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Thread: The Alaska's: Battlecruisers or Large Cruisers?

  1. #106
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    All I know is that I got to watch Kentucky's engines operate in a fat ship that could just plain fly! USS Sacramento (AOE 1). She was beautiful, and if one had to be ordered to a fat ship, that was the one to ride.

  2. #107
    Resident Curmudgeon Military Professional Gun Grape's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 85 gt kid View Post
    Where did you see that? I've looked through 4 sources on that and 3 show her being laid down on 7 March 1942 but after that the suspension date is all whacky but earliest shows August 1946. Info on Kentucky and Illinois is sketchy at best though so who knows.
    here are a few

    USN Ship Types--Iowa class (BB-61 through 66)

    Kentucky (BB-66). Under construction at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia. Keel originally laid in March 1942; construction suspended in June 1942, resumed in December 1944 and suspended again in February 1947. Hull launched in January 1950 to clear the building dock. Sold for scrapping in 1958.
    Battleship Photo Index BB-66 KENTUCKY

    first 2 pictures

    The keel of the Kentucky (BB-66) is seen being laid on 7 March 1942 at Norfolk Navy Yard. Work progressed until June, 1942, when the completed section that would be the base for the machinery spaces was launched to clear the shipway for higher priority construction. This section remained at a nearby dock until work resumed over two years later.
    Bottom structure is prepared for launching, at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, 10 June 1942. It was launched to clear the shipway for landing ship tank (LST) construction. Work was not resumed on Kentucky's (BB-66) hull for nearly thirty more months.
    Its called Tourist Season. So why can't we shoot them?

  3. #108
    Contributor 85 gt kid's Avatar
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    Funny how every book i have has different dates . Gotta wonder where some authors get their info.

  4. #109
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    I am new here but thought that I would throw in my own opinion.

    The Battle of Jutland thoroughly discredited Fisher's original concept for a Battlecruiser. If a ship has battleship caliber guns and a ship is classified as a "battlecruiser", some idiot Admiral will put it in the line of battle to augment the firepower of the battleships. While a few countries built ships after World War One that were officially classified as "battlecruisers" (Germany most obviously plus France with the Dunkirk class), these ships were very intentionally designed with intermediate caliber guns to ensure that Admirals would not mistake them for battleships.

    On the eve of World War 2, the US Navy had some nightmare scenarios to consider:

    Imagine France being not only being defeated by Germany, but surrendering the French fleet to the Nazis. The Dunkirks and the Richlous (spelling) then join the Nazi navy.

    Hitler gets smart enough to pay off Franco to ally with Germany and the Spainish army then takes Gibraltor, denying the RMN direct access to the Mediterranean. With near control of the Mediterranean to enable easy resupply, Rommel has nobdifficulty kicking Montgomery's butt and siezes control of Egypt and the Suez canal. Any RMN forces in the Med are trapped and then may be captured to become part of the Nazi navy.

    Finally, Turkey ceases to remain neutral and aligns with Germany. The Kriegsmarine then has access to the black sea which makes invading the USSR much easier.

    The end result of these alternative scenarios is that the USN might have to fight not just the Japanese Navy and the German Navy and the Italian Navy, the USN has to fight the French Navy and a portion of the British Navy. If Great Britain falls and the RMN is destroyed or worse yet captured, the the USN will have serious problems.

    Given this scenario and the possibility that aircraft carriers would not become preeminent (imagine an alternative outcome if Prince of Whales' AA directors had been operational when Force Z sortied), then the USN needs big, heavily armed ships.

    Keep in mind that aircraft carriers and cruisers were not exactly in direct competition with Battleships for critical resources. The limiting factor on battleship construction was the production capacity of heavy armor plate. Lighter armor for carriers and cruisers could and did come from mills other than the few mills that could fabricate battleship armor.

    Given this nightmare scenario, the possibility that aircraft carriers would not rule the waves (what if the Kongos had been deployed within direct support range of the Japsnese carriers at Midway? The USN wins the carrier battle then the US carriers get sunk by the Kongos and battleships riegn supreme by default) and the realties of warship construction, the USN would then be desperate for heavy warships.

    Now an Alaska can not be mistaken for a battleship, but they are very much a match for the Graff Spee, the Sharnhorst, and the Dunkirk. While an Alaska can not go toe to toe with the legacy battleships from World War One, her advanced 12" guns outrange the 12" guns of earlier battleships and have more armor pentrating capability than 14" guns, belt and more importantly, deck armor. Given the advances in radar, the Alaska can engage in very long range combat beyond 30,000 yards where she is far deadlier than her peers.

    So the mission of the Alaskas would be to take on not just the feared "super cruisers" that Japan was building, but all of the intermediate class ships and legacy battleships mentioned. This frees the Iowas and the Montana's to focus on the Yamatos, the Bismark and Tirpitz, and any successor German battleship clases.

    Whatever you want to call the Alaska class, Large Cruiser or Battlecruiser, their were intended to perform many of the missions of battleships without consuming the critical resources needed to construct more battleships.

    One last thought. The advanced 12" guns on the Alaskas were the most expensive ever produced. These guns were also developed at a time when it was understood that radar enabled very long range gunnery. The earlier battleship guns that had an accuracy of about 10 Mills (which is awful compared to a standard infantry rifle) were suddenly a major impediment. I think that it was possible that the 12" guns for the Alaskas were designed to have much greater accuracy, perhaps on the order of 1 milliradian. When combined with the new radar feeding directly into the more advanced ballistic computers, an Alaska might have a much higher hit probability in a long range gunnery duel than previous ship clases, even the Iowas.

  5. #110
    Senior Contributor blidgepump's Avatar
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    James first welcome to the Naval Thread here on the WAB.

    The Alaska Class is probably the most misunderstood of any class built during WWII.
    While the argument rages about "Large Cruiser or Battle cruiser" the reality of the ship and its short comings linger in history.
    I appreciate your historical revisions offered had the "but for" been played out on the World stage.
    Recognizing that the direct path between two points is never achieved on the battle field, the lingering cost of developing the 12-inch guns for the Alaska's for this limited " got to find a reason to build " ship will be it's lasting legacy. Especially with the manpower requirements needed for the Alaska v Iowa mission statement.

  6. #111
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    I stand by my opinion that the much maligned Alaska class in spite of their alleged shortcomings were far from a frivolous design. The USN knew that the limitations on heavy armor production would limit their ability to build repeat Iowas or the new Montana class. Carrier based airfraft had not yet proven themselves to be decisive and the known prosprect of proximity fused projectiles for 5" guns then later the 3" guns to replace the 40mm Bofors was a potentially fatal portent for carrier aviation. They knew that in the event of a protracted war in which key allies fell, we certainly would not have had enough battleships available to perform all of the potential mississions in a worst case scenario. Say what you will but with its advanced radar fire control, possible adaptation of gun stabilization systems, superheavy projectiles, and advanced guns that I speculate had far more intrinsic accuracy than the 16" / 50, the Alaskas had the theoretical capability to defeat most of the battleships on the oceans if they could engage them at long range. Many of the battleships that were sunk at Pearl Harbor then refloated and refurbished at great cost would have been no match against an Alaska.

  7. #112
    Senior Contributor blidgepump's Avatar
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    Stick by your guns ...

    Quote Originally Posted by James Crawford View Post
    I stand by my opinion that the much maligned Alaska class in spite of their alleged shortcomings were far from a frivolous design. The USN knew that the limitations on heavy armor production would limit their ability to build repeat Iowas or the new Montana class. Carrier based airfraft had not yet proven themselves to be decisive and the known prosprect of proximity fused projectiles for 5" guns then later the 3" guns to replace the 40mm Bofors was a potentially fatal portent for carrier aviation. They knew that in the event of a protracted war in which key allies fell, we certainly would not have had enough battleships available to perform all of the potential mississions in a worst case scenario. Say what you will but with its advanced radar fire control, possible adaptation of gun stabilization systems, superheavy projectiles, and advanced guns that I speculate had far more intrinsic accuracy than the 16" / 50, the Alaskas had the theoretical capability to defeat most of the battleships on the oceans if they could engage them at long range. Many of the battleships that were sunk at Pearl Harbor then refloated and refurbished at great cost would have been no match against an Alaska.
    James stick by your GUNS!
    I like the Alaska Class, even have a model on the shelf in my Man Cave.
    Indeed, a Sailor who served on the USS Montpelier CL-57, cruised with the USS Alaska in the final days of WWII between Japan and China looking for targets of opportunity lived a couple of house down the street.
    I enjoyed listening to his sea tales and miss his commentary still today.

  8. #113
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    Sorry to seem obsessive about the Alaskas.
    The potential of gun armed warship optimized for long range engagements appeals to the "gun nut" in me, especially after becoming aware of the biography of Admiral "Ching" Lee who commanded the Washington and the South Dakota at Guadalcanal. While I never tried out for the Olympic shooting team, I like to shoot long range and once bagged an Elk that was 950 meters away and running when I put a 650 grain, 50 BMG Amax through its spine. Few people appreciate just how innaccurate battleship guns were even on the eve of WW2. They were the naval equivalent of muzzle loading smoothbores that could rarely put a bullet on the target at 100 yards.

    While carrier based aircraft then guided missiles became predominate, the big gun warships remained relevant throughout WW2. At Guadalcanal, the carriers ruled by day and the big guns ruled by night. Since the only US carrier in the Pacific during this critical phase of WW2 was the Enterprise, the US came very close to relying totally on its destroyers, cruisers and battleships.

    Obviously; bureaucratic inertia and may be Roosevelt's intervention was a factor motivating the continued construction of the Alaskas. However; the USN also ended the war with a vast surplus of Essex class carriers as well as marginally useful excort carriers and destroyer escorts. What seems like in an unreasonable extravagence in hindsight seemed a prudent precaution at the time.

  9. #114
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    Just reading BATTLESHIP AT WAR by Ivan Musicant. Then Commander Ed Hooper was transferred from the USS Washington to be gunnery officer on the USS Alaska. As a protege of Admiral "Ching" Lee, Hooper was instrumental in correcting systematic innaccuracies in the Washingtons 16"/45 guns that sank a Japanese battleship so rapidly. He no doubt applied this expertise to the 12"/50s on the Alaska.

  10. #115
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Crawford View Post
    Just reading BATTLESHIP AT WAR by Ivan Musicant. Then Commander Ed Hooper was transferred from the USS Washington to be gunnery officer on the USS Alaska. As a protege of Admiral "Ching" Lee, Hooper was instrumental in correcting systematic innaccuracies in the Washingtons 16"/45 guns that sank a Japanese battleship so rapidly. He no doubt applied this expertise to the 12"/50s on the Alaska.
    I'm a big fan of the Alaskas, beautiful ships, but they had a huge turning radius due to their single rudder design on an 800+ foot ship. If they had faced off against any axis battleship they would have been toast. Their armor protection was more than a heavy cruiser but less than even a battlecruiser. They were also fuel hogs. They were ideal for cruiser hunting and as AA escorts but not for taking on any battlecruiser or battleship. About Scharnhorst, it wasn't really a battlecruiser, she was armored to battleship standard and if not for the realities of war was always intended to be upgraded to 15 inch guns. The Alaskas had no chance in the post war navy. Huge crew, bad fuel economy, with much less capability than an Iowa class and they were overkill against Soviet Sverdlov class light cruisers when we already had so many Baltimore and Des Moines class heavy cruisers. But they were cool ships.

  11. #116
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    I am quoting Theodore fron the Nav Weapons board who took the time to crunch the numbers.

    "These ships are pretty evenly matched. Alaska's immune zone against Scharnhorst stretches from roughly 22,000 to 32,000 yards. Scharnhorst's immune zone against Alaska stretches from roughly 16,000 to 24,000 yards."

    The Alaska had comparable immune zone advantage over other probable opponents including the Kongos.

    People simply refuse to understand that the 12" guns on the Alaska were not the 12" guns of earlier battleships. When firing the superheavy Armor Piercing projectile the Alaskas had superior pentration against belt and more importantly deck armor than the 14" guns that armed many legacy battleships. Many of the European battleships still had restricted elevation on their main gun turrets that limited their range. In spite of its single rudder which did not hamper manauverability compared to other ships as severely as
    assumed, an Alaska could dictate the engagement range. The more advanced radars on the Alaskas gave them vastly superior ability to engage at long range.


    Of course I would not expect an Alaska to withstand multiple hits from 14", 15" or 16" guns. Niether did the HMS Hood.

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