Sunday, June 19, 2005

Is the intimidation factor of a Battleship sitting off the coast worth it's cost?

There is a new type of ship on the horizon (no pun intended) that can outdo the Battleship in just about anything exept armor. The DDX concept ship can outshoot the battleships 16" guns by a factor of 4. The two GPS guided 155mm guns can hit a postage stamp 100 miles away. Being that the guns are automated with prepackaged munitions, one gun can create its own salvo by sending off 10 rounds at differing altitudes to all burst simultaniously at the target. No more ranging shots, first shot is a hit every time.

The problem is that the DDX is a entirely new type of warship. It is the forerunner of the next generation. The new propulsion units, stealth technology, automation, composit armor, electronics are state of the art- and beyond. The problem is, as always- money. Alot of money. So why not just reactivate the Battleships again?

As is the case with virtually every other new development program, costs have started rising and the sticker shock has begun generating questions about alternatives. Each of the new DDX vessels is currently expected to cost $1.7 billion, but that is surely lower than the ultimate price. For a fleet of DDXs, the total cost will be substantial, even on the scale of federal budgeting.

One of the alternatives being advocated in some quarters is reactivating two of the old Iowa class battleships. These old ships from World War II are truly incredible machines, armored with steel up to 17 inches thick and armed with nine 16 inch (406mm) guns and twelve 5 inch (127mm) guns. By any measure these are impressive machines.

But there is one big problem with them, one which makes the seemingly thrifty decision to recycle them a bad choice. They’re antiques! Meaning that reactivated battleships are going to have problems and extra costs that no amount of modernization can possibly fix.

Steven W. Dugger at The American Thinker knows from experience why new ships are better than old:

Maintenance. Ever try to find parts for a 20 year clunker that happens to be your sole source of transportation? Same thing applies here. True some parts can be scavenged from museum ships, but replacements for parts that wear out quickly are gone now, and will have to made from scratch. This is intensely expensive. And then there’s the consumables, like gaskets, seals, hydraulic fluid and a hundred other piddly little items that were standard back in the forties and fifties, but are only a memory now.


In 1980 I was assigned to the number one main machinery room of the aircraft carrier USS Ranger. She was launched in 1958, a year before I was born. Thus, I have first hand experience at keeping old and obsolescent equipment running. We did it with long hours, sweat and occasionally blood, (6 shipmates of mine died in the engineering spaces during my tour of duty). It was not a pleasant experience. I would spare another generation of sailors that pain. The old battleships are museums pieces now, and that is the best way they can serve their country.

I'm not one to jump on all the new toys comming out; and I feel the pride of seeing that huge, imposing, majestic American steel patrolling an enemy coast. We have Aicraft Carriers now that can project Americas thoughts as well. Lets leave the Battleships where they can be enjoyed by all citzens, and help our future Navy win battles by getting behind the DDX.

No comments:

Post a Comment