October 05, 2021

Naval Gazing Meetup - Washington DC

Data Secrets Lox is having a meetup in DC on October 23rd and 24th that Lord Nelson and I will be attending, and I would like to do something with Naval Gazing readers in the area. I was hoping to put together a trip to David Taylor Model Basin, but due to COVID, only the two of us will be going. So I need something else. Because of the DSL meetup, Friday evening and Saturday afternoon are both taken. The current plan is to hit the National Museum of the US Navy on Friday. We'll meet up at the Navy Yard entrance at 11 AM. I will be wearing a USS Iowa hat and shirt.

October 27, 2021

Navy Day 2021

Today was traditionally the day when the US acknowledged the Navy, although that practice largely ended in the late 40s. It's also, not coincidentally, the blog's birthday, and today marks four years of writing for me here.

It's been an interesting four years, and I've covered a lot of ground. I'm very happy with what I've created, and with the friends I've made in the comments. Thanks to all of you have followed me through this. Particular thanks this year go to dndnrsn, Rolf Andressen and ketil for proofreading, Suvorov and Alsadius for contributing, Said Achmiz for hosting and Lord Nelson for putting up with me. And to those who followed me through various museums and ships. Also to the PAO staff at NSWC Carderock, for agreeing to show me around.

I was originally planning to take November off, but after talking to Directrix Gazer, I'm changing things up. Instead, I'm going to drop my posting schedule to once a week on Sundays, plus the open thread. I've found more and more that there are topics I'd like to tackle, but the schedule I have to maintain doesn't really give me the time I need to deal with them. Guest posts, if any, will go on Wednesdays, but I will commit to not filling that slot myself to save my sanity. In practice, I'm still going to have all of November off because of the fruits of the DC trip. So I'll see you all on the 31st, and I'm looking forward to starting year 5.

October 24, 2021

Submarines in the Falklands Part 3

In early April, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a remote cluster of rocks in the South Atlantic. The first British units to respond were their nuclear submarines, with HMS Spartan and HMS Splendid sailing south before the outbreak of war, soon joined by HMS Conqueror and HMS Valiant. All four boats played a vital role in securing control of the seas for the British, most prominently when Conqueror sunk the cruiser General Belgrano, sending the Argentine Navy to huddle in its territorial waters for the rest of the war. But their success in securing maritime superiority didn't mean the end of the war for the British boats.


As the amphibious force closed in on the Falklands, Conqueror was forced to withdraw to deal with more communications problems, this time with the high-frequency trailing wire antenna. All three onboard had failed, and the first attempt to repair one, on May 21st, resulted in the wire getting wrapped around the propeller, causing major cavitation1 at any speed above 7 kts. A diver would have to go down and clear it, but the weather was too rough to surface for two days. Eventually, the wire was cleared, and Conqueror was back in the fight, which had finally moved ashore. Read more...

October 20, 2021

Submarines in the Falklands Part 2

In early April, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a few desolate rocks in the South Atlantic. The first British units to respond were their nuclear submarines, with HMS Spartan and HMS Splendid sailing south before the outbreak of war. HMS Conqueror soon followed, and despite various obstacles, both technical and political, the first two boats arrived in mid-April, and immediately began to assert British control over the seas around the islands.

HMS Spartan

Spartan's first destination off the Falklands was Stanley, where she conducted a periscope reconnaissance of the town, the first outside information since the invasion. One vital piece of intelligence was quickly gained when she saw two vessels laying mines, which the Task Force had previously believed the Argentine forces didn't have the capability to do. Unfortunately, the ROE prevented Spartan from sinking the ships and disrupting the minelayers, and she remained near Stanley until April 21st. Read more...

October 17, 2021

Submarines in the Falklands Part 1

When I wrote my series on the Falklands War, there was one major gap in my account. At the time, I had very little information on the exploits of the British submarines during the war, with one notable exception. But I've since acquired new sources, which shed light on this aspect of the conflict.

HMS Dreadnought in earlier days

The story actually begins five years before the outbreak of war. In 1977, Britain and Argentina began negotiations over the future of the Falklands, and Argentina's hard-line position concerned the British enough that they began to worry about an invasion. That November, a naval force was dispatched to the South Atlantic, with frigates Phoebe and Alacrity, auxiliaries Olwen, Cherryleaf and Resurgent and HMS Dreadnought, Britain's first nuclear submarine. Dreadnought, underway for a deployment to Australia, was diverted to Gibraltar and prepared for war, including loading extra food and removing bunks to hold more torpedoes. So much equipment was taken on board that it was discovered she was too heavy to be neutrally buoyant at periscope depth.2 Dreadnought was dispatched to the seaward approaches to the Falklands, and her orders are a matter of dispute, with some claiming that in the event of Argentine aggression, she was to expose herself to make the implied threat clear, or even had carte blanche to shoot if they moved within range of the islands. She was never detected by the Argentinians,3 but it seems likely that her presence as quietly revealed to their government by the British in an attempt to deter them from taking action. The rest of the force, with the exception of Cherryleaf, remained well to the north of the islands, and returned home in early 1978 as the crisis abated. One of the biggest results was the patrol report Dreadnought brought home, which proved invaluable four years later when the RN again had to operate in the little-known waters of the South Atlantic. Read more...

October 15, 2021

Open Thread 89

It's time for our regular Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want, even if it's not naval/military.

Looking forward to seeing people next weekend in DC. If anyone wants to join me and Cassander at the Navy Museum, let us know by Thursday. And any readers who want to join the DSL group at Air and Space should be welcome.

2018 overhauls are Light AA Guns, Going back to Iowa, the Washington Treaty, Survivability - Flooding, my review of LA maritime sites and Falklands Part 7. 2019 overhauls are Dumb Bombs and LGBs, Riverine Warfare - China Parts two and three and pictures of Iowa's officers quarters. 2020 overhauls are Naval Bases from Space - Hampton Roads, Military Sealift Command Parts one and , The Midway Rant and List of Battleship Losses.

October 13, 2021

Types 82 and 42 - Procurement Follies

I recently finished Norman Friedman's British Destroyers and Frigates, and while I have no intention of serializing the whole thing here, there were a few particular ships that he discussed which seemed worth looking at in more detail for what they show about warship procurement.

HMS Bristol

Our saga begins in the early 60s, when Britain was looking at building its second generation of postwar missile ships. The main task was to protect the new carriers that were also being designed, which in turn would need new weapons. The Sea Slug used by the County class, the first British missile ships, was a rather clumsy system, and it was to be replaced by the Sea Dart. Anti-submarine firepower would be provided by the Australian Ikara system, a remote-controlled rocket glider that could reach out to 20,000 yards or so, the maximum range achievable by sonars of the day. Both systems were necessary because the British expected to face down Soviet proxies armed with the latest in Eastern Bloc weapons, including nuclear submarines. Read more...

October 10, 2021

The Norway Campaign Part 8 - Meanwhile, in the North Sea...

On April 9th, 1940, Hitler unleashed his military machine on Norway, breaking that country's neutrality and overwhelming the unprepared defenders at cities including Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavangar and Bergen. But the biggest threat to the plan was not the Norwegians. It was the British, and most of the Royal Navy's ships in home waters were in the North and Norwegian seas when the attack was launched. The bulk of Home Fleet had sailed on the 7th and as information about the attack trickled in, it was steaming in the gap between the Orkney Islands and Norway, well-placed to respond. Further north, a force led by the battlecruiser Renown had been tasked with covering minelaying operations on the 8th, and while they had missed the Germans headed for Narvik under cover of a storm, they would be the first to see action.


The destroyers headed for Narvik had been covered by battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, who had headed out into the Norwegian Sea, straight into the teeth of a major storm. Both ships took a pounding, with Scharnhorst having to shut down one shaft temporarily after a broken ventilator let water contaminate several fuel tanks. The British fared slightly better, although conditions aboard the nine destroyers escorting Renown were as bad as anything the old hands could remember, and as the storm began to calm at daybreak, they turned southeast, back towards the entrance to Narvik. The Germans were ahead of them, on the opposite course, and Renown sighted the first of them at 0337, ten miles to the east and silhouetted against the dawn sky. Admiral William Whitworth, commanding the British force, ordered Renown to match course with the German ships, as his position gave him a major tactical advantage. Read more...

October 06, 2021

The Norway Campaign Part 7 - Bergen

April of 1940 began with the war in Europe at a stalemate, as both sides stared at each other across the Franco-German border. The first action of the war in the West was the German invasion of Norway, in the hopes of securing iron ore supplies and opening a new flank on the war at sea, outside the British blockade. The Norwegians largely expected their neutrality to hold, and while the forces available generally fought back, they were confused and aimless, leading to a number of German victories across the southern half of the country.

A gun at Kvarven Fortress

One of the German targets was Bergen, the second-largest city in the country.4 It was the headquarters of Admiral Carsten Tank-Nielsen, who was responsible for the section of coast stretching from Stavanger to Trondheim, and who, unusually among Norwegian senior officers, took the threat of attack seriously. On April 8th, he ordered his ships to full readiness, although this wasn't communicated clearly to the coastal defenses that guarded Bergen. As was the case elsewhere in Norway, these dated back to the turn of the century, and hadn't really been modernized. The main defense of the city rested with Kvarven Fort, armed with a trio each of 21 cm guns and 24 cm howitzers. A second fort at Hellen had another three 21 cm guns, and various outer forts had lighter guns, although they were considered useless without their protective minefields, which couldn't be laid without authorization from Oslo. Another heavy battery was completely unmanned, and a torpedo battery similar to the one that guarded the entrance to Oslo was inexplicably overlooked in the preparations. Read more...

October 03, 2021

Pictures - Iowa Secondary Battery Plot

I've previously showed pictures of Iowa's Main Battery Plot, and now it's time for the follow-up of the Secondary Battery Plot.

This space contains two Mk 1A computers along with their associated Stable Verticals, set up to control the 5" guns. This required dealing with targets that are both very fast and moving in 3D, a truly incredible achievement. Read more...

October 01, 2021

Open Thread 88

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

First, apologies for not doing a meetup in September. I've been busy, but we'll do one next Saturday (October 9th) at 1 PM Central.

Second, the blog's 4th anniversary is approaching, and I'm finding myself getting burned out. So I'm going to put it on hiatus during November, and maybe into December. I'll still do the regular OTs, but if there's to be other content, it's going to have to come from you guys. Email me at battleshipbean at gmail if you want to contribute a museum review, book review or other naval/military related thing.

2018 overhauls are Secondary Armament parts one, two and three, Battlecruisers Part 3 and my reviews of Mystic Seaport and Albacore. 2019 overhauls are Fouling, Naval Ranks - Warrant and Enlisted, my account of my first visit to Iowa, River Warfare - China Part 1, the McKinley Climatic Laboratory and HMS Warrior. 2020 overhauls are the Arleigh Burke class, Territorial and International Waters, Falklands Part 24 and my pictures of Iowa's aft living spaces.