November 02, 2018

Museum Ships - Europe

As a follow-up to my list of Museum Ships in the United States, I present a similar list of ships in Europe. A third list, covering the rest of the world, will follow soon. This is sorted by country, then city. They were derived from this list, and may not be completely accurate, but I'd still encourage you to see if there are any close enough to be worth a visit. If anyone who is in Europe wants to contribute a review of one of these, I'd be happy to have it. Read more...

October 31, 2018

Russian Battleships Part 4

While rebuilding the Baltic Fleet was uppermost in the minds of Russian naval planners in the aftermath of their disastrous war with Japan, and the first Russian dreadnoughts were built there, the growth of the Turkish navy in the Black Sea lead to increasing popular pressure for dreadnoughts on Russia's southern flank. Reports, subsequently proved to be false, of Turkish dreadnought purchases from British yards caused the Duma to order a trio of ships from the yards in the Crimea.

Imperatritsa Mariia

There was the usual array of design proposals, including duplicating the Gangut design in the interests of build time, using diesel propulsion, and fitting the ships with 14" guns to counter the 13.5" weapons expected to be used on the Turkish ships.1 Ultimately, the design selected was similar to Gangut, with the same turret arrangement, 130mm secondary guns concentrated forward, and a speed of 21 kts instead of the 23 of the previous class. This allowed them to be more compact, with thicker armor: 10.3" of belt as opposed to 8.9" on their predecessors. Read more...

October 28, 2018

The Space Force and the FAA

I'm going to step a bit out of my usual wheelhouse and talk about the proposals for a Space Force coming out of DC recently, and why I don't think they're a good idea. Don't worry, this will end up back at ships.

Naval capabilities like this Tomahawk strike are dependent on space-based support

First, let's get one thing clear. Space capabilities are tremendously important to the US military. The ability of satellites to gather intelligence and provide reliable communications and navigation anywhere in the world is absolutely critical to making them what they are. These capabilities are increasingly threatened by Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weapons of various kinds, and making space forces more visible and independent is probably not a bad idea. Read more...

October 27, 2018

Navy Day 2018

Today is Navy Day, the traditional day when the United States celebrated the greatest Navy on Earth.2 Until 1949, it was traditionally a day of naval reviews and open houses for ships. That year, the Secretary of Defense, as part of his campaign against the Navy,3 ordered USN participation in Navy Day ended in favor of Armed Forces Day.

Iowa and Maryland in Seattle for Navy Day 1945

Today is also the first anniversary of Naval Gazing as an independent blog. It's been a great year. I've enjoyed writing, and reading the comments on the blog. And the degree of engagement has blown me away. Thanks to all of you for reading and commenting. It makes this worth it.

A few people deserve special thanks. Said Achmiz has hosted me and dealt with my requests for technical support. Dndnrsn, Nornagest, and LordNelson have proofread and offered suggestions for how to make my posts better. DismalPseudoscience graciously shared his experience at the Mikasa. And a surprising number of people were willing to meet some guy from the internet and follow him around a warship.

There are going to be some changes going forward. I started this to stay sane when I was new to Oklahoma and didn't have a lot going on. That's changed to some extent, and I'm planning to scale back my time commitment somewhat. I'm not going to promise to fill the Friday slot, and minor stuff that was in that slot might migrate to the Sunday and Wednesday ones. But if I come up with something I can write really fast (an hour or so) or if I get guest contributions, I'll put them there. I actually have stuff scheduled for it almost through the end of the year (including a repost of the stuff I did on commercial aviation last year), so the change won't be noticeable for a while.

But long-term, I'd like to open up that slot to my readers. A lot of you have good sea stories or have been to museums/airshows/whatever that I haven't. If you're interested, send me an email at battleshipbean at gmail. I won't totally rule out taking contributions on technical/historical topics either, although I'm going to be somewhat pickier about those.

Another thing I plan to do to partially make up for the gap is to overhaul older posts. I've done this on an ad hoc basis since the beginning, but every week or so I plan to go through the posts that are about a year old and update links (mostly to relevant articles written after the original), add any new tidbits I've picked up since I wrote them and maybe do a bit of general maintenance. I'll probably announce them in the OTs as I go.

A few minor things before I wrap this up. First, I've added a new and hopefully better index and a Top Posts page. Second, I've gotten a lot of good topic ideas from readers, many of which sadly are still languishing on my idea list. If anyone has anything they'd particularly like me to look at, this is a good place to let me known.

But to everyone, thanks for a great year, and I look forward to the next one.


October 26, 2018

Turret and Barbette

"I have discovered a marvelous proof of the difference between turrets and barbettes, the margin of which this book is too small to contain" - Scott Alexander

When I wrote about ironclads, pre-dreadnoughts, and the development of heavy guns, I made reference to a rather unusual theory about the development of heavy gun mountings in the 1885-1900 period. Now, I've finally gotten around to writing it up in full. I apologize if this is rather more boring and technical than usual, but I'm challenging the conventional view of the subject, rather than simply reporting it.

HMS Anson, an early British barbette ship

The conventional wisdom is that original-style turrets were heavy and had to be mounted low, while barbettes allowed guns to be mounted much higher and eventually replaced turrets. Gunhouses were then installed, resulting in mountings that look like turrets but fundamentally differ from the original versions used through the 1800s. I repeated this version in my SSC post on pre-dreadnought history, and several readers started asking probing questions on this. I began to dig, and I've since come to the conclusion that the conventional wisdom is wrong, and that the real picture of how gun mountings developed is much more complicated. Read more...

October 25, 2018


October 25th, 1944. In all the long and illustrious history of the United States Navy, no date is more glorious. While covering the first US landings in the Philippines, escort carrier group Taffy 3, consisting of 6 escort carriers, 3 destroyers and 4 destroyer escorts, found itself facing down the might of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Thanks to a series of errors, a force of four battleships, eight cruisers and eleven destroyers had slipped through the covering force and was bearing down on the invasion beach.4

Faced with these overwhelming odds, the men of Taffy 3 fought back. The text of their Presidential Unit Citation says it better than I could:5 Read more...

October 24, 2018

The Last Days of the High Seas Fleet

In October of 1918, the High Seas Fleet was in bad shape. They had sortied into the North Sea only three times since their return from Jutland, and the privations imposed by the British blockade had bitten deep. The living conditions aboard the ships, never particularly good,6 had gotten truly awful, and the men aboard the battleships were restless. While they ate a limited and monotonous diet of turnips, herbal tea, potato bread and very little meat, officers continued to feast on a full range of delicacies and hold frequent parties. By mid-1917, discipline hovered on the verge of collapse.

The High Seas Fleet in Kiel

The situation was made worse by the assignment of the best officers and men away from the battlefleet. The demands of the U-boat force drained many, and others were sent to man minesweepers and destroyers. These officers worked much more closely with their men, and morale in these units remained high. Another factor was the nature of the German Navy. Unlike the RN, it relied heavily on conscripts, which robbed it of the long-service petty officers who formed the backbone of the British fleet. As a result of all these problems, the fleet was actively mutinous. The sailors had conducted a hunger strike and formed sailor's councils on each ship in June.7 A month later, the captain of the battleship Konig Albert was pushed over the side while returning from a drinking session and drowned. Read more...

October 22, 2018

Open Thread 11

It's time for our regular biweekly open thread. Talk about anything you want, even non-naval-related things.

I usually use these threads to highlight a link or something of interest, and I'm going to call out the Battleship Iowa app. This is how we do audio tours and the like, but almost all of the functionality is available anywhere. There's a lot of interesting detail, including some videos of the engineering spaces that you can't see except on the Full Steam Ahead tour.

October 21, 2018

Survivability - Mission Kills

As important as keeping the ship afloat is, the purpose of a warship is not to float. It is intended to fight, and there are many ways a ship could be knocked out of a fight without succumbing to flooding or fire. Even though the crew would vastly prefer a mission kill over an actual kill, it's nearly as good from the enemy's perspective. In addition to their attention to the aforementioned threats, designers and operators thus have to figure out how to keep fighting despite damage.

A turbogenerator in engine room 2 of Iowa8

The most likely source of a mission kill is loss of power. If the steam stops, the ship is a sitting duck,9 while loss of electrical power renders the ship unable to fight effectively. The main defense is redundancy. The boilers, which provide steam to both the engines and the generators, were split into two separate systems in separate spaces. This required careful design, and some early systems were reportedly compromised by common lubrication oil lines. Cross-connections allowed the crew to route around damage, so that a ship which lost, say, boiler 3 and engine 2 could use boiler 2 to power engine 3. Primary electrical power was from steam-driven turbogenerators, and these were dispersed throughout the ship. Diesel generators were fitted to provide reduced power if steam was lost, and widely separated from the turbogenerators and each other. Read more...

October 19, 2018

Underbottom Explosions

Improvements in underwater protection after World War I posed a problem for torpedo designers. Torpedo defense systems had reached a point where they could keep a ship operational after at least one and probably several hits. One option would be to increase the amount of explosive in the warhead, but this would take space away from the propulsion system, making the torpedo slower and less effective.10 The alternative was to find some way to bypass the TDS, and designers in all of the major powers quickly realized that a magnetic pistol could set off the torpedo underneath the target ship. These did not always live up to their designer's expectations, with the American version proving particularly notorious, but when they worked, they made the torpedo much more effective.

A destroyer sinking after being torpedoed

The biggest factor was the simple impossibility of protecting the bottom of the ship. While a TDS might be able to provide 10-20' for the explosion to expend its energy before reaching the ship's vitals, providing similar standoff for underbottom explosions would dramatically reduce the volume available for said vitals.11 Instead, a double or triple bottom of 6-8' was standard, intended to protect the ship from grounding, provide extra liquid storage, and give at least a little resistance to attack from below. Read more...