Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Discussions about the history of the ship, technical details, etc.

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reniwqwil5
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Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by reniwqwil5 » Thu Jul 30, 2020 1:03 pm

Often times, I hear people (Probably fans of the ship) praise it so much for its reputation of sinking the Hood and taking a lot of punishment during its final battle.

Some people even go as far as to say it was *the* best battleship of its time. But is the Bismarck really that good? Was it deserving of its reputation? How did it compare to other similar ships and what were its major flaws?

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by Steve Crandell » Sat Aug 01, 2020 7:23 pm

I don't think it had any major flaws, but it was a compromise like all BBs were, reflecting the design philosophy of the Germans. They had very heavily damaged ships make it back to port during WWI, and I think the Bismarck design emphasized the ability to stay afloat after absorbing a lot of punishment. I think they succeeded in that, but once a ship's weapon systems are rendered inoperable it's likely to sink eventually anyway, as shown in Bismarck's last battle. With respect to her fire control and weapons she wasn't really any better protected than anyone else. I think that was the inevitable weak link in all battleships.

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by OpanaPointer » Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:27 am

Verily. Compromises are the fact of life. Protection + Mobility + Defense = 1. No truly 1/3 + 1/3 + 1/3 warships out there? Even if there are, is that a good idea?

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by Thorsten Wahl » Sun Aug 02, 2020 5:56 pm

Bismarck Hull Construction.jpg
Bismarck Hull Construction.jpg (91.14 KiB) Viewed 491 times
Meine Herren, es kann ein siebenjähriger, es kann ein dreißigjähriger Krieg werden – und wehe dem, der zuerst die Lunte in das Pulverfaß schleudert!

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by RobertsonN » Wed Aug 05, 2020 11:40 am

A related question, which is perhaps easier to answer was: Was Bismarck well suited to its design requirements? Each nation had its own requirements and, as others have pointed out more of one characteristic inevitably meant less of another. The weights devoted to each of the following: hull, fuel capacity, speed, armament and protection add up to the full load displacement. In addition, the individual components each break down into a number of sub-components. For example, armament breaks down into main armament, secondary armament and AA armament. Protection breaks down into close range, long range and underwater. Another aspect, often neglected, was when exactly in time a comparison is made. For example, the light AA armament of US ships was far inferior in 1941 to what it was by 1943.

In the case of Bismarck, in comparison with the ships of other nations, there was a requirement to operate on their own. To meet this, German ships had a relatively high speed, to avoid action if necessary, and heavy secondary and tertiary armaments. The protection featured a very long citadel but the chances of hits on the vitals were reduced by the low armor deck, sloped at the sides. The close range protection, consisting of a layered system of belt + deck slope + torpedo bulkhead, was outstanding but the protection against heavy armor piercing bombs was weak. On the other hand, the upper armor deck, extending over most of the ship's length, did provide better protection than most contemporaries against large capacity HE bombs, which were dropped from low altitudes from which hits were more probable than with AP bombs which needed to be dropped from considerably higher altitudes. The protection against diving shells could have been better but it was superior to that in Nelson and Littorio.

Technology-wise, an advantage compared with other nation's ships was the fact that the Wh armor was welded, so that the armor decks were not laminated or scarphed. Part of the main armament charges was in cartridges rather than in bags. The ships of some other nations featured more advanced machinery than that in Bismarck. The AA armament and radars, although later outclassed, were good by the standards of 1941. The general intelligence network supporting German naval operations, had earlier in the war been as good as that of the British (see Alan Raven's book on British cruisers operations in 1939 to 1941), but by 1941 the British were establishing a decisive advantage in code breaking as well as radars,

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by RobertsonN » Wed Aug 05, 2020 3:07 pm

To complete the last post on the armament side. The German guns were of the lighter shell/higher muzzle velocity type. These had the advantage of a greater danger space at most ranges and they also reduced the benefit of sloped side armor a bit in enemy ships as the obliquity angle was less and penetration fell off rapidly with obliquity above a certain point. On the other hand, higher velocity meant higher barrel wear and higher velocity with higher obliquity meant lower deck penetration at practical ranges. Shorter shells were subject to lower stresses than long ones at higher obliquities with fewer problems related to breaking and bending. This in turn meant there was less need to restrict the size of the charge than in some other ships. The fire control arrangements for the surface armament featured three topside control posts compared with two in most foreign ships. The fire control computers were duplicated aft, which offered a higher reserve against breakdowns and damage than in any foreign ship except the later Iowas,

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by Bill Jurens » Wed Aug 05, 2020 7:14 pm

The continued references, by a variety of parties, to relatively light high-velocity projectiles vs relatively heavy low velocity projectiles is interesting to me insofar as simple ballistic analysis will quickly show that at ANY range for equivalent initial energies delivered at the muzzle, the resolved kinetic energies -- both horizontal and vertical -- are ALWAYS greater with the low-velocity heavy-projectile gun.

So, all things being equal, although you may hit more often at some ranges -- I've not examined this in detail -- you will certainly hit harder at any given range using a low-velocity heavy-projectile gun, though you may not, and that's debatable, hit as often...

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by RobertsonN » Wed Aug 05, 2020 9:18 pm

Possibly because of greater friction in the barrel due to higher speed the lighter shell will need a slightly higher charge than the heavy one to achieve the same muzzle energy. At the other end of the range spectrum the lighter shell has a longer range, perhaps significantly so. Beyond the range of the heavy shell the light shell still has kinetic energy whereas the heavy shell has none, contradicting your blanket statement. I would imagine that the horizontal component of KE of the light shell is higher than that of the heavy shell for some distance before the maximum range of the heavy shell is reached. The range of shell weight/muzzle velocity employed in ships was quite limited. Coastal defence guns of the same types as in ships often fired much lighter shells at considerably higher muzzle velocities to achieve considerably higher range, which was important in fixed guns.

Moreover, penetration is not a function of kinetic energy. Rather, according to Nathan Okun, it is proportional for cemented armor to M^0.2 x v^1.21; velocity is a lot more important than mass. For example, according to Nathan Okun's programs, which are probably very accurate for US shells and armor, the 2240 lb 1939-44 shell fired from the 16/45 could penetrate at the effective penetration limit 17.5 in Class A at 20000 yds. The much heavier 2700 lb of the same vintage fired from the 16/45 achieved 16.9 in at the same limit.The heavy shell was distinctly superior against deck armor. The charge weight for the lighter shell was slightly higher at 545 lb compared with 535 lb for the heavier shell,


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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by hans zurbriggen » Thu Aug 06, 2020 5:06 pm

Hello Mr.Wahl, may I ask you where is the very interesting document you have posted above coming from and when was it written ?
Many thanks in advance
hans

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by paul.mercer » Fri Aug 07, 2020 9:00 am

Gentlemen,
A most interesting discussion, far beyond my understanding when it comes to ballistics I'm afraid!
A question, both Scharnhorst and Warspite hit their targets at roughly the same range so am i correct in assuming that the 15" shell from Warspite would penetrate more than the 11" from Scharhhorst at that range?
Also, re barrel wear presumably the higher the velocity obtained by a larger charge would cause more barrel wear, but surely battleships did not fire their main armament that much, (so approximately) how many rounds would have to be fired before replacement was necessary using normal charges as opposed to the super charges used by the RN on occasions?
Re the question of whether Bismarck was the best of her time I think the answer is probably yes, but some of the 16" US battleships (before the Iowas) although older could well have giver her a run for her money in a one to one battle as could a KGV in full working order -- but we have discussed this one on any occasions before!

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by HMSVF » Fri Aug 07, 2020 1:04 pm

reniwqwil5 wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 1:03 pm
Often times, I hear people (Probably fans of the ship) praise it so much for its reputation of sinking the Hood and taking a lot of punishment during its final battle.

Some people even go as far as to say it was *the* best battleship of its time. But is the Bismarck really that good? Was it deserving of its reputation? How did it compare to other similar ships and what were its major flaws?
She should be given her size advantage over her treaty constricted opponents! I suppose HMS Lion (original design - not the later redraws) would have been a good match had she'd been built.

It would have been an interesting battle between a North Carolina and Bismarck. I would favour the later due to her size but I think that a NC would dish out some real damage.

She could certainly mission kill if not sink (given a bit of luck) Bismarck in a Denmark Strait scenario.


On the flip side I read a post on a different site that summed up a lot of the criticism about Bismarck and the RN along the lines of

"she was mission killed by the worst treaty battleship and crippled by the worst TBD". Now that only rings true if you believe that POW was the worst BB and that the Swordfish was the worst TBD,though it did make me chuckle! I personally don't think that its the case.



Beautiful ship.Looks "right".

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by paul.mercer » Sat Aug 08, 2020 8:50 am

Gentlemen,
At the end of his post HMSVF quoted a point made elseware:
On the flip side I read a post on a different site that summed up a lot of the criticism about Bismarck and the RN along the lines of
"she was mission killed by the worst treaty battleship and crippled by the worst TBD". Now that only rings true if you believe that POW was the worst BB and that the Swordfish was the worst TBD,though it did make me chuckle! I personally don't think that its the case.
On reflection, how true this is, one shell in the 'wrong' place from even the oldest battleship might not win the battle but it could as the above statement said, put an end to whatever mission the other ship was on.

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by Thorsten Wahl » Mon Aug 10, 2020 11:37 am

hans zurbriggen wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 5:06 pm
Hello Mr.Wahl, may I ask you where is the very interesting document you have posted above coming from and when was it written ?
Many thanks in advance
hans
US Naval Technical Mission in Europe
Technical report No. 224/45
Latest german Battleships put into Service-
Bismarck-Tirpitz Hull construction
"she was mission killed by the worst treaty battleship ".
the same hits at the same sites sould have caused likely more or less the same damage to most contemporary battleships .
some ships would have lost a complete machinery unit not only one boiler room and a generator room … and oiltanks.
"she was... crippled by the worst TBD".
Any torpedo hit directly to a rudder independend from the carrying aircraft, likely would destroy a rudder and also cause damage to the hull and any machinery above the explosion site and any other surrounding equipment. Distance between both rudders was about 6 m. I suspect even ten meters distance were not enough to completely prevent damage to another rudder.

Nevertheless the effect of Bismarcks AA-fire remain a mysterium. Other german ships with basically the same AA- and firecontrol suite performed significantly better in terms of aircraft downed - Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen comes to mind. Nevertheless almost all swordfish received damage from Bismarcks Flak. Herr Nilsson may know more details.

and also damaging effects may differ considerably from case to case.
Meine Herren, es kann ein siebenjähriger, es kann ein dreißigjähriger Krieg werden – und wehe dem, der zuerst die Lunte in das Pulverfaß schleudert!

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by Herr Nilsson » Wed Aug 12, 2020 11:19 am

Thorsten Wahl wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 11:37 am

Nevertheless the effect of Bismarcks AA-fire remain a mysterium. Other german ships with basically the same AA- and firecontrol suite performed significantly better in terms of aircraft downed - Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen comes to mind. Nevertheless almost all swordfish received damage from Bismarcks Flak. Herr Nilsson may know more details.

and also damaging effects may differ considerably from case to case.
The main task of Bismarck's AA-shooting was to repell the attack. Shooting down aircrafts was just a desired by-product. Bismarck could repell subflights 5 and 6 (4 airplanes in total) almost completely (Torpedos jettisoned or dropped outside 1000 m).
The four other subflights (11 airplanes in total) "came under intense and accurate fire from the moment of sighting until out of range". Four of them were considerably damaged by splinters. One of them had 175 holes, a damaged longeron and had to written off after return.
Regards

Marc

"Thank God we blow up and sink more easily." (unknown officer from HMS Norfolk)

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by hans zurbriggen » Wed Aug 12, 2020 5:12 pm

Hello, many thanks Mr Wahl.
hans

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