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A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to the armed forces of a state.As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more maneuverable than merchant ships. Unlike a merchant ship, which carries cargo, a warship typically carries only weapons, ammunition and supplies for its crew. Warships usually belong to a navy, though they have also been operated by individuals, cooperatives and corporations.
In wartime, the distinction between warships and merchant ships is often blurred. In war, merchant ships are often armed and used as auxiliary warships, such as the Q-ships of the First World War and the armed merchant cruisers of the Second World War. Until the 17th century it was common for merchant ships to be pressed into naval service and not unusual for more than half a fleet to be composed of merchant ships. Until the threat of piracy subsided in the 19th century, it was normal practice to arm larger merchant ships such as galleons. Warships have also often been used as troop carriers or supply ships, such as by the French Navy in the 18th century or the Japanese Navy during the Second World War.
In the time of Mesopotamia, Ancient Persia, Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, warships were always galleys (such as biremes, triremes and quinqueremes): long, narrow vessels powered by banks of oarsmen and designed to ram and sink enemy vessels, or to engage them bow-first and follow up with boarding parties. The development of catapults in the 4th century BC and the subsequent refinement of this technology enabled the first fleets of artillery-equipped warships by the Hellenistic age. During late antiquity, ramming fell out of use and the galley tactics against other ships used during the Middle Ages until the late 16th century focused on boarding.
Naval artillery was redeveloped in the 14th century, but cannon did not become common at sea until the guns were capable of being reloaded quickly enough to be reused in the same battle. The size of a ship required to carry a large number of cannon made oar-based propulsion impossible, and warships came to rely primarily on sails. The sailing man-of-war emerged during the 16th century.
By the middle of the 17th century, warships were carrying increasing numbers of cannon on their broadsides and tactics evolved to bring each ship's firepower to bear in a line of battle. The man-of-war now evolved into the ship of the line. In the 18th century, the frigate and sloop-of-war – too small to stand in the line of battle – evolved to convoy trade, scout for enemy ships and blockade enemy coasts.
During the 19th century a revolution took place in the means of marine propulsion, naval armament and construction of warships. Marine steam engines were introduced, at first as an auxiliary force, in the second quarter of the 19th century.
The Crimean War gave a great stimulus to the development of guns. The introduction of explosive shells soon led to the introduction of iron, and later steel, naval armour for the sides and decks of larger warships. The first ironclad warships, the French Gloire and British Warrior, made wooden vessels obsolete. Metal soon entirely replaced wood as the main material for warship construction.
From the 1850s, the sailing ships of the line were replaced by steam-powered battleships, while the sailing frigates were replaced by steam-powered cruisers. The armament of warships also changed with the invention of the rotating barbettes and turrets, which allowed the guns to be aimed independently of the direction of the ship and allowed a smaller number of larger guns to be carried.
The final innovation during the 19th century was the development of the torpedo and development of the torpedo boat. Small, fast torpedo boats seemed to offer an alternative to building expensive fleets of battleships.
Another revolution in warship design began shortly after the start of the 20th century, when Britain launched the Royal Navy's all-big-gun battleship Dreadnought in 1906. Powered by steam turbines, it was bigger, faster and more heavily gunned than any existing battleships, which it immediately rendered obsolete. It was rapidly followed by similar ships in other countries. The Royal Navy also developed the first battlecruisers. Mounting the same heavy guns as the dreadnoughts on an even larger hull, battlecruisers sacrificed amour protection for speed. Battlecruisers were faster and more powerful than all existing cruisers, which they made obsolete, but battlecruisers proved to be much more vulnerable than contemporary battleships. The torpedo-boat destroyer was developed at the same time as the dreadnoughts. Bigger, faster and more heavily gunned than the torpedo boat, the destroyer evolved to protect the capital ships from the menace of the torpedo boat.
At this time, Britain also developed the use of fuel oil to produce steam to power warships, instead of coal. While reliance on coal required navies to adopt a "coal strategy" to remain viable, fuel oil produced twice the power and was significantly easier to handle.Tests were conducted by the Royal Navy in 1904 involving the torpedo-boat destroyer Spiteful, the first warship powered solely by fuel oil. These proved its superiority, and all warships procured for the Royal Navy from 1912 were designed to burn fuel oil.
During the lead-up to the Second World War, Germany and Great Britain once again emerged as the two dominant Atlantic sea powers. Germany, under the Treaty of Versailles, had its navy limited to only a few minor surface ships. But the clever use of deceptive terminology, such as "Panzerschiffe" deceived the British and French commands. They were surprised when ships such as Admiral Graf Spee, Scharnhorst, and Gneisenau raided the Allied supply lines. The greatest threat though, was the introduction of the Kriegsmarine's largest vessels, Bismarck and Tirpitz. Bismarck was heavily damaged and sunk/scuttled after a series of sea battles in the north Atlantic in 1941, while Tirpitz was destroyed by the Royal Air Force in 1944. The British Royal Navy gained dominance of the European theatre by 1943.
The Second World War brought massive changes in the design and role of several types of warships. For the first time, the aircraft carrier became the clear choice to serve as the main capital ship within a naval task force. World War II was the only war in history in which battles occurred between groups of carriers. World War II saw the first use of radar in combat. It brought the first naval battle in which the ships of both sides never engaged in direct combat, instead sending aircraft to make the attacks, as in the Battle of Coral Sea.
Modern warships are generally divided into seven main categories, which are: aircraft carriers, cruisers,destroyers, frigates, corvettes, submarines and amphibious assault ships. Battleships comprise an eighth category, but are not in current service with any navy in the world. Only the deactivated American Iowa-classbattleships still exist as potential combatants, and battleships in general are unlikely to re-emerge as a ship class without redefinition. The destroyer is generally regarded as the dominant surface-combat vessel of most modern blue-water navies. However, the once distinct roles and appearances of cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and corvettes have blurred. Most vessels have come to be armed with a mix of anti-surface, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weapons. Class designations no longer reliably indicate a displacement hierarchy, and the size of all vessel types has grown beyond the definitions used earlier in the 20th century. Another key differentiation between older and modern vessels is that all modern warships are "soft", without the thick armor and bulging anti-torpedo protection of World War II and older designs.
Most navies also include many types of support and auxiliary vessels, such as minesweepers, patrol boats and offshore patrol vessels.
By 1982 the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) treaty negotiations had produced a legal definition of what was then generally accepted as a late-twentieth century warship. The UNCLOS definition was : "A warship means a ship belonging to the armed forces of a State bearing the external marks distinguishing such ships of its nationality, under the command of an officer duly commissioned by the government of the State and whose name appears in the appropriate service list or its equivalent, and manned by a crew which is under regular armed forces discipline."
The first practical submarines were developed in the late 19th century, but it was only after the development of the torpedo that submarines became truly dangerous (and hence useful). By the end of the First World War submarines had proved their potential. During the Second World War Nazi Germany's submarine fleet of U-boats almost starved Britain into submission and inflicted huge losses on US coastal shipping. The success of submarines led to the development of new anti-submarine convoy escorts during the First and Second World Wars, such as the destroyer escort. Confusingly, many of these new types adopted the names of the smaller warships from the age of sail, such as corvette, sloop and frigate.
A major shift in naval warfare occurred with the introduction of the aircraft carrier. First at Taranto and then at Pearl Harbor, the aircraft carrier demonstrated its ability to strike decisively at enemy ships out of sight and range of surface vessels. By the end of the Second World War, the carrier had become the dominant warship.
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of large caliber guns. It dominated naval warfare in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The battlecruiser was a type of capital ship of the first half of the 20th century. These were similar in displacement, armament and cost to battleships, but differed in form and balance of attributes. Battlecruisers typically had thinner armour and a somewhat lighter main gun battery than contemporary battleships, installed on a longer hull with much higher engine power in order to attain greater speeds. The first battlecruisers were designed in the United Kingdom, as a development of the armoured cruiser, at the same time as the dreadnought succeeded the pre-dreadnought battleship. The goal of the design was to outrun any ship with similar armament, and chase down any ship with lesser armament; they were intended to hunt down slower, older armoured cruisers and destroy them with heavy gunfire while avoiding combat with the more powerful but slower battleships. However, as more and more battlecruisers were built, they were increasingly used alongside the better-protected battleships.
A cruiser is a type of warship. Modern cruisers are generally the largest ships in a fleet after aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships, and can usually perform several roles.
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast, maneuverable, long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against powerful short range attackers. They were originally developed in 1885 by Fernando Villaamil for the Spanish Navy as a defense against torpedo boats, and by the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, these "torpedo boat destroyers" (TBDs) were "large, swift, and powerfully armed torpedo boats designed to destroy other torpedo boats". Although the term "destroyer" had been used interchangeably with "TBD" and "torpedo boat destroyer" by navies since 1892, the term "torpedo boat destroyer" had been generally shortened to simply "destroyer" by nearly all navies by the First World War.
The Kriegsmarine was the navy of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It superseded the Imperial German Navy of the German Empire (1871–1918) and the inter-war Reichsmarine (1919–1935) of the Weimar Republic. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches, along with the Heer and the Luftwaffe of the Wehrmacht, the German armed forces from 1935 to 1945.
A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval ship designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs were steam-powered craft dedicated to ramming enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes. Later evolutions launched variants of self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes.
A convoy is a group of vehicles, typically motor vehicles or ships, traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support. It may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas. Arriving at the scene of a major emergency with a well-ordered unit and intact command structure can be another motivation.
The capital ships of a navy are its most important warships; they are generally the larger ships when compared to other warships in their respective fleet. A capital ship is generally a leading or a primary ship in a naval fleet.
The names of commissioned ships of the United States Navy all start with USS, for United States Ship. Non-commissioned, primarily civilian-manned vessels of the U.S. Navy under the Military Sealift Command have names that begin with USNS, standing for United States Naval Ship. A letter-based hull classification symbol is used to designate a vessel's type. The names of ships are selected by the Secretary of the Navy. The names are those of states, cities, towns, important persons, important locations, famous battles, fish, and ideals. Usually, different types of ships have names originated from different types of sources.
Plan Z was the name given to the planned re-equipment and expansion of the Kriegsmarine ordered by Adolf Hitler in early 1939. The fleet was meant to challenge the naval power of the United Kingdom, and was to be completed by 1948. Development of the plan began in 1938, but it reflected the evolution of the strategic thinking of the Oberkommando der Marine over the two decades following World War I. The plan called for a fleet centered on ten battleships and four aircraft carriers which were intended to battle the Royal Navy. This force would be supplemented with numerous long-range cruisers that would attack British shipping. A relatively small force of U-boats was also stipulated.
Although the history of the French Navy goes back to the Middle Ages, its history can be said to effectively begin with Richelieu under Louis XIII.
Naval Warfare in World War I was mainly characterized by blockade. The Allied Powers, with their larger fleets and surrounding position, largely succeeded in their blockade of Germany and the other Central Powers, whilst the efforts of the Central Powers to break that blockade, or to establish an effective counterblockade with submarines and commerce raiders, were eventually unsuccessful. Major fleet actions were less decisive.
Naval tactics and doctrine is the collective name for methods of engaging and defeating an enemy ship or fleet in battle at sea during naval warfare, the naval equivalent of military tactics on land.
The development of the steam ironclad firing explosive shells in the mid-19th century rendered sailing ship tactics obsolete. New tactics were developed for the big-gun Dreadnought battleships. The mine, torpedo, submarine and aircraft posed new threats, each of which had to be countered, leading to tactical developments such as anti-submarine warfare and the use of dazzle camouflage. By the end of the steam age, aircraft carriers had replaced battleships as the principal unit of the fleet.
The naval order of 24 October 1918 was a plan made by the German Admiralty at the end of World War I to provoke a decisive battle between the German High Seas Fleet and the British Grand Fleet in the southern North Sea. When the order to prepare for the sortie was issued on 29 October, mutiny broke out aboard the German ships. Despite the operation being cancelled, these in turn led to the more serious Kiel mutiny, which was the starting point of the November Revolution and the proclamation of the Weimar Republic.
This glossary defines the various types of ships and accessory watercraft that have been used in service of the United States. Such service is mainly defined as military vessels used in the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard, as well as the defunct, incorporated, or renamed institutions such as the United States Revenue Cutter Service. Service of the United States can also be defined in this context as special government missions in the form of expeditions, such as the Wilkes Expedition or the North Pacific Exploring and Surveying Expedition. The scope of the glossary encompasses both the "Old Navy" of the United States, from its beginnings as the "Continental Navy", through the "New Navy" and up to modern day. The watercraft included in the glossary are derived from United States ships with logbooks published by the National Archives and Records Administration.