UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


ACR Armored Cruiser

Armored Cruiser & Heavy Cruiser

Armored CruiserHeavy Cruiser
ACR 1 MaineCA-1not assigned
ACR 2 New YorkCA-2Rochester
ACR 3 BrooklynCA-3Brooklyn
Pennsylvania Class
ACR 4 PennsylvaniaCA-4Pittsburgh
ACR 5 West VirginiaCA-5Huntington
ACR 6 CaliforniaCA-6San Diego
ACR 7 ColoradoCA-7Pueblo
ACR 8 MarylandCA-8Frederick
ACR 9 South DakotaCA-9Huron
Tennessee Class
ACR 10 TennesseeCA-10Memphis
ACR 11 WashingtonCA-11Seattle
ACR 12 North CarolinaCA-12Charlotte
ACR 13 MontanaCA-13Missoula
Armored cruisers were among the earliest new ships built for the "steel navy" of the later 1880s and the 1890s. In accordance with contemporary practice, these were grouped serially in an "Armored Cruiser" number series (informally abbreviated "ACR") that ultimately encompassed thirteen ships.

The armored cruiser was a naval cruiser protected by armor on the sides as well as the decks and gun positions. This class was used from the end of the 19th century until World War I. The development of the explosive shell gun in the mid-1800s made the use of armor inevitable, despite its cost and weight, and armored cruisers began to appear in all navies.

The first armored cruiser was French Dupuy de Lome, started in 1888, entered service in 1895. In the same year, the Russian Ryurik entered service. Armored cruisers from 19th/20th century had usually displacement of 9,000 - 12,000 tons, speed of 18 - 20 knots. This class reached its summit in 1906-1908. Their displacement reached 14,000 - 16,000 tons then, speed - 22 - 23 knots. Since 1908 however, the building of armored cruisers stopped. It was found that their armor and guns were too weak to fight with the newest battleships - dreadnoughts, while they had almost no speed advantage above dreadnoughts. The main features of armored cruisers, like heavy guns and greater speed, than battleships, appeared again in the new class of battlecruisers (armored cruisers were the same for pre-dreadnoughts, as battlecruisers for dreadnoughts).

The first armored cruiser of the United States Navy was the USS Maine, whose explosion in 1898 triggered the Spanish-American War. Launched in 1889, she had 7-12 inches of armor around the sides ("belt armor"), and 1-4 inches on the decks. She was redesignated as a "second class battleship" in 1894, an awkward compromise reflecting slowness compared to other cruisers, and weakness versus the first-line battleships of the time. The New York (Armored Cruiser No. 2), launched in 1895, was less weighty than the Maine, with 3 inches of belt armor, and 3-6 inches of deck armor. Brooklyn (Armored Cruiser No. 3) was an improved version of the New York design. Shortly after the Spanish-American War, the Navy built six Pennsylvania-class armored cruisers, almost immediately followed by five of the Tennessee class.

Any decrease in efficiency will necessarily be most severe on the faster type, and when this gain of a few knots speed is at such an expense of armor and armament as to practically preclude the armored cruiser from joining battle with the battleship, it hardly seemed worth while to put practically the same amount of money into vessels of the weaker type. There was doubtless a large field for the armored cruiser in swift attack upon isolated or unprotected positions, in raids on the trade routes of maritime states or in blockade and many other duties ; but, before the end is reached, the enemy's battleship squadron must be met, and this the armored cruiser can not do, at least with much prospect of success.

By around 1910 it seemed most likely that this debatable question would be met by increasing somewhat the speed and coal endurance of the battleship and reducing slightly her protection at the water-line or possibly in the protective deck, while the armored cruiser reduces her speed somewhat and increases her armor and armament, until the two types merge. The consensus of opinion seemed to be that the more recent armored cruisers in all the great navies were too large.

However this may be, the fact remained that, if any one country developed a type of warship having particularly marked characteristics, other nations who wish to remain on a footing of equal strength, must build vessels of the same type to meet them, and all of the more important naval powers were adding armored cruisers to their fleets. It may be of interest to add that France, by 1912, was building armored cruisers almost to the exclusion of battleships, and it was not forgotten that the French nation has, on other occasions, inaugurated the line of naval development.

By 1915 the Armored Cruisers of the ACR-4 Pensylvania Class and ACR-10 Tenessee Class were recategorized as scout cruisers, though they were not intended primarily as scouts. Theyw were initially thought to be fairly good fighting ships, but by 1915 they were entirely outclassed. It had always been the idea that the scout cruiser could go out ahead of the fleet to get information. If she gets any information she comes back again. The armored cruisers are intended to get in closer and not be bluffed off by smaller vessels. They remained counted among the Scout Cruisers through 1930.

This type of war vessel, discredited to some before the Great War, was been finally condemned as a result of war experience. The features of the type were: (a) Armor of less than half the thickness of that on contemporary battleships; (b) guns of 6- to 10- inch caliber; (c) speed of 3 or 4 knots more than that of contemporary battleships: (d) displacement of half to two-thirds that of battleships. The increase of speed of battleships and of light cruisers rendered the older armored cruisers obsolete and the advent of the battle cruiser did the same for the later types. During the war armored cruisers proved to be well-nigh useless, particularly the British types which were fitted with guns of ridiculously light caliber, many of them mounted so low as to be useless except in smooth water.

When the Navy formally implemented its hull number system in 1920, the surviving Armored Cruisers were given "cruiser" (CA) series numbers (not to be confused with the later use of the "CA" for heavy cruisers), which corresponded to their original ACR numbers. Over a period of years, these units were progressively renamed after major cities of the states for which they had originally been named.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:33:36 ZULU