Is the "Battleship" obsolete?

Discussion in 'Warfare / Military' started by Mushroom, Jan 8, 2015.

  1. Mushroom

    Mushroom Well-Known Member

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    Now first of all, I invite everybody to notice that the word "Battleship" is in quotations. And that is for a very good reason which will be explained further along.

    One thing that often confuses people is how to classify ships. For example, what is an "Aircraft Carrier"?

    Well, most people hear those words and think a ship like the USS Midway or USS Nimitz. A ship who's primary role is to carry aircraft into combat where they take off and do battle with ships and fighters. But is that enough? Were not the WWII era "Escort Carriers" also aircraft carriers? While their true mission was to ferry aircraft from one location to another and provide some coverage to convoys they would also occasionally participate in more major battles.

    Then let's get murkier, like the case of the Liaoning. Now even when the Soviets launched this ship as the Varyag they did not call or consider it an "aircraft carrier". It was a "tyazholiy avianesushchiy kreyser", or "Heavy Aircraft Carrying Cruiser". It had a small number of aircraft, not intended to conduct actual attack or strike missions, but to defend the ship and it's fleet from attacks from the aircraft of other nations. So is it really an "aircraft carrier"?

    Or the USS Makin Island, LHD-8. This is part of a class of amphibious warfare ships, primarily designed to take Marines to the shore in either helicopters or on LCAC hovercraft, LAVs, or other amphibious vehicles. But they can also carry 6-8 Harrier or the future F-35B fighters. Are these "Aircraft carriers"?

    Well, the argument can be mode both ways. Technically any ship that can launch and recover aircraft is an "aircraft carrier", but a true aircraft carrier has that as her primary role and mission.

    So it is not the ship itself that determines it's name and nomenclature, but the mission to which it is assigned.

    Now in covering roughly 200 years of modern Naval Warfare, the "battle ship", no matter what it was called, had one primary and one secondary mission. First off it was attacking other "ships of the line". Broadsides and boarding parties, cross the "T", sink the other before they sink you. But at least as far back as the North American War of 1812 we saw a secondary mission start. And that was providing direct assault capabilities upon shore installations. And as the decades progressed, that became a greater and greater mission for the main ships.

    Ironically, this reached it's peak in WWII. With the advancement of aircraft, the role of surface ships in attacking other surface ships quickly vanished, and they then took up their previous secondary role as their primary role. Now instead of attacking other Battleships (like in the Battle of Savo Island), they now became primarily used in providing off-shore bombardments. In short, huge mobile artillery positions.

    None of the island hopping campaigns in the Pacific during WWII could have been done without battleships. Nor the invasions of Italy or France. And this did not stop there, in battles from Korea and Vietnam to Lebanon and Iraq battleships did excellent service destroying shore positions and supporting the troops on the ground. It was so effective that even the roar of the USS New Jersey would send attackers fleeing even if they were not the actual target of the rounds. They knew that a single shell could lay waste to over 1,000 square meters of land and wanted to be nowhere near one when it landed.

    So what is my primary definition of a "Battleship"? Well, it is not necessarily a BB USS Iowa class ship. However, it is a ship with many of those same capabilities. Primarily, the ability to send large amounts of firepower downrange in direct support to either troops on the ground, or removing any weapons or concentrations of personnel within range of their guns.

    So right here it has to be recognized that when I talk about the "need for battleships", I am not talking about bringing back the Iowa class ships, no matter how good they were during their time. But the mission that they fulfilled has not gone away. Cruise missiles may be great, but if you have to land a bunch of people either on a hostile shore or to take a location within 15 miles of the shore are they really a good use of assets to support the people on the ground?

    Not really. They have to be programmed in advance, they are expensive, they have limited capability to damage the enemy, and they are limited to things like weather and attack from defensive systems. Even a grunt with a MANPAD can shoot down a cruise missile. But I wish them a lot of luck trying to shoot down a 1 ton shell screaming in at MACH 6.

    - - - Updated - - -

    So just to be clear once again, I am talking about a combat ship with the capabilities of a battleship, not an actual rebirth of the USS Iowa class ship.

    And in reality, the actual needs can be met with a ship that has largely been considered obsolete, the Battlecruiser.

    In the interwar years between WWI and WWII, the Washington Naval Treaty limited the number and sizes of battleships. And this was to be known as either the "Battlecruiser" to the English, or "Pocket Battleships" to the Germans.

    In short, you place a smaller number of battleship guns (or near battleship guns) onto a cruiser that has the same armor as a battleship. This is kind of a hybrid, not as big and expensive as a battleship, but with many of the same capabilities. Thick heavy armor, and some large caliber guns.

    So for a "modern Battleship", what is really needed is simply a new class of Battlecruiser. And the US actually made a fine one in the Alaska class of WWII.

    808 feet long, she was 80 feet shorter then the Iowa class. And with a displacement of only 30,000 tons instead of the 45,000 tons of the Iowa, she was also much lighter. With 9 12" guns as main armament instead of the 9 16" guns of the Iowa.

    Now when the BB class was brought back into service in the 1980's, one of the primary reasons was that they were to modern threats unsinkable. This is due to the thickness of armor since WWII.

    Ships sinking ships died in WWII, and so did the threat of hits from large caliber shells. Now the threats were aircraft with bombs and torpedoes and later missiles. So ships got lighter and faster.

    The Alaska class had from 9-11 inches of armor in her hull. The Iowa class has 11-19 inches of armor on her hull. A more modern ship like the Arleigh Burke class destroyer only has from 1-5 inches of armor. This is why a rubber raft with 400 pounds of explosives or an inexpensive missile like the Exocet with 350 pounds of explosives can cripple or sink our most advanced ships.

    And that is the hull that modern anti-ship missiles are designed to penetrate. Rather thin armor, the ship relies upon the defensive systems to destroy the threat, so there is little put into actually making the hull able to withstand such damage in the first place.

    The USS Stark was almost lost because of an Exocet missile, and spent almost 3 years undergoing repairs. If this missile had hit a ship like the USS Iowa or even USS Alaska, it would have done little to no damage because it could not have penetrated the hull.

    So in addition to providing shore bombardment capabilities, it is also useful to have in our fleet at least some ships that are impervious to missile attacks simply because missiles are not designed to penetrate that thickness of hull.

    - - - Updated - - -

    The 21st Century Battleship:

    Now what it is called I largely could not care. Battleship, Battlescruiser, Heavy Cruiser, it is the ship mission that needs filling. A heavy ship capable of providing direct fire onto shore installations.

    My idea had long been a modern melding of the Alaska Class ships, with the refit that almost happened to the USS New Jersey when she was brought back into service in 1981.

    Many do not know that the BB-62 almost lost her rear turret. The Navy almost replaced the turret with a VLS system with 48 Harpoon or Tomahawk missiles. If a new ship is to be built, that would be the best way to do it. 2 triple turrets with 12" guns, and in the rear a modern VLS missile system.

    And yes, for most missions the 12" is more then suficient, along with some secondary 5" guns. The Arleigh Burke class only has a single 5" gun, the Ticonderogas have 2 5" or 25mm guns, ranges are in the neighborhood of 10-13 miles. Not much help if you have people on shore screaming for fire support and they are 15 miles away.

    And with the advent of the Advanced Gun System, this can be "super sized" and put some real teeth into a modern ship.

    The AGS is an amazing concept, and the USS Zumwalt already has it. A 6" gun that can fire either a conventional shell (range 15 miles), or a rocket assisted shell with a range of 83 miles. Now double the size of the caliber and multiple by 6 and you can put a huge amount of hurt onto a target at least 80 miles inland.

    And with much less cost then doing the same amount of damage with conventional missiles, with a much shorter rounds on target time. Add to it a laser tracking system and you can have either troops on the ground or in an observation aircraft or drone actually walk this round onto the target like a PGM.

    In all weather, day or night. That is a devastating capability. And for deployment, simply build one ship to operate with each of our Amphibious Assault forces. This has a second benefit by giving more defensive capabilities to our amphibious transports.
     
  2. reallybigjohnson

    reallybigjohnson Banned

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    I would say yes. But then again I think that the days of the air craft carrier are coming to an end, at least the really big ones. What I don't like are the new lateral class ships. Those things are just disasters waiting to happen. I have seen paper lanterns with thicker skin.
     
  3. freddy62

    freddy62 Well-Known Member Past Donor

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  4. Herkdriver

    Herkdriver New Member

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    The Falklands war demonstrated the drawbacks of relying on un-armoured ships.
     
  5. Nightmare515

    Nightmare515 Ragin' Cajun Staff Member Past Donor

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    Battleships are treated just like we treat all military hardware. If the enemy has it then we have to have it too because if we don't then they have the advantage. These are the reasons why developing war machines becomes a PITA sometimes. Whatever someone invents we have to invent one too or at least invent a way to destroy it. Think back to tanks in WWI. Tanks appeared so others had to build tanks to counter those tanks. Then stronger tanks appeared so we had to build stronger tanks. Then tank destroyers, anti tank weapons, tank mines, etc. Airplanes evolved from props to jets so everyone has to switch to jets to keep up. Then air to air missiles were invented so everyone had to invent missiles and countermeasures. Long range bombers became more advanced so we had to figure out a way to shoot them down. We create the F-14 specifically to carry AIM-54 Phoenix missiles to shoot down Soviet Bear bombers. Soviets had the MiG-25 Foxbat to shoot down our B-52s. Stronger tanks are created so nations develop tank buster aircraft. Soviets create the Su-25 and we create the A-10. Soviets create a variety of SAM's and AAA and we create the Patriot. Nations realize that helos are pretty nice things to have and can be very useful in a multitude of situations. Soviets start creating Hind armored helos that put our AH-1's to shame. We invent the AH-64. Russia invents the KA-50 and KA-52. They create ways to defeat our countermeasures so we invent better countermeasures. And so on and so forth.

    Battleships are essential in todays times not really for ship vs ship battles but as part of Naval Battle Groups. The Navy is great because it's basically a mobile army that can be deployed almost anywhere. They can park nearby and launch aircraft, launch ICBM's, launch Marines, and protect themselves from incoming threats. Destroyers and whatnot are there to protect that battle group. Although once the Navy parks at the enemies doorstep there is very little the enemy can actually do about it we maintain that status because of the firepower that these battleships have. The only way for us to really stop building and advancing things is for the world to just all agree that "this is good enough". But nobody will do that. If China builds a better battleship then we have to build one to destroy it. If they get those Carrier Killer missiles working we have to figure out a way to destroy them before they can hit us. If other nations invent stealth we have to invent a way to see it. If Russia invents thrust vectoring cart wheeling fighter jets that can out maneuver missiles then we invent thrust vectoring cartwheeling jets with thrust vectoring missiles that can shoot them down.

    We have battleships because other people have battleships. If everyone voted to dismantle their battleships then we would keep our battleships anyway because that would give us a leg up. It's a never ending process.

    More on topic though I really like the concept of the railgun. I love the old school concept. Keep it simple. Forget all of those crazy algorithms that ICBM's require to fly and hit targets. Have you guys read how the ICBM tracks itself? I'm a Science nerd and that even made my head hurt. Just get a huge object and throw it really fast at somebody, bring it back to the basics. Screw all the super math and physics of missiles. Just get a huge chunk of metal and throw it at somebody really hard. That works just as well lol.
     
  6. Arxael

    Arxael Well-Known Member

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    Can't watch the video where I'm at now, but isn't the rail gun energy dependent? In other words, knock out the power and the weapon is useless correct?
     
  7. Herkdriver

    Herkdriver New Member

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    Basically you are describing deterrence theory. The strategy under which one power uses the threat of reprisal effectively to preclude an attack from an adversary power...well the textbook definition of it anyway. It achieved prominence in the Cold war.

    This is certainly where we're at now...
     
  8. Mushroom

    Mushroom Well-Known Member

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    Plus it lacks the very thing that would make it useful on a battle ship.

    It is a direct energy weapon that relies upon kinetic energy. No warhead, no explosive charge.

    Yea, that can be great if you want to punch a hole in a bunker. It is not going to do you a lot of good if you are trying to blast holes in a Division of enemy forces swarming your Marine Battalion. Or if the Marines call in with hard information on the location of a Tank Regiment.

    I find it annoying when far to many "Technology Wonks" grab onto the newest piece of technology out there, and just assume it will magically be the solution to everything.
     
  9. Mushroom

    Mushroom Well-Known Member

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    Is pretty much what I realized as well. Except while most of the world retired and destroyed their Battleships after WWII, we brought ours back over and over and over again. Even making it a platform for firing nuclear missiles off of.

    And nobody else built other battleships to counter it.
     
  10. expatriate

    expatriate Banned

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    name a current shipborne weapons system that isn't.... and BAR's don't count.
     
  11. Nightmare515

    Nightmare515 Ragin' Cajun Staff Member Past Donor

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    That's how it works. America fights to counter enemy weapons while also inventing and/or upgrading weapons that the enemy doesn't in order to keep a leg up on everyone. We, unlike most other nations, have the money to advance our military hardware forward much faster than everyone else. While Russia, on paper, has almost the same level of military technology as the US, they don't have the money to maintain a standing army of those weapons. They have T-90s (M1's), KA-52's, Hinds, etc (AH-1Z, AH-64), MiG-29's, SU-27's, SU-33's (F-15, F/A-18,) and even PAK-FA (F-22). They just don't have very many of them because they can't afford it.

    That's how America bankrupted the Soviet Union. We simply kept advancing more and more forcing the Soviets to counter our weapons until they ran out of money to do so. This is where America can excel past everyone else. We spend so much money on our military that other nations simply can't keep up with us. Many nations focus more on ways to just destroy our stuff rather than a direct equivalent counter weapon. That's why although Russia still tries to keep up on paper they also spend a lot more money on anti aircraft weapons as well and sell them to all of these other nations. Notice how the US doesn't have many anti aircraft weapons. We have the Patriot and a couple others but thats about it. Russia is constantly creating newer and better SAMs and AAA for themselves and selling to other nations. These weapons are specifically designed to counter American air power. China created those Carrier Killer missiles instead of dumping money into making a large Carrier fleet like we have. Instead of trying to match our power directly they have chosen to try to invent weapons to destroy what we have. America doesn't focus on that because we know that we will be on the offensive in a war, not the defensive like everyone else is. Pretty much the entire world spends a good chunk of its military budget on creating and buying weapons to try to slow down the United States in the event we attack. We don't have to worry about that so we are able to spend more of our money on advancing offensive technology. And that's exactly how I like it.
     
  12. Herkdriver

    Herkdriver New Member

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    In the context of a batteship as an independent force, similar to a nuclear submarine going it alone; I would think the batteship is obsolete. Namely because the missile range fired from an aircraft or from a surface source are larger than the guns from a battleship. The Bismarck proved that concept has been obsolete for a while now


    The problem of anti;-ship cruise missiles would need to addressed. The battleship would need to be protected by anti-missile destroyers; it can't go it alone.
     
  13. Nightmare515

    Nightmare515 Ragin' Cajun Staff Member Past Donor

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    Yeah we don't have many things in our inventory that can literally go it alone. Our force is designed to work together to support each other. Destroyers, Cruisers, and Subs protect the Carriers which in turn protect them by having the ability to launch aircraft to counter incoming air threats.

    Its pretty much that way with everything in our arsenal. We have stuff that is supposedly able to "fight it's way in and fight it's way out" but thats more of a concept than a reality and a last ditch effort. That sort of thing ended with Vietnam. Now everything has escorts.

    I think the last actual "fight in and fight out" weapons we have would be something like F-16 Wild Weasels. In a real war they'd have to go in first to take out SAM's and fight through enemy aircraft that are likely overhead looking for them. A buddy of mine was an F-105 Wild Weasel pilot in Vietnam and tells me stories about his time there. That is probably the most terrifying job in the history of the world, those guys had BALLS. Fighting through enemy aircraft just to get to the enemy air defense then fighting back through enemy aircraft to get back home. Hats off to those boys.
     
  14. freddy62

    freddy62 Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Yes, but the power unit would be well protected within the ship & there should be more than one for redundancy.
     
  15. freddy62

    freddy62 Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    The rail gun is just an advanced cannon with more range. There is no reason why a high explosive shell could not be designed for it. BTW did you watch the video?
     
  16. Herkdriver

    Herkdriver New Member

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    Yes the SEAD mission requires courage beyond that of mortal man, no doubt. A telephone pole size missile fired at you is enough to encourage even the most ardent atheist to find God.

    I don't know to what extent a modern battleship's armor can protect against modern anti-ship missiles or what sort of counter-measures that would allow a big boat survivability as part of a littoral combat mission. It's a sitting duck out there.
     
  17. AlpinLuke

    AlpinLuke Well-Known Member

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  18. Nightmare515

    Nightmare515 Ragin' Cajun Staff Member Past Donor

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    I am far from an expert on anything Navy related. But as far as I know each one of those ships is designed to defend itself pretty well. I don't know how many ships have them but apparently that Phalanx gun can take out a lot of stuff and they have Sea Sparrow missiles that can shoot down incoming missiles and whatnot. There's a new system called the Surface Ship Torpedo Defense system that's being tested that is supposed to be able to track and destroy incoming torpedoes. I think it's a long way off though.

    My buddy is in the Navy and is stationed on a smaller ship, not sure what it is its not a destroyer or anything. But he says that ships have crazy hull configurations to where if part of it gets hit and takes damage then huge blast doors close on that part of the ship and huge pumps kick in to pump the water out so it doesn't sink. I don't know if thats standard design for all of our ships or not. I'm not sure if the armor itself is any better at protecting from threats but I think these ships are designed in such a way that they don't sink easily.

    Another friend of mine is a Submariner out in Pearl Harbor. I asked him during a convo him and I were having one time how he doesn't crap his pants knowing he's under water in a big metal tube for months at a time knowing that if the thing ruptures he's screwed. He just laughed and explained that it's really hard to actually sink a sub due to the amount of systems and pumps it has to keep water out of it in case of a rupture. So from what Im gathering it seems like our ships just developed a way to pump a large volume of water out of them at a rate that allows them to stay afloat and possibly limp back to safety if necessary. That seems to be the big defense mechanism against sinking.

    Not sure if thats the be all end all or how accurate any of that is but that's what I was told by those two guys.
     
  19. Mushroom

    Mushroom Well-Known Member

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    Here, let me say it again.

    I am talking about "battleship" as a ship with thick armor and guns (in addition to the modern AEGIS missile system), not recreating a WWII era Iowa class ship.

    Yes, the mission of a Battleship for using the guns is obsolete. In that I will never deny it, but the mission of laying fire on hostile positions near the shore has not gone away.

    Remember what I stated the use for such a ship. Think of it as a modernized USS Boston class. Heavy armor, some deck guns, and also missiles. As part of the fleet that protects our amphibious assets, as a replacement for the Ticonderoga class cruisers. Remember, it would have the same missiles for defeating aircraft and missiles as the TICO does, so would not need "protection", it would be part of the protection for the other ships.

    Why is everybody almost immediately fixated as soon as they hear "Battleship" on the Iowa class?
     
  20. Mushroom

    Mushroom Well-Known Member

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    I have seen the videos before. I have even talked to the technicians that are working on it.

    And no, they can not create explosive shells to work for it, it is a pure kinetic kill weapon.

    For destroying a missile or aircraft, or punching big holes in things like a ship they are incredible. But they have no explosive force. And they are also damned small.

    [​IMG]

    That is a rail gun round. That thing is damned small, maybe 35mm, smaller then even the current 5" shells that we are putting in our ship guns now. How much explosives do you think you would be getting into something like that?

    Just because a technology is new, that does not mean it is the solution for everything.

    Well, the Iowa class when it came back pretty much scared the urine out of a great many countries. And this is for the simple reason is that there is no anti-ship missile made (then or now) that can penetrate the hull of the damned thing.

    Modern warships generally have 3-5" of armor on the hull. So in order to make the missile small and light enough to be effective, that is the thickness that the missiles are designed to penetrate. Then the Iowa class comes back, with a staggering 12"+ of armor. There was nothing that could threaten it other then torpedoes (which combine the explosive and pressure to do the damage). Even a torpedo would possibly at most do significant damage (mostly burst pipes and seams from the pressure), it would not sink her because it was not enough to penetrate the hull.

    On a side note about that, torpedoes are often so effective in that other then a lucky shot taking off the bow of a ship or hitting the magazine, they do lots of secondary damage far more extensive then the actual hole made in the hull. High pressure steam pipes rupture, hydraulic and power lines are cut, and in the older riveted ships the rivets all over the ship were often fractured causing leaks everywhere. The main reason that everybody went to welded hulls was to prevent that damage.

    You could fire a ton of even modern rockets at an Iowa class ship, and other then damage to the superstructure the hull is going to pretty much remain intact. This is because it was designed to protect itself against 2 ton shells hitting it's hull at MACH 5, not a 300 or 400 pound warhead hitting the hull at 200 MPH.

    In fact, if a ship like I had laid out had to sink another ship, it would use one of it's missiles. Even when the Iowa class ships came back, it was never intended that they use their guns against other ships. That was why they were all equipped with Harpoon missiles. The guns were only for shore bombardment purposes.
     
  21. Mushroom

    Mushroom Well-Known Member

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    That is pretty accurate. Except that something has to be recognized.

    If the power plant for the ship goes down then the ship is toast.

    For example, the USS Lexington, CV-5. At the Battle of Coral Sea she took some heavy damage that gave the ship a hard list and took out an elevator. She was so badly damaged that the Japanese reported her as sunk. However, the power plant was never taken out of service so she was able to pump out the water, and return to port to be fixed in time for the Battle of Midway.

    But Midway was a different story. She actually took less damage there then at Coral Sea, but it was more critical. A bomb went down the funnel (smoke stack) and pretty much put her out of service. 5 of the 9 boilers were immediately knocked out of action forever, and 3 of the 4 remaining were heavily damaged. The Yorktown started to do all she could to limp back to port on a single boiler, pumping water as fast as she could at 6 knots (about 1/5 her usual speed).

    And she was making a good getaway, until she was hit by 2 torpedoes. At that point her last boiler was out of action and she was doomed.
     
  22. hoosier88

    hoosier88 Well-Known Member

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    Umm, just offhand - a rail gun accelerates a mass to a good fraction of light speed, & hurls the mass @ the target. That implies massive magnetic forces - plus a tremendous jolt of acceleration as the mass is accelerated, plus a lot of induced electromagnetic fields as the mass accelerates down the barrel. What kind of explosive, what kind of fuse, & what - kinetic dispersal of high-speed, high-density mass @ impact isn't sufficient? @ max acceleration & high density, I believe the mass becomes plasma @ impact. I don't think you're going to get much better explosive power than that.

    As for concentrations of armor or other high-value mech targets - we already have CBUs that dispense self-forging AT bomblets. In fact, for anti-tank work, you don't want a high speed bus - except to get there. Once over target, you want something that can linger, ID targets, & then attack them either en masse or even singly. These can be carried by tac air, heavy bombers, or fired from missiles or possibly by tube artillery (not sure about tubes - the initial delta V shock was a problem for the electronics - kinda like the explosive warhead on a rail gun problem above).
     
  23. Mushroom

    Mushroom Well-Known Member

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    Most people to this day still do not understand the concept behind a "kinetic kill". That by itself is probably one of the greatest advances from the Star Wars program. You do not really need a large amount of explosives to take out a single target, just a lot of kinetic energy. Tanks now use this as a weapon, as do our missile defense systems.

    But they are damned near worthless against soft targets. Hit a tank with a kinetic weapon, the tank is gone. Hit a Company of infantry with a kinetic weapon you take out a couple, but that is really it. Kind of like firing at loose formed infantry with Revolutionary War era cannons. Most Revolutionary War era movies have it so very-very-very wrong, because at that time cannon balls did not explode. The gunners aimed them to "skip" on the ground, and then to blast through the infantry like a bowling ball through pins (literally).

    And that only worked because the only way to do damage as infantry was to get en mass and volley fire the muskets. By the Civil War advances made both of these tactics obsolete. Rifled muskets then breechloaders made standing en masse obsolete, and exploding shells made it suicidal. Massed platoons in rectangular formations gave way to the skirmish line behind defensive trenches or walls became the new tactic for infantry forces.
     
  24. freddy62

    freddy62 Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    It was planned for the rail gun to have HE & Shrapnel rounds albeit in the shape of a sabot.
    http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_Rail_Gun.htm
     
  25. hoosier88

    hoosier88 Well-Known Member

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    Well, if that's all you want, you don't need a ship @ all. & in fact, you can lay fire anyplace below you in a gravity well.

    See http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/content.asp?Bnum=1582

    "Flying Crowbars
    "Kinetic energy weapons deployed from space.

    "I think human beings have always known that you have a special ally when you are fighting people who are below you.

    "Project Thor was recommended by a strategy analysis group back in the eighties," Curtis said. "Flying crowbars." He sketched rapidly. "You take a big iron bar. Give it a rudimentary sensor, and a steerable vane for guidance. Put bundles of them in orbit. To use it, call it down from orbit, aimed at the area you're working on. It has a simple brain, just smart enough to recognize what a tank looks like from overhead. When it sees a tank silhouette, it steers toward it."

    "From Footfall, by Larry Niven (w/J. Pournelle).
    Published by Ballantine in 1985
    Additional resources -

    "Pournelle described a weapons system like this in 1964; he published a more complete description in 1975. He describes it this way:

    "The basic weapon system consists of an orbiting element some 20 to 40 feet long. It requires a GPS receiver to locate itself; a means of taking it out of orbit; an atmospheric guidance system, such as a means of changing its center of gravity (moving weights, small fins, etc.), and a communication system to give it a target and activate the system. No warhead is wanted or needed. Thor will impact a target area at about 12,000 feet per second; that is sufficient kinetic energy to destroy most hard targets, with minimum collateral damage and of course no fall-out. Achievable accuracy has been estimated at ten to twenty feet CEP (circular error of probability).

    "Read more at JerryPournelle.com."

    (My emphasis)
     

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