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left only about 60 per cent of the previous quantities; thus, the armor would have to be reduced from thirteen to eight inches in thickness, the battery from twelve guns to eight, and the other factors in proportion. Clearly, the effect is not a happy one from the point of view of fighting power. To offset this, we have only increased the maximum speed from 21 to 23 knots, and added a little to the radius of action, hardly a compensating advantage.
In our latest battleships we have increased the speed from 21 to 23 knots. If we had retained the size previously standard, the above would have represented the result. It has been necessary to increase the size and cost of the vessel to obtain this increased speed. Of course there were other increases made, principally in the battery power, but we paid for the increased speed just the same. The size of the vessel was increased over thirty per cent, or by an amount equivalent to nearly the whole of the fighting power of the previous smaller vessel. That the number of guns in the main battery was increased fifty per cent does not imply that the fighting power has been correspondingly increased. The size of the target has been increased, or in other words the ability, and therefore the certainty, of the enemy to increase the number of his effective hits; the efficiency of the three-gun turrets is probably less at medium ranges, from the ballistic standpoint; and we might question whether after all the fighting power has been much increased.
It is to be expected that the size of battleships will increase and continue to increase, and we might expect with each increase of size a small increase of speed, and perhaps of normal radius, but it is natural to assume that the country will expect also a corresponding increase in the fighting power of the larger craft. There is no future limit to the size of the type, nor to the ultimate speed that will be attained, but the country must pay for the total navy finally built, and has a right to expect proper fighting efficiency.
If the above has been the effect of doubling the cost of the motive power, what shall we say of the latest proposition, the so-called fast battleship? Here we have motive power comparable to that of our proposed battle-cruisers, and fighting power distinctly inferior to that of the last class of battleships, the 21knot ships. The displacement is nearly doubled, and the cost,
if the vessel is ever built, will be more than doubled. The result must necessarily be that in the long run, in a given term of years, the fighting power of the entire fleet must suffer. And what would we gain by it? Merely that these vessels, in some circumstances, might run at a higher speed than the rest of the fleet. The offensive power is not greater than that of contemporaries of slower speed, it is measured by the allowance of ammunition, and the use that is made of it. Would this vessel, if she dashes here and there at high speed, making a few hits here and a few there, do a greater sum total of damage than if she settled down to fight an opponent in the old-fashioned way? After all, we are not concerned with an indecisive battle, where there is a little damage done, and a ship sunk here and there. We must consider a battle that will settle, once for all, for that war, the mastery of the seas. For the money that we spend on these vessels, the enemy can put more than twice the fighting power afloat, and where then is our mastery of the seas?
Neither can we consider the possibility of shaking the enemy's morale, by concentrating fast ships on detached portions of his line and destroying them. In the first place, we must expect to meet an enemy as determined as ourselves, and not to be shaken by small losses. In the second place, we can expect him to be equally skillful, and not to leave a few units unsupported. Again, concentration can be of value only at short range, for at long range small differences of distance disappear, and concentration of fire on one ship means that other ships will not get the proper amount of attention. Can we imagine these vessels, lightly armored, and immense targets, coming to close quarters with standard battleships?
In all this discussion, we deal with equal forces on both sides. If we were greatly superior to our opponent, the exact type of ship would be unimportant. If we were much inferior, we would have no chance anyway. The assumption of equal forces appears reasonable. Even if we were slightly superior, we could not give hostages to fortune by wasting fighting power.
If the high speed battleship does not seem a reasonable proposition in a general battle, then why the high speed? As we have said before, we would not expect a battleship to chase small craft. We do not use a sledge hammer to smash a fly. It is too slow, and takes too much effort. We get a swatter, a light, quick, cheap
weapon. If the small craft are going to bother us, we can make plenty of swatters, of the requisite kind, out of the fifty millions one of these fast battleships will cost.
It might be said that we need high speed to overhaul the enemy and bring him to action. But we do not build these ships over night. It is a long, painful process, and meanwhile our prospective enemy can build the same kind. Can we ever steal a march on our possible enemies, and build vessels that cannot be copied in sufficient numbers before ours are ready? That has not, with us, been the case in the past, and it will not be in the future. It has not been so with others, except where they had a great building capacity, which means, of course, great available man power.
Again, if we have the superior fighting fleet, but inferior speed, it might be said that the enemy can harry our coasts, and do much damage, before he is brought to action. That has been said many times, and as often it has been answered that such action has no military value, and will not decide the war. There never yet was a case of an inferior, though faster, fleet avoiding contact with the superior fleet. In the end there was either battle or blockade, and one is as effective as the other.
Exceptionally high speed in a battleship, then, seems to be a thing to avoid, and a moderate speed, which will not detract from fighting power, is the correct answer. We might examine, now, the case of a possible exaggeration of the other factor in mobility, namely, radius of action.
To be sure, we have so far not had cause to fear a loss of fighting power on account of an exaggeration of radius of action. In the past, it has usually been the coal pile which has been robbed, when an extra inch of armor was wanted, or an extra knot of speed, or some other showy thing. It might even have been said that we had not had enough radius of action. The radius that appears in the description of a battleship is the radius she has from the time she joins battle, at least that is the intent. It is the radius at normal displacement, which is supposed to be the fighting displacement.
Viewed from this point, it must be admitted that our fuel supply in normal condition has been large enough, and needs no increase. If a vessel gets into action with a normal supply, she will have enough to carry her through the action, and after
that, who cares? If we win, we can take care of our ships, and if we lose—what does it matter? We would lose the ships too. Remember, we are speaking of a fight to the finish.
The same reasoning as before holds here too. A little more or a little less normal fuel does not affect fighting power seriously. It might even be said that, since our present normal supply is of the order of five per cent of the displacement, there is no danger of loss of fighting power, no matter what is done, so long as excessive increase is not contemplated.
Until the battle becomes imminent, there are various ways of maintaining the battleships, but they do not affect fighting power. We have contemplated fueling at sea, and we have prepared to carry emergency fuel. Either can fulfill the object, and neither affects fighting power.
Having fixed on the policy that in the battleship a definite, large percentage, as large as possible, of the displacement, should be given to fighting power, and no reduction, for secondary purposes, tolerated, we might at some length discuss the proper division of the displacement, or cost, among the elements of fighting power.
Before undertaking this it will be well again to state that there is no limit to the future development in size, nor in speed, nor in any other quality, but these qualities should retain their proper relative magnitudes. There is bound to be increased size. It is just natural development of the species. We now believe that the Panama Canal is a final limit. It is not, nor will any other present or future hindrance be. When we come to the point where the canal is too small for the ships we want to build, we will ignore the canal, or we will enlarge it. Development is as sure as fate. And with development of size goes development of speed, of gun-power, of armor, of everything. Increased size always means increase of some one factor in the ship, and as long as the different factors remain at about their proper relative values the fighting power increases.
Fighting power includes offence and defence. It might be stretched to include most of the general characteristics of the hull, such as length, beam, metacentric height, etc. The length and metacentric height are the most important of these, from the point of view of fighting.
A battleship should not be longer than necessary, and we should even be prepared to accept some reduction in the efficiency of propulsion, to get a shorter ship. Great length means heavy hull, extra armor and decks, greater target, higher center of gravity, and wetter decks in a head sea. It also requires more weight for torpedo protection. The present tendency, due to the canal limitations, is to increase displacement by increasing length. This has the effect of reducing fighting efficiency.
Metacentric height has an important effect on the efficiency of the ship. There should be enough to prevent great heel when firing a salvo, or turning at speed, but not so much as unduly to cut down the period of rolling. A short rolling period always means much rolling. If a period of about twenty seconds for a complete roll could be obtained, rolling would be almost eliminated, except in the severest weather. Metacentric height is also a factor in the range of stability.
Coming now to the factors more directly concerned in fighting, we will start with torpedo protection. A battleship should be so protected that she can stand a torpedo explosion in any part of the hull without disablement. There is no present difficulty, with our present type, in nearly accomplishing this, and the ship will stand torpedoing several times, in different locations, without great loss of fighting efficiency. The only important parts that cannot now be protected are the rudder, propellers, and shafting, and a hit in their vicinity may mean loss of motive power. It might be possible to improve this situation by a different design of hull, but probably with a loss of propelling efficiency, and whether it is worth while is open to question. There is no doubt, however, that torpedo protection should be thoroughly carried out, and large size is for this object a distinct advantage.
Considering now the armor protection, we can establish it at once as a fact that if the vessel is intended to fight only at long range, as seems to be a favorite idea, there is no need for the side armor, since it becomes a vanishingly small part of the target. This is, however, far from the actual fact. The vessel may have to do some fighting at long range, but how much of her scanty allowance of ammunition can she afford to throw away at long range? Remember that when her ammunition is gone her fighting power disappears.