- This article is about the battleships used by the United Forces and Northern Water Tribe. For the ones used by the Fire Nation during the Hundred Year War, see Empire-class battleship.
The first battleship to be built was bought by Varrick, who named the vessel Zhu Li after his personal assistant. It was painted white with dark blue strips going along the hull. Unlike later battleships, it had many features to accommodate Varrick's eccentric nature, such as a catgator tank and a level of funhouse mirrors. Both the United Forces and the Northern Water Tribe Navy eventually gained access to a large number of these battleships.
When Republic City fell to the Equalists after an extensive attack, a message was sent to a ten-ship fleet of battleships from Councilman Tenzin. The commanding officer, General Iroh, replied to the wire, stating that his fleet would be arriving in three days' time and that he looked forward to winning back Republic City alongside the Avatar.
Upon arriving at the contested metropolis, the fleet was damaged by a large number of Equalist naval mines. General Iroh proceeded to use his ship's intercom to tell his waterbending and earthbending soldiers to get rid of the mines. As soon as he issued the command, however, his fleet of battleships was attacked by a large number of Equalist biplanes. Despite the best efforts of the United Forces and the destruction of many enemy aircraft, the entire fleet was destroyed.
Later on, General Iroh sent a wire to Commander Bumi, ordering him to wait for his signal before entering Republic City with a second wave of battleships. General Iroh later found out, however, that the message had been intercepted by Hiroshi Sato, and that he knew exactly where the second fleet was hiding. Hiroshi did not get the chance to attack the concealed fleet, however, as the Equalist airstrip was destroyed by Bolin, Asami, and General Iroh.
After Amon fled Republic City, Bumi's fleet of battleships arrived there.
Water Tribe Civil War
Later on, a battleship was used to transport several captured Southern Water Tribe rebels to prisons at the North Pole; however, soon after departure, the ship was attacked by Team Avatar, who freed the prisoners. As the attempts of the crew proved unsuccessful in stopping them, the attackers managed to leave the ship and escape on Varrick's yacht.
Several United Forces battleships were in port while Korra and Iroh discussed a plan to end Chief Unalaq's military intervention in the Southern Water Tribe. However, President Raiko discovered their plan and had all the available ships placed on lockdown.
After being incarcerated, Varrick offered Team Avatar his own battleship, the Zhu Li, to travel to the South Pole. He also stashed all of the weaponry he stole from Future Industries on the ship, as well as a biplane.
Defending Republic City
After Zhu Li informed President Raiko of Kuvira's impending attack on Republic City in 174 AG, he mobilized the United Forces' fleet under the command of General Iroh. The ships were stationed at Yue Bay, though before they could be deployed in battle, they were destroyed by Kuvira's spirit energy cannon. As the wreckages sank, the crew was rescued by airbenders.
Each United Forces battleship bears the characteristic insignia of each of the three nations. The United Forces battleships have Earth Kingdom insignias located on their bows and hulls, Fire Nation insignias on their guns, and Water Tribe insignias also on the hulls while its Northern counterpart has Water Tribe insignias on all of them. The hulls are also decorated with two large, golden dragons on the bow of the ship.
Each of the ship's nine guns (five on the front deck, two on the rear deck, and two on the midsection of the top deck) consists of metal funnels through which firebenders concentrate their flames, increasing their range and firepower. The intensity of the fire is enhanced to an extent that a single hit from a firebending pivoting cannon can completely destroy a biplane about five hundred meters away. However, the cannons are hindered by a long reload time, while the fire blasts are slow enough for aircraft to dodge them. Even though the firebending cannons seem ideal for fighting the large and slow airships common at the time, they proved inadequate in fighting the new high-velocity Equalist biplanes that had not been previously seen, prompting some gunners to abandon their battlement and firebend directly at the biplanes. The Northern battleships carry similar looking canons.
The battleships have six planks located at portals with the Water Tribe insignia on either side of the hull. Waterbenders stand on these planks, providing them with easy access to the vast supply of water surrounding the ships. The planks can be flipped up in large waves. These waterbenders are tasked with destroying naval mines and other water-based weapons. However, they proved unable to stop the high-speed torpedoes.
The hull also accommodates numerous turrets (four on each side, one at the center of the bow, and one at the center of the stern) where fortified earth disks are stored. Earthbenders are able to launch these disks directly from the battleship at their intended target. These disks are aligned for the fight at a short distance and proved to be effective against Equalist aircraft. Nevertheless, due to their short range, the turrets can be easily destroyed by torpedoes and bombs from great distance.
The bridges of these naval ships are filled with the activity of personnel. A helmsman steers the vessel while various aides and soldiers enter and exit the section. The bridge also contains an intercom system which allows a commander to relay a message to his troops quickly and effectively.
The battleship also possesses two masts with lookouts. These lookouts provide an excellent overview of the battlefield. General Iroh chose one of the lookouts of his flagship for his last stand against the Equalist biplanes and destroyed many of them before his position was destroyed by a bomb.
Although powerful on the water's surface, the battleships' main weakness comes from air and underwater attacks; for the latter in particular, the battleships have practically no defense, aside from any waterbenders that may be on board. Due to their slow rate of fire, their firebending-powered guns, which are more adapted toward stationary or slow-moving targets, were almost ineffective against the dozens of opposing fast-moving Equalist biplanes. That, combined with their slow speed and maneuverability, allows them to be vulnerable to rapid, en masse attacks from the enemy.
List of known commanding officers
- The ships have two bows, giving them a catamaran appearance from the front.
- Many components of these battleships, including the bridge, mast, twin funnels, and deck layout, have a similarity to the Dreadnought battleships of the early 20th century.
- Before the invention of the radio, Gommu used to work on these ships as a telegraph operator.
- The Northern Water Tribe battleships appear to be the same model as the United Forces'.
- The paint job on Varrick's battleship is similar to the dazzle camouflage paint used on American and British warships during World War I.