Its been 75 years since the last battleship was built, large, fast, thick armored with multiple long range radar controlled 12-18 inch naval gun turrents, smaller secondary turrets, torpedoes, sonar, depth charges and huge arsenals of anti-air guns but what would a modern Battleship built in 2020 with modern advances in technology be like? Here's my theory.
A new battleship would be roughly the size of the Yamato or up to 3-4 times larger. For those that don't know the ww2 Yamato battleship class was the largest battleship ever built. (Not the best).
2. Power plant
Any modern battleship will of course be powered by a nuclear reactor, the old Iowa class ships could do 32 knots any new battleship should be able to match that or surpass it at 40+ knots. Combined with its speed, the range of its weapons and that it won't need to refuel for 20 years it would be a very hard target to find and destroy.
A new battleship would be armed with all the latest weapons technology.
•Main guns. Replacing the main naval guns that use cordite propellant to fire explosive shells 20 miles instead a 2020 battleship would use batteries of Rail guns. A railgun is a device that uses electromagnetic force to launch high velocity projectiles. Rail guns have a range of 100 miles and possibly up to 2000 miles as they are still continuing to be developed, the kinetic energy from ordnance fired from a rail gun is hits 4 times harder though firing a smaller shell, which means more shells can be carried without the need to store dangerous propellants like cordite. There are many new advancements in artillery with so called "smart shells" which could be used to maximum effect by a railgun. The other option is using kinetic bombardment using solid tungsten nuclear hardened darts or depleted uranium high explosive shells fired at a high angle towards the atmosphere so that they land with devastating kinetic force. Railguns could also potentially launch nuclear projectiles. With modern automation railguns would be self loading and completely automated controlled by one or two gunnery officers on the bridge.
• Any modern battleship will have batteries of the 5-inch/54 caliber (Mk 45) lightweight gun( range miles, 20 rounds per minute automatic) M242 Bushmaster 25mm chain gun and possibly standard 50 cal machine guns. Conventional guns you'd find on any arleigh Burke class destroyer.
I know what your thinking but this isn't science fiction, LaWS have been deployed on US Navy ships. The technology is still being trialled but with advanced Radar and optics systems they should be able to in the future engage any threat in their line of sight from an attacking fast boat or UAV to anti-ship missiles and attack jets. At only $1 per shot compared to thousands spent on conventional ordnance as well as nearly unlimited shots it's a must for any future warship.
• Missile batteries.
Missile batteries have been operated on warships for quite sometime and they were essentially the final nail in the coffin of the old WW2 era battleship designs though the Iowa class was brought back and fitted with cruise missiles in the 80s. A new battleship would be fitted with missle tubes firing the current missle systems we have now such as cruise and ballistic missiles but also the next generation hyper-sonic missiles.It will also carry the latest naval ICBM nuclear warheads. Of course it will also have anti-ship missiles.
• Anti-aircraft- Anti-ship missle defences
Just in case anyone tries to remind me of how the Aircraft carrier made the battleship obsolete during WW2 well A. The Aircraft carrier didn't make the battle ship obsolete, it merely replaced it as the first ship of the line. Battleships were still needed to protect aircraft carriers usually from other aircraft carriers. B. Battleships in WW2 didn't have SAM anti-aircraft missiles, it's a whole new ball game in 2020 and anti-ship aircraft may be obsolete.
Any new battleship will be able to fight off fleets of attacking jets with a combination of current anti-aircraft weapons in operation right now such as huge batteries of RIM-66 Standard, sea sparrows and AMRAAM missiles, new hyper-sonic anti-aircraft missiles, large numbers of Phalanx anti-aircraft gattling or whatever the next generation version is as well as the before mention lazers all controlled by the latest Ageis Radar systems.
• Aircraft. Believe it or not but WW2 battleships carried aircraft which they would use to scout the seas for enemy vessels or spot for their big naval guns where their shells were landing so they could adjust as big gun battleships like the Yamato or USS Missouri could fire farther than a gunner could visually see. What would be the 2020 version of this probably large numbers of drones, or manned aircraft like the V22 Osprey, SH-60 Seahawk. Of course these aircraft could also be used for anti submarine warfare dropping sonar buoys and launching Anti-submarine missles. It's even possible a modern Battleship could carry the new F35B fighter.
• Anti-submarine missiles. The latest available anti-submarine missiles will be available, there will be nowhere for the submarine to hide.
4. Radar & Sonar.
As I said whatever the latest radar technology is will be in this ship which linked to the weapon systems will have a devastating effect on any ships detected.
5. Electronic warfare
In case any of you don't know what this is Electronic warfare (EW) is any action involving the use of the electromagnetic spectrum (EM spectrum) or directed energy to control the spectrum, attack an enemy, or impede enemy assaults. This is has been used ever since WW2 by warring nations to help gain the upper hand. The little known "Battle of the Beams" where both the Allies and Axis forces tried to disrupt each others use of radar to detect aircraft or to guide bombers to the target. A good example is from WW2 during the invasions of Sicily and Italy the US & Royal Navies had to develop Electronic countermeasures to stop the Luftwaffe from sinking their ships with guided bombs and missiles.
Electronic warfare as technology has advanced has become more important than ever and any new Battleship will need Electronic Countermeasures to jam the Radars, sonar, missiles, communication, submarines, drones and aircraft of any enemies.
6. Digitial Battlespace.
This is something no sailor on a WW2 Battleship would recognise but is part of the US militaries new combined arms and services integration data and inteligence sharing meaning that if the US Airforce detects an enemy vessel the 2020 Battleship will instantly know it's postion and be able to fire upon it if in range or if US Army forces are under attack from superior forces the 2020 battleship if in range will be able to very quickly give fire support faster than any US airforce fighter can be launched. I'm not sure if I've explained this one properly.
Armor protection was a major part of Naval warship doctrine which is not the case today, Warships today are what you'd call glass cannons. For instance the Arleigh Burke class destroyer only has 3/8th inch HY-80 steel covering it's hull compared to the Ohio class battleships which at 14 inches in places. HY-80 is a strong alloy but it's not going to protect against Anti-ship missle or artillery shell. Modern Naval doctrine the last few decades has been focused on countering anti-ship missiles and air attacks using active hard and soft kill defenses such as the Phallanx gattling gun, anti-air missiles, anti-ship missiles and electronic missiles which makes sense as armor has become less important as most anti-ship missiles can penetrate all but battleship armor and armor makes a ship heavy and expensive. A 2020 battleship would have thick armour and the latest most advanced up to date armor that's been developed in the last 75 years since the last battleship was commissioned. Probably the hull would be constructed of the strongest alloys possible and the hull would be lined with a Naval version of Chobham armor or whatever armor has been developed to replace it, possibly some form of reactive armor too. Chobham armor is the toughest armor in the world and is on American and British tanks.
8. Computer Aided design
Computer Aided design was not a thing when the last battleships were being designed. The 2020 battleship will be easier to design, faster to build, stronger built, tougher, sleeker in the water and more ergonomic and all the other advantages that come with CAD.
The Iowa class battleships carried nearly 3000 sailors but I dont think a 2020 Battleship will need any more than 300-600 sailors with how automated modern warships are in 2019.
Would a 2020 battleship be economical, I certainly think so when you consider an aircraft carrier has a crew of 6-7000, 90 aircraft and requires escorts of cruisers, destroyers, frigates, submarines, supply and logistics ships to protect it.
The modern 2020 Battleship will be not only be able to navigate with satellite GPS it will be able to find the enemy and kill him at long range, watching in real time as their missiles and shells fired by rail guns land making adjustments. Of course it will also be able to shoot down enemy satellites.
12. The Future. Aircraft carriers were the future in 1939 but in 2020 it's future and effectiveness remains in doubt Aircraft carriers are increasingly vulnerable to arsenal ships and cruise missiles, especially those with supersonic or even hypersonic flight and the ability to perform radical trajectory changes to avoid anti-missile systems. Also modern carriers were designed for WW2 & Cold War scenarios, and are less useful in establishing control of areas close to shore the way Battleships can. Then there's the doubt over the future of naval Aircraft and Military aircraft in general over Airpowers ability in power projection. In Vietnam the Air war over BNorth Vietnam was considerably costly to the aircraft of the USAF and US Navy with many jets shot down by SAMs and radar controlled anti-aircraft artilery, granted North Vietnam had the most powerful and advanced air defence system in the world at the time and that over 50 years ago and the US military has made advances in dealing with powerful air defences as shown in the Gulf war when the Iraqi military was crushed from the Air but again that was 30 years ago. There's concern from the Syrian campaign that Air power has lost its teeth with the latest technology in anti-aircraft radar and missiles and that's before encountering enemy airforces, even that stealth aircraft like the F22 and f35 are not quite as invisible to radar as previously thought. Which would leave the USAF, US Navy and US marine corps pretty impotent when it comes to power projection using aircraft against a well defended enemy.
Conclusion. Well this is just my view I'm not navy man anyway. I'm sure there are military naval planners who have considered all this already and rejected the idea. Anyway building a modern 2020 Battleship even if it is the next phase in Naval warfare would probably create a situation similar to 1906 when the Royal Navy commissioned HMS Dreadnought, which was every Warship in the vast Royal Navy and around the world was made obsolete and a Naval Arms race was started in which all naval powers globally competed to build the most advanced and numerous fleets of dreadnaughts. The arrival of a beast like this in the south China sea would certainly give China a scare.