A Force Z What If

Historical what if discussions, hypothetical operations, battleship vs. battleship engagements, design your own warship, etc.
Fatboy Coxy
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A Force Z What If

Post by Fatboy Coxy » Thu Nov 19, 2020 4:08 pm

Hi all, a simple ‘What If’ based on the composition of Force Z and the Japanese ‘Main Body’ covering force meeting.

Force Z is commanded by Vice Adm Sir Tom Phillips
HMS Prince of Wales, battleship
HMS Repulse, battle cruiser
HMS Electra, destroyer
HMS Express, destroyer
HMS Tenedos, destroyer
HMAS Vampire, destroyer


IJN Main Body is commanded by Vice Adm Kondo
Haruna, Fast Battleship
Kongo, Fast Battleship
Atago, Heavy Cruiser
Takao, Heavy Cruiser

4th Destroyer Div
Arashi
Hagikaze
Maikaze
Nowaki

8th Destroyer Div
Arashio
Asashio
Michishio
Oshio

Parameters are, it is Wednesday 10th Dec 1941, invasion forces have landed two days ago, Force Z is 100 miles off Kuantan, heading south, this is mid-morning, visibility is only 20,000 yards, due to rain squalls, both PoW and Repulse have fully working radar, all Japanese cruisers and destroyers have ‘long lance’ torpedoes, both sides are using their seaplanes. Neither side has any help from land-based aircraft, ie Nell/Betty torpedo bombers, Vildebeest/ Hudson bombers, or any other recon aircraft. Other Japanese ships, ie 7th cruiser Sqn are not able to close before nightfall.

How badly do the Japanese want to destroy Force Z’s big ships, what losses would they take, and does Phillips fancy his chance with the advantage of radar?

Regards
Fatboy Coxy
Regards
Fatboy Coxy

HvKleist
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Re: A Force Z What If

Post by HvKleist » Thu Nov 19, 2020 4:30 pm

The scenario is simply too unrealistic if you remove all ground-based air support...Nonetheless, the DD advantage is heavily in favor of the IJN as would be torpedo performance. If I had to, I'd bet on the Japanese in a surface action.

To answer your question: the Japanese were absolutely determined to find Force Z (or any substantial Allied surface units) & destroy them, but they also relied extremely heavily on their air forces. Even without air support--as in this fantasy scenario--I believe they would have engaged, but the fly in the ointment is having Kondō in command...This again makes no sense in the scenario, since VADM Ozawa had command in reality of the Japanese naval forces (Malay Force in Southern Exped. Flt) and was given a free rein by Yamamoto in person before the campaign...i.e., he would have acted more aggressively than Kondō IMHO. (Chōkai & her DD were much further south already than Kondō's ships, etc.)

But, with these forces it doesn't seem to me that Kondō would have felt any real qualms about engaging. And the Japanese would have had better scouting forces (floatplanes) available from Sentai 3 & Sentai 4.

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Dave Saxton
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Re: A Force Z What If

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Nov 22, 2020 4:56 am

Kondo will try to position his fleet to cut off Phillip's path to Singapore and beyond. Then he will send in his destroyers. He probably doesn't want a running fight from plus 20,000 yards going toward Singapore to the west of the Anamaba Islands. There was minefield there that both sides knew about.

A functional type 273 surface warning radar on PoW and a visibility of 20,000 yards gives the British a huge advantage. This advantage is not for attacking the Japanese. The type 273 can probably give Phillips enough of a situational awareness to see that this a fight he does not want and he can slink quietly away before Kondo can find him-unless Japanese scout aircraft find him first.
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: A Force Z What If

Post by paul.mercer » Wed Nov 25, 2020 6:13 pm

Gentlemen,
I have to agree, the RN would be foolish to try and take on such an overwhelming force -all they had was one modern battleship
an elderly battlecruiser and four destroyers against two battleships, two heavy cruisers (with 8" guns?) and eight destroyers probably armed with the deadly Long lance torpedoes - a serious force to be reckoned with!

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: A Force Z What If

Post by Fatboy Coxy » Fri Nov 27, 2020 3:00 pm

Thanks guys, ok further questions

OK so Kondo attacks, the Kongo's close to visible range, 20,000 yds and open fire on the two big RN unit, one a piece. The Destroyers charge in hard, the British destroyers charging out to form a screen. How far out do the RN destroyers go from the PoW/Repulse to form the screen?

With the Kongo's hanging back, and the destroyers charging forward, what do the two heavy cruisers do, I assume hold at 20,000 yds, which is just over 11 miles. Do they engage the RN destroyers or the major units. Would the two cruisers think they can damage the PoW/Repulse at that range?

PoW obviously goes for one Kongo, does Repulse do same, or target the softer heavy cruisers? I assume the second Kongo, because she can hurt Repulse.

And what do the secondary batteries of PoW and Repulse target, the broadside presented cruisers, or the fast moving front edge of the destroyers?

And lastly at what distance do the Japanese destroyers launch their torpedo attack. At the Battle of the Java Sea, they launched at about 15,000 yds
Regards
Fatboy Coxy

HvKleist
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Re: A Force Z What If

Post by HvKleist » Fri Nov 27, 2020 8:42 pm

1) The KONGO's are strongly committed to outranging tactics--this is fundamental IJN doctrine---and will open fire as soon as the enemy is visible. If this is 20k, the so be it. If they spot the enemy at a greater distance they will open fire at that point. Their 36cm guns have a max range of roughly 35k meters.
I don't believe they would always be firing on the two RN ships individually, although they well might. But, both concentrating on one is also possible, at least for a period of time.
They will probably not want to close the range, however.
If the daytime engagement is inconclusive, the IJN force has a definite advantage for nighttime fighting, and will likely act aggressively.

2) The IJN heavy cruisers will fire long range Type 93 torpedoes at the two heavy ships. Their guns will only be used to engage those paltry Force Z destroyers, which will be shot to pieces sooner or later. If favorable opportunities for using torps against the enemy DDs present themselves, then torps may be used, but only if tactically advantageous.
Torpedo depth setting for BBs was 6m.

3) Standard opening 20cm range for CAs against BBs is ~23k-25k meters (not yds); against DDs the range is lower: ~12k meters.

4) I think IJN destroyers would attack by division or section. Optimally closing to within 5-10k m for torpedo attacks (if possible), but those that have Type 93 (rather than type 90) weapons may choose longer range shots. (Older prewar DDs in torpedo attacks were supposed to launch at much closer ranges, say, 4k meters, but that is not pertinent here necessarily.)

HTH

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Dave Saxton
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Re: A Force Z What If

Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Nov 28, 2020 5:30 pm

and lastly at what distance do the Japanese destroyers launch their torpedo attack. At the Battle of the Java Sea, they launched at about 15,000 yds
This is a significant consideration. The Allies had no idea about the capabilities of Japanese torpedoes. Their speed and range made them far more dangerous than the torpedoes used by the RN. Throughout the war in the Pacific, the Allied navies continued to regard beyond about 10,000 yards battle range as relatively safe from torpedo attack, when it wasn't the case at all. For example, after the Naval battle of Guadalcanal in Nov 1942, the USN thought they had finally found a way to deal with the IJN in surface battle. It was to stand back beyond "torpedo waters" and use radar controlled artillery. The result was the Battle of Tassafaronga. 20,000 yards was already starting to get into torpedo waters, and 15,000 yards certainly was.

The RN battle doctrine to close range to "decisive range" and force a decision does not bode well for Force Z.

Additionally, the IJN considered the torpedo as a primary weapon, and not as a secondary weapon. They wanted to have torpedoes in the water before opening fire with guns, although in day battle as opposed to night battle they will certainly use their battle cruiser's 14" guns at long ranges if possible.
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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Dave Saxton
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Re: A Force Z What If

Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Nov 28, 2020 6:02 pm

Both PoW and Repulse had type 284 gunnery radars. In late 1941 the type 284 was not all that capable, however. It was not yet capable of blind fire being with out lobe switching, and the effective range to a battleship was still only about 20,000 yards. Perhaps 25,000 yards absolute max.

However, if the British can somehow keep it a gunnery duel between the big ships at roughly 20,000 yards, the radars would give them an advantage by virtue of radar ranging. In this case, the British are likely to score first and more often.

The type 284 circa 1941 did not hold up well to the shock of heavy guns firing, though.
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: A Force Z What If

Post by HvKleist » Sat Nov 28, 2020 9:35 pm

Not all IJN destroyers fired torpedoes in the Battle of the Java Sea at 15k yards. Most (~70%) were under 10.5k yds or so...some considerably less than that. Only the initial attacks by DesRon 4's NAKA & her DDs fired at ~12,500-15,000 meters.

As for the other DD attacks:

One division fired torpedoes at ~7,500--10,000 meters
another pair at ~8500-9000 m
Another pair at ~6000 m

IJN cruisers (both heavy & light ) fired torpedoes at much longer ranges (up to ~20k meters IIRC.)

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Re: A Force Z What If

Post by paul.mercer » Sun Nov 29, 2020 10:53 am

Gentlemen,
I'm afraid the result would be most if not all the RN ships sunk - or at least heavily damaged.
I would think that the four capital ships would slug it out with the two Japanese heavy cruisers adding their fire, while 8" shells are unlikely to do much damage against PoW's armour they could certainly damage her upperworks, like radar and range finders and could probably hurt the lighter armoured Repulse quite badly. I believe both Japanese battleships were of WW1 design and mounted 8 x14" guns against 10 x14" and 6 x !5" for the RN so they would be vulnerable to large calibre fire. As for the destroyers, the Japanese outmatched them 2 to 1 in number and in size which would give them a overwhelming advantage.
Re the torpedoes, I do find it difficult to believe that many hits would be achieved at 15000 yards which is almost 9 miles against two capital ships moving and maneuvering at around 28 knots or the destroyers going even faster.

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Re: A Force Z What If

Post by HMSVF » Sun Dec 13, 2020 10:57 pm

paul.mercer wrote:
Sun Nov 29, 2020 10:53 am
Gentlemen,
I'm afraid the result would be most if not all the RN ships sunk - or at least heavily damaged.
I would think that the four capital ships would slug it out with the two Japanese heavy cruisers adding their fire, while 8" shells are unlikely to do much damage against PoW's armour they could certainly damage her upperworks, like radar and range finders and could probably hurt the lighter armoured Repulse quite badly. I believe both Japanese battleships were of WW1 design and mounted 8 x14" guns against 10 x14" and 6 x !5" for the RN so they would be vulnerable to large calibre fire. As for the destroyers, the Japanese outmatched them 2 to 1 in number and in size which would give them a overwhelming advantage.
Re the torpedoes, I do find it difficult to believe that many hits would be achieved at 15000 yards which is almost 9 miles against two capital ships moving and maneuvering at around 28 knots or the destroyers going even faster.
I agree Paul.

I think the only difference would have been how we would remember Admiral Phillips and the circumstances of the loss of Force Z. Going down in a gun fight and potentially taking out some of the Japanese ships would be seen as far more 'valiant' (for want of a better word) than what actually happened -
2 British capital ships sunk by aircraft at season of them the supposed "jewel in the crown of the RN".

Ok,POW was unlucky in the fact that the first torpedo aft couldn't have hit harder, but she was designed with the aircraft threat in mind. Add in the 2 pdr separation issues, the lack of tracer round for the 2 pdr, the appalling ventilation issues on board etc and it doesn't read well. The lack of cohesion between the RN and RAF was the cherry on the cake.

It was a classic British failure where the Japanese called our bluff. Too little, too late. The whole Malay episode finished the British Empire.

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