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A question about the Scharnhorst.

Discussion in 'Ships & Shipborne Weaponry' started by USS Washington, Sep 13, 2014.

  1. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    We always hear that the Bismarck's armor layout was archaic in comparison to other WWII era battleships, but what about the Scharnhorsts, how does their armor layout compare?
     
  2. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    IIRC the ships were based on a battlecruiser design from WW1. I assume the armour layout to be optimized for medium range battles too.

    PS: The AoN layout originated from the USN expecting to fight battles at long ranges due to the usually very good visibility in the Pacific and Caribbean. The Imperial Navy and the KM were operating in the North Sea, where visibility was not nearly as good. Ranges were expected to be short. They turned out to be not as short as expected but at Dogger Bank, Jutland and even Denmark Strait they were under 20,000 yards. Pretty short by USN standards(30,000+).
     
  3. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    She had a lot of armour, but the scheme was not terribly good. She was designed at a time where true 35.000t ships where believed to be the future, in reality all the 35.000t where well over 40.000t leaving the sisters and their French equivalents, unable to compete on a equal footing.
    The "all or nothing" scheme was not proven to be superior, in WW2 battleships where much more likely to be hit by weapons unlikely to penetrate any primary armour, but likely to cause crippling damage to totally unprotected areas, than by large caliber base fused AP shells.
    IMO all or nothing would not have saved Tirpitz, Yamato and Musashi and possibly Bismark would have fared worse with an all or nothing scheme. They where basically overwhelmed by multiple hits without any decisive main belt penetration (in the case of Tirpitz I'm thinking of the earlier damage, no reasonable amount of armour would stop a 6 tonn tallboy bomb). Not sure if Prince of Wales qualifies as "all or nothing" but IIRC her fate was sealed by bad electrical control not main belt penetration,. Roma is the doubtful case as was destroyed by 1t AP bomb (that Fritz X had guidance doesn't increase it's penetration power) was that probably went through deck armour to explode close enough to a secondary magazine to trigger sympathetic detonations, something similar happened to Geisenau when she was knocked out of the war, 1t AP bombs are not hugely different from plunging fire 16" shells so there may be a chance of stopping them with armour but it's deck armour that plays a role there so "all or nothing" may not apply.
     
  4. Thoddy

    Thoddy Member

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    The armour layout was basically choosen against the french Dunquerque design.

    some basic considerations are given in the following remarks

     
  5. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    Thoddy, I'll carefully read this tomorrow. Looks very informative.

    ToS, the Dunkirk's were designed as pocket-BB killers, not proper battleships.
     
  6. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    IMO the Dunquerque's were battleships, not cruiser killers (the pockets were pretty decent armoured cruisers rather than the 8" absurdities everybody else was building) and ended up triggering a new naval race. The French were not thinking of having to face the RN or USN so the most likely opponents where Italy's old 12" ships, which despite having 5 less main guns Dunquerque could face. Had the London treaty been successful we may have seen more similar 13" or small 14" ships as it was practically impossible to build a 15" fast ship under 35.000t. The 11" armed Sharnhorst was unlikely to upset the opposing navies too much, but the Italians reacted to Dunquerque by going for a 15" fast ship and the other nations followed so Sharnhorst and Dunquerque ended up as underdogs.
     
  7. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    I don't know. Dunkerque is a darned oddball design. Strassbourg was up-armored considerably, but if Conway is to be believed, Dunkerque was armored against 11" AP, which makes her sound an awful lot like a cruiser killer to me. And lest there be any mistake, the first unit was ordered in the 1931 program; after the Deutschland but before Scharnhorst. In 1931 the only modern ships armed with 11" AP were a few German cruisers. In some ways, the debate over what's a battleship, battlecruiser, large cruiser, or cruiser-killer is a bit academic. Since battleships and armored cruisers both seem to have developed rather fluidly and side by side from central battery ironclads and "cruising battleships" making the distinction between them at times fuzzy, perhaps it's not too surprising that their descendants were a little ambiguous around the boundaries as well. The classification isn't really so important, though, as knowing when you can stay and fight and when you out to bug out. I think Dunkerque would be quite capable of fighting most any cruiser previous to Alaska, but she would be well advised to book it if she encountered any battleship at all more modern than Schleswig-Holstein, as they would have her outgunned and out armoured. Fortunately, when she was built she had the speed to outrun any capital ship save Hood or the Renowns.
     
  8. Thoddy

    Thoddy Member

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  9. Christopher47

    Christopher47 Same Song, Fourth Verse

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    Folks, the timing of the construction of the 'oddball' French twins, 'Dunkerque' and 'Strasbourg' nicely reveals exactly what they were meant for....

    "France laid down her first new battleship, the "Dunkerque" in 1932, and followed in 1934 with her sister ship, "Strasbourg".

    These ships curiously matched the British 1930 proposals in terms of tonnage (26,000), and armament, (12 inch). The arrangements were unique: the main and secondary guns were mounted in quadruple turrets, with the main batteries all forward firing, (as in Rodney/Nelson), and all secondaries firing at and abaft the beam. They were fast ships as well, designed for 29.5 knots, but attaining 31 knots in trials. Their armour was barely adequate."

    "The 'pocket battleships' were a 'between' design. Constructed, supposedly, under the terms of the Versailles treaty, which allowed 10,000 tons, (they were heavier than the German's were letting on)), and 11 inch guns. Kriegsmarine publicists boasted that they were supposed to be able to "outrun what they could not out-fight, and out fight what they couldn't out-run." The action at River Plate debunked that wishful thinking. British observers said at the time that there were only three RN ships that were of comparible armament that could catch them in a chase, ('Hood', 'Repulse', and 'Renown'). These three German vessels made excellent propaganda if nothing else."

    "They were outclassed, at least on paper, by the 'Dunkerque' and 'Strasbourg', which had been built specifically to counter this design."
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I have seen this seriously debated (especially over on kbismarck). Bismarck may actually have had the best protected "vitals" of any ship with the possible exception of the Yamato's. On the other hand there were areas that weren't considered "vitals" that clearly were. Bismarck's armor scheme does seem to have been designed to give her a good chance of making it back to port despite heavy damage at the cost of not keeping her in the fite as long as possible.

    Both the Bismarck's and the Twins seem to have been optimized for short range engagements relativly close to home (the North Sea area in particular). British doctrine also seemed to focus on short range engagements unlike the US and Japanese doctrines which focused on long range ones.

    I don't think I'd seen that before. Why would you base a battleships armor scheme on that of a battlecruiser if the two were different?
     
  11. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    I read it the other way round:

    The French were not concerned about Italy's old and slow BB and thus not interested in new BB for their navy. They were building DD and cruisers during the 1920s. Enter the pocket-BB(1929) -whose fighting power was overestimated- and the French build a ship that was both faster and better armed than a pocket BB(1932). This also means the ship was superior to any existing Italian BB. So a year later the Italians begin rebuilding their old BB.


    German battlecruisers from WW1 were rather well armoured and the latest designs could be called the first fast battleships. The Ersatz-York class was to carry 8*38cm guns, make 27-28 knots and have a 30cm armoured belt. Not the worst starting point for a fast BB.
     
  12. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    This is some good info you all have provided, I appreciate the responses.
     
  13. Thoddy

    Thoddy Member

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    Despite having almost the same armor(scheme and thicknesses)as the following class the Germans consider the upper belt of only 60 mm as a substantially weakness. In the fire effect tables you will see that the upper deck as well as the citadell armor is completely left out of consideration, even it exists and should have had some impact on ballistic protection.

    In the fire effect tables, the germans only calculated a worst case for penetration expectations (wich is also true for the Bismarck class). The gains in protection had been touched only by the Textbook. And without digging deeper in the results of german ballistics research prior to the war and additional informations, one can find for instance in british and american post war ballistics reports, the general(published) assessment on german armor protection of capital ships seems to be misleading.

    So IMHO generations of book authors paint a wrong picture of german armor protection, but it affects not only shells at flat trajectories but also plunging trajectories for artillery type attack.

    Different from that is the AP bombs problem.
    ..............................................................................................................................................................................

    Sample pls
    ..............................................................................................................................................................................

    There are no german primary accounts, that confirm this assessment as far as I know.

    The german expectations on battle distances for heavy warships (according to 1937/38 war games carried out by the naval command) were in the order of 25-27 km. Accordingly the final training in 1941 was carried out (for Tirpitz) at a distance of 25 km against moving target(Hessen).

    Ther is no question that modern ww2 firecontrol was able to calculate accurate fire-solutions even at large distances. But at such distances flight times of shells increase significantly and hitting % became significantly more dependend on maneuver of the shelled ship.
     
  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    One of the things mentioned repeatedly over on kbismarck is that the combination of armored decks with significant seperations would tend to both decap AP projectiles and introduce yaw which would significantly reduce the ability of the shell to penetrate the deeper armored decks. The upper belt would have the same effect on shells that might impact the "turtle deck".
    Well a couple of obvious examples from Bismarck were her propulsion/engineering systems and her main armament. Now it is difficult to protect rudders and props but they can be designed to be less vulnerable to single hits. Likewise a single hit from Rodney seems to have taken out half of Bismarck's main battery.

    There is no question that the Bismarck's could fight at those ranges but that is not necessarily the range at which they planned or expected to fight. The RN as well expected to open fire at ranges well over 20,000 yards but to the goal was to close to closer ranges where the hit probablilities increased and the action could be expected to be decisive. If you look at the typical weather in the North Sea and Baltic I think you will find that there are significant periods where optical systems simply aren't going to be able to give you a decent fire control solution at ranges over 25,000 yards. Again look at the battle of Denmark Straits niether sided opened fire at longer ranges. Similarly the British moved in quite close to Bismarck in her final battle.
     
  15. Thoddy

    Thoddy Member

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    I dont think the samples you choose were valid proof of inadequate (ballistic)protection of vitals.

    The critical torpedohit (Is apparantly no ballistic attack) did not hit propellers nor the rudder directly.

    It hit underneath of the ruddermachinery spaces flooded the complete spaces and jammed the rudders at 15 degrees or so, as the position of the hit was in a very favorable position for inflicting damage to the machinery. Possibly a ruddershaft was also distorted.

    You may simulate a similar hit for different ship/rudder designs - the result should be similarly devastating, if you compare the possible damage of a typical torpedowarheads detonation, wich creates a hole in the order of 7.5 m in diameter in unprotected areas.

    The ruddermachinery spaces of Bismarck were divided into two main ruddermachinery sections and two hand rudder sections, each separated by watertight bulkheads. Because of the flooding of all compartments it was not possible to disengage the jammed rudder and to put it into zero position. As the armor of the ruddermachinery spaces was not impaired, one can conlude that 110 mm armor grade steel may stop the detonation forces, if the detonation was 3 m distant.

    The only solution to that problem was a emergency rudder in a remote place, completely separated and independent from all main rudder equipment.

    -----------------------------
    Somewhat more difficult to answer is the loss of the two turrets, as no primary accounts exists, to assess the damage.

    First of all armament was considered as primary battle value but not as "vitals".

    Its possible, that two projectiles hit at the same time, as only 3 splashes were observed out of a 5 gun salvo (if memory serves). Distance at this time was in the order of 18 km. Even considerably thicker armor did not offer protection against hits at this distance. You may calculate the required thickness, but remember, even non penetrating hits took battleship turrets out of service.

    There is also some information out, that one of the bow turrets fired a last salvo at about 09:27. Consequently it appears, as if one turret was out of service only temporarily. It was standard procedure on german warships to flood adjacent and potentially endangered magazines if a turret receives an hit (pentrating or not).
     
  16. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I obviously didn't make my point clear enough. What is "vital" and what a design team considers to be "vital" are not always the same. Propulsion and steering are on almost any objective scale "vital", in many cases however they were not well protected. Of course one simply can't protect everything. Likewise primary armament can be vital to a ships survival however giving it "complete" protection is rather prohibitive if it is possible at all. Another example of the "vital" nature of protecting the armament might be the Yamato's. As originally designed their secondary turrets were not particularly well protected and in theory a hit on one could have lead to a shell or bomb pentrating to the secondary magazine which if it went high order would likely have cause a conflegration in the primary magazine resulting in the destruction of the ship. In Bismarck's case I suspect that what happened is Rodney's hit was close enough the barbet of one of the turrets that it started a fire in that location. Damage control then flooded the magazine of that turret and the adjacent turret as well (Scharnhorst had a similar event but after the fire was controlled they pumpted out the undamage turrets magazine and resumed fire). In essence the area below Bismarck's turrtle deck was very well protected (indeed it likely would have taken long range hits from either Yamato or US "Supper Heavy" 16" rounds to penetrate it and even they were not guaranteed to) however that by no means meant that Bismarck was guaranteed to survive even a one on one engagement with another modern battleship.

    Protection is and has to be a trade off and balistic protection vs underwater protection is one of them. Multiple widely spaced rudders could help prevent a single hit disabling a ship as can the spacing and location of the props and shafts. How likely such a hit is is an open question and how much effort it is worth going through to protect vs unlikely events is also a question that can lead to considerable debate.

    One of the bow turrets apparently did fire at least one round late in the action but whether or not that was under human control is an open question. It may simply have been a round cooking off. It's also rather irrelevant however as Bismarck lost half of her main battery during a rather important part of the battle.

    My impression of all or nothing type of armoring is that the goal was to keep the ship in action as long as possible. The post WWI German battleships seam to have been armored in a way as to give them the best possible chance of making it home after an action. This seems like an intelligent choice for the Germans given the balance of forces they were likely to face at sea. Even if they had only ended up fighting France it would arguably have been the better choice for them.
     
  17. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Fleets of World War II by Richard Worth aka Tiornu describes Scharnhorst's boiler rooms extending above the main belt and protective deck and being protected only by a 3" armored box. As luck would have it, a 14" shell from Duke of York hit there, significantly reducing her speed and enabling the British and Norwegian destroyers to close in for torpedo attack.
     
  18. Thoddy

    Thoddy Member

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    I completely agree.

    in the case in question the main problem is caused by a fixed rudder position. Shafts and propellers were unaffected.
    Wich ship can steer with propellers against a 15 degree rudder position, wich cause a ship to turn within 1200 m diameter.

    But at wich ship rudders appear to be far enough apart from each other to be unaffected by a detonation directly underneath the rudder rooms. I would like to hear your opinion.

    the same appears as true the other way around. Battleships were complex machines.

    Its not that certain, that an penetration occured. Survivors state there was no penetration into the citadel.
    but ther ther were other possible explanations, for instance
    -shock damage and/or
    -mechanical failure as Scharnhorst machinery was notorious for breakdowns considering the probable overload during the last hours.

    The presumption of a hit is based on a survivor statment who mentioned "a hit at about 18:20 aft" but there is a serious problem.
    The plotted track did not show a reduction in speed before 18:40.
    The recognized reduction of distance DOY<->Scharnhorst wich was found around 18:40 was caused by a generous Zig -Zag movement lasting from 18:20-18:30 wich cost about 20% covered distance in the main direction of movement.
     

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