Minotaur-class cruiser (1943)
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|Preceded by:||Fiji class|
Neptune class (planned)Tiger class (actual)
|Length:||555.5 ft (169.3 m)|
|Beam:||63 ft (19 m) (Superb: 64 ft (20 m))|
|Draught:||17.25 ft (5.26 m)|
|Installed power:||72,500 shp (54.1 MW)|
|Speed:||31.5 knots (58.3 km/h)|
The Minotaur class of light cruisers of the British Royal Navy, also known as the Swiftsure class, was designed as a modified version of the Fiji class incorporating war modifications and authorised in 1941. However, in spite of the heavy toll of cruisers in that year and the following one, the building of this new class had a relatively low priority and only three were completed by end of World War II. They played no significant part in the Second World War, though Swiftsure, as flagship of the British Pacific Cruiser Squadron, was selected by Admiral Cecil Harcourt to hoist his flag for the Japanese surrender at Hong Kong. Superb was completed to a slightly different design.
The class was originally to have consisted of nine ships, laid down in 1943, but by the end of World War II only Minotaur, Swiftsure, and Superb were complete, whilst the others were laid up. Minotaur was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy and renamed Ontario. While the basic specifications and original armament were only a slight enlargement of the Fiji-class with an extra twin 4-inch turret, the Minotaurs did represent a substantial advance towards more sophisticated weapon control and integration of command and control and AIO and developments towards operation room control of fighting ships. By 1944 the seven Minotaurs under construction represented four distinct groups, which were so significantly different that they should probably be regarded as four separate classes of cruiser. Swiftsure introduced the reliable 274 lock and follow radar, which increased the accuracy of the main armament to get on target quickly. The second Superb extended this more advanced radar with the addition of 275 for anti aircraft fire control, although Superb′s version lacked the flyplane or the accurate finishing in the version fitted to later Battle-class destroyers. The third group of Minotaurs, the Tigers, were being built from quite early in their evolution with a different main battery consisting of three triple Mk 24 6-inch turrets, which were dual purpose, elevating to 60 degrees, and which automatically tracked and followed targets under 274/275 radar control. These guns and those for Hawke, the fourth Tiger, were nearly complete by late 1946 and were stored at Rosyth until the late 1950s as alternatives to the Mk 26 automatic twin 6-inch guns that were eventually fitted. Hawke represented a further development, surprisingly scrapped on the slip in late 1945, with its boilers and machinery complete, and its guns nearly finished.
Three of the laid-up vessels were completed in the 1960s as Tiger-class cruisers. Two went on to be further converted into helicopter and command cruisers during the 1970s.
Swiftsure was completed with sixteen twin and six single 20 mm guns, but had all the singles and eight of the twin removed in the summer of 1945, when she received, in lieu, eight 40 mm Bofors and five single 40 mm Bofors Mk III. HMCS Ontario (ex-Minotaur) was completed with the same close-range outfit as Swiftsure, and is reported to have had an outfit of six 40 mm and six 20 mm guns at the end of the war, all in single mountings. Superb was not completed until after the end of hostilities, and had a close-range outfit consisting of eight single 40 mm Mk III, two single 2-pounders, four twin hand-operated 20 mm and two single 20 mm guns.
After a collision between Swiftsure and the destroyer Diamond in the West Indies on 16 September 1953, Swiftsure was largely rebuilt to the pattern of the Belfast reconstruction in 1956–59. The work on Swiftsure was largely completed. However, it was placed in reserve rather than fitted out with the only available armament, which was its original and labour-intensive triple 6-inch guns, two twin 4-inch guns, and a pair of L/60 Bofors which would have been controlled by a six-channel MRS8 US supplied fire control system. The 1953 plan to modernize the ship with the new twin 3-inch 70 calibre guns  was rejected around 1954 because Swiftsure′s beam of 63 feet (19 m) did not allow enough space, and the cost of a full reconstruction of Superb as a fourth Tiger, with its full new armament, was considered too expensive. The new 70 calibre twin 3-inch mounts were experimental, and it was far from clear that they would ever be reliable enough to be effective. A more limited update of the Swiftsure and Superb with new L/70 proximity fused Bofors was approved and then cancelled, because the time and cost of Swiftsure′s modernisation was proving too great, and it was clear that fitting the four L/70 mounts would require conversion from DC to AC power, which was considered too expensive on half-life ships. Options of the 965 radar on its new lattice mast and a data link were considered. The cost of finishing the Tiger-class cruisers (£35 million) was a major political issue, as was the new automatic guns jamming. The jamming issue was partly rectified by 1958, but only after inflicting terminal damage to the credibility of the project. The completion of Lion and Blake was in real danger of being stopped in early 1960, and automatic gun cruisers were considered obsolete in the United States and Soviet Union. Problems with cracking that occurred in the update of Swiftsure as a result of the collision with the destroyer Diamond slowed the refit, raised costs, and made recommissioning at the same time as Belfast impossible. Reentering service in 1960 with only Second World War-era cruiser weapons was too expensive, but there were no suitable modern weapons to fit, and more than £1 million had already been spent on the Swiftsure 'reconstruction' project by early 1959, mainly on structural modifications rather than improved weapons and electronics. In 1959-60, the Royal Navy fought hard to retain Swiftsure as a new modernization pattern of a cruiser - helicopter carrier. This design was largely implemented a decade later on its half-sisters Tiger and Blake. This was intended to allow more space on carriers for fighters and strike aircraft.
|Minotaur||53||Harland & Wolff||20 November 1941||29 July 1943||N/A||Transferred to Royal Canadian Navy July 1944 commissioning on 25 May 1945 as HMCS Ontario. Broken up at Osaka, 1960|
|Swiftsure||08||Vickers-Armstrong||22 September 1941||4 February 1943||22 June 1944||Broken up at Inverkeithing, 1962|
|Superb||25||Swan Hunter||23 June 1942||31 August 1943||16 November 1945||Broken up at Dalmuir, 1960|
|Hawke||27||HM Dockyard, Portsmouth||1 July 1943||N/A||Cancelled 3/1946; broken up on slipway|
|50||Vickers-Armstrong||August 1944||Cancelled 1946; broken up on slipway|
|N/A||Redesigned as Tiger-class cruiser|
- Brown and Moore, p.19, 47
- Brown and Moore p.19
- Friedman, p. 259
- Murfin, p. 57
- Swiftsure's refit was started in February 1956 with planned conclusion of December 1959. Friedman, p. 259
- UK Hansard 6/2/1961.Question HC. Captain Kerby to Mr Orr Ewing.
- Murfin, p. 56.
- S. Courtenay & B.Patterson. Home of the Fleet.RN Museum Publications (2005) Portsmouth, p 71
- Brown, D.K.; Moore, George (2012). Rebuilding the Royal Navy: Warship Design since 1945. Seaforth. ISBN 1848321503.
- Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) . Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8.
- Freidman, Norman (2010). British Cruisers in Two World Wars & After. Seaforth. ISBN 1848320787.
- Murfin, David (2010). John Jordan (ed.). "AA to AA: The Fijis Turn Full Circle". Warship 2010. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1844861104.