The ships of the Mackensen
class were the climax of German battlecruiser development during World War I. In principle, they were enlarged versions of the Derfflinger
class battlecruisers with bigger guns (35 cm instead of 30,5 cm) and better armor protection.
Although it was first planned to use 38 cm guns for those ships, this plan had to be abandoned because of the growing size of the battlecruisers and political guidelines set by the naval high command., therefore smaller 35 cm guns were chosen.
Only the first ship, the Mackensen
, was ordered in peacetime, six additional ones were ordered during the emergency wartime construction program, making it the capital warship ordered in highest number ever. When it got known that Britain was building battlecruisers with 38 cm guns (Renown
), the last three ships of the Mackensen
class were changed to a modified design, using this gun size, too, which lead to the Yorck
None of the four remaining ships was ever completed. Mackensen
was launched but construction was stopped when the ship was 14 months before completion and broken down after the war. Prinz Eitel Friedrich
was 21 monthes before completion when construction was stopped. It was only launched after the war and scrapped directly after that. Construction of the Graf Spee
was halted 12-18 months before completion and also scrapped after the war. Fürst Bismarck
was the less advanced ship of those four, it never was launched and scrapped still in the shipyard until 1922.