If the aircraft had never been invented...

Historical what if discussions, hypothetical operations, battleship vs. battleship engagements, design your own warship, etc.
Saltheart
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If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby Saltheart » Sun Jul 03, 2011 10:36 pm

Anyone think battleships would have remained the most important ship in a fleet, dominating the way aircraft carriers actually did in WW2. Or would hosts of destroyers maybe have ended up taking charge with longer range and more powerful torpedoes?
I think battleships would have developed into ridiculously huge beasts until some practical limit was reached, such as with rate of fire of the big guns, until something knew arrived.

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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby Bureaucromancer » Sun Jul 03, 2011 11:03 pm

Battleships certainly would have dominated for a few more years, but anti ship missiles would have posed a definite problem. I have real problems imagining that ships would grow all that much more than they did though. There are certainly improvements to be made in rate of fire and automation of large guns, but the basic handling of munitions of very large sizes suggests to me that going much larger than 18'' guns probably isn't going to happen on much more than a one off basis. As for destroyers, I really don't see them becoming major threat. Submarines however, particularly nuclear are going to be an even bigger problem without air cover.

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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby lwd » Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:01 pm

With out planes I don't see anti-ship missiles being developed at least not at the speed they werer. I would expect battleships to dominate up through the 40's at least. Longer range torpedoes hit the point of dimishing returns especially as radar fire control makes it difficult for DDs to get into torpedo range unless they have other distractions for the battleships. Subs may come to dominated especially since one of their most leathal foes was and is aircraft.

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neil hilton
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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby neil hilton » Thu Sep 08, 2011 5:52 pm

Even with the best air cover available subs are the surface ships greatest threat. Diesel electric subs are pretty much a semi-mobile minefield, not much good at aggressive mobile operations. However with an air independent propulsion system a sub can stay below the thermocline and be almost undetectable to airborne detection systems, active sonobuoys are very short ranged (they have to be planted literally right on top of the sub to go through the thermocline without serious distortion), MAD detectors can be quite easily fooled by simply degaussing the sub. Include with this guided long range torpedoes (even basic homing types) and subs become very scary.

One point that hasn't been mentioned is the situational awareness that naval aviation gives. Without aircraft fleets will have to be dispersed more in order to cover the huge territories involved in oceanic operations, thus there would remain a great need for scouting vessels such as destroyers and cruisers to guide the 'heavies' into play.
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RF
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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby RF » Fri Sep 09, 2011 6:37 pm

Saltheart wrote:Anyone think battleships would have remained the most important ship in a fleet, dominating the way aircraft carriers actually did in WW2. Or would hosts of destroyers maybe have ended up taking charge with longer range and more powerful torpedoes?
I think battleships would have developed into ridiculously huge beasts until some practical limit was reached, such as with rate of fire of the big guns, until something knew arrived.


Are we considering here possible alternatives to aircraft that can take to the skies, such as helium filled balloons and airships?
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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby RF » Fri Sep 09, 2011 6:40 pm

neil hilton wrote:Even with the best air cover available subs are the surface ships greatest threat.


And also motor torpedo boats can be very dangerous - for example note the fate of the St. Stephen in November 1918 - sunk by the Italians!
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neil hilton
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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby neil hilton » Sat Sep 10, 2011 10:17 am

RF wrote:
neil hilton wrote:Even with the best air cover available subs are the surface ships greatest threat.


And also motor torpedo boats can be very dangerous - for example note the fate of the St. Stephen in November 1918 - sunk by the Italians!


In the right circumstances I think MTBs can be dangerous but I also think those circumstances are very difficult to achieve in reality. A choppy sea state can send surface launched torpedoes off the mark, MTBs have to get close to their target, are easily visible and very fragile (a near miss from a large calibre shell can shred them). They are not as fast or as agile as as aircraft and thus very vulnerable.
I think the St Stephen was a fluke caused by the novelty of the attack more than anything.
Destroyers were invented in order to protect line ships against torpedo boats, (destroyers were originally called Torpedo Boat Destroyers but the name was quickly abbreviated). A formation of ships protected by DDs is virtually impossible for MTBs to attack successfully.
Does anybody know of any actions involving MTBs in WW2 against a formation of warships?
The only example I can think of is Suriagao Strait and I don't think they got any hits (did disrupt the Japanese formation though and left them easy meat for Oldendorfs BB line).
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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby Byron Angel » Sat Sep 10, 2011 1:18 pm

neil hilton wrote:
RF wrote:
neil hilton wrote:Does anybody know of any actions involving MTBs in WW2 against a formation of warships?
The only example I can think of is Suriagao Strait and I don't think they got any hits (did disrupt the Japanese formation though and left them easy meat for Oldendorfs BB line).



..... Although not strictly MTBs, The Japanese employed small numbers of suicide boats at Okinawa.


B

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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby Keith Enge » Mon Sep 12, 2011 5:41 am

neil hilton wrote
Does anybody know of any actions involving MTBs in WW2 against a formation of warships?


In the Vigorous convoy action, the convoy reversed course at 02:00. The covering force, a group of warships not part of the convoy or its escorts, reversed too. Six German E-boats from Crete took advantage of the opportunity provided as the formation deformed and darted in. They torpedoed CL Newcastle and DD Hasty, sinking the latter. The covering force definitely was a formation, even a large one; it consisted of 22 ships, eight light cruisers and fourteen destroyers.

Another example is the 14 April 1943 action off Lizard head. Convoy PW.323, consisting of six freighters with two Hunt class DEs as an escort, was attacked by the German 5th MTB Flotilla. A DE and a freighter were sunk. This, however, probably isn't an example of what you seek since the DEs were escorts and thus part of the convoy rather than an independent formation of warships.

Another viable example is the 5 May 1944 action south of Leghorn, Italy. UJ2222 and UJ2223 (ex-Italian corvettes taken over by Germany) were sailing along when intercepted by three US PT-boats. They fire 11 torpedoes and sink one with two hits and damage the other. Three more PT-boats came along later but were unable to finish off the crippled ship and she limped safely home (although never repaired). UJ2222 and U2223 weren't large ships but, at 670 tons standard displacement, do qualify as warships. The only caveat is the question if two ships can be considered a formation.

As for the original question of this thread, there is another thing to think about if aircraft hadn't been invented. I would assume that the reason that they weren't invented was that they were physically impossible. This would seem to mean that internal combustion engines didn't work efficiently and thus aircraft couldn't produce enough thrust to get airborne. However, if internal combustion engines didn't work for aircraft, they wouldn't work for MTBs or submarines (diesels) either. Thus, not one but three threats to the supremacy of battleships would be eliminated.

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RF
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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby RF » Mon Sep 12, 2011 8:16 am

neil hilton wrote:Does anybody know of any actions involving MTBs in WW2 against a formation of warships?
.


Another action that springs to my mind was the attack on the US landing craft off Slapton Sands just prior to D-Day.
One aspect of the KM use of S boats is that they didn't specifically develop them for attack against convoys in mid-ocean or against formations of surface warships, principally because they were only short ranged weapons. But they proved their worth in the English Channel, as did the RN MTB's and MGB's.

Nevertheless they were a potential that could have been developed to much greater use.

Incidentally one factor that limited the effectiveness of S boats particulary towards the end of WW2 was the presence of Allied airpower - without that they would have been far more significant.

And with no aircraft - the U-boats would have got the upper hand in the Battle of the Atlantic.
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neil hilton
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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby neil hilton » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:04 am

Interesting examples of the use of MTBs. What were the conditions they occurred in? I know the Slapton Sands incident was at night and the invasion training fleet wasn't even attempting to defend itself even though they were warned that S boats were in the area. The Operation Vigorous action where Newcastle was torpedoed and Hasty had to be scuttled is interesting, can't find much detail.

"... 15th June 1942. In action with E-Boats west of Crete.
After HM Cruiser NEWCASTLE was torpedoed gave chase until the enemy craft no
longer presented a threat and returned to give protection to HMS NEWCASTLE.
Two hours later hit by torpedo from Italian E-Boat S55 on port side forward.
Bow structure completely destroyed causing fire in forward Boiler Room and flooding.
Ship unable to steam ahead.
Ship had to be abandoned and was sunk by torpedo from HM destroyer HOTSPUR which
rescued most of the ship's company, 13 of whom were lost...."

Anybody know the RN disposition? were their ships scattered or in tight formation? How many S boats attacked?
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neil hilton
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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby neil hilton » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:11 am

RF wrote:
And with no aircraft - the U-boats would have got the upper hand in the Battle of the Atlantic.


The U-boats certainly would have been a much greater problem without allied aircraft and would have been much harder to defeat, its debatable whether they would have won the battle of the Atlantic though. Also with no aircraft the Germany wouldn't have had any Focke Wulf Condors to spot for the U-boats.
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RF
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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby RF » Mon Sep 12, 2011 5:24 pm

Well, Luftwaffe co-operation with U-boats wasn't all that great, so the loss of the Condors would have been marginal in effect.

Would Allied surface ship escorts have prevailed? With radar and radio direction finding they certainly had chances, but the problem for the Allies is that without the U-boat losses caused directly by aircraft, without aircraft forcing U-boats to constantly submerge, no bombing of the U-boat pens or German shipyards, the number of U-boats with experienced crews would substantially increase. Shipping losses I think would escalate enough to delay D-Day until the electro-boots were in service in large numbers.....

And if the Germans had developed submarine launched missiles....
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neil hilton
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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby neil hilton » Mon Sep 19, 2011 11:37 am

The vast majority of actual u-boat attacks against convoys occurred at night when aircraft had no say in the matter (until airborne radar was developed) even so aircraft can't maintain station for long and in bad weather can't even operate.
I can think of several advantages of aircraft ASW and several disadvantages (swings and roundabouts!).
IMO I think lack of any aircraft operating in the Battle of the Atlantic would have greatly delayed D-Day and the end of the war but would not not have altered the result. For every technological advance the Germans made the allies made two and once The US ship building program got into full swing the Germans could never produce enough u-boats to bring the western allies to the table.
I think the only way the Germans could have altered the outcome of the Battle of the Atlantic would be by significantly increasing their industrial and research focus on to naval matters, of course that would leave a big hole elsewhere.
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RF
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Re: If the aircraft had never been invented...

Postby RF » Mon Sep 19, 2011 5:13 pm

neil hilton wrote: For every technological advance the Germans made the allies made two and once The US ship building program got into full swing the Germans could never produce enough u-boats to bring the western allies to the table.


The ratio of two to one technological advance was not a constant but an oscillating relationship over time.

The impact of the electro-boots was never really tested so it cannot be said with certainty that they would have been quickly countered. Another factor to consider was their greater torpedo carrying and firing capability.
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