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

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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.

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

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
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

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