Armored cruisers of Germany
, Germany's first armored cruiser, during a goodwill visit to theUnited States.
In the late 19th century, the GermanImperial Navy (
)experimented with a variety of cruiser types,including small avisos and larger protectedcruisers.
Due to budget constraints, thenavy was unable to build cruisers designedsolely for fleet service or for overseasduties. As a result, the naval constructiondepartment attempted to design vessels thatcould fulfill both roles.
The protectedcruisers, the first of which were the two
-class vessels, were laid down startingin 1886.
The protected cruisers evolvedinto more powerful vessels, culminating in
, Germany's first armoredcruiser.
was laid down in 1896, a decade after the first German protected cruiser.
proved to be "ideally suited"
to overseas duties and formed the basis for subsequent armoredcruiser designs.
followed in 1898 and incorporated several alterations, including a reduced primaryarmament, a thinner but more comprehensive armor system, and a higher top speed. The two
-classvessels, laid down in 1900 and 1901, were designed with incremental improvements over
, two sister ships laid down in 1902 and 1903, respectively, were similar to the two
-classcruisers and incorporated only minor improvements.
-class armored cruisers, laid down in1904 and 1905, were marked improvements over the previous designs; they carried a much heavier armament andwere more than 2 knots (3.7 km/h; 2.3 mph) faster than the earlier vessels.
The last German armored cruiser,
, bridged the development of larger, more powerful battlecruisers. The ship was significantly larger, betterarmed, and faster than the
class, though she remained inferior to the new
-class battlecruisersthen being built by the British Royal Navy.
German armored cruisers followed the pattern set by the corresponding battleships; as compared to foreignequivalents, German warships mounted smaller main battery guns, but a heavier secondary battery. This armamenthas been compared unfavorably against their British and other counterparts. Naval historian Hugh Lyon remarkedthat the armored cruisers built by Germany were the "worst designed and least battle-worthy ships" in the navy.
Conversely, the German battlecruisers, into which the armored cruiser evolved, were very highly regarded; navalhistorian John Campbell stated that
Von der Tann
was "a considerably better fighting ship than any of the 6 British12 in gun battlecruisers."