View Full Version : Top Ten Fighting Ships

30-09-2009, 23:02
I have just watched a programme on tv about the top ten fighting ships, do you agree with their asessment?

01-10-2009, 01:20
It is really difficult just to list the top ten warship class - but I would have thought the list you have shown should have included the Yorktown Class of Carrier as Enterprise was without doubt the most glorious and honored ship in all of United States Naval history.

I will have to think about the rest of your list - I definitely agree with the Queen Elizabeth Class Battleships but not the Hood.
Although a marvellous ship in many respects the battlecruiser was a fatally flawed design so is not worthy of inclusion in a top ten...

dennis a feary
01-10-2009, 05:49
Archei - depends what you wish to call a `fighting ship' - ships that have fought ?? If so then you can discout most of the USA ships.
There also you only have `battlewagons', what about all the other FIGHTING ships (destroyer/corvettes/cruisers) !!
Just as a `first thought' I would chuck in ships ENGLAND / PETARD / BLUEBELL / SUFFOLK / EXETER the list is endless - for me !!
At least those ships did some FIGHTING and thereby did something to shorten the war !


01-10-2009, 07:39
Could be "top 10 designs"?.............peculiar list. :confused:

"Top 10 Fighting Ships"...........from when?

Sir Richard Grenvilles "Revenge", Ansons "Centurion", Nelsons "Victory"............all fighting ships!

How long is a piece of string!! :rolleyes:

dennis a feary
01-10-2009, 07:48
Well said SCURS, should we include GOLDEN HIND / COSSACK -
Oh Dear, cannot go on - so much to include!!
Passing out !!!!


01-10-2009, 07:56
.......and WARSPITE (2 world wars)........and GLOWORM (took on HIPPER)............and ............and...............and........:D

Jan Steer
01-10-2009, 08:35
I think that what we are trying to say here is that any list can only ever be subjective. I'm sure that everyone in the world would come up with a different list - not necessarily incorrect, just different. There never will be the definitive list!

best wishes

tim lewin
01-10-2009, 10:28
You would have to include the WW2 tribals as well; of the 16 RN ships in the class only 4 were still afloat at the end of the war all the rest having been lost to enemy action bar one which was run down by KG5. as you all say, there is just no viable criterion for such a measurement.
How do you exclude Illustrious? the MGBs and MTBs of coastal forces? The cruisers of the the Town and Colony class? I would tend to exclude the heavy units, their role was more "in being" than in action by the time of WW2. How far back does one go?

01-10-2009, 11:08
.......and WARSPITE (2 world wars)........and GLOWORM (took on HIPPER)............and ............and...............and........:D

Scurs if you look at the list you will see they are all CLASSES of warships.

Warspite was a Queen Elizabeth Class Battleship and therefore was included.

I do however agree with Tims point that cruisers and destroyers should also have been included.

It is really impossible to get all the relevant classes down to just ten - and then how can one compare battleships with aircraft carriers??

01-10-2009, 12:05
I watched that program some time ago and was nearly puking myself the whole way through. In my opinion the only classes of warship that actually belong on the list are the 'Queen Elizabeth' and 'Essex' classes.

Where are the 'Flower' class corvettes, the 'River' class frigates and all the armed trawlers that fought and won the longest and most important sea battle of the 20th century - 'The Battle of the Atlantic'?

Where are all the American submarines that annihilated the Japanese merchant marine and the German U-Boats that came so close to winning?

Where are all the amphibious ships that carried out all the sea-borne invasions?

Hood, Deutschland, Bismarck? They have really got to be kidding! I'd take Renown over any of these, not that she belongs on the list either.

And then there's the 'Iowas' - the epitome of extravagance. The war would have been won without them or with lesser designs. Long careers to be sure but most of it spent in mothballs.

Sorry for ranting folks (I could go on and on). I do realize such a list would be most difficult to finalize and would never satisfy the more knowledgeable naval enthusiasts among us but, that list is a joke.


chris westwood
01-10-2009, 12:42
based on fit for purpose and success in service

illustrious/implacable class aircraft carriers

v&w class destroyers

South dakota class battleships

fletcher class destroyers

clevelend class cruisers

german S boats

black swan class sloops

leander class frigates

queen elizabeth class battleships

01-10-2009, 16:10
So you wouldn`t have the Yorktown Class [Enterprise] in your list? Strange seeing you claim to be basing it on being fit for purpose and success in service!

01-10-2009, 17:02
Funny I thought the list was for top 10 fighting ships - but never mind.

01-10-2009, 23:29
I'm so glad I posted this thread, it provoked great viewpionts, but the criteria for assessing the ships were,
a point was made how can you compare a Destroyer with an Aircraft Carrier, to make an analogy, the same way as you compare a poodle with a great dane at Crufts.

11-09-2010, 09:08
I wouldn't include the Iowa class battleships in the top ten list. Although they had long lives, with 80 percent of it was spent sitting in reserve, they didn't really see intensive surface action. They are largely an unproven design with some iffy side and deck armour issues. Their guns were superb but their armouring was never tested. The Leander class cruisers should be included in the list as those fairly small cruisers took some severe punishment and survived.

Don Boyer
11-09-2010, 19:26
Boy, this thread has jostled tea and coffee cups all over the world and possibly a beer mug or two! I love this forum for theses kinds of things!

I have not seen the program in question, but based on what's been said here, they obviously had their opinions, and few of us agree with "their" list for very many good reasons. Lot of "apples and oranges" comparisons are inevitably going to enter into any conversation based on their list and the criteria for it.

For one thing, they left off the most destructive warship type of all, the submarine in all it's varieties (submarines, overall, have sunk more ships than any other type, and yes, many were "helpless" merchanters, but that was the submarines job description at the time. More warships went down to subs than any other class.)

It was stated that their criteria was:

I find that part an "iffy" list too without more precise definition of what was meant by each term. "Innovation" for example. Lots of classes of ships could have been considered "innovative" when constructed (the early British Battlecruiser come to mind as the most well-known example) and they proved wanting when tested in actual combat against their opposite numbers (Lutzow would be included in that list).

"Firepower" -- iffy again. HMS Queen Elizabeth and USS Iowa had two of the finest naval rifles ever built, quite capable of knocking opponents silly at their combat ranges. A Ticonderoga class cruiser, loaded for bear, can knock out an entire fleet single handed at much longer range (ideal conditions, of course...don't forget the upgrades to the SM-2 and 3 missiles plus Harpoon and Tomahawk upgrades). Hard to compare that difference in ability.

The Yamato's were considered to be the ultimate in gunnery firepower, but in the cold light of day, their big guns were not the best, nor were the turrets. There armour had serious structural weaknesses and the bows were weak. The massive AA armament was composed of weapons inferior in ability to what was really needed -- and AA firepower directed by a man pointing a sword isn't exactly up to radar fire control standards. 18.1" guns? Lots of AA? A reputation as "the baddest ever" (even today?) They went straight down when tested. Yet Japan reveres them as if they were "sea gods." Ridiculous.

Speed? Surface targets can have lots of speed, and at one time, speed meant killing ability. It turned out to be a bit overrated, but nonetheless was a good edge in many circumstances. Yet, on the other hand, the slower, smaller corvettes and destroyer escorts were more effective against submarines than the long, slim and fast destroyers. Speed sufficient to stay ahead of the submarine was all that was needed there. Speed was relative to the job the ship was designed for.

Today, speed is nice for combat maneuvers and being able to get from here to there when "trouble" starts "there" but it matters not a whit to HMS Astute or USS Hawaii. These are your top combatants these days when it comes to fighting AT SEA and even, in a limited fashion, littorally.

Armour? Once it ruled...armour was everything alongside the big gun. Nowadays, we wish we could armour against all threats, but it's impossible to achieve the strength of armour of the old battleships against today's weapons. Not even the U.S or U.K. can pay for that kind of protection these days. "Amour" has evolved into the limited amount of structural integrity that can be built into a ship class plus the defensive capabilities of the on-board weapons and radars and spoofers working in concert with the rest of the ships in the task group.

Very difficult to compare these two types of "armouring" as they are so different. Today, armour is more being able to destroy the incoming weapon before it gets there rather than absorbing the blow when it arrives. And we are now on the edge of having reliable interceptor weapons that could have taken out that 15" or 16" shell inbound before it even hit. That is the trend of "armour" today.

Length of service to me is a ridiculous criteria in comparison to the other critieria as it has nothing, IN MOST CASES to do with how good the ship was as a combat vessel. Fletcher-class destroyers and Essex-class carriers survived far beyond the expectations made for them when built. The Queen Elizabeth class has to be at the top of the list of ships whose dollar cost was amortized across many years of very successful service and thus paid for themselves with proven ability in combat and peacetime. USS Enterprise, with currently 49 years of service falls in the same category. The Iowas have been around since 1940, approximately, yet most of that was gathering barnacles at Philadelphia or Bremerton. When active, they were tough customers, but when when needed again, they were the only ones left around by then anyway. There was no choice of pulling a less expensive contemporary of the shelf instead.

As to the list itself, you can order them as you see fit. I don't see Iowa at the top of the list. Bismarck and the pocket battleships don't even belong on that list, and Hood is iffy at best. They could have done much better looking at more of the British ships of the two wars for incluson on that list. Those Flower class corvettes, for example, for being "war expediencies" were something else in fighting U-boats and the cruel sea. Very tough customers. The list goes on.

Can't wait to see more posts on this!

Regards, all

11-09-2010, 19:52
The ol 4 stackers?:confused:

11-09-2010, 20:02
Don I'm no expert on these matters but it seems to me that you have hit the nail on the head in many ways

chris westwood
11-09-2010, 20:03
So you wouldn`t have the Yorktown Class [Enterprise] in your list? Strange seeing you claim to be basing it on being fit for purpose and success in service!
fair comment.
The Enterprise was one of the outstanding ships of thre war. The other two menbers of the class were sunk. The design had major flaws, which the indomitable/indefatigable class didn't have.

Don Boyer
11-09-2010, 20:56
The comparison of Enterprise with the later Indomitable/Indefatigable class needs salt. They were designed for different approaches to carrier warfare. The Pacific war called for fast, long-ranging ships with a heavy strike load of aircraft. Armour was sacrificed for speed, endurance and load-carrying ability. The Essexes were a direct derivative of this critieria and served more than adequately in that role in the war and long after.

The Indomitable syle sacrificed speed and load carrying for armour to meet Atlantic/Med conditions...those stupid Ju-87s falling out of the sky. Atlantic carriers had to operate in combat most of the time within the air umbrella Germany and Italy were capable of throwing up. The Enterprise/Essex could stay out of air umbrella range of the Japanese for most of their time at sea. The deficiencies in armour were partially compensated for by the massive AA battery and surrounding the carriers with ships that could defend them, even if that was not the primary role they had been designed for.

Both types served admirably in the roles they were designed for, and both types survived massive damage. The loss of Yorktown, Hornet and Wasp (a weak half-sister of the Enterprise type) was due to exposing them in combat to the worst case-situation, submarine and air attack. It could not be avoided in any of the three cases. Losses are to be expected under the "back against the wall" circumstances of the time, and were not due to any general weakness per se, but to the combat proficiency of the opponent.

Lancashire Steve
11-09-2010, 22:08
This is going to run and run.

We mostly seem agreed it's a bad list. My knowledge is pre-1945, so to limit myself to that era if I'd written a list of my own, without any attempt at justifying it scientifically (which as Don quite rightly says is a pretty dubious premise) only the QEs, Bismarck and the Fletchers of that one would have been on it. I think there's a case for the US Gato submarines of WW2: certainly the Illustrious-es (which had a whole range of attributes the Essex-es didn't). You have to make some sort of concession to design excellence, which sadly rules out the Flowers, flush-deckers and a load more well-loved and well-fought ships. But I'd happily argue a case for the Black Swans as a representative escort. No other navy built frigates in any real sense, and they were the best on a number of levels.

11-09-2010, 22:39
Interesting thread! As much as I admire Iowas (especially the Wisconsin), I wouldn't include them for reasons stated. Of course, compared to the designs the USN has come up with in last 20 years or so...Iowas are looking better and better! OTOH QEs, definately and the other, IMO, very effective DESIGN was the Derfflingers of WW 1.

Given how long lived and effective the Essex (+ the room for modernization for jet age...RN WW2 CVs really couldn't do that cost effectively, based on Victorious) class was....would agree about them and Fletchers, too.

Baltimore and Cleveland class cruisers were as good as these types got in WW2 and performed admirably. In addition several of each were modified into good first gen missile ships post war.

While neither did too much, combat wise, the 2 Richilieus seem to have been an excellent third gen BB design. As completed the Jean Bart certainly was impressive looking and seemingly still a useful combat unit in early-mid 50s!

IJN Kongos were not perfect, but they got more use out of those 4 than their other 8 BBs combined in WW2. So many choices!! DFO :D:D

12-09-2010, 01:14
Unfortunately the French battleships were never proven in battle.

Although they certainly looked good both in appearance and in specification I have big doubts about exactly how good they would have been in any sort of major conflict.

Because of this I cannot personally see how they could ever be included in a top ten list of Fighting Ships.

I would also question in what way they were a useful combat unit in say the late 1950`s as they were hardly a useful combat unit even in the late 1940`s??

Other than trundling out the Jean Bart very briefly during the Suez crisis of 1957 [did not engage in any combat] - neither her or Richileiu were used for anything resembling anthing more useful after 1946 than as a gunnery training ship....

Don Boyer
12-09-2010, 03:32
Looking back in my books, I would have to blush slightly and revise my statement on the Flowers. Black Swan type was more what I was thinking of, and I should have gone back and looked at Conway's before I wrote that. Steve is right. As to the Illustrious type, those "attributes" were not all they were cracked up to be. Cramped, carrying fewer aircraft, shorter ranged, slower, etc., they do not compare to an Essex in combat capability. The armored deck was nice but not impenetrable, and it was adapted in the Midway class which came out too late for the war. The Midways rode lower in the water than an Essex as a consequence, causing some handling problems in heavy seas, but not enough to make them innefective. For Atlantic conditions, the Illustrious was probably ideal. In the Pacific, they lagged behind the Essex in combat ops. They Gatos should be on anyone's list, and I agree the Iron Dog was about the ideal for a battlecruiser.

They should have asked us on the forum to do that documentary... :)

Lancashire Steve
12-09-2010, 09:56
Fair do's on the Essex class. I was focussing too much on the armoured deck which as you say caused limitations in other respects. Had in mind an American comment that "when a Kamikaze hits one of our carrier's it's six months in Pearl - on a Limey carrier it's 'Sweepers man your brooms'. But the US ships had a proven record of sustaining those attacks.

Shows how subjective it is. I even had doubts about the Black Swans. Good in design but I recall reading how Starling's stern came loose in heavy seas and wagged about like a dog's tail, and how Walker wished he was "back in his sturdy peacetime-built Stork".

Don Boyer
12-09-2010, 18:32

Even the Iowa's have been accused of a "weak" bow, tending to twist in truly heavy seas, if pushed. Designed for the long Pacific swells, the shorter chop of the North Atlantic was more problematic. The later HMS Vanguard was a much better seaboat in that respect. In fact, it was deternined much later that the long narrow bow of the Iowa class -- to help with speed -- could actually have been designed more along the lines of the Vanguard's bow and the ships would have steamed as fast and been better seaboats in some sea conditions. And "hurried" wartime construction always brings up problems like that which are only discovered in the hard business of steaming at sea under combat stresses.

Overall, British and American ships (and those of some European navies) stood up well to hard use, and certainly were not constantly back in the yards for modifications due to design faults or instability like many Japanese ships that had to go back for bulging, weght reduction, corrections of faulty welding and other design problems that stemmed from their trying to pack too much armament on a hull in an attempt to "outclass" their contemporaries ship for ship, since they would never be able to build as many ships of a class as her potential enemies could. This severly backfired on them because the money spent on retrofits could have given them many more ships per class rather than one ship that cost not only it's building costs but even more for retrofitting to be fit for combat.

It's a risky business, this bit of sailing the seas for God and country!

Lancashire Steve
12-09-2010, 19:51
Fair point. The original thread was after all about the top 10, not about seeking perfection.

It's noticeable that very few IJN ships have been mentioned by anyone - which as they were tested in battle, unlike many of the French and Italian ones, tells its own story. I remember as a boy being struck by the unlikely looking amount of turrets on most of them, and how they seemed too large for the hulls. Compare the freeboard on their cruisers to those Baltimores and Clevelands, for instance.

12-09-2010, 20:37
The British/Australian Leanders and USN New Orleans deserve a mention too.
Shisp of those classes were active during the war

12-09-2010, 21:10
Agreed, both seemed to have been GOOD, pre war Treaty ships that were quite balanced designs and useful in combat! They also could take heavy damage and still survive to fight another day......certainly a desirable asset for any warship to have.

One IJN DD type, the Fubukis, really broke new ground and were far more powerful than any other DD in the world when they first came out, even tho they did later need mods to make them more seaworthy.

The Kagero and Yugumo classes were also very effective and hard worked IJN DDs. I would submit that the Kageros were more than a match, ship for ship, to any other DD availible in 1940. Fortunately the IJN was not able to build even a small fraction of the #s built for USN; even just the Fletcher class!

The Kageros appeared very clean and aggressive, to my eyes as an Industrial Designer: all business, lean and mean! DFO :D

13-09-2010, 14:04
G'Day All

Funny, I do believe we've had a similar discussion before....


As for the list, I'd have the following classes



tim lewin
15-09-2010, 04:57
Dipping back into the thread again after an absence i might venture to suggest we are looking at this from the wrong end. Surely the definition of a "fighting Ship" is a ship that fights, not a ship designed to fight? if we want to make an objective top ten it should be the top ten ships with the most time in action, actually fighting!, as in fighting ships, not warships?

Don Boyer
15-09-2010, 06:18
Good point Tim, and that would send us over to the greatest waship of all time thread where Enterprise (rightlfully) still sits atop the polls there, as mentioned by Battlestar. Unfortunately, though, her two sisters, equals in all respects, didn't get in that same amount of "fighting time" due to being quite thoroughly sunk in combat. Hard to rate a ship for having fought over time rather than using the definition "fighting" to simply mean ships designed for combat, whether they actually saw any or not, which is more the theme here IMO. I think we all agree the list produced by the TV documentary didn't quite cut it. I would not have Bismarck or Graf Spee on any list like that. Neither was a revolutionary design and despite early successes in the end didn't accomplish much. Bismarck was basically an upgraded WWI Baden, with the same incredible toughness of hull and armor of her German predecessors. Nothing revolutionary there. Graf Spee was a poor attempt to pack cruiser-killing power in a bigger ship for raiding purposes, and the diesel engines didn't cut it, making her vulnerable to faster ships. It will no doubt go on for many pages here!


mustang ali
15-09-2010, 14:46
Prob gonna get shot down here but hey, Admiralty W Class Destroyers

16-09-2010, 08:09
Don.......read somewhere that GRAF SPEE and her sisters were designed to be immune from 6" & 8" shells from conventional cruisers, and it came as a nasty shock to discover that whilst 6" couldn't penetrate, 8" could.

"Fighting ships"........well in a war all warships come under this term.....and I think the unsung convoy escorts, that week in, week out, month in, month out, year in, year out, were at a perpetual state of combat readiness, were definately "fighting ships" and the service given by the little Flower Class Corvettes, a good example.

16-09-2010, 16:54
Prob gonna get shot down here but hey, Admiralty W Class Destroyers

Not at all my friend - for their time they were among the most powerful and advanced ships of their type in the world and along with the V class they provided the backbone of the RN destroyer fleet for many years after the end of WW1. Some of them even provided sterling service in WW2 as well lasting well over 30 years.

A good choice!

[Picture of Walpole taken during 1939].

Jim in Annville
16-09-2010, 17:58
Again a vote for the Gato's of WW2. And how about the USS Constitution.

Lancashire Steve
16-09-2010, 23:25
Must agree the W class point. They tick both boxes - ships that fight, and a good design. The latter is illustrated by the amount of variants and uses that eventually existed for them 20+ years after they were built - long range escort, short range escort, Wair, Fleet destroyer, coastal escort, etc, and by the amount of different weaponry and equipment that was latched onto them. Nice to look at too.

mustang ali
17-09-2010, 07:49
HMS Courageous, not so much the Churchill class, just that one sub. A fine example of why you shouldnt annoy a submarine