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Lexington Class Battlecruisers/Carriers

Line drawing of BC Constitution

Displacement BC   38,000 tons CV   33,000 tons
Armament 4 x 2 16"/50,
many 5" DP,
40mm, 20mm AA
4 x 2   5" +   Lt.
Aircraft Two floatplanes 88
Speed 33 knots 33-34.5 knots
VTS Rating(s) (5)   4   7 1   3   8 (4)

The US Navy envisioned six of these fine battlecruisers in the post-WWI era, much like the British Hoods, only with 16" guns as in the Colorado-class Battleships. The Washington Treaty nipped them in the bud so that only the Lexington and Saratoga were kept from the scrapyard, and that only by a special clause that allowed them not only to be converted to CV's but exempted from the 27,000-ton limitation for carriers (The Japanese got to keep the hulls of battlecruisers Akagi and Kaga similarly). The original design had tall cage masts, no aircraft, no high-angle heavy AA guns, and up to seven(!) funnels. During the conversion to CV's on the slipways, Lex and Sara both had their individual funnels trunked together into one massive unit. Those two CV's were America's largest for 18 years until the Midway-class appeared.

In "Grand Fleet", the Washington Treaty allowed for four such ships for both the Americans and the Japanese. BC Constitution was built first and she became the only one of this class completed as designed. Lex and Sara were converted to CV's on the slipways to release BB tonnage for the Vermont class , and Constellation was built up to the armor deck when construction was halted. The discovery of the Japanese Kii in 1936 sent US Navy planners scrambling to find a way to put 18" American guns at sea on the Constellation in an attempt to match Japan. Too much time would be required to develop the guns while Connie sat idle in the slipway so she, too, was converted to a CV. Constitution was re-armed with the latest fast-firing 16" guns destined for a new series of American fast battleships, and her masts, superstructure, and funnels were replaced by units similar to her CV sisters.

CV Constellation's fighters intercepted and shot down several Japanese bombers over Pearl Harbor during the second attack wave, and it was her bombers that put CV Yonaga temporarily out of the fight. CV's Lexington, Saratoga, and Constellation all fought in the Pacific war. Sara alone survived to become part of the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests. BC Constitution fought mainly in the Atlantic and with the British Force "H" in the Mediterranean. It was off Sardinia that the Italian battlecruiser Cristoforo Colombo's 15" guns blasted Constitution from long range, and Axis dive bombers put heavy armor-piercing bombs through her thin deck armor to finish her off.

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