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SCR Scout Cruisers

Protected Cruiser
Scout Cruiser

Scout CruiserLight
1888-91 19081920
C1NewarkC 1Chester CL-1
C2CharlestonC 2Birmingham CL-2
C3BaltimoreC 3Salem CL-3
C4PhiladelphiaC 4OmahaCL-4
C5San FranciscoC 5MilwaukeeCL-5
C6OlympiaC 6CincinnatiCL-6
C7CincinnatiC 7RaleighCL-7
C8RaleighC 8DetroitCL-8
C9MontgomeryC 9RichmondCL-9
C10DetroitC 10ConcordCL-10
C11MarbleheadC 11TrentonCL-11
C12ColumbiaC 12MarbleheadCL-12
C13MinneapolisC 13MemphisCL-13
C14 Denver C 14not assignedCL-14
C15 Des Moines
C16 Chattanooga
C17 Galveston
C18 Tacoma
C19 Cleveland
C20 Saint Louis
C21 Milwaukee
C22 Charleston

Among the antecedents of the US Navy's July 1920 hull number system was a number series for protected (and a few "unprotected") cruisers, of which more than two-dozen were built or acquired between the mid-1880s and the early 1900s. Twenty-two of these warships received "cruiser numbers", which have informally been abbreviated "C-1" through "C-22". This shortened form was, however, a matter of unofficial convenience and not a part of the Navy's formal hull number system.

In 1920-21 the surviving members of the group received new designations and numbers in the Armored Cruiser (CA), Light Cruiser (CL) and Gunboat (PG) series. Confusingly, Scout Cruisers [sometimes designated SCR] appear to have been briefly designated as C, prior to being redesignated as Light Cruisers CL in July 1920. Thus there are two completely un-related categories of cruisers that might both be encountered with a C.

Nelson had said that the want of frigates would be engraved on his heart. He needed scouts equal to those they would have to meet, but if they were run down they could not get the information that was needed. It was useless to send a ship into a position of danger of being overhauled and taken.

The experience gained by American naval officers during the 1898 war with Spain was that there was very great need for scouts ; they had employed ocean liners for the purpose, and had found them extremely efficient. As a result it had been concluded that it would not be desirable to build vessels especially for such purposes. Such craft must be of considerable size - a ship of 3,000 or 4,000 tons was hardly equal to maintaining speed in heavy weather during long voyages at sea. The ocean liners were, therefore, best fitted as long-distance scouts, while destroyers would fill the position of small scouts for closer operations. They ascertained, however, that in order to find the enemy's fleet they had to cruise all over the West Indies. Many vessels were required to form the big fleet of cruisers necessary, and, therefore, they had come to the conclusion that they must depend on the ocean liners, keeping torpedo craft for close scouting.

By around 1910 it seemed probable that the protected cruiser would be modified, and her place taken, as far as speed is concerned, by a new type being developed, the Scout. As its name implies this type will be very fast, 23 to 25 knots, with large coal capacity and no protection. The Scout class is not designed to fight but rather to act as the eyes of the fleet. They were of good size, 3,000 to 4,000 tons displacement, with fine lines for speed. Their duties would be to discover and keep in touch with the enemy and to carry news to their own battle squadron; they would also be capable of destroying torpedo craft. As to unprotected cruisers and gunboats, while necessary in times of peace for general police of the seas and to show the flag in foreign ports, they are of no use in battle except against unarmored vessels.

The scout cruiser was a vessel conceived for a special purpose. It was an offshoot from the parent stem of cruisers. Its principal duties appear to be to get contact with enemy battleships or fleet, to ward off an attack of enemy destroyers upon own battleships and mine laying in battle. It is all eyes and no power.

For these duties its most vital characteristics are speed and radius of action, together with seaworthiness. Gun power and protection for this type were merely for defense against a speedier enemy. Gun power and armor protection had been the levers forcing great tonnage, in consequence the scout cruiser had not grown bigger ; in fact, by 1917 the development in Europe was a vessel of very moderate displacement, sufficient only for seaworthiness and fuel capacity.

That the aeroplane may be of as much assistance to the naval branch of the service as the army was already appreciated, as witnessed by Ely's attempted flight in a Curtiss biplane from the deck of the scout cruiser Birmingham to the Norfolk Navy Yard, some 30 miles from the place where he left the ship. This was undertaken in the latter part of November and, as the result of its successful outcome, attempts were made to rise from the deck of a war vessel and return to it. A wood platform 25 feet wide and 85 feet in length was built on the forecastle of the Birmingham to provide a run for the machine.

The "Columbia" class began the development of this type of warship, but the United States failed to take profit of this achievement. The United States had built no scout cruisers since 1905, when the "Salem" class was built. The United States in its later cruiser construction gave greater gun protection than rival nations. The new American scouts were to carry a strong battery of six-inch guns and are to have the phenomenal speed of 35 knots an hour. As a large radius of action was a vital necessity for this type of warship these new scouts had a displacement of somewhat over 7000 tons.

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 and were not redesignated or renumbered. Theyw were initially thought to be fairly good Htrhting 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.

By 1916 Admiral Fletcher proposed acquiring 20 Scout Cruisers of 10,000 ton displacement, a number sufficient to escort a group of Battleships. This type of scout cruiser was simply an evolution in the line of scouts, and would be superior to any scouting vessels that foreign navies have. It is in the same line of development that has taken place in all other types of ships. The US, in the development of this scout cruiser, was approaching the battle cruiser - getting larger and larger and more habitable, with wider range of action.

After the Great War, a scout cruiser needed, first of all, high speed, which, however, must be accompanied by large fuel capacity and a high degree of seaworthiness, both of which characteristics are necessary to make high speed available for distant scouting under all conditions of weather. The armament is light, though one long-range gun may be very useful ; and little or no weight can be spared for armor except for an armored deck.

The function of a scout was sufficiently defined by the name. The scouting area that can be covered was rapidly being extended by the development of aircraft, which can now be carried by ships and launched from their decks, while the power of keeping in touch with the commander-in-chief and sending in reports of observations is being coincidently extended by improvements in radio-telephony. All this made of the scout a vastly different craft from that of only a few years ago and promised to revolutionize all those phases of naval warfare which precede and lead up to the actual contact of opposing fleets.

US Navy cruiser design in the years leading up to 1920 was focused on two main types of new cruisers. The first was a class of scout cruisers which would eventually become the Omaha Class; the second was a new class of battle cruisers which was started, but never completed. By 1920, Scout Cruisers were classified as First Line Light Cruisers by the US Navy. The most outstanding US scout cruiser was certainly the Omaha class. Once naval aviation began to provide float planes for use on cruisers and battleships, the scout cruiser's role declined in importance so that none were built after about 1925.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:41:21 ZULU