Tiger-class cruiser

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Engels vlootbezoek aan Rotterdam De Engelse kruiser Tiger loopt binnen, Bestanddeelnr 915-5467.jpg
HMS Tiger before conversion
Class overview
NameTiger class
OperatorsNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg  Royal Navy
Preceded by Minotaurclass
Succeeded byNone
In commission1959–1979
General characteristics
Class and type Light cruiser
Displacement11,700 tons (12,080 tons after conversion of Blake and Tiger)
Length555.5 ft (169.3 m)
Beam64 ft (20 m)
Draught23 ft (7.0 m)
Installed power80,000  shp (60 MW)
Speed31.5 knots (58.3 km/h)
Range8,000 nautical miles (14,816.0 km) at 16 knots (30 km/h)
Complement716 (Tiger and Blake: 885 post-conversion)
Sensors and
processing systems
  • Tiger and Blake post-conversion:
  • 1 × Type 965 air-surveillance radar with outfit AKE(1) aerial
  • 1 × Type 992Q target-indication radar
  • 2 × Type 903 gunfire-control radars (MRS 3 system)
  • 2 × Type 904 Seacat fire-control radars (GWS 22 system)
  • As built:
  • 2 × twin Mk.24 6-inch gun turrets
  • with QF 6 inch Mark N5 guns and RP15 (hydraulic) or RP53 (electric) RPC
  • 3 × twin Mk.6 3-inch gun turrets
  • with QF Mk.N1 guns
  • Tiger and Blake post-conversion:
  • 1 × twin 6-inch Mk.24 gun turret
  • 1 × twin 3-inch Mk.6 gun turret
  • 2 × quad Sea Cat missile launchers
  • Belt 3.5–3.25 in (89–83 mm)
  • Bulkheads 2–1.5 in (51–38 mm)
  • Turrets 2–1 in (51–25 mm)
  • Crowns of engine room and magazines 2 in (51 mm)
Aircraft carried

The Tiger-class were the last Royal Navy all-gun cruisers and were derived from the Minotaur-class. Due to post-war austerity, the Korean War and Suez Crisis, approval was only given to complete them in November 1954 and the three ships of the class entered service in the 1960s.


In 1964 the Tigers were converted into helicopter-carrying cruisers, first carrying four Westland Wessex helicopters for amphibious operations then four Westland Sea Kings for anti-submarine work. The conversion of HMS Blake and Tiger carried out between 1965 and 1972 proved to be expensive so the conversion of Lion was cancelled and she was scrapped in 1975, having been used for spares for her sister ships.

With limited manpower, resources, and better ships available Tiger and Blake were decommissioned in the late 1970s and placed in reserve. Blake was scrapped in 1982 and Tiger in 1986.

Design and commissioning

Development of the Tiger class

The Tiger-class cruisers developed from the Minotaur class cruiser, [lower-alpha 1] light cruisers, laid down in 1942–1943, but production of the 1942 Design Light Fleet Carriers was given priority[ by whom? ] and the Minotaur design was viewed as obsolete by 1944. The extra weight for radar, electronics and anti-aircraft armament exceeded the structural strength and deep-water stability limits and the design lacked the speed and size for action in the Pacific or Arctic.[ citation needed ] Only the first ship Superb, was completed, mainly fitted out to the earlier Minotaur specifications of Swiftsure and Minotaur.

Minotaur and the Crown Colony-class Uganda were given to Canada in April 1944. Winston Churchill approved a similar plan to transfer two incomplete Tiger-class cruisers to Australia [1]

Australia's war cabinet had approved new construction of a cruiser and destroyer for £6.5 million on 4 April 1944, to replace the sunk HMAS Sydney and seriously damaged HMAS Hobart. At Chequers on 18–21 May 1944 the Australian prime minister John Curtin agreed if an acceptable option of the transfer of new RN units [lower-alpha 2] and provided Royal Australian Navy (RAN) crews were available to man the two cruisers [2] by October 1945, they would operate as escorts for British carrier groups in the Pacific - at the time the war which was expected to continue to the end of 1946. The RAN ships would be re-armed with twin 5.25-inch (133 mm) gun turrets [3] or triple 5.25-inch turrets (a 1942 design option for New Zealand and RAN cruisers.) [4] [5] [ page needed ] [6]

The RAN strongly supported the purchase but General MacArthur, the supreme Allied commander of the war in the Pacific, advised that Australia actually depended on the US Navy and should prioritise air defence of its own land bases, not small carriers and cruisers. The Australian government feared they were being sold unwanted pups and preferred to build locally. In February 1945, the Australian government and its Defence Committee accepted the two-Tiger offer.[ citation needed ] The British Treasury was not going to not gift the cruisers to Australia as they had done so for the Royal Canadian Navy and on 11 April 1945 the UK Exchequer asked £9 million for the later Lion and Blake. [7]

In mid-1945 the UK faced ruination from Lend-Lease payments, which led in September 1945 to the cancellation of the second batch of 25 Mk 37 Type 275 directors from the US for the Tigers. The UK wanted payment for the two Tigers or equivalent writing-off of RN repair bills in Australian dockyards.

In June 1945 the Australian government rejected the purchase of Defence and Blake as it had insufficient manpower for the cruisers in addition to new carriers and destroyers. As the Tigers were nowhere near commissioning, the RAN were offered the transfer of a Town and Colony class cruisers while the Tigers were completed. This was rejected as the two County-class heavy cruisers in the RAN were deemed to be good to 1950. [8] [ page needed ] [9]

In 1944–45 it had been hoped that the new large Battle-class and Daring-class destroyers would be developed as substitutes for cruisers in many roles, but the First Sea Lord, Andrew Cunningham, realised that the UK budget could not support increasing the destroyer's size from 2,800 to 3,500 tons required for a three-turret ship with adequate anti-aircraft and anti-surface fire control. With the Neptuneclass scrapped, the suspended ships were the only cruiser hull option viable past 1965 and worth considering for rearmament. By 1946, nine turrets were 75–80% complete with three further turrets partially complete for use with either the Tiger or Neptune-class cruisers. These turrets were a more advanced version of the wartime Mk 23 triple 6-inch (150 mm). The new Mk 24 6-inch mounts were interim electric turrets with remote power-control and power-worked breech. The heavier Mk 24 offered a dual purpose gun with 60-degree elevation. [lower-alpha 3]

The Tiger design had a broader 64 ft (20 m) beam than Superb on which to accommodate the larger turrets. But it was preferred to complete Superb with the older Mk 23 turrets in 1945, a 64 ft beam Swiftsure. The 1942 Tiger design was redesigned with better protection and internal division to take advantage of a three turret design with four 40 mm "Stabilized tachymetric anti-aircraft gun" mounts (STAAG) for close defence with Type 262 radar, Action Information centre, more pumps and generators.

By March 1944 Defence and Blake were all but signed off for transfer to the RAN to be completed as 5.25-inch gun cruisers. [10] British production of 5.25 turrets was slow and little work was done on the cruisers other than to launch Defence in September 1944. [10] [11] [12] [13] [ page needed ] The fact that they were years from commissioning guaranteed Australia rejected the deal.[ citation needed ]

Another two Tiger-class cruisers were cancelled. Hawke was laid down in July 1943, and Bellerophon possibly had a keel laid down. Work on all the cruisers other than Superb stopped after mid-1944. It appears that the 1942 programme Hawke and Bellerophon were destroyed in 1944 and reordered as improved Town-class light cruiser and Neptune-class cruisers in February 1944 and February 1945. Janes Fighting Ships 1944–45, states that Hawke was laid down in August 1944 [14] as a Tiger. The naval authorities of the time and through the Cold War hold that the Neptune class were under construction, the main and secondary twin 4.5-inch (110 mm) turrets, boilers and machinery for the first three ships ordered and being built in advance of the hull construction, as it was planned to get the first two Lion-class battleships underway. [15] At the end of the war it was thought Bellphoron's hull was already under construction at Newcastle, but Hawke, an Improved Belfast with a 76 m (249 ft) beam or the first Neptune was almost ready to launch in Portsmouth dockyard [16] The more advanced of the two ships, Hawke, was broken up in 1947, a controversial decision as although she was still on the slip in the Portsmouth dockyard her boilers and machinery were complete and her new 6-inch guns close to compleation. [17]

The whole class, which was constructed with a tight, cramped, and near impossible to modernise citadel, was nearly superseded by the completely redesigned N2 8500-ton 1944 cruiser, within the same 555 ft × 64 ft (169 m × 20 m) box of the Colony/Minotaur design, which was approved by the Admiralty Board on 16 July 1943. [18] [19] The design had four twin automatic 5.25-inch guns, better range, internal space, subdivision and economical 48,000  hp (36,000  kW ) machinery for 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph). Twenty four of twenty-five leading RN admirals and the Sea Lords favoured the N2 and preferred the lighter Dual purpose 5.25 turrets; the incoming new First Sea Lord Cunningham disagreed believing 6-inch guns were essential. By 1944 the 5.25 RP10 was an improved gun and mount, compared with the 1942 version [lower-alpha 4] and development of two prototype automatic 5.25-inch twin turrets continued at Vickers until 1948. [20]

In 1948 the Royal Navy had proposed in "Ships of The Future Navy" to replace 23 cruisers and 58 fleet destroyers with 50 light cruisers with Cruiser/Destroyers - four 5-inch guns, torpedoes, anti-submarine mortar and "good radar" on 4–5,000 tons displacement built to destroyer standards.Moore [21] The Admiralty offered the government two such proposals in 1951: a new broad beam Bellona class with four twin Mk 6 4.5-inch guns and an enlarged version of US Mitscher and Forrest Sherman-class destroyers with British machinery and sensors with three single US 5-inch/54 and two twin US 3-inch/50-caliber guns

The second Churchill government elected in 1951 favoured the RAF and reduced the naval budget. With the RN priority being anti-submarine frigates, the restart of work on the Tiger cruisers was delayed by three years (as was any further cruiser reconstructions) to 1954. Reconstructing the 5,500-ton Bellona-class cruiser, HMS Royalist, which had powerful and reliable guns for high-level AA engagement seemed less risky than adopting the still troublesome USN 5"/54 Mark 45 gun [22] or the planned British 5-inch gun. In some ways it was the powerful light gunship that 'cruiser destroyers' were meant to be but, over-equipped with guns and radar processing, leaving the crew with little space. Post-war Britain saw itself as an air missile consumer and economic needs were better met by using the big shipyard slips which could have built large cruisers for building fast ocean passenger liners. [23]

Plans to build the 15,000-ton 1947 Minotaurs had been suspended by 1949. [24] Designs in the mid-1950s as guided missile cruisers were opposed by DG Ships, "other voices within the Admiralty" and finally Earl Mountbatten (who became First Sea Lord in 1955). At the point of cancellation, the GW96A design was 18,000 tons. Moore [25]

The decision to delay the Tigers in the late 1940s was to reassess cruiser design; furthermore, the provision of effective anti-aircraft (AA) fire-control to engage jet aircraft was beyond UK industrial capability in the first post-war decade. [26] Consequently, higher priority was given to the battleship HMS Vanguard, the Battle-class destroyer, and to the new aircraft carriers Eagle and Ark Royal for allocation of the 26 US-supplied medium-range anti-aircraft Mk 37/275 directors (delivered through Lend-Lease in 1944/5) [27] The US supplied version of Type 275 High Altitude/Low Altitude DCT were stabilised and tracked multiple air targets of Mach 1.5+, the US directors were light years superior to fragile UK version of Type 275, the only medium-range AA fire control until 1955, which could barely distinguish transonic targets at Mach 0.8. [28] The 1947–49 period saw a peace dividend, and frigate construction became the priority in the Korean War. [29] [ page needed ]

By 1949 two alternative fits for the Tigers had been drawn up: one as pure anti-aircraft cruisers with six twin mountings of the new 3-inch 70 calibre design, and one with QF 6-inch Mark N5 guns in two twin Mark 26 automatic mountings and three twin 3-inch/70s. Both fits were designed primarily for high-level anti-aircraft defence and largely intended as a replacement for the lost banks of twin 5.25 and twin 4.5 turrets on mothballed battleships and fleet carriers. The rapid-fire auto twin 3-inch and 6-inch were designed on a post-war philosophy that the first 20 seconds of anti-jet aircraft and anti-missile engagement were critical and that the twin 3-inch firing at 240 rounds per minute would successfully engage six air targets in 20-second bursts. Sustained fire for ground support was not a design requirement. The automatic twin 6-inch guns for the secondary role of defence and attack on trade also provided some very high level (up to 8-mile altitude) anti-aircraft capability. In historical terms, it represented a light armament, and similar US weapons introduced on USS Worcester had experienced considerable problems with jamming and had performed below expectation, being largely prototypes for 8-inch/55 [30] A third lower-cost option of fitting two Mk 24 turrets in 'A' and 'B' positions and two to four Daring class's semi-automatic Mk 6 twin 4.5-in 'X' and 'Y' and on the flanks was considered during the Korean War. [31] However the mix of Mk 24 triples and Mk 6 4.5-inch mounts required a crew of 900+ [32] But like the Colony-class in the 1950s, only 1, A 6-inch turret, would have been manned and as with proposed, 1951 Bellona Mk 2, the main armament was the four twin Mk 6 4.5 turrets for AA defence, but the RN 4.5-inch was not a good postwar AA weapon. [33] The six Mk 24 turrets and not even, finished or tested. [lower-alpha 5] Much of the original DC wiring used by the Mk 24 turrets had been stripped from the Tigers in 1948; there was a strong desire that the new cruisers should have AC power, not DC or dual. [36]

There was great doubt of the merits of completing the Tigers, given that Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 "Bear" turboprop and Tupolev Tu-16 "Badger" jet bombers flew faster and higher than anticipated which added to the argument for missile equipped-ships for anti-aircraft defence. The Sverdlovclass 6.9-inch armour and speed and range also outclassed the two turret Tigers. Even six-inch bombardment was increasingly unacceptable to the Royal Navy after Korea and was allowed only on the first day of Operation Musketeer after strong political opposition. The RN staff were completely divided over the development of new AA guns larger than 4-inch post war including Charles Lillicrap, the Director of Naval Construction, in 1946 who saw the new 3-inch/70 as eliminating the need for the new Mk 26 directors and advocating suspending cruiser design as much as lack of finance. [37] That and the fact the new twin 3-inch/70 and twin Mk 26 6-inch were six years from being tested led to both Tigers and Minotaurs being suspended in 1947, and slowed work on the new six-inch and proposed new 5-inch guns. The proven Mk 23 seemed more than adequate for GFS and its efficiency was improved in the 1950s. [lower-alpha 6]

While the 1945 names finally selected for the Tiger class, Lion, Tiger, Hawke and Blake, suggest[ citation needed ] strong Admiralty support for the class, many of the leading RN naval architects favored scrapping them all in 1947. The Director of Naval Construction (DNC) informed the Acting Chief of Naval Staff that the Tigers were nearly structurally complete, making substantial modernization or adding real aircraft direction capability impossible [38] and the later war priority of heavy 6-inch turrets and close-range AA weaponry to counter the Japanese air threat meant they were the least suitable Royal Navy cruiser class for modernization. Unlike the Colony class, the Minotaur class could only be rearmed with three medium main turrets due to weight and internal-volume restrictions, [39] [ page needed ] whereas all the other cruiser types could be refitted with four modern medium turrets on the centreline. A decision to approve rearming the Tigers with fully automatic Mk 26s was made in late 1954. Of the suspended Minotaurs, Bellerophon was completed as Tiger becoming the lead ship of the new Tiger class, Blake was completed under her own name, [lower-alpha 7] and Defence was completed as Lion.

Revised design

In 1954 construction of the three ships, was approved to the 1948 design mounting new automatic 6-inch and 3-inch guns. It had been intended[ by whom? ] to fit a battery of 40mm guns to counter head-on air attack over the bow, with ac STAAG Mk 2 and then twin 40mm L70 under the bridge wings, but the RN cancelled orders for the L70 in 1959 considering them obsolescent in the missile age.

Completing the cruisers was a controversial decision, reflecting exaggerated concern about Soviet Sverdlov cruiser construction, described as "chilling" by the Director of the Plans Division. [40] The new Sverdlov-class cruisers were really to be countered by the Blackburn Buccaneer strike aircraft, the Tigers lacking the speed, range, armament and armour required and cruisers in number being too expensive and an outdated solution. [41] [ page needed ]

Immediately post-war, the carrier[ which? ] and cruiser might have been complementary in the old cruiser role of defence of and attack on trade, but by 1954 trade protection was better provided by large carriers and by small and intermediate light fleet carriers operating the Hawker Sea Hawk and de Havilland Sea Venom fighters. [42] [lower-alpha 8]

The November 1954 cabinet meeting that decided the fate of the Royal Navy took six hours. Churchill was determined to limit the defence budget and the Royal Navy with a view to developing nuclear weapons and the less vulnerable land-based airpower of the RAF. [44] Two alternative cruiser designs were considered with 60,000 shp Combined steam and gas (COSAG) propulsion: a 10,000 ton design with three 6-inch twin and four twin 40mm, and an 8000-ton cruiser with six 5-inch (3x2) and ten 40mm. Performance of a new twin 5-inch (a large twin 5/56) firing 'light' 58 lb (26 kg) shells, in a Dido-size 95-ton turret, offered less than the Dutch Bofors 4.7-inch twin auto turret.[ clarification needed ]

The RN twin 5-inch in A and B positions was reconsidered and rejected in 1955 for the "Medium Seaslug cruiser" due to expectations that it would take eight years to develop and missiles were expected to be in service in the 1960s. Development of both the twin 5-inch and Seaslug was unaffordable. At the same time, the Sea Lords rejected the proposal for a flotilla of fast escorts (4,500 ton Darings with three 4.5-inch turrets) as unbalanced and under-armed; they wanted missiles on future warships. [45] The actual weight of these proposals varied, depending on speed and on light armour of 225 to 500 tons. [46] [47]

The cheaper Tigers were approved in 1954, the Royal Navy estimating completion in three years for £6 million compared with five years and £12m for a new cruiser design. [48] The new automatic twin 6-inch and twin 3-inch Dual purpose guns designed for larger cruisers like the Minotaur were approved for production for the Tigers and for other warships [lower-alpha 9] The modernised Tigers were an interim measure with the expectation that guided missile equipped ships were "at least ten years away" [48] [49] "increasingly floating bull's-eyes". [50] Old cruisers could be reconstructed as more useful than frigates to impress the provinces and colonies. The Suez crisis of 1956 showed that cabinets would not use six-inch cruiser guns in artillery support, let alone on a city like Alexandria. The visit of Soviet leaders to Britain in May 1956 on the Sverdlov-class cruiser Ordzhonikidze saw Nikita Khrushchev cut off his cruiser-building programme - the Sverdlov was an obsolescent relic, [51] only good for state visits and target hulks - in favour of new missile-destroyers.

The 1957 Defence White Paper under Duncan Sandys on the future of the British armed forces proposed to reduce the active cruiser fleet [52] the Tigers and Swiftsure and Superb [lower-alpha 10] would enter service as interim anti-aircraft ships, until the County-class destroyers were commissioned. The older Towns Belfast and Liverpool had more space than other WWII legacy cruisers and designs fitting them with three of the new Mk 26 turrets were prepared. But by 1953, they were too old for modernisation. [53] By 1954, time meant that only the Tigers' and Swiftsures rebuild could be contemplated. With missiles and consumer demand, replacing guns and refitted gun cruisers were mothballed, and by 1960 consideration was being given to fitting HMS Blake and its half-sister Swiftsure with Sea Slug missiles.

As gun cruisers, Tiger served for eight years, Lion for five years, and Blake for two years. By 1961 it w [ clarification needed ] the new USN guided AA missiles, nb Terrier had failed dismally in test before JFK on Memorial Day 1961, [54] [ page needed ] London and that the new Sea Slug armament of the County-class was possibly even less impressive on test in Australia at Woomera range. The RN cruiser fleet had been reduced to HMS Belfast and Bermuda and the three Tigers. The new Mk 26 Twin 6-inch gun proved to be the overweight anachronism that many had suspected; they almost always jammed within 30 seconds of opening fire, [55] and the Tigers difference from the rest of the RN fleet, caused logistics and supply issues and increased costs, [56] the RN mainly being deployed in SE Asia and Middle East waters in the 1960s. These issues and the "unfashionable" heavy guns condemned the class. HMS Belfast, in reserve in 1965, had fired its 6-inch guns for days while supporting the Battle of Inchon during the Korean War in 1950. [57]

A modest refit would have allowed the WWII-era Newfoundland, Ceylon and Belfast to run until 1966.

The three Tigers while outwardly identical were three unique ships electrically, and only Tiger saw significant service in gun configuration. Blake was essentially an experimental cruiser with very fast all-electric turrets able to engage Mach 2.5 air targets but put in reserve in 1963 for lack of 85 technical staff (including 31 electricians). [58] [59] At the same time the new County, Leander and Tribal class – all with significant manpower requirements – were being brought into service. [58] Lion had deteriorated after eight years in Gareloch before reconstruction as a Tiger and had to be withdrawn from operations "East of Suez" in 1963 due to boiler, mechanical and gun-jamming problems. [60] HMNZS Royalist, with many RN crew, was reactivated as a surface escort for carrier groups in Southeast Asia in 1964 to deter the threat of the Indonesian Sverdlov; and in a brief tour in 1965 to support the amphibious carriers with Air Defence (AD) and General Fleet Support potential, but by 1966 Royalist, like Blake and Lion, was unsustainable in the year of maximum danger in the confrontation with Indonesia. The large RN Darings were refitted with MRS3 fire-control in 1961–65 to provide a substitute for the Tigers (the final RAN Daring upgrade in 68–71 to Vampire and Vendetta with new Dutch radar and fire control and operations room, delivered a Daring-cruiser) to counter the Sverdlovs and Indonesian destroyers. The Darings three main turrets gave them an advantage over the Tigers two turrets, guaranteeing at least one was available. The AD modernised Battles, and the County-class destroyers also substituted for the Tigers in ground support and fleet-escort roles.[ citation needed ]


Blake operating in the English Channel with USS Nimitz in 1975 HMS Blake (C99) and USS Nimitz (CVN-68) underway in the English Channel on 4 October 1975 (K-110412).jpg
Blake operating in the English Channel with USS Nimitz in 1975

By 1964 the Conservative Government and half the naval staff saw the Tigers as no longer affordable or credible in the surface combat or fleet air defence role and would have preferred to decommission them but given they were technically only three years old and built at immense expense, scrapping them was politically difficult. They approved conversion into helicopter carriers; carrying Westland Wessex helicopters for Royal Marine Commando operations. A large hangar replaced the 'Y' turret, the forward turrets were retained for gunfire support and anti-surface work. Intended to provide extra powerful vessels to support and conduct amphibious operations east of Suez where it was difficult logistically for the Royal Navy to sustain even one operational carrier and one commando carrier in 1963–64. The original plan retained the three twin 3-inch mounts with an updated sonar and radar including Type 965 and replacing the Type 992 target indicator radar with the Type 993. British Army preference in 1964 with the Indonesian confrontation building was to retain the Tigers with their 6-inch guns for shore bombardment. [61] [62] [63]

Three configurations (scheme's X, Y, and Z) were considered in 1965 for the conversion to helicopter carriers. X had deck space for one helicopter and a hangar for three at the cost of the rear 6-inch turret, Y gave deck space for two Wessex helicopters and hangar for four once the 6-inch and 3-inch armament were removed, Z was same deck space and hangar capacity as Y but two helicopters could take off (or land) at once. Z was chosen as the best option even for a projected six-year lifespan and expected to take 15 months and cost £2 million per ship. [64] [ page needed ] The final cost was £12 million for all three and £10.5 million for the helicopters. It was recognised that 75 pilots would also be needed at a time when the FAA was already 37 pilots short. [64] [ page needed ]

To avoid the political problem of scrapping new cruisers as well as the aircraft carriers, the Labour Government elected in October 1964 decided to retain large ships for command and flagship roles and accepted the RN and MoD argument that three Tiger cruisers would replace the anti-submarine warfare role previously provided by aircraft carriers. At the time the Royal Navy was mostly concentrated on east of Suez operations and the anti-submarine deterrent role was to counter slow Indonesian and Chinese diesel-powered submarines. In theory, even one Tiger could threaten the use of nuclear depth charges and free up space on aircraft carriers for strike and air combat aircraft.

The government continued the conversion of Tiger and Blake after deciding on further ship cuts and a faster phase-out of carriers in 1968. During the conversion of Blake, the plan was changed to allow the cruisers to operate four more capable Westland Sea King helicopters, although only three Sea Kings could actually ever be accommodated and serviced in the new longer hangar, which forced the replacement of the side 3-inch gun mounts with less effective Seacat guided weapon system. [65] [66] The low priority given to deterrence of Soviet submarines in the Northern Atlantic by the MoD is reflected in the decision to convert a suitable anti-submarine helicopter platform, the carrier Hermes into an amphibious carrier. The later advent of the Invincible-classaircraft carriers would seem to add weight to this proposal.[ citation needed ]Hermes and Bulwark were larger, and offered more hangar capacity. The government's priority was to arm aircraft in West Germany with tactical and thermonuclear weapons. Provision of nuclear depth charges for anti-submarine, aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates was limited, although approval for Leander, Rothesay and Countyclass ships for triggering Nuclear depth bombs was given in 1969 and these ships offered quieter listening platforms than the Tigers.

The proposed class of four large Type 82 destroyers fitted with nuclear Ikara anti-submarine missiles could have been a more reliable nuclear deterrent,[ citation needed ] but the Ikara was ultimately fitted only to carry conventional Mark 46 torpedoes and only one Type 82 air defence destroyer, HMS Bristol, was built. Bristol lacked a helicopter hangar, and was plagued by problems common with dated and complex steam propulsion.

With no other options, work began to convert Blake to a helicopter cruiser in 1965 and Tiger in 1968. The structural modernisation work on the hulls was difficult and expensive. However, the ships successfully served as helicopter command cruisers and provided an argument to justify the construction of their replacement, the Invincible-class "through deck cruisers". Lion's conversion was cancelled due to rising costs and by 1969, it was obvious that Blake's conversion was unsatisfactory. Lion remained operational until late 1965, when she was placed in reserve and used as a parts source for the conversion of Tiger and she was sold for breaking up in 1975.

The conversions left Tiger and Blake some 380 tons heavier with a full displacement of 12,080 tons and their crew complements increased by 169 to 885. Originally. Blake's conversion had been more expensive than envisaged (£5.5 million) and Tiger's £13.25 million, due to the level of inflation at the time.

Obsolescence and decommissioning

The decommissioned HMS Tiger at Portsmouth Navy Days in 1980, showing the helicopter deck and hangar HMS Tiger (1945) at Portsmouth Navy Day 1980 2.jpg
The decommissioned HMS Tiger at Portsmouth Navy Days in 1980, showing the helicopter deck and hangar
HMS Tiger on the same day, showing the forward 6-inch guns which were retained in the conversion. HMS Tiger (1945) at Portsmouth Navy Day 1980.jpg
HMS Tiger on the same day, showing the forward 6-inch guns which were retained in the conversion.

In 1969, Blake returned to service followed by Tiger in 1972. However, the large crews and limited helicopter capacity made Tiger's further fleet service limited to less than nine years. After spending seven years in reserve, the decision was made in 1973 to strip Lion for spares to maintain Blake and Tiger, and Lion was sold for scrap in 1975.

The cutback in operating funds and manpower, faced by the Royal Navy when the new Conservative government limited fuel and operating allowances in a policy of tight monetary control, and the belief in the economy of Hawker Siddeley Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft and submarines for anti-submarine operations quickened their demise.[ citation needed ] The recommissioning of the carrier Bulwark and conversion of Hermes into a helicopter carrier and then an anti-submarine carrier meant that they could carry twice as many Sea Kings as could the Tigers for countering the Soviet submarine threat in the Atlantic Ocean, and decreased the importance of the Tigers even further. As well-armed command ships, including twin 4.7 guns and standard SM2 the Dutch Tromp and De Ruyter were particularly vital stand-in destroyer leader ships working with RN carriers from the mid-1970s.[ citation needed ] Operating alone as a RN task force, carriers could not be risked in blue water operations without an escort of Type 42 destroyers, Type 22 frigates or Sea Wolf missile-equipped Leander-class frigates.

In April 1978, Tiger was withdrawn from service, followed by Blake in 1979; both ships were laid up in reserve at Chatham Dockyard. When Blake was decommissioned in 1979, she was the last cruiser to serve in the Royal Navy and her passing was marked on 6 December 1979 when she ceremonially fired her 6-inch guns for the last time in the English Channel.

The manpower requirements were too high in 1981 to justify the Tigers. During the Falklands War, the Belgrano's ability to efficiently use her armament was doubtful and her two Exocet-armed FRAM 2 Allen M. Sumner-class escorts may have represented a greater threat to the Task Force. [67] The rapid-firing guns of 'Tiger' and 'Blake', and their flight-decks and facilities to refuel and maintain Sea King helicopters and possibly VSTOL Harrier jump-jets, were arguments that led to approving emergency reactivation. The stock of 3-inch ammunition held for the Tigers, was more useful for the Canadian St. Laurentclass.[ citation needed ]

Just a few days after the Falklands War started, both Blake and Tiger were rapidly surveyed to determine their condition for possible reactivation. The survey determined both ships to be in very good condition and they were put into dry-dock (Blake at Chatham, and Tiger at Portsmouth) and round-the-clock work on reactivation began. By mid-May, it was determined that the ships would not be completed in time to take part in the war and the work was stopped.[ citation needed ] The Tigers required large crews, their Seacat missile was outdated and the 6-inch guns unreliable. The cruisers needed major repairs to machinery and rewiring.

The Tiger "helicopter cruisers" were often described and viewed in the Royal Navy as "hideous and useless hybrids". [68]

Though Chile showed some interest in acquiring both ships, the sale did not proceed and the ships sat at anchor in an unmaintained condition until sold.[ citation needed ]Blake was then sold for breaking up in late 1982, followed by Tiger in 1986.

Ships of the class

Pennant Name(a) Hull builder
(b) Main machinery manufacturers
Laid downLaunchedAccepted into serviceCommissionedDecommissionedEstimated building cost [69]
C20 Tiger (ex-Bellerophon) [70] (a) & (b) John Brown and Co Ltd, Clydebank. [71] 1 October 1941 [70] 25 October 1945 [70] March 1959 [71] 18 March 1959 [70] 20 April 1978 [70] £12,820,000 [71]
C34 Lion (ex-Defence) [70] (a) Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Greenock (to launching stage)
(a) Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Wallsend-on-Tyne (for completion). [72]
24 June 1942 [70] 2 September 1944 [70] July 1960 [72] 20 July 1960 [70] December 1972 [70] £14,375,000 [72]
C99 Blake (ex-Tiger, ex-Blake) [70] (a) & (b) Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Govan, Glasgow. [72] 17 August 1942 [70] 20 December 1945 [70] March 1961 [72] 8 March 1961 [70] December 1979 [70] £14,940,000 [72]


  1. known as Swiftsure class after Minotaur transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy and was renamed Ontario
  2. despite Royal Australian Air Force opposition and support for local shipyards building warships
  3. A full electric powered turret had been fitted in Diadem in 1944 and, with power ramming, the shells fired at consistent intervals and it had sufficient training and elevation speed to have some dual purpose capability against jet aircraft and early guided missiles.
  4. Spartan fired 900 rounds in support of the preliminaries to the Anzio landings.(Raven & Roberts, p. 335) Covering the Normandy landings, Diadem and Black Prince played an important General Fleet Support (GFS) and command role.(Raven & Roberts[ page needed ]) Black Prince fired 1,300 rounds in the period 6–15 June 1944.(Lt Cdr Gerry Wright Black Prince. Printshop (2007). Granada. Wellington, p15)
  5. With two pairs of Type 274 and Type 275 directors. The first UK-sourced accurately machined and reliable 275M directors were fitted in 1956, in Royalist and in Type 12 frigates, 14 years after the introduction of the US Mk 37 DCT. [34] confirms in late 1951 UK industry could still not build precision bearings or work to the fine tolerances needed for accurate naval AA fire and fire-control box components had to be ordered from the US. By 1953, US Mk 63 directors in the MRS 8 directors for close-in defence had been fitted at US expense in most major RN units and cruisers. Newfoundland was reconstructed to a pattern very similar to that planned for HMS Hawke and the Tigers with 2/274 surface DCTs with the unreliable, UK glasshouse 275 offset. On exercise AA firing Royalist easily outshot Newcastle. [35]
  6. In the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal action against Japanese cruisers suggested that manually operated 6-inch triples at low elevation could sustain high rates of fire of 8–10 rpm in the heat of the battle in action, and HMS Bermuda in 1960 achieved 12rpm for a couple of minutes, at low elevation at close range (up to 5 miles) at a cost of higher barrel-wear. The USN maintained the similar Clevelandclass triple 6-inch turret on its post-war missile conversions, including USS Galveston, not completed until 1958. Galveston maintained half its original 6- and 5-inch armament with twin RIM-8 Talos surface-to-air missile launchers and was far more capable than HMS Tiger, if very, overweight.[ citation needed ]
  7. Blake had been renamed Tiger halfway through the process, then changed back to Blake.
  8. Australia had HMAS Melbourne with Sea Venom [43] , Canada HMCS Bonaventure with McDonnell F2H Banshee fighters and India had Vikrant (formerly Hercules) with Sea Hawks and French Bréguet 1050 Alizé - all three were wartime 1942 Design Light Fleet Carriers built for modern jet aircraft
  9. In reality no other RN design would ever fit them.
  10. modernisation of HMS Superb was cancelled later in 1957 and it was decommissioned in November 1957. Superbs update was delayed by the Suez requirement, the cruiser receiving a 15-month refit from January 1955 to April 1956 to be available. Reconstruction of Swiftsure as a fourth 'Tiger' was structurally complete by June 1959 but its new armament had been sold to the RCN and Chile, and recycled twin 4-inch and 40mm were not worth fitting. Swiftsure was scrapped in 1962 after numerous RN proposals to convert it to a missile cruiser or helicopter carrier. Converting into a small flat-deck aircraft carrier was even considered.


    1. D. Day. The Politics of War. Australia at War 1939–45. From Churchill to MacArthur, Sydney: Harper Collins, 2002, pp. 589–591
    2. Gill 1968, pp. 470–72.
    3. Gill 1968, p. 470–2.
    4. Freidman (2002) pp (notes)371–375
    5. Frame, T; Goldrick, J; Jones, P (1991), "Reflections on the RN", Papers of 1989 ADF Conference on RAN History, Kenthurst, NSW: Kangaroo
    6. Murfin 2010, p. 58–9.
    7. Stevens, D. (1996), The RAN in WW2, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, pp. 14–16
    8. T. Frame & J Goldrick /[Ed] (1991), "Reflections on the RAN", Papers from Seminar Australian Navy History at ADF Academy Canberra., Kangaroo PressCS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
    9. Gill 1968, pp. 469–472.
    10. 1 2 Gill 1968, p. 470-2.
    11. Murfin 2010, p. footnote 14, p. 59.
    12. Stevens. The RAN 1942–45
    13. Freidman. British Cruisers Two World Wars and After
    14. Janes Fighting Ships 1944–45. First published 1944/46. Reprinted, Low and Sampson (1978), p. 39
    15. C. Bell. Churchill & Sea Power. OUP (2019) London, pp. 308–320
    16. A J Watts. Allied Cruisers. Janes Publishing. London (1979); H. Lenton. British Cruisers. MacDonald. London (1973) pp. 142–3 & RN Major Warships in New Statesman Yearbook 1952
    17. Moore
    18. Freidman (2012) p. 261
    19. Moore. Warships 1996, re N2
    20. Moore 2006, p. 51.
    21. Admiral Philip Edwards. Ships of the Future RN (1949) TNA Admiralty 1161-5362-(1948–52)
    22. N.Freidman. US naval weapons from 1883 to the present day. Conway. London (1983) p70
    23. Murfin 2010, p. 52,59.
    24. G. Moore. "Postwar cruiser design for the Royal Navy 1946–56" Warship 2006, p46-47
    25. G. Moore. "Post War Cruiser Design". Warship 2006, p57
    26. C.Barnett. The Verdict of Peace: Britain between her Yesterday and the Future . MacMillan. London (2001) pp 122, 347
    27. P. Marland. "Post War Fire Control in the RN" in Warship 2014. Conway. London (2014) p149
    28. P. Hodge & N. Freidman. Destroyer Weapons of WW2. Conway Maritime. (1979) London, pp. 101–03
    29. Friedman, N. (2010). British Cruisers Two World Wars and After. UK: Seaforth.
    30. N. Freidman. US Cruisers. An Illustrated design history. Arms & Armour. London (1985), p357 & Freidman. US Naval Weapons. Gun, Missile, Mine & Torpedo from 1883 to present.(1983) pp. 70–1
    31. Brown & Moore 2012, p. 47.
    32. Friedman 2010, p. 371–7.
    33. Freidman 2010, p. 371–7.
    34. Barnett, Correlli (2001). The Verdict of Peace: Britain between her Yesterday and the Future. London: MacMillan. pp. 47, 321.
    35. Pugsley, Christopher (2003). From Emergency to Confrontation: The New Zealand Armed Forces in Malaya and Borneo 1949–1966. NZ/Au: Oxford University Press. ISBN   0195584538.
    36. Murfin 2010, p. 57.
    37. Moore 2006, p. 41, 42 – line 2.
    38. Freidman 2010, p. 293.
    39. Murfin 2010.
    40. Freidman 2010, p. 309.
    41. A. Clarke. Sverdlov Cruisers and the RN Response, British Naval History
    42. Moore 2006, p. 43–4.
    43. Friedman 2016, p. 174.
    44. P. Zeigler. Mountbatten: the Official biography London (2001)[ page needed ] & van der Vat, Dan (2001), Standard of Power, Hutchinson, ISBN   0091801214 The Royal Navy in the Twentieth Century, London: Pilmco, 2001[ page needed ]
    45. Brown & Moore 2012, p. 32–5.
    46. Moore 2006.
    47. "Daring to Devonshire" in Warship 2005, notes, pp. 134–5.
    48. 1 2 Brown & Moore 2012, p. 23–29.
    49. E. Grove. History of Royal Navy (2005) p. 223.
    50. C. Bell. Churchill & Seapower. OUP (2013) pp. 315.
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    52. "Statement on Defence 1957. Outline of Future Policy". White Paper. HMSO. 15 March 1957, pp. 7–8, s15.
    53. P. Brown. "The Tale of a Tiger" in Ships Monthly , July 2015. Cudham, Kent, p. 52.
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    56. Stephen 2003, p. 85.
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    58. 1 2 Civil Sea Lord Lord Ewing (18 March 1963), "Vote 1. Pay, etc., of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines", HC Debates, 674, 145
    59. D. Healey. Time of my Life. Norton,(1980) NY,p. 275
    60. Brown & Moore 2003, p. 48.
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    63. DEFC 10/457 16 February 1964 and Board of Admiralty 10/63 ADM 167/162 and 1/64 ADM 167/163
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    65. Freidman 2012, p. 321.
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    69. "Unit cost, i.e. excluding cost of certain items (e.g. aircraft, First Outfits)."
      Text from Defences Estimates
    70. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Gardiner, Robert Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947–1995, pub Conway Maritime Press, 1995, ISBN   0-85177-605-1 page 504.
    71. 1 2 3 Navy Estimates, 1959–60, pages 230–1, List and particulars of new ships which have been accepted or are expected to be accepted into HM service during the Financial Year ended 31st March 1959
    72. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Navy Estimates, 1961–62, pages 220–1, List and particulars of new ships which have been accepted or are expected to be accepted into HM service during the Financial Year ended 31st March 1961

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