THE strength of the feet is commonly measured by the number of batteships and other fighting units on the Navy List. In a way this is correct and yet it may lead to serious error. It is safer to regard the number of battleships, armored cruisers, scouts, destroyers, etc., as only the potential strength, since the efficiency of the fleet, its ability to proceed promptly where needed and engage and overcome an enemy, depends upon many other things than mere ships. It is pertinent to remind the reader that battleships, and even the guns they carry, require years to build, that fighting ships can no longer be built or improvised after the outbreak of war, that officers and men can no longer be recruited from the merchant marine and quickly converted into naval crews, and, therefore, a nation to be ready for war must prepare in time of peace, ani if not prepared can have small hope of victory over an enemy more wisely administered. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins is nowhere more appiicahlc than with a naval force. These facts are so often lost to sight, even by many in hign places, that it is well to mention them here as a preamble to a discussion which would not be understood, or if understood would fail to carry conviction, it they were not borne in mind. The numerical strength of our fleet, as compared with other leading naval powers, is shown in the tables on page 532. For several years past only about sixteen battleships have been kept in active service, the remaining vessels of this class, tugether with a number of ships of less importance, being out of commission for overhauling or in reserve for want of a sufficient number of officers and enlisted men to man them. On July 1st, 1911, the battleships in full commission were increased to twenty and shortly afterward to twenty-one, while all battleships built, thirty-one in number, will, about the end of this year, be either in full commission, or in reserve with SUfciently large crews to keep them in readiness for service. This great increase in the strength of the fleet is best slown by a comparison of the number of battleships and armored cruisers that were in 11l11 commission or in reserve, ready for active service, on May 1st, 1910, and the number that will be in readiness about the end of this year, when the reorganization of the fleet being effected May 0 . Dec. 31. Battleships in active service.......... 16 21 Battleships in r8serve, ready for service 3 10 Armored cruisers in active service ... . 10 8 Armored cruisers in reserve.......... .0 2 by Secretary Meyer will have been fully realized. A similar increase in the effective torpedo fleet, and to a less extent other vessels, has been made; but the most significant fact is of course the increase from 19 to 31 battleships in condition for active service as regards material. A second and no less significant fact is that this large fleet is being created and maintained at a less cost for the entire naval establishment than formerly. The reasons for this are numerous, but the most important may be briefly stated here. The most valuable lesson learned from the voyage of the battleship fleet around the world in 1908-1909 was that naval ves.els may be practically self-sustaining in matters of repairs, provided the personnel is of a high standard. This fact is the basis of the reorganization lately put into effect, which makes possible the maintenance of the entire fleet in readiness for service. Before the reorganization it was customary to employ ships' crews to only a comparatively small e}tent in repair work. Vessels once placed in commission were habitually kept actively employed, with frequent visits to the navy yards for necessary repairs, until they deteriorated to such an extent as to require an extensive overhaul, when they were placed out of commission and turned over to the navy yard forces. During their period of commission December 9, 1911 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 515 much repair work not deemed of immediate importance was permitted to accumulate. This practice resulted in the ships not being in the best condition during the latter part of their commission; in expensive navy yard repairs during their active service; in extremely high cost of general overhaul and refitting after being placed out of commission; and, what is of the greatest importance of all from the viewpoint of preparedness, in the loss of ships to the Navy for anywhere from two to five years during their period of overhaul. In short, the old methods were extremely ineffcient and wasteful. Under the system lately adopted ships will not be placed out of commission until they become obsolete and useless for war purposes. They are kept in efficient condition by their own crews and the navy yard work on them is limited to that clearly beyond the capacity of the crews. The battle fleet is organized in divisions. Each division contains five ships of like or nearly similar tactical qualities. Four ships are required to be ready for service, while the fifth ship is allowed to lie at its home yard for overhauling and repairs by the crew, assisted as far as necessary by the yard force. The ships of a division are given this overhaul period in rotation, or each has about two months' uninterrupted time for repairs once each year. The net result of this is that in a feet of twenty ships, sixteen are kept ready for service, and the remaining four are in a condition nearly approaching readiness. Repair work done at a navy yard is very expensive and generally is not of better quality, if as good, as work done ence in cost is very greatly in favor of the ship's force, since the pay of the by a ship's force. Obviously the differ. naval personnel is the same, whether it does the work or stands by and watches the navy yard force do it. As a general rule no one can know the needs of a ship as well as her officers and crew, and no other set of men is as capable as they of doing their ordinary repair work efficiently and economically. But, aside from these considerations. it is essential from a military point of view that the ships' offcers and crews shall be habituated to this work in order that they may be able to maintain the fleet in an efficient condition in time of war, when there may be no navy yards at hand. Furthermore, of equal importance is the fact that ships may be kept in practically constant readiness for battle when repairs are habitually taken in hand and completed as rapidly as the necessity arises; while, if a navy yard is depended upon. repairs are allowed to accumulate, and when taken up by the • yard require much time to complete. As stated before, the strength of the fleet and its readiness for service depends upon many other things than mere ships. One of the most important factors is that of keeping all the units in readiness as regards material, as was dwelt upon somewhat at lengtt in the preceding paragraphs; and a second fundamental requirement is that the personnel, both officers and men, must be competent and zealous in their work. Given these two fundamentals, there remain, before the fleet can be called efficient, the constant training of officers and men in their duties;'the maintenance of a high morale: the inculcation of habits of high moral, physical and mental discipline; the attainment of the highest possible efficiency in gunnery and engineering; and finally, the amalgamation of all the units of the fleet into a composite whole capable of responding to the will of a practised commander-in-chief. The question as to whether the fleet now meets these conditions and requirements depends upon what are regarded as the standards of efficiency and readiness. In matters of naval preparedness and efficiency the strength of a fleet is ordinarily measured by comparison with those of foreign powers. This method often leads to erroneous conclusions, for, as history shows, the true strength of a fleet can never be accurately determined except by the supreme test of war. The method that tends to the highest state of efficiency is to keep before us a standard of perfection, which if impossible, leads ever to constant improvement. One of the most potent factors for steady improvement is competition, and to it much of our present efficiency in gunnery and engineering may be attributed. The spirit of competition not only leads to constant efforts on the part of the personnel to excel with the instruments placed in its hands. but stimulates the inventive genius of those charged with the making of the instruments, so that there has been a continual advance in the power and accuracy of guns as well as in the rapidity and expertness of their use. This is exemplified by the remarkable improvement in our gunnery since the Spanish-American war. At that time our fighting range was only two to four thousand yards, and a twelve or thirteen-inch gun was fired once in about three minutes; now, our target practice is carried out at a range of ten to twelve thousand yards, and the heavy guns fire two shots per minute; and with this advance in range and rapidity there has been a still more remarkable improvement in accuracy. The advance in engineering efficiency has been as striking, and almost, if not quite, as important as the acvance in gunnery'. The reliability of the engines, as shown by full speed trials immediately after long cruisers, is of vital importance, and skill in firing, with attention to other details, has increased the steaming radius of the fleet from 25 to 40 per cent. The cruise of the battleship fleet around the world did more than any other one thing to mold our fleet into shape; before that time the fleet may be said to have been an aggregation of units; but the cruise, with its attendant constant exercise in fleet tactics, made these units into one machine-like body. In short, the fleet on this cruise found itself. Since then, more than ever before, attention has been given to tactical and battle exercises, frequently under conditions simulating war. This more than anything else, except gunnery proficiency, insures readiness for battle. Even the best of ships would meet defeat if incapable of being handled effectively as a fleet. Twice each year the battleship fleet, the torpedo fleet, and all other vessels available. are concentrated for joint maneuvers and battle exercises under the direction of the commander-in-chief. who thus gains the experience and practice necessary for his final training in the art of war. At other times each year the commanders of divisions of the fleet are given the opportunity to cruise and exercise their commands indepEndently in order to gain expeTience which will fit them for succession to the command of a fleet. As previously mentioned, those battleships dnd other vessels which cannot be kept in full commission, owing to a lack of available men” and to the considerable increase of cost involved, are being organized into a reserve fleet which, as far as their material condition is concerned, will be .t all times ready for active ser- vice. These vessels are being provided with reduced crews to keep them in condition, and to serve as a nucleus of the full crews which, in the event of war, will be made up from the officers and men employed in time of peace at the shore stations, from the naval militia, and by the re-enlistment of men of previous naval training. This is a long step in advance in the matter of preparedness over the conditions which formerly existed. The principal requirements of the fleet at present, without considering any increase in its battleship strength, are: (1) The gradual replacing of worn-out or obsolete vessels by' neWly-constructed ships designed to efficiently meet the needs of the service. (2) The proviSion of additional auxiliary vessels, repair ships, supply ships, COlliers, tenders to torpedo feets, tenders to submarines, transports and hospita1 ships. (3) Additional scout cruisers, destroyers and submarines. (4) The organization of an adequate naval reserve. Battleships have a useful life of about twenty years, during the first half of which they may be considered eligible for the first line, or the main battle fleet,-and during the latter half for the second line, or reserve fleet. The comparatively short life of ships is due not so much to deterioration as to the rapidity of development of science and the arts, which renders ships obsolete after ten to twenty years. As a tase in point, compare battleships of the “Oregon” dass with those of the “Delaware” class, t)he former launched in 1893 and the latter in 1909. There is not the slightest doubt that one “Delaware” could defeat in action a whole division of “Oregons,” or could destroy the entire American fleet of the Spanish-American war. 'hus it becomes necessary to replace these obsolete vessels and to relegate them to the coast defense and fnally to “scrap” them, use them as targets, or otherwise dispose of them to the , best advantage. Auxiliary vessels are absolutely necessary for the maintenance of a battle fleet. Some such vessels have been provided, and additional ones must be obtained from the merchant marine when war becomes imminent. In this connection our merchant marine is deplorably small. and therefore the Navy must be provided with a larger number of regular naval auxiliaries than would be necessary or desirable if enough merchant ships were available. The necessity for additional scout cruisers, of which we possess only three built for that specific use, destroyers and submarines, is apparent from an examination of the tables on page 532. showing the fleets of the several powers A battleship is dependent largely upon its scouts and destroyers for protection against torpedo attack as well as for the discovery of and attack on the enemy's fleet. The creation of a naval reserve of officers and men is urgently necessary. The reserVe should be composed of men who have had experience on board naval vessels. Thousands of such men pass each year fron the Navy into civil life, and while it is expected that a large proportion of them will re-enlist in a national emergency, they should be formed into a reserve in time of peace, so organized that in an emergency they could be assembled at appropriate rendezvous and the reserve fleet manned without undue and possibly fata! delay. Finally, the whole nation must be awake to the necessity of naval preparedness as a preventive of war. It has been well said that our nation is warlike, but not a rrfHitary one. History bears this out, and it is a fact that all our wars have cost us excessively in life and money1 because of our unreadiness. Wars are usually of short duration, but preparation is long, and under modern conditions adequate preparation after war breaks out is well-nigh impossible. Our nation leads all others in its advocacy of arbitration. Our propositions are received with respect because of our strength, both -actual and potential. To-day our interests touch with those of other nations in all parts of the globe, and while good faith and high principle; have greater world force than ever, the time has yet to arrive when our national policy, even our national safety, can be held secure without armed forces, and otthese an efficient battle fleet is indispensable. (Continued on page 53:.)
This article was originally published with the title "The Fleet and its Readiness for Service"