|Preceded by:||Minotaur class|
|Class & type:||Light cruiser|
|Displacement:||18,700 long tons (19,000 t) deep load|
|Length:||662 ft (202 m) o/a|
|Beam:||76 ft (23 m)|
|Draught:||24 ft 9 in (7.54 m)|
|Installed power:||108,000 shp (81 MW)|
|Speed:||33 kn (61 km/h; 38 mph)|
|Range:||7,500 nmi (13,900 km; 8,600 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h)|
The Neptune-class was a proposed class of cruisers planned for the British Royal Navy in the latter years of the Second World War. They were large ships which were to be armed with twelve 6 in (152 mm) Dual Purpose guns and with a heavy secondary armament. While five ships of the class were planned in 1944, they were cancelled following the end of the war, before construction could begin.
Development and design
In 1942, work began at the British Admiralty as to the requirements for the next class of cruisers to be built for the Royal Navy as a follow-on to the Minotaur class and Tiger-class cruisers, which were both based on the pre-war Crown Colony class. At first the favoured design was a small anti-aircraft cruiser armed with six or eight 5.25 in (133 mm) dual-purpose (i.e. capable of both anti-ship and anti-aircraft fire) and in 1943, design N2, armed with four twin 5.25 inch turrets of a new design and displacing 8,650 long tons (8,790 t) standard, was approved for inclusion in the 1944 construction programme. In October 1943, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Dudley Pound, resigned and his replacement, Andrew Cunningham disliked the small cruiser, preferring 6 inch gun armed ships, and instead work was switched to a large cruiser, described at first as an "improved Belfast", armed with twelve 6 inch guns.
Hull and machinery
The new design was 662 feet (202 m) long overall and 655 feet (200 m) at the waterline, with a beam of 76 feet (23 m) and a draught of 24 feet 9 inches (7.54 m). Displacement was 15,350 long tons (15,600 t) standard and 18,700 long tons (19,000 t) deep load. The ships were not fitted with facilities for carrying aircraft, so the bridge was lower than in predecessing classes of cruiser, while the two superstructures blocks were longer than in previous ships, with the forward superstructure extending back to the forward funnel and while the aft superstructure covered the base of the aft funnel. A long forecastle was planned, reaching back beyond the aft funnel, although in 1946, it was suggested to change to a flush-deck hull.
One of the problems identified with the small 5.25 inch-armed cruiser was that its speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph) in deep load condition was inadequate to keep pace with the aircraft carriers that the cruisers were meant to escort. The new design therefore had a much higher design speed. Four Admiralty 3-drum boilers fed steam at 400 pounds per square inch (2,800 kPa) to Parsons single-reduction geared steam turbines rated at 108,000 shaft horsepower (81,000 kW) and driving four propeller shafts. This gave a design speed of 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph) or 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph) at full load. The machinery was to be laid out to the unit scheme, with two sets of boilers and turbines separated to reduce the potential for a single torpedo or shell hit to cause complete loss of power, although it was noted by the Director of Naval Construction in June 1945 that the boiler rooms were still too close to avoid the potential for both to be knocked out by a single hit. The ship was planned to have a range of 7,500 nautical miles (13,900 km; 8,600 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph).
The main gun armament was to be twelve 6 inch (152 mm) guns in four triple turrets. Consideration was given at first to using the existing Mark 24 mountings, as planned for the Tiger-class ships, as these could be delivered relatively quickly. The Mark 24, which was an improved version of the pre-war turret, was considered old fashioned however, and a new mounting was chosen accepting the delays in construction that would ensue. The new turret, the Mark 25, mounted three QF 6 inch Mark V guns,[lower-alpha 1] capable of firing at a rate of 10–12 rounds per minute per gun compared with 5–6 for the Mark 24, and elevating to 80 degrees, giving an anti-aircraft capability. A 129.75 pounds (58.85 kg) armour-piecing shell could be fired to a range of 25,000 yards (23,000 m). The turrets were arranged conventionally on the ships' centreline, with two forward and two aft.
Secondary armament consisted of six QF Mark 6 4.5 in (113 mm) dual purpose twin turrets as used in the Daring-class destroyer. These could fire a 55 pounds (25 kg) shell to a range of 20,000 yards (18,000 m), with a maximum effective altitude for anti-aircraft fire of 19,700 feet (6,000 m). The guns were semi-automatic and fitted with a power loader, giving a maximum rate of fire of 24 rounds per minute per barrel, although when the gun entered servie, the power rammer proved unreliable, with hand loading reducing rate of fire to about 10–12 rounds per minute per barrel. Close-in anti-aircraft armament consisted of 20 Bofors 40 mm guns in 10 "Buster" self-contained twin mounts and 28 Oerlikon 20 mm cannon in 14 twin mounts. This was arranged with 7 twin Bofors and 4 twin Oerlikons around the bridge, 3 twin Bofors and 8 twin Oerlikons around the aft superstructure and 2 twin Oerlikons at the stern of the ship. Four quadruple 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes were fitted.
Comprehensive fire-control equipment was proposed, with two Low-Angle (LA) directors for the 6 inch guns for use against surface targets, together with four barrage directors for the six inch guns for barrage fire against aerial targets, with three combined HA/LA directors for the 4.5 inch guns for use against both surface and air targets. Each Bofors mount was to be fitted with an integrated fire control radar. This gave a capability for up to 17 aerial targets to be engaged simultaneously (four with long-range barrage fire from the 6 inch guns, three by the 4.5 inch guns and ten at short-range by the Bofors guns).
The ships' main vertical belt armour was 4 inches (100 mm) thick amidships, which thinned to 1 1⁄2 inches (38 mm) forwards and aft. Horizontal armour consisted of a 1 inch (25 mm) thick upper deck and a 1 inch thick lower deck, thickening to 1 1⁄2 inch over the ships' steering gear. The main gun turrets had 4 inch-thick faces with 2 inches (51 mm) thick armour on the turret roof, sides and rear. Longitudinal and transverse armoured bulkheads of up to 4 inch thickness were placed around the ships' machinery compartments and magazines.
Five ships of the new design, which was now known as the Neptune-class, to be named Neptune, Centurion, Edgar, Mars and Minotaur, were included in the 1944 construction programme. In addition, it was planned to complete the Tiger-class cruiser Bellepheron, construction of which had been suspended before it was laid down, to the new design, giving a total of six ships. Completion by 1950 was expected. The programme continued following the end of the war, despite pressures to divert shipbuilding capacity to built merchant ships, with it being hoped in November 1945 that two ships could be laid down as soon as possible. In 1946, however, work on the Neptune-class was stopped as the class was thought to be out of date and too large.
To meet the Royal Navy's continuing requirements for new cruisers, a new design was proposed, the Minotaur-class, to be armed with five twin 6 inch dual purpose turrets and up to eight twin 3 inch anti-aircraft guns. The twin 6 inch turret, the Mark 26, was of a new design and had a rate of fire of 20 rounds per minute per gun, while the twin 3-inch guns had a very high rate of fire and replaced both the 4.5 inch and 40 mm and 20 mm close-in batteries. By 1947, it was decided that no cruisers would be built for the next five years owing to financial constraints, with design work on the Minotaur-class petering out in the early 1950s. The new 6 and 3 inch mounts were eventually used when three Tiger-class cruisers were completed to a new design in the late 1950s.
- In British ordnance terminology, QF stands for Quick Firing, with the propellant change enclosed in a metal case rather than in bags.
- Friedman 2010, pp. 261–262
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- DiGiulian, Tony (2 September 2016). "6"/50 (15.2 cm) QF Mark N5". http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNBR_6-50_mkN5.php. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
- Lenton 1973, p. 142
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- DiGiulian, Tony (1 December 2015). "4.5"/45 (11.4 cm) QF Mark V: (Mark 6 and Mark 7)". http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNBR_45-45_mk5.htm. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
- Friedman 2010, p. 266
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- Brown, David K.; Moore, George (2012). Rebuilding the Royal Navy: Warship Design Since 1945. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84832-150-2.
- Friedman, Norman (2010). British Cruisers: Two World Wars and After. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84832-078-9.
- Friedman, Norman (1997). The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapons Systems 1997–1998. Annapolis, Maryland, USA: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-268-4.
- Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger, eds (1980). Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946. London: Conway's Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-146-7.
- Gardiner, Robert; Chumbley, Stephen, eds (1995). Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1947–1995. Annapolis, Maryland, USA: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-132-7.
- Lenton, H.T. (1973). Navies of the Second World War: British Cruisers. London: Macdonald & Co.. ISBN 0-356-04138-7.
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