Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

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Bgile
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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Bgile » Thu Oct 22, 2009 6:49 pm

I believe they could switch powder charges very quickly, unlike projectile types. In any case, I can't imagine using 1/16 charges for bombardment because it doesn't appear to me that the shells would get to the target.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by lwd » Fri Oct 23, 2009 1:11 pm

Foggy wrote:Hello, all!

The projectile types used by the Japanese heavy units in the Guadalcanal battles has been discussed, but what of the propellant charges?

I've just read something interesting in one of the reports of the US Naval Technical Mission to Japan from just after the war, specifically in its report on Japanese Interior Ballistics (Fascicle O-1, Target O-21, Feb 46), page 7, section I, Ballistics in General. Referring to propellant charges, it states that, in addition to the full service charge: "Two types of low-velocity charges were usually provided: "weak", rated at one-half of an equivalent service charge, and "reduced", rated at one-sixteenth." It provides a table of propellant weights and muzzle velocities for guns from 3" to 16".

Here's the interesting part. On that same page, it states: "Japanese naval doctrine called for the use of full service charges in all actions. An exception, however, was made in the Guadalcanal operations in 1942, when "reduced" charges were used in shore bombardments with 36cm and 20cm (14 inch and 8 inch) guns." So, if Kirishima and Hiei were loaded for shore bombardment, according to this, they used 1/16th charges?!

I've not seen this discussed in any other references. Could this help account for the purported poor performance of the Japanese guns in these battles?
A very interesting question. I think I'll post it over on the IJN board and see what pops up there.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Oct 27, 2009 2:49 pm

Byron Angel wrote:.......Altogether, the Japanese identified 102 hits on HIEI, of which approximately one-third were dud shells...
Most Interesting.
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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Byron Angel » Tue Oct 27, 2009 4:14 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:
Byron Angel wrote:.......Altogether, the Japanese identified 102 hits on HIEI, of which approximately one-third were dud shells...
Most Interesting.

Hi Dave,

I seem to recall reading that US 5/38 AA common shells had dud problems, which MIGHT be a possible explanation. Does that ring any bells with you?


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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by tommy303 » Tue Oct 27, 2009 8:28 pm

I seem to recall reading that US 5/38 AA common shells had dud problems, which MIGHT be a possible explanation. Does that ring any bells with you?
Not sure about the AA common, which would probably not have been used against surface targets, but the Special Common with base fuze did have some problems. The dud rate was traced to corrosion of the moving parts of the fuze and gaine, said corrosion being caused by corrosive fumes generated by the ammonium picrate bursting charges. US designs emphisized bore safety and consequently US fuzes were very complicated with multiple safety interlocks and detents, the failure of anyone of which would lead to a malfunctioning fuze and a dud shell. changes in sealing the fuze against the fumes were successful and the dud rate declined.

The fuze itself was the Mk20 BDF which was virtually identical with the Mk21 BDF except for its smaller size.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Byron Angel » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:13 am

tommy303 wrote: Not sure about the AA common, which would probably not have been used against surface targets, but the Special Common with base fuze did have some problems. The dud rate was traced to corrosion of the moving parts of the fuze and gaine, said corrosion being caused by corrosive fumes generated by the ammonium picrate bursting charges. US designs emphisized bore safety and consequently US fuzes were very complicated with multiple safety interlocks and detents, the failure of anyone of which would lead to a malfunctioning fuze and a dud shell. changes in sealing the fuze against the fumes were successful and the dud rate declined.

The fuze itself was the Mk20 BDF which was virtually identical with the Mk21 BDF except for its smaller size.

..... Thanks, Tommy.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by dunmunro » Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:15 am

The 5"/38 MT AA round did have a major dud problem in 1942, with up to 40% of rounds fired being duds, in some cases. IIRC, corrosion of some kind was the culprit.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Bill Jurens » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:07 pm

Regarding Japanese propellants, it's worthwhile noting that the reduction for 'weak' and 'reduced' charges, i.e. to 1/2 and 1/16 respectively, does not refer to the weight of the charge, it refers to the relative wear to the gun imposed by that charge. Initial velocity differences for the big guns were much smaller, dropping from about 785 m/s for a full charge to 505 m/s for a reduced charge. In general, as a rough cut, one might estimate that the striking velocity remained in constant proportion throughout the trajectory, meaning that when computing reduced charge values, the striking velocity at any given range would remain at about 505/785 = 0.65 that of the full-charge value. Computing a comparative range table for the two charges would be relatively easy; the effect in general would be reflected in an increase in the angle of fall at any given range, coupled with a reduced maximum range.

The 1/16 value for 'reduced' charges, in any case, means the charge was equivalent to 0.062 full charges in terms of gun wear, not that they weighed 1/16 as much as a full charge...

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Bgile » Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:33 pm

Bill Jurens wrote:Regarding Japanese propellants, it's worthwhile noting that the reduction for 'weak' and 'reduced' charges, i.e. to 1/2 and 1/16 respectively, does not refer to the weight of the charge, it refers to the relative wear to the gun imposed by that charge. Initial velocity differences for the big guns were much smaller, dropping from about 785 m/s for a full charge to 505 m/s for a reduced charge. In general, as a rough cut, one might estimate that the striking velocity remained in constant proportion throughout the trajectory, meaning that when computing reduced charge values, the striking velocity at any given range would remain at about 505/785 = 0.65 that of the full-charge value. Computing a comparative range table for the two charges would be relatively easy; the effect in general would be reflected in an increase in the angle of fall at any given range, coupled with a reduced maximum range.

The 1/16 value for 'reduced' charges, in any case, means the charge was equivalent to 0.062 full charges in terms of gun wear, not that they weighed 1/16 as much as a full charge...

Bill Jurens
OH, thank you! It was hard to imagine it getting out of the gun with 1/16 weight charge. That makes a LOT more sense.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by winterfell » Fri Oct 30, 2009 8:47 pm

I’m generally sharing alecsandros’ opinion on Japanese battleships’ effectiveness.

1. Kongo class.
After their refit they were good ships suitable for escorting of carriers. In fact Japanese often used them in this role – just to name Pearl Harbor, attack on Darwin, raid on Indian Ocean and Midway.
However their armor (as a main reason) and to some extent also their main armament severely limited their effectiveness in that role. Only with a numerical superiority (or luck) on their side Kongo might be expected to succeed against modern American battleships. In reality they could defend carriers only against American heavy cruisers.
Contrary to some opinions presented in this thread, I believe that two clashes around Guadalcanal are giving reasons for negative assessment of Kongos capabilities.

First Guadalcanal.
Battle was fought at awfully short distance but still..
Hiei and Kirishima were firing AP ammunition for big part of the clash. That means 1400lbs/635 kg 14-inch projectiles against San Francisco’s and Portland’s 260lbs/118 kg 8-inch projectiles (Americans had also one 6-inch and two 5-inch cruisers). Japanese had also advantage in number of destroyers (Long Lances!). Result? Something very different from the Matapan.
American losses were heavy indeed – 2 light cruisers and 4 destroyers sunk and almost all other ships damaged. However, that losses were in considerable part caused by Japanese destroyers, Nagara, a submarine (which torpedoed Juneau) and San Francisco that put many 8-inch projectiles in Atlanta.

Second Guadalcanal
Most dangerous damage to South Dakota was inflicted by its own crew when she in result of electricity system failures lost its power. And it happened about 20 minutes before Kirishima started to fire at her.

It’s possible that Kirishima achieved 3 or 4 14-inch hits. Not so impressive result when to take into account that Kirishima fired 117 projectiles at South Dakota (27 of them were AP). I’m basing here on data from “The Battleship Action 14-15 November 1942” by Robert Lundgren.

Kongos would’t also have much chances in fight with American Standard Type battleships. They would be outgunned and with their thin skin wouldn’t be able to retain for long their fighting ability. In result Kongos’ only sensible option would be a retreat (possible thanks to their superior speed). I’m sure that Japanese heavy cruisers (thank to Long Lances) had a better chance than Kongos to do a serious harm for Standard Type battleships (or modern ones of course). IMO, if South Dakota were alone during the Second Guadalcanal, she most probably would be sunk not by Kirishima, but by Atago and Takao. Kirishima was only able to do South Dakota something comparable to what the British battleships done Bismarck on May 27, 1941. Extent of damages would be of course much smaller and maybe South Dakota would be able to flee (if having some luck i.e. not hits in machinery or steering gear and no torpedo hits).

2. Fuso and Yamashiro
Old, slow and not adequately armored ships. All American battleships except Arkansas and maybe New York and Texas were more powerful. They wouldn’t have much chances to survive a fight with American battleships even if number of opponents would be equal.

3.Ise and Hyuga
A little bit better ships than Fuso an Yamashiro (upgrades in area of speed and armor). However IMO they weren’t stronger than any of any of Standard Type battleships. Their wartime reconstruction only weakened their battleship capabilities on sake of utterly crazy idea of converting them to battleships-carriers.

4.Nagato and Mutsu
Good ships for their age. I haven’t done any serious research but I’m seriously doubting they were better than last five ships of American Standard Type.

5. Yamato and Musashi
Definitely those ships could defeat any of American battleships. However US Navy had three classes of modern 16-inch battleships which had reasonable chances of defeating Yamatos. I won’t go into details on this topic as they were discussed so many times.
Yamato and Musashi’s effective speed during their service haven’t been exceeding 26 knots. That mean that they were slower than any of ten modern of American battleships. In fact all Japanese battleships (except Kongos that were battlecruisers in fact) were slower than North Carolinas, South Dakotas and Iowas. Except from the fact that it would give some tactical advantage for American ships in battleship v. battleship fight, that also meant that Japanese battleships were considerably slower than Japanese carriers. In result Japanese task forces comprising battleships (Kongos are exception) and carriers were slower than their American counterparts.

To sum it up, I’m convinced that Japanese battleships as a class were much less effective than Japanese destroyers, heavy cruisers or carriers.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Bgile » Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:20 pm

Good summary, except I think the IJN battlecruisers were using bombardment ammunition at 1st Guadalcanal.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by winterfell » Sat Oct 31, 2009 10:50 am

Bgile wrote:Good summary, except I think the IJN battlecruisers were using bombardment ammunition at 1st Guadalcanal.
I wrote about 14-inch AP projectiles because I had read several times (unfortunately I don’t remember where) that it is a myth that Hiei and Kirishima were firing HE or incendiary ammunition for all the battle.

After your comment I’ve checked Combinedfleet.com, Wikipedia and Frank’s “Guadalcanal”.

Combined Fleet in Kirishima’s TROM in this respect says:

“0142: Cdr Kikkawa Kiyoshi's lead destroyer YUDACHI and HIEI's lookouts report sighting enemy warships only 9,000 meters away. Abe quickly orders BatDiv 11's gunnery officers to replace the Type 3 incendiary shells with Type 1 armor piercing shells.”

According to Frank both forces disengaged at 0226 what means that Japanese had about 40 minutes to start firing the AP ammunition. I don’t have any knowledge on Japanese capabilities in ammunition handling but it seems quite a long time to switch to AP ammunition.

According to Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Batt ... nal#Action

“The first few salvos from Hiei and Kirishima consisted of the special fragmentation bombardment shells, which reduced damage to the interior of San Francisco and may have saved her from being sunk outright. Not expecting a ship-to-ship confrontation, it took the crews of the two Japanese battleships several minutes to switch to armor-piercing ammunition

And again Combined Fleet in Kirishima’s TROM:

“During the battle, KIRISHIMA fires 27 Type 1 AP, 22 Type 3 and 8 Type 0 incendiary 14-in shells, plus 313 secondary caliber shells”

Unfortunately Combined Fleet doesn’t present such information in relation to Hiei.

I have also skimmed Frank’ “Guadalcanal”, however it seems that he is writing only about incendiary shells.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Bgile » Sat Oct 31, 2009 3:06 pm

I was going mainly from San Francisco damage reports, which seem to show that her armor wasn't penetrated.

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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Sat Oct 31, 2009 11:44 pm

To sum it up, I’m convinced that Japanese battleships as a class were much less effective than Japanese destroyers, heavy cruisers or carriers.
I would venture to say that the Japanese battleships were much more effective and lethal than the men sent to command them, as Abe or Kurita.
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Re: Effectiveness of the Japanese Battleships in naval combat

Post by Byron Angel » Sun Nov 01, 2009 2:03 pm

Re HIEI's 14-inch ammunition - the following is excerpted from "The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal" by J W Grace:

quote -

When the HIEI's lookouts reported the contact, Captain Nishida conferred with his gunnery officer about changing from bombardment to armor-piercing ammunition. Admiral Abe made the decision for them, ordering the battleships to switch ammunition after the fifth salvo. Switching ammunition when the battle was about to open would be suicidal, for after the loaded rounds were fired, the guns would remain silent until until the ammunition train was emptied and restocked. If the ammunition were switched after the five salvos were fired, the guns would have a steady supply of ammunition.

- unquote


This does not by any means represent the final answer on the subject, but it sheds light.


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