"... Since then, I have learned more about various armors and
projectiles, as can be seen in the latest versions of my programs at http://www.warships1.com or http://www.combinedfleet.com. These results have forced me to downgrade BISMARCK's armor significantly -- the belt plus sloped deck at the waterline turns out to be much less protective than I originally thought since I now have the re-evaluated the effectiveness of German WWII naval Wh homogeneous armor and have discovered that the brittleness of this material (as indicated by a Percent Elongation before it snaps in two in tests of
only 18-20% (18% is the Krupp spec) compared to the better homogenous British NCA and U.S. STS/Class "B" armors at 25% or more) makes it significantly inferior against large-size projectiles, though against projectile 8" (203mm) and less, there is no penalty, to my knowledge. This
is reflected in the German Navy's "G.Kdos. 100" armor penetration tables developed by Krupp in 1940, not just by my own evaluations, which confirm them."
"... As I said above, I have learned more and some of
the things I said are no longer correct, but in almost all cases this makes BISMARCK worse and worse as a warship by WWII standards -- I rate it as a battle-cruiser, not a true battleship, by the criteria of having ranges where it would be at least partially invulnerable to enemy fire being the mark of a battleship and very little of BISMARCK can resist any enemy battleship fire of any WWII warship at any range. Use the German G.Kdos. 100 penetration tables and try to find ranges where anything but that narrow waterline area is immune to its own guns (to say nothing of foreign guns); you will not find any areas of the ship that are protected at any useful range, much at no range zone whatsoever. Turrets, barbettes, upper hull, conning towers, whatever; all the armor on BISMARCK is essentially useless at any range against any enemy if they get direct hits on those parts of the ship.
"...The unconventional Pugliese underwater protection system consisted of a 40mm torpedo bulkhead which curved up from the outer bottom and then extended outboard to meet the lower edge of the armor belt. Within the space thus created between the void double bottom and this torpedo bulkhead was a liquid filled compartment, and within that was a void longitudinal drum with a diameter of 380cm with 6mm walls. The idea was that the explosion of a torpedo warhead would collapse the void drum within the liquid filled compartment, thus absorbing most of the explosive energy. The torpedo bulkhead was supposed to catch splinters and prevent further damage. This system was also adopted by the Russians for their Sovyetskiy Soyuz class super battleships (see my essay "The Super Battleships That Never Were" for a description of these ships). Unfortunately, it did not work as well in practice as it did in theory..."
"...I have never heard any negative reports about her quadruple 15in turrets, so presumably they worked as designed. Regardless, I am very suspicious of quadruple turrets. And I do not approve of just two main battery turrets, no matter how many guns they contain. And any design that concentrates all the main battery guns forward (and all secondary guns aft) seems seriously flawed to me. Nevertheless, I am forced to admit that Richelieu proved satisfactory in service and was superior to the rival Littorio class in the opinion of most experts. I would rate them about equal in ship to ship fighting power, and give Richelieu the nod in most other areas. Not bad for a ship that actually conformed to the letter of the Treaty...."
"... Another compromise showed in the adoption of twin screws, also to save weight. Despite their small 670 yard tactical diameter, their very long fo'c's'le and twin screws made them clumsy ships to maneuver. Although in the event it did not matter, the adoption of twin screws also made them especially vulnerable to underwater damage aft. Another unfortunate compromise was their slow speed of 23 knots. This rendered these relatively modern battleships unsuitable for most first line tasks in World War II.
Interestingly, American designers considered a similar all-main-turrets-forward design for what became the North Carolina class, also seeking to conserve precious treaty tonnage, but abandoned it when it became evident that a conventional 3x3 layout with two turrets forward and one aft was actually more economical.
There were other problems with this class. Their 16in main battery turrets gave considerable trouble, and were far less satisfactory than the previous excellent 15in/42 twin mounts. The defects were eventually corrected, and Rodney performed well against Bismarck in May of 1941. The 16in guns had a maximum elevation of 40 degrees, and fired a 2,048lb (later 2,375lb) projectile at a muzzle velocity of 2,614fps to a range of 39,800 yards. Broadside weight was 18,432 (later 21,375) pounds.
The 6in secondary and 4.7in QF power operated mounts also gave trouble, and unfortunately their rate of fire fell considerably below expectations. They were also armed with 2-24.5in underwater torpedo tubes, always a mistake in battleships. During WW II, Nelson took an Italian 18in torpedo near her torpedo room, and the ship was flooded with 3,750t (!) of water. Not surprisingly, when she was repaired, the torpedo installation was removed. Rodney claimed one torpedo hit on Bismarck late in that action, and if true it is the only time in history that one battleship succeeded in torpedoing another...."
"...Let's start with the Atlantic battleships, and let's first examine Tirpitz. This famous ship is generally considered (at least by the Germans) as the finest expression of the European battleship. She provided the Germans with a "fleet in being" throughout most of the war. Stationed in Norway, news of her sailing sealed the fate of convoy PQ 17, even though she had returned to port before the slaughter began. She was the center of an enormous effort by the Royal Navy and the RAF to neutralize her. She was finally sunk at her berth near Tromso, by RAF heavy bombers using 12,000lb bombs, which no battleship could have resisted. Her basic specifications were as follows (from Conway's All the Worlds Fighting Ships):
42,900t standard; 52,600 deep load
792ft 4in wl, 813ft 8in oa x 118ft 1in x 28ft 6in, 34ft 9in max.
3-shaft Brown-Boveri geared turbines, 12 Wagner boilers, 138,000shp = 29kts (30.8kts on trials), Oil 7,344t.
Belt 12.5in-10.5in, deck 2in, armored deck 4.75-3.25in, slopes 4in, torpedo bulkhead 1.75in, main turrets 14.25in-7in, barbettes 8.7in, secondary turrets 4in-1.5in, CT 14in-2in.
8-15in/47 (4x2), 12-5.9in/55 (6x2), 16-4.1in/65 DP (8x2), 16-37mm/83 AA (8x2), 40-20mm AA, 6-21in TT (2x3), 4-6 aircraft.
9,280nm at 16kts.
Tirpitz was reputed to be wet in a heavy sea, but a steady gun platform due to the stability conferred by her great beam, which also allowed excellent anti-torpedo protection. Her new pattern 15in guns fired a 1764lb shell to 38,720yds. She had a good AA battery. German rangefinders, and gunnery control in general, were highly regarded. Internal subdivision was extensive, a characteristic carried over from World War I German ship design. In fact, much of the Bismarck class design was based on the final German WW I battleship design, Baden. Because of this, Tirpitz exhibited some curiously old fashioned design features for a ship laid down in 1936, and completed in 1941.
For instance, her 5.9in secondary armament were strictly anti-ship artillery. This required her to carry the 4.1in DP guns for heavy AA, an outmoded feature that wasted precious tonnage. More advanced contemporary battleships carried dual purpose secondary guns. And the German 15in shells had a poor performance record (which, of course, had nothing to do with the design of the ship herself, and would have been rectified had Germany won the war).
A more serious flaw was that her main armor deck was too low in the ship, leaving her vital communications and fire control systems vulnerable. This flaw sealed Bismarck's fate early in her final battle against British heavy units when her fire control system was knocked out, leaving her defenceless. Her steering gear compartments were vulnerable to damage, which led to Bismarck's being trapped by British heavy units in the first place. These flaws were more than theoretical, they led directly to the loss of Tirpitz's sister ship. And German machinery was questionable throughout the war. It tended to be too complex, and unreliable.
In any case, Tirpitz was a large, fast, and powerful battleship. She and her sistership, Bismarck, proved very difficult to sink. They may, in fact, have been pound for pound the hardest of all battleships to actually sink. Her design was, on the whole, a reasonable balance of protection, speed, and armament... "
"...The Italians made the next, much more negative leap in 1934, with the Pugliese System introduced in the Vittorio Veneto Class and the reconstructions of the Conte di Cavour Class and Andrea Doria Class ships. The Pugliese design filled the volume of the TDS with a large cylinder, which was in turn filled with closed tubes reminiscent of those in HMS Ramillies. Pugiese’s theory was that the torpedo would expend its energy crushing the cylinder. In practice the design failed miserably. Following the path of least resistance, the blast traveled around the cylinder and concentrated itself against the weakest point of the complex structure supporting the cylinder: the concave holding bulkhead.
This bulkhead acted much like a dam mistakenly built bowing downstream, rather than upstream against the current. This concave surface was structurally the weakest possible arrangement for containing the force of an explosion, and to make matters worse, the workmanship proved tragically defective. Conte di Cavour sank from a single torpedo hit at Taranto, and Caio Duilio had to be beached to prevent her sinking, also after one hit. Littorio suffered three hits, grounding her bow before she could sink. Vittorio Veneto twice, and Littorio once, suffered severe flooding in dangerous situations at sea when struck by torpedoes, more than such modern ships should have.
Pugliese’s design also consumed tremendous volume, and foreshortened the depth of the armored belt, making the ships so fitted more vulnerable to shell hits below the waterline. Once again, practical experience proved that not every innovation represented an improvement... "
"...Despite all of the design features intended to moderate the effects of a torpedo hit, the single most important factor in the effectiveness of a TDS remained its depth. The greater the distance between the point of impact on the side shell and the holding bulkhead, the more likely the system would protect the interior compartments. The French battleships of the Richelieu Class are often credited with the most effective TDS, but this is largely due to its extreme depth amidships. In other respects the design was very conventional.
Even in the Richelieu Class, the depth of the system was not constant from bow to stern, tending to taper and thin out toward the ends. This was also where it was least affordable: near the magazines. This factor also compromised the highly effective TDS fitted in the American fast battleships. The demands of high speed dictated that US fast battleships be very fine forward, thus restricting the depth available to the torpedo defense system abreast the forwardmost turret. This reduced the system’s effectiveness, with the result that the flash from a torpedo’s blast reached the forward magazine of USS North Carolina (BB-55). Flooding from the hit fortunately prevented a fire. The demands of high speed also dictated a complex stern structure that restricted and weakened the TDS in the South Dakota class aft... "
The only "flaw" I spotted in it is in the comment on the Nelrods speed. From all I have read they were suitably fast for the time they were built, although that made them slow by WW2 standards -
"... The five ships of the British KG V class: King George V, Prince of Wales, Duke of York, Anson, and Howe, were all laid down in 1937. They are often criticized as inferior to the contemporary German Bismarck class, but their critics fail to recognize that the Royal Navy ships were originally designed within the 35,000 ton treaty limit, while the German ships exceeded the limit by approximately 7,000 tons. The KG V's should properly be compared to the German Scharnhorst class, which were of approximately the same size. Or the French Richelieu or the American North Carolina class, also designed to treaty limits.
Such comparisons are interesting because they reveal something about the military and political thought of the period. The British government desperately wanted to limit main battery guns to 14 inches. So they insisted that their new class of battleships be designed to carry 14 inch guns. The United States was lukewarm to this idea, really preferred the 16 inch gun, but went along and initially designed the North Carolina class for 14 inch guns. The French wanted ships equal to their Italian rival's latest design, which required 15 inch guns and armor sufficient to protect against 15 inch shells. But they also wanted to stay within the 35,000 ton treaty limit (which the Italians ignored). The Richelieu was an unusual and compromised design, but she had the balance of gun and armor desired, and did it on 35,000 tons. She was authorized before the 14in gun limit came into effect.
Initially, the KG V design called for 12-14 inch guns in three quadruple turrets. Twelve guns was regarded as necessary to achieve the total broadside weight desired for the new ships, given the 14 inch bore restriction. Unfortunately, stability and protection considerations later required that the superfiring "B" turret be reduced to a twin mount. This gave the ships only 10 guns, and required the design of two new types of turrets rather than just one. Fortunately, the new twin mount could be based on the tried and true 15 inch twin mount, but the new quadruple mount was complex and took a very long time to sort out.
I think it would have been better to design one new triple mount that could be made to function, settling for 9-14 inch guns in mounts that worked rather than gamble on the ultra complex quadruple mount, and have to design a new twin mount to boot.
At any rate, these ships were criticized because of their main battery for the rest of their lives, and some of the criticisms were justified. In service, the 14 inch quadruple mount had a very poor record. At times during the action against Bismarck, only POW's 'B' position twin turret was able to fire at the enemy. And it is reported that KG V also suffered from turret breakdowns in her action against Bismarck. This has received much less attention that POW's problems, probably because the Royal Navy certainly did not want the word to get out that their new battleships had defective main battery turrets, and also because Rodney was there to take up the slack in the final fight against Bismarck. The other big fight involving one of the KG V class was DOY against Scharnhorst, and I have read mixed reviews. At least one source claimed that (at last) the quadruple turrets worked as designed, but others (including Conway's) suggest that trouble with the quadruple mounts still persisted. I do not know the truth of the matter. But Scharnhorst was sunk at the end of 1943, three years of continuous war duty since the introduction of the 14 inch quadruple mount. One would think that if it had not been made to work by then, it never would be. All in all, the service record of the British 14 inch quadruple mount is not inspiring.
The KG V class has also been (justifiably) criticized for being wet forward, and they were hampered by a very short range due to their small oil capacity. This limited their usefulness in the Pacific war, as they carried only a little over half of the fuel a similar size U.S. battleship carried. The KG V's tactical diameter was rather large at 930 yards.
The dual purpose 5.25 inch secondary mounts proved to be too slow firing in the heavy AA role, they only elevated to 70 degrees, and they were crowded. On the other hand, they were certainly better value for the weight than the single purpose secondary battery of the third generation German and Italian battleships.
The KG Vs also had their good points, a fact sometimes overlooked by their critics. Their armor was generally heavy and extensive, except on the secondary turrets and CT. The main belt was very deep, extending 13 feet below the waterline at mean draught. The main deck armor was 6in over the magazines, and 5in otherwise. The underwater protection scheme was designed to withstand a 1000lb TNT charge at its most favorable point. All of this made the KG Vs generally better protected than their contemporaries, with the possible exception of Richelieu.
Their internal layout was certainly better than Bismarck's and their radar fire control was superior to anything possessed by the Axis powers. Scharnhorst, for example, was completely surprised when DOY opened fire on her using radar control in thick fog off the North Cape of Norway in the middle of winter.
Also, the 14 inch gun itself was a potent weapon. It fired a 1,590 projectile at a MV of 2,483 fps to a range of 38,550 yards at 40 degrees elevation. It was claimed that the 14in AP shell penetrated any given thickness of armor at a greater range than the earlier British 15in shell. Simple arithmetic shows that a full broadside from KG V weighed 15,900lb, and a full broadside from Richelieu weighed 15,504lb. Bismarck's broadside weight was somewhat less than Richelieu's. Seen in this light it is apparent that the KG V's were not particularly under gunned compared to other contemporary European battleships..."
The belt was hit two times by major calibers, both penetrated. Okun refers to any armour except belt slope combo in this statement.
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