The aircraft carrier turned out to be the most effective and deadliest warship in World War II, even surpassing and dwarfing the mighty battleship. What an aircraft carrier could do during World War II was to project fire power far beyond the range of the battleship naval guns, thanks to its squadrons of fighters and dive bombers on board. However, the overwhelming importance of the aircraft carrier as power projection in warfare at sea was only dimly foreseen in the years which led up to World War II. Historically, it had been the battleship and the naval gunnery which had dominated the oceans ever since the days of the Spanish Armada right up to the Battle of Jutland. In addition, battleships considerably outnumbered carriers in navies throughout the world. Nevertheless, the 1930s saw the evolution of the methods and tactics that were to dominate the Pacific Theater of Operations and which were also to contribute greatly to the successful conclusion of the war in the Atlantic. It was the US Navy that was eventually to become the master of carrier warfare; however, it was the Imperial Japanese Navy that first used the aircraft carrier in war, to destroy the Chinese ports and provide fire power to Japanese ground troops during the Sino-Japanese War and to attack the US Navy base of Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941.
Carrier-borne air power reached such a peak in World War II that several battles which took place over the Pacific were fought solely with carrier-borne aircraft. Elsewhere the carriers were protecting convoys, fighting submarines and covering beach assaults. The demands made by this new form of warfare were considerable, especially upon the aircraft used and upon the young pilots who flew them. The ‘controlled crash’ of a carrier landing demanded strong nerves and a strong aircraft. If the sea itself was anything other than calm (which unfortunately it so often was), the motion of the waves would cause the deck to pitch and roll alarmingly, making landings rather tricky.
Generally, carrier-based aircraft had inferior performance when compared to their land-based contemporaries – although this did not prevent the Fairey Swordfish from amassing a war record which was second to none – while conversions of land-based planes, such as the Supermarine Spitfire produced performance – at the expense of durability. Instead, it was left to the Japanese to show that the carrier aircraft, in the shape of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, could outfly and outfight its land-based opponents. It was, however, the swarm of big, beefy US Navy aircraft, which were based upon the navy’s massive American carrier force, that was to prove decisive in the Pacific. Led by the Grumman F6F Hellcat and the Vought F4U Corsair, US and Allied naval aircraft in their thousands ranged the skies over Japan during the final months of the war, in a display of naval air power undreamed of only five years before.
The Nagato was a battleship in service with the Imperial Japanese Navy between 1920 and 1945. It first saw combat action during the Sino-Japanese War in 1930s, being used in coastal bombardment of Chinese ports and to soften up beach heads before the landing of troops. During World War II, the Nagato took part in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harvor on December 7, 1941, the Battle of Midway in June 1942, the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944, and also in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, having sustained damage in this last military engagement. However, she survived the war, only to be used as a target in the US Navy’s military exercises of 1946, when she was finally sunk.
Launched in 1919, Nagato was a Dreadnought type battleship, whose bow had been remade in 1930 to reduce the amount of surfs and spray when sailing in rough seas. Between 1934 and 1936, she was updated with the addition of extra armor, new machinery, and anti-aircraft guns, being the lead ship of her class. With a length of 215.8 m, she was 40 m shorter than the Yamato, which was the biggest battleship in history, but she could launch 3 reconnaissance floatplanes, using one catapult. Like battleship Yamato, Nagato’s power plant consisted of 4 steam engines, with 4 shafts, supplied by 21 water-tube boilers, generating 80,000 hp.
The battleship Nagato was armed with eight powerful 410mm naval guns, mounted in four twin turrets, two fore and two aft; eighteen 140mm guns; eight 127mm guns; and ninety eight 25mm AA guns.
Length: 215.8 m
Beam: 34.6 m
Draft: 9.5 m
Displacement: 39,140 tons
Speed: 25 knots
Range: 8,650 nautical miles
The emergence of aircraft carriers was what put an end to the reign of the battleship as the most powerful naval weapon, rendering it already obsolete at the beginning of World War II as a decisive weapon to alter or influence the course of a naval battle. Although battleships were protected by thick steel armor and armed with powerful, large-caliber guns, they lacked the enormous power projection capacity of fleet carriers, which they exert through the destructive might of their bombers and fighter aircraft they carry onboard. Either to provide fire support to landing troops or confront an enemy fleet, the battleship fighting range was limited by the range of her naval guns, which means she could not put up a fight further away from the limit beyond which their guns projectiles could not reach. For example, the maximum fighting range of a World War II battleship was 23 miles, for that was the range of the 16″ guns it was armed with. Whereas as the fighting range of a carrier from the same epoch was 1,100 miles, for that was the range of a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber. Today’s supercarriers can project a fighting or destructive capacity up to 1,300 miles + 600 miles, which are the F/A-18 Hornet’s range plus the AGM-158 JASSM’s air-to-surface missile’s.
The Japanese were the first to envision this obsolescence of the battleship, since to carry out the attack on Pearl Harbor they used their fleet carriers instead of these heavy steel sea monsters. Athough during the Cold War the USS Missouri, USS Iowa, and USS New Jersey were recommissioned, updated, and armed with long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles, which gave them great power projection, all three of them were phased out after that period, for the cost of keeping each one of them operating was too high, for they were too big and too heavy, guzzling up large amount of fuel and needing a large number of sailors and officers to keep them working. And today the job of cruise and anti-ship missile launching ship platform is performed by submarines, cruisers, and destroyers, which are smaller, lighter, and, therefore, less expensive to run.
World War II battleships bristling with powerful naval guns of all sort, whose fire power lacked the range of the carrier-based dive bombers
IJN Kirishima was a battleship used by the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II, taking part in some of the most ferocious naval battles of the Pacific Theater. On December 7, 1941, she participated in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as part of the 3rd Battle Division. In early June 1942, she would sustain slight damage during the Battle of Midway. In August and October 1942, she escorted Japanese carriers in the naval battles of Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz Islands respectively, during the Allied invasion of Guadalcanal. On November 13, during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, Kirishima, accompanied by her sister Hiei, attacked and sank three US Navy’s warships; USS Atlanta (cruiser) and USS Barton and Laffey (destroyers). However, two days later, Kirishima would be destroyed and sunk by the American battleship USS Washington off the coast of Guadalcanal as she was about to pound the American positions near the Henderson airfield with her 356mm naval guns, during a failed Japanese attempt to recover the island.
Although she had been launched in 1913 as a Congo-class battlecruiser, she was upgraded into a battleship in 1927, with additional armor and new steam engines. In 1934, Kirishima would be modernized for a second time, with a new superstructure and a new power plant, thus, becoming the fastest battleship of the Imperial Japanese Navy, conceived for escorting aircraft carriers and providing fire support to landing Japanese troops. She was powered by 4 geared steam turbines, with 4 screws, supplied by 18 water-tube boilers.
Kirishima was equipped with eight 356mm naval guns, mounted in 4 turrets; fourteen 152mm guns; eight 127mm AA guns; and twenty 25mm AA guns.
Type: fast battleship
Length: 222 m
Beam: 31 m
Draft: 9,7 m
Displacement: 32,000 tons
Maximum speed: 30 knots
Range: 10,000 nautical miles
In the Pacific Theater of operations of World War II, the British warships in the Far East constituted the British Pacific Fleet from November 22, 1944, taking part in several military engagements, providing fire and air support to US landing troops, specially in the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In late 1944, the British warships that operated together with the US 5th Fleet under Admiral Raymond Spruance received the combat designation of Task Force 57 (TF57) from the United States Navy. However, TF57 would be redesignated TF37 in May 1945 under Admiral William Halsey.
It was composed of 6 aircraft carriers (HMS Implacable, HMS Indefatigable, HMS Formidable, HMS Victorious R38, HMS Illustrious R87, and HMS Indomitable 92), 4 battleships (HMS Howe, King George V, Duke of York, and Anson), 7 cruisers, and 18 destroyers. At Okinawa only 4 of the 6 carriers, 2 battleships, 5 cruisers, and 14 destroyers took part in the battle. The best fighter aircraft that took off from the flight decks of the British carriers were the Seafire, which was the naval version of the Supermarine Spitfire, and the American F4U Corsair.
The Task Force 16 (TF16) was a US Navy’s fleet that operated in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Created in February 1942, its first commander was Vice Admiral William F Halsey. It consisted of one aircraft carrier (USS Enterprise CV-6), two cruisers (USS Northampton CA-26 and Salt Lake City CA-25), and six destroyers. Under the command of Raymond A Spruance, it participated in the Battle of Midway, along with TF17. In early August 1942, the aircraft and naval guns of TF16 provided fire support to the US Marines landing on Guadalcanal. During the Guadalcanal Campaign, the TF16 would also take part in the following naval engagements: Battle of Eastern Solomons (August 25-26, 1942), Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands (October 26, 1942), and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. In March 1943, this task force would successfully engage Japanese warships at the Battle of the Komandorski Islands. In 1944, after the creation of the US Fifth Fleet, the TF16 would be assigned to refueling US warships as it had been deprived of its aircraft carrier and cruisers.