Cruisers Information

Cruiser is a type of large warship, which had its prime period from the late 19th century to the end of the Cold War. The first cruisers were intended for individual raiding and protection missions on the seas. Over the years, the nature and role of the cruiser has changed considerably, and today the cruiser has largely been replaced by destroyers in its roles.

Historically, a 'cruiser' was not a type of ship but a warship role. Cruisers were ships—often frigates or smaller vessels—that were assigned a role largely independent from the fleet; in a sense, cruising independently. Typically, this might involve missions such as raiding enemy merchant shipping. In the late 19th century, the term 'cruiser' came to mean ships designed to fulfill such a role, and from the 1890s to the 1950s a 'cruiser' was a warship larger than a destroyer but smaller than a battleship.

For much of 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, cruisers were a navy's long-range 'force projection' weapons, while the larger ships stayed nearer home. Their main role was to attack enemy merchant vessels, so much so that this task came to be called cruiser warfare. Other roles included reconnaissance, and cruisers were often attached to the battle fleet. In the later 20th century, the decline of the battleship left the cruiser as the largest and most powerful surface combatant.

Wikipedia, Cruisers, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruisers (as of Apr 1, 2010)

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