Littorio class design flaws?

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phil gollin
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Re: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by phil gollin » Mon Mar 04, 2013 9:08 am

Serg wrote:
......... Bagnasco p221: "Things went even worse for the British. Iachino's tactic to delay the arrival of the convoy in Malta by exposing them to air arrack was not without effect and the air attacks throughout the 22nd, although unsuccessful, had caused a high expenditure of ammunition.

Contrary to plans, on the morning of the 23rd the ships were still far from Malta and that morning II Fliegerkorps resumed its attacks: Talbot and Pampas managed to reach Malta without serious problems, but Clan Campbell was sunk and Breconshire badly damaged, and the destroyer Legion suffered damage from bombs exploding close by. Up to this point these were the indirect victims of the Second Battle of Sirte, all damaged or sunk by other than naval gunfire."...............
That has to be one of the more hilarious interpretations of Second Sirte, even from the modern day revisionists.

An Italian squadron formed of a battleship, 2 heavy cruisers, a light cruiser and 10 destroyers faced the remnants of the Mediterranean Fleet (after the losses at Crete, Force K and under-water attacks on Queen Elizabeth and Valiant) formed by 4 light cruisers (3 x Didos and Arethusa class Penelope) and 11 destroyers as escort, with an AA cruiser and 6 escort destroyers acting as convoy screen (not involved in surface battle).

The Italian squadron was poorly handled to say the least. With a small force in front of it which represented the only real RN power in the Eastern Med, it failed to either attack or evade as the RN forceslaid a smokescreen and dodged through it to attack. No sensible explanation has ever been espoused. The Italians could have gone around either end, split their forces and gone both ways, or just "charged" the screen. The RN regarded a single end manoeuvre to have been the most dangerous option (to them).

The inability of the much greater Italian force to destroy the British forces (let alone attack the convoy) represents probably the biggest lost opportunity for the Italian navy. If those cruisers and most of the destroyers had been lost (as they "should" have been) the Mediterranean Fleet would have, essentially, ceased to be.

I use Second Sirte as ONE measure to judge the quality of modern works on the Italian Navy in WW2. IF a full account is given with balance then fine. IF the details are fudged and a feeble excuse given (see quote above) then it is an indication that the author has an agenda.

(Another two useful measures are, the comparison of German and Italian submarine operations in the Med, and the supplying of North Africa. UNFORTUNATELY many recent works fail on these issues.)

USN supporters should think of the Japanese being credited with "winning" the Battle Off Samar.

.

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:23 pm

Hipper had a roll of up to 10*, and that's a lot for a 17000 tons heavy cruiser.
This actually was the result of the Hipper heeling over while in a high speed turn rather than from general rolling. I don’t think the sea state was calm, as IIRC Luetzow’s KTB recorded a sea state 4, but it was not really rough like in these other cases.
O'Hara p145 'There was a low overcast, scattered snow squalls, a calm sea and good visibility seven miles to the north and ten miles to the south.' Perhaps lookouts from british side had worst conditions.
Well the visibility was dynamic depending on the time. When the battle first commenced at around 0930 hours it was still pitch dark. There was no true day light at any time on Dec31st in the artic. There was only twilight at around 11:30 to noon. There were scattered snow showers which locally reduced visibility to nil at times. Complicating matters was a fog called artic sea smoke. This was caused by the air temperature falling below that of the sea. The air temperature was 6* below 0* F that day. Artic sea smoke is low lying fog. It can be clear as bell 40 meters above the sea surface but you may not be able see anything below that level. When Luetzow approached the battle arena from the south before 10:00, they recorded a visibility of 300 meters at times. When Luetzow switched on its active radar and began tracking the convoy ships on radar at around 10:15, it could not see any of the targets visually* the radar was illuminating, although they were only 16km-10km distant. After 12:00 hours the twilight period ended and it was pitch dark again, combined with heavy snow showers moving in.

* note the British did not see the Luetzow either until after 11:00 hours even the though Luetzow was to their southward.
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: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:55 pm

alecsandros wrote:
Dave Saxton wrote:.... For example, if after being brought back online the forward radar was not used for firecontrol but for sea surveillance; how come the Hipper was surprised by the arrival of Burnet’s cruisers?
...
Is it possible that Hipper would have used some kind of infra-red sighting device?
The 1st question is not really how the Hipper could target the enemy while using its radar for surface search instead of for firecontrol, but if it was being used for surface search as claimed by Kummetz, then why did the British cruisers surprise him? The Luetzow did detect the approach of the British cruisers with its radar.
The Baron wrote in his book:
"In spite of the darkness, I could see through my director our shadowy attackers coming nearer and nearer, twisting to attack—each time, I thought, "Now the torpedoes are hissing out of the tubes"—then drawing off".

Some would argue that he was using some sort of IR device... that could see through the night
The Baron was looking through his regular optical directors as stated. The shooting would have been directed directly by the serperate night fighting equipment and crew, instead of the day fighting optics and crew.

However, according to Schamalenbach the Bismarck did have an experimental infrared sighting device. This was not the regular night optics which where located on the wings of the Admiral’s Bridge on German battleships. A similar device called the Warmepeilung Geraete was fitted on the Prinz Eugen in late 1942 and tested during 1943. The Warmepeilung Geraete could be used to determine the bearing of target as substitute or in addition to lobe switching radar. It could also be used to better distinguish two closely grouped targets. Its ranging capability was poor.

Before lobe switching radar was installed, there was another semi-active radar device that may have been used as substitute and/or augmenting lobe switching radar. This was called DT-Schein. It was originally designed to put search lights onto a target. It did not transmit its own radar beam but lobe switched the echoes from other radar sets. Those other sets could be another friendly radar transmitter -or the enemy’s own radar.
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: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by Serg » Mon Mar 04, 2013 8:55 pm

alecsandros wrote:However, fact remains that in 2 hours of combat, the Italian squadron did not sink any British ships.
lol. 181/9=20 salvos. Or one 15" salvo per 6 minutes.

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Re: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by Serg » Mon Mar 04, 2013 8:58 pm

phil gollin wrote:The inability of the much greater Italian force to destroy the British forces (let alone attack the convoy) represents probably the biggest lost opportunity for the Italian navy. If those cruisers and most of the destroyers had been lost (as they "should" have been) the Mediterranean Fleet would have, essentially, ceased to be.
This is the level of your modern knowledge. But what was known to Italians before the battle? For example what was exactly in the order which Iachino recieved before the battle. Who can confirm that Italians have correct data about condition of Valiant and QE and that they faced almost all Eastern fleet. Or how strong was enemy against which they fought at Sirt.
phil gollin wrote:The Italian squadron was poorly handled to say the least. With a small force in front of it which represented the only real RN power in the Eastern Med, it failed to either attack or evade as the RN forceslaid a smokescreen and dodged through it to attack. No sensible explanation has ever been espoused. The Italians could have gone around either end, split their forces and gone both ways, or just "charged" the screen. The RN regarded a single end manoeuvre to have been the most dangerous option (to them).
From other side using modern knowledge it is possible to give answer why was chosen one or the other decision. For example like that: "Given that only two hours of daylight remained, the admiral elected to use his superior speed to position his force between the British and Malta and to attack the convoy from that direction. He did not believe there was time to duck behind the enemy into the teeth of the gale to gain the weather gauge, and he was leery of losing contact and then having to reestablish it once again if he did so. Likewise, Iachino decided not to split his force and risk defeat in detail." It is mistake to think that Italians (or somebody else) were so stupid and always went on wrong or worst way.

I can ask only one question - do you think that PQ 17 is the indirect victim of Tirpitz?:-) Thats enough for me.

PS It seems you did not read revisionists books thoroughly. Only 7 Italian destroyers were presented at Sirt.

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Re: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by alecsandros » Tue Mar 05, 2013 6:17 am

Serg wrote:
alecsandros wrote:However, fact remains that in 2 hours of combat, the Italian squadron did not sink any British ships.
lol. 181/9=20 salvos. Or one 15" salvo per 6 minutes.
Again,
Littorio was not alone, but heavily escorted, and firing so few shells during prolonged combat brings me back to another major problem of the class, which was long firing cycle

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Re: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by alecsandros » Tue Mar 05, 2013 6:22 am

Serg wrote:
phil gollin wrote: This is the level of your modern knowledge. But what was known to Italians before the battle? For example what was exactly in the order which Iachino recieved before the battle. Who can confirm that Italians have correct data about condition of Valiant and QE and that they faced almost all Eastern fleet. Or how strong was enemy against which they fought at Sirt.
Intelligence failure was one of the many problems that plagued the italian navy throughout the war. It wasn't just Second Sirte, it was the entire Mediteranean campaign.

Fact remains that the Regia Maria performed miserably at tactical, operational and strategic levels throughout the war.

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Re: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by alecsandros » Tue Mar 05, 2013 8:54 am

Dave Saxton wrote:
However, according to Schamalenbach the Bismarck did have an experimental infrared sighting device. This was not the regular night optics which where located on the wings of the Admiral’s Bridge on German battleships. A similar device called the Warmepeilung Geraete was fitted on the Prinz Eugen in late 1942 and tested during 1943. The Warmepeilung Geraete could be used to determine the bearing of target as substitute or in addition to lobe switching radar. It could also be used to better distinguish two closely grouped targets. Its ranging capability was poor.
Fascinating stuff, Dave.

To try an answer to your question about Hipper: maybe the surface search radar was not operational, and that's why the 2 cruisers remained undetected, but the crew was using an IR sighting device ?

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Re: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by phil gollin » Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:30 am

Serg wrote:
This is the level of your modern knowledge. But what was known to Italians before the battle? For example what was exactly in the order which Iachino recieved before the battle. Who can confirm that Italians have correct data about condition of Valiant and QE and that they faced almost all Eastern fleet. Or how strong was enemy against which they fought at Sirt.
Firstly, that is irrelevant at the tactical level, the Italians had a huge superiority and failed to exploit it.

Second, Just how big an advantage does the Italian Navy need before it actually enters fully into a battle. The Battleship, to an extent, was unnecessary, the Italian cruisers themselves were strong enough ro overcome the RN forces.

Third, Irrespective of RN larger units, the Italians would have realised that they had the vast majority of the Med Fleet's light units at its mercy (and the destruction of them would hamper the use of any large units as well as helping the Italian war effort.

Serg wrote: From other side using modern knowledge it is possible to give answer why was chosen one or the other decision. For example like that: "Given that only two hours of daylight remained, the admiral elected to use his superior speed to position his force between the British and Malta and to attack the convoy from that direction. He did not believe there was time to duck behind the enemy into the teeth of the gale to gain the weather gauge, and he was leery of losing contact and then having to reestablish it once again if he did so. Likewise, Iachino decided not to split his force and risk defeat in detail." It is mistake to think that Italians (or somebody else) were so stupid and always went on wrong or worst way.
Or, as the RN saw it, as there was "only" two hours of daylight left then the Italians should act decisively, brush aside the RN forces and use twilight to destroy the convoy. The RN saw ALL three main options as viable threats.

The Italian's did not need to gain the weather gauge to fight - they only "needed" it if they wanted a perfectly safe fight and it used time that the Italian's didn't have. (The RN regarded it as perfectly possible for the whole Italian Fleet to have gone around either end of the smokescreen if they had wanted to).

IF the Italians thought that such a superior force could be "defeated in detail" then they held a very low opinion of their heavy cruisers and battleship ! Wasting daylight was the RN's plan, and the Italian's major fault.

Serg wrote: I can ask only one question - do you think that PQ 17 is the indirect victim of Tirpitz?:-) Thats enough for me.
Then you limit your ambitions to ALWAYS be fighting the same ships. NOT destroying ships which are at your mercy is pointless.

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Re: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Mar 05, 2013 5:21 pm

alecsandros wrote:Fascinating stuff, Dave.

To try an answer to your question about Hipper: maybe the surface search radar was not operational, and that's why the 2 cruisers remained undetected, but the crew was using an IR sighting device ?
Well no the radar was operational and an IR device can't measure range accurately enough if at all. Furthermore I believe the range that IR device could be used was limited to 10,000 meters or less. The document states that the forward radar was brought back on line, but it was not used for firecontrol and was used for surface search thereafter. The OKM in their review then stated that Kummetz was correct to do this as fire direction and ranging could be done using the night optics, but due to the poor visibility recon would be problematic. But the actual events indicate that the opposite of what Kummetz and Hartmann reported was in practice-that the radar was being used for firecontrol and not being used for surface search at all times:
1) At 1016 hours (when the forward radar came back online) Hipper turned south east and opened fire on the Onslow from 11,600 meters firing 48 8-inch rounds in two minutes and scoring four hits.
2) At 1105 hours Sheffield first detected Hipper with radar at a range of 21km (It did not know what the radar contact was at the time though) Hipper remained unaware.
3) At that time Hipper was tracking Bramble and at 1108 Kummetz ordered the Eckoldt to go and finish off the Bramble.
4) At 1109 hours Hipper’s radar log records a range of 5300 meters to Bramble and this is given to Eckoldt.
5) At 1109 hours Hipper turns to the southwest and increases speed.
6) At 1115 hours Hipper fires a salvo from 17,700 meters at Achates and scores a direct hit.
7) At 1116 hours Hipper and Luetzow exchange radar IFF signals. Kummetz orders Stange to get in the fight and attack the convoy.
8) At 1117 hours Luetzow detects the approach from the north of two radar contacts 29,000 meters from its position
9) At 1117 hours Hipper hits Achates again
10) At 1121 hours Hipper hits Achates with multiple hits from 13,100 meters
11) At 1123 Hipper ceases fire on Achates and begins a 90* turn to the west –northwest. Hipper shifts targets to the Obedient, but does not yet open fire. (are the optics iced up?)
12) At Approx. 1125 the British cruisers sight Hipper and identify it from 11,000 meters. (This means the visibility was about 11,000 meters to the south.)
13) At 1127 hours British cruisers begin turn of 90* parallel to Hipper and to unmask their full broadsides. The British range finders are iced up and they must use Type 284 radar to range.
14) At 1129 Hipper opens fire on Obedient from 11,600 meters
15) At 1130 hours Hipper hits Obedient
16) At 1130 hours Burnet opens fire surprising Kummetz. Hipper’s range finders are reported as iced up at this time.


I'm not the only one that has raised these questions. Whitely has raised the question and states the documents are not at all clear on the matter. Specifically, he states that Hipper’s radar logs do not state if Hipper’s radar was being used for firecontrol or for recon, although Kummetz’s action report says they were used for Reccon.. Whitely stated that because of the poor visibility and optics icing that radar had to be used targeting in contradiction to Kummetz's official report. It appears to me that Kummetz’s action report regarding radar is not specific enough. Radar was indeed used for surface search during this time frame, such as locating and tracking the Bramble and locating the Achates, but perhaps not exclusively so. Was Kummetz and/or others afraid of recriminations if they admitted this?
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: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by alecsandros » Tue Mar 05, 2013 6:58 pm

Dave Saxton wrote: ...
Radar was indeed used for surface search during this time frame, such as locating and tracking the Bramble and locating the Achates, but perhaps not exclusively so. Was Kummetz and/or others afraid of recriminations if they admitted this?
But what if the they did pick up Sheffield and Jamaica on the radar, but the operators assumed they were also British destroyers ?

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Re: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:38 pm

Indeed that is another possibility which can not be dismissed. It's more lkely that if they assumed radar contacts (assuming they had them) were not a threat, it would be because they assumed they were German destroyers, or destroyer. Eckoldt had been left behind to deal with Bramble and would be expected to return shortly. The Eckoldt affair is another example of the difficulties enccountered by both sides that artic twilight.

The Eckoldt thought Sheffield and Jamacia were Hipper and Luetzow and was inocently attempting join the formation. The British radar did not detect the approach of Eckoldt at all. The cruisers reversed course and then suddenly there was a German destroyer in perfect torpedo launching position. If Eckoldt had known they were enemy cruisers it could have likely sunk them both. Instead the British blew it out of the water, while Eckoldt asked Kummetz in vain over the radio to quit shooting at it.
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: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by Serg » Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:57 pm

phil gollin wrote:Firstly, that is irrelevant at the tactical level, the Italians had a huge superiority and failed to exploit it.............
Post factum again. At least you must prove that Italians had made correct estimation of enemy force. (e.g. Admiral Vian believed in six enemy cruisers although he fought only real three. Perhaps Parona or Iachino simply overestimated opposite force). Otherwise it is useless to discuss Iachino or Parona decisions.

BTW to whom you refered as 'RN'?
phil gollin wrote:Then you limit your ambitions to ALWAYS be fighting the same ships. NOT destroying ships which are at your mercy is pointless.
Thanks. Just as I expect you are evaded question, because of trap in it.

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Re: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by Serg » Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:00 am

Dave Saxton wrote: If Eckoldt had known they were enemy cruisers it could have likely sunk them both. Instead the British blew it out of the water, while Eckoldt asked Kummetz in vain over the radio to quit shooting at it.
Is it means that german destroyers were without IFF apparature?

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Re: Littorio class design flaws?

Post by tommy303 » Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:19 am

Yes lack of IFF played a part in adding to the fog of war. Although the Germans had developed an IFF system, it was not yet in all ships.

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