Battlecruisers were massive warships built to be faster and more powerful than the smaller warships that dominated combat at sea. The battlecruiser was meant to combine the speed of a cruiser with the firepower of a battleship. Battlecruisers were most popular during the early 1900s, such as during World War I. The first battlecruiser was the HMS Inflexible, completed in 1908 for the Royal Navy.
The advent of military aircraft made battlecruisers vulnerable to attack from above, and the United Kingdom, Japan, and the United States all converted some to aircraft carriers prior to World War II. With this vulnerability and the rising dominance of the aircraft carrier, they were generally considered obsolete by the end of the war.
However, in 1980, the Soviet Union launched the Kirov, the first of a new class of large cruisers. Officially classed as "missile cruisers," they are the largest non-carrier surface warships currently operating, and in terms of speed and size, are roughly equivalent to the battlecruisers of World War II. Four were built in all, and the Russian Federation still operates two of them. Currently, the Russian navy is the only navy with battlecruisers.
- ↑ The World's Great Battleships, by Robert Jackson, Thunder Bay Press, 2000
- ↑ The Vital Guide to Modern Warships, by Leo Marriott, Airlife Publishing, 2001