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Capital ship of the world's navies from c. 1860, when it began to replace the wooden-hulled ship of the line, until World War II, when it was superseded by the aircraft carrier. It combined large size, powerful guns, and heavy armour with fairly high speed and great cruising radius. The most powerful could hit targets at a range of more than 20 mi (30 km) and absorb heavy damage while remaining afloat and continuing to fight. It originated in early ironclad vessels with mixed sail and steam propulsion, such as the French armoured frigate Gloire (1859). In 1906 HMS Dreadnought revolutionized battleship design by introducing steam-turbine propulsion and an array of ten 12-in. (305-mm) guns. In World War II (1939–45) battleships were used mainly for specialized tasks such as bombarding enemy coastal defenses in amphibious warfare. After the Persian Gulf War (1990–91), the U.S. decommissioned its last two active battleships.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on battleship, visit Britannica.com.