Dave Saxton wrote:
The Americans held their fire to about 22,000 yards at Surigao partly because they were unsure if American light forces were clear (Allied radar IFF was an unreliable mess through the whole war), and to conserve AP ammunition.
Yes, and stuff like that hinders long range engagements in realistic scenarios. Barents Sea that you mentioned is another good example, along with Guadalcanal engagements - Lutzow could have blasted some destroyers out of the water at 16km, yet it only fired against Obedient, which was straddled and suffered splinter damage. Why ? because Lutzow's captain was constantly in a state of tactical unawareness.
It's not only the friend/foe determination, it's also ship type. And this makes blindfire an even more theoretical pursuit - would either Tirpitz or Washington open fire without visual confirmation without knowing the type of ship they encounter ? After all, the large reflective surface appearing on the radar screen in front of them could have been a fleet carrier, a large merchant, a battleship... And this without radar jamming. If we take that into account, in a realistic engagement I doubt any kind of ship type identification could have been done...
There are only few types of engagement I see in which the 2 ships could freeely open long range fire. The most plausible I can think of would be Tirptiz sent in a raiding mission, somewhere in the mid-Atlantic. Tirpitz's floatplanes discover a convoy 200km away. The convoy is escorted by Washington and other smaller vessels.
Floatplanes from Washington discover Tirpitz several hours later. Both ships keep the other under observation. Tirpitz's captain would not risk open combat with a 16"battleshp, but some orders from central command would force him to do so. It should be a perfect clear day, with calm sea, somwhere near the tropic of cancer.
Tirpitz would engage while receiving intel from the circling arado 196. Washington will also open fire at long range, probably beyond visual range, directed by his own float planes. Tirpitz would probably stay around 25km distance, where his salvos are still tight enough to pose danger, while the escorting destroyers are far enough to pose a danger to her own. The captain would hope to lure Washington out from the battle line and deal with her one on one.
However, this was precisely the kind of range Washington was designed to fight at - and her captain would most likely suspect Tirpitz's intent.
So, a 10-15 minutes salvo battle would ensue, at 25km range. Washington\s salvos would be wider, around 350-400m wide, twice as wide as Tirpitz's.
given the range, high speed and tactical situation, I doubt either side would be able to obtain definitive firing solutions and commence rapid fire. Rate of fire would probably hover around 0.8-1 rpmpg for Washington and 1-1.2 rpmpg for Tirpitz. So for this battle, I would expect some 80-120 shells fired by Washington, and 80 - 135 fired by Tirpitz.
Tirpitz would probably score 4-5 hits at best, and Washington 3-4. That would be because of the higher danger space of the German shells, and because of the more accurate firing pattern.
All the shells from Tirpitz would not explode - 2 would pass through the bow/stern without encountering armor thick enough to fuze them, 1 would hit the con tower at a bad impact angle (the compounded obliquity would be to big to assure penetratino) and glance off, 1 would pass through the funnell, another would hit hte barbette of a main turret, and jam the turret at a given angle. Damage to Washington would be moderate - some shock damage inside the con tower, water through the holes in the unarmored sections, one turret jamed for several hours, the damaged funnel.
The acute falling angle of Washington shells would allmost certainly ensure perfortion of the upper deck, with some probable damage done to the 15cm or 10.5cm mounts.
However, the 0.033s fuze delay of the shells would let them fly over 15meters after holing the upper deck, which means they would also strike the panzer deck before explosion. The panzer deck would be broken in 1-2 places, but the shells would also be broken up, and there fuzes inert, not allowing an explosion.
Given the size of Tirpitz, most likely all the 16"shells would come to rest in non-important sections of the ship...
Seeing that Washington isn't giving chase, and doesn't appear to be damaged, while the supply of 15"shells is rapidly diminishing, Tirpitz would break off at maximum speed, leaving another naval battle unresolved.