|Preceded by:||HMS Inflexible|
|Succeeded by:||Colossus class|
|Beam:||66 ft (20 m)|
|Draught:||23 ft 6 in (7.16 m)|
|Speed:||13 kn (24 km/h)|
The Board of Admiralty have a historical tradition of attempting to follow a successful ship with a smaller and cheaper version. This policy, based on financial considerations, has seldom if ever been successful. Just as HMS Warrior was followed by HMS Defence, and as HMS Queen Elizabeth was followed by HMS Revenge, so was HMS Inflexible followed by Ajax and Agamemnon.
These two ships were built to the same concept as Inflexible - a heavily armoured citadel carrying four heavy guns mounted 'en echelon' in turrets to achieve all-round fire - but were required to be of lighter draught, and to displace 3,000 tons less. It was therefore necessary to arm them with guns of 12.5 inch calibre, as against 16 inch in Inflexible, and to accept a maximum speed of nearly two knots less. Also, unlike the Inflexible, these ships were dependent upon the integrity of their unarmoured ends to maintain buoyancy; should the ends have been damaged enough to become waterlogged, the ships would have sunk.
This class were the last ships in the Royal Navy to be armed with muzzle-loading rifles, and the first to carry any form of secondary armament. They were designed from the start not to carry any form of sailing rig.
- Oscar Parkes, British Battleships ISBN 0-85052-604-3
- Conway, All the World's Fighting Ships ISBN 0-85177-133-5
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