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Published by Lerner Pub Group L Galleys still proved useful in special circumstances, such as becalmed conditions Note 6 , or as counters to threats posed by their opposite numbers in confined waters. Nonetheless, oar-propelled warcraft soon disappeared from fleets; the advance in weapons technology had radically changed warship design. One-on-one ship battles shifted from hand-to-hand brawls to something more like pistol duels. Only when one vessel and its crew became seriously degraded would boarding actions typically take place, and often not until the losers had struck their colors.
Enemy fleet engagements tended to become ranged affairs much like contemporary land battles between blocks of musket-equipped soldiers. The effects of wind direction on maneuverability and waves on gun ports became serious tactical considerations, and many battles were decided by suboptimal decisions concerning them.
One such was the Battle of the Chesapeake during the American Revolution. The wind direction allowed the French to use their lower gun ports, while the British could not. Note 7.
As had happened when sails replaced oars, warships again leaped in tonnage as steam power produced much more driving force than wind-pushed sails and also independent of wind presence, strength, or direction. A massive convulsion of ship redesign followed with wood giving way to iron and steel, and sailing masts being replaced by steam boilers and propellers.
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Naval guns moved into turrets like the Monitor or behind armored bulkheads like the Virginia —some designs had both. Sailing ships soon left the fleets of world navies. Naval warship design had once again been revolutionized, this time by the advance in propulsion technology associated with the new "Age of Steam. One interesting and perhaps counter-intuitive result was the revival in the pre-Sail Age attack of ramming!
That is, the new technology of steam allowed ships to maneuver, gain speed, and drive into the enemy far better than oar galleys had been able to do. In the American Civil War, the navies of both sides used steam-powered, paddle-boat rams to considerable effect. The Battle of Lissa between forces of Austria and Italy also featured ram tactics.
The result was that many navies built rams for a few decades, and included "ram bows" in many of their warships for even longer. Ram attacks were feasible in the early years of steam because gun and shell technologies initially lagged that of armor once steam propulsion allowed smaller freeboard and greater than previous armor thickness. The point here is that new technologies can revive previous dead-end tactics. Nor did SF ignore this. Wells' War of the Worlds , HMS Thunder Child a fictional torpedo ram in the Royal Navy heroically engaged three alien fighting machines by shelling and ramming while defending a convoy of refugees, destroying at least two before succumbing.
In homage, many authors and game designers have included vessels named Thunder Child in their storyverses ever since, including Star Trek. Major fleet combatants continued to grow in size over the next several decades. Armor would get thicker and guns larger, and all the while steam technology advances continued to produce ever more powerful engines. The demands and complexity of the designs soon outpaced the ability of most nations' shipyards to construct them. Note 8 The costs of these huge warships rose to the point where only the Great Powers could build and sustain fleets, few nations could construct the shipyards capable of producing them, and most could not even afford to purchase a single one from a foreign shipyard.
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The belief in the importance of having one or more such ships in a nation's navy was not mistaken. Smaller ships mounting lesser guns and thinner armor could not hope to defeat larger adversaries in battle or, in many cases, even harm them. A nation without any was at the mercy of any other nation that had even one. Lesser ships looked like they might become relegated to duties away from the heart of battle, such as scouts or raider protection.
Soon, however, technology advances once again changed naval design and, by doing so, created the need for new ship types. Some designs specifically targeted the great-gunned, thickly armored, and vastly expensive vessels. Others then became necessary to operate in support of those compatriots to help ward off the new threats. The first of these advances was the torpedo. Note 10 The significance of this weapon was that it could damage or sink even the largest warships, yet be launched by small vessels difficult to destroy at a distance, especially when attacking at speed in numbers.
This advance in weapons technology mandated new classes of warships with different characteristics.
The new designs were optimized to better launch the new weapon or to defend the fleet against such attackers, and some to fulfill both roles. The new attacking ships sacrificed armor for speed and agility. The new defenders needed to be nearly as fast and armed with guns optimized for engaging the quick but unarmored attackers. The key point, however, is that these new warship designs did not arise until weapons technology produced the new threat.
The torpedo also led to a new warship of an entirely different type: the submarine. In this case, the new design was built simply to employ the new technology, rather than modifying existing designs to incorporate it. Here, the new technology dictated the creation of a class of warships completely unrelated to any previous ones.
The second technological advance was the airplane. The first generations of these posed no direct threat to armored warships. However, improvements in range and reliability soon enabled planes to find enemy ships at distances far beyond naval scouts and improve long range gun accuracy as shell spotters.
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Note 12 Some proponents advocated for a new class of ships dedicated solely to operating airplanes, with the thought of greater scouting capabilities and the potential to gain an advantage for their large gunned warships by driving off enemy scouts and spotters. Continued aviation technology improvements in speed, range, and lift eventually made them direct threats to even the most heavily armored warships.
Note 13 The result was another new warship class, the aircraft carrier, far larger than the seaplane tenders for air scouts. Meanwhile, all ship designs were steadily modified, with the most visible changes being the addition of massed batteries of anti-aircraft weapons. One good example is the USS Pennsylvania BB , with the images below providing a clear contrast of before and after air attacks were considered a clear threat.
Besides replacing the existing secondary armament with new five-inch twin turrets dual purpose, capable of anti-aircraft fire , ten quad mounts of forty millimeter and fifty-one twenty millimeter anti-aircraft guns were installed, thus adding an additional ninety-one barrels dedicated solely to shooting at attacking aircraft. As these changes were being made, all new ship designs were modified as well to increase anti-aircraft weapons. The last technology that changed naval warship design to be examined is electronics, the changes occurring over the last fifty years.
First, the new weapons changed the dimensions of the battlespace, pushing fleet engagement ranges far beyond the reach of conventional naval artillery and, in doing so, rendered large gun warships effectively obsolete as naval surface combatants. Like galleys, nearly four centuries before and sailing ships hardly one century earlier, they increasingly served in limited niche roles before disappearing altogether from the navies of the world.
Second, once steam, armor, and heavy cannons had become the basic warship elements at the start of the Age of Steam, the designs themselves became "mass limited. The advent of electronics and missiles changed the designs to "volume limited. Massive gun barrels and their heavy shells were replaced by slender launchers and low density missiles. The new requirement to keep electronics cool mandated multiple air conditioning plants, with large capacity ducts. Now, increasing the volume of a ship increased its performance by allowing greater numbers and more powerful missile and electronic systems to be incorporated into the design.
This effect can be tracked in the three images below. The second image is the same ship after its conversion in to a guided missile cruiser CG The third image below "the Chicago s" is the USS Ticonderoga CG guided missile cruiser, built from the start as a volume-limited design. The USS Chicago was originally commissioned with armored main turrets and numerous anti-aircraft guns.
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The conversion design replaced all the main guns and nearly all the others with missiles, added missile directors and more powerful radars, and increased volume where practicable. The Ticonderoga design plainly maximizes volume to the point that it begins to resemble more a box on a hull Note 14 than the cruisers that came before her. These changes were the natural result of optimizing the design for electronics and missiles.
The spaceships of science fiction SF follow the same principles traced above in the naval vessels of history. In SF, however, the author posits the technologies, allowing vast variances among authors and "storyverses. The best technology then in existence for getting a mass to a high altitude was the cannon. Thus, Verne extrapolated to a massive cannon that fired an inhabitable projectile nine feet in diameter!
It achieved this by detonating so much gunpowder that it was visible for scores of miles, knocked down all anywhere nearby, and was recorded as a meteor burning up in the atmosphere by ship captains as far as a hundred miles out to sea. The point here is not realism or lack of same, as the acceleration forces necessary would have crushed all passengers into paste , but that the shape or design of the "spacecraft" was that of a cannon shell.
Verne may have been the first to use this design, but he was far from the last. Note The Excelsior was perhaps the first SF spaceship in motion picture history. It appeared in the movie, " Himmelskibet " "A Trip to Mars" , a silent feature film released in The design of the Excelsior combined the two best flight technologies of the time: biplanes and dirigibles! It even had a pusher propeller on the back. These technological aspects dictated the shape of the craft. Within a decade of the release of " Himmelskibet ," airplanes had become so commonplace and well understood including their limitations that they were no longer SF spaceship fare.
Rockets came next and an especially notable early example was Frau im Mond , by Thea von Harbou. This was an extraordinary work in many respects, and then it was made into a movie which itself contained many nearly prescient elements. The author consulted German rocket developers while writing her novel and screen play and their influence showed. Among the many details of technical Note 18 interest:. Rockets soon dominated SF, and came in a great many designs ranging from unadorned to highly decorated.
Two of the most famous are from Buck Rogers introduced and Flash Gordon first appearance Rocket spaceships continued to roar across the covers of SF novels and magazines in the decades that followed, as well as in serials and feature films. The specific design elements varied, but most generally featured long cylinders and fins.
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They were armed with a wide variety of weapons, including rocket guns, atomic mortar guns, space bombs, heat rays, gas launchers, and many more. The shape, speed, and agility of rocket powered attack craft apparently brought back memories of days of yore to some. As happened in early in the Age of Steam, the new technology revived interest in a previously discarded tactic: ramming! Pulp magazine covers in particular regularly featured bright, energetic images that excited the imaginations of young readers. One of the earliest and most influential artists was Frank R.
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Paul, hired by Hugo Gernsback in to illustrate a science magazine. Gernsback next tasked him with the cover of the inaugural issue April, of his Amazing Stories magazine. This was the first magazine dedicated to science fiction, and Paul's work appeared on all the covers for over three years.
His images of huge robots, streaking spaceships, and strange aliens were the first such images seen by a great many future SF artists and authors, as well as young readers considering careers in science. Freas was amazingly prolific as an artist and would be nominated twenty times for the Hugo Award for Best Artist and win ten. Note 23 The style of his drawings of spaceships and exotic locales was so distinctive that they were easily identifiable. Many of Bonestell's paintings included not only spaceships, but also the locales where they operated or had landed.
His experience in photography, miniature modeling, and astronomy helped him create images of breathtaking realism and impact. His "Saturn as Seen from Titan," see below was so convincing that it seemed photographers must have set up on that distant spot. His paintings invoked a sense of location, causing a generation to grow up thinking of the worlds of our Solar System as real places to which we could journey.