First secure the victory, then make the most of it.—Nelson
THE leading foreign navies are engaged in building a cruiser of 10,000 tons with approximately thirty-five knots speed, an armament of eight-inch guns and practically no protection. Such a vessel could be utterly destroyed by a single hit from one of her own class. A large ship of this pathetic vulnerability is manifestly an unsound proposition. Is there not some other way of meeting the situation, or of reducing the number of the objectionable class of cruisers which must be built?
An alternative has been offered by Mr. Bywater in the Scientific American of November, 1926. In this article, he condemns the treaty cruiser as a “tin-clad suicide ship” and advocates restricting the displacement of future non-capital ships to 7,000 tons and their armament to six-inch guns.
This would be to the disadvantage of the United States for the reason that we do not possess outlying bases to enable the smaller cruisers to operate as does Great Britain. Neither have we such short lines of communication to protect as has Japan. In addition to this, we have lagged in the construction of 10,000-ton cruisers. If the restrictions were based on the status quo, it would leave us tragically lacking in these powerful ships. Subsequent cruisers of 7,000 tons which we built would be hopelessly outclassed.
We must, therefore, reject Mr. Bywater’s proposal and investigate the situation for ourselves.
This article is one man’s attempt to review the various cruiser functions, to set forth the type of ship which seems best suited for each of the more important ones and to arrive at a practical solution. The destroyer problem is so interwoven with that of the cruiser that it is necessary to treat certain phases of that as well, but it will be done briefly, without going into detail.
This is put down as the most important and the only vital cruiser function. The reason for this is that there will always be certain lines of communication which must be kept open if the fleet is to operate from an outlying base and if the economic life of the nation is to be maintained. It is apparent that the commander-in-chief cannot commence offensive operations, if he is uncertain as to whether or not his line of supply will be cut. Further, as a nation, we are becoming every year more dependent upon oversea communication for our necessary raw materials.
We are prone to imagine that the next war will be fought under the same conditions which prevailed in the last one. The unique situation in the World War was that England could maintain, in effect, a close blockade of German ports with all the safety of a distant blockade. In addition to this, the Allies’ superiority in cruisers was so overwhelming that the few German raiders at large, in August, 1914, were quickly mopped up.
In the first place, we are not so situated geographically that we could deny any other naval power free access to the sea. In the second place, it is very unlikely that we will ever possess so great a superiority in cruisers with reference to any other naval power as that enjoyed by the Allies.
We recall, moreover, that recent developments have added to the effectiveness of the surface raider. The production of planes suitable for carrying on small cruisers has lengthened the range of vision of the corsair and increased the likelihood of her locating prizes. Further, while the speeds of merchant vessels have remained practically stationary, cruiser speeds have increased, his means that the modern commerce destroyer can quickly overhaul anything sighted. Finally, the advent of the Diesel engine has made it possible to give these vessels a cruising radius previously unheard of.
The knowledge that other powers are gilding large submarines, capable of warring on commerce in accordance with the treaty, warns us that we must again reckon with these potent weapons in the next war.
Here then, are the facts:
A. We could not deny the corsairs of any nation free access to the sea.
B. Our navy suffers from a chronic shortage of cruisers.
C. The effectiveness of surface raiders has increased.
D. The submarine will probably play a prominent part in commerce destruction in spite of the treaty restrictions.
In the light of our World War experience, is it not clear that we must turn to the convoy system as our only hope? It would be obviously impossible to furnish escorts on all trade routes, but we could put them on the line of supply of the fleet and on those routes over which our vital raw materials are brought. Our fastest and best merchant ships should be used on these lines in order to get the maximum service from our escorting cruisers. Then we could use neutral shipping and transhipment through adjoining neutral countries for the carrying on of other commerce. For less valuable cargoes on trade routes remote from the theater of war, we could send our older and slower vessels without escort on indirect and irregular courses. We would, no doubt, lose some of them, but not enough to make commerce raiding a highly profitable venture or to change the course of the war.
If we agree on the convoy system, what are the requirements or the escorting cruiser?
The enemy raider may be a 10,000-tonner with eight-inch guns. To be invulnerable against such vessels, our escorting cruiser should be of that same displacement, with enough armor to keep eight-inch shells out of her vitals and should carry eight eight-inch guns. She should also have two planes and an adequate anti-aircraft battery—say twelve three-inch A. A. guns and twelve 37 mm. automatic A. A. guns. In addition, six torpedoes should be provided for emergency use. This armament and degree of protection may seem impossible until we recall that a cruiser tied to a merchant convoy need not be fast. Twenty-five knots should ‘give her an ample margin of speed to escort any merchant vessel we now possess. Higher speeds for future commercial shipping do not seem likely, for the simple reason that they do not pay in dollars and cents. We could get twenty-five knots with one-third the power necessary for thirty-five. Not only would we have available for protection this weight saved on machinery, but the smaller power plant would require less space. She would consequently have a smaller vital area to be protected. In addition, the lower speed would call for a shorter, beamier hull with less free-board, cutting down the size of the target presented to either torpedo or gun fire. She would also have a smaller turning circle and be more able to avoid torpedoes by maneuvering. Further, her greater beam would allow better under-water protection and make for a steadier gun platform. Anyone will admit that this escorting cruiser will have no trouble in handling the high speed raider, in fact, she could probably handle two or three of them.
There still remains one danger to be met. The powers have agreed not to use submarines to destroy commerce without stopping and boarding. However, the under-sea boats may still take a shot at the cruiser escort without warning. If they sink her, they can deal with the convoy at leisure. We should guard against this possibility by providing an anti-submarine screen of two or three destroyers for the escorting cruiser. These destroyers would not require extreme speed. Twenty-eight knots should be enough for ordinary purposes. We could remove two boilers from some of our 1250-ton boats and use this space for additional fuel capacity. The after pair of triple torpedo tubes might also be discarded to provide space for additional depth charges and Y-guns. We would then have a specialized craft of long cruising radius, suitable for trans-oceanic convoys, with ample speed for anti-submarine purposes and a formidable array of depth charges and Y-guns. This takes care of the submarine menace, so long as the treaty is lived up to.
The adoption of this method of protecting commerce would have an additional advantage. If we were pitted against an adversary who saw himself losing and decided to adopt unrestricted submarine warfare as a last resort, we would not have to change our organization or methods of protecting commerce. The only difference would be that we should be obliged to supply enough antisubmarine destroyers to screen the entire convoy instead of merely the cruiser escort. The mere fact that we were prepared to deal promptly and effectively with such a reprehensible step on his part would tend to keep a foe in strict adherence to the treaty.
Before leaving the subject of commerce protection, we must consider sending out 10,000-ton high-speed cruisers to run down enemy raiders. Probably this would seldom be practicable. If sent out, they should accomplish more in groups of three or four than a single cruiser in a proportionally longer time.
Lastly, occasions might arise when the entire fleet would be called out to intercept raids in force on the line of supply.
The foregoing is not a perfect solution of the problem of commerce protection, but it provides a means of supplying the fleet and maintaining the economic life of the nation with a minimum number of cruisers.
Aerial scouts can probably get any desired information more economically in such weather as they can operate. In doing so, they automatically guard isolated units on the scouting line against the danger of being cut off and destroyed by superior forces. Nevertheless, we must still depend on surface scouts in non-flying weather, or, generally speaking, when low visibility prevails. Then only a small area can be covered by a single vessel. Numbers consequently become of increasing importance. Would we not do well to consider a proposition advanced by Lieutenant Webster in his article “The Cruiser” published in the Proceedings for April, 1926? He points out the possibility of using a number of small cruisers backed up by standard, high-speed, 10,000-ton scouts. Due to the short scouting interval, these small cruisers would be within such distance that they could readily be supported by a larger one in case of contact with superior forces.
Let us estimate the requirements for a small scout. The first consideration will be speed. If we allow her enough to out-run the large thirty-five knot cruiser, we will seriously cut down her cruising radius and the tonnage available for armament. But we must remember that she is unlikely to encounter superior forces except when the visibility is low. This puts a new light on the necessity for speed. Then her ability to reach her support will depend more on how quickly she can work up to her maximum speed than on what that maximum is. In other words, her fate will be sealed within fifteen minutes and possibly within one minute from the instant that she is sighted. She will have disappeared, either in the mist or beneath the waves. The outcome will depend upon the mental alertness and professional capacity of her officers and men and upon the design of her power plant. The relative importance of speed and rate of acceleration was ably discussed by Naval Constructor Gunning in the Proceedings for May, 1926.
If we arm her with six-inch guns she might, under certain conditions, boldly attack her large antagonist with guns and torpedoes, dropping meanwhile a barrage of smoke boxes, behind which she could retreat if she found her shells were incapable of penetrating to the enemy’s vitals. Much might be written on the possibilities in low visibility tactics for this type.
If she is obliged to fall back on her support, she must rely for her safety on propulsive machinery that can be accelerated more quickly than that of the larger vessel. She might never have the chance to demonstrate extreme speed in action. We must choose between it and other more important fighting qualities. She should, however, have the same speed as our 10,000-ton scouts so that she will not hamper their movements. Let us fix this tentatively at thirty-two knots.
Speaking of her torpedo armament, we are reminded that this vessel is, in reality, a large destroyer. The destroyers of the scouting fleets of other nations have been growing larger in order to gain the necessary seaworthiness to operate with battle cruisers in all weathers and the necessary cruising radius to carry out their mission. Should we not take the step of combining our small cruisers and large destroyers into one type? The French Navy has already done this in its Jaguars. By adopting the conservative speed of thirty-two knots, we leave far more tonnage available for armament, ammunition, and fuel than is usually the case in a vessel of this class. In fact, it should be practicable to carry at least as many torpedoes, in proportion to size, as are now carried on our 1250-ton boats. This means a minimum of thirty, including Spares.
So long as this is an entirely new type in Our Navy, ought we not to consider a new major weapon for her—for example a twenty-four inch torpedo with a woo-pound war head? These might be supplemented by small, short range, cold shot torpedoes as suggested in the PROCEEDINGS last September by Mr. Prendergast in discussing "A Destroyer Leader."
One plane should be carried by this vessel under normal conditions. If, in addition, we provide a battery of four six-inch guns, mounted in twin center-line turrets and twelve 37mm. automatic A. A. guns, we will have a very formidable little craft.
The 37mm. guns would be triple purpose weapons. While primarily for use against aircraft, they should also be very effective against coastal motor boats and for sweeping personnel from the decks and bridges of enemy destroyers at the close ranges of a night attack or even a day destroyer melee.
Her depth charge equipment should consist of four charges on hydraulic release chutes at the stern, one loaded Y-gun, and a complete set of reloads carried in the magazines. If we provided enough depth charges and Y-guns to drop a really effective barrage, it would seriously reduce her torpedo armament and entail considerable additional hazard from gunfire. To lay a barrage, we must rely on the specialized anti-submarine destroyer previously described.
Judging from current designs, the foregoing requirements could be met on approximately 3000 tons. Financial considerations demand that their size be kept down to the lowest practicable limit. In connection with finances, we score a very telling point, by making these vessels a combination of small cruiser and scouting fleet destroyer—killing two birds with one stone.
A matter which should receive very careful consideration in this type is living quarters. Her ability to defeat or escape from superior forces will depend largely upon whether or not she sees the larger vessel first, and upon the speed with which her fire-control parties and gun crews function. This calls for mental alertness and quick, accurate thinking by all hands. They will not be alert and clear-headed if they have been living in damp, stuffy, overcrowded quarters. We all glibly quote, “Men fight, not ships.” Unfortunately this excellent maxim is not invariably reflected in the design of our combatant vessels. Comfortable, well ventilated living quarters should be considered a military requirement of the first rank. Here again, we profit by accepting the moderate speed of thirty-two knots. Not only will the machinery take up less space, thus leaving more for fuel storage and living quarters, but we will have fewer men in the engineer’s force and, consequently, even more room at our disposal. Flag quarters should be provided on all vessels of this type.
We have now outlined a cruiser of approximately 3000 tons displacement, thirty- two knots speed, no protection, four six- inch guns, twelve 37mm. automatic A. A. guns, plenty of ammunition, thirty or more torpedoes and one plane. For the purpose of designation let us call this class the Destroyer Scout.
Now we shall consider the requirements of the 10,000-ton scout cruiser: In the first place, she must have a battery of eight-inch guns and sufficient speed to avoid battle cruisers. Due to other urgent requirements, we must set this speed as low as possible, or thirty-two knots. By this is meant an actual maximum, not merely a legend speed of thirty-two knots and a probable maximum of thirty-four. The factor of safety introduced by aerial scouting enables us to reduce her margin of speed more than we otherwise might.
When we come to the problem of protection we remember that at night, or in misty weather, she is apt to make contact with an enemy cruiser at very close quarters. If the enemy cruiser should be of the destroyer scout type, just described, the chances are that the smaller vessel will see the larger one first, man more quickly her lighter guns and get off the first salvo. It would be tragic to have a fine 10,000-ton ship sunk by a vessel of one-third or one-fourth her size. If the large cruiser can be sunk by the guns of the smaller one, the advantage of building the former is greatly diminished. Not only are many fairly new cruisers armed with the six-inch gun, but it promises to be the weapon for the destroyer scout and flotilla leader types. We should, therefore, put it down as our next requirement that our large scouts should carry enough armor to keep six-inch shells out of their magazines, machinery spaces, eight-inch turrets and barbettes. We must do this, even though it necessitates a reduction in the number of eight-inch guns.
If we cut the number of her main battery guns to six, it would be no appalling sacrifice. A gunnery duel between two treaty cruisers would be decided far more by good shooting and by luck than by the volume of their broadsides. The latter would be of more importance if these ships were capable of enduring a protracted hammering. One does not need a sledge to drive a tack.
This possibility of contact at short range is present whenever the visibility is reduced. It shows clearly the weakness in any plan of protection which does not provide an armor belt. The proposal to build these vessels with only a protective deck would leave their vitals exposed, even to the guns of a destroyer. It would be extremely dangerous to use such a cruiser on the scouting line, to support or break up destroyer attacks, or for night work of any kind. What then would it be good for?
Since our large scouts are very susceptible to under-water attack, it is highly important that they be provided with a powerful battery of three-inch and 37mm. automatic A. A. guns so mounted that they can be used effectively against enemy aircraft, destroyers, or coastal motor boats. An abundant supply of ammunition should be provided as our cruisers will probably be the first ones in contact with the enemy and the last to lose touch. This class should also carry two planes.
She must then be armed with some weapon for use, in an emergency, against the most powerful ship afloat. The only such weapon practicable to install on a 10,000-ton cruiser is the torpedo. Since the requirements are so conflicting for this type, we should reduce the number of torpedoes to a minimum—merely enough to give her a weapon for use in extremity. If we supplied her with six torpedoes, mounted in triple tubes and on tracks so that they could be run to either side of the deck, she would have a fairly formidable torpedo broadside at a cost of approximately one-tenth of one per cent of her displacement.
It is apparent that if she makes contact at short range with a vessel of her own type, her fate will be decided largely by who fires the first salvo. This depends, in turn, on mental alertness. We must, therefore, as in the destroyer scout, take particular pains to see that the living quarters are comfortable and well ventilated. Once more, as with the smaller cruiser, her safety after contact with superior forces will depend more upon the celerity with which she can increase speed than it will upon what speed she can ultimately work up to. That ability would also enable her to prevent inferior forces from escaping. This vital feature of her machinery design deserves much thought.
We now have a vessel of 10,000-tons standard displacement, thirty-two knots speed, enough armor to keep out six-inch shells, twelve each of three-inch and 37mm. A. A. guns, an abundance of ammunition, two planes and as many eight-inch guns as are consistent with the foregoing requirements. Let us label this type the Scout Cruiser.
From our study of the protection of commerce, it is apparent that any nation with whom we might be at war, which possesses long and vital lines of communication, will probably adopt the convoy system. Since our commerce destroyers must have fairly high speed, it is clear that even if we build 10,000-ton raiders they could not successfully engage the slow, heavily armored cruiser escort of the convoy. The war on commerce is one branch in which the defense is far stronger than the offense. This shows plainly why we should first insure the safety of our own vital lines of supply, before trying to cut those of the enemy.
We are left with only the possibility of raids in force on our adversary’s protected arteries of communication, or of picking up occasional unescorted vessels. The latter could be handled more efficiently by smaller and more numerous raiders.
Would not the destroyer scout, which we have just described, answer the purpose? She has thirty-two knots speed, not enough to outrun the thirty-five knot 10,000-ton cruiser which might be sent in pursuit of her. However, her safety will depend more on constantly changing her hunting grounds, than it will on her ability to outstrip any vessel sent against her. It will be apparent the first place, that she could not have the requisite cruising radius, armament or living space if we attempted to give her a speed of thirty-six or thirty-seven knots, furthermore, she probably could not utilize a speed of more than thirty-two knots in bad weather. In the Proceedings for September1926, Commander Howard demonstrated that the German raiders were run down and destroyed, not by virtue of higher speed, hut because of superior information, greater fighting power, sheer luck or overwhelming numbers.
As for the desired operating radius, we might get that by a Diesel cruising engine as described by Captain Dinger in his discussion of a “Destroyer Leader” in the September Proceedings.
She should have roomy, well ventilated living quarters with space for at least one Prize crew. The latter might be taken care of by converting the flag quarters for their use.
If possible, she should carry two planes, not only to assist her in locating prizes, but in avoiding pursuers. The space and weight required for the extra plane might be compensated for by the removal of some torpedo tubes, which she could spare while engaged in commerce raiding. We conclude, therefore, that the destroyer scout, with slight alterations, will make an excellent raider.
Under certain conditions, we might use a 'vision of scout cruisers and two divisions of destroyer scouts or even the entire scouting fleet, for a raid on the enemy’s protected lines of communication.
While the development of aerial scouting somewhat detracts from the importance of this function, it is just as essential as ever in non-flying weather. In addition, there are other duties of the screening cruiser which will be discussed later.
Manifestly, a vessel for this purpose must be invulnerable against the high speed scout, probably a 10,000-tonner with eight-inch guns. This calls for the same qualities as the escorting cruiser. In addition, she must have a battery of several rapid fire guns for dealing with destroyers. We provided for twelve three-inch and another dozen 7mm. A. A. guns on the escorting cruiser. If these were mounted where they would have suitable arcs of fire, they would be very effective against hostile flotillas.
Would twenty-five knots be enough for the screening cruiser?
Since the battle speed of the fleet would probably be twenty knots, this would give the screen a twenty-five per cent superiority in speed which should be sufficient to enable it to gain any desired position with respect to the fleet with reasonable celerity. Although one can imagine situations in which a greater speed could be utilized, its lack would seldom be serious, while the absence of sufficient armament and protection might easily prove fatal.
In this connection, we must consider the possibility of a change in the speed of our next battleships. If we should increase this to twenty-four knots, the battle speed of the fleet would remain as it is until the last of our present capital ships are scrapped, or 1942. That is fifteen years from now, or almost the normal life of a cruiser. Therefore, an increase in the speed of our next battleships would not affect the speed of cruisers built in the next few years. On the other hand, if we gave the big vessels only eighteen knots, the battle speed of the fleet would drop when it was joined by the first slower capital ship in 1935. In that event, we could drop the speed of our screening cruisers to twenty-two knots. This would open up still further possibilities in the way of armament and protection. For example, it would be highly desirable to increase the number of eight-inch guns to twelve, the number of each type of A. A. guns to sixteen, to provide more generous supplies of ammunition and a wider factor of safety in her protection. No doubt, the penetrative qualities of projectiles will continue to improve and if we provide only enough armor to meet present day requirements, our ship will soon be obsolete. On the other hand, by allowing a generous margin of protection, we will have a ship that will still be useful when she is twenty years old. We should, therefore, keep their speed as low as possible.
Would twenty-two knots be enough for the escorting cruiser?
It would be ample for nine convoys out of ten. The tenth could be slowed down without serious consequences.
Let us then set the speed of cruisers to perform the functions of fleet screening, and the escorting of convoys at four knots above that of our new battleships, but not to exceed twenty-five knots.
When operating as a fleet screen, these vessels could keep at a respectful distance anything except capital ships. In the remote event of their being suddenly confronted by these powerful units, they would quickly fall back on their own battleships. During the air phase of a battle, they might add the volume of their anti-aircraft fire to the defense of carriers or other vessels singled out for special attention by enemy bombers. During the action between the battle fleets they could act as a screen for the protection of carriers against stray enemy cruisers. At the Battle of Jutland, the latter had a way of popping up on most unexpected bearings. A well directed eight- inch salvo could so easily put an end to the activities of a carrier that, during an action, it would seem wise to provide some protection, other than their own batteries, for these valuable and highly vulnerable vessels. In fact, the enemy might consider the destruction of our carriers of sufficient importance to send out a formidable force of cruisers and destroyers with that express mission. Or these cruisers might take up a position well ahead and slightly on the engaged bow of the battleships. Here they could lend a hand in breaking up destroyer or torpedo-plane attacks. The following night, the more of these vessels we had to guard the capital ships against destroyer attacks, the more of our destroyers we could release to attack the enemy. After the battle, we would likely find that we had a number of destroyers, light cruisers and other vessels that must either be towed back to the base or abandoned and sunk. While our screening cruisers would not be ideal as towing vessels, they could do a much better job of it than could the high speed scouts. In short, there would be plenty of use for these screening cruisers at every stage of the game, probably more than any other class of ships.
We now have a type suitable for either fleet screening or the escorting of commerce. In the rest of the article we shall refer to it as the Armored Cruiser.
No doubt, someone will object that the armored cruiser we have been urging is merely a revival of the type which was rendered obsolete many years ago by the battle cruiser. Of course, it is only a modern edition of the old armored cruiser. But it is not intended to perform the functions for which that vessel was originally designed. The sphere of usefulness of this modern armored cruiser does not overlap that of the battle cruiser. It does not attempt to compete with the larger vessel. In the normal performance of its duties, it would never engage the battle cruiser or the battleship. In its own sphere of usefulness, it would be more nearly invulnerable than the capital ship is in its sphere. The reason for this is that the normal opponent of the latter is a vessel of equal fighting power, whereas the usual adversary of this armored cruiser is the high speed scout with almost no protection.
In fact, the armored cruiser’s margin of superiority over its probable antagonist is so great that we might be tempted, in the interests of economy, to decrease its size. This would be a mistake, since she might be compelled to fight superior numbers. Besides, as previously pointed out, these ships should last at least twenty years. If we build them with barely sufficient protection and armament to meet present day requirements they will soon be obsolete. Another reason for giving them the maximum fighting power is that they might, some day, be obliged to meet cruisers of more than 10,000 tons.
A vessel for this duty must be fast. This practically precludes armor.
There are two ways of handling the situation. Either we can have special types for mine laying, or put a few mines on each of our scout cruisers and destroyer scouts. The former would seem to be the sounder policy, since the latter with mines unprotected from gun-fire would constitute too great a hazard. If we designate one or more ships for this express purpose, we can keep them in a protected position until they are needed and then supply them with a suitable escort for the accomplishment of their mission.
Preferably vessels for this duty should be larger than the 1,250-ton destroyers we now employ. On the other hand, the 10,000-ton cruiser is too large and valuable a vessel to risk. How about the destroyer scouts? By stripping them of their torpedoes and tubes, and possibly of their after pair of six-inch guns, we could quickly convert them for mine laying or, in turn, quickly reconvert them for their normal purposes. Here we reap another advantage of the moderate speed and large torpedo capacity of this class, since the more torpedoes they carry the more mines can be put on to replace them.
The first requirement to be decided is speed. In this connection we should remember that our newest destroyers are now seven years old and by the time we have any leaders built, they will be ten or eleven years old. Taking the normal life of a destroyer as twelve years, it is apparent that we should fit the speed of our leaders to our next destroyers rather than to our existing flotillas.
We have already outlined the characteristics of the destroyers of the scouting fleet. Only the battle fleet remains to be taken care of. Rough weather speed, cruising radius and six-inch guns are not so important here. Also, their size should be kept within moderate limits, so that they may not be too conspicuous for effective night attacks; 1,500 tons would seem to be a reasonable limit to set on their displacement. However, they should possess a greater fuel and torpedo capacity than our present destroyers. In view of the fact that this type is essentially a mobile platform for the Hunching of torpedoes, entirely too small a proportion of their tonnage is devoted to this major weapon. Would it not make for a more effective flotilla to reduce the speed to thirty-two knots and devote the weight saved to additional torpedoes, ammunition and fuel? This would be less than 9 per cent reduction in speed, but would permit a substantial increase in their torpedo armament and cruising radius as well as adding to the available living space. In view of the limited portion of the time in mid-ocean when 1,500-ton vessels could be driven at speeds in excess of thirty-two knots and, at the same time, use their guns, it would not be much of a sacrifice. This would make a uniform speed of thirty-two knots for our scout cruisers, destroyer scouts and destroyers – a very desirable state of affairs tactically.
If we accept thirty-two knots for the destroyers of the battle fleet, how about using our destroyer scout type as leaders? They have a large torpedo armament, and ample living quarters. Our destroyer scout differs from the leader advocated by Captain Taussig in the Proceedings of last June in that it has less speed, greater cruising radius, additional living space, more torpedoes and ammunition, fewer depth charges and a more effective anti-aircraft battery. In addition, if we built our destroyer scouts and destroyers with a raised forecastle rather than a flush deck, we would be able to make the silhouette less conspicuous and gain the additional advantage of a lower torpedo firing platform. The jar on a torpedo as it strikes the water, when fired from a height of fifteen feet or more, is bound to increase the possibility of gyro derangements and crooked runs. The advantage of a lower silhouette should be apparent for night destroyer attacks. It would also slightly reduce the size of the target exposed to gunfire.
Does not the foregoing justify us in using our destroyer scout type as flotilla leaders?
Supporting Destroyer Attacks or
Counter Attacks and Escorting
Light Mine Layers
The degree of protection and powerful secondary batteries provided for our scout cruisers adapt them particularly for operations against destroyers, in contrast to their high speed and unarmored, or over-gunned and under-protected contemporaries. Even if our scouts can have only six eight-inch guns, this would be compensated for by the measure of support they receive from our armored cruisers.
Gun Boat Duty
Our destroyer scout would seem better fitted for this duty than the present gun boats or antiquated cruisers. As pointed out by Lieutenant Webster in the April, 1926, Proceedings, small, high-speed vessels would constitute a distinct asset, if scattered at the outbreak of a war. On the other hand, our present gun boats would be a decided liability. Further, our gun boats do not usually carry enough men to put ashore a landing party of proper size without re-enforcement from the fleet or the marine expeditionary force. These destroyer scouts could handle the average situation in the more turbulent republics without assistance.
At present, we have an old armored cruiser performing this duty. She will eventually wear out and must be replaced. Would not an armored cruiser of the type herein outlined serve admirably as her successor? It would have a reasonable superiority in speed over the battleships and sufficient fighting power to deal with stray enemy cruisers or destroyers.
Coastal Motor Boat Carriers
Coastal motor boat or motor torpedo boats made their debut in the World War. Since then, articles have appeared in the Scientific American of November, 1920, and Naval and Military Record of August 11, 1926, advocating the construction of motor boat carriers. This would enable these boats to be employed in a fleet action in calm weather. They are new weapons of undeniable potentiality, particularly at night or in a fog. Further development of smoke screens will also add to their effectiveness.
Could we not build a division of destroyer scouts leaving off the torpedoes and after guns and equipping them with these motor boats? Each vessel should be able to carry at least six boats and possibly eight or ten. They might be tried out with the fleet and if not considered worth while, the boats, davits, and winches could be removed and the normal armament restored at comparatively slight expense. While this experiment will probably not be practicable until appropriations are more generous, we might utilize the interval to develop a suitable motor boat.
We now have three types of cruisers as follows:
- The Destroyer Scout—small, fast, no protection, heavy torpedo armament, six- inch and 37mm. guns; suitable for scouting, torpedo attacks and counter attacks, escorting light mine layers or motor boat carriers, destroyer leader, or gun boat duty. It could be quickly converted for commerce raiding, mine laying, or carrying motor boats.
- The Armored Cruiser—large, heavily armed, thoroughly protected and of moderate speed; suitable for escorting convoys, fleet screening which includes breaking up enemy destroyer attacks, protecting aircraft carriers during an action, lending a measure of support to our own destroyer attacks as well as keeping enemy light forces at a respectful distance before and after a battle. Lastly, this type should make an excellent fleet flagship.
- The Scout Cruiser—large, fast, heavily armed but scantily protected; suitable for scouting, commerce destruction, hunting enemy raiders, supporting destroyer attacks, breaking up enemy destroyer attacks, escorting light mine layers, or motor boat carriers, screening aircraft carriers during an engagement, or for raids in force on the enemy’s protected lines of communication.
On first thought, one might object that the creation of specialized types would seriously decrease their flexibility of employment and organization. However, each class would have one or more functions with the fleet and one or more missions away from that body. For example, when things were quiet, the admiral might detach some of the screening cruisers to escort commerce, while he sent a few destroyer scouts out as corsairs and scout cruisers to hunt for enemy raiders. On the other hand, if he were planning some extensive operations and needed reenforcements, escorting cruisers could be sent to strengthen the screen and all commerce raiders and hunters called in to strengthen the scouting fleet. Greater flexibility of organization or employment could be obtained only at the expense of efficiency.
Now let us consider the case for each of the three cruiser types separately.
The Destroyer Scout justifies its creation as a special class on the following grounds:
- It takes care of the destroyer problem for the scouting fleet more satisfactorily than any existing types because of its high rough weather speed, its greater torpedo, ammunition and fuel capacity and its powerful battery.
- By building this class we gain the advantage of numbers because: (a) As a combination of small cruiser and destroyer we can devote to its construction the funds we would otherwise allot to building both types, (b) Due to their small size and moderate speed they will be cheap to build.
- It not only reduces the number of high speed 10,000-ton scouts that we must build, but gives us a longer scouting line.
- It differs fundamentally from the other cruiser types.
- It is capable of performing so many missions both with and away from the fleet, and can quickly be converted for so many other functions that no objection can be raised against the creation of this special class. In other words, its versatility enables its superior numbers to be used to strengthen any fleet or non-fleet organization.
The Armored Cruiser rests its case for a revival on the following claims:
The Armored Cruiser rests its case for a revival on the following claims:
A. It is a sound, well balanced type differing fundamentally from the poorly balanced scout cruiser.
B. In its own sphere of usefulness, it is more nearly invulnerable than any other class of ship. These superior fighting qualities enable it to strengthen the fleet screen or to afford as much protection to a convoy as two or possibly three scout cruisers.
C. The cost of building and maintaining an armored cruiser would be less than for a scout cruiser.
D. It possesses sufficient versatility of employment not to interfere with flexibility of organization.
E. In any naval war, we would always need protection for our commerce and a fleet screen. The importance of these duties justifies its revival as a distinct class.
The Scout Cruiser is admittedly an unsound type. However, we must have a large, fast, powerfully-gunned vessel to back up, the scouting line, to support destroyer attacks and for other functions. We can accept them only as necessary evils. We have, however, greatly reduced the number of them which must be built and diminished the vulnerability and cost of those we cannot avoid building.
This solution has the additional advantage that it is based on the existing treaty. It does not entail the calling of an international conference, the enduring of protracted bickering and delays or the making of disproportionate sacrifices on our part in order to re obtain the agreement of all powers presented. This plan requires only the approval of our Navy Department and Congress.
The Final Test
The criterion by which any proposed type stands or falls is its ability to execute its .allotted mission in bringing about, not merely the defeat of an enemy, but his utter annihilation. How do our cruisers meet this test?
First, they enable the admiral to undertake a vigorous offensive because: (1) Our armored cruisers protect his line of supply so effectively that he can safely go ahead. (2) The unusual sea-keeping and fighting qualities of our cruisers render them much more suited to an offensive than are their high speed foreign contemporaries. (3) He will have the advantage of numbers because our cruisers of moderate speed are cheaper to build and because we have combined two types.
Then, if the enemy is willing to fight, our longer scouting line and stronger screen give us the best of the approach and the preliminary stage of the battle.
While the result of the main engagement rests largely with the battleships, the superior fighting qualities of our cruisers will enable them to execute the functions previously discussed more efficiently than if we had sacrificed those characteristics to attain extreme speed.
If we gain the initial success, we must attempt to follow it up and utterly destroy the opposing fleet. The night after the battle, our destroyers and destroyer scouts must unceasingly harry the retreating armada. The results they achieve will be decided largely by the following factors:
- The relative extent to which the opposing flotillas have been mauled by gun-fire. This, in turn, would depend partly upon the degree of support our destroyers have received from cruisers in their attacks and counterattacks. Again the value of fighting power rather than high speed for the latter vessels is demonstrated.
- The number of destroyers which must be retained to guard the main body. The unusually powerful secondary and antiaircraft batteries urged for our larger cruisers would enable them to assume more of the responsibility for the safety of the bigger ships than they could otherwise.
- Fuel, ammunition and torpedoes. In order to be of service, those of our destroyers and destroyer scouts, getting through the main action uninjured, must have not only enough fuel to operate, but enough ammunition and torpedoes remaining to deliver effective attacks. One torpedo now is worth one thousand a week later. The advantage of a large fuel and torpedo capacity becomes more apparent.
- Their ability to maintain contact during the night without drawing enemy fire. The lower silhouettes advocated for each type would make it easier for them to carry out this difficult mission.
- The human element—the ability of personnel to stand the strain of remaining on duty for protracted periods without serious loss of efficiency. This would depend upon their general health and whether they had entered the fight rested or worn out. In a naval battle, carried to a finish, physical fitness is just as important as it is in a prize fight. This is another reason why comfortable, well ventilated living quarters have been stressed for all classes under discussion.
The next morning, our battle fleet may not be able to get close enough to renew the action, but it can follow along to capture or sink disabled vessels. However, our aircraft carriers should continually launch bombing and torpedo plane attacks, in an effort to cripple additional enemy ships. The ability of our carriers to operate will have been decided largely by the degree of protection they have received from our cruisers. Again we realize the value of the fighting power provided for the latter types. Opportunity should also arise for using our light mine layers, if they have any mines left. More mines! More ammunition! More fuel! More torpedoes! These will be the cries heard in the last phase of the battle. Every hour that we prolong the fighting adds to the enemy’s demoralization, decreases his numbers and resistance, and increases our chances of utterly wiping him out. The strength to hit hard and often is necessary to gain the initial decision, but the endurance to keep on hitting is essential to reap to the fullest extent the fruits of victory.
These tactics must be relentlessly and vigorously pursued until the enemy fleet is destroyed or the proximity of his shores necessitates a break. The powerful antiaircraft batteries and large supplies of ammunition provided for these cruisers would enable them to push on much closer to the enemy base than they would otherwise dare.
The fact that few naval victories have ever been properly followed up is no reason why we should not plan to do so. While it is true that enemy shores have often precluded an extended pursuit, advantage of such limited opportunities as existed have seldom been taken. We must remember that the development of submarines, mines and aircraft, particularly the latter, makes it unlikely that any important naval battle of the future will be fought in the vicinity of the bases of either contestant. No admiral will care to have his opponent receive re-enforcements of shore based bombing or torpedo planes. All things considered, the chances for thoroughly exploiting a victory are greater than ever in history. To utilize these opportunities, we need fighting power and endurance, not the ability to show an occasional flashy burst of speed. It all boils down to this,—are we building our ships to make a brave show on paper, or to withstand the punishment inevitably entailed by active service? Is it our aim to win speed contests or to win wars?
It is submitted that our future cruisers should fall in the three classes herein advocated because:
- The three fundamentally differing sets of requirements can be met logically, only with three distinct types.
- The destroyer scout and armored cruiser justify their existence as additional classes from the standpoint of economy as well as efficiency.
- The scout cruiser must be accepted as a necessary evil, mitigated by a great reduction in numbers and perceptibly diminished vulnerability and cost.
- These three cruiser types meet the supreme test of their ability to assist the fleet in annihilating the enemy.