BAV Aragua (CL-1917 (CLA-1937))
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The most modern cruisers when the ships arrived in Venezuelan waters in 1922. Big, well armed ships for their time they made a fine sight when passing into the new Fleet anchorage at Puerto Cabello. The 14x5.1" main armament utilised lighter weapons than the British and German ships of the time with their 5.9"/6" weapons. But this was felt not to be a drawback as the lighter shells for these guns meant less crew fatigue. Of the four ships that arrived in Venezuelan waters, two were complete and two required to be completed (see BAV Valencia).
By the time these ships got to Venezuelan waters they were only 6-7 years old. In terms of usage - nearly brand new. As broadside cruisers they were already obsolete, all the major navies had gone to inline cruisers and the new Naval Treaties had taken all of the new builds to turret armed ships. One of the best parts of these ships was they were oil powered. The day of the open mount cruiser was past. This did not matter to the Venezuelan Navy as they had got a Fleet for little more than scrap value. The best arms deal made in history.
It is not by chance that this is one of the last cruisers for me to do a redraw of. I have pondered long and hard as to how far the Venezuelans would go to upgrade these two ships. The biggest problem is that as these ships are already complete, the magazines and shell passage ways from magazine to gun are already set. To change that is a major rebuild. I would like to rearm the ship with 10x5.1" dual purpose guns in three twins and four singles. I could give the Venezuelans a twin and single 4" AA gun and rearm the ships along the lines of the Royal Navy converts. These two ships would go for their 20 year life extension rebuild in 1936-37 on completion of the two Yaracuy class cruisers, so that does bring them into the dual purpose time frame. The age old question, how much money do you spend on a 20 year old ship? My answer is that you spend as much as is necessary to make the ship fit for its purpose.
These two ships purpose from 1938-39, on completion of their rebuilds, would be as AA escorts to the 'slow' Fleet ships. The likes of the old 12" battleships, and escort/training carriers. For that job the open mountings of 3.9"/4" size could be used to replace the existing guns without having to do major changes to the existing magazine to gun systems.
Fitting the two dual purpose directors gave the guns a very good AA capability. The addition of fire control radar later made the guns very accurate. Cutting away the old foretops and other mast weight gave the ships a much more modern look. With radar and other electronic aids not so far away, these ships were ready.
|Displacement||6,900 tons std 9,800 tons full load|
|Machinery||2 shaft steam turbines, 50,000shp|
|Range||5000 miles at 15 knots (2,200 nm at 27 knots)|
|Armour||3" side, 1" deck, 1.5" turrets|
14 x 5.1" (14x1)
|As rebuilt 1937-38
12 x 3.9" (3x2 6x1)
12 x 28mm (3x4)
10 x 0.5" mg (10x1)
|Torpedoes||4 x 21" (2x2)||4 x 21" (2x2)|
Old drawings of the Aragua showing the age of the drawings and over arming of
the rebuild ships.
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