"A SURVEY of the Navies of the world reveals the naval administrators of the Maritime Powers navigating carefully, as it were, an uncharted sea of doubt and perplexity in their efforts to reach the calm waters of constructional certitude; some few of them boldly daring the dangers, and pushing out into the execution of heroic policies, others timidly venturing, and some fearful to leave harbour until the enshrouding fogs shall have cleared and left the outlook unobscured." Brassey’s Naval & Shipping Annual 1920-1 at page 41. In the subsequent text it is abundantly clear that the two nations that "were boldly daring dangers" and "into the execution of heroic policies" were Japan and the United States. The author by implication looked on Britain as "fearful to leave harbor" and frequently noted the absence of major construction for the Royal Navy.
From the start of the 20th Century every nation that wished to make a claim to naval power, had furiously been constructing battleships. The advent of HMS Dreadnought had not stopped the race but had introduced a new level of power and expense. By 1914 almost every large European nation, Japan and the United States were ordering multiple battleships every year. This pace ended with the start of the war. Because of the long time necessary to build a battleship and the huge investment needed in resources, the European powers were more interested in completing the battleships already in the production pipeline, than in laying down new ones.
The situation was different in Japan. Although at war with Germany, Japan did not face any significant threat in the western Pacific. She leisurely gobbled-up the German Pacific territories and continued with her battleship program. Slipping by almost unnoticed in 1915, the Japanese Diet passed the famous 8-8 program that called for eight new battleships and eight new battlecruisers. The United States was just as involved in the design and construction of new battleships. By 1916 the US clearly had the greatest industrial and economic base in the world and developed the political desire to have the greatest navy in the world.
1916 – The year of Jutland and Verdun saw the threat of the U-Boat as the greatest threat to Britain and neither Britain or Germany had the resources for new battleships, but not so for the United States. For the United States Navy 1916 was very significant. Congress passed the largest battleship construction program in history. In 1916 they voted to produce 16 capital ships, each armed with 16-Inch guns. The sixteen ships were to be the four ship Maryland Class battleships armed with eight 16-Inch/45 guns, the six ship South Dakota Class armed with twelve 16-Inch/50 guns and most remarkably the six ship Lexington Class battlecruisers armed with eight 16-Inch/50 guns.
CC-1 Vital Statistics
Dimensions: Length - 874 feet (266.4m); Beam -
105 feet 5 inches (32.1m); Draught - 31 feet (9.45m); Displacement
- 43,500 tons standard
Armor: Belt - 7.75-Inch (197mm); Turrets -
11 to 5-Inches (279-127mm); Conning Towers - 12-Inch
(305mm); Deck - 2 to 1.25-Inches (51-32mm): Machinery -
Four General Electric Turbines; Four Electric Motors; 16 Yarrow Boilers;
Four Shafts; 180,000 shp;
The Lexington Class was so remarkable due to the fact that until the 1916 program, the USN had avoided the battlecruiser concept in their construction programs. The type had been built for a decade by Britain, Germany and Japan. Even Russia had started construction of battlecruisers. However by 1915 the value of the type was revisited by the USN. It was obvious that battlecruisers were far more active than the battleships of the warring fleets. Actions at the Falklands, Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank and the German battlecruiser raids on the English coast were positive examples of the worth of the class. In February 1916 the President of the Naval War College testified before Congress that the USN should not build any further battleships until after eight battlecruisers had joined the fleet.
The first USN battlecruiser design contemplated a 35 knot, lightly armored ship of 35,000 tons, mounting ten 14-Inch guns arranged as in the Nevada Class. The design featured seven slim funnels. To achieve the ultra-high speed half of the 24 boilers were placed above the waterline and the thin armor belt making them extremely vulnerable to shellfire. After Jutland and the subsequent reaction against the battlecruiser type, the design was reworked to add a little more protection and eight 16-Inch guns. However, 40% of the 20 boilers were still above the waterline and the design had five funnels.
A third design was drafted that went further to add protection. This design, which was selected for the six battlecruisers of the class, now had a 7 ¾ -Inch armor belt with a 12 degree slope to improve its resistance. All boilers were below the waterline but the number had dropped to 16. The changes had increased the displacement to 43,500 tons and dropped the speed to 33 knots. The armament was eight 16-Inch/50 (406mm) with a secondary of sixteen 6-Inch (152mm) guns as a secondary. The hull was clean and the secondary was divided into eight casemate positions on the 01 level and eight open 6-Inch mounts, one above and slightly inboard of each casemate position. Six open mount 3-Inch (76mm) AA guns and four 21-Inch (533mm) torpedo tubes rounded out the armament fit. The first USN battlecruiser, USS Lexington CC-1, was laid down on January 8, 1921.
By July 1, 1921 Saratoga was 24.2% (15.4)complete; Lexington 21.1% (12.3); Constellation 11.5% (9.0); Constitution 9.2% (5.7); United States 9.2% (5.2); and Ranger 2.0% (0.8). The first number is the total percent complete, including assemblies not yet added to the hull and the second number in parenthesis is the percent completed on the ship. By this time the United States had finally realized the significance of the Japanese 8-8 program and enough information on the characteristics of the designs had been gathered, inspite of the Japanese secrecy, that the USN realized that her brand new Lexington construction was outclassed by the four Japanese Amagi battlecruisers that were building. The US had called for a disarmament conference to end the new arms race but discussions were still ongoing.
When the Washington Treaty was finally signed late in 1921, only five of the sixteen capital ships of the 1916 Program were saved, three of the four Marylands to be completed as battleships, none of the South Dakotas and two of the six Lexingtons, to be completed as aircraft carriers. It is somewhat ironic that Lexington and Saratoga were originally designed to be battlecruisers, the most glamorous type of warship of World War One, but because of the Washington Treaty became aircraft carriers, the most glamorous and powerful type of warship of World War Two.
"The United States Navy issued from the war more powerful than any Navy in the world with the exception of our own. It is in progress of rapid expansion through the execution of the shipbuilding program of 1916, which has been described as the ‘first farreaching constructive programme in the history of the Republic…" Brassey’s Naval & Shipping Annual 1920-1, at page 42. Of the sixteen ships of that program, the completed Lexington and Saratoga were "farreaching" in how the USN adapted aircraft technology and the consequences for the future. (Bulk of History from Battleships by Tony Gibbons, Brassey’s Naval & Shipping Annual 1920-1, Brassey’s Naval Annual 1921-2, and Dreadnought by Richard Hough.)
Although the hull casting is outstanding, the other resin pieces range from very good to fair. The superstructure levels are nicely done and have a good fit. In fact when I dry fitted the major parts, I found that there was a good fit all around. There will be some slight cleaning needed on the parts at the point that they were attached to the sprue. The conning tower has vision slits. In design the superstructure resembles that of the California and Maryland Class battleships with a superstructure block being connected to the conning tower by two flying platforms. It is interesting to note that the artwork from Brassey’s Naval & Shipping Annual 1920-1 missed certain prominent features of the design. When the drawing was done the New Mexico Class was the latest class of capital ship to have joined the USN. That class was the last one to have hull casemate positions, small round tops, and a minimal/abbreviated superstructure. All of these features were shown in the drawing (see drawing at top of Vital Statistics section). The California and Tennessee had not yet entered service and that class was the first to feature the clean hull, multi-storied tops and platforms connecting the conning tower to the superstructure/bridge block. USN drawings of the time show the superstructure as modeled by IHP, which was also in conformance with the previous designs and the drawings found in Battleships and Battlecruisers by Siegfried Breyer. The title art is from Battleships by Tony Gibbons and that shows a solid superstructure with no openings between bridge and conning tower, however, I do not know of the source for this drawing and it is the only drawing that I have seen that shows a solid superstructure.
Other resin parts include crane kingposts, solid crane arms, turrets, stacks, tops, cage mast platforms, solid searchlight towers and various small platforms. I will try to find brass photo-etch replacements for the crane arms and searchlight towers, as solid resin parts can’t adequately replicate delicate latticework. I think the best source for these replacement parts will be from either the GMM or Toms frets for IJN battleships. Japanese designs had an abundance of such features and near matches could probably be found on one of those frets. Another quibble would be the windows on the two mast tops. The windows are not inset but rather the framework stands out from the pieces. However, that is a very minor point. The stack tops could have better definition. I would prefer hollow stacks and a separate brass grate structure, instead of the solid representation in the kit. However, since a ship photo-etch fret specific to the class is not part of the Lexington package, that detail would have increased the price of the kit. As it is, some modelers may wish to hollow out the stacks and add their own clinker screens but I suspect the vast majority will be content to go with the parts provided, as the black of the funnel tops hides detail anyway.
In addition to the white metal parts, IHP also included brass parts for their Lexington CC-1. IHP has been especially thoughtful in this arena. They include brass barrels for the 16-Inch/50 guns with hollow muzzles and additionally they provide brass barrels for the casemate 6-Inch positions. You will have to drill locator holes for placement of the casemate guns. IHP provides photo-etch brass cage masts. These come from the Toms US battleships fret and IHP is to be highly commended for including these fine brass parts instead of solid resin masts found in some other companies kits. Another distinguishing addition is the inclusion of black metal anchor chains, another feature for which IHP should be lauded. Rounding out the brass parts are two brass rods for topmasts and yards. Other than replacements for the searchlight towers and crane arms, the only other brass parts that may be needed would be of the generic railing, ladders and inclined ladders.
If Brassey’s Naval & Shipping Annual 1920-1 had reviewed the resin warships being produced today, with the Lexington CC-1 model IHP would be one of the companies, "boldly daring the dangers, and pushing out into the execution of heroic policies.."