Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Historical what if discussions, hypothetical operations, battleship vs. battleship engagements, design your own warship, etc.
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Dave Saxton
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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Feb 08, 2013 10:48 pm

Well all battles are influenced by circumstance. Nothing, included the Stord, Samaurez, Savage, and Scorpion could of caught the Scharnhorst; if its machinery didn't break down -again. Vian's DDs were trying to torpedo the Bismarck but every time they tryed they were driven off by frightenly accurate gunfire. Abley lead, a battleship will in most cases dominate lesser warships.
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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:41 am

You\re right...
But the accent falls on "abley lead" :)
And my addition would be "properly built"

Otherwise, it's just a waste of resources that could be used much better in other ways.

THink about the Italian battleships of WW2. Exactly what did they achieve ?
I often think about Littorio's struggle the British destroyers (which were led by Vian :) ) at the second battle of Sirte...

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Feb 09, 2013 4:01 pm

The Italian RM are another navy that may have been better off having built other ships. However, what would they do once the British start hammering them with long range (some would say medium range) gunnery?

Extending the effective range of naval artillery is another place were one needs battleships. In the Pacific, IJN and USN cruisers exchanged salvoes at greater than 20k on occassion. They expended thousands of rounds in exchange for a handful of hits. As others more knowlegable than myself have pointed out, the probability of scoring hits greatly increases if the battle range is 50% or less than the max ballistic range of the gun. You need larger than cruiser caliber guns to extend the effective range of naval artillery.

This capability can come in handy for extending shore bombardment farther inland. My uncle when he was alive told me of battleship shore bombardment saving his unit in Italy by landing shells accurately on German positions far inland. In both Korea and Vietnam battleship shore bombardment was often times more effective and more economical than aircraft bombardment or from a Baltimore class heavy cruiser.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Thorsten Wahl » Sat Feb 09, 2013 7:55 pm

The Regia Marina was notoriously short on fuel oil .
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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:11 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:The Italian RM are another navy that may have been better off having built other ships. However, what would they do once the British start hammering them with long range (some would say medium range) gunnery?
Use aircraft (better ones than they had and with better pilots). Or submarines.
Dave Saxton wrote:Extending the effective range of naval artillery is another place were one needs battleships. In the Pacific, IJN and USN cruisers exchanged salvoes at greater than 20k on occassion. They expended thousands of rounds in exchange for a handful of hits. As others more knowlegable than myself have pointed out, the probability of scoring hits greatly increases if the battle range is 50% or less than the max ballistic range of the gun. You need larger than cruiser caliber guns to extend the effective range of naval artillery.
I have heard that too. In light of that, Prinz Eugen's shooting at Denmark Straits must be rated as exceptional, scoring the first German hit of the battle and then landing almost as many hits as Bismarck.
Dave Saxton wrote:This capability can come in handy for extending shore bombardment farther inland. My uncle when he was alive told me of battleship shore bombardment saving his unit in Italy by landing shells accurately on German positions far inland. In both Korea and Vietnam battleship shore bombardment was often times more effective and more economical than aircraft bombardment or from a Baltimore class heavy cruiser.
I am doubtful about battleship gunnery being a more cost effective way than aircraft bombs or army artillery. I think battleship bombardment was used more because the battleships were there and needed something to do. Bombardment wear out battleship guns fast and aircraft bombs contain more explosives per weight.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:13 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:The Italian RM are another navy that may have been better off having built other ships. However, what would they do once the British start hammering them with long range (some would say medium range) gunnery?

.
My initial idea for the topic was "were battleships actualy usefull in WW2 in the way they were used"

Of course, in other circumstances, heavy ships may have been more usefull.
In the way they were deployed by the Regia Maria howver, I find battleships pretty much useless...
Yes, theoretically they were needed to fight off British counterparts in the Med. But when, were and how did they do that ?

The Littorio's were little more than very expensive bait for bobmers and torpedo-bombers throughout the wawr.
And Roma was of course a very expensive target for the German remote controlled bombs :))

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:01 pm

Ersatz Yorck wrote: I am doubtful about battleship gunnery being a more cost effective way than aircraft bombs or army artillery. I think battleship bombardment was used more because the battleships were there and needed something to do. Bombardment wear out battleship guns fast and aircraft bombs contain more explosives per weight.
Aircraft can be shot down, and not deliver their payload at all.
Heavy shells on the other hand can not be stopped.

A modern BB (for WW2) could fire at targets 30km inland, while staying at 10km in the open sea.
American naval bombardments of Japanese islands show that... Also the landings at Salerno and Normandy where helped a lot by the big guns.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by alecsandros » Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:32 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:
A KGV or a VV, even a Scharnhorst, would have made short work of an Alaska...


They did have their merits though.
- The main battery was very powerfull , and at least on par, if not superior to Dunkerque, Scharnhorst, and a host of older battleships (Andrea Doria, Texas, etc)
- speed was very good, probably ~ 32kts in normal operating conditions
- radar, sensors and RPC were very advanced, and thus gave the ship a huge advantage over most contemporaries (such as blind fire, accuratele firing while turning, automatic turret train and elevation, etc)
- armor may be a soft spot, but what battlecruiser was well armored, besides Scharnhorst ?
Dunkerque for example had 240mm main belt and Strasbourg 275mm.
The Kongos had 200mm of main armor belt; Renown - 230mm...

As a side note, the turrets and coning tower were equal or even better armored than many contemporary battleships (such as KGV and Vanguard)

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:30 am

Not saying Battleships were ineffective in shore bombardment, I was just doubting they were cost effective.

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:42 pm

The question of cost effectiveness came up before both the New Jersey's Vietnam deployment and the re-activations of the Iowa's during the 80's and are reported in Muir's book. In testimony before congress it was pointed out that the average cost or a warplane was $2 million and the cost of training the pilot was $1 million (1967 dollors) and the US was loosing about $25 million per week in aircraft assets in 1967 doing jobs that could be done by naval assets. One B-52 strike cost $1 million if there were no losses, so 25 million was the cost of about 25 B-52 srtikes. This was the same cost that it would take to deploy the New Jersey to Vietnam. A battleship would surely have saved many lives of highly trained pilots had it been deployed earlier.

During the NJ's deployment it was more effective at destroying difficult targets than mass B-52 strikes, which were enourmously expensive -compounded by any B-52 losses. A Marine general pointed out the NJ's 16" was far more destructive than the 8"/55 of the cruisers and were effective to typical ranges of 32,500 yards while the cruiser's 8" was typicaly effective to ~22,000 yards. It was also pointed out that the 16" usually took out targets such as bridges quickly compared to the multiple airstrikes, sometimes taking days, of aircraft bombardment typical of the 1960s.

In 1979 studies it was pointed out that an Iowa would cost $1,511 per ton on target while carrier aircraft would cost $12,156 per ton on target (assuming no losses). If there 1% aircraft losses the cost per day for a carrier to conduct bombardment was over $2 million more than for a battleship (this must be 1970s dollors). The cost of the crew of the BB was about 1/4 that of the carrier per day, and the cost of fuel of the BB was about 1/8 the cost of operating a carrier per day. Of course this was before the smart bomb revolution of the late 80s.
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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by MikeBrough » Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:41 pm

alecsandros wrote:
Dave Saxton wrote:
As a side note, the turrets and coning tower were equal or even better armored than many contemporary battleships (such as KGV and Vanguard)
I'll give you the KGVs, although only just. The Alaska front turret armour was 12.8" to the KGVs' 12.75" but the KGVs had slightly better side, rear and top armour.

Vanguard, however, wins all around - just.

Does anyone know why the Alsakas had disproportionately thick turret armour?

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:24 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:The question of cost effectiveness came up before both the New Jersey's Vietnam deployment and the re-activations of the Iowa's during the 80's and are reported in Muir's book. In testimony before congress it was pointed out that the average cost or a warplane was $2 million and the cost of training the pilot was $1 million (1967 dollors) and the US was loosing about $25 million per week in aircraft assets in 1967 doing jobs that could be done by naval assets. One B-52 strike cost $1 million if there were no losses, so 25 million was the cost of about 25 B-52 srtikes. This was the same cost that it would take to deploy the New Jersey to Vietnam. A battleship would surely have saved many lives of highly trained pilots had it been deployed earlier.

During the NJ's deployment it was more effective at destroying difficult targets than mass B-52 strikes, which were enourmously expensive -compounded by any B-52 losses. A Marine general pointed out the NJ's 16" was far more destructive than the 8"/55 of the cruisers and were effective to typical ranges of 32,500 yards while the cruiser's 8" was typicaly effective to ~22,000 yards. It was also pointed out that the 16" usually took out targets such as bridges quickly compared to the multiple airstrikes, sometimes taking days, of aircraft bombardment typical of the 1960s.

In 1979 studies it was pointed out that an Iowa would cost $1,511 per ton on target while carrier aircraft would cost $12,156 per ton on target (assuming no losses). If there 1% aircraft losses the cost per day for a carrier to conduct bombardment was over $2 million more than for a battleship (this must be 1970s dollors). The cost of the crew of the BB was about 1/4 that of the carrier per day, and the cost of fuel of the BB was about 1/8 the cost of operating a carrier per day. Of course this was before the smart bomb revolution of the late 80s.
That is interesting, and no doubt has validity for the Vietnam era, but WW2 planes were a lot cheaper. No doubt there are situations when battleship bombardment is effective, but enemy countermeasures can sink the BB just as they can down the aircraft. If the US had deployed battleships earlier in the Vietnam war, might not the North Vietnames have mined their coastal waters just as they acquired Migs and AA mssiles? And those mines would have cost a trifle compared to the damage they could have inflicted on a BB.

The many operations in WW1 where entire batlefleets of hundreds of thousands of tonnes displacement sortied to escort one or two flimsy seaplane carriers so that they could launch less than a dozen ramshackle aircraft carrying 25 lb boms speaks volumes about the limitations of the battleship in attacking land targets! Battlefleet bombardments require more or less total supremacy of the sea and absence of effective mines or submarines. Think of all the times Japanese bombardments of Henderson Field resulted in bombed out Japanese ships and unimpressive effects on aircraft operations at Henderson!

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by ede144 » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:07 pm

@Ersatz York
The KM operations n the Baltics in 44/45 are an example that you can do NGFS without supremacy of air and sea

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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:24 pm

MikeBrough wrote:The Alaska front turret armour was 12.8" to the KGVs' 12.75" but the KGVs had slightly better side, rear and top armour.

Vanguard, however, wins all around - just.

Does anyone know why the Alsakas had disproportionately thick turret armour?
Quoted thickness for US ships usually (but not always) includes the plate + the backing plate. For example, the main armoured deck of West Virginia is usually listed as 3". It was actually a 1.5" armour plate layed over a 1.5" thick plate of mild steel. The effective thickness was about 2". The British used backing plates too, but this is rarely if ever included in quoted thickness. Another factor is the American use of homogenous armour where face hardened armour should be used for turret faces. It takes more homogenous armour at the expected striking angles to give the same protection as less face hardened armour in this instance.

One normally uses homogenous armour for horizontal protection and face hardened armour for vertical protection, because of the typical striking angles. (The quality of American face hardened plates during WWII was so poor that we had to use homogenous armour for turret faces). The use of face hardened armour for a turret top was the reason a 15" shell from Hood sliced open the top of one of Dunkerque's turrets at a range of about 15,000 yards, for example.

The armour thickness used on a design is based on providing protection between a given range of battle ranges. Usually this zone of battle ranges (called the immunity zone) is from 20k to 30k yards, or 20 km to 30km, taking into account expected striking velociy and striking angle. This is usually based upon the penetrative powers of the ships own gun, but not always. The KGV face plate, being slightly declined, provided protection to the British 15"/42 beyond the range of 20km (~22,000 yards). The turret roofs provided protection against the same gun at ranges inside of 30km. The Alaska's turret face thickness looks to provide protection vs its own gun beyond about 20,000 yards assuming it is indeed homogenous and given its slope.
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Re: Were battleships actualy usefull in WW 2 ?

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:29 pm

ede144 wrote:@Ersatz York
The KM operations n the Baltics in 44/45 are an example that you can do NGFS without supremacy of air and sea
I would say that they are exactly the type of operations you use your major surface units for when they have nothing else to do and must justify their existence. And they did wear out their guns. And the Germans had near total command of the Baltic, except for the odd Soviet submarine. IIRC no German ship was damaged by anything more than occasional strafings by Soviet aircraft.

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