Heavy First Rate (ETW Unit)
This 120-gun (or larger) “first rate” is larger than a normal ship of that class, and far more powerful than a simple count of guns would imply. The ship carries 32-, 24- and 18-pounders on its decks, and wherever possible heavier guns replace the standard cannon found on a normal first rate. The result is a very expensive, very powerful, very prestigious warship, but one that can have limited utility. Few nations can afford the expense of building and crewing such a vessel, or can operate it far from shore facilities for very long. Its sailing qualities might be charitably described as “lubberly”: this is not a ship for chasing down enemies. All these drawbacks are secondary to its massive firepower and intimidating presence: this is a ship for dashing enemies to very small pieces!
Historically, only the Santísima Trinidad, a Spanish “super battleship” of four decks and some 136 guns, ever fought in action. Constructed as a three-decker she was enormous at 120 guns, even before her reworking. She fought at Cape St Vincent (1797) and Trafalgar (1805), and foundered after the latter battle in a storm while being towed away as a prize. The American USS Pennsylvania (ordered 1821; completed 1837) never saw action, and the US Navy destroyed her in 1860 to keep her out of Confederate hands.