The Izmail-class battle cruisers are perhaps one of the most controversial projects of domestic heavy combat ships. And it all started like this …
The first armored cruisers of post-war construction were created, in essence, on pre-war concepts, the experience of the Russo-Japanese war was minimally taken into account in them. A series of ships of the "Admiral Makarov" type was built on the model and likeness of "Bayan" because this ship showed itself well in battles, at the same time, almost no work on the project's shortcomings (and they were) was carried out. As for the "Rurik II", then, of course, its design was radically different from the pre-war armored cruisers, but an international competition for the best design of an armored cruiser was held back in July 1904, just then V. K. Vitgeft led his squadron to break through to Vladivostok. And the contract for its construction was signed just two weeks after the Tsushima disaster. Thus, during the creation of "Rurik II" military experience was used to a minimum: it, of course, has already been obtained, but has not yet been generalized and analyzed.
In 1906, the Naval General Staff (MGSh) conducted a survey among naval officers on what the armored cruiser of the future should be. As usually happened in such cases, the most polar opinions were expressed: from extreme to prophetic. So, for example, the captain of the 2nd rank K. I. Defabre considered the armored cruiser as a ship class “completely useless. For the squadron it is weak, for reconnaissance it is heavy and expensive. " But Vice Admiral K. K. De-Livron already pointed out that "the type of armored cruiser will probably catch up with the battleships, and both will have to take part in the battle in the line together."
Basically, the prevailing opinion was that an armored cruiser was necessary for the Russian Imperial Navy. At the same time, most opinions agreed that the artillery of such a ship should be as close as possible to the squadron battleships: for example, 4-6 254-mm guns or 2-4 305-mm guns were called as the main caliber. At the same time, a very high speed was expected from the armored cruiser - no less than 23-24 knots. A number of officers, mindful of the "Pacific concept" of a cruising war against England, also noted the need for a long range.
Thus, we can state that during these years the views of the Russian sailors on the place and role of the armored cruiser were strikingly similar, and were very similar to the views of the British sailors. As in England, in Russia they wanted to get a ship capable of operating on oceanic communications (only in England - for the purpose of protection, in Russia, respectively, vice versa). Just as in England, in Russia it was believed that an armored cruiser was too large a ship to refuse to be used in a general battle. Hence the similar vision of the use of this ship in battle - for example, Lieutenant Count A. P. Kapnist wrote in his note:
“In battle, armored cruisers form flying detachments that strive to reinforce the main forces' strike directed at a part of the enemy squadron. They strive to enter his flank, position themselves in front of his heads, behind his tail, in a word, these detachments play the role that the reserve plays in land battles."
In other words, armored cruisers were seen as a "fast wing" at the main forces of the squadron, and for this they needed heavy guns and high speed. Already only two of these requirements led to the fact that the displacement of the new armored cruisers had to approach the battleships, and it is clear that it was not possible to provide a level of protection similar to the latter. Therefore, no one demanded a strong reservation, and when asked what would happen if the ships of the "high-speed wing" "turned their attention," the enemy battleships answered (again, extremely similar to the British) arguments that: "Due to the advantage in speed armored cruisers will be able to accept or not accept a battle with battleships, and if accepted, then for advantageous positions and distances. " John Fischer would probably be surprised to learn how widespread his views on the role of armored cruisers are among Russian naval officers.
Of course, after the appearance of the "Dreadnought" all projects had to be crossed out and started from scratch: and now, on March 18, 1907, the performance characteristics of the armored cruiser of the dreadnought era were determined. Looking at them, we will see a very large similarity with the British "Invincible", but we should not see this "monkeying", because similar views on the concept of armored cruisers and should have spawned similar projects.
Strictly speaking, the Russian armored cruiser was supposed to be slightly better than the British Invincibles and Indefatigebles. Its armament should have been the same 8 305-mm guns, but it was about domestic 52-caliber "obukhovka", superior in their combat qualities to the British 45 and 50-caliber 12-inch guns. The anti-mine caliber, like that of the British, was represented by 16 * 102-mm guns. The speed was supposed to be 25 knots, that is, half a knot lower than that of the British, but the defense was somewhat stronger.
True, the main armor belt had a thickness of only 152 mm, like that of the British battle cruisers, but besides it, the second and third armor belts with a thickness of 76, 2 mm were also supposed (the British did not have any). In addition, although the sources do not say this directly, but in domestic shipbuilding after the Russo-Japanese war, the opinion prevailed that it was necessary to fully arm the waterline: most likely, the extremity of the Russian armored cruiser was supposed to be protected by armor, while the Invincibles had a stern behind the citadel defended only by a carapace armored deck. The horizontal booking of the Russian ship was almost the same: the main armored deck was the same bevels of 50.8 mm, in the horizontal part it had only 31.7 mm (for the British - 38 mm), but the upper deck reached 44.1 mm (for the British - 25, 4 mm). Thus, the total horizontal protection should have been 75.8 mm for the Russian cruiser, and 64 mm for the English one. The main armored deck of the Russian ship was thinner, but the enemy shell that hit the side under the upper deck was supposed to pierce the 76.2 mm belt first, and nothing on the English ship. The artillery protection of the Russian armored cruiser was supposed to be stronger - 254 mm turrets and barbets against 178 mm of British armor, conning tower 305 mm against 254 mm.
Thus, we see that the Russian ship was supposed to have slightly better protection than the British one, but in general it could not with any certainty withstand 280-305 mm shells (with the exception of the cabin and towers / barbets of the main caliber). As for the speed, it was determined by 25 knots - half a knot less than that of the British.
However, all these advantages and disadvantages remained on paper: the lack of funds in the Russian Empire prevented even the laying of dreadnoughts, the main force of the fleet, what is there to dream of battle cruisers (they began to be called linear cruisers in the domestic fleet only in 1915, but since In essence, since 1907, we have designed and built precisely battlecruisers, so in the future we will call them that). Years passed, and, of course, the above-mentioned performance characteristics soon did not look sufficient, so in 1909 they underwent significant adjustments.
By this time, the assignment of the battle cruiser was already considered to be service with the squadron, and the main tasks were seen as "deep reconnaissance" and "coverage of the enemy's head." Oddly enough, but in Russia, literally in just a couple of years, naval thought moved from the British concept of building battle cruisers to the German one, according to which ships of this class were primarily a "high-speed wing" for the squadron. Although it would probably be more correct to talk about some kind of intermediate option, because actions on communications continued to be put into the book of problems for Russian battlecruisers: they just were no longer considered the main ones and, if anything, they could have been sacrificed. At the same time, having determined the "squadron" role of battlecruisers, domestic military science did not hesitate with a completely correct conclusion: since ships of this class will have to fight enemy battleships, then they should be protected at the battleship level. At the same time, unlike the German fleet, in 1909 it was considered possible to sacrifice the number of guns, but not their caliber, that is, battle cruisers should have received the same guns as battleships, only in smaller numbers. Thus, domestic admirals came close to the concept of a high-speed battleship, and thus almost ended up ahead of the rest of the planet, if …
If not for one extremely annoying mistake that became key in determining the protection of our heavy artillery ships.
Despite the fact that work on the creation of a 305-mm / 52 artillery system was in full swing, and despite the fact that its power was far superior to the capabilities of the old 305-mm / 40 guns of the Russian-Japanese war, it seems that the true capabilities of the new generation of 12-inch artillery systems were not realized either in MGSH or in MTK. It is impossible to explain in any other way that, when designing a battle cruiser, it was considered necessary to protect it from the impact of 305-mm shells at distances of 40-60 cables, and … at the same time, an armor belt of only 190-mm thickness was considered sufficient for this, in the presence of a 50 mm armored partition follow him! However, the above condition was minimal, and in general, a requirement was set to protect the battlecruisers at the level of dreadnoughts - only the thickness of the Sevastopol's main armor belt was to be only 225 mm.
In general, the next iteration of the project looked like this - at first MGSH decided to raise the speed to 28 knots, allowing the displacement to be increased to 25,000 tons (more than the battleship!), While removing one three-gun turret of 305-mm guns (that is, the ship's armament should was 9 305-mm guns in three three-gun turrets), while mine artillery and armor protection had to duplicate that of the dreadnoughts of the "Sevastopol" type. That is, in fact, the Russian understanding of the high-speed battleship was proposed (alas, with its lack of protection), but the ITC still considered such an innovation excessive and reduced the required speed to 25 knots, and the displacement to 23,000 tons. Again, conceptually, it was quite a worthy solution - build a battle cruiser of the same size and armor protection as the battleship, and with cannons of the same caliber, but by reducing the number of barrels to increase speed. Such a concept, perhaps, even surpassed the one under the influence of which the Derflinger was created (after all, it had reduced not only the number of main caliber guns, but also the thickness of the armor in comparison with modern battleships), but weak armoring of domestic battleships, inherited by battlecruisers spoiled everything.
As a result, we came to a ship that, with an absolutely correct theoretical concept … turned out to be extremely close to the British battle cruisers of the "Lion" class. The most indicative in this respect was the project of the engineer I. A. Gavrilov.
The ship's displacement was supposed to be 26,100 tons, the power plant with a rated power of 72,500 hp. was supposed to report speed - 28 knots, afterburner - 30 knots. The main caliber was represented by ten 305 mm / 52 guns, placed in a linearly elevated position in three and two-gun turrets. At the same time, Gavrilov would prefer to use 356-mm guns, but did not have their weight data, however, according to his ideas, it was possible to replace 10 * 305-mm with 8 * 356-mm without increasing the displacement. The thickness of the armor of the wheelhouse, towers and barbets, most likely, was 254, 254 and 203 mm, respectively. But the ship's armor belt was only 203 mm thick, and the cruising range at an economic speed of 13 knots was 4,100 miles. Noteworthy is the not too oceanic range of this ship, but there was nothing to be done about it - any attempts to increase it entailed a serious increase in displacement.
In principle, specifically for 1910, this was a fairly good project, especially when replacing the twelve-inch guns with 356-mm ones. The output would be a kind of Russian "Congo", despite the fact that the British themselves considered the latter superior to the "Lyons", and the "Lyons", in turn, still had a certain advantage over the German "280-mm" battle cruisers, including even the "Seidlitz" ". But, of course, weak armor protection remained the most serious drawback of this ship.
Plans for the power plant of future ships are of interest. In this regard, the MTK on January 10, 1911 recommended the designers to carry out it in three versions:
1. With steam turbines;
2. Combined, with steam turbines and diesel engines;
3. And finally, purely diesel.
Such a strange "diesel optimism" occurred, among other things, due to the availability of information from MTK, "that the Kolomna plant is completing the manufacture of such [an engine] with a capacity of 1000 hp. per cylinder ". The black humor of the situation lies in the fact that today, almost 108 years after the events described, the Kolomna Plant has not mastered the production of reliable diesel engines for surface warships (which, in fact, was the reason for ordering diesel engines for ships under construction under the GPV 2011-2020 in Germany, MTU). However, even then hopes for the "dieselization" of battlecruisers were associated not only with Kolomna - according to other sources, "Blom und Foss" was able to supply engines with a capacity of 2,500 hp. per cylinder. Here, I must say, the wishes of the Russian sailors coincided with their German counterparts - the same A. Tirpitz believed that equipping German battle cruisers with diesel engines was a matter of the very near future.
It is interesting that, although no international competition was announced, nevertheless, the desired performance characteristics of the battle cruiser somehow became generally known. The following campaigns proposed their projects: the German "Blom und Foss" and the British "Vickers". The Germans offered a ship of 26,420 tons with 8 * 305-mm and a speed of 30 knots with a power of 95,000 hp. The British - with a displacement of 29,000 tons, 28 knots, with eight 343-356-mm and an armored belt of 203 mm …
However, the decision to build armored cruisers has not yet been made: taking into account the fact that the "Reinforced Shipbuilding Program of the Baltic Fleet for 1911-1915." it was necessary to agree not only with the Sovereign, but also with the State Duma (the latter was obviously not fast), 1911 had to go in vain - they did not have time to lay the ships this year. Accordingly, there was time to improve the project.
June 18, 1911 I. K. Grigorovich approved the revised "Assignment for the design of armored cruisers for the Baltic Sea", according to which many characteristics of the ship received significant clarification: for example, the main caliber of the ship was determined in 9 * 356-mm guns in three towers located in the center plane of the ship. The anti-mine caliber was increased to 24 130-mm guns, which were required to be placed in the casemates. The basis of the protection was 250-254 mm armor belt with a height of at least 5 m, at the ends (outside the citadel to the stem and sternpost) thinning to 125-127 mm, while behind it there was a 50 mm armor bulkhead and bevels of the same thickness. The citadel was to be closed with a 250 mm traverse. Above the main armor belt, which was supposed to protect the engine rooms, boiler rooms, as well as the turret compartments of all three main-caliber towers, there was to be an upper armor belt, 125 mm thick, reaching the upper deck, while in the bow it could go to the stem, but the stern from the citadel they were allowed not to book. Reservation of the cabin - 305 mm, towers - 305 mm, and the forehead of the towers had to be even 356 mm, and the roofs - 127 mm, the thickness of the barbets was set to 275 mm. The latter was considered "in aggregate", that is, above the upper deck, where there was no additional protection, the thickness was 275 mm, below, beyond the 125 mm of the upper armor belt - 152 mm, etc. Reservation of the decks was somewhat unusual - the horizontal part of the lower deck (from which the slopes extended to the armor belt) was not armored at all and had only 12.5 mm steel flooring, the middle deck should have been 25 mm, the upper deck should be at least 37.5 mm.
The speed requirements were somewhat lowered - it was decided to be satisfied with 26.5 knots, but one should not forget that this is the speed at the rated power of the machines, that is, without forcing them.
And then an international project competition was organized: the specified "Assignment for the design of armored cruisers for the Baltic Sea" "on August 11, 1911 was sent to six Russian and seventeen foreign shipbuilding enterprises. The response was very lively: many companies showed interest in such a “tasty” order. As a result, such a large number of projects were submitted to the competition that their detailed description would require a whole cycle of articles from us, so we will restrict ourselves to the most general information.
On the whole, the shipbuilding companies tried to honestly meet the requirements, although there were still certain deviations from the "Task" in some projects. The largest was the project of the British company "William Birdmore K" - in the accompanying letter they said that the ship, desired by the Russian Naval Ministry of characteristics, would have a normal displacement of 36,500 tons, which is deliberately irrational, since no power is building or even going to lay ships of similar displacement. The firm also pointed out that the British battle cruiser with 8 343 mm guns has only 27,500 tons of displacement, and that it makes no sense to create a ship one cannon stronger and 9,000 tons heavier, so it limited itself to sending a draft design. And, at the same time, it also presented a lightweight version of the 9 * 305-mm cruiser with a displacement of 29,500 tons. The smallest (of the realistic) options was the project of the German "Blom und Foss" - only 27,311 tons, but it was abandoned, since this could only be achieved with the use of steam boilers used in the German navy. By the way, "Blom und Foss" became the leader in the nomination of the most "prolific" company - its specialists prepared as many as 11 variants of the battle cruiser armed with 9-10 356-mm guns and a displacement of up to 34,098 tons.
Of course, there were many initiative projects. So, for example, the Baltic Shipyard proposed a purely diesel ship, in this case, according to the plant's specialists, the displacement of a battle cruiser would be only 24,140 tons (I must say, just enchanting optimism).
But the most "omnipotent" of the presented projects was the creation of the mechanical engineer A. F. Bushuev, who managed to shove as many as 15 * 356-mm guns into a ship with a displacement of 30,000 tons - again, due to the use of diesel engines.
When selecting projects, in addition to the usual criteria in such cases (elaboration, accuracy of calculations, realism, etc.), the MTC also took into account seaworthiness, which was measured by the presence and height of the forecastle, as well as the all-time location of artillery in the center plane. I must say that enough projects were sent to the competition with a linearly elevated arrangement of artillery (although no one presented the classic version - two linearly elevated in the bow and one in the stern). But they were swept aside immediately due to the fact that, according to domestic views, such a placement reduces the survivability of the ship. But the same Germans had a very interesting project of a ten-gun ship with a linearly elevated arrangement of four towers (three-gun at the ends, two-gun ones - raised above them).
According to the results of the competition, project No. 6 of the Admiralty Shipyard with a displacement of 29,350 tons was recognized as the best (however, as it was worked out, its displacement quickly reached 30,000 tons). This ship met the requirements of the "Assignment" almost completely, both in terms of weapons, and protection and speed.
Without a doubt, variant # 6 for 1911 should be considered very successful for a battle cruiser. From the point of view of protection, this ship was in an intermediate state between the British and German battlecruisers, while the armor assumed on it was quite suitable for protection against German 305-mm guns - the protection was not absolute, but remember that at real battle distances the German shells of this caliber "every other time" coped even with 229 mm armor plates of British battle cruisers. They were immediately opposed by 250 mm armor with a 50 mm bulkhead behind it. In addition, for British ships, only the boiler rooms and engine rooms (and the third tower) were protected by 229 mm armor, and the side opposite the other towers had only 127-152 mm. The height of the Russian armor belt also exceeded the British one. Artillery protection (305-356 mm turret with 275 mm barbet) surpassed that of even Derflinger. (270 and 260 mm, respectively). The horizontal protection of the Russian project was rather weak, well, it did not strike the imagination at all for the British and German battle cruisers, here we can talk about approximate parity.
Thus, although project # 6 was not at all invulnerable to 305-mm projectiles, it would still be very difficult to "pick" it open with them. High-quality armor-piercing 343-mm projectiles could easily cope with 250 mm side armor, but they appeared in the British only by the end of the war, and against semi-armor-piercing 343-mm projectiles such as those used in Jutland, the Russian defense was quite good. At the same time, the armament of the Russian battle cruiser - nine 356-mm guns surpassed that of not only the German, but also the English “brothers”, and the development of high-quality armor-piercing ammunition in the Russian fleet after Tsushima was given special attention. Even the superior in every respect the Derflinger's defense could well have been penetrated by them. At the same time, the Russian cruiser was not at all a slow-moving, in terms of speed it would have fully corresponded to, if not British, then German battle cruisers.
Thus, the Maritime Ministry really came close to creating a battle cruiser that has no analogue in the world - in terms of the aggregate of combat characteristics, it would outstrip the British Congo, Derflinger, and Tiger, but … the design of the first ships of this class in Russia was just beginning …