July 31, 2022

Naval Gazing Meetup - Miramar 2022

As I mentioned back in June, I'm going to the Miramar airshow this year. The plan is that the Fatherly One and I will attend Saturday, September 24th, and would be interested in meeting up with anyone else who wants to attend. Feel free to bring friends/family who don't read the blog, too. We plan to get grandstand seats ($19 online), which based on my experience last time are well worth the price. If you're going, or at least interested, RSVP and we'll try to meet up at the show. Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

August 07, 2022

Speed and Range in Battleships

While working on my section on Bismarck, I decided to look more deeply into the details of battleship range and the impact it had on designs. It's undoubtedly the most important obscure figure in battleship design, with many references not including it because the values available are so variable. Unfortunately, I quickly ran into a mess. A surprising number of ships I looked at, even in quite comprehensive sources, had only 2 or maybe 3 data points, spaced widely enough that it wasn't really possible to get a good sense of the shape of the curve involved.

The culprit behind all of this

In the end, I had only five reasonably good sources of data on the treaty battleships: data on Bismark spread across two books, Raven and Roberts with Howe and FTP 218 covering the American battleships, along with a report on trial results from Iowa and New Jersey.1 Only the last actually had speed, fuel consumption and power in the same place and without suspicion that there was significant rounding involved in the data I was seeing. And when plotted, the numbers for the American ships were reasonably consistent, both between the two sources and between different classes, although while they were all around 15,000 nm at 15 kts, Iowa had an advantage at higher speeds thanks to her longer hull. But the same was not true of the curves for the European ships, which were much shallower. Bismarck in particular went from having approximately half the endurance of the American ships at 15 kts to about the same endurance as the SoDak/North Carolina at 24 kts, and more above that. Read more...

August 05, 2022

Open Thread 110

It's time for our regular open thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't culture war.

A few items of business. First, if you're interested in going to Miramar, please RSVP on the stickied post. Second, Johan Larson is setting up a military reading group on DSL, and for the first month, the book is the excellent Blind Man's Bluff, about submarine espionage during the Cold War. If anyone has been looking for an excuse to read it, now is the time. Third, I'm at 113,000 words on the book, currently working on the technical sections for the treaty battleships, and starting work on the Iowa chapter.

2018 overhauls are The 15" Battleships, Museum Ships - United States, LA Fleet Week 2016, Information, Communication and Naval Warfare Part 1, SYWTBAMN - Aviation Part 3 and The OIC. 2019 overhauls are Lion and Vanguard, Wolverine and Sable, Italian Battleships in WWII, SYWTBABB - Trials and Commissioning, How to Build a Battleship - 1942 and The Maximum Battleship. 2020 overhauls are NWAS ASW Parts one and two, Coastal Defenses Part 5 and Spotting. 2021 overhauls are The Under Siege Review, Pictures - Iowa Turret One, NWAS Nuclear SAMs and Confederate Raiding Part 5.

July 31, 2022

EABO and the Light Amphibious Warship

Numerically, the biggest program currently under development for the US Navy is the Light Amphibious Warship (LAW), a new vessel intended to support the Marine's new Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) concept. This concept, intended to keep the Marine Corps relevant in a war with China, would see reinforced platoon-sized units of Marines operating from small islands in the Pacific, providing anti-ship missile fire, weapons and fuel to aircraft, air defense and surveillance capability. The LAW would be tasked with transporting these units from island to island, giving them the mobility to stay one step ahead of the Chinese. Current plans call for up to 35 LAWs, with some cuts in the LHD/LHA and LPD forces to offset their procurement.

A LAW concept from Sea Transport Solutions

But what will the LAW actually look like? According to USNI News, the LAW should be between 200' and 400' long, displace 4000 tons or less, have 4000-8000 ft2 of cargo space, quarters for 75 Marines, make at least 14 kts, with 15 preferred, and be able to unload cargo directly onto the beach, with a draft of 12' or less. Defensive armament will be limited to light guns, and efforts will be made to keep costs down to $100 million. As it turns out, there is already a vessel that meets most of those criteria. It's 328' long, displaces 3000 tons, can carry up to 140 passengers and beach itself without any problems. The only downside is that it can only make 12 kts. Read more...

July 24, 2022

Nuclear Weapons at Sea - Trident Part 1

While the Polaris program, which first took nuclear missiles beneath the sea, was a triumph of program management and engineering, the same could not be said for its replacement. That program, known as Trident, was the result of a mindbogglingly complicated bureaucratic fight, but its ultimate product, the UGM-133 Trident II, has already completed three decades as the backbone of NATO's deterrent, and is expected to serve at least another 20 years.

Trident's origins date back to the DOD under Robert McNamara, when, in an effort to kill a new Air Force ICBM program, they conducted a study to find the most cost-effective retaliatory force they could. Sea-based options (both submarine and surface) came out looking very good, although the surface-launched missile died out quite quickly, leaving only the Underwater Launch Missile System (ULMS). The initial plan for the submarine was to carry the missile in external canisters, which allowed much greater volume than the internal tubes of the Polaris submarines. That in turn was important because the Special Projects Office (SPO), the Navy group in charge of the Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) program, was trying to keep down development costs, and increased volume meant they could get more range without having to use new technology. The increased range would be particularly valuable in the face of potential improvements in Soviet ASW, a serious concern in the late 60s and early 70s. It also opened the possibility of "launch" at all depths, and of leaving the canisters so the submarine could be well away before the missile launched. Ultimately, this plan was shelved in favor of the Polaris/Poseidon scheme, as the advantages didn't seem worth the required changes. Read more...

July 22, 2022

Open Thread 109

It's time once again for our regular open thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't culture war.

Two major updates. First, while I know I've been bad about virtual meetups recently, I plan to do one at the usual time (1 PM Central/GMT-6) next Saturday, July 30th. Second, the word count in the book has reached the number of this OT in thousands. Teams link.

I recently watched the documentary series Sea Power on Netflix (not the one of the same name on Amazon Prime) and have very mixed feelings on it. On one hand, they did a lot right, with the first and last episodes in particular focusing on pretty much exactly the points I would have put in my outline if I was writing something like that. And the last three episodes made extensive use of Norman Friedman, who is always good, although I would hope that his points aren't particularly novel to longtime readers here, as I ripped them off years ago. On the other hand, there were plenty of details they got wrong, and they managed to step on two of my particular sore points by talking about the Iowa reactivation as a counter to the Kirovs and bringing up the old, discredited stories about the battlecruisers at Jutland. Particularly annoying was the use of Timothy Shutt as a talking head. I have nothing against him personally, but he's a literature professor whose qualification is a series of audio lectures on great naval battles and who was the only one of the talking heads that I regularly found problems with. On the "interesting but not bad front", it's a French series, which meant that some things got emphasized which would have been unusual in a documentary made in English, but also that the pacing was a bit off.

2018 overhauls are Missouri Part 1, SYWTBAMN - Coast Guard Part 2, The QF Gun, Yalu River, DismalPseudoscience's review of Mikasa and German Battleships in WWII. 2019 overhauls are Signalling parts two, three and four, The Pepsi Fleet*, Falklands Part 16 and Pictures - Iowa Communications. 2020 overhauls are Naval Rations Parts two and three and NWAS Light Attack Parts one and two. 2021 overhauls are Norway Part 4, Zumwalt Parts one and two and Naval Radar - Introduction.

July 17, 2022

Museum Review - USS Hornet

After the main DSL meetup officially finished, I organized the last museum ship visit of the trip, to the aircraft carrier Hornet in Alameda.2 Knowing that this would be a bigger ship, and easier to take a group through, I opened it up, announcing it both here and via the rationalist group meetup system, which brought 8 or so people I'd never met out of the woodwork. Add on cassander, Garrett, Evan and CatCube, and it was a good-size group.

Type: Aircraft carrier that served from WWII through 1970
Location: Alameda, California
Rating: 4.4/5, A very nice place to visit, with some cool planes and lots of the ship open
Price: $20 for normal adults


Hornet herself is an interesting ship, one of the Essex class carriers that bore the brunt of the fighting during the later half of the Pacific War. She served well throughout, although she was stateside at the end of the war after getting her bow smashed in by a typhoon. Postwar, she was part of the first batch of refits to fly jets and got an angled deck, but she never got steam catapults, limiting her utility in the strike role, so from 1958 on, she was classified as an anti-submarine carrier (CVS). In this role, she supported operations off Vietnam, and in the twilight of her career served as the recovery ship for the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions before being retired in 1970. Read more...

July 10, 2022

Corrosion at Sea

Corrosion is a serious concern in the maritime environment. A mix of salt, water and air is about the worst possible environment for metal objects to survive in, and if corrosion isn't dealt with, usually at significant expense, it rapidly becomes a safety issue.

Marine corrosion is electrochemical in nature. For various reasons, different portions of a metal will have different electrical potential, causing electrons to flow between them. Areas with extra electrons (known as cathodic areas) give them up to the sea, combining with water and dissolved oxygen to produce hydroxyl ions (OH-). These are then drawn back to the areas which gave up their electrons, known as anodes, where they combine with the atoms of metal to form metal oxides. If the ship is primarily made of iron or steel, the product is hydrated iron oxide, more commonly known as rust. Rust is generally quite fragile, and doesn't protect the underlying surface very well. Other metals, such as aluminum and stainless steel, also corrode, but the products of said corrosion instead cling tightly to the surface, protecting the underlying metal from further corrosion. In fact, you may know aluminum rust by another name, sapphire. Read more...

July 08, 2022

Open Thread 108

It's time for our biweekly open thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't culture war.

A few pieces of recent news. First, the new USS Montana commissioned last week. This either broke a century-old curse, or will bring about the end of the world. Jury is still out there. Second, Hershel "Woody" Williams, the last surviving WWII Medal of Honor winner, died last week.

Also, it's been a while since I did a book update, and I just cleared the 100,000 word mark in the process of working through the treaty battleships.

2018 overhauls are Rangefinding, SYWTBAMN-Aviation Part 2, The Great White Fleet Part 1, The Newport Conference and the US Dreadnought, my review of Batfish and Falklands Part 4. 2019 overhauls are Information, Communication and Naval Warfare Part 3, dndnrsn's review of Bavarian military museums, Rangekeeping Part 2, Impressment, my review of the WWI museum and Signalling Part 1. 2020 overhauls are my picture post of Iowa's Goat Locker, Coastal Defenses Part 4, The Pearl Harbor Rant, Mike Kozlowski's review of Fort Monroe and The Last Sailing Battle. 2021 overhauls are The 3T Missiles - Launch Systems, Postwar Battleships - US, Coastal Defenses Part 8 and Norway Part 3.

July 03, 2022

Museum Review - Jeremiah O'Brien and Pampanito

On the other end of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco from the disastrous Maritime National Historic Site are two WWII-era ships in the hands of private nonprofits. One is the submarine Pampanito, a typical fleet boat of the type that strangled Japan, while the other is Liberty Ship Jeremiah O'Brien. They're moored at the same pier, although the two ships are run by different organizations, and you have to pay for them separately.

Pampanito and Jeremiah O'Brien3

Jeremiah O'Brien

Type: Working Liberty Ship museum
Location: San Francisco, California
Rating: 4.2/5, Slightly overpriced but very charming, definitely the best of the downtown museum ships
Price: $20 for normal adults

Jeremiah O'Brien

Jeremiah O'Brien is one of three survivors of the 2,710 Liberty Ships built to carry cargo in support of the Allied War Effort, one of the great industrial achievements of the war. That alone would make her interesting, but unlike the vast majority of museum ships, she's fully operational, and regularly takes guests on cruises around the Bay, occasionally venturing further afield. Read more...

June 26, 2022

Coastal Defenses Part 9

For centuries, Britain's main enemy was France. As a result, the start of the 20th century found the south and southeast coasts dotted with naval bases, bases protected by fortifications. But the threat was changing from France to Germany, and new bases would be needed to cover the North Sea. The Grand Fleet would have to be based somewhere in Scotland, putting it in position to bottle up the German fleet. Several locations were considered, most notably Cromarty Firth and the Firth of Forth, both on the eastern coast of the Scottish mainland. But both of these had only a single entrance, raising the possibility of mines trapping the fleet in harbor. This tipped the balance in favor of the third option, the Orkney harbor of Scapa Flow, off the northeastern tip of Scotland.

Scapa Flow today

But while work had been undertaken to defend the Firth of Forth as early as the 1870s, the outbreak of war found the defenses of Scapa still no more than paper and a local unit recruited to man them when they were finally built. Jellicoe quickly ordered some of his ships to send a few of their smaller guns, 3" or less, ashore to cover the entrances to the Flow against a potential attack, and had fishing nets strung to hopefully indicate if a submarine attempted to penetrate. But nobody had much confidence in these measures, and after a submarine scare in September resulted in wild firing by nervous gunners, the Grand Fleet withdrew to the waters around western Scotland and Ireland, although even this wasn't enough to avoid loss to German mines. Read more...