Find a Security Clearance Job!


BB-4 Iowa Class

A single Iowa (initially designated Sea-Going Battleship # 1 and later designated BB-4) class battleship was authorized in FY1893 and built at William Cramp Shipbuilding 1893-97. At the time that the Spanish American War broke out in 1898, she was the US Navy's newest battleship. The Iowa was of a somewhat different type from the Indiana and her sisters. She was of about 1,000 tons greater displacement than the latter, and was designed to have slightly less gun power and armor than they, combined with greater coal endurance, higher freeboard forward, and slightly greater speed.

She had a higher freeboard forward ; her heavy guns are 12-inch in calibre instead of 13-inch; the four 6-inch weapons give way to six 4-inch quick-firers ; the extent of water-line protected is greater, being 77 per cent, against the Indiana's 66 ; the coal-supply and displacement are augmented ; and the side armor, owing to the satisfactory results given by experiments with Harveyed plates, is reduced in thickness from 18-inch to 14-inch. The high military mast becomes a stunted tower, the two funnels on the contrary grow taller ; and the 8-inch turrets are moved a little nearer the ship's side, and a little further from the keel-line. The six 4-inch guns are mounted, two in casemates forward, two in casemates amidships, and two on the after end of the superstructure, behind shields. The speed is to be a knot higher than the Indiana's.

Changing public ideas of the true uses of a naval force permitted the building of the Iowa (11,340 tons), which was frankly called a "sea-going battleship." Her higher freeboard made her a better seagoing battleship than the previous Indiana (BB-1) class, which made the guns easier to work in heavy seas. The Iowa could keep the sea to a greater extent than the Indiana class, and was known as a sea-going battleship, while they are called coast-line battleships. Her actual qualities came fully up to what was expected of her by her designers; and, in fact, she can carry more coal than was estimated without exceeding her calculated displacement. Her 12-inch armament was less powerful and single screw engineering more vulnerable compared to the Indiana (BB-1) class.

The Iowa had her full power trial in early 1896. She ran a three-mile course off the New England coast, the two runs being in opposite directions, and the second following immediately after the first. With tidal corrections, the distance steamed through the water was 66.3407 knots, and the true mean speed 17.0871 knots. The weather was good and the machinery worked well. The final trials took place off Sandy Hook in November 1897. One of them was a full natural draught power run for two hours. The bottom was foul at the time as the ship had not been docked since the preceding March. The regular engineers' force ran the trial alone without help from the deck force.

She was not a full-fledged first class battleship equal to those of Great Britain and other powers, comparing the latest English type of battleship, the Majestic, with similar French, German, and American ships as the Charlemagne, Brandenburg, and Iowa. The English, French, and American ships all agree in the disposition of the heavy guns, which are mounted in pairs fore and aft. The Germans have preferred three pairs of heavy guns, all placed on the keel-line. The Majestic's guns were 27 feet above the water-line ; the Charlemagne's forward pair nearly 29 feet, and her stern pair 21 feet, the Iowa's were nearly 18 feet. The forward pair of guns in the Brandenburg have a good command, but the other two pairs are mounted low. The French and Americans preferred the turret, while the English and Germans adhere to the hooded barbette. The English hooded barbette, however, differed very little from the French and American turret, except that the armour was thinner. In the German ship the barbettes are unprotected underneath ; in the other three, the armor runs down to the deck.

The auxiliary armament differs widely in the four vessels. The Majestic had twelve 6-inch quick-firers in as many armoured casemates, each protected by six inches of steel. The French ship has ten 66-pounder 5'5-inch quick-firers, eight of which are mounted behind 3-inch armor. The Iowa had eight 8-inch guns carried in pairs, in four turrets armoured with 7 and 8 inches of steel. She also carried six 4-inch quick-firers behind thin armor. The Brandenburg carried a very feeble battery of quick-firers, as she had only six 3O-pounder and eight 20-pounder Krupps of this pattern.

The four, however, agreed curiously in the weight of the heavy gun adopted as the primary armament. The English ship carried the 46-ton gun ; the French the 48-ton gun ; the German the 42-ton gun ; and the American the 45-ton gun. The weight of the English broadside, from guns above the 20-pounder, was 4,000 lbs ; of the French, 3,293 lbs.; of the German, 4,730lbs. ; and of the American, 4,532lbs ; but the English ship was superior to any in the number of large quick-firers carried, and would in a given time discharge as great a weight of metal as any of the other three. In gun-power the English, German, and American ships were about equal, and the French a little inferior.

For protection, the Majestic has a broad but incomplete belt of 9 inches uniform thickness ; the Iowa, a narrow incomplete belt of 14 inches maximum thickness with a strake of 5-inch armour above it ; the Charlemagne, a narrow end-to-end belt, which tapered from 16 inches to 9 inches, and above it again 3-inch armor; the Brandenburg, a narrow end-to-end belt 16 inches to 12 inches thick. The armor upon the heavy gun positions was 12-inch in the Brandenburg, 14-inch in the Majestic, 1 5-inch in the Iowa, and i6-inch in the Charlemagne.

The Charlemagne, the Iowa, and the Brandenburg expose a considerable extent of side below their quick-firers, which might, on being riddled, render the quick-firers unworkable. The American and German ship had each one armored position from which the ship can be fought ; the Majestic two, and the Charlemagne three. The Iowa had the lower freeboard, and would be at a great disadvantage in a sea-way ; the other three ships rose well out of the water, though the German was inferior in freeboard aft to the English and French.

The Charlemagne had two heavy military masts with two tops and an officer's position on each ; the Majestic, two of much lighter type, each with two tops ; the Brandenburg, two light masts with one top for guns, and one position for officers on each ; on the Iowa, the cumbrous military mast vanished altogether.

In speed, the Charlemagne was expected to cover eighteen knots on the measured mile ; the Majestic has done eighteen ; the Iowa, seventeen ; and the Brandenburg, sixteen-and- a-half. In coal endurance, the Iowa and Majestic were about equal, with 2000 tons and 1850 tons respectively; the Charlemagne came third with 1100 tons, a very big drop from the Majestic ; and the Brandenburg last. The English ship could keep the sea for a month, steaming continuously at ten knots ; the Iowa, five weeks ; the Charlemagne, eighteen days; and the Brandenburg, twelve or fourteen. In practice, however, as a large reserve must be maintained, this time should be reduced by at least a quarter.

The deck of the Charlemagne was double, 3-inch above and 1-inch below, over the machinery. The Majestic' s deck was single, 4-inch on the slopes and a little less on the flat, but it sprang from the lower edge of the armor-belt, and thus had the full advantage of the protection which the latter gave. In the Iowa, the greatest thickness was 3 inches, and in the Brandenburg, 2 inches.

In displacement, the English ship was largest, as her tonnage is 15,000; the Iowa followed with 11,500 tons; then the Charlemagne, with 11,200 ; and last came the Brandenburg, with 9,850. Of the four ships, the Brandenburg was an older design than the other three, and therefore lacked the extensive side-protection which is given in them. In offensive qualities the English and American ships would seem to excel, but as far as armament goes there was not much to choose.

Iowa did drive two Spanish cruisers onto the beach during the Battle of Santiago 3 July 1898, having fired the first shot of that battle. By 1908, she was no longer on the front line and recommissioned thereafter only for training duties. She served as a receiving ship during World War I and in 1919 became the first radio controlled target ship to be used in a fleet exercise. She was sunk as a target in March 1923.

Join the mailing list