Carronade The Yankee Sailor Carronade

The Sea is a choosy mistress. She takes the men that come to her and weighs them and measures them. The ones she adores, she keeps; the ones she hates, she destroys. The rest she casts back to land. I count myself among the adored, for I am Her willing Captive.

I've relocated to a new Yankee Sailor.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Recommission the Battleships - NOT!

Read part I of this here.

Doug Hanson jumped on the "recommission the battleships" bandwagon today, and it illuminated yet another reason why bringing back the BB's will be a wonderful cash cow for the defense industry: fire control. Allow me to explain.

The fire control system on the battleships, while state of the art at the time, is grossly unsuited for precision strike and fire support, particularly at the ranges that are being discussed (150-400nm). See, the system was designed for firing at other ships, without the benefit of precision fire control radars. As a result the batteries are designed to "bracket" their targets. Basically, if the target is at 20kyds, a turret will fire one round at 20kyds, a second about 50yds farther, and the third about 50yds shorter.

That did a great job of increasing the probability of a hit from less than 5% at those ranges to between 10-15%. While this type of system is fine at sea, it just won't do if your firing into a city where, by design, 85% or more of the rounds fired will miss their target by 50 yards on average. Precision guidance on the round will help, but now you're talking about designing one system to compensate for the built-in errors of another, and that's just not smart engineering.

The solution to this is simple, you say: design a new fire control system. And you're right, ingenious American engineers could no doubt build the sysem, but at what cost? And, it would be especially expensive, because the manufacturer would only build two. Add onto that the glorious monopoly of spare parts the lucky contractor would get, and you would probably be able to buy a new aircraft carrier for the cost of two refurbished battleships.

Mr. Hanson continues:
Each battleship, with a reactivation and modernization cost of only $1.5 billion, has firepower equivalent to two aircraft carriers using only one-eighth the manpower. Moreover, the battleships' response is all-weather, is generally faster and is impervious to air defenses.

Firepower equivalent to two aircraft carriers? I'd like to see the formulas used to derive that conclusion, but I'll let it go. One eight of the crew? Is he mad, perhaps? When the battleships were decommissioned, the complement was 1800 Sailors, and there's nothing there to be modernized. Unless they're contemplating ripping out the eight boilers and associated propulsion machinery, we're talking about a system where four human beings, in response to orders from the pilot house, manually open and close steam throttle valves to control the speed of the ship. How is that going to be modernized?

Faster? Yes. Invulnerable to air defenses? Yes. All-weather? NO! Laser and even GPS guided munitions are limited by all sorts of weather, like fog, dust storms, cloud cover and even radio-frequency disturbances caused by atomospheric conditions and solar storms.

While attractive, romantic and appealing at first blush, returning the battleships to the active list is "no go" from the beginning.