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Battleship Shells for the modern age?

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Currently the Iowa and Wisconsin are the only two close enough to be even considered to be put back into the naval registry, but lets just say for now that they had the potential to be used in a modern conflict.

I was recently studying the works of shell types used in main battle tanks and artillary and was wondering if there was any use in putting it into practice on a larger caliber cannon like the 16 in guns on the Iowa. As most of you are probably going to tell me, the battleships AP shells were used to penetrate multiple layers of armor, as incorporated with the "all or nothing" approach for battleships of the time, but what about going up against modern warships? Destroyers and Cruisers today don't have nearly as much armor, so battleship guns would not need as much piercing power. However with the maneuverability of destroyers and cruisers today, a battleship shell would have to get extremely lucky to get a hit at stand-off range.

and then there is this, There is an on-going debate on weather battleship guns can be used as artillery in the ground support role (if im wrong, please correct me), however the counter-argument would be that the accuracy of the guns are far from effective in the modern age.

So here is my question, could it be at all possible to incorporate stabilizing and guidance equipment on 16 inch shells and be effective (like the M982 Excalibur)? If money or materiel were of no concern, would it be at all possible?

I understand that the iowa's targeting system is fairly out of date, so would modernizing that make a difference as well. Just a thought I've had, thought I would share it.

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16 in gun range 24 miles. Exocet Anti ship Missile 100 Miles. Nice thought but not even in the same ballpark....

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Zumwalt’s canceled Adavanced Weapons System had LRLAP shells, with a range of 83 nautical miles.  16” guns with 24 mile range can’t compete with that, especially if the enemy is using a land based AWS.  The only reason that I can think of for using those 16” guns is that the shells are way cheaper, and make for more impressive photos.  But the crew requiments and oil consumption of the Iowa’s offset that advantage.

Edited by Sventex

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Sure it would be possible to create a guided 16" shell of some type. The issue is that it would serve absolutely no purpose.

The reason guns that large were built was because of the extremely primitive level of ballistics and armor piercing projectile design back in the early 20th century. Basically, the only way to get more range was to use a bigger gun and the only way to penetrate more armor was to use a heavier shell. With modern technology that is no longer the case and we can use much smaller weapons like the Zumwalt's 6" guns that can be used closer to friendly forces, cause less collateral damage, and don't require a purpose built 60,000 ton ship.

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On 2/2/2018 at 8:31 PM, Raven114 said:

16 in gun range 24 miles. Exocet Anti ship Missile 100 Miles. Nice thought but not even in the same ballpark....

And an Exocet has never been launched at a warship under combat conditions beyond 24 miles so...I guess it doesn’t matter 

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On 2/2/2018 at 9:26 PM, Sventex said:

Zumwalt’s canceled Adavanced Weapons System had LRLAP shells, with a range of 83 nautical miles.  16” guns with 24 mile range can’t compete with that, especially if the enemy is using a land based AWS.  The only reason that I can think of for using those 16” guns is that the shells are way cheaper, and make for more impressive photos.  But the crew requiments and oil consumption of the Iowa’s offset that advantage.

Could always develop a sub-caliber rocket assisted round for the 16s to even things out in regards to range and add in some guidance systems.

 

but I wouldn’t advocate bringing the Iowas back so it’s kind of irrelevant lol

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I mean JohnPJones is right, the USN could develop 16 inch shells with those capacities however why would they? The USN could bring back two or so Iowa's and modernize them, why would they?

I mean it's a better idea than building new battleships however, neither of those are perfect ideas to start with.

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On 2/3/2018 at 3:19 PM, ARCNA442 said:

Sure it would be possible to create a guided 16" shell of some type. The issue is that it would serve absolutely no purpose.

The reason guns that large were built was because of the extremely primitive level of ballistics and armor piercing projectile design back in the early 20th century. Basically, the only way to get more range was to use a bigger gun and the only way to penetrate more armor was to use a heavier shell. With modern technology that is no longer the case and we can use much smaller weapons like the Zumwalt's 6" guns that can be used closer to friendly forces, cause less collateral damage, and don't require a purpose built 60,000 ton ship.

Well considering a new ammo type could be developed for the 16s to give guidance and more range that’s not much of an argument...especially since it was deemed that it would take 30+ zumwalts to equal the NGFS capability of 4 iowas, 8 zumwalts per Iowa,  meaning you need over 112,000 tons of ship to provide the same support as 1 Iowa...

part of NGFS is grid erasure missions which aren’t going to be cnducted with friendlies nearby at all, and danger close is danger close regardless...also 16” guns would be much better in a broken arrow situation with their anti-personnel rounds dropping something like 200 submunitions per round...

Then there’s the fact that the mk71 gun was from the get go a better option than the AGS

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23 minutes ago, Dunk_Master_Flex said:

I mean JohnPJones is right, the USN could develop 16 inch shells with those capacities however why would they? The USN could bring back two or so Iowa's and modernize them, why would they?

I mean it's a better idea than building new battleships however, neither of those are perfect ideas to start with.

1. There’s a legal requirement to replace the Iowas NGFS capability so that’s why. 32 zumwalts were determined to fill that role but 32 became 3

2. We need to be more specific about what we mean when discussing the potential for new class of battleship. After all in length the Zumwalt is on par with some older US battleships

2.a. A BMD variant of the LPD with a mk71 and a pair of mk110s or 76mm guns with 180+ VLS could pretty easily be called a modern battleship.

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1 minute ago, JohnPJones said:

1. There’s a legal requirement to replace the Iowas NGFS capability so that’s why. 32 zumwalts were determined to fill that role but 32 became 3

2. We need to be more specific about what we mean when discussing the potential for new class of battleship. After all in length the Zumwalt is on par with some older US battleships

2.a. A BMD variant of the LPD with a mk71 and a pair of mk110s or 76mm guns with 180+ VLS could pretty easily be called a modern battleship.

 

2.) I don't see length being a legitimate way of measuring ships, as even WWII era cruisers were longer than the WWI era Dreadnoughts. Hell, Frigates are rapidly becoming destroyer sized/tonnage. 

3.) While I'm not expert and fully well might be wrong, I'd rather see modernized Iowa's than some LHD VLS system. Having SAG's with an Iowa class at the center would definitely be a boon, the ships are in relatively good condition and a modernization could be possible, likely much more practical than something like Zumwalt or a new concept ship. Maybe modernize two Iowa's and use the other two as parts bins, potentially drop nuclear reactors in and trade off the 5"/38 guns for VLS and modern 5 inch guns. 

Battleship Surface Groups are a proven concept from the 80's and they are better than the old Tico's currently at the center of the surface groups.

But again, I dunno, just brain storming here. 

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9 hours ago, Dunk_Master_Flex said:

 

2.) I don't see length being a legitimate way of measuring ships, as even WWII era cruisers were longer than the WWI era Dreadnoughts. Hell, Frigates are rapidly becoming destroyer sized/tonnage. 

3.) While I'm not expert and fully well might be wrong, I'd rather see modernized Iowa's than some LHD VLS system. Having SAG's with an Iowa class at the center would definitely be a boon, the ships are in relatively good condition and a modernization could be possible, likely much more practical than something like Zumwalt or a new concept ship. Maybe modernize two Iowa's and use the other two as parts bins, potentially drop nuclear reactors in and trade off the 5"/38 guns for VLS and modern 5 inch guns. 

Battleship Surface Groups are a proven concept from the 80's and they are better than the old Tico's currently at the center of the surface groups.

But again, I dunno, just brain storming here. 

The BMD LPD would make it so several new ships could be built fairly cheaply. You could easily have 4 so you could always have one available to the pacific and Atlantic fleets. (I’d go with the 30’ fixed arrays)

http://www.huntingtoningalls.com/ballistic-missile-defense-ship/

the Iowas have had minimal maintenance for a decade or so, most of it basic topside paint/preservation.

if and I mean big IF the Iowas were to be modernized is do it as cheaply as possible, while getting maximum effect.

 

remove turret 3, drop in around 70 VLS there, remove the 5” guns on the Wisconsin there are only 2 per side so do SEARam forward mk110 middle and SEARam aft each side. Remove TLAM launchers from the super structure, replace with more Phalanx, remove saluting guns, put in mk38s each side, put mk38s in the empty gun tubs aft. Flank the flight deck with 2 8 cell VLS ON either side.
i'd do it that way because the mk110s have a comprable range to the old 5" guns  but with a RoF over 200rpm is more than triple the number of rounds all 3 turrets could put out, and about the same if you replaced them with mk45s, but they also have smart munitions, the SEARam and phalanx along with nulka rockets and chaff would create a very dense close in defense, all would be fairly easy to install, quick with minimal deck penetration necessary. should be able to fit a 48 cell launcher and a 32 cell launcher where turret 3 was before hitting the flight deck, if not use a 24 cell launcher, and 2 8 cell launcher on either side of the flight deck.
 

 

i was just pointing out that the size of the Zumwalt is beyond what has conventionally been called a destroyer, the Chinese now have a 10k+ ton ‘destroyer’ and the Russians are planning a 17,000 ton ‘destroyer’.

at this rate we’ll have 25,000 ton destroyers by the 2040s

Edited by JohnPJones

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As for how to define a modern battleship, I’d define it as a surface combatant of a capital ship size, capable of hosting flag officer and staff, as well as high ranking marine/army officers and staff to coordinate amphibious operations from. Can self escort against air and surface threats, and is designed to be a pivotal part in sweeping enemy surface combatants from the seas and then conducting land attack missions as necessary.(TLAM or NGFS)

 

also what do you mean by proven concept from the 80s? What occurred to prove the concept, because I am unaware of the actions that proved the concept.

Edited by JohnPJones

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On 2/5/2018 at 9:48 AM, Dunk_Master_Flex said:

 

2.) I don't see length being a legitimate way of measuring ships, as even WWII era cruisers were longer than the WWI era Dreadnoughts. Hell, Frigates are rapidly becoming destroyer sized/tonnage. 

3.) While I'm not expert and fully well might be wrong, I'd rather see modernized Iowa's than some LHD VLS system. Having SAG's with an Iowa class at the center would definitely be a boon, the ships are in relatively good condition and a modernization could be possible, likely much more practical than something like Zumwalt or a new concept ship. Maybe modernize two Iowa's and use the other two as parts bins, potentially drop nuclear reactors in and trade off the 5"/38 guns for VLS and modern 5 inch guns. 

Battleship Surface Groups are a proven concept from the 80's and they are better than the old Tico's currently at the center of the surface groups.

But again, I dunno, just brain storming here. 

I'm going to play Devil's Advocate for the pro-Battleship position here.

I think your overthinking this.  If you stop considering who might be the USN's enemy and consider who is the USN's enemy, you'd see that North Korea is about the only one left.  The USS Iowa already fought North Korea, and since that conflict 75 years ago, the KPA's technology has not advanced significantly since then as it still uses vintage WWII equipment, a variety of rusty Cold War equipment, and a few modern weapons here and there.  If the USS Iowa were deployed a few weeks after the start of the a New Korean War, it would adequately preform its old ground support role as it did 75 years ago, when it fired 16,689 round of artillery ammunition in a short period of time.  With adequate escort to protect against missiles and aircraft, the USS Iowa would not need any upgrades for this conflict, it wouldn't even need to fix Turret #2.  The strength of the KPA is its nuclear arsenal, and it's massive amount of infantry.  That nuclear arsenal along with their air force is going to be used or lost within the first week, after that is a grueling campaign up the peninsula.

There's the US expression "Our manpower is precious, shells are cheap", but the Zumwalt's guns costing $800,000–$1 million per shells seem to be the exception.  Giving USS Iowa sub-caliber rocket assisted rounds is unnecessary and it's going just going the balloon the cost of ground support.  The 16" shells as-is, are cheap enough, and will do an adequate job shelling factories, railroads and infantry positions, just like what she did before in 1952.

Edited by Sventex

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4 hours ago, Sventex said:

I'm going to play Devil's Advocate for the pro-Battleship position here.

I think your overthinking this.  If you stop considering who might be the USN's enemy and consider who is the USN's enemy, you'd see that North Korea is about the only one left.  The USS Iowa already fought North Korea, and since that conflict 75 years ago, the KPA's technology has not advanced significantly since then as it still uses vintage WWII equipment, a variety of rusty Cold War equipment, and a few modern weapons here and there.  If the USS Iowa were deployed a few weeks after the start of the a New Korean War, it would adequately preform its old ground support role as it did 75 years ago, when it fired 16,689 round of artillery ammunition in a short period of time.  With adequate escort to protect against missiles and aircraft, the USS Iowa would not need any upgrades for this conflict, it wouldn't even need to fix Turret #2.  The strength of the KPA is its nuclear arsenal, and it's massive amount of infantry.  That nuclear arsenal along with their air force is going to be used or lost within the first week, after that is a grueling campaign up the peninsula.

There's the US expression "Our manpower is precious, shells are cheap", but the Zumwalt's guns costing $800,000–$1 million per shells seem to be the exception.  Giving USS Iowa sub-caliber rocket assisted rounds is unnecessary and it's going just going the balloon the cost of ground support.  The 16" shells as-is, are cheap enough, and will do an adequate job shelling factories, railroads and infantry positions, just like what she did before in 1952.

Personally I still believe Syria could be the spark for significant hostilities to be renewed with Russia when combined with the US no arming the Ukraine even more, so I don’t think it would be inaccurate to call Russia an enemy.

I think it would be a slight exaggeration to call China an enemy at this time though 

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On 2/7/2018 at 4:58 PM, Sventex said:

If you stop considering who might be the USN's enemy and consider who is the USN's enemy, you'd see that North Korea is about the only one left.  The USS Iowa already fought North Korea, and since that conflict 75 years ago, the KPA's technology has not advanced significantly since then as it still uses vintage WWII equipment, a variety of rusty Cold War equipment, and a few modern weapons here and there.  If the USS Iowa were deployed a few weeks after the start of the a New Korean War, it would adequately preform its old ground support role as it did 75 years ago, when it fired 16,689 round of artillery ammunition in a short period of time.  With adequate escort to protect against missiles and aircraft, the USS Iowa would not need any upgrades for this conflict, it wouldn't even need to fix Turret #2. 

In 1953 the North Koreans didn't have antiship missiles. Truck mounted launchers would be extremely difficult to detect and could be fired at anything within the horizon (such as a battleship on a gunnery mission) even after their C2 networks have been destroyed. There is a reason we designed Zumwalt with 100 mile guns and advanced stealth.

Further, when it comes down to it, 16" guns just really don't offer much. There is a reason why armies around the world have settled on 105-203mm weapons and all the massive old siege guns were abandoned. Smaller shells are more efficient against soft targets and hard targets are better dealt with through guided weapons. Even when the Iowa's were recommissioned in the 1980's it wasn't because of their 16" guns, it was because we needed large hulls that could carry lots of Tomahawks in ABL's (the Navy actually wanted the Des Moines but they were too small).

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1 hour ago, ARCNA442 said:

In 1953 the North Koreans didn't have antiship missiles. Truck mounted launchers would be extremely difficult to detect and could be fired at anything within the horizon (such as a battleship on a gunnery mission) even after their C2 networks have been destroyed. There is a reason we designed Zumwalt with 100 mile guns and advanced stealth.

Further, when it comes down to it, 16" guns just really don't offer much. There is a reason why armies around the world have settled on 105-203mm weapons and all the massive old siege guns were abandoned. Smaller shells are more efficient against soft targets and hard targets are better dealt with through guided weapons. Even when the Iowa's were recommissioned in the 1980's it wasn't because of their 16" guns, it was because we needed large hulls that could carry lots of Tomahawks in ABL's (the Navy actually wanted the Des Moines but they were too small).

Wikipedia lists that the anti-ship missiles that North Korea uses are the P15 & Silkworm KN1, which were developed back in the 50's.  Would there be no way to counter these missiles?

Edited by Sventex

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4 hours ago, Sventex said:

Wikipedia lists that the anti-ship missiles that North Korea uses are the P15 & Silkworm KN1, which were developed back in the 50's.  Would there be no way to counter these missiles?

Styx / Silkworm is rather easy to counter for any guided missile ship (HMS Gloucester shot one down back in 1991). However, the DPRK almost certainly has more advanced weapons as well - Wiki claims they have an indigenous version of SS-N-25 Switchblade and China has probably given them C-801 / C-802 missiles. These can be defeated, but it means keeping an Aegis ship with the battleship at all times and there is still always a chance that something will get through.

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1 hour ago, ARCNA442 said:

Styx / Silkworm is rather easy to counter for any guided missile ship (HMS Gloucester shot one down back in 1991). However, the DPRK almost certainly has more advanced weapons as well - Wiki claims they have an indigenous version of SS-N-25 Switchblade and China has probably given them C-801 / C-802 missiles. These can be defeated, but it means keeping an Aegis ship with the battleship at all times and there is still always a chance that something will get through.

If the warheads get any lighter then 1000lb, then I'm not even sure the missiles would even penetrate the belt armor of the USS Iowa.

Edited by Sventex

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1 hour ago, Sventex said:

If the warheads get any lighter then 1000lb, then I'm not even sure the missiles would even penetrate the belt armor of the USS Iowa.

I doubt even the larger warheads will penetrate the belt - but the belt armor covers an awfully small portion of the ship and missiles are very good at starting fires. Just think about HE shells in World of Warships and take that up a few notches

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1 minute ago, ARCNA442 said:

I doubt even the larger warheads will penetrate the belt - but the belt armor covers an awfully small portion of the ship and missiles are very good at starting fires. Just think about HE shells in World of Warships and take that up a few notches

Those old ships were built to take the damage and dish it out.  She's be realizing her original purpose in that circumstance.

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On 2/9/2018 at 6:48 PM, ARCNA442 said:

Styx / Silkworm is rather easy to counter for any guided missile ship (HMS Gloucester shot one down back in 1991). However, the DPRK almost certainly has more advanced weapons as well - Wiki claims they have an indigenous version of SS-N-25 Switchblade and China has probably given them C-801 / C-802 missiles. These can be defeated, but it means keeping an Aegis ship with the battleship at all times and there is still always a chance that something will get through.

Don’t forget the US defeated a total of 4+ silkworms in 2016

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Here is where the costs being to mount up.

 

First off, the Iowas have a combustible steam plant. Currently, there are no ships left in the inventory of the US Navy that even run on a combustible steam plant. The closest we had to the Iowa's power plant were the Midways (roughly same vintage) and the Sacramento-class Fast Replenishment ships (which used the power plants from Kentucky and Illinois). The Kitty Hawk was the last steam plant major warship left in service, and it's been in mothballs since 2009. In order to run the ship, you are going to have to recondition the steam plant and hire some former service men to help train sailors how to operate it, or you are going to have to replace the power plant. Replacing the power plant means virtually tearing the entire ship open to remove the boilers and turbines and putting in whatever plant you need. At that point it would be better off building a new hull as the expense would be the same.

 

Then there is the fire control. The Iowas used their WW2 fire control systems all the way through to the Gulf War. Why? Because the existing system still worked for what they needed it for, and could withstand the firing of the Iowa's main battery. Remember, the Iowas were re-activated primarily to boost the fleet numbers in the 80s, and to counter the Kirovs. Tomahawks, Harpoons, and CWIS were added, in addition to new radar systems to upgrade the Iowas. There were also conversion plans to replace turret 3 with a ramp for launching Harriers or Hornets, as well as a VLS. But the expense was high, so any conversion plans were dropped. As it was, the upgrades one Iowa was equal to the cost of a new Perry Frigate.

 

Manpower. During the age of the Battleships, manpower was easy to come by. These ships require a lot of manpower to operate. Each of those main turrets required lots of men to operate them to their full potential. Shells and powder were manually loaded into each gun. Same with the secondary battery, though with less men per turret. Then you have your engineering crew to run the steam plant, then mess crew to feed the others, etc.

At this time, the Navy is trying to reduce the size of a ships crew. The Newer Nimitz class ships use less crew then the original Nimitz as designed. Now I'm not debating on if that is a good idea or not, but that is the direction the Navy is heading, more automation in ships. For the most part, the turrets on US DDs today are all automated. While the turrets on the Des Moines were also automated, they still had sailors inside them. The 16in of the Iowas are simply too big and would need a total redesign to automate them.

 

The Iowas were considered to be the best of the best 70+ years ago when they were constructed and designed. Their time has come and gone. It would be better and cheaper to simply build a new NGFS ship, then rehabilitating a ship that may only give you another 10 years of service life. 

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To be fair a modernization of the Iowa class could result in significant crew cuts.

remove a 16” gun for VLS? Cuts a bunch. At least 30 men. Remove two for VLS? Cut 60.

pull all of the 5” guns and replace with mk110s cutting more. I think each 5” mount requires 24 men per mount. And the mk110 I believe on requires 4 men. So that’s 120 more cut.

thats almost 200 crew members cut just by replacing old guns with new weapons 

modern 5” still requires sailors in the magazine as well as in the mount...

also one Iowa carried several times the firepower of a single OHP...

Edited by JohnPJones

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10 hours ago, JohnPJones said:

Don’t forget the US defeated a total of 4+ silkworms in 2016

That action was actually far more impressive - 8 seaskimming missiles that were either C-801 (Exocet clone) or C-802 (Harpoon clone).

Just last week I read everything I could find about that and wrote this summary: https://influenceofhistory.blogspot.com/2018/02/modern-naval-battles-2016-missile.html

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