August 04, 2018

Naval Gazing Meetup - USS Iowa

It's time to officially start with planning for the next Naval Gazing meetup, this time at home. I'm going to be giving a tour of Iowa on the afternoon of September 8th, starting at 1:30. I'll try to be available starting at 1, and I'll post meeting place and recognition signal when we get closer. I'd appreciate an RSVP, although I'm certainly not opposed to getting walk-ins if you find yourself available at the last minute. Price is $20 for general admission ($18 if you book online),1 and parking is $2/hr after the first hour. I expect us to finish between 4 and 5, when the ship closes. It should be a lot of fun. To people from SSC who aren't regular readers, you're very welcome, but be aware that this is kind of going to be the geek tour. I won't be holding back from waxing lyrical about the fire control system, for instance.

Why are we starting so late, you might ask. The reason is to give anyone who wants to a chance to do the Full Steam Ahead tour, which will take you down to the engine rooms and aft plotting rooms. It's $50, but that includes general admission. Space is limited, so I'd encourage you to get your tickets now. It's a true behind-the-scenes tour, with a lot less roped off and otherwise inaccessible than on most ships.2 Read more...

August 19, 2018

The Standard Type

As it gained seagoing experience, the US Navy's dreadnoughts began to diverge from their British sisters. The Americans believed that long-range battle would be prevalent in future wars, and thus had begun with the New York class to fit the ships with the necessary fire control gear. However, it was not until the 1912 battleship design that the change took full effect.


Nevada, the first of the Standards

The USN concluded that at long ranges, the use of AP shells would dominate, as there was no way to control where on a ship hits would be made, and HE shells would be useless against belt and deck armor. As a result, it wasn't worth armoring against anything but AP shells, which required thick armor. Light armor would be a waste of weight and merely serve to burst the AP shells.3 This scheme became known as all-or-nothing protection, and within a decade, the lessons of Jutland had resulted in its wide adoption by other nations. Read more...

August 17, 2018

Museum Review - International Museum of World War II, Boston

On my first day in Boston, I met up with my sister in Natick, and we visited the International Museum of World War II. It was an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours for us both, and she's way less into this stuff than I am.


They had a model of New Jersey, even if not of Iowa4
Type: Museum of WWII artifacts
Location: Natick, Massachusetts
Rating: 4/5, Worth including on a trip to Boston
Price: $25 for normal adults

Website Read more...

August 15, 2018

Underwater Protection Part 1

While I've discussed battleships' defenses against shellfire at considerable length, I haven't covered defenses against the other great threat, that of attack by torpedoes and mines. Because of the nature of underwater explosions, these weapons required considerably different solutions.


Torpedo hits on West Virginia and Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor

Underwater explosions are very different from explosions in air, due to the greater density of water. This allows it to transmit shockwaves more effectively, but more importantly it contains the gasses created by the explosion. Instead of expanding rapidly into the relatively sparse air, they are contained and have to accelerate the water around them outward. Even when the pressure inside the bubble is equal to the pressure outside, the inertia of the water carries it outward. By the time the bubble stops expanding, the inside is rarefied, and the bubble begins to collapse, compressing the gasses. Eventually, they are compressed by the inertia of the inrushing water, and the cycle repeats.

Read more...

August 13, 2018

Open Thread 6

It's time for our regularly-scheduled open thread. Talk about anything that's not culture war.

A couple of reminders. First, we have the meetup at Iowa in September. Please RSVP if you plan to attend.

Second, I'm still interested in guest reviews of various museum ships. This Friday begins the 2-month barrage of reviews from New England, but once that's done, I'd be interested in expanding the range of ships I've been able to cover myself. The process that I did with DismalPseudscience was basically him writing up his review in the style I use (which is pretty broad) and sending it to me with pictures. I put it into a blog post, added links and made some editing suggestions, and sent him an account so he could see it.

August 12, 2018

The Falklands War Part 5

In 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, which had long been the subject of a sovereignty dispute with Britain. They had expected the British to accept their occupation, but were surprised when the British instead assembled a fleet to retake the islands. The carrier group, centered around HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible, took a few days to sort itself out at Ascension Island and take on extra Harriers, before sortieing for the South Atlantic on April 18th.


A Sea King flying from Invincible

The task force moved immediately to a war footing. An anti-submarine screen of Sea Kings was airborne day and night, the 20 aircraft flying a total of 2,253 sorties during operations in the South Atlantic. One crashed on April 23rd, and a crewman, Petty Officer B. Casey, was killed, the first casualty of what the British dubbed Operation Corporate. Operations spaces and weapons were manned around the clock, and formica panels and mirrors were removed to reduce the effects of damage. All personnel were prohibited from sleeping below the waterline, exacerbating the crowding on the carriers. Read more...

August 10, 2018

Nautical Measurements

The maritime world uses a very different set of measurements than those used on land every day. Where did they come from and what do they mean?


A Chip Log

Distance is measured in nautical miles, which can be seen as a spiritual predecessor to the meter, both units initially being defined as some fraction of the distance from the equator to the pole.5 Specifically, the nautical mile was long defined as equal to one minute (1/60th of a degree) of latitude. Today, it's defined as 1,852 m, or 6,076 ft. It's used by both the nautical and aviation6 communities as a world standard.

Read more...

August 08, 2018

Ship History - USS Missouri (BB-63) Part 2

On January 17th, 1950, the battleship Missouri was headed to sea after a refit at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Virginia. Thanks to her connection to President Truman, she had remained in commission when the rest of the American battleships were in reserve. In command was a new Captain, William D. Brown. Brown was an experienced officer, but he had never commanded a ship the size of Missouri and had been on shore since the end of the war.


Missouri in 1949

The first task for the ship, before heading to Guantanamo Bay for maneuvers, was a run through a nearby acoustic range, part of a navy project to identify ships by their sound signature. This run was a last-minute addition to the plan, and the range itself, while deep enough to take the battleship, was dangerously close to shallow water. Worse, three of the five buoys which had previously marked the range had recently been removed, and the charts onboard had yet to be updated to reflect this. Some members of the crew did know, but there was a communication breakdown, and Brown didn't realize this.

Read more...

August 05, 2018

Anti-Submarine Warfare - WWII - The OIC

The Battle of the Atlantic saw several fascinating innovations put into large-scale service for the first time. One of these, the Admiralty Operational Intelligence Centre, was an important stage in the development of information-based naval warfare, and formed a critical part of the campaign against Donitz's U-boats.


The Admiralty Citadel in London, home to OIC7

The OIC had its roots in the concepts developed by Jackie Fisher to synthesize information from multiple sources. These were tested during WWI, where they allowed the British to track German sorties into the North Sea, most prominently at Jutland.

In 1937, Lieutenant-Commander Norman Denning came to the Naval Intelligence Division, and set about putting together an organization charged with handling the data coming in from the Government Code & Cipher School (which relocated to Bletchley Park at the beginning of the war) as well as direction-finding data. He also began to coordinate with Lloyd's, who basically had a monopoly on shipping insurance. Denning's focus on handling data, as opposed to simply collecting it, would make all the difference in the coming war. His organization's excellent performance during the Munich crisis convinced many of its value, and the process of expansion began.

Read more...

August 03, 2018

So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Aviation Part 3

We've discussed naval aviation for our hypothetical navy quite extensively, but the discussion isn't over. Here's the third installment.

Davy Jones: Even if we created our own STOVL fighter, would we still want a CATOBAR or STOBAR system? We'd still need to get some other planes in the air, wouldn't we?

Bean: No. To some extent, STOVL can be thought of as moving the cost from the carrier to the planes for a given level of capability. Flying STOVL planes off of a CATOBAR carrier gives us the worst of both worlds. We'd have to go for helicopter AWACS, and it denies us the opportunity for other fixed-wing support aircraft. I'm not sure we need fixed-wing ASW, but it would be nice to have a tanker. Maybe a drone, maybe manned. I don't think John's idea is such a bad one, although I want a carrier big enough we don't need to go for it.

Read more...

August 01, 2018

Information, Communication and Naval Warfare Part 1

The biggest challenge of war at sea has always been figuring out where the enemy is and controlling your forces against him. For centuries, options were very limited. Your sensor was a man at the top of the mast, maybe with a telescope, and your only option for communication over any distance was signal flags. The world ended at the horizon, or maybe a little further if someone else was signalling to you. Information traveled at the speed of ships, which meant that it was next to impossible to build up a useful picture of the movements and intentions of an enemy before it became obsolete.


A sailing ship signalling with flags8

This began to change when the telecommunications revolution kicked off. One notable example of the shift that resulted was a change in British press policy. During the Napoleonic Wars, it was common for troop movements to be publicly announced when they happened. This was still policy at the start of the Crimean War, but it was soon realized that the telegraph meant that the news of the troops departure reached the Russians long before the troops did, and the policy was soon changed.

Read more...