Alaska class large cruisers (1944)
USS Alaska, colorized by Hirootoko Jr.
The Alaska class were the great white elephants of the US Navy. Their conception goes back to the beginning of the war, when all the treaties of limitation became obsolete. The US Navy therefore only released itself to study a new standard of conventional heavy cruiser (the term “conventional” designated during the cold war a ship not armed with missiles, but having artillery like main weapon.). The heavy cruiser genre was then brought to a logical degree of “upsizing” taking into account the reality that applied to all warships, ever larger and more powerful. A cruiser from 1880 rarely exceeded 100 meters and was limited to 5000 tons.
The Baltimore rose to 17,000 tons at full load, and with Prinz Eugen German, to 20,000 tons. However their main armament still remained 8 or 9 pieces of 203 mm. With the Alaska, the Admiralty intended to pass directly to the caliber 305 mm, that in force on the ships of line since 1890 and until 1916. Their distribution and the general physiognomy brought them much closer to the contemporary American battleships, so that they were sometimes placed in the obsolete category of “battle cruisers”, which took into account their speed -33 knots-and their armor-relatively light.
The influence of President Roosevelt on their design is often cited. Enthusiastic like the other Theodore of the beginning of the century by all that touched the navy, he wanted for the fleet a type of ship similar to that which made the pride of the Royal Navy, like Hood. It was also intended to make, like the German Germans, an invulnerable pirate of this “super cruiser”.
The Alaska class was to have 6 buildings, but soon, when it became apparent that the concepts underlying them were totally out of date, the other three, which should have been started in June 1943, were canceled. Two units were completed, Guam and Alaska launched in 1943, and Hawaii in March 1945, but only the first two were completed in June and September 1944. They proved in operation that they were a pretty bastard concept, finally, and having no adversaries after their war, expensive maintenance and in any case outclassed by missiles, these dinosaurs had no place in the fleet. They were put in reserve since 1961.
USS Alaska in july 1944
Displacement: 29,780 t. standard -34 253 t. Full Load
Dimensions: 246.43 m long, 27.76 m wide, 9.70 m draft
Machinery: 4 propellers, 4 GE turbines, 8 Babcock & Wilcox boilers, 150,000 hp.
Top speed: 33 knots
Armor: Belt 220, turrets 315, bridges 80-100, blockhouse 270 mm
Armament: 9 guns of 305 (3 × 3), 12 of 127 (6 × 2), 56 guns of 40 (14 × 4), 34 of 20 mm AA