Alternate warships of nations

Japan beats Britain to the punch with the all big gun battleship.

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Satsuma has always been an interesting case; she's strong proof for the proposition that all the attributes we associate with the dreadnought revolution were coming, and coming soon, with or without Jackie Fisher. But Fisher certainly made it happen more quickly and more dramatically.

The real question, though, is whether Satsuma would have qualified as a dreadnought even in her originally planned configuration. HMS Dreadnought had a number of revolutionary and evolutionary developments in her design (@Driftless mentions the centralized electrical fire control, for example), but the two which are most commonly identified as qualifying her as a new capital ship type -- and the eponymous one at that - were 1) an all big gun gun main armament, and 2) higher speed machinery, usually achieved through turbines. The point of Dreadnought was that she could outgun any ship in existence, and chase them down if they ran. At least, until dreadnoughts with even bigger guns and even faster machinery got built . . . But the point is, Satsuma would only have had one of the two dreadnought attributes: (1) all big guns. And even so, even this proved to be too expensive for the Japanese treasury in 1904-05. That is hard to overcome as a point of departure.

The same problem is evident in the U.S. South Carolina class. The South Carolinas actually *did* follow through and commission with an all big gun armament. But as with Satsuma, they kept a traditional triple recriprocating machinery that limited them to the typical pre-dreadnought standard 18.5 knots, which ended up making them obsolete very quickly. It's also why they're often considered (like Satsuma) only "semi-dreadnoughts." It is interesting because fundamentally the United States went in this direction for the same reasons: 1) the budget was limited (albeit more by Congress than U.S. economic means), and 2) U.S. naval officers shared with Japanese a higher priority on range and sustained operation over the vast distances of the Pacific. Jackie Fisher's battlewagons were mostly just being asked to cross the Channel, the North Sea, or the Mediterranean.

On the whole, I think the United States makes for a more plausible contender to beat the Royal Navy to the punch. Fundamentally they had the *means*; what they really lacked was the will. As it was, Teddy Roosevelt (following on Poundstone's paper) was what broke the political logjam to get the South Carolinas pushed through; with a little more energy, it is not unreasonable to think that he could get the money to ratchet up the tonnage limit enough to put in turbine machinery. And this could have had quite the interesting impact on Anglo-American relations at that juncture, to say nothing of Japan.
 
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Driftless

Donor
A bit tongue-in-cheek here..... "Dreadnought" as a name carries more of the inherent strength and menace of that type of battleship. "South Carolina" or "Satsuma" are both lacking in that regard, being named for smaller regions in their respective countries. IF either of the latter two were ever considered to be the first modern battleship, what category name would be used?
 
A bit tongue-in-cheek here..... "Dreadnought" as a name carries more of the inherent strength and menace of that type of battleship. "South Carolina" or "Satsuma" are both lacking in that regard, being named for smaller regions in their respective countries. IF either of the latter two were ever considered to be the first modern battleship, what category name would be used?

Could be, there would not be any such distinction. Partly because of the names in question, but also because it's less likely that a more aggressive U.S. orJapanese design would be as revolutionary as Dreadnought was.
 
I recall Drachinifel fielding a question along these lines in a Drydock video not long ago. It was something like, "Why was it that HMS Dreadnought was taken as a name for an entire generation of battleships, but HMS Warrior (1860) was not?"

I believe he did touch on the the power of the names in question; but mainly, he argued that Warrior was simply not as revolutionary a ship design as Dreadnought was. Warrior was certainly a major step forward, but really she incorporated just one more advance: an iron hull. Steam power and screw propellers were already in common use in warships (albeit not on quite such a large scale), and the breech-loading Armstrongs turned out to be a disappointment. But Dreadnought just did so many new things at once (even if not always condignly). None of them individually, save *possibly* the all-big gun arrangement was revolutionary, as opposed to evolutionary; but all put together, the result was truly revolutionary.

And maybe the abstract menace of the name *did* help!
 
Satsuma has always been an interesting case; she's strong proof for the proposition that all the attributes we associate with the dreadnought revolution were coming, and coming soon, with or without Jackie Fisher. But Fisher certainly made it happen more quickly and more dramatically.

Well, Fisher didn't come up with the idea of the all big gun battleship. The originator was Italian.
 
The German Nassau class battleships are generally classed as Dreadnoughts though they used triple expansion engines and had a designed speed of 19 knots. (They could actually do slightly over 20)


Yeah . . . the Nassaus are a closer call. I think they get the benefit of the doubt despite the lack of turbines because they acually did achieve a max speed over 20 knots, which put them closer to Dreadnought than to Satsuma or South Carolina.

The Nassaus were not a particularly *good* dreadnought design, but I think they qualify, albeit marginally.
 
Well, Fisher didn't come up with the idea of the all big gun battleship. The originator was Italian.

Oh, sure. You had Poundstone's paper and Cuniberti's Jane's article both basically laying it out conceptually in 1903. And, of course, what Pakenham learned and reported from Tsushima also helped.

But Fisher was the guy that actually made it happen, all in one design. At record speed.

Take away Fisher, and all these advances still take place, but they likely get done piecemeal, in 1905-1912, or thereabouts. Still, Fisher deserves some serious credit.
 
A bit tongue-in-cheek here..... "Dreadnought" as a name carries more of the inherent strength and menace of that type of battleship. "South Carolina" or "Satsuma" are both lacking in that regard, being named for smaller regions in their respective countries. IF either of the latter two were ever considered to be the first modern battleship, what category name would be used?

As an 'aside' had a superhero character in a game I ran named "Dreadnought"... He purely hated it that my main 'villain' for him was named "Naught" :)

Randy
 
The Nassau's were according to Wiki (yes I know not reliable) built as a response to the Lord Nelsons not Dreadnought so would have been built anyway.
 
The Nassau's were according to Wiki (yes I know not reliable) built as a response to the Lord Nelsons not Dreadnought so would have been built anyway.
Given the Lord Nelson's were laid down in 1905 and the Nassau's would not follow till 1907 I have my doubts. But I have been wrong before.
 
The Nassau's were according to Wiki (yes I know not reliable) built as a response to the Lord Nelsons not Dreadnought so would have been built anyway.

Well, sort of. Initially, they were. What Wiki glosses over is how the reports of Dreadnought's specs spurred some of the late revisions to the Nassau design, when something like cold panic gripped the Reichsmarineamt. Massie's Dreadnought talks about this at some length.
 
By comparison, Satsuma and USS South Carolina were triple expansion engined and I don't have a clue about their fire control

I know the IJN was practicing something along the lines of the Scott dotter and contiuious aim system and their ships in the Russo Japanese war were quite lavishly equipped with sights. Not sure about the USN.
 
Given the Lord Nelson's were laid down in 1905 and the Nassau's would not follow till 1907 I have my doubts. But I have been wrong before.
The following dates apply.

The German design offices were working on what would eventually become the Nassaus from 1903.

In 1904 German intelligence received erroneous reports that the secondary battery on the Lord Nelson would be 10 10 inch guns (similar to the primary guns on HMS Swifsure and HMS Triumph).

In March 1905 the preferred design candidate for the nassaus was all big guns with 8 28 cm guns. 2 twin turrets and 4 single turrets. The belief was that going for a size of gun (11 inch) between Lord Nelson's supposed primary and secondary made sense since secondary guns were getting so big.

Lord Nelson was laid down in May 1905. The Germans knew what her armananet was going to be at this time.

In September 1905 they came up with a hexagonal layout for 12 28 cm guns. After October 1905 all further design work was based on the haxagonal layout with 12 guns.

HMS Dreadnought design was more or less finalised in May 1905. HMS Dreadnought was laid down in October 1905.

The design for the Nassau's was finalised in April 1906 and approved by the Kaiser.

Nothing was laid down till June 1907.
 
By comparison, Satsuma and USS South Carolina were triple expansion engined and I don't have a clue about their fire control

Here.

In 1898, many of the uncertainties were removed from the process and the position of the gun pointer radically altered by the introduction of continuous-aim firing. The major change was that which enabled the gun pointer to keep his sight and gun barrel on the target throughout the roll of the ship. This was accomplished by altering the gear ratio in the elevating gear to permit a pointer to compensate for the roll of the vessel by rapidly elevating and depressing the gun. From this change another followed. With the possibility of maintaining the gun always on the target, the desirability of improved sights became immediately apparent. The advantages of the telescope sight as opposed to the open sight were for the first time fully realized. But the existing telescope sight, it will be recalled, moved with the recoil of the gun and jammed back against the eye of the gunner.

To correct this, the sight was mounted on a sleeve that permitted the gun barrel to recoil through it without moving the telescope. These two improvements in elevating gear and sighting eliminated the major uncertainties in gunfire at sea and greatly increased the possibilities of both accurate and rapid fire.

You must take my word for it, since the time allowed is small, that this changed naval gunnery from an art to a science, and that gunnery accuracy in the British and our Navy increased, as one student said, 3000% in six years. This does not mean much except to suggest a great increase in accuracy. The following comparative figures may mean a little more. In 1899 five ships of the North Atlantic Squadron fired five minutes each at a lightship hulk at the conventional range of 1600 yards. After twenty-five minutes of banging away, two hits had been made on the sails of the elderly vessel. Six years later one naval gunner made fifteen hits in one minute at a target 75 by 25 feet at the same range--1600 yards; half of them hit in a bull's eye 50 inches square.

Now with the instruments (the gun, elevating gear, and telescope), the method, and the results of continuous-aim firing in mind, let us turn to the subject of major interest: how was the idea, obviously so simple an idea, of continuous-aim firing developed, who introduced it into the United States Navy, and what was its reception?

The idea was the product of the fertile mind of the English officer Admiral Sir Percy Scott. He arrived at it in this way while, in 1898, he was the captain of H.M.S. Scylla. For the previous two or three years he had given much thought independently and almost alone in the British Navy to means of improving gunnery. One rough day, when the ship, at target practice, was pitching and rolling violently, he walked up and down the gun deck watching his gun crews. Because of the heavy weather, they were making very bad scores. Scott noticed, however, that one pointer was appreciably more accurate than the rest. He watched this man with care, and saw, after a time, that he was unconsciously working his elevating gear back and forth in a partially successful effort to compensate for the roll of the vessel. It flashed through Scott's mind at that moment that here was the sovereign remedy for the problem of inaccurate fire. What one man could do partially and unconsciously perhaps all men could be trained to do consciously and completely.

Acting on this assumption, he did three things. First, in all the guns of the Scylla, he changed the gear ratio in the elevating gear, previously used only to set the gun in fixed position for range, so that a gunner could easily elevate and depress the gun to follow a target throughout the roll. Second, he rerigged his telescopes so that they would not be influenced by the recoil of the gun. Third, he rigged a small target at the mouth of the gun, which was moved up and down by a crank to simulate a moving target. By following this target as it moved and firing at it with a subcaliber rifle rigged in the breech of the gun, time pointer could practice every day. Thus equipped, the ship became a training ground for gunners. Where before the good pointer was an individual artist, pointers now became trained technicians, fairly uniform in their capacity to shoot. The effect was immediately felt. Within a year the Scylla established records that were remarkable.

At this point I should like to stop a minute to notice several things directly related to, and involved in, the process of innovation. To begin with, the personality of the innovator. I wish there were time to say a good deal about Admiral Sir Percy Scott. He was a wonderful man. Three small bits of evidence must here suffice,however. First, he had a certain mechanical ingenuity. Second, his personal life was shot through with frustration and bitterness. There was a divorce and a quarrel with that ambitious officer Lord Charles Beresford, the sounds of which, Scott liked to recall, penetrated to the last outposts of empire. Finally, he possessed, like Swift, a savage indignation directed ordinarily at the inelastic intelligence of all constituted authority, especially the British Admiralty.

There are other points worth mention here. Notice first that Scott was not responsible for the invention of the basic instruments that made the reform in gunnery possible. This reform rested upon the gun itself, which as a rifle had been in existence on ships for at least forty years; the elevating gear, which had been, in the form Scott found it, a part of the rifled gun from the beginning; and the telescope sight, which had been on shipboard at least eight years. Scott's contribution was to bring these three elements appropriately modified into a combination that made continuous-aim firing possible for the first time. Notice also that he was allowed to bring these elements into combination by accident, by watching the unconscious action of a gun pointer endeavoring through the operation of his elevating gear to correct partially for the roll of his vessel. Scott, as we have seen, had been interested in gunnery; he had thought about ways to increase accuracy by practice and improvement of existing machinery; but able as he was, he had not been able to produce on his own initiative and by his own thinking the essential idea and modify instruments to fit his purpose. Notice here, finally, the intricate interaction of chance, the intellectual climate, and Scott's mind. Fortune (in this case, the unaware gun pointer) indeed favors the prepared mind but even fortune and the prepared mind need a favorable environment before they can conspire to produce sudden change. No intelligence can proceed very far above the threshold of existing data or the binding combinations of existing data.

In 1900 Percy Scott went out to the China Station as commanding officer of H.M.S. Terrible. In that ship he continued his training methods and his spectacular successes in naval gunnery. On the China Station he met up with an American junior officer, William S. Sims. Sims had little of the mechanical ingenuity of Percy Scott, but the two were drawn together by temperamental similarities that are worth noticing here. Sims had the same intolerance for what iscalled spit and polish and the same contempt for bureaucratic inertia as his British brother officer. He had for some years been concerned, as had Scott, with what he took to be the inefficiency of his own Navy. Just before he met Scott, for example, he had shipped out to China in the brand new pride of the fleet, the battleship Kentucky. After careful investigation and reflections he had informed his superiors in Washington that she was "not a battleship at all--but a crime against the white race." The spirit with which he pushed forward his efforts to reform the naval service can best be stated in his own words to a brother officer: "I am perfectly willing that those holding views differing from mine should continue to live, but with every fibre of my being I loathe indirection and shiftiness, and where it occurs in high place, and is used to save face at the expense of the vital interests of our great service (in which silly people place such a child-like trust), I want that man's blood and I will have it no matter what it costs me personally."

From Scott in 1900 Sims learned all there was to know about continuous-aim firing. He modified, with the Englishman's active assistance, the gear on his own ship and tried out the new system. After a few months training, his experimental batteries began making remarkable records at target practice. Sure of the usefulness of his gunnery methods, Sims then turned to the task of educating the Navy at large. In thirteen great official reports he documented the case for continuous-aim firing, supporting his arguments at every turn with a mass of factual data. Over a period of two years, he reiterated three principal points: first, he continually cited the records established by Scott's ships, the Scylla and the Terrible, and supported these with the accumulating data from his own tests on an American ship; second, he described the mechanisms used and the training procedures instituted by Scott and himself to obtain these records; third, he explained that our own mechanisms were not generally adequate without modification to meet the demands placed on then by continuous-aim firing. Our elevating gear, useful to raise or lower a gun slowly to fix it in position for the proper range, did not always work easily and rapidly enough to enable a gunner to follow a target with his gun throughout the roll of the ship. Sims also explained that such few telescope sights as there were on board our ships were useless. Their cross wires were so thick or coarse they obscured the target, and the sights had been attached to the gun in such a way that therecoil system of the gun plunged the eyepiece against the eye of the gun pointer.

By 1906 the Americans were using British methods and systems. But...

First, the origins. We have already analyzed briefly the origins of the idea. We have seen how Scott arrived at his notion. We must now ask ourselves, I think, why Sims so actively sought, almost alone among his brother officers, to introduce the idea into his service. It is particularly interesting here to notice again that neither Scott nor Sims invented the instruments on which the innovation rested. They did not urge their proposal, as might be expected, because of pride in the instruments of their own design. The telescope sight had first been placed on shipboard in 1892 by Bradley Fiske, an officer of great inventive capacity. In that year Fiske had even sketched out on paper the vague possibility of continuous-aim firing, but his sight was condemned by his commanding officer, Robley D. Evans, as of no use. In 1892 no one but Fiske in the Navy knew what to do with a telescope sight any more than Grosseteste had known in his time what so do with a telescope. And Fiske, instead of fighting for his telescope, turned his attention to a range finder. But six years later Sims, following the tracks of his brother officer, took over and became the engineer of the revolution. I would suggest, with some reservations, this explanation: Fiske, as an inventor, took his pleasure in great part from the design of the device, he lacked not so much the energy as the overriding sense of social necessity that would have enabled him to force revolutionary ideas on the service. Sims possessed this sense. In Fiske, who showed rare courage and integrity in other professional matters nor intimately connected with the introduction of new weapons of his own design, we may here find the familiar plight of the engineer who often enough must watch the products of his ingenuity organized and promoted by other men. These other promotional men when they appear in theworld of commerce are called entrepreneurs. In the world of ideas they are still entrepreneurs. Sims was one, a middle-aged man caught in the periphery (as a lieutenant) of the intricate webbing of a precisely organized society. Rank, the exact definition and limitation of a man's capacity at any given moment in his career, prevented Sims from discharging all his exploding energies into the purely routine channels of the peacetime Navy. At the height of his powers he was a junior officer standing watches on a ship cruising aimlessly in friendly foreign waters. The remarkable changes in systems of gunfire to which Scott introduced him gave him the opportunity to expend his energies quite legitimately against the encrusted hierarchy of his society. He was moved, it seems to me, in part by his genuine desire to improve his own profession but also in part by rebellion against tedium, against inefficiency from on high, and against the artificial limitations placed on his actions by the social structure, in his case, junior rank.
Notice the name of Bradley Fiske and the date when he began to develop his own ideas on fire control? (1892).
 
Given the Lord Nelson's were laid down in 1905 and the Nassau's would not follow till 1907 I have my doubts. But I have been wrong before.

The following dates apply.

The German design offices were working on what would eventually become the Nassaus from 1903.

In 1904 German intelligence received erroneous reports that the secondary battery on the Lord Nelson would be 10 10 inch guns (similar to the primary guns on HMS Swifsure and HMS Triumph).

In March 1905 the preferred design candidate for the nassaus was all big guns with 8 28 cm guns. 2 twin turrets and 4 single turrets. The belief was that going for a size of gun (11 inch) between Lord Nelson's supposed primary and secondary made sense since secondary guns were getting so big.

Lord Nelson was laid down in May 1905. The Germans knew what her armananet was going to be at this time.

In September 1905 they came up with a hexagonal layout for 12 28 cm guns. After October 1905 all further design work was based on the haxagonal layout with 12 guns.

HMS Dreadnought design was more or less finalised in May 1905. HMS Dreadnought was laid down in October 1905.

The design for the Nassau's was finalised in April 1906 and approved by the Kaiser.

Nothing was laid down till June 1907.

Ah - wait, I finally dug out my Massie:

Massie Dreadnought on Tirpitz 1.png

Massie Dreadnought on Tirpitz 2.png
 
The South Carolina's must have been horribly cramped ships squeezing in 4 super firing 2 x 12" turrets and large triple expansion coal burning engines into 16000 tons.
 
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