Battleship Missiles

Author's Note: Off-topic blog post. Trying to mix it up. Thanks! -Johnny

Once upon a time, they had been symbols of national pride- Battleships. In their era, they were the most powerful type of warship, vital to the national security of any nation with access to the seven seas. Battleships are known for their big guns. Heck, the very description of a battleship consists of basically two things:

1. Being a huge armored warship.
2. Having a main battery of heavy caliber guns.

The Battleship IOWA and her class of warships were armed with 16”/50 caliber Mark 7s. In layman’s terms, that meant being able to chuck a solid projectile weighing more than two thousand pounds at a target more than twenty miles away. What that means is that IOWA and her sister ships were capable of delivering heavy fire support.

For the more scientific minded:

For the Iowa class of battleships, the Mark 7s were not their only means of force projection. As the only battleships to have served in the modern era, they were also armed with missile systems.

Battleship Missile Systems:

The Cold War was heating up in the 1980s. Battleship IOWA and her sisters were to be recalled back into service. Since they had been built during the Second World War, they had to be modernized in order to deal with the new realities of modern warfare. Three new and important weapon systems were installed. There was the CIWS anti-missile Gatling-Guns, alongside two additional missile systems to be used against land and sea targets: the Tomahawk and the Harpoon.

Man the Harpoons:

The Harpoon was introduced during the late 70s as an all-weather, over-the-horizon anti-ship missile system. Developed by McDonnel Douglas (now Boeing), this missile system has been in service for almost four decades. Regular Harpoon missiles use active radar homing and a sea-skimming/ low-level cruise trajectory for lethality and survivability. Modernized Iowa class ships serving in the 1980s had sixteen RGM-84 missiles in MK 141 “shock-hardened” quad cell launchers. When fired, these missiles were propelled away from the ship via boosters. After distancing itself about five miles from the ship, the booster would be discarded and a turbo engine would ignite. It is then with the assistance from stabilizing and actuator fin, that the missile is directed towards an intended target. If in the case that no target was acquired after radar activation, the said missile would self-destruct. Iowa class battleships carried RGM/UGM-84 variants of the Harpoon, specially designed to be fired by surface vessels. These Harpoon missiles had warheads weighing about 488lb/221kg each and had a maximum range of 76 nmi/ 140 kilometers.

Tomahawk Missiles, READY

Whereas the Harpoon missile was intended for ships, the BGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missile was… well, intended for ground targets. The Tomahawk was first introduced in the 1970s, and entered service with the United States military in 1983. The Tomahawk missiles were actually used during the 1991 Gulf War by battleships against Iraqi targets. Tomahawks were long-range, all-weather, subsonic, cruise missiles. They were capable of striking targets at a much greater range than the Iowa-class’s 16-inch/ 406mm guns. When modernized with the Tomahawk, they became the longest-ranged weapon to be carried by a battleship. Since theIowa class was initially designed in 1938, the Tomahawk missiles could not be fitted in easily without some sort of a rebuilt. This prompt the removal of four aft twin 5'38 gun mounts. The end result was that the mid and aft ends of the battleships had to be rebuilt in order to accommodate the Tomahawk’s missile magazines. It also caused two separate platforms to be constructed for the MK-143 Armored Box Launchers.

Armored Box Launchers had four missiles inside of them, and each Iowa-class battleship was outfitted with eight canisters. This allowed the battleships to deploy thirty-two Tomahawk missiles. Besides the quantity of Tomahawks carried, there were several types for use:

-Conventional with 1,000lb/450kg explosive warhead
-Nuclear 200kt W80 warhead

Tomahawk missiles have a cruise speed of 0.5 Mach and an attack speed of 0.75 Mach. The missiles used an inertial and terrain contour matching radar guidance system to find and destroy its target. This radar system uses a stored map to reference against actual terrain in order to figure out the missile’s positions. Additional guidance to target is provided by a DSMAC system which compares a stored image of an intended target with an image of the actual target.

Although the Iowa class of battleships had used these missiles in the Gulf War and had deployed them during the Cold War, there aren’t that many shots of these missiles fired. When the Iowa classes were decommissioned after the Cold War, some of these missile systems were taken off to be placed on other ships. Some remained and can be viewed at their respective museums. Either way, we leave you with this awesome shot of Battleship IOWA firing a cruise missile!

Helicopter Update:

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