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The many possible face of North Carolina


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Post-ban designs (1935-39)

The General Board asked for a new battleship design in May–July 1935. Three design studies were submitted:

Design “A”: It was a 32,250-long-ton (32,770 t) proposal and one of the best known as it was so different than the “final product”, more compatrable to the British Nelsons and G3. Unlike “B” and “C” this had a fair margin below the treaty limit, so allowing for duture upgrades, something the admiralty board appreciated (for good reasons looking at the cruisers). It would have carried nine 14-inch guns, all forward and a tall bridge tower. The all firing forward solution was a response to the “bar the T” tactic and popular to keep a short citadel, sparing weight. Elevation was 4.5 degrees and the secondary battery comprised twelve 5-inch (127 mm) in triple mounts, which recalled the Repulse design of 1917. The two others were more balanced and slighty faster, but also beyond treaty limits:

>”A”: 32,150 long tons (32,670 t), nine 14-inch (356 mm) guns (3×3) all forward, 30–knots, 14-in armor
>”B”: 36,000 long tons (37,000 t), 30.5 knots 14 in prot. 12x 14-inch guns (3×3)
>”C”: 36,000 long tons (37,000 t), 30.5 knots 8x 16-inch/45-caliber (4×2)

The Bureau of Ordnance announced is choice of the new “super-heavy” 16-inch shell and all three designs evolved to take in account the larger guns, so they were renamed “A1”, “B1” and “C1”. “A1” was just 500 long tons below the 35,000-ton limit, the two other reached 40,000 long tons.

Named “fast battleships” by the General Board, their speed and adjustment variable. The Naval War College was also consulted, and suggested 23-knot, something they mastered well in tehri war games and allowing them to remain compatible with older standard super dreadnoughts. Five more design studies were proposed with smaller machinery until September 1935. Speed started at 23 and went up to 30.5 knots, and the main armament started with eight, nine 14 inch or 16-inch guns for a standard displacement between 32,000 and 41,100 t, so beyond the treaty limit.

Scheme F: Eight main guns in quad turrets aft, hybrid seaplane carrier forward. It was an attempt to create a viable aircraft carrier/battleship hybrid, still well under the treaty limits with a standard displacement of 31,750 long tons (32,260 t). Three catapults wxere completed by while a hangar located under the lanching deck, and containing ten seaplane bombers, wings folded. Two aft turrets carried 14-in guns.

The “D” and “E” designs were true ‘fast battleships’ with a main 16-inch battery. Design “F” however was an oddball, a radical hybrid recallling the old British Furious when transitioning in 1917, and it was reportedly favoured by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. However the airmen section of the admiralty board estimated these catapult-launched seaplanes would necessarily be inferior to any land-based equivalents due to their floats to be retrieved at sea. The project resurfaced later wih the Kearsage concept.

Scheme VII and its 22 knots (25 mph; 41 km/h) was just one knot faster than the “standard” battleships and what was gained for a smaller powerplant allowed to reinforced both firepower and protection with twelve 14-inch/50 in four triple turrets and an immune zone proof against 14-inch gun between 21,400 and 30,000 yards, so close to max range as it was believed were ideal in battle.

Designs “G” and “H” showed a return to 23-knot standard of 1919, and with nine 14-inch guns in triple turrets. “H” by C&R seemed better balanced, but the General Board in the end favored faster types designs. With 35,000 tons, two finalized designs emerged, a modified “A1” capable of 30 knots but more lightly armored, or a slower one with better protection and heavier guns. Five more studies were presented in October, all with 14-inch guns and close to 30-30.5 knots. Four turrets, little armor. “K” design managed to have a 15-inch (380 mm) belt, a 5.25-inch (133 mm) deck and 17–27 km citadel immune zone against 14-inch shell. Naval constructors pushed for this one, a formula they mastered, and it respected the treaty 35,000 tons limit, but with no margin for future upgrades, which the admiralty resisted. “L” and “M” tried to save weight by using three quadruple like French designs three turrets, so twelve 14-in guns.

Designers soon realized how hard it was to deliver a potent design based on 35,000 tons standard. For 30 knots ideally as desired, armor and armament should be sacrified. A lower speed allowed for heavier guns, but still inadequate protection against the latest 16-inch shells. One solution was to concentrate artillery on a reduced lenght to fit a smaller citadel, like the numerous all guns forward projects of the time, a la Nelson or Dunkerque.

The Preliminary Design section five of October 1935 eventually settled on “A”, looking for additional armor and a smaller “B” with 14-inch guns, 30 knots, four turrets. Officers in the admiralty board wanted in addition not a single or two ships for incremental innovations, but four to match the rebuilt fast Japanese Kongō class.

The Secretary of the Navy at the time agreed, as was the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral William Standley and even the president of the Naval War College Admiral William S. Pye. Still a few active senior officers and line officers engaged in strategic planning (War Plans Division), one even believing these Kongos could be dealt with aviation, and preparing airfields for heavy bombers on strategic islands like Wake was a prerequisite. The General Board eventually in late October 1935 selected “K” for further development.


More questionable designs



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