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USS Jupiter on 13 April 1914
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Class:        JUPITER (Fleet Collier No. 3)
Design        Navy Fleet Collier No. 3
Displacement (tons):        5,500 light, 19,360
Dimensions (feet):        542.0' oa, 520.0' pp x 65.0' mld x 27.7' mn
Original Armament:        4-4"/50 (ca. 1915)
Later armaments:        --
Complement:        170 (Navy)
Speed (kts.):        14.99
Propulsion (HP):        7,161
Machinery:        G. E. electric drive: 1 Curtis turbo-generator and 2 motors, 2 screws

AC Name Ord. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
3 JUPITER Mar 11 NYd Mare Island 18 Oct 11 24 Aug 12 7 Apr 13

AC Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
3 JUPITER 24 Mar 20 -- 1920 CV-1 --

Class Notes:
FY 1909, but not adequately funded until FY 1912. Although CYCLOPS, NEPTUNE, and JUPITER (Fleet Colliers Nos. 4, 8, and 3, built in that order) had the same hull design and could thus be considered sister ships, they had three different types of propulsion plants and two different types of coal handling gear and are listed separately here.

In its FY 1909 Navy appropriation act of 13 May 08 Congress authorized the construction of "two fleet colliers, of fourteen knots trial speed, when carrying not less than 12,500 tons of cargo and bunker coal. One of said colliers to be built in such government yard on the Pacific coast as the Secretary of the Navy shall direct. Cost not to exceed $1,800,000 each, and toward the construction of both, $1,500,000 is hereby appropriated." SecNav on 16 May 08 directed that Fleet Collier No. 3 be built at the Mare Island Navy Yard. On 15 Oct 08 the Navy Department issued a circular to prospective bidders containing the "chief characteristics for Fleet Collier No. 4, CYCLOPS (which applied also to Fleet Collier No. 3, JUPITER)." When bids were opened on 15 Dec 08 the Navy found that, because of the great scarcity of work in shipyards at that time, the bids received were unusually low and the Department was able to place a contract for the construction of CYCLOPS at less than half the limit of cost authorized by Congress for the ship. The Navy brought this to the attention of Congress and asked for authority to place contracts for four colliers at a price not exceeding the $3,600,000 already authorized for the construction of the two in the Act of 13 May 08. Congress instead in the FY 1910 appropriation act of 3 Mar 09 authorized only one new collier (Fleet Collier No. 8, NEPTUNE) and lowered the amount authorized to build any collier including JUPITER to $900,000. Mare Island estimated that the cost of building the ship would be well over this limit, and the Navy ended up signing the contract for CYCLOPS in March 1909 but deferring all action on JUPITER pending further Congressional action. In the FY 1911 appropriation act of 24 Jun 10 Congress raised the limit on the ship to $1,000,000, but this was still below Mare Island's estimates and work on the ship was delayed another year.

Finally in the FY 1912 appropriation act of 4 Mar 11 Congress raised the limit to $1,200,000, upon which the Navy Department directed Mare Island to proceed with the work. On 4 Apr 11 the Bureau of Steam Engineering proposed that electric propulsion be installed in JUPITER, and on 13 Apr 11 the General Board replied that the successful performance of the proposed method of propulsion would result in military advantages sufficient to warrant its trial and recommended its installation in the collier. Mold loft work and the ordering of structural materials began in April and May 1911, and upon determiniation of the type of propelling machinery the construction period of the ship was fixed at 22 months from 3 July 1911. For coal handling equipment the Navy used the Lidgerwood type that Maryland Steel was installing in NEPTUNE. As built the ship's cargo capacity was 11,600 tons of coal and 1,275 tons of oil or 10,100 tons of coal and 3,075 tons of oil. She also carried 2,300 tons of bunker coal. The ship was trimmed by using topside water ballast tanks located outboard of the coal cargo holds in addition to the usual double-bottom tanks.

The propulsion plant of JUPITER consisted of a single 5,000 kilowatt turbine generating unit which provided power to two induction motors, one on each of the ship's two propeller shafts. The motors were installed in wells surrounded by coamings so they could not easily be filled by sea water -- it was felt that the motors would run successfully when partially submerged but it would be preferable not to operate them this way. While the original turbine for the ship was being built a better and simpler method of design was developed, and this design change was subsequently applied to the collier's machine thereby improving its efficiency nearly 10 percent. The machine as it stood in mid-1913 was still not up to the highest existing standards, and it was reportedly rejected after trial and replaced by a new turbine to an improved design. A simpler type of induction motor had also been developed by the time the ship was commissioned. Nonetheless trials of the ship's turbo-electric drive in 1913 and 1914 "established the fact that electric drive was not only possible but highly desirable for ships of all classes," and turbo-electric drive began to be used in the Navy's new battleships and battle cruisers with the three ships of the NEW MEXICO (BB-40) class that were authorized on 30 Jun 14.

JUPITER was commissioned with a Navy crew, probably because of the experimental nature of her propulsion plant. On 9 Dec 12 the Navy Department had directed that “on all auxiliary vessels, except destroyer tenders and submarine tenders, the authorized battery is not to be installed but the foundations and holding down bolts are to be fitted and the guns provided and held in reserve,” but on 13 Mar 15 SecNav rescinded these instructions and instead directed that “in future the batteries of auxiliaries manned by civilian crews will be held in reserve as heretofore, but the batteries of auxiliaries manned by naval crews will be mounted and in place.” This directive in effect required mounting guns on FULTON, VESTAL, PROMETHEUS, JUPITER, NEPTUNE, BRIDGE, and HENDERSON.

On 11 Jul 19 Congress authorized spending up to $500,000 "for the conversion of the United States steamship JUPITER to an aeroplane carrier." The ship was decommissioned as a collier on 24 Mar 20, renamed LANGLEY on 21 Apr 20 (in the same General Order that assigned the name WRIGHT to the future AZ-1/AV-1), classified CV-1 when the Navy's new standardized classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20, and recommissioned as a carrier on 20 Mar 22. The history of this ship as the Navy's pioneer aircraft carrier is outside the scope of this study, but she once again became an auxiliary ship when between 25 Oct 36 and 26 Feb 37 the forward third of her flight deck was removed at Mare Island and she joined WRIGHT and nine AVP's (AVP-1 class) as a seaplane tender assigned to Aircraft, Base (later Scouting) Force. Ironically her near-sister NEPTUNE (AC-8) was briefly considered for conversion to a seaplane tender in 1933. LANGLEY was reclassified AV-3 on 14 Jan 37 (Commander Base Force was told of this action on 21 Apr 37) and for the next two years she supported seaplane squadrons VP-11 and VP-12, home ported in San Diego. She arrived at Manila on 24 Sep 39 and was in use as an aircraft transport bringing P-40 fighters to Java when she was disabled by Japanese aircraft and sunk by friendly forces on 27 Feb 42 to avoid capture. One of the many factors that caused the decision to abandon ship was a report that the water had risen so high in both motor wells that there was an imminent danger of explosion.

Ship Notes:
AC Name Notes
3 JUPITER Renamed LANGLEY as aircraft carrier 21 Apr 20, classified CV-1 17 Jul 20. To AV-3 14 Jan 37, lost in Java Sea 27 Feb 42, stk. 8 May 42.

Page Notes:
AC        1909
Compiled:        11 Aug 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012