Building the first dreadnoughts
In Japan, the two battleships of the 1903–04 Programme were the first in the world to be laid down as all-big-gun ships, with eight 12-inch (305 mm) guns. However, the armour of their design was considered too thin, demanding a substantial redesign. The financial pressures of the Russo-Japanese War and the short supply of 12-inch guns—which had to be imported from the United Kingdom—meant these ships were completed with a mixture of 12-inch and 10-inch (254 mm) armament. The 1903–04 design also retained traditional triple-expansion steam engines, unlike Dreadnought.
The dreadnought breakthrough occurred in the United Kingdom in October 1905. The new First Sea Lord, John Fisher, 1st Baron Fisher had long been an advocate of new technology in the Royal Navy and had recently been convinced of the idea of an all-big-gun battleship.[A 6] Fisher is often credited as the creator of the dreadnought and the father of the United Kingdom’s great dreadnought battleship fleet, an impression he himself did much to reinforce. However, it has been suggested Fisher’s main interest was in developing the battlecruiser and not the battleship.
Shortly after taking office, Fisher set up a Committee on Designs to consider future battleships and armored cruisers. The Committee’s first task was to consider a new battleship. The specification for the new ship was a 12-inch main battery and anti-torpedo-boat guns but no intermediate calibers, and a speed of 21 kn (39 km/h) which was two or three knots faster than existing battleships. The initial designs intended twelve 12-inch guns, though difficulties in positioning these guns led the chief constructor at one stage to propose a return to four 12-inch guns with sixteen or eighteen of 9.2-inch (234 mm). After a full evaluation of reports of the action at Tsushima compiled by an official observer, Captain William Christopher Pakenham, the Committee settled on a main battery of ten 12-inch guns, along with twenty-two 12 pounders as her secondary armament. The Committee also took the adventurous step of giving Dreadnought steam turbine propulsion. This was unprecedented in a large warship. The greater efficiency of the turbines meant the 21-knot (24 mph/39 km/h) design speed could be achieved in a smaller and cheaper ship than if reciprocating engines had been used. Construction took place at a remarkable rate; her keel was laid on 2 October 1905, she was launched on 10 February 1906, and she was completed on 3 October 1906—an impressive demonstration of British industrial might.
The first US dreadnoughts were the two South Carolina-class ships. Detailed plans for these were worked out in July–November 1905, and approved by the Board of Construction on 23 November 1905. However, building was slow; specifications for bidders were issued on 21 March 1906, the contracts awarded on 21 July 1906 and the two ships were laid down in December 1906, after the completion of the Dreadnought.