Was the Blücher really such a bad design?

From the birth of the Dreadnought to the period immediately after the end of World War I.
Steve-M
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Re: Was the Blücher really such a bad design?

Post by Steve-M » Thu Feb 18, 2016 10:00 pm

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, one could say SMS Blucher wasn't a particularly great design for various reasons. The failure to predict HMS Invincible's armament was obviously a serious problem. However, looking at the ship's basic design, the thing that sticks out most is the hexagonal turret configuration. Obviously this isn't the most efficient layout possible, both in terms of the weight of the turrets, barbettes, etc. themselves, as well as the additional requirements in beam. Looking at Derfflinger laid down just 5 years after Blucher, you can easily see how far German naval architecture had advanced.

Steve-M
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Re: Was the Blücher really such a bad design?

Post by Steve-M » Fri Feb 19, 2016 4:59 pm

To add a bit to my post above and really cap off the inefficiency of the design, one needs look no further than the previously posted cost comparison between Blucher and VDT. For less than 30% additional cost, Germany was able to build a larger, significantly better armed and protected warship that was faster to boot. In and of itself, that doesn't speak too highly of Blucher's design.

What makes that cost gap even more interesting is the fact that VDT employed four relatively expensive Parsons turbines vs Blucher's trio of triple-expansion engines. Given that (at least from what I've read) the royalty payments alone for each turbine was on the order of 1 million gold marks, that point alone accounted for a relatively large chunk of the cost differential between the ships, making VDT seem like an even better overall design for the money spent.

Byron Angel
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Re: Was the Blücher really such a bad design?

Post by Byron Angel » Fri Feb 26, 2016 4:13 pm

Bluecher was IMO not a bad design per se, but it was a design based upon faulty criteria. In the North Sea, Bluecher was a floating liability; I do not consider it a coincidence that she was lost in her first encounter with British battlecruisers. Her optimal theater for employment would have been the Baltic where, provided that she managed to avoid entanglement with the few and conservatively operated but relatively fast dreadnoughts of the Russian Baltic Fleet, she could have provided useful service.

Had Bluecher been part of von Spee's Asiatic Squadron in place of one of the existing armored cruisers, I don't believe that the ultimate outcome would likely have differed. Her best bet would have been to directly flee at top speed; although the battle was fought in generally excellent conditions, the weather actually closed down not long after the end of the battle and her speed advantage over von Spee's older armored cruisers might have afforded her a sporting chance to find refuge in the failing visibility.

Her inclusion in addition to Scharnhorst and Gneisenau would have placed a significant additional logistical burden (coal) upon von Spee. The potential operational consequences of that are difficult to objectively analyze. Tactically speaking, it certainly would have complicated Sturdee's task at the Falklands if all three German cruisers had stood against him, but the Germans still had no realistic hope of achieving victory. My guess is that any German cruiser fortunate enough to have survived the Falklands would have ultimately been interned or scuttled.

Re Bluecher's main battery rate of fire, the proving ground maximum mechanical rate of fire of any gun is not meaningful in analyzing practical warship rates of fire in battle. Under true action conditions, rate of fire is first and foremost governed by the engagement range (time of flight) and secondly by fire control and spotting considerations (time required within the fire control system to spot and transmit fall of shot observations, process the data and send corrections to the guns). Maximum mechanical rate for a turreted gun was not even achieved in rapid fire. The experience of SMS Derfflinger at Jutland being a good case in point. Her 30.5cm main battery gun was officially credited with a firing cycle of approximately 3rpm (20 second firing cycle), but according to von Hase, Derfflinger's demonstrated main battery rate of fire under rapid fire was actually only about half the "official" maximum rate of fire figure.

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RF
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Re: Was the Blücher really such a bad design?

Post by RF » Fri Feb 26, 2016 5:25 pm

Byron Angel wrote: if all three German cruisers had stood against him, but the Germans still had no realistic hope of achieving victory.
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Well, there is the aspect of the Gneisenau/Nurnburg recce on Stanley harbour at the start of the acrion when the two battlecruisers were detected by the Germans. Had it been Blucher/Gneisenau at that point they could have attacked and rained in shells on the two battlecruisers still weighing anchor.....
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Byron Angel
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Re: Was the Blücher really such a bad design?

Post by Byron Angel » Sat Feb 27, 2016 3:04 pm

RF wrote: Well, there is the aspect of the Gneisenau/Nurnburg recce on Stanley harbour at the start of the acrion when the two battlecruisers were detected by the Germans. Had it been Blucher/Gneisenau at that point they could have attacked and rained in shells on the two battlecruisers still weighing anchor.....

..... A situation I have often thought of basing a naval wargame scenario upon.

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