Tirpitz instead of Scharnhorst in North Cape

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Javier L.
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Tirpitz instead of Scharnhorst in North Cape

Post by Javier L. » Mon Apr 11, 2005 12:54 pm

What if it was the Tirpitz against the Duke of York + escorts in the North Cape? Considering her superior firepower and heavier armor, how much better than Scharnhorst could Tirpitz have done?

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Post by Bgile » Mon Apr 11, 2005 6:57 pm

While I'm an admirer of the German ships in question, I'm afraid the outcome would have been similar against Tirpitz. IMO the main determining factors here are superior British radar and the large number of ships against just one German. My recollection is that Scharnhorst didn't score even one hit against DoY, and if you don't score any hits it doesn't really matter how powerful your guns are. She was deluged with gunfire and torpedoes, and Tirpitz would have also been sunk.

It is possible Tirpitz could have ESCAPED, however. It might have been a bit less likely for DoY to have achieved a crippling engine room hit.

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It was all about the radars

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Apr 19, 2005 7:23 am

Many people are not aware of just how apalling the weather conditions were. There was a force 10 gale blowing with huge seas. This was probably why Bey detached the destroyers. They just couldn't keep up. There were intermitant snow storms of great intensisity. Moreover, at those lattitudes, at that time of year, it is perpetual night time. The only "day light" was a short period of hazy twilight shortly before noon. Otherwise it was night.

In such conditions only a very functional radar suite could make a battleship (any battleship) combat effective. The British ships had the very best radars in the world at that time. Tirpitz, in late 43, really had no better radars than Scharnhorst.

Much of the problem was how the German Navy used radar at that point in the war. They generally kept their radars switched off until absolutely needed. They feared that radar emissions would betray their positions. The British stalked Scharnhorst using short wave length radars for over an hour, before opening fire. Scharnhorst was totally unaware. The first British hits destroyed Scharnhorst's radars and wiped out her foretop main fire control station. Talk about bad luck in that case!! The chief gunnery officer was probably killed right at the start. That Scharnhorst managed to near miss several British ships several times, and score some damge, considering it all, is rather commendable. It's hard to imagine Tirpitz doing much better in such conditions, although I agree Tirpitz was much more difficult to damage, and to force a decision.

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Post by Javier L. » Sun Apr 24, 2005 12:24 am

Is it possible that maybe the Tirpitz was better suited to fight at night than the Scharnhorst? The Bismarck did very well against Vian's destroyers at night. What do you think?

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Post by Bgile » Sun Apr 24, 2005 6:34 am

I don't know why Tirpitz would be better suited to fight at night than Scharnhorst. Are you aware of anything that would indicate that? As far as I know, the real problem was the big difference in radar technology and number of ships.

In what way did the Bismarck do well against the nighttime destroyer attack? Because they were unable to sink her? As far as I know, she didn't hit any of them and if nothing else the attack resulted in her crew being exhausted the next morning.

Steve Crandell

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Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Apr 27, 2005 12:53 am

There are many variables that may effect a warships night fighting capabilty, beyond it's equipment. A case in point are the night battles fought between the USN and the IJN in the waters around Guadalcanal. The IJN didn't have radar and the USN did. Moreover, the USN probably had more advanced fire control equipment overall, but the IJN usually out fought the USN during those night battles. The USN may have already developed an over reliance on radar technology. However, radar was not always usable in many battle situations during that era.

The crew of a ship is one wild card. I can't help but think that Scharnhorst had a crew with more experiance and higher morale than Tirpitz during late 43.

As Clauswitz has alluded to, due to the "fog and friction of war", the unlikely may happen, and it's not possible to develop laws and rules that will apply in all situations, based on the actual experiance of some combat situations. In other words, the performance of both Bismarck's and Scharnhorsts night shooting doesn't tell us much about the actual potential of the fighting qualities in all night battle situations. In both the cases of Scharnhorst and Bismarck fighting at night, we have the ships that have been partially disabled, but in different exact ways. Moreover, not only were both situiations at night, but the weather conditions were very poor. The visabilty was not only restricted by light availabilty, but also by weather, so even advanced night optical equipment doesnt help greatly. Additionally, high seas don't help precise shooting, obviously. Advancing destroyers and light cruisers are harder to hit than larger ships in good conditions, and considering the situations, I think both ships did good jobs. Keep in mind that in both situations they were trying to drive the multiple destroyers attacks off, and that's not the same thing as expending the time, effort, and ammo to sink one of them. A few well placed salvos, and off to the next pressing concern or target. Scharhorst, was firing mostly at brief gun flashes in the darkness, so it wasn't like she was able to aquire a target, track a target, and range a target.

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Post by Bgile » Thu Apr 28, 2005 12:36 am

Dave Saxton wrote:There are many variables that may effect a warships night fighting capabilty, beyond it's equipment. A case in point are the night battles fought between the USN and the IJN in the waters around Guadalcanal. The IJN didn't have radar and the USN did. Moreover, the USN probably had more advanced fire control equipment overall, but the IJN usually out fought the USN during those night battles. The USN may have already developed an over reliance on radar technology. However, radar was not always usable in many battle situations during that era.
I don't disagree with your premise, but I disagree with your example. If the Japanese withdraw from the battle having failed in their mission, I don't consider it a victory for them. Take away the initial embarrassment at Savo Is and the US did extremely well, and radar was often a key element. The bottom line is the Japanese lost Guadalcanal in large part due to their inablility to reinforce or supply their forces there with night runs down the slot.

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Post by Sergio » Sat Oct 15, 2005 1:25 pm

Hello, I think Tirpitz would do better than Scharnhorst. Scharnhorst had only 2 radars and began the battle with Duke of York with the foretop radar out of action because a lucky hit from Norfolk destroyed it earlier that day. That is why Scharhorst was firing blind and was easy prey at night against Duke of York. But the Tirpitz had 3 radars not 2. If Tirpitz can fight Duke of York with her radars functioning correctly she may have a chance at night.

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North Cape

Post by marcelo_malara » Mon Oct 17, 2005 5:50 pm

Why didn't Scharnhort just disengage from the battle?

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Post by iankw » Mon Oct 17, 2005 11:35 pm

Hi Sergio

It doesn't matter how many radars you have if your normal practice is not to use them (as stated earlier in the thread). I think Tirpitz would fare equally badly but take longer about it.

Marcelo - how do you disengage from an opponent you can't see? I think therein lies the answer.

regards

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Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Oct 18, 2005 12:24 am

The Germans seem to have been determined to complete the mission, regardless of the difficulties. They, having been repelled intially, attempted to re-engage the convoy at least twice more. Only after Group North determined through decoded radio intercepts, that DoY was moving in for the kill, did they break off and run for home. Only in the afternoon, did a Luftwaffe recon aircraft pass on the information that DoY was pressing hard to an interpect position. To understand the German mind set, we must look back to the New Years Eve Battle from a year ealier.

In the New Years Eve Battle, a superior force of German cruisers and destroyers failed to destroy an allied convoy, they intercepted. The reason for the failure was once again inadquate radar savy. Hilter and the high command became so enraged, that Raeder lost his job, and the surface fleet was ordered disbanded, and the ships scrapped. Doenitz realized the folley of this, but the surface fleet was under a great deal of political pressure to perform. This probably explains the reason that the Scharnhorst was ordered out on an impossible mission.

Several of the Scharnhorst on site command were home back in Germany for Christmas break. Bey was the destroyer flag officer. Bey comandeered several Tirpitz officers, including Tirpitz's chief gunnery officer, to make up a staff. Bey reccomended that the operation be aborted, because the risks were great, but the probability for success was almost nill. The SKL would not hear of it. They ordered Schanhorst to attack regardless of risk or cost. Schniewind (flag officer-battleships) back in Germany for Christmas, tried in vain to stop the hopeless mission.

Schniewind and others clearly understood the reason for the loss of the New Years Eve battle, and it had been ordered that KM capital ship radars be radically upgraded. I not sure to what degree Scharnhorst may have recieved radar upgrades, but Tirptiz radars by 44 were not all that bad.

Although late war German naval radars were not quite up to the latest allied systems, they were still combat capable. Although they still used a relatively longer wave length and probably did not have a CT screen type display, they had good range, and deflection accuracy, and they could be used to track surface targets beyond 30,000 meters. A basic question is to what degree they were intergrated with the otherwise state of the art fire control systems? There is also a question to what degree the general data generated by the radar systems could be made available to the ship's command on the bridge, and to the CiC deep below decks? Radar operaters were radio specialists, not gunnery experts. Could the data collected by both active and passive sensors be of timely use to the gunnery computor rooms, and to various gunnery officers in the fire control stations? I don't know for sure, but that would be a good field to look into.

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German fire control equipment

Post by marcelo_malara » Tue Oct 18, 2005 12:15 pm

Does anybody know how the German fire control worked, I mean is there a detailed explanation as that found in http://www.dreadnoughtproject.org for the British WWI fire control system?

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Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Oct 18, 2005 7:21 pm

Bill Garzke wrote a detailed post on this several years ago. Mr Garzke described the German fire control systems as being very similar to those used by the USN fast battleships. Paul Schmalenbach wrote a detailed peice on the PG fire control systems and I found Mr Schmalenbach's discription to be very similar to that used by the USN fast battleships as well. Tirpitz and PG used the same basic system.

Optical trageting and spotting data was feed to the central computor room below the armoured deck, commanded by the second gunnery officer. The central computor room computed the firing solutions and controlled the guns when under central control. The electro/mechanical computors and other gagdets presented in the Schmalenbach peice are very similar to those used by the USN of the time. The Baron reported that normally, fine adjustments in deflection were made by adjusting the ships course. It seems as though the gunnery computor room could control the eletronic steering when in this mode. Schmalenbach reported that elevation was automatically adjusted by the computor room, depending on the firing solution, in the central control modes.

The critical peices of data required for accurate radar controled shooting were the fall of shot spotting data. With correct range and deflection data, a correct taget solution could be obtianed, but adjustments required by enviormental conditions, and ballistic deviations, need to be spotted and accounted for. Shell splash spotting data could be obtained by the later model allied radars. Indeed, the late model British fire control types could track shells in flight, as well as spot shell splashes out to the practical radar horizon of about 30km. The problem with the longer wave length radars, without a high resolution CT display; is that fall of shot spotting is more difficult. The usual approach was to combine radar data with optical data. For example, the USN usually waited to confirm radar derived data with optical data.

The USS Washington at Guadalcanal, obtained a radar target at 18,000 yards, but did not open fire until the range was down to 11,500 yards, and a solution based on optical data was also obtained. After optical spotting was obscured, Washington continued to fire on radar derived solutions out to 18,000 yards, but no hits were scored.

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German fire control

Post by marcelo_malara » Tue Oct 18, 2005 8:52 pm

Does the fire control radar provides enemy bearing, course, speed and distance?
The guns are aimed from the control station or have director aiming in the top?

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Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Oct 19, 2005 2:49 am

I typed up a response complete with quotations from Von Mullenheim, but I took so long it was lost in cyber space.

In short, yes, late war radar systems could provide the factors you list. Early war systems were less capable, for both German and allied systems. The allied systems were more advanced and more capable, from mid 42 through at least early 44 than German naval systems.

The fire control stations gathered range and bearing (optical and/or radar)data for either the main or secondary batteries. This data was tramsmitted to the two computer rooms, deep down in the ship. The fire control stations and the computer rooms were inter-dependent-niether could work without the other. The computer rooms generated the firing solutions in real time, based on the data provided by the fire control staions, and actually controled the lay of the guns, based on the solutions obtianed. The gunnery officers observed the fall of shot and conducted the shoots from their positions in the fire control stations up top.

The above assumes central control mode. Local Control mode allowed each gun turret to operate independently. Turret Anton did not have it's own optical range finder.

The American system differed in several details, but was a like system in that targeting data was gathered at the fire control stations up top, and data linked to computer rooms deep below decks. The computer rooms actually controled the lay of the guns as well.

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