CSS Wake Island (CV-1929)
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The uncompleted hulls of the Confederate States Navies largest ever ships, the Texas and Mexico, were 80% and 65% complete respectively when they were halted by the Geneva Arms Limitation talks of 1920. The Japanese, British, Commonwealth Union of America, and CSN all had huge battleships and battlecruisers under construction or just laid down and another arms race looked like becoming a world wide event. The cost to the various countries after WW1 was going to be exorbitant and with inflation and monetary problems coupled with the Spanish Flu epidemic killing millions world wide, this arms race could go a long way to bankrupting a lot of nations.
The two CSN giants were being built in response to the British Repulse class and the German Mackensen class. They were to match the speed of those ships (30-32 knots) and have bigger guns (16"). The armour would be lighter at a 10" belt to the 12" belts of the others. The design of the ships was begun in 1915 and finalised in 1916 with the ships being laid down in 1917 for completion in 1921-22. The standard displacement of the design of the ships reached 40,000 tons and the ships were almost 850ft long. These were the ships that the CSN had not built when deciding on the dimensions of the Georgia class.
The two hulls sat rusting in their shipyards for almost 3 years while their final disposition was under review. They could not be completed as battlecruisers by the treaty, so the only way to keep them in any form was to transform them to ships that could operate fixed wing aircraft. The trials that were an ongoing process with the Guantanamo Bay (CV's were to be named after battles from the Spanish-American War) were used to aid the new design being cast for these two ships. A final design was posted in 1925 for converting the two ships. With their new designations came new names, Wake Island and Manzanillo, celebrating past victories of the Confederate States of America.
The conversion was to raze the superstructure back to the main deck level remove the huge barbettes for the main armament and refill the areas created with magazines and storage for aircraft bombs and weaponry. The same main engines were kept and provided the ships with a maximum speed on trials of 33 knots. A speed of 32 knots in service was better than the Georgia class that were supposed to be the escorts for the ships. The British conversions had all had single hangar decks but the CSN designers could go for two hangar levels as the two ships had a large reserve of buoyancy from their high freeboard. To aid seakeeping the CSN designers followed the British Hermes enclosed bow. The armament caused problems for the designers as the ships were allowed up to 8" weapons by the terms of the Geneva Treaty but this would have necessitated the guns either being mounted in casemates or at the flight deck level. The casemates were rejected out of hand while the flight deck level mountings would have required very long amunition trains from the magazines to the turrets. This train would have been difficuilt to protect. Lighter weapons were looked at with 7", 6" then down to 5" (actually 5.1" of French design) for a weapon system that could be used to arm the ships. Eventually four twin and twelve single mountings were fitted. These were originally low angle mountings but were refurbished in 1938 with dual-purpose mountings for the single guns as the twins were removed to make way for the quad 40mm mounts. The light AA was firstly single 3" AA guns and these were removed and replaced with the 1.1" guns then when those guns proved unreliable they were replaced with 40mm and 20mm cannons in large numbers.
The 1938 rebuilding let the two ships emerge in 1940-41 as fully up to date aircraft carriers. Such things as the original 2 elevators were upgraded with a third being added at the deck edge opposite the new bridge superstructure. The low angle twin 5.1" mounts were removed and replaced with quad 40mm mounts. Where a lot of the worlds aircraft carriers reported there aircraft complements to include a 'deck park' of aircraft based permanently on the open flight deck, the two Wake Islands aircraft complement was all internal thanks to the two hangar decks.
|Displacement||42,000 tons std 51,100 tons full load|
|Length||849 ft (BC) 858 (CV)|
4 shaft steam turbines 180,000shp
|Range||11000 miles at 15 knots (3,800 nm at 26 knots)|
|Armour||5" side, 3" deck 1" FD|
8 x 16" (4x2)
18 x 5.1" (18x1)
12 x 3" AA (12x1)
20 x 5.1" (4x2 12x1)
8 x 3" AA (8x1)
12 x 5.1" (12x1)
56 x 40mm (14x4)
22 x 20mm (22x1)
|Aircraft||110 (1929) 100 (1941)|
|Complement||1900 BC (2250 CV)|
|Notes||CSS Wake Island (ex Texas)|
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