by John Olsen

Superior's recent releases of it's "Cherrytree" models (Tosa, Amagi, South Dakota, Invincible) passed over only one never-built class of ship that was scrapped under the Washington Treaty, the US battlecruisers of the Lexington class. Fortunately, Delphin some years ago produced a model of the USS United States (CC6), the last of these extraordinary ships to be laid down. 

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The Lexington class was the first and last attempt by the US Navy to build a class of true battlecruisers (the Alaskas of WWII were technically "large cruisers"). The first serious proposals for battlecruiser construction emerged out of a prolonged study of suitable cruiser types for the US Navy that occurred between 1910 and 1916, and resulted in the authorization of the 6 Lexington class ships by Congress on 29 August, 1916. By this time, designs had evolved into 33,500 ton ships 850 ft long with a 35k speed and a cruising radius of 12,000 nm at 12kt. Ten-14in guns were to be carried in 4 turrets, twins firing over triples fore and aft. The enormous turboelectric power plant required 24 boilers on 2 deck levels and resulted in a unique arrangement of seven funnels, 3 on the centerline alternating with 2 pairs abreast. Armor protection was minimal, and despite extensive internal subdivision the lower machinery spaces remained vulnerable to torpedo attack and the upper spaces were exposed to plunging shellfire. However, provision was made for aircraft handling aft, the first instance of this feature being introduced into the design of a capital ship. 

Further design work was suspended in favor of increased destroyer production during WWI, and by the time work resumed in 1918, advances in ordnance production and machinery design along with combat experienced gained by the British combined to alter the concept of these battlecruisers radically. Instead of being little more than scaled-up scout cruisers ("battle scouts" was a term often applied to early designs) the 6 ships by 1920 had been redesigned as improved versions of the British Hood, with 8-16in/50, 16-6in/53, 4-3in AA and 8-21in TT. Improved small-tube boilers allowed their number to be reduced to 16, permitting them to be placed below a much strengthened protective deck and behind sloped belt armor, and reducing the number of funnels to two. All 6 ships were laid down to the revised design in 1920-21, but only Lexington and Saratoga survived the Washington Treaty as the US Navy's first operational fleet carriers. The rest, including United States, were cancelled on 17 August, 1923, and scrapped on their slips.  

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The Delphin model represents United States in its revised 1920 design configuration, and is more finely detailed than the Superiors. Anchor chain is lighter, main battery turrets rotate, secondary guns are separated from the superstructure, and edges and lines are sharper. Cage masts and searchlight platform supports are solid with cross-scribing, however, and there is a noticeable seam where the bridge structure attaches to the deck. Two catapults and an aircraft derrick are mounted on the fantail.

The model dates from at least the mid-1970's and is long out of production, though it turns up now and then on the second-hand market. It comes completely finished, not as a kit, painted in a similar blue-gray to the Navis WWI US ships. The only alteration I have made so far has been to paint the weather decks tan. The model could use topmasts and yards, but that is really all that needs to be done. This is one of Delphin's better efforts, and, as far as I know, the only model of this interesting class.

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