Building a Warship Is About More Than Firepower

Warship design is a political process as much as an engineering challenge. Never was that more true than during the interwar decades, the heyday of naval arms control. Shipwrights in those days thought in terms of tradeoffs among speed, protection, and armament. You couldn’t have it all. For instance, adding more protection to a man-of-war—chiefly armor plating—to help it withstand enemy gunfire meant adding weight. And adding weight meant a slower vessel, with all the tactical disadvantages that go with it. And to make matters trickier still, mandates from on high commonly shaped how technicians did their work.


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