THE avowed policy of the Navy Department in gathering together the mighty fleet which is now assembled in the North River is to stimulate the interest of the taxpayers, by showing them, in one imposing object lesson, just- what it is that the country has to show for the millions of money which have been expended during the past twenty years in building up a navy. We can conceive of no more effective way of doing this. Tabular comparisons and descriptive articles can do something in giving an adequate idea of naval strength— photographs of the ships will deepen the impression; but the only effective way to produce a sufficient conception of the number, size and power of the ships of a fleet is to line them up for a great naval review of the kind that is taking place this week in the fairway of the North River. There have been some notable reviews during the era of our new navy, such, for instance, as that during the Columbus celebration, at the Jamestown Exposition, and in Long Island Sound, off Oyster Bay; but none of these compares in the number and power of the ships assembled with this great marine spectacle at New York, It is an interesting fact that, as far as the battleships are concerned, there will be found in line representatives of practically every type of American battleship that has been built during the past two decades. Taking the ships in their historical order, we have first the “Indiana” and “Massachusetts,” whose keels, together with that of the sister ship “Oregon,” were laid in 1891. These ships, carrying four lS-inch and eight 8-inch guns on a displacement of a little over 10,000 tons, embodied a distinctive characteristic which has marked all American battleship design, namely, the exceptional weight and power of the batteries. Recently reconstructed and furnished with the modern system of range-finding, with their gun mechanisms considerably modernized, these ships are still valuable for the second line of mobile defenses. The “Iowa,” of 11,346 tons displacement, date 1893, was our first ship to carry the 1 2-inch gun. She mounts four 12-inch and ten 4-inch guns. The next class, “Kearsarge” and “Kentucky,” 1896, is not represented in the review, nor are the three vessels of the “Alabama” class. The “Maine,” however, is present, as representative of a class of three ships (date 1899), the other two being the “Missouri” and the “Ohio.” In the “Maine” class, as in the “Alabama” class of three ships which preceded, the 8-inch gun is missing, and a weaker battery of 6-inch guns is substituted. On a displacement of 12,500 tons, the “Maine” carries four 12-inch and sixteen 6-inch guns. Next in chronological order is the “Georgia” class, of which four ships, the “Georgia,” “Nebraska,” “New Jersey” and “Virginia,” are present. It was around these ships that a fierce technical controversy raged, the bone of contention being the superposed turret, in which a pair of 8-inch guns is mounted above a pair of twelves, within a single double-deck turret. The “Georgia,” 1901, is a vessel of 15,000 tons displacement and 19.25-knot speed. She mounts four 12-inch, eight 8-inch, and twelve 6-inch guns, a truly formidable battery; and it is but fair to state that, in spite of the limitations of the double-deck turret, certain of the heavy rifles so mounted have made some of the finest scores during target and 'battle practice. The largest class among the battleships is that which is named after the flagship of Admiral Oster-haus, the “Connecticut.” Six representatives of this design are present, the “Connecticut,” “Louisiana,” “Kansas,” “Minnesota,” “New Hampshire,” and “Vermont.” The keels of these ships were laid in 1903 and 1904. They displace 16,000 tons, and they all attained their trial speed of 18 knots, and generally exceeded it by from half to three-quarters of a knot. They carry an unusually heavy battery of four 12-, eight 8-, and twelve 7-inch guns, the last named being an armor-piercer up to considerable ranges. The completion of the “Connecticut” class marked the close of the pre-dreadnought period. The “Idaho” and “Mississippi,” 13,000 tons, 17 knots, are small editions of the “Connecticut." Of about the same displacement as the “Connecticut,” but distinguished by the fact that they were the first all-big-gun ships to be built for our navy, are the “Michigan” and the “South Carolina,” work upon which commenced in December, 1906. In the history of the dreadnought period these two ships will be distinguished as having been the first to introduce an arrangement of the big-gun battery, which was destined ultimately to be adopted in every navy of the world. The method may be described as “center line position and superposed firing,” in which all guns are placed on the longitudinal axis of the ship, and the turrets are mounted in pairs, enabling the inboard turret to fire its guns above the roof of the turret farther outboard. Severely criticised at its first presentation, this system presented advantages so fundamental that it was bound ultimately to be accepted as the most effective compromise for securing broadside fire for every gun, and a sufficient concentration of end-on fire. The displacement of the “Michigan” and “South Carolina” is 16,000 tons. Their speed is over 18% knots, and they carry eight 45-caliber 12-inch guns in four turrets, and a torpedo defense battery of twenty-two, 50-caliber, 3-inch guns, which make up what they lose in weight and penetration by being carried in a lofty superstructure where they can be fought in any weather, The first dreadnoughts, in size as well as gun power, to be built for our navy, are also moored in line. These are the “North Dakota” and the “Delaware,” '1907. Our naval constructors were particularly happy in drawing the lines of these very fine ships. Visitors to the fleet will take note of the lofty forecastle deck with its pair of turrets carrying their guns 32 and 38 feet above the water line; and they will note also the long unobstructed sweep of the main deck, with its three turrets and six twelves. These two ships, with their larger sisters, the “Utah” and “Florida,” are to our thinking, the handsomest battleships afloat to-day. On a displacement of 20,000 tons, they combine a speed of 21 knots with a battery of ten, 45-caliber, 12-inch and fourteen 5-inch guns, and the largebunker capacity of about 2,700 tons of coal. The “North Dakota” has the distinction of being the first turbine-driven battleship built for the United States Navy. The “Utah” and “Florida,” 1909, fresh from the builders' hands, are the largest ships in the review. They embody certain valuable improvements over their predecessors. The»displace-ment has been increased to 21,825 tons. Though the contract speed is a quarter of a knot less, on trial both ships made over 21 knots. They carry a battery of ten 12-inch, 45-caliber guns, and sixteen 5-inch. The armored cruiser is represented by two fine vessels of the pre-dreadnought period, the “Washington” and “North Carolina,” date, 1903 to 1905; displacement, 14,500 tons, speed 22%. knots, and armament four 10-inch and sixteen 6-inch guns. These shapely vessels compare favorably with foreign armored cruisers of their time; but we could wish that the United States Navy included three or four dreadnought-cruisers of the “Inflexible” and “Von der Tann” type, whose speed and power may possibly prove to be the deciding factor in the next naval war. Another interesting cruiser is the scout “Salem,” one of three fast scouts, the “Birmingham,” “Chester” and “Salem,” of 3,750 tons displacement, and from 24 1/3 to 26 1/2 knots trial speed, In view of the fact that foreign navies have armored cruisers of greater speed and seaworthiness, opposing 12-inch guns to the 5-inch pieces of our scouts, it can be seen that they have been outbuilt and their field of usefulness must be extremely limited. Very imposing is the fleet of twenty-two destroyers, Swift and sea-worthy, having the power and size to enable them to steam far and fast, even in heavy weather, these vessels must be considered as among the most efficient, both in themselves and in the way ill which they are handled, of the unarmored craft of our navy. They range in size from 420 to 740 tons, and in speed from 28% to 32% knots. The largest of them are nearly 300 feet in length, and their full-load displacement reaches 900 tons. Probably nothing in the review will excite more lively interest than the eight submarines, among which are included some of the latest and most successful of these craft. It is unforiunate that such an atmosphere of mystery and risk surrounds these vessels in the public mind. The maneuvers of the past year have shown them to be thoroughly seaworthy, absolutely under control, and possessed of powers of attack far beyond the common estimate of their abilities. The weak point in the composition of our navy is its great deficiency in auxiliary ships, such as colliers and supply ships of the many and various kinds that are necessary to render the operations of a fleet effective. The eight auxiliary vessels present at the review are all converted merchant vessels, and to this extent they are necessarily makeshifts. Congress should make liberal appropriations both for supply ships and for large and speedy colliers, both types being designed specially for their several duties. Urgently needed, also, is a large addition to our fleet of destroyers. The proportion of destroyers to battleships, as estimated by the leading naval powers, is four to one. Hence the battleships now in the North River should be accompanied by some one hundred of these craft. As a matter of fact, we have but thirty-six torpedo-boat destroyers in the whole navy. Prizes for Military Aeroplanes THE present war in Tripoli has greatly strengthened the interest displayed by the Italians in the possibilities of the aeroplane both as a means of reconnaissance and as a weapon of offense. Its value in the former capacity has been proven beyond a peradventure. In spite of the rapidity of its passage above fortifications and lines of troops, trained observers are able to obtain not only clear mental impressions of the details of arrangement, but they also have time to secure sketches and photographs, while their speed and the great altitudes at which they can fly render them practically invulnerable. The recent maneuvers of the French aviation corps at Verdun were considered by military experts to have been brilliantly successful. Three aeroplanes, following two different routes, flew from the fortress of Verdun to the town of Tours, which was supposed to be in a state of siege. The machines covered 115 miles without descent, flying so high (from 3,000 to 5,000 feet) as to seem mere butterflies. Their observers noted every detail of the defensive works and the movements of troops, while they could easily have destroyed the captive balloon, which was the only measure of defense taken against them. Besides its many apparent advantages, one, authority mentions, also, that this means of scouting is more humane than older methods, since fewer scouts are needed, and their probable loss of life is far less. As a weapon of offense, however, the aeroplane is still in a state of development, and there are divergences of opinion as to its ultimate effectiveness. Capt. Hildebrandt, the well-known German expert, is of the opinion that it can never take the place of the dirigible in destructive operations on a large scale. But the enormous comparative cost of the dirigible, with its greater vulnerability, and the difficulties of control when landing in boisterous weather, operate against its use, and give an impetus to the efforts being made to increase the offensive potentialities of the aeroplane. An important step has lately been taken toward the furtherance of this aim. In a formal letter to the President of the Aero Club of France, a fund of 150,000 francs ($30,000) has been proffered by MM. Michelin to provide prizes for successful bomb-dropping from aeroplanes. The fund provides for four prizes. To win the first prize of 50,000 francs the aviator must carry five projectiles weighing 44 pounds each; must fly at a height of 650 feet or more; and must place his missiles, one by one, within a circle having a radius of only 32.8 feet. The prize will be awarded to the contestant placing the largest number of projectiles in the circle during a single flight. The second prize, of 25,000 francs, is to be won by the man who, flying at a minimum height of 3,280 feet, shall place the most projectiles within a rectangular area of 328 x 32.8 feet. The time limit for these two prizes expires August 15th, 1912. The limit for the remaining prizes is extended to August 15th, 1913, and the donors reserve the right to modify the conditions for these. The results of the contests for the new Michelin prizes will be awaited with much interest especially since an American officer, Lieut. Riley W. Scott, has gone abroad with his bomb-dropping apparatus (described in our last issue), which is to be entered in competition.
This article was originally published with the title "Greatest Naval Review in American History, Prizes for Military Aeroplanes" in Scientific American 105, 19, 402 (November 1911)