Quick Summary: A fast Battleship with an incredibly versatile main armament that can be specialized for accuracy or DPM. Rather fragile when taken as a whole, with vulnerable sides and a large exposed citadel.
Patch & Date Written: 0.5.10.1. August 30th through September 1st, 2016.
Gun layout allows her to fire 2/3s of her firepower without having to expose her sides.
Decent turret rotation at 4′ per second.
Her 406mm rifles are some of the hardest hitting at her tier.
Excellent range of 23.3km, better than any other tier 9 ship and easily extended to 27.1km with a module.
Has the option to exchange improved reload speed for better accuracy, making her the most accurate Battleship inside of 12km.
Monstrous levels of flak with an AA reputation that makes many CVs just not want to bother trying against her.
The Iowa-class is one of the fastest Battleships in the game at 33.0 knots.
Access to permanent premium camouflage.
Bow and Deck armour easily overmatched by Yamato and dangerously vulnerable at long ranges.
Large citadel which sits high over the water.
Thin upper hull armour, easily damaged by even 127mm AP rounds.
Poor anti-torpedo protection, with only 25% damage reduction.
AP shells are low velocity at 762m/s.
Large baseline dispersion. Without accuracy module, she’s the most inaccurate Battleship of her tier.
Horrible handling, with a 920m turning radius and 19.2s rudder shift time.
The Iowa-class is an icon of American naval might. She’s a good ship in World of Warships, just not as easy to use as some of the other high tier Battleships.
I live in fear for what the replies from the Iowa-loving community will have to say about this review. Oh, I’m giving her a fair shake. However, as an admitted WWI Royal Navy fangirl with a general dislike of WW2 designs, the Iowa was really going to have to wow me to get a glowing review as she doesn’t do much aesthetically for me. Coupled with this, I had to venture into the uncomfortable waters (for me) of high tier game play. If you haven’t heard by now: I am not a fan of the high tier meta, much preferring tier 5, 6 and 7 game play for its much more frantic and close range action.
I had played the Iowa before as a Supertester, having dragged it out often while others were sitting in their Yamato. It and the North Carolina were favourites of mine when I had to play at these tiers. This may explain why I never really felt to be in much of a hurry to unlock them on my personal account. Anyway, with an arm twisted and several people all clamouring for this review, I sat down and put the Iowa to work.
USN Battleships are a little odd when it comes to their modules and the Iowa is no exception. They cannot take Aiming Systems Modification 1 or Gun Fire Control System Modification 2. These provide a 7% reduction in dispersion (along with other benefits) and 16% more range respectively. Instead, these modules are reversed for the USN Dreadnoughts. They get Artillery Plotting Room Modification 1 for 16% more range (along with other benefits) in their second slot and then Artillery Plotting Room Modification 2 for 11% dispersion reduction in their third slot. This may seem better, but this third slot is highly coveted for the Main Battery Modification 3 which provides a faster reload at the expense of turret traverse.
It should also be noted that USN Battleships have an improved Damage Control Party. They keep the same reset timer as other nations (120s / 80s) but their active period lasts 20s instead of the usual 15. This provides immunity to fires, floods and further critical hits to their main batteries, engine and steering gears for a longer period of time than other warships.
Consumables: Three slots
Damage Control Party
Choice of Spotter Aircraft or Catapult Fighter
Module Upgrades: Six slots, USN Standard Camouflage: The Iowa has the option of purchasing premium camouflage for 4,000 doubloons. This provides -3% to your surface detection range, increases enemy dispersion by 4%, provides a 100% bonus to experience gains and reduces your repair costs by 10%
Primary Battery: 406mm guns in 3×3 turrets in an A-B-X arrangement.
Secondary Battery: Dual purpose 127mm guns in 10×2 turrets.
The gunnery of the Iowa feels at cross purposes with itself. Until you untangle this knot, it’s a little difficult to figure out exactly how to specialize and play her. We’ll start with her range and dispersion.
The first thing to mention is that the Iowa can safely fire with 2/3s of its guns without exposing its broadside. This is a trait shared with the tier 9 Izumo but not the Friedrich der Grosse. This is a very important advantage to keep in mind, especially given some of the armour issues present on this ship.
She has the best range of her tier, but her inaccuracy gets downright punitive towards these upper limits. Unlike the other Battleship lines, the USN Dreadnoughts do not get any modules to reduce their dispersion until tier 9. As a painful tease, just as you unlock the ability to finally bring her dispersion down to an acceptable level, you’re forced to a difficult choice: Do you want accurate guns or faster firing guns? You cannot have both.
This buff to accuracy is fairly sizable. It makes the Iowa’s guns close in on IJN Battleship weapons at ranges around 20km. Inside of that distance, she’s considerably more accurate. She’ll overtake the IJN Dreadnoughts with Aiming Systems Modification 1 (with their 7% dispersion reduction) inside of 12km, making her the most accurate Battleship in the game at medium to close range. This is still a respectful engagement distance and it’s nothing to be scoffed at. Those 406mm shells hit like trucks and a tight cluster of them at an unwary cruiser or the broadside of a battleship at this range will quickly send them to the bottom.
Were you to go the other route and focus on volume of fire rather than its quality, the Iowa becomes one of the highest DPM Battleships in the game — 4th behind only the tier 10 Battleships. She can put nine shells down range every 26.2s with Main Battery Modification 3. This gives her a 2s (and one barrel) advantage over the German Friedrich der Grosse with her 420mm rifles who fires a comparable shell to the Iowa. It’s hard to argue with more maximum damage potential, even at the cost of slower turret rotation and the option of boosted accuracy.
There’s one significant disadvantage to her guns: they are only 406mm in diameter. Overmatch mechanics are a significant factor when it comes to Battleship defense. 406mm guns can only overmatch 28mm of armour. This makes them ideal for punishing cruisers which often have less than this value protecting their decks or extremities and makes them vulnerable even when they attempt to angle. However, their worth begins to fall away when facing other Dreadnoughts where they often have at least 30mm or more covering their decks, bows and sterns within the Iowa’s matchmaking spread.
The Iowa’s secondary battery looks impressive with a combined total of twenty 127mm rifles divided between 10 turrets. These are stacked along the flanks of the Iowa with decent fields of fire. It’s easy to bring all five turrets off of one side to bare on an approaching enemy from your bows with as little as a 20 to 30′ angle of attack. Firing 10rpm per gun, they have a steady rate of fire but they don’t hit especially hard, nor do they have a good chance to set fires per shell at a mere 5% per hit. These guns are identical to those mounted on the Atlanta and USN Destroyers. Their 6.0km range is functional, but overall, the armament isn’t really worth specializing into.
Versatile guns that can be specialized for either high DPM or high accuracy.
Very hard hitting AP shell with excellent alpha strike potential.
Struggles somewhat against angled enemy Battleships due to overmatch mechanics.
Secondaries are adequate but weaker than her contemporaries.
The reach of the Iowa’s guns is incredible — just what you would expect from a tier 9 Battleship. The alpha strike from a well aimed shot will pulverize anyone it catches broadside.
Top Speed: 33.0 knots. Turning Radius: 920m Rudder Shift: 19.5s
Meet one of the fastest Battleships in the game. The Iowa has got legs and she can move. Combined with her range, the Iowa has the flexibility to get to where she’s needed and influence the battle right from the word go. This great degree of mobility is one of the ship’s greatest strengths — but if you misuse it, it will get you killed. Having such a high speed can get you into trouble very quickly and it pays to keep a ready eye on the minimap at all times. Situational awareness will save your ship and you need to have this in spades to maximize this advantage with the Iowa.
As a defensive tool, the Iowa’s fast top speed should allow her to largely dictate the engagement range of most encounters. This can frustrate enemy cruisers and destroyers trying to make Hail-Mary torpedo strikes as you turn away and open up the distance, letting their fish putter out uselessly and outstripping the range of their guns.
Special mention should be put towards torpedoes, however. It’s a torpedo-rich environment at high tiers and the Iowa does not respond quickly to her rudder. Her turning circle is downright enormous and it can take several seconds before the ship begins to appreciable adjust her course. Without planning maneuvers and navigation well in advance, you will run aground or worse. There are few maneuvers as nail biting as trying to bring an Iowa about when there are enemy Battleships with their guns sighted in your direction. There are few situations as bleak as being caught in an Iowa, broadside on to an approaching torpedo salvo.
Hit Points: 79,000 Citadel Protection: Up to 307mm + 25mm torpedo bulge. Min Bow & Deck Armour: 32mm (immunity to 420mm rifles) Torpedo Damage Reduction: 25%
It’s hard to feel like the Iowa is well protected.
Let me be clear: her armour layout isn’t without its strengths. Her citadel protection is thick and has a reverse slope to deflect lateral shell fire down and away from her vitals. Except at point blank range, IJN 203mm AP shells will shatter against your belt armour for zero damage. In addition, her turret faces are sloped back and equally as well protected. Bows on, she can face-tank any ship at close range up to the Yamato. When angled, she can bounce incoming fire very well.
However, with the arrival of the German Battleships there’s definitely a new standard on what constitutes “good” armour protection. The Iowa can receive citadel hits easily at some angles. The same cannot be said with her new competition. The most glaring weakness of the Iowa is the position of her citadel. It’s enormous and it sits very high in the water. It can be found starting beneath her first turret and it stretches all of the way back to her last turret. For height, it can be clearly seen by looking at the outer deck plating along the hull. The narrow strip of shorter plates denotes the upper height of the Iowa’s citadel — painting a ready “aim here” bulls eye for shooting. When angled and at medium to close range, she can rest assured that she’s safe enough from any citadel penetrations provided she can keep no more than a 30′ angle towards her opponents. Without the ability to overmatch her bow (a trait limited to the Yamato presently), she will bounce most shells that strike her. The same cannot be said at range. American Battleships are notorious for their weak deck plating. Long range fire once more puts your citadel at risk.
With 32mm to 36mm of armour at most just about everywhere else, the Iowa is a tinderbox of kindling for incoming HE shells. Do not be surprised to see in excess of 5,000hp volleys of high explosive shells coming in from heavy cruisers. This damage won’t begin to mitigate until the area becomes saturated. Even the 127mm and 130mm of destroyers can chew through your softer parts to farm easy damage. Thankfully, they won’t do so quickly. Your Damage Control Party will often feel taxed to keep up with mitigating fires if you let smaller vessels close the distance.
Her anti-torpedo protection, while worse than the Izumo’s is at least comparable (though hardly good). The IJN Battleship tops out at 28% damage reduction while the Iowa sits at parity with the Friedrich at 25%. This is a far cry worse than some of the other values found in their Matchmaking spread, including the vaunted 55% reduction for the Yamato.
Poor anti-torpedo protection.
Citadel sits very high in the water and is easy to aim for.
At long range, her weak deck armour makes her vulnerable.
At medium to close range, when angled, she’s rather well defended except against the Yamato.
With the combination of terrible handling and an enormous, vulnerable citadel, the Iowa is ill suited for brawling. Leave this to the German Battleships who specialize in it. Otherwise you’ll just get your ship sunk beneath you.
Concealment & Camouflage
Surface Detection Range: 16.2km
Air Detection Range: 14.2km
Minimum Surface Detection Range: 12.16km
Concealment Penalty while Firing: +12.2km
For a high tier Battleship, the Iowa has rather good concealment. This is important given her vulnerability to long range fire — especially against the overwhelming broadsides of tier 10 Battleships. Properly specialized, her surface detection range can be dropped down to 12.2km which allows her to disappear in between volleys and help her evade return fire. In later stages of the game, this can be put to very good effect to sneak up on enemy positions, particularly enemy cruisers and battleships and ambush them. However, you will find it more useful to specialize in concealment primarily for defensive purposes. This will allow you to buy time to use consumables, turn your ship or simply avoid fire from groups of enemies.
Anti-Aircraft Defense AA Battery Calibers: 127mm, 40mm, 20mm AA Umbrella Ranges: 5.0km, 3.5km, 2.0km AA DPS per Aura: 151 / 302 / 195
The Iowa’s anti-aircraft firepower used to be downright legendary in World of Warships. This reputation, justly deserved, keeps many CV players from even daring to test the airspace around her — at least while there are other softer targets they could be striking instead. Be aware that while this heavy flak armament doesn’t provide immunity to CV strikes, it will at least put you so far down the list of targets that you really don’t have to worry about air strikes unless you do something stupid like isolate yourself or taunt the carrier player.
The lion’s share of the Iowa’s AA power comes in the form of her quad mounted 40mm Bofors. There are fourteen of these scattered across the Iowa and they put out a frightening wall of defensive fire. Be aware, though, that without specialization, these are limited to self defense purposes. Don’t expect your Iowa to be swatting enemy aircraft merely passing by the limits of your AA range. You’ll only see a significant amount of damage done to aircraft that begin (or donk) an attack run where your medium and small caliber AA guns can put out their hurt.
It’s possible to specialize the Iowa heavily into an anti-aircraft role — a role she historically undertook what with the general lack of surface fleet targets for her to engage. Through the choice of modules and Captain Skills, you can make her a veritable nightmare for enemy carriers to even dare approach. While you will be lacking the Defensive Fire consumable to truly shred enemy aircraft with alacrity (that 300% DPS bonus is incredible), you can make the reach of her guns and the striking power of her guns truly put the fear of god into a carrier.
It’s important that you remember to overlap your anti-aircraft fire with other warships and not get caught out alone. As good as her AA power is, it will not keep you safe from stacked attack-craft squadrons that swarm over your decks.
The Iowa lends its AA firepower to an Izumo-class Battleship with a Mikhail Kutuzov in support. Out of four attack craft waves, not one plane survived. Good as the Iowa’s flak may be, it’s important to work in mutual support of other ships. Not only will this help keep your allies alive, it will also help neutralize the enemy aircraft carrier who will quickly run out of planes if they keep up such suicidal attacks.
The Iowa, like many Battleships, seems pretty straight forward in terms of game play. “Aim big guns at the enemy, angle your armour and farm damages.” The inherent simplicity of acquiring big damage scores belies the fact that Battleships, especially at higher tiers, require a lot of judgement calls in order to succeed consistently. There’s a very obvious difference, for example, between a low-skill and a high-skill Battleship player. In the unforgiving, high-tier meta in World of Warships, the Iowa emphasizes this.
As the fastest and most fragile of the tier 9 Battleships, the Iowa shoulders a lot more responsibility than other BBs. She’ll be expected to flex when a flank is under attack. She has AA power that can feel badly needed to support the more vulnerable ships on her team. She’s also one of the more easy targets for enemy guns, on top of being a high value target for enemy destroyers too. Thus, acting in preservation of your hit points to keep your ship in the game is another imperative that needs to be continually addressed yet as a Battleship, you still need to tank to allow your cruisers or damaged compatriots to get relief from incoming fire.
All the while, the Iowa with her high alpha strikes and high DPM is expected to be shouldering the lion’s share of the damage totals done by your team. A poorly played Iowa is a tremendous liability. A well played one is a frightening opponent.
A well played Iowa is fast, stealthy, hard hitting and nigh impervious to damage.
A poorly played Iowa is inaccurate, cowardly and fragile as all get out.
Very versatile main armament, easily specialized to excel towards accuracy or firepower (but not both).
AA power for days — can easily form the core of a defensive fleet against air attack.
A very poor choice to take into a brawl. Soft armour outside of her belt and her large size makes her an easy target for improved secondaries. Coupled with her poor agility, she can’t keep safe from point blank torpedoes or to protect her citadel if an enemy Battleship or Cruiser tries to get around her.
The Iowa is a great ship. It’s one of those high-skill ceiling vessels that really rewards exemplary play. However, it’s not so good of a ship that it’s going to reward mediocrity. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s still a Battleship. If you hit things with her shells, they’ll die a terrible, terrible death. She’s also going to take a great deal of punishment before going down unless you play like a fool. But to get the most out of the Iowa? To carry constantly like a rockstar? Yeah, that takes something special.
It’s really worth while to try and learn to excel in the Iowa too. Not only will familiarity with the high tier meta make you a better player overall, the Iowa, with her premium camouflage, has one of the highest free-experience earning capabilities of any warship in the game.
The Iowa has the potential to be all things to everyone. Her weaknesses are manageable, with only the Yamato and torpedo spam being the trump cards to which she doesn’t have an easy answer. And every time you pull the trigger with a well aimed shot, you’re going to see huge numbers flash up over your screen so long as you choose your targets correctly. With the landscape of high tier play changing significantly with the presence of German Battleships, an Iowa driver needs to be more careful than ever with their target selection. A broadside shot on a Bismarck or Kurfurst may seem like a tremendous opportunity, but is it as valuable as an angled shot against an Ibuki or Zao?
Where many players may chafe is that she will feel inferior (or at least, not significantly advantaged against) many of the “paper” ships that will find their way into the game. It’s one thing to accept her difficulties against the Yamato. It’s another to be facing and compared against Battleships that were never built in steel. The Izumo, Grosser Kurfurst and Friedrich der Grosse all compare very favourably to (if not exceed) the performance of the Iowa. The German Battleships in particular may feel unjust in their advantages. The Iowa can perform just as well, if not better — but you’ll really have to work for it.
The Iowa exemplifies a lot of what I don’t like about high-tier, Battleship game play. Engagement ranges are often in excess of 18km to 20km. I prefer my action up close. This doesn’t suit the Iowa well as she’s much better suited to playing the support role at a distance.
Outfitting the Iowa
When you’re equipping your Iowa, there are two primary roles to consider. The first is whether or not you intend to fully specialize her as an AA-Ship or not. This is hardly an optimal build, but if you hate Carriers with a vengeance, it has its merits. If you decide against this, you can instead choose one of two gunship builds which focus on either accuracy or firepower.
If you are selecting an AA build, you want the following choices to best optimize your firepower. This will provide extra range and extra DPS off of your AA guns. In addition, this build also adds to your agility, reducing your rudder shift time.
For your first slot, take Main Armaments Modification 1. Even if you’re specializing for anti-aircraft firepower, you’re still a Battleship and increasing your main battery survival should be near paramount. If you really hate detonations, you can alternatively take Magazine Modification 1. This will make the chances of it happening absolutely miniscule.
For your second slot, take AA Guns Modifaction 2 to increase your AA range by 20% if you want to be a flak-boat. Otherwise, you should be taking Artillery Plotting Room Modification 1. This will boost your secondary range and accuracy by 5% and your main battery range by 16% which is huge.
For your third slot, AA Guns Modification 3 is your next choice for an AA-ship. This will add an additional 25% to your AA power.
If you’re choosing to be a gunship, now you have the choice. If you want to go for rate of fire, take Main Battery Modification 3. If you want to go for accuracy, take Artillery Plotting Room Modification 2.
All of the choices in the fourth slot are pretty terrible. At least Damage Control System Modification 1 will add 2% to your torpedo damage reduction, so take that one.
You’re again faced with a choice here and each have their own merits. If you want to improve your rudder shift time, take Steering Gears Modification 2. If you would prefer to reduce the amount of damage you take from fires that are left to burn for their full duration, then Damage Control System Modification 2 is your best choice.
Between the two options, Concealment Modification 1 is the better option for all builds.
Like all Battleships, the Iowa greatly benefits from the use of premium consumables. In particular, taking a premium version of your Damage Control Party is invaluable for reducing the reset timer from 120s down to 80s. In addition, I strongly recommend a premium version of your Repair Party for the same reason.
Between the two aircraft, I find a Float Plane Fighter more useful. The Iowa has such tremendous range potential already as to make a Spotter Aircraft unnecessary. The Float Plane Fighter has a longer up-time, making it better suited to assist with spotting enemy ships or incoming torpedoes when needed.
Recommended Captain Skills
The skill choices for your Iowa Captain only really differ depending on if you want to specialize for anti-aircraft firepower or not. If it does, you want to select Manual Fire Control for AA-Armament at tier 4 alongside Advanced Fire Training. If you would prefer for a gunnery specialization, then Concealment Expert is the better choice.
For both builds, you have the choice of what skill to take at tier 3. Each has their own merits and is largely up to the preference of the Battleship driver which one they think they will get the most use. My personal preference is for Superintendent to increase the number of charges of your Repair Party consumable. In close games, you will burn through all of your charges and the extra recovery can save your life. However, if you play poorly, this will not save you.
Two optimal Iowa builds. The left focuses on gunnery, with the option of player’s choice at the tier 3 skill. The right focuses on anti-aircraft firepower. Again, the player’s preference is left open at tier 3 to select the skill of their choice.
This concludes the closer look at the Iowa. A special thanks to Calamity_Stryker from Reddit for this week’s suggestion and to DokturProfesur for being my battle buddy in his Izumo while collecting screenshots. Stay tuned every Friday on ShipComrade.com for a new review of a tech-tree ship. You can message me on Reddit, the World of Warships North American or European forums and request the next non-premium ship I look at.