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Battlecruiser Wednesdays: HMAS Australia (AUS)12/29/2016 1:26:29 AM
Published By: Fr05ty

HMAS Australia Battlecruiser

Figure 1 - HMAS Australia at sea (1913)

The HMAS Australia was the Australian Navy’s first flagship and the centerpiece of the “Fleet unit” that was proposed to protect British dominions during the 1910’s. Laid down on 26 June 1910 as a modified Indefatigable-class battlecruiser, she was commissioned almost 3 years later on 21 June 1913. She arrived in Australia on 4 October 1913 and instantly became a symbol of the emerging nation’s power, touring through Australian ports in 1914 and even starring in the film Sea Dogs of Australia.

Australia’s existence would be justified immediately upon the outbreak of the First World War when she deterred the Count Von Spee and the German East Asiatic Cruiser squadron from attacking Australia. She captured the German ship Sumatra and seized several German Pacific colonies and aided in destroying their radio network. In December of 1914, she captured and sank von Spee’s supply ship Eleonore Woermann off of South America while en route to Devonport. She became the flagship of the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron and assigned to sweeps, patrols and convoy escorts across the North Sea. She collided with HMS New Zealand in 22 April 1916 heavy fog and was at the docks being repaired until 9 June 1916, missing out on the Battle of Jutland. She again collided with a ship, HMS Repulse, in 12 November 1917 and spent 3 weeks in the docks being repaired. The most interesting of her wartime exploits refers to the commando raid on the occupied Belgian ports of Ostend and Zeebrugge where among the 1300 volunteers, an officer and 10 ratings from the Australia were present. Six of the Australia’s crewmen received awards for this action.

The Australia’s last year in the war saw it used for experiments and it became the first battlecruiser to launch an airplane at sea when it launched a Sopwith 1 ½ Strutter from a platform on top of one of its 12” turrets. This set a trend that would soon become the standard for British capital ships, with most of them having launch platforms for a Sopwith planes by the end of the war. At the war’s end, the Australia sailed forth to meet the German Imperial Fleet to intern it at Scapa Flow as head of the port line. She was given charge of guarding the German battlecruiser Hindenburg while interned.

In 1919, the Australia was meant to sail from Fremantle when more than 80 crewmembers on the quarterdeck asked for an extended stay to thank the hospitality received. After the captain denied the request and gave the order to ship out, the stokers were found to be absent from their posts which delayed the shipping out. This incident ended with 12 men charged with mutiny and 5 court-martialled. When she arrived in Australia, she became once again the flagship of the Royal Australian Navy and participated in the visit of the Prince of Wales. Due to reducing budgets, she was paid off into reserve on 12 December 1921 and scuttled outside of Sydney on 12 April 1924 to comply with the Washington Naval Treaty.

The Australia would have to be implemented as a very lightly armoured battlecruiser. I have done the following analysis assuming that the Australia would be slotted in the game as a Tier 3 premium Battleship for the Commonwealth Navy.


Weight

22,490 tonnes – 37,400 HP

Length: 179.8m

Beam: 24m

Draught: 9.2m

The displacement of the Australia leaves no doubt as to what tier it should be slotted into. It is in between the four tier 3 battleships currently in game due to its displacement, being 4590t heavier than the really underweight South Carolina and 1955t heavier than the Nassau; while being 410t lighter than the Kawachi and 2250t lighter than the Konig Albert. Truthfully, the Australia will need every single hitpoint it has as its armour is in no way decent enough to withstand incoming battleship fire and might even get penetrated by cruiser fire. It’s nothing out of the ordinary and perfectly suited to tier 3.

Figure 2 - HMAS Australia entering Sydney Harbour for the first time (4 October 1913)

Armour

Belt: 178-102mm

Bulkheads: 178-152mm

Armoured Deck: 76-19mm

Extremities armour: 19mm

Turrets: 178mm, 76mm (roof)

Barbettes: 178-51mm

Conning tower: 254-76mm

As befits a British battlecruiser, the Australia was quite lightly armoured, with a maximum belt thickness of 178mm (7”) in its later years. The armour belt is 152mm thick between the end barbettes with a thickness of 178mm in between the P and Q barbettes with the remaining part of the ship being covered with 19mm plating. The armoured belt is closed off by 102-76mm bulkheads at the fore and 114-102mm bulkheads at the aft end. The turrets themselves had 178mm plating all around and 76mm roofs, which is quite decent and will likely mean you don’t lose turrets too often.

It is very important to note that the armour from the Australia is not meant to stand up against battleship weapons, it is meant to protect against firepower from cruisers and it’s fully expected to turn tail and run away if a battleship tries to engage it. You will be well protected against same-tier cruisers and destroyers except from really short ranges, and is quite fitting for a tier 3 battlecruiser.


Main Battery

4x2 305mm/45 (12”) BL Mark X guns

The Australia doesn’t have a large number of guns, and actually has the same amount of guns as the South Carolina but in a much less forgiving configuration. It has a single turret forward, another turret at the rear and two wing turrets en echelon. Each of these turrets house two 305mm guns which can fire a 387kg shell once every 30 seconds, the AP shell deals 8000 damage and the HE shell deals 4500 damage with a 30% chance to cause a fire. These are not the best guns at the tier, but will prove to be deadly against the cruisers that you should be engaging.

The arrangement of these turrets means that you can only use all four of them in a perfect broadside as that’s the only angle the wing turrets can fire through the deck, in any other situation, you will at most be capable of bringing 3 turrets to bear. The turrets themselves are not particularly quick turning, as they have a traverse rate of 4 degrees per second which means a 180 degree turn requires 45 seconds. You will not have the damage to go against battleships and you will not be able to sustain long battles, however a good salvo will easily reduce or severely maim your enemies. It’s not the best main battery at tier 3, but it sure is good enough for tier 3.


Secondary Battery

14x1 102mm/50 (4”) BL Mk VII guns, 2x1 102mm/45 (4”) QF Mk V guns

The Australia has a uniform 4” secondary battery, however it does carry two different models of guns. The Mk V QF guns fire 15 rounds per minute while the Mk VII BL guns fire 8 rounds per minute. They both fire HE rounds which deal 1500 damage and have a 6% chance to cause a fire. In total, you’ll have 8 guns to a broadside firing at up to 3km, which is not much especially with the poor accuracy that secondaries have, but it’s not bad compared to other battleships at tier 3.

Figure 3 - HMAS Australia’s ship company (1918)

AA Battery

2x1 102mm/45 (4”) QF Mk V guns (5dps @3.5km), 4x1 47mm/40 3pdr Hotchkiss Mk I (4dps @2km)

The Australia’s AA is poor and miserable, nothing new at tier 3 and it’s just there to say you can shoot down some planes theoretically. You do have a hidden ace that will help you out to protect yourself against the few planes that you’ll find down at these tiers, which is that you carry two seaplane fighters for self defense. These are just as poor as what you’d expect from seaplanes at tier 3, but well it’s certainly something nice to have.


Speed

25kts – 44,000hp

The Australia is the fastest battleship around at tier 3, but that shouldn’t be surprising considering she’s a battlecruiser. Her speed of 25 knots will prove to be a nasty surprise for a few cruisers at tier 3 like the St Louis and Bogatyr who are slower than she is, and that’s historical as the Battlecruiser was conceived as the counter for the old protected cruiser types. In terms of battleships, it is at least 4 knots faster than any other battleship at its tier and this 4 knot difference is really felt at these lower tiers, as maps and ranges are smaller allowing you to escape when needed and quickly switch flanks. You will however be in need of speed if you’re matched against a tier 4 battlecruiser as they’re 2.5 knots faster than you are and with a better range.


Consumables

2 Sopwith Pup or 1 ½-Strutter

The Australia will have the standard tier 3 battleship consumables and it will also have an additional two charges of the Catapult Fighter or Spotter Plane consumables. This is due to the Australia being fitted with two flying-off platforms on the top of its P and Q turrets.


Conclusion

The HMAS Australia will not set the world alight, it is not the most powerful vessel at its tier and will definitely not be hailed as an overpowered monster. The Australia is a fitting low-tier battlecruiser, with decent armament, thin armour and vastly superior speed to those battleships she’s like to encounter at her tier. The Australia was a second generation battlecruiser and it shows, she doesn’t possess armament that is very impressive, but she will stand apart from others by using her Spotter Aircraft to have longer ranges than her tiermates which will give her an advantage over them in a fight. It is fitting that Australia will share her tier with the very same armoured cruisers for which she was designed against, having enough armour to protect from their guns while still being fast and powerful enough to take them in a straight fight. The Australia will perform best as a vessel ready to support the team, taking out enemy cruisers before running away from the battleships just as you would expect from a battlecruiser.

The HMAS Australia was the pride of the Australian Navy and I’m sure that all our friends from down under would be happy to see their first namesake ship in the game. She might not have been the most storied of vessels, but she certainly deserves a place in the game as the proud defender of the British dominion of Australia. It also helps that she’s rather quirky, with a strange turret layout, the addition of airplanes on top of the wing turrets and it’s a good looking vessel, bringing just a bit more variety to the game, and that’s always good.


Pros

  • Fast

  • Good HE

  • Catapult Fighters or Spotter Planes

  • Decent secondary battery

  • Good HP pool

Cons

  • Thin armour

  • Weak AA

  • Low volume of fire

  • Strange turret layout

Figure 4 - HMAS Australia’s line drawing

Figure 5 - Royal Australian Fleet’s programme of 1913, within it was the HMAS Australia


In our next issue, it will be the Regia Marina's turn to see its battlecruiser analyzed.
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