USS Washington (BB-1942)


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The Washington class, in real life, were a class of two. These were followed by the four South Dakota class. Because I have a magic wand, I can fix the problems that were faced in the Washington class and supposedly cured in the South Dakota class. Therefore a class of six is the result.

The problem BuShips had was the same one faced by all navies building to the 35,000 ton/16" limit. It was impossible to produce a balanced design within those limits. So what happened? Most navies cheated. A reduction in main  armament size from 16" to 15"/14" allowed a bit more displacement for armour and speed but the Germans and Italians took that to extremes. Giving the navies a chance to build a bit more into the first rotation of 35k ships has allowed the Allied navies a chance to build slightly better ships. This also applies to the Washington class. To keep with 16" guns and a speed of 27-28 knots meant that what had to give was armour, only a 12" main belt was fitted. This made them armoured against the Japanese 14" armed ships but the Nagato and Yamato would have had no problems piercing that sized belt. Also a problem was the underwater protection which was less than optimal. If you have a few thousand tons extra you can put into a design that sort of problem goes away.

I have done a lot of reading on the differences between the three modern US Navy battleship classes. The consensus put forward by one naval historian, was that the differences between the South Dakota and Iowa classes was only the extra tonnage. That extra displacement and size was the price paid to increase the speed by six knots. The armour scheme and armament was the same in both.

One of the most visible differences between the Washington and South Dakota class is the external armoured belt on the Washington's while the South Dakota had an internal belt. Another obvious difference between the two is the 28mm and 0.5" light AA guns on the North Carolina above, and the 40mm and 20mm fitted to the South Dakota.


Another criticism was the lack of space to allow the ships to be used as flag ships. The South Dakota had an enlarged bridge structure to allow for extra Admiral's staff. To make that change, two twin 5" were deleted.

Having set the scene, what do I want to do to the Washington, to improve the class and ameliorate the various problems. I figure an extra 25-30 feet of length, and 3,500-4,000 tons of displacement worked into the design should be enough to allow something extra for the various problems encountered in the original ships. I will put the extra length into the area between the funnels which should allow for an enlarged bridge structure to cure the Admiral problem. The extra length allows for better fitting of the machinery spaces. The extra displacement gets used in fixing those previous problems but would leave 2-2,500 tons to improve the armour deficiencies.

I will digress for a moment into the various navies doctrines on how ships should be armoured. The gold standard is to be armoured against the same guns as fitted to your ship 'balanced armour'. That would require 14" of side armour plate and 6" of deck armour for the Washingtons. The Royal Navy King George V ships had this armour but had a reduced 14" main battery. That was their compromise, lesser guns, more armour. It would have been easy enough for the US to achieve that level of armour, just reduce the speed of the ships to 22-23 knots and all the displacement needed for better armour would have been available. But, and this is my guess, the extra speed for the ships would be necessary for them to act with and be escorts to the aircraft carriers. This is in 1935 even before the Royal Navy shows what the aircraft carrier can do in the first two years of the war (with antiquated aircraft too!). Navies had been wargaming their ships against each other both in the theoretical floor games out into the big blue where theory became reality. The US Navy had the two large Lexington class carriers with which to play these games and learn just how good aircraft carriers were going to be. So better speed was a requirement for tactical flexibility with the carriers, rather than the ships being added to the existing 21 knot battleship battle line.

So above is my first try, which to me looks unbalanced where the funnels have ended up after adding the extra section in the middle of the ship. When I compare it to to the Louisiana superstructure, I prefer the Louisiana.

Pushing the fore funnel further forward has restored what I think of as 'balance' in the look of the design.


Displacement 38,400 tons std 46,600 tons full load
Length 756 ft
Breadth 108 ft
Draught 30 ft
Machinery 4 shaft steam turbines 140,000shp
Speed 28 knots
Range 14,000 miles at 15 knots
Armour 13.5" Belt, 13.5/10/9" Turrets, 6" Deck
Armament 9 x 16" (3x3)

20 x 5" (10x2)

60 x 40mm (15x4)

24 x 20mm (24x1)

Aircraft 4
Complement 2300
Notes USS North Carolina
USS Washington
USS South Dakota
USS Massachusetts
USS Indiana
USS Alabama

Cutaway view of real life North Carolina, gives a good sense of the internals of the ships.


List of North Carolina-class battleships
Ship name Hull no. Builder Laid down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Fate
North Carolina BB-55 New York Naval Shipyard 27 October 1937 13 June 1940 9 April 1941 27 June 1947 Struck 1 June 1960; museum ship since 29 April 1962 in Wilmington, North Carolina
Washington BB-56 Philadelphia Naval Shipyard 14 June 1938 1 June 1940 15 May 1941 27 June 1947 Struck 1 June 1960; sold for scrap, 24 May 1961
South Dakota BB-57 New York Shipbuilding CorporationCamden, New Jersey 5 July 1939 7 June 1941 20 March 1942 31 January 1947 Struck 1 June 1962; Sold for scrap, 25 October 1962
Indiana BB-58 Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock CompanyNewport News, Virginia 20 September 1939 21 November 1941 30 April 1942 11 September 1947 Struck 1 June 1962; Sold for scrap, 23 October 1963
Massachusetts BB-59 Bethlehem Steel CorporationFore River ShipyardQuincy, Massachusetts 20 July 1939 23 September 1941 12 May 1942 27 March 1947 Struck 1 June 1962; Museum ship at Battleship Cove in Fall RiverMassachusetts, since 14 August 1965
Alabama BB-60 Norfolk Naval Shipyard 1 February 1940 16 February 1942 16 August 1942 9 January 1947 Struck 1 June 1962; Museum ship at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama, since 11 June 1961


Series of drawings showing the different camouflage schemes used on the real life North Carolina class.


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