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How Would Warship Design Differ With No Naval Disarmament Treaties?

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  • How Would Warship Design Differ With No Naval Disarmament Treaties?

    There were a number of important treaties signed in the interwar years (Washington, London, and London again, to name the big ones) that placed serious restrictions on the construction and design of warships in the post-Great War period, including a freeze on ship building, restrictions on gun size and displacement, and even with limits on the total numbers of ships per nation.

    Here is an example from the Washington Treaty (1922):
    • Capital ships (battleships and battlecruisers) were limited to 35,000 tons standard displacement and guns of no larger than 16-inch calibre. (Articles V and VI)
    • Aircraft carriers were limited to 27,000 tons and could carry no more than 10 heavy guns, of a maximum calibre of 8 inches. However, each signatory was allowed to use two existing capital ship hulls for aircraft carriers, with a displacement limit of 33,000 tons each (Articles IX and X). For the purposes of the treaty, an aircraft carrier was defined as a warship displacing more than 10,000 tonnes constructed exclusively for launching and landing aircraft. Carriers lighter than 10,000 tonnes, therefore, did not count towards the tonnage limits (Article XX, part 4). Moreover, all aircraft carriers then in service or building (Argus, Furious, Langley and Hosho) were declared "experimental" and not counted (Article VIII).
    • All other warships were limited to a maximum displacement of 10,000 tons and a maximum gun calibre of 8 inches (Articles XI and XII).


    Such limitations lead to compromise designs such as the Nelson-class.




    Only in the run-up to WW2 did we see a rush by naval powers to really throw off those limitations and move beyond the limits that had been put in place.

    Here is a graph representing the impact of treaties like the Washington Treaty had on ship displacement and the decades-long "gap" in new construction:



    So the question - broad as it is - is simple: how do you envision naval warfare design would have progressed without any of the limitations imposed by post-war disarmament treaties?

  • #2
    The gun restriction on aircraft carriers was in essence irrelevant. More battleships might have had bigger guns but battleships were becoming irrelevant because of the aircraft carriers. Indeed I think the naval treaties were on the whole irrelevant.
    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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    • #3
      Originally posted by MarkV View Post
      The gun restriction on aircraft carriers was in essence irrelevant. More battleships might have had bigger guns but battleships were becoming irrelevant because of the aircraft carriers. Indeed I think the naval treaties were on the whole irrelevant.
      True, but one could argue that the establishment was unaware of this up until WW2 - hence you still saw battleships like the Yamato being laid down.

      I wonder if, without those treaties, that there would have been a continued push towards bigger and more powerful surface vessels during the interwar years.

      Looking at the graph, one could extrapolate out a line and - even giving considerations to it tapering off later - wonder if the naval powers might have made pushes for "super battleships" of their own in the early 1930s, years before they did historically.

      And one could also imagine that the numbers may reflect that as well, as Japan wouldn't be held back by relative tonnage limitations and may have pushed for naval parity with the United States.

      Those limitations above were just part of one treaty - there were several - and they had a major role in shaping the size, design and scale of the pre-war navies across the globe. Everything from gun limitations to restrictions on how much tonnage each nation could possess were speed bumps for naval construction.

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      • #4
        I think that more larger ships would have been laid down in the 20's since there would have been a continuation of the arms race started before WW1.
        After the depression hit, construction would have come to a dead stop since the treasuries wouldn't want to replace ships only 10 years old. The large aircraft carrier would have been slower to develop since the first ones were converted battlecruisers and battleships. With the limited number of carriers built, the battleship may have hung on longer as the most powerful ship.

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        • #5
          We're well aware ...

          ... of the Washington & London Naval Treaties and the various limitations put in place historically, but it's important to take into account that these were essentially gentlemen's agreements between the nations with major navies. Do away with them, and what's the alternative? The League of Nations Disarmament Committees. Starting with its inception and mandate, the League, with the support of the populations of most of the former waring nations, began the process of slashing and burning military and air weapons deemed "Offensive" in intent and practice, with an eye to the navies; after all, a naval arms race was deemed partially responsible for the war in the first place. The major navies jumped the gun, agreeing to police themselves, terrified of what the alternative would be, and lucky for them were able to hack out an agreement of sorts. Still, historically, the League still met in Disarmament Committees to discuss naval weapons as well, largely accepting a fait accompli, however given no Washington, London, and London again, and populations demanding cuts and the League falling over itself to deliver ...

          "How do you envision naval warfare design would have progressed without any of the limitations imposed by post-war disarmament treaties?"

          I don't mean to rain on your parade, best I'll say is none of the above ??????????????????? Perhaps.


          Originally posted by Daemon of Decay View Post
          There were a number of important treaties signed in the interwar years (Washington, London, and London again, to name the big ones) that placed serious restrictions on the construction and design of warships in the post-Great War period, including a freeze on ship building, restrictions on gun size and displacement, and even with limits on the total numbers of ships per nation.

          Here is an example from the Washington Treaty (1922):
          • Capital ships (battleships and battlecruisers) were limited to 35,000 tons standard displacement and guns of no larger than 16-inch calibre. (Articles V and VI)
          • Aircraft carriers were limited to 27,000 tons and could carry no more than 10 heavy guns, of a maximum calibre of 8 inches. However, each signatory was allowed to use two existing capital ship hulls for aircraft carriers, with a displacement limit of 33,000 tons each (Articles IX and X). For the purposes of the treaty, an aircraft carrier was defined as a warship displacing more than 10,000 tonnes constructed exclusively for launching and landing aircraft. Carriers lighter than 10,000 tonnes, therefore, did not count towards the tonnage limits (Article XX, part 4). Moreover, all aircraft carriers then in service or building (Argus, Furious, Langley and Hosho) were declared "experimental" and not counted (Article VIII).
          • All other warships were limited to a maximum displacement of 10,000 tons and a maximum gun calibre of 8 inches (Articles XI and XII).


          Such limitations lead to compromise designs such as the Nelson-class.




          Only in the run-up to WW2 did we see a rush by naval powers to really throw off those limitations and move beyond the limits that had been put in place.

          Here is a graph representing the impact of treaties like the Washington Treaty had on ship displacement and the decades-long "gap" in new construction:



          So the question - broad as it is - is simple: how do you envision naval warfare design would have progressed without any of the limitations imposed by post-war disarmament treaties?
          "I am Groot"
          - Groot

          Comment


          • #6
            The Japanese had Battleships armed with 18" main guns that were cancelled. The US South Dakota class had twelve 16" guns before cancellation. The Constellation Class of Battlecruisers with eight 16" guns would have been built, but would have been terribly vulnerable to torpedo and high angle bombs and gunfire. I don't see the American's changing from all or nothing protection, but perhaps they could have made the designs longer to increase engine room space/speed? The US Navy would have been carefully watching whatever the IJN did. Just the rumors of a IJN Battlecruiser was enough for the USN to design the Alaska class.

            The British would not have changed much as they needed numbers, rather than a few super battleships. It is hard to say what the French and Italians would have done. Their economies were not that robust.

            Pruitt
            Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

            Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

            by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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            • #7
              Battleships would've got ever bigger, and more heavily armed, until the nations who had the foresight to develop carriers sank them.

              The Yamato was the biggest battleship ever built, and she held off carrier-borne aircraft for just over two hours, before sinking with horrendous loss of life.
              Indyref2 - still, "Yes."

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              • #8
                It would favour the Allies in ww2. instead of Hood and PoW Bismark would have faced something very like a Lion and a G3.
                "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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                • #9
                  "G3"?

                  Pruitt
                  Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                  Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                  by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The big factor here is money. That would determine what different navies actually tried.

                    Japan likely would have built some or all of the Akagi and Kaga classes of BB and BC, along with holding on to older ships.

                    Britain would have kept Tiger and possibly the Iron Dukes in reserve or service, along with building some new BB. Whether these replace or supplement those in service is somewhat open to question. Certainly they lacked the funds to build new ships while also upgrading and repairing existing ones. As it was, the RN had to give many of their BB, like the R class, very austere upgrades between the war.

                    The US would certainly have built the South Dakota and Lexington classes, along with upgrading extensively their older BB. In a way, having a much larger 20 knot battle line would have been a detriment to the USN rather than a help.
                    I can't see the French, Italians, or Germans doing much more than they did. France might have put a bit more effort into their older BB, but I really don't see much change there.

                    Now, an interesting twist here is what nations might have done with older BB. I could see the US selling some older 12" BB in place of the pre-dreadnoughts to Greece for example. Say, the Florida and Utah...

                    The South Americans might have bought some from Britain or the US too...

                    The big shift would be carriers. The US would still have likely built large carriers, but they'd have more of them.
                    Japan would be forced to build theirs from scratch.
                    Britain, given in part the situation with the FAA and RAF along with funds, might have still ended up about where they did.
                    France might have replaced Bearn earlier...
                    That might have given Italy a carrier too.

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                    • #11
                      I think cruisers would have gotten fatter too. Likely with 10 in guns on heavies as well....maybe the us builds something like the Alaska class earlier as a cruiser flotilla leader?
                      Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TacCovert4 View Post
                        I think cruisers would have gotten fatter too. Likely with 10 in guns on heavies as well....maybe the us builds something like the Alaska class earlier as a cruiser flotilla leader?
                        I'm glad you brought this up. It was something I was mulling over earlier - in another thread someone mentioned that the "standard" or "average" guns on cruisers during WW2 was 8", which seems a holdover from the Washington treaty (Articles XI and XII) where 8" was a hard limit.

                        Even post-war American cruisers like the Oregon City and Des Moines classes kept their 8". But one could picture that if the Japanese had gone for 9" guns on their cruisers in the early 30s, the USN would have followed suite.

                        After all, if you're trying to keep your heavy cruisers relevant, having them sailing around with 9" or 10" guns would be a nifty "surprise" to any enemy cruisers - especially with displacement not being an issue.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                          The big factor here is money. That would determine what different navies actually tried.
                          Indeed. One thing to consider is that, while the naval treaties did create a "pause" in shipbuilding that delayed that continuing upward trend in BB size, the Great Depression would have played a role in limiting construction.

                          The idea of every nation sporting their own fleet of Yamato's is absurd, but one could certainly see bigger ships being built in the 1930s than the ones laid down historically.

                          Japan likely would have built some or all of the Akagi and Kaga classes of BB and BC, along with holding on to older ships.

                          Britain would have kept Tiger and possibly the Iron Dukes in reserve or service, along with building some new BB. Whether these replace or supplement those in service is somewhat open to question. Certainly they lacked the funds to build new ships while also upgrading and repairing existing ones. As it was, the RN had to give many of their BB, like the R class, very austere upgrades between the war.

                          The US would certainly have built the South Dakota and Lexington classes, along with upgrading extensively their older BB. In a way, having a much larger 20 knot battle line would have been a detriment to the USN rather than a help.
                          I can't see the French, Italians, or Germans doing much more than they did. France might have put a bit more effort into their older BB, but I really don't see much change there.

                          Now, an interesting twist here is what nations might have done with older BB. I could see the US selling some older 12" BB in place of the pre-dreadnoughts to Greece for example. Say, the Florida and Utah...

                          The South Americans might have bought some from Britain or the US too...

                          The big shift would be carriers. The US would still have likely built large carriers, but they'd have more of them.
                          Japan would be forced to build theirs from scratch.
                          Britain, given in part the situation with the FAA and RAF along with funds, might have still ended up about where they did.
                          France might have replaced Bearn earlier...
                          That might have given Italy a carrier too.
                          Good points. Without tonnage limits and treaty-obligated cancellations, the navies of the world would (possibly) have had more ships on hand in the post-Great War period. That may have led to them perhaps scrapping a few older designs sooner to hold onto their newer ships laid down near the end of WW1.

                          And if nations did continue to build, even at a lesser rate, in the inter-war period, one could make the case that ship design would have continued along that graph-line - that inter-war designs would have continued to be bigger and better armed, even though we know now that the day of the battleship was already ending.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Daemon of Decay View Post
                            I'm glad you brought this up. It was something I was mulling over earlier - in another thread someone mentioned that the "standard" or "average" guns on cruisers during WW2 was 8", which seems a holdover from the Washington treaty (Articles XI and XII) where 8" was a hard limit.

                            Even post-war American cruisers like the Oregon City and Des Moines classes kept their 8". But one could picture that if the Japanese had gone for 9" guns on their cruisers in the early 30s, the USN would have followed suite.

                            After all, if you're trying to keep your heavy cruisers relevant, having them sailing around with 9" or 10" guns would be a nifty "surprise" to any enemy cruisers - especially with displacement not being an issue.
                            Well, the US did build a few 12" gunned cruisers, the Alaska's... Those were supposedly a reply to Japanese 12" cruisers rumored to be planned... The USN didn't want them but Roosevelt insisted.

                            For the British, numbers mattered more than individual ship quality with cruisers. You'll note they built smaller 6" and 8" ones than the US or Japan did.

                            On the whole, I'd say 8" guns were about the largest that anybody would have went with in any case simply due to the logistics of using them.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                              Well, the US did build a few 12" gunned cruisers, the Alaska's... Those were supposedly a reply to Japanese 12" cruisers rumored to be planned... The USN didn't want them but Roosevelt insisted.

                              For the British, numbers mattered more than individual ship quality with cruisers. You'll note they built smaller 6" and 8" ones than the US or Japan did.

                              On the whole, I'd say 8" guns were about the largest that anybody would have went with in any case simply due to the logistics of using them.
                              That's where the tapering of the graph would come in, in my mind. Battleships would have progressed closer to the Yamato concept of a super battleship - I imagine even the Brits would have been forced to counter them, if the Yamato had been launched a decade earlier, just to secure their Pacific holdings.

                              But in a word with battleships being bigger and more armed, would the cruisers respond, or would they remain roughly the same, due to their own role being less affected by what the really big-boys are doing?

                              EDIT: I thought the Alaska was more along the lines of a BC and was also influenced by Germany's pocket battleships / BC's?

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