Pennsylvania class battleships

The Pennsylvania class battleships were enlarged versions of the previous Nevada class, given two extra 14in guns by making all four turrets into triple turrets.

Pearl Harbor
USS Arizona
burning during
the Pearl Harbor raid

The Pennsylvania class ships were very similar to the previous Nevada class with the same 'all or nothing' system of armour protection, oil burning boilers and a secondary armament of 5in guns carried in casemates. The Nevada class ships had carried ten main guns in two twin and two triple turrets. The Pennsylvania class ships increased that to twelve main guns in four triple turrets.

The Pennsylvania class ships were given a new system of underwater protection against torpedoes. This consisted of a 3in thick torpedo bulkhead positioned 9ft 6in inside the main armour shell. A second bulkhead was placed 30in inside the anti-torpedo armour. This system was designed to resist up to 300lb of TNT.

The Pennsylvania class saw a brief return to all turbine engines, after the comparative use of turbines and reciprocal engines in the previous Nevada class. The experiments would resume in the following New Mexico class, in which one ship was given turbo-electric drives.

USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), c.1920
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), c.1920

Both ships underwent a major refit during the 1920s. Their maximum gun elevation was raised to 30 degrees, increasing their maximum range. Anti-torpedo bulges were installed underwater. An aircraft launching catapult was fitted. New boilers were installed, using machinery ordered for the USS Washington, a newer battleship scrapped under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. The secondary guns were removed from the hull and moved up one level into a deckhouse arrangement that contained eight 5in anti-aircraft guns and two 5in single purpose guns. The cage masts were removed and replaced with tripod masts.

The Arizona was destroyed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. She was hit by a number of bombs, one of which caused an explosion in her magazine, which wrecked the ship and killed 1,177 of the 1,512 men onboard when the attack began.

The Pennsylvania was in dry dock when the Japanese attacked, and suffered very little damage. She remained in service for most of 1942 before being modernised. After her return to service she fought in the Pacific, taking part in operations in the Aleutian Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Mariana Islands, and the Philippines, but she was badly damaged by a torpedo on 12 August 1945, and wasn't repaired in time to return to action.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



8,000nm at 10kts

Armour – belt


 - deck


 - turret faces

18in or 16in

 - turret sides


 - turret top


 - turret rear


 - barbettes


 - coning tower


 - coning tower top





97ft 1in


Twelve 14in guns in four triple turrets
Twenty two 5in guns
Four 3in guns
Two 32in submerged beam torpedo tubes

Crew complement


Ships in Class


USS Pennsylvania (BB 38)

Scuttled 10 February 1948

USS Arizona (BB 39)

Sunk 7 December 1941

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (21 September 2011), Pennsylvania class battleships ,

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