putting cruise missiles on WWII battleships

Photos of USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin firing 16″ rounds at Iraqi targets in 1991 are well-known as the last instances of battleships in combat. Less widely known is their operations with Tomahawks during that war, and even less, about how cruise missiles ended up on WWII battleships in the 1980s to begin with.

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(USS Wisconsin during WWII.)

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(USS Wisconsin firing a BGM-109 Tomahawk during operation “Desert Storm”, four and a half decades later.)

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the V-2 in the USSR after WWII

The US Army’s tests of captured V-2 missiles after WWII in New Mexico is fairly well-known. Much less famous is the Soviet Union’s involvement with the world’s first ballistic missile after WWII.

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(Left: A German V-2 missile being readied for launch during WWII. Right: It’s postwar Soviet copy, the SS-1 “Scunner”.)

The USA had no intention of using the V-2 as an actual weapon, no intention of directly copying it, no intention of producing it themselves, and only saw it as a useful research aid. The Soviets on the other hand, put no such restrictions on themselves.

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Guided missiles on Corsairs

Originally designed as a carrier-based gun dogfighter, the F4U Corsair, and it’s later attack variant, the AU-1, was used heavily as a ground attack plane during WWII, and almost exclusively in that role during the Korean War.

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(The first prototype Vought Corsair during WWII.)

A wide variety of weapons not originally envisioned were successfully used by the Corsair: air-to-ground rockets, napalm tanks, radar, depth charges, cluster munitions, and so on.

Easily the most unusual was something that could have never been envisioned by Vought’s engineers when they designed the plane; a guided missile.

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(French navy Corsair with SS.11 guided missiles aboard.)

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Firing a V-2 off an aircraft carrier

Germany’s V-2 ballistic missile was one of the most remarkable weapons of WWII, years ahead of it’s time. After the war, the US Army and civilian agencies fired captured examples for research, both military and scientific. Less well-known is that the US Navy fired one example off an aircraft carrier.

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(A V-2 missile being launched by German forces during WWII, and aboard USS Midway after the war.)

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The Shah’s Sumners

The USA exported WWII Sumner and Gearing class destroyers around the globe during the Cold War. One of the most unique examples were two sold to Iran, which ended up being the only ones ever to end up with a “hostile” regime.

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(USS Zellars – the future Iranian IIS Babr – at sea during WWII.)

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(Left: The flag of Iran prior to the 1979 revolution. Right: A logo used by General Dynamics for the RIM-66 Standard missile export program during the 1970s.)

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Last of the Gearings

The Gearing class was the US Navy’s final destroyer design of WWII. Without question, it was the best and most sophisticated destroyer class of WWII. Many naval historians consider it the best destroyer design ever. These ships served long after WWII in the US Navy, then were transferred around the world, serving many navies on four continents. The Mexican navy received two of these ships. One, ARM Netzahualcoyotl, ended up being the last Gearing on active duty in the world. sealRead More »