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A battleship is a large, heavily armored warship with a main battery consisting of the largest calibre of guns. Battleships are larger, better armed, and better armored than cruisers and destroyers.
Battleship design continually evolved to incorporate and adapt technological advances to maintain an edge. The word battleship was coined around 1794 and is a shortened form of line-of-battle ship, the dominant wooden warship during the Age of Sail. The term came into formal use in the late 1880s to describe a type of ironclad warship, whose design reached a high point at the Battle of Tsushima on 27 May 1905. This generation of warships are now referred to as pre-dreadnought battleships.

A ship of the line was a large, unarmoured wooden sailing ship on which was mounted a battery of up to 120 smoothbore guns and carronades. The ship of the line was a gradual evolution of a basic design that dates back to the 1400s, and, apart from growing in size, it changed little between the adoption of line of battle tactics in the early 17th century and the end of the sailing battleship's heyday in the 1830s. From 1794, the alternative term 'line of battle ship' was contracted (informally at first) to 'battle ship' or 'battleship'. The First World War was an anticlimax for the great dreadnought fleets. There was no decisive clash of modern battlefleets to compare with the Battle of Tsushima. The role of battleships was marginal to the great land struggle in France and Russia; and it was equally marginal to the First Battle of the Atlantic, the battle between German submarines and British merchant shipping.
As early as 1914, the British Admiral Percy Scott predicted that battleships would soon be made irrelevant by aeroplanes. y the end of World War I, aeroplanes had successfully adopted the torpedo as a weapon.
German battleshipsobsolete pre-dreadnoughtsfired the first shots of World War II with the bombardment of the Polish garrison at Westerplatte; and the final surrender of the Japanese Empire took place aboard a United States Navy battleship, the USS Missouri. Between the two events, it became clear that battleships were now essentially auxiliary craft, and aircraft carriers were the new principal ships of the fleet.
After World War II, several navies retained battleships, but it became clear that they were not worth the considerable cost. During the war it had become clear that battleship-on-battleship engagements like Leyte Gulf or the sinking of the Hood were the exception and not the rule, and that engagement ranges were becoming longer and longer, making heavy gun armament irrelevant.
With the decommissioning of the last Iowas, no battleships remain in service (including in reserve) with any navy worldwide. A number are preserved as museum ships, either afloat or in dry-dock. The U.S. has a large number of battleships on display: USS Massachusetts, North Carolina, Alabama, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Texas. Missouri and New Jersey are now museums at Pearl Harbor and Camden, New Jersey, respectively. Wisconsin is a museum (at Norfolk, Virginia), and was recently removed from the Naval Vessel Register.
While the role of battleships in both World Wars reflected Mahanian doctrine, the details of battleship deployment were more complex. Unlike the ship-of-the-line, the battleships of the late 19th and early 20th centuries had significant vulnerability to torpedoes and mines, weapons which could be used by relatively small and inexpensive craft.
The presence of battleships had a great psychological and diplomatic impact. Similar to possessing nuclear weapons today, the ownership of battleships served to enhance a nation's force projection.
Battleships were the largest and most complex, and hence the most expensive warships of their time; as a result, the value of investment in battleships has always been contested. As the French politician Etienne Lamy wrote in 1879, The construction of battleships is so costly, their effectiveness so uncertain and of such short duration, that the enterprise of creating an armored fleet seems to leave fruitless the perseverance of a people.

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