The firepower of a battleship demonstrated by USS Iowa
(c. 1984). The muzzle blasts distort the ocean surface.
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of large caliber guns. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the battleship was the most powerful type of warship, and a fleet centered around the battleship was part of the command of the sea doctrine for several decades. By the time of World War II, however, the battleship was made obsolete as other ships, primarily the smaller and faster destroyers, the secretive submarines, and the more versatile aircraft carriers came to be far more useful in naval warfare. While a few battleships were repurposed as fire support ships and as platforms for guided missiles, few countries maintained battleships after World War II, with the last battleships being decommissioned at the end of the Cold War.
The term battleship came into formal use in the late 1880s to describe a type of ironclad warship, now referred to by historians as pre-dreadnought battleships. In 1906, the commissioning of HMS Dreadnought into the United Kingdom's Royal Navy heralded a revolution in battleship design. Subsequent battleship designs, influenced by HMS Dreadnought, were referred to as "dreadnoughts", though the term eventually became obsolete as they became the only type of battleship in common use.
Battleships were a symbol of naval dominance and national might, and for decades the battleship was a major factor in both diplomacy and military strategy. A global arms race in battleship construction began in Europe in the 1890s and culminated at the decisive Battle of Tsushima in 1905, the outcome of which significantly influenced the design of HMS Dreadnought. The launch of Dreadnought in 1906 commenced a new naval arms race. Three major fleet actions between steel battleships took place: the long range gunnery duel at the Battle of the Yellow Sea in 1904, the decisive Battle of Tsushima in 1905 (both during the Russo-Japanese War) and the inconclusive Battle of Jutland in 1916, during the First World War. Jutland was the largest naval battle and the only full-scale clash of dreadnoughts of the war, and it was the last major battle in naval history fought primarily by battleships.
The Naval Treaties of the 1920s and 1930s limited the number of battleships, though technical innovation in battleship design continued. Both the Allied and Axis powers built battleships during World War II, though the increasing importance of the aircraft carrier meant that the battleship played a less important role than had been expected. (Full article...)
SMS Radetzky was the lead ship of the three Radetzky class of pre-dreadnought battleships (Schlachtschiff) of the Austro-Hungarian Navy (K.u.K. Kriegsmarine), named for the 19th century Austrian Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz. Radetzky and her sisters, Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand and Zrinyi, were the last pre-dreadnoughts built by the Austro-Hungarian Navy—they were followed by the larger and significantly more powerful Tegetthoff-class dreadnoughts. Radetzky was built at the Stabilimento Tecnico in Trieste and commissioned into the fleet on 15 January 1911. The ship conducted training cruises in the Mediterranean Sea before the outbreak of World War I in mid-1914. During the war, Radetzky operated largely as a fleet in being alongside her two sisters and the four Tegetthoffs; in doing so, the ships tied down considerable naval forces from the Triple Entente. Radetzky did participate in some offensive operations, primarily shore bombardments in the Adriatic Sea against French, Montenegrin, and Italian targets. With the war going against the Austro-Hungarians by the end of 1918, Radetzky was prepared to be transferred to Yugoslavia. On November 10, 1918—just one day before the end of the war—Yugoslav navy officers sailed the old battleship out of Pola and eventually surrendered to a squadron of American submarine chasers. In the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the transfer was not recognized; instead, Radetzky was given to Italy and broken up for scrap.