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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

FACTS & TRIVIA #2: 21st century cruisers, Ise class hybrid battleship-carriers, British 18in naval gun, Valmy and HS Vasilissa Olga

Written by D-Mitch

This is the second part of a new category of articles where all the significant and interesting facts in naval history as well as "strange" and unique features of naval combattants' equipment, will be described in brief. Enjoy!

1.  21st century cruisers

There are very few navies in the world today that have cruisers in their inventories. Two of the world's superpowers, as somebody could expected, the USA and Russia, have such warships in their fleets, ships that exceed the 10,000tons displacement and of length greater than 170 meters.

  • Ticonderoga class cruisers of the United States Navy
USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55), a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser


View from the bow
Launching anti-aircraft missiles
The ultimate American cruisers reached the 21,000tons and 218 meters length (Des Moines class heavy gun armed cruiser) and the nuclear-powered missile cruiser USS Long Beach with 17,000t displacement at full load and 220 meters length. The cruiser classes that followed, were significant smaller in size, with the final one (for the moment?), the numerous Ticonderoga class, with about 10,000tons and 173 meters length. At present, the U.S. Navy has 22 ships of the Ticonderoga class in active service of the originally 27, of which the five (CG47 - CG51) equipped with the Mk26 dual arm launching system have been retired. The only cruisers in service with US today, are equipped with 122 VLS (!) for a variety of missiles including long/medium/short range SAMs, cruise missiles and ASW missiles, eight launchers for anti-ship missiles, two 5in guns, two CIWS, torpedo launchers and a variety of secondary guns and heavy machine guns. The class will be analyzed thoroughly in a future post. 

All the armament visible of a Ticonderoga class cruiser
Four Ticonderoga class cruisers in formation
Nevertheless, the future of the class is uncertain. In its 2015 budget request the Navy outlined a plan to operate 11 (recently-modernized) cruisers (CG52 - CG53), while the Navy upgrades the newest 11 ships (CG63 - CG73. The upgraded cruisers would then replace the first 11 ships on a one-for-one basis as each older ship reaches the end of service life starting in 2020 (USS Bunker Hill and USS Mobile Bay will be the first ships for retirement). (source) This would retain one cruiser per CVN group to host the group's air warfare commander, a role for which the DDGs do not have sufficient facilities. Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers equipped with the Air Missile Defense Radar give enhanced coverage, but putting the radar on standard DDG hulls does not allow enough room for extra staff and command and control facilities for the air warfare commander; DDGs can be used tactically for air defense, but they augment CGs that provide command and control in a battle group and are more used for other missions such as defending other fleet units and keeping sea lanes open. Congress opposed the plan on the grounds that it makes it easier for Navy officials to completely retire the ships once out of service; the Navy would have to retire all cruisers from the fleet by 2028 if all are kept in service, while deactivating half and gradually returning them into service could make 11 cruisers last from 2035 to 2045. There is no current CG replacement program, as most funding is committed to the Ohio Replacement Submarine, so work on a new cruiser is expected to begin in the mid-2020s, and begin fielding by the mid-2030s. The Navy is once  again (Sep 21) asking to modernize the 11 ships along the Navy’s preferred schedule, rather than the modified schedule directed by Congress. (source and Cavas, Christopher P., 2014)

  • Zumwalt class destroyers of the United States Navy
USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), the largest US Navy surface combatant today
The USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) stealth
destroyer with her "Star Wars"
technology and futuristic appearance!
The large flight deck of USS Zumwalt
Nearly 16,000 tons in displacement at full load and more than 180m long, the USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) is the largest surface combatant built by the US Navy in more than half a century! Thus, it would not be fair the class to be excluded from this report despite their classification as destroyers. Its two 155mm guns (Advanced Gun Systems) are the largest any ship has been designed with since World War II. They launch the so called Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP). This projectile is a rocket with a warhead fired from the AGS gun; the warhead weighs 11 kg / 24 lb and has a a range of 83 nautical miles (154 km)! However, in November 2016, the US Navy moved to cancel procurement of the LRLAP, citing per-shell cost increases to $800,000-1 million resulting from trimming of total ship numbers of the class. Other projectiles are being researched as a substitutes, but the tailor-made AGS will need to be modified to accept it, which is unlikely to happen by the time the first Zumwalt vessel enters operational service in 2018, leaving it unable to fulfill the naval gunfire support role it was designed for. Lyndon B. Johnson, the last Zumwalt, is being considered for the installation of a railgun in place of one of the 155 mm naval guns after the ship is built. (source)

Cutaway of USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000)
USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000)
The Zumwalt is unlike any ship that has gone before, with a severely streamlined hull maximized for stealth resembling an ironclad, packed with one of the most impressive seagoing power plants ever installed. Moreover, the Navy is fond of saying the ship will have the radar signature of a fishing boat! Originally 32 ships were planned, with $9.6 billion research and development costs spread across the class. As costs overran estimates, the quantity was reduced to 24, then to 7, and finally to 3, significantly increasing the cost-per-ship to $3.96 billion (excluding R&D costs). The dramatic per-unit cost increases eventually triggered a Nunn-McCurdy Amendment breach, and cancellation of further production. In April 2016, the total program cost was $22.5 billion with an average cost of $7.5 billion per ship! Each ship is equipped among others with 20 × Mk57 VLS modules, with a total of 80 launch cells for ESSM, Tomahawk, ASROC and probably in the future Standard SAM (Raytheon contends that they could become BMD-capable with few modifications).

  • Kirov class battlecruisers of the Russian Navy
The massive Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great) of Russian Navy
Kirov class Peter the Great battlecruiser
Russian Navy operates today one Kirov class nuclear-powered cruiser, the Peter the Great. The Kirov-class (Soviet Project designation 1144 Orlan) battlecruiser is a class of four (4) nuclear-powered warships of the Russian Navy, the largest and heaviest surface combatants in operation in the world today. Among modern warships, they are second in size only to large aircraft carriers, and of similar size to a World War I era battleship. The official designation of the ship-type is "heavy nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser". The ships are often referred to as battlecruisers due to their size and general appearance. The class will be analyzed thoroughly in a future post. Peter the Great (Pyotr Velikiy), the last of the Kirov class and flagship of the Pacific fleet, is definitely the mightiest warship ever built! It is heavy nuclear powered warship of 252 meters and 28.000 tons displacement, armed with several anti-ship missiles (20 x Granit of 10m length!, speed 2.5M and a range of more than 600km), numerous anti-air missiles ( 96 x SA-N-6, 128 SA-N-9, 40 x SA-N-4 and 240 x Tunguska  missiles, total 504 SAM!), guns, CIWS, torpedoes and ASW rocket launchers while it carries three helicopters in a below-deck hangar.
A giant Tupolev Tu-142 flies over Pyotr Veliky battlecruiser
Illustration of Nakhimov and other
vessels with the (proposed) Zaslon
MF AESA radar installed
Nakhimov under upgrade
The third cruiser in the class, Admiral Nakhimov, is currently under heavy modernization and upgrade. It is rumored that ecxept the new electronics, the upgraded ship will be equipped with up to 80 x Oniks/Kalibr/Zircon supersonic anti-ship/ land-attack cruise missiles that will replace the old SS-N-19 and a navalized variant of the S-400 (missile) SAM system, among other new weapons. It is projected to re-enter the Russian Navy in 2018 while Peter the Great will follow the upgrade programme.

  • Slava class cruisers of the Russian Navy
Varyag, the second cruiser of the Slava class
View of the SA-N-6 VLS system
The Bazalt missile tubes
The Slava-class cruiser (Soviet designation Project 1164 Atlant) is a type of large, conventionally powered warship, designed and constructed for the Soviet Navy and currently operated by the Russian Navy. The design started in the late 1960s, based around use of the P-500 Bazalt (SS-N-12) missile, and was intended as a less expensive conventionally powered alternative to the nuclear-powered Kirov-class battlecruisers. It is not known which Slava-class cruisers carry the more advanced P-1000s (500kg warhead, +700km range, speed Mach 2.8) but we may assume that till today all the ships in the class have been retrofitted with the newest model. At present, the Russian Navy has began a modernization programme for the ships by replacing electronics (radars, ESM/ECM, sonar) but retaining the same weapon systems. The armament consists of 16 x SS-N-12 long range anti-ship missiles, 64 SA-N-6 long range SAM, 40 SA-N-4 SAM, guns, CIWS, ASW rockets and torpedoes. The first modernized vessel, Marshal Ustinov, was re-commissioned just recently; the other two vessels will follow.
Marshal Ustinov, first modernized Russian Navy Slava class cruiser
Recent photo of Ukrayina (2016)
Older photo of Ukrayina
There is also a fourth vessel in the class, the Ukrayina. The ship was laid down in 1983 and launched in 1990 just before the fall of the Soviet Union. Due to budget constraints work on the cruiser stopped in the early 1990s and the ship was left unfinished. In 1993 the cruiser was withdrawn from the Russian Navy and passed to Ukraine. In 1997 Ukraine stated that it had no need for the cruiser and was willing to sell it. Russia was unwilling to buy the cruiser, China and India were then approached but showed no interest at the time. A recent photo, shows that Ukraine has begun dismantling the ship as there is smoke, no radars on the masts etc. Others claim that there the smoke is coming from a control starting of the engines. Could it be that Ukraine begins the activation of the vessel? We will know for sure the coming months when more photos will be released.

  • Sejong the Great class of the South Korean Navy
Sejong the Great, lead ship of the class
Sejong the Great
The forward VLS system
There are also navies in Asia that have ships that are classified as destroyers despite the fact that they have a displacement over than 10,000tons and they carry a very heavy armament. Such navies are the Japanese Navy with the Atago and Kongo class of anti-aircraft warfare destroyers and South Korean Navy with the mighty 11,000-ton Sejong the Great class destroyers, ships that are equal to cruisers in size (except the length) and armament. The three 165-meter Sejong the Great class destroyers carry two ASW helicopters and they are armed with 16 (!) SSM-700K Hae Sung anti-ship missiles and 128-cell VLS (!) for 80 SM-2 SAM, 32 Hyunmoo III land attack cruise missiles and 16 K-ASROC anti-submarine rockets. In addition to this impressive armament, the vessels of the class are equipped with a 5in gun, one Goalkeeper CIWS, one RAM CIWS and two triple torpedo launchers for 32 K745 LW Cheong Sahng-uh torpedoes. These destroyers are currently the most heavily armed and largest surface warfare ships to carry the Aegis combat system! The class will be analyzed thoroughly in a future post.  

  • Almirante Grau cruiser of the Peruvian Navy
Almirante Grau cruiser of the Peruvian Navy
Otomat anti-ship missiles amidships
The aft gun turrets
There is one more country except the "big two" that has also a cruiser in her inventory, a country with an important naval tradition and with a strong fleet. This country is Peru. Peruvian Navy's flagship today is BAP Almirante Grau (CLM-81), the last 6in gun armed cruiser in the world, a cruiser that its main armament consists of.. guns! BAP Almirante Grau is a modified and modernized cruiser of the De Zeven Provinciën class (also called Eendracht-class) light cruisers, of which the first ship in the class was commissioned with the Royal Netherlands Navy in 1953. The ships was retired in 1973 and was acquired the same year by the Peruvian Navy (Marina de Guerra del Peru) as a counter to the acquisition of the Swedish cruiser Göta Lejon by the Chilean Navy. From 1985 until 1988 Almirante Grau underwent a major modernization by Amsterdam Naval Services (ANS) with the installation of a variety of electronic equipment (sensors, radars, combat management system etc.) while the four twin 57mm mountings and the hull sonar were removed. Further work was carried out by SIMA dockyards in Callao the period 1993-1996 with the installation of surface-to-surface missile launchers and two twin 40mm gun mountings that replaced four single 40mm guns. The ship has a displacement of 12,170tons at full load, length of 187.3m, beam of 17.2m, maximum speed of 32knots and range of 6,900n.m. with 15knots speed. The ship as it origins from WWII, has an armor, specifically the belt armor is of 50-76mm while the turrets and the conning tower have 50-125mm armor. Today, the Almirante Grau is the only warship in active service with any armor at all. She has a crew of 650 people. Read more about the ship here.

  • Type 055 destroyers of the People's Liberation Army Navy
Image by @xinfengcao
 From photos that have been recently revealed, show that China builds a new type of massive destroyers, the so called Type 055. These ships are equal to size and armament to cruisers as they exceed the 180 meters in length and they will be equipped with a large number of VLS cells as well as with 16 anti-ship missiles and possibly four CIWS.
 

2. Ise class hybrid battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy


Ise class hybrid battleship-carriers
Hyuga
Ise under air attack
The two battleships Ise and Hyuga were laid down in 1915. They had a displacement of about 38,000tons (42,000 after the last reconstruction) at full load, a length of 208m (220m after the final reconstruction) and they were armed with twelve 14in guns in six twin turrets and a large variety and number of secondary and AA guns. Realizing the importance of the aircraft carriers in the modern naval warfare and shortly after the loss of four aircraft carriers in the Battle of Midway, the IJN decided to rebuild some of its battleships to aircraft carriers. The two battleships were converted into hybrid carriers in 1943 with the removal of the two rear turrets and replacing them with a 70-metre-long flight deck equipped with two catapults to launch floatplanes. There was also a hydraulically operated aircraft lift to move the aircraft from the 40-metre-long hangar below. Each ship could carry 22 aircrafts; a mix of dive bombers and reconnaissance seaplanes. The two ships were struck in 1945 after receiving several hits by US aircrafts. They were scrapped between 1946-47.

Ise class battleship-carrier

3. The largest British naval gun


The aft 18in gun turret of HMS Furious in 1917
HMS Furious as completed in 1917
The BL 18-inch Mk I naval gun of WW I was the largest and heaviest gun ever used by the British. Only the WWII Japanese 40 cm/45 Type 94 had a larger calibre, 18.1 inches (46 cm), but the British shell was heavier. Two guns in single turrets were equipping initially HMS Furious,  a modified Courageous-class battlecruiser, but they were later removed after the ship was transformed to an aircraft carrier. The monitors HMS General Wolfe and HMS Lord Clive received one such gun in a modified aft turret. In 1918, the General Wolfe opened fire on a railway bridge at Snaeskerke (4 miles (6.4 km) south of Ostend) at a range of 36,000 yards (32,918 m) and made naval history as the heaviest shell fired from the largest gun at the longest range in action to date. Only a total of 85 18-inch shells were fired in action by both guns (three guns in total they were produced, the one for spare).

HMS General Wolfe
HMS Lord Clive










4. The largest sailing three-decker ever built

Valmy as Borda, school ship for the French Naval Academy.
Valmy by Auguste Mayer
Borda school ship
The Valmy was the largest sailing three-decker of the French Navy ever buil and the largest tall ship ever built in France. Valmy was laid down at Brest in 1838 and launched in 1847. When she entered service in 1849, she was the largest warship in the world and would remain so until 1853, when the British three-decker Duke Of Wellington (converted to steam power while on the stocks) entered service, but she would remain the largest sailing three-decker ever built. Unlike most similar ships, that featured a pronounced tumblehome, she had vertical sides. She was used as a school ship for the French Naval Academy from 1864 under the name Borda. You can find more information more about Valmy here.  

La Borda school ship

5. The most successful Greek ship in World War II


HS Vasilissa Olga (D15)
G. Blessas
Latest photo of HS Vasilissa Olga
HS Vasilissa Olga (D15), a modified version of the British G-class of destroyers, was the most modern ship of the Royal Hellenic Navy at the outbreak of WWII. Together with her sister, Vasilefs Georgios, she was built by Yarrow, but was fitted with German-made 127mm (5 inch) SK C/34 guns and 37mm AA guns. The installation of the armament was carried out in Greece as the Germans refused to ship the weapons to Britain. Two further ships of the same class, the Vasilefs Konstantinos and Vasilissa Sofia, were to be built in Greece, but construction halted due to the outbreak of the Second World War. Until September 1943, when she was sunk by German bombers, Vasilissa Olga had distinguished herself as the most successful Greek ship in the war under her captain, Lt. Cmdr. G. Blessas. Ironically, before she was sunk in 1943, she was known as the phantom ship of the Mediterranean destroyer flotillas, because of the several times she had escaped damage...

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