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This question is about a technical aspect of naval warfare, and I think that this site is the closest fit. History would have been my next guess.

In the TV show “The Last Ship” the protagonists have an Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer. It seems to engage targets mainly with rockets of different sizes. Incoming rockets are shot down either with the point defense turrets or with other rockets. It is probably skewed for the plot of the show, but they seem to be able to shoot down most incoming missiles, making the ship appear near invincible.

In the fifth season they are up against a battleship and are struck with incoming shells from canons in two different episodes. The first time the destroyer gets rendered disabled, the second time it starts to sink.

Reading up on this I noticed that modern fleets do not have battleships with huge cannons any more, guided missile destroyers are the largest warships that are built now. Given that in the show the rockets appear somewhat ineffective and the shells seem to be unblockable, I wonder why modern ships use mostly rockets.

Judging by their presentation of cyber warfare, the military accuracy is probably not good enough to extrapolate this. But if guided missiles are supposed to be so much better, did the destroyer have a serious problem with the battleship just for plot reasons or is that somewhat realistic?

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    $\begingroup$ Aren't the largest ships built now the container ships ie oil etc $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Jan 31 '19 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ Best naval gun shot in battle had a range of 32 km, a missile cruuiser has a range of 1000 a 32 fold increase. Germans could project power quite far by having a battleship in northern norway, but if they would have had a missile cruiser they could have threathened the whole north sea. $\endgroup$ – joojaa Jan 31 '19 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ Because most sailors prefer sonata-allegro form. #typo $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Jan 31 '19 at 18:18
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft: Or perhaps because they switched to Nikon? $\endgroup$ – Martin Ueding Jan 31 '19 at 19:35
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Ship-to-ship combat is now restricted to the internet's various fandoms.

If you are close enough to launch a massive projectile to a nearby ship, you are close enough to get hit by one of it's lighter guided missiles.

Those guided missiles tend to be more accurate over distance and much lighter to carry. Missiles can also do the penetrate and then explode for more damage where the big-hunk-o-metal can only do penetration.

A well designed ship can still sail with a few holes in it.

Shooting a massive shell requires a lot more propellant than a self propelled projectile. And the launching rig needs to be very sturdy to catch the recoil.

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  • $\begingroup$ Restricted to fandom because today it is mostly aircraft carriers engaging land targets? — If (and that is my question) ships can defend against missiles, isn't a shell a larger danger than missiles, even though the latter are more accurate? $\endgroup$ – Martin Ueding Jan 31 '19 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinUeding if that is the question as posted in your comment - then it seems to have been lost in what you wrote... $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Jan 31 '19 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinUeding Well, its true that there is a niche for a naval gun bomvardment of shore, if your target is to just saturate an area near the coast. You could do the same with unguided rockets, but then a ship with cruise missiles can target whatever really matters at ranges that dwarf guns. But do you really want to build a very expensive ship that will just be taken out by a cheaper vessel. $\endgroup$ – joojaa Jan 31 '19 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ I think naval canon shells still have one important use for future combat and that would be to soften up a beach/landing zone before troops would storm that beach, especially if that beach has mines buried in it. $\endgroup$ – user18610 Feb 3 '19 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ ratchet freak, with all due respect, you've overlooked a few things: 1) The propellant in a modern naval rifle is separate from the shell. 2) The mass and volume of propellant is less than the propellant system in a missile, because you not only need the propellant, but you also need a rocket motor, exhaust bell, guidance system, and the expanded body of the missile to hold them all. 3) Shells can carry explosives, incindiaries, nuclear weapons, and other payloads, to render damage upon the target through those payloads, not just by kinetic energy transfer from impact. $\endgroup$ – K7AAY Feb 14 '19 at 7:29

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