Carrier SOP

From the Washington Naval Treaty to the end of the Second World War.
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neil hilton
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Carrier SOP

Post by neil hilton »

Hello.

I have a few questions if someone can help me.
What was the SOP for a carrier when an incoming enemy air raid was detected? How did the carrier prepare itself and how long did it take? What was the difference in preparation between air strike and surface engagement? What was the difference, if any, between how all the nations that had carriers in SOP for carriers when under attack?

Thanks.
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OpanaPointer
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Re: Carrier SOP

Post by OpanaPointer »

Sounding "General Quarters" would send everybody to their battle stations. I doubt there was a difference between surface and air GQ manning.
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neil hilton
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Re: Carrier SOP

Post by neil hilton »

I was hoping for more specifics and detail.
Would the carrier shut down flight operations before an attack came in? A carrier doing donuts under full rudder trying to avoid bombs and torps would preclude take offs and landings, right?
Would it shut down its bomb lifts and aircraft refuelling system? I know the USN had a system to drain the refuelling system and fill it with CO2 but what about before that was developed? What about the other navies RN and IJN? How long did it take to shut these systems down and to restart them?
If the carrier had the time would it disarm planes on deck and return them to the hanger? What about deck park planes?
Anyone know what the SOP was?

I have been told that during the aborted raid on Rabaul 20/02/42 the Lexington launched and landed aircraft while it was dodging (turning hard) falling bombs. Is that true?
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OpanaPointer
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Re: Carrier SOP

Post by OpanaPointer »

I don't know about Lady Lex, but having airplanes loaded with fuel during an attack would seem to be risky. I guess it might be the same response we'd get from the question "How fast can you run?" "Depends on how scared I am."

Look into "The Big Blue Blanket".
Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Carrier SOP

Post by Fatboy Coxy »

neil hilton wrote: Fri Jan 07, 2022 12:48 pm Hello.

I have a few questions if someone can help me.
What was the SOP for a carrier when an incoming enemy air raid was detected? How did the carrier prepare itself and how long did it take? What was the difference in preparation between air strike and surface engagement? What was the difference, if any, between how all the nations that had carriers in SOP for carriers when under attack?

Thanks.
Hi Neil, I think you're question is quite a complex one, considering you have three major navies using carriers in WW2, and the whole SOP for air defence was part of an overall evolving doctrine on carrier warfare. The British were the first blessed with radar, which gave an advantage on a longer waring of air raid. But their fighters were poor in numbers and performance compared to the USN and IJN. But, thanks to radar, they were also the first to develop fighter direction. Their main theatre for carrier ops was the Med, facing land based aircraft, which gave some measure of predictability of attack. The move towards armoured flight decks was a clear result of experiences.

The IJN was the first to group carriers to enable multi carrier air raids, but both it and the USN didn't have to contend with shore based enemy aircraft, unless they purposely went looking for trouble, while the Royal Navy, embroiled in resupplying Malta, and supporting the North African campaign, was rather forced into that scenario. Countering the IJN, the USN also used massed number of aircraft, and both of these navies had to work out how to fight a carrier v carrier battle over the horizon, something the RN didn't have to do until 1945, except a brief opportunity in 1942.

This all sounds like me teaching you to suck eggs, but the point I'm marking is to some extent they all went their own ways, learning from hard lessons on damage control, as how vulnerable an aircraft carrier was to air attack. So their SOP's were evolving. For the British, it was working through their developing air defence of radar, fighter direction, AA guns, and manoeuvring carriers like destroyers, while getting off as many fighters as they could, as did the other two. But for the USN and IJN, there was a difference between shore and carrier based air raids, you cant sink an island, but you can a carrier, and hereby their SOP may be twisted by the desire to get their own strikes in, and so be left exposed to an incoming air raid with little (no radar) warning.

I haven't answered your question, but you may want to detail in more to the specific timeframe and navy your looking at, or at least my post might generate greater debate (well I hope so)
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Fatboy Coxy

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Steve Crandell
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Re: Carrier SOP

Post by Steve Crandell »

I was just reading an account of a suicide attack on a US task force. The attackers came in during the recovery of a strike by the carriers in the TF. The US aircraft were spread all over the place, which was common for a returning strike. The attackers came in at about the same location as the friendlies, but above or below them. It was an absolute mess, and the enemy wasn't picked up on radar because of all the friendlies on the screens.

US AA doctrine was continuously evolving during the Pacific war and so was Japanese attack doctrine. They were very intelligent and took advantage of every possible weakness in the detection and targeting equipment and the division of responsibilities between them. You have a whole lot of ships all trying to pass target info between search and FC radars and make sure each incoming target gets someone shooting at it, and it got pretty exciting.

Doctrine? SOP? It continuously evolved.
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Re: Carrier SOP

Post by Steve Crandell »

Another account:

Task Group 78.3 (7 December)
The landing at Ormoc Bay in the Leyte operation met with vigorous aerial opposition, 45 to 50 planes attacking Task Group 78.3 in a nine-hour period on 7 December.

Comprising this task group were three transport units composed of APD's, LCI's, LSM's, and LST's; a minesweeping unit composed of AM's and APD's; a control and inshore support unit, composed of SC's, LCI(R)'s and ATR's and an escort unit composed of 13 DD's.

Enemy air attacks commenced at 0820, an hour after the first wave reached the beach. Considerable air support was present throughout the day, and P-38 pilots of the CAP did an excellent job, but on several occasions Japanese planes slipped through CAP and AA. fire. Six ships were struck by suicide planes.

The first successful attack occurred at 0945, when both the Ward (APD-16) and Mahan (DD-364) were so severely damaged that they had to be sunk later by ships' gunfire. At 1130 the Liddle (APD-60) was crashed, but was able to continue when emergency repairs had been effected. The third suicide crash occurred at 1445, when the Lamson (DD-367) was hit, set afire and had to be towed back to San Pedro Bay. LST 737, which suffered minor damage, was able to remain in formation. LSM 318 was bombed and crash dived, burning all night, and LSM 18 was hit and damaged by parts of a disintegrating Jap plane.

Commander Task Unit 78.3.5 reports observing 14 planes destroyed by AA., 4 by AA. and CAP, and 12 by CAP alone. Eight planes crashed six ships, three of them hitting the Mahan. Destroyers alone fired 2,081 rounds of 5-inch ammunition, 5,379 of 40mm. and 6,224 of 20mm. Huge quantities of automatic weapons ammunition, were expended by amphibious ships and auxiliaries. Because of the proximity of land, ships did not use VT fuzes in 5-inch projectiles.

Best AA. performance was put up by Edwards (DD-619), which claims the destruction of four planes with 5-inch fire and the damaging of one. She is credited by CTU 78.3.5 with three "sures". Mahan shot down four of the nine

--5-5--

planes attacking her. Three crashed the DD, one fell victim of CAP, and one escaped.

Enemy attacks were directed primarily at destroyers. Two general types of suicide attacks were made: Low altitude glide attacks, such as that involving the Mahan, and high-speed dives from 2,500 to 3,000 feet. The approach was made, using cloud cover, from a position astern of the ship to be attacked. Planes then executed a wingover and steep dive, changing to a glide just before hitting, with the base of the bridge structure being used as the point of aim.

The attack against the Mahan while she was patrolling alone was perhaps the most severe experienced to date by any ship, and is described in detail.

At 0943 the Mahan sighted a formation of planes 10 miles to the east. They were at a high altitude, on a southerly course. At 0947 planes were sighted approaching from the southeast at an altitude of 4,000 feet and range of 10,000 yards. Flank speed was assumed and the rudder put full left. At 0948, with the targets bearing 20 degrees on the port bow, range 4,000 yards, the planes were identified as nine twin-engined bombers, with a cover of four fighters.

The Mahan commenced firing as the Bettys passed ahead of the ship, horizontal range 3,000 yards, altitude about 3,000 feet. It was noticed that three P-38's were overhauling the enemy and fire was checked after three salvos. Within a few seconds one P-38 knocked down one enemy fighter, another splashed two fighters, and the third hit two of the bombers.

Almost immediately the nearest bomber, smoking, went into a steep banking dive to the right to attack the Mahan. Gun fire was resumed at 4,000 yards and the rudder shifted full right. The plane leveled off at 50 feet, 2,000 yards, and headed toward the bridge structure, bursting into flames and blowing up about 50 yards from the ship as a result of 40mm. and 20mm. fire. The second bomber, apparently blinded by the explosion, passed above the stacks, went out about 2,000 yards, returned low over the water and hit the ship abreast 5-inch gun No. 2 between the water line and the forecastle deck level. A P-38 came in, trying to shoot down the plane before it hit the ship, but was unable to do so.

In the meantime the third bomber to start in was shot down by the ship's 5-inch fire about 2,500 yards on the starboard beam. The fourth was shot down on the starboard side. The fifth Betty hit the ship just abaft the bridge at the forecastle deck level, knocking down the forward stack and foremast, and the sixth hit the starboard side at the waterline.

The seventh bomber came in strafing the after part of the ship, passed astern, returned to strafe the bridge and forward part of the ship, burst into flames and hit the water about 200 yards ahead of the ship. The eighth, set aflame by P-38's, came in from the port quarter, attempted to crash the ship, missed and hit the water 100 yards off the starboard quarter. The last of the nine planes, which approached at intervals of 1,500 yards, strafed the after part of the bridge, zoomed overhead and was not seen again.

NOTE: The attack against the Mahan was the first multiple attack against a ship by twin-engined planes using torpedo tactics. This DD gave an excellent account of herself before succumbing. Several ships have recommended, since suicide planes prefer to attack single ships, that ships be assigned to patrol and picket duty in pairs. Proximity of land interfered with early radar detection of enemy planes and the use of VT fuzes.
OpanaPointer
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Re: Carrier SOP

Post by OpanaPointer »

Sidebar: The Special Attack units, aka Kamikazes, counted their successes in a problematic way.

Special Attack (SA) planes are escorted to their target area by Observer Planes (OP). They have orders to attack carriers first. Obviously the SA guys couldn't report back. The success tally was produced by the OP pilots, who counted each column of smoke as a carrier kill.

Makes you wonder how many time the USN carrier Laffey was counted as sunk. :negative:
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neil hilton
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Re: Carrier SOP

Post by neil hilton »

The basic question i am asking is what are the specification actions a carrier would take to prepare itself for being attacked? As this SOP 'evolved' through the war from what did it evolve and what did it evolve into. What were the developmental steps and 'experiences gained' that lead to said change in SOP.

As an example situation. A US carrier (around the time of Coral Sea) gets warning of an incoming enemy airstrike. What does it do to prepare?
Lets say it has an airstrike of its own on deck, if it has time does it disarm the aircraft and stuff them in the hanger and bring up as many fighters as it can, or does it launch the planes and tell them to run away and hide and come back after the attack is over?

While in actual battle, with the carrier manoeuvering heavily to avoid attacking planes lines of approach will it still be able to conduct flight operations? How would a plane be able to take off or land while the carrier is turning with its deck tilted? Ive been told that that was exactly what Lexington did during the Rabaul raid in feb 42, is it true? The more i think about it the more i find it hard to believe.

While the carrier is at battle stations would it shut down its aviation fueling system and the bomb lifts to take ordnance up to the flight deck to arm its aircraft? How long would it take to close these systems down and restart them? After Coral Sea some bright spark had the idea of draining the aviation fueling system and filling it with CO2, how long did that system take to close and restart?

What other measures did carriers do to prepare?

What were the differences that the other navies carriers did to prepare?

Thanks for your replies.
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OpanaPointer
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Re: Carrier SOP

Post by OpanaPointer »

The SOP for GQ on a carrier would be a rather large document. Some things common to all warships, some things specific to a type. Battle stations may or may not be specific to a person's rating. I was in Repair 3 (zone for after part of cruiser), Main Engine Space (when I got my "crow") and #1 Nozzleman for the In-port Fire Party when I had duty. Cooks could wind up anywhere, same for Yeomen. The important difference would, obviously, be who stood by the airplanes and such related jobs. The aviation types assigned to squadrons would, I think, be used to keep order on the flight deck and in the hangar, including moving ordnance to safer locations if not already there. The squadrons were "tenant commands", not part of the permanent crew of the ships. So, if no squadrons were embarked the ship had to have people covering the areas occupied by the squadrons' people.

I think you are hunting the "Watch, Quarter and Station Bill" for a CV. This listed the various points to be manned during GQ and what their duties were.

This might help you: http://www.cv6.org/ship/logs/ops/ops_chap_5.htm
OpanaPointer
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Re: Carrier SOP

Post by OpanaPointer »

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Carrier SOP

Post by Fatboy Coxy »

Apologies, again not answering your question directly, but these videos by the very excellent Drachinifel are very informative of aircraft carrier development, and how the USN doctrine changed during WW2, and are an enjoyable view, if that thing floats your boat

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dHdGHP8hCg&t=95s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_DEHvLvMak&t=7s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmPpqUwtKoE

I'm sure he did one on damage control, but I wasn't able to locate that one
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