BB-13 Virginia Class
Virginia (Battleship No.13) lead ship of a class of 14,948-ton battleships, authorized in 1901 and commissioned in 1906. Intended to be the first class of fully effective seagoing US battleship, she was fairly larger and slightly faster than the Maine class. She carried the same main armament as the Maine class but added 4 dual 8-inch guns in an unusual superimposed turret arrangement. Virginia cruised with the Great White Fleet in 1907-09. Cage masts were fitted in 1909-10 and the 3-pdr guns were removed. Following World War One service all 6-inch guns were removed as well as four 3-inch/50 guns. Two 3-inch AA guns were added. In accordance with the Washington Naval Treaty, she was decommissioned in August 1920 and on 5 September 1923 was sunk by Army Air Service Martin bombers in a demonstration of air power.
Congress in March 1899, a full two years before the King Edward VII class were sanctioned in England, appropriated money for three coastline battleships carrying the heaviest armor and most powerful armament for vessels of their class, and increased this number by two of like character in June, l900. Of the five vessels appropriated for three were required to be sheathed and coppered, and two were without sheathing. Immediately after awarding the contracts, however, the navy department took this question under consideration and decided to omit all outside sheathing and coppering, so that each vessel of the class was a counterpart of the other, except for minor modifications incident to construction.
The general dimensions and chief characteristics of these vessels were: Length on load water-line 435 feet; breadth (extreme) at load water-line 76 feet 2 inches; trial displacement about l4,948 tons ; mean draft in trial displacement, about 23 feet 9 inches ; greatest draught, full load, about 26 feet. Although they displace only 15,320 tons - a jump of 800 tons from the previous Maine class - they mount four 12-inch, eight 8-inch - four in superposed turrets - and twelve 6-inch pieces, in addition to the anti-torpedo armament. In the following year two more of these ships were sanctioned - very powerful vessels with a good radius of action of 3325 miles at 10 knots, and no mean supply of ammunition.
These vessels have a displacement of 14,900 tons, or 15,300 tons, if sheathed ; and have a speed of 19 knots. They have a coal supply of 900 tons, and a bunker capacity of 1,900 tons. It may, also, be noted that their draught was comparatively small, being only 24 ft. They have Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers.
In the 15,000 tons represented in each of these vessels, the many antagonistic qualities essential to a perfect fighting machine have been compromised and incorporated in the proportion which experience seems to have pointed out as the most desirable and efficient. To begin with, these ba1ttleships had a speed of at least l9 knots, which compared most favorably with any battleships under construction abroad, as well as with any in the projected stage.
One cannot fail to be struck with the enormous battery of these ships, and with the great protection which it has. The Virginias carried four twelve inch guns, 40 calibers in length, mounted by pairs in balanced turrets, one forward and the other aft, aud each having a total arc of train of 270 degrees. Of the eight 8-inch guns, 45 calibers in length, which were carried on these vessels, four were mounted by pairs in turrets, superposed on the l2-inch turrets, and four in two broadside turrets slightly forward of amidships, the amidship turrets having a total arc of train of l80 degrees.
The remarkable feature of these designs was the novel arrangement of the double turrets, in which the 8in. guns were superposed upon the turrets of the 13 in. guns, the whole being rotated by the same mechanism. This startling innovation caused a great deal of discussion in the United States, and was generally approved of by the Ordnance Officers, but was strongly opposed by the Naval Constructors.
In the Virginia there was a broadside battery on the gun deck of twelve 6-inch rapid-tire gnus, 50 calibers in length, mounted six on each side, each with a total arc of train of l2l degrees. This arrangement has the advantage of bringing the guns' crews more under the control of the gunnery officers of the ship, and thus increases the tactical advantage of the battery; but against this must be set the advantage in the casemates of isolation of the guns' crews, which is no doubt great in case of the disablement of any one gun's crew. It is to be remarked that, while the protection, or freedom from penetration, is much better in the box battery than in the casemate arrangement, as the guns are protected in rear as well as in front, the damage is much greater in the event of penetration of the side by shell in the former than in the latter case, as probably in the former the whole of the battery's crew would be placed hors de combat.
The secondary battery consisted of twelve 3-inch 50 caliber rapid-fire guns, twelve 3-pounder semi-automatic, eight l pounder heavy automatic, two .80 caliber machine guns and six .30 caliber Colt automatic guns, all mounted in commanding positions and having large arcs of flre. The Virginia was also fitted with submerged torpedo tubes.
The magazines were specially fitted to enable her to carry, with absolute safety in all climates, the new smokeless powder. Provision will be made in the magazines for the storage of at least sixty rounds for each of the l2-inch guns, l25 rounds for each of the S-inch guns, 200 rounds for each of the 6-inch gnus, 300 rounds for each of the 3-inch guns, and a plentiful supply of ammunition for the smaller guns.
To make her defensive qualities proportionately great, they were provided with a complete water-line belt of armor 8 feet in width admidships, 11 inches thick at the top and 8 inches at the bottom, tapering to a uniform thickness of 4 inches at the ends of the vessel. They also had a casemate armored belt, extending over about 245 feet of length, of a uniform thickness of 6 inches, rising from the top of the maiu belt to the upper or main deck, and joined at its after end to the barbette of the l2-inch turret by a 6-inch armored bulkhead, and having at its forward end an armored bulkhead of six inches thickness, extending from side to side, thus forming a citadel or redoubt, within which the 6-inch guns will be mounted. Within this citadel or redoubt, and extending from the forward turret to the after turret, light armor 2 inches and 2'2 inches in thickness will form subdivisions of the gun enclosures, thoroughly protecting the gun's crews from flying splinters and fragments of bursting shells. The barbettes for the turrets of the l2-inch guns were l0 inches in thickness for that portion outside of the redoubt or citadel, reduced to 7 inches within. The turrets themselves were protected by armor l2 inches in thickness. The 8-inch turrets were, in all cases, whether superposed or independent, protected by 6 inches of armor, with o 6 1/2 inch port plates, and their barbettes were protected by similar armor.
The conning tower and its shield were 8 inches in thickness, and the armored tube, 5 inches in thick, was of sufficient size to receive all voice pipes, wiring, etc. In addition to the conning tower, there was, aft, a second tower, known as the signal tower, which was constructed of 5-inch armor. From the bottom of the water-line armor belt there rose a curved turtle backed nickel steel protective deck,1 1/2 inches thick on the flat and 3 inches thick on the sloping sides, to make assurance doubly sure that no projectile of the enemy finds its way into the vitals of the ship. As an additional protection to stability, a cofferdam belt, 8 feet in thickness, and packed to a density of eight pounds to the cubic foot, was worked along the two sides, above the protective deck, for the entire length of the vessel.
The lower decks were all of steel, covered with linoleum. The use of wood in the construction of this vessel was limited even more strictly than it haw been in the later battleships, and all woodwork alxivethe protective deck, except deck plank, were fire-proofed. Bilge keels and heavy docking keels were fitted. The applications of electricity on board are much wider than in the case of any other battleships in existence, with the possible exception of the Kearsage aud the Kentucky. All the turrets had electrical turning gear, and the ammunition hoists, blowers to the turrets and general ventilation, the general workshop and practically all of the auxiliaries outside of the engineer's department aud excepting capstan and steering gear, were electrically driven. To provide for the power required for these purposes there were installed eight engines and dynamos, mounted on combination bedplates, two having a rated output of l.250 amperes at l25 volts and six with 625 amperes at l25 volts.
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