Battleship. Development and Modern of the Battleship

Battleship is a huge warship that has larger and more powerful guns and heavier armor than any other combat ship. Among fighting ships, only the aircraft carrier is larger than the battleship.

Battleships were once the dominant vessels of many of the world's navies. During World War II (1939-1945), however, they were replaced as fleet leaders by aircraft carriers. By the late 1950's, the U.S. Navy and most other navies had withdrawn battleships from active duty. But in the early 1980's, the U.S. Navy reactivated and modernized four battleships. The Navy again decommissioned these vessels in the early 1990's.

Development of the battleship began in the 1500s, when warships became heavily armed gun platforms known as ships of the line. Previous warships had resembled floating castles, with towers at the bow and stern from which soldiers fought in much the same way as on land. By the late 1 700's, a typical ship of the line carried 74 guns and had thick oak sides.

By the mid-1800's, steam engines had supplemented sails in warships, and guns that fired explosive shells had replaced cannons and cannonballs. The oak sides of ships of the line provided little protection against these shells. As a result, navies began building vessels covered with iron. The first battle between such ironclad warships occurred in 1862, during the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865). The U.S.S. Monitor fought the Confederate ship Virginia (formerly the U.S.S. Merrimack) at Hampton Roads, Virginia. The battle, though won by neither side, marked a new age of armored battleships.

By the early 1900's, typical battleships had steel armor 16 inches (41 centimeters) thick. They were powered by steam-driven piston engines capable of propelling them at a speed of 18 knots (nautical miles per hour). Such ships carried four 12-inch guns, eight 8-inch guns, and many small, rapid-fire arms. The big guns were powerful, but extremely inaccurate. The medium-caliber guns produced most of the damage in battle.

Battleships were the most powerful warships of World War I (1914-1918) and also were used extensively during World War II (19391945). The U.S.S. Missouri, shown here, site of the Japanese surrender in 1945, took part in many operations in the Pacific Ocean from 1944 to 1945. It also en- gaged in shore bombardment during the Korean War(1950-1953)

The modern battleship. The British Dreadnought, completed in 1906, was the first modern battleship. It was more powerfully armed and more heavily armored than any previous warship. The Dreadnought displaced 20,700 short tons (18,800 metric tons) of water and measured more than 500 feet (150 meters) long. It could achieve a speed of 21 knots, and its ten 12-inch guns were more accurate than earlier big guns. Many other nations soon began building similar vessels. The only major battle of World War 1 (1914-1918) that involved battleships was the Battle of Jutland, fought in 1916 between the British and German fleets. Both sides lost ships in the battle, and there was no clear winner.

The increased use of aircraft during World War II led to the decline in the importance of battleships. In fact, the two largest battleships ever built, Japan's Yamato and Musashi, were both sunk by aircraft in World War II. These ships displaced 64,000 tons (58,000 metric tons), carried nine 18-inch guns, and had armor 18 inches (46 centimeters) thick. U.S. battleships bombarded shore positions during the war and protected aircraft carriers from air attack. They carried nine 16-inch guns that could hurl 2,700-pound (1,200-kilogram) shells 23 miles (37 kilometers) and more than 100 antiaircraft guns.

Four U.S. battleships were used for shore bombardment during the Korean War(1950-1953). Following the war, they were placed in mothball (protective storage) fleets. In 1968, the battleship New Jersey came out of retirement briefly to fight in the Vietnam War (1957-1975).

In the 1980's, the U.S. Navy recommissioned four World War II battleships: the New Jersey in 1982, the Iowa in 1984, the Missouri in 1986, and the Wisconsin in 1988. Each was equipped with missiles and advanced radar and electronic communications and antiaircraft defense systems. The Navy decommissioned the Iowa in 1990, after a 1989 explosion during an exercise killed 47 sailors. The New Jersey was decommissioned in 1991. During the Persian Gulf War (1991), the Missouri and the Wisconsin served as missile launching platforms. They also fired shells at Iraqi military targets. The Navy decommissioned the Wisconsin in late 1991. The Missouri was decommissioned in 1992.


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