The blog has been a bit quiet this past week as I started teaching a new round of classes, and contributing to two simulations for Wikistrat, What Comes After Chavez? and, an in-depth project, the North American Energy Export Boom. Both simulations are excellent, and the cloud of minds that have been assembled, have led to insights beyond my expectations. Mindful of neglecting the blog, I want to step back onto the bridge, and into the realm of history, and visit my favorite subject, naval history and how it relates to this nation's heritage and future security.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a presentation by Robert Kent, President and founder of the Pacific Battleship Center, now tasked with preserving the USS Iowa BB-61 the Battleship of Presidents as a living museum and education center, soon to be stationed at Pier 87 in San Pedro, California. I wrote stationed, because unlike other museum ships, the Iowa along with her sister the Wisconsin, is mandated by Congress to be kept in a state or readiness, so if the need arises, they can be returned to duty to defend the nation.
What Robert Kent conveyed to those gathered was a view into how the Iowa will be preserved, and how it will convey not only the history of it's long service, but the history of the great gun ships down through history. More than just examples of firepower will be displayed, visitors will learn about the level of engineering skill that went into designing, and building the massive turrets with a precision that compared to the best Swiss watches. As visitors move deeper into the center of the great ship, they will experience what it was like to live and work aboard the ship, from her commissioning on Washington's Birthday, 1943, to the last time her ensign was lowered in 1990.
The Iowa is a living example of the industrial ingenuity and the skill of the thousands of workers who fashioned the machinery that even today stands as an engineering marvel. Using the latest technology, visitors will be able to experience via the magic developed in Hollywood, a "Life at Sea." as they are taken on tours, guided by experts who will give them the experience of being on a active duty ship. Without giving away any trade secrets the tours will set the bar for museum experiences, to a new level. I can not say enough about this amazing enterprise. After meeting Robert and his indispensable partner Trish Place, I was impressed enough to be willing to swab the deck, chip paint, and any other task, just to share in their passion for this great ship. They have led this effort with all the skill of the greatest naval captains who ever commanded a ship and deserve a fleet wide signal of Bravo Zulu.
As noted above, the battleship is to be maintained in a state of readiness in the event of having to be recalled to duty. Recent developments in armaments have been touted as making gun ships completely obsolete, where million dollar a shot cruise missiles, drones, and the soon to be deployed, railgun which if all goes well, will be on navy ships within five years. But wait! is it wise to shed the tried and true methods of defense? One of the advantages of the Iowa is that she is equipped with both guns, cruise missiles, and anti-ship missiles. There is a soon to be released fiction movie based on the board game "Battleship," where a modern naval fleet when confronted with an alien invasion must fall back to the old reliable and obsolete battleship to save planet Earth. I know this is great fiction, but recent developments in a weapons system that will defeat electronics, including radar, computers, and the control of missiles, was successfully tested by the Air Force in May, 2011. This technology uses HPM (high power microwave), which is the non-nuclear equivalent of the EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapon. It stands to reason that what we have now, will soon be had by other nations, (think nukes). So given that reality, it's back to the future for war-fighting.
A final thought about the battleship and her main armament the 16 inch gun, and it's amazing accuracy, along with the relative cost per round, compared to the cost of a cruise missile, is something to ponder when considering the cost of launching hundreds of cruise missiles into Libya last year. A few weeks ago, I attended the West 2012 Conference about the Navy in the 21st century, and listened, as both the Navy and Marines discussed the need to maintain the ability to preform a forced entry by sea, something that hearkens back to the days of Alexander the Great. Hopefully, that day never comes, but until the railgun, or some other technological advancement is developed to defeat HPM weapons, the last two Iowa class battleships stand ready to answer the call.
For those who would like to be a plank owner, the window is still open for a couple more months.
USS Iowa Plank owner