Here Comes the Steel Dinosaur: Why China Should Fear New 21st Century Battleships

Salvatore Babones

Salvatore Babones

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Is this possible? 

Here Comes the Steel Dinosaur: Why China Should Fear New 21st Century Battleships

It could survive being rammed by enemy ships—a favorite tactic of the Chinese and North Koreans. And if A2/AD did escalate into a shooting war, it could operate in the danger zone while U.S. offensive actions turned the tables.

In World War II, the Japanese super-battleships Yamato and Musashi each mounted nine 18.1-inch guns, the largest naval guns ever deployed, but they never sank a single American ship. In a conflict decided by naval aviation, Yamato and Musashi were used mainly as flagships and troop transports. Despite their huge armaments, they were steel dinosaurs from an earlier strategic age.

(This first appeared last year.)

But how do you sink a steel dinosaur? The answer is: "with difficulty." It took eleven torpedoes and six bombs to sink the Yamato. The Musashi took nineteen torpedoes and seventeen bombs. And at the time they were sunk, both ships were already limping along on patch-up repairs from earlier torpedo strikes. They may have been strategically useless, but the Yamato and Musashi were almost (if not quite) indestructible.

Naval construction requires decades of advance planning, and naval planners are always at risk of fighting the last war. Since the end of World War II, U.S. naval planning has revolved around the aircraft carrier. But world wars are few and far between, and other missions abound. When it comes to countering the rise of China, some of the most frequent missions are freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) requiring no fighting at all.

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