Is Admiral Phillips finest hour about to begin

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Fatboy Coxy
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Is Admiral Phillips finest hour about to begin

Post by Fatboy Coxy » Tue Aug 07, 2018 5:12 pm

We all know what happened to Force Z (HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse) on 10th Dec 1941, but things could have gone very differently. Up until late evening of the 9th December, the weather in the South China Seas had been poor, with low cloud cover and frequent rainstorms, part of the monsoon season for that region.

What if….

At 14.15 on the 9th December the most easterly IJN submarine, I-65, of a screen sighted Force Z on course 340, speed 14 knots, and the Japanese acted accordingly. The IJN 7th Cruiser Squadron, of four 8-inch heavy cruisers, screening the Japanese invasion convoys, are put on a course likely to intercept, and are joined by the Light cruiser Sendai and the four destroyers of DesDiv 19. They are ordered to make contact and conduct a night torpedo attack. Admiral Kondo with the battleships Kongo and Haruna, heavy cruisers Atago and Takao, and destroyer screen, will hope to join them the next morning.

The other IJN ships are tasked with escorting the now empty transport ship back to Cam Rah Bay, hugging the Indo-China coast. The 22nd JIN Air Flotilla had already been out in force, and had returned back to base, exhausted, with a couple of losses due to flighting in such bad weather. They will not be able to be ready for another sortie until 4am

HMS Prince of Wales has a fully working radar, and Tenedos is retained as part of the destroyer screen. A RAAF Hudson sights the IJN cruiser sqn and is able to give a reasonable fix on location, speed, direction and force makeup.

However, the weather remains bad, rough seas making submarine sightings less likely, and the rainstorms hampering air observation, both sides are roughly aware each other but are groping in the dark, so to speak. Both sides are at a high level of alert.

At around 9pm, 9th December, the radar on POW picks up the IJN Cruiser force at 15 miles, just over 26,000 yards, both sides sailing west, on a slightly converging course. Mikuma is slightly ahead of POW

British sailing order is Express, POW (Flag), Repulse Tenedos, with Electra (north) and Vampire (south) 1000 yds off beam of POW.

IJN sailing order is Sendai, Kumano (Flag) Mikuma, Mogami, Suzuya, with Destroyers 1000 yds off beams (north and south) of Kumano and Mogami

Is Admiral Phillips finest hour about to begin...

Kev D
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Re: Is Admiral Phillips finest hour about to begin

Post by Kev D » Wed Aug 08, 2018 7:05 am

If that scenario took place then.........................with all due respect to the dead and families, and speaking selfishly, there probably would not have been a British battleship and a British battle cruiser to have been able to dive on in the South China Sea. :shock:

But............there are LOT of variables, and a night battle is an dire event, so only a reverse looking crystal ball could truly predict the outcome. :whistle:
We are off to look for trouble. I expect we shall find it.” Capt. Tennant. HMS Repulse. Dec. 8 1941

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Is Admiral Phillips finest hour about to begin

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Aug 09, 2018 12:33 am

15 nautical miles is about 30,000 yards. POW's 273 picking up IJN cruisers at that range might be a stretch under normal conditions. That's not to say it could not have happened. Radar pickup range can vary quite a bit. Sometimes it could exceed expectations by quite a bit. Sometimes it could fail meet expectations by quite a bit. Then there are sometimes cases of abnormal propagation where a radar pickups a target several times the maximum range that it normally should, although that is more likely with a metric wavelength radar, and rather unlikely with a centimetric radar.

Then there are cases of a radar displaying phantom targets. In this case the echo is of a real object far away but it doesn't return to the receiver during its set of pulses, but is from a previous set of pulses. The echo gets displayed on the scope at much shorter range than it actually is. This is likely what happened when the USS Washington detected and then fired upon several radar pips displayed at 18,000 yards away, while operating east of Savo Island, during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. There were no enemy warships there at that range. This may of happened in the case of the Luetzow's Seetakt radar picking up a surfaced submarine at 15 km in 1940 (then again it may of happened just as reported).

The possibility of this phenomenon happening is determined by the pulse repetition frequency (PRF) of the radar. With a PRF of 2000, for example, the minimum range the target might be away and not register as a phantom target is only 75 km. With the PRF reduced by 1/2 it becomes 150 km, and with it further reduced to 500 PRF it becomes 300 km, which makes a phantom target registering on the scope nearly impossible.
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.

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Is Admiral Phillips finest hour about to begin

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:43 pm

Kev D wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 7:05 am

But............there are LOT of variables, and a night battle is an dire event, so only a reverse looking crystal ball could truly predict the outcome. :whistle:
The IJN's night fighting prowess and their torpedoes could come as nasty shock. True Force Z has radar, but to utilize the gunnery radars at night requires closing range to less than 20,000 yards and visual identification of the targets. Additionally, they will use star shell for target bearing and spotting the fall shot. That makes the British capital ships extremely vulnerable to torpedo attack, which will be the primary mode of combat for the Japanese cruisers and destroyers.

However, radar ranging makes it possible that the British could score devastating artillery hits right away, which could throw the Japanese into disarray. It could well pivot on if Phillips is able to surprise the enemy. If the British have the element of surprise the Japanese could find themselves dazzled by star shells bursting over head, destroying their night vision, followed by lethal 14" and 15" HE fire. If the British don't have the element of surprise, then it is likely to not go well for Force Z. What if the star shell burst above the cloud layer?
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.

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Is Admiral Phillips finest hour about to begin

Post by Fatboy Coxy » Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:54 pm

26,000 yards puts the Japanese cruisers with range of POWs 14-inch and Repulse’s 15-inch guns.

Calculations and decisions for Phillips include

Weather is poor with a lot of cloud, rain squalls, but possibility of an odd clear break

Need to signal to fleet his intentions, how does he signal, lamps or W/T. How quickly would the Japanese pick up W/T and realise its close. Lamps would be a much slower process, but probably better.

Tactics, does he deploy destroyers between himself and cruisers, or keep them out of the way. Would they form as a single division of 4 or two pairs, two in front, two behind POW/Repulse sailing order

When has Repulse gained radar contact

How quickly are the two forces closing?

Likely maximum range of Japanese 8-inch guns is about 30,000 yards, 17 miles, however effective range is what?

Not being aware of the IJN’s capabilities, torpedo range would be about 15,000 yards max.

If using starshell, POW’s 5.25 may reach out to 20,000 yards, but I think Repulse can’t do much more than 13,500 yards with her 4-inch.

He has some time to organise his force. As they close, so both POW and Repulse should gain better radar contacts, ranges read, guns loaded and trained, waiting for the order.

At what range should he engage, does this have to be within star shell range, or can they fire just with radar

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Re: Is Admiral Phillips finest hour about to begin

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:57 am

Phillips was cognizant and careful about radio silence. He sent Tenedos away to transmit messages to Singapore historically. He will certainly not use his wireless unless absolutely necessary. He will signal his command with signal lamp. The element of surprise is crucial for the British in this scenario.

In 1941 they could not use the radars alone for fire control. They would need to use star shell. At North Cape, the British star shell (and also the German) were only effective to about 13,700 yards. Night battle is a short range affair. Even with blind fire radar, targets need to be identified, and that usually requires visual confirmation during all of the WW2 era.

Short range battle favors the Japanese, because they have the best torpedoes in the world, and they know how to use them. Their torpedo could speed along at 40 knots and reach beyond 20,000 yards. They left no wake. They carried a tremendously powerful warhead. Once again Phillips must have the element of surprise and he must make short work of the enemy force. Failure on either of those two factors mean the Japanese almost certainly turn the tables on him and defeat Force Z. The Allies and Phillips don't yet know the capabilities of the Japanese torpedoes or how well schooled the Japanese are at using them in night battle.

Historically, USN destroyers paid a heavy price at the hands of Japanese torpedoes when deployed in the vanguard with heavier warships in night battle. Another problem, especially with radar, was friendly fire from their own ships on destroyers in night battle. Phillips is best to keep is own destroyers out of the way. But then he has greatly diminished offensive power overall.

The 284 on Repulse (the 286 is more or less useless beyond 10,000 yards) will need to be within 20,000 yards to track cruisers.

Remember when speaking in a naval context (or with aircraft) miles are nautical miles instead of statute miles. (1 nautical mile = 2,025 yards). But in this scenario long ranges won't apply.
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.

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Is Admiral Phillips finest hour about to begin

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:38 pm

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:54 pm


How quickly are the two forces closing?
http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/UK/R ... S-14-5.jpg

Kurita turned away to the N. E. and was heading toward a rendezvous with Kondo's battle fleet with he made at 0230. Phillips in no way wants to get involved with the combined forces of Kondo and Kurita. This would be an overwhelming enemy force of two battle cruisers, six cruisers, and 14 destroyers.

Assuming the POW's Type 273 detects the cruisers at 30,000 yards just before Kurita changes course, he could increase speed, close range and investigate. Kurita will not be steaming at a high speed because he must conserve the fuel reserves of his destroyers. Phillips has a short window of time he can stalk Kurita in the dark before he gets too close to Kondo's battle force. Perhaps two or three hours. If he decides to stalk the enemy through the night and attack at first light it could be a fatal error. Or it could save him because he could run away to the south or east at high speed once he becomes aware of the developing situation and he will be well out the area that the Japanese aircraft are searching for him.

He could close range enough to identify the enemy and then surprise the enemy, assuming Kurita does not become aware of his approach. Given the weather I think it likely he could do that given the Japanese have no radar. Capt. Krancke on Scheer, used a tactic employing radar at night in that he would detect a radar contact at 25,000 meters or so and close range until he could identify the contact. If it turned out to be a warship(s) or a neutral merchantman he could slink away with the enemy not knowing he had even been there. If it turned out to be something he wanted to attack he could further close range and surprise it with search light or star shell ordering it to stop at once.

Once again if he attacks Kurita's force he must have surprise and he must be quick about it.
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.

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