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Can a 16 inch HE shell wreck havoc on newer ships?

This is a discussion on Can a 16 inch HE shell wreck havoc on newer ships? within the Geo-strategic Issues forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; Watching the naval engagement between Missouri and the alien mothership in Battleship sparked a debate between me and a friend. ...


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Old April 21st, 2012   #1
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Can a 16 inch HE shell wreck havoc on newer ships?

Watching the naval engagement between Missouri and the alien mothership in Battleship
sparked a debate between me and a friend.

I for once dont believe that a 16 inch shell can do significant damage to newer ships such as the Zumwalt or the Gerald R Ford class supercarrier

Sure it may do some damage.. but will there be terminal waterline damage if say, a 16 inch shell were to be fired from the Iowa or the Missouri against newer ships ?
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Old April 21st, 2012   #2
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Originally Posted by M1Brams View Post
Watching the naval engagement between Missouri and the alien mothership in Battleship
sparked a debate between me and a friend.

I for once dont believe that a 16 inch shell can do significant damage to newer ships such as the Zumwalt or the Gerald R Ford class supercarrier

Sure it may do some damage.. but will there be terminal waterline damage if say, a 16 inch shell were to be fired from the Iowa or the Missouri against newer ships ?
Yes a hit from a 16inch shell would cause a lot of damage, but you do realise there is no ship in-service that can fire a 16inch shell? Both Missouri and Iowa were payed off a LONG time ago...
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Old April 21st, 2012   #3
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Yes a hit from a 16inch shell would cause a lot of damage, but you do realise there is no ship in-service that can fire a 16inch shell? Both Missouri and Iowa were payed off a LONG time ago...
yup i know. Both are museum ships, but i was talking scenario-wise.
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Old April 21st, 2012   #4
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yup i know. Both are museum ships, but i was talking scenario-wise.
Why wouldn't a 16 inch shell do damage? Modern ships may have ballistic kevlar protection in certain areas to protect against small arms and fragments but are not armoured.
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Old April 21st, 2012   #5
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Why wouldn't a 16 inch shell do damage? Modern ships may have ballistic kevlar protection in certain areas to protect against small arms and fragments but are not armoured.
Not armored? Even the heavy supercarriers?: Has naval armor doctrine switched to weight saving instead of absorption of damage?


I would have thought they would have something like belt armor, as with the case of Bismark back then surviving hits from shells and it was only due to the crew scuttling the ship that she sank.



I was thinking more of the lines of the 16 shell doing terminal damage enough to sink the carrier or newer ships.
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Old April 21st, 2012   #6
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Not armored? Even the heavy supercarriers?: Has naval armor doctrine switched to weight saving instead of absorption of damage?:
Carriers contain seperate compartments and bulkheads to provide protection, in event of a hit by torpedos or missiles but are not armoured to the extent of providing protection against a 16inch [410mm] or other large calibre shells, which in any event is not operated by anyone anymore. The same goes for many top of the line combatants - like the Dutch Seven Provincien and Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen class - which are built with seperate damage control compartments, intended to provide protection against missiles and torpedoes, and to contain the spread of fire.
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Old April 21st, 2012   #7
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Carriers contain seperate compartments and bulkheads to provide protection, in event of a hit by torpedos or missiles but are not armoured to the extent of providing protection against a 16inch [410mm] or other large calibre shells, which in any event is not operated by anyone anymore. The same goes for many top of the line combatants - like the Dutch Seven Provincien and Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen class - which are built with seperate damage control compartments, intended to provide protection against missiles and torpedoes, and to contain the spread of fire.
So you mean that WWII ships have this advantage over more modern ships?

Is that why the USN mothballs the Iowa and Missouri not only for thier fire support role but to potentially exploit this advantage?
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Old April 21st, 2012   #8
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So you mean that WWII ships have this advantage over more modern ships?
WW2 cruisers and battleships were built to withstand hits from large and medium calibre guns because those were the main weapons of that era, thus are armoured, unlike modern vessels.

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Is that why the USN mothballs the Iowa and Missouri not only for thier fire support role but to potentially exploit this advantage?
The 4 battleships were mothballed because of the huge costs in running them and because they were not needed any more.
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Old April 21st, 2012   #9
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If it were the 1950s maybe. Otherwise, no, battleships are not viable combat ships nowadays.
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Old April 21st, 2012   #10
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Originally Posted by M1Brams View Post
Watching the naval engagement between Missouri and the alien mothership in Battleship
sparked a debate between me and a friend.

I for once dont believe that a 16 inch shell can do significant damage to newer ships such as the Zumwalt or the Gerald R Ford class supercarrier

Sure it may do some damage.. but will there be terminal waterline damage if say, a 16 inch shell were to be fired from the Iowa or the Missouri against newer ships ?
Well this might be of interest.

Added during 1950s deployments, nuclear Mark 23 - 1,900 lbs. (862 kg). W23 warhead, about 15-20 kilotons yeild. That could do some damage to a modern warship.

The standard HE or High Capacity shell weighed 1900 pounds and had a 153 pound bursting charge. What could it do? The High Capacity (HC) shell can create a crater 50 feet wide and 20 feet deep (15 x 6 m). During her deployment off Vietnam, USS New Jersey (BB-62) occasionally fired a single HC round into the jungle and so created a helicopter landing zone 200 yards (180 m) in diameter and defoliated trees for 300 yards (270 m) beyond that.

Now imagine that striking a modern warship.

You are also thinking pre WW1. Then shells were fired at the opposing ship to hit its sides, which were heavily armoured. But from the Battle of Jutland on battles were often fought at maximum range and shells were fired in high arcs that struck the decks of the enemy. Here the armour was much thinner and such a shot destroyed the HMS Hood. By WW2 ranges were sometimes such that the opposing ship was visible only on radar. US ships radar could not only see the enemy but also the shell splashes from their own guns over the optical horizon with the radar mounted high above the optical sights.

However a USS frigate the Stark with little armour did survive a hit from a Exocet antiship missile which was able to punch through the thin plating and explode inside the ship. Then again the RN destroyer Sheffield was sunk with the same missile type at the Falklands. Lessons were learnt from both incidents on how to better protect ships.

I suppose if a 30yo ship can survive the 165Kg warhead from the Exocet, the the 70Kg charge of the 16inch will be survivable
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Old April 21st, 2012   #11
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The 4 battleships were mothballed because of the huge costs in running them and because they were not needed any more.

This, plus it's an obsolete concept. Every battleship loss in the pacific theater IIRC came as a result of aircraft bombing actions, being launched from carriers far out of range of even the biggest battleship guns. That and in order to support all those big guns the ship itself needed to be huge with a large crew complement, hence its very high cost.
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Old April 21st, 2012   #12
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I suppose if a 30yo ship can survive the 165Kg warhead from the Exocet, the the 70Kg charge of the 16inch will be survivable
Except that the HE charge was 862 kg - 5 times that of the Exocet warhead!


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Old April 21st, 2012   #13
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M1Brams,

You might find this video interesting. Whilst it does npt provide an answer to your query, it explain why some Royal Navy ships suffered such catastrophic explosions.

History Channel Battlefield Detectives World War I Jutland - YouTube
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Old April 21st, 2012   #14
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So you mean that WWII ships have this advantage over more modern ships?

Is that why the USN mothballs the Iowa and Missouri not only for thier fire support role but to potentially exploit this advantage?
Armor as a concept is obsolete in modern warships. Those ships were designed to counter shell fire or early torpedos. Those armored belts were not designed to cope with sea-skimming ASM's that hit in a different way than shells, or can do nasty things like pop up at the last minute and dive down the stacks to explode in the engine room. Nor does the armor protect against a modern heavy torpedo that is designed to break the keel (and the armor would just make it sink quicker). Nor can you armor comms gear or sensors without those the ship is useless.

Modern ships use active and passive defences to help keep from getting hit. Subdivision and a well trained DC crew will keep the ship afloat. After WW2 the USN found that in a damage control situation armor was a detriment, it was simply dead weight that robbed the ship of bouyancy. There are plenty of stories of unarmored DD's taking massive amounts of damage but kept afloat due to good damage control and the fact they didn't have a lot of dead weight.

You should check out this thread, a lot of good information about how armor in war ships is obsolete.

Future of the Battleship
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Old April 21st, 2012   #15
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However a USS frigate the Stark with little armour did survive a hit from a Exocet antiship missile which was able to punch through the thin plating and explode inside the ship. Then again the RN destroyer Sheffield was sunk with the same missile type at the Falklands. Lessons were learnt from both incidents on how to better protect ships.
Sheffield was poorly designed from a DC point of view in an effort to keep costs down. To "save money" it was designed with a single loop fire main for example.
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