The Cruiser (part 6): The Axis Powers & the Postwar World

Facing the Allied powers in World War II were the nations of the Axis alliance, namely Germany, Italy and Japan, supported by a number of smaller nations none of which made any real naval contribution.

Admiral Hipper class cruiserGermany planned a class of five ‘Admiral Hipper’ class heavy cruisers from the early 1930s, and these were orthodox but large ships of their type. Launched in the second half of the 1930s, only three of the ships were completed: of the other two one was delivered incomplete to the USSR as part of the treaty signed between the two countries in 1939, and the other was not completed. The main armament of the ‘Admiral Hipper’ class was limited to eight 8-in (203-mm) guns in four twin turrets located as super-firing pairs fore and aft, and this allowed a considerable proportion of the displacement to be devoted to a sturdy structure and very good protection. One of the ships was sunk by Norwegian shore batteries in April 1940, but the other two survived the war after playing distinguished roles in its first phases. The basic details of these impressive ships included a full-load displacement of 18,400 tons, armament of eight 8-in (203-mm) guns in four twin turrets, 12 4.1-in (105-mm) dual-purpose guns in six twin turrets, 12 37-mm anti-aircraft guns in six twin mountings, 24 20-mm cannon and 12 21-in (533-mm) torpedo tubes, protection in the form of a 3.1-in (80-mm) belt and 2-in (50-mm) deck, and a speed of 33.4 kt on the 132,000 hp (98430 kW) delivered to three shafts by steam turbines.

Germany’s only other cruisers were the six light cruisers of the ‘Köln’ class, which were relatively modern ships but not particularly notable with their armament of nine 5.9-in (155-mm) guns and six 3.4-in (88-mm) anti-aircraft guns.

Italy was a firm believer in the cruiser, which it saw as tactically efficient for the support of its battle force in the central Mediterranean Sea and also as a cost-effective means of providing powerful warships suited to the tasks of commanding and supporting flotilla operations by light cruisers and destroyers in more confined waters such as those of the Aegean Sea. In the years after World War I the Italian navy lacked the financial resources to undertake the construction of many new ships, and for this reason retained a number of obsolescent types such as the two ‘San Giorgio’ class armoured cruisers, the single ‘Libia’ and ‘Campania’ class protected cruisers, and the one ‘Quarto’, two ‘Bixio’, three ‘Poerio’, three ‘Mirabello’, four ‘Aquila’ and three ‘Leone’ class scout cruisers. During the 1920s, however, relations between France and Italy began to worsen, and when the French started work on the two ‘Duquesne’ class heavy cruisers to the limits imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty, Italy responded with the ‘Trento’ class ships offering firepower and speed comparable with those of the French class in combination with somewhat better protection. The ‘Trento’ class ships were still under construction when France responded with its four ‘Suffren’ class heavy cruisers in which a measure of speed was sacrificed to provide greater protection. Italy did not undertake an immediate response to these impressive ships, largely as a result of financial and industrial problems, but this gave the Italian navy the time to assess the qualities of the ‘Suffren’ class design before it responded three years later with the four ships of the ‘Zara’ class. This sacrificed some performance, the propulsion arrangement being reduced to 108,000 hp (80535 kW) delivered to two shafts by steam turbines for a speed of 32 kt, for better protection: this took the form of a 5.9-in (150-mm) belt and 2.75-in (70-mm) deck, and the firepower of these impressive heavy cruisers was provided by a main battery of eight 8-in (203-mm) guns in two pairs of super-firing turrets forward and aft of the superstructure, a secondary battery of 16 3.9-in (100-mm) dual-purpose guns in eight twin mountings, and a tertiary battery of eight 37-mm anti-aircraft guns.

In light cruiser design and construction, the Italians were again content, or rather had to be contented for financial reasons, with responses to French leads. Thus the construction of the three ‘Duguay Trouin’ light cruisers spurred the construction from 1928 of the first four of an eventual 12 light cruisers of the ‘Condottieri’ type produced in five subclasses as four ‘Bande Nere’, two ‘Diaz’, two ‘Montecuccoli’, two ‘Aosta’ and two ‘Garibaldi’ class ships. Like their French counterparts, the ‘Bande Nere’ class ships carried a primary armament of eight 6-in (152-mm) guns in two pairs of super-firing twin turrets and carried only vestigial armour protection, but were very fast. The four later subclasses of the ‘Condottieri’ type were a response to the French light cruisers of the ‘La Galissonnière’ class with improved protection, and successive subclasses introduced greater size and displacement to permit the incorporation of better protection and a more potent propulsion arrangement so that speed did not suffer. The last pair of ships, launched in 1933, were the ‘Garibaldi’ class with a further enlargement in beam and draught to allow the incorporation of two additional main-calibre guns. The details of these ships therefore included a full-load displacement of 11,260 tons, an armament of 10 6-in (152-mm) guns in super-firing pairs of triple and twin turrets, eight 3.9-in (100-mm) anti-aircraft guns, eight 37-mm anti-aircraft guns, 10 20-mm anti-aircraft cannon and six 21-in (533-mm) torpedo tubes, protection in the form of a 5.1-in (130-mm) belt and 1.6-in (40-mm) deck, and a speed of 32 kt on the 102,000 hp (76060 kW) delivered to two shafts by steam turbines.

Although the concept of the small scout cruiser had generally lapsed after the end of World War I except in Japan, where a number of such ships were built in the 1920s, the French reverted to such a type in the mid-1930s with the ‘Mogador’ class of ships officially rated as large destroyers but were in fact scout cruisers with a full-load displacement of 4,010 tons, an armament of eight 5.5-in (140-mm) guns in two super-firing pairs of twin turrets, four 37-mm anti-aircraft guns in two twin mountings and 10 21.7-in (550-mm) torpedo tubes, and the remarkable speed of 39 kt on the 92,000 hp (68630 kW) delivered to two shafts by steam turbines. The excellence of these ships, of which only two were built to a standard that effectively outgunned the British ‘Dido’ class light cruisers, was seen by the Italians as a major threat that was countered by the ‘Capitani Romani’ class of fast light cruisers: 12 ships were laid down, but only four were completed. The key to the design was a long and relatively beamy hull able to accommodate a sizeable propulsion arrangement: the machinery of the Italian ships was capable of generating 125,000 hp (92,310 kW), which was about the same as that of the four times heavier ‘Des Moines’ class heavy cruisers, and this was delivered to two shafts for the truly remarkable speed of 43 kt. The ships carried virtually no protection, however, and the armament comprised eight 5.3-in (135-mm) guns in two super-firing pairs of twin turrets, eight 37-mm anti-aircraft guns, eight 20-mm anti-aircraft cannon and eight 21-in (533-mm) torpedo tubes.

Like the Italians, the Japanese saw the cruiser as a cost-effective weapon for a country that lacked a large industrial base and adequate quantities of indigenous raw materials, especially iron ore. In Japanese naval thinking, the cruiser offered the possibility of striking at larger and potentially more threatening warships by using its speed and agility, in combination with daring Japanese tactics, to close to effective torpedo range. The first result of this philosophy after World War I, which had seen the laying down of the two ‘Tenryu’ class light cruisers, was the five light cruisers of the ‘Kuma’ class with a displacement of 5,100 tons, an armament of seven 5.5-in (140-mm) guns in single mounting and eight 21-in (533-mm) torpedo tubes, protection in the form of a 2-in (50-mm) belt and 1.5-in (37-mm) deck, and a speed of 36 kt on the 90,000 hp (67105 kW) delivered to four shafts by steam turbines. Two of the vessels, it is worth noting, were adapted in 1941 into the ultimate torpedo-armed cruisers after the introduction of the 24-in (610-mm) ‘Long Lance’ torpedo, a weapon that could deliver a devastatingly large warhead over a long range at high speed. The two ships were altered by the alteration of the gun armament to four 5.5-in (140-mm) weapons in two twin mountings and up to 36 25-mm anti-aircraft guns in six triple and 18 single mountings, and the deck was widened on each beam with sponsons to carry a total of 10 quadruple mountings for the ‘Long Lance’ torpedo.

Imperial Japanese Navy ship Natori in 1922After World War I Japan planned to build its armed forces to the extent that the country would become the most potent military power in the western half of the Pacific as well as in eastern and south-eastern Asia. An early decision was that the Japanese navy lacked balance, for construction before and during world War I had been concentrated on capital ships and destroyers. With a major capability in the ocean vastnesses of the western Pacific now required, there was clearly demand for larger numbers of more capable cruisers to provide scouting and ambush capabilities. The first result of this was the ‘Natori’ class of six light cruisers completed in the period between 1922 and 1925. These were unexceptional ships based on the ‘Nagara’ class with a displacement of 5,170 tons, an armament of seven 5.5-in (140-mm) guns in seven single turrets and eight 24-in (610-mm) torpedo tubes, protection in the form of a 2-in (50-mm) belt and 1.5-in (37-mm) deck, and a speed of 36 kt on the 90,000 hp (67105 kW) delivered to four shafts by steam turbines. The Japanese navy adhered to the same basic philosophy in the succeeding ‘Sendai’ class of six light cruisers, of which only three were completed. This class had basically the same dimensions, armament and protection as the two preceding classes, although a change was made in the propulsion arrangement that now included 11 oil- and one mixed-burning boilers by comparison with the eight oil- and four coal-burning boilers of the ‘Nagara’ class and the 10 oil- and two mixed-burning boilers of the ‘Kuma’ class.

As the ‘Sendai’ class was being planned and laid down, the final negotiations of the Washington Naval Conference were being undertaken and the probability of new types of cruiser persuaded the Japanese navy to build the single ‘Yubari’ class light cruiser as an experimental type, offering the same broadside weight as its predecessors on a displacement of only 2,900 tons. This was achieved by cutting the protection to a 2-in (50-mm) belt, trunking the two uptakes into a single funnel, limiting the torpedo armament to four 24-in (610-mm) tubes, locating the main armament of six 5.5-in (140-mm) guns on the centreline in two twin and two single turrets with the twin turrets in super-firing positions, and revising the propulsion arrangement for a speed of 35.5 kt on the 57,900 hp (43170 kW) delivered to three shafts by steam turbines. The ship was a considerable success at the technical level, and paved the way for the design and construction of both light and heavy cruisers within the constraints of the Washington Naval Treaty.

The first result of this process was the ‘Kako’ class of two heavy cruisers completed in 1926. These were impressive ships well within the treaty limits for the new class of heavy cruisers with 8-in (203-mm) guns and a maximum displacement of 10,000 tons as they were armed with six 7.9-in (200-mm) guns in single turrets located equally fore and aft of the superstructure and had a displacement of 8,100 tons. Their other primary details included a secondary armament of four 3-in (76-mm) anti-aircraft guns in single mountings and 12 24-in (610-mm) torpedo tubes, protection in the form of a 3-in (76-mm) belt and 1.5-in (37-mm) deck, and a speed of 34.5 kt on the 102,000 hp (76050 kW) delivered to three shafts by steam turbines. The overall capabilities of the class were improved in the late 1930s, when the original six single gun turrets were replaced by three twin turrets (a super-firing pair forward and a singleton aft) carrying 8-in (203-mm) weapons. The following two ships of the ‘Aoba’ class were generally similar with the exception of having their six 7.9-mm (200-mm) guns, later replaced by 8-in (203-mm) weapons, in three twin turrets and the strengthened anti-aircraft armament of four 4.7-in (120-mm) guns in single mountings. With a displacement of 8,300 tons and protection in the form of a 3-in (76-mm) belt and 1.5-in (37-mm) deck, the ‘Aoba’ class cruiser attained a speed of 34.5 kt on the 102,000 hp (76050 kW) delivered to four shafts by steam turbines.

These first two classes of Japanese heavy cruiser paved the way in the mid-1920s to the considerably superior ‘Myoko’ class of four ships. These were completed in 1928 and 1929 to a standard that included a displacement of 10,940 tons, armament of 10 7.9-in (200-mm) guns, later replaced by 8-in (203-mm) weapons, in five twin turrets (three forward and two aft), six 4.7-in (120-mm) anti-aircraft guns in single mountings, 12 24-in (610-mm) torpedo tubes, protection in the form of a 4-in (102-mm) belt and 5-in (127-mm) deck, and a speed of 35.5 kt on the 130,000 hp (96930 kW) delivered to four shafts by steam turbines. The most important features made possible by the additional size and displacement of this class were the considerably heavier main armament, carried as a triplet forward with the central unit as the super-firing turret and as a super-firing pair aft, and the considerably thicker armour that made these vessels particularly resistant to terminal battle damage. The following four ships of the ‘Takao’ class were completed to an improved ‘Myoko’ class design with a more ‘piled’ superstructure of streamlined design, welded rather than riveted construction wherever possible, and light alloy in place of steel wherever possible to keep weight to a minimum, increased armour protection for the magazines, and a primary armament of 8-in (203-mm) guns from the beginning of their lives. The details of the ships therefore included a displacement of 11,350 tons, an armament of 10 8-in (203-mm) guns in five twin turrets (three forward and two aft), four 4.7-in (120-mm) anti-aircraft guns in single mountings and eight 24-in (610-mm) torpedo tubes, protection in the form of a 4-in (102-mm) belt and 1.5-in (37-mm) deck, and a speed of 35.5 kt on the 130,000 hp (96930 kW) delivered to four shafts by steam turbines.

By 1931 Japan had completed the maximum of 12 heavy cruisers permitted under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, so further construction was limited to light cruisers carrying guns with a calibre of no more than 6.1 in (155 mm). The Japanese answer to this dilemma was the creation of the four ‘Mogami’ class cruisers with the exceptional armament of 15 6.1-in (155-mm) guns in five triple turrets, and it was the obvious threat of these ships that persuaded the Americans and British to develop more advanced cruisers in the forms of the ‘Brooklyn’ and ‘Southampton’ classes respectively. The Japanese felt that displacement was clearly going to be a critical problem given the number of turrets that were to be shipped, so the use of welding and light alloys, already pioneered in the ‘Takao’ class, was taken to a greater extreme. This solution was not without its problems, though, and sea trials with the first two ships were hampered by excessive top weight and structural problems as a result of poor welding, resulting in hull deformations that prevented the main turrets from being trained over their full arcs. The two ships were therefore rebuilt with a wider hull carrying external bulges, and this provided greater structural strength as well as improving stability. The latter pair of ships were completed to this revised standard, and in 1939 all four ships were revised to full heavy cruiser standard with their 15 6.1-in (155-mm) guns in triple turrets replaced by 10 8-in (203-mm) guns in twin turrets. As completed to definitive initial standard, the ships had a displacement of 11,200 tons, armament of 15 6.1-in (155-mm) guns in five triple turrets, eight 5-in (127-mm) anti-aircraft guns in four twin turrets, four 40-mm anti-aircraft guns in single mountings and 12 24-in (610-mm) torpedo tubes, protection in the form of a 4-in (102-mm) belt and 1.5-in (37-mm) deck, and a speed of 35 kt on the 152,000 hp (113330 kW) delivered to four shafts by steam turbines.

Japanese Mogador class cruiserThe final Japanese heavy cruisers were the two ships of the ‘Tone’ class, which were completed in 1938 and 1939. The design was an improved version of that developed in the ‘Mogami’ class with the main armament reduced to 12 6.1-in (155-mm) guns in four triple turrets all located forward with one unit in a super-firing position. This arrangement was adopted as the ships were intended specifically for the scouting role associated with Combined Fleet operations in the Pacific, and allowed the after part of the ship to be dedicated to the floatplane complement of five aircraft (as opposed to the three and two aircraft carried respectively by the preceding two classes) and two beam catapults. The details of the ‘Tone’ class included a displacement of 11,215 tons, an armament of eight 8-in (203-mm) guns in four twin turrets, eight 5-in (127-mm) anti-aircraft guns in four twin turrets, 12 25-mm anti-aircraft guns in six twin mounting and 12 24-in (610-mm) torpedo tubes, protection in the form of a 4-in (102-mm) belt and 2.5-in (63-mm) deck, and a speed of 35 kt on the 152,200 hp (113480 kW) delivered to four shafts by steam turbines.

Late in the 1930s the Japanese navy decided that it should replace its older light cruisers built in the early 1920s with a main armament of 5.5-in (140-mm) guns. The first result of this decision was the completion between 1942 and 1944 of the four ships of the ‘Agano’ class with a full-load displacement of 8,535 tons, an armament of six 5.9-in (150-mm) guns in three twin turrets (a super-firing pair forward and a singleton unit aft), four 3-in (76-mm) anti-aircraft guns in two twin turrets, up to 59 25-mm anti-aircraft guns in 10 triple and 29 single mountings and eight 24-in (610-mm) torpedo tubes, protection in the form of a 2.25-in (57-mm) belt and 0.75-in (19-mm) deck, and a speed of 35 kt on the 110,000 hp (82015 kW) delivered to four shafts by steam turbines.      The last cruiser completed by the Japanese in World War II was the single light cruiser of the ‘Oyodo’ class, which was based in the ‘Agano’ class design with revisions suiting it to the somewhat different role of commanding a scouting and hunting group of aircraft and submarines. The primary gun armament of six 6.1-in (155-mm) guns was therefore located forward of the superstructure in a super-firing pair of triple turrets, and this left the after part of the ship clear for the floatplane installation, which comprised two aircraft launched from a single centreline catapult but recovered from the sea at the ends of their missions by a pair of beam cranes. The other details of this ship, which was completed early in 1943, included a displacement of 8,165 tons, a secondary armament of eight 3.9-in (100-mm) anti-aircraft guns in four twin mountings and 12 25-mm anti-aircraft guns in four triple mountings, protection in the form of a 2-in (50-mm) belt and 2-in (50-mm) deck, and a speed of 35 kt on the 110,000 hp (82015 kW) delivered to four shafts by steam turbines.

The Japanese cruisers saw very extensive service in World War II, and in general proved to be excellent and sturdy warships well able to undertake the tasks asked of them. Wartime modification was extensive as the ships were refitted and repaired, most of the modification efforts being concerned with the improvement of the ships’ short-range anti-aircraft defences in an effort to provide them with a counter to the overwhelming air superiority that the Americans were able to bring to bear from a time late in 1942. Virtually every spare part of deck area was used for single or multiple anti-aircraft mountings, and the need for such enhancement often meant the removal of some or all of the aircraft capability, and also some of the torpedo capability.

The end of World War II spelled the effective end of the gun-armed cruiser as a worthwhile naval weapon, for the guided missile was rapidly replacing the gun as the primary weapon carried by major warships. The more modern of existing ships were maintained in service to provide an interim capability, but the way forward was revealed by the USA in the first half of the 1950s, when two heavy cruisers of the ‘Baltimore’ class were converted as guided missile cruisers for the fleet escort role: the after end of each ship was revised with a pair of twin-arm launchers (for a total of 144 RIM-2 Terrier medium-range surface-to-air missiles) and their associated surveillance, target acquisition and missile guidance radars together with the fire-control systems. The success of the two conversions, which were recommissioned in 1955 and 1956, paved the way for a similar conversion of six ‘Cleveland’ class light cruisers, whose after ends were similarly cleared and adapted for the carriage of one twin-arm launcher for 120 Terrier SAMs and their associated radar and fire-control system. These ships were recommissioned between 1958 and 1960, and were followed between 1962 and 1964 by more elaborate conversions. These were three more ‘Baltimore’ class ships that were stripped of all their main gun turrets to permit their modification into two-ended missile ships with a pair of twin-arm launchers for a total of 104 RIM-8 Talos long-range SAMs complemented by another pair of twin-arm launchers abreast of the forward superstructure for 84 Terrier SAMs. These launchers were complemented by the associated radar and fire-control systems, the provision of four target-tracking/missile-guidance radars allowing the simultaneous engagement of four targets rather than the maximum of two that was possible with the earlier conversions.

The success of these ships paved the way for the creation of purpose-designed guided missile cruisers fully optimised for the defence of the carrier battle groups that had become the most important surface warships operated by the US Navy. The first of these new missile cruisers carried the same missiles as their predecessors, but these were replaced in due course by the superb RIM-66 and RIM-67 medium- and long-range versions of the Standard Missile. The missile cruisers were built in two basic forms with conventional or nuclear propulsion, the latter being designed for the support of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers on extended-duration deployments, but financial considerations gave generally meant that production of nuclear-powered missile cruisers has lagged behind the totals required for protection of the nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, which therefore operate with a mix of conventionally and nuclear-powered cruisers.

The force of such cruisers built for the US Navy included the single nuclear-powered ship of the ‘Long Beach’ class completed in 1961, the nine conventionally powered ships of the ‘Leahy’ class completed between 1962 and 1964, the single ship of the ‘Bainbridge’ class completed in 1962 as a nuclear-powered version of the ‘Leahy’ class design, the nine conventionally powered ships of the ‘Belknap’ class completed between 1963 and 1965, the single ship of the ‘Truxtun’ class completed in 1964 as a nuclear-powered version of the ‘Belknap’ class design, the two nuclear-powered ships of the ‘California’ class completed in 1974 and 1975, the four nuclear-powered ships of the ‘Virginia’ class completed between 1976 and 1980, and finally the planned 27 units of the ‘Ticonderoga’ class completed from 1983 with the extraordinarily complex and capable AEGIS missile system based on the SPY-1A electronically scanned planar-array radar system.

Long Beach was the largest of these ships with a full-load displacement of 16,600 tons; an armament of two twin-arm launchers for 120 Standard Missiles, one octuple launcher for eight RUR-5 ASROC anti-submarine weapons, one octuple launcher for eight BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, two quadruple launchers for eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two 5-in (127-mm) dual-purpose guns in single turrets, two 20-mm Vulcan six-barrel cannon in two Phalanx close-in weapon system mountings, and two triple tubes for 12.75-in (324-mm) anti-submarine torpedoes; and a speed of 30 kt on the 80,000 hp (59650 kW) delivered to two shafts by steam turbines powered by two Westinghouse C1W pressurised water-cooled reactors. In all, this represented a prodigious capability against targets ranging from aircraft to pinpoint land objectives as well as submarines, ships and other surface targets on both sea and land.

The later nuclear-powered missile cruisers were somewhat smaller and had reduced, although still very formidable, capabilities, but the most modern and indeed sole cruiser class currently in service is the prolific ‘Ticonderoga’ class. This is based on a development of the hull designed for the ‘Spruance’ class destroyer, and its details include a full-load displacement of 9,450 tons; an armament of two twin-arm or, in later ships, two vertical-launch systems for a total of 68 or 122 weapons respectively in the form of various mixes of Standard Missile, up to 20 RUR-5 ASROC anti-submarine (now deleted) and 20 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, two quadruple launchers for eight BGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two 5-in (127-mm) dual-purpose guns in single turrets, two 20-mm Vulcan six-barrel cannon in Phalanx close-in weapon system mountings and two triple tubes for six 12.75-in (324-mm) anti-submarine torpedoes; and a speed of 30 or more kt on the 80,000 hp (59650 kW) delivered to two shafts by four General Electric LM2500 gas turbines.

Other Western countries that have built cruisers since the end of World War II include France with the single ‘de Grasse’ class light cruiser with a main armament of 16 5-in (127-mm) dual-purpose guns in eight twin turrets grouped in super-firing quadruplets forward and aft, and the single ‘Colbert’ class light cruiser with a main armament of 16 5-in (127-mm) dual-purpose guns in eight twin turrets grouped in super-firing quadruplets forward and aft but later rebuilt as a guided missile cruiser with an armament of one twin-arm launcher for Masurca SAMs aft and two 3.9-in (100-mm) guns in a pair of super-firing single turrets forward; Italy with the two ‘Andrea Doria’ class helicopter cruisers with an armament of one twin-arm launcher for Terrier (later Standard Missile) SAMs forward, eight 3-in (76-mm) dual-purpose guns in single turrets, and up to four anti-submarine helicopters aft; and the single ‘Vittorio Veneto’ class helicopter cruiser with an armament of one twin-arm launcher for Terrier (later Standard Missile) SAMs forward, eight 3-in (76-mm) dual-purpose guns in single turrets, and up to nine anti-submarine helicopters aft; the Netherlands with two ‘de Ruyter’ class light cruisers with an armament of eight 6-in (152-mm) guns in two pairs of super-firing twin turrets; and the UK with three ‘Tiger’ class light cruisers with an armament of two 6-in (152-mm) guns in one twin turret, two launchers for Sea Cat SAMs, and up to four anti-submarine helicopters.

On the other side of the now-fallen ‘Iron Curtain’, the politico-military divide that emerged in the period after World War II, the only country of the Warsaw Pact nations to have built cruisers was the USSR. This country had a strength of 15 cruisers in 1947, in the form of two Russian ships from World War I, one American ‘Omaha’ class ship, one ex-German ‘Nürnberg’ class ship, one ex-Italian ‘Aosta’ class ship, two ‘Kirov’ class ships, four ‘Maksim Gorky’ class ships and four ‘Chapayev’ class ships. The USSR’s next cruiser type was the ‘Sverdlov’ class: 24 of these were ordered, 20 were laid down, 17 were launched but only 14 were finally completed between 1951 and 1955 with a full-load displacement of 17,200 tons, an armament of 12 6-in (152-mm) guns in two pairs of super-firing triple turrets, 12 3.9-in (100-mm) dual-purpose guns in six twin turrets, 16 37-mm anti-aircraft guns in eight twin mountings and 10 533-mm (21-in) torpedo tubes, protection in the form of a 4.9-in (125-mm) belt and 3-in (75-mm) deck, and a speed of 32.5 kt on the 110,000 hp (82015 kW) delivered to two shafts by steam turbines. These ships were obsolete even as they were being built, but in the later 1950s the USSR started to create considerably more powerful cruisers of two new types within the context of the Soviet ambition to create a navy with genuine blue-water capability. This might not be able to seize command of the seas from the US Navy, but was schemed to create the strength that could inflict major casualties on any American force attempting an amphibious invasion of the USSR.

The first of the new types was intended specifically for the engagement and destruction of American aircraft carriers and their supporting warships in operationally vital carrier battle groups, and its first example was the ‘Kynda’ class of four ships completed between 1962 and 1965 with a full-load displacement of 5,600 tons, an armament of two quadruple launchers for 16 SS-N-3 ‘Shaddock’ nuclear-armed anti-ship missiles, one launcher for 24 SA-N-1 SAMs, four 3-in (76-mm) dual-purpose guns in two twin turrets, two 12-tube anti-submarine rocket launchers, and six 21-in (533-mm) torpedo tubes, and a speed of 34 kt on the 100,000 hp (74560 kW) delivered to two shafts by steam turbines. The ‘Kynda’ class ships provided a very useful initial capability against the American aircraft carrier force, but were complemented in 1967 and 1968 by the four ‘Kresta I’ class cruisers that still provided a major offensive punch but were better able to provide their own protection against aircraft and submarine attack. The ships therefore had a full-load displacement of 7,500 tons, an armament of two twin launchers for just four SS-N-3 ‘Shaddock’ anti-ship missiles, two twin-arm launchers for 44 SA-N-1 SAMs, four 57-mm anti-aircraft guns in two twin mountings, two 12-tube and two six-tube anti-submarine rocket launchers, 10 21-in (533-mm) torpedo tubes, and one anti-submarine and/or missile-guidance helicopter, and a speed of 34 kt on the 100,000 hp (74560 kW) delivered to two shafts by steam turbines.

The nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine was beginning to come to the fore as a decisive strategic weapon during this period, and the threat of the USA’s growing force of such boats was reflected in the construction of the ‘Kresta II’ class of 10 cruisers adapted from the ‘Kresta I’ class design for the specialised task of hunting and killing American nuclear-powered submarines. In this task the primary sensor was an advanced sonar system located in the forefoot of the lengthened bow section, and the primary weapon the SS-N-14 ‘Silex’ missile used to deliver a homing torpedo or nuclear depth charge to the area pinpointed by the sonar (either shipborne or helicopter-carried) as the location of the target submarine. From 1971 the ‘Kresta II’ class cruisers were complemented by seven ‘Kara’ class anti-submarine cruisers, which were the first full-size cruisers to enter service with the Soviet navy after the ‘Sverdlov’ class ships. With a full-load displacement of 9,900 tons, the ships of this class carry an armament of two quadruple launchers for eight SS-N-14 ‘Silex’ anti-submarine weapons, two twin-arm launchers for 72 SA-N-3 ‘Goblet’ SAMs, two twin-arm launchers for 40 SA-N-4 ‘Gecko’ SAMs, four 3-in (76-mm) dual-purpose guns in two twin turrets, four 30-mm six-barrel anti-aircraft cannon in single mountings, up to 10 21-in (533-mm) torpedo tubes, and two 12- and two six-tube anti-submarine rocket launchers. Propulsion is based on the delivery of 134,000 hp (91710 kW) to two shafts by a COGOG (Combined Gas turbine Or Gas turbine) arrangement of four large and two small gas turbines for a speed of 34 kt.

The ‘Kara’ class ships seem to have persuaded the Soviets of the advantage of a full-size cruiser hull for good ocean-going and weapon-carrying capability, and the most recent Soviet class has been the four ships of the ‘Slava’ class optimised for the dual-role anti-ship and anti-submarine task with a full-load displacement of 11,200 tons for the carriage of a weapons fit that includes eight twin launchers for SS-N-12 ‘Sandbox’ anti-ship missiles, eight octuple launchers for 64 SA-N-6 ‘Grumble’ SAMs, two twin-arm launchers for 40 SA-N-4 ‘Gecko’ SAMs, two 5.1-in (130-mm) dual-purpose guns in a twin turret, six 30-mm six-barrel anti-aircraft guns in single mountings, 10 21-in (533-mm) torpedo tubes, two 12-tube anti-submarine rocket launchers, and one anti-submarine/missile update helicopter. Propulsion is based on the delivery of 120,000 hp (89470 kW) to two shafts by four gas turbines for a speed of 34 kt.

The Soviet cruiser force was completed by the two hybrid helicopter cruisers of the ‘Moskva’ class that were commissioned in 1967 and 1968 with a full-load displacement of 19,300 tons, an armament of two twin-arm launchers for 48 SA-N-3 ‘Goblet’ SAMs, one SUW-N-1 twin launcher for 18 FRAS-1 anti-submarine weapons, two 12-tube anti-submarine rocket launchers, four 57-mm anti-aircraft guns in two twin turrets, and 14 anti-submarine helicopters. Further development of the cruiser is in abeyance as the Russian federation lacks the need and financial resources for further such ships, and in these circumstances the USA is well equipped with its current type.

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