alecsandros wrote:I don't think they were sea control ships either. But they retained some good advantages (like bombarding an island facility without the risk of losing one single man, while a carrier-based operation would pose risks to the attacking pilots to be shot down...) and, assuming an engagement between balanced task forces, they would have been invaluable throughout the battle, especialy in night phases, when air attacks would have been very difficult...
Obsolete =/= useless. In the only role they had been designed and built to do - fight other ships for dominance of the sea - by mid WW2 the aircraft was so inherently superior that it displaced the big gun as a measure of naval power and in doing so rendered all ships reliant upon the latter, aka battleships, to secondary importance.
That doesn't mean Battleships didn't perform usefull service during the war - but rather they performed that usefull service, often in roles never intended because they happened to be available
over a ship that could do it better or cheaper - not because such a role specifically required big guns and armor to accomplish.
As for shore bombardment - certainly not a role that featured in their design and construction - until the mid 80s they were more effective than carrier aircraft but the relative risks were not as lopsided as you would imply. Against an opponent with strong air but weak naval defenses yes the big gun was the most efficient solution (as long as your target was within range). Against an opponent with naval defenses on the other hand the fact that a battleship has to go into harms way, in a predictable fashion, to use it's primary weapon places the entire crew in comparatively more danger from mines (Dardanelles) or airstrikes (Salerno, Okinawa) or submarines (Africa) or night engagement by light forces (Guadalcanal) than the crew of a carrier, where the brunt of the risk is borne by a handfull of aircrew.
The carrier could lose a good part of it's airwing in the repeated attacks, with only little chances of crippling, let alone sinking, the battleship.
The number of battleships crippled by air attacks, even from obsolete aircraft, would lead me to a different evaluation of a carrier's chances to force an enemy battleship back to port. Conversely the (lack of) numbers of carriers crippled by surface forces during the war also suggests an advantage to the former.
The evidence of carriers becoming the new strategic vector comes mostly from the Pacific theater.
My opinion is that, had Japanese AA defenses become as good as their US counterparts, and their naval forces comparable, a necessary battleship - carrier duality would become the new strategic vector...
While as I've made clear in other threads I don't regard "kill totals" in isolation as being a scientific measure of effectiveness I was struck by a curious notion this morning - Enterprise was involved in sinking alot of ships, more so than any single
BB but it occured to me she might give WW2 battleships as a whole
a run for their money.
My criteria was where a ship inflicted *significant* damage prior to the target being sunk in the same battle, regardless of actual cause of sinking - so for example the Battleships get Bismarck (torpedoed and/or scuttled) in their total and Enterprise gets Akagi (scuttled). However I've tried to be more BB biased - giving the battleships Jean Bart despite questions as to whether she would have touched bottom had she been finished/manned while not crediting Enterprise with claimed damage on Fuso before the later was sunk. I'm missing the merchant ship/destroyer tonnage for Enterprise, outside of the raid on Truk but at the moment my totals are running at:
~78 Battleships that took part in WW2: 480k
Again while this has little scientific value one ship making 66% of the contribution of another 78+ ships (excluding pre-dreadnoughts, training ships, unfinished ships, neutral ships) probably has to count for something.
Likewise it would be interesting to compare the AA kills claimed by those same 78 battleships, compared to the 911 airborne
kills claimed by Enterprise and her airwing.
As for the historical development in the last 60 years, with the carrier becoming even more and more important, I guess that's largely because no other navy except the USN built so many super-carriers. Had the russians, for instance, made 10-12 super carriers also, I suspect a need to re-activate the Iowa class battleships would have been greatly felt...
Had the Russians built that many carriers the answer was not battleships - whose reactivation was a waste of money as it was (and ruined their appearance IMO) - but rather the construction of yet more carriers and an increased emphasis on anti carrier operations by the SSNs.
P.S.: Even in 1918 battleships do not operate unless supported by flotillas of destroyers and cruisers with 'good' anti torpedo boat and anti submarine capabilities...
P.S.: Even today, super-carriers do not operate unless supported by a 2-4 guided-missile cruisers/destroyers with good ship-to-air and ship-to-ship capabilities...