La Argentina Class Assault Cruisers
arg-Argentinasmall.jpg
(Note: drawing contains some parts taken from Shipbucket.com)

Ship Characteristics

Dimensions Length 673.5 ft
Beam 71 ft
Draft 26 ft
Displacement (Standard) 13,600 tons
Displacement (Full Load) 17,065 tons
Performance Speed (max) 34 knots
Speed (cruising) 15 knots
Endurance 7,900 nautical miles at 15 knots
Armament Guns 6 8 inch L55, 6 5 inch L38
Helicopters Medium lift 4

Background

Of the 14 Baltimore and ten Albany class cruisers completed duriing the Second World War, two Baltimores (Boston and Canberra) were converted to experimental missile cruisers as test beds for the mass conversion of the class. The stern half of the ship was stripped, removing the aft 8 inch triple mount and the aftermost five inch twin mount. The two funnels were trunked into a single casing while the superstructure was extensively revised. Two twin Terrier missile launchers were installed aft with vertical-load magazines. One set of guidance radars was provided for each launcher. This conversion was intended primarily to give the fleet experience in operating missile-armed air warfare ships and the production version of the cruiser conversions were far more capable. By 1964, the two Boston class cruisers were obsolete and they were withdrawn from service.

At this time, Argentina was looking for additional cruisers to supplement its two Belgrano class ships. The problem was that, of the surplus eight inch cruisers, only the Oregon City was left and a survey quickly showed that her construction was seriously defective. That just left the two Bostons. Although their missile ocnfiguration made them superficially attractive, the reality was that their beam-riding Terrier missiles were hopelessly outdated. Installing a new missile system would be a major job that the Argentine Navy could neither afford nor undertake. Nevertheless, the Navy bought the two ships for what amounted to scrap metal prices.

Once received in Argentina, the ships were modified in Argentine service to allow for the severe weather conditions in the far South Atlantic. Their bows were raised and the three inch batteries removed. This was just the preliminary move to a much more radical conversion. The obsolete missile system had been removed prior to the ships being delivered to Argentina. In its place, the Argentine Navy installed a much larger helicopter pad capable of handling a medium-lift helicopter. The entire aft superstructure was rebuilt, the obsolete radars and the two aft five inch twins being removed and the structure itself much enlarged. A hangar capable of accommodating four medium lift helicopters was added. The new structure provided living accommodation for a Company Landing Team of Argentine Marines (essentially a company of Marines plus the supporting equipment normally found at Regimental level). Four landing craft were added amidships along with four large ship's boats. In this guise, the ships were known as "Assault Cruisers" and were capable of operating independently to carry out small-scale amphibious assaults, to support those attacks with their eight inch and five inch guns and to control the operations using their built-in command facilities. Effectively, they were much-enlarged versions of the U.S. Navy's APDs.

It was painfully obvious that the ships were intended for operations in relation to Argentina's claims to islands off Tierra del Fuego and to the Falkland Islands. However, their first break into the international news was when Marines landed from the two ships played a key role in the 1976 military coup that installed the military regime that was to launch the Falklands War. Both cruisers were intended for major rebuilds in the 1970s that would have seen them receiving new secondary batteries and anti-aircraft missiles. Due to Argentina's collapsing economy, these conversions were never carried out.

Class Members

Name Ordered Laid Down Launched Commissioned Fate
La Argentina (ex Boston 1940 1941 1942 1943 Torpedoed and sunk by HM Submarine Saint Vincent 4/30/1982
Almirante Brown (ex Canberra) 1940 1941 1943 1943
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