Washington

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Washington

Postby Saltheart » Tue Apr 24, 2012 1:22 am

I just read an account of the sinking of Kirishima by Washington off Savo Island in 1942. The ship took an unbelievable pounding, 20 16 inch hits and lots of 5 inch as well. Apart from a couple of turret hits most of the 16 inch fire hit the hull both above and below the waterline and these hits sunk her.
I was wondering how Washington's protection would have coped with the same hits in the same places fired from the same ranges on her. Also that the hits are by Bismarck's 38 cm guns. I'm wondering if they'd have the same penetration into the hull and the same disastrous effect as the super heavy US shells.

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Re: Washington

Postby Dave Saxton » Wed Apr 25, 2012 5:54 pm

Bismarck's 38cm guns actually had more belt penetrating power than the 16"/45 guns used by Washington did.

Kirishima was a battle cruiser with very light armour protection. I suspect that some of the 16" hits passed completely through the Kirishima before detonating. And some probably passed almost to the other side before they detonated, holing and damaging both sides with one hit.

I have always had a special like for the North Carolina class overall, but Washington was not a heavilly protected battleship either. The belts were only 12", sloped 15*. They were designed to provide protection beyond 18,000 yards against 14" shell fire. At the battle ranges actually fought here, Washington was just as vulnerable as was the Kirishima had the Kirishima scored such hits in return. Furthermore, the belt armour used by American warships during WWII was called class A, and it was of deplorable quality. It could offer as much as 20% -25% less resistance to penetration compared to other higher quality face hardened armour plate (such as the British and Krupp Cemented) against large caliber AP.

As Adm. Lee wrote: "Our battleships are not designed nor armed for close in night actions with light enemy forces..." and might add neither against heavy enemy forces at close range as well. I would not expect Washington to hold up to hits from Bismarck's 38cm guns at most likely battle ranges. The deck protection of Washington was also relatively light, calculating to about 4 1/2" effective. The turret and barbet protection was pretty heavy though-at least terms of inches thick. Much better than Kirishima's turret and barbet protection. However, the turret face plates had to be replaced by thick Class B plates (homogenous armour) as the original design heavy Class A plates were rejected because of poor quality.

Class B plates of such thickness did not make an ideal substitute. Homogenous plates of such thickness suffer from problems of the interior portions remaining too hot for too long during the cooling proccesses. The USN Research Lab found that the ballistic resistance of such plates was down about 20% from what it should be and there was no way around the problem. (16" x .80 = 12.8") Normally face hardened plates would be prefered to homogenous plates for this application, because they would work better using the slope of the face plate to deflect and breakup capped AP, but the Class A plates were so bad that using them was out of the question.
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Re: Washington

Postby Saltheart » Wed Apr 25, 2012 7:10 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:Bismarck's 38cm guns actually had more belt penetrating power than the 16"/45 guns used by Washington did.

Kirishima was a battle cruiser with very light armour protection. I suspect that some of the 16" hits passed completely through the Kirishima before detonating. And some probably passed almost to the other side before they detonated, holing and damaging both sides with one hit.

I have always had a special like for the North Carolina class overall, but Washington was not a heavilly protected battleship either. The belts were only 12", sloped 15*. They were designed to provide protection beyond 18,000 yards against 14" shell fire. At the battle ranges actually fought here, Washington was just as vulnerable as was the Kirishima had the Kirishima scored such hits in return. Furthermore, the belt armour used by American warships during WWII was called class A, and it was of deplorable quality. It could offer as much as 20% -25% less resistance to penetration compared to other higher quality face hardened armour plate (such as the British and Krupp Cemented) against large caliber AP.

As Adm. Lee wrote: "Our battleships are not designed nor armed for close in night actions with light enemy forces..." and might add neither against heavy enemy forces at close range as well. I would not expect Washington to hold up to hits from Bismarck's 38cm guns at most likely battle ranges. The deck protection of Washington was also relatively light, calculating to about 4 1/2" effective. The turret and barbet protection was pretty heavy though-at least terms of inches thick. Much better than Kirishima's turret and barbet protection. However, the turret face plates had to be replaced by thick Class B plates (homogenous armour) as the original design heavy Class A plates were rejected because of poor quality.

Class B plates of such thickness did not make an ideal substitute. Homogenous plates of such thickness suffer from problems of the interior portions remaining too hot for too long during the cooling proccesses. The USN Research Lab found that the ballistic resistance of such plates was down about 20% from what it should be and there was no way around the problem. (16" x .80 = 12.8") Normally face hardened plates would be prefered to homogenous plates for this application, because they would work better using the slope of the face plate to deflect and breakup capped AP, but the Class A plates were so bad that using them was out of the question.


It really is impressive how the German 38cm could punch at least as hard as the nearly 1000 pound heavier US shell due to greater muzzle velocity.
It seems the Americans were lucky with their battleships overall. I feel that the only major actions their battleships got into never really tested them.
I know the South Dakota got into trouble but it was pounded only by destroyer and cruiser gunfire and a few 14 inch shells that probably weren't even AP. Otherwise I can't think of a single US battleship that had to fight at a disadvantage or even really in some lengthy trial that really pushed them. Both the British and Germans had their battleships tested to the limits in their speed, armament and protection. The King George V class had to chase German battleships at top speed for great lengths of time often in terrible weather. They had to use their 14 inch guns for very extended periods of time against both Bismarck and Scharnhorst and deal with output problems while under real battle pressure.
The German battleships of course were stretched to the limit and over by taking on the Royal Navy.
But the American battleships just seemed to cruise around and blast targets as opportunities arose.

I must say when I came to the forum I knew quite a lot about battleships already from reading many books but I did not have anything like the knowledge of armor qualities, projectile performances etc that I've encountered on this forum. I lurked for awhile at first just reading through the long threads with the same enjoyment I get from reading good books and I enjoyed the US v German battleship threads in particular.
But before discovering this site I found Nathan Okun's site and saw his battleship contenders list. It had about 5 battleships all compared for speed, protection etc and the US ships always came out on top. I did notice bias though in that whenever an area where the Bismarck was strong that area was reduced in importance. So while the importance of the Bismarck's scarp was acknowledged it was followed by a mention of how side hits on battleships are very rare anyway. But when describing simply belt protection the South Dakota's were ranked as the best and there was no mention then about how side hits are rare. Also when admitting problems with US class A armor it was immediately followed by a description of how US class B was the best in the world against cruiser shells leaving you with US number one again.
When it came to deck armor the description of Bismarck was all about how they'd have done better to have a single thick deck higher in the ship, in other words remodelling them as US or British battleships and doing away with their existing system. There was no question about how Bismarck's system might damage projectiles, just they would have done better with the US system.
Time and again the US ships got 9 out of 10 and the others were ranked right down. You could almost here the chanting of USA! USA! in the background.
But when I came on here I found so much information on Bismarck that contadicted or disputed it and it was great to have some balance. Anyone who doesn't agree with the USA USA! number one position is described as a Bismarck fanboy of course even though they're just trying to show there are strengths and weaknesses in different designs and the American is not necessarily the 10 out of 10 one.
I just discovered the forum there more recently (I didn't know before that they had one) and joined it and their attitude to the King George V class is also really simpistic and negative.

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Re: Washington

Postby Dave Saxton » Wed Apr 25, 2012 10:07 pm

Well the USN fast battleships have much to reccomend them. However, this is more in terms of offensive fighting qualities: AA, firecontrol, radar, deck penetration of their guns..ect.. not so much the defensive protection qualities. I like KGV's protection better overall even if the Americans had a armoured CT and the British didn't.

But when describing simply belt protection the South Dakota's were ranked as the best and there was no mention then about how side hits are rare.


Really? It was certainly better than North Carolina's by virtue of increasing the slope to 19*, but better than KGV's heavy (high quality) belt, or Bismarck's scarp triangle is hard to believe. It was claimed in the past that enemy shells could not preform well at the total obiqity (slope plus striking angle) with this much slope. However, we now know that German naval AP was proofed at 30*-45* and 60* and it still performed well. The penetration isn't as much at greater total obliquities but they still penetrated. So the slope doesn't provide as much protection as thought-at least against German AP. Another factor here is the internal belt. It was thought that with the 38mm STS shell plating that it made up a de-facto de-capping array. So it could provide belt protection similar in concept to a Littorio class. But then it was found that 38mm isn't enough to de-cap large caliber AP at the typical striking angles that would threaten a belt penetration anyway.

It really is impressive how the German 38cm could punch at least as hard as the nearly 1000 pound heavier US shell due to greater muzzle velocity.


Another factor is the head shape of the main body of the projectiles. The Americans used a very blunt head shape (even blunter after 1943) that enhanced deck penetration. However, the trade off is that it requires increased velocity compared to a less blunt head shape to obtain the same belt penetration, so their are several trade offs to consider. The Germans used a blunter head shape than most as well, but it was less blunt than American practice. The German caliber radius was adopted to strike a compromise between improved oblique performance and making it less easy to de-cap. The American caliber radius is relatively easy to de-cap. With the lighter high speed shell, the German shell will loose more velocity as the range becomes greater, but this will also cause it to develop a steeper final trajectory vs decks at long range than it would if it was a bit heavier, as well.
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Re: Washington

Postby Saltheart » Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:02 pm

Well to be fair I think they were seperating side protection from solely belt protection. It was just while giving Bismarck credit for great side protection they immediately qualified it by saying side hits are rare. But when they talked about South Dakota's great belt there was no such qualification following it. I just noticed stuff like that.
I suppose a battle between South Dakota and Bismarck would be a struggle of both trying to control the range. The SD would be after Bismarck's decks while Bismarck would be looking to attack SD close in and get through it's belt. Whoever was more succesful at that and also the most accurate fire would come out on top. But to read the comparisms on that other site you'd think all SD would have to do to win is turn up.

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Re: Washington

Postby RF » Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:49 am

These particular tactics would of course require knowledge on the part of the respective commanders of the other ships weak points. From the German perspective this is unlikely as their knowledge of the US Navy and its surface ships was very little.
Given the US ship having 16 inch guns the Germans would be even less inclined to engage than to take on Rodney.
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Re: Washington

Postby Saltheart » Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:55 am

RF wrote:These particular tactics would of course require knowledge on the part of the respective commanders of the other ships weak points. From the German perspective this is unlikely as their knowledge of the US Navy and its surface ships was very little.
Given the US ship having 16 inch guns the Germans would be even less inclined to engage than to take on Rodney.


That sounds right. I've sometimes wondered how much the Germans knew of American ships and what the American tactics would be. But if they did know the weight of the US projectiles it probably would have occured to them that if the Americans were going for great weight in their shells then they were probably looking to attack horizontal armor. It would be very interesting to know if the Germans ever advised their Captains on the tactics to follow against US battleships.

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Re: Washington

Postby Thorsten Wahl » Thu Apr 26, 2012 11:34 am

Dave I dont think that US Class A was 20-25% worser than german and british facehardend armor of same thickness.
From the very limited comparative tests, there is some indication that starting with 12" /300 mm german Fh armor seem to have a 5-7% higher ballistic limit (NBL/Grenzschuss). In this context its interesting to know that Nathan Okuns calculation program seemingly underestimates the performance of german FH armor and somwhat overestimates the performance of US FH armor so that relative comparative performance in his calculation was located in the area of 3%.

Nevertheless the 16" (406 mm) turret faceplates from Washington inclined at around -40degrees appears to be vulnerable against the german 38 cm projectile at any range. The 38 cm APC should perforate this thickness according to the "Unterlagen zur Bestimmung der Hauptkampfentfernung..." from 0 - 35,600 m distance even the armor was similar to german quality.

As far as I know the germans had exaggerated ideas about the thickness of US horizontal armor.
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Re: Washington

Postby alecsandros » Thu Apr 26, 2012 12:14 pm

Saltheart wrote:... But to read the comparisms on that other site you'd think all SD would have to do to win is turn up.

Exactly...
It's very ineresting that in all the naval simulations I've played, the US BBs are generally better than the German/British counterparts.
So this US bias is well rooted.

In a showdown between Bismarck/Tirpitz and Washington, I'd give 60-65% win chances to the Germans, provided similarly trained crews, officers, captains... and similar previous manteinance of the ships.
That's because the German heavy BBs were expected to fight at a disadvantage in numbers, and were thus better protected and had more built-in redundancy, while the US BBs were expected to fight in a large squadron, with DDs and CAs in support.
The dispersion pattern of the 16"/L45 was large compared with that of the 15"/L52, and the danger space was smaller because of the higher falling angle. Rate of fire was also significantly better in the 15" German turrets than in the 16" US ones, at similar engagement distances.
Moreover, the Tirpitz could easily dictate the range, with it's 4kts speed advantage, and was a larger ship (53000+ tons vs 46000 tons Washington fully loaded 1944) - thus more difficult to sink.
The relative advantages of Washington woudl be better deck penetration, and a potentialy more damaging explosion of the 1227kg shells. Also, the main 16" magazines were practically unreacheable by the 15" shells at any range, being put deep inside the ship, near the bottom of the hull, some 7 meters below the waterline, and thus protected by water + inclined main belt + 38mm splinter belt.

However, at the probable engagement zone of 22km or less, Tirpitz could perforate and destroy every part of Washington, above the waterline, except for the main turrets, while, in return, Washington could destroy most of Tirpitz's upperworks, except for the scarp-protected zones and main communication tubes.
Thus, the advantages of higher rate of fire, speed and redundancy would become critical, and all those advantages were held by Tirpitz...

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Re: Washington

Postby Thorsten Wahl » Thu Apr 26, 2012 12:33 pm

except for the main turrets


this seems wrong
the faceplate appears vulnerable at every distance and
barbettes seem vulnerable until around 22-23 km if i consider a 5-7% NBL advantage of the german armor.
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Re: Washington

Postby alecsandros » Thu Apr 26, 2012 1:36 pm

Thorsten Wahl wrote:
except for the main turrets


this seems wrong
the faceplate appears vulnerable at every distance and
barbettes seem vulnerable until around 22-23 km if i consider a 5-7% NBL advantage of the german armor.

My mistake - I thought Washington had the same turret protection as South Dakota :oops:

However, at 20km, the angle of fall of 15" shell would be 16*, thus the impact angle would be ~ 24*.
From GK100, I understand the perforation was ~412mm at 20km considering a vertical plate, so the impact angle = angle of fall...
Are you sure it would go through ?

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Re: Washington

Postby Dave Saxton » Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:33 pm

alecsandros wrote:
However, at 20km, the angle of fall of 15" shell would be 16*, thus the impact angle would be ~ 24*.
From GK100, I understand the perforation was ~412mm at 20km considering a vertical plate, so the impact angle = angle of fall...
Are you sure it would go through ?

Remember it was not KC, but Class B, and Class B at these thickness levels is also down several % points on ballistic resistance relative to its own standard.

The relative advantages of Washington woudl be better deck penetration, and a potentialy more damaging explosion of the 1227kg shells. Also, the main 16" magazines were practically unreacheable by the 15" shells at any range, being put deep inside the ship, near the bottom of the hull, some 7 meters below the waterline, and thus protected by water + inclined main belt + 38mm splinter belt.


Washington's deck protection is weaker than Bismarck's. Washington's upper deck is not quite thick enough to de-cap at typical deck striking angles, and the distance between upper deck and main armoured deck is insufficient for yaw to become fully manifest. Washington's main armoured deck is a laminate with the main plates being IIRC 88mm, except for way outboard being a bit heavier. Washington had an external belt sloped 15* that was very shallow. It was very vulnerable to diving shell ducking below the inclined belt, and to below the belt hits of all types. (this being a primary reason for the SD/Iowa re-design). A 12" Class A inclined belt isn't strong protection vs the German 38cm at realistic battle ranges.

I'm not sure that the American shell creates a more damaging explosion. The German explosive filler was of much greater explosive power and the German shell had a slightly greater filler %.
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Re: Washington

Postby alecsandros » Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:16 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:
Remember it was not KC, but Class B, and Class B at these thickness levels is also down several % points on ballistic resistance relative to its own standard.


Oh, that's true; again, I was thinking about SoDak - as being the first BB class to have class B instead of class A on turret faces. But now that you've mentioned it, I remember it was on the North Carolina's also...

Washington's deck protection is weaker than Bismarck's.

Well I was thinking about the relative advantages versus each others artillery. Washington had a better chance of perforating Bismarck's horizontal armor scheme than the other way around. It's a matter of debate wether teh 16" shell would work properly after perforating 50+80mm Whotan and all the intermediary steel beems/bulkheads. My guess is that a good percentage of the shells would not work properly and fail to detonate. But damage coudl still be delivered.

On the other hand, it's difficult to find a trajectory for the 15" shells that would put them trhough Washington's horizontal armor in good condition (i.e. still capbale of exploding insinde the ship). Maybe beyond 30km, but I don't think it likely for the battle to occur there.

I'm not sure that the American shell creates a more damaging explosion. The German explosive filler was of much greater explosive power and the German shell had a slightly greater filler %.

Well, the total mass of moving splinters after the explosion is considerably larger for the US shell... Also the impact energy is higher, making it likely that even a non-penetrating hit might disable a main turret...
[At 20km, 38cm shells 510m/s 800kg, KE=104MJ. 40.6cm shell 480m/s 1227kg, KE=141MJ]

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Re: Washington

Postby RF » Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:36 am

Saltheart wrote:That sounds right. I've sometimes wondered how much the Germans knew of American ships and what the American tactics would be. But if they did know the weight of the US projectiles it probably would have occured to them that if the Americans were going for great weight in their shells then they were probably looking to attack horizontal armor. It would be very interesting to know if the Germans ever advised their Captains on the tactics to follow against US battleships.


I doubt whether either Captains Topp or Meyer of the Tirpitz were given any information or tactical instructions about engaging US battleships; given their pe-occupation with the RN as their principal naval adversary the KM leadership seemed to have a complete blind spot when it came to the US Navy.
Indeed when in December 1941 Hitler asked the KM naval staff to show him the location of Pearl Harbor on a map none of them could answer the question.
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Re: Washington

Postby alecsandros » Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:44 am

RF wrote:
Saltheart wrote:That sounds right. I've sometimes wondered how much the Germans knew of American ships and what the American tactics would be. But if they did know the weight of the US projectiles it probably would have occured to them that if the Americans were going for great weight in their shells then they were probably looking to attack horizontal armor. It would be very interesting to know if the Germans ever advised their Captains on the tactics to follow against US battleships.


I doubt whether either Captains Topp or Meyer of the Tirpitz were given any information or tactical instructions about engaging US battleships; given their pe-occupation with the RN as their principal naval adversary the KM leadership seemed to have a complete blind spot when it came to the US Navy.
Indeed when in December 1941 Hitler asked the KM naval staff to show him the location of Pearl Harbor on a map none of them could answer the question.


... Which probably means that Tirpitz's captain would try to do exactly what he knew best: using his ship in the most advantageous position, so a battle between 15-20km. Initialy firing 4+4 salvos until range was accurately determined, and then starting rapid fire with all artillery. Probably making a barrage of SAP shells initialy, in order to take out radars/directors/spoting posts/various onboard sensors and then AP shells.


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