Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

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Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by alecsandros » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:08 pm

Hello my friends,

I have been reading some new info lately, and reviewing some old posts/articles/books.

The information amassed shows that the German battleships were the most powerfull units of this kind built in Europe.
This is not to say they were perfect or at least "very, very good" (on an absolute comparison). It's just that their counterparts were so defficient, on so many aspects, that by elimination, they remain the only battleships worthy of praise.

The comparison which I've been working on for several months now is way to large to post here, but I'll provide some elements:

1) Problems with the Littorio's. a) short armored citadel, meaning, among others, a very short torpedo system. The pugliese wasn't so bad, but leaving 50% of a 230m ship exposed to even the worst torpedoes was (this was proved many times in the Med).
b) unreliable radar and integrated RDFC, as explained by Bagnasco. The Italians designed automated training and elevation systems for the main turrets/guns, but they frequently broke down, and the crews were left with the old-and-tested FTP method.
c) unreliable 15" shells, coming from weight variations (up to 1% between shells) and un-sensitive fuzes, which were only triggered by thick (> 100mm)armor
d) low silhouette, low GM, leading to flooding during storms, making battle almost impossible.
e) Possible poor quality homogenous armor (I need some more time with this)

2) Problems with the Richelieu
[...]
Mostly known by the members of the forum[...]

3) Problems with KGV class

[...]
Mostly known by the members of the forum[...]
Except:
a) poor quality of 14" shells, steming from insufficient cap hardness, and very poor deck peentration, as obtained in real testing.
b) perforation limit variations of up to 8.5% between plates of heavy armor, reducing effectiveness.

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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by RF » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:23 pm

The thing with this type of discussion is that we keep coming back to the phrase ''powerful.''

It seems to have two interpretations: are we talking about hitting power, ie weight of salvo? Or the most effective battleship interms of the combination of firepower, speed and protection?

In terms of hitting power alone, it wasn't the heaviest hitter even in Europe. Rodney for example had more guns and bigger calibre.

But in terms of the combination of firepower, speed plus armour, then I think Bismarck was certainly among the best in Europe.
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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:06 pm

In my opinion "Weight of Broadside" is meaningless in 20th century naval warefare. It may have been meaningful in Lord Nelson's time but by WWII weight of shells and number fired per salvo could hardly be a reliable measure of firepower. Penetration power regardless of the weight is much more important. Also scoring hits was not dependant on a large number of shots in the salvo. There are so many variables with firecontrol, dispersion, and danger space, among several issues. Additionally, a higher average rate or potential rate of fire can deliver more shots that have decent probability of hitting after a period of time, than a large number of shots per salvo and a slower rate of fire.
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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by alecsandros » Tue Aug 03, 2010 3:13 pm

RF wrote:The thing with this type of discussion is that we keep coming back to the phrase ''powerful.''
Well I'm thinking of an overall word for:
- destructive potential agaisnt light/medium units (CAs, CLs, DDs)
- destructive potential against battleships
- survivability (armor thicknes, distribution, flood barriers, AA type, control, distribution, etc)

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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by yellowtail3 » Tue Aug 03, 2010 11:18 pm

alecsandros wrote:The information amassed shows that the German battleships were the most powerfull units of this kind built in Europe.
Well, they oughta be the most powerful - they were the biggest, weren't they?

1) Problems with the Littorio's.[/quote]
They were good-looking ships.

2) Problems with the Richelieu
[...]
Mostly known by the members of the forum[...]

I don't know all of them. My thinking is that, completed & properly worked up - say, no German invasion until 1941 or so? - they'd have been a pretty good match for the German ships, despite spotting them five or six thousand tons.
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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by alecsandros » Wed Aug 04, 2010 6:48 am

yellowtail3 wrote:They were good-looking ships.
Oh, yes! In fact, there's something special with Italian manufacturing - they usualy create beautifull cars/ships/planes/etc :D
2) Problems with the Richelieu[...]

I don't know all of them. My thinking is that, completed & properly worked up - say, no German invasion until 1941 or so? - they'd have been a pretty good match for the German ships, despite spotting them five or six thousand tons.
I don't know all of them either :) (and neither do I know all their virtues. However, in practical battle terms, I think I have a sketchy picture)

But the handfull of info I have so far makes be believe it would have been difficult for them to stand-up against contemporary designs.

I'm thinking of:
- high impurities in the French homogenous armor, leading to somewhat poorer resistance to perforation
- highly complex and excessively concentrated main battery, leading to low rate of fire, and extreme vulnerability against battleship fire (1 shell can knock-out 50% of the main battery)
- short citadel (51% of the waterline, IIRC) leaving ~ 120 meters of ship un-protected against torpedoes and shells.
- problems with the machinery, making the designed ~ 180.000shp not-attainable after corrections and revisions in the US (140.000 shp was the new maximum)
- finaly, problems with shells and charges, leading to huge dispersion and chances of in-gun explosions. AFter the refit in the US, the shells and charges were replaced with other designs. The new muzzle velocity, in 1944, was 800mps, down from 830mps. Perforation thus decreased (though I don't know how much)
I agree it is possible that, without German invasion, the French may have solved many of the class's problems. Indeed, they may have solved shell/charge/rate of fire problems. And that would have been a good thing. But we should bear in mind that the Italians did not correct their problems throughout the war. And the Littorio's remained handicaped by poor shells for years on end. So, who knows ..?

As a closing thought, they were beautifull ships, and looked impressive on paper, but I don't know if the Richelieu's were apt for battleship fighting...

Cheers,
Alex

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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Wed Aug 04, 2010 3:03 pm

alecsandros:
I don't know all of them either :) (and neither do I know all their virtues. However, in practical battle terms, I think I have a sketchy picture)
This precise issue has been addressed several times in this very forum. There are textual quotes from Friedman and Raven on this regarding the problems on the french design. However it would be good to take a look on the book of Dumas (which I don´t have and are about to order soon). Other posters have divergent opinions but everything tends to show that there were issues in these ship´s designs.

However they are jealously defended by those that consider their design as parallel or similar to those Treaty Battleships from the late 30ies and early 40ies. Also because they have been overrated at the combinedfleet site due to the application of formulas that tend to be falacious if not considered jointly with the expert comments of Friedman or Raven or G&D here. However I will not say this is definitive since I need to read the Dumas book that could bear evidence that put me wrong, which if is the case then I will change my opinion.

Anyway, with Dumas or without it I regard that, if Bismarck and Tirpitz were clearly superior to the USN Treaty battleships it will be next to impossible for the french vessels to be superior to thosse German ships.

Regards,
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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by yellowtail3 » Thu Aug 05, 2010 2:56 am

alecsandros wrote:- problems with the machinery, making the designed ~ 180.000shp not-attainable after corrections and revisions in the US (140.000 shp was the new maximum)
- finaly, problems with shells and charges, leading to huge dispersion and chances of in-gun explosions. AFter the refit in the US, the shells and charges were replaced with other designs. The new muzzle velocity, in 1944, was 800mps, down from 830mps. Perforation thus decreased (though I don't know how much)
I agree it is possible that, without German invasion, the French may have solved many of the class's problems. Indeed, they may have solved shell/charge/rate of fire problems. And that would have been a good thing. But we should bear in mind that the Italians did not correct their problems throughout the war. And the Littorio's remained handicaped by poor shells for years on end. So, who knows ..?
that the kind of thing I'm thinking of... the sort of things that would get sorted out after trials and some time in service (with enough urgency/money)
Karl Heidenreich wrote:However they [Richelius] are jealously defended by those that consider their design as parallel or similar to those Treaty Battleships from the late 30ies and early 40ies.
I think what Karl means to say is, those who don't agree with his conclusions re: merits of Bismarck vs. Everyone Else
Also because they have been overrated at the combinedfleet site due to the application of formulas that tend to be falacious if not considered jointly with the expert comments of Friedman or Raven or G&D here.
Interesting... I thought that combinedfleet site was excellent, covering as it does one of my favorite subjects (IJN)
Anyway, with Dumas or without it I regard that, if Bismarck and Tirpitz were clearly superior to the USN Treaty battleships ...
USN battelships, Clearly superior to Bismarck/Tirpitz? Eh... in some areas yes, in some no. They definitely had better guns, from 40mm on up through the 16" guns (both varieties)
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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by Thorsten Wahl » Thu Aug 05, 2010 6:56 am

See at bismarck-class-forum.dk
actual discussion about the same facts
http://bismarck-class-forum.dk/thread.php?threadid=4873
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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by RF » Thu Aug 05, 2010 8:17 am

But still no definate conclusion from any of the four.

I'll stick to my view that Bismarck was probably the best combination of speed, armour and hitting power of the four, these three elements ranked in order.

A hybrid version of VV using the German 15 inch guns might have been interesting - had such a vessewl been built.
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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by alecsandros » Thu Aug 05, 2010 8:48 am

RF wrote:But still no definate conclusion from any of the four.
Definitive conclusions can not and will not be expressed publicly, and least of all in specialised books, because there are to many political implications.
However, my reading so far has lead to the above statements. I think Ernesto Sabato once wrote "the truth exists already, but it's scattered in 1000 places. We need to put them together"

I am curious if there are other points of view.

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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by RF » Thu Aug 05, 2010 1:00 pm

And books are commercial ventures too, as well as the more obvious political angles.

But having no political axe to grind and no commercial interest in the matter I think I can safely opine my conclusion on the subject - for what that opinion is worth.
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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Thu Aug 05, 2010 11:33 pm

Thorsten;
See at bismarck-class-forum.dk
actual discussion about the same facts
http://bismarck-class-forum.dk/thread.php?threadid=4873
The posts are real interesting in that discussion, real interesting.

Regards,

Karl
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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Aug 06, 2010 7:45 pm

yellowtail3 wrote: USN battelships, Clearly superior to Bismarck/Tirpitz? Eh... in some areas yes, in some no. They definitely had better guns, from 40mm on up through the 16" guns (both varieties)
I'm curious as to why you think they were all better? Did they have better firecontrol and lesser dispersion? Did they have higher rates of fire or greater range? Did they have more favorable danger space? Did they have significantly greater striking velocities or more favorable striking angles? I suspect the idea that the 5"/38 was a better anti-destroyer weapon than a 6" gun would be a tough sell. The 5"/38 may have been a better AA gun than the 4.1" but maybe not? The 40mm Bofers was probably much better than the 37mm but the RMB 20mm, pariculary the Vierling, was at least as effective.
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Re: Bismarck/Tirpitz = most powerfull European battleships

Post by yellowtail3 » Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:12 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:
yellowtail3 wrote: USN battelships, Clearly superior to Bismarck/Tirpitz? Eh... in some areas yes, in some no. They definitely had better guns, from 40mm on up through the 16" guns (both varieties)
I'm curious as to why you think they were all better? Did they have better firecontrol and lesser dispersion? Did they have higher rates of fire or greater range? Did they have more favorable danger space? Did they have significantly greater striking velocities or more favorable striking angles? I suspect the idea that the 5"/38 was a better anti-destroyer weapon than a 6" gun would be a tough sell. The 5"/38 may have been a better AA gun than the 4.1" but maybe not? The 40mm Bofers was probably much better than the 37mm but the RMB 20mm, pariculary the Vierling, was at least as effective.
Fair question. On the 16" guns... I'd say better that 15" because bigger, and more (one more) of them. I figure having a shell almost 1,000 pounds heavier than your opponent's is a plus. What do you think on that subj?

on the 5"/38 - we all know it's a dual-purpose mount - I think it a better weapon than 4.1 because of much heavier shell, somewhat higher rate of fire, and enclosed/armored turret. As for being a better anti-surface weapon... I'm thinking rate of fire, and total volume from 10 barrels to a side. I, too, like a 6" gun. I think the 6"/47cal was a great system, for rate of fire/weight of shell. (not part of this discussion, or course, and none of these ships carried it).

On 40mm... vastly better than 37mm, a whole class above.

On 20mm... I didn't include it in my statement :)
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