Fire! The Allies 3 Most Powerful Battleships to Ever Sail

USS New Jersey Iowa-Class Battleship U.S. Navy
February 22, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Iowa-ClassJean BartVanguard-ClassMilitaryBattleshipsDefense

Fire! The Allies 3 Most Powerful Battleships to Ever Sail

During World War Two, battleships reached their pinnacle in size and firepower. As you will see, this list is as multinational as it goes, highlighting the intense arms race between big powers in the years leading to the largest war in human history. 

Summary: Modern naval operations prioritize aircraft carriers for their unparalleled power projection capabilities, carrying numerous aircraft and personnel worldwide. However, until World War II's conclusion, battleships dominated naval warfare with their formidable armaments and resilience. During the conflict, battleships achieved their zenith in size and firepower. Highlighted are the three largest Allied battleships: the French Jean Bart, part of the Richelieu-class, commissioned in 1955 but initially laid down in 1936, equipped with a vast array of guns and capable of reaching 32 knots; the British HMS Vanguard, the Royal Navy's last battleship, commissioned in 1946 with a diverse arsenal and a top speed of 30 knots; and the American USS Iowa, the last class of U.S. battleships, commissioned in 1943, heavily armed including nine 16-inch guns, and capable of 33 knots, later upgraded with cruise missiles for service into the 1990s. These ships reflect the intense arms race prior to and during the world's largest war, showcasing the strategic shift from battleship to aircraft carrier dominance in naval operations.

The Allies Best Battleships 

Modern naval operations focus on the aircraft carrier and its battlegroup. An unparalleled mode of power projection, the aircraft carrier brings dozens of aircraft and thousands of sailors and marines to any hotspot worldwide. 

But before the aircraft carrier, it was another warship that ruled supreme. 

From the opening of the 20th Century up to the end of World War Two, the battleship was the king of the naval operations.

These heavy-armed ships could obliterate an adversary with just one broadside while withstanding extreme abuse from enemy warships and aircraft. 

During World War Two, battleships reached their pinnacle in size and firepower. What follows is a list of the three largest battleships ever built by the Allied Forces. As you will see, the list is as multinational as it goes, highlighting the intense arms race between big powers in the years leading to the largest war in human history. 

Jean Bart Battleship from France

The Jean Bart has an interesting history.

Part of the Richelieu-class, the Jean Bart served as a floating gun battery during the war but wasn’t commissioned until 1955.

The French Navy laid down the ship’s hull in the closing days of 1936, but the war and the Nazi occupation prevented the completion of the vessel. 

When completed, the Jean Bart was 813 feet long and had a displacement of 48 long tons, fully equipped for combat. In terms of weaponry, the warship had eight 15-inch (380mm) guns in two quadruple turrets. In addition, the Jean Bart carried nine 6-inch (152mm) guns, 12 3.9-inch (100mm) anti-aircraft guns, and 20 13.2mm machine guns.

The ship could reach speeds up to 32 nautical knots (37 miles per hour).

Jean Bart Battleship

The class was named after Cardinal Richelieu, the powerful cardinal of Louis XIII in 17th Century, and a sister ship, the Richelieu, which served in the war.

HMS Vanguard from the Royal Navy

While she might have not served during World War II, she was certainly being constructed in mind to contribute to this historic conflict. 

The Royal Navy’s last battleship, the HMS Vanguard came into service in 1946. It had a length of 814 feet and a draft of 36 feet.

Fully equipped, the battleship weighed 52 tons but could still reach speeds of 30 nautical knots (35 miles per hour).

In terms of weaponry, the HMS Vanguard sported almost 100 guns of all types. The warship had four 15-inch (381mm) twin guns, eight 5.25-inch (133mm) dual-purpose guns, and 72 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns.  

HMS Vanguard

The HMS Vanguard served in various positions until 1960, when the Royal Navy decommissioned and sold the ship for scrap. 

USS Iowa from the U.S. Navy 

Part of the Iowa-class battleships—the U.S. Navy’s last class of battleships—the USS Iowa came into service in 1943. It has a length of 887 feet and a draft of 37 feet. The warship had a displacement of 57 tons with a full combat load but could still reach speeds of 33 nautical knots (38 miles per hour).

Iowa-Class

In terms of weaponry, the USS Iowa packed nine 16-inch (406mm) Mark 7 guns in three turrets (two at the fore, one at the aft), 20 5-inch (127mm) Mark 12 guns, 76 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns, and 52 20mm anti-aircraft weapons for a total of 157 guns of all types. 

Decades after the war, the warship received upgrades, including cruise missiles, and served well into the 1990s.

About the Author  

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP. Email the author: [email protected].