Ironclads were designed for several roles, including as high seas battleships, coastal defense ships, riverine warfare vessels, and long-range cruisers. The rapid evolution of warship design in the late 19th century transformed the ironclad from a vessel with wooden-hulls underneath plates of iron which still used sails to supplement its steam engines into the steel-built, turreted battleships and cruisers familiar in the 20th century. This change was pushed forward by the development of heavier naval guns (the ironclads of the 1880s carried some of the heaviest guns ever mounted at sea), more sophisticated and reliable steam engines, and advances in metallurgy which made steel shipbuilding possible.
The rapid pace of change in the ironclad period meant that many ships were obsolete as soon as they were complete, and that naval tactics were in a state of flux. Many ironclads were built to make use of the ram or the torpedo, which a number of naval designers considered the crucial weapons of naval combat. There is no clear end to the ironclad period, but towards the end of the 1890s the term ironclad dropped out of use. New ships were increasingly constructed to a standard pattern and designated battleships or armored cruisers
Ironclads are basically floating batteries with heavy arms and armor which have reasonable speed for their time. Battleships (later classifed as pre-dreadnoughts) slowly replaced the ironclad as it had improvements in armor, speed, maneuverability, and in weaponry with more and bigger guns able to overwhelm the enemy. Ironclads are useful for the role of commerce raiding and hunting smaller ships as it can quicly unleash its broadsides under the ptotection of its armor.
Types of Ironclads
Broadside Ironclads are the first ironclad warships, as naval designers discovered the efficacy of adding plate armor over wooden hulls. They were heavily armored ships that had their armaments on the sides and, on some models, in the front and back of the ship. The first ironclad warship in history was the French Gloire and soon after her launch naval powers scrambled to build more and better ships. These European broadsides are the first ocean-going ironclads. The American broadsides were built to operate in rivers due to the US Civil War, and thus had shallow drafts. They can withstand heavy fire due to the thick armor. The most known type of broadside ironclad during that war is the CSS Virginia. Broadside ironclads emulated the gun arrangement of sailing ships, and so were armed with relatvely lighter armaments, weaker in firepower but stronger in quantity.
Monitors are shallow draft and low free board (their decks are just a few feet above the water) ironclads carrying one or multiple turrets with heavy guns. The name came from the USS Monitor, one of several ironclads commissioned by the Union to deal with the Confederate's Virginia during the US Civil War. The double-barreled revolving turret allowed her to carry very heavy and powerful guns, and since they can be aimed on both (or all) sides, she needed to carry only a few as compared to a broadside ironclad (in this case just 2). Because of her configuration she was called "a cheesebox on a raft".
Due to budget constraints and their emphasis on firepower, the US Navy became the main proponent of monitors, eventually building bigger and bigger vessels like the USS Onondaga and the USS Puritan, monitors which could traverse oceans but were otherwise still limited by their basic hull design. As monitors increased in size, so did their armament, eventually mounting some of the biggest guns ever embarked on warships. The best example is the HNLMS Buffel which is a heavily armed monitor that wielded 2 23cm cannons.
Monitors were revived by the British in World War l to denote small vessels armed with 1 or 2 turrets mounting old pre-dreadnought guns, and were used to support beach assaults. The US Navy used river monitors during the Vietnam War for operations in the Mekong delta, this time armed with smaller guns (ex. recoilless rifles).
Ram Ironclads are the most uncommon type of ironclad. Similar to broadside ironclads in that they initially had fixed gun mounts, their other main weapon is the ram, as naval tacticians weres scrambling to find a decisive edge (since the first duel between ironclads, between the Virginia and Monitor, was a draw). They are also relatively lightly armored compared to the first two types of ironclads, making them the fastest of all ironclads types. They saw little action in history but their legacy still lives on. IJN Kōtetsu (formerly CSS Stonewall) is a ram ironclad.
The first ironclads were armed with light armaments. These guns line the sides of the ships and, rarely, on the front and back of the ship. Some of the first ironclads were armed with 2 armaments that are placed on a revolving turret. This type of armament is elevated so that it can have ease of firing and movement.
Newer ironclads were armed with heavier armaments, some are the heaviest in the world. They are mostly armed with dual barrel guns, with the light armaments lining the sides as secondary weapons. These heavy guns were placed in the middle or on the front of the ship.
The ram and torpedo proved to be the most crucial weapon of the ironclads because of the great damage they can apply to an enemy ship.
They never used anti-aircraft guns as the term Ironclad was dropped during the 1890's; many years before the first fighter planes saw action and entered naval warfare.
The type of gun to be equipped and the type of ram depends on the user itself.
Roles and Usage
These ships are one of the heavily armored ships of the 1800's. They serve as batteries that could rain shells over the enemies. When used in groups, these ships serve as suppressing fire. They also serve as escorts and sacrificial ships to larger warships.
The addition of heavy armaments to the ironclads turned the tide of war. They are used for land bombardment and coastal defense. The heavy armament and the thick armor made the ironclad the forerunner to battleships.
The most used tactic is "The Charge" wherein the ship goes full steam ahead until it the enemy enters the guns' line of fire. The ship turns to the left or right so that the side guns aim at the enemy. The guns are then fired until the enemy is destroyed.
If one was to use the rotating turret, do the Circle Maneuver. Go towards the enemy then, if the line of sight is reached, move to the right and encircle the enemy. Dodge the enemy fire, encircle the enemy ship and fire.
Ramming the enemy is ONLY to be used when the enemy is weakened. Else, defeat will follow nearby.
This ship was the mother of the modern heavily armed ships. Although the term was dropped and changed into battleships, ironclads can still compete and deal heavy damage against modern ships.
The wide array of weapons sees a bright future for the ironclads, at least in the BSC realm. Hybrid ships such as Carrier-Ironclad and catamaran-Ironclads are slowly trending in the game community.
- America's first Ironclads saw action and was manufactured during the US Civil War.
- The first Ironclad was the French Gloire. She, however, had iron plates mounted on a wooden hull. The British Ironclad HMS Warrior, made in response to the Gloire, was the first made with an all-iron hull.
- The idea of tanks came from the ironclads, hence the nickname "Land Ironclad"
- Both the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia were not destroyed during battle, even though they have fought each other at the Battle of Hampton Roads. USS Monitor did not survive her ocean voyage while CSS Virgina was scuttled to avoid being captured.
- IJN Kotetsu was an American Ironclad, named CSS Stonewall.
- Although it is had a small turret and only 2 guns, the USS Monitor had a revolving turret that can shoot at any direction. This is the advantage of the USS Monitor to the CSS Virginia. This changed the way warships were armed forever.