Bismarck Fire Control Systems

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SteveSmith
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Joined: Sat Jan 02, 2021 7:18 pm

Bismarck Fire Control Systems

Post by SteveSmith »

Are there any good descriptions of Bismarck's fire control systems?

I have always been puzzled by Bismarck's poor performance in its final engagement. My puzzlement is enhanced by my knowledge of contemporary American battleships whose fire control systems were designed to fight this kind of battle.

I read that Bismarcks constant turning threw off its aim. However, American and British fire control systems of the period tracked the target and the ship's movement separately so own ship movement had no effect on aim for them. The GFCS Mk.38 was tested in this way.

I read that Bismarck's fire control wiring was severed. In the North Carolinas, such wiring went to the citadel in armored tubes. Each director's wiring went through two tubes. A direct hit could cut the wiring but a near miss would not likely do so. Even if a tube were cut, the wiring for each director went down a second tube.

I read that Bismarck's guns were quickly firing own their own. The North Carolinas had 10 director positions and five computer positions that could be used in any combination to control the main guns. The design assumption was that ranges would shrink as a battle progressed. Directors Mk.38 could management the battle at long range. The Mk.37 could serve a backups. When things go really close there was a director in the most heavily armored location in the conning tower. Plus each turret could serve as a director. Thus it would be hard to imagine a situation on a North Carolina where each turret was quickly (ie before severe damage to the citadel) firing on its own.

I was wondering if there are any technical descriptions of Bismarck's fire control system that explain why it was totally ineffective in the final battle?
Thorsten Wahl
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Re: Bismarck Fire Control Systems

Post by Thorsten Wahl »

I have always been puzzled by Bismarck's poor performance in its final engagement.
first look at the geometry of the last battle.

Bismarck was on a general lurching course north west. It could not actively choose a course out of wind/wave direction except circling.
Due to its speed it was a easy target for the British. and had a constant list of several degrees wich possibly impairs aiming together with the lurching course.

As seen from Bismarck Rodney and KGV were approaching also from north east. They closed range very fast. Within 15 minuts after opening fire
remaining range was down to about 10 -12 kyard

When they came in firing range (~08:47) they splitted from each other, opened their A-Arcs and maneuvered indepently, so they could fire with 18 battleship guns against Bismarck wich could only respond for the first (ten?) minutes only with the 4 forward guns.

During the first phase of the battle, Rodney hit the forward firecontrol facilities and then? the forward turrets fairly early.(fifth salvo or so if memory serves).
Shortly before this event Bismarck has straddled Rodney but received no hit. After the 5 salvo of Rodney and more distinctive after 09:01 Bismarck fire became spasmodic.

...
remaining firecontrol was shifted to the third artillery officer Mullenheim Rechberg at around 09:10 but its firecontrol station was scalped within less then two minutes by KGV.

End of "game"

summing up central firecontrol on board Bismarck was gone partly after 5 salvos and completly gone after about 09:10
the forward turrets has been hit also early on.
facilites/ sensors and turrets has been directly hit by heavy shells.

It was some kind of bad/good luck depending on the side.
However, American and British fire control systems of the period tracked the target and the ship's movement separately so own ship movement had no effect on aim for them
dito for Bismarck in general.
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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