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Meteor-class aviso

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Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2008-0174, Aviso "SMS Meteor II".jpg
Meteor at anchor
Class overview
Operators:  Kaiserliche Marine
Preceded by: Wacht class
Succeeded by: SMS Hela
Completed: 2
Retired: 2
General characteristics
Displacement: 1,117 metric tons (1,099 long tons; 1,231 short tons)
Length: 79.86 m (262 ft 0 in) o/a
Beam: 9.56 m (31 ft 4 in)
Draft: 3.68 m (12 ft 1 in)
Propulsion: 2 × 3-cylinder double expansion engines, 2 shafts
Speed: 19.5 knots (36.1 km/h; 22.4 mph)
Range: 960 nmi (1,780 km; 1,100 mi) at 9 kn (17 km/h; 10 mph)
  • 7 officers
  • 108 enlisted men
  • 4 × 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/30 guns
  • 3 × 35 cm (14 in) torpedo tubes

The Meteor class was a pair of two avisos built by the Imperial German Navy in the late-1880s; the class comprised two ships, Meteor and Comet. They were an improvement over the preceding Wacht class, being slightly faster and armed with quick-firing guns rather than the slower, old-pattern guns used on the earlier ships. Meteor and Comet nevertheless proved to be disappointments, primarily a result of extreme vibration caused by their propulsion system, particularly at higher speeds. As a result, their service careers were limited. They served less than two years on active duty, from 1893 to 1895. They returned to limited duty in 1904 as guard ships, but by 1911 they had been stricken from the naval register and used in subsidiary roles. Both were scrapped in 1919–21.


The Imperial Navy began building small avisos in the 1880s to serve in the main fleet in German waters. These vessels were intended to support the battle line, and so unlike the contemporary German unprotected cruisers, their designs emphasized offensive capability and high speed rather than a long cruising radius.[1] The design for Meteor and Comet was based on the earlier Wacht class; they were slightly smaller vessels and displaced around 25% less than the earlier vessels. The savings in weight were used for a more powerful propulsion system, a new gun armament of quick-firing guns, and slightly thicker armor plating.[2] The Meteor class was the last aviso design produced by the Imperial Navy; by the 1890s, German naval designers had taken the best characteristics of the avisos and the contemporary unprotected cruisers and combined them in the Gazelle class of light cruisers, the first vessels of that type of warship.[3]

General characteristics[edit]

Meteor and Comet were 79.86 meters (262.0 ft) long at the waterline and 79.86 m (262.0 ft) long overall. They had a beam of 9.56 m (31.4 ft) and a maximum draft of 3.68 m (12.1 ft) forward. Meteor displaced 961 metric tons (946 long tons; 1,059 short tons) as designed and up to 1,078 metric tons (1,061 long tons; 1,188 short tons) at full combat load, while Comet was slightly heavier, at 992 t (976 long tons; 1,093 short tons) and 1,117 t (1,099 long tons; 1,231 short tons), respectively. Their hulls were constructed from transverse steel frames. Meteor was initially fitted with a single pole mainmast, while Comet had the pole mainmast along with a smaller mast further aft for wireless telegraphy. In 1901–02, Meteor was fitted with the second mast as well.[4]

The Meteor-class ships had a crew of 7 officers and 108 enlisted men. The ships carried several smaller boats, including one yawl, one dinghy, and one cutter. They were poor sea boats; they were very unstable in anything but calm weather. They also vibrated excessively due to severe cavitation, particularly at high speeds. Both ships were, however, very maneuverable vessels. Their metacentric height was .41 m (1 ft 4 in).[2][4]


Their propulsion system consisted of two vertical 3-cylinder triple expansion engines that drove a pair of 2.8 m (9 ft 2 in) wide, three-bladed screw propellers. Steam for the engines was provided by four coal-fired locomotive boilers that were trunked into two funnels on the centerline. The ships were equipped with a pair of electric generators with a combined output of 20 to 24 kilowatts (27 to 32 hp) at 67 volts. Steering was controlled by a single rudder.[4]

The ships' propulsion system varied slightly in performance. Meteor's engines were rated at 4,500 indicated horsepower (3,400 kW) for a top speed of 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph), though she exceeded both figures on sea trials, reaching a speed of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph). Comet's engines were rated for 5,000 ihp (3,700 kW) and 19.5 kn (36.1 km/h; 22.4 mph), which she did not exceed on her trials. Both ships had a range of approximately 960 nautical miles (1,780 km; 1,100 mi) at 9 kn (17 km/h; 10 mph).[4]

Armament and armor[edit]

The ships were armed with four 8.8 cm SK L/30 guns placed in single pivot mounts, two side-by-side forward, and two side-by-side aft. The guns were supplied with between 462 and 680 rounds of ammunition, and they had a range of 6,900 m (22,600 ft). They also carried three 35 cm (14 in) torpedo tubes, one mounted submerged in the bow and the other two in deck-mounted launchers on the broadside. They were supplied with eight torpedoes. Both ships were protected with steel armor. They had a 15 mm (0.59 in) thick deck with 25 mm (0.98 in) thick sloped sides. The conning tower had 30 mm (1.2 in) thick plating on the sides, with a 15 mm thick roof.[4]

Service history[edit]

Meteor was laid down at the Germaniawerft shipyard in Kiel in 1888, and launched on 20 January 1890. Fitting-out work then commenced, and was completed by 19 May 1891, when she was commissioned into the German fleet. Comet was built by the AG Vulcan shipyard in Stettin. She was laid down in 1890 and launched on 15 January 1892. After fitting-out was completed[2] she was transferred to Kiel, where she was commissioned for sea trials.[5] Comet was commissioned into the fleet on 29 April 1893.[2]

Neither ship remained on active service long, primarily due to their excessive vibration. Meteor was assigned as the dispatch vessel for the I Division of the Maneuver Squadron in 1893,[6] but was reduced to reserve status by 1895.[4] Comet served in the III Division for the annual maneuvers in August and September 1893[5] but she too was quickly placed in reserve. In 1904, both ships were reactivated as guard ships, but this service did not last long either. By 1911, both ships had again been withdrawn and stricken from the naval register; Meteor became a barracks ship in Kiel while Comet was used as a mine hulk in Danzig.[4] Meteor and Comet were sold for scrapping in 1919 and 1921, respectively.[4]


  1. ^ Gardiner, p. 249
  2. ^ a b c d Gardiner, p. 257
  3. ^ Gardiner, pp. 249, 258
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Gröner, p. 96
  5. ^ a b Cleveland, p. 664
  6. ^ "Naval and Military Notes", p. 814


  • Cleveland, H. F., ed. (June 1894). Journal of the Royal United Service Institution. London: Harrison and Sons. XXXVIII.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • Gardiner, Robert, ed. (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-133-5. 
  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-790-9. 
  • "Naval and Military Notes". Journal of the Royal United Service Institution. London: Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies. XXXVII (185): 811–823. July 1893. doi:10.1080/03071849309416563.