Thursday, November 09, 2006
Speed in ships
In the 1920's, the U.S. Navy had decided that very high speed was not needed in cruisers, particularly. They were stuck with the battleships that they had, of which the Oklahoma was the worst, since the Oklahoma had reciprocating engines. That limited the American battleline to 18 knots! That was a key reason that the Oklahoma was not raised and repaired after Pearl Harbour. Prior to the speed decision, the Americans, like the Japanese, really would have liked 35-knot cruisers. They were both ready to accept 33-knot ships, until they could do better. The "powers that be" in the U.S. Navy made the decision, however, that aviation made faster ships no longer necessary. They really only changed their minds for a time in the 1940's, when having fast cruisers and destroyers seemed desirable "to run with the aircraft carriers". The Japanese never lost their enthusiasm for fast cruisers (often faster than their destroyers). In many cases, a higher sea speed also provides better strategic mobility, which was one advantage of the fast Italian scout cruisers, which operated in the Mediterranean Sea. In extended operations in the Pacific, they situation could easily arise where there is not closely supporting aviation, leaving forces of cruisers and destroyers to operate in situations where air power was not a factor. I prefer faster ships over slower ships, and think that is justified by history.