Surface Forces: December 17, 1999


: COULD WE HAVE KEPT THE BATTLESHIPS? The retirement of the four Iowa-class battleships was a heart-wrenching blow for many in the Navy, who wanted to keep the magnificent ships with their devastating artillery in service. As a practical matter, however, the battleships were difficult to maintain and could never have met modern fleet standards. Some examples:
@ The crew of a battleship was equal to the crew of six-ten other surface
combat ships. 
@ Keeping them barely in service took three times the maintenance money of other ships.
@ The huge battleships had gigantic lists of deferred maintenance items waiting for repair, but were so big that they just sort of "kept going" despite everything on board that did not work.
@ The sixty-year-old wiring and piping would have cost more to replace than it would have cost to build a modern new destroyer.
@ The engines of the battleships have large open fire boxes that require constant maintenance by large crews working in spaces so hot and cramped that they are not considered acceptable for any other ship.
@ The material handling systems on the ships are unsafe by modern standards.
@ The ceilings of the working and living compartments are lower than the height of an 80th percentile male.
@ Bathroom facilities do not meet modern standards by any measure,
including the number available and their "comfort" level. The tanks to hold
sewage are marginal at best.
@ There was no way the battleships could ever comply with modern environmental standards regarding discharges. The ships were designed to
use the bilges as the sump for most of the systems; pumping out the bilges
violated a laundry list of environmental rules and laws. The riveted fuel
tanks steadily leak fuel into the ocean. The air emissions violate modern
@ The ships were built with thousands of components that were made by companies no longer in business from drawings that no longer exist. After
stripping other "museum battleships" (e.g., the North Carolina) of similar
parts, the only way to repair anything was to custom build individual parts.
@ The massive cannons relied on human handling of high explosives, and used ammunition and propellant manufactured 30-60 years ago.
@ The helicopter capability was marginal at best. There was a large flat spot available for one to land, but no real way to keep a helicopter on
board as there was no hangar.
@ There were constant demands to fit the ships with the latest expensive electronics so they could be used as fleet flagships.--Stephen V Cole


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