Why Did the Battleship Become Obsolete?

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


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Thor is Carlos Benito Camacho, the manager and writer of this blog.