WWII Battleships as Marine Heavy Assault Ship?

Posted on: December 8th, 2013 by Will Rodriguez 6 Comments

Yes, there was a plan!  The Navy and Marines presented Congress a concept in the 70’s to turn Iowa class battleships into heavy assault ships.  The Iowa class battleship was originally designed to accompany WWII carrier task forces.  Four of six planned ships were built and were the longest battleships ever built.  Coming into the force as the carrier ascended into its primacy, the Iowa class battleship was never able to prove itself as the cruiser killer it was designed to be but it shined as a shore bombardment platform from WWII to Desert Storm.

Heavy Assault Ship Concept model by Rusty White

Heavy Assault Ship Concept model by Rusty White

The 1970’s plan to turn the Iowa class battleship into the ultimate Marine supporting heavy assault ship featured removing the rear turret and installing a deck and hanger facility capable of operating Harriers up to 30 helicopters, 14 landing craft and up to 1800 Marines.  Its six 16” guns would have provided unprecedented dedicated amount of firepower to its onboard Marines.  Unfortunately, the cost of converting the battleship and the 2000 sailors needed to operate it were enough to kill the program.

Early 80's Iowa Class Conversion Concept

Early 80’s Iowa Class Conversion Concept

There were other conversion plans both before and after the Heavy Assault Ship concept that never came to fruition but this concept would have undoubtedly had the greatest impact on the grunt.  The last of the Iowa class battleships were released from the rolls in 2006 to become museums as the Zumwalt Destroyer has been designated as the heavy indirect fire support provider for future amphibious operations and eventually may field the first rail guns.

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  • ArcticWarrior

    Thinking outside the box but not a bad plan at all. The NJ or Iowa parking off a coast would have provided massive fire support while delivering 1800 Marines complete with air.
    Cost killed it, well we are getting the first of a few squadrons of Lightning II’s in the next few months, they even had a picture of the 1st one coming here on the final assembly line, will see and hear them soon (I hope), talk about a program with cost problems, but that’s another topic.
    OT was doing research on tagging agents, chemical ones to be exact. Came across this nugget – Army Research and Development Magazine, August 1962. The Helicopter as an Assault platform concept!!!!, The new LAW was the future of tank sniping…. good stuff buried in these old tech pubs.


  • YankeePapa

    …Ever since the end of Gulf War I the Marines have fretted about retiring the BBs…  For the most part, without them, Naval gunfire support is more on the order of 5″… which is just not the same (ask any surviving Japanese veteran…)  
    …Aside from sitting in a dock in Honolulu, battleships take a lot of killing… far more than an LPH or later amphibious vessels.  An Excocet missile would only scratch their paint and piss them off.  For more than 30 years the Marine Corps Gazette has had “artists renditions” of “concept” heavy firepower offshore support vessels.  They may actually go somewhere with the rail gun.  
    …It does need to be remembered that all the firepower in the world means little if one Silkworm missile can gut the weapons platform… 


  • steelhorse

    cool stuff major what do they use since there hasn’t been a need for a long time do they have a platform for this type of action as always interesting

  • YankeePapa   The Zumwalt has two 155mm guns which are capable of firing rocket assisted shells a little more than 80 miles and hit within 50m.  
    I agree with you about the importance of fire support.  Something crucial and eventually very costly is being ignored in the pellmell chase of precision weapons and technology.
    Dumb old artillery does one thing that precision munitions can’t and that is suppress the enemy.  This is the critical flaw being made when we replace fire support with aircraft an precision munitions.  Frankly, missile basic loads especially “smart” weapons are a fraction of the basic load of “dumb steel” or what I call the legacy weapons.  Dumb rounds are also a heck of a lot cheaper.
    The time proven reality even with all our technology is you often don’t know where the bad guy is or he is in a protected position that even your precision weapons can’t get to.  A blanket of “dumb steel” keeps the bad guys head down until the Infantry can close and kill him.
    We will relearn this lesson in blood on a future battlefield.  Where we run out of smart bombs.  This was another lesson I observed time and time again in simulations involving the doomed Future Combat Systems.  The red cell constantly spoofed our technology and when I asked for regular fire support so I could maneuver was told no because the target didn’t warrant a $1mil missile we understandably had to save for other threats known of the battlefield.
    The whole thing was best characterized in an AAR.  A comment was made about aircraft fulfilling the role of artillery.  I cited case after case of where the aircraft could not suppress the enemy (keep him from shooting at me while I was maneuvering), or hinder his movement at the tactical level.  When told by an Air Force officer that the F16 could do anything the artillery could I asked, “How much smoke does an F16 carry or what kind of FPF can it provide?” You could have heard a pin drop.
    FPF: An
    immediately available prearranged barrier of fire designed to impede enemy
    movement across defensive lines or areas.

  • No the Marines use LHA/ LHD and LPDs.  http://www.navy.mil/navydata/ships/amphibs/amphib.asp

  • steelhorse

    majrodthanks for the link Maj very interesting stuff