December 12, 2018

The First South Dakota Class

The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 brought about major changes in the design of the battleship, most notably cancelling most of the ships being built in American and Japanese yards. In the United States, three classes were affected. I've previously discussed the Colorado and Lexington classes, but a third class, the South Dakotas, were cancelled entirely.

The South Dakota class as designed

The South Dakotas were ordered under the massive Naval Act of 1916, a result of Woodrow Wilson's swing towards naval expansion as the World War dragged on. Americans feared that a victorious power would turn its eyes across the Atlantic, seeking economic dominion over the United States. A fleet "second to none" would be vital to safeguarding US interests from a power with millions of battle-hardened veterans and a war indemnity from the loser. It was not apparent at the time the economic toll that the war would take on the participants, rendering any such dreams moot by 1918. The bill, on the floor of Congress when news arrived of Jutland, authorized ten battleships and six battlecruisers. While the first four were to be derivatives of the existing Tennessee class, the last six could be significantly larger, the ships the USN had been asking for since 1914. Read more...

December 09, 2018

The Falklands War Part 9

In early April, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a few desolate rocks in the South Atlantic. The British mobilized their fleet, sending it south by way of Ascension Island. On the 25th, a force retook South Georgia, a even smaller and more desolate island that Argentina had also captured, while the main task force closed in on the Falklands. May 1st saw the British launch their attack. The Argentine Navy tried to interfere the next day, but withdrew after the cruiser General Belgrano was sunk by a submarine.

HMS Sheffield

May 3rd was quiet, but May 4th was not. The day began with the second Black Buck raid. While everything went smoothly, the string of bombs fell 600 yds wide of the runway, doing no damage to any of the airport facilities. The carriers closed in on Stanley during the night, planning another set of raids. Harriers flew off for CAP, while the three Type 42 destroyers, Glasgow, Coventry and Sheffield, moved further west, deploying down the threat axis about 20 nm from the carriers in a line 40 nm long. By this point, the fleet was beginning to treat the matter as routine, and at Air Raid Warning Yellow,1 procedure was to be at Defence Watches, with half the crew at their stations. When Air Raid Warning Red was sounded, the entire crew would go to their battle stations. The good performance of radars on May 1st had given them confidence to justify this procedure. Read more...

December 07, 2018

December 7th, 1941

2,403 dead. 1,178 wounded. Five battleships, one target ship, and three destroyers sunk, and many more ships damaged. 188 aircraft destroyed and 159 damaged. And the US drawn into the greatest war the world has ever seen.

This is the toll of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was, as President Roosevelt said, a date which will live in infamy. More dark days were to come, in Malaya and Singapore, the East Indies, and the Philippines. But eventually, the efforts of the Allies pushed them back. Less than four years later, an American fleet was anchored in Tokyo Bay, and the Japanese came aboard the battleship Missouri to sign their surrender.

December 05, 2018

A Brief History of the Aircraft Carrier

Today, the aircraft carrier is the most powerful warship afloat, a vessel that dominates the ocean's surface and can project power far inland. But it was not always this way, and the aircraft carrier has evolved greatly over the last century.

The first takeoff from a ship

The first man to take off from and land on a ship was an American pilot by the name of Eugene Ely. In November 1910, Ely took off from a ramp on the cruiser USS Birmingham, and flew ashore. Two months later, he landed on a platform built onto the cruiser Pennsylvania. In both cases, the ships were at anchor. While the first takeoff from a moving ship took place the next year, the first landing proved elusive. Read more...

December 03, 2018

Open Thread 14

It's our usual biweekly open thread. Talk about whatever you want, even if it's not naval-related.

This post's thing of interest is Victory at Sea, a documentary series from the 50s using footage from WWII. The 26 episodes (linked from the Wiki article) cover basically the entire war at sea, and there's a lot of interesting footage of men and ships, as well as a really good soundtrack.

Overhauled posts since last time include Iowa parts six, seven, and eight, Russian Battleships Part 1, and both parts I wrote on mine warfare.

December 02, 2018

Japanese Battleships in World War II

Of the major naval powers, Japan had placed the greatest emphasis on its battleships during the years leading up to WWII. The experience of the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars had lead them to conclude that any war with the United States would ultimately be resolved through a Decisive Battle between the battle lines of the two powers. All Japanese war planning centered around this battle, and it is remarkable that they were willing to throw it away and attack Pearl Harbor instead. The idea reasserted itself after the outbreak of war, and even in 1945, after numerous previous "Decisive Battles" had ended in disaster, the Japanese believed that another one could turn the tide.

Yamato running sea trials

12 Japanese battleships fought in the war, spread across five classes. The oldest were the four units of the Kongo class. Originally built as battlecruisers before WWI, all four were thoroughly modernized during the 1930s, being reclassified as fast battleships. Capable of 30 kts and armed with 8 14" guns, they proved very useful ships.2 Read more...

November 30, 2018

Commercial Aviation Part 2

In my continuing discussion of commercial aviation, it's time to talk about class. When I say class, I mean class of service. (Disclaimer: I’m most familiar with the US market, and know a bit about Europe. I’m trying to hold down the research I put into these, so I’m sorry if I don’t understand someone else’s aviation market.) But first, let’s talk about the planes themselves.

Passenger jets are basically divided into three categories (small to large), regional, narrowbody and widebody.

A United E145 Regional Jet

Regional planes are those with up to ~120 seats, and typically fly between major hubs and distant secondary markets or close tertiary markets. The main players are Bombardier and Embraer, both of which make a range of planes from 70-120 seats, and are trying to move into the narrowbody market. For various reasons, these are much more popular in the US than in the rest of the world, but that may not continue going forward, and I suspect that the demise of this market may be behind Embraer and Bombardier looking to build larger planes. Seating ranges from 1-2 (one seat on one side of the aisle, 2 on the other) to 3-3 on some of the largest. Read more...

November 28, 2018

G3 and Nelson

At the end of WWI, the Royal Navy faced a crisis. During the war, it had suspended new capital ship construction except for a handful of battlecruisers, while the American and Japanese building programs had continued to churn out ships that were more modern than the bulk of the British fleet. Worse, the British battlefleet had seen hard war service, and many of the early dreadnoughts were in bad shape and essentially unfit for further service. New battleships would be needed, ships that fully reflected the lessons of the war.

HMS Nelson

The most important of these was the need for an all-or-nothing armor scheme, as developed in the US. The war had seen major improvements in armor-piercing shells, and they required significantly more armor than previous vessels. However, the increased range gave designers a way out. Previously, the size of citadels had been set by the need to preserve stability and buoyancy if the ends were riddled. At long range, the many hits necessary to riddle the ends would not happen, and the citadel could be shrunk to thicken the armor.3 The British also looked to improve on the 15" gun due to the proliferation of 16" weapons in the American and Japanese navies. They investigated the triple turret, abandoned a decade earlier amid fears of increased mechanical complexity, and the 18" gun under the cover name of 15"/B. Read more...

November 25, 2018

So You Want to Build a Battleship - Design Part 2

Last time we looked at the process by which preliminary designs are selected. But what factors go into a preliminary design, and how do the designers balance them?

A plan of Missouri

The first and most important job of a battleship is to float. This means that, per Archimedes' principle, the hull of the battleship will displace an amount of water equal to the ship's weight, and the ship will sink into the water until the volume displaced weighs that much. For the battleship designer, this is not a trivial problem. Most of the components of a battleship, armor, heavy guns, and steam plants, are quite heavy, and the design is limited primarily by its ability to carry weight. Modern warships, on the other hand, are limited by volume available for relatively light computers, radar, and missile systems. Of course, volume isn't completely irrelevant to battleships. In particular, the area to be armored is often set by the need to protect magazines and machinery, and increases in the volume of these systems can drive up the weight of armor required, assuming thickness is held constant.4 This in turn might mean that a bigger ship is required. If speed is to be kept constant, this will require more power. This means more machinery weight and volume, and more armor weight. This cycle can repeat indefinitely, and it is the job of the designer to keep it from happening. Read more...

November 23, 2018

Crew Art - USS Iowa

While I often focus on the battleship as a machine, it would be a mistake to neglect the men who ran them. I've previously talked about life aboard Iowa, but one aspect I did not discuss was the art created by the crew.

A mural in the Chief Petty Officer's5 quarters, known as the Goat Locker6

There are many pieces of art scattered around the ship. Some of them were in the most public areas, such as the mess decks and wardroom. Read more...