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Barque to the Future…

This is USS Zumwalt…

Just launched at a cost of umpty billions. Now I know aeroplanes and bugger all about ships but does that not look rather similar to a US Civil War ironclad to you? Like this…

The Zumwalt class is designed to have the radar sig of a fishing smack. I guess you might get much the same from the CSS Albermarle not, obviously, that it was an issue at the time. It is possible (and the USN has been ickling on about railguns for some time and a planning sea trials in 2016 which is when the Zumwalt is due to enter service. So clearly looks may deceive and it might look the same but be bigger on the inside so to speak.)

So… It’s kinda odd but for completely different reasons the naval architects have gone back to the future. Either that or the Confederacy had some unknown naval genius beavering away and designing a low radar-return ship almost a century before radar.

But, and this is a biggy for me. Now it might sound nit-picking but how the heck is that a destroyer? It displaces 15,000 tons, it is 610ft long. That is a cruiser at least. Surely. Is this some bizarre ruse to get the funding past Congress? Because the Zumwalt class is essentially designed as a 1-1 replacement for the Iowa class battleships.

That is a broadside from an Iowa class (Actually BB61 USS Iowa). Those are 16″ guns. Who needs railguns when you can hurl a shell the mass of a VW for a couple of dozen miles. I’d be much more impressed by railguns on the Zumwalt if it was nuclear powered and therefore had practically unlimited electricity. Hell’s teeth I’d be going for a fully nuclear navy! No need for oilers and fill ‘er up every 25 years! You’d buy a car that did that. Especially if it had a railgun. It has to be noted though that we won the Cold War partly (thank you Ronnie!) with recommissioned Iowa class battleships and the off-key caterwauling of skanty-clad songstresses. I dunno which scared the Kremlin most. But they are very big guns indeed and Cher is wearing very little indeed. That was the ’80s and that is how we won. Hard and soft pressure. Ronnie and MTV – an unstoppable alliance.

I mean can you imagine how dull communism must have been?

Yeah, and inevitably here’s the video…

Yeah, I liked the ’80s. We seemed to be going somewhere and that dear reader is a guilty pleasure from the era. But that’s one hell of a ship whatever you think of Cher.

And if we had another Ronnie then Vlad would be hiding under a table in the Kremlin with stained trews. And if we could take out Comrade Kim and the Ayatollahs and dear old Bob and… I can dream. But that video speaks to me of serious belief in our moral, social, military and economic might. We believed it then. That is why I liked the ’80s.

PS. The Iowa class were designed to be Panamax. They had 18″ wiggle room so never again complain about parking in TESCO.

PPS. This has been edited by moi. This fecking Toshiba is at the very end of the tether.


  1. Mr Ed says:

    The ironclad was designed to deflect incoming shells, the Zumwalt incoming radar, perhaps a nod to the particle-wave duality theory is in there somewhere?

    Why use 16 inch guns (except for the show) when missiles can go so much further and do so much more, although recent artillery with smart fuses can do wonders with variable configurations for airburst, AP etc? A 100mm naval gun makes a chest pounding shock at several miles, Iowa-class guns must be one heck of a spectacle. HMS Belfast’s relatively puny guns could pound almost the entire inner M25 area. They should put signs up saying ‘You are now in range of HMS Belfast’ on the M25.

    Here’s Reagan’s greatest speech. I bet it made the Soviets think.

    Here, at the other end of the scale, a Norwegian patrol boat with some striking power. 6 of these could solve Scotland’s naval armament issues post-independence, with a crew of 15 each and unit cost around £25,000,000 (Pound Scots £250,000,000,000,000).

  2. NickM says:

    An impressive vessel but no mention of SAM weaponry? As to shells from big guns. Well, they blow the buggery out of stuff and scare people and are much cheaper than missiles. This is one of the reasons for railguns. $25,000 a round or a $1,000,000. You choose.

  3. NickM says:

    Oh, and Mr Ed, your comment on wave/particle duality is noted. Yes, I guess in some ways it is the same thing.

  4. Mr Ed says:

    It reportedly has a AA missile system too: Mistral.

    It is for littoral defence, so imaging your surprise if you are mischievously pootling around some rocky islets in Norway in your Destroyer and one of these critters pops up and launches Naval Strike Missiles and 76mm cannon shells at you and your air support starts falling out of the sky.

    It would be ideal for the Falkland Islands, and maybe cool for Gibraltar too, perhaps one on each side of the Rock, just in case the Civil Guard feel too tempted to throw their weight around and nick a few Royal Navy sailors iPods.

    But as they say in the Submarine Service: There are two types of ships, submarines and targets. But getting a torpedo on that with its draft of 1 metre, speed and acceleration might be tricky in the extreme.

  5. Crazed Weevil says:

    An expensive bath toy that does seem to be a bit pointless really, railgun or not. Well unless you want to hurl missiles at someone without anyone knowing it was you what did it. Reminds me of a film for some reason ;o)

    As Mr Ed says, surface ships are just targets to a submarine. One these fire at it should be enough I would think…

  6. Good post and good comments.

  7. Julie near Chicago says:

    I love that top photo. Looks like an SF-cover painting. Influenced a bit by Tanguy. (Because of the clouds I think.)

  8. Robert the Biker says:

    Being a pessimist, I can see the Law of Unintended Consequences rearing its head here.
    Radar blip of a fishing boat? Fishing boat tools up near your base, “Oh sod, it’s that Z-bugger coming for us” Unload with everything you’ve got and blow up three ton of cod.
    Remember that Korean airlines flight that popped up as a Yankee electronic warfare plane?

  9. Tim Newman says:

    Speaking of Russians and fishing trawlers, during the Russian-Japanese war the Russian Baltic fleet was on its way to the Far East to engage the Japanese (who promptly sunk them) when it passed by a British fishing boat in the North Sea. The Russians, unbelievably, thought it was a Japanese warship and sunk it, leading to a diplomatic crisis between Britain and Russia. A Japanese fishing boat, in the North Sea, in 1905!

  10. NickM says:

    I knew that Tim but the UK did train and equip the IJN so… There is tons of stuff in museuems in Newcastle showing Japanese naval officers photographed on ships built on the Tyne. How times change.

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