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The US Navy is a difficult proposition for any Alternate Universe drawings. Why? Because in a lot of cases the output of the US Navy is as good or better than the equivalent Navies of the time. So how much can you alter or change to enhance what is already available. My first try was to split the United States into two seperate entities of North and South. The North building solid, well armoured but slow capital ships while the South built faster battleship, battlecruiser types. To balance things out, the North gained what had been Canada to become the Commonwealth Union of America. While the South gained Central America to become the Confederate States of America. That, I felt, was a good way to end up with two fleets that would be bigger than the US Navy alone. It also gave me different weaponry that could enhance the ships. Especially in the AA categories.
The Presidential order fixing the production lines to what was already being produced, did stifle research and development. No new designs came into production until late 1943. The big ship categories that were built during the war were the Essex class, Iowa class, Alaska, Baltimore class, Cleveland Class, Atlanta class. These coupled with those completed pre-war made up enough to fight a two ocean war. Once the American production lines started rolling equipment out at never before seen rates, the pendulum of war swung very much in favour of the Allies. The Presidential order only lasted two years, but the sheer amount of equipment produced was still being used in the 1970's (5"/38 ammunition is still available to those weapons still in use in the minor navies of the world, millions upon millions of shells were produced).
To put it in to perspective, when Field Marshal Heinz Guderian was asked what was the best tank of the war? His answer was "the Sherman, there were so many of them, they just overwhelmed us". That same answer went for all sorts of classes of weaponry. The German Hipper class were considered one of the best heavy cruiser classes, but the Baltimore class were easily as good and there were so many more of them.
So how do you improve the Baltimore class?
Torpedoes? Not likely. Beside USN doctrine that had no torpedoes on cruisers till the Atlanta class. Barring the Japanese, cruisers with torpedoes hardly ever got to use them. They were too short ranged and slow to be of use against modern targets. The British cruisers used them occasionally with mixed results. HMS Trinidad fired its bank of torpedoes at the Z class destroyer line, only for one of the torpedoes to freeze its gyro, and the Trinidad torpedoed itself. While torpedoes were fired from HMS Dorsetshire to finish off the Bismarck chase.
More speed and armour? Not required. What the Baltimore class had was enough for the jobs it was built to undertake.
By the time the Baltimore was completed in 1943, the 1.1" chicago piano AA guns had been found to be deficient in service and replaced with the 40mm and 20 mm weapons.
So what is left? Radar? No. The Baltimore had the most up to date systems available. The only thing I think would enhance the Baltimore class (and other USN ships) would be to replace the 5"/38cal dual purpose guns. I have had many arguments with US people over how great the 5"/38cal guns were. The only reason the guns were any good, is like the Sherman, there were so many of them built. That does not make them good. The German 4.1" on the Hippers fired further and higher than the 5"/38. That German tri-axially mounted weapon was excellent compared to the 5"/38 The British 4.5" fired further and higher, the Japanese 5" and 100mm fired further and higher, the French...... you get the drift. The USN replaced the 5"/38 with the 5"/54 designed for use on the next generation of ships, Midway class, Montana class, then went to a 5"/54 auto loader for the later ships. But the Midway mount was deemed a failure as the size of the shell was increased which led to faster crew fatigue. Something that happened a lot with the larger dual purpose weapons. Me? I would lengthen the barrel to the 5"/54, but keep the same turret and ammunition. Increase the range and height by having higher velocity from the longer barrels. The 5"/38 barrels could be replaced with the 5"/54 when the various ships came in for refit. Sounds like an easy solution that may not work, I do not know enough about the engineering problems I may just have created. My thought is that barrels wear out regularly so why not replace them with 54 cal when due.
So on a drawing of the Baltimore all I would be changing would be the 5" gun barrels by adding 4-5 pixels of length. Duh. I wouldn't even add my name to the Artist line for that. That would be the same for the Essex, Iowa, Alaska and Cleveland classes. The Atlanta class I will do a redraw of, as I always thought the US Navy had tried for too much on too small a ship.
It is the earlier classes of 'Treaty' sized ships that I can do something with. The cruisers and destroyers built under the Washington Naval Treaty were very constricted in their construction. In my Alternate world, having the Japanese not sign the 1930 London Naval Treaty allows the US and others to start building bigger ships earlier. Which begs the question would the 6" cruisers of the Brooklyn and Cleveland classes get built at all? Those ships were part of the general reduction in cruiser size and guns from the LNT that I have just demolished. I like the Brooklyn class, they are real destroyer killers with that 15x6" broadside.
What I will do is to add some of the ships I have drawn for the US Navy in other venues. An extra three Louisiana class battleships using up the spare turrets from the Washington, Lexington, and Saratoga. Plus others as I think of them.
This putting my thoughts to paper has been good. It has helped to crystalise what I want and intend to do with the Alternate US Navy.
|I am not going to worry about the ships that were projected to complete post-war. Midway, Montana, Des Moisne, all are outside the scope of what I want to do. The Essex, Iowa, Alaska, and Baltimore were the major warship classes built during the war. Some of the Baltimore class were converted to light carriers (my replacements for the Independence class).|
|Class Name||Number||Type||First date||Thumbnail|
The Saipan class replaces the Independence class as the Cleveland class does not get built to provide the hulls, the Baltimore class are substituted instead.
The US Navy built a lot more CVE type carriers than listed but these were transferred to the Royal Navy under Lend Lease.
|USS Commencement Bay||25||CVE||1943-44|
|Destroyers / Minelayers|
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