Time Stands Still !
We have witnessed phenomenal advances in military technology since WWII.
- Aircraft are jet powered and can now supercruise at Mach+ speeds.
- Weapons can now be precisely guided by lasers.
- Missiles can home in on their targets using a variety of technologies.
- Radar can see a mosquito at 200 nm.
- Stealth ships and aircraft can evade radar.
- Cruise missiles can travel a thousand miles and hit a pinpoint target.
- Infrared sensors allow us to see in the dark.
- Shaped charge warheads can achieve amazing penetrations.
- Sensors and weapons can be networked to achieve leaps in efficiency.
- And so on …
The advances in military technology are absolutely stunning. Most impressive is the fact that the advances have been steady and show no sign of abating. Not a decade has gone by in aircraft, weapons, and sensor development that has not seen a significant leap in technology. We can now realistically envision lasers and rail guns. Star Wars is just around the corner.
As an example, just consider the advances in ship’s armor since WWII. We’ve developed … uh … new, uh … Boy, I’m drawing a blank on any new advance in ship’s armor. But, that aside, our ships are now constructed with steel plate that is markedly stronger than … no, wait … Now that I think about it, ship’s plate is actually thinner and weaker than standard WWII hull plating. I guess we’ve actually gone backward a bit. Can that be?
It would appear that naval armor development has been mired in a time warp where time has stopped.
Hang on. Let me make a quick call to the Navy’s engineers. ………..
Well, that just confirmed it. I asked them what year it is and they said 1946. That explains the utter lack of progress in naval armor.
It’s funny. When we discuss aircraft, weapons, and sensors, it’s always in the future tense. This next generation of aircraft will have weapons that … and sensors that will …
But, when we talk about naval armor, it’s always in the past tense. A WWII battleship can’t stop a cruise missile. A modern ship can’t carry the weight of WWII armor - proven false in a previous post but it illustrates how we reference armor. Armor, even WWII armor, can’t stop torpedoes.
Why don’t we discuss armor in the future tense. Why don’t we say, this next frigate will have armor that … ? It’s because there have been no advances and, therefore, we have no expectation of any advances. We all read the news and we know that no one is even working on armor development.
Why is that? Why is no one working on armor development? Is there something inherent to armor that makes it immune to scientific advancement?
Land vehicle armor has made advances. Not as much as aircraft, weapons, and sensors but still significant advances. Chobham ceramic armor lead the way. We now have layered armor, composite armor, V-shaped armor, perforated armor, spall liners, reactive armor, and probably a bunch of other armors that I don’t know about because I’m not a land warfare expert or because they’re classified. Why has no one tried to adapt any of these armor technologies to ships? Why has no one made any effort to develop new naval armor?
Sure, some of these armor technologies may not be suitable for ships but have you even heard of a failed attempt to adapt land armor to ships? The only adaptation of land armor that I’m aware of is Kevlar linings for use as anti-splinter protection so this can only marginally be considered armor and certainly not in the sense that we’re talking about here. I am an expert on naval matters and I keep a close eye on naval technology and I can’t recall a single report of any naval armor research, successful or not, in modern times.
Why has the Navy totally abandoned armor research? And why have we, the observers and commenters, accepted it? None of us question why a Burke, the most advanced and powerful surface ship on the planet, costing over $2B, has almost no armor and thinner, weaker hull plating than a WWII Fletcher?
Something is seriously wrong with this picture!