Radars of Force Z

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Francis Marliere
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Radars of Force Z

Post by Francis Marliere » Thu Apr 05, 2012 1:52 pm

Gentlemen,

what radars did have the ships of Force Z when they operated off Malaya in December 1941 ?
Were this radars all operationnal ?
How far could this radar detect a target of the size of a heavy cruiser ?

Thanks for your help,

Francis Marliere

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Radars of Force Z

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Apr 05, 2012 3:44 pm

Prince of Wales had:
Type281 air warning (330cm)
Type273 surface warning (10cm)
Type284 surface gunnery (51cm)
Type285 flak gunnery (51cm)
Type282 light flak gunnery (51cm)

Repulse had:
Type286P air and surface warning (140cm)
One set- Type284 surface gunnery (51cm)

Several of these radars had broken down during the long trip to the Far East and were not functional by the time force Z sailed. Phillips had enlisted RAF radar techs at Singapore to help bring them back on line, but due to a shortage of spare parts and technical knowledge they were only partly successful. Apparently servicing the radars was beyond the capability of the ship's personal.

We know that POW’s Type 281 was working on the day she was sunk because it was used to detect the incoming air raids. Some of the 50cm radars may have been working on the day she was sunk.

The 273 was functional but was it working? When Kondo’s battle fleet (mistakenly illuminated by a flair from Japanese torpedo bombers) was sighted in the mist just after darkness, at only ten miles, on Dec 9th, the radar officer was just shutting down the 281 for the night. He later questioned why the 273 failed to detect Kondo’s warships, hence it must have been functional. Was it being shut down too?

The 273 was an early model with a slightly larger cheese antenna but otherwise the same as a 271. In the Med it had picked up a cruiser at 56,000 yards once but this turned out to be a case of abnormal propagation. Normally, the maximum range to a large warship was about 28,000 yards. Max range was normally 18,000 yards to a fleet destroyer.

The 50cm radars had a max range of 26,000 yards to battleship during this time frame. 29,000 yards if they were M models which I’m not sure they were. Type 284 had a range to cruisers of 20,000 yards, and 14,000 yards to destroyers. These radar sets could take up 45 minutes to warm up, but since they required to be shut down and rested at intervals, it was unlikely that they would be switched on if functional.

The Type 286 sets always proved to be of very limited utility throughout the war. Its range to a battleship was typically less than 20,000 yards and like the USN SC radars was usually less than 10,000 yards to cruisers and destroyers.

The useful range to surface targets of metric air warning radars such Type 281 is 20km at most due to their vertical lobes structure.
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: Radars of Force Z

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Apr 05, 2012 4:10 pm

When Kondo’s battle fleet (mistakenly illuminated by a flair from Japanese torpedo bombers) was sighted in the mist just after darkness, at only ten miles, on Dec 9th, the radar officer was just shutting down the 281 for the night.
That should be 5 miles not 10 miles.
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: Radars of Force Z

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Apr 05, 2012 6:08 pm

Another correction. If I recall correctly the more nearby IJN cruisers were directly under the command of Ozawa and Kondo with the battle cruisers was farther off on the night of Dec 9th.
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: Radars of Force Z

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Apr 05, 2012 7:40 pm

Okay the 273 wasn't working. The RAF techs later testified that they coudn't get it going before sailing. They were a little miffed because although the POW command knew the set was broke down, they didn't ask for help while the POW sat for a week at Singapore and then just before sailing they wanted an emergency effort from the RAF techs.

The IJN command structure was a little convoluted. Ozawa was in over all command of the naval invasion forces but his flagship was in the cruiser division that was close by to Force Z . That cruiser division was under Kurita and that was under Kondo's "Distant Cover Force".
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: Radars of Force Z

Post by KevinD » Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:02 am

Dave Saxton wrote:
When Kondo’s battle fleet (mistakenly illuminated by a flair from Japanese torpedo bombers) was sighted in the mist just after darkness, at only ten miles, on Dec 9th, the radar officer was just shutting down the 281 for the night.
That should be 5 miles not 10 miles.
Hi Dave,

With all due respect, and no offence meant, I think it has been shown that the two forces were never this close - and certainly neither opposing surface forces ever sighted the other (i.e. no sightings by /of surface ships as opposed to by subs or scout planes) - and that the supposed ‘flare’ was only ‘sighted’ by one man (on Electra I believe) and the supposed sighting of same – if it happened - did not reach the flagship. (The latter is definitively stated by Captain Bell, who was with Phillips on PoW; in Old Friends, New Enemies [by Marder] if I am not mistaken).

I know some books have mentioned the flare, but some do not (for instance Cmdr Cain on Electra makes no mention of it in his book entitled HMS Electra if I recall correctly), and some of the authors that mentioned the flare in earlier works now discount it. I also recall several forum discussions some time ago ruling it out but can’t recall which forums (one over on World Navies).

Note; I am relying on memory re the above two books I quote as although I have read them I don’t have them at hand now.

Can you point me to where / what you base your statements on please (as am certainly interested in the subject).

Regards,
Kevin

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Re: Radars of Force Z

Post by KevinD » Fri Apr 06, 2012 8:06 am

My memory, although far from perfect is, occasionally, spot on. :D

The following is Capt Bells ‘statement’ from Marder's book.

That is, from ‘Old friends, New Enemies. The Royal Navy and the Japanese Navy. Strategic Illusions 1936 -1941’ by Prof. Arthur Marder, page 431/432.(The footnote re Capt Bell, is from one of the most senior (if not the most senior) of the officers with Adm Phillips to survive.)
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Re: Radars of Force Z

Post by Francis Marliere » Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:21 am

Gentlemen,

Thank you for your kind and interesting answers.

Dave, do you know if Force Z destroyers (Express, Electra & Vampire) had radars ?

Kevin, according to http://www.bobhenneman.info/bhfz.htm "Force "Z"(...) at 1925 had passed about 18 miles astern of Ozawa and 22 miles south of Kurita. Had Admiral Phillips maintained his northerly course for another 15 minutes, it is almost certain that he would have made contact with the Japanese." Does it match your sources ?

Bestv regards,

Francis Marliere

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Re: Radars of Force Z

Post by KevinD » Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:27 am

Hi Francis,

Not quite, but close. More from Marder.
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Re: Radars of Force Z

Post by KevinD » Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:29 am

And, more from Marder;
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Francis Marliere
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Re: Radars of Force Z

Post by Francis Marliere » Fri Apr 06, 2012 2:38 pm

Thanks a lot.

Francis

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Re: Radars of Force Z

Post by Francis Marliere » Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:22 pm

Kevin, one last thing if you don't mind. Do you know what ships were in Ozawa's and Kurita's forces ? I have :
- Ozawa : Chokai and Sagiri
- Kurita : Sentai 7 (Mogami, Mikuma, Suzuya, Kumano), Kinu (meets at 1907) and Suiraisentai 3 (Sendai + DesDiv 19 : URANAMI, SHIKINAMI, AYANAMI, ISONAMI)
But I am not sure since sources are conflicting, especially for Kurita's screen.

Best,

Francis

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Radars of Force Z

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Apr 06, 2012 4:35 pm

KevinD wrote:Hi Dave,

With all due respect, and no offence meant, I think it has been shown that the two forces were never this close - and certainly neither opposing surface forces ever sighted the other
Hi Kevin,
No offence taken. I'm working mainly off memory on the flair issue as well. Mainly from what I recall from Middlebrook and Grenfel.

Japanese accounts confirm flairs, but I would not be at all surprised if one was saw, that the estimated distance was well short. Estimated distances usually are. Things look a lot closer than they are out in the open. Flares can be seen over great distances at night.

If the 273 wasn't working Force Z was essentially mostly blind after dark anyway, precluding much chance for night surface battle on favorable terms to the British. Even without radar the IJN usually ruled the night, even against radar equipped foes until late war.
Dave, do you know if Force Z destroyers (Express, Electra & Vampire) had radars ?


I don't. I'll see if I can find something. If any had radar it would most likely be the almost useless Type 286 anyway. Type 271 had been only introduced into the fleet the previous Sept. It was in high demand for anti- U-boat work in the Atlantic. So an ASW corvette was more likely to have Type 271 than a RN fleet destroyer during this time frame. If one of them had a functional 10cm radar I'd think they would have canabilized it to get POW's 273 back on line.
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: Radars of Force Z

Post by wadinga » Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:55 pm

All,

Everyone might care to go to http://www.wlu.ca/lcmsds/cmh/back%20iss ... 20Navy.pdf

and download a pdf of Stuart Paddon's excellent first-hand account of radar in Prince of Wales during both the Bismarck and Force Z incidents. As someone who was there, he questions the inference of the "close pass".

His observations on the servicibility of Type 273 are directly contradictory to the RAF technicians quoted by Dave's source :? Also, unless he is covering his a**e big time, the slackness and incompetence in PoW's radar department in Singapore described by Dave's sources are also questionable, since by Paddon's remarks he was in charge himself, and carried out many of the technical procedures. He eventually made Rear-Admiral in the Canadian Navy.

V E Tarrant in KG V class battleships quoting PRO 1/12181 says that Paddon reported only one of the Type 282 pom-pom director radars was operational due to temperature related failures on the others and the fuses on the type 281 blew during the first attack but were replaced and the system successfully detected the second wave. Type 281 was only shut down at night because night-time propagation characteristics made it detectable at very much longer ranges. Type 273 operated on different frequencies and there would have been no requirement to shut it down.

I cannot agree with
If the 273 wasn't working Force Z was essentially mostly blind after dark anyway
. Earlier the same year, Suffolk had held Bismarck using type 284 for many, many hours through arctic night and snowstorms, and both British capital ships had type 284 which could have been pressed into service for search purposes if required. Type 286 was the very successful ASV I airborne radar converted as a stopgap for shipboard use, and although it had its limitations, it was better than nothing, which is what the Japanese had.

Japanese night action successes against radar equipped American ships were mainly in the land return cluttered Slot, not open waters, and underestimation of the very long range "long Lance" torpedo was a big factor. Japanese commanders quoted in Battleship by Middlebrook are concerned about facing radar-equipped British warships at night.

All the best

wadinga
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Dave Saxton
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Re: Radars of Force Z

Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Apr 07, 2012 12:46 am

Yes, I’m familiar with Padden. Howse used him as a source in Radar at Sea, but his recollections in that case seem to be vetted a bit more, perhaps helped out a bit by cross referencing historical documents.

His memoir is indeed a bit at odds with this:
of far more concern was the condition of her ultra modern surface scanning Radar, which was inoperative. On the afternoon of December 8, Squadron Leader TC Carter was sent aboard with two RAF technicians to ascertain if the situation could be quickly remedied: he stated:
"I was somewhat irritated, when I found that the set had been unserviceable throughout the week that Prince of Wales had been in Singapore and it was only now when she was obviously being prepared for sailing that we were called in and asked to do the job at once. In the event we could not. Had we had been called in a couple of days earlier we might have been able to do the job. So it was Prince of Wales sailed with that radar set unserviceable"
This may not be a case of Padden and CYA as much as not being fully in the loop at the time and recalling details some 40 years on. Padden says his office was in the 284 office (IIRC, he told Howse it was the 281 office at that time) not the 273- which was difficult to access in any case. He only assumes that if the 273 wasn’t working he would have been quickly informed. I can’t find any noted contributions from the 273 during the operations. It's like it wasn’t there.

The 284 didn’t make a handy substitute for a broke down 273 for the surface surveillance role because it wasn’t capable of continuous operation (and not because of the minor matter of it being mounted to a director :stubborn: ). Brown speaking to this problem in the Suffolk’s case:

The Type 284 transmitter tubes were pushed to the limit to gain the needed power at such a short wave length (50cm); this normally allowed operation for only a couple of hours at time, not too restrictive for gun-laying but hardly suitable for searching…..



The problem is compounded by the lengthy start up and then re-start times required of the 50cm sets. It’s unlikely that unless they knew or strongly suspected they had a something to aim the radar beam at that they would go to the trouble.
Japanese night action successes against radar equipped American ships were mainly in the land return cluttered Slot, not open waters,

It’s hardly that simple. Land return was only one of the problems, and not the major problem often portrayed at that, that caused the deplorable use of radar by the Americans in the Solomons. I think Force Z would have got their rear ends handed to them by the IJN in any night battle, radar or not, open sea or not, at that point in time.
Type 286 was the very successful ASV I airborne radar converted as a stopgap for shipboard use, and although it had its limitations, it was better than nothing, which is what the Japanese had.
Probably about as useful as SC radar on DD Blue at Savo Island.
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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