Key Point: Battleship modernization would be very expensive, but it might help the U.S. navy solve some important issues. However, any attempt to bring back these capital ships would be subject to intense debate.
Battleships captivate the imagination. Before they were displaced by aircraft carriers, battleships were symbols of great-power status. Some of the most iconic were the American Iowa class, the last battleships ever built by the United States. Powerful in appearance, yet with sleek lines filled in with haze gray, the Iowa class served in World War II and were unretired three more times to serve as the U.S. Navy’s big guns. If we brought them back today, what would they look like?
The National Defense Authorization Act for 1996, generally known as the defense budget, had a unique provision hidden inside the text: the text directed the Navy to keep at least of the four Iowa-class ships on the Naval Register in good condition, retain the logistical support to maintain battleships on active duty and keep those ships on the Register until the secretary of the navy certified that existing naval gunfire support equaled or exceeded the firepower of two battleships. Iowa and Wisconsin were finally stricken from the Register in 2006 after the secretary of the navy, citing the upcoming thirty-two Zumwalt-class destroyers, certified they were no longer needed.