Richelieu and Jean Bart

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paul.mercer
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Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by paul.mercer » Tue Nov 06, 2018 11:00 pm

Gentlemen.
In another thread (PoW+KGV v Bismarck) mention was made regarding the weights of the French battleships Richelieu and Jean Bart, just how formidable were these ships if either had to be matched against Bismarck, or if the Germans has seized them, against any of the RN battleships?

GiZi
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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by GiZi » Wed Nov 07, 2018 12:49 am

A bit difficult to evaluate in my opinion because of the incomplete state of the ships. Jean Bart was never completed in wartime, and had to be fought with jury-rigged rangefinders and fire control stations during Operation Torch. I don't think that Germany would have the resources to dedicate to competing her if she was theirs, while the British would likewise lack the equipment to complete her, and any conversion project would be costly and might not finish in time for the war.

Richelieu is a very different story, and in a theoretical completed state, and assuming whichever side had her could produce the necessary ammunition, she would be a powerful asset overall. From an Allied point of view, she would add another 30-knot capital ship to the British fleet, something the British were in short supply of (the three battlecruisers, and then the 27/28-knot KGV's as they came into service). For the Germans, she's another long-range raiding battleship.

Her speed came in combination with good armor (at least in thickness, as not much is known about armor quality as I understand), but firepower is probably where the French battleships fall short. Although the relatively lengthy firing cycle (45 seconds) available to the guns shouldn't be of great consequence (due to rate of fire per gun usually being about 1 rpm in battleship engagements, especially given use of salvo fire), the fact that the turrets may easily become obscured if the ship has to turn away is a significant vulnerability, and perhaps worst of all would be the the dispersion issues that dogged the ship until 60-millisecond delay coils were fitted in 1948. Although cases of 'excessive dispersion' can be prone to exaggeration some times, in the case of Richelieu, where spreads 1.4-1.8 kilometers are recorded, it would make effective gunnery extremely difficult if not impossible in my opinion.

That being said, with a 14-meter Triplex Rangefinder in her director :shock: , surely her rangefinding abilities must have been superior than any other European battleship (barring fire control radars, of course).

For the British, I think she would be a very useful asset. My hunch would be that she would become part of Force H, as a fast intervention force for either the Atlantic (in the event of German heavy raiders) or the Western Mediterranean in the event of operations from the Italian fleet. One can only imagine, for example, the greater freedom Vice-Admiral Curteis might've had during Operation Halberd had he been taking Richelieu and Prince of Wales against the Italians rather than having to haul along the poor old Rodney!

From an Axis perspective, I think her most likely fate (ignoring the obvious fate of Vichy control, as this is purely a hypothetical) if sided with the Axis would've been falling under Italian control rather than German, as the Kriegsmarine would've lacked the manpower to operate an extra 1550-man battleship, with consideration to all their own warships coming online in the aftermath of the fall of France. For the Italians, it would've been a considerably lesser issue - in fact, I imagine they would have very few qualms with placing one (or even both) of the rebuilt Conte di Cavour-class battleships into reserve to help man a modern 35000-ton battleship (and/or simply never wasted the resources on resurrecting the Cavour after her sinking at Taranto). It would've been easier for them to operate than for the Germans, and would be considerably more useful in regards to the limitations German battleships had on their ability to sortie.

Regardless of who got the ship, however, it would've been considerably time-consuming and resource intensive to get her into full operational status with properly training a crew, especially if they must rely on their own sailors rather than the French crew (which would likely be a bigger problem for the Axis powers than the British). For the Axis, the addition of another fuel-hungry battleship would also entail more problems than it would for the British.


All those considerations aside, against any of the modern European battleships classes (Bismarck, Littorio, King George V), in a ship-to-ship fight I think she would stand as at least equal to any of them - if not for the extreme dispersion issues. This would hamper her gunnery far too much, and I cannot think that this would allow her to effectively engage any enemy targets. Vittorio Veneto is a perfect example of this - the fire control system was easily capable of accurately engaging any of her targets in the Encounter off Gavdos, and her salvoes were well aimed for most of the engagement - yet she fired 91 rounds at ranges of 23-25 km (25150 - 27340 yards) and failed to score a single direct hit on the British cruisers because the dispersion of her salvoes was too great (likely due to poor quality in powder consistency, which doubled her dispersion from what it had been the previous year) - up to 500m! If such dispersion precluded hits in such an engagement, than dispersion easily 3x greater on the part of the French 380mm guns would make hitting largely impossible.

Francis Marliere
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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by Francis Marliere » Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:39 am

Gents,

as far as I understand, excessive dispersion on Richelieu & Jean Bart was the consequence of interference between shells, because guns were too close. I guess that firing a gun then another would slow rate of fire but prevent this problem.

Best regards,

Francis Marliere

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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by alecsandros » Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:30 am

… Problems existed with the 380mm shells in themselves. Richelieu suffered a shell explosion inside the barrel , in 1940. The problem was traced back to shell design, with additional troubles caused by excessive pressure in the barel caused by the powder cartridge ignition - but due to the war, the necessary factory modifications were probably never executed. In 1943, when the ship got her repairs and finishing touches made in New York Navy Yard, USA, a new type of shell was manufactured. If that was an economical, technical or mixed decision, I do not know.

In any case, the final product, operational as of Nov 1943, used shells propelled by lighter powder cartridges (different from the ones originally considered by the French designers), muzzle velocity dropping from 830m/s (original) to 800m/s.

Probable perforation of armor with the final shells/powder was probably equivalent to that of the British 15''/L42 with supercharges.

Francis Marliere
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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by Francis Marliere » Thu Nov 08, 2018 9:16 am

Alecsandros, you're right, there were were problem with the shell design (some had a small cavity for poison gaz that weakened the structure). However, as far as I understand things, this problem is not related to dispersion.

Best regards,

Francis

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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by alecsandros » Thu Nov 08, 2018 9:38 am

I was thinking of the overall condition of Richelieu.

In late-1943, when she was finally fully operational, her dispersion issues had been corrected, but her ballistic performance was different from the original one.

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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by GiZi » Thu Nov 08, 2018 7:03 pm

In regards to the issues with the shells themselves - the initial solution was to use changes originally meant for the 330mm guns of the Dunkerque-class (SD19, 192 kg) instead of the SD21 (288 kg) meant for the 380mm. The force from the original charges was too great for the base of the original OPfK Mle 1936 shells (due to the structural weakness caused by the gas cavities) and caused splinters to breech into the bursting charge, thus detonating the shells in the barrels. The SD19, although resulting in lower velocities, made these shells usable. Velocity was raised again once the American-made 380mm APC became available.

alecsandros wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 9:38 am
I was thinking of the overall condition of Richelieu.

In late-1943, when she was finally fully operational, her dispersion issues had been corrected, but her ballistic performance was different from the original one.
As far as I know this wasn't the case. While the lower velocity may have reduced the dispersion somewhat simply by virtue of the less velocity, the guns themselves did not inherently have an issue with dispersion - it was more due to the spacing of the guns in each half-turret, and this wasn't solved until post-war when delay coils were installed.

Jordan & Dumas (In French Battleships 1922-1956) include an interesting passage in the operational history of Richelieu. In May of 1945, while she, the British battleship Queen Elizabeth, and heavy cruiser Cumberland were operating out of Trincomalee, the Richelieu attempted to tackle the problem of her dispersion. It had been noticed that the dispersion of her half-turret salvoes was about 450 meters at a range of 16 to 25 km (2.8 to 1.8% of the range). The British admiral on the Queen Elizabeth remarked that the dispersion for his own guns was 250 meters at the same range (1.56 - 1.0%).
Next the ship fired eight rounds out of a single gun (using SD19 charges), and measured the dispersion as being 270 meters (1.69 to 1.08%), or 60% of what it was when the two guns of the half-turret fired together.

In 1948, when delay coils were installed, maximum dispersion at 25 km was reduced from 1710 meters (6.84%) to 577 meters (2.31%) - although I'm not sure if these numbers refer to a full turret salvo, a full eight-gun broadside, or something else.

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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by alecsandros » Fri Nov 09, 2018 11:35 am

GiZi wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 7:03 pm
In 1948, when delay coils were installed, maximum dispersion at 25 km was reduced from 1710 meters (6.84%) to 577 meters (2.31%) - although I'm not sure if these numbers refer to a full turret salvo, a full eight-gun broadside, or something else.
I stand corrected then.

From the above, I take that , in late 1943, Richelieu possessed a firepower close to that of the HMS Vanguard (in terms of number of guns and muzzle velocity), when firing supercharges, and a dispersion comparable to that of RM Vittorio Veneto...

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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by Iranon » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:40 pm

The French accepted many ugly design compromises (affecting firing arcs, accuracy, armour coverage) to cram a lot of "paper capability" into limited tonnage. Still, they got a very fast battleship that could face contemporaries with more confidence than Scharnhorst (which compromised gun calibre rather than layout). Assuming her guns work.

I think both Germans and British would have considered her very useful. I'd put her at a significant disadvantage against Bismarck. While I still consider KGV a better fighting ship (harder to tell, both have pronounced advantages and disadvantages), the speed and range of the French ship are attractive. Also, the main artillery layout has its advantages if forcing combat on an unwilling enemy is a likely scenario.

GiZi
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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by GiZi » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:55 pm

alecsandros wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 11:35 am
GiZi wrote:
Thu Nov 08, 2018 7:03 pm
In 1948, when delay coils were installed, maximum dispersion at 25 km was reduced from 1710 meters (6.84%) to 577 meters (2.31%) - although I'm not sure if these numbers refer to a full turret salvo, a full eight-gun broadside, or something else.
I stand corrected then.

From the above, I take that , in late 1943, Richelieu possessed a firepower close to that of the HMS Vanguard (in terms of number of guns and muzzle velocity), when firing supercharges, and a dispersion comparable to that of RM Vittorio Veneto...
Roughly, I suppose? As I understand, after her American refit she fired 884-885 kg (884 kg for the OPfK Mle 43 is given by Jordan & Dumas, but navweaps.com lists 885 kg) at 800 mps, which is only slightly heavier than the British 15" APC (879 kg), but the velocity is very slightly less than the 6crh fired with supercharges (804 mps) - so about the same would make sense (Although the 380mm shell likely has superior ballistic properties, being 4.95 calibers long versus the 4.33 calibers of the 6crh shell).

As far as dispersion is concerned, I think it's hard to compare to the Littorio-class as that varied depending on the point of the war. The best example of bad dispersion certainly would come from early 1941 for the RN Vittorio Veneto. Especially because she fought an action (the Cape Matapan/Encounter off Gavdos) that allows us to directly observe the affects (as even the British noted the excessive spread of the shells). Although it's perhaps not the most accurate method, measuring the dispersion featured by the 3-gun salvo straddling HMS Orion yields about a 520m spread, at a range of minimally 23000 meters - 2.26% - which falls pretty neatly within the 1.8 to 2.8% spread for 2-gun salvoes from the French battleship. That measure also lines up well with the gunnery results Vittorio Veneto recorded for that period - 500 meters at 20000 meters, or 2.5%.

Of course, that was also the worst recorded case of dispersion for the guns, both the gunnery exercise figure being double what it had been the year before (267m at 21000m for 1.27%), and also observed straddle of HMS Manchester at Cape Spartivento, which had a spread of about ~202 meters at a range of between 28500 and 32500 meters (0.62-0.71%). Meanwhile, as far as I know Littorio's shooting in exercises and in action at either Sirte action was much more consistent than her sister (While Roma is an unknown). By 1943, given the effort put into addressing dispersion issues of naval guns, I would assume figures such as those shown by VV in early 1941 would not repeat themselves, and the guns seemed to have behaved themselves in exercise. I'm not sure if delay coils were ultimately installed or not - I've seen some people state it, but have not read of it myself. I'd think it would be likely, as at the very least the Zara-class had them fitted.

If we were to use the two figures for performance for VV from exercises (Although not explicitly stated, these are all but guaranteed to be 3-gun turret salvoes) - about 250m at 20 km for normal dispersion, 500m at 20 km for poor propellant consistency - then using the "Ratio of Pattern Size to True Mean Dispersion" table found on navweaps*, we can roughly estimate the value for a full 9-gun broadside, which should be 412m at 20 km (2.06%), and 823m at 20 km (4.12%) for the two values, respectively. While the latter figure (Early 1941) is far from good, it's also considerably less than any of the figures listed for the Richelieu, be they 4-gun or 8-gun salvoes.


That being said, I'm not entirely sure what French doctrine as to firing more than two guns was. I know that generally half-turret salvoes were used, but beyond that, I'm not sure how 4-gun salvoes were fired, or if broadsides were even used in doctrine.


*Link to the table: http://navweaps.com/index_inro/INRO_BB- ... otesnote67

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat Nov 10, 2018 7:37 am

Hi GiZi,
you wrote: "Although it's perhaps not the most accurate method, measuring the dispersion featured by the 3-gun salvo straddling HMS Orion yields about a 520m spread, at a range of minimally 23000 meters - 2.26% - which falls pretty neatly within the 1.8 to 2.8% spread for 2-gun salvoes from the French battleship."
It's correct, the excessive spread at Gaudo, from distances varying form 23000 to 25000 meters was of over 500 m, at least looking at this photo (first posted by Alec) of Perth (the straddled ship has 2 funnels and the camouflage identifies her as Perth, not Orion nor Gloucester, proving that also Perth was, at least shortly, fired at too). Just one minor precision: Vittorio Veneto at Gaudo fired 94 shells in 29 salvos (out of 105 ordered shots, due mainly to a problem in the left gun of turret 1, which lost 6 shots out of the 11). Visibility was very bad that day (misty) and VV had to change target several times due to smoke, this also explaining why no hit was scored at all, but dispersion was indeed a real problem anyway. (data from VV GAR).

Figura_3.jpg
Figura_3.jpg (28.16 KiB) Viewed 173 times

Vittorio Veneto at Gaudo in 1941 was firing mainly one turret salvos (three guns), some 2 turrets salvos (6 guns) and possibly some broadsides too, therefore I'm not sure it's completely correct to compare with Richelieu semi-salvos fired with alternate 2 guns per turret (if I understand correctly the way the ship fired at Tricomalee in 1945).
However, the main dispersion problem for Littorio's was always linked to ammunition low quality, not to the guns being too close (this was the problem of the Italian 8" cruisers). The interference of the guns may have affected it in some way of course, but this was never identified as the main root cause.


After the battle of Gaudo, due to Adm.Iachino complaints about the dispersion, the controls over the ammunition were made more strict and I would agree with you that the dispersion reduced to the one in 1940 and the gunnery trials of both VV and Littorio up to the end of their career confirm that. Of course, being in wartime, we cannot know for sure whether these enhancements only impacted the "selected" tested ammunition or the whole provision for both ships.
Bootm Line, I would consider Littorio's guns (after reduction in muzzle velocity) less dispersive (and more powerful) than Richelieu's ones by design, once all ships were using good and uniform ammunition. Littorio's ships main shortcoming was their very limited range (not considered so important for their Mediterranean only usage).


I don't know whether delay coils were ever installed on Littorio's. I don't think so, as neither E.Bagnasco (Littorio Class Battlships) nor Iachino (in his several books on WWII and especially on Gaudo/Matapan) ever spoke about them. Iachino wrote at length about the "corrective" actions derived from Gaudo (and Matapan...) action.


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

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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by alecsandros » Sat Nov 10, 2018 11:26 am

Iranon wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:40 pm
While I still consider KGV a better fighting ship (harder to tell, both have pronounced advantages and disadvantages), the speed and range of the French ship are attractive. Also, the main artillery layout has its advantages if forcing combat on an unwilling enemy is a likely scenario.
... From what I remember, wartime fuel load of Richelieu class battleships was down to ~4500 tons, or 10% more then contemporary KGV class battleships. Therefore range must have been in the same ballpark as that of the British capital ships.

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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by alecsandros » Sat Nov 10, 2018 12:00 pm

GiZi wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:55 pm
As far as dispersion is concerned, I think it's hard to compare to the Littorio-class as that varied depending on the point of the war. The best example of bad dispersion certainly would come from early 1941 for the RN Vittorio Veneto. Especially because she fought an action (the Cape Matapan/Encounter off Gavdos) that allows us to directly observe the affects (as even the British noted the excessive spread of the shells). Although it's perhaps not the most accurate method, measuring the dispersion featured by the 3-gun salvo straddling HMS Orion yields about a 520m spread, at a range of minimally 23000 meters - 2.26% - which falls pretty neatly within the 1.8 to 2.8% spread for 2-gun salvoes from the French battleship. That measure also lines up well with the gunnery results Vittorio Veneto recorded for that period - 500 meters at 20000 meters, or 2.5%.
Emilio Bagnasco wrote in "Littorio class: Italy's last and largest battleships [...]" several commentaries concerning Littorio class dispersion issues. He also annexed a performance table for OTO and Ansaldo 381mm/L50 guns (which was first posted on Kbismarck by Alberto, using an article from Storia Militare, written in Italian , IIRC).

In short, during the firing trials of 1939-1940 and 1940-1941 (which were the last ones), dispersion of salvos was around 200meters to 250meters (for 3-gun salvos, all 3 guns from the same turret), for firings between 18 to 20km, and 350 to 500meters for firings between 20 to 22km (presumably for the same type of 3-gun salvo firing).

Comparing it to the firings described in Jordan/Dumas French battleships [...] for Richelieu in 1945 (270meters for 1-gun per turret for a total of 2 guns/ship and 450meters for 2-guns per turret, for a total of 4 guns/ship, range 16 to 25km) , we see that the size of the dispersion was comparable , between the 2 battleship classes*.

Italian doctrine of firing the main battleship guns, according to Bagnasco, was to fire 3 x individual turret salvos (3 salvos of 3 guns each, 1 salvo from each turret, with each turet firing on slighltly different coordinates then the other 2, in an attempt to obtain correct range and bearing of target), observe fall of shot of the 3 salvos, then adjust elevation and train, fire again in the same method , etc. After target had been correctly ranged, firing for effect was ordered, meaning firing with all guns at maximum rate of fire (allthough it is not clear if that implied 9-gun salvos or each turret of 3 guns firing by itself as soon as it was ready to fire).

* It is interesting to observe that both battleship main guns had their muzzle velocities reduced during active service , due to excessive barell wear and dispersion of shots. Littorio class was designed to fire a 870m/s shot, later reduced to 850m/s. Richelieu was designed to fire at 835m/s, later reduced to 785m/s, later slightly increased to 800m/s.

In any case, the 850m/s mv of the Littorio's was a far more powerfull weapon then the 800m/s of the Richelieu's, and , factoring in the armor layout, the Italian battleship appears as far more resilient to RIchelieu's armament then viceversa.

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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by alecsandros » Sat Nov 10, 2018 1:33 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 7:37 am
Littorio's ships main shortcoming was their very limited range (not considered so important for their Mediterranean only usage).
Littorio carried about the same amount of fuel as KGV class did - some 4100 tons - not far from the 4500 tons war load of Richelieu class. Thus , I think the range of the 3 battleship classes mentioned was quite similar.

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Re: Richelieu and Jean Bart

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat Nov 10, 2018 2:22 pm

Hi Alec,
you are right re. fuel, but here the extraordinary efficiency of the French evaporating system comes in play, while the Italian one was quite inefficient, giving a range of only 4000 miles @ 20 knots to the Littorio's, while AFAIK Richelieu was accredited of 7500 miles at the same speed.

When the Italian government, in 1945, proposed to send the Littorio's to the Pacific as "co-belligerants", their limited range was the most important show-stopper. Of course also political considerations took a part in the decision , as the British KGV's had only a slightly better (and quite poor anyway) range of 5000 miles @ 20 knots.


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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