Tiger-class cruiser

Last updated

Engels vlootbezoek aan Rotterdam De Engelse kruiser Tiger loopt binnen, Bestanddeelnr 915-5467.jpg
HMS Tiger before conversion
Class overview
Name:Tiger class
Operators:Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg  Royal Navy
Preceded by:

Minotaurclass (1947) (planned)

Minotaurclass (1943) (actual)
Succeeded by: None
Built: 1941–1961
In commission: 1959–1979
Completed: 3
Retired: 3
General characteristics
Class and type: Light cruiser
Displacement: 11,700 tons (12,080 tons after conversion of Blake and Tiger)
Length: 555.5 ft (169.3 m)
Beam: 64 ft (20 m)
Draught: 23 ft (7.0 m)
Installed power: 80,000  shp (60 MW)
Speed: 31.5 knots (58.3 km/h)
Range: 8,000 nautical miles (14,816.0 km) at 16 knots (30 km/h)
Complement: 716 (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 Mk.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 cruisers were the last class all-gun cruisers completed for the British Royal Navy. They came from an order of eight Minotaur-class cruisers ordered in 1941–2, work on the second group of three ships being effectively suspended in mid-1944. The cruisers were finally completed in a changed design, after a very long delay, entering service in the 1960s as the Tiger-class.


Amid cancellations of warship due to necessary post-war austerity the three hulls available for finishing, but reconstruction was delayed by both the Korean War and the Suez Crisis. By the time final approval was given to complete them as interim anti-aircraft cruisers in November 1954, the hulls and machinery were out of date. The guided-missile equipped County-class destroyers were ordered less than two years later, in 1956, and entered service only four years after HMS Tiger. The completion of the Tigers was political as was their later retention as anti-submarine helicopters carriers: they maintained a few more large ships and command positions, allowing the institutional structure of the old carrier-and-cruiser Royal Navy to be preserved.

In 1964 the Tigers were approved for conversion into helicopter-carrying cruisers, the intended purpose then changed from four Westland Wessex helicopters for amphibious operations, to four Westland Sea King helicopters for anti-submarine work. The conversion of HMS Blake and HMS Tiger carried out 1965–1972 proved much more expensive and difficult than was anticipated, and the conversion of Lion was cancelled as a result. Lion was scrapped in 1975, having served as a source of spares for her sisters. With limited manpower, limited resources, and better ships available the Tigers were decommissioned in the late 1970s and placed in reserve.

When the Falklands War broke out in 1982, consideration was given to returning both ships to service and work was begun on refurbishing them, but was then abandoned when it was realised that they could not be completed before the end of hostilities. 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 (later renamed Swiftsure-class) light cruisers, laid down in 1942–3, but production of the Light Fleet Carrier was given priority[ by whom? ] and the Minotaur design was viewed as obsolete by 1944 – the extra weight required by war requirements for radar, electronics and anti-aircraft armament exceeding the structural strength and deep-water stability limits. The design also lacked the speed and size for action in the Pacific and Arctic. Even the Town-class and County-class cruisers had inadequate speed against German warships in the Battle of the North Cape in December 1943, or the extra armour to protect added wiring and electronics. Accordingly, only the first HMS Superb, was completed, largely fitted out to the earlier Minotaur specifications of HMS Swiftsure and Minotaur. Minotaur, and the 1943 Crown Colony-class ship HMS Uganda were given to Canada in April 1944. Churchill strongly supported and approved a similar plan to transfer two incomplete Tiger cruisers to Australia [1] Australia's war cabinet had approved new construction of a cruiser and destroyer for 6.5 million pounds on 4 April 1944, partly to replace the sunk HMAS Sydney and seriously damaged HMAS Hobart. At Chequers on 18–21 May 1944 the Australian PM John Curtin agreed if an acceptable option of the transfer of new RN units, despite RAAF opposition and support for local shipyards building warships, provided RAN crew was available for HMS Defence and Blake as renamed RAN cruisers [2] by October 1945 to operate as escorts for British carrier groups in the Pacific war against Japan which was expected to continue to the end of 1946. The RAN ships would be re-armed with twin 5.25-inch gun turrets [3] or triple 5.25-inch turrets a 1942 design option for N2 and RAN cruisers, [4] The RAN strongly supported the purchase, but General MacArthur, the supreme allied commander of the war in the Pacific, advised that Australia in reality 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. However, in February 1945, the Australian government and its Defence Committee accepted the two-Tiger offer. The British Treasury now refused to gift the cruisers to Australia, although they had done so for the Royal Canadian Navy. On 11 April 1945 the UK Exchequer demanded 9 million pounds for the later Lion and Blake. [5] Despite Australia's contribution, the UK Treasury viewed Canada as Britain's main Commonwealth support partner in ships, men, food, industry and repayment.[ citation needed ]

The Royal Navy's last wartime-built cruiser, HMS Minotaur, was handed over on schedule to the RCN in June 1945. It was the first British cruiser with both Type 275/274 "lock and follow", air- and surface- fire control and USN quadruple Bofors gun emplacements. Despite the fact the first RN transferred cruiser, the Ceylon-subclass HMS Uganda, volunteer crew, voted to retire from the Pacific War after success in anti-kamikaze action- with the British fleet in early 1945. 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 US-supplied Mk 37 Type 275 DP directors for the Tigers. The UK wanted payment for the two Tigers or equivalent writing-off of RN repair bills in Australian dockyards. The RN had sufficient cruisers of quality and insufficient skilled naval ratings to man them, construction had been suspended by late 1944 after Defence' (later Lion), was launched in September 1944.

Immediately post-war, sufficient work was done that Tiger and Blake could be launched, albeit in a lesser state of completion. In June 1945 the Australian government rejected the purchase of Defence and Blake, 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 two cruisers, one Town and one Colony class while the Tigers were completed; this was rejected as the two RAN County-class heavy cruisers were deemed to be good to 1950. [6] 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 destroyers size from 2,800 to 3,500 tons required for a three-turret ships with adequate AA and A/S fire control. With the Neptune-class scrapped, the suspended ships were the only cruiser hull option viable past 1965 and worth considering for rearmament. By 1946, nine Mk 24 turrets were 75–80% percent complete with three further turrets partially complete for either the Tiger or Neptune-class cruisers. These turrets were a more advanced version of the wartime Mk 23 triple 6-inch. 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 just 60-degree elevation. A full electric powered turret first being fitted in HMS Diadem in 1944 and with power ramming, the shells fired at consistent intervals, and sufficient training and elevation speed to have some DP capacity against jet aircraft and early guided missiles like the German Fritz X. The Tiger design had a broader 64 ft (20 m) beam from HMS 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 STAAG 40 mm close-in weapon systems with type 262 radar, AIO, and more pumps and generators. However by early 1944 it was obvious the turret weight, crewing and electrical requirements of the Tiger design required a larger design, and by March 1944 HMS Defence and the later HMS Blake, were all but signed off for transfer to the RAN to be completed as 5.25-inch gun cruisers with 5.25 RP 10. [7] British production of 5.25 turrets was slow and little work was done on the cruisers [8] other than to launch Defence in September 1944. The fact that they were years from commissioning guaranteed Australia rejected the deal.

Another two Tiger-class cruisers were cancelled. HMS Hawke was laid down in July 1943, and HMS Bellerophon possibly had a keel laid down. Work on all the cruisers other than Superb effectively stopped after mid-1944. It appears that the 1942 programme Hawke and Bellerophon were destroyed in 1944 and reordered as improved Belfast- and Neptune- class cruisers in February 1944 and February 1945. Janes Fighting Ships 1944–45, states that Hawke was laid down in August 1944 [9] as a Tiger (which seems impossible as the Tigers are a obsolete suspended abandoned class by then, and no way would Portsmouth naval dockyard have started building a Tiger in August in 1944[ citation needed ]). Most naval records and RN ship legends of the time were destroyed, 99% of the relevant records and files have been weeded and destroyed [10] The naval authorities of the time and through the Cold War are adamant that the Neptune class were very much under construction, the main and secondary Mk 6 twin 4.5 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 battleships underway. [11] At the end of the war it was thought Bellphorons hull was already under construction at Newcastle, but HMS Hawke (2) an Improved Belfast with 76m beam or the first Neptune was almost ready to launch in Portsmouth dockyard [12] The more advanced of the two ships, HMS 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 nearly so. [13] Given the Defence and Blake planned transfer to the RAN without Mk 24s (the turrets under full speed construction unlike the Tigers) it has to concluded MK 24 turrets are intended as planned for the first 3 Neptune.[ citation needed ]

The whole class, which was constructed within 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, approved by the Admiralty Board on 16 July 1943, [14] [15] with four twin automatic 5.25-inch guns, better range, internal space and subdivision and economical 48,000 hp for 28 knots (52 km/h) machinery. 24/25 of the leading RN admirals and the Sea Lords favoured the N2 and preferred the lighter DP 5.25 turrets, except the incoming, new First Lord Andrew Cunningham, who believed 6-inch guns were essential. By 1944 the 5.25 RP10 was an improved surface and DP weapon, compared with the 1942 Med operations. HMS Spartan firing 900 rounds in support of the preliminaries to the Anzio landings. [16] Covering the D Day landings, HMS Diadem and Black Prince played a important GFS and command role [17] Black Prince fired 1300 rounds, 6–15 June 44. [18] Development of two new prototype automatic 5.25 twin turrets continued at Vickers till 1948 [19] The naval staff in 1946–1950 planned to refit some existing 5.25 RP10 turrets from Dido cruisers to Town and Fiji cruisers as four turret 5.25 N2 Mod. This proved too costly at 250,000 pounds per turret and the Town cruisers aged 13–15 yrs in 1951, were already too old for reconstruction. Cold War warships cost fifty percent more to reconstruct after 12 years service life. While the slightly newer Colony and Dido class, were space limited war emergency cruisers, designed for a maximum of 20 years, hull, boiler and steam turbines, and reconstruction, only extended, briefly their Royal Navy service as late British shipyard war construction and steel quality was often poor. Britain failed to take up the opportunity for subsidised refitting of cruisers with the new USN auto 5/54 and 3/50 in 1950–52, but considered the Dutch, Bofor twin 4.7. But non-British armament equipment for the RN would have removed the point of the British Naval industry and empire and maintenance of the sterling zone. Reconstruction of Newcastle and Birmingham, cost 3.5m pounds each and gave only 7 years more service. Similar structural and electrical reconstruction of cramped but newer, Colony class ships HMS Ceylon and Newfoundland, in 1949–1956, was still expensive for marginal return in 1959 they were, sold to Peru for a third of the refit cost, as the 1957 Defence White Paper only required one cruiser with each carrier task force. The hull of HMS Swiftsure, the final cruiser reconstruction to start, collapsed in 1957, the cruisers structure unable to carry, AA other than six twin 40mm, as well as three MK 23 6-inch turrets, with space for modern radar and processing. HMS Bermuda recommissioned in December 1957 after the last RN extended refit on a Fiji cruiser,and intense roll stability tests in which the cruisers was repeatedly rolled, near capsize, the weight of its new Mk 62 AA Fire Control intended for HMS Vanguard's and USN 3/50 mounts rather wasted on Bermuda's obsolete old twin 4-inch DP guns.

Larger cruisers had been seen necessary to carry a conventional cruiser gun armament with modern systems since 1944, but never seemed realistic projects, affordable in post war conditions. First, there was the Neptune class designed and started but abandoned in 1946, replaced by a paper design the BritishMinotaur 15,000-ton class. With automatic and unproven twin 6-inch and twin 3/70 which did not exist, as prototypes and aimed for far higher rates of fire than the guns of the late 1940s, new USN Worchester and Swedish Navy cruisers. The completed Minotaur design of 1951 with 5x2, twin 6-inch and 4 twin 3/70. was considered by the Attlee Cabinet under, the 1951 Korean war, expanded programme, but was far too large and expensive. The Tiger cruisers, were back on the building programme. Before the start of the war in Korea the Royal Navy's had planned to replace the new cruisers and large destroyers with 50 cruiser destroyers. [20] The Admiralty offered the government two such proposals in 1951, a new broad beam, model of the Bellona class with 4 twin Mk 6 4.5 and an enlarged RN version of USN Mitscher and Forest Sherman destroyers, with British machinery and sensors with 3 single US 5/54 and two twin US 3/50. However the second Churchill Government, favoured the RAF and reduced the Naval budget, with the RN priority of anti submarine frigates, restart of work on the Tiger cruisers was delayed 3 years, as was any further cruiser reconstructions, to 1954, notably that of HMS Royalist, Belfast and Ceylon. Reconstructing the 5500 ton Bellona cruiser, HMS Royalist which had powerful and reliable guns for high level AA engagement, seemed less risk than adopting the still troublesome USN 5/54 [21] or the planned RN 5/62. In some ways it was the powerful light gunship, 'cruiser destroyers' was meant to be, but over equipped with guns and radar processing, leaving the crew little space and comfort. Post-war Britain saw itself in 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. [22] Plans to build the 15,000-ton 1947 Minotaurs had been suspended by 1949. [23] Attempts to develop such designs in the mid-1950s as guided missile cruisers were opposed when Admiral Earl Mountbatten became First Lord in 1955. [24] The decision not to complete the new Tigers in the late 1940s was due to the desire 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. [25] Consequently, higher priority was given to HMS Vanguard, the Battle-class destroyer, and to new aircraft carriers, Eagle and Ark Royal, for allocation of the 26 US-supplied lease lend medium-range anti-aircraft Mk 37/275 directors,delivered in 1944/5 [26] The US supplied version of 275 HALDCT were stabilised and tracked multiple air targets of Mach 1.5+, the US directors were light years superior to fragile UK versions, of Type 275, the only medium range AA fire control until 1955, which could barely distinguish transonic targets at Mach 0.8. [27] The 1947–49 period saw a peace dividend, and frigate construction became the priority in the Korean War. [28]

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 the later fit (ultimately adopted) with QF 6-inch Mark N5 guns in two twin Mark 26 automatic mountings and three twin 3-inch/70s. In historical terms, this 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 [29] A third lower-cost option of fitting two Mk 24 turrets in 'A' and 'B' positions and 2- 4 Daringclass's semi-automatic Mk 6 twin 4.5-in 'X' and 'Y' and on the flanks was considered during the Korean War. [30] However the mix of Mk 24 triples and Mk 6 4.5-inch mounts required a crew of crew of 900+ [31] 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 4 twin Mk 6 4.5 turrets for AA flak defence, but the RN 4.5 was not a good postwar AA weapon. [32] The six Mk 24 turrets and not even, finished or tested. [Note 1] However, 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. [35]

There was great doubt of the merits of completing the Tigers, given that Soviet Bear and Badger aircraft,in 1955 flew faster and higher than anticipated just as the MiG-15 fighter demonstrated in the Korean War from 1950, which added to the argument for missile ships for AA. The Sverdlovclass 6.9-inch armour and speed and range also outclassed the two turret Tigers. Even six-inch GFS 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 the DNC Lillicrap in 1946 who saw the new 3/70 as eliminating the need for the new Mk 26 DP and advocating suspending cruiser design due to irrevocable divisions within the RN, over future gun development, as much as lack of finance [36] and the fact the new twin 3/70 and twin Mk 26 6-inch were 6 years from test, led to the Tiger class 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 .In the 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. [Note 2] While the 1945 names finally selected for the Tiger class, Lion, Tiger, Hawke and Blake, suggest 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, [37] 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, [38] 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, the name-ship of the new Tiger class, Blake was completed under her own name, [Note 3] and Defence was completed as Lion. Conversion of Blake and Tiger to helicopter cruisers in the 1960s left no money to convert Lion, and she was scrapped in 1975, after spending eight years in reserve.

Revised design

Construction of the three suspended ships resumed in 1954, to a revised design known as the Tiger class, as a platform to mount new automatic 6-inch and 3-inch guns. It had been intended to fit a tertiary battery of 3–4 twin 40mm CIWS guns particularly to guarantee available weapons to counter head-on air attack over the bow, with ac STAAG Mk 2 and then twin L70s under the bridge wings, but the house abandoned both in 1959 and the dated twin L60/MRS8 new on Hermes and Belfast in 1959 was viewed as obsolescent. Completing the cruisers was a controversial decision, reflecting exaggerated concern about Soviet Sverdlov cruiser construction, described as "chilling" by the director plans. [39] The threat of the new Sverdlov-class cruisers was to be countered by the Blackburn Buccaneer strike-aircraft, the Tigers lacking the speed, range, armament and armour required and cruisers in number too expensive and an outdated solution. [40] Immediately post war, the carrier and cruiser might be complementary in the old cruiser role, the defense and attack on trade, [41] but by 1954 trade protection was better provided by large carriers and the RN small and intermediate light fleet carriers operating the light Sea Hawk and Sea Venom fighters, HMAS Melbourne (1955), with Sea Venom fighters [42] and HMCS Bonaventure (1957) with Banshee fighters and 4X2 3/50 AA provided, as a priority for this role and HMS Hercules, completed for, India as HMS Vikrant with Sea Hawks and French Alize turboprop a/s strike planes demonstrated its Sea Hawks in the classic attack on trade role to effect in the 1971 Indo Pakistan war with the Vikrants main escort two Type 41 diesel gunships with 2 × 2 Mk 6 4.5 replacing the cruiser escort, as they did on the RN South America station in the 1960s, and under the Bengal Desh flag in GFS.

The 1954 Guy Fawkes Day 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 to develop nuclear weapons and the less vulnerable land-based airpower of the RAF. [43] Two alternative cruiser designs were considered, with 60,000shp COSAG propulsion foreshadowing the County DDG, a 10,000 ton design, with, three Mk 26 6-inch twin and 4 twin L70, secondly an 8000-ton cruiser, a Mod N2, with six 5inch (3x2) & ten 40mm (1x6 and 2x2). The new twin 5 inch (a large twin 5/56) firing light 58lb shells, in a Dido size 95ton turret and performance of 40rpm burst, 10rpm sustained, offered less than the French, De Grasse twin 5 inch using std USN 5/54 ammunition or the Dutch 4/47. The RN twin 5 inch in A & B position was reconsidered and rejected in 1955 for the Medium Seaslug cruiser, as requiring 8 years to develop, and as missiles were expected to be the 1960s dual development of the twin 5 inch and Seaslug was unaffordable and if attempted, 'would destroy the RN' in the words of the head of the RN gunnery dept, the existing new twin 6 inch, 3/70 and Mk6 4.5 should not be supplemented. The proposal for a fotilla of fast escorts, enlarged 4500 ton 427 x 47ft d Darings with three Mk 6 4.5 turrets with possibly a 3/70 in Y position was rejected by the Sea Lords at the same time, as unbalanced and underarmed, they wanted missiles on future warships [44] The actual weight of these proposals varied, according to speed and light armour of 225–500 tons. [45] However the cheaper legacy Tigers were approved, the Royal Navy, estimating completion in three years for 6 million pounds, cf 5 years and 12m pounds for a new cruiser. [46] The new automatic twin 6-inch and twin 3-inch DP guns designed for larger cruisers like the Minotaur, were approved for production for the Tigers and other warships, but no other RN design would ever fit them. The modernised Tigers and were an interim measure. [47] "increasingly floating bull's-eyes", [48] Old cruisers, could be reconstructed as more useful than frigates to impress the provinces and colonies. Unfortunately the events of 1956 of a long delayed and bungled Suez operation, revealed even a Conservative Cabinet would not use six-inch cruiser guns in artillery support, let alone on a city like Alexandra. The visit of Soviet leaders to Britain in May 1956 on the Soviet Sverdlov-class cruiser Ordzhonikidze saw the Soviet leader, cut off his cruiser building programme, the Sverdlov was an obsolescent relic, [49] only good for state visits and target hulks, for new missile destroyers. The 1957 Defense Review by Sandys decided to reduce the active cruiser fleet [50] the Tigers and Swiftsure and Superb [51] would enter service as interim anti-aircraft ships, until the County-class missile destroyers were commissioned. The older Towns Belfast and Liverpool were larger and more effective than other WW2 legacy cruiser and in the early 1950s, stillborn designs fitting them with three of the new Mk 26 turrets were prepared. But by 1953, at 15 years after commissioning too old for real modernisation. [52] By 1954, time meant only the Tigers and Swiftsure 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 HMS Swiftsure with Seaslug missiles.

As gun cruisers, Tiger served 8 years, Lion 5 years, and Blake 2 years. By 1961 it w the new USN guided AA missiles, nb Terrier had failed dismally in test before JFK on Memorial Day 1961, [53] London and that the new Seaslug armament of the RN County class DDG was possibly even less impressive on test in Australia at Woomera. But it was too late, the RN cruiser fleet had been reduced to HMS Belfast and Bermuda and the 3 flawed Tiger. The new Mk 26 Twin 6-inch gun proved the overweight anachronism, its critics claimed.The Tigers main armament, almost always jammed within 30 seconds of opening fire [54] and The Tigers were very different from the rest of the RN fleet, causing logistics and supply issues and cost, [55] 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, In contrast, HMS Belfast, in reserve in 1965 had fired its 6-inch guns, for days, supporting MacArthur at Inchon, during the Korean War in 1950. [56] A modest refit would have allowed the Second World War completed Newfoundland, Ceylon and Belfast to run until 1966. Worse the three Tiger cruisers, while virtually identical, externally, were 3 unique ships electrically, and only Tiger saw significant service in gun configuration. Blake was, essentially an experimental cruiser with very fast all electric turrets to engage Mach 2.5 air targets with RP55 degrees a sec, training and elevation, in reserve in 1963 for lack of 85 technicians staff in its weapon department and 31 high skill electricians. [57] at the same time the new County DDG and Leander and Tribal class all with significant electrical requirements were commissioning. [58] and Lion launched in 1944, to spend 8 years in Gareloch, had deteriorated, even before reconstruction as a Tiger [59] and had to be withdrawn from East of Suez in 1963 due to boiler, mechanical and gun jamming problems. 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 ex-Soviet Sverdlov, and in a brief tour in 1965 to support the amphibious carriers with AD and GFS potential, but by 1966 Royalist like Blake, Lion was unsustainable, in the year of maximum danger in the Indonesian confrontation . The large RN Darings,were refitted with MRS3 fire-control, in 1961–65 to provide a substitute for the failed Tiger cruisers (the final RAN Daring upgrade in 68–71 to Vampire and Vendetta with new Dutch Radar and Fire Control and Ops room, delivered a Daring-cruiser) to counter the Sverdlovs and Indonesian destroyers. The Darings three main turrets,was an advantage over the Tigers, two turrets, guaranteeing at least one was available. The AD modernised Battles, and the County-class GMD also substituted for the Tigers for GFS and fleet escort role.


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 technically they were only three years old, built at immense expense, which made scrapping them politically impossible. They approved conversion into helicopter carriers; carrying Westland Wessex helicopters primarily to land troops in Marine operations. A large hangar replaced the 'Y' turret, the forward turrets were retained for gunfire support and anti-surface vessel warfare. Intended 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 full three twin 3-inch mounts or CIWS with full update of the sonar and radar including 965M AW but replacing the 992 target indicator radar with the slower 993. The Army preference in 1964 with the Indonesian confrontation building, was actually, to retain the Tigers with their full two turret 6-inch gun armament for NFGS, [60] [61] [62] 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 in some way replace the anti-submarine warfare role provided in the past provided by aircraft carriers; in theory providing twelve dipping sonar- and torpedo- equipped helicopters (4 x 3) in a 30kt hull with considerable self-defence capability. At the time the Royal Navy was mostly concentrated on east of Suez operations and the anti-submarine deterrent role was chiefly to counter slow Indonesian and Chinese diesel submarines. In theory even one Tiger might be available to threaten nuclear depth charge use and free space on aircraft carriers like Hermes and Victorious for strike and air combat aircraft. However, major exercises conducted in 1965 with modernised WWII-era cruisers like the USS Topeka and HMNZS Royalist suggested they were not suitable platforms for tracking modern submarines. [63]

The Wilson Labour Government continued the conversion of Tiger and Blake, after deciding on further ship cuts and a faster phase-out of carriers in 1968. However, during the conversion of Blake the plan was changed to allow the cruisers to operate four of the more capable Westland Sea King helicopters, although only three Sea Kings could actually ever be accommodated and serviced in the longer hangar which extended further into the main structure of the ship, and greater cost and forcing the replacement of the side 3-inch gun mounts (which fire arcs were now too restricted) with much less effective Seacat GWS22. [64] [65] 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 suggestion of the captain of the aircraft carrier Bulwark in 1966 that Bulwark and the other light fleet carriers be developed for the 'cruiser' role, carrying Hawker Siddeley Harrier VSTOL aircraft and anti-submarine helicopters, as well as troop- and commando-carrying helicopters was rejected despite the argument their capacity was under-utilised. [66] The later advent of the Invincible-classaircraft carriers would seem to add weight to this proposal. Hermes and Bulwark were larger, and offered better silencing and hangar capacity. The Labour Government's priority was to arm aircraft in West Germany with tactical and thermonuclear weapons and, secondly, amphibious support of the British Army in Norway. Provision of nuclear depth charges for anti-submarine, aircraft carriers and destroyers and frigates was limited and late, although approval to wire all the Leander, Rothesay and Countyclass ships for triggering NDB was given in 1969, and frigates and destroyers offered quieter listening platforms than the old 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, but the British Ikara missile was ultimately fitted only to carry conventional Mark 46 torpedoes, while only one Type 82, HMS Bristol, was built; this ship lacked even a helicopter hangar, and was plagued by problems common with dated and complex steam propulsion. Crewing and developing large cruiser size warships with steam propulsion was becoming more difficult in the RN, contributing to the issues in Tiger and the much later Type 82 destroyer. With no other approved option, in 1965, work began on Blake to convert her to a helicopter cruiser while Tiger began her conversion in 1968. The structural modernisation work on these old hulls was difficult and expensive. However, the ships successfully served as helicopter command cruisers and provided an argument to justify construction of their replacement, the Invincible class 'through deck cruisers'. Lion's conversion was cancelled, due to rising cost and obvious fact by 1969 that Blake's conversion was unsatisfactory. Lion remained operational until late 1965, after which she was placed in reserve, although in the event she was used as a parts source for the conversion of Tiger. The conversion of two or three County-class guided missile destroyers as anti-submarine helicopter cruisers might have provided a quite effective anti submarine vessel, as Chile did with two of its second-hand County class. Running on their steam turbines alone, the County GMD was a quiet anti submarine platform and three RN County-class vessels were expensively updated in the late 1970s with Exocet and improved C4 and Glamorgan proved useful in the 'cruiser' role in the Falklands War, being faster through rough seas than even Hermes. Without proper modernisation and removal of the Sea Slug missile system, their helicopter capabilities were cumbersome and limited. Had the last two County class HMS Antrim and HMS Norfolk, which commissioned in 1970, been redesigned early in their construction as helicopter carrier a very good anti-submarine helicopter carrier might have resulted with Sea King capacity, and it is not inconceivable HMS Bristol could have been redesigned with the single Sea Launcher forward and a hangar for 4 Sea King in place of where Sea Dart and Limbo and pad were actually sited on the T82. The conversion of the destroyer Devonshire, proposed for Egypt in 1978, would have had both a deck hangar and below deck hangar (in the area of the former Sea Slug magazine) to operate 4 Lynx or 3 Wessex and might have produced a flawed anti-submarine helicopter cruiser. The Tigers as half heavy gun cruiser and half short life anti-submarine carrier, suited the RN as flagships with good communications and some modern sensors, but they did not really add to task force defence and needed protection themselves, [67] and by 1979, the USN had mothballed its last 6-inch gun cruiser USS Oklahoma City.

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, Lion was also to have been converted, although this never materialised: Blake's conversion had been more expensive than envisaged (£5.5 million) and so funds were no longer available. Ironically Tiger's conversion cost even more (£13.25 million), such was the level of inflation at the time. After much material was stripped off her for use as spares for her sisters, Lion was subsequently sold for breaking up in 1975.

Obsolescence and decommissioning

The decommissioned HMS Tiger at Portsmouth Navy Days in 1980, showing the helicopter deck and hangar added in 1968-71. 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 added in 1968–71.
Another view of HMS Tiger on the same day, showing the 6-inch guns which were retained in the conversion. HMS Tiger (1945) at Portsmouth Navy Day 1980.jpg
Another view of HMS Tiger on the same day, showing the 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 Nimrod aircraft and submarines for anti-submarine operations quickened their demise.[ citation needed ] The recommissioning of the carrier Bulwark and conversion of Hermes meant that they could carry twice as many Sea Kings as could the Tigers in anti-submarine warfare, vital against the Soviet Union submarine threat in the Atlantic, and decreased the importance of the Tigers even further. As well armed command ships, inc twin 45rpm 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. 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-fitted Leander-class frigates. The true manpower requirements for open water and power projection were too high in terms of fiscal cost, for UK spending 5.2 percent of GNP on defence in 1981 to justify hulls like the Tigers the USN withdrawing its last 6-inch gun hybrid cruisers in 1976 and 1979. During the Falklands War, the Belgarno's ability to efficiently fight her armament is doubtful and her two Exocet-armed FRAM 2 Allen M. Sumner-class escorts may have represented a greater threat to the Task Force. [68] The rapid-firing guns of 'Tiger' and 'Blake', and their flight-decks and facilities to refuel and maintain on station Sea King helicopters and possibly Harrier jumpjets, were arguments used to justify approving emergency reactivation as landing pads during the Falklands War. The stock of 3-inch ammunition held for the Tigers, however was more useful for the Canadian St. Laurentclass.[ citation needed ]

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 had the distinction of being the last cruiser to serve 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. Just a few days after the Falklands War started, both Blake and Tiger were rapidly surveyed to determine their condition for reactivation. The survey determined both ships to be in very good condition; they were put into dry-dock (Blake at Chatham, and Tiger at Portsmouth) and round-the-clock work reactivation work was immediately begun. 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 ] Ships such as the Tigers required large crews, their Seacat missile was useless and 6-inch guns, too unreliable for useful GFS and the cruisers, needed heavy repairs to machinery and rewiring. Attempts to maintain more modern hulls for emergency reactivation, such as Intrepid and Fearless (amphibious assault ships), proved useful, and retaining HMS Devonshire and HMS Kent, first group County-class destroyers, with a cheap extended flight deck (replacing the Sea Slug launcher) for Sea Kings at Chatham dockyard, similarly half-manned and permanently maintained might have allowed a heavier GFS capability to actually fight in the Falklands War. The Tiger' helicopter cruisers' were often described and viewed in the Royal Navy as ' hideous and useless hybrids'. [69]

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 [70]
C20 Tiger (ex-Bellerophon) [71] (a) & (b) John Brown and Co Ltd, Clydebank. [72] 1 October 1941 [71] 25 October 1945 [71] March 1959 [72] 18 March 1959 [71] 20 April 1978 [71] £12,820,000 [72]
C34 Lion (ex-Defence) [71] (a) Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, Greenock (to launching stage)
(a) Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Wallsend-on-Tyne (for completion). [73]
24 June 1942 [71] 2 September 1944 [71] July 1960 [73] 20 July 1960 [71] December 1972 [71] £14,375,000 [73]
C99 Blake (ex-Tiger, ex-Blake) [71] (a) & (b) Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Govan, Glasgow. [73] 17 August 1942 [71] 20 December 1945 [71] March 1961 [73] 8 March 1961 [71] December 1979 [71] £14,940,000 [73]


  1. With two pairs of 274 and 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. [33] 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 ordered, again from the US. However 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 outshot HMS Newcastle easily. [34]
  2. 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 Talos surface-to-air missile launchers and was far more capable than HMS Tiger, if very, overweight.
  3. Although she had been named Tiger halfway through the process, then renamed Blake.


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  45. G.Moore.Postwar Cruiser Design for the RN in Warship 2006 & Daring to Devonshire in Warship 2005, notes, pp 134–5
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  50. Statement on Defence 1957. Outline of Future Policy. White Paper. HMSO. 15 March 1957,p7-8,s15.
  51. HMS Superb modernisation was cancelled later in 1957 and it decommissioned 11/57. Superbs update was delayed by the Suez war requirement, the cruiser receiving a 15 month refit 1/55 to 4/56 to be available.HMS Swiftsure reconstruction as a 4th 'Tiger' was structually complete by 6/59 but it's new armament had been sold to the RCN and Chile, and recycled twin 4 inch and 40/60, were not worth fitting. So 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
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  55. Stephens, p85
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  62. DEFC 10/457 16 February 1964 and Board of Admiralty 10/63 ADM 167 /162 and 1/64 ADM 167/163
  63. Proceedings- HMNZS Royalist 1958–1966. NZ National Archives. Wgtn. NZ ,
  64. Freidman (2012) p321
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  68. Moore, C (2013), Margaret Thatcher. The authorised biography. V1, Not for Turning., London: Allen Lane, pp. 711–713
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  70. "Unit cost, i.e. excluding cost of certain items (e.g. aircraft, First Outfits)."
    Text from Defences Estimates
  71. 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.
  72. 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
  73. 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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