the last gate back is still under construction. The big hurdle there is fuel. Our existing cargo fleet could reach Gliese 892 and back, but it would use up over a year's worth of fuel. We might need to look at new transports. The best current engine we could design uses about 70% of the fuel of the original commercial units, but we can cut that down to 40% in a few months if we accept a 20% cut in power-to-weight. Beyond that, things continue to truck along. We've added the tug/tanker Durance to our fleet, the first new ship since the start of the game:

Durance class Tug 10,000 tons 112 Crew 386.5 BP TCS 200 TH 600 EM 0

3000 km/s Armour 1-41 Shields 0-0 HTK 46 Sensors 0/0/0/0 DCR 1 PPV 0

MSP 24 Max Repair 100 MSP

Tractor Beam

Capitaine de corvette Control Rating 1 BRG

Intended Deployment Time: 3 months

Commercial Nuclear Pulse Engine EP100.0 Mk II (6) Power 600 Fuel Use 10.06% Signature 100 Explosion 5%

Fuel Capacity 890,000 Litres Range 159.2 billion km (614 days at full power)

Refuelling Capability: 50,000 litres per hour Complete Refuel 17 hours

This design is classed as a Commercial Vessel for maintenance purposes

December 30, 2020

Naval Bases from Space - Hawaii

It seems time once again to look at naval bases through the eyes of Google Maps. We've previously looked at both the Hampton Roads area and San Diego, and given that we're in the depths of winter, it seems appropriate to go somewhere warm, so it's time for our satellite eyes to journey across the Pacific to Hawaii. The US military has extensive facilities here, including the headquarters of Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) and the Pacific Fleet. As usual, I've prepared a map so that you can follow along.3

Of course, our first stop is Pearl Harbor, best known as the site of the Japanese attack that brought the US into WWII. In the center of Pearl Harbor (which technically refers to a body of water northwest of Honolulu) is Ford Island. Until 1999, it was home to a naval air station/landing facility, although much of the island has been turned over to other uses today. The southeastern side of the island was "Battleship Row", and Arizona remains there today. Two berths down, approximately where Maryland and Oklahoma were during the attack, is Missouri, now a museum. On the other side of the island is Utah, also never salvaged. On the southern tip of the island, in some of the former hangars, is the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. Some of the aircraft are outside, and we can identify them. The helicopters going right to left are an H-34, an H-3 Sea King, an H-46 Sea Knight, an H-53, an H-60, a UH-1, an AH-1, and something I can't identify. The largest of the fixed-wing planes is an A-3 Skywarrior, and near it are an F-86, an F-104 and a MiG-21. There's also an F-5 Tiger to the northwest. Read more...

December 27, 2020

So You Want to Build a Battleship - Leftovers Part 2

In late 1945, as the Pacific war wound down, the USN found itself with three large ships still under construction, Illinois and Kentucky of the Iowa class, and Hawaii of the Alaska class. Illinois had been laid down in December 1942, at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, and by August 1945, she was only 22% complete. The decision was made to cancel her, and although there were proposals that her hull be saved for use as a nuclear target, the $30 million it would have cost to bring her to such a state meant that it never happened, and she was broken up in 1958.

Illinois in July 1945

Kentucky was in somewhat better shape, and survived the axe for far longer. She had originally been laid down at Norfolk Navy Yard in March of 1942, but three months later, the assembled structure was launched to clear the slipway for LST construction. It remained tied up until December 1944, when it was moved into a drydock at the yard, and work resumed. A great deal of material had been gathered in the intervening months, and assembly progressed very quickly. Unlike her sister, Kentucky survived the end of the war, and work continued until August of 1946, when she was suspended while the Navy figured out what they wanted to do with her. The story was much the same for the large cruiser Hawaii. She had been laid down in December 1943, and launched two months after the end of the war. Although she was 82% complete, including installation of her turrets, the Navy decided that they might want to do something besides complete her to the original design. The prospect of having a couple of big, fast hulls to play with drew naval architects, both professional and amateur, in huge numbers, and produced some fascinating designs, although ultimately, both ships would be scrapped. Read more...