FAN Gascogn/Alsace (BB-1944-45)

 

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Lend Lease.

France during the period 1940-1943, lost a lot of its Navy to events, some it could control and some it could not. The original main Naval base for the French fleet to be based at, after the fall of France, was Mers-el-Kebirr. The actions of the British Fleet in 1940 forced all of the French ships out of that port and back to Toulon. The Richelieu and Jean Bart remained in their West African ports and were kept an eye on by passing British ships and aircraft. The accidental loss of the Jean Bart during the Torch landings then the calamity at Toulon where 77 French major warships were scuttled, decimated the French Fleet.

The only modern capital ship left was the Richelieu, the other battleships were the obsolete 1910-1913 Ocean and Lorraine class vessels and the aircraft carrier Bearn. The uncompleted hull of the Clemenceau was bombed and sunk by the US Air Force.

The French Navy applied for assistance under the Lend-Lease Agreement to acquire a battleship from the United States to a design featuring US hull and superstructure with French designed weapons, radar, aircraft handling facilities. A lot of this was recovered from the sunken hull of the Jean Bart (raised during 1944). The 16" were the design raised for those weapons that could have been placed aboard the Alsace class in triple turrets. The 130mm/5.1" were the same turret but up to the mark 5 gun that finally cured the teething problems with that dual purpose weapon system. The 40mm were the Bofors gun in the latest French quad and single mountings. French gun directors and radar systems were placed aboard.

Displacement: 50,000 tons standard, 62,000 tons full load,
Dimensions: 869 x 116 x 31
Machinery: 4 shaft, Geared Turbines, 180,000shp
Speed: 30 knots
Endurance: 12,000 miles at 18 knots
Armour: 16" belt, 7" deck, 16/9/6" turrets
Armament:
9 x 16" (3x3)
20 x 5.1" (10x2)
56 x 40mm (12x4, 8x1)
Aircraft: 3
Crew: 2750


The various American Authorities, that would be involved in producing a Lend Lease Battleship for France, met and decided to make an offer of their own to the French that would, 1). produce a ship faster, 2). use up spare parts already available and thus put no extra pressure on the US large gun manufacturing plants.

Many triple 14" turrets were available, to be used for the main armament of a new ship, from the Pearl Harbour disaster. Four of those could be cleaned up and placed aboard. The USS Kentucky was already under scrutiny as to whether the ship should be proceeded with or its contract cancelled. Its contract could be replaced with the Lend Lease ship for France. The only sticking point would be the 14" guns being used in place of the 16" the French wanted. However the US could point to the Royal Navy's King George V class which had proved the 14" gun on them were a match for ships like the German Bismarck, and none of France's possible enemies would have ships with any better armaments. With this design, more US equipment was used which would speed up production of the ship.

The 16" ship would not have been completed till August/September 1945, while the 14" vessel could have been completed as early as November 1944.



Displacement: 46,000 tons std 56,900 tons full load
Length: 852 ft
Breadth: 110 ft
Draught: 32 ft
Machinery: 4 shaft steam turbines 180,000shp
Speed: 30 knots
Range: 9000 miles at 15 knots (3,250 nm at 26 knots)
Armour: 14" side, 7" deck, 12/9/7" turrets
Armament:
12 x 14" (4x3)
24 x 5.1" (6x4)
80 x 40mm (20x4)
24 x 25mm (24x1)
Aircraft: 4
Complement: 2400

 


FAN Alsace as completed with quad 5.1" dual purpose guns.

 

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