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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 6:58 am 
The Alaska class were not battlecruisers - though may people since WW2 have tried to re-classify these ships as such and a few authors have used these ships to "fill out" books on US battleships - (writing to the audience rather than to the facts) but an important point is always missed. A battlecruiser was either as big as, or larger than contemporary battleships. The Alaska at 29,000 tons was much smaller than the contemporay battleships, remembet by this time treaty limitation on battleships had firstly risen to 45,000 tons and then been abaondoned all together. In the USN the contemporary battleships to the Alaska class were the Iowa @ 48,000 tons and the Montana @ 60,000+ tons. Other not quite contemporary designs (as they preceded the start of WW2) were the british 40,000 ton Lion, the German H class of 56,00 tons and of course the IJN's Yamato class. The Alaska did not approuch any of these ships in size, in fact in was simiar in the size growth from the *' cruiser as the Montana class design was from the 35,000 tons sized battlships. As battleship designs had grown expotentially so did some cruiser design. The IJN came to the same outcome with its super criuisers design - the B-65. Addtionally the Alaska did not have the spped advantage of a battlecruiser as the Iowa class battleship was just as fast, with severla other battlships (French, Italian and german all be capable of 30 knots oe more and sue to their larger size being capable of maintianing these sppeed in adverse weather conditions

The USN design built and operated the alaska class and always refers to these ships as large cruisers including using the class type as CB not the CC used for the Lexington class battlecruisers. Too many people attempt to use the Alaska class as susbstitute for the never commisioned USN battlecruisers but the fact is that the were only cruiser, big ones yes but still only cruisers.


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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 11:00 am 
The traditional battlecruisers referred to in the previous post were as large, or larger than their contemporary battleships for two reasons that did not apply to the Alaskas.

First, these traditional battlecruisers were large because of the need for additional boilers to give them the speed to act as scouts and keep them out of the range of battleships. These battleships carried guns of the same size as the battlecruisers, but were better protected. The situation of battlecruisers facing off against real battleships was to be avoided.

Secondly, gun-armed capital ships are designed around their guns. The hull dimensions required for a full set of battleship-sized guns will require a battleship-sized hull at minimum. We are not talking monitors or floating artillery batteries here, but functional capital ships.

I think the Alaskas could have filled the role of battleships well in the postwar USN, especially considering the lack of battleships in other navies. They would have been a good compliment to the Des Moines-class heavy cruisers.


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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 11:45 am 
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The above post was from Les Foran. I don't know why it didn't list me as poster.

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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 12:18 pm 
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If you don't classify the Alaskas as battlecruiser then how would you classify the Scharnhorsts???

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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 12:35 pm 
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Filipe,

Oh, the Scharnhorsts are battleships. The German Navy did not consider them to be battlecruisers. That was a term hung on them by the RN in an attempt to diminish their threat.

As has been pointed out before in this thread, the Germans were limited by treaty to 11" guns at the time the Scharnhorsts were built. So if the Germans were to build battleships and comply with the treaty, 11" was the max.

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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 12:44 pm 
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Following that line of thought the Deutschlands would be considered heavy-cruisers (tonnage) or battleships (11' guns) and neither of the categories fit them both following the terms of the treaties and wartime classifications despite they were reclassified as heavy cruiser already during the war by the DKM. If Scharny and Gneisy are considered battleships so should the Alaskas be considered battleships or both classes considered battlecruisers. If Alaska is to be classified as a super-heavy-cruiser then Scharnhorst should be as well....and there are not many years apart from the construction of each other neither differences in main caliber, number of guns, dimensions, speed and armour.

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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 1:15 pm 
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Yes. I adhere to that line of logic.

The last treaty that covered classification of those ships would be the London Treaty of 1932. Capital ships would be those carrying guns larger than the 8" guns allowed heavy cruisers. Thus the Scharnhorsts, Panzerschiffes, and Alaskas would all be considered capital ships. Of course, the Germans were restrained by the Treaty of Versailles when the Scharnhorsts were laid down.

This is a case where technology has outrun legal classifications. I don't think there can be much argument about the Scharnhorsts being battleships. That is what they were intended to be, and what they were classified as by their builders. When the Treaty was abrogated, the follow-on class, the Bismarcks were equipped with 15" guns.

The Panzerschiffes and Alaskas may be considered battleships or battlecruisers by treaty definition, but they were clearly not capable of holding their own against real battlecruisers or battleships. I think we may have to go back to an earlier time to more closely define them. They seem to me to fit the description of armored cruisers, or second-class battleships.

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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 1:41 pm 
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Lesforan wrote:
The Panzerschiffes and Alaskas may be considered battleships or battlecruisers by treaty definition, but they were clearly not capable of holding their own against real battlecruisers or battleships. I think we may have to go back to an earlier time to more closely define them. They seem to me to fit the description of armored cruisers, or second-class battleships.


Second class battleships would be my choice of terms, however, I think a battlecruiser can be considered a second class battleship. More speed, less armour, less or equal powerful guns compared to battleships of their time (Kongos and Hood for instance had battleship guns) and able to take on ships equal or smaller (namely heavy-cruisers) then them and be able to avoid battle lines with their speed....basically this was the definition of the battlecruiser. In the armoured cruiser category I would put the Deutschlands. Bit slow true (26 knots), bit over gunned compared to an 8'' cruiser, dimensions and tonnage almost similar to a Treaty cruiser and armour of an heavy cruiser.

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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 1:56 pm 
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Exactly.

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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 2:20 pm 
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Lesforan wrote:
I don't think there can be much argument about the Scharnhorsts being battleships. That is what they were intended to be, and what they were classified as by their builders.

Well, the problem with this logic is that the Alaska class were designed as cruisers. That is what they were intended to be, and what they were classified as by their builders. So if the logic mentioned above applies to the Scharnhorsts, why doesn't it apply to the Alaskas?

The Alaska class were designed as cruisers. They had 2 very distinctive features that applied only to US cruisers, and not to US battleships (or the Lexington class battlecruisers). First of all, the Alaska class had no torpedo bulkhead. US cruisers had no torpedo bulkheads, but US battleships of this era certainly did (as did the Lexington class). Was any battleship of this era built without a torpedo bulkhead? Secondly, the Alaska class had a floatplane hangar. US cruisers of this era had floatplane hangars (because they were intended to be used independently), while no US battleship had a floatplane hangar (since they would be operating with the fleet). The Alaska class were designed as cruisers, and were intended to be used as cruisers. Very large cruisers, but still cruisers. That is what they were intended to be, and what they were classified as by their builders.


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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 2:31 pm 
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just some dude wrote:
The Alaska class were designed as cruisers, and were intended to be used as cruisers. Very large cruisers, but still cruisers. That is what they were intended to be, and what they were classified as by their builders.


The official definition provided by the USN at the time for the Alaska was CB-1 which means large cruiser (i.e., Battle-cruiser). So basically they retain the title of battlecruisers. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau are quite similar to the Alaskas in terms I have mentioned on my previous posts. DKM classified them as Panzerschiffs.

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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 3:01 pm 
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Very interesting discussion! :thumbs_up_1:

Two things:

About the Scharnhorsts - the German navy only ever called them Panzerschiffe during the initial design process. After commissioning they were known as "Schlachtschiffe". Given that they had a thicker belt than the Bismarcks, that's probably understandable. I'd say they are fast battleships with a suboptimal armament.

About battlecruisers in principle - to me, one of the great problems here is that there is no solid definition of what a battlecruiser actually is. The original concept - having a ship with battleship guns but cruiser speed and armour - was the result of a very narrowly-defined purpose: hunting down armoured cruisers. In that, they were extremely successful. Already German WW1 BCs were in fact fast battleships, being simply faster equivalents of BBs, with similar protection at the expense of hitting power. With the advent of "fast" battleships, the battlecruiser really becomes a thing of the past - with ships like the Iowas or Vanguard being able to operate at or beyond 30 knots, a "true" battlecruiser would have to be a ship with a significant speed advantage, something capable of speeds in the 35-40 knot region.

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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 3:48 pm 
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JWintjes wrote:
With the advent of "fast" battleships, the battlecruiser really becomes a thing of the past - with ships like the Iowas or Vanguard being able to operate at or beyond 30 knots, a "true" battlecruiser would have to be a ship with a significant speed advantage, something capable of speeds in the 35-40 knot region.


A very good approach indeed. The battleship met development and passed from 20-22 knots to the 28-32 knots limit. The battleship saw a big boost in construction and development in the immediate years before WWII where the battlecruiser ceased to improve and exist in the early 20's. Most of the battlecruisers that survived WWI or built immediately after were either scrapped, converted to flattops (Courageous, Glorious, Furious, Akagi, Lexington and Saratoga) or saw some significant modernisation in the years to follow to be able to perform as "fast-battleships". The entire Kongo class was heavily reconstructed, Renown and Repulse were modernised though in different levels, Hood saw some upgrades but where never sufficient or applied in time. These remaining battlecruisers were probably the last and the best of their kind. They were strong ships even for contemporary battlecruisers of their time and many would have probably be built had the war not ended and the Washington Treaty created to cut down the navies building programmes. It is fair to say that the battlecruiser ceased to exist in the early 20's being survived only by some cases post-WWI and cases of "we-don't know-hot-to-classify-this ship" like the Scharnhorsts, Dunkerques and Alaskas.

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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 4:36 pm 
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JSD,

The American BB's lacked hangers, but that didn't mean they lacked aircraft. Contemporary German and Japanese battleships did carry both hangers and aircraft.

The carriage of aircraft has become almost universal in surface combatants.

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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 4:56 pm 
In regard to the interpretation of the Alaska class as capital units, therefore battlecruisers, because of the terms of various treaties is not a valid argument as their were no naval limitations in place when the Alaska class were designed and authorised, All treaties were abandoned at the start of WW2 in September 1939, there fore the categorisation that occurred due to the naval limitation treaties no longer applied. After 03 September 1939 the size of a ship or the guns that it carried were no longer a guide to the vessels classification - only the ships design characteristics matter and in the Alaska class these were cruiser characteristics.

The Scharnhosrt class were designed to capital unit standards, (as opposed to the Alaska class cruiser standards) and were built to conform with the treaties in place when they were authorised. Please look beyond the 11 and 12 inch guns to the complete designs.

The German Deuchtland style ships were cruisers using capital ship tonnage to get around the treaty of Versailles, and when WW2 started these ships were soon reclassified from panzerschiffs, (armoured ships) to heavy cruisers

Another bit of misinformation that gets around the web is that the German navy 1922-1936 was limited to a maximum of 11" guns. If you read the text of the Treaty of Versailles you will find no such limitation. It was for political reasons that the German initially retained the 11" guns. This included the Scharnhorst class - for which the original design studies had 6 x 15" guns, but was over-ruled by Hitler as he did not wish to encourage other navies to build heavier armed ships* before Germany was ready for a major naval expansion (*the British hoped to get a maximum of 12 or 13" guns in the 1936 London Treaty)

As I pointed out in an earlier post the USN which design built and used the Alaska class alway considered these ships to be cruisers - not battlecruisers and it is not up to latter-day history revisionists to decide they were wrong.

Quotes from the USN Historical centre website:

From http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/usnshtp/bb/bb.htm

"Though the Alaska class large cruisers (CB-1 through CB-6) of 1941 are actually part of the cruiser design lineage, some sources persist in (mistakenly) referring to them as "battle cruisers".

From http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/usns ... /cb1cl.htm

"As built, the Alaskas were much closer to cruisers in design than to battleships or battlecruisers. They lacked the multiple layers of compartmentation and special armour along the sides below the waterline that protected battleships against torpedos and underwater hits by gunfire. Other typical cruiser features in their design were the provision of aircraft hangars and the single large rudder."


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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 7:12 pm 
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Filipe Ramires wrote:
The official definition provided by the USN at the time for the Alaska was CB-1 which means large cruiser (i.e., Battle-cruiser). So basically they retain the title of battlecruisers.

The official USN designation for a battlecruiser was CC (Lexington, for example, was designated CC-1). The fact that the USN did NOT give the Alaska class a CC designation but instead went out of their way to create an entirely new category (CB) shows that the USN did NOT consider the Alaska class to be battlecruisers.

Ultimately of course, whatever you want to call these ships is not really important. They are what they are, which is bigger than a cruiser and smaller than a "Treaty" battleship. Most people seem content to call them battlecruisers. A rose by any other name…right?

But the point that I was trying to make is that if you look at the designs of these ships (especially in terms of the armor arrangements), you will see that Scharnhorst is built like a battleship (her armor scheme is much like Bismarck's, and not very much like, say, Prinz Eugen's), while Alaska was built like a cruiser (her armor scheme is far closer to Baltimore's than to any US battleship built during WW2). The fact that they ended up being similar sizes with similar guns and similar speed makes them look, well, similar!

Filipe Ramires wrote:
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau are quite similar to the Alaskas in terms I have mentioned on my previous posts. DKM classified them as Panzerschiffs.

Their original designation started out as Panzerschiff, but the final (much larger) design that was eventually built was designated Schlachtschiff.


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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 7:40 pm 
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Missouri and Alaska, side by side. Well, across the pier. The difference is a little more obvious.

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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 7:45 pm 
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Lesforan wrote:
As has been pointed out before in this thread, the Germans were limited by treaty to 11" guns at the time the Scharnhorsts were built. So if the Germans were to build battleships and comply with the treaty, 11" was the max.

Not quite. The panzerschiffe were limited to 11" guns. But, the Anglo-German accord that "legalized" the larger Scharnhorsts would have also allowed larger guns. However, the development of those guns would have delayed their completion, so the existing 11" was retained and the larger guns made available for the next class.
Lesforan wrote:
JSD, The American BB's lacked hangers, but that didn't mean they lacked aircraft. Contemporary German and Japanese battleships did carry both hangers and aircraft. The carriage of aircraft has become almost universal in surface combatants.

While true, that was not the point JSD was making. It was not the aircraft, it was the hangars. BB's had aircraft, but no hangars, because the battlefleet as a whole had many aircraft and a handful of unservicable planes would not seriously impact the fleet's ability to operate. Cruisers, on the other hand, often operated independently, and so needed every plane they had. Therefore, after the Pensacolas, all US cruisers that carried aircraft were equipped with hangars to protect them. That placed the Alaska's aircraft arrangements clearly withinin the cruiser requirement realm. Other cruiser features the Alaskas shared were the single rudder, the 5" gun arrangement, and the limitation to two MK-37 AA directors.
Filipe Ramires wrote:
The official definition provided by the USN at the time for the Alaska was CB-1 which means large cruiser (i.e., Battle-cruiser).

Not quite true. Under the US designation system "CC" was "battlecruiser". The CB designation was brand new and stood for "Cruiser - Big". (This paralleled the CVB designation, which although some people say it meant "Battle CV's", it actually was designated a "large" carrier, or a "CV-Big".) Had the Alaskas been intended as battlecruisers, no new designation would have been needed, they would have just used the existing "CC".

As for comparisons with the Scharnhorsts, the German ships had full BB armor. In fact, their side belt was slightly thicker than that on the Bismarcks. The Germans considered them to be BB's. The Alaskas make no pretense about having BB armor. Their immunity zone was calculated on the 60 degree target angle used for calculating the immunity zones of the US heavy and light cruisers, not the 90 degree target angle used for the US BB's.


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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 9:01 pm 
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Good points, Dick 3.

I've posted at length on this forum about the value of battleships as platforms for shore bombardment. In today's world, that would be their primary role (if any battleships remained in service). Surface engagements are now fought with weapons far beyond gun range.

For the role of the battleship in the 1950's, the Alaskas would have made fine replacements for the battleships. After all, there were no real battleships left to counter. The aircraft carrier was the true capital ship by then.

The RN got a lot of mileage from the threat posed by the Sverdlovs. But they were only light cruisers, based on a prewar Italian design. The Alaskas had them completely outclassed (except maybe in looks).

The real Soviet surface threat came later, from the Kirovs. By then the RN had expended their political capital by crying wolf over the Sverdlovs. The real strategic danger lay under the surface.

The role played by float planes on surface combatants has been passed on to helicopters and fixed-wing drones. The helicopters can provide an ASW capability and can replace some of the duties formerly handled by launches. The drones have come full circle in providing the recon role once provided by float planes.

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 Post subject: Re: USS Alaska - why?
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 9:11 pm 
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Russ,

That is a great picture! The size difference is pretty obvious when these two ships are seen side-by-side.

But to an observer in an airplane, the Alaska in the open sea could easily be mistaken for a battleship. The big clue for an Iowa-class ship is the elongated bow.
But I suppose a North Carolina-class or South Dakota-class ship would look very much like an Alaska from above.

Les

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