GEAR & TECH

What would happen in a fight between an old battleship and a new destroyer

The past versus the future is always an interesting debate. One of the biggest naval hypotheticals centers around the Iowa-class battleships, which have often been featured in "what if" match-ups with anything from the Bismarck and Yamato to the Kirov. The Iowas are now museums, supposedly replaced by the Zumwalt-class destroyers.


USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) emerges past a point. (US Navy photo)

Could the Zumwalt-class ships really be a replacement? Could they measure up to an Iowa? This could be a very interesting fight, given that the two ships were commissioned slightly over seven decades apart.

USS New Jersey (BB 62) fires her main guns. (Photo: US Navy)

The Zumwalt is perhaps the most high-tech ship to sail the seven seas. MilitaryFactory,com notes that this ship has two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, 20 four-cell Mk 57 vertical-launch systems, and it can carry two helicopters. The vessel displaces about 14,500 tons, and has a top speed of 30 knots. In short, this destroyer is a little smaller than a World War II-era Baltimore-class heavy cruiser.

USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) (Photo: U.S. Navy)

An Iowa, on the other hand, comes in at 48,500 tons, per MilitaryFactory.com. She could reach a top speed of 35 knots, and was armed with nine 16-inch guns in three turrets, each with three guns. When modernized in the 1980s, she added 32 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and still kept six twin five-inch gun mounts. This is still one of the most powerful surface combatants in the world, even though it is old enough to collect Social Security and Medicare.

The massive cannons of the USS Iowa. (US Navy photo)

A fight between an Iowa and a Zumwalt would be very interesting. The Zumwalt would use its stealth technology to stay hidden and then rely on helicopters and UAVs to locate the Iowa. Its biggest problem would be that none of its weapons could do much against the heavy armor on the battleship. If the Iowa gets a solid solution on the Zumwalt, on the other hand, it can send its own gun salvos at the destroyer – which won't survive more then one or two hits.

USS Iowa (BB-61) fires a full broadside of her nine 16″/50 and six 5″/38 guns during a target exercise near Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. (DOD photo)

In short, the Iowa would likely demonstrate why so many people want to see them back in service at the expense of the ship that was intended to replace it.