How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Historical what if discussions, hypothetical operations, battleship vs. battleship engagements, design your own warship, etc.
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José M. Rico
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How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by José M. Rico » Wed Dec 22, 2010 10:10 am

There is already a thread about how would you improve the Royal Navy, now, I was wondering how would you guys improve the Kriegsmarine? Do you cancel battleship construction in favor of smaller cruisers and submarines? Do you go forward with aircraft carriers and naval aviation? Feel free to discuss these and many other questions.
The year is 1933 and the Panzerschiff Graf Spee has just recently been laid down.

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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by lwd » Wed Dec 22, 2010 4:19 pm

A lot depends on what future conflicts you envision and what you want the KM to do. One of the most serious problems the KM seem to have was that Hitler never intended or expected to fight GB or the US. Then of course he went and managed to end up doing so. I'm not sure that there is much he can do to improve the KM if he ends up fighting them. On the other hand if his opponent(s) are to be France or the USSR then the KM isn't in all that bad of shape. I think I would want some long range search aircraft possibly with an ancillary strike mission. I'm not at all sure what I'd be willing to trade for them. Possibly some of the early U-boats just build enough for training and experimenting in the mid 30s and gear up for produciton in the late 30s.

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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by Bgile » Wed Dec 22, 2010 5:18 pm

No Battleships, CLs, or CAs.

Destroyers with guns in the 5" category instead of the 5.9", so much better seakeeping.

More U-boats.

Not nearly as interesting to discuss, though. :wink:

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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by lwd » Wed Dec 22, 2010 7:36 pm

If the ultimate plan was to fight a US-UK alliance then the larger ships are not the way to go. However if you view a war with the USSR or France as the more likely ones then those ships can prove quite useful especially if they are allied. Since France was building battleships and the Soviets were expressing interest in the same I'm not sure cutting battleships out is a good idea except in hindsight. Hitler's earlly plans called for action vs the Soviets and not Great Britain (not sure how France fit into this). The KM as it is isn't too bad if he keeps his sight on those goals and avoids war with the US and GB. I agree on the 5.9" guns on the DDs. A dual purpose gun in the 4" to 5" range with a higher rate of fire is probably the way to go. More U-boats is proplematic as it may result in annoying Gb as well as having her produce more escort vessels. The lack of German capital ships frees up a fair amount of captial for the RN to do so as well.

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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by Bgile » Wed Dec 22, 2010 9:20 pm

lwd wrote:If the ultimate plan was to fight a US-UK alliance then the larger ships are not the way to go. However if you view a war with the USSR or France as the more likely ones then those ships can prove quite useful especially if they are allied. Since France was building battleships and the Soviets were expressing interest in the same I'm not sure cutting battleships out is a good idea except in hindsight. Hitler's earlly plans called for action vs the Soviets and not Great Britain (not sure how France fit into this). The KM as it is isn't too bad if he keeps his sight on those goals and avoids war with the US and GB. I agree on the 5.9" guns on the DDs. A dual purpose gun in the 4" to 5" range with a higher rate of fire is probably the way to go. More U-boats is proplematic as it may result in annoying Gb as well as having her produce more escort vessels. The lack of German capital ships frees up a fair amount of captial for the RN to do so as well.
Well, of course I was using hindsight. That kind of comes with the territory when you are trying to improve on what they did historically.

IMO the British would have built the ships they did in order to match the other signees of the Washingon Treaty. It would have been hard for them to build many more escorts without giving up something else.

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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by Djoser » Thu Dec 23, 2010 5:39 am

I know the decision to use 11" guns on the twins was largely political, but giving them something more potent to fight with would have been one of the first changes I would have made.

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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by lwd » Thu Dec 23, 2010 1:28 pm

Bgile wrote: ... Well, of course I was using hindsight. That kind of comes with the territory when you are trying to improve on what they did historically.
....
There are a couple of problems with this:
1) If you change things too much then the hindsight is not necessarily of great value.
2) If said "improvement" ignores the intent and constraints that were applicable it becomes less reality based.
My preference is to give as much as possible answers that take into account the goals and knowledge available at the time.

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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by Djoser » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:01 pm

Wow, what timing!

I just received in the mail a copy of Alternate Decisions of World War II: Third Reich Victorious, edited by Peter G. Tsouras (there is also a Japanese version that is pretty good). The first of the ten scenarios has Hitler being rejected for service in the Austrian Army in 1914, being taken under the wing of a U-Boat officer instead and serving with the U-Boats. Developing not only a feel for the use of naval power, but also a hatred for England. He is wounded in action, and follows much the same inter war career, save with an emphasis on naval power. For instance, there are 'Blue Shirts' instead of Brown Shirts, and the SS are trained as marines, with amphibious ability.

Instead of devoting so much productive capacity to major surface warships, Hitler, Raeder, and Donitz work together to develop 4 carrier groups; one centered on the Graf zeppelin and Scharnhorst, and three more centered on converted cruiser hulls (CVLs) and pocket battleships (one of each). Not really far off at all in terms of what could have been accomplished, given different priorities. One more major carrier being built (as was planned I believe, but started sooner and prioritized--though not ready by '39).

The aircraft: Me109s, Stukas, and Fi 167 torpedo bombers. 6 fighters, 8 dive bombers, and 8 torpedo bombers on the CVLs. The same number of aircraft, 40 odd, as Graf zeppelin was planned to carry.

They mount a surprise attack on Scapa Flow in Sept. of '39, on the same day Poland is invaded and war is declared, crippling the Royal Navy but not wiping it out. In a subsequent carrier battle further grievous damage is inflicted on the Royal Navy, ultimately making an invasion of England possible.

If anyone is interested, you can pick the book up pretty cheap on Amazon; it would be worth it for that chapter alone, for some of you fans of alternate naval history!

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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by Tiornu » Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:44 pm

The High Seas Fleet in World War I had one great success--Moon Sound. A perceptive admiralty might have fixed on this and specialized the navy for Baltic operations. Anything that hastens the German advance to Leningrad could have important repercussions.
In my opinion, anything that strengthens the KM for warfare against Britain is missing the point. The Germans cannot defeat the Royal Navy. It's nice to pretend the Germans could become a carrier-based power, but then we have to ignore any British response to that and hope that the fleet is sitting in Scapa at the right time and place to be Pearl-Harbored. And then what?
The Germans need to restrict their westward navy to jeune ecole warfare, scare Britain with subs and raiders, and focus their primary effort to the east where they can be the Big Man on Baltic and reap the benefits of naval superiority. More training ships, more amphibs, more minesweeping sloops.
I don't think changing Scharnhorst's guns will accomplish anything significant except taking the ship out of action long enough to make those extensive changes.

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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by RF » Thu Dec 23, 2010 5:35 pm

José M. Rico wrote:There is already a thread about how would you improve the Royal Navy, now, I was wondering how would you guys improve the Kriegsmarine? Do you cancel battleship construction in favor of smaller cruisers and submarines? Do you go forward with aircraft carriers and naval aviation? Feel free to discuss these and many other questions.
The year is 1933 and the Panzerschiff Graf Spee has just recently been laid down.
I have reposted the wording of this thread, and the starting point of 1933, because the first question I would ask is this - what is the intended purpose of the KM - as an aggresive instrument to achieve world domination, or a service to defend the country?
My answer would be the use of the KM for the latter purpose, really the most sensible use of the KM. that would mean a small sized, economical force as envisaged by Bismarck. A fleet of Panzerschiff would be quite sufficient, without the Hipper class cruisers.

However I suspect that isn't really what Jose was posing in his question. What is required I suspect is how we would design the KM as a force for the Fuhrer. Well, the best way to improve the KM from that standpoint would be to make the Fuhrer savvy about naval affairs and strategy, for Hitler to understand sea power.
I suspect that wasn't the sort of answer Jose was inviting us to make, but it is the most essential point. Don't start a war unless you can finish it. And you can only finish Britain and the US with naval power and naval supremacy.

So - to what Jose was inviting us to answer, the composition of the fleet of the KM.

Firstly - U-boats are the most obvious and potent weapon. But concentrating all efforts on that by mass production would be noticed abroad, seen as a hostile act, so countermeasures are taken before the war can start. That U-boats only strategy won't work. Instead it would be better to concentrate resources on developing a true submersible, a sub that can move fast underwater and stay submerged for at least twice as long as the then conventional submarines, all done in utmost secrecy.

Secondly, in 1934 the British agreed to Germany building to 35% of the strength of the RN and 45% in submarines. This must be the Fuhrer's trump card, the agreement Nazi Germany sticks too.
Starting in 1935 - the year Hitler reintroduced military conscription - the Fuhrer instructs Raeder to submit a detailed plan for KM construction right up to the treaty limit, with a six year time scale. Raeder is also told the the British must be consulted about German construction so that they approve the plans - to prevent British countermeasures.

Raeder's plan should be, for naval construction completion date of October 1941:

Three Bismarck class battleships, namely Bismarck, Tirpitz and Hindenburg. These will be as in reality except that secondary armament is eighteen 5 inch guns in triple turret arrangement to the actual 5.9 inch. No 4.1 inch guns.

Two Graf Zeppelin class carriers, together with a separate naval air force. Goering is shot as part of the Night of the Long Knives and Milch is Luftwaffe C in C, with orders to closely liase with Raeder on aircraft development and crew training.

Six pocket battleships. Hipper, Blucher and Prinz Eugen are the additional three, the resources for them are from the abandoned plan for 8 inch gun cruisers in favour of an improved design on the first three panzerschiffe.

The light cruisers are to be modified to improve their Atlantic seaworthiness. Three Spahrkreuzer are also to be built, along with twelve Narvik class destroyers with much longer ranges. These ships must be able to conduct Atlantic operations in conjunction with the big ships above.

And - one bit to be concealed from the British - a force of nine hilfskreuzer. But these hilfskreuzer are built from scratch expressly as combat ships using a merchant ship profile. Requirements are for six 5.9 inch guns main armament, with modern guns and fire control. These 5.9 inch guns must be power loaded and capable of rapid fire - say every four seconds. Diesel engined ships, capable of speeds up to 20 knots. These will operate as true Q-ships, but are expendible. They are there not only to sink merchant ships, but also to lure patrolling enemy cruisers to destruction Sydney style. As such an improved torpedo armament is required.

Submarines - build up to treaty levels, but the trump card is the early development of the electroboot, in absolute secrecy.

A fleet of Schnellboot, with emphasis on longer range.

Along with the Luftwaffe Field Division, the introduction of a combat force of naval landing troops. This force is to be prepared for raiding enemy coastlines and naval targets, also to operate through the use of the Schnellboote and hilfsreuzer. Imagine the impact of a German version of the Royal Marines or SBS making raids on Simonstown, New York, Baltimore, Sydney, India etc.....

With such a force, the Fuhrer can start his war at the end of 1941 instead of 1939. And the extra two years waiting will allow the Luftwaffe to develop strategic heavy bombers and the Heer beefed up Panzer divisions.
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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by Bgile » Thu Dec 23, 2010 9:41 pm

RF wrote:And - one bit to be concealed from the British - a force of nine hilfskreuzer. But these hilfskreuzer are built from scratch expressly as combat ships using a merchant ship profile. Requirements are for six 5.9 inch guns main armament, with modern guns and fire control. These 5.9 inch guns must be power loaded and capable of rapid fire - say every four seconds. Diesel engined ships, capable of speeds up to 20 knots. These will operate as true Q-ships, but are expendible. They are there not only to sink merchant ships, but also to lure patrolling enemy cruisers to destruction Sydney style. As such an improved torpedo armament is required.
The 6" guns you describe would have to be fully automatic to achive that rate of fire. The USN and the RN finally were able to field fully automatic 6" guns post war. IMO you might as well give them nuclear submarines and modern jet aircraft, and they sure wouldn't put them on expendable ships, considering the huge development cost and the weight involved.

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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by José M. Rico » Fri Dec 24, 2010 1:20 pm

I think we all agree that providing the Kriegsmarine with nuclear submarines is out of the scope of this thread, however, early development of the Electroboot just as Robert suggested is a feasible option. If I remember correctly Dönitz referred to this in the late war years.

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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by Bgile » Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:22 pm

José M. Rico wrote:I think we all agree that providing the Kriegsmarine with nuclear submarines is out of the scope of this thread, however, early development of the Electroboot just as Robert suggested is a feasible option. If I remember correctly Dönitz referred to this in the late war years.
Indeed. I was specifically referring to equipping merchant raiders with fully automatic 5.9" guns. I do need to stop being so sarcastic.

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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by Djoser » Fri Dec 24, 2010 9:58 pm

Actually, if we were all sitting at the same table with some good Guinness Stout, or maybe a fine bottle of Schloss Vollrads Kabinett (or maybe Samuel Adams? You get my point I think), the humor in a comment such as this would be rapidly apparent, or perhaps better yet a joke about Captain Kirk in the Enterprise taking out the Japanese Navy with his phasor banks! :lol:

The problem arises when our attempt to inject a little humor--merely to relieve any building tension in what ought to be a friendly, cooperative, mutually respectful discussion among fans of naval history, and hopefully add to the fun--is misconstrued by the person we hope to amuse and mollify as an insult or attempt to belittle them. We are trying to say 'Enjoy this little amusing snack, we are all friends even if we disagree!" They read it as "Eat this, you ignorant swine!"

They might then come back at us with what they feel is the same carefully prepared cuisine for our ingestion!

While I don't appreciate having the depth of my knowledge or reasoning questioned by someone who is in no position to do so, neither do I wish to unnecessarily alienate someone I'd rather sit at a table and have a fine drink with (than any other of untold millions of relatively ignorant and uncaring people who neither know anything at all about WW II naval history, nor care).


The one point I would make is that some of these proposed alternate developments might not always really be such radical ideas, beyond the realm of all possibility (not the nuclear submarines, that was supposed to be a friendly joke I thought--I laughed like hell at the phasor banks you proposed).

What would have happened to the amazing and radical transformation in world naval developments in 1904-14, had Jackie Fisher been killed on the HMS Furious in China, 1860? No doubt there would have been some sort of radical change--but it would have been quite a different sort of radical change, quite easily due to one stray shell 40-50 years earlier. Or that malaria Fisher caught later being a bit worse.

Had there been a German Jackie Fisher in '33 (instead of going down with the Weisbaden in 1916?), or had Hitler perhaps had a friend who taught him to sail a fun little boat as a child, the Kriegsmarine could easily have been a much more effective and powerful force, and might have been employed quite differently. God knows the vast majority of people in the USA would have scoffed at the notion the Japanese could do any serious harm to the USN, back in 1940! We all know how that turned out!

This really struck me while I was looking at the pictures of the Graf zeppelin a couple days ago. The damned thing was so close to being finished!! One can scoff all they want at the likely effectiveness of this carrier compared to Illustrious, had a German Fisher been around in '37 or '38 to push its completion (along with her sister and maybe a couple of converted cruisers?) but even a functioning Graf zeppelin sortieing with Bismarck--possibly with Tirpitz and the twins as well--and history would read quite differently than it does today. Not to say Great Britain would have merely yawned and taken a nap had Graf zeppelin been a functioning vessel, as it almost was; nor that Germany would then have won the war. Rather the war would have gone quite differently.

One guard sneezing and suddenly waking up a bit, to spy the subtle glint of steel on a blade in moonlight, and an entire battle could be lost rather than won, an empire fall rather than rise. We might then be writing these jokes, so easily misunderstood, in a different language. I do not believe history is following a predestined course without possibility of some diversion here or there; rather it is a dramatic ebb and flow, and could go any number of ways, due to human error, or the right man in the right place at the right time--or killed 50 years before rather than wounded by a bullet 1/2" lower.

I think we need to try to be just a bit more tolerant in this section--it's supposed to be fun, not a battleground. I do not pretend to be better in this regard than anyone else in the past.

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Re: How would you improve the Kriegsmarine

Post by Bgile » Sat Dec 25, 2010 12:18 am

Well said, Djoser!

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