First Super Carrier – Forrestal Class

What would become the Forrestal class began as an outgrowth of the canceled United States and, even though the purpose had changed from pure nuclear strategic strike by a few large aircraft to a more general purpose design capable of performing tactical missions by a much larger air group of smaller aircraft, they were remarkably similar in appearance. In fact early photographs of models and artist conceptions of the two designs are nearly identical and the initial contract configuration closely resembled that of the earlier ship. The main outward difference was an enclosed “hurricane” bow. The design was to be flush decked with a retractable island, four stacks on the port and four on the starboard side designed to minimize the effects of exhaust gases on flight operations, and four deck-edge elevators: one on the starboard side between the retractable bridge and the stacks, two on the port side, and one at the stern. Four catapults were to be installed: two on the bow and one each in waist positions, port and starboard. Armament included pairs of 5″ gun mounts in sponsons at each quarter. As construction of the first ship proceeded, other developments in carrier design, such as the angled deck and steam catapults, were applied while the Forrestal was still on the building ways.

The idea of angling the landing area of a carrier flight deck was a simple, but revolutionary one that originated with the British. With the angled deck the traditional way of landing a carrier aircraft, a level approach with power cut to land, could be changed to a power on approach, which allowed pilots to touch down in the arresting gear and immediately apply full power to lift off and go around again if necessary. When the new jet aircraft were introduced after World War II, their jet engines required time to “spool up” to full power. A poor approach often meant hitting the barricades to prevent crashing into aircraft parked forward. During the Korean War the first generation of straight-winged jet aircraft, with their relatively slow approach speeds, could be accommodated with the existing straight deck carriers, but following the Korean War, as the second generation of swept-wing jets entered service, accident rates went up alarmingly. The U.S. Navy first began to give the angled deck serious consideration in 1951. In 1952 the Midway and Wasp were given superficial modifications to test the concept, and the Antietam, an un-modernized Essex-class carrier, was fitted with a true angled deck later that year; the first true angled deck landing was accomplished in 1953. As a result of the experience gained, the decision was made to modify the design of the Forrestal to accommodate the angled deck.

The hydraulic catapults used in previous carriers were approaching their design limits, and the U.S. Navy was considering alternative technologies to accommodate the growing weight of carrier aircraft. For the most efficient catapult stroke, nearly constant acceleration is desired and, given the length limits involved, the shorter the braking distance, the longer the power stroke can be. While the Americans worked on powder charge designs, the British worked on steam-powered, slotted-cylinder designs. The first full-scale steam catapult was installed on the HMS Perseus in 1950. A remarkable feature of this design was a water brake, which could bring a 5,000-pound catapult shuttle to a halt in only five feet.

The third British innovation leading to the success of the Forrestal design was the mirror landing system. To take advantage of the capabilities offered by the angled deck and the steam catapult, a new method of controlling aircraft as they came on board had to be developed. A landing signal officer (LSO) could only control one aircraft at a time, and the limitations of the human eye made control using paddles limited to no more than a half mile. The British system used a large mirror, concave about its horizontal axis, positioned alongside the landing area at the edge of the angled flight deck. The mirror pointed astern at the angle of the glide path and was mounted on gimbals connected to the ship’s fire control system, which was gyro stabilized. This allowed the mirror to compensate for any motion of the ship. Aft of the mirror a powerful light source was aimed at the mirror so that a cone of light was reflected back along the glide slope. The pilot would see a spot of light, the “ball,” when he flew in the middle of the beam. To position his aircraft more precisely, a horizontal row of datum lights was mounted on either side of the mirror. If the pilot was high on the glide path, the ball would appear above the reference lights, if too low, the ball was below the reference lights. Later, the mirror was replaced by a Fresnel lens and colors added to the ball, but the principle of the Optical Landing System (OLS) was the same.

The United States had been designed on the basis of having to operate a 100,000-pound jet that would succeed the AJ-1 Savage as a carrier-borne nuclear bomber. (In 1952 the U.S. detonated its first thermonuclear bomb. Shortly after the Korean armistice in 1953, the Russians also exploded what was thought to be a hydrogen bomb. Later, the earlier atomic weapons were included under the term “nuclear weapons” that came into general use.) As newer nuclear weapons were being developed that were smaller in size, the Bureau of Aeronautics selected the 70,000-pound Douglas A3D Skywarrior (later known as the A-3) as its heavy strike bomber, in 1949. With a smaller aircraft, a smaller carrier was possible. Even before the outbreak of the Korean War, Representative Carl Vinson, long a friend of the Navy, informally indicated that Congress might back a smaller carrier. He suggested a size limit of 60,000 tons and, even though no new plans were prepared, the Bureau of Ships (BuShips) continued studies about what design tradeoffs could be made to bring the carrier design under the 60,000-ton limit. These studies formed the basis of what would become the Forrestal class when approval for new carriers came through.

In July 1950, following the outbreak of the Korean War, Defense Secretary Johnson offered the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Sherman, a new carrier, and in October, Navy Secretary Matthews approved a revised Fiscal Year 1952 (FY52) shipbuilding budget that included the Forrestal. The Forrestal was initially laid down on 14 July 1952 as CVB-59 (the CVB designation standing for “large aircraft carrier” included the United States as CVB-58 and the  Midway-class carriers), and as the Forrestal’s keel was being laid, Congress authorized a second large carrier, the Saratoga. Another large carrier would be funded each year for the next five years. The Saratoga was included in the FY53 shipbuilding program, the Ranger in FY54, and the Independence in FY55. With the revival in support for aircraft carriers came a redesignation to reflect their mission rather than size. The new ship (along with the Midway-class CVBs and the Essex-class CV ships and the mothballed Enterprise) were reclassified as CVA “attack aircraft carriers” on 1 October 1952. From FY52 onward, construction of a new carrier every year was a major Navy goal. The Joint Chiefs of Staff adopted goal for a 12-carrier force for FY52, which was increased to 14 in 1952. Ultimately a peacetime level of 15 carriers was established.

As the first carrier laid down after World War II to be completed, Forrestal had a standard displacement of 60,000 tons, 76,600 tons full load. (Displacement is the actual weight of the ship, since a floating body displaces its own weight in water. Full load displacement includes the weight of the ship with all fuel and stores on board.) With an overall length of 1,039 feet, Forrestal was also the largest carrier built up to that time (except for the short lived Japanese Shinano of World War II), and was the first to be specifically designed to accommodate jet aircraft. Compared to a modernized Essex-class carrier, the Forrestal had significantly greater capacities: 70 percent greater ship fuel (2.5 million gallons vs. 1.5 million), 300 percent more aviation fuel (1.3 million gallons vs. 440,000), 154 percent more aviation ordnance (1,650 tons vs. 650) and 15 percent more nuclear weapons storage (150 tons vs. 130). As a result of the Forrestal’s capabilities, there was a remarkable improvement in the effectiveness of air operations, allowing for rapid aircraft turnaround and increased safety. Studies determined that her size and design allowed her to operate 96 percent of the year compared to 60 percent for an Essex-class carrier, and aircraft accident rates were reduced by half.

Propulsion was provided by a 260,000 shaft horsepower (shp) steam-turbine plant with four shafts, four steam turbines, and eight Babcock & Wilcox boilers capable of driving her at 33 knots. The Forrestal, as first ship in her class, had a 600 pounds per square inch (psi) plant, but all subsequent ships had 1,200 psi systems that provided 280,000 shp. (The 1,200 psi boiler systems were introduced in 1954 and offered higher efficiency, reduced weight, smaller volume, and simplified maintenance over the 600 psi systems of World War II vintage.)

The Forrestal-class carriers were armed with eight Mark 42 5″/54 caliber automatic, dual-purpose (air/surface target) gun mounts, two to a sponson on each quadrant. They were usually controlled remotely from a Mark 68 Gun Fire Control System, or locally from the mount at the One Man Control (OMC) station. (In U.S. naval gun terminology, 5″/54 indicates a gun that fires a projectile five inches in diameter and the barrel is 54 calibers long, i.e., the barrel length is 5″ × 54 = 270″.) The self-loading gun mounts each weighed about 60 tons, including two drums under the mount holding 40 rounds of semi-fixed case type ammunition (the projectile and the charge are separate). The maximum rate of fire was 40 rounds per minute; the maximum range was about 13 nautical miles, and the maximum altitude was about 50,000 feet. As threats from aircraft and missiles grew, these weapons were less effective and were later removed and replaced in most cases by Mark 29 NATO Sea Sparrow missile launchers and Mark 15 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) gun mounts. The forward sponsons also created slamming effects in rough weather that reduced speed because of the spray. Most of the forward 5″ mounts were removed in the 1960s and the sponsons were either removed or redesigned.

Previous American carrier design philosophy called for the hangar deck to be the main strength deck and the flight deck to be superstructure above it. In U.S. naval parlance, the hangar deck was the first deck and the decks immediately below it were the second, third, etc. Above the hangar deck were “levels,” the forecastle deck being the “01” level, the gallery deck the “02” level, and the flight deck the “03” level. In both the Essex and Midway classes this resulted in a hangar deck clearance height of 17’6.” The sides of the hangar were kept open for maximum ventilation to allow aircraft to warm up on the hangar deck. In the Essex class, the armor protection was provided mainly by the armored hangar deck; in the Midway class, the flight deck was also protected by armor. In the Forrestal and later classes, the supporting structure of the ship sides went all the way up to the flight deck, which became the main strength deck as well as providing armor protection. The flight deck was now at the “04” level, resulting in a hangar clearance height of 25 feet. Since the sides of the ship hull were part of the load-bearing structure, the large openings in the hull sides for the deck edge elevators had to be carefully designed so as not to weaken the hull.

The hangar itself had two sets of sliding bulkheads that could close off the hangar deck into three bays to contain blast and fires. There were two 25-man air crew ready rooms on the gallery deck to allow air crew to scramble to the forward and waist catapults, a 60-man room in the gallery amidships next to the Combat Information Center (CIC) and four large ready rooms (two 60-man and two 45-man) under the hangar deck with escalators to provide access to the gallery deck.

The change in design to include a large island superstructure solved many problems posed by the flush deck design with its smoke pipes for stack gases and retractable bridge and electronic masts. The electronic suite on the new island included a large SPS-8 height finder radar atop a pedestal on the wheelhouse and a massive pole mast carrying an SPS-12 air search radar with a Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) beacon at its top. A second large pole mast carried electronic countermeasures (ECM) antennas. These masts were both hinged so that they could be folded down (the larger center mast folded to port and rested on the flight deck while the smaller mast folded aft) for passage under the Brooklyn Bridge, which was a requirement for major naval ships at the time in order to have access to the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn. An SPN-8 carrier-controlled approach (CCA) radar was mounted on the aft end of the island.

Both the Forrestal and Saratoga were built with two C-7 steam catapults on the bow forward and two C-11 catapults on the port angled deck sponson. The C-7 was a high capacity slotted-cylinder catapult originally designed to use powder charges and was redesigned as a steam catapult based on the success of the British steam catapults. The original version used 600 psi steam because of the limitations of the Forrestal’s propulsion plant. Later versions used 1,200 psi steam. The C-11 was the first U.S. steam catapult and was based on the British BXS-1 system, but with higher steam pressure. When the C-11 catapult that was to be on the starboard sponson in the original flush deck design was moved to the port side of the angled deck, it created a problem in that, for structural reasons, the tracks of the two catapults had to be close together. Operationally, this meant that aircraft could be positioned on the waist catapults at the same time, but could not be launched simultaneously. Later ships of the Forrestal class, the Ranger and Independence, were equipped with four C-7 catapults.

The arresting gear on a carrier sets limits on aircraft performance as much as flight deck size and catapult capacity. The Forrestal-class carriers were fitted with Mark 7 systems, which were improvements over the World War II vintage Mark 4 and postwar Mark 5 designs and capable of stopping a 50,000-pound aircraft (up to 60,000 pounds in an emergency) at 105 knots (121 mph).19 When the design was changed from an axial deck to an angled deck this allowed for a reduction in the number of cross deck pendants, which reduced the number of arresting gear engines required, saving both weight and space. Originally there were six pendants, but this was later reduced to four.

There are many stages in the life of a warship from an approved design to a commissioned vessel. In the mid-1950s, when the Forrestal and her sisters were built, there were a number of commercial shipyards, as well as Navy Yards, capable of building such major warships as aircraft carriers. Although many components of the ship may have been brought together and assembled beforehand, the laying of the keel is the symbolic formal recognition of the start of a ship’s construction. Launching is the point when the ship enters the water for the first time and, by tradition, the ship is christened with the breaking of a bottle of champagne across the bow as the ship slides down the building ways with a splash. About 12 to 18 months before the ship is to be delivered to the Navy, the pre-commissioning crew (sailors who will eventually crew the ship) are selected and ordered to the ship. The balance of the crew typically arrives shortly before delivery. Sea trials are an intense series of tests to show that the performance of the ship meets the Navy’s requirements and to demonstrate that all of the equipment installed on board is functioning properly. New construction ships will also undergo builder’s trials and acceptance trials prior to delivery, when the official custody of the ship is turned over from the shipyard to the Navy. The commissioning ceremony marks the acceptance of a ship as an operating unit of the Navy, and with the hoisting of the ship’s commissioning pennant, the ship comes alive as the crew ceremonially mans the ship. Thereafter the ship is officially referred to as a United States Ship (USS).

The Forrestal was ordered from the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Newport News, Virginia, while the Saratoga was ordered from the New York Naval Shipyard in New York (commonly referred to locally as the Brooklyn Navy Yard). Apart from the 1,200 psi power plants and some other detail changes, the two ships were very similar in appearance. The Ranger and Independence that followed were of the same basic design, but among the most noticeable of the changes were their enclosed sterns compared to the “notched” sterns of the first two ships. The Ranger had forward gun sponsons that were of a different shape than those on the Forrestal and Saratoga and she retained these sponsons when her forward 5″ guns were removed. She had an all welded aluminum elevator on the port side, unlike the steel structures of the other Forrestal-class ships. Also, because the angle of the after end on the flight deck was changed slightly, her overall length increased to 1,046 feet. The Ranger was built at Newport News and the Independence at the New York Navy Yard. In order to expedite her construction, the Ranger was started in a smaller drydock and about four months later her partially completed hull was floated to the larger drydock where the Forrestal had been built. The Independence began construction in one drydock with her stem toward the head of the dock to allow material to be delivered over a truck ramp from the head of the dock to the hangar deck at the stern. The island and sponsons were not installed to avoid interference with a traveling overhead crane. She was also moved to another drydock for final construction.

The Forrestal was launched at Newport News on 11 December 1954, sponsored by Josephine Forrestal, the widow of Defense Secretary Forrestal, and was commissioned on 1 October 1955. Just before her commissioning, the construction cost of the Forrestal was estimated to be $218 million. As other ships followed, the growing costs of constructing and operating such large vessels would become the center of debate both within the Navy and the Defense Department. From her home port in Norfolk, the Forrestal spent her first year “working up” in intensive training operations off the Virginia Capes and in the Caribbean, often operating out of Mayport, Florida. As the first of her breed, an important part of this process was training aviators to use her advanced facilities. In November 1956 she left Mayport to operate in the eastern Atlantic during the Suez Crisis, ready to enter the Mediterranean if necessary and returned to Norfolk in December. In January 1957 she sailed for her first of many deployments with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.




Payne’s well-known contemporary engraving was described as a `True Portrait of His Majesty’s ship the Sovereign of the Seas’. The playwright Thomas Heywood, who designed much of the decoration (actually carved by John and Matthias Christmas), described her ornate carvings as `gilded quite over, and no other colour but gold and black to be seen about her’. He continued, `She hath three flush decks and a forecastle, an halfe deck, a quarter deck and a round house. Her lower tyre [tier] hath thirty ports, which are to be furnished with demi-cannon and whole cannon, throughout being able to beare them; her middle tyre hath also thirty ports for demi-culverin and whole culverin; her third tyre hath twentie sixe ports for other ordnance; her forecastle hath twelve ports, and her halfe deck hath fourteen ports; she hath thirteen or fourteen ports more within board for murdering pieces, besides a great many loope-holes out of the cabins for musket shot. She carrieth moreover, ten pieces of chase ordnance in her right forward and ten right aft, according to lande service in the front and reare.’ [NMMA6719]

Just as the Prince Royal had been the prestige vessel of James I’s reign, in 1634 Charles I sought to enhance his standing by commissioning the largest warship yet built. In January 1635 he instructed Phineas Pett, the builder of the Prince Royal, to travel to the north of England to procure suitable timber to build a new Great Ship at Woolwich. Having the materials secured, and the frames cut and shipped in colliers from Newcastle and Sunderland, in May the King then asked Pett to undertake the construction, but Phineas handed over the leading role to his son Peter, who had been born just six weeks prior to the launch of the Prince Royal.

Between them, father and son designed a monster vessel which far overshadowed anything that had been built previously, capable of carrying 90 heavy brass guns on three continuous flush decks – 20 cannon-of-seven and 8 demi-cannon on her lower deck, 30 culverins on her second tier (middle deck), and 28 demi-culverins on the third tier (upper deck), with another 4 demi-culverins on the partial decks above. Even this failed to satisfy Charles, who demanded – a year after her launch – that his new flagship should bear more than a hundred guns to reinforce his claims to sovereignty over the neighbouring seas (her chosen name precisely demonstrated his purpose), so the Petts added a dozen extra demi-culverins on the quarterdeck and forecastle to satisfy him. The keel was laid on 21 December 1635.

In appearance, the ship still retained some characteristics of the Tudor galleon. While dispensing with the obsolete fourth (or bonaventure mizzen) mast, she still had an additional level aft – a half-deck, intermediate between her upper deck and quarterdeck. Moreover, she retained, as completed, the long low beak structure forward, typical of the galleon.

The Sovereign of the Seas was undoubtedly the first English ship designed to carry three full tiers of guns, and the Prince Royal was certainly a three-decker in the structural sense (even if she carried relatively few guns on her upper deck), but neither was the world’s first. There is evidence of earlier three-deckers built abroad: Sir Walter Ralegh, for example, described a Spanish three-decker called the Philip which he engaged in action off the Azores in 1591 as carrying ‘three tier of ordnance on a side, and eleven pieces in everie tier’.

Immediately following the launch of the Sovereign of the Seas in October 1637, Peter Pett commenced a rebuilding of the Prince Royal While it was not structurally possible to enlarge her much, she was able to carry a greater number of guns (initially 64, a figure which grew further over the years, as more guns were fitted on her upper deck and above). In this form, and renamed Resolution, she served as the flagship of the Commonwealth naval forces in several of the battles of the First Anglo-Dutch War of 1652–54, the larger Sovereign (the full version of the name was dropped in 1650) being under repair at Chatham at the start of that conflict. In 1651 the Sovereign had been considered to be crank (top-heavy), and so her superstructure was cut down to improve her stability, with the topgallant poop being entirely removed. The shipwrights’ recommendation (modernising the archaic spelling and punctuation) reads:

First, as to the Sovereign, we conceive that – to make her more serviceable than now she is – the gratings and the upper deck in the midships be taken down, that the side [be] lowered to the upper edge of the ports in the midships; the upper stateroom to be taken away, the forecastle to be lowered to six feet high, and the works abaft be taken down proportionately to the mast and answerable to the sheer of the work fore and aft; the half deck [to be] shortened as shall be convenient, as also the head to be made shorter and so fitted for the sea; and the galleries to be altered as may be comely and most convenient for service.

Recommissioned in time for the outbreak of war against the Dutch, the Sovereign took a severe pounding at the Battle of the Kentish Knock, and grounded towards the end of the action. Limping back to harbour, she spent the rest of that war out of service.



This highly detailed model of the Lowestoffe, launched in 1761, represents Sir Thomas Slade’s final thoughts on the 12pdr 32-gun frigate. The hull form was developed from that of a French prize, the more upright stem and sternpost being obvious features, but the midship section is more difficult to appreciate in a photograph. The French employed a characteristic transverse shape with sharp angles at the ends of the floors and around the load waterline, combined with excessive tumblehome (the curving in of the topsides), but it is notable that the British avoided the extreme versions of this ‘two-turn bilge’, preferring more rounded versions with less tumblehome. In Lowestoffe Slade produced a very fast ship, but she was only a slight improvement over his already excellent Niger class.

The Niger class was a notable improvement over the first two 32-gun designs, but the principal advantage was in the hull form, which is not easy to appreciate in this model of Winchelsea. What is more obvious is the hawse brought in on the upper deck, with a round bow and a lighter and more raised head as a consequence. Although there are still only thirteen broadside gunports, there is a chase port right forward, presumably to replace a position firing over the beakhead bulkhead. One minor problem with the round bow was that the catbeam (connecting and supporting the catheads that had been fitted across the top of the beakhead bulkhead) had to be replaced by angled extensions run under the forecastle beams so they did not obstruct the deck. Apart from the carriage guns, these ships were issued with twelve ½pdr swivel guns, and their stocks can be seen above gunports 1, 3, 12 and 13; they could also be fitted in the fighting tops.

The First 12-pounder Frigates

The Unicorn and Lyme set a number of important administrative precedents: first, that the Admiralty could depart from the Establishment if it felt the need; second, that it could determine the design (by insisting that a particular model be copied); and third, by extrapolation, that in future there would always be more than one source of design. Henceforth, there were always to be at least two Surveyors during wartime, and when there was only a single incumbent, he was supported by a highly regarded Assistant Surveyor who was clearly seen as a full Surveyor-in-waiting. In this case, the comparative principle was honoured by allowing Acworth and Allin, the two Surveyors in post, to design their own alternatives to the French-derived pair, equally untrammelled by Establishment restrictions. Both the resulting Seahorse from Acworth and Allin’s Mermaid were a conceptual halfway house between the old 24s and the new frigate form – they had no gunports on the lower deck but, having much the same headroom between decks, the height of side was not significantly reduced, and being shorter than the Unicorns, they did not perform so well. When the time came to build more Sixth Rates in 1755, there was no debate about which model to chose, and two slightly modified Unicorns were ordered. Now rated 28s, this type became the standard light cruiser for over two decades.

In the interim a parallel argument was developing about the Navy’s heavy cruiser, the two-decker 44-gun ship. As early as 1747 the Navy Board was fending off suggestions that a frigate-form ship would be preferable, arguing – as they had in defence of the three-decker 80 – that multiple decks made them better fighting ships: there was more room on the gundecks to work the guns, and the crews were better protected than those on the long exposed quarterdecks and forecastles of frigates. They were prepared to admit that, being taller and more heavily built, British 44s were not such good sailers, but they denied that they could not open the lower deck ports in any sort of seaway – their lower tier could be opened in ‘any fighting weather’ and their battery of twenty 18pdrs was superior to the thirty 12pdrs proposed. Furthermore, as these two-deckers were often convoy escorts as well as cruisers their defensible qualities were as important as speed under sail.

As so often, France took the lead by building the Hermione, the first 12pdr frigate, in 1748, and thereafter no more French two-decker 40s were ordered. However, there was clearly a degree of uncertainty about the ideal size, armament, and even design features, of the new type. The first ship, measuring 811 tons by British calculation, had an unusually deep hull, with six ports on the lower deck when captured in 1758 (although none was armed; the ship may have been built with oar ports on this deck) and a main battery of twenty-six 12pdrs. The next ship was rather smaller with only twenty-four guns, while the two after that were far larger and carried thirty 12pdrs. There was never to be a remotely standard French 12pdr frigate, although a typical ship would measure about 900 tons and carry twenty-six 12pdrs and six 6pdrs on the quarterdeck.

By contrast the Royal Navy knew exactly what it wanted from its first 12pdr frigates, the specification being ships of about 650 tons and a battery of twenty-six 12pdrs; the dimensions did not vary by more than about 10 per cent during the three decades such ships were built. The disparity in size was partly the product of the typical British policy of building the smallest viable unit (so the maximum number could be built for any given budget), but in any case the true comparison is not with the handful of 12pdr ships France built before 1764 but the substantial numbers of large but 8pdr-armed frigates that formed the core of the French frigate force during the Seven Years War.

By 1755 both Acworth and Allin were dead and had been replaced by joint Surveyors of a far younger generation in Thomas Slade and William Bately. Following the new comparative policy, each was set to produce a draught to the same general specification for a 32-gun ship of about 125ft on the gundeck. Bately, a competent but unoriginal thinker, produced a slightly longer, narrower and shallower hull form based on a long-established fast-sailing tradition preserved in the yacht Royal Caroline but ultimately derived from Lord Danby’s work at the beginning of the century. His Richmond was a modest success, despite not being as fast as expected, and six ships were built to this draught during the war; astonishingly, the design was revived in 1804 for a further eight ships when it was decidedly obsolescent, although it has to be said that at the time a small, cheap design was politically expedient.

Slade, who by both contemporary and historical judgement was to become the best British ship designer of the century, did not excel with his first frigate class. Apparently a genuinely ab initio design based on no existing model, the Southampton class were strong, good sea-boats and performed well in heavy weather, but lacked speed. However, Slade’s most notable characteristic as a designer was a constant search for improvement, a self-critical faculty manifest in the many alterations to be found on his draughts. Often the advance was incremental – as seen in the many variants on his standard 74-gun ship classes – but in this case he took an entirely different starting point, developing the lines from the Tygre-derived 28s for the next class. As alternatives, he had offered the Admiralty an improved Southampton or a hull based on the extreme French form of the Amazon, the 20-gun Panthère captured in 1746, but as he was called to the Admiralty to discuss the options, it is highly likely that the final decision was largely based on his own preference. It was a good choice: the resulting Niger design provided the best British 12pdr class and, in terms of fitness for purpose, probably the best frigates of the Seven Years War. They were fast, weatherly, very handy and strongly built; more of them (eleven) were ordered than any other design, and it is entirely appropriate that when Lord Sandwich commissioned a spectacular structural model he chose one of these to be the subject. The Winchelsea model [SLR0339], complete on the starboard side but with the port side unplanked to reveal how such ships were built, was presented to George III in 1774 as part of Sandwich’s campaign to interest the King in his navy.

All the demands that were to be placed on heavier frigates during the war were met, and with total satisfaction, by the 12pdr 32; but before this became clear there were a couple of trials with more powerful ships. In July 1756 three enlarged Southamptons were ordered as the Pallas class and rated as 36-gun ships. At around 720 tons, they were about 11 per cent larger (and because costs were calculated on a £ per ton basis, more expensive pro rata) yet they offered only four extra 6pdrs by way of firepower benefit over the standard 32. No more 12pdr 36s were ever ordered.

More radical was an attempt to find out if Slade could make an acceptable cruiser out of the two-decker 44, the single example being launched as the Phoenix in 1759. Longer and narrower than its 1745 Establishment predecessors, this ship was the only 44 built during the Seven Years War, so even the advantage of an 18pdr main battery was not considered valuable at this time.

By 1757 Slade enjoyed the complete confidence of the Admiralty and was allowed considerable autonomy over ship design, totally eclipsing Bately in the process. He was permitted to build a frigate on extreme French principles – ‘stretching’ the Tygre hull form by 10ft and using very lightweight framing – and the resulting 32-gun Tweed showed all the advantages and disadvantages of the French philosophy: she was fast, very wet, tender (lacking stability) and short-lived. It was almost as though Slade was providing his masters at the Admiralty with an object lesson in how to prioritise their requirements.

Slade’s final contributions to frigate design had a curious provenance. In 1757 the Navy had captured a very large 950-ton ‘frigate’ constructed in Quebec. Everything about this ship was strange – including her name, L’Abenakise, which the English tried to render as Bon Acquis or Bien Acquis, although she actually celebrated the Abenaki tribe, one of the principal Indian allies of French Canada. The ship herself, though new-built, was a demi-batterie ship, like the purpose-designed commerce-raiders of half a century earlier, with eight 18pdrs on the lower deck and twenty-eight 12s above. Despite the anachronistic layout, Slade inspected the ship and, ‘approving very much of the form of her body’, suggested that she would provide the model for an improved frigate design. Slade’s enthusiasm was so infectious that the Admiralty ordered draughts prepared for five new classes, from a 74 to a sloop. This required a further lesson for Their Lordships on the difficulty of simply scaling a set of lines up or down, but the resulting designs utilised the principles of the French form and were described as ‘nearly similar to the Aurora’, as the prize had been renamed.

Both new frigate designs, the 28-gun Mermaid and the 32-gun Lowestoffe were slightly larger than existing ships but not the radical improvement Slade had hoped for.

Japanese Submarines WWII Missed Opportunities?!

The submarines of the Japanese Navy consisted of some of the most capable in the world at the beginning of World War II. All the submarines built from the outset for operations in the war significantly outranged the submarines of the Allies navies. The range advantage provided the ability to operate at extreme distance from home port or maintain a long on-station time in a given area. Subsequently, the Japanese were able to apply their influence further and longer than other submarine forces. Along with the superior operational reach of the submarines, excellent torpedoes were provided that had a long range and powerful warheads.

The Japanese technological advantage did not wane during the course of the war. It diverged to three different branches: large, small, and fast. The Japanese used their skill to build the largest submarines in the world (Sen Toku Type) as well as some of the most capable small submarines (kaiten and other midgets). Most impressive of all of their designs, however, is the Sen Taka Sho Type medium attack submarine that had an acceptable cruising range coupled with outstanding underwater speed. Had more of these submarines reached operational status earlier, the American forces would have had a unique foe on their hands.

Even with the technological advantages of their designs, the Japanese submarines did suffer from a lack of resources that placed limits on the number of submarines that could be built and on the timeliness of the build process. Also, the Japanese did have a significant delay in developing and installing radar on their submarines. While it was a deficiency, it would not have had significant influence if the focus on operational security had been stronger.

The training of Japanese submarine crews was without equal. The submarines spent long periods of time out at sea constantly practicing elements of the plan for a decisive battle. The intense training periods had such a level of realism that three submarines were lost in prewar training accidents. The training was not without fault however. The overarching focus on the submarine role in the “decisive battle” limited the growth of submarine force capabilities. The overall training gave minimal consideration to key aspects of submarine operations: surveillance, commerce raiding, and sea control (area denial).

Based on the mystique of the German Submarine Force and the results of the American Submarine Force, it would be easy to jump to the idea that had the Japanese Submarine Force strictly applied a strategy of commerce raiding it would have had a greater impact on the war in the Pacific. This argument is too simplistic and discounts the enemy that each respective country was targeting. Japan and Britain, as targets of America and Germany respectively, were island countries dependent on long lines of communication for necessary resources and forces to fight the war. These lines were vulnerable to the focus of intense submarine efforts. Both America (in the Pacific) and Germany were also faced with the lack of a strong surface fleet to conduct offensive operations. The Germans were held in port by a combination of factors, and the American Pacific Fleet was attempting to rebuild after Pearl Harbor. As such, commerce raiding against fragile lines of communication was their only recourse.

The Japanese faced a far different situation at the outset of the war. They had built a large fleet focused on a single strategy. They had a single opponent to be concerned with and that same opponent did not have the immediate ability to attack their nation. The Pacific Ocean provided a strategic safety buffer from American forces. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor reduced the effective combat power of the American Fleet and put them immediately in a defensive posture. The American Navy was not altogether prepared to face the Japanese and an early focus on commerce raiding would have not been able to have an influence similar to that which the American submarines achieved. The Japanese, for all of their superiority in submarine technology, would not have been able to influence the American East Coast. While forces could be moved to act against the West Coast, the force size was too small to carry out effective operations to limit commerce or other operations on the East Coast. Further, there was no method to influence the natural resources available in America proper.

While the focus on a single decisive battle that was unattainable was short-sighted, the understanding that the Japanese Navy needed to focus on American military strength was not improper. The submarine force, as well as the rest of the Navy, was constructed for naval engagement not commerce raiding. The true failure of the force was not to focus its efforts on the opportunities that presented themselves. Pearl Harbor, Midway and Guadalcanal all presented themselves as opportunities for potentially decisive actions. In all three actions, the number of American aircraft carriers available in the Pacific was limited and the ability of the American Navy to conduct continued combat operations was at risk. The Japanese submarine force, based on direction from the Navy Staff, scattered its units to various other theaters away from the major battles, mainly the Aleutians and Indian Ocean.

Had the Japanese submarine force maintained the full cordon around Pearl Harbor after the 7 December attack, they could have effectively maintained ten or more submarines on station continuously when based out of Kwajalein. The size of the Japanese submarine force (capitalizing on significant operational range of the large designs) could have significantly slowed the resupply and rebuilding of Pearl Harbor and denied the American Navy its last key strategic outpost in the Pacific forcing them to extend their lines of communication and operation for any effort against the Japanese a few thousand more miles all the way back to the American West Coast. American operations from the West Coast would have been more vulnerable to the Japanese fleet.

An effective blockade of Pearl Harbor had the potential to expose it to an amphibious invasion which would have further challenged the American ability to recover from the initial attacks and generate offensive initiative.

Had the Japanese submarine force applied the principles of mass and unity of effort to their employment of forces at Midway and Guadalcanal, the operational submarine units in the areas of these battles would have been tripled posing a far greater risk to the American forces. The larger number of units at Midway would have increased the opportunity of early detection of American forces, specifically the aircraft carriers, potentially allowing the Japanese carriers to focus their effort against the American task forces prior to attacking Midway proper. This employment would have more closely met the training that the submarine force underwent during the interwar period potentially raising effectiveness as well.

The Japanese submarine force continued to deny the principle of mass in operations during the American invasion of Guadalcanal. Submarines were still deployed to various marginally important areas rather than the area of Guadalcanal. The small number of submarines assigned to the Guadalcanal area was further diverted from the potential decisive battle by being tasked to conduct supply operations instead of attempting to thwart the invasion and buildup. The respect shown by the American forces for the submarine threat could have been taken advantage of by a larger effort focused on them. Instead, the opportunity to stall the American advance in the South Pacific was given little direct attention while effort was applied to meaningless supply operations and Aleutian and Indian Ocean excursions.

Even as the opportunity for the handful of critical battles passed and the Japanese were placed firmly on the defensive, proper employment of the submarines could have still brought considerable results. The Japanese submarine force consistently showed the ability to complete complicated approaches and attack challenging targets. The sinking of Yorktown at Midway and Wasp at Guadalcanal are proof that the prewar training and exercise experience developed a skilled force that could find success in operations against a determined opponent. Had the Japanese focused their effort against the American offensive, the submarine force had the ability to influence operations. Unfortunate choices to hinder the submarines’ tactical freedom limited their influence as the Americans advanced through the Central and Western Pacific.

The final, and most perplexing, failure of the Japanese submarine force was its inability to learn and adapt to the conduct of the war. From Pearl Harbor through the operations in the Marianas in 1944, Japanese submarines were employed in rigid scouting lines and consistently failed to intercept and report on American fleet movements. Not until the force had suffered the loss of even more submarines in the Marianas did the staff shift their employment to patrol areas where the boats would be able to more freely search for targets. That late in the war, the shift was meaningless. Because the force was so decimated, there were not sufficient boats available to mount a solid defense of the Philippines. The employment of scouting lines failed in every instance that it had been used. The lines were not maintained intact around Pearl Harbor to maintain the cordon.

They were late to take station and then moved without an overriding plan or effect at Midway. They were haphazardly strung around the Solomons, Gilberts, Marshalls and Marianas and shifted without operational thought. Only late in the war were submarines released to freely stalk for prey. At this point the force size was too small to have any influence. Submarines were regularly removed from offensive or defensive operations to support grandiose airborne reconnaissance or nuisance strike missions. Submarines were committed en masse to both K Operations as well as reconnaissance and strike flights over Ulithi. The bombings had little effect. The support of reconnaissance missions, by acting as refueling platforms or navigational aids, discounted the ability of the submarines to do the jobs themselves. The submarine force had provided the first photographic intelligence of the results of Pearl Harbor as well as prescient intelligence of preparations at Midway, but the opportunity for later use of submarines as the primary operator in this key role was ignored.

The Japanese submarine force was undoubtedly a technologically superior force at the outset of the war. They were highly trained and well organized to support a distinct form of battle. The training and experience gained in interwar exercises provided a force that was ready to directly face the American Navy. The planning and execution of the war strategy failed to capitalize on the specific skill set of the submarines that were available. Had the submarines been employed as anything more than an adjunct force supporting other efforts, they could have exerted a strong influence and produced costly losses for the American Navy opening the Pacific to further Japanese operations.

The Japanese submarine force was uniquely prepared for operations against enemy combatants and did not need to resort to commerce raiding to have an influence. In fact the early successes of the Japanese Navy made commerce raiding unnecessary. Unfortunately, the Japanese did not capitalize on early successes by maintaining their forces forward and massed for further strikes against American forces. Once the paradigm of the Pacific War changed to a protracted conflict with American forces operating on extended lines of communication, the Japanese failed to adjust their employment strategy and shift to concerted commerce raiding efforts. The failure to learn from the experiences of the German and American submarines as the face of war changed left the Japanese unprepared to have any influence as the war came to an end.
Properly employed, the Japanese submarine force could have been the key to a very different war. Instead, their misemployment only aided in allowing the quick rebuilding of American forces due to their industrial dominance. As such, the actions of Japanese submarines only became footnotes to most major naval battles in the Pacific Ocean.

HMS Havant at Dunkirk

British destroyer HMS Havant (H32) stopped. 3 May 1940

HMS ‘Havant’ off Dunkirk, May 1940

The third and final Royal Navy destroyer loss at Dunkirk of 1 June was Havant, Lieutenant-Commander Anthony Burnell-Nugent. Beginning on 29 May, Havant made four runs across the Channel. On her first she left Dover at 1815. By 0900 she was off Braye beach. She returned to Dover at 0400 next morning and put ashore five hundred French troops. She put to sea in the early hours of the 3rd with orders to embark troops from a beach to the east of Dunkirk. By 1700 that evening she arrived at Dover with a thousand troops. She then sailed for Dunkirk and by 2145 was alongside taking on more troops. It took only 30 minutes to hurry on board a thousand soldiers. At 0230, 1 June, they were going ashore at Dover. Havant then cleared harbour for a return to Dunkirk, arriving at 0730 at the same berth as before.

At 0800 an intense aerial bombardment began at Dunkirk. Troops were arriving at the jetty at such a slow rate that it took half an hour to embark fifty. During this phase the Ivanhoe, just outside the harbour and loaded with troops, was hit amidships. Havant cast off and went to her aid. She put alongside Ivanhoe at 0840 and began transferring troops and wounded. As Philip Hadow, Ivanhoe’s captain, hoped to get underway very shortly, he refused a tow. Havant at full speed set off for Dover.

While proceeding down channel and parallel to the beach west of Dunkirk, Havant came under shore gunfire, high and low-level bombing, and intense dive-bombing. Havant was zigzagging as much as the width of the channel would permit when at 0906 she was hit in the engine room by two bombs which tore two holes (one with a diameter of 6 feet and the other of 3 feet) on the starboard side of the engine room just above the water-line. Almost immediately afterwards a large bomb dropped about 50 yards ahead. This bomb had a delay action and exploded directly beneath Havant as she passed over it, momentarily giving the impression of lifting the whole ship. By this time the engineer officer and all the ERAs had been either killed or wounded. The after ready-use ammunition lockers had blown up, causing many casualties among the soldiers on the upper deck.

Out of control Havant steamed ahead. She had taken on a gradual turn to starboard and this sent her towards sand-banks opposite Dunkirk. It was impossible to enter the engine room to stop this ship. As the cut-off valve on the upper deck was bent and broken the only method of stopping was to let the steam out of the boilers. The chief stoker was able to do this, despite there being a fire in one of the boiler rooms. Havant was eventually brought up in four fathoms by the starboard anchor. Signals for assistance were made to the minesweeper Saltash and a large yacht. Both vessels came alongside, one on each quarter, and the transfer of troops was undertaken. Bombing throughout the proceedings was almost continuous. A tow was passed between Saltash and Havant. Towing was taken up at slow speed.

Havant’s list to port increased sufficiently for her captain to call alongside another vessel, the Aegair, so as to transfer the crew, with the exception of his officers and twenty ratings. About this time Havant was attacked by heavy bombers. A group of bombs entered the sea very close to Havant’s port quarter, causing further damage. With the port side of the upper deck almost awash, the seaworthiness of Havant was getting worst by the minute. Following a brief conference with some of his officers, Burnell-Nugent decided to abandon ship. The tow was slipped and Aegair went alongside. Those of the ship’s company remaining were transferred. As at this time Havant was in an area of deep water, her magazines were flooded to ensure her sinking before she could drift on to a sandbank. Saltash fired several rounds into Havant to hasten the end. At 1015 Havant sank from view. Under the circumstances casualties were light: one officer and seven ratings killed and about twenty-five men wounded. At least twenty-five soldiers were killed or wounded. Operation Dynamo was not the only evacuation of Allied troops from France in June 1940. Operations Cycle and Aerial were evacuations, the latter mainly from the Biscay ports. The Royal Canadian Navy destroyer Fraser, Commander Wallace Creery, RCN, was part of Aerial when she was involved in a collision with the British cruiser Calcutta.
* * *
The great strain during the hectic days of evacuation, together with fatigue from lack of sleep, certainly had an effect on ships officers, particularly those in command. Under such circumstances judgement was always liable to be impaired and an error of judgment may well have contributed to Fraser’s loss, which occurred on the last day of Aerial, 25 June.

Deutschland class ‘pocket battleship’

Lutzow (rear) and Admiral Scheer at Wilhelmshaven in 1939. Both ships survived until April 1945 when crippled (Lutzow) or destroyed (Scheer) by RAF bombing.

Whats the difference?? Deutschland class

With the construction of the first Deutschland class ‘pocket battleship’, the German Navy had broken new ground. In respect of the Versailles Treaty as amended by the 1922 Washington Agreement, German naval architects had apparently put a quart into a pint pot. It is the German contention that if there were a breach of the 10,000-ton displacement limit for cruisers, it was in the cause of more protection and not hitting power. Deutschland thrust the small Reichsmarine into the spotlight and aroused the political interest of the major naval powers.

On 8 January 1930 the Naval and Military Record remarked that, both strategically and tactically, the ship presented a factor impossible to ignore: Germany had proved to the world that major increases in battleship size were superfluous and bore no relationship to calculations of battle effectiveness, and on 22 January, in the same periodical, Sir Herbert Russell observed that the new type seemed to him to be the battleship of the future, combining the qualities of a battleship with those of a cruiser. By abandoning much conservative tradition out of sheer necessity, German warship designers had changed naval strategy: the Panzerschiffe soon underpinned oceanic commerce-raiding policy.

After Deutschland had berthed on 19 April 1935 following her long Atlantic voyage, Konteradmiral Carls reported to Fleet Command that ‘the ship has cruised 12,286 nautical miles in almost exactly 32 days. This corresponds to an average of 384 nautical miles per day at an average speed of 16 knots … since 20 hours for various stoppages has not been deducted, the averages are actually understated … as regards her sea-keeping qualities, propulsion machinery and suitability for tropical waters the ship proved excellent throughout the cruise … in my opinion the voyage has proved comprehensively the value and suitability of the ship and its class for extended cruiser operations.

Deutschland’s commander, Kapitan zur See Hermann von Fischel, reported on 18 June 1935: ‘During the five-week long Atlantic cruise of March/April 1935, as on earlier voyages, Panzerschiff Deutschland has proved an outstanding sea boat. Even in the three-day unbroken period of heavy weather with wind strengths from Force 8 to 10 and driving diagonally into a corresponding seaway and Atlantic swell, it was still possible to maintain a speed of 15 knots without danger … in heavy seas and swell from broadside, full speed could be maintained with rolls to a maximum of 24 degrees … stationary across the swell the ship rode with only light rolling movements … proceeding into heavy seas some damage was sustained by “A” turret, and as the foreship rose water was scooped as far aft as the upper deck amidships, such that the addition of a breakwater on the forecastle and deflectors forward of “A” turret is desirable … The ship spent twenty days in tropical waters. The motor drive was in no way affected adversely by the higher temperatures … one can summarise by saying that the engine plant has proved itself in all respects and seems especially well suited for the longer type of cruiser voyage …’
In general, however, all reports tended to play down deficiencies and weaknesses.

Hull and Armour Protection
The Deutschland class hybrid was an imaginative development in warship design resulting directly from the displacement restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. The ships were superior in fire power to any cruiser. At 10,000 tons’ displacement, Deutschland was a cruiser by definition but carried the armament of a capital ship, the armour being thin to keep her within the limit. Because the range of her guns, or the speed of the ship, could hold a faster or more powerful adversary, respectively, at a safe distance, a degree of armour thickness had been sacrificed in the interests of saving weight. Her deck armour was weak, but in this Deutschland did not differ from the ships of other navies: at the time designers had still not taken into account how dangerous would become the threat from the air. The air attack on Deutschland at Ibiza in 1937 may have driven this point home, but by then it was too late to strengthen the armour as the ship had been finely built to the weight margins. Initial moves towards more protection in this respect could be made with Admiral Scheer and Admiral Graf Spee, where the displacement was greater.

In 1930 the Heinrich Hertz Institute was given the task by the Reichsmarine of conducting extensive tests into the effects of vibration resulting from diesel propulsion aboard warships, and these were carried out between 1931 and 1934. The research activity investigated principally how the sensitive optics and trigonometrical computing equipment in the fire control centres, plus the welding in the ship’s hull, reacted to vibrational stresses.

Deutschland and the gunnery training ship Bremse were the first large warships to have exclusively diesel propulsion. The motors were double-acting two-stroke MAN marine diesels of uniquely light construction, a condition of manufacture having been a saving in weight even down to the foundations.

The tests showed that substantial vibration from the motors was felt throughout the ship and that this vibration was just as strong as that imparted by the propellers. The engine vibration had a frequency corresponding to the revolutions, while the exhaust discharge system had an audible frequency which was actually intolerable.

Worst affected were the rangefinders, which were unserviceable over a range of speeds, the operators experiencing fatigue at the optics after even short periods of observation; the gunnery, torpedo and searchlight optics reported similar but less extreme distress. At all these positions the vibration was occasionally so strong that it was impossible to obtain an image through the instrument. At certain speeds equipment installed in the battle-mast, and especially at the foretop, was unusable.

After the ships had been in commission for a short period, welded seams and the corners of the engine foundations burst and expanded so quickly that engine revolutions had to be strictly regulated to contain the damage. The overall picture, particularly with regard to the latter weakness, was at first so grave that diesel drive for warships began to be regarded as the wrong path in important policy circles. This was grist to the mill for conservatives advocating marine turbines, and the steam lobby experienced a major revival.

It is extremely difficult to eliminate vibration by modifications to a finished ship, even when the cause is clearly recognised, but, nevertheless, on existing diesel-driven units ways were generally found to reduce levels to tolerable limits. In Deutschland the motor chassis and foundations were strengthened; in the later ships of the class various compromise measures were introduced or levels accepted as an alternative to increasing engine weight and reducing propeller effectiveness or engine output. Aboard Admiral Scheer the foretop fire control centre was unserviceable because of longitudinal and transverse vibration at certain propeller revolutions. This problem was resolved by devising an independent suspension for the armoured foretop in parallel with a liquid absorbent for the horizontal vibration, which achieved a 90 per cent reduction in vibration levels.

Weapons and Fire Control Systems
For their size the Panzerschiffe were over-armed. This fault had its origins in the Versailles Treaty, which stipulated that a new battleship had to be a replacement for an existing obsolete unit, but it was impossible for Germany to construct a modern, combat-worthy battleship within the tonnage limitations. The Treaty provided for a cruiser tonnage limit of 10,000 tonnes without specifying a maximum armament, and the 1922 Washington Agreement stated that the maximum displacement for a cruiser was 10,000 long tons but with a maximum 8in calibre. The German ‘compromise’ was not a cruiser within either definition, and so a new type of warship altogether, a Panzerschiff, presented as the legitimate replacement for the pre-dreadnought battleship Braunschweig, came into existence.

From a general point of view, the 28cm calibre was too large for the cruiser hull. Even the 15cm (5.9in) secondary armament was more suitable aboard a battleship than a cruiser. In retrospect, a multi-purpose battery would have been preferable to the medium guns and at least the heavy Flak, and not only on account of the savings in weight. However, no satisfactory multi-purpose weapon was available at the time. German industry remained subject to Allied supervision and control until the mid-1930s, and the major companies were in the French-occupied Ruhr. By the time the situation had been remedied much valuable time had been lost. Initially Deutschland was fitted with the obsolete 88 mm (3.5in) anti-aircraft weapon which had been standard in the First World War; this was not replaced by the more modern 10.5 cm (4.1in) heavy A A gun until 1940. There were similar problems with the light Flak.

An acrimonious difference of opinion existed between the Engineering Branch of Naval High Command (OKM) and the Warship Gun Test Branch (AVKS) regarding the value of the Flak fire control system, and this had not been resolved even by the time the Bismarck class were in service.

After initial defects in construction (not entirely the fault of the manufacturer) had been overcome in the first few years after commissioning, the engines proved themselves totally. Obviously the problems were worst in Deutschland and progressively less severe on board Admiral Scheer and Admiral Graf Spee. Sources opposed to the introduction of diesels in major fleet units made capital out of the defects and influenced the Reichsmarine to abandon the idea. The fourth and fifth Panzerschiffe, ‘D’ and ‘E’ (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau), were redesigned on the grounds of political necessity as battlecruisers and had steam turbine drive, as did the last German battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz.

Konteradmiral Fuchs wrote: ‘In October 19351 was made Departmental Head of A IV at the OKM. A IV dealt with matters of training and military questions in warship construction because all weapons specialists were attached to the department at the time. A I was responsible for warship construction, i.e. A I laid down the specific requirements for a ship type, from which, under the overall control of A IV, the so-called military requirements were worked out in collaboaration with K (Office of Naval Architecture). From these K and A IV drew up the design sketches. After these had been approved by the C-in-C of the Reichsmarine, K prepared the blueprints and supervised the building of the ship.

‘Hitler was very interested in the Navy, particularly the technical side. As Raeder was usually unable to answer specific technical questions and had to find out the answer for himself first, I was given the task of speaking to Hitler on the subject of developments in warship construction two or three times each year. It always amazed me how much technical information Hitler managed to absorb, even if some of the connections were missing. He set aside a surprising amount of time for my lectures, and if it was delivered in the morning, I would then be invited to lunch. One day I was seated next to a high Party functionary who told me, “Herr Kapitän, it is easy for you with the Führer because he is at heart a naval officer who missed his calling.” During these lectures Hitler would occasionally speak of his political intentions involving the Navy and as there was no propaganda point to be made I assume he was speaking of his real convictions. He said that the primary purpose of the Fleet must be to prevent a blockade of the German ports. Iron ore imports were of the greatest importance: when these were cut off in the Great War it had made a longer defence of Germany impossible. There could never be a question of the German [surface] Navy blockading enemy ports in the Atlantic theatre, and naval surface warfare would be limited to cruiser or merchant raider operations against the trade routes. For the latter reason, equipping the Panzerschiffe had been an important decision in the reconstruction of the Fleet. The suggestion had come from Vizeadmiral Bauer.

‘The tragedy in German warship construction was the return to high-pressure steam turbines for the large warships, although it was a satisfactory solution for smaller units in the coastal theatre. When I entered the OKM in October 1935 the decision had already been taken: high-pressure steam turbines for the battleships and heavy cruisers…

The Panzerschiffe could range into the Indian Ocean, whereas steam-turbine drive limited a battleship or cruiser to the North Atlantic. Actually, the term ‘range’ is misleading. Apart from the distance they could cover without refuelling, the Panzerschiffe could just drift, knowing that if necessary they could work up almost immediately to full speed at the push of a button. Steam must be kept up in a turbine ship even if stopped, for cold turbines need two hours to reach maximum output. The difference between the types of drive in distant oceans is therefore much greater than mere range.’

Former Marineoberbaurat Ehrenburg once explained in a lecture: ‘Diesel drive was common aboard small warships and universal on U-boats, and the merchant marine had adopted it long previously. When it was introduced aboard Bremse and Deutschland, ships of a size which had never previously been equipped with it, it aroused a determined resistance in naval engineering circles, who succeeded initially in having it rejected for future new construction … the development of new boilers types had led to the production of very high-pressure hot steam (60 to 70 atmospheres) with superheating to 470° in shipboard drive… in a number of respects the diesel had been equalled or overhauled for the time being … but in terms of thermal effectiveness the diesel has a lead of 37 per cent and with use of exhaust gases even 40 per cent.

The advantages of low fuel consumption, self-contained individual sets of motor, smaller openings in the armour deck as a result of faster exhaust expulsion, enclosed air intakes for combustion and so on were factors of too great importance in warship construction to be easily dismissed, even if the questions of vibration and noise remained problematical. The principal disadvantages of marine turbines were the uneconomic use of space, the over-complicated nature of the units, the difficulties of maintenance and repair, the time needed to build up steam and the high fuel consumption, especially when cruising – which was particularly disadvantageous since it limited range so severely as to make even North Atlantic operations questionable. On the other hand, many claimed advantages for diesel over steam had been refuted in practice. On balance there seemed nothing to choose between them, and, in the absence of a positive reason for adopting exclusively diesel drive, the decision to continue with the steam turbine for the large units on the stocks practically made itself.

Years of polemic for and against ensued, but not until 1938 did the question suddenly become topical again, and the majority were in favour of diesel. But the Germany Navy had missed the bus. Years which could have been devoted to the development of an improved diesel were lost. MAN-Diesel had continued the work privately, but they lacked the active support of the Kriegsmarine, which had given the nod to steam.

Discussions regarding the correct choice began before 1933. On 17 November of that year Admiral Raeder wrote to all four Departmental Heads requesting comprehensive reports on the pros and cons of a range of considerations. The Head of the General Naval Office summarised the various opinions: ‘The question of military use comes down firmly in favour of the turbine. If the construction of a high-pressure steam turbine suitable to the technical requirements is now feasible, I support the installation on the grounds of the military application

After the war, Grossadmiral Raeder explained: ‘My decision in favour of the high-pressure steam turbine was temporary until such time as a diesel type became available suitable to the greater demands and technical requirements made of it.’ However in a letter dated 4 July 1940 acknowleging his gratitude to the firm of MAN-Diesel, he stated that ‘… the engines of Admiral Graf Spee had been adequate to all tasks required of them throughout the entire period of the South Atlantic operation’. An officer of the cruiser stated to the author in a private letter that ‘the Spee was an absolutely first-class ship. MAN-Diesel can pride themselves on it. After four months at sea and despite heavy bottom fouling, the ship managed a half-knot more than the designed speed throughout the River Plate battle…’

Final Observations
On the whole the Panzerschiffe were political ships. They were to bring Germany political respectability within international naval treaties and win allies. In war, their task would be to safeguard the seaway to East Prussia and protect the Baltic entrances and the North Sea approaches. In 1929, when the great range of these ships was realised, grander prospects emerged for their deployment – attacks on French shipping off West African ports, in the Mediterranean and, if the political situation permitted, also off North Africa.

Germany had no overseas naval bases – perhaps her most significant disadvantage in comparison to the major sea powers – and when the idea of using the Panzerschiffe as commerce raiders on the world’s oceans was first conceived (probably in the summer of 1934 after Deutschland had completed her South Atlantic voyage) the need for purpose-built supply ships was realised. Sound refuelling methods had to be established, and extensive investigations were made using chartered tankers during the operations in Spanish waters. The experience gained was applied to the Altmark class naval oilers then under construction.

In the event, the Panzerschiffe were used as makeweights in the tonnage war, and only Admiral Scheer, with an adroit commander, skilful handling by the SKL (Naval Warfare Directorate) and a great deal of luck, paid a major dividend.

Warfare against merchant shipping is the business of light cruisers. The Royal and US Navies themselves had found the 20.3cm (8in) battery too ponderous for the task. Instead of the heavy cruiser types with which it equipped itself, the German Navy might have been better served by a class of well-armoured, fast, diesel-driven light cruisers of optimum armament for commerce-raiding purposes. This was not given consideration.

The German Fleet could never have been of a size to challenge Britain’s for control of the seas, and the question must be asked whether there was any logic in building ships of heavy cruiser size and above. They were too big for duties in the German Bight and adjacent areas, the era of the great sea battle being past, and they were only latterly of any use in the Baltic.

What the German Navy lacked was overseas bases and safe refuelling at sea far from home. The loss of seven out of eight supply ships stationed in mid-Atlantic for the Bismarck adventure in May 1941 after the enemy had seized the ‘Enigma’ coding machine and broken the ‘Ultra’ code drove this point home.

The World’s Largest Submarine

5 of 6. Project 941 Akula “Shark”. NATO designation: Typhoon. 172m long, 23m wide. 24,500 ton displacement (surfaced). Test depth 400m (1300ft).

Line drawing showing the starboard side of the Project 941 (Akula) Soviet ballistic missile submarine. The vessel’s waterline is marked in red.

The massive “sail” of a Project 941/Typhoon SSBN. A single periscope is raised; the other scopes and masts are recessed and protected. The anechoic tiles are evident as is (bottom center) the outline of the top of the starboard-side escape chamber (with exit hatch).

Four hatches of this Typhoon’s 20 missile tubes are open. The safety tracks that are fitted over the tubes are evident in this photograph. The Soviets developed a scheme to rearm SSBNs from supply ships. The U. S. Navy had provided that capability for its Polaris submarines.

Drydock..note worker near propulsion.

The American pursuit of the Trident program caused an acceleration of the third-generation Soviet SSBN. During their November 1974 meeting at Vladivostok in the Soviet Far East, General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and President Gerald Ford agreed on a formula to further limit strategic offensive weapons (SALT II). In their discussions Brezhnev expressed his concern over the U. S. Trident program and declared that if the United States pursued deployment of the Trident system the USSR would be forced to develop its Tayfun strategic missile submarine.

Although Soviet naval officials and submarine/missile designers believed that liquid-propellant missiles “had irrefutable merit,” and those SLBMs were used in the first- and second-generation SSBNs, research continued on solid-propellant SLBMs at V. P. Makeyev’s SKB-385 design bureau. In 1972 work had began on the missile submarine, Project 941 (NATO Typhoon), and the following year on the solid-propellant RSM-52/R-39 missile (later given the NATO designation SS-N-20 Sturgeon).

The Project 941/Typhoon SSBN would be the largest undersea craft to be constructed by any nation. The submarine was designed by S. N. Kovalev at the Rubin design bureau. Kovalev and his team considered numerous design variations, including “conventional” designs, that is, a single elongated pressure hull with the missile tubes placed in two rows aft of the sail. This last approach was discarded because it would have produced a submarine more than 770 feet (235 m) long, far too great a length for available dry docks and other facilities.

Instead, Kovalev and his team developed a unique and highly innovative design-the 441st variant that they considered. The ship has two parallel main pressure hulls to house crew, equipment, and propulsion machinery. These are full-size hulls, 4883/4 feet (149 m) long with a maximum diameter of 232/3 feet (7.2 m), each with eight compartments. The 20 missile tubes are placed between these hulls, in two rows, forward of the sail. The amidships position of the sail led to the submarine’s massive diving planes being fitted forward (bow) rather than on the sail, as in the Project 667 designs.

The control room-attack center and other command activities are placed in a large, two-compartment pressure hull between the parallel hulls (beneath the sail). This center hull is just over 98 feet (30 m) in length and 192/3 feet (6 m) in diameter. The sail structure towers some 422/3 feet (13 m) above the waterline. An additional compartment was placed forward, between the main pressure hulls, providing access between the parallel hulls and containing torpedo tubes and reloads. Thus the Typhoon has a total of 17 hull compartments, all encased within a massive outer hull 5641/6 feet (172 m) long. This arrangement gives the Project 941/Typhoon a surface displacement of 23,200 tons. Although the submarine is approximately as long as the U.S. Ohio class, it has a beam of 743/4 feet (23.3 m). With a reserve buoyancy of some 48 percent, the submerged displacement is 48,000 tons, about three times that of the Ohio (which has approximately 15 percent reserve buoyancy).

The large reserve buoyancy helps decrease the draft of the ship. In addition, it contributes to the ability of the submarine to surface through ice to launch missiles. (On 25 August 1995 a Typhoon SSBN surfaced at the North Pole, penetrating about eight feet [2.5 m] of ice, and launched an RSM-52 missile with ten unarmed warheads.)

Beneath the forward hull is the ship’s large Skat sonar system, including the MGK-503 low-frequency, spherical-array sonar (NATO Shark Gill).

There are crew accommodations in both parallel hulls, and in the starboard hull there is a recreation area, including a small gym, solarium, aviary, and sauna. The crew is accommodated in small berthing spaces; the large number of officers and warrants have two- or four-man staterooms. Above each hull there is an escape chamber; together the chambers can carry the entire crew of some 160 men to the surface.

Within each of the parallel hulls, the Typhoon has an OK-650 reactor plant with a steam turbine producing about 50,000 horsepower (190 megawatts) and an 800-kilowatt diesel generator. The twin propellers are housed in “shrouds” to protect them from ice damage. The ship also has two propulsor pods, one forward and one aft, that can be lowered to assist in maneuvering and for hovering, although missiles can be launched while the Typhoon is underway.

The design and features of the Typhoon SSBN were evaluated in a one-tenth scale model built at Leningrad’s Admiralty shipyard. The model was automated and provided an invaluable design and evaluation tool.

The keel of the lead Project 941/Typhoon-the TK-208-was laid down on 30 June 1976 at Severodvinsk, by that time the only Soviet shipyard constructing SSBNs. 56 A new construction hall-the largest covered shipway in the world-was erected at Severodvinsk, being used to build the Typhoon SSBNs and Project 949/Oscar SSGNs. Most U.S. intelligence analysts had been confused by Brezhnev’s reference to a Tayfun missile submarine. Not until 1977-when U.S. reconnaissance satellites identified components for a new class of submarines at Severodvinsk-was it accepted that an entirely new design was under construction. The TK-208 was put into the water on 23 September 1980; trials began in June 1981, and she was commissioned in December 1981. Series production followed.

The D-19 missile system, however, lagged behind schedule with failures of several test launches of the RSM-52/R-39 missile. The Project 629/Golf submarine K-153 was converted to a test platform for the RSM-52/R-39, being provided with a single missile tube (changed to Project 619/Golf V). That missile became operational in 1984. It carried a larger payload, had greater accuracy than any previous Soviet SLBM, and was the first Soviet solid-propellant SLBM to be produced in quantity. The missile is estimated to have a range of 4,480 n. miles (8,300 km) carrying up to ten MIRV warheads of approximately 100 kilotons each. Their firing rate is one missile every 15 seconds (the same firing rate as the U. S. Trident submarines). Still, the use of solid propellant in the R-39 led to a sharp increase in the dimensions of the missile, with the launch weight reaching 90 tons.

Six Typhoon SSBNs were completed through 1989. Eight ships had been planned, with the seventh, the TK-210, having been started but then abandoned while still in the building hall. The six-Typhoon SSBN division was based at Nerpichya, about six miles (ten km) from the entrance to Guba Zapadnaya Litsa on the Kola Peninsula, close to the border with Finland and Norway. The Typhoon base was distinguished by the extremely poor facilities ashore for the crews as well as for the base workers and their families.

At sea the Typhoon SSBN had some difficulties with control and seakeeping. Still, the ships could be considered highly successful and provided a highly capable strategic striking force. Their Arctic patrol areas made them immune to most Western ASW forces, and simplified Soviet naval forces providing protection, if necessary. On 9 September 1991, during a missile test launch by one of these SSBNs of this type, a missile did not exit the tube and exploded and burned. The submarine suffered only minor damage.

The TK-208 entered the Severodvinsk shipyard in October 1990 for refueling of her reactors and for modernization to launch the improved R-39M missile (NATO SS-N-28 Grom). The other ships were to follow, but the end of the Cold War brought an end to the Project 941/Typhoon program. The TK-208, which was renamed Dmitri Donskoi in 2000, did not emerge from the Severodvinsk yard (renamed Sevmash) until 2002. She sailed for her home base of Guba Zapadnaya Litsa on 9 November 2002. She had been refueled but instead of the R-39M missile, which had encountered development problems, she was refitted to carry the smaller, solid-propellant RSM-52V Bulava, a variant of the land-based Topol-M (SS-27).

Meanwhile, of the five other Typhoon SSBNs, the TK-12 and TK-202 were taken out of service in 1996, and the TK-13 in 1997. They are being scrapped. When this book went to press the TK-17 (renamed Arkhangel’sk) and TK-20 were also to be refueled and rearmed with the RSM-52V missile, although such planning was considered tentative in view of the continuing Russian fiscal problems. The three modernized Typhoon SSBNs would be expected to remain in service at least until 2010-2012. The Russian Navy canceled its Typhoon modernization program in March 2012, stating that modernizing one Typhoon would be as expensive as building two new Borei-class submarines. With the announcement that Russia has eliminated the last SS-N-20 Sturgeon SLBMs in September 2012, the remaining Typhoons have reached the end of service

There have been proposals to convert some of the giant submarines to cargo carriers; this could be done expeditiously – albeit at considerable cost-by replacing the missile tubes with a cargo section. Ironically, an earlier analysis of the Typhoon by the Central Intelligence Agency addressed the possibility of using submarines of this type to (1) carry mini-submarines; (2) support other submarines in the milch cow replenishment role; (3) carry troops for special operations; and (4) serve as major command ships.

Discussing Project 941/Typhoon on the macro level, Viktor Semyonov, the deputy chief designer of the Typhoon, stated that the program had encountered “No technical problems-the problems are all financial.” But Soviet views of the submarine and her D-19 missile system were not unanimous. One submarine designer wrote:

To my mind the creation of the D-19 missile system and the Project 941 was a great mistake. A solid-propellant SLBM had no appreciable advantages [over] a liquid-propellant SLBM. . . . Such an expensive project like the D-19 missile system and the Project 941 which had been [developed] parallel with D-9RM and Project 667BDRM were the ruin of the USSR. Such ill-considered decisions, which were lobbied by the definite industrial circles, undermined the economy of the USSR and contributed to the loss [of] the Cold War.