November 26, 2021

Open Thread 92

It is time, as usual, for our open thread. Regular rules (no culture war) apply.

I'm planning to do another virtual meetup next weekend, on Saturday December 4th. Time will be as usual, at 1 PM Central (GMT-6).

2017 overhauls are The Battleships of Pearl Harbor parts two and three, Lissa, Iowa parts five and six, Mine Warfare Part 1 and Russian Battleships Part 1. 2018 overhauls are Falklands Part 8, Commercial Aviation Part 1, Internment, Iowa's crew art and SYWTBABB - Design Part 2. 2019 overhauls are Glide Bombs, Billy Michell Part 1, The Navy and the Space Program and Falklands Part 19. 2020 overhauls are The Seaplane Striking Force, Naval Bases from Space - San Diego, The Reagan Maritime Strategy and Icebreakers.


  1. November 28, 2021Tony Zbaraschuk said...

    Harry asked in the last open thread:

    "Watching Drachinifel’s Guadalcanal series sparked a big interest in the WW2 Pacific naval war. I read Hornfischer’s book on Guadalcanal and Ian W. Toll’s trilogy, but want more on the early parts of the Pacific War (including Guadalcanal) and Japan’s campaigns prior. Any reading recommendations?"

    H.P. Willmott has two superb books, Empires in the Balance and The Barrier and the Javelin, that cover this exact period. Highly recommended.

  2. November 28, 2021bean said...

    I have heard good things about those, but I've also encountered other stuff by Willmott that was completely insane. Antique scholarship and bizarre conclusions. Also, a completely baffling story about New Jersey shooting non-existent RAP rounds in Vietnam.

  3. November 28, 2021Tony Zbaraschuk said...

    I've actually found all of Willmott's stuff I've read to be very helpful, so I'm wondering what you read of his that you thought to be insane...

  4. November 28, 2021Alsadius said...

    Speaking of questionable historians, has anyone read much Luttwak? I find his work absolutely fascinating, but I get a definite sense of unbelievability to it, which is weird for straight history.

  5. November 29, 2021bean said...


    I first encountered his Battleship, taken from the library when living in LA. I went to the back to see what he had to say about the Iowas, and was extremely disappointed. On the reactivation, he said essentially "them fighting the Kirovs was stupid, and they didn't carry any more cruise missiles than a Burke, so the whole thing was stupid". I agree with the first point, would point out that the Burkes didn't enter service until a decade after the battleships, and disagree strongly on the last point. And then on Jersey's reactivation, he said that she spent time shooting 14" RAP shells into Laos, which is a breathtaking display of historical incompetence. If a visitor on the Iowa told me that, I wouldn't be surprised. It's exactly the sort of story you get when someone heard it from a buddy who got it from the chief on his last deployment who served with someone who was on the Jersey. Oh, and all of the people involved are cooks. But I'd expect someone with a PhD in history writing a book to do better.

    Much later, I looked over his The Last Century of Sea Power, published in 2009, and found it to have an extraordinarily obsolete view of the battlecruisers. It's the sort of thing I'd expect from a book in the 80s, but he completely ignored by Sumida and DK Brown's work on the subject, both of whom had published prominent books a decade before. I almost get the impression that he went crazy and USNI kicked him out because of it, so he found other publishers who didn't have someone who understood naval history checking his manuscripts.

    All that said, I've never heard anything bad about The Barrier and the Javelin specifically. Should probably pick up a copy. (Also his book on battleships, just to tear it apart at greater length.)


    I first heard of him when I wrote my review of The New Magniot Line and Mike Kozlowski brought him up in the comments. At one point, he claimed that the 3 worst weapon systems the US had bought were Patriot, ALCM and Tomahawk, which is a list almost precision engineered to destroy his credibility with me. His wiki article doesn't do much to inspire confidence, either.

  6. November 29, 2021Jade Nekotenshi said...

    Speaking of improbable stories, Ryan Szimanski of the BB New Jersey museum also mentioned the same sea story I heard about USS Newport News firing at MiGs with 8" guns in Vietnam. I wonder if both of us heard that particular sea story from the same guy, or if it really happened? Apparently the Des Moines class did have AA fire control computers for the main battery, though, which I didn't know.

    When I mentioned that before the consensus seemed to be that they probably fired at a Vietnamese plane with 5", and people got confused, but now I wonder.

    Another sea story I've heard from a few people but haven't been able to corroborate is of the USS Richmond K. Turner launching Standards at Scuds during the first Gulf War. I'm not sure that 1991-era SM2s would have been any better optimized for that than Patriot was, but I guess it could work, maybe?

    Also, how the devil does any historian justify calling Tomahawk one of the worst US weapons systems? Patriot, for as good a system as it is, does at least have one set of embarrassing egg-on-the-face failures, though those resulted from pressing a conventional high-altitude SAM into service as an ABM weapon. (I have heard rumors that Patriot might be getting retired in favor of a land-based version of Standard, but I think that might just be people getting confused by the Army's procurement of SM6 as an SSM. In particular, Patriot's actual missiles are notably more road-mobile; Standard is kind of a big bastard to haul around. OTOH, that doesn't stop several Russian and Chinese SAM systems, so...)

  7. November 29, 2021bean said...

    Apparently the Des Moines class did have AA fire control computers for the main battery, though, which I didn’t know.

    I find this extremely doubtful. Friedman (US Naval Weapons) is quite clear that the Mk 54 director was a single-purpose replacement for the Mk 34. If the director won't handle planes, then the computer is unlikely to. I'm sure there was an AA range table, much as for the Iowas, but if they were shooting at MiGs, it was in a "fire everything, no matter how useless" mode.

    Another sea story I’ve heard from a few people but haven’t been able to corroborate is of the USS Richmond K. Turner launching Standards at Scuds during the first Gulf War. I’m not sure that 1991-era SM2s would have been any better optimized for that than Patriot was, but I guess it could work, maybe?

    That also seems unlikely. Not impossible, but as far as I know, there wasn't even a pretense of ABM capability anywhere in the system, particularly for NTU ships. I also think Turner was in the wrong place, as she was apparently pretty far forward, near the Iranian coast, due to NTU's superior performance overland. IIRC, the Scuds were neither launched from nor landing near there.

    Also, how the devil does any historian justify calling Tomahawk one of the worst US weapons systems?

    He did it back in the mid-80s. It was a prediction thoroughly falsified, not pure stupidity.

  8. November 29, 2021Jade Nekotenshi said...

    Here's where I got that from:

    Maybe he's confused here?

  9. November 30, 2021bean said...

    Digging into this deeper, it looks like he's right about the capability. The Mk 1A sans starshell computer is something you'd only see for the 8" guns, and the manual for the turret (at HNSA) does discuss AA operational modes, although the lack of discussion in other sources and the paucity of mentions even in that manual suggest that it was very much a secondary mode, even if infinitely more capable than typical main-gun AA capability. Reading between the lines, I suspect this was something that BuOrd was pushing (probably related to the guided missile threat, given when the project started), but I doubt it was emphasized in practice.

    Also, re alternate reloading methods, that was identified as an improvement in the end-of-war US report I tore apart a few months back, but I really doubt it would have reached any of the ships planned prewar, which are all of an earlier generation than Salem.

  10. November 30, 2021Jade Nekotenshi said...

    So, it's broadly agreed that the USN's current naming conventions are utterly shambolic to the max. My question is, what should they be?

    Here's my thought -

    Major strategic ships: - Carriers: Original 13, followed by other states if there are more than 13 - Boomers: Other states. - LHA/LHD: Major Marine Corps actions

    Second-tier major warships: - Cruisers: State capitals - Fast-attack subs: Other major cities - LPD/LSD: Other famous battles

    Escorts: - Destroyers, Frigates: Major Navy/Marine heroes, famous ship namesakes, etc. (These are mostly OK already) - LCS: Do we have to? OK, OK, as above.

    MSC ships: I mostly don't have much objection to how these are done, other than the capital names (Carson City, Bismarck, etc).

  11. November 30, said...

    carriers should be named for apollo landing sites, that should keep us till we get to mars, and each one will carry the implicit name of "USS somewhere we're cool enough to go but you aren't"

  12. December 01, 2021bean said...

    I don't hate either suggestion, but I'm enough of a traditionalist to want to exhaust the names with long and glorious histories in US service first. And in their original classes, if at all possible. After that, we'll talk.

  13. December 01, 2021Jade Nekotenshi said...

    Well, sure, I'd definitely want a CVN Enterprise, and possibly Yorktown and Lexington too. Also Wasp, but we have an LHD Wasp, and that's close enough.

    And there has to be a CG/DDG/FFG The Sullivans, but there already is, so that's good. We definitely need a new Samuel B. Roberts, Johnston, Hoel, Heermann, Evans and Copeland. I'm not entirely happy about having Independence as an LCS and Constellation, Congress and Chesapeake as FFGs - those should probably be CVN or at least LHA/LHD names.

  14. December 03, 2021quanticle said...

    The Economist has an article on the state of America's shipyards. Not a whole lot new there for readers of this blog. It has the usual gripes about inconsistent funding and lack of skilled labor that have been a constant for the American shipbuilding industry since at least the Clinton administration, if not before.

  15. December 03, 2021Doctorpat said...


    I was under the impression that inconsistent funding, and resulting issues with skilled labour, were naval shipyard problems going back to the ship of Theseus and the resulting weirdness of that particular construction and maintenance program.

    And @cursedcassander: Apollo Landing sites? That's just cruel.

  16. December 04, 2021Neal said...

    In case one wonders how quickly a cool hundred million (actually less in British Pounds but impressive nonetheless) can vanish, the British conducted an demonstration in the Eastern Med last week.

    The U.S. Navy apparently still shoots its PlAT in B&W so the British very well also might not have colour and someone used a mobile to copy it.

    Either way, an F-35 went over and the U.S. Navy has been asked/graciously invitd to assist in salvage operation. I am sure they would like this to be conducted on the double quick mind you, as the aircraft is in reasonable condition but in moderately deep water.

    The pilot enters the ranks of the Martin-Baker "save" roll call. He was lucky.

    Forged video or not, the British have coughed up that they are indeed saiing sans one Lightning II that perhaps had deep water exploration as a life's goal.

    Oh well, the more they buy the wider the cost spread can be, thus reducing the avg/median cost of the errant or so we are told...

    More to follow as the location and salvage efforts continue.

  17. December 06, 2021Kit said...

    Been reading about Russian pre-dreadnought battleships, and decided to compare them to the British.

    Example: Sisoi Veliki vs Centurian Completed 1896 vs 1894 10,400 vs 10,500 tons 4x12" vs 4x10" main guns 6x6" vs 10x4.7" secondary guns 15.65 vs 18.5 knots 4,440 vs 6000 miles Range 5 years vs 3 years 11 months Time to build

    As you can see, this is rather comparable. I would have thought something like "Russian ships sux" but really they are in the same zip code. Who knew!

    Having written that .. the Sisoi Veliki was so overweight her main belt was completely submerged. So that's kinda bad. Even worse, this is not the first Russian battleship with a completely submerged main belt! Stop it!

    The weights above are "as completed".

  18. December 06, 2021muddywaters said...

    @Kit: Centurions were intended as second-class ships - the first-class of the time would be Majestics. And yes, there were multiple overweight Russian ships.

  19. December 06, 2021bean said...

    The Russian battleship program as a whole was a fascinating mix of mundane engineering, really good (or at least interesting) ideas and terrible practice. The overweight issues plagued them throughout, and cost them dearly in combat, but I certainly wouldn't sum it up as "Russian ships sux". The British were ahead, but not that far ahead.

  20. December 06, 2021Kit said...

    I used the Centurions since they were the same size. A British first class battleship was rather more than the Russians needed, could afford, or could build.

    Suppose two Sisoi Veliki vs one Centurian. I bet the Russians find a way to lose. I'm assuming Russian sailors are worse, both because most things in Russia were not as good, and because they couldn't sail for part of the year, and because we saw the results of the Russo-Japanese war. Also, who buries their main belt for multiple ship classes!

  21. December 07, 2021bean said...

    I'm honestly not sure on that. The Centurions weren't really specialized in battleship combat, given that they were designed as station ships. And it's also worth pointing out that the Russians weren't total idiots. Their problems get a lot of play, at least in part because, speaking from experience, they're easy to talk about, but that doesn't mean they didn't do a bunch of stuff right as well.

    Also, who buries their main belt for multiple ship classes!

    If you look at the timeline, shipbuilding was going fast enough that multiple classes were under construction at the same time, so they didn't get feedback immediately. On the other hand, the problems persisted (if not as badly) even after that excuse stops working.

  22. December 07, 2021quanticle said...

    The USS Oriskany caught fire in 1966. Forrestal burned in '67. Enterprise suffered a fire in '69.

    So what was wrong with our carriers in the '60s?

  23. December 07, 2021John Schilling said...

    @quanticle: We were fighting a war, arguably pushing our operational tempo beyond what the crews could sustain, and we weren't sufficiently paranoid about munitions safety. In particular, even though we had the technology to make insensitive munitions, we were still using a lot of stuff that could ignite or detonate if it A: got too hot or B: was exposed to strong radio or microwave interference. And of course if you've got stuff that can go off if it gets hot, and one bomb/rocket/flare/whatever goes off, then eventually they all do (unless you shove them overboard or flood the magazines or whatever).

    Not long after, the Navy got religious about not letting anything on their ships that couldn't survive sitting in a pool of burning jet fuel (or a microwave oven) for fifteen minutes or so. And they replaced the older formulation of jet fuel with JP-8, which is extremely hard to ignite.

  24. December 07, 2021bean said...

    Wartime pressures were definitely a major cause. They were pushing the Pacflt carriers hard, and the fires were at least worsened because they were short on bombs, and Korean War-era ones had to be used, without the thermal coatings that were standard by the 60s.

  25. December 07, 2021Jade Nekotenshi said...

    I know the Navy uses JP-5 now, due to its higher flash point relative to JP-8. Did they actually switch to JP-8 after the fires, and then later to JP-5?

  26. December 08, 2021Anonymous said...

    Notice that 5 < 8 (but also 5 > 4).

  27. December 08, 2021bean said...

    I think John just got this one wrong. JP-5 was developed for the Navy in 1952, and as far as I know was in use during Vietnam, although it's possible they were using JP-4 instead due to supply issues. JP-8 is the current USAF fuel, and was first standardized in 1978, although it took over a decade to fully replace JP-4.

  28. December 09, 2021ike said...

    Do I need to dig up my book on AV-fuel specifications (including both NATO and CIS)? : )

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