Best Battleship: Heavy- and Middleweight Champion

Scoring Yamato Iowa Bismarck Richelieu King George V Vittorio Veneto South Dakota
Weight: 4
10 10 9 9 8 7.5 8.5
Weight: 4
10 9.5 6.5 9 8.5 7 9.5
Underwater Protection
Weight: 2
9 9 7 10 5 8 9
Fire Control
Weight: 4
5 10 5 7.5 8 5 10
Tactical Factors
Weight: 3
9.5 10 9 8.5 8.5 8.5 8.5
Composite Score Score:

'Composite Score' is the sum of the weighted scores for each category. The individual category scores equal (Overall Rating * Weighting Factor). In other words, a score of '10' in a category with a weight of '4' is worth 40 points towards the composite score.

Some discussion is obviously in order here, because my scoring runs counter to some of the established and accepted 'battleship lore' out there. For instance, my scoring indicates that King George V was a pretty close match for Bismarck in a stand-up fight. So, if this was such an even fight, why did Prince of Wales break off her action with Bismarck, instead of just duking it out in a manly fashion? There are a few things to remember in this regard. First; this comparison shows a King George V-class battleship in a late-war configuration equipped with Type 274 radar; a luxury the Prince of Wales did not enjoy in 1940, but which would have been a huge equalizer later in the war. If one assumes British fire control to be equal or slightly inferior to the Germans in 1940, Bismarck starts looking better again. Second; the British had little idea that Bismarck was as tough a low-angle target as she was, and thus closed the range to come to grips with her (which, had she made it that far, also would have reduced Hood's exposure to high-angle deck hits - a vulnerability the British were acutely aware of, and another reason why they tried to close the range with Bismarck as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they cut their intercept course too fine, and couldn't run the gauntlet before Hood was fatally hit). In retrospect, a ship like King George V is better off fighting Bismarck at long range, where the German ship's own vulnerability to high-angle fire would be heightened. Third, of course, is the fact that Prince of Wales was suffering from teething problems in her main mounts, to put it mildly, and was not getting nearly the output of shells she might have enjoyed in a late-war engagement when all the bugs with the British 14"/45 mount had been worked out. Late-war, at long range, with blindfire radar fire-control, and turrets working, I believe King George V was a decent match for the Bismarck.

Second, I'm saying that South Dakota would have usually whipped the Bismarck. Not only that, but if handled correctly, she ought to have had a better-than-even shot against Yamato, a statement that on the face of it seems absurd! Yamato was fully 27,000+ tons heavier, had much thicker armor, and possessed the largest naval rifles ever mounted afloat. However, the American ship had the world's best fire-control system, a fantastic armor belt, and guns which delivered very large projectiles at high-angle trajectories which could go through thicker deck plates than Yamato's 18.1" shells. Again, fire-control and the ship's fighting instructions become crucial. If the American stays at range (30,000-35,000 yards), she should be able to deliver many more hits to Yamato than she receives in return, because she can both shoot and maneuver (due to her much better stable vertical fire-control system elements). Further, Yamato's internal subdivision is not as good as SoDak's, and American hits are therefore likely to be more damaging than the Japanese. On the other hand, historically the Americans had little idea of Yamato's capabilities, and were likely to have attempted to close the range with her, not knowing the extent of her armoring, or that she was, in fact, armed with truly enormous 18.1" guns, rather than the 16" guns everyone on the American side of the lake assumed was the case. Closing the range with Yamato would likely have resulted in the American ship learning a painful lesson in gunfire supremacy. South Dakota's belt is better than Yamato's (barely), but at close range Yamato's guns have much better penetration. Further, Yamato's secondaries are very powerful, and would have begun to take a possible toll on SoDak's exposed radars and fire-control equipment, which would reduce her advantage in fire-control substantially if disabled. The bottom line is that South Dakota is a boxer, and should maintain her distance from a slugger like Yamato. Under the right circumstances, however, she was perfectly capable of dishing out critical damage to her hulking opponent.

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