|Mixed Caliber Battleship / Mixed Battery Battleship / pre-Dreadnought|
|Single Caliber Battleship / All-Big Gun Battleship / Dreadnought|
|1917 Maximum Battleship||18||15||26||80,000|
|1934 Maximum Battleship||20||8||30||72,500|
A Battleship was a naval vessel of the first class carrying maximum armament and protection; both against gun fire and torpedo attack, and having good speed. An unwritten rule in the design of battleships is that their armor should be able to withstand their own artillery fire at regular combat distances, She must be so designed as to be capable of keeping the sea in all weather and must have a large radius of action. Ships of this class are intended to lie in the regular line of battle and bear the brunt of the fighting. Battleships had been the mainstay of fleets for generations. As early as the 1850s, nations had been designating their main, big gun ships as "battleships." The term "battle-ship" is the modern adaptation (officially adopted by the Royal Navy in the re-classification of 1892) of the older form of "line-of-battle ship," or "ships fit to lie in a line" in battles between fleets, introduced in the British Navy under King James I, to distinguish these from vessels intended for independent cruising.
Monitors, named, of course, after Ericsson's cheese box, were a special class of battleship developed mainly in America. Being half submarine, it had the water for armor. With only a few feet of freeboard, all its cabins, bathtubs, pianolas, etc., can be shot away without destroying its military value. The armored turrets will remain, and the engines below the water line. Still, it was slow, hot, and unwieldy, carried few guns, and, as a type, was becoming obsolete by the beginning of the 20th Century. The question of height of gun axes above water had always received attention, and the minimum command is dependent upon the freeboard judged to be requisite from sea-going considerations. It was thought to be superb for harbor defense, but forts made the best local defenses, and ships defend their harbors several hundred miles at sea.
As technology improved, nations kept building larger, better-armored ships, and technology also allowed larger guns to be produced for these heavily armored but slow ships. US Navy battleship construction began with the keel laying of the Maine in 1888 and ended with the suspension of the incomplete Kentucky (BB-66) in 1947. During this almost six-decade-long era, 59 battleships of 23 different basic classes were completed for the Navy. Another twenty battleships and battle cruisers (three more classes) were begun or planned, but not completed.
In the US Navy the South Carolina and the Michigan (of about 16,000 tons) may be classed either as the last of the "battleships" or (with reference to their guns), the first American "dreadnoughts." All later ships (to about 32,000 tons) are dreadnoughts, and of these the largest, beginning with the huge Pennsylvania, are often called super-dreadnoughts. By 1915 the official Navy Register did not use these terms, but the "all-big-gun" ships, beginning with the South Carolina, are listed as "Battleships - First Line," while the earlier ones are called "Battleships - Second Line."
The term "Pre-dreadnaught" applied to a battleship, usually not over 16,000 tons displacement, having a mixed battery - main battery of heavy guns. 8-inch or above; intermediate battery of guns from 4-inch to 7-inch, inclusive, and secondary battery of small guns less than 4-inch.
The term "Dreadnaught" applied to a one-caliber all-big-gun battleship of 18,000 tons displacement or more and a speed of at least 18 knots, but more probably 21 knots [that of Dreadnought herself]. These vessels have a main battery of all big guns (11 inches or more in caliber) and no intermediate battery. The secondary or torpedo defense battery is composed of guns of 3-inch to 5-inch caliber.
The term "Super-dreadnaught" was a "rather indefinite term" according to ONI in 1919. "It was a term applied to later ships of the dreadnaught type, where there are more than 10 big guns in the main battery, or a very large displacement, 25,000 tons or more) and a speed of from 21 to 25 knots. In these the secondary or torpedo defense battery is usually of 5- or 6-inch caliber." Super-Dreadnought was a British naval term generally applied to warships carrying guns of more than 12-inches calibre in their main armament. In these the secondary or torpedo defense battery is usually of 5-inch or 6-inch caliber.
There was no attempt to develop more than one class of battleship, though, naturally, with the lapse of time and the evolution of ideas the type changes somewhat; but it is evident that the American Naval Constructors never contemplated building two classes of battleships at the same time. They always have intended to build battleships superior to those already built, and never have made any provision for another type of battleship that could be in any sense, from their point of view, called a second-class battleship.
Though the building rate averaged almost exactly one per year, it was not a steady process, but was concentrated in two phases. The first, corresponding to the rise of the United States to first-class naval rank, began in 1888 and came to an abrupt halt with the signing of the Naval Limitations Treaty in 1922. The second building phase began in 1937 and was effectively finished in 1944 with the commissioning of USS Missouri (BB-63), the last of ten battleships completed during this period.
These warships can be conveniently divided into four main groups:
- Two experimental second-class battleships, of about 6000 tons, begun in the late 1880s (Maine and Texas);
- Twenty-five battleships (eight classes) with mixed main batteries of large and medium caliber guns, ranging in size from about 10,000 tons to 16,000 tons, begun from 1891 to 1905;
- Twenty-nine battleships (eleven classes) and six battle cruisers (one class) with "all-big-gun" main batteries, begun between 1906 and 1919 and ranging from 16,000 tons to over 42,000 tons (including seven battleships and six battle cruisers cancelled in 1922);
- Seventeen faster big-gun 35,000-60,500 ton battleships (four classes) begun in 1937-41 (including seven 45,000-60,500 ton ships cancelled or suspended in 1943-47).
Some rather important details, which were common to the larger classes of American ships around the end of the 19th Century, are worth noticing. Cofferdams filled with obturating material, which was expected to expand when in contact with water, were fitted very generally at the sides of the ship. This material is the pith of the corn stock, and has been experimented upon very fully by the Navy Department, with the result that they prepare their designs with the intention of adopting it generally, It is evident that if the corn stock material swells when in contact with water sufficiently to fill up holes made by shot, it will have an important effect upon the margin of stability and probably of buoyancy of a ship in action.
The watertight doors throughout the ship can be closed from a central station under the control of one officer. This has often been advocated, but has not been adopted as a general system in any other navy until around 1900. It was the general practice in the United States battleships to adopt what they call docking bilge keels. These side keels act as bilge keels, and also act as side keels for docking, distributing the pressure over a larger area of the bottom of the dock and reducing the stress upon the structure of the ship.
Gun caliber, as well as ship size, grew steadily, from ten inches in Maine to sixteen inches in the ships finished in the 'Twenties and afterwards. Effective gunnery range also increased, from a few thousand yards to about twenty miles. Except for the fast Lexington Class battle cruisers and Iowa Class battleships, these were all relatively slow vessels, as heavily armored as they were armed, intended primarily to steam in formation with their sisters and slug it out with similar opponents, using their powerful guns to settle the matter. In their day, they were the "Queens of the Sea", the foundation of national strategic offense and defense.
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