4 September 2019

HMS Arethusa: Mistress of the Seas

HMS Arethusa is the lead ship of her class of four light cruisers, built for the Royal Navy between 1933 - 1937. This class of British light cruisers saw extensive action during WW2, mainly in the Mediterranean, and now HMS Arethusa herself will come to War Thunder as part of the upcoming update 1.91 “Night Vision” to join the ranks of the Royal Navy once more!

Briefly: A lightly protected, but battle-proven British interwar light cruiser design, sporting reliable 6’’ main guns and a vast arsenal of auxiliary weapons, including torpedoes! 

HMS Arethusa, light cruiser, Britain, IV rank.

Pros

  • Versatile auxiliary weapons
  • Good mobility

Cons

  • Light protection
Historical Background

The development of the Arethusa-class light cruisers began because their predecessors - type Leander ships, were not very suitable for fleet operations at sea nor as a lead destroyer. Type Leander cruisers didn’t have the maneuverability to be leaders, nor did they meet the minimum silhouette requirements for night operations. British engineers had to create a new, lighter, and more maneuverable ship based on the Leander.

The result of this endeavour was the creation of the Arethusa-class in the early 1930s - a light cruiser design based on the Leander-class, with reductions in firepower, protection and other aspects to accomodate for weight savings. The design was soon approved for construction, with six ships being initially ordered, although five were actually built in the end.

HMS Arethusa, the lead ship of her class, was laid down in January 1933, being commissioned in May 1935. Upon her completion, HMS Arethusa was immediately assigned to the Mediterranean, where she would also witness the outbreak of WWII in September 1939. Early in the war, HMS Arethusa operated off the coast of Norway, assisted in the evacuation of troops from France in 1940 and protected numerous Allied convoys in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Later in the war, in 1942, HMS Arethusa suffered heavy damages as a result of an airborne torpedo attack by axis forces, knocking the ship out of action for almost 2 years before finally being repaired in the US. Arethusa’s final major operation of WWII were the Allied landings in Normandy in 1944. HMS Arethusa was put in reserve in the immediate postwar years and was later scrapped in May 1950.

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In War Thunder, HMS Arethusa will be a new light cruiser coming to rank IV of the British naval tree, with the release of the upcoming update 1.91. With her light protection, good mobility and typical early light cruiser firepower, HMS Arethusa will help bridge the gap between older and newer, more powerful British cruiser designs by combining certain aspects found on both into a single vessel.

HMS Arethusa’s primary armament consists of six BL 6-inch (152mm) Mk.XXIII cannons, split between three dual turrets. While this may seem a bit modest to veteran captains, well versed in the capabilities of some of the more powerful cruisers, for a lower ranked light cruiser, this primary armament will prove itself as quite sufficient in dealing with most threats that this vessel will likely face in battle.

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In the game, HMS Arethusa will appear in her 1943 configuration, namely, the one that was fitted to her during her repair and overhaul works in the United States. As such, HMS Arethusa will feature a substantially strengthened auxiliary weapons arsenal compared to her original configuration. Captains can therefore expect to have access to four dual 4-inch (102mm) dual purpose cannons, two quad 40mm Bofors cannons and up to a total of 13 20mm Oerlikon cannons. In addition to this, HMS Arethusa is also fitted with two triple 21-inch (533mm) torpedo launchers in case you wish to settle a gentlemen’s dispute without engaging in the nasty old business of conventional gun fights.

Fun Fact: HMS Arethusa was named after a sea nymph, found in ancient Greek mythology.

Arguably the largest drawback which aspiring captains of HMS Arethusa will have to come to grips with is its very light protection. In fact, the ship’s belt armour only goes up to 2.25 inches (57mm), with the magazines being shielded by up to 3 inches (76mm) of armour plating. This, in combination with a crew complement of only 623 sailors - the lowest of any British cruiser currently in the game - gives HMS Arethusa a rather lackluster combat endurance and should therefore certainly not be employed as part of a vanguard task force.

Although the protection on HMS Arethusa can certainly be considered as lacking, its mobility, while not outstanding by any means, will certainly get the job done. Powered by four geared steam turbines, generating a total of 64,000 horsepower, HMS Arethusa is capable of reaching speeds of up to 32.6 knots (60 km/h), placing her roughly in the middle of the top speed spectrum for cruiser vessels.


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