May 20, 2019

Open Thread 26

It's time for our regular open thread. Talk about anything you want, even if it's not naval/military-related.

Rule the Waves II was released on Saturday, much to my delight and Lord Nelson's chagrin. Much like the first game, it makes you Grand Admiral, in charge of building an entire fleet and leading it in war. Unlike the first game, which ran through about 1925 and pretty much ignored air power, this one goes through the dawn of the missile age. Early on, it's very similar to the first game, although a lot of the systems have been subtly tweaked. Overall, it's an improvement in terms of realism. The air operations system isn't documented all that well, so I'm still trying to figure that out, and my one game so far didn't make it past 1940 before I got tired of it and restarted.

My one serious criticism would be that the fiscal end of the game seems seriously out of wack. In my first game as the Americans I found myself unable to afford more than about one capital ship at a time. In my second game, playing as the British, I found myself blockaded by the Germans in 1910. Their budget was almost as big as mine, and their fleet might have been larger. This was seriously wrong for obvious reasons. Also, the tendency of the AI to design ships that can't be built is annoying, particularly when it then builds them for itself anyway. I can't tell you how many enemy ships I've encountered in ~1910 toting dual-purpose guns. Despite all that, it's a very enjoyable game, and I'd recommend at least downloading the demo.

We've reached the first anniversary of the Falklands War series, and the first part has been overhauled. I think we're past the halfway point, but I've been wrong on such things before. Other updates are to So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Strategy Part 2, the Super-Dreadnoughts, There Seems To Be Something Wrong With Our Bloody Ships Today, Millennium Challenge 2002 and Auxiliaries Part 1.

May 19, 2019

The Falklands War - Glossary

As the Falklands War series has now been going on for a year, I've decided to put together a glossary, listing the ships, airplanes, weapons, and so on. I usually try to link to wiki when I introduce something new, but it's easy for me to forget that the last time I talked about something was 6 months ago. Hopefully this will close some of the gap. For those wanting to catch up on the series, the full list of posts is here.


I have only listed major weapons systems for the ships, primarily good surface-to-air missiles.1 Almost all British ships had at least one 4.5" gun and a helicopter, but the presence of these should be obvious from context, and full lists are available in the relevant wiki articles. I've mentioned and linked to significant events regarding some ships, but only those that have come up in the narrative so far. Read more...

May 17, 2019

Pictures - My First Museum Ships

When I was at my parents' over Christmas, I took a chance to dig through the family photo archives, and got pictures from a couple museum ships I visited while growing up. These were long enough ago that I don't remember them clearly enough to write reviews, and in one case long enough ago that I don't remember it all.2

USS Texas

My family visited Texas in 2000. I don't really remember it, because I was seven and not that interested in ships yet, but I suppose it was my first battleship. It's also one I intend to revisit fairly soon.

Texas, with me in the lower left


May 15, 2019

Battleship Aviation Part 1

People are often surprised to learn that battleships carried fixed-wing airplanes. It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. Battleships don't have anywhere for airplanes to take off or land, and that totally leaves aside the thorny question of why. But battleships were deeply tied into the operation of aircraft at sea from the earliest days until the aircraft carrier was available in sufficient numbers towards the end of the Second World War.

Eugene Ely takes off from Birmingham

Surface warships, although admittedly not battleships, provided the stages for the first steps of shipboard aviation. American pilot Eugene Ely took off from a ramp built over the bow of the light cruiser Birmingham on November 14th, 1910, and landed safely ashore. The following January, he landed aboard the armored cruiser Pennsylvania, using a series of hooks on the underside of his airplane to catch ropes tied to sandbags and stretched across a specially-installed landing deck. However, impressive though these achievements were, coming less than a decade after the Wright Brother's first flight at Kitty Hawk, a great deal of work would have to be done to make operational use of aircraft from ships practical. Both flights had required large ramps that blocked the ship's guns, and the vessels had been at anchor, not under way. Read more...

May 12, 2019

The Falklands War Part 14

In early April, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a few desolate rocks in the South Atlantic. The British mobilized their fleet in response. The carriers arrived off the Falklands on May 1st, swiftly defeating the Argentine Air Force. The Argentine Navy tried to interfere the next day, but withdrew after the cruiser General Belgrano was sunk by a submarine. Two days later, the Argentines struck back, sinking the frigate Sheffield with an Exocet missile. Two weeks later, on May 21st, British troops landed at San Carlos Water on the west coast of East Falkland. The Argentine Air Force quickly got wind of this, and launched numerous sorties against the invasion fleet. The morning's score was mostly in favor of the British, with several warships strafed and a single bomb hit, which hadn't gone off,3 in exchange for four attackers shot down. But the worst attacks were yet to come.

HMS Argonaut ablaze after the attack

The afternoon attacks opened at 1330, when a flight of six A-4s burst from around West Falkland and swept in on the frigate Argonaut, near Fanning Head at the entrance to San Carlos Water. The splashes of near-misses shrouded the vessel, and she was clearly on fire when the air cleared. Two bombs had hit, and although neither had detonated,4 they had done serious damage. One had hit forward, entering the Seacat magazine and setting off two of the missiles stored there. The other came to rest in the engine spaces, knocking out all power and steering. Argonaut was only saved from running into the cliffs of Fanning Head by a quick-thinking officer who got an anchor out, and officers on other ships thought she had actually run aground. Two of her men had been killed, but the crew fought back against both fire and flood, and ultimately saved the ship. Plymouth was dispatched to aid her, and towed her into San Carlos, where she would remain for the next week, while an access route was cut to allow the bomb in the forward magazine to be dumped overboard. Read more...

May 10, 2019

Pictures - Mikasa Part 1

Lord Nelson was in Japan a few months ago, and took the chance to visit Mikasa. She came back with a plethora of photos, and we decided to collaborate in publishing them. Her comments will be in italics, while mine will be in regular text.

Mikasa in December 20185

I agree with DismalPseudoscience's review, with an additional comment that Mikasa is very accessible to English-speaking foreigners, especially when compared to other Japanese museums. After spending 1.5 weeks visiting various Japanese museums (most of them with only Japanese text on the signs) I was surprised by how much of Mikasa's signage was in English. Most signs included a full translation of the text, not just of the title. Read more...

May 08, 2019

The Spanish American War Part 4 - The Hunt for Cervera

In the closing years of the 19th century, Spanish attempts to suppress rebellion in Cuba led to increasing tension with the US, tensions that led to war after the battleship Maine was destroyed in Havana Harbor. The Americans declared war a few weeks later and immediately blockaded Cuba, while the Spanish dispatched a fleet to the Caribbean in hopes of breaking the blockade. The fleets first clashed in the Far East, as Admiral Dewey destroyed the Spanish Fleet at Manila Bay. But the main action would be in the Caribbean, where the fate of Spain's empire in the New World hung in the balance.

Oregon about to depart San Francisco for the Caribbean

On paper, the two fleets looked reasonably closely matched, so the Americans called in what reinforcements they could find. In mid-March, orders were given for the battleship Oregon, on the West Coast, to round South America and join the forces in the Caribbean. She departed San Francisco on March 19th, reaching the Straits of Magellan a month later with only a single coaling stop in Peru. On April 30th, she reached Rio de Janeiro, where she learned that Spain and the US were now at war. There were serious fears that the Spanish would intercept the ship, whose progress was followed by the media, potentially dealing a major blow to the USN. Captain Clark of the Oregon took measures to thwart any such interception, including faking a breakdown at the Brazilian port of Bahia, then taking to sea again, but Admiral Cervera, commander of the Spanish fleet, did not even make the attempt. After a final stop in Barbados, she arrived at Jupiter Inlet, Florida, on May 24th, having covered 14,700 nautical miles in only 66 days and an average speed of 11.6 kts while at sea, a remarkable achievement for the time.6 Read more...

May 06, 2019

Open Thread 25

It's time for our regular Open Thread. Talk about whatever you like.

Reader quanticle found a good article on the development of the Chinese navy. It's well-balanced, and the only real objection is that they lumped diesel and nuclear submarines together.

Overhauled posts include the last three parts on main guns, Life Aboard Iowa, So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Strategy Part 1, and my review of Midway and Russian Battleships Part 3.

May 05, 2019

Shells Part 4

While the basic shape of naval armor-piercing projectiles was largely set in the years 1905-1920, and most nations entered WWII with projectiles that were improved only in detail over the shells they had used then, two nations made radical departures. The Japanese optimized their shells for underwater hits, a process discussed last time, while the USN developed the most effective armor-piercing (AP) shells the world has ever seen.

A pair of 2,100 lb Mk 5 16" AP target shells at Science Museum Oklahoma7

The original shells for the 16"/45 guns of the Colorado class were fairly conventional projectiles of 2,100 lbs. In the 1930s, the Bureau of Ordnance developed a slightly heavier, stronger shell of 2,240 lbs, with a consequent increase in penetration. It also had an improved AP cap, hardened so that it would not be torn off in oblique impacts and would instead crack the face-hardened layer of the armor, digging a hole that kept the projectile's nose in like a center punch. This was the shell that was used to develop the immune zones for the South Dakota and Iowa classes, but before any of those ships were completed, BuOrd had come up with something even better, the amazing 2,700 lb Mk 8, known as the "superheavy" shell.8 The 20% increase in shell weight reduced muzzle velocity, to the point that belt penetration stayed largely the same, but deck penetration, more likely to matter at the long ranges the USN planned to fight at, rose by up to 25%, and immune zones collapsed. The zone for the Iowas went from 13,600 yrds to 5,300 yrds against the 16"/45 gun. In late 1944, the improved AP Mk 8 Mod 6 entered service, with improved hardening and an altered shape to increase penetration at long range by another 25%. It was considered so effective that the battleships in the Pacific were ordered to turn in their existing shells and rearm as quickly as possible. In fact, this shell, fired from a 16"/50 gun, was considered broadly equivalent to a conventional 18" weapon. Read more...

May 03, 2019

Museum Review - Fort Sill

Lord Nelson and I took a trip down to Fort Sill, about an hour and a half southwest of Oklahoma City. Fort Sill is the home of the Army Artillery and Air Defense, as well as an old frontier fort from the Indian Wars. There are three museums on the base, one for each of these roles, and we managed to hit all three of them. I'm going to review them as a group, because it should be possible to hit all three within a day, and because the Field Artillery museum dominates to the point that it's easiest to think of the other two as detached wings.

Me with the Atomic Cannon at Fort Sill9
Type: Field Artillery, Air Defense, and Fort Sill historical museums
Location: Lawton, Oklahoma
Rating: 4.7/5, A truly amazing artillery museum, with a couple of other museums that can be visited if time permits
Price: Free