PROGRE8S in ordnance matters during the past year has been rather in the direction of improvement and development of previously existing types than in the line of marked changes. Naval warfare has not been revolutionized nor has any such upheaval been even faintly indicated. The increasing efficiency of the submarine boat, of the torpedo, and of the aeroplane has caused ordnance officials and the navy in general to look ahead to the time when the development of these weapons and methods of attack might demand changes in ordnance or in ship construction to meet them. and tentative plans for such changes have been considered. The aeroplane can not, as yet, be regarded as a material factor in naval warfare; but its possibilities in the future cannot be neglected. The submarine boat and the torpedo have long been elements to be reckoned with, and their usefulness and efficiency are on the increase. The gun remains the principal offensive weapon afloat and armor the principal element of passive defense. The battle between this two, which has been so often declared lost or won by one or the other, still goes on; though the gun seems to have rather the better of it at the present moment. Already there are rumors of larger and more powerful guns and of armor of gremer resisting power. A year ago no modern vessel built or planned carried a gun of caliber greater than thirteen inches, and all of the latest battleships were armed with guns of 12-inch caliber. To-day there are numerous ships building at home and abroad which are designed to carry 13.5-inch and 14-inch guns. Armor's answer to the bigger gun is, so far, increased thickness; but new processes of heat treatment and the introduction of new alloys are rumored, which will restore the former thickness with greater resisting power. Guns. The “all'big-gun” battleship of the present day has its prototype in the British “Dreadnought,” dating from 1906. Since that date all the principal maritime powers have shown a tendency to confine themselves to battleship deSign of this type, the main battery consisting of from eight to twelve guns of the largest caliber, mounted in turrets, and the torpedo defense battery of from twelve to twenty or more guns of smaller caliber mounted in broadside. In the United States Navy the standard heavy gun i8 at present the 14-inch, 45-caliber gun, while for torpedo defense a 5-inch, 51,caliber gun is used. The following table shows the superiority of these guns over previous types: 0 : . o %4 I . ^- 1^ w SQ^ 0 ?§ 0i0 “ 0 Kc p Penetration in . Z. .” .S >+ -. 0, «*” S,b Krupp Armor, , ."$. £ ? c xo £o S; . Inches. . S3 11 “ N O . /,p SO 2-g.S Q “ H i g^ i S 1 5 40 1 7' 3 . 1 2300 50 1852 7000 2.3 at 6000 yds. 5 51 22 5.0 3150 50 3439 12000 3.0 at 6000 yds. 12 45 46 53.6 2850 870 48984 22000 15 2 at 10000 yds. 12 50 51 56.1 2900 870 51644 24(00 15.6 at 10000 yd •• 14 45 54 63.3 2600 1400 65687 21(O 15.9 at 10000 yds. An examination of this table shows that the latest turret guns and torpedo-defense guns are markedly superior to their predecessors. The superiority of the 10-inch gun over the 12-inch, 50-caliber gun is due in part to the greater steadiness of the projectile in flight due to its greater weight. The “hitting power” of the gun is greater than that of its predecessor in spite of the fact that its extreme range as mounted on board ship is less. On page 521 are shown the breech and breech-plug of the 14-inch gun, together with an armor piercing shell and powder charge. The shell shown is of the latest “long point” variety, while the powder charge represents the present practice of putting up smokeless powder in silk bags laced on the side to make them rigid. An idea of the length and general size of the 14-inch gun with the slide in which it is mounted in a turret can be gained from the illustration above. The latest type of gun and mounting for torpedo defense is shown below the 14-inch gun. This gun may he regarded as effective against torpedo boats at its extreme range of 12,000 yards provided the target is visible; at night or in other circumstances rendering the target invisible, the. gun is naturally helpless. Modern high-powered guns using smokeless powder charges have been proved to have a practically unlimited life under normal condHions of firing; but they erode in the bore very rapidly owing to the high powder pressures they must sustain, and the consequently high temperatures. This erosion is probably due to the action of the powder gases on the metal of the gun as softened by the high temperatures to which it is exposed-about 4,000 deg. F. As the parts of the gun not immediately in contact with the gases suffer no deterioration, the life of the gun may be indefinitely prolonged by renewing the bore. This process is known as “re-lining” and has hitherto consisted in boring out the interior of the gun (to a depth of about one inch in the case of the 12-inch gun) shrinking in a new tube, and then boring and rifling. The facility of re-lining will be enhanced and the cost of the operation will be greatly reduced in the future by building all new guns with conical liners, susceptible of easy removal. The time of re-lining a gun will thus be reduced from seventy-five to twenty-fve days. Gun Mountings. For a number of years past rumors have been periodically current that this or that foreign country was about to incorporate a three-gun turret in some new battleship. Such advantages as such a system have heretofore presented were mainly in the direction of economy of armor weights, it being readily demonstrable that six guns can be protected with less weight of armor if mounted in two turrets than if mounted in three. There have been, however, countervailing disadvantages in the increased complexity of ammunition supply, turret machinery, concentration of December, l0ll SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN weights, and other features of the system which have rendered its adoption inexpedient. The time seems how to have arrived when the necessities of ship design and tactical considerations have forced the triple turret and it is interesting to note that Russia, Austria, Italy, and the United States have all incorporated it in their latest baWeship designs. It is now decided that United States battleships Nos. 3fi.. and 37 will each carry the triple turrets as a part of their main armament. These turrets will embody certain new ideas in gun mountings which have not yet been embodied in any foreign design. For secondary gun mountings compactness and lightness are essential, but to attain them without sacrificing the rigidity which is necessary for accurate firing requires ingenuity. The mounting for the 5-inch, 51-caliber gun, shown on page 520, is the latest type of this kind of mount which has taken concrete form. Ammunition. A nitro-cellulose smokeless powder continues to be the standard propellant for use in our naval guns. I is extremely satisfactory'in sta-b iIit y, ballistic character-istics, and keeping qua 1 i tie s . Powder of the same characteristics and composition is used by the army and it may be safely claimed that there is no better smokeless powder in the world. This powder consists essen tially of cotton dissolved in nitrio acid, then dried, colloid ed, and pressed into the desired form of grain. The colloided material is placed in a press, from which it emerges in long strips and rods. These are then cut up into short lengths of the particular size for the powder grain desired. The grains are of differen t sizes for guns of different calibers, b e i n g larger, of course, for the I a r g e r calibers. Certain varieties of black and brown pOW'del' are still in use for loading shell or for saluting purposes. The prismatic brown powder was the immediate predecessor of smokeless. powder. The navy powder is manufactured in lots of from 25,000 pounds to 100,000 pounds, depending on the caliber of gun for which it is intended. Methods of manufacture have been so perfected that these powders, when not unfavorably affected by climatic and other unfavorable conditions, retain their qualities and are serviceable for from twelve to fifteen years. In case deterioration occurs due to such conditions, ample warning is given by the physical appearance of the powder, so that no spontaneous explosion or combustion is ever to be apprehended; it is, in fact, extremely doubtful whether spontaneous combustion is possible, unless the powder should be subjected to abnormally high temperatures. Powder which has changed in character to such an extent as to reduce its ballistic value is now re-worked and made over into new powder of the best quality at a small cost. The re-working consists of grinding the grains in water, drying the resulting paste, and then pressing it into rods or ribbons as required; the methods pursued are much the same as those used in original manufacture. Smokeless powder possesses many points of superiority over black or brown powder; one of the best known is the fact that its combustion produces but little smoke; such as is produced is largely gaseous in nature, containing very little solid matter, and it is, therefore, quickly dissipated. This fact gives to the use of smokeless powder a great tactical advantage for military and naval purposes. A second point of superiority lies in the fact that the combustion of smokeless powder is practically complete, there being an exceedingly small percentage of solid residue reo maining; the whole mass of the powder is, therefore, converted into gas, the expansion of which imparts velocity to the projectile. The particular form of grain in use for all guns of large caliber is what is known as the “multiperfor-ated” form, in which the cylindrical grain is pierced by a number of longitudinal holes. When such a grain is ignited the burning progresses both from and toward the center with the result that the burning surface is practically constant until the grain is entirely consumed. In consequence of this fact the volumes of gas produced in any two units of time while the projectile is in the gun and traveling toward the muzzle are nearly equal, and the maximum pressure on the walls of the gun is not so much greater than the mean pressure as to require that the breech of the gun be made enormously heavy as compared with the chase and muzzle, as was the case with guns designed for use with quLck-burning black powder. The quality of projectiles is being slowly but surely improved. The possible range has been increased by changing the form of the head from the blunt type in general use in recent years, to a long, sharp ogival. The above illustration shows the present type of shell for guns o.f 5-inch to 14-inch caliber. The point of the shell, in all except the 5-inch, is a separate piece from the remainder of the shell and is made of soft siteel; the body of the shell is of very hard and tough forged steel, containing alloys of nickel, chrome, vanadium and other metals. It is in the quality and composition of the sltool used, and in the methods of treatment, which give the sheH hardness without brittleness, that the principal improvements have been made in recent years. These points are, in the main, manufacturers' secrets, not disclosed even to government officials. The function of the soft steel cap is to support and guide the hard point of the she l l and thus enable it to “bite” and penetrate the armor on ImpaCt. The addi- tion of this very simple device to steel shell increases their penetrative efficiency fully 20 per cent. Such caps have been in use for a number of years; it is only their form that has been recently changed. High-explosive bursting charges are a necessity in modern armor-piercing shell. The walls of these shell must be very thick in order that the shell may withstand the terrific shock of impact on armor and that it may penetrate; the interior cavity is thus too small to contain a sufficient amount of “gun powder,” as commonly understood, to disrupt the shell. The use of a more powerful explosive is, therefore, necessary. As an alternative to the adopted method of attack on armor, 1. e., by means of a projectile designed to penetrate and explode inside, the method of attacking with shell exploding on contact has been suggested and has been strongly urged by some persons of undoubted knowledge and attainments. The latter method depends for its efficiency on smashing or displacing the armor by the force of the impact and the intensity of the resulting explosion. Experiments have been made along these lines from time to time, but, while the damage done to an armor plate by the detonation of a quantity of high explosive in contact with it is admittedly great, it has not yet been demonstrated that a charge of any explosive which can be safely fired from a gun can effect as great damage in this way as can be effected by detonating inside a vessel an equivalent charge of explosive which can be so fired. The “Puritan” experimen ts only eonfrmed the official opinions previously held on this point. Torpedoes. The tor p e d 0 continues to be held in great fa vor as a weapon of under-w a t e r attack, and it must be admitted that no navy has at present an adequate system of defense against such attack if efficiently delivered. Torp e d 0 nets as carried by the v e sse 1 s of some foreign navies are ineffecti ve, since torpedoes have been designed w hieh can cut, penetrate, or displace the n e t s . The searchlight is ineffecti ve, since a torpedo may be successfully launched at a range beyond its reach. Gunfire is ineffective against an in visible target, and the torpedo boat can launch its weapon while still invisible to the gun. Pickets and scouts are not thoroughly effective, since they may, themselves, be attacked and disabled, or they may be eluded. The practical torpedo of the present day may be effectively used at a range of 8,000 yards; a range of 10,000 yards at 27 knots speed is confidently expected in the near future. The United States Navy now has in course of building two types of torpedo which will, beyond a doubt, fill these conditions and may exceed them. The reliability of the torpedo in the hands of the general service is, unfortunately, still questionable and many failures and wild shots are to be expected. There is, however, nothing mechanically impossible in the conditions of the' problem of making torpedoes reliable, and recent advances in this direction justify the hope that in the near future a thoroughly accurate long-range weapon will be produced. The 'Vesuvius,” built for discharging so-oalled aerial torpedoes, is now employed at the Newport Torpedo Station as a torpedo testing vessel. (Continued on paoe 684 ·)
This article was originally published with the title "Recent Development in Ordnance"