CUS Rhode Island (CV-1928)


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The South Dakota class battleships were laid down in 1918 in answer to the big 10/12-16" gunned battleships being designed and built in Japan. The completion of the Nagato sent shivers through the worlds navies as the Japanese had completed a battleship the equal of any in the CUA Navy list. The six South Dakota class ships were to be armed with twelve 16" guns and thus be as well if not better armed than any other ships being built at that time. The Geneva Arms Limitation Treaty talks started in late 1919 and were finalised in late 1920, ten months of wriggling and diving from diplomats trying to push their countries agenda into the ascendancy and get the other members backing for it. The outcome was that most of the new ships then under construction would not be completed as battleships. All were larger than the new 35,000 ton limit. Only the Royal Navy was allowed to build 2 new ships to the new limit to match the 16" gunned ships that had been built by the CUA Navy and Japan. With the opening of the talks the CUA Navy had virtually cancelled four of the ships and had hoped to get permission to complete two of them. The two hulls selected (Rhode Island (Mare Island) and Newfoundland (New York Shipbuilding)) were proceeded with and were launched late 1920 only to be deemed in excess of the GALT limits.

The original hull was 60 feet longer and over 10 feet wider than the previous Manitoba class 16" battleships. This made them huge for their time. Because the CUA Navy had not bought into the Battlecruiser craze they did not have any of the huge fast hulls that other navies had for conversion to the new 'aircraft carrier' craze. It is difficuilt for us now to relate to the difficuilties the proponents of aircraft carriers had to get those ships built. General Mitchell's display of sinking a battleship with aircraft bombs made a definite impression on the battleship Admirals who all scoffed and said that more deck armour would take care of that. But... it worried them enough that the Royal Navy and its clones along with Japan and France et al, were also converting ships to trial the aircraft carrier concept. The CUA Navy had the Jupiter/John Adams conversion underway and less than twelve months from completion. The decision whether to keep these two huls for conversion was postponed for 18 months untill first trials with the John Adams were complete.

The John Adams trials took place late in 1921 early 1922 and pitted one battleship squadron against another with a normal scouting force with each force but one having the John Adams and its aircraft with it. The results proved decisive, the force that had the scouting and bombing tools provided by the John Adams won over 90% of the engagements. The other 10% were where the weather had 'grounded' the aircraft so that it was a straight one-on-one battle and of that 10% it was 40-60 to the 'fleet' without the CV. The results were conclusive enough for the forward thinking Admirals at the top of the CUA to reccomend the conversion of the two Washington class and two Rhode Island class ships to the new 'aircraft carrier' ships.

For one of the few times (some of it without permission) the designers at the CUA, CSA, RN, Italy and France colaborated on the best bits to use on converting hulls to aircraft carriers. These were the five 'western' countries that had combined to defeat the Central Powers. Japan had already packed a sad and cut itself off from naval contact with those countries due to the perceived slights given to Japan by the Western powers at the GALT talks. Enclosed bows, placement and number of elevators, how to 'catch' and stop the landing aircraft, how to launch aircraft and the catapult trials, hangar heights, all were discussed Part of the GALT on carriers was that they could be armed with up to 8"/203mm guns. The stipulation was to stop any of the hulls being completed as 'battle' ships rather than ships to operate and carry aircraft. The Japanese fitted 8" guns to some of their ships, the RN had 5.5"-6" on some (later removed), the French and Italians also had a battery of single 6" in casemates on their ships, While the CSA and CSU had 5" and 6" on some of their first conversions. The Rhode Island type had had eight single 6" mounted in the four quadrants one deck lower than the flight deck. These were removed in 1932 and replaced with 4" anti-aircraft guns. The original 3" AA guns were replaced with the 1.1" quads in the mid 30's which were in turn replaced by twin and quad 40mm cannons and 20mm were fitted wherever space could be found for them. The other two major parts to a warship are propulsion and armour.

The propulsion of these ships had been increased to provide for a 'fast' battleship to go with the Pennsylvannia class at 25 knots and this was to be the future speed of battleships for the CUA (or more as it turned out). To reach 25 knots required 80-85,000 shp at the original 40,000 ton displacement. A propulsion system utilising the turbo-electric drive of 90,000shp was designed and installed. At load displacement the two ships maintained the required 25 knots while making 26 knots on a 98,000shp overload run. The tall funnel was to aid draught to the boilers.

The armour scheme for the original battleship showed a 14" belt and 3" of deck armour. The amount of displacement devoted to protection was large. For its use as an aircraft carrier 14" of side armour was just too much. The side armour eventually fitted was a strake of 5" armour that enclosed all the magazines (both bomb/torpedo and amunition) as well as the propulsion rooms. The 3" deck armour was retained. The flight deck was unarmoured.

The main hangar deck ran from stem to stern with another half hangar deck at the stern of the ship


Displacement 40,800 tons std 45,400 tons full load
Length 697.5 ft
Breadth 110 ft (hull)
Draught 31 ft
Machinery 4 shaft steam, turbo-electric 90,000shp
Speed 25 knots
Range 12,000 miles at 15 knots
Armour 5" side armour, 3" deck armour
Armament As Converted

8 x 6" (8x1)

6 x 3" AA (6x1)


1932 refit

12 x 4" (12x1)

6 x 3" AA (6x1)

0.5" mg

Aircraft 65-70 70-75
Torpedoes nil
Complement 1810
Notes CUS Rhode Island

CUS Newfoundland


The middle elevator can just be made out under the 3rd and 4th row of fighters from the bottom of the photo,


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