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Big Boats!


I run through some of the reasoning and logic for building larger US Navy surface warfare vessels, amidst discussion of the Navy’s frequent failures over the last two decades to build anything that’s very useful:

Perhaps the Navy doesn’t need a new large surface combatant? Ship displacement is historically a balance between lethality, survivability, and affordability. If size makes ships both more lethal and more survivable, warships will increase in size. Over the course of naval history, lethality and survivability have not necessarily scaled with size. “Ships of the line” in the Age of Sail were built to similar designs for a remarkably long period of time, in part because an increase in size reduced stability. In the 20th century, navies found that larger battleships were both more lethal and more survivable, leading to a rapid expansion in battleship size between 1905 and 1920, and another rapid expansion at the beginning of World War II. Navies also discovered that larger aircraft carriers could carry larger numbers of more powerful aircraft, making large carriers exponentially more powerful than their smaller cousins.

The interesting thing about naval architecture right now is that there are so many interesting technologies that can find their way onto warships and have a consequential impact on performance that it’s difficult to predict what is really going to matter in terms of lethality and survivability. Thus, there’s the opportunity to see a bunch of different, innovative ship types around the world.

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