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  • KMS Scharnhorst Battlecruiser / Battleship

    The Scharnhorst battlecruiser managed to evade Allies in World War 2 until her luck ran out on December 26th, 1943.

     Updated: 9/30/2013; Authored By JR Potts, AUS 173d AB; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    After World War 1 the British Royal Navy continued to guard its trade routes with a powerful fleet of cruisers. To deal with this cruiser threat, backed up by British Battleships, the German Navy developed the concept of the "Panzerschiff" - or "Pocket Battleship" - building naval vessels of considerable power falling within the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles (the Treaty of Versailles was signed by the major powers following World War 1 in an attempt to limit future German war-making capabilities). The Deutschland-class cruiser group was comprised of the ships KMS Deutschland, KMS Admiral Scheer, and KMS Admiral Graf Spee, built from 1929 to 1936. Each displaced 10,600 to 12,340 long tons standard - heavier than the maximum of 10,000 tons the treaty allowed - and all three had 6 x 11" (28cm) main guns in two triple turrets.

    The building of the Deutschland-class started a naval arms race with France who countered with two fast battleships in the Dunkerque-class. These displaced at 26,500 tons standard to 35,500 tons heavy, and proved fast up to 31 knots with more firepower (8 x 13" main guns). Germany re-countered by canceling the proposed 4th and 5th ships of the Deutschland-class with a new larger design - the Scharnhorst-class. These twin ships were 160.5 feet longer and featured 22,700 tons greater displacement than the preceding Deutschland class.

    In 1935 the only ship named Scharnhorst was an 18,000-ton cruise liner used by the Third Reich for workers and military men and their families on holiday voyages. In January of 1936 a new Scharnhorst was launched as a battlecruiser along with her sister ship, KMS Gneisenau. Both displaced 32,100 long tons standard (or 38,100 LT) fully loaded with 9 x 11" (28cm /54.5 caliber) SK C/34 main guns (this is why some consider the KMS Scharnhorst as a battleships class and not a battlecruiser as indicated).

    The building contract for Panzerschiff "D", or Scharnhorst, was placed with the Marinewerft, Wilhelmshaven ship building company in late January 1934 and her keel was laid down on June 15th, 1935. The Scharnhorst-class was built with harder armor which accounted for 40% of the ship's weight. Diesel engines were considered but, with a massive power requirement to command the ships, there proved a need for superheated high pressure steam systems. Scharnhorst was built under the construction number "125" at the Kriegsmarine Werft, Wilhelmshaven, Germany. She spent 16 months in the building docks before she was launched to sea on October 3rd, 1936. The Scharnhorst was commissioned nearly 27 months later on January 7th, 1939 and placed under the command of Captain Otto Ciliax.

    The KMS Scharnhorst, at the time of her commissioning, exhibited a striking outline with a massive bridge superstructure, three triple-main-gun-turrets (two forward, one aft), and a single large stack. The conning tower was close to the funnel and two aft catapults as built plus a mast. She was 766 feet long overall, her beam at 98 feet 4 inches and she drew 24 feet, 7 inches of water. Her displacement was 26,000 tons standard.

    Her main battery consisted of 9 x 11" main guns across three triple turrets - two forward (named Anton and Bruno) and one aft (Caesar). The turrets had a maximum elevation of 42.5 degrees and an extreme range of 37,000 yards. The added cruiser bow limited Anton from level firing forward. Her secondary battery was 12 x 5.9" guns (8 x in twin turrets and 4 x in single shields). These could elevate to 60 degrees and held a maximum range of 27,000 yards. Scharnhorst carried 14 x 4.1" Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns that could fire out to 17,000 yards. These were backed by 16 x 1.5" AA guns. Her two catapults serviced four seaplane scouts as built though this was reduced to one catapult and two Arado Ar196A-3 floatplane aircraft in 1939 while adding a hanger.

    To help protect her from submarine or mine attack as well as enemy battleship guns, the Scharnhorst was given an armor belt of Krupp Cemented steel (KC) steel from 7.8 to 12.6 inches thick protecting her waterline. This KC belt arrangement could protect the ship from a 16" shell (406mm) weighing 2,240lbs (1,016 kg) fired at any range over 12,000 yd (11,000 m). Her main turrets were protected by 14.3 inches of armor along the upper and forward plates, 10.6 inches on the sides, 6.2 inches on top and 10 inches on the barbettes. The deck armor, designed to protect the lower deck engine spaces and munitions holds, had 4 to 5.9 inches of plate.

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    KMS Scharnhorst Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1939
    Type: Battlecruiser / Battleship
    National Origin: Nazi Germany
    Ship Class: Scharnhorst-class

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Complement (Crew): 1,669
    Length: 772 feet (235.31 meters)
    Beam (Width): 98.4 feet (29.99 meters)
    Draught (Height): 31.9 feet (9.72 meters)

    Surface Displacement: 32,100 tons

    Installed Power and Base Performance

    Engine(s): 3 x Germania/Brown, Boveri & Company geared turbines developing 151,893 shaft horsepower to 3 x propellers.

    Surface Speed: 31 knots (36 mph)
    Operational Range: 7,073 nautical miles (8,139 miles, 13,098 km)

    Armament / Air Wing

    9 x 11" (280mm) /54.5 SK C/34 main guns
    12 x 5.9" (150mm) /55 SK C/28 guns
    14 x 4.1" (105mm) /65 SK C/33 guns dual-purpose guns.
    16 x 1.5" (37mm) /L83 SK C/30 guns anti-aircraft guns.
    10 x 0.79" (20mm) /65 C/30 or C/38 anti-aircraft guns (increased to 16 guns in 1939).
    6 x 533mm triple torpedo tubes

    Aircraft: 3 x Heinkel He 114 floatplanes (early); 3 x Arado Ar 196A floatplane aircraft (later).

    Global Operators

    Nazi Germany

    Ships-in-Class (2)

    KMS Scharnhorst; KMS Gneisenau