This all started off with me seeing a database entry in Command, and ended with me understanding a fascinating process of evolution in naval history. The British “Escort Cruiser”, beginning as a supplement to its large carriers, ended up replacing them.
(The most invaluable sources on these never-were ships were DK Brown’s Rebuilding the Royal Navy and Norman Friedmans British Cruisers, Two World Wars and After)
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the escort cruiser concept was conceived of as a way to increase the ASW power of a carrier task force, leave space on the deck for strike aircraft by putting the helicopters on a separate ship, serve as a potential independent force for the RN’s defensive ASW mission (extra-crucially after the large carriers were cancelled), and in desperation, be a staging ship for helicopter landings. Thus they were to be helicopter carriers with a SAM armament.
Early designs were called cruisers but had the size and would-be construction standards of a large destroyer.
(early escort cruiser, source shiplover on ShipBucket )
Later they grew bigger, to become “proper” cruisers.
(late escort cruiser, source shiplover on ShipBucket )
This design was not unprecedented. Similar ships with a similar role can be found in the Italian helicopter cruisers and the Soviet Moskva .
Due to the “issues” in the postwar British economy and military system, the escort cruisers were never built. The story might have ended there, except the still-larger proposals turned into the actually-built Invincible-class .
HMS Invincible turned into an impromptu American-style power projecting carrier for the Falklands, and the rest is history. Now to describe my own experience
When I first saw the escort cruisers in the Command Cold War Database, it was an early build, the game didn’t have the marked “Hypothetical Unit” symbol it now does, and so all I was looking at was a cruiser I couldn’t find a name for, with a strange missile-only armament and helicopter deck. (At the time I didn’t even know the Italian or Soviet counterpart).
While looking around on ShipBucket and Alternatehistory.com, I found the escort cruisers with the hull numbers the DB entries matched. Then I, interested, looked up their history (and saw some discrepancies with their in-game portrayals that I noted in the CWDB thread, backed up with sources as is proper procedure).
It’s extremely fascinating to look at such a clear evolutionary process, from drawing to drawing to actual ship.