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Cruisers - how are they different from battleships?

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  • #16
    Originally posted by TopHatter View Post
    My issue with classing the Alaskas as battlecruisers is based especially on their armament.
    In the British practice especially, the main battery calibers of the dreadnoughts was paced almost exactly by the battlecruisers.

    In other words, the dreadnoughts started out with 12-inch guns. Ditto the battlecruisers.
    Then the dreadnoughts upped the ante to 13.5-inch guns. The battlecruisers followed suit.
    Then the guns jumped to 15-inch and the battlecruisers were right there with them.

    By the time the US got into the battlecruiser action, the standard for US battleships was the Colorado-class (and the abortive South Dakota-class), both carrying the 16-inch gun. Guess what the Lexington-class battlecruisers were going to be armed with? Yep, 16-inch guns.

    Aside from a briefly flirtatious near-disaster with arming the North Carolina's with 14-inch guns, the US continued with the 16-inch gun.

    Put simply, merely arming the Alaska's with a caliber that was last designed back in 1909 doesn't put them in the battlecruiser arena in the 1940's.
    No argument about the Alaska not being a battlecruiser from me - but a note about her guns - they were a new modern design - often critisized for being a waste of resources - they did have impressive penentration and modern "super heavy" projectiles like the other US heavy guns - the 12" guns on the Arkansas were of the old pattern (870# AP) and certainly would not have done well in a surface action against contemporary battleships

    The Alaska's were hard to compare to anyone elses ships, that led me to define light fast battleship and compare them to the Scharnhorst and Dukerque. They were clearly the least "battleship" like of the three - but much more battleship like than the Tennessee class AC's - which seem to be in the top rank of large cruisers. As far as battlecruisers - they were normally armed with contemporary battleship guns, and sacrificed protection, number of tubes or both to achieve greater speed. The Deuschlands (panzershifs) were another animal - a light battlecruiser or large cruiser? The media of the time labeled them "pocket battleships" and the "pocket" part was often forgotten by the public when the threat presented by these ships was brought up.
    Last edited by USSWisconsin; 12 Dec 12,, 00:09.
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    • #17
      Originally posted by USSWisconsin View Post
      No argument about the Alaska not being a battlecruiser from me - but a note about her guns - they were a new modern design - often critisized for being a waste of resources - they did have impressive penentration and modern "super heavy" projectiles like the other US heavy guns - the 12" guns on the Arkansas were of the old pattern (870# AP) and certainly would not have done well in a surface action against contemporary battleships
      Oh too true, they were superb weapons and easily out-classed the Wyoming's.
      My other problem/mystification with the Alaska's was their total lack of torpedo protection.
      It's rather fortunate that the Japanese had far fewer effective platforms left to deliver their incomparable fish by the time the Alaska's showed up...not that that helped Indianapolis of course.
      “Never let yourself be persuaded that any one Great Man, any one leader, is necessary to the salvation of America. When America consists of one leader and 158 million followers, it will no longer be America.”
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      • #18
        Originally posted by USSWisconsin View Post
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        Actually the Scharnhorsts had 11" guns and armor upto 360mm 38,100 LT (full load) , the Alaska's had 12" guns and armor to 325mm Full load: 34,253 long tons , and the Dunkerque had 13" guns (Strasburg had 360mm armor, 34,900 LT Full Load).
        compare the main belts not the turret facings. Of the three classes, only the German ships had battleship class armored belts. Gun size is somewhat misleading, of the three classes armed with 18" guns, only 1 was a battleship. But all modern (pre-dreadnought harvey or better armor forward) battleships had armor equivalent to their own guns.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by zraver View Post
          compare the main belts not the turret facings. Of the three classes, only the German ships had battleship class armored belts. Gun size is somewhat misleading, of the three classes armed with 18" guns, only 1 was a battleship. But all modern (pre-dreadnought harvey or better armor forward) battleships had armor equivalent to their own guns.
          Based on armor belt alone - Scharnhorst has more protection than many modern battleships - but her main guns were still very light for a battleship - many analyists consider this to be as much a factor as belt thickness. Some people consider her to be a battlecruiser - due to those light guns - similar to the well protected WWI German battlecruisers with 11" guns instead of the 12" guns of the battleships in the same generation of construction.
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          If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

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          • #20
            You have to remember where the name "Battleship" came from. It was in the days of sail and no steam power (propellers, side wheels, etc.). Of a fleet, they were the most heavily ARMED ships (no armor to speak of in those days). Battle formations were arranged with the heaviest armed ships (those with the most or biggest guns) to lead the LINE OF BATTLE with the smaller gunned ships as back ups, escorts and flank attacks.

            Therefore they were the LINE OF BATTLE SHIPS.

            Traditionally the heaviest gunned ships have been called Battleships. Ships with slightly smaller guns but more manueverability could CRUISE around the fleet providing recon info, medium fire power and at a higher speed.

            But when Iron ships came into being, metallurgists went head over heels coming up with alloys of iron to make steel which led to armor plate when the steel factories were built to meet the demand. According to Nathan Oakun's research, American Class A armor was the best ever built. But it is very expensive so it was earmarked for the biggest "Capital" ships (requiring a lot of Money {Capital} to build) and justly carried on the name of the Line of Battle Ships or just Battleships for short.

            Cruisers were still the faster and more namueverable ships but with smaller guns and thinner armor (for weight savings) though some also used Class A armor in their more critical areas.

            The very first active Navy ship I ever boarded was way back in 1952 or 1953. It was the USS Wisconsin (BB-64). My step father worked at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard and when the yard had an open house he took the family down for the day. The "Wisky" was in and since most of us migrated out of the winter snow and summer mosquitoes of Wisconsin, BB-64 was THEE ship to first to go aboard.

            I wish I could have saved the pamphlet that they handed out as we boarded the ship. I remember distinctly that the pamphlet explained that although the Iowa class ships were designated as Battleships, their hulls were actually built in proportions to a fast Cruiser. Therefore they were really Super Cruisers as they could turn almost as sharp as a Destroyer and could out run some of the Cruisers we had then. That fast speed was necessary as they were designed to keep up with the Essex class Aircraft Carriers. They actually used Essex class propellers to do so. I know because one of the rebuilt props we put on the Missouri in the 1980's actually had "ESSEX" engraved on it.

            So the difference between the roles of Line of Battle Ships and Cruisers actually came together as Super Cruisers with the Iowa class but traditionally, because of their big guns and thick armor, were still called Battleships.

            At least that's my opinion based upon going to work at the shipyard in 1954 as a Ship Fitter Apprentice and working on WW II era all gun ships (one still with some Kamikaze damage) on up 39+ years to our latest gas turbine powered ships with missiles and -- well -- a few other things right out of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Main difference is our TV screens are rectangles where Emporer Ming's TV screen was a vertical ellipse.
            Able to leap tall tales in a single groan.

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            • #21
              Did the Iowa class have an actual type designation? I mean, I see them referred to as fast battleships as opposed to just battleship or coastal battleship. Is that official or just common usage because of their role?

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              • #22
                Originally posted by zraver View Post
                compare the main belts not the turret facings. Of the three classes, only the German ships had battleship class armored belts. Gun size is somewhat misleading, of the three classes armed with 18" guns, only 1 was a battleship. But all modern (pre-dreadnought harvey or better armor forward) battleships had armor equivalent to their own guns.
                Actually - none of the WWII US battleships met this criterion - the North Carolina had protection from 14" guns, the South Dakota and Iowa classes had protection from 16"/2240# projectiles. All three ships fired 2700# projectiles and these projectiles were able to penetrate the armor the US battleships carried.

                The goal was protection from their own guns - in practice - it was not often acheived - the Japanese Kongo class did not have protection against their main guns either, nor did the final British battleship Vanguard.
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                • #23
                  Originally posted by DonBelt View Post
                  Did the Iowa class have an actual type designation? I mean, I see them referred to as fast battleships as opposed to just battleship or coastal battleship. Is that official or just common usage because of their role?
                  The Iowa's were officially classifed as battleships - BB-61 to BB-64. Terms like Super Cruiser were not their official classification, the US did not have a special classification for fast battleship either - all her battleships were "BB" from Indiana BB-1 to Wisconsin BB-64. Some old pre-dreadnought ships did get their classifications downgraded to free up their names for newer ships.
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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by USSWisconsin View Post
                    Actually - none of the WWII US battleships met this criterion - the North Carolina had protection from 14" guns, the South Dakota and Iowa classes had protection from 16"/2240# projectiles. All three ships fired 2700# projectiles and these projectiles were able to penetrate the armor the US battleships carried.

                    The goal was protection from their own guns - in practice - it was not often acheived - the Japanese Kongo class did not have protection against their main guns either, nor did the final British battleship Vanguard.
                    Jay, slight correction, they all had armor equivalent to their guns. Not protection from. While an individual ship might miss this by an inch or two as a rule it generally holds true. The Kongo's were reclassified battle cruisers so I would not count them.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by zraver View Post
                      Jay, slight correction, they all had armor equivalent to their guns. Not protection from. While an individual ship might miss this by an inch or two as a rule it generally holds true. The Kongo's were reclassified battle cruisers so I would not count them.


                      Jason, The Kongo's were built as battlecruisers (near sisters to the HMS Tiger - the Kongo herself was built in Britian, the rest in Japan) and reclassified as battleships after extensive rebuilds in the 1920-30's.
                      Last edited by USSWisconsin; 13 Dec 12,, 06:56.
                      sigpic"If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
                      If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by RustyBattleship View Post
                        But when Iron ships came into being, metallurgists went head over heels coming up with alloys of iron to make steel which led to armor plate when the steel factories were built to meet the demand. According to Nathan Oakun's research, American Class A armor was the best ever built. But it is very expensive so it was earmarked for the biggest "Capital" ships (requiring a lot of Money {Capital} to build) and justly carried on the name of the Line of Battle Ships or just Battleships for short.

                        Cruisers were still the faster and more namueverable ships but with smaller guns and thinner armor (for weight savings) though some also used Class A armor in their more critical areas.
                        Armor is an interesting subject, Gene Slover's page has some good old documents about it. "Krupp" armor continued to improve right up to the end of the armored ship and the armor used on the battleships built in the 30's and 40's was much better than the original Krupp armor. The US Class A armor was loaded with expensive alloys, perhaps most other countries weren't willing to spend that much?

                        ARMOR-CHAPTER-XII-A
                        sigpic"If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
                        If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by USSWisconsin View Post
                          Based on armor belt alone - Scharnhorst has more protection than many modern battleships - but her main guns were still very light for a battleship - many analyists consider this to be as much a factor as belt thickness. Some people consider her to be a battlecruiser - due to those light guns - similar to the well protected WWI German battlecruisers with 11" guns instead of the 12" guns of the battleships in the same generation of construction.
                          Three more significant points about Alaska and Scharnhorst: Alaska had a 4" armor deck, Scharnhorst a 2" armored deck - both had additional protection on other decks. Alaska was 2 knots faster - allowing it to control the range (> 25,000 yards). Alaska had superior radar fire control. Most assessments have Alaska at a significant advantage in a gun battle with Scharnhorst - holding the range and penetrating the enemy decks (the 12" Mk 8 was the equal of most 14" guns in side pentration as well - but Scharnhorst could resist a main belt hit from them - but not all side hits will land on the thickest part of the belt). The Alaska is built for a long range fight (Pacific - Mid Atlantic) - the Scharnhorst is built for a close range fight (Baltic-North Sea). Keeping in mind the radar on Alaska is a 1943 installation- Scharnhorst has an older installation (she was commissioned 5 years earlier). I do agree the Scharnhorst is built like a battleship, the Alaska is built like a cruiser. The Scharnhorst is going to absorb more damage before she sinks - but if the Alaska performs consistantly with other US heavies - its going to get a good number of hits - they would be deck penetrating hits and her super heavy shells will be able to sink most battleships even the Bismarck would not be immune.

                          The Alaska had reliable engines too (Essex Class)- the Scharnhorst did not (many troubles with her high pressure plants). Scharnhorst had her greatest successes before the Allies had better radar. Remember also the Renown once chased the two "ugly sisters" by herself and pounded them while they ran from her. In theory - the two German ships should have been able to handle Renown - but they didn't. A final factor is reinforcements - the USN had plenty of them in 1944. The Germans rarely had three battleships in service at once.

                          That said - if the Scharnhorst got 2-3 good hits - the Alaska would be probably be finished - the Scharnhorst would probably need nearly twice as many to put her down. Its not a one sided fight in any way, but would probably be a short one once hits started to register - both ships have a good chance of coming out on top if luck favors them. If staying power became a factor - Scharnhorst would be likely to limp away, while Alaska sank - but given the overall situation - quite unlikely to make back it to a friendly port.

                          In real sea battles - the longest ranged hits were between 25,000 and 27,000 yards. By 1944, USN fire control was much better - 30,000 yard hits were likely.

                          Gun penetration links above.
                          http://www.worldaffairsboard.com/bat...tml#post895825
                          Last edited by USSWisconsin; 13 Dec 12,, 15:20.
                          sigpic"If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
                          If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by DonBelt View Post
                            Did the Iowa class have an actual type designation? I mean, I see them referred to as fast battleships as opposed to just battleship or coastal battleship. Is that official or just common usage because of their role?
                            The Iowa class Battleships were the third in a series of "FAST" Battleships. The preceding South Dakota and North Carolina classes were also designated as Fast Battleships.
                            Able to leap tall tales in a single groan.

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by USSWisconsin View Post
                              Three more significant points about Alaska and Scharnhorst: Alaska had a 4" armor deck, Scharnhorst a 2" armored deck - both had additional protection on other decks. Alaska was 2 knots faster - allowing it to control the range (> 25,000 yards). Alaska had superior radar fire control. Most assessments have Alaska at a significant advantage in a gun battle with Scharnhorst - holding the range and penetrating the enemy decks (the 12" Mk 8 was the equal of most 14" guns in side pentration as well - but Scharnhorst could resist a main belt hit from them - but not all side hits will land on the thickest part of the belt). The Alaska is built for a long range fight (Pacific - Mid Atlantic) - the Scharnhorst is built for a close range fight (Baltic-North Sea). Keeping in mind the radar on Alaska is a 1943 installation- Scharnhorst has an older installation (she was commissioned 5 years earlier). I do agree the Scharnhorst is built like a battleship, the Alaska is built like a cruiser. The Scharnhorst is going to absorb more damage before she sinks - but if the Alaska performs consistantly with other US heavies - its going to get a good number of hits - they would be deck penetrating hits and her super heavy shells will be able to sink most battleships even the Bismarck would not be immune.

                              The Alaska had reliable engines too (Essex Class)- the Scharnhorst did not (many troubles with her high pressure plants). Scharnhorst had her greatest successes before the Allies had better radar. Remember also the Renown once chased the two "ugly sisters" by herself and pounded them while they ran from her. In theory - the two German ships should have been able to handle Renown - but they didn't. A final factor is reinforcements - the USN had plenty of them in 1944. The Germans rarely had three battleships in service at once.

                              That said - if the Scharnhorst got 2-3 good hits - the Alaska would be probably be finished - the Scharnhorst would probably need nearly twice as many to put her down. Its not a one sided fight in any way, but would probably be a short one once hits started to register - both ships have a good chance of coming out on top if luck favors them. If staying power became a factor - Scharnhorst would be likely to limp away, while Alaska sank - but given the overall situation - quite unlikely to make back it to a friendly port.

                              In real sea battles - the longest ranged hits were between 25,000 and 27,000 yards. By 1944, USN fire control was much better - 30,000 yard hits were likely.

                              Gun penetration links above.
                              http://www.worldaffairsboard.com/bat...tml#post895825
                              I think Alaska would stand a better chance against Gneisenau than Scharnhorst. Scharnhort was hitting smoke shrouded destroyer sized targets at 15,000m and capitol ship sized targets at 24,000m. Given her older less capable radar, the consistent hits and the choppy nature of the seas where the hits were recorded that is one hell of a well trained crew. Especially compared to her twin which did not do near so well under identical circumstances.

                              Wild cards-

                              USN damage control parties. They were world class after learning the painful lessons the Japanese were teaching. At the same time there is not a lot you can do in a lightly constructed ship vs battleship caliber shells.

                              Golden BB- the Alaska is at much bigger risk of a single catastrophic hit but as the Bismark and Hood both showed even the greatest have glass jaws.

                              How about Alaska v Kongo class or Scharnhorst v Kongo?

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by zraver View Post
                                I think Alaska would stand a better chance against Gneisenau than Scharnhorst. Scharnhort was hitting smoke shrouded destroyer sized targets at 15,000m and capitol ship sized targets at 24,000m. Given her older less capable radar, the consistent hits and the choppy nature of the seas where the hits were recorded that is one hell of a well trained crew. Especially compared to her twin which did not do near so well under identical circumstances.

                                Wild cards-

                                USN damage control parties. They were world class after learning the painful lessons the Japanese were teaching. At the same time there is not a lot you can do in a lightly constructed ship vs battleship caliber shells.

                                Golden BB- the Alaska is at much bigger risk of a single catastrophic hit but as the Bismark and Hood both showed even the greatest have glass jaws.

                                How about Alaska v Kongo class or Scharnhorst v Kongo?

                                The Kongo's were nothing to sneeze at - Kirishima nearly did in South Dakota - but Washington interrupted her and ended her days while she was working at that, Still the Alaska or the Scharnhorst could put one of them down for sure - but I'd call either battle a fair match - might give the Scharnhorst slightly better odds. No one fielded any really bad battleships in WWII - the Fuso's were pretty long in the tooth, so were the Revenge class, though their guns were fine weapons. The most difficult to rate were the Soviet dreadnoughts - There's a great article in an older Warship annual that describes them in detail and explains why they were designed the way they were - any accurate accessment needs to consider the Russian/Soviet doctrine and intended role these ship were built for (defending minefields).
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