Weapon class destroyer

Weapon class destroyer

The Weapon class was a class of destroyers built for the British Royal Navy towards the end of World War II. They were the smaller counterpart to the Battle class (which followed them) and were the first new destroyer designs for the Royal Navy since the Second World War "Emergency Programme". 20 ships were planned, of which only 13 were laid down and 7 were launched, but the cessation of hostilities resulted in only 4 being completed for service. 2 of the ships had been previously ordered as part of the planned C class, or 15th Emergency flotilla, of 1944, but the orders were changed to the new design.


The hull length was not much increased over the "War Emergency Programme" design, but beam and draught were increased to allow for a displacement increase, as the latter design was grossly overweight with the addition of wartime technology to a relatively small hull. Two full sets of torpedo tubes were carried, a somewhat retrospective feature in a late-war design.

A criticism of the older designs was the use of adjacent boiler rooms. This had been adopted to allow for a single funnel, to lower the silhouette and increase the deck space of the relatively small hull. However, this made the ship vulnerable to being disabled by a single hit amidships. To remedy this, the Weapon class adopted the "unit" system, of side-by-side boiler and engine rooms with alternate port/starboard arrangement. This was standard practice in United States Navy ships, but these were generally far larger than their Royal Navy counterparts. The unit arrangement meant that 2 funnels were needed. The forward funnel was trunked up through the foremast and there was a small stump funnel between the torpedo tubes. This led to an unusual and rather unbalanced appearance, similar to that of the "Daring" class, and the Weapons were not the most attractive of ships.

The main improvement over earlier ships was to remedy the woefully inadequate arrangements for anti-aircraft defence. To this end, three twin 4-inch Mark XIV mountings were carried, remotely controlled by a Type 275 Radar equipped Mark VI(M) director, allowing full blind-fire against aircraft targets. The light battery consisted of 2 of the new STAAG (Stabilised Tachymetric Anti-Aircraft Gun) mounts for twin Bofors 40 mm guns and two single weapons on Mk. II mounts in the bridge wings. The STAAGs were carried on either side aft, and each had its own Type 262 Radar and predictive fire control computer, allowing for automatic blind-fire engagement of targets. The STAAGs were excellent weapons on paper and the firing range, but when exposed to the vibration of a naval gun mounting and the rigour of the elements they were less than reliable. Coupled with a mounting weight of 17 tons, they were something of a disappointment and their post-war service was limited. Type 293 Radar was carried on the lattice foremast for target indication.

To increase the anti-submarine capability of the class, it was decided to reduce the number of 4-inch mounts to 2, and to instead carry 2 "Squid" anti-submarine mortars. In "Battleaxe" and "Broadsword", these replaced 'B' gun, in the others it was 'X' that was lost. The latter arrangement was in fact preferable for the location of the "squid", but less so for gunnery, as it meant that the main weapons were unable to fire aft, which was a criticism also levelled at the Battle class.

All four ships were plagued by their machinery, as the steam turbines had numerous design flaws. The problems were remedied by removing the steam feed to the lower half of the reversing turbine, but this halved reversing power, and as a consequence these ships were slow to decelerate and handled rather sluggishly. This problem proved fatal for "Battleaxe", when she was unable to manoeuvre quickly enough to prevent herself being rammed by the frigate HMS "Ursa" in the Clyde in 1962. The damage was so catastrophic that it was beyond economical repair and she was written off as a total loss and scrapped.

The Weapons were never an entirely satisfactory design, and were criticised for their light gun armament and overly heavy torpedo outfit. Perhaps best thought of as fast fleet frigates, they undoubtedly possessed a quantum increase in fighting efficiency over the wartime emergency ships, and were more than capable of facing the increased threat of the enemy submarine and aircraft. It is possible that the mysterious G or "Gael" class design, which possessed 2 twin 4.5-inch semi-automatic Mark. VI guns was an attempt to remedy some of the deficiencies of the Weapons.


The class were something of an oddity in the post-war Royal Navy, and did not figure in any of the plans for the fleet of the future. They were laid up by 1956, but there emerged a need for fast fleet Aircraft Direction (A/D) ships to accompany the carrier strike force and act as radar pickets, directing fighter cover. The Battle class were being modified for this role, but as a stop-gap, the Weapons were given a more limited conversion. This involved adding a large mainmast amidships for the Radar Type 965 with an AKE-1 "single bedstead" antennae array, with the torpedo tubes replaced by radar offices. The director was replaced with a lighter MRS-8 pattern, possibly to lower topweight associated with the new radar, and all ships had the squids mounted aft and the guns mounted forward. They lacked specialised height finding and aircraft direction radar sets that the Battles possessed, and so were rapidly superseded and returned to reserve.



* "Tomahawk" was renamed after Admiral of the Fleet, Viscount Cunningham had remarked about his sadness at the loss of a ship of this name after the S class destroyer, "Scorpion", was transferred to the Royal Netherlands Navy. "Scorpion" had been the name of Cunningham's first command, and when the Ships Names Committee discovered a medieval form of ballista with this name, the solution presented itself.


* "Destroyers of the Royal Navy, 1893-1981", Maurice Cocker, Ian Allan, ISBN 0-7110-1075-7
* "Royal Navy Destroyers since 1945", Leo Marriot, Ian Allan, ISBN 0-7110-1817-0
*"Destroyers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia", M J Whitley, Arms and Armour Press, 1999, ISBN 1-85409-521-8.

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