WWII-style ship designs not given up in the 50s?

I was researching various things for an AH scenario where the US built a few of the proposed strike cruisers, as part of that I did some research into armor schemes, and I came across these articles: https://navy-matters.blogspot.com/2018/12/conceputal-armor-for-modern-ships.html & https://navy-matters.blogspot.com/2020/06/des-moines-class-cruiser.html

In these articles, the author makes several very interesting claims. I'm not going to repeat them here due to their length, so you'll have to read the articles (and, I recommend, the comments too) yourself, but I am interested to know what your thoughts are on this sort of thing. I've come up with a few questions to start off with.

First, and this is a big topic, what prompted the change from WWII-style to OTL cold war-style ship designs? Was it the growing threat of nuclear munitions that required quantity over quality to beat (remember at this point cruise missiles were so inaccurate they only really carried nuclear warheads)? Was it fears that more advanced ASMs would one day render armor obsolete, even after the increase in accuracy let them equip regular munitions? Was it due to aircraft carried bombs being so effective at plunging through a ship's decks, requiring armored decks that would be way too heavy? Was just general incompetence on the part of the shipbuilders, with all the previous excuses added after the fact?

Secondly, would armor plating be as effective at stopping ASMs as the author claims? Obviously, something like an SS-N-19 isn't going to be stopped easily, but there aren't that many of them. A Kirov has 20, so if a ship intercepts 90% of them they only have to deal with 2. A normal ship would be sunk by that, an armored ship might survive. And what about smaller ASMs, like harpoon? One of the commenters on the article mentioned a test with a harpoon against a piece of armor plate, which barely scratched the paint, but I didn't see a source on that.

Thirdly, what about torpedos? I don't know much in this area, but from how I understand it WWII torpedo protection was way better than todays.

Fourth, would the addition of armor plating either A - reduce the capability of the ship's other systems, or B - require an increase in size/displacement great enough to significantly increase build costs? If so, what sort of effect would it have not the numbers and composition of US fleets between 1950 and today?

Fith, could the US in the 1950s have not abandoned classic WWII shipbuilding schemes and continued with the policy of making every ship as survivable as reasonably possible? The growing concerns about a nuclear conflict that would have rendered armor (and the rest of the ship too) useless in a full-scale war with the USSR might make this a secondary concern to simply making more ships, so at least some of them might survive (if that was the correct answer to the first question). How would we get around that? What POD would be necessary to get this to happen?

Sixth, what sort of effect would this have on the development of missiles? If armor isn't ever abandoned, we might see bigger, more powerful ASMs being developed, but those would be juicer targets for missiles and CIWS, and couldn't be deployed in as large numbers as smaller, more conventional ASMs.

Seventh, how would this affect the use of various ship classes? Would battleships stick around a bit longer? Would destroyers never balloon in size? Or would it be more of the same, but with thicker walls?

So, any thoughts?
 
You can't armor ships effectively against AShMs.

You'd have to wrap every destroyer in 15" of armor front-to-back. Including their superstructure. This is ... impractical.

 

ShySusan

Gone Fishin'
As I understand it, armor could stop conventionally armed cruise missiles. But it required battleship levels of protection and that's just not practical on a ship like a cruiser or destroyer. So the theory moved from "try and stop the damage when you do get hit" to "it's better not to get hit in the first place."
 
Thirdly, what about torpedos? I don't know much in this area, but from how I understand it WWII torpedo protection was way better than todays

No, it's just that it's near impossible to protect a ship from a heavyweight keelbreaker

That said, it's classified on what it took to finally put USS America under the waves for that SINKEX
 

ShySusan

Gone Fishin'
No, it's just that it's near impossible to protect a ship from a heavyweight keelbreaker

That said, it's classified on what it took to finally put USS America under the waves for that SINKEX
I thought they ended up just scuttling her?
 
A few more items that the concussive effects can harm. You cannot armor the radar sets or any of the other communication devices on the outside of the ship. Any exposed weapons, older sams and other missiles were fired from exposed rail arrangements on the ships including torpedoes and depth charges. You get shock damage to the internal parts of the ships from the larger warheads required to punch holes in the armor. Underwater you have the exposed portions of the propulsion system like the props, shafts, bearing, and packing seals into the hulls.

Armor saves the hull but you end up a mission kill anyway with the damage to the other parts of the ship.
 
Ultimately there was no protection against this, and by the 1950's this blast was tiny so why waste the effort?
1602862415902.png
 
The need for protection against the conventional rockets, bombs and missiles were behind the massive growth in the Lion class designs in 1944-5. It just wasn't realistic to protect ships adequately against these weapons. Plus, even if you did include sufficient armour, it would be cheaper to upscale the weapons than to increase defensive protection. Once you have guided weapons and aircraft able to carry heavy bombs this is a race that armour can't win
 
Underwater you have the exposed portions of the propulsion system like the props, shafts, bearing, and packing seals into the hulls.
USS Minnesota from a WWI German mine
It's not gotten any easier to protected the undersides in the past 100 years
Minnesota%2BDamage%2BNH%2B46026_CC_Med.jpg


and that was only a couple hundred pounds of wet guncotton
 
You can't armor ships effectively against AShMs.

You'd have to wrap every destroyer in 15" of armor front-to-back. Including their superstructure. This is ... impractical.


And even then, a good hit from an AShM will still mission kill even a heavily armored vessel and leave it needing repairs that can take months. When you are expecting the war to be either over or bathing everything in nuclear fire within 4 weeks, what's the point?
 
@BillKerman123

Fundamentally, the removal of armor from new warships was about the primacy of the carrier, the development of missiles, and the resulting monofocus on escorts for surface combatants and the death of the independent cruiser - and also an understanding of what armor is for on ships that that blog lacks.

Armor, on warships, is not about survivability past splinter protection levels. Damage control, subdivision, and raw displacement all matter far more. Armor is for keeping a ship in the fight after getting hit. Every armor scheme conceived from the 1860s to WWII was about this, with the threat ever-evolving. Classic incremental schemes were to keep ships from getting shredded by high explosive shells and detonating armor-piercing shells early so that splinters could be caught on internal armor before the broke something important, for example. Similarly, British armored carriers were all about keeping the aviation facilities intact so the ships could fight on after bomb hits, and their war record bears this out in comparison to their American counterparts. British and American carriers both survived considerable poundings regardless of the armor layout, but American carriers were more prone to getting mission-killed by single bomb or kamikaze hits.

The problem comes when a ship's utility becomes tied up entirely in its sensors, particularly its topside sensors. Let's take the Farragut-class DLGs that started entering service at the end of the decade. These were carrier escorts designed to provide area air defense with their Terrier missiles - and Terrier missiles needed continuous radar beaming to home in on the target, from launch to hit. Not to mention search and tracking radars to actually find the target in the first place. If a missile hits topside, there really isn't any way to stop the missile from taking out those radars; make them as shock-resistant as you like, blast and shrapnel are going to take them out. This means that once the ship takes a missile hit its functionally useless as an anti-air escort.

What that means is that an anti-air escort that's mission-killed by having its radars knocked out is as useful to the ongoing fight as a ship that's been outright sunk, i.e. not at all. In that case, why spend the tonnage and money (armor is expensive) on armoring up the ship?

Cost does come into play. There was a lot of handwringing in the US and Royal Navies about their new large missile escorts, and the fact that they were cruiser-sized vessels built to destroyer standards of habitability, endurance, and survivability. But going to cruiser standards was too much extra tonnage and cost for cash-strapped navies working on peacetime budgets and needing to desperately recapitalize their surface fleets.

Now, there were chances for armored surface combatants to make a comeback. Autonomous cruise missiles that could be fired accurately without the onboard sensors getting involved made armor practical again. However, again cost-to-capability comes into play here. The Strike Cruiser could provide eight Tomahawk missiles at $1.37 billion but for another $230 million the US Navy could've gotten a conventional supercarrier with vastly superior strike capabilities. The Polaris cruisers of the 50s were killed by SSBNs being far, far more survivable. Successors to Long Beach suffered both problems. The only ships of this type actually built ended up being the Kirovs, and that only because the Soviets were not a carrier navy.

One more thing: it's really, really easy to develop new warheads that can defeat any practical thickness of armor. Tandem-charge warheads work just as well on antiship missiles against armored targets as the do on anti-tank missiles. Large-diameter HEAT warheads are going to gut ships. Or just take one of your bunker-busting bombs and use that as a warhead. The US designed and built an entirely new 5000-lb laser-guided bunker buster for Gulf War I in a matter of weeks; new antiship warheads to backfit on existing missiles aren't any harder.

P.S. Navy Matters is a terrible blog that is about as reliable as a stopped clock.
 
(I wrote the majority of this reply before CV12s post, I'll discuss that at the end)

Okay, here are a few more things to think about.

Firstly, is the presence of nuclear weapons important? In my opinion, yes and no. In the late 40s/early 50s the only nuclear weapon delivery systems were aircraft and inaccurate cruise missiles. In a full-scale war, everyone's dead, so a navy is useless. A navy, therefore, can only be useful in a 'limited' nuclear war, or a conventional war. So, that removes the threat of hundreds upon hundreds of nuclear strikes.

So then, what threat will the navy face at this point? Missiles are getting more advanced, and it's becoming quite obvious that they, along with aircraft, will surpass the gun in ship-to-ship combat (ship-to-ground combat is a different story). Now, something to remember here: armor is not supposed to make a ship invulnerable. It is supposed to make a ship take more hits before it sinks. Medium-sized guided missiles are comparable in damage to shells and can be armored against. Larger cruise missiles could only be stopped by the main belt of an Iowa, and even then it's more like 50/50. But, larger cruise missiles are easier to intercept. A normal-sized missile will sink an unarmored ship, but won't sink an armored one. So, if you armor your ships, the enemy will increase the size of their missiles, meaning they are not only easier to intercept, they are more expensive and have to be fielded in smaller numbers. At least, that's my take on it. Im not exactly qualified to talk about that, so I'd like to hear your thoughts.

From what I can tell, relying on armor to solve all of your issues is not going to work. But completely giving up on armor altogether is the wrong move - sure, your ships are cheaper, but outside of a nuclear war, it's better to have quality over quantity. And, to be frank, planning your entire military around the concept that it will only ever fight in a nuclear war is very stupid and leaves you open to a convention attack, in my opinion.

So, how much armor is worthwhile? And for that matter, this thread is about all of the things developed in WWII that were abandoned in the 50s. How could those be utilized?


You can't armor ships effectively against AShMs.

You'd have to wrap every destroyer in 15" of armor front-to-back. Including their superstructure. This is ... impractical.

As I understand it, armor could stop conventionally armed cruise missiles. But it required battleship levels of protection and that's just not practical on a ship like a cruiser or destroyer. So the theory moved from "try and stop the damage when you do get hit" to "it's better not to get hit in the first place."
No, it's just that it's near impossible to protect a ship from a heavyweight keelbreaker

That said, it's classified on what it took to finally put USS America under the waves for that SINKEX
A few more items that the concussive effects can harm. You cannot armor the radar sets or any of the other communication devices on the outside of the ship. Any exposed weapons, older sams and other missiles were fired from exposed rail arrangements on the ships including torpedoes and depth charges. You get shock damage to the internal parts of the ships from the larger warheads required to punch holes in the armor. Underwater you have the exposed portions of the propulsion system like the props, shafts, bearing, and packing seals into the hulls.

Armor saves the hull but you end up a mission kill anyway with the damage to the other parts of the ship.
Ultimately there was no protection against this, and by the 1950's this blast was tiny so why waste the effort?
The need for protection against the conventional rockets, bombs and missiles were behind the massive growth in the Lion class designs in 1944-5. It just wasn't realistic to protect ships adequately against these weapons. Plus, even if you did include sufficient armour, it would be cheaper to upscale the weapons than to increase defensive protection. Once you have guided weapons and aircraft able to carry heavy bombs this is a race that armour can't win
USS Minnesota from a WWI German mine
It's not gotten any easier to protected the undersides in the past 100 years
and that was only a couple hundred pounds of wet guncotton
And even then, a good hit from an AShM will still mission kill even a heavily armored vessel and leave it needing repairs that can take months. When you are expecting the war to be either over or bathing everything in nuclear fire within 4 weeks, what's the point?

You guys are assuming that the point of this is to make ships invulnerable to the big Russian ASMs. It's not. The point is to make them more survivable than they currently are. And as to the " the war to be either over or bathing everything in nuclear fire within 4 weeks", by that logic there's no point to a navy at all - bombers, and later ICBMs, can bypass the seas and hit an enemy country directly. A navy is only useful in a 'limited' nuclear, or conventional, war. In which case, nuclear weapons are going to be the exception, not the norm. At least, that's how I understand it. Again, I could be wrong.

So, again, the point of armor is to make ships more survivable. If an Arleigh Burke gets hit by a tomahawk, what will happen? I don't know exactly, but I would bet money on it sinking. But if it had 5+ inches of armor? Mission killed, sure, but not sunk. And that's what we're talking about - 5 inches, not 10 or 20. Active protection systems cannot be expected to work all the time - even less so in the 1950s and 60s. Having a passive back up could be very useful.

I'll point you again to the links I gave in the first post: that particular author is perhaps a bit too optimistic about the advantages of armor, but for the most part I cannot find any flaws in his arguments. But again, I am not an expert. I could have missed something.

And then, on to torpedo protection. The author has also written an article on this: https://navy-matters.blogspot.com/2017/07/torpedo-lethality-myth.html
This article is written based on several scientific papers, as well as several theoretical and real-life examples. Then again, they could have cherry-picked their data, I'm not an expert. But from what I can tell, it all makes sense and proves that the air-bubble based sinking effect is a myth and one commenter posited that the idea that armoring a ship against torpedos is useless might have come from the cold war, where armoring a ship against torpedos is a good way to get the Soviets to launch a nuclear torpedo against you.

@BillKerman123

Fundamentally, the removal of armor from new warships was about the primacy of the carrier, the development of missiles, and the resulting monofocus on escorts for surface combatants and the death of the independent cruiser - and also an understanding of what armor is for on ships that that blog lacks.

Armor, on warships, is not about survivability past splinter protection levels. Damage control, subdivision, and raw displacement all matter far more. Armor is for keeping a ship in the fight after getting hit. Every armor scheme conceived from the 1860s to WWII was about this, with the threat ever-evolving. Classic incremental schemes were to keep ships from getting shredded by high explosive shells and detonating armor-piercing shells early so that splinters could be caught on internal armor before the broke something important, for example. Similarly, British armored carriers were all about keeping the aviation facilities intact so the ships could fight on after bomb hits, and their war record bears this out in comparison to their American counterparts. British and American carriers both survived considerable poundings regardless of the armor layout, but American carriers were more prone to getting mission-killed by single bomb or kamikaze hits.

The problem comes when a ship's utility becomes tied up entirely in its sensors, particularly its topside sensors. Let's take the Farragut-class DLGs that started entering service at the end of the decade. These were carrier escorts designed to provide area air defense with their Terrier missiles - and Terrier missiles needed continuous radar beaming to home in on the target, from launch to hit. Not to mention search and tracking radars to actually find the target in the first place. If a missile hits topside, there really isn't any way to stop the missile from taking out those radars; make them as shock-resistant as you like, blast and shrapnel are going to take them out. This means that once the ship takes a missile hit its functionally useless as an anti-air escort.

What that means is that an anti-air escort that's mission-killed by having its radars knocked out is as useful to the ongoing fight as a ship that's been outright sunk, i.e. not at all. In that case, why spend the tonnage and money (armor is expensive) on armoring up the ship?

Cost does come into play. There was a lot of handwringing in the US and Royal Navies about their new large missile escorts, and the fact that they were cruiser-sized vessels built to destroyer standards of habitability, endurance, and survivability. But going to cruiser standards was too much extra tonnage and cost for cash-strapped navies working on peacetime budgets and needing to desperately recapitalize their surface fleets.

Now, there were chances for armored surface combatants to make a comeback. Autonomous cruise missiles that could be fired accurately without the onboard sensors getting involved made armor practical again. However, again cost-to-capability comes into play here. The Strike Cruiser could provide eight Tomahawk missiles at $1.37 billion but for another $230 million the US Navy could've gotten a conventional supercarrier with vastly superior strike capabilities. The Polaris cruisers of the 50s were killed by SSBNs being far, far more survivable. Successors to Long Beach suffered both problems. The only ships of this type actually built ended up being the Kirovs, and that only because the Soviets were not a carrier navy.

One more thing: it's really, really easy to develop new warheads that can defeat any practical thickness of armor. Tandem-charge warheads work just as well on antiship missiles against armored targets as the do on anti-tank missiles. Large-diameter HEAT warheads are going to gut ships. Or just take one of your bunker-busting bombs and use that as a warhead. The US designed and built an entirely new 5000-lb laser-guided bunker buster for Gulf War I in a matter of weeks; new antiship warheads to backfit on existing missiles aren't any harder.

P.S. Navy Matters is a terrible blog that is about as reliable as a stopped clock.

Why is Navy Matters unreliable? I already suspected that it was simplifying things and possibly cherry-picking data, but from what I can tell most of the core concepts seem to work. I don't think armor is quite as useful as it suggests, but I do think it is at least somewhat useful.

As for the rest of your reply. From what I can tell, everything you said is correct. The reason armor was dropped from ships was because you couldn't armor the sensors and if you couldn't armor those why waste huge amounts of money armoring the rest? Especially when it might all get blown up by a nuke. Of course, we now know that was the wrong move - after the cold war the threat of nukes in naval combat has mostly left (to my knowledge), and sensors have gotten good enough that the missiles can be self-guiding. One of the stories on that site features a battleship with retractable sensor arrays hidden behind armored covers - I'm not sure how that would work on a mechanical level, but the concept seems fine. The only thing that can threaten the ship's sensors are ASMs, and anti-ASM weapons like CIWS have built-in radars now, so why not have the big main ones retract?

So from what I can tell, most of the modern shipbuilding concepts originated from ASM tech rapidly outpacing sensor tech after WWII, coupled with a lack of funds, and the threat of nuclear armageddon on top of it all. In that environment, unarmored but heavily armed ships are perfect and make a lot of sense. So the questions we have to ask are A - does it still make sense today, and B - what POD would be needed to have it make sense 60 years ago?

As for anti-armor warheads, yes they would work, and ESSMs and CIWS will still reign supreme in light of them, but just having no armor at all seems like a bad idea. Besides, from how I understand it and I could be wrong, anti-armor warheads are very localized, so for them to be effective against anything bigger than a destroyer they need to be very big, making them easier targets for said ESSMs and CIWS.
 
(I wrote the majority of this reply before CV12s post, I'll discuss that at the end)

Okay, here are a few more things to think about.

Firstly, is the presence of nuclear weapons important? In my opinion, yes and no. In the late 40s/early 50s the only nuclear weapon delivery systems were aircraft and inaccurate cruise missiles. In a full-scale war, everyone's dead, so a navy is useless. A navy, therefore, can only be useful in a 'limited' nuclear war, or a conventional war. So, that removes the threat of hundreds upon hundreds of nuclear strikes.

So then, what threat will the navy face at this point? Missiles are getting more advanced, and it's becoming quite obvious that they, along with aircraft, will surpass the gun in ship-to-ship combat (ship-to-ground combat is a different story). Now, something to remember here: armor is not supposed to make a ship invulnerable. It is supposed to make a ship take more hits before it sinks. Medium-sized guided missiles are comparable in damage to shells and can be armored against. Larger cruise missiles could only be stopped by the main belt of an Iowa, and even then it's more like 50/50. But, larger cruise missiles are easier to intercept. A normal-sized missile will sink an unarmored ship, but won't sink an armored one. So, if you armor your ships, the enemy will increase the size of their missiles, meaning they are not only easier to intercept, they are more expensive and have to be fielded in smaller numbers. At least, that's my take on it. Im not exactly qualified to talk about that, so I'd like to hear your thoughts.

From what I can tell, relying on armor to solve all of your issues is not going to work. But completely giving up on armor altogether is the wrong move - sure, your ships are cheaper, but outside of a nuclear war, it's better to have quality over quantity. And, to be frank, planning your entire military around the concept that it will only ever fight in a nuclear war is very stupid and leaves you open to a convention attack, in my opinion.

So, how much armor is worthwhile? And for that matter, this thread is about all of the things developed in WWII that were abandoned in the 50s. How could those be utilized?











You guys are assuming that the point of this is to make ships invulnerable to the big Russian ASMs. It's not. The point is to make them more survivable than they currently are. And as to the " the war to be either over or bathing everything in nuclear fire within 4 weeks", by that logic there's no point to a navy at all - bombers, and later ICBMs, can bypass the seas and hit an enemy country directly. A navy is only useful in a 'limited' nuclear, or conventional, war. In which case, nuclear weapons are going to be the exception, not the norm. At least, that's how I understand it. Again, I could be wrong.

So, again, the point of armor is to make ships more survivable. If an Arleigh Burke gets hit by a tomahawk, what will happen? I don't know exactly, but I would bet money on it sinking. But if it had 5+ inches of armor? Mission killed, sure, but not sunk. And that's what we're talking about - 5 inches, not 10 or 20. Active protection systems cannot be expected to work all the time - even less so in the 1950s and 60s. Having a passive back up could be very useful.

I'll point you again to the links I gave in the first post: that particular author is perhaps a bit too optimistic about the advantages of armor, but for the most part I cannot find any flaws in his arguments. But again, I am not an expert. I could have missed something.

And then, on to torpedo protection. The author has also written an article on this: https://navy-matters.blogspot.com/2017/07/torpedo-lethality-myth.html
This article is written based on several scientific papers, as well as several theoretical and real-life examples. Then again, they could have cherry-picked their data, I'm not an expert. But from what I can tell, it all makes sense and proves that the air-bubble based sinking effect is a myth and one commenter posited that the idea that armoring a ship against torpedos is useless might have come from the cold war, where armoring a ship against torpedos is a good way to get the Soviets to launch a nuclear torpedo against you.



Why is Navy Matters unreliable? I already suspected that it was simplifying things and possibly cherry-picking data, but from what I can tell most of the core concepts seem to work. I don't think armor is quite as useful as it suggests, but I do think it is at least somewhat useful.

As for the rest of your reply. From what I can tell, everything you said is correct. The reason armor was dropped from ships was because you couldn't armor the sensors and if you couldn't armor those why waste huge amounts of money armoring the rest? Especially when it might all get blown up by a nuke. Of course, we now know that was the wrong move - after the cold war the threat of nukes in naval combat has mostly left (to my knowledge), and sensors have gotten good enough that the missiles can be self-guiding. One of the stories on that site features a battleship with retractable sensor arrays hidden behind armored covers - I'm not sure how that would work on a mechanical level, but the concept seems fine. The only thing that can threaten the ship's sensors are ASMs, and anti-ASM weapons like CIWS have built-in radars now, so why not have the big main ones retract?

So from what I can tell, most of the modern shipbuilding concepts originated from ASM tech rapidly outpacing sensor tech after WWII, coupled with a lack of funds, and the threat of nuclear armageddon on top of it all. In that environment, unarmored but heavily armed ships are perfect and make a lot of sense. So the questions we have to ask are A - does it still make sense today, and B - what POD would be needed to have it make sense 60 years ago?

As for anti-armor warheads, yes they would work, and ESSMs and CIWS will still reign supreme in light of them, but just having no armor at all seems like a bad idea. Besides, from how I understand it and I could be wrong, anti-armor warheads are very localized, so for them to be effective against anything bigger than a destroyer they need to be very big, making them easier targets for said ESSMs and CIWS.
IMHO extensive armour on post WW2 warships will just invite the enemy to use weapons and tactics to bypass the armour. Unless you are prepared to build ships with battle ship level deck and belt armour schemes I don't see much point to extensive armour for post ww2 warships. Battle ship level armour will likely invite larger and more potent weapons to defeat any practical armour scheme.

Others have already discussed the issues with armouring post ww2 sensors.
 
Last edited:
Why is Navy Matters unreliable? I already suspected that it was simplifying things and possibly cherry-picking data, but from what I can tell most of the core concepts seem to work. I don't think armor is quite as useful as it suggests, but I do think it is at least somewhat useful.
Every single blog post I've seen of theirs has been both hideously wrong and extremely biased. I remember his Des Moines article - any blog post that's advocating a WWII design concept in the modern day is dead on arrival, naval design has moved on.

As for the rest of your reply. From what I can tell, everything you said is correct. The reason armor was dropped from ships was because you couldn't armor the sensors and if you couldn't armor those why waste huge amounts of money armoring the rest? Especially when it might all get blown up by a nuke. Of course, we now know that was the wrong move - after the cold war the threat of nukes in naval combat has mostly left (to my knowledge), and sensors have gotten good enough that the missiles can be self-guiding. One of the stories on that site features a battleship with retractable sensor arrays hidden behind armored covers - I'm not sure how that would work on a mechanical level, but the concept seems fine. The only thing that can threaten the ship's sensors are ASMs, and anti-ASM weapons like CIWS have built-in radars now, so why not have the big main ones retract?
"Self-guiding" does not mean "fire-and-forget". Long and medium-range active radar homing missiles like the Aster family, SM-6, ESSM Block II, and SM-2 Block III do not rely on their seeker heads the whole flight. The seeker heads are simply too small for that. Instead, the active radar homing is for terminal guidance, and all of these missiles still require tracking data from the ship's own radars or an off-ship sensor like an E-2D or F-35 to direct them to the general area of the target. Take out the tracking radars and the ship is left bereft of anything longer-ranged than RAM, which is a death sentence against a missile salvo.

Armored covers with retractable radars have a multitude of problems that make them impractical. For one, that's a lot of added mechanical complexity to already-complex warships. For another, not only are the radars themselves large and heavy, but they need considerable support in the form of cooling and power conduits, especially the large fixed-panel phased arrays the US, Russia, and China favor. So that adds more complexity. And fundamentally it doesn't solve the problem. Armor doesn't help against shock damage. In fact, armor is really good at transmitting shock, it's why the Yamato, Iowa, and South Dakota-classes had inferior torpedo defense systems to many of their contemporaries.

Further, retracting the radars again goes back to my point about these ships being escorts first. It doesn't matter if the escort survives if retracting the radars means the carrier eats missile hits. And on that note, how the fuck is the timing supposed to work here? This is not going to be a fast process, and given the presence of supersonic sea-skimmers the ship in many circumstances isn't going to have time to retract their radars. A Russian Kalibr missile gives you maybe 30 seconds to react, for example.

So from what I can tell, most of the modern shipbuilding concepts originated from ASM tech rapidly outpacing sensor tech after WWII, coupled with a lack of funds, and the threat of nuclear armageddon on top of it all. In that environment, unarmored but heavily armed ships are perfect and make a lot of sense. So the questions we have to ask are A - does it still make sense today, and B - what POD would be needed to have it make sense 60 years ago?

As for anti-armor warheads, yes they would work, and ESSMs and CIWS will still reign supreme in light of them, but just having no armor at all seems like a bad idea. Besides, from how I understand it and I could be wrong, anti-armor warheads are very localized, so for them to be effective against anything bigger than a destroyer they need to be very big, making them easier targets for said ESSMs and CIWS.
Again, tandem-charge warheads. Antitank missiles use a solid slug; antiship missiles use a high-explosive warhead as the second stage. Or again, a bunker-buster bomb as the warhead, that's got explosive filler. And frankly if the missile gets past the armor then the ship is likely mission-killed, that tended to be the case for even battleships. Just because current anti-armor warheads aren't designed for deep post-armor effects does not mean it can't be done. It just means that no one needs to bother. It's telling that the Russian missiles intended to attack carriers, which do still have armor, were all SAP warheads.

Yes, it still makes sense today. And any POD would be seriously ASB, not only for the different threat environment but also because everyone still had a bunch of leftover WWII gun cruisers and battleships lying around.

See, that's another thing that's missed: through the 50s and 60s the larger navies still had armored cruisers and battleships in either active service or in reserve ready to be called up. Why would they build new armored ships when they have so many still lying around for if they need to do a gun duel? What was needed were escorts, and escorts just don't benefit from armor.

One more thing: escorts today are armored. It's just splinter protection, because as I mentioned, that is still worth doing.
 
indeed, armour isn't going to stop the back breaking effect of the bubble created under the sip by such a torpedo.

and there is something else to consider,nukes, in the 50s they were using smaller and smaller nukes, even use them in anti-aircraft missiles such as the Genie (1,5Kt) and the AIM-26 Falcon (250t eq)
if the armour becomes too thick to overcome conventional you will only see ASM's with such small yield becoming the norm
 
With the armoring scheme, using blast doors for example, means you still would lose things like a phalanx system because for it to work it has to be exposed even during the terminal phase where it is expected to be used. Also any type of system to have things retract behind means just another failure point with them getting jammed from the concussive effects of the weapons used.
 
With the armoring scheme, using blast doors for example, means you still would lose things like a phalanx system because for it to work it has to be exposed even during the terminal phase where it is expected to be used. Also any type of system to have things retract behind means just another failure point with them getting jammed from the concussive effects of the weapons used.

Or ASM's will be developed with specialized warheads to mission kill sensors behind armoured doors. (Ie cluster type warheads or fragmentation weapons designed to defeat light armour with multiple large fragments...)
 
Every single blog post I've seen of theirs has been both hideously wrong and extremely biased. I remember his Des Moines article - any blog post that's advocating a WWII design concept in the modern day is dead on arrival, naval design has moved on.


"Self-guiding" does not mean "fire-and-forget". Long and medium-range active radar homing missiles like the Aster family, SM-6, ESSM Block II, and SM-2 Block III do not rely on their seeker heads the whole flight. The seeker heads are simply too small for that. Instead, the active radar homing is for terminal guidance, and all of these missiles still require tracking data from the ship's own radars or an off-ship sensor like an E-2D or F-35 to direct them to the general area of the target. Take out the tracking radars and the ship is left bereft of anything longer-ranged than RAM, which is a death sentence against a missile salvo.

Armored covers with retractable radars have a multitude of problems that make them impractical. For one, that's a lot of added mechanical complexity to already-complex warships. For another, not only are the radars themselves large and heavy, but they need considerable support in the form of cooling and power conduits, especially the large fixed-panel phased arrays the US, Russia, and China favor. So that adds more complexity. And fundamentally it doesn't solve the problem. Armor doesn't help against shock damage. In fact, armor is really good at transmitting shock, it's why the Yamato, Iowa, and South Dakota-classes had inferior torpedo defense systems to many of their contemporaries.

Further, retracting the radars again goes back to my point about these ships being escorts first. It doesn't matter if the escort survives if retracting the radars means the carrier eats missile hits. And on that note, how the fuck is the timing supposed to work here? This is not going to be a fast process, and given the presence of supersonic sea-skimmers the ship in many circumstances isn't going to have time to retract their radars. A Russian Kalibr missile gives you maybe 30 seconds to react, for example.


Again, tandem-charge warheads. Antitank missiles use a solid slug; antiship missiles use a high-explosive warhead as the second stage. Or again, a bunker-buster bomb as the warhead, that's got explosive filler. And frankly if the missile gets past the armor then the ship is likely mission-killed, that tended to be the case for even battleships. Just because current anti-armor warheads aren't designed for deep post-armor effects does not mean it can't be done. It just means that no one needs to bother. It's telling that the Russian missiles intended to attack carriers, which do still have armor, were all SAP warheads.

Yes, it still makes sense today. And any POD would be seriously ASB, not only for the different threat environment but also because everyone still had a bunch of leftover WWII gun cruisers and battleships lying around.

See, that's another thing that's missed: through the 50s and 60s the larger navies still had armored cruisers and battleships in either active service or in reserve ready to be called up. Why would they build new armored ships when they have so many still lying around for if they need to do a gun duel? What was needed were escorts, and escorts just don't benefit from armor.

One more thing: escorts today are armored. It's just splinter protection, because as I mentioned, that is still worth doing.

Okay, those are all very good points, and I don't have the knowledge to dispute them. I will note however that you didn't cite any sources, but then again Navy Matters, and myself for that matter, rarely did that either. Has anyone actually ever done any tests on firing modern ASMs at armored ships? Does anyone have any links to that?

As for the original topic of this thread, I guess the questions are, A - can armor be useful in any capacity in any way on any modern surface combatant? B - were there any technologies, armor or otherwise, that were highly developed in WWII but were then abandoned, that in hindsight shouldn't have?

Also, if you were going to design a fleet of ships in the modern world completely from scratch with no previous connections to the cold war, how would you do it, and would technologies from WWII abandoned in the cold war come back?

And another thing, battleships. I've heard stories that the Soviets were more afraid of our Iowas than our carriers and that their first response to them was going to be to throw nukes at them and hope they go away. Is that accurate? In a WWIII scenario set in the 80s (presumably one where nuclear weapon usage is limited), could the Iowas have been useful?

I remember a post over on spacebattles by IXJac, it was based on a harpoon game, so not completely accurate, but could something even remotely like this have happened in reality?

I think at this time that I should mention one of my most enjoyable games of Harpoon (GIUK Battleset).

The scenario was a SAG (Surface Action Group) battle. Keflavik had been destroyed, US carrier assets were depleted, and so with a fleet of 15 escorts and pickets (including a couple of subs) apiece, the Iowa class battleship Missouri and the Kirov class battlecruiser Frunze were bearing down on each other for the final contest for the fate of the GIUK gap. Two groups of 16 of the most powerful vessels in the world going at it with no aircraft to spoil the fun, save a flight of Russian "Mays" out from conquered Norway.

I was setting up for a sub strike, but then one 688 was picked up by an Akula (was running a bit too fast to get into position) and spent the next three days dodging sonobouys, torpedoes and Mays. The other LA class got a solution on the Frunze but then the entire fire control system crashed - couldn't even fire Tomahawks. So, no more subs for me.

Then the big ships started trading missiles, flinging Shipwrecks and Tomahawks back and forth, into volleys of SAM fire, as ships on the outer edges of both battlegroups began to die. Then the Russians decided to play dirty. Hidden in one of the Russian salvoes was a deadly SS-19-N. "N" as in "nuclear." A mushroom cloud bloomed over my fleet sinking my Aegis and Leahy as well as most of my destroyers. The Missouri emerged from the centre of the fireball, all her missiles destroyed, her radar burned away, half her decks aflame, but still afloat and her big guns still intact.

In desperation I broke the fleet up using a few surviving frigates that had been on distant picket as decoys. I managed to get the Missouri into a very nasty storm and the Russian search helicopters couldn't follow, the fleet hunting down a couple of Knox's instead.

I had the Missouri, a badly damaged Knox and a Perry, which had the only working radar left in my fleet (currently off so I could hide). Things were looking grim, with an ignomious retreat under the cover of the hurricane as my only option, when my crippled LA class sub finally got its firecontrol back on line and I launched probably the most suicidal naval attack in history.

Using the storm as cover I approached to within 100 miles of the Russians before they picked me up. Then I used the frigates as decoys to soak up the remaining SSMs (poor buggers). By then the Russians were down to flinging SAMs at the Missouri. The battleship was down to 23 knots because of a Shipwreck hit but she plowed onwards through the hail of fire, her armour laughing at the dozens of SAM hits she was taking with every passing minute. Perhaps sensing the danger through their incredulity, the Russians turned to run. They'd have gotten away if the 688 hadn't managed to wing the Kirov herself (a really desperate shot at the very edge of the envelope). By the time they got her moving again the Missouri was inside of the magic 30 mile mark, and I opened up with the 16"ers. . .

The Russians tried to respond with their 122mm and 152mm guns but it was no contest. I massacred the picket destroyers facing me, and then broke into the center of the 50 mile across formation, pushing the engines for all they were worth. The Slava went down with a single hit. The Frunze took four at nearly 20 miles out and exploded, and then the Russians were in full flight running for Murmansk at full speed, and the old battleship was the only surface ship in the GIUK Gap.

After getting so badly owned for the past five days of battle it was sweet sweet sweet revenge.

It was made all the more classic by it's Big Gun resolution - the battleship charging out of a blazing nuclear fireball to lay waste to all who dared oppose her. It's something I've never managed to repeat in any Harpoon game.
 
Last edited:
Top