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Showing posts from December, 2017

Battleships and Gun Cruisers of the Major Cold War Navies

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Cannon were first used at sea sometime in the 15th century. While various siege engines had been employed by navies for thousands of years, they never had a profound effect on war at sea. Instead, naval combat was dominated by ramming and boarding actions. While these ancient tactics remain in use today, guns fundamentally transformed naval warfare as they allowed a ship to disable or even sink its enemies from a distance. Guns developed over time from the small manually aimed muzzle loaders of the early days to the massive computer controlled weapons of the World Wars. Range, rate of fire, throw weight, and accuracy all made tremendous strides but the basic principals remained the same for the five centuries when guns dominated naval combat. The 19th century saw this dominance shaken by the introduction of various forms of mines and torpedoes, but it was not until the introduction of aircraft in the 20th century that the gun was finally replaced as the primary naval weapon. Althou

Soviet Naval Antiship Missiles of the Cold War: 1957-1991

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An SS-N-22 Sunburn supersonic antiship missile The antiship missile was pioneered by the United States and Germany. Both nations tested experimental weapons during World War I and then deployed operational weapons during World War II. However, all of these were air launched missiles. While the United States Navy made major advances in ship and submarine launched weapons in the post war period, it did not field any antiship weapons on these platforms - probably because of both a lack of suitable targets and satisfaction with its existing antiship weapons.  In contrast, when World War II ended the Soviet Navy was in desperate need of powerful antiship weapons. Its small force of torpedo boats, destroyers, and light cruisers now faced an overwhelmingly powerful American Navy whose carriers and cruisers were armed with nuclear weapons for use against targets far inland. While the Soviet Union developed and deployed large numbers of air launched antiship missiles, it also pioneer

The Tomahawk Missile and the Land Attack Revolution: 1980-1990

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Tomahawk is fired from a Ticonderoga-class cruiser Since Desert Storm in 1991, the Tomahawk cruise missile has become the signature weapon of the United States. Fired during operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Bosnia, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and most lately Syria, it has become a rare military operation that does not include a salvo of Tomahawks launched from Navy ships offshore. However, in 1980, when the first Tomahawk was fired from a surface combatant at sea, such a capability was unimaginable. The United States Navy began experimenting with ship launched land attack missiles as part of its extensive guided missile research during World War II. The final product of these early efforts was the SSM-N-8 Regulus, a large subsonic cruise missile with a range of 500 miles and a 40 kiloton nuclear warhead. It was declared operation in 1954 and by 1957 16 ships (including 10 carriers, 4 cruisers, and 2 submarines) had been modified to carry it. However, Regulus was regarded as

HMS Queen Elizabeth and Thoughts on the Royal Navy

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HMS Queen Elizabeth Today,  Queen Elizabeth  commissioned. This 70,000 ton aircraft carrier is the most powerful warship the Royal Navy has ever possessed and, full of modern features, would be valued by any navy fortunate enough to have her. However, in many ways she marks just how far Britain has fallen. Despite building the world’s first aircraft carrier ( Argus in 1918) and conducting the first carrier raid (on the Tondern Zeppelin field in 1918), Royal Navy has been without an aircraft carrier since Illustrious (along with her Sea Harrier aircraft) was decommissioned in 2014. For the past three years Royal Navy sailors have instead been forced to train on board the numerous super carriers and assault ships of the United States, a former British colony. With the scrapping of the Sea Harrier fleet, Britain also lost her last domestic fighter aircraft (Tornado and Typhoon were the result of multi-nation coalitions) and Queen Elizabeth will rely on the American F-35B

Bumblebee, Lark, and Little Joe: US Navy Guided Missiles 1944-1955

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RIM-8 Talos Today guided missiles are an integral part of the United States Navy and warships armed with the Aegis combat system are considered the pinnacle of surface combatant development. However, unlike most new weapons systems, the naval guided missile was not the result of incremental advances over time. Instead, it was the result a decade long project designed to create the theoretical weapon that was deemed necessary to counter an emerging threat. While rockets have been a part of warfare for centuries (British ship-launched Congreve rockets are immortalized in the American national anthem), they had always been inaccurate ballistic devices that were clearly inferior to guns. This changed with the introduction of aircraft and the development of radio at the end of the 19th century. Suddenly it became possible to construct a missile (not necessarily a rocket) that could not only change course in flight, but receive targeting information and course corrections from an o