October 16, 2019

Aircraft Weapons - JDAM

The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) is one of the great military procurement success stories of recent decades. Development began in the aftermath of the Gulf War, with the intent of producing a weapon capable of attacking precision targets in all weather. This would be enabled by GPS, which had just come through its first combat outing with flying colors, allowing the forces that liberated Kuwait to navigate in the trackless desert. It could also, in theory, allow a bomb to hit any target that the operator had coordinates for.

JDAMs are staged on the mess deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln during the invasion of Iraq

The basic concept was the same as the one behind Paveway. Take a standard iron bomb and fit it with new fins and a guidance kit that turn it from something that will hit the ground into something that will hit the target. This greatly simplified the task of the designers, who didn’t have to worry about a warhead, as well as aiding operators who could take advantage of the wide variety of bombs already in the US inventory. Read more...

October 13, 2019

Riverine Warfare - China Part 3

The Yangtze is one of the world's great riverine highways, and when western powers began to intervene in China during the 19th century, it was a vital avenue for their commerce as well. However, China was not particularly cooperative in defending western rights under the "unequal treaties", and so the western powers had to find some means of doing it themselves. Gunboats were the obvious answer: self-supporting, mobile, and able to bring a great deal of firepower to bear. The Yangtze Patrol fought bandits, protected westerners from mobs, and generally made itself useful from the late 1800s onward. Things began to heat up with the rise of the Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek in the 20s, and the beginning of the Civil War between his forces and the Communists in 1927.

Gunboat Oahu on the Yangtze

The Yangtze was a unique duty station for the men assigned there. They served on tiny ships, often ill-supported and isolated in a strange country. Some gunboats were so crowded that a portion of the crew had to sleep on deck in all conditions. But there were also advantages. Except at the height of the depression, the exchange rate greatly favored the gunboat sailors. Onboard ship, chores were done by hired Chinese boatmen, while ashore in Shanghai, a sailor's pay could buy him excellent entertainment in the form of alcohol and companionship, usually provided by one of the white Russian exiles that teemed in the city. Officers could participate in the social life of the western communities up and down the river: clubs, hunting, horse racing and generally having a good time. Read more...

October 11, 2019

Rule the Waves 2 Game 1 - June 1911


We have emerged victorious from our war with the Italians! They have surrendered all of their African colonies to our control, forcing them entirely out of the Indian Ocean. Tensions worldwide are down, and with it, our budget. The situation is better than after the last war, but we will have to make cuts. We've already begun moving ships to the reserve fleet, but that won't be enough.

The new map of Africa

Our biggest concern is with light units. The four modern fleet CLs (two to commission shortly) go some way to closing that gap, but we face block obsolescence among our destroyers, and the new CL designs open up new options. Unfortunately, our recent focus on research into light units has not paid dividends yet, but we should probably at least lay down a few destroyers when the CLs leave the yard. Read more...

October 09, 2019

Pictures - Iowa Officer's Quarters

It's time for more pictures from the greatest battleship ever built. Unlike previous installments, where I've looked at various technical facets of the Iowa, this time I'm going to look at officer's country.

The wardroom is the center of the officer's social life. Here, they eat and talk.

The tables are rather utilitarian, but comfortable enough. This space is on the tour route, and is often used for events.


October 06, 2019

Riverine Warfare - China Part 2

The Yangtze River is one of the world's great riverine highways. Even without modern navigational improvements, it was navigable from its mouth at Shanghai up through Hankow, 600 miles inland, even by smaller ocean-going ships of 5,000 or 6,000 tons. Above Hankow, the river narrowed and shifting sand-banks made navigation difficult, but there were no serious obstacles below Ichang, 1000 miles inland. Above Ichang were the gorges of the Yangtze, a treacherous area with many rapids that were usually overcome by the sheer muscle power of hundreds or thousands of coolies hauling junks and steamers through them. Foreign steamers rarely reached beyond Chungking in Sichuan Province, 300 miles above Ichang. The great fluctuations in the river level, up to 100' between winter low water and spring flood in places, made navigation even more difficult.

USS Ashuelot, an early Yangtze gunboat

In the 1860s, this great artery was opened to foreign traders, who quickly established settlements in the major cities. The unequal treaties that had opened China gave the Western powers the right to police their own citizens, as well as exemption from most taxes. But even if the Qing government had wanted to enforce said treaties, it was too weak to do so effectively in the vast interior of China. Bandits and warlords ran rampant. To make matters worse, the Qing didn't really want to enforce the treaties, and would much prefer to be able to tax the fan-kui,1 or at least see them suffer. The fan-kui weren't particularly popular with the general population either, and the local authorities were often sluggish in dealing with mobs that threatened missionary or merchant property. Obviously, the major powers would have to see to their own protection. Read more...

October 04, 2019

Open Thread 36

It's time for our regular Open Thread, although it's a couple days earlier due to the recent ordering shuffle. Talk about anything you like, even if it's not naval/military related.

One of the main goals of my riverine warfare series is to form a framework for a more definitive history of the subject, because I have only seen one book that attempts a worldwide perspective on the matter, and it's a history of ships, not of operations. It also only goes back to the 1850s/1860s in most cases. The problem is that my knowledge before that is pretty limited, and this is a hard subject to look for. I'm sure that a lot of you are familiar with parts of history that I'm not, and can provide suggestions for where to go looking. I've already incorporated a few of these, such as Red Cliffs, but I could use more. Any suggestions for where to look?

Overhauled posts this time (list somewhat shortened by the change in dates) are the last three parts of the series on secondary armament and my review of Albacore, wrapping up my series on New England.

October 02, 2019

Aircraft Weapons - Dumb Bombs and LGBs

Air power has been an important part of naval operations for most of the last century, and today, it's where the USN has the bulk of its striking power. As such, it's worth taking a look at the weapons these aircraft use. We'll start with gravity weapons, which have no propulsion of their own. I'm going to focus this series on US weapons because that's what I have the most information on, and because I'd like to keep the scope reasonably contained.

Mk 83 bombs waiting to be loaded on a carrier

The most basic of gravity weapons is the unguided (“dumb” or “iron”) bomb. It’s an aerodynamic steel shell, stuffed with explosives and fitted with tail fins to make sure it falls predictably and a fuze to set it off when it hits the ground. The standard American bombs are the Mk 80 series, comprising the Mk 82 (500 lb), Mk 83 (1000 lb) and Mk 84 (2000 lb). These are what is known as low-drag general-purpose bombs. Low-drag means that the shape was specially chosen for external carriage by high-speed combat aircraft, and they’re significantly more streamlined than earlier bombs. The B-52 was the last user of these earlier bombs, such as the 750 lb M117, which left service in 2015. "General-purpose" is because their combination of blast from the explosive and fragments from the bomb casing is effective against a wide variety of targets. These bombs are often described in terms of weight, but what does this weight mean? Is it the weight of the explosive or the bomb as a whole? In fact, it’s neither. The actual weight can be 10% or more greater than the official weight, while the explosive filling is 40-50% of the official weight. Read more...

September 30, 2019

Rule the Waves 2 Game 1 - June 1910


So far, the war with Italy has gone reasonably well, with even the recent battle off Isle du Levant netting us three battleships and half a dozen destroyers for the price of a single battlecruiser, despite extensive damage to our fleet. Other battles have universally resulted in our ships emerging victorious, with the only black spot being the Army's refusal to authorize the invasion of Sicily.2 We see no end for this, and perhaps should consider spending the preparation money elsewhere.

With the loss of Marseille, it is perhaps time to reexamine battlecruiser construction. A number of sketch designs have been prepared for your consideration, all using the new 14" gun and improved torpedo protection.3 Read more...

September 29, 2019

An Announcement

Over the last month and a half, I've found that keeping up with writing for Naval Gazing has been increasingly difficult. Some of this is simply down to recent life events which have given me other things to do with my time. Some is that I've been feeling burned out. I've been blogging here for almost two years, and at this point, Naval Gazing has basically taken over my time looking into naval matters.

So at this point, I've decided to cut back. Going forward, I'm going to publish two main posts a week, one on Sunday and one on Wednesday. The current Monday OT/RTW2 game is going to move to Friday (except for the next update, which will be tomorrow). I hope this rate will be more sustainable going forward.

Just to be clear, I'm in no danger of shutting Naval Gazing down completely. I really enjoy researching, writing, and interacting with the commenters here. But I'd like more time for other things, too.

September 29, 2019

HMS Warrior

I've talked about HMS Warrior a lot, as befits the world's first seagoing iron-hulled ironclad, a ship that set the pattern for the next 80 years of capital ships. But this is mostly looking at her systems, not at the ship herself. This revolutionary vessel, preserved today at Portsmouth, deserves a closer look.

Warrior today

The rivalry between Britain and France went back centuries, and despite the British victory in the Napoleonic Wars, the rivalry quickly resumed. The French, realizing that British command of the sea was critical to their victory, spent the first half of the century attempting to use one technological edge or another to wrest it away from them. They introduced both shell guns and steam power for capital ships, and found themselves outbuilt in both areas. Tensions lapsed during the Crimean War, and Napoleon III, inspired by the terrible effects of shells on wooden ships, asked for 10 floating batteries armored with iron plate. French industry could only make five, so the other five were built by the British. The French batteries saw action briefly, destroying Russian fortifications at the Battle of Kinburn. Read more...