|With the first true battlecruiser design, typed as Grosen Kreuzer, German designers turned the table on the British. One could see the size of a ship and count her guns but could not see or measure armor protection. British writers did not know that the
Blucher had a stronger armor scheme than the British battlecruisers and assumed a six-inch belt as in previous armored cruiser designs. “Of the successors of the Blucher, being German Indomitables or Dreadnought-cruisers, little is known. The
Von der Tann, launched in March, 1909, is to be completed in the spring of 1910.” (The Naval Annual 1910, page 32) This first mention of von der Tann attributed her with twelve 11-inch gun, presumably arranged as the 11-inch guns of Nassau
or the 8.2-inch guns of Blucher. Nothing was mentioned about armor, except in a table at the back of the volume, which mentioned an eight-inch belt for von der Tann, but put in the caveat “particulars doubtful”. With the von der Tann German
designers set the pattern for the entire line of battlecruiser construction for the High Seas Fleet. The ship had minimalist superstructure, presenting a low target, inferior main armament to British contemporary construction (11-inch vs 12-inch) but
most importantly, far superior protection. Although always classified as battlecruisers, the German designs were more akin to fast battleships. Gone was the mistake of the wing turrets of Blucher, instead the von der Tann improved upon the British
practice of spacing amidship turrets far enough apart to allow cross deck fire. The von der Tann was a direct reply to the Invincible Class but was far superior in every category but main armament.
To make up for the lost time in the design and construction of the Blucher, even as von der Tann was completing design work and being laid down, another improved von der Tann was finishing its design process. Less than eight months after the
start of von der Tann, the first of this class was laid down on December 7, 1908, also at the Blohm and Voss yard in Hamburg. This was to be SMS Moltke. Similar in appearance to the von der Tann, the Moltke Class was larger and heavier than von
der Tann. Displacement jumped from 19,400 tons in von der Tann to 22,616 tons in Moltke. Part of the displacement increase was taken up in the increase in size from 562-feet, 9-inches length and 87-feet beam in von der Tann to 610-feet length
and 96-feet, 9-inches in beam. With an increase of almost ten feet in beam, the Moltke could be given even greater number of compartments, further increasing survivability of the design. Although turret and barbette armor stayed on par with 9-inches,
the Moltke Class increased the width of the main belt from 9.84-inches in von der Tann to 10.75-inches in Moltke. One need only compare the armor belt of Moltke with the contemporary British battleship HMS Neptune, laid down six weeks after
Moltke with an 11-inch armor belt, to see that the German battlecruisers were fast battleships. In contrast with Moltke, the second class of British battlecruisers, the Indefatigable Class, simply carried over the same six-inch armor belt from the
Invincible Class, with Infatigable being laid down February 23, 1909, two and a half months after Moltke. The increased size of Moltke not only allowed greater armor and survivability to be worked into the design, but also allowed greater offense
capability. The same 11-inch gun was retained but the increased length allowed a fifth turret to be added. This was added in a superfiring position aft. This made Moltke the first German warship with superfiring main armament. Although Moltke beat
the British Neptune in being laid down with superfiring main armament, both powers were late in incorporating this subsequent standard practice, as the United States Navy had used superfiring turrets from the start of the Dreadnought era. The sister
ship to Moltke was SMS Goeben and since she was in the 1909 construction program instead of the 1908 program with the Moltke, Goeben was laid down exactly one year after Moltke, on December 7, 1909, also at Blohm and Voss. One other
increase to offensive abilities was the placement of the secondary 5’9-inch casemate guns. The deck break from forecastle to main deck in von der Tann came at the forward superstructure but the deck break in Moltke came at the aft superstructure.
As a consequence the secondary guns of Moltke were located one deck higher than those of the preceding design.