The question has been propounded as to whether the maximum size of battleships has not been reached or, indeed, exceeded in the construction of vessels of 15,000 tons.
The most vital objective points to be considered in the building of a battleship are, I believe, power of offense, power of defense or self-protection, facility for maneuvering or handling, capacity for carrying the sinews of war, and speed-these added to the paramount requirement of proper stability. According as these qualifications are in demand, so should the vessel be designed. While it would seem impracticable to combine all good points in a single ship, arrangement may possibly be made for a degree of excellency in each that may produce a vessel of a desirable type of all-round efficiency.
By loading down a hull with armor and guns, a vessel of moderate draft and tonnage may readily be constructed possessing powers of offense and defense to an extreme limit, but coal capacity and speed must be sacrificed, so that each vessel becomes little more than a floating battery, and, to a certain extent, may be classed as a fixed defense, tied, as it would be, to the immediate shores and ports of its owners. Under this head may be classed all coast-defense vessels of whatever type; vessels which, though placed in the line of battle, could not keep position and would be unable to push home a victory.
Seeking, therefore, to preserve as far as possible those qualities that render a vessel formidable, to add the other qualities that make it useful beyond its immediate station, there is but one path, and that lies in the increase in displacement.
To accomplish this end, it will suffice to increase any one or all of its dimensions; but since it may be assumed that the limit of draft for us has been reached in vessels of 11,000 tons, further variation is limited to increase in length or breadth, or both.
Now, if we assume a fixed length as well as a fixed draft for a vessel, it will readily be seen that the displacement will vary directly as the width given, while the surface will increase in a much smaller ratio, until the limit of breadth-equal-length is reached; e. g., the Alabama class, with dimensions, length 368 feet, breadth 72~ feet, and draft 25 feet 6 inches, has a displacement of II,525 tons. If, now, we construct a similar vessel with the same length and draft but with a breadth of 75 feet, we shall have a displacement of II,963 tons, an increase of nearly 4 per cent in displacement, at the expense of less than I per cent of excess over the former hull in structural weight. Again, retaining the same draft and constructing a hull of 400 feet in length and 75 feet in breadth, a gain of I,678 tons will be made over the original structure in floating capacity or I4.6 per cent of original displacement, at the expense of 7.2 per cent addition to structural material.
These comparisons are made under the supposition that the engines, boilers, armament, etc., are unchanged; what effect such changes would have on the speed I am unable to say, but it could be but slight at most. It will thus be seen that, at a moderate expense and with little if any sacrifice of efficiency, the coal and store capacity can be increased very materially.
If there existed in the Constitution a clause prohibiting the employment of a United States battleship outside of her own continental territorial waters, there would be no raison d’être for the battleship with large possible radius of action, and the bunker and store-room space could well be made small and the size of the vessel kept well below a 10,000-ton margin. With coaling facilities always under the lee, and storehouses at command, the necessity for large quantities of supplies on board is obviated. It is, however, impossible to predict the scene of our future conflicts on the sea, and surely it will not be left to our option where we are to engage; we must, therefore, make provision for operations both at home and abroad. If, by increasing the size of our battleships to even 15,000 tons, we can combine to an eminent degree all the requisites that go to make the most efficient fighting machine, would not the truest wisdom be displayed by so doing? What would it profit, if by reducing displacement and, to a small extent, cost, we produced a battleship lacking to a vital degree one of the necessary elements?
My knowledge of the theory and practice of naval architecture is so slight that I am unable to venture an opinion as to whether it may not be possible, considering the recent improvements in armor, to construct vessels of moderate displacement that shall present, in a high degree, all the desirable features. It would seem a most wise and judicious course to pursue, while reducing the thickness of the armor plating as now placed, to give better protection to that portion of the battery outside the turrets; in fact, to make a redistribution of the armor. Should this be done, there can be little hope that the total armor plating can be materially reduced, and we must hark back to increase in size for endurance in cruising.
A comparison of one of the latest French battleships, the Henri IV., with the Russian Sissoi Veliky, of practically the same ton. nage, will illustrate the position:
1. b. dr. Normal coal. Radius at 10 k. Armament. Disp.
Henry IV . . . . . . . 850 73 23 725/1100 7500 2-10.8", 5-5” 9000
8. Veliky . . . . . . . 341 66 24 500/800 3000 4-12", 6-6" 8880
In the former it will be seen that the armament has been sacrificed to coal capacity, and in the latter the reverse is noted. There can be no two opinions as to which of these would be the more valuable unit in battle, nor can it be doubted which would operate the more successfully at 3,500 miles from its base.
What I mean to say is, if the Alabama be selected as the highest type of the battleship, with the standard battery and protection, and the draft be limited to her normal draft, that a battleship displacing I3,200 tons, with the same battery and protection, would be quite as efficient offensively and could extend her operations to twice as distant a field.
The argument that by increasing the displacements we are tending to the diminution of the number of units does not seem well taken. We sometimes see in reports lists of ships proposed, with the individual and aggregate tonnage, yet I have failed to discover where this latter item has appeared in the bill authorizing the construction. The practice has always been to specify the number of each class legislated for, with the approximate tonnage of each. The aggregate tonnage of the various navies of the world is given as a rough means of comparison, but it conveys no more accurate idea of the real strength, than would the announcement of the aggregate number of units, irrespective of class.
What relation the number of vessels in the various classes should bear to each other has not as yet been determined. It is evident that the vessel should be designed, primarily, for the duty it is to perform. This is possible only to a limited extent and in exceptional cases. The fast cruiser, for scout duty, can be given great speed; but she may be forced to fight, and hence must possess some means of defense and offense. In all the classes, from the battleship down, some desirable points must be sacrificed to the attainment of a general good average.
It seems to me that the question to be determined is how to make the most desirable fighting unit. If a specified battery be assumed, with the maximum amount of protection to it and the personnel, there remains but the decision as to how and where this battery may be put in action. The hull is but the vehicle on which it moves, and upon its size depends entirely whether the work is a floating battery, a coast-defense ship, a restricted battleship, or a battleship with great sea endurance; the latter will include all the good qualities of all the other types, and differ only in size or displacement and capacity for long-range work. If a given displacement be necessary for battery, engines and boilers, ammunition~ stores, internal fitments, armor and hull, then there should be no hesitation in increasing the size of the vessel until adequate provision is made for fuel, to ensure a long range of operation-economy in this direction is "penny wise and pound foolish."
The verdict of maritime nations possessing efficient sea power seems to be that the high-power 12-inch gun constitutes the most powerful arm advisable to put afloat. This gun has, therefore, been adopted as the piece de resistance of the latest constructions. The caliber of the " intermediate " battery varies from 4.7-inch to 6-inch R. F. of high power. The main batteries of the last authorized battleships for the United States are as follows:
M. V. M. Energy. Wt. Shot.
Four 12 in. 40 caliber . . . . . . . 2800 46,186 ft. 850 lbs.
Sixteen 6 in. 50 caliber . . . . . . 2900 5,838 ft. 100 lbs.
Taking this as a sample unit of battery, the hull should be built sufficiently large to carry it into action wherever desired.
The modern armored cruiser, in the matter of protection, may be looked upon as a modified battleship. There seems little doubt that she will have her place in the line of battle. In battery, she lacks the heaviest guns furnished to the battleship, but has · an intermediate and a secondary battery of a high order of efficiency. Her role in a nation's fleet is assumed to be that of a vessel possessing in a high degree offensive and defensive qualities, with the capacity of delivering her attack at points far distant from her base and in the least space of time. A proper distribution of armor renders her practically invulnerable to the attack of any vessel other than the battleship or one of her own class. Her quality of high speed permits her to accept or refuse battle from any but her own class. To possess the qualifications demanded for the services required, it would seem impossible to restrict her to even moderate limits in displacement. With unit of battery and protection determined, the same argument as in the case of the battleship would apply for size, to give the requisite range of action and extreme speed. If our navy has any need at all for the armored cruiser, it seems to me that it demands one of a class that possesses, in an extreme degree, the qualifications of speed and sea endurance. To sacrifice either of these essentials would be to blot out all reason for her existence. Here, also, is a problem for the naval constructor, and to him must be referred the question as to the displacement necessary to meet the requirements.
Two methods are proposed to obviate the necessity of sea endurance in armored vessels; these are, the establishment of convenient coaling stations, and accompanying colliers. Good common sense recognizes the value of well selected stations and facilities for coaling in times of peace, at points remote from coal markets. Coal piles at distant places, however, unless rendered invulnerable to attack from an enemy, in case of war would belong to the nation whose forces were first there, and could not be depended on to supply the needed fuel to ships of the country by which they had been established.
Let us consider our three coaling stations established in the Pacific-at Honolulu, Guam, and Tutuila. None of them has any fixed defenses, nor are such defenses even proposed. All are wide open to attack from any class of vessels, even the least protected. To insure immunity from a raid, it would be found necessary to keep armored ships in each harbor, thus withdrawing such force from its legitimate duty.
Guam especially occupies a most dangerous position. At less than one-third the distance from the ports of China and Japan to what it is from a home port, how long could one reasonably hope that it would be left undisturbed in our possession or be free of access to our cruisers seeking to replenish empty bunkers? It is safe to predict that, in a war with any nation having a fleet in Asiatic waters, our enemy would very soon be in possession of a new coal base at Guam. The same would be the result as to Tutuila, and probably Honolulu. Leaving the last, however, out of consideration, assuming that it is too far from the enemy's base to warrant immediate action, what would be the condition of a single battleship or fleet, whose coal supply admitted of a sea endurance of only 3,500 miles, which should attempt a passage to the Philippines from Honolulu, trusting to fill the empty bunkers at Guam, and finding, on · arrival, that the place was either held in strong force by the enemy or had been captured and all its supplies destroyed? With only a single day's coal in the bunkers and 1,400 miles from Manila, the nearest port of supply, would not the condition be, in the utmost degree, desperate? The sole remedy to prevent such a possible condition is to make each isolated coaling station self-protective. In other words, whenever such a station is to be established, with the intention of relying on it to perform its functions in time of war, it must be strongly fortified and occupied by a sufficient garrison to keep its defenses up to a proper standard, and in case of need to hold those defenses until relieved. As items of strength in time of war, undefended coaling stations will be found to be staves, compared to which the proverbial "broken reed" would be strong and helpful. As a matter of dollars and cents, the fortifications and garrisons may be found so expensive as to compel recourse to other means to provide the desired coal, and here will appear the collier.
Heretofore, vessels known under the name of collier's, and employed either to carry coal to the ports of the world or to accompany fleets as vessels for fuel supplies, have been constructed with , two main objects in view-great capacity and economical service. In arriving at these desired results speed has been sacrificed, all the lines-if lines they can be said to have-have been fulled until we find immense, almost rectangular prisms crawling across the seas, but doing wonders as to miles per ton of coal. That a war fleet accompanied by colliers may move with proper speed, vessels of a class different from the one above described must be employed. The lines must be finer, the speed greater, and probably the freight capacity reduced. This latter must indeed be the case, if unwieldly size is to be avoided, as a much greater ratio of its capacity must be devoted to its own fuel, if increased sustained speed be a requisite. It was satisfactorily proven in the late war that vessels of this character are not in the market; it would therefore seem necessary to build a fleet of what we may call "war colliers," the number keeping pace with the number of war vessels in the fleet. Shall we assume that each of these colliers has a coal freight capacity of 4,000 tons, and that for each two battleships and armored cruisers in a fleet on foreign service, one collier is detailed. Thus, to each fleet of armored vessels would be attached half its number of defenseless non-combatants, whose protection becomes the very life of the fleet itself. I believe that it is a well-known and accepted principle of sea warfare that a fleet, upon which depends the security of vessels unable to help themselves, is handicapped from the start. In all services, convoy duty has been considered the most onerous and one in which all the advantages are with the attacking enemy. It is possible, moreover, to conceive of the entire destruction of a convoy, while the convoying fleet remains intact and exists still as a fighting unit. In the fleet we have under consideration there exist the disadvantages of convoy, together with the paramount necessity that this convoy must be kept intact. It has forced on it three duties-offense, defense and protection the last adding seriously to its troubles. It would seem, therefore, as a justifiable conclusion, that a fleet with its surplus of coal stored in accompanying colliers ought not to engage in general action, unless it is in such superior force as to insure the safety of its supply vessels. A single battleship, with its attendant collier, would be in worse case than a fleet, as it would, at all times, be risking the loss of its convoy from the sudden dash of a swift cruiser.
Even with an accompanying fleet of colliers, the range of action is limited by the coal carried, and the necessity for protected bases still exists, though such bases may be more widely separated.
Unquestionably, the ideal battleship would be one with its powerful battery adequately protected in a hull of moderate displacement, with a limited supply of coal and capable of a moderate, not excessive speed. This, with defended coal depots in all directions, spaced well within limit of her sea endurance, would insure the best results with least outlay on each unit of the fleet. But such an arrangement of coaling stations is geographically impossible and their protection impracticable, and it will be found necessary to limit them in number and location.
Would it be a wise policy, for the sake of keeping down the displacement, to confine the scope of our battle fleet to a very restricted radius about a coal pile, when, by increasing the displacement by 2,000 or 3,000 tons, the radius of action could be so increased as to permit operations to be carried on at far more distant points, and with the coal supply safe within the protecting wall's of the ship herself. That this condition may be possible, the attempt to secure high speed for the battleship must be abandoned, and the maximum of speed be fixed on conservative lines. To strive for a higher speed than seventeen knots will involve the sacrifice of endurance, to a degree not compensated for by the increase in mobility.
My conclusions are as before stated: For a battleship, a standard unit of battery and protection should be fixed by the Department, and to carry this battery into action a hull should be designed with sufficient displacement to accommodate machinery and boilers for a moderate speed, with capacity for a coal supply to allow of not less than 7,000 miles of sea steaming.
The armored cruiser should have a greater radius of action and should also be capable of very high speed for emergencies. Coal stations must be established, but those to be relied upon in time of war must be fortified and made secure.