The Worcester (CL-144) class light cruisers were an enlarged Atlanta (CL-51) class design which would carry a new 6-inch dual purpose gun, the first 6-inch gun capable of engaging aircraft. Originally planned as a repeat of the Cleveland (CL-55) / Fargo (CL-106) class, they were considerably heavier.
The USS WORCESTER, CL-144, was formally started as a project by the Bureau of Ships when a request for designs was made by the General Board on May 13, 1942. The design process resulted in ten different design schemes being proposed. The final design differed from the tenth design scheme's sketches.
The Worcester class was designed to fulfill the requirements of several functional needs. They were designed to combine destroyer speed and maneuverability with cruiser size and firepower that could deal not only with surface targets, but with aircraft as well. They embodied many of the lessons learned during Word War-II, as hard-hitting, dual-purpose cruisers. The Worcester class could conduct scouting operations, lead a flotilla of destroyers, and could keep the sea in almost any weather. The design had a fuel capacity for long voyages, combined with the speed to overtake other vessels and maneuver rapidly. The Worcester class was provided with armor protection against gunfire, carried main guns capable of out-gunning the enemy's cruisers, and repel mass air attacks.
Antiaircraft cruisers evolved during World War II, and the automatic 6-inch 47 gun was mainly inspired by the need for a heavier, longer range AAW gun to attack heavy land-based bombers, then anti-ship missiles. Accordingly, BuShips developed a new antiaircraft cruiser around this high angle gun. However, the new cruiser proved to be much bigger than its 8500 ton predecessor. Because of the greater size of the turrets and the increased protection and sturdier construction incorporating war experience, the new ship was actually close to 18,000 tons, with the same power as the contemporary heavy cruiser (wartime light cruisers had been found to be slower than predicted, so more speed was another requirement for keeping station on a carrier).
The Worcester class, at commissioning, displaced 14,000 tons, were 680 feet long, with a beam of 71 feet wide and draft of 26 feet. They could make 33 knots at flank speed. The initially carried a ship's complement of 1,070 men.
The main battery consisted of twelve six-inch dual-purpose guns mounted in six turrets. There was no secondary battery, since the six twin turrets for the main armament were dual purpose, greatly simplifying fire direction. At commissioning the 3-inch guns were not installed on the CL-144, but approximately six 20mm mounts were installed for gunnery practice during the shakedown cruise. The 3-inch 50's were installed on the CL-144 in early 1949 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and the 20mm guns removed. A total of five dual 3"50 Cal. mounts on the port side, five on the starboarde and one in the bow. A pair of single 3" on blisters were on each side of the fantail, for a total count of 24 three-inch guns.
At Worcester's commissioning, search radars were SR-2, SR-6, SG-6, and SP-1, with the SR-2 and SG-6 on the Mainmast, the SR-6 on a mast just forward of the rear stack, and the SP- 1 on the After-mast. The SR-2 antenna, fed with a rigid coax tube 1.5 inches in diameter, had a 1/4" diameter center conductor, held in place by ceramic donuts as spacers. This radar was not very effective, so it was eventually replaced with the SR-6 from the mast ahead of the after stack, which was then in turn removed. Fire Control radar consisted of 2 ea. MK-13, 4 each ~ MK-25, 4 each ~ MK-35, 6 each & MK-27's mounted in each of the 6 main turrets. There were also individual radars on the bow and fantail 3-inch gun mounts, for a total count of 19 fire-control radars.
Ten ships were assigned to New York Shipbuilding - only two were laid down, Worcester (CL-144) in January 1945 and Roanoke (CL-145) in May 1945. The remaining eight ships were cancelled in March 1945, considered surplus to the war effort.
Only two were built, Worcester (CL 144) and Roanoke (CL 145). They were commissioned in 1948 and 1949 respectively and served only until 1958, being maintained in mothballs for a substantial time after that. The gun-armed antiaircraft cruiser proved to be a dead end in cruiser design. These revolutionary light cruiserst never had a chance to prove herself in their designed role. The large automatic gun turned out to be unreliable, and as aircraft speeds increased and smaller, more agile fighter-bombers became more common, it became apparent that missiles or smaller guns were a better bet to defend the task force against air attack.
The Worcester class was obsolete when commissioned, and because of its low freeboard (an attempt to reduce the ships' huge size), had a reputation for being wet. They did not, like the Des Moines class, find a secondary mission they could take over to prolong their useful lives. They proved out in a secondary role in Korea. They were the last of the "All-Gun", Light Cruiser concept designs, the new cruisers being armed with guided missiles.
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