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Author Topic: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects  (Read 42493 times)

Offline Triton

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Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« on: July 17, 2009, 12:00:40 pm »
I was browsing Google Books and found a preview of Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects 1942-1962: An Illustrated Technical Reference by Wayne Scarpaci.  I thought it was too cool not to share.  ;D

http://books.google.com/books?id=L4z8UIRymR4C&printsec=frontcover

Offline Hoo-2b-2day

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2009, 03:17:17 pm »
Could be an interesting book.

It would seem that the last two Iowa's were of dubious further value to the US Navy but the Alaska's were a huge waste of resources. If converted they would have made "adequate" aircraft carriers which would have been far more useful than as completed. It is also probable that as carriers, with the readily available fittings as used by the Essex class, they may have been in service earlier than caused by the manufacture, fitting and testing of the 12' weapons and supporting equipment. But in reality, other than for the interest of latter day naval enthusiast, the Alaska's were a waste of good steel and building resources

For the proposals to convert to carriers, along with other proposals, please see: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/albums/s511.htm

Offline Triton

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2009, 07:08:53 pm »
Could be an interesting book.

It would seem that the last two Iowa's were of dubious further value to the US Navy but the Alaska's were a huge waste of resources. If converted they would have made "adequate" aircraft carriers which would have been far more useful than as completed. It is also probable that as carriers, with the readily available fittings as used by the Essex class, they may have been in service earlier than caused by the manufacture, fitting and testing of the 12' weapons and supporting equipment. But in reality, other than for the interest of latter day naval enthusiast, the Alaska's were a waste of good steel and building resources

For the proposals to convert to carriers, along with other proposals, please see: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/albums/s511.htm

I believe that you are being overly critical of characterizing the last two Iowa's of "dubious further value to the Navy" and the Alaska's "were a waste of good steel and building resources." It takes three years to build an Iowa-class battleship and an Alaska-class cruiser. With such long lead times, decision makers can only make their best guess to anticipate future needs of the Navy and they can only apply the lessons learned from the last war. The conventional wisdom after World War I at sea was that the next war at sea would be decided by a clash of big gun battleships and cruisers.

Once built and in a post-war period, you need to make a decision whether a ship is of further use as is, can be converted for another purpose, or is obsolete and should be broken up as scrap.

Offline Hoo-2b-2day

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2009, 12:17:27 am »
In reply to Tritons comments above:

1. The last two Iowa BB's were not laod down until 6 December 1944 (BB66 Kentucky) and 15 January 1945 (BB65 Illinois) which was well after Aircraft carriers has upsurped battleships as the fleets primary warship. By this time the US navy had all the battleships it needed for the duration of the conflict. Though the Iowas had proved useful as AA escorts this job did not require 16" guns or massive armour. A cruiser of about 8,000 tons with 5" guns could have done the same job. (and the US Navy were working on a design such as this at the end of WW2. As for shore bombardment - 33 knots is a major overkill for this tasks in fact the older battleships were better at this task than the new generation ships.

2.

Offline Hoo-2b-2day

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2009, 12:44:33 am »
accidentally hit post  so...

2. The Alaska class were not particularly supported with in US navy from conception and seem to have been a result of President Roosevelt's insistence. As oppposed to WW1 battlecruisers which had a speed advantage over contemporary battleships the Alaska large cruisers were designed after the Iowa class battleships which could match them in speed. The US Navy realised that if they could build a 33 knot battleship then so could the other major navies. None of the Alaska class was laid down till after Pearl harbour CB1 Alaska- 17 December 1941 and CB2 Guam 02 February 1942, launched respectively 15 August 1943 and 12 November 1943 by which time air power had replaced gun power as the main offensive arm of the fleet. As for CB3 Hawaii - laid down 20 December 1943.. why?

As in my original post the first two Alaska's would have made adequate aircraft carriers if converted as per the "springstyle" proposals which were considered early enough to have been enacted before the ships had progressed too far. As for CB3, a waste of resources that could have gone into another Essex Class carrier or similar.

The Alaska class were an expensive/resource intensive design which the Baltimore class cruisers (13,600 tons and 8" guns) could undertake the vast majority of the intended tasks (including carrier escort) and a few Iowa battleships could cover the rest.

An intersting note is that in regard to CB3 Hawaii material allotted to this ship was being reallocated to other construction by July 1942.

I would also suspect that a US Navy admiral facing the invasion of Japan in 1945/46 if given the choice of the Alaska class large cruiser or the equivalent number of carriers (whether they were Essex class or converted Alaska's) with 80-90 aircraft each would have unhesitatingly jumped at the latter.

Offline pometablava

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2009, 01:01:03 am »
Quote
Could be an interesting book.

The book is amazing!!!

When I ordered it I thought it was a bit expensive but now I think it worths every cent.

Offline robunos

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2009, 02:22:14 am »
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As for CB3 Hawaii - laid down 20 December 1943.. why?

Maybe to keep the skilled shipyard workers occupied and prevent them being drafted to fight.
I believe the same thing happened at Republic Aviation, where a batch of 'unwanted' P-43s were ordered,
 to keep the workforce intact until the P-47 was ready for production.
Then of course there were the Horten brothers, continuing work on their 'Amerika Bomber', to keep their workforce away from the russian front.

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Offline Hoo-2b-2day

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2009, 03:09:26 am »
Re "Maybe to keep the skilled shipyard workers occupied and prevent them being drafted to fight. I believe the same thing happened at Republic Aviation, where a batch of 'unwanted' P-43s were ordered to keep the workforce intact until the P-47 was ready for production."

This was never a tactic used naval shipyards due to the length of time and expense to build a  warship. While a P-43 could be used as temporary equipment for a second line unit a brand new 29,000 ton warship could not be considered in the same light. If it were a matter of keeping the workforce occupied a few destroyers or destroyer escorts would seem far more appropriate. But what I meant was why not another ship such an aircraft carrier, amphibious support ship or submarine depot ship - something more useful to the war effort.

The point I am trying to make is that as large gun armed ships the Alaska's were a waste of resources, had the first two been converted* to aircraft carriers and the third built as a carrier it would have been a far better use of the resources towards the war effort, (*better still all cancelled were and aircraft carriers or amphibious support ships built instead)

The initial proposal to complete the Alaska's as carriers was considered around January 1942**.Had this option been enacted the conversion work would have commenced well before launching these ships. As I mentioned earlier as carriers they would have used weapons and equipment in mass production for the Essex class carriers -for any warship with large guns, such as the Alaska's 12" guns, being unique take longer to design, build and test, the same go's for the mountings. Had the Alaska hulls been completed as carriers it is likely that they would have been combat ready several months earlier than as large cruisers and it is possible that they would have had a more extensive post war service. The limitations caused by being conversions would not have been so severe if employed as antisubmarine carriers as were many Essex class carriers.

**Please see: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/s-file/s511-50c.htm

Offline smurf

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2009, 07:39:56 am »
Interesting discussion, but the book is more concerned with conversion projects for the completed ships.

Offline Triton

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2009, 03:28:46 pm »
Thanks for the additional information Hoo-2b-2day.

Did the United States still believe that the Chichibu-class battlecruiser, an improvement of the German "pocket" battleships, was being built for the Imperial Japanese Navy or that the class existed? When was it known that the Chichibu-class battlecruiser did not exist?

Could the US Navy also have been thinking that the Alaska-class might be needed in the Atlantic to take on the "pocket" battleships of the Kriegsmarine?
« Last Edit: July 20, 2009, 04:48:41 pm by Triton »

Offline Hoo-2b-2day

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2009, 04:43:47 pm »
Re: "Did the United States still believe that the Chichibu-class battlecruiser, an improvement of the German "pocket" battleships, was being built for the Imperial Japanese Navy? When was it known that the Chichibu-class battlecruiser did not exist?"

The Iowa battleships would have been a better answer to any perceived Japanese large cruiser/battlecruiser as well as being able to fulfill the battleship roll, but by mid 1943 it was apparent that the war at sea had moved to an air-power basis and that (except in very unusual circumstances*) aircraft and/or submarines would deal with any surface threat.

*Such as Halsey's actions during the battle of Leyte gulf - which was itself decided by airpower and small ships rather big gun ships.

Offline smurf

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2009, 05:42:23 am »
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Could the US Navy also have been thinking that the Alaska-class might be needed in the Atlantic to take on the "pocket" battleships of the Kriegsmarine?
Doubtful, Graf Spee scuttled 1939 after an action with 3 RN cruisers, two of them 7000ton light cruisers; the other two based in Norway from 1942 for operations in the Arctic. Neither achieved much. Lutzow driven off by two light cruisers in Battle of Barents Sea end of 1942. Don't forget Ultra would tell allies where they were.

Offline Longshaor

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2009, 04:47:42 pm »
Oh, man, a couple of things to point out...

1.  The Alaskas were intended to operate independantly of the battlefleet to counter large enemy commerce raiders.  While this threat never, in fact, developed, it certainly seemed reasonable in the late 1930s when the ships' characteristics were being mapped out.

2.  Ultra intercepts were unknown to the USN until after the war started, and even then only to a select few, certainly nobody in BuShips who would have been responsible for design approval.

3.  Even if, and I think the jury will always be hung on this, we want to say that the CB concept was of limited utility durring WWII, John Lehman made an interesting statement durring an interview on reactivating the Iowa class battleships.  To paraphrase (I don't have the exact quote handy), he said that even though the Iowas were substantially larger than what was needed the decision was effectivley forced on the Navy because the only other hulls availble, the Des Moines class heavy cruisers were too small.  He went on to say that the ideal hulls would have been the Alaska class, but these had been scrapped int eh 1960s.

4.  A substantial part of the late start on the last two Iowa class ships was that they had a substantially improved torpedo defense system over the previous 4 ships.

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Offline Longshaor

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2009, 05:13:25 pm »
Almost forgot, carrier conversions of the Alaskas or even the Iowas?  Probably an even bigger waste of resources than the original design.  The closest comparason would be the USN CVLs, which were converted cruisers.  The ones that actually saw service durring the war were all laid up very shortly thereafter.  The two ships of the (IIRC) Saipan class served only a breif time as carriers before being converted to other uses (a command ship and a communications relay vessle).  The Achilles heal of the conversions was the uptake trunking which substantially ate into the available hanger space.
Getting engineers and contractors to cooperate is like trying to herd cats.

Offline smurf

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Re: Iowa and Alaska Class Conversion Projects
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2009, 02:33:19 am »
My point was that a year before Alaska was laid down (not ordered until Sept 1941) light cruisers had dealt with a German pocket battleship, and did so again in 1942. Baltimores would certainly do the job. But, perhaps wrongly, I had taken the question to apply to 1942, when conversions were being considered, rather than to 1938-40 when initial design requirements were under discussion. There is an interesting page or two discussing the factors deciding the Alaska design in N. Friedman's US Cruisers, which includes reference to "the exploits of the Graf Spee."