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Battlecruisers (sometimes two words as battle cruisers) were large warships in the first half of the 20th century, similar in size and cost to a battleship.

The battlecruiser was developed in the first decade of the century as the successor to the armoured cruisers, but their evolution was more closely linked to that of the dreadnought battleships. Battlecruisers typically used the same large-calibre main armament as a battleship, but sacrificed armour protection in exchange for speed. Thus ships of this type could inflict much more punishment than they could absorb.

Throughout the First World War, the battlecruiser was principally used to provide a fast and hard-hitting addition to a battleship fleet. Battlecruisers formed part of the navies of Britain, Germany and Japan in World War I and took part in several raids and skirmishes as well as the Battle of Jutland.[1]

By the end of the First World War, there were very few differences between the design of a battlecruiser and that of a fast battleship. Britain, Japan and the United States all designed battlecruisers after the end of World War I which were as heavily armed as a battleship, though faster and not so heavily armored. The Washington Naval Treaty, which limited capital ship construction from 1922 onwards, treated battleships and battlecruisers identically. The new generation of battlecruisers planned was scrapped under the terms of the treaty.

From the 1930s, only the Royal Navy continued to use 'battlecruiser' as a classification for warships, for the WWI-era capital ships that remained in the fleet.[2] Nevertheless, the fast, light capital ships developed by Germany and France of the Scharnhorst and Dunkerque classes are often referred to as battlecruisers,[3][4] as they were as well armoured but smaller and carried a lighter calibre of armament compared to follow-up designs which were considered fast battleships.

World War II saw battlecruisers in action again, these mostly consisting of modernized WWI ships as well as the ships built in the 1930s. There was also renewed interest in large "cruiser killer" type warships, but few were completed, as construction of capital ships was curtailed in favor of the more needed convoy escorts, aircraft carriers, and cargo ships. In the post-World War II era, a small number of ships have been described as battlecruisers, such as the Kirov class.


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