Fighting ship armed and crewed for war. The supremacy of the battleship at the beginning of the 20th century was rivalled during World War I by the development of submarine attack, and was rendered obsolescent in World War II with the advent of long-range air attack. Today the largest and most important surface warships are the aircraft carriers.
Aircraft carriers see aircraft carrier.
Sensor system The modern warship carries three types: (1) radar for surface-search and tracking, navigation, air surveillance, and indication of targets to weapon-control systems; (2) sonar for detection of surface and subsurface targets; and (3) liod (lightweight optronic detector) for processing the optical contrast of a target against its background, as viewed by a television or infrared camera. The information thus collected is then processed by computer and presented to senior officers through the combat information centre, which at the same time collects information from other fleet units and distributes its own data to them. Finally, weapon-control systems guide the selected weapons most efficiently to the targets.
Smaller auxiliary warships include mine-hunters for countering blockade of home ports, especially the base ports of submarines. From the 1980s these were made of glass-reinforced plastic.
Submarines The first nuclear-powered submarine was the US Nautilus 1955; the first Polaris was the George Washington 1960. Submarines fall into two classes: the specially designed, almost silent attack submarine, intended to release its fast torpedoes and missiles at comparatively close range, and the ballistic-missile submarine with guided missiles of such long range that the submarine itself is virtually undetectable to the enemy. For the USA these submarines form one leg of the strategic ‘triad’ of land-based missiles, crewed bombers, and submarine-launched missiles.
Battleships The US Navy has recommissioned and modernized several World War II battleships for shore bombardment and force projection. These were used with great effect during the 1991 Gulf War. They have been decomissioned.
The first British nuclear-powered submarine was the Dreadnought 1963. Nuclear power for surface warships still presents safety problems. Surface ships are increasingly driven by gas turbines, steam turbines being phased out, and include guided-missile destroyers and multipurpose frigates. The latter carry such varied equipment as guns, depth-charge mortars, minelaying rails, torpedoes, air-defence missiles, and surface-to-surface missiles.
History of the Russian Navy
Naval Activities: Panoramic Photographs
World War II Warship Images