A LIGHT CRUISER is a type of small- or medium-sized warship . The term is a shortening of the phrase "light armored cruiser ", describing a small ship that carried armor in the same way as an armored cruiser: a protective belt and deck. Prior to this smaller cruisers had been of the protected cruiser model, possessing armored decks only. While lighter and smaller than other contemporary ships they were still true cruisers, retaining the extended radius of action and self sufficiency to act independently across the world. Through their history they served in a variety of roles, primarily as convoy escorts and destroyer command ships, but also as scouts and fleet support vessels for battle fleets.
* 1 Origins and development
* 2 History
* 3 Light cruisers today
ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT
The first small steam-powered cruisers were built for the British
WORLD WAR I
HMS Gloucester, one of the Town class, in 1917
World War I
The Germans built a number of light cruisers in the belief that they were good multi-purpose vessels. Unlike the British, who built both long-range cruisers like the Town class for commerce protection and short-range "scout" cruisers for fleet support, the Germans built a single series of light cruisers for both functions. Compared to the British "scout" type the German ships were bigger, slower and less maneuverable than their British counterparts but, through a successive series of classes, improved consistently in seagoing qualities. However, the Germans were very late in adapting 5.9-inch guns (not doing so until the Pillau class of 1913); Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz 's recalcitrance over the issue overrode the desires of others in the German Navy . For about a three-year period after the British Weymouth class of the Town series, completed with a uniform armament of 6-inch guns, and before the German Pillau class, German light cruisers (such as the Magdeburg and Karlsruhe-class cruisers ) were faster but maintained a lighter 104 mm main armament compared to their British Town-class counterparts. With the Pillau and Wiesbaden-class cruisers the Germans followed the British example of heavier guns.
Earlier German light cruisers were in competition with a series of
British scout cruisers which had a higher speed of 25 knots, but
smaller 3-inch 12 pounder guns or 4-inch guns. The Germans completed
the last two of their Bremen-class cruisers in 1906 and 1907 and
followed them up with four Königsberg-class and two Dresden-class
cruisers between 1905 and 1908. These last two classes, larger and
faster than the Bremens, were armed the same (ten 4.1-inch guns) and
carried less deck armor. Other major powers concentrated on battleship
construction and built few cruisers. The
During World War I, the Germans continued building larger cruisers with 150 mm guns while the British Arethusa class and early C-class cruisers reverted to an emphasis on superior speed with a more lightly-armed design for fleet support.
BETWEEN THE WARS
USS Raleigh, an Omaha-class cruiser, in 1942. Note casemates at
bow. Argentine cruiser
ARA General Belgrano
The term light cruiser was given a definition by the London Naval Treaty of 1930. Light cruisers were defined as cruisers having guns of 6.1-inch (155 mm) or smaller, with heavy cruisers defined as cruisers having guns of up to 8-inch (203 mm). In both cases, the ships could not be greater than 10,000 tons. USS Brooklyn
After 1930, most naval powers concentrated on building light cruisers since they had already built up to the maximum limitations allowed under the Washington treaty. Japan laid down its four Mogami-class cruisers between 1931 and 1934. The political climate from 1936 to 1939 gave the renewed building of light cruisers an added urgency. The British built 11 during this period, which culminated in the two Town-class ships, armed with 12 6-inch (152 mm) guns. The new ships were larger and better armored than other British treaty cruisers, with a 4.5-inch (114 mm) belt in the Towns and were capable of 32.5 knots, but for the most part tried to stay within past treaty limitations. The US also attempted to follow treaty limitations as it completed seven of its nine Brooklyn-class cruisers between 1938 and September 1939. These ships were an answer to Japan's Mogamis and were an indication of rising tensions in the Pacific theater. Japan, now considering itself under no restrictions, began rearming its Mogamis with 10 8-inch (203 mm) guns.
WORLD WAR II
See also: List of cruisers of the Second World War USS Atlanta
World War II
Heavy cruisers usually had a battery of 8-inch (203 mm) guns. In the years leading up to World War II, with the London Naval Treaty making it impossible to build a balanced heavy cruiser design within tonnage limits, this led to the construction of a great number of light cruisers of 10,000 tons with twelve to fifteen 6-inch (152 mm) guns that were otherwise identical to heavy cruisers.
Heavy cruiser construction was phased out in Britain, France and Italy during the mid-1930s. However, the breakout of World War II allowed nations to skirt the London Treaty and exceed the 10,000-ton limit. By the end of the war, the US Navy's ships classed as "large cruisers" had displacements of nearly 30,000 tons (the Alaska-class cruiser ), while light cruisers stayed in the region of 10,000 tons (although sometimes reaching 12,000 or 13,000 tons). Most modern guided missile cruisers have a similar displacement (10,000 tons for USS Ticonderoga and 12,000 for Slava ).
LIGHT CRUISERS TODAY
BAP Almirante Grau of the
Peruvian Navy is the only light cruiser
still in active service. Another four are preserved as museum ships :
UNITED STATES NAVY CLASSIFICATION
* ^ Beeler, John (2001). Birth of the Battleship: British Capital Ship Design 1870-1881. Naval Institute Press. p. 40. ISBN 1-55750-213-7 . * ^ Conroy's, p. 2. * ^ Conway's, pp. 152-53; Osborne, p. 73-75. * ^ Conway's, pp. 119-20. * ^ Osborne, pp. 112-13. * ^ Osborne, pp. 116-17. * ^ Osborne, p. 117.
* Osborne, Eric W., Cruisers and Battle Cruisers: An Illustrated History of Their Impact (ABC-CLIO, 2004). ISBN 1-85109-369-9