Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

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Julien
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Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

Post by Julien » Tue Sep 17, 2019 6:21 am

An interesting thought I had. I loved the idea of what if it had been American super dreadnoughts that had intercepted the German duo at the Denmark Strait but I realized that any of the Pearl Harbor battleships before refit simply didn't have the fire control or horizontal armor to compete with the likes of Bismarck but post Pearl Harbor those same ships received extensive upgrades that would put them on a more even playing field by eliminating or at least aiding issues that their pre-Pearl Harbor selves faced. To name a few they received newer heavier shells with a much harder punch, they received better fire control radar (West Virginia severely outclassed Pennsylvania in this due to a longer and more extensive repair and refit), their horizontal armor was replaced with a more effective design of twice the thickness, and their secondary battery guns were replaced with the famous twin 5in rapid fire guns eight turrets a ship, four turrets on broadside, eight guns in total to supplement the main battery if they closed within secondary range. Even with all these advantages though the Bismarck was a fierce opponent and was accompanied with one of the largest and heaviest heavy cruisers ever made (especially at it's time). This fight isn't going to be easy. Let's see the ship stats.

Displacement:
Bismarck - 41,700 tons standard, 50,900 tons full load
Pennsylvania - 34,400 tons standard, 39,224 tons full load
West Virginia - 32,693 tons standard, 33,590 tons full load
Prinz Eugen - 16,970 tons standard, 18,750 tons full load

Length, Beam, and Draft:
Bismarck - 251m, 36m, 10.2m
Prinz Eugen - 212.5m, 21.7m, 7.2m
West Virginia - 190m, 29,72m, 9.3m
Pennsylvania - 185m, 29.6m, 8.8m

Speed:
Prinz Eugen - 32kts
Bismarck - 30kts
Pennsylvania - 21.7kts
West Virginia - 21.2kts

Main Battery, Range, Shell Weight, Velocity, and Rate of Fire:
West Virginia - 4x2 40.6cm Mark 5 guns, 32.92km, 1,016kg, 768mps, 1.5-2 shells per minute
Bismarck - 4x2 38cm SK C/34 guns, 36.52km, 800kg, 820mps, 2-3 shells per minute
Pennsylvania - 4x3 35.6cm Mark 12 guns, 34.3km, 680.4kg, 792mps, 1.75-2 shells per minute
Prinz Eugen - 4x2 20.3cm SK C/34 guns, 33.5km, 122kg, 925mps, 4-5 shells per minute

Armor Hull, deck, turret, barbette, conning tower (least to most, including lightly armored sections like the bow and stern):
Pennsylvania - 50.8-356mm, 50.8-152.4mm, 50.8-457.2mm, 101.6-330.2mm, 101.6-406.4mm
West Virginia - 50.8-342.9, 88.9-139.7mm, 50.8-457.2mm, 101.6-330.2mm, 101.6-406.4mm
Bismarck - 50.8-320mm, 110-120mm, 130-360mm, 342mm, 360mm
Prinz Eugen - 38-88mm, 12-50mm, 70-105mm, (uncertain barbette thickness), 50-150mm

Alright now let's get into it already.
Specifically the scenario I propose is the typical Battle of the Denmark Strait save for it's the battleships West Virginia (leading) and Pennsylvania (following) that intercept the German duo, Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. As History went before the Allies open up first and the battle is on. Who do you think wins? Personally I think that either one of the American super dreads could fight rather evenly with Bismarck but paired together I feel they have the win in the bag but I'd like to hear other opinions on this (also if somebody could find Prinz Eugen's barbette thickness that would be great).

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat Sep 21, 2019 7:31 am

Hello everybody,

@ Julien,
based on the data you have posted (I admit I'm not an expert of US Navy battleships at all...), the 2 USN ships at Denmark Strait would have simply never been able to intercept the German ships, that depite being shadowed by Suffolk, could have sailed on course 220° at 27 knots (as they were doing already) or even 30 knots, entering Atlantic and avoiding battle at any time against 21 knots ships.
Holland had to ask 29 knots to his ships to be able to intercept BS and PG in the actual scenario of DS.

On a more generic scenario, where Germans would have eventually been obliged/willing to engage, the key point is that the 2 USN ships were designed according to WWI standards: I don't know their reconstructed armor scheme (do you have data for this ?) but I doubt 1) they could show an effective belt+slope combination as BS to incoming shells in terms of vertical protection and 2) was their horizontal protection increased by replacing entirely the construction steel with armor grade decks or just superimposing layers of (construction ?) steel over the existing deck(s) ? (this would make a terrible difference in terms of effectiveness of their rebuilt horizontal protection, more than the simple overall thickness of the armor deck(s)).
If this is the case, there could be no diference with what happened to Hood at DS, when a WWI battlecruiser was sent against a modern 35.000...
The only US hope would have been that their firing control system could allow the USN ships to inflict severe damages to BS with their 20 guns against the 8 BS guns before BS could deliver a fatal hit, but with their much lower speed, I guess BS could compensate this advantage by simply choosing the better battle geometry to allow her to use all her 8 guns while the USN ships could just use their 10 fore or aft guns...

Looking at the data you have posted, I fear that the 2 USN ships could have played a role only in convoy escort against lighter raiders then the Bismarck class ships.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

Post by Julien » Tue Jul 07, 2020 1:06 pm

These ships were actually designed in a more forward thinking manner than other WW1 era ships. The USN designers predicted that battle ranges would significantly increase as guns got bigger, more powerful, and longer ranged. Despite retaining armor protection that performed well at close range they were designed with long range engagements in mind and their armor was actually made to reflect that doctrine. Pennsylvania retained a lot more close range protection but that came at the cost of making her markedly heavier than other ships similar to her size. Her armor design was very similar to that of Bismarck's but thicker (with slightly lower quality steel) and ironically without a lot of the flaws Bismarck had. (Like running important power lines over the citadel or lightly protected turrets). Both ships had very heavily armored magazines and decks over the magazines after their refits, remember the USN refitted them after Hood was lost and thus wanted to make sure that didn't happen to our battleships. After the rebuilds I believe specifically the decks were either reinforced with either STS or USN Class B armor plating. Either would make their decks incredibly hard to penetrate since they were already rated to protect against their own guns at range and the thicknesses were close to effectively doubled during their refits. A fatal hit is beyond unlikely as the only standards that were sunk took a converted 16in shell plunging vertically down into the forward magazine through the, at the time, insufficient armor deck on USS Arizona or taking over 9 torpedo hits, several close to the magazines yet not detonating them on USS Oklahoma. Neither ship would be suffering an early fatal hit like Hood, and when I referred to the USN pair intercepting the Bis and Eugen I more meant that the Pennsylvania and West Virginia were already blocking the German pair's path out of the Denmark Strait so either the Germans would need to take an incredibly lengthy detour or set in for one fierce fight because neither ship would be going down easily. Remember Pennsylvania was armored not just against her own 14"/45 MK12 guns but against the 14"/50 MK7 that was in production for the New Mexico and Tennessee class battleships that were ordered and under construction around the same time as the Pennsylvania class and the USN 14"/50 MK7 is only just barely outdone by Bismarck's SKC/34 guns in penetration so Pennsylvania wouldn't be especially vulnerable to Bismarck's guns and West Virginia was armored against an outright bigger and more powerful gun in the 16"/45 MK5. You can easily find and compare the penetration and other technical specs on these guns at NavWeaps.com

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Re: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

Post by Steve Crandell » Thu Jul 09, 2020 5:17 pm

Alberto,

Why was Warspite able to fight newer Italian ships, If two USN BBs couldn't fight Bismarck? Personally I can't imagine any particualar battleships would be automatic victors in any WWII engagement, let alone 2:1.

Of course I agree that the engagement would never take place due to the low speed of the American ships.

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Re: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

Post by wadinga » Thu Jul 09, 2020 6:41 pm

Hi Steve,

Have you not remembered Alberto, like Elvis, has left the building and won't be answering? Actually it was more like Tosca's exit in the opera ie leaping off the battlements with a shriek.

Lutjens had no interest in engaging battleships and would have left them labouring far behind unless they managed to get close to him from ahead in the dark, because his forward radars are U/S and all attention is aft towards Wake-Walker. Whether 1941 US night time fire control could have secured any hits before the peerless Seetakt allowed Bismarck to get hits in retreat is questionable.

Operating a Surigao type ambush in the Denmark Straits would be difficult. Pack ice and fog and minefields.

I'm sure ABC in Warspite would have loved to take on a Littorio, but I believe she only ever got within gun range of Guilio Cesare, a considerably modernised WWI type like herself but faster. Vittorio Veneto was always heading for home during the Matapan campaign.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

Post by Steve Crandell » Thu Jul 09, 2020 6:53 pm

Yes, I'd forgotten he was gone. Oh well.

The only really effective battleships at Surigao Strait were the three with Mark 8 fire control radars, and those weren't available during the period in question. Washington managed with a Mark 3 at Guadalcanal, but that was at much shorter ranges. She also had a much better search radar than earlier in the war.

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Re: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

Post by wadinga » Thu Jul 09, 2020 7:10 pm

Hi Steve,

I'll leave it to your compatriot Dave Saxton to explain how the superlative Seetakt would have allowed Bismarck to outperform anything on these ships in 1941! The whole German F/C system was 1940s state-of-the-art and Hood or any other unmodernised WWI ship would be lucky to stand much of a chance at WWII big-gun ranges. I am still stunned that new F/C systems were being installed in new build RN cruisers but Hood had to make do with a jumble of add-ons to the Dreyer table considered obsolete in 1920!

Lutjens wouldn't take on Ramillies or Malaya when he had two battleships, so it would be extremely unlikely he would choose to tango with two old ladies!

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

Post by Thorsten Wahl » Fri Jul 10, 2020 5:57 pm

In 1941 there was no war between Germany and the United States.
The german ships had the order to avoid any unfriendly action until the other opens fire....


a lot of the flaws Bismarck had. (Like running important power lines over the citadel or lightly protected turrets
Powerlines were under the main armored deck

Turret face 360 mm
Turret roof 130 mm
One cannot call this "lightly armor"
Pennsylvania... her armor design was very similar to that of Bismarck's but thicker (with slightly lower quality steel
No

The about 3 cm more thickness of the main belt did not compensate for the improved quality of german KC(nA)

And the slope behind the main belt is to steep and to thin to add real ballistic protection as the german build up.

BuShips statet in 1942 for WV that main and second deck offer ballistic ballistic protection against the 2240lbs (IV 2520 f/s ) projectile up to 15500 yard.(that protection is equivalent to less then two inches.)

The vertical protection of WV against the same projectile is expected to be penetratet up to 25700 yards.
If WV horizontal protection was doubled during 1942/44 it should then be about 4 inches in laminates.
Pennsylvania - 4x3 35.6cm Mark 12 guns, 34.3km
source please range appears to high
Same problem for the 16" gun source please


[
Last edited by Thorsten Wahl on Fri Jul 10, 2020 7:49 pm, edited 11 times in total.
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Re: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

Post by Thorsten Wahl » Fri Jul 10, 2020 5:59 pm

Double post
Meine Herren, es kann ein siebenjähriger, es kann ein dreißigjähriger Krieg werden – und wehe dem, der zuerst die Lunte in das Pulverfaß schleudert!

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Re: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

Post by Thorsten Wahl » Fri Jul 10, 2020 8:30 pm

These ships were actually designed in a more forward thinking manner than other WW1 era ships. The USN designers predicted that battle ranges would significantly increase as guns got bigger, more powerful, and longer ranged
Do you have a source Viel Glück beim suchen.

The USN considered 18 -20 kyard in WW1 as extreme range AFAIK. So about 1 3/4 inch deck protection were considered as adequate.
Pennsylvania - 34,400 tons standard, 39,224 tons full load
West Virginia - 32,693 tons standard, 33,590 tons full load
During Ww2 a Mean displacement of BB 48 was recorded in the order of 40400tons and BB 38 40300 tons according FtP 218.

USN 14"/50 MK7 is only just barely outdone by Bismarck's SKC/34 guns in penetration
BB38 had the 14" 45 gun
To name a few they received newer heavier shells with a much harder punch,
Yes I hear/ see.
Heavier shells??? A sample would be nice.
Last edited by Thorsten Wahl on Fri Jul 10, 2020 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Meine Herren, es kann ein siebenjähriger, es kann ein dreißigjähriger Krieg werden – und wehe dem, der zuerst die Lunte in das Pulverfaß schleudert!

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Re: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

Post by Thorsten Wahl » Fri Jul 10, 2020 9:40 pm

The whole German F/C system was 1940s state-of-the-art and Hood or any other unmodernised WWI ship would be lucky to stand much of a chance at WWII big-gun range
Any ~15 " ~35kton Battleship is able to defeat a single Battleship of roughly the same size regardless of a ww1 or ww2 ship, depending on circumstanes.

But in general the chances for the more modern ships are better. Miniaturisation and modernisation matters.
Meine Herren, es kann ein siebenjähriger, es kann ein dreißigjähriger Krieg werden – und wehe dem, der zuerst die Lunte in das Pulverfaß schleudert!

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Re: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

Post by wadinga » Mon Jul 13, 2020 9:53 pm

Fellow Contributors,
regardless of a ww1 or ww2 ship, depending on circumstanes
Would have to encompass some very unusual circumstances indeed. One has radar search and ranging, a modern fire control computer and high power output propulsion system and the other doesn't. Could a Baden ever beat a Bismarck unless the odds are heavily stacked somehow?

If the two old American ladies are post 1941 (really 1942) refits then the German contemporary is Tirpitz with some improvements even over Bismarck.

All the best

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Re: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen vs Pennsylvania and West Virginia (Post PH refits)

Post by paul.mercer » Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:43 pm

Gentlemen,
I agree with Wadinga that PE and Bismarck would have left the two old US battleships floundering in her wake, Lutjens didn't really want to take on Hood and PoW and had he met Rodney when trying to get to Brest (I believe they passed within 50 miles of each other) he would have put on speed and avoided contact.However if he had to fight the two US ships I think a lot would have depended on the range, given Bismarck's superior radar, but if the range was relatively close then there are 8x16 and 12 x14" shells coming at him, some of which are bound to hit sooner rather than later - it was Rodney's 16" which damaged Bismarck first and then a rain of 16 and 14" did the rest. I realise she was a tough ship but shells weighing in around a ton each are bound to do a lot of damage which neither could afford to take with no friendly port to run to.
To sum up, no battle, Bismarck and PE run for it, a battle, Bismarck and PE sunk or totally crippled and get sunk later, US ships sustain damage.

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