PhotogaleriesIOWA class gallery 2 2023-04-10 Javier In 1953, at the height of the Cold War and with the rise of nuclear weapons, it was decided to develop a “special” (nuclear) ammunition for the 406mm guns. These nuclear shells were designated the Mk.23 and were known as “Katie shells”. They were ready in 1956 and had an estimated yield of 15 to 20 kilotons. Fifty shells of this type were manufactured and it is likely that they were withdrawn in 1961-62, or in any case were not in service after 1991, when the United States retired all its nuclear artillery shells. (USS Iowa image). Battleships Iowa, New Jersey, and Wisconsin were fitted with a special system inside Turret II for the safe handling of these shells. One area of the magazine was modified to hold up to 10 “Katies” and nine special practice rounds. A shell-handling room was provided where nuclear shells were armed just prior to firing. A monorail transport system was also installed on the third deck that allowed the nuclear rounds to be moved to other turrets if necessary. Only the USS Wisconsin fired a nuclear dummy round in 1957. It must be remembered that although the works of the USS Illinois and USS Kentucky (on the image) were stopped, this last ship had continued to be built at a slow pace and in 1950 she was completed up to the third deck with her propulsion machinery installed. Also the hull was 72% complete along with the armor and the barbette supporting structure. This vessel remained at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard awaiting future developments. In 1955 several proposals by Rear Admiral W. K. Mendenhall were considered to complete the USS Kentucky as a guided-missile battleship (BBG). In this 1956 proposal, called “BBG-1 scheme I” (on the image), it had a very powerful armament made up of 16 liquid fuel IRBMs, 4 twin launchers for Talos SAM with 320 missiles and 12 twin launchers for Tartar SAM with 504 missiles. The IRBMs were stowed on their sides amidships with a huge missile-erecting tower to permit the firing of the missiles from either side of the ship. It was also necessary to incorporate modern electronic control systems, as well as a Doppler sonar and antipitching fins and roll stabilizers to steady the platform. Unfortunately, the 282 million dollars it cost to make this transformation made this proposal unfeasible. The “BBG-1 Scheme I” was followed by another proposal called “BBG-1 Scheme II” (on the image). On this occasion the armament was reduced to 12 vertical launching liquid-fueled IRBMs, 2 Talos plus 4 Tartar SAM twin launchers and eight 76/50mm AA guns in four twin mounts. In this design, the ship lost the front half of its power plant to accommodate the IRBM missiles, reducing its top speed to 27 knots. This proposal was much more adjusted to reality, but its price of 130 million dollars was still 50 million more expensive than a similar conversion in heavy cruisers, so it was also rejected. After the rejection of these proposals, in 1958 it was decided to scrap the USS Kentucky. (BBG project Regulus II Scheme 1958 image). In March 1958, after deactivation of the four ships, feasibility studies began to transform them into guided-missile battleships (BBG). For this purpose, the 406mm and 127mm gun turrets would be replaced by 2 Talos plus 2 Tartar SAM twin launchers, 1 RUR-5 ASROC ASW missile launcher and a Regulus II installation with four missiles. In addition, an AN/SQS-26 sonar, two ASW helicopters, fire control systems for the missiles and flagship facilities would be installed. For seaworthy reasons, 8,600 tons of fuel oil also had to be added to compensate for the removal of the 406mm turrets. Again, the high cost, between 178 and 193 million dollars, caused this project to be rejected. (BBG project Regulus II Scheme 1959 image). After rejecting the aforementioned project, the Bureau of Ships presented a cheaper one, of about 84 million dollars, in which the two front 406mm turrets and ten 127mm turrets were kept. In addition, only one Talos and one Tartar SAM twin launcher, one ASROC launcher and two Regulus II launchers with six missiles were included as guided weapons. The sonar was maintained and new electronic equipment and remodeling of the ship’s superstructure would have been necessary, but in 1959 it was decided to review this project so that the ships could accommodate the new Polaris missiles. In 1959 two new proposals were presented incorporating the new Polaris Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM). In the “BB-61 class conversion to BBG Polaris Scheme I” (on the image) the two triple 406mm front turrets were kept along with two twin 127mm turrets and 16 Polaris missile launch tubes were added, 1 Talos SAM twin launcher and 1 ASROC 8-cells ASW missile launcher. In addition, 2 helicopters and modern electronic equipment were included. In the second proposal, called “BB-61 class conversion to BBG Polaris Scheme II” (on the image), all 406mm turrets were eliminated and only two twin 127mm turrets were kept. Once again, 16 Polaris missile launch tubes were installed, but the number of SAM missiles was increased over Scheme I with the installation of 2 Talos plus 2 Tartar SAM twin launchers. Like the previous proposal, 1 ASROC 8-cells ASW missile launcher and 2 helicopters were incorporated, in addition to a wide range of electronic equipment. Once again, both projects were rejected due to high cost in 1960. (Amphibious Command ship 1962 project image). The concern of the US Marines about the loss of heavy gun support during the landings, led to the study of a couple of proposals to convert the Iowa class into amphibious assault ships capable of carrying and landing 1,800 marines. One of the proposals consisted in the elimination of the aft 406mm turret and replacing it with a platform for helicopters and boat stowage facilities for LCM-6 and LCM-8 landing craft. The other proposal was presented in 1962 and consisted of eliminating the aft 406mm turret and 8 127mm turrets to install a huge platform for helicopters. In addition, 1 ASROC 8-cells ASW missile launcher would be installed, a hangar for 20 helicopters and 14 landing craft would be carried on the superstructure of the ship that would be lowered into the water by means of cranes. Both proposals were discarded. (BB-64 BB-62 & BB-61 image). All four vessels remain in the reserve fleet from 1957-58 through the 1980s with minimal maintenance. The only exception occurred in August 1967, when the order was given to reactivate the USS New Jersey (BB-62) and send her with the Pacific fleet to carry out naval bombardment missions in Vietnam. This ship was chosen because it was in better condition and a small modernization was carried out with the improvement in its radar, electronic warfare equipments and the dismantling of all the 20 and 40mm guns. (USS Missouri image). After the 1982 Malvinas/Falkland War, the vulnerability of modern ships to missile and bomb attacks became clear. There is no doubt that Iowa class would be much more difficult to sink thanks to their heavy and thick armor even with the modern weapons of the 80s and 90s, so studies were begun to reactivate these “naval dinosaurs” born in the middle of WWII. The years in the reserve did not pass in vain for its state of conservation, and this new reactivation was not going to be an easy task…or cheap. (USS New Jersey image). After the approval of funds by Congress, the first ship to be reactivated turned out to be the USS New Jersey. The Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman wrote a letter authorizing the reactivation with the following characteristics: -9 405/50mm guns in three triple turrets (with some restrictions on firing arc), -12 127/38mm guns in six twin turrets, -32 BGM-12 Tomahawk cruise missiles in 8 armored box launchers, -16 RGM-84 Harpoon antiship missiles in 4 quadruple launchers, -Four six barreled 20/76mm Mk.15 Vulcan Phalanx CIWS, -Improved AN/SPS-49 air search radar and installation of AN/SLQ-32(V)3 ECM system. These modifications were approved for all four ships. (USS Iowa image). The USS New Jersey and USS Missouri were in the best shape, but the USS Iowa and USS Wisconsin were in really bad shape. As an anecdote, it can be said that these last two ships had grass growing on their teak decks! It was necessary to replace the air conditioning, kitchen and laundry equipment, large amounts of asbestos were also found that had to be eliminated as much as possible, and endless other actions related to habitability, sewage collection and holding tank system, electrical systems and plumbing. In addition, special care had to be taken in the placement of the new electronic systems to avoid the gun blast of the 406 and 127mm guns and the installed missiles, capable of causing interference and even damaging this sensitive equipment. (USS Missouri image). Another major modification was the change from the Navy Special Fuel Oil (NSFO) system to Diesel Fuel Marine (DFM) to be compatible with the US Navy logistics system. Although DFM had less volumetric heat content, it produced more energy per ton and was a much cleaner fuel than NSFO. Although the capacity of the tanks was about 9,000 tons, because DFM is less dense than NFSO, it occupies more volume, so a maximum load limit of 7,600 tons was imposed, but due to the greater energy provided by the DFM, did not imply a reduction in the range of the ships. This change also entailed replacing the fuel pumps, reviewing and repairing the fuel supply piping system and the complete cleaning of the fuel tanks. On the other hand, DFM reduces the frequency between burner and boiler checks and generates much less smoke. (USS New Jersey image). Two combat information centers (CICs) were installed, one was in the superstructure, known as the combat engagement center, and the second was inside the hull, inside an armored citadel. This last CIC was designed to be able to execute some actions of the ship, such as operating the artillery, in case the superstructure CIC was damaged. The conversion was completed with the installation of a helicopter control station and a JP-5 fueling station to refuel them, but no hangar or rearm capability was included. (USS New Jersey image). The modernization and reactivation of the four battleships took place between 1981 and 1988 and had a total cost of about 1,700 million dollars. It was said that this was the approximate cost of four modern Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates, although there is no doubt that the war potential of the modernized Iowa is infinitely higher. The vessels reached a displacement of about 58,200 tons with a maximum increase margin of about 2,000 tons. Each battleship controlled its own battle group, called the “Battleship Battle Group” or “Surface Action Group” which consisted of 1 Ticonderoga-class cruiser, 2 destroyers (DDG), 3 frigates, and a fleet oiler. USS Iowa BB-61 (on the image) was launched on August 27, 1942 and commissioned on February 22, 1943. On July 16, 1943 the ship sustained damage to her bottom while entering Casco Bay. She suffered a 70 meter long gash that damaged 16 fuel tanks and required the replacement of 18 plates. After the repairs carried out at the Boston Navy Yard, on August 27 the ship set sail for the Atlantic, fearing that the German battleship Tirpitz would enter those waters, but the mission ended in late October without results. (USS Iowa image). On November 14, 1943, the Iowa suffered an “unusual attack” by the destroyer USS William D. Porter (DD-579) while President Roosevelt was on board with other high-ranking military officers to go to Mers El Kébir, Algeria. While the destroyer, which was part of her escort, was conducting practice firing torpedoes, one of them fired and headed towards the Iowa. Upon the destroyer’s warning of the shot, the Iowa went towards it and pointed it at her with her artillery ready. Fortunately, the torpedo self-destructed about 900 meters from the battleship. There was no negligence, apparently the salt spray had bridged an open switch in the torpedo tube and activated the firing mechanism. (USS Iowa image). On January 22, 1944, the Iowa joined the Fifth Fleet, deployed in the Pacific. On February 16 during a raid on Truk, Caroline Islands, her guns sank the light cruiser Katori and the destroyer Maikaze, which although they fired 3 torpedoes at the Iowa, all missed. On March 18, she along with the New Jersey and several other ships shelled Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where she received two Japanese 152mm shells. These hits caused only minor damage and slightly injured two crew members. (USS Iowa image). In mid June 1944 she was escorting a carrier force during attacks on the islands of Guam, Pagan, Rota, Saipan and Tinian. On June 19, during the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Iowa destroyed 3 Japanese aircraft participating in various raids launched by the Japanese Middle Fleet and a few days later she shot down another two while chasing the fleeing Japanese ships. In September she participated in operations in the Central Phillippines and the Palau Islands including landing at Peleliu on the 17th. (USS Iowa image). During the Battle for Leyte Gulf the USS Iowa was part of the fast battleship-carrier force (TF.38) drawn north by a Japanese force to clear the San Bernardino Strait and Surigao Strait for two Japanese attack forces that would converge on the Philippine Sea to attack the American landing force. The ship remained in the Philippine Sea until late December 1944 when a problem in the inner port shaft forced her to sail to Hunters Point Navy Yard (San Francisco) for permanent repairs. At Hunters Point Navy Yard a new bridge was installed, 20mm guns were modified and changes were made to the radars. After these works the Iowa returned to the Pacific in April 1945. Since then, she supported operations in Okinawa and Kyushu, bombed Hitachi and Muroran in mid-July and entered Tokyo Bay on August 29. After the end of WWII, the ship was carrying out training and routine exercises until its deactivation in September 1948. However, it was not until March 24, 1949 when the USS Iowa was decommissioned and placed in reserve. During WWII and subsequent years until its decommissioning, this battleship fired 2,316 406mm shells. (USS Iowa image). On August 25, 1951, the Iowa was recommissioned for the purpose of sending her to fight in the Korean War. She received some minor refurbishment work and all 20mm guns were removed. On April 1, 1952, she became the flagship of the Seventh Fleet and participated in raids in the Wonsan area until October 1952. During the Korean campaign, the ship fired 4,550 406mm shells. After the war, the ship participated in many training exercises, some with NATO forces, until February 24, 1958 when she was again decommissioned and sent to reserve. (USS Iowa image). On this occasion her “rest” lasted 26 years, during which the ship gradually degraded. In September 1982 it was decided to reactivate it and the modernization and reconditioning work began. The ship was first brought to Avondale Shipyards, New Orleans, and later modernized at Litton/Ingalls Yard in Mississippi. Finally, the ship returns to service and is commissioned on April 28, 1984.