Northampton Class, U.S. Heavy Cruisers

Photograph of Northampton-class cruiser

Naval Historical Center #NH-715

Schematic diagram of Northampton class heavy cruiser

ONI 222


Tonnage 9000 tons standard displacement
Dimensions 600' by 66'1" by 18'11"
182.88m by 20.14m by 5.77m
Maximum speed       32.8 knots
Complement 621
Aircraft 2 catapults
4 seaplanes
Armament 3x3 8"/55 guns
8x1 5"/25 AA guns
4x1 3"/50 AA guns
4x4 1.1"/75 AA guns
8x1 0.50 machine guns
Protection 1057 tons:
3" (76mm) machinery belt
3.75" (95mm) magazine belt
1" (25mm) machinery bulkheads
2.5" (64mm) magazine bulkheads
1" (25mm) machinery armor deck
2" (51mm) magazine armor deck
1.5" (38mm) barbettes
2.5"/2"/1"/0.75" (64mm/51mm/25mm/19mm) turret faces/roofs/sides/rears
1.25" (38mm) conning tower
4-shaft Parsons geared turbine (107,000 shp)
8 White-Forster boilers
Bunkerage 2108 tons fuel oil
Range 10,000 nautical miles (18,500 km) at 15 knots
CXAM air search radar (Northampton, Chester, Chicago)
1942: 0.50 machine guns replaced by 14x1 20mm Oerlikon AA guns. Mark 3 and Mark 4 radars added.

1943: 1.1" guns replaced with 4x4 40mm Bofors AA guns and CXAM1 replaced with SG, SK, and SP radars.

By war's end the standard light antiaircraft outfit was 4x4, 2x2 40mm Bofors AA guns and 31x1 20mm guns. There continued to be considerable variation from unit to unit.

The Northamptons were completed in 1930-31. The design dated back to 1926 and was a modification of the preceeding Pensacola class, with slightly heavier armor and slightly reduced armament. Instead of ten 8" guns mounted in four turrets, the Northamptons had nine 8" guns in three turrets, allowing a shorter and therefore heavier armor belt. However, it was ruled impractical to provide protection against 8" shells and the protection scheme was designed against 6" shells only. The weight saved was used to improve overall survivability and increase the aircraft handling capability.

Originally equipped with torpedoes, the ships landed their tubes prior to the war in exchange for improved antiaircraft protection. This was probably a good decision given the miserable quality of U.S. torpedoes.

The aircraft handling facilities included a proper hangar around the aft funnel, which protected the seaplanes from gun blast and the elements. In principle, six aircraft could be carried (four in the hangars and two on the catapults) but in practice only four were carried.

The ships cost about $12 million apiece.

These powerful units greatly concerned the Japanese, who feared their use as screening vessels in the ring formation the Americans were expected to use if war broke out. They could foil Japanese plans to break through the American screen with light forces to attack the American battle line with torpedoes.The Japanese responded by turning to night combat tactics.

Units in the Pacific:



Sunk by gunfire and torpedoes 1942-2-28 off Sunda Strait


Task Force 8 (Halsey, Enterprise) en route Oahu from Wake

Torpedoed 1942-12-1 off Guadalcanal


Task Force 8 (Halsey, Enterprise) en route Oahu from Wake


Task Force 12 (Newton, Lexington) en route Midway from Oahu     
Sunk by aircraft 1943-1-30 off Rennell Island


Off Rennell Island with convoy returning from Philippines

Photo Gallery

Photograph of Northampton in 1941

U.S. Navy

Side view of Northampton-class cruiser in August 1942

U.S. Navy

Side view of Northampton-class cruiser in 1945

U.S. Navy

Photograph of Lousville in 1931

U.S. Navy

Forward view of Northampton-class cruiser in 1944

U.S. Navy

Photograph of Chester in September 1943.

U.S. Navy

Antiaircraft guns on Northampton-class cruiser

U.S. Navy



Evans and Peattie (1997)

Gogin (2010; accessed 2013-2-9)

Whitley (1995)

Worth (2001)

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