The Northampton class was to be an updated Pensacola class. The Pensacola class was authorized for construction in fiscal year 1929. The USS Northampton, USS Chester, and USS Louisville were to be Divisional flagships. The USS Chicago, USS Houston, and USS Augusta were to be Fleet flagships.
Initially the USS Northampton, USS Pensacola, and USS Salt Lake City were considered light cruisers as at the time there was no heavy cruiser classification. In 1931 the CA classification was created and they were put into it.
There was enough hanger space that all four aircraft could be placed inside to be worked on. There were two catapults for launching the aircraft.