General PurposeAnalytical
Scope and LevelRange of Command Levels

Military Services Involved

U.S. Navy, U.S. Army

Type of Operations

Anti-surface [Hypothetical]

Area of Operations

San Francisco Bay, off Alameda Island

Number of Sides2
Amount of IntelligenceOpen
Method of EvaluationRigid
Basic Simulation TechniqueComputer

In a previous wargame, we examined the effectiveness of 320 M1A2 Abrams tanks against the armor of one Iowa-class battleship. This scenario is something of an inversion of that. For the sake of brevity, this wargame won’t analyze how many tanks an Iowa-class battleship can destroy, but rather, it will examine how effective the battleship’s weapons are against several platoons of Abrams tanks. For this reason, I’ve drastically reduced the number of tank platoons to just 4 in total.

Historical Background

Historically, there are instances of tanks being engaged by 16″ battleship guns. For example, HMS Rodney bombarded targets in Normandy in support of the D-Day invasion on 30 June 1944, it’s likely that some concentrations of German armor were hit by several tons of high-explosive 16″ shells fired from the Rodney on positions some 17 miles south of Gold Beach.1 Earlier on 11 June, Rommel reported to Hitler that “the effects of heavy naval bombardment are so powerful that an operation either with infantry or armored formations is impossible in an area commanded by this rapid-fire artillery.”2 Needless to say, it didn’t go well for the German armor.

Understandably, these historical examples are from WWII with a British battleship and German tanks. As far as I know, there’s been no instances of any of the Iowa-class battleships engaging modern tanks with modern composite armor. While I’m no metallurgist or physicist, I seriously doubt that any tank armor, even on a modern tank, could withstand the sheer kinetic energy of a 16″ battleship shell impacting it. For reference, a 16″ HE shell from the HMS Rodney weighs 2,048 lbs. A similar 16″ High Capacity (HiCap) shell from the USS Missouri weighs 1,900 lbs. As noted in the previous wargame tank armor is designed to withstand tank shells and anti-tank weapons which are far smaller, are fired from shorter ranges, and sometimes have different chemical or kinetic properties to allow them to penetrate tank armor. A 16″ battleship shell is fired from longer ranges and is designed to penetrate battleship armor or conduct shore bombardment. Regardless of what type of 16″ shell it is (armor-piercing or high-explosive), the tank will likely be completely obliterated. I suspect that even a near miss from a high-explosive 16″ shell would knock the tank out and probably kill everyone inside.

Note: My research uncovered several ongoing discussion threads on regarding this exact topic. However, none of the information given is cited, so I didn’t use it. Even some of the so-called photographic evidence floating around on the internet about “German tanks destroyed by battleship guns” is highly suspect.


12 M1A2 SEP Abrams tanks (3 platoons) are situated on the former Alameda Air Station field with an additional 8 tanks (2 platoons) 40 nm to the east near the city of Tracy, California. An Iowa-class battleship (USS Missouri, BB-63) is directly offshore to the west of Alameda Island. This scenario will test the effectiveness of the battleship’s primary and secondary armament (16″ AP and 16″ HiCap shells, 5″ HE-PD, and Tomahawk cruise missiles) against the armor of the Abrams tanks.

Our essential question is:

  • How effective are the weapons of an Iowa-class battleship against modern M1A2 Abrams tanks?

Like the previous wargame, the point of this test isn’t to be realistic or to follow doctrine. Since we’re not focused on examining decision-making or analyzing the data related to the decisions made, this isn’t so much a wargame as it is a test of the simulation’s capabilities. Essentially, it’s a test of the simulation itself.


U.S. Army [A.I.]U.S. Navy [Player]
4x M1A2 SEP Abrams tank platoons (4 tanks/platoon)
(16 tanks total)
1x Iowa-class battleship (BB63)
Weapons & Ammo:
0x (all weapons & ammo removed)
Weapons & Ammo:
32x RGM-109C Tomahawk Blk II TLAM-C missiles

2800x 127mm/38 twin HE-PD Burst (2 rnds)
107x 406mm/50 triple AP salvo (3 rnds)
296x 406mm/50 triple HiCap salvo (3 rnds)

Note: I’ve excluded the 127mm AA-VT fuzed shells, the 25mm Bushmaster guns, and the 20mm CIWS guns. The 127mm AA shells basically function as flak shells and don’t do any damage to the tanks. The 25mm Bushmaster guns, while they can damage and destroy a tank, take a ton of ammo to do so. The 20mm CIWS are purely defensive weapons and won’t engage a tank, or any surface target, for that matter.


Use the USS Missouri to destroy the tank platoons and test the effectiveness of its weapons.


There are 3 tank platoons ashore at Alameda Air Station. Use the battleship’s weapons to destroy one tank platoon with 16″ AP shells, one platoon with 16″ HiCap shells, and one platoon with 5″ HE-DP shells. Launch an RQ-2 Pioneer UAV to recon the city of Tracy to the east and locate one additional tank platoon. Once the RQ-2 Pioneer has positively identified the tank platoon, then use the battleship’s Tomahawk cruise missiles to destroy it at that location.

Strangely, the database lists the Abrams platoons as having 0 damage points. So by this (flawed) logic, even an infantryman with an assault rifle could destroy a tank platoon. However, it also lists the tanks as having a missile defense worth 4 Harpoon/SLAM/Maverick missiles. The tanks are listed as having special armor (201 – 500mm of RHA). Presumably, this is an estimated equivalency of Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA) since the real-life Abrams tanks have composite armor of which the composition and thickness are classified.

The game database notes the following damage values for the battleship’s weapons:

  • 57 DP for 406mm AP salvo (3 shells)
  • 210 DP for 406mm HiCap salvo (3 shells)
  • 3 DP for 127mm HiCap burst (2 shells)
  • 454 DP for TLAM-C

Since the tanks have 0 damage points, any of the battleship’s weapons should theoretically destroy them in a single hit.



Table 1: Impacts & Malfunctions

Weapon# Salvoes Fired# Direct Salvo Impacts# Malfunctioned
16″ AP 740
16″ HiCap 640
5″ HE-PD1540

Table 2: Average Penetration & Blast Damage

WeaponPenetration AchievedBlast Damage
16″ AP47% (avg.), 54% (highest), 36% (lowest)N/A
16″ HiCap14.5% (avg.), 20% (highest), 3% (lowest) 39.3 DPs (avg.), 41.6 DPs (highest), 37 DPs (lowest)
5″ HE-PD8.5% (avg.), 18% (highest), 2% (lowest)1.05 DPs (avg.), 1.8 DPs (highest), 0.3 DPs (lowest)
TLAM-C16% (only 1 penetrated)354 DPs (avg.), 431.3 DPs (highest), 258.5 DPs (lowest)


We don’t know how accurately CMO models the armor of the tanks. However, as shown in Tables 1 and 2 above, a number of shells and missiles did directly impact the tanks. In every case of a direct impact, one of the tanks was destroyed. Furthermore, despite the tanks being listed in the database as having 0 damage points, some of the tanks sustained blast damage from near misses of high explosive ordnance, yet weren’t destroyed. The highest amount of blast damage that I observed that didn’t destroy a tank was 41.6 DPs from a 16″ HiCap shell. The lowest amount of blast damage I observed that did destroy a tank was 285.5 DPs from a TLAM. By that logic, the M1A2 Abrams in CMO has somewhere between those amounts of damage points. Not the 0 that the database lists.

Battleship Weapons Capabilities Against Tanks in CMO

Based on the results, any of the battleship’s weapons that are 127mm (5″) or larger in diameter that achieve a direct hit will penetrate and destroy at least one tank in a platoon. Now bear in mind that the armor on a tank isn’t of a uniform thickness all around. Some modern anti-tank guided missiles have a “top-down attack” flight profile that is designed to hit the top of a tank’s turret where the armor is thinner. That said, CMO is designed as an air and naval operations simulator. It isn’t really designed with a high level of “tactical fidelity” and has a limited ability to simulate land operations. For example, detailed effects like plunging shell fire with naval guns versus ship armor aren’t modeled, so how detailed the tank’s damage model is against naval gunfire is debatable. Still, it’s probably safe to say that a 1,900 lbs HiCap shell or a 2,700 lbs AP shell directly impacting a tank would destroy it through sheer kinetic energy alone.

16″ AP

Any of these shells that directly impacted a tank succeeded in penetrating the armor. However, only the shells that directly impacted a tank destroyed one. Either the simulation doesn’t model the bursting charge or the shell’s bursting charge doesn’t do enough blast damage to the tank to either damage or destroy it.

In reality, this shell weighs 2,700 lbs and has a 40.5 lb bursting charge. Reportedly, an AP shell could penetrate 32 feet of reinforced concrete.

16″ HiCap

As with the 16″ AP shells, all the tanks destroyed by the 16″ HiCap shells were destroyed by direct impacts which penetrated the tank’s armor. However, if these shells miss, then they can do blast damage to the tank. One salvo landed within 39 feet of a tank, but it only did 41.6 damage points worth of blast damage which didn’t destroy the tank.

In reality, this shell weighs 1,900 lbs, has a 153.5 lb bursting charge, and can blast a 50-foot wide and 20-foot deep crater in the ground. Yeah, it can probably destroy a tank.

5″ HE-DP

These shells did a relatively small amount of blast damage (the lowest amount of blast damage done was 0.3 points). Even those that missed still did some damage to the tanks through blast damage, but they didn’t destroy any tanks. Only shells that achieved a direct hit destroyed a tank and all direct hits resulted in armor penetration. The lowest amount of penetration was 2 percent, but the tank was still destroyed.

It’s unknown exactly what type of 5″ shells these are, but since they’re fitted with point detonating fuzes, it’s likely that they’re Anti-Aircraft Common (AAC) shells. These all weigh around 55 lbs and have a bursting charge of around 7 to 7.5 lbs.


The Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles were the only weapons to destroy any tanks with blast damage alone. The one that did the least amount of blast damage (285.5 damage points) missed by 64 feet, but still destroyed a tank. One missile directly impacted a tank and achieved 16 percent armor penetration.

In reality, the Tomahawk cruise missile has a 1,000 lbs conventional warhead. (Other warheads exist, such as the W80 nuclear warhead or the submunitions dispenser with cluster bomblets, but that’s a bit excessive, and the Missouri in this simulation isn’t carrying either of those.)

To summarize the answer to our Essential Question:

  • Based on the number of salvoes required to destroy an M1A2 tank platoon, Tomahawk cruise missiles are the most effective weapons against the tanks, followed by 16″ High Capacity shells, 16″ Armor Piercing shells, and finally, 5″ High Explosive – Point Detonating shells.
  • Although not tested in this wargame, other tests have shown that 25mm Bushmaster shells are the least effective at damaging a tank. 5″ Anti-Aircraft shells and 0.50 caliber machine gun rounds are completely ineffective at damaging a tank.

Additional Thoughts on the Simulation

It makes sense that the TLAMs are the most effective against tanks since they have the largest warhead. Also, bear in mind that we weren’t examining which weapons were most “cost-effective” in terms of numbers fired versus tanks destroyed.

In my original tests of this wargame, I had more platoons in the simulation to have a larger pool of data from which to analyze, but I found that analyzing that much data was too onerous and time-consuming. Not to mention that the log CMO generates isn’t always the most accurate. Hence, why I fired off the salvoes one at a time. I needed to be able to accurately account for all of the misses, hits, and malfunctions.

The simulation did show various parts of the tank (such as the optical sights or laser rangefinders) being damaged or destroyed by blast damage. However, this wargame was purely focused on what battleship weapons could outright destroy a tank.

What can we derive from this? Well, it’s pretty obvious that a battleship’s weapons can destroy a tank. The size of the ordnance fired is more than enough to accomplish that. However, as the previous wargame also noted, the purpose and range that naval guns and their ammunition were designed to be used for are quite different from tank guns. Even the similar in caliber 5″ (127mm) naval guns are different from the 120mm guns used on Abrams tanks.

As with any of these wargames, we should be very cautious about the conclusions we derive from them because this is a piece of software, at the end of the day. As professional wargame theorists like Peter Perla note, data is more useful as an input to wargames rather than as an output because wargames aren’t good tools for answering technical or quantitative questions.3 Perla further writes that the validity of a game’s results is the extent to which it reflects reality rather than how it reflects the artificiality of the gaming environment.4 Since we’re totally dependent on the accuracy of the simulation’s programming and we don’t have a lot of historical empirical data to draw upon, we need to take the results with a grain of salt. Remember that this wasn’t meant to be a serious analysis and was more of a fun test of the simulation model itself.


1. Iain Ballantyne, HMS Rodney: Slayer of the Bismarck and D-Day Saviour (Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Maritime, 2012),

2. Correlli Barnett, Engage the Enemy More Closely: The Royal Navy in the Second World War (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991), 833. Unfortunately, this source isn’t more specific about the effects of the HMS Rodney’s 16″ shells on German armor, nor about what types or sizes of shells hit the armor earlier in the month.

3. Peter Perla, Peter Perla’s The Art of Wargaming, ed. John Curry (Morrisville, NC:, 2011), 24.

4. Peter Perla, Peter Perla’s The Art of Wargaming, ed. John Curry (Morrisville, NC:, 2011), 213.


Ballantyne, Iain. HMS Rodney: Slayer of the Bismarck and D-Day Saviour. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Maritime, 2012.

Barnett, Correlli. Engage the Enemy More Closely: The Royal Navy in the Second World War. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991.

Perla, Peter. Peter Perla’s The Art of Wargaming. Edited by John Curry. Morrisville, NC:, 2011.