Warship
Overview
 
A warship is a ship
Ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

 that is built and primarily intended for combat
Combat
Combat, or fighting, is a purposeful violent conflict meant to establish dominance over the opposition, or to terminate the opposition forever, or drive the opposition away from a location where it is not wanted or needed....

. Warships are usually built in a completely different way from merchant ships
Cargo ship
A cargo ship or freighter is any sort of ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year; they handle the bulk of international trade...

. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more maneuvrable than merchant ships. Unlike a merchant ship, a warship typically only carries weapons, ammunition and supplies for its own crew (rather than merchant cargo).
Encyclopedia
A warship is a ship
Ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

 that is built and primarily intended for combat
Combat
Combat, or fighting, is a purposeful violent conflict meant to establish dominance over the opposition, or to terminate the opposition forever, or drive the opposition away from a location where it is not wanted or needed....

. Warships are usually built in a completely different way from merchant ships
Cargo ship
A cargo ship or freighter is any sort of ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year; they handle the bulk of international trade...

. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more maneuvrable than merchant ships. Unlike a merchant ship, a warship typically only carries weapons, ammunition and supplies for its own crew (rather than merchant cargo). Warships usually belong to a navy
Navy
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

, though they have sometimes been operated by individuals or companies.

In wartime, the distinction between warships and merchant ships is often blurred. In war, merchant ships are often armed and used as auxiliary warships, such as the Q-ship
Q-ship
Q-ships, also known as Q-boats, Decoy Vessels, Special Service Ships, or Mystery Ships, were heavily armed merchant ships with concealed weaponry, designed to lure submarines into making surface attacks. This gave Q-ships the chance to open fire and sink them...

s of the First World War and the armed merchant cruisers of the Second World War. Until the 17th century it was common for merchant ships to be pressed into naval service and not unusual for more than half a fleet
Naval fleet
A fleet, or naval fleet, is a large formation of warships, and the largest formation in any navy. A fleet at sea is the direct equivalent of an army on land....

 to be composed of merchant ships. Until the threat of piracy subsided in the 19th century, it was normal practice to arm larger merchant ships such as galleon
Galleon
A galleon was a large, multi-decked sailing ship used primarily by European states from the 16th to 18th centuries. Whether used for war or commerce, they were generally armed with the demi-culverin type of cannon.-Etymology:...

s. Warships have also often been used as troop carriers or supply ships, such as by the French Navy
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

 in the 18th century or the Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

 during the Second World War.

Evolution of warships

The age of galleys

In the time of Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, Ancient Persia, Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 and the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, the most common type of warship was the galley (such as bireme
Bireme
A bireme is an ancient Hellenistic-era warship with two decks of oars, probably invented by the Phoenicians. It typically was about long with a maximum beam width of around . It was modified from the penteconter, a ship that had only one set of oars on each side, the bireme having two sets of oars...

s, trireme
Trireme
A trireme was a type of galley, a Hellenistic-era warship that was used by the ancient maritime civilizations of the Mediterranean, especially the Phoenicians, ancient Greeks and Romans.The trireme derives its name from its three rows of oars on each side, manned with one man per oar...

s and quinquereme
Quinquereme
From the 4th century BC on, new types of oared warships appeared in the Mediterranean Sea, superseding the trireme and transforming naval warfare. Ships became increasingly bigger and heavier, including some of the largest wooden ships ever constructed...

s), a long, narrow vessel powered by banks of oarsmen and designed to ram and sink enemy vessels, or come alongside the enemy so its occupants could be attacked hand-to-hand. However with the development of catapults in the 4th century BC and the subsequent refinement of its technology enabled the first fleets of artillery equipped warships by the Hellenistic age. With the political unification of the Mediterranean Sea in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, naval artillery fell out of use.

Throughout late antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 and the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 until the 16th century, naval warfare
Naval warfare
Naval warfare is combat in and on seas, oceans, or any other major bodies of water such as large lakes and wide rivers.-History:Mankind has fought battles on the sea for more than 3,000 years. Land warfare would seem, initially, to be irrelevant and entirely removed from warfare on the open ocean,...

 relied on the ship itself, used as a ram, the swords of the crew, and various missiles such as bows and arrows and bolts from heavy crossbow
Crossbow
A crossbow is a weapon consisting of a bow mounted on a stock that shoots projectiles, often called bolts or quarrels. The medieval crossbow was called by many names, most of which derived from the word ballista, a torsion engine resembling a crossbow in appearance.Historically, crossbows played a...

s fixed on a ship's bulwark
Bulwark
Bulwark may refer to:*A bastion or fortifications in general*In naval terminology, an extension of a ship's sides above deck level*HMS Bulwark, any of several Royal Navy ships*USS Bulwark, any of several US Navy ships...

s. Naval warfare primarily involved ramming and boarding actions, so warships did not need to be particularly specialized.

The age of sail

Naval artillery was redeveloped in the 14th century, but cannon
Cannon
A cannon is any piece of artillery that uses gunpowder or other usually explosive-based propellents to launch a projectile. Cannon vary in caliber, range, mobility, rate of fire, angle of fire, and firepower; different forms of cannon combine and balance these attributes in varying degrees,...

 did not become common at sea until the guns were capable of being reloaded quickly enough to be reused in the same battle. The size of a ship required to carry a large number of cannons made oar-based propulsion impossible, and warships came to rely primarily on sails. The sailing man-of-war emerged during the 16th century.

By the middle of the 17th century, warships were carrying increasing numbers of cannon on their broadside
Broadside
A broadside is the side of a ship; the battery of cannon on one side of a warship; or their simultaneous fire in naval warfare.-Age of Sail:...

s and tactics
Naval tactics in the Age of Sail
Naval tactics in the Age of Sail were used from the early 17th century onward when sailing ships replaced oared galleys. These were used until the 1860s when steam-powered ironclad warships rendered sailing line of battle ships obsolete.-Early history:...

 evolved to bring each ship's firepower to bear in a line of battle
Line of battle
In naval warfare, the line of battle is a tactic in which the ships of the fleet form a line end to end. A primitive form had been used by the Portuguese under Vasco Da Gama in 1502 near Malabar against a Muslim fleet.,Maarten Tromp used it in the Action of 18 September 1639 while its first use in...

. The man-of-war now evolved into the ship of the line
Ship of the line
A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th through the mid-19th century to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would manoeuvre to bring the greatest weight of broadside guns to bear...

. In the 18th century, the frigate
Frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

 and sloop-of-war
Sloop-of-war
In the 18th and most of the 19th centuries, a sloop-of-war was a warship with a single gun deck that carried up to eighteen guns. As the rating system covered all vessels with 20 guns and above, this meant that the term sloop-of-war actually encompassed all the unrated combat vessels including the...

 – too small to stand in the line of battle – evolved to convoy
Convoy
A convoy is a group of vehicles, typically motor vehicles or ships, traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support, though it may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas.-Age of Sail:Naval...

 trade, scout for enemy ships and blockade
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

 enemy coasts.

Steel, steam and shellfire

During the 19th century a revolution took place in the means of propulsion, armament and construction of warships. Steam
Steam
Steam is the technical term for water vapor, the gaseous phase of water, which is formed when water boils. In common language it is often used to refer to the visible mist of water droplets formed as this water vapor condenses in the presence of cooler air...

 engines were introduced, at first as an auxiliary force, in the second quarter of the 19th century.
The Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 gave a great stimulus to the development of guns. The introduction of explosive shells
Shell (projectile)
A shell is a payload-carrying projectile, which, as opposed to shot, contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage sometimes includes large solid projectiles properly termed shot . Solid shot may contain a pyrotechnic compound if a tracer or spotting charge is used...

 soon led to the introduction of iron, and later steel, armour
Armour
Armour or armor is protective covering used to prevent damage from being inflicted to an object, individual or a vehicle through use of direct contact weapons or projectiles, usually during combat, or from damage caused by a potentially dangerous environment or action...

 for the sides and decks of larger warships. The first ironclad warships, the French Gloire
French battleship La Gloire
The French Navy's La Gloire was the first ocean-going ironclad battleship in history.She was developed following the Crimean War, in response to new developments in naval gun technology, especially the Paixhans guns and rifled guns, which used explosive shells with increased destructive power...

 and British Warrior
HMS Warrior (1860)
HMS Warrior was the first iron-hulled, armour-plated warship, built for the Royal Navy in response to the first ironclad warship, the French Gloire, launched a year earlier....

, made wooden vessels obsolete. Metal soon entirely replaced wood as the main material for warship construction.

From the 1850s, the sailing ships of the line were replaced by steam
Steam
Steam is the technical term for water vapor, the gaseous phase of water, which is formed when water boils. In common language it is often used to refer to the visible mist of water droplets formed as this water vapor condenses in the presence of cooler air...

-powered battleship
Battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

s, while the sailing frigate
Frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

s were replaced by steam-powered cruiser
Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s.
The armament of warships also changed with the invention of the rotating barbette
Barbette
A barbette is a protective circular armour feature around a cannon or heavy artillery gun. The name comes from the French phrase en barbette referring to the practice of firing a field gun over a parapet rather than through an opening . The former gives better angles of fire but less protection...

s and turrets, which allowed the guns to be aimed independently of the direction of the ship and allowed a smaller number of larger guns to be carried.

The final innovation during the 19th century was the development of the torpedo
Torpedo
The modern torpedo is a self-propelled missile weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with it or in proximity to it.The term torpedo was originally employed for...

 and development of the torpedo boat
Torpedo boat
A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval vessel designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs rammed enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes, and later designs launched self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. They were created to counter battleships and other large, slow and...

. Small, fast torpedo boats seemed to offer an alternative to building expensive fleets of battleships.

The Dreadnought era


Another revolution in warship design began shortly after the turn of the century, when Britain launched the all-big-gun battleship Dreadnought
HMS Dreadnought (1906)
HMS Dreadnought was a battleship of the British Royal Navy that revolutionised naval power. Her entry into service in 1906 represented such a marked advance in naval technology that her name came to be associated with an entire generation of battleships, the "dreadnoughts", as well as the class of...

 in 1906. Powered by steam turbine
Steam turbine
A steam turbine is a mechanical device that extracts thermal energy from pressurized steam, and converts it into rotary motion. Its modern manifestation was invented by Sir Charles Parsons in 1884....

s, she was bigger, faster and more heavily gunned than all existing battleships, which she immediately rendered obsolete. She was rapidly followed by similar ships in other countries.

Britain also developed the first battlecruiser
Battlecruiser
Battlecruisers were large capital ships built in the first half of the 20th century. They were developed in the first decade of the century as the successor to the armoured cruiser, but their evolution was more closely linked to that of the dreadnought battleship...

s. Mounting the same heavy guns as the Dreadnoughts on an even larger hull, battlecruisers sacrificed armour protection for speed. Battlecruisers were faster and more powerful than all existing cruisers, which they made obsolete, but battlecruisers proved to be much more vulnerable than contemporary battleships.

The torpedo-boat destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

 was developed at the same time as the Dreadnoughts. Bigger, faster and more heavily gunned than the torpedo boat
Torpedo boat
A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval vessel designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs rammed enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes, and later designs launched self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. They were created to counter battleships and other large, slow and...

, the destroyer evolved to protect the capital ship
Capital ship
The capital ships of a navy are its most important warships; they generally possess the heaviest firepower and armor and are traditionally much larger than other naval vessels...

s from the menace of the torpedo boat.

Second World War

During the lead-up to the Second World War, Germany and Great Britain once again emerged as the two dominant Atlantic sea powers. Germany, under the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

, had its navy limited to only a few minor surface ships. But clever names, such as "pocket battleships" deceived the British and French commands. They were rudely surprised when ships such as the Admiral Graf Spee, Scharnhorst
German battleship Scharnhorst
Scharnhorst was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser, of the German Kriegsmarine. She was the lead ship of her class, which included one other ship, Gneisenau. The ship was built at the Kriegsmarinewerft dockyard in Wilhelmshaven; she was laid down on 15...

, and Gneisenau
German battleship Gneisenau
Gneisenau was a German capital ship, alternatively described as a battleship and battlecruiser, of the German Kriegsmarine. She was the second vessel of her class, which included one other ship, Scharnhorst. The ship was built at the Deutsche Werke dockyard in Kiel; she was laid down on 6 May 1935...

constantly raided the Allied supply lines. The greatest threat though, was the introduction of the Kriegsmarine
Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

's most lethal weapons, the Bismarck
German battleship Bismarck
Bismarck was the first of two s built for the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. Named after Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the primary force behind the German unification in 1871, the ship was laid down at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg in July 1936 and launched nearly three years later...

and Tirpitz
German battleship Tirpitz
Tirpitz was the second of two s built for the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. Named after Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the architect of the Imperial Navy, the ship was laid down at the Kriegsmarinewerft in Wilhelmshaven in November 1936 and launched two and a half years later in April...

. The Bismarck was sunk in a wild, short series of sea battles in the north Atlantic, while the Tirpitz caused a bit of a stir before being knocked out by the RAF
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

. The Royal Navy gained dominance of the European theatre by 1943.
The Second World War brought massive changes in the design and role of several types of warships. For the first time, the aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

 became the clear choice to serve as the main capital ship within a naval task force. World War II was one of the only wars in history in which several battles occurred between groups of carriers. World War II saw the first use of radar in combat. It brought the first naval battle in which the ships of both sides never engaged in direct combat, instead sending aircraft to make the attacks, in the Battle of Coral Sea.

Development of the submarine

The first practical submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

s were developed in the late 19th century, but it was only after the development of the torpedo
Torpedo
The modern torpedo is a self-propelled missile weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with it or in proximity to it.The term torpedo was originally employed for...

 that submarines became truly dangerous (and hence useful). By the end of the First World War submarines had proved their potential. During the Second World War the German Navy
Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

's submarine fleet of U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

s almost starved Britain into submission and inflicted huge losses
Second happy time
The Second Happy Time , also known among German submarine commanders as the "American shooting season" was the informal name for a phase in the Second Battle of the Atlantic during which Axis submarines attacked merchant shipping along the east coast of North America...

 on US coastal shipping.
The success of submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

s led to the development of new anti-submarine convoy
Convoy
A convoy is a group of vehicles, typically motor vehicles or ships, traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support, though it may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas.-Age of Sail:Naval...

 escorts during the First and Second World Wars, such as the destroyer escort
Destroyer escort
A destroyer escort is the classification for a smaller, lightly armed warship designed to be used to escort convoys of merchant marine ships, primarily of the United States Merchant Marine in World War II. It is employed primarily for anti-submarine warfare, but also provides some protection...

. Confusingly, many of these new types adopted the names of the smaller warships from the age of sail
Age of Sail
The Age of Sail was the period in which international trade and naval warfare were dominated by sailing ships, lasting from the 16th to the mid 19th century...

, such as corvette
Corvette
A corvette is a small, maneuverable, lightly armed warship, originally smaller than a frigate and larger than a coastal patrol craft or fast attack craft , although many recent designs resemble frigates in size and role...

, sloop
Sloop
A sloop is a sail boat with a fore-and-aft rig and a single mast farther forward than the mast of a cutter....

 and frigate
Frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

.


Development of the aircraft carrier

A major shift in naval warfare occurred with the introduction of the aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

. First at Taranto
Battle of Taranto
The naval Battle of Taranto took place on the night of 11–12 November 1940 during the Second World War. The Royal Navy launched the first all-aircraft ship-to-ship naval attack in history, flying a small number of obsolescent biplane torpedo bombers from an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea...

 and then at Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

, the aircraft carrier demonstrated its ability to strike decisively at enemy ships out of sight and range of surface vessels. By the end of the Second World War, the carrier had become the dominant warship.

Modern warships

Modern warships are generally divided into seven main categories, which are: aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s, cruiser
Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s, destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

s, frigate
Frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

s, corvette
Corvette
A corvette is a small, maneuverable, lightly armed warship, originally smaller than a frigate and larger than a coastal patrol craft or fast attack craft , although many recent designs resemble frigates in size and role...

s, submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

s and amphibious assault ship
Amphibious assault ship
An amphibious assault ship is a type of amphibious warfare ship employed to land and support ground forces on enemy territory by an amphibious assault...

s. Battleships encompass an eighth category, but are not in current service with any navy in the world. Only the deactivated American Iowa-class battleships still exist as potential combatants, and battleships in general are unlikely to re-emerge as a ship class without redefinition. The destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

 is generally regarded as the dominant surface-combat vessel of most modern blue water navies. However, it must be noted that the once distinct roles and appearances of cruiser
Cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s, destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

s, frigate
Frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

s, and corvette
Corvette
A corvette is a small, maneuverable, lightly armed warship, originally smaller than a frigate and larger than a coastal patrol craft or fast attack craft , although many recent designs resemble frigates in size and role...

s have blurred. Most vessels have come to be armed with a mix of anti-surface, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weapons. Class designations no longer reliably indicate a displacement hierarchy, and the size of all vessel types has grown beyond the definitions used earlier in the 20th century. Another key differentiation between older and modern vessels is that all modern warships are "soft", without the thick armor and bulging anti-torpedo protection of WWII and older designs.

Most navies
Navy
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

 also include many types of support and auxiliary vessels, such as minesweeper
Minesweeper (ship)
A minesweeper is a small naval warship designed to counter the threat posed by naval mines. Minesweepers generally detect then neutralize mines in advance of other naval operations.-History:...

s, patrol boat
Patrol boat
A patrol boat is a relatively small naval vessel generally designed for coastal defense duties.There have been many designs for patrol boats. They may be operated by a nation's navy, coast guard, or police force, and may be intended for marine and/or estuarine or river environments...

s and offshore patrol vessels.

Types of warship

  • Armored cruiser
    Armored cruiser
    The armored cruiser was a type of warship of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Like other types of cruiser, the armored cruiser was a long-range, independent warship, capable of defeating any ship apart from a battleship, and fast enough to outrun any battleships it encountered.The first...

  • Amphibious assault ship
    Amphibious assault ship
    An amphibious assault ship is a type of amphibious warfare ship employed to land and support ground forces on enemy territory by an amphibious assault...

  • Aircraft carrier
    Aircraft carrier
    An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

     – A warship primarily armed with combat aircraft
    Aircraft
    An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

    .
  • Battlecruiser
    Battlecruiser
    Battlecruisers were large capital ships built in the first half of the 20th century. They were developed in the first decade of the century as the successor to the armoured cruiser, but their evolution was more closely linked to that of the dreadnought battleship...

     – A ship with battleship level armament and cruiser level armor; typically faster than a battleship because the reduction in armor allowed mounting of heavier propulsion machinery.
  • Battleship
    Battleship
    A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

     – A large, heavily-armoured and heavily-gunned warship. A term which generally post-dates sailing warships.
  • Bireme
    Bireme
    A bireme is an ancient Hellenistic-era warship with two decks of oars, probably invented by the Phoenicians. It typically was about long with a maximum beam width of around . It was modified from the penteconter, a ship that had only one set of oars on each side, the bireme having two sets of oars...

     – An ancient vessel, propelled by two banks of oars.
  • Capital ship
    Capital ship
    The capital ships of a navy are its most important warships; they generally possess the heaviest firepower and armor and are traditionally much larger than other naval vessels...

     – The largest most important ship in a nation's fleet
  • Commerce raider
  • Corvette
    Corvette
    A corvette is a small, maneuverable, lightly armed warship, originally smaller than a frigate and larger than a coastal patrol craft or fast attack craft , although many recent designs resemble frigates in size and role...

     – A small, lightly armed, but fast ship.
  • Cruiser
    Cruiser
    A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

     – A fast independent warship. Traditionally, cruisers were the smallest warships capable of independent action. Now virtually disappeared from the oceans, along with battleships and battlecruisers.
  • Cutter
  • Destroyer
    Destroyer
    In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

     – A fast and highly maneuverable warship, traditionally incapable of independent action (originally developed to counter the threat of torpedo boat
    Torpedo boat
    A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval vessel designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs rammed enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes, and later designs launched self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. They were created to counter battleships and other large, slow and...

    s) but now the largest independent warship generally seen on the ocean.
  • Dreadnought
    HMS Dreadnought (1906)
    HMS Dreadnought was a battleship of the British Royal Navy that revolutionised naval power. Her entry into service in 1906 represented such a marked advance in naval technology that her name came to be associated with an entire generation of battleships, the "dreadnoughts", as well as the class of...

     – An early 20th century battleship, which set the pattern for all subsequent battleship construction.
  • Fast attack craft
    Fast Attack Craft
    Fast Attack Craft are small, fast, agile and offensive warships, that are armed with anti-ship missiles, guns or torpedoes. These are usually operated in close proximity to land as they lack both the sea-keeping and all-round defensive capabilities to survive in blue water. The size of the vessel...

  • Fireship – A vessel of any sort, set on fire and sent into an anchorage with the aim of causing consternation and destruction. The idea is generally that of forcing an enemy fleet to put to sea in a confused, therefore vulnerable state.
  • Frigate
    Frigate
    A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

  • Galleass
    Galleass
    The galleass developed from large merchant galleys.Converted for military use they were higher and larger than regular galleys. They had up to 32 oars, each worked by up to 5 men. They usually had three masts and a forecastle and aftcastle. Much effort was made in Venice to make these galleasses...

     – A sailing and rowing warship, equally well suited to sailing and rowing.
  • Galleon
    Galleon
    A galleon was a large, multi-decked sailing ship used primarily by European states from the 16th to 18th centuries. Whether used for war or commerce, they were generally armed with the demi-culverin type of cannon.-Etymology:...

     – A 16th century sailing warship.
  • Galley – A warship propelled by oars with a sail for use in a favourable wind.
  • Guided Missile Destroyer
    Guided missile destroyer
    A guided missile destroyer is a destroyer designed to launch guided missiles. Many are also equipped to carry out anti-submarine, anti-air, and anti-surface operations. In the U.S...

  • Gunboat
    Gunboat
    A gunboat is a naval watercraft designed for the express purpose of carrying one or more guns to bombard coastal targets, as opposed to those military craft designed for naval warfare, or for ferrying troops or supplies.-History:...

  • Heavy cruiser
    Heavy cruiser
    The heavy cruiser was a type of cruiser, a naval warship designed for long range, high speed and an armament of naval guns roughly 203mm calibre . The heavy cruiser can be seen as a lineage of ship design from 1915 until 1945, although the term 'heavy cruiser' only came into formal use in 1930...

  • Helicopter carrier
    Helicopter carrier
    Helicopter carrier is a term for an aircraft carrier whose primary purpose is to operate helicopters. The term is sometimes used for both ASW carriers and amphibious assault ships....

     – an aircraft carrier especially suited to helicopters and amphibious assault.
  • Ironclad – A wooden warship with external iron plating.
  • Longship
    Longship
    Longships were sea vessels made and used by the Vikings from the Nordic countries for trade, commerce, exploration, and warfare during the Viking Age. The longship’s design evolved over many years, beginning in the Stone Age with the invention of the umiak and continuing up to the 9th century with...

     – A Viking raiding ship.
  • Man-of-war – A sailing warship.
  • Minesweeper
    Minesweeper (ship)
    A minesweeper is a small naval warship designed to counter the threat posed by naval mines. Minesweepers generally detect then neutralize mines in advance of other naval operations.-History:...

  • Minehunter
    Minehunter
    Minehunters are mine countermeasure vessels that actively detect and destroy individual naval mines. Minesweepers, on the other hand, clear mined areas as a whole, without prior detection of mines...

  • Monitor – A small, heavily gunned warship with shallow draft designed for land bombardment.
  • Naval trawler
    Naval trawler
    A naval trawler is a vessel built along the lines of a fishing trawler but fitted out for naval purposes. Naval trawlers were widely used during the First and Second world wars. Fishing trawlers were particularly suited for many naval requirements because they were robust boats designed to work...

  • Naval drifter
    Naval drifter
    A naval drifter is a boat built along the lines of a commercial fishing drifter but fitted out for naval purposes. The use of naval drifters is paralleled by the use of naval trawlers....

  • Offshore patrol vessel
  • Pocket battleship
  • Pre-dreadnought battleship
  • Protected cruiser
    Protected cruiser
    The protected cruiser is a type of naval cruiser of the late 19th century, so known because its armoured deck offered protection for vital machine spaces from shrapnel caused by exploding shells above...

  • Quinquereme
    Quinquereme
    From the 4th century BC on, new types of oared warships appeared in the Mediterranean Sea, superseding the trireme and transforming naval warfare. Ships became increasingly bigger and heavier, including some of the largest wooden ships ever constructed...

     – An ancient warship propelled by three banks of oars. On the upper row two rowers hold one oar, on the middle row – two rowers, and on the lower row – one man to an oar.
  • Ship of the line
    Ship of the line
    A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th through the mid-19th century to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would manoeuvre to bring the greatest weight of broadside guns to bear...

     – A sailing warship capable of standing in the line of battle
    Line of battle
    In naval warfare, the line of battle is a tactic in which the ships of the fleet form a line end to end. A primitive form had been used by the Portuguese under Vasco Da Gama in 1502 near Malabar against a Muslim fleet.,Maarten Tromp used it in the Action of 18 September 1639 while its first use in...

    .
  • Sloop
    Sloop
    A sloop is a sail boat with a fore-and-aft rig and a single mast farther forward than the mast of a cutter....

  • Submarine
    Submarine
    A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

     – A ship capable of remaining underwater for extended periods of time. Submarines in the world wars could stay under for less than a day, but development of nuclear reactors and air-independent propulsion allows submarines to stay submerged for weeks, even months at a time.
  • Supercarrier
    Supercarrier
    Supercarrier is an unofficial descriptive term for the largest type of aircraft carrier, usually displacing over 70,000 long tons.Supercarrier is an unofficial descriptive term for the largest type of aircraft carrier, usually displacing over 70,000 long tons.Supercarrier is an unofficial...

     – an aircraft carrier of large tonnage
  • Torpedo boat
    Torpedo boat
    A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval vessel designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs rammed enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes, and later designs launched self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. They were created to counter battleships and other large, slow and...

     – A small, fast surface vessel designed for launching torpedoes.
  • Trireme
    Trireme
    A trireme was a type of galley, a Hellenistic-era warship that was used by the ancient maritime civilizations of the Mediterranean, especially the Phoenicians, ancient Greeks and Romans.The trireme derives its name from its three rows of oars on each side, manned with one man per oar...

     – An ancient warship propelled by three banks of oars.

See also

  • List of naval ship classes in service
  • Naval ship
    Naval ship
    A naval ship is a ship used for combat purposes, commonly by a navy. Naval ships are differentiated from civilian ships by construction and purpose...

  • Corrosion
    Corrosion
    Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

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