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Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Sun Nov 19, 2017 12:42 pm
by VoidSamukai
Warning: The following is merely the opinion of one person on the internet. These opinions are under the influence of perceived logic and personal bias. Your opinions may and probably will differ

Hello everyone, VoidSamukai aka AbyssalKageryu here ready for a topic discussion. Today, I will be discussing about the most controversial ship that the US ever built: The Alaska class. Why are they so controversial you may ask? Well go to any forum that deals with naval topics and you will most likely find a heated discussion about whether or not these ships are battlecruisers or large cruisers.

Please note that all tonnages used here will for the most part be the fully loaded tonnages which will make some ships seem much more heavier than what you would think and others...not so much. You will be the judge of that. I should also note that the following is my opinions and your opinion may differ whether wrongly or rightly. I am never 100% correct and I am no naval historian: I’m just some nava; enthusiast like a lot of you here. So if I get anything wrong or if I am missing something important, please tell so in a respectable manner. The last thing I want is this already toxic topic to grow any more toxic.

Arguments for the Alaskas being large cruisers but not battlecruisers

The major argument for the Alaskas being large cruisers and not battlecruisers is the idea that they were upscale versions of the Baltimore class of heavy cruisers. The resemblance between the two are many and major. The Alaskas had the same number of main guns as the Baltimores (9 guns in 3 triple turrets), carried the same number of secondary guns in the same position (12 5inch DP guns in 6 two turrets two to each side of the ship and 2 in the centreline for and aft of the ship superfiring over the main turrets), had similar speeds and had a single rudder and no torpedo defences, both of which were akin to the US cruisers rather than US battleships. The differences between the two were that the Alaskas were twice as large (34,000 tonnes fully loaded compare to Baltimore at 17,000 tonnes), had 12inch guns rather than 8inch guns on the Baltimore, had thicker armour than the Baltimore (9inch belt compared to 6inch on the Baltimore) and had overall better anti aircraft capabilities.

Since there are quite a number of arguments, let’s break these things down and get to the root of the Alaskas

Guns: Many people use the fact that the Alaska class carried only 12inch guns as a reason to say she is not a battlecruiser. When the Alaskas were commissioned, battleships armed with 15-16inch guns were considered normal and the Alaskas were heavily under armed in this regard. However, they were not the only ships to be armed with small caliber guns. Both the Scharnhorst and Dunkerque class of battlecruisers (or battleships depending on who you ask) have guns with calibers similar to Alaska (11inch and 13inch guns) and carried a similar number. Now it was planned for the Scharnhorst to be eventually armed with 15inch guns, which was started on with the Gneisenau, and it is considered by critics that if armed with these bigger guns Scharnhorst would’ve been a true battlecruiser/battleship. However, even without these bigger guns, Scharnhorst has always still been considered a capital ship by most naval fans and referred to as the aforementioned battleship/battlecruiser.

Alaska’s guns are also quite power for their caliber, able to have similar performance to the 14inch guns found on many of the battleship at Pearl Harbour thanks to their modern design. With a high rate of fire, these guns were far more powerful than any gun fitted onto a cruiser. Even the guns found on the Admiral Graf Spee, which are also considered battleship caliber. So in terms of firepower while much lighter than that of contemporary battleship, it was certainly enough to be considered battleship firepower. More about firepower versus other battleships a little later.

Cruiser-like features: Being an upsized cruiser in terms of design it is no surprise that the Alaskas shared some similar features. The mains ones people bring up were the single rudder and lack of torpedo defence which were features of the Baltimore class cruiser. However, the same argument that the Alaskas were upsized cruisers are reasons why people call them battlecruisers. They usually reference the Invincible class battlecruisers built by the Royal Navy which were basically huge armoured cruisers with battleship guns. Many of Germany’s battlecruisers also could trace their design back to the armoured cruiser Blucher and people use this to call foul on the argument that being upsized cruisers does not equal battlecruisers since that is what battlecruisers used to be. So this can go many different ways. Both reasons have their merits equally so. I think this argument however has the ever tiny edge towards the large cruiser argument as it does make sense when you consider that the Alaskas were really upsized Baltimores but really it can go both ways.

Naval Classification: The US Navy went to great lengths to not have the Alaskas called battlecruisers but rather large cruisers. They were designated CBs rather than BCs which were what the Lexington class battlecruisers were designated and were not named after states but rather territories.

However, as history has shown, what a navy classifies a ship might not be truthful to what the ship is capable. Germany called their panzerschiffs armored ships or armoured cruisers despite having little armour and nothing in relationship to the earlier armoured cruisers. Britain also called the panzerschiffs ‘pocket battleships’ despite again the lack of armour (I for one think the term pocket battlecruiser is more fitting for the ships). German also called their WW1 era battlecruisers ‘large cruisers’ since until the Derflinger they could trace their design back to the armoured cruiser Blucher. Notice something familiar about the German ‘large cruisers’ and the Alaska class? One final example is how the British first called the Courageous class large light cruisers due to their weak armour and so that they could get past the fact that the admiralty was not allocating more funds for the battlecruisers. In the end however they were redesignated battlecruisers due to their fast speed, thin armour and massive guns. So if history has taught us anything, what a navy classifies a warship may not be actually reflective of the warship in question as a whole.

Deutschland class: Though few and in between, there are some people who point to the Deutschland class as to why the Alaskas were not battlecruisers but large cruisers or in some extreme cases heavy cruisers. Like the Alaskas, the Deutschland class carried bigger guns than what other cruisers carried and her armour was not as good as that of a true battleship (a reason why they are not pocket battleships). But that is where the similarities end. Alaska carried more guns than the German ships and was about double the weight of any cruiser at the time. Deutschland on the other hand was still a cruiser in terms of displacement: 14-16,000 tonnes fully loaded depending on the particular ship. In comparison, the Japanese Myoko commissioned a few years earlier weighed almost 15,000 tonnes fully loaded. Though to be more fair and to use a treat cruiser to compare, the US Portland class weighed around 12,000 tonnes fully loaded. So in terms of tonnage the Deutschland class were not that much bigger than existing heavy cruisers. The class also carried similarly weak armour protection compare to the rather more potent armour protection of the Alaskas.

Line of Battle: Of all arguments put forward to justify the Alaska to not be called battlecruisers, the idea that they were not able to go up against enemy battleships is the most confusing one. The simple reasons is that with the exception of the German battlecruisers in WW1, battlecruisers were not expected to go up against the massive guns and thick armour to battleships, In such an encounter the battlecruiser would use their superior speed to outrun the battleships and make a hasty escape. And this is what the Alaskas were designed: to use their high speed to run away from ships that they could not sink like battleships. So why people use this argument in the debate is beyond my understanding. Maybe there is something I am not getting. Who knows

Arguments for the Alaskas being battlecruisers but not large cruisers

I belong in this group and bias will be expected in this section, so you have been warned.

At 34,500 tonnes, the Alaskas were far bigger than any heavy cruiser built. In fact, she was almost twice as big as the biggest heavy cruiser built: the 20,000 tonne Des Moines. It also was not far from the comparable 38,000 tonne Scharnhorst and the 35,500 tonne Dunkerque both of which were called battleships by their navies though most naval fans tend to call them battlecruisers (Scharnhorst less so, but that is a toxic debate for another time). These 3 ships were all around the same size, had similar firepower and could go faster than most battleships.

It should be worth mentioning however that both the Scharnhorst and Dunkerque were commissioned and served in the late 1930’s, a good 5-6 years before the Alaskas. And as we all know, ships can grow much in that period of time. All one needs to do is look at HMS Dreadnought at 20,000 tonnes in 1906 verses the Queen Elizabeths in 1914 at 36,000 tonnes. But by that same logic, tonnage doesn’t have to drastically change. I mean, the Pensacola class cruisers of the 1920’s weighed in at 10,000 tonnes while the Baltimores weighed in at 16,000 tonnes despite the 20 year gap. So while age is something to consider it isnot a sole reason why to completely disregard a classification over another.

The Alaskas also require crew sizes of about the same of battleships and costed about the same to maintain as a true battleship, so many people compare them to the true battleships in terms of operational value. In fact, it was the cost of operating the Alaskas that lead to them having short life spans compare to the cheaper Des Moines and the more powerful Iowa. A few pictures also show Alaska next to the Iowa and it is clear that the Alaskas were not that much smaller than the larger battleship. In terms of size and tonnage the Alaskas certainly fitted the battlecruiser mold.

The designed role of the Alaskas is also another argument that people use to argue that they were battlecruisers. The Alaskas were designed to counter the large and powerful Japanese cruiser force that might attack the US carrier taskforces. They would also counter the rumoured Japanese large cruisers that were being designed. These roles were very similar to what battlecruisers were designed to do: hunt down enemy cruisers and other battlecruiser-like warships. And the design of the Alaskas reflected this role: armour enough to protect the ship from cruiser caliber shells, guns far more powerful than any gun carried by enemy cruisers and high seed to run away from bigger battleships and to catch up to enemy cruisers. It is no wonder people call the Alaskas ‘battlecruisers in all but name’.

Comparison to other ships:

So let’s compare the Alaskas with ships that I believe are comparable in terms of capability, size, type, era or so forth to get a sense of what these ships were capable of. I will not rego over ships already mentioned unless there is something special about them that must have its own section to.

Hood: As the largest battlecruiser ever built (48,000 tonnes is massive), Hood has many advantages compare to Alaska despite being 20 years older in terms of design. Her armoured belt was thicker than the Alaska though it didn’t cover as much of the ship. Hood had better firepower with her 8 15inch guns and had comparable speed. In a one on one battle, Hood has the edge compare to Alaska.

Scharnhorst: This ship is the one that most people compare the Alaskas to and with good reasons. Both ships weighed around the same range, both carried smaller caliber yet faster firing main guns in 3 triple turrets. Scharnhorst was even based on a cruiser design (though it was the rather large D class cruiser and I say large for its time and even then it was loosely based and not that obvious unless you dig around in the design history. Honestly Scharnhorst shares more with the Ersatz Yorck class battlecruisers than the D class cruisers so take that argument with a pinch of salt) and had guns fitted onto cruisers (though the 11inch guns on the Deutschland class and Scharnhorst class were slightly different and the Deutschland class were very unique cases in terms of cruisers). Scharnhorst als has torpedoes like German cruisers and had a secondary gun layout compare to the panzerschiffe. Again however, those cruisers were a special case so don’t take it too seriously. But regardless, the Scharnhorst has been called by most as a battleship or battlecruiser and, for a ship so similar to her, it would reason to call the Alaskas battlecruisers as well (not a battleship of course: she didn’t have the armour). Many people say that Scharnhorst was way better armoured, but this is something typical of German battlecruiser design. And despite having less armour the Alaskas were not that much lighter. So in terms of size, the Alaska definitely were comparable to the Schanrhosts.

Courageous: Considered by many (myself included) as the worst battlecruisers ever built, these ships have little in common in terms of design and purposes, so why are we comparing these two ships. Well, both were referred to as large cruisers at one point in life, until the Courageous were reclassified into battlecruisers, and for that reason it is a good idea to compare tonnage of these ships and battleships from around the same time. In terms of Courageous, the ships weighed about 22,000 tonnes fully loaded and carried 4 15inch guns in 2 twin turrets. They also had armour of only 3inches thick which is considered poor even by cruiser standards. Courageous could however reach a top speed of 32 knots thanks to her long length and powerful engines. The Queen Elizabeth class of battleships of which came into service only 2 years earlier weighed close to 36,000 tonnes fully loaded and carried 8 15inch guns in 4 twin turrets. They had a belt of armour of around 13inches thick which was standard for British battleships at the time and could travel at a top speed of 24 knots. Comparing the two ships, Courageous was about 66% the tonnage of the Queen Elizabeth, had half the number of guns of the same caliber, was 9 knots faster and had armour that was not even a quarter of the thickness of the battleship counterpart.

A battleship that was completed 2 years before the Alaskas was the South Dakota class. The South Dakotas weighed around 44,500 tonnes fully loaded and carried 9 16inch guns in 3 triple turrets as well as a 12inch belt of armour. Being a fast battleship, South Dakota could go 28 knots. Comparing the Alaska to the South Dakota, Alaska carried the same number of guns but they were smaller. She had less armour of about 3 inches less but could go about 5 knots faster. Tonnage wise, the Alaska were about 75% the weight of the Alaskas. So in terms of tonnage comparison the Alaska class was actually more on par to the weight of battleships of her time than the Courageous and yet Courageous was classified a battlecruiser in the end. Since we are talking tonnage, I guess I will throw in the Iowa class which weighed in 52,000 tonnes fully loaded (note this is during WW2, afterwards in times when the Alaskas were no more refits raised that number to 58,000 tonnes). This means Alaska was about 66% the weight of the Iowa which is a similar comparison to the Courageous Vs Queen Elizabeth.

Another interesting quirk of these comparisons is broadside weight. Using numbers from the Vanguard’s 15inch guns, the Queen Elizabeth’s broadside weight per minute would be around 15.9 tonnes. Having half the number of guns, Courageous would obviously have half the broadside weight. Meanwhile, Alaska’s broadside weight is around 14 tonnes per minutes while the Iowa’s broadside weight was about 22 tonnes. Again, Alaska’s broadside weight is around half that of Iowa’s, just like Courageous verses Queen Elizabeth. In fact, compared to Vanguard which was built after Alaska, the broadside weight of Vanguard was only about 2 tonnes more which as a whole isn’t that massive. Then again, Vanguard had only 8 guns that didn’t reload as quickly and they were of older design so it should be taken into consideration. However, Vanguard despite the lower broadside weight is still considered a battleship and with a similar broadside weight as well Alaska compares to other battleships around the same as Courageous did compare to ships of her era.

Kongo/Renown: Both of these ships have bigger guns than the Alaskas akin to the battleships of the era that they were built. Both had about the same overall armour protection which was designed to withstand cruiser caliber shells. Both also were faster than other battleships of their era and had worst armour to boot. Thanks to this, even though she is vulnerable to their firepower, Alaska’s guns are more than capable of penetrating the armour of the Kongo and Renown with her powerful shells and fast rate of fire. And it doesn’t help that Kongo and Renown are basically 30 years older than the Alaskas. In a one on one battle, Alaska has the advantage though will probably come out rather bruised up since the older battlecruisers still pack firepower enough to punch through Alaska’s armour.

O Class: With similar tonnage and slightly worst armour, the O class were the glass cannons of the modern battlecruisers. Though classified as battlecruisers by the Germans, one cannot help but imagine what would a battle between these giants would’ve resulted in. And what if the O class were fitted with 11inch guns like the Scharnhorsts. Would this make them large cruisers instead of battlecruisers since gun size matters so much to many people when deciding what type of ship a vessel is? Well I guess it does considering that the Mogami class of cruisers were called light cruisers at first when they had 6.1inch guns but then reclassified when they were rearmed with 8inch guns into heavy cruisers so I guess gun caliber does play an important role. At least for some people. But gun caliber alone doesn’t tell the whole story of a ship. It is the rest of the ship that tells the story. And in terms of tonnage, size and designed roles, the O class can claim to be a battlecruiser through and through. Just one with lousy armour, which is not something German battlecruisers were known for. Then again, those WW1 vessels were called ‘large cruisers’ so I guess there is that. A battle between the two ships would boil down to who can land the first disabling hits and who can land the most hits. In that sense, Alaska has the advantage in this battle though if Jutland has shown us anything it is that battlecruisers do not hold up to heavy firepower as well as battleships of the same era.

B-65 Class: With a similar size and firepower compare to the Alaska class, the B-65 class of battlecruisers if built would’ve been the most similar to the Alaskas. It would be interesting to see these two very similar ships in action. I bring this up simply because well, the B-65 was designed to counter the Alaskas, which was funny because the Alaskas were built to counter the B-65. In that sense, the B-65 was designed to counter a ship built to counter itself. Man this is getting really confusing. Moving on.

It is funny to compare the Alaskas to other battlecruisers for their time and to see how much they were comparable despite the US Navy trying to hard not to call them battlecruisers. Why the strong resolve? Why are people so driven to not call them battlecruisers when they were very comparable to other battlecruisers?

The difference between the types

In my honest opinion, to really understand the issue that the classification causes, we need to figure out what makes large cruisers and battlecruisers so different that they are considered two very different types of warships. So, what is a large cruiser and what is a battlecruiser? Well, to be honest, the differences between the two types are rather small. To put simply, large cruisers, the term the US navy used to term the Alaskas, were an upsized cruiser design armed with guns larger than what you would normally find on cruisers while the battlecruiser is a capital ship that trades either firepower or in most cases armour in order to achieve higher speeds than the battleships of the same era while being about the same size as a battlecruiser. Both of them were designs had thinner armour than battleships and were faster. They also were designed with the intent of destroying enemy cruisers or in some cases other battlecruisers.

So, why are people so intent in considering the two types as so different despite the fact that in terms of overall capabilities they are so similar? Well I guess it comes down to what people think of when they hear the names. People associate battlecruisers with ships that have battleship caliber guns but have less armour to gain higher speed. Thus people will start comparing them to battleships. When people think of large cruisers, people think of...well, large cruisers: ships that are basically what happens when someone supersizes a heavy cruiser and give it bigger guns. But they associate it with cruisers rather than battleships like battlecruisers are. So, do the Alaska share more in common with cruisers or with battleships and battlecruisers?

I think the Alaskas share traits from both. Her design basis fitted much more with cruisers than with capital ships of the time. But her designed role fitted many of the roles that battlecruisers were envisioned to do. They also cost as much to run as full fledged battleships and length wise fitted in the battleship club quite nicely (though they were not as wide as the US battleships. There is a reason why the Alaskas weighed 34,500 tonnes and the South Dakotas weighed 44,500 tonnes). In a sense, it will be inevitable that that Alaskas will be compared to ships bigger than her based on this. It can be agreed she was no heavy cruiser: she was way bigger and far more powerfully armed compared to even the most advance of heavy cruiser projects. But there are large cruisers and then there are large cruisers. And at 34,500 tonnes the Alaskas were practically cruisers the size of battleships. And not only that, their firepower was definitely battleship firepower. If Scharnhorst can be called a battleship even with her 11inch guns, than the Alaska can more than claim to be battlecruisers with 12inch guns.

Now a lot of people call the Alaskas ‘Heavy cruisers freed from the Treaties’ which would allow them to grow in size and firepower far greater than any treaty era cruiser. And it does make sense in this regard. Just take a look at the Yamato compared to ships of her time like King George V or Richelieu. Yamato was much bigger than either ship: almost double in fact. And compared to the Baltimores, the Alaskas were monsters with way better armour and firepower. But here is the thing: it is hard to call the Yamatos anything else other than battleship because there was nothing like her in the world. There were no larger ships similar to her so there is no other type of ships to compare other than other battleships like Iowa. With Alaska however, there are ships that we can compare to to with similar weight, type and capabilities. And these ships are the battlecruisers. So it makes sense to many to compare them and call the Alaskas battlecruisers because they are comparing her to battlecruisers of her time that were so similar to her. If there were more ships that were similar to Alaska that were built, then maybe people would compare her to them. Or perhaps they will compare them as well to other battlecruisers like Alaska. So we return back to the start of a loop that will never end with the rate the world is going.

It is a never ending cycle: when is big too big? When does a ship become so big that it becomes another ship? This question may never have an answer as ships evolve with time. A battleship during one time may become a cruiser in another time. A destroyer in one time may grow to the size of a cruiser in an earlier time. As long as warships continue to evolve, we can never get the definitive answer. But what we can do is compare ships of similar eras to get an idea of their capabilities. Whether people will use the Yamato example or use the Scharnhorst example to justify the Alaskas is a question yet to be answered. But I prefer the Scharnhorst example as there is room for a comparison. Not much can be compared to the monsters that are Yamato and Musashi, but there are ships that the Alaskas can compare with for better and worst. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m referring to the battlecruisers of other navies: similar size, firepower, armour, speed and cost of running. That last point is important because no matter how the Alaskas were designed or used, no matter if they became the new heavy cruiser of their generation, they will have practically the same operation cost as battleships like the North Carolina and South Dakota, not the cruisers like Baltimores or Clevelands. It is no wonder that the US Navy never considered them worth the money: about as expensive as superior battleships that could do pretty much everything that Alaskas did better with the exception of speed and they had the Iowas for that.

Many people also claim that the Alaskas were a simple progression of the heavy cruisers of the US Navy. But you know what else was a progression to cruisers back in the early days of the 20th Century? Battlecruisers. As cruisers got bigger and bigger, they began to become more like faster lightly armoured battleships which would lead rise to the idea of the battlecruiser to render these earlier cruisers obsolete. And the Alaskas were the size of battleship-type warships with battleship-like firepower even if both were on the lighter side which would’ve made the cruisers of her time obsolete in terms of battle capabilities, though the concept of the cruiser being a cheaper way to bring firepower to an area would’ve been useless for the Alaskas with how much she costed to run. But if Courageous could get away with it, the Alaskas can as well. And so we return to the argument on whether or not they were enlarged cruiser designs an argument for the Alaskas being large cruisers or actually battlecruisers.

My Thoughts on the Large Cruiser designation

I have no problems with a designation of large cruisers. I think it is a valid name for ships that have the tonnage between that of a cruiser and a battlecruiser and who have firepower in between. But I believe that the Alaskas weigh enough to belong in the battlecruiser category. A ship that would’ve better fitted as a large cruiser would’ve been the D-class cruiser of Germany that would’ve weighed 20,000 tonnes though with modifications plus actual tonnage the cruiser would’ve most likely weighed around the 23-25,000 tonne range. With 8inches of belt armour and 6 11inch guns this would’ve been the perfect description of what a large cruiser would’ve been if done properly. The P-class could also fit with their massive size of 24,000 tonnes (more likely to be 25-27,000 tonnes in real life) and powerful guns but rather weak armour at only about 4inches max.


Many arguments can be placed forward to argue about the Alaska’s designation and classification amongst other warships. It is really an argument that I can’t see truly resolved. All we can do is state our opinions with reasons and do so in a tasteful manner. And my opinion is that the Alaskas were battlecruisers in all but name. While there are many good arguments as to why they should be classified as large cruisers, there are also many good reasons that say that the Alaska class, no matter how flawed they were in design, were battlecruisers compared to other ships of their era. But it is unlikely that this argument will be solved overnight. Many more heated discussions will ensure over the next generations and only time will tell if this debate will ever be solved.

Plus, Scharnhorst and Dunkerque. I’m sure that people will want more reasons than simply the name of two ships (those people include me because seriously you need to explain what for crying out loud), but they do at least give one reasons for the debate.

Well that is my opinion on the debate. I would like to hear your opinions down below in the comments. If you have anything to say about the debate or the article, please comment down below. I would love to hear feedback and other opinions.

Re: Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Sun Nov 19, 2017 10:30 pm
by Dave Saxton
Warning: The following is merely the opinion of one person on the internet. These opinions are under the influence of perceived logic and personal bias. Your opinions may and probably will differ...........
There is a lot to digest in that post. I agree with many of your points, but I ultimately disagree that the Alaska's were capital ships. Just my opinion. Additionally, let me point out that the Scharnhorst had heavier armour for the most part than the North Carolina class battleships.

It is puzzling how the Alaska class often becomes such a hotly disputed topic, devolving from a positive and informative discussion? I hope that won't be the case here.

Re: Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Sun Nov 19, 2017 11:09 pm
by VoidSamukai
Dave Saxton wrote:
Warning: The following is merely the opinion of one person on the internet. These opinions are under the influence of perceived logic and personal bias. Your opinions may and probably will differ...........
There is a lot to digest in that post. I agree with many of your points, but I ultimately disagree that the Alaska's were capital ships. Just my opinion. Additionally, let me point out that the Scharnhorst had heavier armour for the most part than the North Carolina class battleships.

It is puzzling how the Alaska class often becomes such a hotly disputed topic, devolving from a positive and informative discussion? I hope that won't be the case here.
Fair point. The Alaskas, thanks to their cruiser heratage, were definately not up to the capital ship standards of the time. I think the best way to describe them would be 'second line ships that cost the same as a capital ship to run'.

And wasn't the belt of the Scharnhorst thicker than even the Iowa, though thanks to outdated armour schemes it wasn't as good?

Re: Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Mon Nov 20, 2017 3:13 am
by Dave Saxton
Scharnhorst's belt was indeed thicker than Iowa's (and of higher material quality). However, who said the armour scheme was outdated?

German documents make it clear that their WWII era protection scheme was designed to address modern threats, such as plunging fire and bombs, while at the same time providing defense against the frightening penetration power of modern battleship caliber guns. The belt protection was called by the Germans the Scarp Triangle. The scarp triangle consisted of the belt backed up by a heavy scarp. The scarp differed fundamentally from older designs that may of had a slope as a splinter screen, because of its thickness of about 4" homogeneous armour and its geometry. Any shell that defeated the main belt had to also defeat the scarp while striking it at a very unfavorable angle. As Hoyer described it during his 1943 lecture, if the scarp is thick enough, then the necessary striking velocity for a heavy shell to defeat both the belt and the scarp would exceed the shatter velocity of the shell. Therefore, intact penetration of the scarp triangle was not possible at any range.

The main flaw, acknowledged by the Germans themselves, of the Scharnhorst's protection scheme, was that a shell passing over the main belt could under certain conditions reach the flat portion the main armoured deck relatively unimpeded. This flaw was remedied on Bismarck and Tirpitz by an upper belt of 145mm KC armour. The weak upper belt of Scharnhorst (of 40mm homogeneous armour) also meant that the barbets were more exposed.

Re: Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 3:47 pm
by Dave Saxton
In other threads it has been suggested that the Germans should have built more, but improved, panzerschiffs. Is the Alaska, or similar, that ship?

The Alaska addresses some of the main flaws of the pocket battleships. It was fast; 33 knots. It had protection against 8-inch fire. It had good AA firepower. It had more than two main battery turrets.

One question though, the Alaska required 150,000 horsepower. Can diesel power provide that within the confines of the design?

However, the Alaska was virtually as large as the Scharnhorst. The Scharnhorst had armour protection against battleship caliber fire and a TDS, while giving up very little in terms of firepower and speed in comparison to the Alaska.

Re: Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:36 am
by VoidSamukai
The ships you refer to were the D and P classes. They had the same firepower, greater speed and with the D class better armour compare to the earlier Panzerschiffs.

Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:42 pm
by Terje Langoy
G'day, all

Yay, I applaud you for this very interesting thread, Voidsamukai. The original post stimulates the mind and postulates your ideas quite eloquently with good comparisons and interesting questions rather than jumping the conclusionary gun. Me like it. Bravo!

First off, being a Gneisenau fanboy I do consider that particular ship, that gem, that piece of sheer beauty something akin to the Mona Lisa paired with The Hammer of God. So forth there's no end limit to the unreasonable bias I can muster. My position is simple though. Due to her armour the Gneisenau is indeed a battleship. The traditional battlecruiser (trading armour for speed) can only prevail a battleship encounter through swift defeat or swift retreat because time is not on her side. And though Gneisenau cannot defeat a battleship either, her ability to absorb heavy damage offer her that one thing the traditional battlecruiser don't have. Time. Note that Gneisenau is not a fully fledged battleship, she merely holds battleship qualities which I deem to be more "German" i.e. durability in a prolonged battle. Let me elaborate

The design and designation conundrum hails back to different doctrines of different navies. While the British portray a Nelsonian approach, that of the Pitbull - no commander that put his ship next to the enemy can do much wrong - as opposed to the Germans Titanic ideas of the unsinkable. They are both schools of equal merit. The sum of both would make a formidable bastard of a ship and our closest match hereto is the traditional battleship.

Being more familiar with the European theatre than the Pacific one, it can only make sense I root my ideas on this side of the pond but hopefully some food for thought regardless. In Europe, the battlecruiser as a design would, per my view, already be outdated post-Jutland. As such neither the Dunkerque nor the Scharnhorst would properly fit this obsolete category. Another aspect would be to differentiate between designated role and/or wartime needs. As an example, let's look at the torpedoes fitted onto the Scharnhorst class. These were not part of her design, they were wartime addendums born from wartime needs, installed prior to Cerberus to complement a certain role and so forth improve upon said role. They were never actual parts of her design

To define roles and designation based on how the ship appear after being built, like so many enjoy doing these days, this begs the question: did the shipyard just toy about with metal untill somebody one day said – Whoa, it's a ship. Let's find out what it can do? I'm being very juvenile, but the point remains. These are things to be defined and known before the ship is built. What is the ship to do? Furthermore, a ship designed during wartime may be under heavy influence by wartime needs. More so than in peacetime. The Dunkerque and Scharnhorst were both built during peacetime, the Alaskas not so. Wartime thinking is also more Mahanian of nature than during peacetime, I would presume. Countering spesific threats. Though the ever-so-reliable Wikipedia bunghole claims that the Dunkerque and Scharnhorst were both of Mahanian nature, I do not buy this. A factor, not a sum

The Deutschland class were pure oddities, bastard children of a punitive treaty, and should not be viewed from perspectives of gun suite, armor scheme or speed setting whatsoever. It boils down to a simple restriction. What's the best we can build within a 10k limit? That is, in the most basic and compressed form, the Deutschland class in a nutshell. I am reminded of Richard Worth's great defintion of the 11" ships. In the world of cruisers they are a sledgehammer, in the world of battleships they are pea shooters. And I would, as did the Germans eventually, refer to them as cruisers. Decent punching gloves but still … cruisers

Along comes the Dunkerque to counter the Deutschland class, according to the sock-smoking dopeheads of cybed-based encyclopedic drivel. Sorry whackipedia, there's probably more to it than just that. I have seen it somewhere that her gun layout was made so because the French expected to be chasing faster Italian cruisers in the Meds. This possibly from a book. GASP! Highly doubtful that Wikipedo makes any mention of this as it would require actually reading up on the Dunkerques which further includes the ability to read, reflect, reason and conclude. Could be they were built to protect French commerce on the High Seas, which would entail battling the rest of cruisers that could already sail in circles around the slow Deutchland. Could be they were built on the British Nelson design as a weight saving measure for a 35k treaty battleship. Could be that naval warfare in Europe was heading towards a cruiser-based type of warfare rather than fleet action seeing none could any longer afford fleet clashes with the top dog, the Royal Navy. Or maybe the Interweb got it right, the French pissed their pants seeing the Deutchland class. Seems plausible enuff.

Scharnhorst class does not build upon Groeners D-class. This is a common misconception to be tossed out the window with the introduction of the speed parameter, 30+ knots, something the diesels simply could not deliver. After A.G.N.A. it parted completely with the D-class. Steam and hefty compartmentation. And a colossal armor upgrade racing towards the 35k treaty limit, the battleship limit. And I don't hold the belief it was built solely to counter the Dunkerques either. Bomb and torpedo defense seems to be a major factor. 11" guns because they were available, the 15" was not. The Scharnhorst class would, per my view, be a transitional design; a stepping stone back towards a traditional battleship. Seeing her gun suite and cry "battlecruiser" with no consideration of the process behind the build resembles facts to fit a theory rather than theory to fit facts. The gun upgrade was an issue already in 1935 and as such the whole designation debacle arise from a decision made out of expediency. I'd argue a decent case could be made them being battleships in development, awaiting the final upgrade (K-235/N4)

Anyhoo, me point to you is that some hardcore design background would be most helpful. The Cul-de-Sac that is Wikipedia seems to suggest their origins arrive from the Deutschland class. And while them Deutschlanders were certainly NOT battlecruisers, building further upon that design the end station is inevitably gonna land you with a ship of battlecruiser qualities. Those pesky Germans really effed things up but it would be pulling it one step too far claiming they reinvented the wheel. Jackie Fisher birthed the battlecruiser and with it the idea of Ubercruisers. So why this commotion around the Deutschland class? They were recognized for their good raider capabilities, as in range and fuel economy, rather than cruiser defeating qualities. And that follows the line of Sea Denial as opposed to that of Sea Control. Should one therefore conclude the Alaskas were intended to raid or bust raiders? I highly doubt it, a cruiser screen would do the job just fine. A direct correlation between those two is pretty much dubious to me. The Alaskas could indeed have been dubbed large cruiser simply due to treaty reasons or even budget reasons. Could be aspects worth investigating

Given the Alaskas design it would undeniably seem though as they were meant to counter cruiser actions, text-book Jackie Fisher, and via his very definition therefore a battlecruiser. By role and therefore by design as well. Still, for all I know she could be intended as screen for a fast aircraft carrier group, serving as a cruiser on steroids. Design and background history surely must at least encompass more than just a pale reference to the Deutschland class, I hope. That being said, naval designation may follow a different path for different reasons, the above mentioned politics and/or economics. Reasons that does not compute with neither role nor design

And thus we conclude the ramblings of a senile man, speaking out of his foxhole on a subject he obviously knows very little of. Businness as usual in la-la-land


Re: Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Thu Nov 30, 2017 12:33 am
by VoidSamukai
Thanks for the compliment.

Yeah I too feel like the Schanrhorst class were not that much based on the D class. I feel like they were based more on the eariler battlecruiser design of the Ersatz Yorck class. They had similar, length, tonnage and even the names are similar. But maybe that last one is coincidence. Though I do have to ask how for every Scharnhorst there is a sister called Gneisenau.

The Alaskas were built in response to a projected Japanese large cruiser design as well as to effectively deal with Japanese cruiser forces. The Americans also believed that other nations might have designs for cruisers with larger caliber guns. So in a sense, they were designed to counter any cruiser any other nation could wield. Sounds familiar.

And yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if the sole reason why the French built the Dunkerques were to counter the Destchland class (which I consider pocket battlecruisers since they were the size of cruisers and have the armour of cruisers but also had battlecruiser qualities)

Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Thu Nov 30, 2017 5:22 pm
by Terje Langoy
G'day, all

The sisters Scharnhorst and Gneisenau served as poastal steamers, passenger ships, cruisers and battleships. The fine and dandy Gneisenau also served as a sailing ship and even as a school frigate after the Second World War. And so yes, these historical figures carries quite some weight in the German sphere of things. There was in fact a time when Germany were not the bad guys but cooperating with the good guys. Sounds preposterous, I know, but it is true. And amongst those to excel at their military proficiency in those days were the reformers Gerard Johann von Scharnhorst and August Neidthard von Gneisenau. If you were to have a closer look at me profile signature I am indeed quoting Blucher's words to a British officer just before the battle at Waterloo. The chief in question would be the good Sir Wellington and together those two defeated Napoleon. Being a Gneisenau fanboy I would add the siege of Colberg, a name to be found in the crest as well, from back in 1807. Some light Gneisenau history for ye

Defining a traditional battlecruiser we would, me thinks, be looking at a capital ship faster than the battleship. Less armoured, the tradeoff, but punching like one of the big dogs. Intended to counter cruiser action, as per Jackie Fisher, the battlecruiser would serve as yet another instrument of Sea Control. However, battling cruisers merely alludes to role and strategy but not a design; cruisers could and would battle other cruisers, happened all the time, it is not an exclusive role. That being said, there are those battlecruisers to show good qualities outside the role. The late John Campbell would most likely agree the finest battlecruiser design of all time would be the German Derfflinger design, aka the Iron Dog. Excelling at a role not very "battlecruiser-ish" mind you and so we are back onto a design, not a role. To be honest the whole term battlecruiser is quite a foggy thing. What does it actually mean? If the answer is anything remotely close to the countering of cruiser action then role become a defining factor. Battlecruiser would be a strategy, not a design

Let me use my beloved Gneisenau and build upon this. Gneisenau would not be a battlecruiser because she is not used to counter cruiser actions nor is she specifically built for the countering of cruiser actions. Admitting otherwise would, by default, render all claims the Scharnhorst class were built to counter the Dunkerques at fault unless we then were to submit the Dunkerques were cruisers, which is an absurd position. Back to role then. The Gneisenau was deployed for cruiser warfare. So a cruiser then? Ahem, noooo... Another thing to consider, by World War Two the speed advantage of the battlecruiser had been very much mitigated. Battleships were becoming way faster. Does not make them battlecruisers, I hope. So then, gun calibre the only criteria? That would, again by default, make the Deutschland class a battlecruiser. It is taking an absurd turn

The Deutschland class is explicitly not faster than the battleship and in fact painfully slower than contemporary cruisers. Unsuited to take on several of them at once, i.e. battle of River Plate, and as such makes for quite a sad spectacle in the battlecruiser role as any cruisers encountered by them merely need to crank up the juice and leave them behind. The plea stay still so that I may punch you in da faaace is not gonna land her many victories. Fact of the matter is the Deutschland class truly opened the door on cruiser warfare, Sea Denial and raiding of commerce. Makes her a great cruiser in some regard but dubbing her a battlecruiser on account of her guns is like farting in Fisher's general direction

The reason I called the battlecruiser concept outdated in Europe after Jutland is because in the 40s the entire Royal Navy were effectively acting as battlecruisers warding off the Kriegsmarine using all of their ships in a cruiser role. That is the product of strategies. Design becomes a subset almost irrelevant in light of how the ship is being used. I do not suggest we start calling Bismarck a cruiser or the Duke of York a battlecruiser, merely pointing out naval warfare took a different direction in Europe and navies adjusted accordingly. The Pacific still had fleet clashes and battle for Sea Control thus the battlecruiser as a design might been more relevant over there. Perhaps I truly am speaking out of my a** again, would not be the first time

From your post it seems clear to me as to what capacity the Alaskas would serve and thus I would claim she is indeed built as a battlecruiser and obviously intended to counter cruisers. The term Large Cruiser could perhaps be coined from other reasons. Doubtful that treaty limitations would play a major role during wartime thus I am left with the option of funding. Could be that they were classified within the cruiser category merely to procure funding for the ship or permit another battleship being funded simultaneously? Just after Pearl I imagine the navy wanted built all the ships they possibly could lay their hands upon. Alas, in plenum it makes virtually no difference to anything here but a satisfaction of the mind what category would house the Alaskas. For your enjoyment I will tag along in the battlecruiser cheerleader parade. Let's rock them hoola-hoops

Time for me pills and change of diapers


Re: Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 1:28 am
by VoidSamukai
Ehhhh....debatable. Including only ships built at the time and in the European Theater, the only ships that were faster than the Deustchland class were the British battlecruisers. Most battleships could only reach a top speed of 24knots while the Deustchs could go 28knots. But yeah, the battlecruisers of the British navy would've made mince meat of the Deustchland class since they had better armour, better speed and better firepower. No wonder when they designed the D class they increased the speed.

Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 6:29 pm
by Terje Langoy
G'day, all

Aye, it is indeed debatable, son. We are here hopefully to discuss the merits of the battlecruiser. Have some cake ... I will grant you them Deutschlanders being faster than the Lissies and Royals of the British Isles but that slight edge of speed would at best be a marginal feature. As you mentioned the Renowns and the Hood were speedboats by comparison and to be fair even cruisers, as in plural, were more than sufficient to deal with ze Grosse Kreuzer mit Schwerer Pang-Pang. I must admit to be baiting you towards a definition of the battlecruiser, not by comparison (as you did with your excellent first post) but as an idea. So forth the bulk of me post was addressing the very point that recognizing the merits of certain features within the Deutschland design does not make it purpose-built to that end. Following that logic we might conclude the Bismarck is portraying fabulous submarine qualities seeing that after her sinking she excels at being submerged. It is a spectacularly silly point (and a bit funny, I am myself amused) but deducing design from a feature or two is not a package deal and I really want me cake, sob sob. Calling the Scharnhorst a battlecruiser on account of her guns while the rest litterary screams battleship makes this one cranky. I am not saying you did it, someone probably did. It is all very vague to me. Would you agree with me the Deutschland class, as a sum of features, appear to be very adept at cruiser warfare rather than the countering of said cruiser warfare?

I am not attempting to prove you wrong or right here, Voidsamukai. I am honeytrappin' you into defining, or redefine, the concept battlecruiser in an era when it has been negated by the changing tide of naval strategy and advancement in design and technology. I contend that every ship engaged in a cruiser war is either a cruiser or a battlecruiser. Now, how is that for messin' shieet up?


Re: Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 5:35 pm
by paul.mercer
This is a very interesting thread, however, I still remain puzzled over why the Alaska's and the twins were built in the first place.
As has been pointed out on many occasions the twins fell into a bracket where they were powerful enough to see off a number of 8" cruisers at the same time but not capable of taking on a heavy battleship and the Alaska's fall into the same category, one has to only recall the number of times the twins retreated rather than take on even an elderly RN battleship. Perhaps they might be called battlecruisers, but maybe they should be just classed as 'Light battleships' due to the size of their guns and armour.
I suppose that one could argue that battlecruisers like Repulse, Renown and Hood (which actually could be classed as a fast battleship) were in fact way overgunned if all they were designed to do was just to see off a bunch of cruisers.Yes,just one or two 15"shells are very likely to incapacitate the average large cruiser, but the damage to Exeter by AGS's 11" was pretty devastating and forced her to withdraw. As regards to the faster rate of fire with a 12", no doubt this is correct, but if a fully worked up Battleship with a good crew (Warspite for instance) achieving a firing rate of about one round a minute(or just over), with her 15" I don't think an Alaska would stay around long enough to fight it out and like the twins use her speed to get away.

Re: Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:34 am
by VoidSamukai
The Alaskas were built to counter a rumored Japanese super cruiser project that could hunt down their own heavy cruisers and carriers. They also built the Alaskas to hunt down any enemy cruiser while being able to speed away from anything powerful enough to sink it head on.

The Scharn Twins (WW2 not WW1) were built as part of the German plan to build a battleship fleet able to challenge the RN. Note that this was before Plan Z. The reason they were fitted with only 11inch guns was that they were avaliable, the 15inch guns were not yet ready and that Germany wasn't really keen on provoking Britain with a battleship armed with 15inch guns so they decided maybe it was best to stick with 11inch guns. Of course, this was later dropped and the idea for them to get 15inch guns was considered but again the first two reasons still existed.

Re: Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:04 pm
by Paul L
VoidSamukai wrote:The Alaskas were built to counter a rumored Japanese super cruiser project that could hunt down their own heavy cruisers and carriers. They also built the Alaskas to hunt down any enemy cruiser while being able to speed away from anything powerful enough to sink it head on.

The Scharn Twins (WW2 not WW1) were built as part of the German plan to build a battleship fleet able to challenge the RN. Note that this was before Plan Z. The reason they were fitted with only 11inch guns was that they were avaliable, the 15inch guns were not yet ready and that Germany wasn't really keen on provoking Britain with a battleship armed with 15inch guns so they decided maybe it was best to stick with 11inch guns. Of course, this was later dropped and the idea for them to get 15inch guns was considered but again the first two reasons still existed.

It was not the 'German plan' - it was Raeder's plan to build a battleship fleet ,in the footsteps of Von Tirpitz, Maybe if they had the time Hitler insisted they had [mid to late 1940s], they could have entertained this phantasy, but from POV of 1940 WW-II - pursuing Battleship fleet was an irresponsible waste of precious resources the KM just didn't have.

The PBS hull was rated for 30 knots but could only reach 29.4 knots in ultra light trails. It seems adding bulges cost them a knot off the top speed. The rest was increased displacement from enlarging the superstructure/armaments, to meet the numerous roles demanded. Reportedly mid life plans included transom sterns and papered over hull form [AKA the Karlsruhe mod of the late 1930s].

Re: Alaska Class: Battlecruise or Large Cruiser Semi-debate

Posted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 4:13 am
by Dave Saxton
paul.mercer wrote:Gentlemen,
........., one has to only recall the number of times the twins retreated rather than take on even an elderly RN battleship. Perhaps they might be called battlecruisers, but maybe they should be just classed as 'Light battleships' due to the size of their guns and armour.
This would be the case no matter how powerful the German warship. The Germans have little to gain by sinking one or two of many enemy warships, but quite a bit to lose through running the risk.
...but if a fully worked up Battleship with a good crew (Warspite for instance) achieving a firing rate of about one round a minute(or just over), with her 15" I don't think an Alaska would stay around long enough to fight it out and like the twins use her speed to get away.

The Alaska class protection was only good against up to 8" fire. Anything larger and the protection was more or less useless. This is also why the Scharnhorst was a vastly superior design ton for ton compared to the Alaska. The Scharnhorst's armour protection was capable of standing up to battleship caliber fire.