The title says it all: in an age of long-range force projection, why would battleships still be a thing? Clearly, they're rather obsolete in our world, but I'm not talking about our world; what military, industrial, strategic, or sociological reason would justify the use of battleships with a modern-day tech level?

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    $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 I don't think closure as a duplicate is warranted here. That question is about historical justification where this one is about present day technology. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 6:03
  • $\begingroup$ Guided missle frigates could be renamed guided missile battleships. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 17:03

2 Answers 2


Technological advancements have neutralized aircraft and missiles

In the near future, continued advancements in sensors and directed energy weapons like lasers (e.g. THEL) and other have resulted in advanced air defense systems where anything that comes over the horizon that is visible long enough is highly vulnerable. Missiles and aircraft with engines operating, regardless of altitude, are highly visible and quickly destroyed. Tactical ballistic missiles (e.g. the Scud) have a high enough trajectory that they stay in the air long enough to be easily tracked and easily destroyed. Air superiority is now a thing of the past.

This results in accelerated development in conventional artillery technology or railgun artillery technology firing rocket assisted and ramjet assisted shells and projectiles at much higher velocities and lower trajectories than before to reduce the chance of interception. On the naval side, this brings the resurgence of gun based warships, leading to a new global arms race to produce the mightiest navy led by powerful battleships.

[EDIT] It's worth noting that gun equipped warships have a dual role in both countering other warships and providing powerful shore bombardment. This video, which covers naval shore bombardment in WW2, makes the point that the most mobile and rapidly deployable artillery was in the form of warships, with the heaviest and longest ranged guns being on battleships. (A few land based artillery pieces were as large or larger, true, but mobility was extremely poor and deployment took a very long time once the artillery arrived at its destination. A warship, in contrast, is a self-contained artillery base that is ready to fire at a moment's notice.)

With current and near future technology increasing the range and accuracy of artillery shells, that puts an immense amount of inhabited territory within naval bombardment range; this, for example, says that 40% of the world's population lives within 100 km (~62 mi) of a coast, meaning that battleships not only dominate the sea, they will be an important source of supporting artillery fire in land campaigns in this hypothetical scenario as well.

  • $\begingroup$ That said, i believe smaller vessels will still be more favored, as they're faster and offer less of a target. A battleship may be more symbolic than practical. $\endgroup$
    – Henry Shao
    Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 5:03
  • $\begingroup$ @HenryShao Why? If missiles and aircraft that are visible can be hit, a small vessel can definitely be hit. You want a big vessel that can (a) fit a lot of point defense systems and (b) take a lot of hits. $\endgroup$
    Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ There's a concept called a pole of inaccessibility, basically as far as you can get from land or sea, even by conservative estimates, everywhere in my country (the UK) is within reach of modern-day artillery (pretty spooky!) $\endgroup$
    – Ummdustry
    Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know about taking a lot of hits, but modern missiles are much easier to shoot down than devise a solution to tank the hits. Standard anti-ship missiles of our age can't really knock out battleships, this is true. They are built to hit virtually unarmored destroyers. That being said, munitions tech has come a long way. They don't build heavier missiles just because it is more expensive. If someone fielded battleships heavy hitting missiles would pop up fast. AI guided autocannon AA fire has been proven effective combined with hard-kill missile interceptors. Bigger missiles = EZ targets? $\endgroup$
    – yolo man
    Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 8:32
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    $\begingroup$ @HenryShao "smaller vessels will still be more favored, as they're faster and offer less of a target." -- Not if they're displacement hulls (which they will be, in order to mount multiple nuclear reactors and give long combat duration. Speed is directly proportional to waterline length. Carriers and battleships were the fastest ships in WWII, much faster than destroyers and smaller cruisers. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Aug 13, 2021 at 18:31

Depend on the definition of "battleship", they never disappear in our world too. Because weapons are developped to fulfill roles in a combat doctrine, a countries that adopts a combat doctrine that requires a "battleship-esque" ship will built themselves a battleship. Consider the Soviet/Russian Kirov Class battlecruiser. It is big, carries a lot of weapon (instead of guns, they carry missiles), and its goal is to deliver a wallop of punch toward targets at sky, at sea, and underwater at the same time. Because Russia is self-sufficient, its combat doctrine is primarily defensive. Since their primary enemy is a US carrier strike group, Kirov would be used as the center of a Russian counter-strike group. In the battle, while Kirov will be launching missiles at US carriers and the submarines in the carrier strike group, the rest of the ships will protect it (while being supported by ground based bombers and missile batteries). And Russia is still using and upgrading Kirov right now.

If you somehow want the classic ships like the Iowa, the Missouri, or even the Yamato to be in a modern navy, then their armaments will need some upgrade, and they still might fulfill different function. Such as upgrading their main gun from using chemical to use electromagnetic power, adopt long-range missile (just like during the gulf-war), and use much better Anti-air. But if it is just one ship, no matter how much anti-air you have on it, enough missiles will overwhelm it and sunk that huge thing. And the best railgun right now still can't match the range of the tomahawk missile.

I would say their size and armor in a more creative way. In red alert 3 there is a unit known as "assult destroyer". This ship has a special skill called black hole armor. What if these new ships are equipped not with guns, but with shielding equipments? Imagine when a US carrier strike group is being targeted by millions of missiles and artillery rounds while the Aegis system is fried by a powerful EMP. And suddenly these "Battleships" start broadcasting their own radar return to attract missiles toward them instead of the more vulnerable ships inthe group. The better armored "battleship" barely survives the hit, the carrier do its thing and eliminate the threat, mission accomplished. Similar tactics had been used by the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1980s. They use the more armored Mi-24 hind to be a meatshield for their more vulnerable tranport helicopter against the stinger missile fired by the Afghans.


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