As you know, the construction of the battleship "Dreadnought" in Great Britain was the beginning of the massive construction of ships of this class, known as the "dreadnought fever", which lasted from 1906 to the beginning of the First World War. The reasons for it, in general, are understandable - the emergence of a new class of ships, much more powerful and faster than the battleships that ruled the seas until recently, has largely nullified the existing tables of ranks of the navies. In other words, for some states, the hasty construction of dreadnoughts presented an opportunity to strengthen and outstrip their rivals, moving to a new level of the naval hierarchy. For other countries, the creation of these ships, on the contrary, was the only way to maintain the current status quo.
In this competition, not only the quantity, but also the quality of the newest battleships played a huge role, and, I must say, they evolved at an alarming pace. The same "Queen Elizabeth", laid down just 7 years after the ancestor of this class of ships, surpassed the latter as much as the "Dreadnought" itself did not surpass the battleships that preceded it, and in fact it was rightfully considered a revolution in naval affairs.
In those years, there was a search for the concept of a battleship of the future, and scientific and technological progress was in a hurry so quickly that admirals and engineers were forced to think over new concepts even before there was an opportunity to test the existing ones in practice. Therefore, in different countries (and sometimes in one), projects of battleships that were quite different from each other were created. However, shortly before the First World War, England, Germany and the United States came to very similar views on the place and role of the battleship in battle. What led to the fact that in these countries in 1913-1914. very similar (of course, with an amendment to the national schools of shipbuilding) ships were laid: the latter are often called "standard" battleships.
Why did this happen, and why did other countries participating in the dreadnought race (France, Japan, Italy, Russia, etc.) not build "standard" battleships? The answer is not difficult if we recall the main world trends in the development of ships of this class. The fact is that the development of battleships in all countries was influenced by two fundamental factors:
1. Explosive growth in the strength of naval artillery. At the time the dreadnoughts were born, it was believed that guns with a caliber of 280-305 mm would provide them with sufficient firepower. However, after some 5 years, the world saw the power of superdreadnoughts armed with 343-mm cannons. But then, after just a few years, even 343-356-mm artillery ceased to suit the admirals, and much more powerful 381-406-mm guns began to enter service … was available to the country) became the most important leitmotif of the creation of battleships.
2. Economic constraints. Even the wallets of the world's leading economies were still not dimensionless, so the dimensions of the serially built battleships were trying to fit into dimensions that were more or less acceptable for the budget. For the period immediately preceding the First World War, such a limitation was the normal displacement of 30,000 tons - the ships laid down in 1913-1914 were either approaching it or slightly surpassing it.
In other words, perhaps we can say that firepower and cost were of key importance, but the speed and protection of battleships, shipbuilders from different countries of the world balanced already on the basis of the above postulates and the concept of using the fleet. But the fact is that for England, the USA and Germany there was another limiting factor that did not bother the rest of the countries too much.
Let's remember that the English "Dreadnought", in addition to its unambiguous superiority in artillery weapons over any battleship in the world, surpassed the latter in speed - it was 21 knots, against 18-19 knots in classic battleships. So, if the power of the artillery and armor of the "Dreadnought" were very quickly surpassed, then its speed for a long time became the standard and was recognized as quite sufficient for ships of the line - the bulk of the naval powers created dreadnoughts with a maximum speed of 20-21 knots. But, unlike other participants in the "dreadnought fever", only three powers: Great Britain, Germany and the United States built by 1913-1914. truly numerous battleships of the line, consisting of "21-knot" battleships. All three of these countries were preparing to "argue" for the role of the strongest sea power in the world, and this "dispute" could be resolved, according to the operational views of those years, only in a general naval battle. Naturally, for "Armageddon" it was necessary to collect all available battleships into a fist and fight them in a single combat formation.
But in this case, there was no point in increasing the speed of promising battleships over 21 knots - this would not give the new ships any tactical advantages, since they still had to act in conjunction with the relatively slow-moving dreadnoughts of the old construction. Therefore, the refusal to increase speed, in favor of an increase in firepower and protection of battleships, looked like a completely sensible decision.
Not that naval theorists did not understand the importance of speed in the battle of linear forces, but in England and Germany the role of "fast wing" was to be played by battle cruisers and (in England) fast battleships of the Queen Elizabeth class. But in America, it was considered more important to increase the number of dreadnoughts, postponing the construction of forces to ensure their actions until later.
Thus, England, the USA and Germany, although following their own national views on the development of the navy, nevertheless came to very similar conditions: to design and build battleships within (or slightly above) 30,000 tons of normal displacement, armed with the most heavy guns available, with a speed not exceeding 21 knots. And, of course, the maximum security that was only possible if the above requirements were met.
Strictly speaking, only American battleships built starting with the Oklahoma-Nevada pair are usually called "standard": their displacement increased slightly from series to series (although this is perhaps true only since Pennsylvania), the speed remained at level of 21 knots, and a single principle of armor protection was applied. But, due to the reasons stated above, the last pre-war battleships of England and Germany are also sometimes called "standard", although, perhaps, this is not entirely correct. However, in what follows we will refer to them as "standard" as well.
In this series of articles, we will consider and compare three types of battleships: British ships of the "R" type ("Rivenge"), the German "Bayern" type and the American "Pennsylvania" type. Why exactly these ships? All of them were designed at about the same time - the head battleships of these types were laid in 1913. All of them were completed and became part of the fleet (although the German ones did not last long, but this is certainly not the fault of the ships themselves).
Battleships of these types took part in the hostilities. And, of course, they were all created within the framework of the concept of a "standard" battleship to counter their own kind, which makes their comparison quite correct.
The fact is that despite the commonality of the prerequisites for creation, all these battleships were built under the influence of national characteristics and concepts of the linear fleet, and despite many common features, they also had significant differences. So, for example, despite the almost equal caliber of guns of the German and British battleships, the former were created according to the concept of "light projectile - high muzzle velocity", and the latter, on the contrary. Shipbuilders of all three countries tried to provide their "offspring" with maximum protection, but at the same time the American battleships received the now famous "all or nothing" scheme, but the British and German battleships were booked much more traditionally. We will try to identify these differences and suggest what impact they would have on the results of a hypothetical confrontation between these battleships. Having studied the ships of the Bayern, Rivenge and Pennsylvania types, we will identify a leader and an outsider among them, as well as a "golden mean" between them.
Why did other countries not support the three leading naval powers in the construction of "standard" battleships? Everyone had their own reasons. For example, France simply "did not grow up" to a standard battleship - its docks could not serve warships with a normal displacement of over 25,000 tons, and within these limits one could count on a superdreadnought - an analogue of the British "Iron Duke" or the German "Koenig". In addition, the French did not have guns larger than 340-mm, which, in order to provide sufficient firepower, required to place at least 12 armor and structural protection of the ship.
Japan, in essence, sought to build not battleships, but something intermediate between a dreadnought and a battle cruiser. Bearing in mind what a gigantic advantage the high squadron speed gave them in the battles of the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese wished to continue to have linear forces, faster than those that their rivals would have at their disposal. Thus, for many years in the development of battleships in the Land of the Rising Sun, firepower and speed became a priority, but protection was in secondary roles. And their battleships of the "Fuso" type, laid down in 1912, fully expressed this concept - being excellently armed (12 * 356-mm guns) and very fast (23 knots), they nevertheless had rather weak protection (formally, the thickness of the same armor belt reached 305 mm, but if you look at what it defended …).
In Russia, similar trends prevailed as in Japan: when designing battleships of the Sevastopol type and battle cruisers of the Izmail type, our ancestors also paid maximum attention to the firepower and speed of ships, limiting their protection to the principle of reasonable sufficiency. Alas, major miscalculations in predicting the growth of the power of naval guns have led to the fact that reasonable sufficiency has turned into a complete inadequacy (although, strictly speaking, this applies to the battleships of the "Sevastopol" type to a lesser extent than to the "Izmail"). As for the Black Sea battleships, the history of their creation is very specific and worthy of a separate material (which, probably, the author will deal with at the end of this cycle). You can, of course, recall that the fourth Black Sea battleship "Emperor Nicholas I", which, by the way, could well become "Equal to the Apostles Prince Vladimir" (submitted for approval to the Sovereign Father and this version of naming the new ship), was laid down in 1914., that is, even later than the head "Bayerns", "Rivendzhi" and "Pennsylvania". But it should in no way be considered the Russian counterpart of the "standard" battleship. When designing the "Emperor Nicholas I", the emphasis was shifted to getting a warship as soon as possible, capable of complementing the three "Empresses" laid down in 1911 to a brigade of full strength, that is, up to four battleships. Moreover, for the newest Russian battleship, various options were considered, including those with 12 of the latest 356-mm / 52 guns, similar to those that were going to be installed on the Izmail-class battle cruisers, but in the end the cheapest and fastest to build was chosen variant with 305 mm artillery. Well, the subsequent projects of Russian battleships, firstly, were created much later than Rivenge, Bayern and Pennsylvania, and secondly, alas, they were never embodied in metal.
As for the Italian battleships, the following happened to them - despite the fact that Italy seriously "invested" in the renewal of its linear fleet, in the period from 1909 to 1912. including laying down six dreadnought battleships, already in the next year, 1913, it became quite obvious that the Italian fleet lagged behind its two main Mediterranean rivals: France and Austria-Hungary. While the Italians, having neither a new project nor new guns, were forced in 1912 to lay two Andrea Doria-class ships with 13 * 305-mm main artillery, three superdreadnoughts were laid down in France in the same year. type "Brittany" with ten 340-mm cannons. As for Austria-Hungary, after laying down the very successful "305-mm" dreadnoughts of the "Viribus Unitis" type, they were going to start creating new battleships armed with 350-mm guns.
Thus, the Italians obviously found themselves lagging behind, and in addition, they faced long construction times - for their far from the most powerful industry in Europe, the creation of dreadnoughts became an extremely difficult task. The first Italian battleships with 305-mm guns at the time of laying had quite adequate performance characteristics when compared with the dreadnoughts under construction of the leading powers. But at the time of entry into service, the seas were already killing superdreadnoughts with 343-356-mm artillery, which the Italian ships with their 305-mm artillery no longer looked equal (although, strictly speaking, they were not inferior as much as it is commonly believed).
And so, based on the above, in the project of the battleships "Francesco Caracholo" Italian shipbuilders tried to create a ship that would definitely surpass the existing French and Austro-Hungarian competitors, but, at the same time, would not be inferior to their peers, built by the great maritime powers. In other words, the Italians tried to predict the development of the battleship for many years to come and embody these guesses in metal: accordingly, their ships of the Francesco Caracciolo type can be considered as the forerunner of the concept of a high-speed battleship in the Italian version. But, of course, they were not "standard" battleships in the understanding we have described.
As for the rest of the countries, they either failed to start building superdreadnoughts, stopping at "305-mm battleships" (like Spain and Austria-Hungary), or they ordered dreadnoughts abroad - but within the framework of our topic, all this is not is of no interest. Accordingly, we conclude our short excursion into the history of battleship building in the pre-war years and pass on to the description of the design … let's start, perhaps, with the British battleships of the "Rivenge" class