The Mark I Eyeball

13 05 2015

Back in the days of Iron Men and Wooden Ships, naval gunfire was a matter of point, shoot and pray. Most of your guns were cannons that fired out of a whole in the side of your ship, aiming meant having the side of your ship pointing at the other guys ship. While you were lining up to do this, the other guy was usually doing the same thing. The order to fire was held until the very last second to ensure that as many of your guns were pointed at him as you could and the closer you were to him, the better. I wonder just how many times a naval gun battle turned into a game of chicken with the winner being the man who fired first.

The technology for naval weapons changed from a fixed cannon to a turret that could rotate and have the gun barrel elevate to allow for a greater range of firing options. Now it was no longer a matter of turning to face your beam at the bad guy, you could just turn the turret to face him. Along with this new type of naval gun came the need to be able to decide just where the shell would land after you said “FIRE”. Mathematical formulas were put to use along with primative calculating devices making a gunnery battle more of a test of who can calculate and move the gun more precisely. If you would add, subtract, and divide faster than the other guy, you were more likely to survive the fireworks.

It today’s world of naval gunfire we have very sophisticated gun fire control systems. The Captain says put the bullet there and “FIRE” and the computer takes a whole mess of environmental factors into consideration, moves the turret to the correct position, GOOGLES what the price of tea in China is, says a little prayer to King Neptune, and fires the gun. Assuming the target has not moved too much and King Neptune isn’t busy answering the prayer from the other guy, the bullet hits the target – pretty sweet. It has been said that the big battleships like New Jersey can drop 9 big hunks of steel within a 200 yard radius, from 20 miles away – for when you really want to reach out and touch someone in a big way.

Back on my first ship, the Quapple, naval gunnery supremacy was achieved by the linking of a reasonably powerful primative computer linked to the fire control radar. Gunnery practice was a matter of having a barge towed behind another ship – towed a long way behind. On one such gunnery practice, the computer and the radar were fully in sync, the target clearly visable, the see more or less calm and King Neptune was have a cold one with the Captain. All was good except that the gunnery officer could not hit the target to save his life. After firing off 20 rounds the Captain looked over at the gunnery officer and inquired if there was a problem. The gunnery officer was quite red in the face, partially from screaming at the gunnery crews but mostly from embarrassment. The Captain turned back to King Neptune, asked him to wait a moment, and then turned to look at where the target was. The Captain called out to the gunnery crew a set of adjustments to the gun and gave the order “FIRE”. The mighty 3inch gun barked and the target was destroyed.

The Captain turned to the gunnery officer and said “When the computer and radar are failing to get the job done, use your Mark I Eyeball and make it happen.” Captain sat down and continued enjoying his beer with King Neptune while a new target was brought into play.

The best computer we have today will not match what you can do with the gray stuff  between your ears.

Thus ends this lesson in Naval Gunnery

ps: the Captain was not really drinking beer with King Neptune. His Majesty prefers rum

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2 responses

18 09 2016
fran greene

Of course His Majesty prefers rum.
Of course.

18 09 2016
polaris299

that he does dear Lady, that he does

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