Thursday, March 19 2015
How fast can those big guns shoot?
So far, I have discussed the most important aspects of naval artillery, but there is one more topic to cover: a naval gun’s rate of fire and what difference rate of fire makes.
It takes about a minute to reload the big battleship’s sixteen-inch guns, so they can fire once per minute. On the other end of the spectrum, the destroyer’s five-inch guns can fire one round about every four seconds, or fifteen rounds per minute. Rate of fire can affect the outcome of battles, as I demonstrate in my next novel Vows to the Fallen.
A battleship attempting to bracket an enemy ship at ten nautical miles has to wait thirty seconds for their shells to fall, but that is not a problem since they can only fire once per minute. However, a destroyer firing at a target five miles away has to wait twenty seconds before their shots fall. In that time, they could have fired five more times. So what’s a captain to do? Keep firing even though he might not have the correct range, or wait until his shots fall so he can get the right range and not waste ammunition?
With the smaller five-inch guns, it makes sense to ladder the shots so the ship can keep firing. However, the US Navy ships had the benefit of radar and at the shorter ranges of the five-inch guns bracketing or laddering wasn’t necessary. The Japanese didn’t use radar, and this put them at a distinct disadvantage. Readers will be able to see this play out in Vows to the Fallen in the Battles of Kogeri and Ubella Atoll especially when the Japanese Cruiser captain tries to conserve ammunition. It turned out to be a mistake since his eight inch guns could have fired four salvo's per minute!