Best Battleship : Most Effective Anti-Air Guns

best battleship

In our quest to discover the best battleship of World War II, we will examine various attributes of these warships. In this article, I will break down the anti-aircraft throw weights of the various battleships and discover who had the most effective anti-air guns.

The graph is broken down by the throw weight of each battleship’s light and heavy weapons.

  • Light weapons are the smaller, rapid fire machine guns and cannons. (25mm Type 96, 40mm Bofors, etc.)
  • Heavy weapons are the heavier, longer ranged anti-air weapons. (Single purpose anti-air guns, dual-purpose weapons, etc.)

I then added the light and heavy weapon weights together to produce the total throw weight of each battleship. I then organized the results by this total throw-weight per minute.

Battleships Ranked by Total Anti-Aircraft Throw Weights Per Minute

Light Weapons Heavy Weapons Total Throw Weight
1 Iowa Class United States 29476 lbs 24280 lbs 53756 lbs
2 North Carolina Class United States 25992 lbs 24280 lbs 50272 lbs
3 South Dakota Class United States 25068 lbs 24280 lbs 49348 lbs
4 Tennessee Class United States 20356 lbs 19424 lbs 39780 lbs
5 King George V Class United Kingdom 28194 lbs 10240 lbs 38434 lbs
6 Pennsylvania Class United States 16964 lbs 19424 lbs 36388 lbs
7 Colorado Class United States 16880 lbs 19424 lbs 36304 lbs
8 Nevada Class United States 13504 lbs 19424 lbs 32928 lbs
9 Richelieu Class France 21952 lbs 10887 lbs 32839 lbs
10 New Mexico Class United States 16292 lbs 12140 lbs 28432 lbs
11 Yamato Class Japan 10800 lbs 16596 lbs 27396 lbs
12 Queen Elizabeth Class United Kingdom 11984 lbs 13200 lbs 25184 lbs
13 New York Class United States 16376 lbs 2600 lbs 18976 lbs
14 Wyoming Class United States 13596 lbs 2600 lbs 16196 lbs
15 Bismarck Class Germany 4628 lbs 10032 lbs 14660 lbs
16 Scharnhorst Class Germany 3308 lbs 8778 lbs 12086 lbs
17 Dunkerque Class France 564 lbs 10416 lbs 10980 lbs
18 Kongo Class Japan 7128 lbs 3042 lbs 10170 lbs
19 Nagato Class Japan 6468 lbs 2028 lbs 8496 lbs
20 Littorio Class Italy 5068 lbs 3240 lbs 8308 lbs
21 Fuso Class Japan 6270 lbs 2028 lbs 8298 lbs
22 Gangut Class Russia 4037 lbs 786 lbs 4823 lbs

most effective anti-air guns

A quad 40mm bofors mount onboard a US carrier. This was an incredibly capable weapon and is the main reason for the overwhelming advantage US battleships had in firepower.

Battleship Weapons Overview

The graph was calculated using the weapon load outs from various battleships when they had their peak amount of anti-aircraft weaponry. I added a list below showing the weapons on each battleship that I used to calculate the graph.

  • Iowa Class
    • 20x 5″ (127mm) dual-purpose guns
    • 80x 40mm Bofors
    • 49x 20mm Oerlikon
  • North Carolina Class (Washington)
    • 20x 5″ (127mm) dual-purpose guns
    • 60x 40mm Bofors
    • 83x 20mm Oerlikon
  • South Dakota Class
    • 20x 5″ (127mm) dual-purpose guns
    • 60x 40mm Bofors
    • 72x 20mm Oerlikon
  • Tennessee Class (USS California)
    • 16x 5″ (127mm) dual-purpose guns
    • 56x 40mm Bofors
    • 31x 20mm Oerlikon
  • King George V Class (King George V – 1945)
    • 16x 5.25″ dual-purpose guns
    • 100x QF 2-pdr
    • 10x 40mm Bofors
    • 36x Oerlikon
  • Pennsylvania Class (Pennsylvania)
    • 16x 5″ (127mm) dual-purpose guns
    • 40x 40mm Bofors
    • 51x 20mm Oerlikon
  • Colorado Class (West Virginia)
    • 16x 5″ (127mm) dual-purpose guns
    • 40x 40mm Bofors
    • 50x 20mm Oerlikon
  • Nevada Class (Nevada)
    • 16x 5″ (127mm) dual-purpose guns
    • 32x 40mm Bofors
    • 40x 20mm Oerlikon
  • Richelieu Class (Richelieu)
    • 9x 6.1″ (155mm) dual-purpose guns
    • 12x 100mm AA guns
    • 56x 40mm Bofors
    • 50x 20mm Oerlikon
  • New Mexico Class (USS Idaho)
    • 8x 5″ AA guns
    • 40x 40mm Bofors
    • 43x 20mm Oerlikon
  • Yamato Class (Yamato)
    • 6x 6.1″ (15.5cm) dual-purpose guns
    • 24x 5″ (127mm) dual-purpose guns
    • 162x 25mm Type 96
    • 4x 13.2mm Machine guns
  • Queen Elizabeth Class (Valiant)
    • 20x 4.5″ (114mm) dual-purpose guns
    • 32x QF 2-pdr
    • 52mm Oerlikon
    • 16x Vickers 12.7mm
  • New York Class (Texas)
    • 10x 3″ AA guns
    • 40x 40mm Bofors
    • 44x 40mm Oerlikon
  • Wyoming Class (Arkansas)
    • 10x 3″ AA guns
    • 36x 40mm Bofors
    • 26x 20mm Oerlikon
  • Bismarck Class (Tirpitz)
  • Scharnhorst (Scharnhorst)
    • 14x 105mm (10.5cm) AA guns
    • 16x 37mm (3.7cm)
    • 38x 20mm
  • Dunkerque Class (Dunkerque)
    • 16x 130mm dual-purpose guns
    • 8x 37mm
    • 32x 13.2mm Machine Guns
  • Kongo Class (Haruna)
    • 12x 5″ (127mm) dual-purpose guns
    • 108x 25mm Type 96
  • Nagato Class (Nagato)
    • 8x 5″ (127mm) dual-purpose guns
    • 98x 25mm Type 96
  • Littorio Class (Roma)
    • 12x 90mm AA guns
    • 20x 37mm
    • 20x 20mm
  • Fuso Class (Fuso)
    • 8x 5″ (127mm) dual-purpose guns
    • 92x 25mm Type 96
  • Gangut Class (Sevastopol)
    • 3x 3″ AA guns
    • 16x 37mm
    • 12x 12.7mm Machine Guns

The Most Effective Anti-Air guns are not Based Solely on Throw Weight

Probably the most important thing to remember about this graph is that it is simply listing the practical maximum throw weight of each battleship. Their are several other important factors that influence the anti-aircraft capabilities of each battleship. Accuracy, mount train rates, and many other things also heavily influence how effective a ship is at engaging air targets.

most effective anti-air guns
The 6.1″ (155mm) guns of the Yamato class battleships. Though designed to be dual-purpose weapons, they were generally inferior in the anti-aircraft role. They lacked the train and elevation rates to engage aircraft at speed or close ranges.

For instance, prior to World War II, many nations were playing with heavier dual-purpose guns larger than the 5″ (127mm) standard. France and Japan each used guns from 130mm to 155mm. These larger weapons, though more effective in the anti-surface role, were much less effective in the anti-air role. While these larger weapons were capable of providing barrage fire, their inferior train rates and reduced rate of fire made them near worthless in engaging close range aircraft. The heavier round that these larger guns fired make them look more important on the graph.¬†While the battleships Dunkerque, Richelieu, and Yamato all appear high on the graph, this is partly due to the heavier round that these warships fired. Dunkerque for instance, has a notably high throw weight. However, due to the majority of the throw weight coming from her 130mm guns, her anti-air capablilties are actually more inferior than they appear.


  1. Each warship class is represented at is peak through the most heavily armed warship of that class. (Example: Tirptiz represents the Bismarck class)
  2. The numbers for each warship class are derived from the “practical” rate of fire rather than the “cyclic” rate of fire. For instance the Japanese 25mm Type 96 has a cyclic rate of fire of 260 RPM. However its practical rate of fire was about 120 RPM due to the complicated reload process.
  3. The numbers are derived at the maximum practical rate of fire. Generally, sustained rates of fire would slowly drop after a few minutes of fire due to crew fatigue or heating issues.

To keep track of our next articles on ranking the best battleship , follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google + .



  1. Updated King George V class to follow her 1945 refit. The improvement moved her up to #5 on rankings.


Chris Knupp

A student of military history, I am working to make history more interesting and accessible for everyone.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here