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BB-28 Delaware Class

The Delaware class numbered two ships, both built on the east coast. The Delaware class were the U.S. Navy's first real "Dreadnoughts", carrying an "all-big-gun" main battery at a speed of over twenty knots, thus enabling them to deliver a greater volume of heavy shell fire than previous battleships, while keeping outside the range of those ships' numerous medium-caliber guns. Their Congressional authorization did not specify a maximum size, so the Navy designed Delaware and North Dakota to be a quarter larger than their immediate predecessors, with two more twelve-inch guns, a secondary battery of five-inch rather than three-inch guns, and two-and-a-half knots greater speed.

With this displacement, exceeding that of the Dreadnought by more than 2,000 tons, and being more than 700 tons greater than that of the Vanguard - the latest vessel of the British Dreadnought class - the Delaware was a notable addition to the navy of the United States. The vessels of the Dakota class exceeded in displacement and broadside fire any extant battleships except the Brazilian ships Mincs Gerais and San Paulo, and these latter were surpassed slightly in displacement by the American battleships.

When one turns to official returns the contrast between the Dreadnought class and contemporaneous battleships is great. For example, the normal draft of the latest United States battleships (Delaware and North Dakota) is 26 feet 11 inches, and the corresponding (Navy List) displacement is 20,000 tons. On these figures the American vessels appear to be 5 inches deeper in draught than the Dreadnought herself, and about the same draft as the Temiraire and St. Vincent; while in displacement they are apparently 2100 tons greater than the Dreadnought, 1400 tons greater than the Temiraire, and 750 tons greater than the St. Vincent. These comparisons are fallacious, because different "sinkages" have been arranged for in the designs of the American and British ships. In the former the deep-load draft was about 29 feet, and the corresponding displacement about 22,100 tons, as against the deep-load draf of 3l feet (given by the Civil Lord) for the Dreadnought, and a corresponding displacement of about 22,200 tons. The American ships therefore had an enormous advantage in draft, being about 2 feet less when fully laden ; and they were of practically the same load displacement.

The Delaware was 519 feet long over all, with a beam of 85 feet 2% inches and a draft at a displacement of 20,000 tons of 26 feet 10 inches. Her armament consisted of ten 12-inch breech-loading rifles, mounted in pairs in revolving turrets on the center line of the ship, in such a manner that all of the 12-inch guns can be fired on either broadside, four of them ahead and four of them astern. The secondary battery comprised fourteen 5-inch rapid-firing guns for repelling torpedo-boat attack. These guns were mounted partly amidships and partly at the bow and stern on the gun deck. There were also four 3-pounder rapid-firing guns, four i -pounder semi-automatic guns, two 3-inch field pieces, two machine guns of .30 caliber, and two 21-inch submerged torpedo tubes 6 feet 9 inches below the full-load water line.

The side armor was 10 inches thick, which is reduced to 5 inches at the main deck. The 1 2-inch turrets are protected by 1 2-inch and 8-inch armor.

The most striking feature was the two lofty steel lattice masts, each built up of hollow-steel tubing running in reverse spirals from deck to top platform. This platform was occupied by the officers who had charge of fire control; and it was their duty to record the fall of the shots, determine the range, and telephone the results down to the officers in the various gun turrets. Note should also be made of the three openwork towers, each surmounted by a large searchlight. Compared with previous battleships, there was a distinct absence of top hamper in the way of lofty flying bridges, boat cranes and superstructures.

Each vessel had a displacement of 20,000 tons, and were designed for a speed of 21 knots. On trial the "Delaware" developed 28,578 I.H.P. and recorded a speed of 21.56 knots, while the North Dakota reached 3l,826H.P. and 22.25 knots. To test the relative virtues of competing machinery types, Delaware was fitted with the older triple-expansion reciprocating engines, while her sister got direct drive Curtiss turbines. Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers are used in both vessels.

There are some reports that the first American ship designed to burn oil fuel was the battleship Delaware, authorized in June, 1906 and commissioned April 4, 1910. This is not correct. The BB-34 New York Class battleships, laid down in 1911, were the first US Navy battleships armed with 14-inch guns, and the last to be built with more than four main battery turrets, intermediate weight side armor and coal-fired boilers. The BB-36 Nevada Class were the last US Navy battleships to have reciprocating engines, and the last to have two propellers. At the same time they were the first of the ships to carry fourteen-inch guns, and the US Navy's first to have oil as their primary fuel.

In the Delaware propulsion was by means of two four-cylinder, triple-expansion, direct-acting reciprocating engines, designed for an indicated horsepower of 25,000. With a bunker capacity of 2,500 tons, she was able to maintain a speed of 10 knots for twenty-eight days, this corresponding to a cruising radius of about 6,700 miles. The first steam engines installed on naval ships were horizontal ; that is, the pistons travelled horizontally. Due to excessive friction and unequal wear, vertical engines were soon designed and installed in later warships. The older warships of the United States Navy in commission, including battleships, armored cruisers, and cruisers, are propelled by reciprocating engines. They are termed vertical inverted triple-expansion engines, and two sets are installed in each ship, one on a shaft. The indicated horsepower developed, or the I. H. P., ranges from 9000 in the old battleship "Indiana" to 25,000 in the more modern battleship "Delaware". In the latter reciprocating engines of four cylinders are used instead of three, the order being: (1) High Pressure, or H. P. ; (2) Intermediate Pressure, or I. P.; (3) Low Pressure, or L. P., and (4) Low Pressure, or L. P. Two low-pressure cylinders are used instead of one, for the good and sufficient reason that with the large power developed the volume of exhaust steam becomes so great that a single low-pressure cylinder would be too large for convenience.

In the North Dakota, Curtis turbines of the same total horsepower were installed. The naval engineer had reverted to the reciprocating engine in the "New York" and "Texas," due to faults which developed in the turbines of earlier battleships. The Curtiss turbines were replaced in 1915 with more efficient geared turbines of 31,300 horsepower. The battleship North Dakota had the original direct-driven twin turbines replaced by twin sets of single-reduction Parsons geared turbines, and the new machinery resulted in a gain of 31 per cent in fuel consumption at all speeds. This new machinery effected a saving of at least 50 per cent in the weight, went into the same engine-room space with very few changes, and did very well ever since the vessel went back into commission.

The battleship North Dakota was equipped with Monel metal propellers, three-bladed wheels 13 ft. diameter and of 15,000 Ib. each. These gave satisfactory service. Monel Metal is a natural alloy of copper and nickel.

The ships were watertight to the highest practical. All ducts passing through the magazines are galvanized-steel seamless tubing, made watertight. A natural exhaust duct, equal to the area of mechanical supply duct, has been provided for each shell room and small-arms magazine and located as far as practicable from supply duct. The upper ends of the ducts are carried up close to the gun deck and inside of the barbettes where practicable, the lower end of which is bell-mouthed and covered with wire mesh.

On this vessel all the compartments below the gun deck and the captain's cabin, the ward-room dining room, the armory, the bakery, the various crew spaces, water closets and wash rooms on the gun deck are provided with artificial ventilation. Either supply, exhaust or both combined, but suitable to the requirements in each particular locality - are provided for the compartments in the various subdivisions of the ship, thus providing a positive circulation of air by means of electric blowers.

The battleship Delaware, built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Va., was one of two sister ships, the other being the North Dakota. The contract for this vessel was signed August 6, 1907, the price being $3,987,000, which did not include the armor and armor bolts (exclusive of protective deck), ordnance and ordnance outfit and certain articles supplied by the Government. The contract time for completion was thirty-six months. The main engines were required to develop twenty-six thousand five hundred horsepower when working one hundred and thirty revolutions per minute, with a steam pressure of two hundred and sixty-five pounds at the high-pressure cylinder. The guaranteed speed of the ship was twenty-one knots per hour for four hours.

The battleship "North Dakota," was one of the largest and most powerful battleships in the world when launched on 10 November 1908. The battleship was launched from the yards of the Fore River Shipbuilding Company of Quincy, Mass. in the year of 1909. The launch was significant because of the rapid work which had been done upon this, considerably the largest vessel ever built for the US Navy to date. The keel was laid as late as December 16, 1907, and the ship at the time of the launch being nearly sixty per cent, completed. The remarkable record made by the shipbuilders in launching the North Dakota in eleven months from the laying of the keel was noteworthy, when it is considered that although in one or two instances abroad a battleship has been launched in slightly over eight months from the laying of the keel, still in these cases the per cent, of completion of the foreign ships was not so great as in the case of the North Dakota, where 9,000 tons of material, or sixty per cent, of the ship, had been worked in during record time, and, in addition, much of the vessel's auxiliary machinery, fittings and equipment were already finished and ready for installation, including the five huge turrets in which will be installed the main battery of the vessel. These turrets were completed and lying on the dock alongside of the berth to be occupied by the North Dakota when she took her initial dip, and the installation of these housings was at once proceeded with. It was rightly considered, therefore, that the Fore River Company had made a world record in the construction of the North Dakota to date; and should the same rate of production be maintained for the forty per cent, yet to produce before the vessel is ready for trial it will result in all records for battleship building being at least equaled if not surpassed.

The cost of building and equipment of "North Dakota," was $10,000,000. The value of the grounds and buildings of the colleges and universities is little more than two millions, and the productive funds about three millions. The $10,000,000 spent for the new battleship North Dakota would put a $25,000 agricultural school and experiment farm in every county in the State of North Dakota. Of this $1,000,000 was expended for guns alone, of which there are ten 12-inch guns at $65,000 each, and 14 5-inch rifles at $10,000 each, in the main battery, besides 12 rapid-fire guns and minor pieces. Five tons of metal are hurled at each discharge. To fire one broadside costs $17,000, exclusive of the cost of maintaining gunners, and one shot from each of her 12-inch guns costs $1,160. It costs $1,000,000 per annum to keep the vessel in commission, including the pay and feeding of the 900 officers and men. At her speed trials she exceeded the most sanguine anticipations of her builders.

Both battleships were widely-travelled, making trips to Europe both before and after the First World War. Delaware served with the Grand Fleet in the North Sea during 1918, while North Dakota remained at home training sailors for participation in the conflict. Despite being only a decade old, their design was obsolescent by the late 'teens and early 'twenties, and they spent their final years largely employed on training duties. They were demilitarized in 1923, when completion of new battleships rendered them excess to Washington naval limitations treaty limits. Delaware was scrapped in 1924. North Dakota, reduced to an auxiliary role, lasted until 1931.



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