Friday, July 5, 2013

Flashback Friday: Tillman Battleships

     This week's Flashback focuses on the Maximum Battleship designs of 1916. In 1912-13 Senator Benjamin "Pitchfork" Tillman asked the Navy to provide designs for the largest practical battleship the Navy could use. Tillman was on the Senate's committee on Naval Affairs, and he was unhappy with the Navy building battleships larger than what Congress authorized. It was not until 1916, after Senator Tillman asked again, that the Navy provided designs for four battleships. It would take several paragraphs to explain all the specs on the designs, so here is a table of specs from the Wells Bros. Battleship Index:

DesignTillman BattleshipsSouth Dakota(BB-49) class (For comparison) 
#1#2#3#4 IV-1 IV-2 
Date13 Dec 191613 Dec 191613 Dec 191629 Dec 191630 Jan 191730 Jan 19178 Jul 1918
Displacement, in tons70,00070,00063,50080,00080,00080,00043,200
Waterline Length, in feet (meters)975 (297.2)660 (201.2)
Beam, in feet (meters)108 (32.9)106 (32.3)
Draught, in feet (meters)32.75 (10.0)32.75 (10.0) 
Max. Speed, in knots26.5 26.53025.
Max. Power, in EHP (SHP)65,000 EHP (130,000 SHP)65,000 EHP (130,000 SHP)90,000 EHP (180,000 SHP)90,000 EHP (180,000 SHP)90,000 EHP (180,000 SHP)90,000 EHP (180,000 SHP)60,000 SHP
Number of Boilers182412
Main BatteryTwelve 16"/50 in four 3-gun turretsTwenty-four 16"/50 in four 6-gun turretstwelve 16"/50 in four 3-gun turretsTwenty-four 16"/50 in four 6-gun turretsThirteen 18"/50 in five 2-gun turrets and one 3-gun turretFifteen 18"/50 in five 3-gun turretsTwelve 16"/50 in four 3-gun turrets 
Belt Armor18"/9"13"/7"13"/7"18"/9"16"/8" 16"/8" 13.5"/8"
Barbette Armor17"/5"12.5"/4"12.5"/4"17"/5"15"/5"15"/5"13.5"/4.5"
Turret Armor20"/14"/6"10"18"/10"/5"/9"18"/10"/5"/9"20"/14"/6"/10"21"/12"/8"/14" 18"/10"/5"/9"
Deck Armor5"3"3"5"5" 5" 5"/1.75"
ImagesClick HereClick HereClick HereClick HereClick Here
Notes In some ways, this is a greatly enlarged South Dakota (BB-49) class battleship. While the South Dakota design was not finalized until 1918, design work was well under way at this point.Similar to design #1, but trades off some armor for increased armament. (BuOrd considered 13.5" to be the practical limit for armor plate thickness.) Design 3 was a "fast battleship". At the time, the General Board was not particularly interested in fast battleship designs.Adding 10,000 tons to the displacement allowed the armor of Design #1 to be combined with the main battery of Design #2. Had these ships actually been built, the guns probably would have been 18"/48 Mk1 

     A note of clarification, the South Dakota-class referenced in the table above was canceled due to the Washington Naval Treaty, and is not the South Dakota-class of WWII.
     Of the four designs given to Tillman it was #4 which was considered the most practical, and the IV-1 and -2 were spin-offs of design #4. It was designs 1 and 3 which influenced the design of the South Dakota-class (BB-49). The South Dakotas would have had a similar main armament, but only 13.5" belt armor, and a top speed of 23.5 knots. The South Dakotas would have had a displacement of ~43,200 tons.
     There has been speculation of class of Tillman battlecruisers (based in Design #3) had there not been a Washington Naval Treaty, however the Navy never considered it on the grounds that it would been to radical a change in battlecruiser design. Design #3 did have a speed of 30 knots easily making it a fast battleship by WWII standards, and does have specs similar to what an enlarged Iowa could have had.
     The Tillman battleships were not built mainly due to the Washington Naval Treaty, but frankly these designs were not really serious. Rather, they were speculation as to what the Navy might ask had the naval arms race post-WWI continued between the World Wars. These designs are in some way comparable to the Yamato-class, and would have been extremely susceptible to air attack. In the end the Tillman battleships were no more than mental exercises by the Navy taking battleship designs to the extreme, and are rivaled only by the Yamatos, the N3-class, the #13-class, and perhaps the H-41 and -42.

Further reading:

Photo Credit: Model Ship Gallery

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