The firepower of a battleship demonstrated by
(c. 1984). The muzzle blasts distort the ocean surface.
A battleship is a large
warship with a main
battery consisting of large
caliber guns. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the battleship was the most powerful type of warship, and a
fleet of battleships was considered vital for any nation that desired to maintain
command of the sea.
The word battleship was coined around 1794 and is a contraction of the phrase
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
 now referred to by historians as
pre-dreadnought battleships. In 1906, the commissioning of
HMS Dreadnought heralded a revolution in battleship design. Subsequent battleship designs, influenced by HMS Dreadnought, were referred to as "
dreadnoughts", though the term eventually became obsolete as they became the only type of battleship in common use.
Battleships were a symbol of naval dominance and national might, and for decades the battleship was a major factor in both diplomacy and
 A global
arms race in battleship construction began in Europe in the 1890s and culminated at the decisive
Battle of Tsushima in 1905,
 the outcome of which significantly influenced the design of HMS Dreadnought.
 The launch of Dreadnought in 1906 commenced a new naval arms race. Three major
fleet actions between steel battleships took place: the decisive battles of the
Yellow Sea (1904) and
Tsushima (1905) during the
Russo-Japanese War, and the inconclusive
Battle of Jutland (1916) during the First World War. Jutland was the largest naval battle and the only full-scale clash of battleships in the war, and it was the last major battle fought primarily by battleships in world history.
Naval Treaties of the 1920s and 1930s limited the number of battleships, though technical innovation in battleship design continued. Both the Allied and Axis powers built battleships during World War II, though the increasing importance of the
aircraft carrier meant that the battleship played a less important role than had been expected.
The value of the battleship has been questioned, even during their heyday.
 There were few of the decisive fleet battles that battleship proponents expected, and used to justify the vast resources spent on building battlefleets. Even in spite of their huge firepower and protection, battleships were increasingly vulnerable to much smaller and relatively inexpensive weapons: initially the
torpedo and the
naval mine, and later aircraft and the
 The growing range of naval engagements led to the
aircraft carrier replacing the battleship as the leading
capital ship during World War II, with the last battleship to be launched being
HMS Vanguard in 1944. Four battleships were retained by the
United States Navy until the end of the
Cold War for
fire support purposes and were last used in combat during the
Gulf War in 1991. The last battleships were stricken from the U.S.
Naval Vessel Register in the 2000s.