Type ship

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The lead ship - also known as class ship or leading ship - ( English ship Lead , Leading ship , class leader ) is the first of a series or class of ships , which are all built to the same design criteria or to be built. In rare cases, the class only consists of a single ship, in which case the so-called single ship - normally, unless otherwise stated - is also the type ship of its class.


General information about the type ship

A type or class ship is always the first ship to be built in a series of one or more other ships that correspond to it technically - and usually also optically -, i.e. are structurally identical to it. However, especially large ships in the inner area are very complex and therefore need several years to be completed, so that it rarely happens that two copies of the class are technically completely identical. The second and the others often have to be put under construction before the first is even launched. Since it is always cheaper to build copies instead of individual prototypes , technically speaking the construction of the type ship has a kind of guiding function for the construction of the following units, whereby it is quite common practice to incorporate improvements into the series. In many cases, the sister ships built later show numerous improvements, so that in the case of warships, in addition to better general properties, they can also have a significantly greater combat power.

The latter case applies particularly to the Italian battleships of the Littorio class from the Second World War , the last ship built, the RN Roma (from the 2nd series, which was put under construction four years later) was deliberately further developed in the direction of increased stamina and striking power was.

Another example, in which the ongoing development of the ships of a class can also be visually understood very well, are the three German armored ships from the 1930s of the Deutschland class with the names Deutschland (later renamed Lützow ), Admiral Scheer and Admiral Graf Spee . The superstructure of the Admiral Scheer differed significantly from its type ship and the Admiral Graf Spee had numerous internal improvements, including armor and fire control systems, and with its Admiral Bridge was also set up for use as a flagship .

Class name after the first ship

Since the 20th century it has been customary in practically all states that operate shipping that the type ship gives the name to the entire class of military ships. In the case of civilian ships, too, a number of larger liner shipping companies in particular followed this rule, mostly with series produced exclusively for them. However, it is common practice that shipyards give their series ship types their own type name under which they are marketed. However, there have been numerous exceptions and special cases to these rules throughout history.

There were and are different regulations that determine which ship is the first in its class. Abroad and in civil shipping it was common practice that the order in which the contract was awarded or the start of construction stipulated this. Until 1945, however, the German navies followed the tradition of the ship that was named after its class which was launched first.

Names as well as numbers

Sometimes body numbers are used as a class designation in addition to names. This was done, for example, in the United States Navy with submarines such as the Los Angeles class , which was named after the first boat, the USS Los Angeles , but is also unofficially or internally referred to as 688-class ( class 688 ).

Numbers as a class name

During the Second World War , the classes or types of German submarines were almost always designated with Roman numerals, for example classes VII , XXI and XXIII , which in the German navy were always designated as Type VII , Type XXI , Type XXIII , etc. were designated even though they were actually classes. The classes of German warships were otherwise always given the name of the first ship launched. From civil navigation can be built in the 211 units as an example SD-14 - Standard freighter call, where the letter / number combination of "Shelter Decker 14,000 tons", ie derived steerage with 14,000 tons deadweight.

The German navy led at its inception a system of numbers as the class designations, which was maintained up to the present and detected even ships and boats, which were acquired from foreign stocks. The six Fletcher- class destroyers on loan from the USA were officially listed as class 119 in the German Navy . In more recent times it has become established to revive the traditional class name after the first ship or boat. Class 143 A is also known as the Gepard class .


In the German Navy, destroyer and minesweeper types were named after the year in which construction work began until the end of World War II . So there were the classes destroyer 1934 and destroyer 1936 as well as minesweeper 1935 , minesweeper 1940 and minesweeper 1943 .

Thematic names

In some other navies , the class can be named either after the first ship or a thematic name. In the British Royal Navy , for example, the battleships of the King George V class were named as usual after the first ship HMS King George V built , while the destroyers of the Tribal class built at the same time all bear the names of various tribes . The Pioneer standard cargo ship type , which was developed by the Blohm & Voss shipyard as a replacement for the then aging fleet of Liberty freighters and Victory ships , also had a thematic class name . The name Pioneer of this type, which was built 19 times, stands for the then completely new type of construction.

Suggestive names

The Italian submarines of the Adua class in World War II were another curiosity . In addition to the actual class number, these were named after African cities mainly from the colonial Italian East Africa at that time ( Adua is the Italian name of the Ethiopian city ​​of Adwa ). The boats of this class were therefore unofficially called Africani , meaning "Africans". In addition to the five series of the submarine type 600 , the other classes of Italian submarines had, as usual, a class name borrowed from the first ship built.

Class names and single ships

However, there have also been a few cases in history in which a ship class only consisted of a single ship and this single ship was therefore a type and series ship at the same time. Examples of this are the Dutch light cruiser Hr. Ms. De Ruyter of the De Ruyter- class of 1936, the last completed British battleship HMS Vanguard of the Vanguard- class of 1946 or the first nuclear cruiser USS Long Beach of 1961, which is the only Long Beach- class unit .

Another famous single ship was the British battle cruiser HMS Hood from 1920, which was ultimately built as the only Admiral class ship, while the three sister ships HMS Rodney , HMS Anson and HMS Howe were scrapped after construction was discontinued. This made the Hood one of the very few exceptions where the single ship did not belong to a class named after its own name.

See also


  • Edward L. Attwood, Herbert S. Pengelly: Theoretical Naval Architecture . Longmans, Green and Co., London 1931, OCLC 901835988 .
  • Authors group: Ship Design and Construction . Ed .: Amelio M. D'Arcangelo. 2nd Edition. The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, New York 1969, OCLC 803320349 .
  • Author collective: Stahlschiffbau . transpress Verlag, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-341-00410-6 .