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    HomeMilitaryThe Iowa-Class Revival: A Lesson in Naval Strategy and Technological Evolution

    The Iowa-Class Revival: A Lesson in Naval Strategy and Technological Evolution

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    In the 1980s, against the backdrop of escalating Cold War tensions and a growing Soviet naval threat, President Ronald Reagan embarked on an ambitious initiative to revitalize the U.S. Navy.

    USS Missouri (BB-64), Battleship” by photolibrarian is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    This plan, influenced by the concept of a formidable 600-ship fleet and the impressive performance of the UK’s Royal Navy in the Falklands War, would lead to the reactivation of the iconic Iowa-class battleships, which had been deemed relics of a bygone era.

    Iowa-Class Battleship, WWII, Launch” by photolibrarian is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The Iowa-class behemoths, initially commissioned during World War II, were once the pride of the U.S. Navy.

    USS NEW JERSEY US Navy Iowa Class Battleship BB-62 Iowa-class were a class of fast battleships Commissioned 1943 16 inch Guns 9 battle stars WWII1” by UpNorth Memories – Don Harrison is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    These ships boasted an impressive combination of firepower, speed, and armor, epitomizing the might of the U.S. naval force.

    Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danielle D. Desiqueria re-enlists aboard the decommissioned Iowa-class Battleship USS Wisconsin (BB 64).” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Yet, as the nature of naval warfare evolved and the utility of aircraft carriers rose, these venerable battleships gradually fell into obsolescence, with many eventually relegated to reserve status.

    USS Sioux City transits the Severn River.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Despite their aging design, the 1980s would see the Iowa-class battleships undergo extensive modernizations that included the integration of Tomahawk and Harpoon missile systems, advanced radar and fire control systems, and Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems for defense against contemporary threats.

    USS Wisconsin” by sg.sam is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    As noted in a report, “Upgrades included the addition of Tomahawk and Harpoon missile systems, advanced radar and fire control systems, and Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems for defense against modern threats.”

    The offensive capabilities of the battleships were significantly enhanced, with the vessels also receiving improved radar and fire control systems. On paper, the Iowa-class ships were formidable large warships with heavy armament.

    O’ahu – Honolulu – Pearl Harbor: USS Missouri” by wallyg is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Yet, these efforts to retrofit the battleships for modern warfare were met with challenges.

    USS Wisconsin” by dbking is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The large crews needed for operation, the inefficiency compared to smaller warships equipped with more missiles, and the immense cost involved in maintaining and updating these titans of the sea made their reactivation a contentious issue.

    O’ahu – Honolulu – Pearl Harbor: USS Missouri – Main Battery Turret #1” by wallyg is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    A modified Spruance-class destroyer of the era, for example, was equipped with 61 vertical-launch missiles and required a smaller crew than that needed to operate a battleship.

    O’ahu – Honolulu – Pearl Harbor: USS Missouri and USS Arizona Memorial” by wallyg is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Ultimately, the recommissioning of the Iowa-class was short-lived. Two of them, the USS Missouri and the USS Wisconsin, would serve in Operation Desert Storm, delivering potent naval gunfire support.

    USS Sioux City transits the Severn River.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. no longer required such a vast military expansion.

    USS Wisconsin” by sg.sam is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    All branches of the armed forces started to reduce in size, and the Navy was no different.

    BEST OF THE NAVY” by expertinfantry is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    However, the end of the Cold War and the continued advancement in naval technology led to their final decommissioning by 1992, and all four became museum ships by 2006.

    Relevant articles:
    The U.S. Navy’s Iowa-Class Battleships Already Made the Ultimate Comeback, The National Interest
    How the Navy’s Iowa-Class Battleships Made the Ultimate Comeback, The National Interest
    Introducing the Iowa-class: The Navy’s Plan to Build the Ultimate Battleship, 19FortyFive
    Battleships Are Back! Navy Abruptly Boosts DDG/CG Building Targets For 2045, Forbes

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