1930's Robot Battleship


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14 December 2009
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An early version of today's Self Defense Test Ship. Video is from Periscope Films and has their annoying time counter but the scenes of old US battleships and biplanes flying what looks like a "Lufberry circle" are very interesting.

"In 1931, Utah was demilitarized and converted into a radio controlled target ship and re-designated as AG-16, in accordance with the terms of the London Naval Treaty signed the previous year. On 1 July 1931, Utah was accordingly redesignated "AG-16". Work was completed by 1 April 1932, when she was recommissioned. On 7 April, Utah left Norfolk for sea trials to train her engine room crew and to test the radio-control equipment. She passed her radio control trials on 6 May, and on 1 June, the ship was operated for 3 hours under radio control.

She was also equipped with numerous anti-aircraft guns of different types to train gunners for the fleet. She served in these two roles for the rest of the decade, and late 1941 found the ship in Pearl Harbor. She was in port on the morning of 7 December, and in the first minutes of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was hit by two torpedoes, which caused serious flooding. Utah quickly rolled over and sank; the vast majority of her crew were able to escape, but 64 men were killed in the attack. The wreck remains in the harbor, and in 1972, a memorial was erected near the ship. "

Interesting footage, thank you.
The practice of modifying ships into radio controlled targets was followed in Germany, too. The first was
the former pre-dreadnought battleship (SMS) Zähringen (Wittelsbach class), which was converted from 1927
to 1928 (photo via http://www.deutsche-schutzgebiete.de/sms_zaehringen.htm, the next one,
incorporating the lessons learnt from the Zähringen, was the (SMS) Hessen (Braunschweig class),
(photo via http://historisches-marinearchiv.de/sonstiges/berichte/seiss.php).
The latter link gives an interesting inside into duty on those ships. The transmitter was fitted to the
accompanying "Leitboot" (guide boat), converted from WW I torpedo boats, the crews of the target ships were
made up of civilians. The Zähringen was considered too slow during later years, so mainly Hessen was used
in the target role. For exercises with guns above 15 cm, the crew was evacuated, but if only up to 15 cm guns
were used, they took shelter in armoured rooms for the duration of the live firing (with practice ammo, of course) !
May have been an interesting experience !


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Looks like everyone was doing this. What is interesting in this British version is the filming of actual target firing with the camera crew on board a ship that seems to have been somewhere in the vicinity.


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