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jss78

Hypothetical size limits of warships

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Someone posted this obviously harebrained/humourous napkin scribbling in another thread.

 

Spoiler

fuhrer-bb.jpg

So, this got me thinking -- what is the hypothetical maximum size of a warship?

 

Let's assume there are no limitations during the construction stage, or with logistics. So you would have a large enough dock, a harbour to take the ship, and no need to consider what Panama/Suez/Kiel etc. canals can take. Would it, in such a case, make sense to go bigger than has historically been done?

Would it actually be economical, or is there a point of diminishing returns in terms of ship capability? Or some technical/structural reason why you just couldn't go past a certain size?

 

Have there been any concrete plans for a ship decisively bigger than the Yamato?

 

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  • You can link up ship parts at sea --> city sized ships or bigger
  • it is not economical
  • yes, there were plans for bigger ships/floating islands (Habakkuk)

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In the end, why would you? I'm sure the hypothetical German battleship above, with 8 Schwerer Gustav guns and what-not, could've been built if somebody had judged it's worth the massive expense? They did the same kind of thing with tanks with the Maus, but it's cheaper to over-do tanks than battleships.

 

The biggest battleships built during the WW2 years were not economical, and this was realized already during the war.

 

With carriers, what would be the reason to make them any bigger? If you have the money, why not build more instead? 

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Oh... Sure, there isn't a single real size limitation for a warship. In theory. After all, the North Pole is just basically ice floating. So, yeah, you could technically build a warship the size of Ireland and still find a way to make her float.

 

But why on earth will you build such a thing? Except for the lulz of course. Don't try to find a reason, you can't find any.

 

It's like gun caliber. Of course, you can make caliber bigger and bigger... But, there is a moment when it's going to be too big to be useful or even practical.

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It's like the Railroad guns of the Germans during the war.

Biggest ones needed 1000 men to operate and the barrel were worn out in 60 Shells or so.

Russians didn't use anything over 8 inches and had better effect.

So the question is really. Do u want one big one that is not effective, or many smaller ones With more flexibility and cheaper to replace when lost?

Just look at how the IJN treated the Yamato. Hardly in action for most parts of the war. And then a suicide run when all hope was lost.

A few pilots lost was the USN casualties.

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I‘ll give my two cents too, even if its almost 3 months after the fact. 

 

The length and weight of a ship determines the size and required strenght of many components, among others the keel. In my estimation, given no other restrictions, the limit would come from the failure conditions of the keel. 

 

I‘m not an expert by any means, but depending on the material you plan to use, there will be a point where the beam will fail under its own weight, which in turn would determine the max. displacement.

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The US Navy had ( I have no clue whether it is still valid today) a maximum size of their warships: they could not be wider the the width of the Panama canal locks, 110 ft (33.53 m), according to wikipedia. So thus limiting the width to less than 110 feet, at least during WW2.

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11 hours ago, redfox032 said:

The US Navy had ( I have no clue whether it is still valid today) a maximum size of their warships: they could not be wider the the width of the Panama canal locks, 110 ft (33.53 m), according to wikipedia. So thus limiting the width to less than 110 feet, at least during WW2.

It wasn't an absolute limit, as proved by the Montana-class, since they would've been wider than the locks. It would've meant they wouldn't have been able to quickly pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, but this is not the reason why they weren't built.

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11 hours ago, Historynerd said:

It wasn't an absolute limit, as proved by the Montana-class, since they would've been wider than the locks. It would've meant they wouldn't have been able to quickly pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, but this is not the reason why they weren't built.

I whole heartily agree with your comments, Historynerd. Thanks for pointing that out. Further with regards to maximum size, you have the brilliant (sarcastic) idea from The British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill during WW2 to build an aircraft carrier on ice - Project Habakkuk: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180323-a-giant-aircraft-carrier-built-of-ice

 

But I guess if not the biggest, than one of the biggest limitations are the infrastructure in order to build larger than life warships (wharfs, docks, dry docks etc.) This eventually means a lot of investment for a given country.

 

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the limit to a hypothetical size for a giant warship is the law of diminishing returns as someone already mentioned. also, the resources required for each ship would be a limit, as well.

Engines, gun sizes, steel plating - etc, etc all would have limits for manufacture. the actual sizes of ships built is the guide to how big they would get in practical terms.

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10 hours ago, redfox032 said:

I whole heartily agree with your comments, Historynerd. Thanks for pointing that out. Further with regards to maximum size, you have the brilliant (sarcastic) idea from The British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill during WW2 to build an aircraft carrier on ice - Project Habakkuk: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180323-a-giant-aircraft-carrier-built-of-ice

 

But I guess if not the biggest, than one of the biggest limitations are the infrastructure in order to build larger than life warships (wharfs, docks, dry docks etc.) This eventually means a lot of investment for a given country.

 

Indeed. 

 

As for infrastructure, truer words were never spoken. Just to speak about Italy's situation, although there were ideas and concepts for battleships bigger and more powerful than the Littorio-class, in practical terms the four ships of that class were the limit of what Italy in 1940 could support with relative ease; just to say, there were only three drydocks in Italy capable of servicing them, only one of them placed in a first-rate operational base (Taranto), with the other two at Genoa and Venice.

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