There were at least two radar simulations of the North Cape battle, one conducted by the Bundesmarine and another one by the norwegians in the 90´s.
The following exzerpt comes from member wavelength
of another board, who I am indepted for his views on the action with regard to radar usage:
Hi my first post here,
Having amassed a bit of knowledge about WWII radar and WWII warships perhaps I can be of some help here?
The Scharnhorst didn’t do much in the way of shooting back in the first battle at about 0900 because it had been caught by surprise and was just trying to get clear. It was caught by surprise because its radars had not been switched on. Previously it had detected the British radars with its radar detectors. This was why the Scharnhorst had turned around and altered its course to the southwest. The fact that the British passed by at only 12,000 yards unnoticed, proves that its active radar had not been switched on. During this engagement its forward radar set was destroyed by a direct hit.
In the second engagement at about 12:30 the Scharnhorst had the advantage of an artic twilight compensating to a degree its lost forward radar. This time the Scharnhorst was not hit, but scored hits on the British cruiser Norfolk. Norfolk’s X turret was knocked out and an engine room damaged, as well as several radars on Norfolk knocked out. The SH would have used HE or semi armour peircing ammo vs a cruiser, because AP ammo may pass completely through without exploding.
The third engagement came to pass when the DoY detected the SH with Type 273Q search radar at about 16:17 hours from a range of about 42km. The Scharnhorst could not locate the DoY without active radar that could scan the forward sectors, although it had previously picked up the DoY’s radar signals with its radar detection gear. SH was once again caught by surprise after Fraser had allowed SH to close to 11km battle range. Fraser ordered SH illuminated with star shell and DoY opened fire. Over the next approx. 90 minutes the SH slowly opened the range out to 19.5km. During this 90 minutes the DoY managed about 4 direct hits with its main battery. As the range increased, the DoY was forced to rely more and more on its 50cm Type 284M gunlaying radar. However it became increasingly more difficult to spot the fall of shot for line as the range increased. At one point the DoY gunners broke over the radio requesting any other British ship to help spot the fall of shot. Finally with the range at about 19.5km it was forced to cease fire because it could not spot the fall of shot. The SH ceased fire soon afterward.
The SH forward turret was hit early on and the forward magazine was flooded as a precaution. This meant that B turret was also unusable for a considerable period of time. The SH could only reply with the 3 guns from the aft turret until B turret came back on line. After B turret was useable again the SH adopted the tactic of suddenly turning to the south and firing a six gun broadside and then turning back onto it’s escape path to the east at intervals. The SH only fired a fraction of the salvoes that DoY did overall.
The SH was equipped with special night optics, separate from the regular optics, and it fired star shell to illuminate its targets early during the engagement, along with radar ranging from the aft radar set. The SH seems to have followed the standard German shooting drill. This was to fire a first salvo disregarding exact range, just to warm up the guns and check the bearing track. Cold guns were not expected to range accurately. Then to fire two quick salvoes just short andjust long to confirm the firing solution for range. The Scharnhorst’s 3rd salvo reportedly was a very close near miss right off DoY’s bow. As the range increased beyond the effective range of the night optics, the SH was forced to rely on its aft radar set and it ceased to fire star shell. This was when the SH shooting became uncomfortably accurate. From approx. 17km battle range to 19.5km battle range, the SH consistently straddled the DoY. This was very impressive radar directed shooting considering the conditions. Indeed a case could be made that it was better than DoY’s radar directed shooting.
The German radars could be used to direct fire blind after about 1941-mid 1942. In a 1944 Naval Conference there is some concern about the increasing dependence on radar alone directed fire. Radar direction is so much easier to use and master. The concern was, that the proficiency with more traditional methods may become inadequate should the radar become disabled or non functional-as was the case with the Scharnhorst’s forward radar at North Cape.
The basic centralized firecontrol equipment such as the gyros, computers, remote power control…ect.. for most everybody during WWII were fully developed prior to the war itself. The German central firecontrol system (C/3 as used by their cruisers and battleships was very similar in design and capabilities to that used by the USN, such as in the new construction fast battleships. There could be no comparative fall off or improvement based on basic systemic technical capabilities, but there may be based on human skill in operating the firecontrol systems.
What needs to be clearly understood, and forgive me please if this is overly elementary, is that in naval gunnery one shoots to straddle the target. Once one is straddling the target, one is actually shooting as accurately as one can. Hitting the target during a straddle becomes a matter of probability and ballistics. There is a saying among naval gunners: “Good shooting gets you straddles, but only God gives you hits.” This can be illustrated by the experience of the American battleships Washington and South Dakota at Guadalcanal. Radar can help you determine the exact range& bearing of the target, possibly helping one to straddle sooner and more often, but other than perhaps allowing minor corrections to the mean point of impact, it does not improve the probability of hits from a straddle.
The American battleships unloaded at least 14 radar directed broadsides against a Japanese light cruiser and two destroyers at ranges between 11,000 and 18,000 yards. They scored no hits. Later the Washington scored several hits on the Japanese battle cruiser Kirishima at a range of 8,400 yards. This also illustrates the problem of comparing accuracy of different events. The range, and the target size, as well its orientation, has much to do with hit probabilities from straddles. Luck is always a factor of course.
Comparing Allied to German accuracy improvements, or fall offs, late war to early war, becomes a bit difficult, because the German Surface Navy was mostly confined to harbor by Hitler’s no risks policy after the sinking of the Bismarck. There are only really two major battles after Bismarck to examine, so late war comparisons can be difficult to make.
About 45 days after the American battleships went into action near Savo Island the Germans and the British were involved in a surface battle in the Barents Sea. Although the outcome was bad for the Germans, because of Hitler’s reaction to it, their actual shooting performance demonstrated a significant improvement in accuracy, rather than a fall off, despite the German crews being rusty. This had to be because of upgrades in their firecontrol radar capabilities allowing them to straddle more quickly and more often.
British Adm. Tovey wrote in his post action report that the extremely cold weather rendered optical equipment useless, forcing a reliance on RDF for firecontrol and ranging. These climatic and weather conditions effected both sides. The visibility was at most 7 miles, and there was fog, snow storms, and the artic darkness to contend with too. The British were laying smoke screens as well. Despite the conditions, the German cruiser Hipper scored a first salvo straddle and hit against the destroyer Achates from 14,000 meters, followed by 4 -8-inch hits out of 36 rounds expended against the destroyer Onslow. Later on, the Hipper re-engaged the Achates at a range exceeding 18,000 meters and scored a first salvo straddle and multiple hits once again. The Achates would sink. This was unprecedented and astonishing, long range (for a cruiser), shooting against relatively small destroyers.
After Barents Sea, the Germans put increased emphasis on radar directed shooting. The Scharnhorst had the latest model radar installed at its foretop position in Oct 1943. Its new captain put the SH through a series of radar directed shooting exercises and accuracy tests during Nov 1943- within the confines of the Alta Fiord complex. However, this radar set was the one destroyed in the first skirmish.
Despite loosing its best radar, the Scharnhorst consistently straddled the Duke of York at ranges from 17,000 meters to 19,500 meters. This would have been impossible without effective radar control from the remaining set. Remember if you’re straddling, you’re already shooting as accurately as you can. The Duke of York scored only about 4 hits over a period of about 90 minutes at ranges from 11,000 meters to 19,500 meters and many more rounds expended. This doesn’t indicate a comparative accuracy disparity.
Radar does make possible quicker and more consistent straddling at longer ranges. The range accuracy of even the best optical range finders is typically 1% of the range. Radar is much more accurate. The American 40cm Mk3’s accuracy was 0.1% of the range give or take 40 yards. The British 50cm Type 284M’s range accuracy was 240 yards, or by using a corrective template to account for distortion toward the perimeter of the CRT; 120 yards.
Another advantage of radar over optics is the ability to better determine errors in the MPI of the salvo patterns. This boiled down to the ability to discriminate between the target and the shell splashes. The range resolution of the Mk3 was 400 yards, so echoes of the target and splashes could not be readily determined if they were within 400 yards of each other . The Type 284M was markedly better than the Mk3 with a range resolution of 150 meters. It could be better determined if the MPI wasn’t squarely on the target, and correction could be made, improving the chances. Late war equipment with shorter pulse durations was better yet. Post war advances would have made possible fine corrections in MPI errors easier.
The German Seetakt radar was actually well suited to firecontrol because of its unique methods of measuring and displaying range data. In practice the operator held the pip on the null mark on the CRT and the correct range was continuously displayed, updated, and transmitted directly to the central firecontrol. The operator could zoom in on and closely examine any portion of the time base for observation purposes.