July 15, 2019

Open Thread 30

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

Interesting thing of the thread is this 1940 article from Life magazine on seapower. Besides providing a good look at public perception just before the Fall of France, it has a very good section looking at the systems of a battleship.

Overhauled posts include The Newport Conference and the US Dreadnought, my review of Batfish, The Falklands War Part 4, the first part of my history of USS Missouri, So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Coast Guard Part 2 and my history of the QF gun.


  1. July 15, 2019Jade Nekotenshi said...

    A fellow I work with was on the USS Newport News near the end of the Vietnam War - he's told me a few sea stories to the effect that the high ROF that a Des Moines could put out was considered far more effective than the less frequent but much bigger BB shells for shore bombardment. I also recall reading that in WW2, the Brooklyns and Clevelands were considered some of the best shore bombardment ships, for essentially the same reason.

    Is that considered accurate, are there many references to that effect? Also, for a modern NSFS platform, would the same principle hold up?

  2. July 15, 2019bean said...

    I don't know of any information to that effect, but my guess is that it heavily depended on what they wanted to do. If you're trying to take down a widely-dispersed enemy, then a 6" cruiser is the best tool for the job, for the same reason that 155mm is the standard artillery caliber. If you need something heavy, you use heavier guns. Also, people tend to remember flattering information about their platform. This is natural, but I'd take "better than battleships" with a grain of salt. I have reports praising the battleships as being usefully better than the cruisers for range and killing heavy targets.

    (Although the 8" guns on that class are amazing and among my favorites.)

  3. July 15, 2019Neal said...

    A couple of weeks ago I asked for some recommendations on books about subs and Bean's readership did not fail in providing some very good suggestions. I had a free stretch and so I binge read Dick O’Kane’s Clear the Bridge, Ned Beach’s Around the World Submerged, Run Silent Run Deep, and Submarine. For the Pacific theatre I threw in Fluckey’s Thunder Below although I was getting to the saturation point and Fluckey's Golly-gee Andy Hardy approach was hard to take at times. I rounded off my first foray into this field with Michael Gannon’s Operation Drumbeat for a view of what was going on in the Atlantic--which was both subs and surface vessels going to the bottom of the ocean...

    Beach is a really good writer which was a pleasant surprise. He not only had a talent for it, but he linked that talent with a good editor and they made a good team.

    I found O’Kane to be a bit workmanlike in his style and in need of an editor. It was very much a worthwhile read as it reveals, without any self-aggrandizement, what true warriors these submariners were.

    Looking at some of the reviews of this work O'Kane is frequently criticized for being particularly repetitive and relentless among the dive/surface/dive/surface/attack/dive books. This is unfair for therein lies their brilliance. It was relentless. It was repetitive…but that is exactly the point of the deadly cat and mouse game that was being played out. Here is where the tedium is part of the story--a story which would be poorer without it.

    I have a bit of work to gen up the book reports for the Amazon reviews!

    BTW, did the subs run the 18 hour schedule 6/6/6 like the surface fleets? Does the Navy as a whole still do this or did I misinterpret how the work and rest is scheduled and there is/was no such thing as the 6/6/6? It is obvious that this rotation, if true, has its defenders, but it is in complete contraposition to modern sleep/wake research. It is hard to find a worse example of a wake/rest cycle although I think we have all experienced such tomfoolery in our work lives.

    Thanks for the recommendations. It was good reading.

  4. July 15, 2019Alsadius said...

    I'm most amused by the ad, one page above the article's beginning. The Simmons Beautyrest pocket coil mattress has been advertised since 1940? Good lord.

    But yeah, the naval article was interesting too.

  5. July 15, 2019beleester said...

    @Jade Nekotenshi: For a modern NSFS ship, the Zumwalts were supposed to be that ship before we decided we had better things to spend the budget on. The guns fire (or were supposed to fire) 155mm guided shells - like most other modern weapons, it turns out that you don't need a big explosion if you can place it exactly where you want it.

  6. July 15, 2019redRover said...


    The title says it all, but Galileo, the European GPS competitor, has been down for four days, apparently because of some fault in the ground station.

  7. July 16, 2019doctorpat said...

    One thing that stood out in the Life magazine article is when they said that Britain had battleships in construction "for the next war".

    So not only did they think that battleships would remain a big deal after WW2 (excusable at the time), but they thought there would be another war soon afterwards.

  8. July 16, 2019bean said...


    I love old magazines. You get slice-of-life stuff like that which you really can't get any other way. I keep my National Geographic subscription for access to their archives for exactly the same reason.


    They thought there might be another war, sure. Most of the battleships built as a result of WWI saw service in WWII. It's just that the development of guided missiles and nuclear weapons (neither at all obvious in 1940) made battleships obsolete very fast.

  9. July 17, 2019Alsadius said...

    I'm putting together a spreadsheet of all dreadnought-era battleships for my own curiousity, and in the process I came across a rather bizarre set of outcomes for one class of battleships - the Spanish España-class. (Source is Wikipedia for all this, so there may be juicier details elsewhere)

    Three were built. - The España was commissioned in 1913, served fairly uneventfully, and sank after running aground in 1923.

    • The Alfonso XIII completed in 1915, and was named after the then-King of Spain. In 1931, he was pushed into exile, and the ship was therefore renamed...to "España". Yes, named after her sunken sister ship. I know of no other case where two ships in the same class had the same name for any length of time. She was sunk by a mine in 1937, during the Civil War. Of course, that mine was laid by her own side, so you could argue this was an accidental sinking.

    • The Jaime I was completed in 1921 - yes, eight years and a world war after her class started coming off the lines. Since he was a historical monarch, they didn't feel a need to rename his ship. This one, yes, was also destroyed in an accident. Also in 1937. And this one happened while in drydock.

    Talk about a snakebit class of ships, good god.

  10. July 17, 2019Alsadius said...

    (Also, if you could find an easy way to include comment previews, or an editing window after posting, that'd be appreciated)

  11. July 17, 2019bean said...

    Yeah, I talked about those a long time ago. Interesting ships, if rather odd. I have more details in the book The World of the Battleship, but I’m not sure I trust the author. I’ve run across his stuff on the Spanish-American War, and he’s a major revisionist. It’s also a fairly long chapter, and I’m exhausted. I’ll get back to it later.

    Unfortunately, editing and previews are out of my hands.

  12. July 17, 2019Alsadius said...

    Ah, so you did. https://www.navalgazing.net/Dreadnoughts-of-the-Minor-Powers

    Forgot that one. Still, it amuses me.

  13. July 18, 2019John Schilling said...

    "The title says it all, but Galileo, the European GPS competitor, has been down for four days, apparently because of some fault in the ground station."

    And nobody notices until they read it in the news, because it's the European GPS competitor and not the actual GPS. I'm pretty sure that if GPS goes down, we won't be waiting four days for zdnet to tell us about it.

  14. July 18, 2019quanticle said...

    Part of the reason we don't notice is that Galileo is designed to be cross compatible with GPS (at least the GPS Block IIIA and newer). So it's entirely possible that we could have a (partial) GPS outage and not know because Galileo is filling in the gaps. There's also the fact that a lot of "GPS" devices are actually compatible with GPS/Galileo/GLONASS/Compass (the Chinese GNSS). So it's entirely possible that the US could have a (partial) GPS outage without any civilians noticing.

    PS: You can download GPSTest, to see which satellites your phone is deriving location data from. At the time of this writing, my phone was using two Galileo satellites, three GPS satellites and a GLONASS satellite for location data.

  15. July 19, 2019AlphaGamma said...

    I know of no other case where two ships in the same class had the same name for any length of time.

    There's the Gorch Fock class of sail training ships. Four ships in the class were originally built by Blohm and Voss (a fifth was never completed because of the outbreak of WW2). The lead ship was taken as war reparations by the Soviet Union and renamed Tovarishch. In the 1950s, Blohm and Voss built a fifth ship in the class for the Bundesmarine, which was also named Gorch Fock.

  16. July 19, 2019John Schilling said...

    "So it’s entirely possible that we could have a (partial) GPS outage and not know because Galileo is filling in the gaps"

    I'm pretty certain you'll notice when e.g. airline travel comes to a screeching halt. Garmin, and I believe all of the other major players in the field, are still GPS-only. And while everyone who flies with GPS is required to also have a terrestrial backup capability, I can pretty much guarantee that the airlines are not going to be able to make schedule by hopscotching across the old VOR network.

    And I doubt that's the only place the system would break if GPS goes down. "Let's use GPS and Galileo and Glonass and whatever else seems to work!", is fine if the resulting architecture doesn't actually have to work. Consumer smartphones, for example. If it's a matter of life or death importance, or major fiduciary importance, that the architecture either A: work or B: unambiguously signal failure, then the answer is to focus on the single most reliable source (still GPS by far) and use the others if at all just to say "OK, even though GPS says it's all good, Galileo disagrees and/or is silent so we're not sure so everybody just land now".

  17. July 19, 2019Lambert said...

    What's the point of Galileo?
    I get that the Chinese and Russians want their own systems, but is the EU really worried about the US turning encryption back on and leaving them in the dark?
    I mean, compared to all the other ways in which it relies on the US for defence.

  18. July 19, 2019quanticle said...

    I get that the Chinese and Russians want their own systems, but is the EU really worried about the US turning encryption back on and leaving them in the dark?

    Yes. The EU is concerned that it would get caught in the crossfire between the US and some other country. If the US re-enables selective availability to try to deny GNSS data to e.g. the Iranians, it sure would be nice if the EU had its own satellites that it could use for planes/ships that were in the area. An example from a different arena is the SWIFT financial network, and the US threats to deny banks that do business with Iran access to SWIFT, even though the banks themselves may not be in a US jurisdiction.

    Like it or not, the US has built a lot of the communication and navigation infrastructure that the world relies on, and, as of late, the US government has shown an increasing willingness to use access to that infrastructure as a bargaining chip when negotiating with other countries. The concept is called weaponized interdependence, and it's something that greatly concerns the Europeans.

  19. July 21, 2019Neal said...

    @quanticle Excellent paper as it raises the questions of how much our allies will allow the U.S. created/supported infrastructure, which they freely admit they benefit from, to be used as points of influence should their interests differ from those of the U.S. even in areas where one would think there would be no overlap.

    The last two paragraphs should be prominent in not only the pol-mil staffer and decision maker's thinking, but across the foreign policy and even commercial leadership levels. It really is that important as we can see just from the alternative SWIFT construct. Lots of meat to chew on here. Thanks for the link.

    John, you raise a good question about the what the air traffic system would do if GPS dropped out for whatever reason. It is a question that we often discuss but I have not, from my very humble station, run across anyone who has anything more than a guess.

    I do know though that any aircraft with an inertial nav system will be fine--I cannot remember the last time I had any need of an actual VOR or NDB for anything. Southwest might still be flying around VOR to VOR, but at the airline level they are/were the exception and any airliner wouldn't notice anything. General Aviation, with all the Garmins you mentioned, would be a different story. (Edit: Not sure about the airlines still flying MD-80 series aircraft and what the navigational capabilities are. I am thinking newer 737s, 787s, 777s, Airbuses, etc.)

    Also added into that mix is everthing else in the air traffic system that is using GPS and that might be a lot--thus my remark about why we talk about it from time to time.

    Either way, I think it would be confusing if all the non-terrestrial nav sources suddenly dropped out and it would be far from "ops normal."

  20. July 21, 2019John Schilling said...

    GPS was opened to the public because inertial + VOR failed catastrophically for KAL 007. I'm fairly certain the old systems could be made to work tolerably well if they had to, but it would take a long while for the industry to be confident they were working tolerably well, and there'd almost certainly be mass cancellations in the interim.

    Also, I'm not sure how many airliners are set up to do ADS-B with Galileo only. Without ADS-B, again you've got a lot of lost confidence in the system, this time at the level of national ATC authorities with the authority to ground everything until it gets sorted out. If that makes going back to pre-ADS rules means increased separation and probably no way to make current schedules and flight densities work.

    Losing GPS wouldn't bother me except insofar as it would make ATC paranoid about everything, but I don't do hard IFR at 500 knots under RVSM. I'd very much prefer everyone be able to switch seamlessly to Galileo or GLONASS if GPS goes down, but I don't think that's where we're actually at.

  21. July 21, 2019Neal said...


    Point well made John and I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I was overlooking ADS-B and other considerations. My thoughts immediately went to thinking of aircraft specific navigation capabilities and the high confidence we can place in any one aircraft being where it should be.

    Looking at the overall air traffic control system without GPS however, you are no doubt correct that they would probably shut it down until they could get a fix (no pun intended) on the the what, why and extent of the problem. Lots on the plate, not just air traffic, for the authorities if GPS goes down for whatever reason.

    Your comment re. KAL 007 led me to look at Wiki to review this incident. What a chain of errors with some, of course, being very subtle. Those errors though, as you know, led to further rigor in position monitoring and navigational procedures by the crew.

  22. July 24, 2019Johan Larson said...

    The US Navy is trying to get by with really small crews on the Littoral Combat Ships, by embracing a notion of adaptability and versatility among the crew.

  23. July 24, 2019doctorpat said...

    @Johan Larson,

    I'm no expert, but that strikes me as the sort of management theory that works well in peacetime (and in the civilian applications it was developed in) but would fall down badly under wartime conditions.

    It's been done before (Google "Theory X and Theory Y management"). Systems that work fine, or even better, under good conditions often fall apart under terrible conditions.

    The entire point of military is preparing for terrible conditions. If everything is going to be good then why spend money on the military at all? It is a fairly common historical failure mode for long peacetimes to result in military structure/doctrine/tactics/weapons to become optimised for peacetime conditions, only to find out that it really doesn't work when all hell breaks loose.

  24. July 24, 2019bean said...

    The LCS minimal manning thing isn't new. The cynical would suggest that it was to minimize the number of body bags when the things are sunk. I'm not sure I entirely buy the DC rationale for the traditional crew size, but at some point, you need to solve problems by throwing bodies at them, and the LCS doesn't have the bodies to spare.

    Also, did they have to use the Giffords, a ship whose name I hate more than almost any other? She never served a day in uniform. Why name a ship after her, Mabus?

  25. July 25, 2019Jade Nekotenshi said...

    I saw a piece in the Navy Times, where there was a photo from a line-handling evolution on an LCS. I knew they'd gotten the manning horribly wrong when there was a LTJG actually on a line-handling party. No, not supervising, actually hauling on the line. If you've even got a PO1 directly handling lines, you don't have enough people.

  26. July 27, 2019bean said...

    My copies of Battleship Bismarck and The Last British Battleship finally got here! (USNI's IT needs work, but their customer service is excellent. You should definitely buy from them.) I haven't had a lot of time to look over them, but both look good. I'm particularly impressed by the Bismarck book. It's weighty (seriously weighty, to the point that it makes a good weapon) and authoritative. Which means that people can stop writing about that ship, and turn their attention to other things. Please. Also, you have to love a book where James Cameron (yes, that James Cameron) is fourth author.

    The Last British Battleship also looks excellent. Burt is always very through, and when he has a whole book to devote to a single ship, the result is great. My only real criticism is that Lion isn't covered well in either the 1919-1945 book or this one. And that it showed up two days after my post went up.

  27. July 27, 2019Neal said...


    The USNI book section is like a morphine drip. I went there to take a gander at the work on the Bismark you described. Before I ever got to it I saw at least three books on the bestsellers page that I would like to throw on the "to read" stack--including one on cyber battlespace.

    Dangerous ground in the book sections of these sites!

  28. July 28, 2019bean said...

    You think it's bad for you? I looked at how much I'd spent with them in the past year, and it was a number that was far too high for me to be willing to reveal publicly. Let's just say that if I'd paid list (and the membership can pay off very quickly if you buy outside of Christmas) then it would have been well into the four figures.

  29. July 28, 2019Neal said...


    I can indeed imagine that for the amount of serious research you are doing that you do that the book section has a tractor-beam lock on your wallet.

    I have always opined however, that apart from the one Twilight Zone episode one can't read too much. Saw a thread on the pilots forum of guys comparing the stacks of not-yet-taken-to-the-recycling-bin boxes from books they have ordered. If there is a some kind of reasonable limit, many of us sermed to have blown by it long ago. And long may it continue!

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