Some eighty years ago the Battleship Era ended in a flurry of bombs and torpedoes that sank the two capital ships of the Royal Navy's Force Z.
Yes, aircraft had been involved in sinking the most capital of capital ships prior to December 10, 1941. But the circumstances allowed battleship fans to temporize.
An aerial torpedo ensured the doom of Bismarck, but the actual sinking occurred during a surface gun action. Battleships were sunk by aircraft at Taranto and Pearl Harbor, but those were surprise attacks on unsuspecting moored warships.
There was no gray area on December 10. Aircraft found and sank two of the Royal Navy's heavy units, one, Prince of Wales, one of the newest and most powerful British battleships extant.
The "moral" I've always been told that this story taught was that in the 90 minutes it took the air attack to sink both Prince of Wales and Repulse the battleship era ended and any naval organization that pursued heavy gunpower rather than carrier airpower was foolishly incompetent.
What's kind of intriguing about one "counterfactual" is that Force Z had come within five miles of an IJN task force consisting of "six cruisers" - I've been unable to discover which six these were, but at least one was Chōkai (鳥海), a Takao-class heavy cruiser.
Neither task force was using radar effectively. The Japanese because IJN radar technology was crippled throughout the Second World War, the British because Prince of Wales' radar had gone down earlier in the mission, supposedly through overheating in the tropical heat and humidity.
(Worth noting that in this the PoW lived up to her reputation as a "hard-luck ship"...)
Let's assume that at least three or four of the other "six cruisers" out that night were also heavies. The Japanese heavy cruisers were beasts, especially heavily armed with the big 24-inch torpedoes, and the IJN trained extensively in night gun and torpedo action as the encounters off Guadalcanal the following year proved.
Let's suppose that the two task forces had, instead, bumped into each other in the night.
The British weight of metal would probably have torn the Japanese cruisers apart, but the IJN night fighting and torpedo tactics might well have either sunk or badly damaged the British capital ships to the point where their sinking by aircraft the following morning could be written off the same way that the battleship aficionados wrote off Bismarck, Taranto, and Pearl Harbor.
The "end of the battleship era" might now be attributed to the naval and naval air actions off the Philippines in 1944.
No real point here other than to consider how things we take for received wisdom often turn on small, nearly insignificant events, like the failure of the British radar the night of December 9/10.