Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Warship design and construction, terminology, navigation, hydrodynamics, stability, armor schemes, damage control, etc.
Garyt
Senior Member
Posts: 273
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2014 9:31 pm

Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby Garyt » Thu Dec 11, 2014 4:08 am

One thing I've noticed when comparing combat ships of Axis vs. Allies, and in particular when comparing the "newer" designs of countries (meaning those commissioned within 5-10 years prior to the start of the war or during the war) -

We often have very little data on how the Allied ships performed as far as taking significant damage/sinking, while with the Axis powers we have a good amount of information on how much damage they take up to and including sinking.

The problem with this for me is that there are many examples of "Achilles Heels" or design defects, weak points, whatever you want to call it as to why these vessels sunk. The Yamato's weak joint, the Bismarck's turrets, the Littorio's anti torpedo defense system, etc. etc. It gets so ridiculous that for instance I have read on other sites that in the bombing of the Musahi, the US "figured out" her weakness, the bow. Whoever wrote that failed to realize that with many post WW1 battle ships, the "All or nothing" design was state of the art at that time if you would. And these are quoted authors, not posts from individuals.

Problem I see is that with many allied vessels, they were not battle tested for the most part. The Iowa class is one good example of this, as is the Nelson class. We do not see either of these taking extensive damage. For example, for the North Carolina/South Dakota/New Jersey Classes, 10 Battleships that saw WW2 action, we have a lone torpedo hit, then some shells taken off of Guadacanal, some 14 inch which were a mixture of AP, HE and incendiary.

For the Yamato Class, we have the vessels taking a torpedo hit a few times, and extensive damage and sinking of both vessels. Look at the Bismarck class - a torpedo hit, then intense shelling with 16 & 14 inch shells. The Tirpitz was a bit different, as it was never really attacked in a battle type situation and was immobile most of the time (Where do you hide a 50,000 ton Battleship? LOL).

My point being with all this though is that the Allied ships for the most part were not tested, so it was tough to see any design flaws. For obvious reasons, design flaws do not show up in design, but in actual action, upon taking damage. We had a torpedo cause more flooding in the Yamato in one attack then one would expect, and this is attributed to the "weak joint". But then again, the Vessel or it's sister take 12-20 torpedoes and many bombs to bring down, which does not at all imply a weak torpedo defense. This compares to the Prince of Wales being sunk by four torpedoes, and one that hit early in the attack may have proved capable of sinking the vessel on her own. What is interesting is from what I have read, the best torpedo defense is usually defined by the largest void.

It seems that rarely in WW2 did vessels armor and torpedo defense systems work as well as expected. But this was rarely noticed until the vessel actually took battle damage. So it would be interesting to see how Allied vessels would perform when subject to severe damage, though of course at this point is purely hypothetical.

alecsandros
Senior Member
Posts: 3986
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Bucharest, Romania
Contact:

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby alecsandros » Thu Dec 11, 2014 8:59 am

... Many would say that comparison of 2 different ships is almost impossible, judgind by year of design, quality of materials available, actual combat performance, etc, etc.

As for Allied ships taking severe damage - one could easily show USS South Dakota (suffering heavy topside damage from 26-27 shells at Guadalcanal, and over 100 casualties), USS Colorado, heavily damaged by 3x150mm shore guns during the Pacific campaign, North Carolina suffering 1xlong lance torpedo hit, and several battleships suffering heavy hits from kamikazes.

Lesser known are Rodney - taking 2 x 1000lbs bombs for 0 damage (1 off Norway , broke up in contact with the MAD, 1 off Malta - bounced off the side of a main turret and richocheted into the sea), Nelson, badly damaged by 1 mine, KGV and USS Washington, damaged during the destruction of HMS Punjabi.

There may be others that I do not know, or remember, of course.

User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 683
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby aurora » Thu Dec 11, 2014 10:08 am

The torpedo hit on ARK ROYAL was serious; but put the ship in no immediate danger of sinking The prompt application of counterflooding and standard damage control procedures would have saved the ship.

The Official Investigation also concluded that there were a variety of design factors contributing to the loss:

1The uninterrupted boiler room flat was a significant error that was immediately rectified in the Illustrious and Indefatigable class.
2The adoption of a double hangar had forced the use of cross-deck uptakes low in the ship adding to vulnerability.
3The reliance on steam generators was also an error and diesel generators were back-fitted to the subsequent armoured carriers.
4 The power train design itself was strongly criticized.
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim

User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 683
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby aurora » Thu Dec 11, 2014 1:58 pm

Prince of Wales'gun turret problems in the Battle of Denmark Strait

After the sinking of HMS Hood- serious gunnery malfunctions had caused intermittent problems with the POW;s main armament, leading to a 26% reduction in output. Captain Leach realised that continuing the action would risk losing Prince of Wales without inflicting further damage on the enemy. He therefore ordered the ship to make smoke and withdraw, 'pending a more favourable opportunity'.

Prince of Wales turned away just after 06:04, firing from her rear turret under local control until the turret suffered a jammed shell ring, cutting off the ammunition supply and making the guns inoperable. Despite efforts by crew members and civilian technicians to repair the shell ring, all four guns were not back in service until 08:25, although two of the four guns were serviceable by 07:20. This temporarily left only five 14 in (360 mm) guns operational, but nine of the ten were operational in five hours.The final salvos fired were ragged and are believed to have fallen short.

This ship had been pressed into serious action before she was really fit for such a purpose
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim

User avatar
Dave Saxton
Supporter
Posts: 2866
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Rocky Mountains USA

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby Dave Saxton » Thu Dec 11, 2014 3:21 pm

Garyt wrote:the Bismarck's turrets,.

The hits on Bismarck's turrets (and Scharnhorst's) came from battle ranges of less than 20km. It is not realistic to expect turrets to survive hits and such battle ranges in any case.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 683
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby aurora » Thu Dec 11, 2014 3:58 pm

Quote Garyt
"My point being with all this though is that the Allied ships for the most part were not tested, so it was tough to see any design flaws. For obvious reasons, design flaws do not show up in design, but in actual action, upon taking damage".

Taking what you have said above-it is going to be the Devil's own task mto iron out faults pre action UNLESS suitable tests can be set up prior to active service;and here I go back to the KGV Class and their 14" turreted guns. The British chose practicality over raw gun caliber with this class of battleships. Like her notable sister, Prince of Wales, King George V utilized lower-caliber 14″ guns, but did so in two turrets of four guns each, with an additional two-gun turret mounted just above and astern of the “A” turret. This meant she brought ten of these bad boys to the party. The philosophy behind this stated that 14″ shells could penetrate just about any naval armour, and the greater number of guns gave her a greater chance of landing hits. Plus, she has that always-impeccable British seamanship on her side. The Royal Navy doesn’t do anything halfway, including damage control.

The 14″, quad-gun arrangement proved less-than-sterling in practice. It made for cramped gun turrets, as well as technical issues. King George V suffered gun malfunctions in "training exercises" and in combat–ironically, both she and Prince of Wales had main battery problems during showdowns with the Bismarck.Those 14″ guns, being a smaller caliber, also have less effective range than those this ship’s adversaries are bringing to bear. Finally, she has the lowest overall tonnage, at just over 42,000 tons, and she’s a bit slower than the other vessels, so she’ll have a harder time getting her guns in range. This sets up a nasty scenario for her: she’ll have to advance, under the full weight of an enemy vessel’s broadside, having her “T capped” the whole time, until she’s finally in more or less effective range.

NB The training exercises alluded above to should have rung some bells but expediency .as usual called the shots-the warning went unheeded.
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim

alecsandros
Senior Member
Posts: 3986
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Bucharest, Romania
Contact:

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby alecsandros » Thu Dec 11, 2014 8:00 pm

aurora wrote:Prince of Wales'gun turret problems in the Battle of Denmark Strait

After the sinking of HMS Hood- serious gunnery malfunctions had caused intermittent problems with the POW;s main armament, leading to a 26% reduction in output. Captain Leach realised that continuing the action would risk losing Prince of Wales without inflicting further damage on the enemy. He therefore ordered the ship to make smoke and withdraw, 'pending a more favourable opportunity'.

Prince of Wales turned away just after 06:04, firing from her rear turret under local control until the turret suffered a jammed shell ring, cutting off the ammunition supply and making the guns inoperable. Despite efforts by crew members and civilian technicians to repair the shell ring, all four guns were not back in service until 08:25, although two of the four guns were serviceable by 07:20. This temporarily left only five 14 in (360 mm) guns operational, but nine of the ten were operational in five hours.The final salvos fired were ragged and are believed to have fallen short.

This ship had been pressed into serious action before she was really fit for such a purpose


... As a continuation of your post,
we must also see that Prince of Wales engaged the Bismarck again , 12 hours later, firing about 40 shots with no faults from her 9 operational guns.

KGV on the other hand experienced severe turret issues during the 27th of May battle, ultimately firing less 14" shells than HMS Rodney, despite having one extra gun (10 vs 9).

User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 683
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby aurora » Thu Dec 11, 2014 8:17 pm

Quote alecsandros
"... As a continuation of your post,
we must also see that Prince of Wales engaged the Bismarck again , 12 hours later, firing about 40 shots with no faults from her 9 operational guns.

KGV on the other hand experienced severe turret issues during the 27th of May battle, ultimately firing less 14" shells than HMS Rodney, despite having one extra gun (10 vs 9)".

I can well believe it to be so; but both battleships did have problems with their main armament in 1941; but they were intermittant-particularly where the POW had to break off action because she was unable to fight back in the Denmark Strait. KGV also had, as you say, "severe issues" with her main armament, also at a crucial time, when engaging Bismarck to sink her-just as well old Rodney was there to make up the bombardment.
NB KGV's main armament problems are mentioned in my previous post
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim

Garyt
Senior Member
Posts: 273
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2014 9:31 pm

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby Garyt » Fri Dec 12, 2014 12:55 am

As for Allied ships taking severe damage - one could easily show USS South Dakota (suffering heavy topside damage from 26-27 shells at Guadalcanal, and over 100 casualties), USS Colorado, heavily damaged by 3x150mm shore guns during the Pacific campaign, North Carolina suffering 1xlong lance torpedo hit, and several battleships suffering heavy hits from kamikazes.


Problem here for the South Dakota - I'll reference War report #57 from the US Navy:

In spite of numerous hits, SOUTH DAKOTA received only superficial damage. Neither the strength, buoyancy nor stability were measurably impaired.


Also,

It is estimated that one hit was 5-inch, six were 6-inch, eighteen were 8-inch and one was 14-inch.


There was only 1 shell that hit that should have a reasonable chance of causing any type of significant damage to a battleship of the South Dakota Class. Most of the hits should not have penetrated the armor, therefore the minor damage as listed above was sustained. Hit's to the superstructure are generally not going to be serious.

A Truer test for the South Dakota would be to see how it performed when hit by 16" Shells. Same thing for many pf the other vessels - North Carolina is hit by 1 torpedo. What would 4 or so torpedoes do in rapid succession, or 12 or more torpedoes in volleys of 3-4 every hour?

That's my point about damage, we have one torpedo here, a couple bombs on a different vessel.

And really, small naval cannon and most bombs pose little threat for a true battleship.

As a side note, it's interesting that some think the naval battles around Guadacanal show that US Battleships were superior to Japanese ones. In actuality, what it shows is that in World War 2, a Battleship (actually even with armor upgrades the Kongo class were really more in the battlecruiser class) comissioned prior to WW1 was not a good match for a recently comissioned battleship, and it also proves that 14" Guns are not a match for 16" guns.

alecsandros
Senior Member
Posts: 3986
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Bucharest, Romania
Contact:

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby alecsandros » Fri Dec 12, 2014 5:20 am

@Garyt
true,
still South Dakota suffered alot of dead and wounded and spent 3 months in the repair yard.

The Japanese battleship Hiei was also badly damaged topside by a combinafion of 5 and 8" hits, leaving her burning and with heavy casualties. She was later crippled by 1 or 2 x 8" shells that flooded part of her machinery.

If it weren't for Washington, we would be rwading abou many many more 14" shots into South Dakota...

Garyt
Senior Member
Posts: 273
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2014 9:31 pm

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby Garyt » Fri Dec 12, 2014 5:33 am

The Japanese battleship Hiei was also badly damaged topside by a combinafion of 5 and 8" hits, leaving her burning and with heavy casualties. She was later crippled by 1 or 2 x 8" shells that flooded part of her machinery.


She was indeed rather vulnerable to 8" shells piercing her armor, which is why I think of her more as a battle cruiser.

Just real quick, The Hiei had 9" turrets, 10" barbettes, and an 8-11" belt.

South Dakota had 18" turret faces, 11-17" Barbettes, and a 12.2" Belt. Plus the south Dakota has better quality armor, multiply the Hiei's armor by about .95 to get a comparative number.

These ships were nowhere close in armor. The Hiei could indeed take serious damage in her armored areas from 8" shells - Can't say the same for the South Dakota.

alecsandros
Senior Member
Posts: 3986
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Bucharest, Romania
Contact:

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby alecsandros » Fri Dec 12, 2014 7:32 pm

Garyt wrote:
The Japanese battleship Hiei was also badly damaged topside by a combinafion of 5 and 8" hits, leaving her burning and with heavy casualties. She was later crippled by 1 or 2 x 8" shells that flooded part of her machinery.


She was indeed rather vulnerable to 8" shells piercing her armor, which is why I think of her more as a battle cruiser.

Just real quick, The Hiei had 9" turrets, 10" barbettes, and an 8-11" belt.

South Dakota had 18" turret faces, 11-17" Barbettes, and a 12.2" Belt. Plus the south Dakota has better quality armor, multiply the Hiei's armor by about .95 to get a comparative number.

These ships were nowhere close in armor. The Hiei could indeed take serious damage in her armored areas from 8" shells - Can't say the same for the South Dakota.


I agree,
still both took heavy topside damage and suffered numerous casualties - because most of the topside volume was not armored at all, or had only splinter protection.

South Dakota was left blind in the dark, and without functional equipment or armament, and if it weren't for Washington...
she would have suffered the same fate as Hiei...

So my impression is battleships could be crippled by light and medium fire - only that it took a large amount of gunfire from close range to do that.

Mostlyharmless
Member
Posts: 146
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2009 10:45 pm

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby Mostlyharmless » Fri Dec 12, 2014 8:00 pm

This is an interesting topic and I agree that the failures of ship designers are only revealed when things go wrong or at least when someone with no commitment to the design process examines the design. For example, the RN criticized USN turrets as not being flash tight by their standards after examining USS Washington but we had to wait for the accident on USS Iowa for a test. The accident revealed that the barriers separating individual guns failed but at least the explosion did not pass towards the magazines.

Sometimes “weak points” depend on how the ship is going to be used. For example, the forward bulkhead of South Dakota or Iowa was 10 inches thick whilst King George had 12 “inch” armour (480 lb.) forward and 10 inch aft. If South Dakota had steered towards Bismarck as King George V did during Bismarck's final battle, a lucky hit could have penetrated the magazine. However, the USN intended to fight at long range rather than rushing to close the range.

Aircraft carriers seem to offer a variety of lessons. Ark Royal sank after one torpedo hit because all electrical power was lost (less than a month later, shock from a single torpedo disabled much of Prince of Wales electrical generation) and poor damage control failed to restore power. However, note that Ark Royal did not sink in flames. Lexington, Wasp and later Shokaku, Taiho and Hiyo would suffer ruptured aviation fuel tanks after torpedo hits. Hiryu was lost because the heat of the fires in her hangars forced the evacuation of her engine rooms and one might imagine that Shokaku or an Essex would have survived with an extra deck in between. However, in 1945 Franklin suffered the same loss of power because the air intakes to the machinery spaces took in smoke from her burning hangar and again forced the crew out.

There is a natural bias that the “weak points” are better remembered than the strong points. For example, the Littorio Class had very strong armour over the armament and magazines and much weaker elsewhere. The 200 mm thick turret roof was hit by bombs dropped by a B-24 on Littorio and by a Lancaster on Roma and nothing much happened, so that strength is forgotten although only the Yamato Class had thicker armour at that point (230 mm). I am guessing but I suspect that Littorio would have survived the hit that wrecked Gneisenau with minor damage.

Everyone remembers that Littorio just about sank after being hit by three torpedoes at Taranto. However, one cannot conclude that the Pugliese side protection system failed because the torpedoes were magnetically fused and set to run beneath the anti-torpedo netting. The hit in the citadel flooded most of the double bottom and the forward magazines from below.

So given that explosions below the keel have a terrible reputation, would any other ship have performed better? Well at least one of the two ton charges of amatol used in Operation Source exploded close to Tirpitz (probably not exactly beneath the ship), so it looks as if the often criticised designers of the Bismarck class deserve a little praise.

Battleship rudders are a fascinating topic. We know that Bismarck, Prince of Wales, Richelieu and Yamato were vulnerable to single torpedo hits as were the aircraft carriers Akagi and Intrepid. We also know that the Littorio Class could retain the ability to steer after any single hit as they had three rudders with 25 metres between the main and auxiliary rudders and the two auxiliary rudders were designed to be capable of steering the ship even if the main rudder was jammed. The issue to debate is whether the American battleships with 24 ft between their two rudders could have been disabled by a single torpedo.

User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 683
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby aurora » Fri Dec 12, 2014 8:02 pm

Was HIEI mortally wounded after BOTH gunfire and air attacks were completed, and was the Japanese scuttling action redundant? This has the potential to cause debate similar to that engendered about the BISMARCK's scuttling.Nonetheless, given the subsequent behaviour following underwater damage of sister battleship KIRISHIMA it appears quite likely that the scuttling WAS redundant.

Indeed, there is some question of whether it took place before Yamamoto's countermand. In any case with as many as three or more torpedo hits HIEI was already listing increasingly and progressive flooding spreading. KIRISHIMA ultimately would founder without scuttling.

One final mystery defies solution. Where did HIEI sink? The Ballard underwater search failed to locate the battleship's wreck. The capsized hull of the Kongo-class battleship found was in truth but never definitively identified. A magazine explosion had demolished the forepart, but no marked other damage was discerned. Except one. The extreme fantail of the wreck was severed and broken. Could this be a result of HIEI's stern torpedo damage? Is this, the HIEI, and not the KIRISHIMA as usually assumed?

KIRISHIMA's Action Report states that she capsized and sank in a position bearing 265 degrees, 11 miles from Savo Island's summit. Ugaki's diary entry the day prior gives the same reference point, but states the bearing as 285 degrees, 8 miles.(09-05'S, 159-42'E). Thus, the only clear indication is that the KIRISHIMA sank at a point something like due west 8-11 miles from the summit of Savo Island. For HIEI, S.E. Morison gives a position 5 miles NNW of Savo Island.

The last precisely reported position of the HIEI was "drifting in an area bearing 347 degrees, distance 4.6 miles from Savo Island". Since this was at 1305 hours, is it possible that drift might have brought her close to the 1992 wreck site? Perhaps, perhaps not. Unfortunately, this is a question only further search can answer.

However, given that the August 1992 battleship wreck was reportedly only a mile from the supposed sinking site, and some reports mention an undersea detonation after she sank, odds are that it is indeed the KIRISHIMA.
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim

Garyt
Senior Member
Posts: 273
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2014 9:31 pm

Re: Comparisons of Axis vs Allied Combat Vessels

Postby Garyt » Fri Dec 12, 2014 11:18 pm

Mostlyharmless - Excellent points in expounding upon the topic.

I think that much of the real issue I'm speaking about here may be sample base.

For instance, the North Carolina and Yamato each get struck by one torpedo. The Yamato takes on about 3000 tons of water, the North Carolina 1000 tons. JUst from this it would seem the torpedo protection on the North Carolina is better. But it is merely one torpedo. Depending upon where the hit was, the damage can by highly variable, as could the amount of flooding. As the Yamato and her sister the Musahi took 12-20 torpedoes prior to sinking (notice I did not say "in order to sink them") in addition to a lot of bomb damage it is hard to fault the overall effects of these vessels torpedo protection systems. I think part of the issue stems from the Yamato's lower belt extending deeper than on most battleships. I might add though that the Iowa and South Dakota classes had a deeper belt as well, and the rigidity of a deeper belt is often thought to be a negative factor on the Yamato class for torpedo protection. It is thought that a less rigid armor scheme protects better against the concussive force of a torpedo hit. So why is the Yamato class maligned for it's extension of it's lower belt, while the other american BB's are not? My guess is that with enough torpedo hits, you would see some breakdown caused by problems with the lower armor belt of the America Battleships. As we have on record only a single torpedo hit on an american battleship, we can never see this theory tested.

But the real point is we cannot look at the effects of one torpedo striking each vessel and determine the effectiveness of the torpedo defense systems. For if we extrapolate the amount of water taken in vs. ship displacement of these two vessels, one could argue that it would take 20-33 torpedoes to sink the North Carolina, and I do not feel that is at all accurate.

The Prince of Wales could possible been sunk by the first torpedo that hit her. If this would have indeed happened, should we surmise that this class of battleship could be sunk by one torpedo? Or should we assume there was a lucky hit?

I'd think the KG5 class was not the best protected vs. torpedoes, not because of the hit sustained but largely because the narrowness of the voids, 13 feet vs 17.5' for the American classes, or 23.5' for the Yamato or Vittorio Veneto.


Return to “Naval Technology”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 1 guest