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large, fast, moderately armed warship, intermediate in type between the aircraft carrier and the destroyer. During World War II, battle cruisers operated as small battleships, combining in one vessel maximum qualities of gun caliber, armor protection, and speed. Upon the retirement of the battleshipbattleship,
large, armored warship equipped with the heaviest naval guns. The evolution of the battleship, from the ironclad warship of the mid-19th cent., received great impetus from the Civil War.
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 from the major navies of the world, the cruiser became the largest of the conventionally armed warships in commission. The cruiser's primary mission in modern warfare is to provide antiaircraft defense and gunfire support for aircraft carriers. Light cruisers, lightly armed and very fast, are often employed in scouting, police duties, and other jobs where speed rather than defensive strength is important. The advent of guided missiles as the primary offensive weapon of modern warfare has led to the conversion of many cruisers into guided-missile cruisers. The guided-missile cruiser Long Beach (completed 1961) was the first ship since World War II to be constructed for the U.S. navy from keel up as a cruiser; it was also the first nuclear-powered surface fighting ship in the world.


See Jane's Fighting Ships (pub. annually since 1897); study by S. L. Poole (1970).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a surface warship intended for doing battle against light enemy naval forces, defending task forces of warships and convoys, supporting marine landing parties, providing fire support for the coastal flanks of ground forces, laying minefields, and performing other combat missions.

Cruisers (as a class of warships) appeared in Great Britain in the 1860’s (in Russia in the 1870’s). In Russia cruisers were subdivided in 1892 into first-rank cruisers (armor-clad and armor-decked) and second-rank cruisers, which were called light cruisers. During World War II (1939–45) the class of cruisers was divided into the subclasses of heavy and light cruisers. In the navies of certain nations (the USA and Great Britain) there was a class of line cruisers (the largest armor-clad ships after battle-ships, with heavy turreted artillery). In the 1960’s missile cruisers, air defense cruisers, antisubmarine cruisers, and other types appeared in the navies of various countries.

The principal weapons of present-day cruisers are rifled (102–203 mm) artillery and missile complexes. In addition, cruisers are armed with antiaircraft artillery, torpedoes (six to eight tubes), and mines (up to 200–300). Most cruisers have one or two light aircraft, which are launched by catapults, or one or two helicopters, which are used for reconnaissance and adjustment of fire. The basic dimensions of cruisers are as follows: length, up to 200–220 m; width, 20–23 m; draft, up to 8 m. The displacement of light cruisers is 7,000–9,000 tons, and for heavy cruisers it is up to 20,000–30,000 tons. The main engines are steam turbines with a capacity of 44.2–88.4 megawatts (60,000–120,000 horsepower), crew sizes range from 600 to 1,300, and cruising speeds go up to 30–35 knots (55–65 km/hr). The full cruising range is 9,000–12,000 miles (17,000–22,000 km).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(naval architecture)
A type of large warship, but smaller than a battleship, having a displacement of 6000 to 15,000 tons (5442-13,605 metric tons), moderately armed and armored, and capable of any naval duty except combat with battleships.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. a high-speed, long-range warship of medium displacement, armed with medium calibre weapons or missiles
2. a pleasure boat, esp one that is power-driven and has a cabin
3. Boxing short for cruiserweight (see light heavyweight)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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