The Panzerschiffe were built as replacements for the pre-dreadnought battleships allowed by the Treaty of Versailles. Deutschland replaced SMS Preussen, Admiral Scheer replaced SMS Lothringen and Admiral Graf Spee replaced SMS Braunschweig. The Panzerschiffe replaced capital ships used for coastal defense by the Reichsmarine. However, the Panzerschiffe were designed as high seas raiders: they had greater range and higher speed than the coastal defense ships they replaced and were much heavier armed than the heavy cruisers of rival navies.
The British began referring to the vessels as pocket battleships ("a battleship that fits into a pocket"), in reference to the heavy firepower of the relatively small vessels. They were considerably smaller than a true battleship and their armor and guns were far inferior to those of battleships and battlecruisers; however, they could outgun any contemporary cruiser. The ships were actually two feet longer than the American Pennsylvania-class...... Read More