Naval Giant: Battleship USS New Jersey 'Could' Rejoin the U.S. Navy

USS New Jersey Battleship
May 22, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: USS New JerseyBattleshipsIowa-ClassU.S. NavyNavyMilitary

Naval Giant: Battleship USS New Jersey 'Could' Rejoin the U.S. Navy

It is not inconceivable that Iowa-Class battleships, like New Jersey, could be thoroughly modernized by the U.S. Navy and reintroduced into service.

The USS New Jersey is one of four remaining iconic Iowa-class battleships. Having spent the last several decades as a floating museum, the old battle wagon is returning to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard—her birthplace way back in 1940—where she will receive an incredible refurbishment. 

Battleships USS New Jersey

The New Jersey will get a fresh, new coat of paint to allow her to keep glistening for another several decades as she continues serving as a historical display for future generations to enjoy and learn about America’s great naval history. The engineers at the Philadelphia Shipyards will be giving the hull a once-over, to ensure there are no leaks. The battleship’s cathodic protection system will be getting repaired, too.

The New Jersey was among the last group of Iowa-class battleships to be built by the US Navy. It has an impressive and complex service history, having been decommissioned and subsequently recommissioned four times. When the New Jersey first hit the high seas in 1940, the United States had not yet fallen head-over-heels for the aircraft carrier. 

Battleship History: Back in USS New Jersey’s Day…

The battleship was the center of attention. Naval war planners had dreamt of the day when, in war, they would engage in a fantastical steel-and-steam-version of a Patrick O’Brian naval battle with rival battleships, to determine the outcome of that war. 

USS New Jersey Battleship

While the Iowa-class in general has a sterling combat record (particularly the New Jersey), after Pearl Harbor, the battleship was never given the same amount of love that the flat tops were. Certainly, by the end of the Second World War and the outbreak of the Cold War, the days of the battleship as the star of the US fleet was over. 

At best, she’d be given a supporting role. 

Indeed, New Jersey and her sister ships were given supporting roles—usually as giant artillery barges—in America’s various post-WWII conflicts throughout the twentieth century. 

Should the Battleship Return to the Line? It Could Happen, But...

Some battleship aficionados even yearn for the old battle wagons to return to fleet service yet again. This time as heavily armored and armed weapons platforms that will punch through the growing anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities of American adversaries (notably China). The argument is that the primary method of the US Navy’s power projection—aircraft carriers—will be deterred from committing to a fight in which these expansive A2/AD systems are present. 

Without carriers present, there is a critical gap in capabilities for the US Navy in any war. Thus, these battleships could fill that gap, at least until the A2/AD threat could be overcome.

This is, of course, wishful thinking. 

But it is not inconceivable that battleships, like New Jersey, could be thoroughly modernized by the Navy and reintroduced into service. After all, this is precisely what the New Jersey experienced over the last 84 years of its lifespan. Each time, she was updated to meet whatever new fleet standards existed. And every time, the New Jersey served without a hitch. 

Besides, this would not be the first time the US military had an elderly system serving as a primary method of power projection. The US Air Force proudly still flies the 72-year-old B-52 Stratofortress—and intends to until at least 2050 (just 98 years after the great bomber first took the skies).

USS New Jersey Battleship

In fact, like the Soviet Navy that came before it, today’s Russian Navy puts a battleship-like system—the heavy battlecruiser, a slightly less armored version of a battleship—as the center of its navy’s power projection capabilities. 

It wouldn’t be unheard of for a naval power to embrace such a concept. 

Let the Battleships’ Glory Be Yesterday

Although, in the case of the USS New Jersey and the remaining Iowa-class battleships, it is unlikely to be worth it. Whatever pounding the battle wagons can take from modern A2/AD systems, the fact remains that any surface warship will be highly vulnerable to the kind of destruction that modern A2/AD systems bring to bear.

The New Jersey should remain a museum and the sentimentalists among us should probably keep dreaming about the days of the battleship returning to her full glory. The new age of warfare will be fought at a distance, with more maneuverable, faster—often unmanned—systems. But the glories of yesteryear should never be forgotten. 

USS New Jersey

The $10 million to refurbish the New Jersey is money well spent. And we should hope and pray that the great battleship continues awing audiences of curious onlookers for decades to come.

About the Author 

Brandon J. Weichert, a National Interest national security analyst, is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, the Asia Times, and The-Pipeline. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life, and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy. His next book, A Disaster of Our Own Making: How the West Lost Ukraine, is due October 22 from Encounter Books. Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.

All images are Creative Commons.