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German super-battleships

Discussion in 'Ships & Shipborne Weaponry' started by Sakhal, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Didn't Hms Gloucester take out a silkworm on route to a US battle wagon in Gulf 1?
     
  2. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Yes...The USS Missouri Silkworm incident. The USS Jarrett's 20mm CIWS only would lock onto the chaff clouds(her Standard SM-1s were next to useless against sea-skimmers as the frigate had not received the CORT(Coherent Receiver Transmitter) upgrade), so the Gloucester swung into action with her Sea Dart
     
  3. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    URQH,


    I suspect RAL was referring to night fighters with their own onboard radar. All parties produced at least experimental versions ere the end of the war, and Germany, the U.S., and the U.K. produced operational versions in some quantity. Each had some success. Initially radars were fitted to larger fighters and small bombers already in production like the Bf-110, TBF/M Avenger, and Bristol Beaufighter. As radar sets grew smaller it became possible to fit radar pods onto smaller fighter aircraft like the F4U-2. The U.S. even experimented with an airborne air search radar capability that became the genesis of AWACS.

    If anyone is interested, here's a good site on the radar war in general and a wikipedia article on night fighters that gives some detail.

    http://www.vectorsite.net/ttwiz.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_fighter

    Anyway, I think the rub of this little digression is to suggest that if Germany pursued strategic bombing longer it's quite likely that British countermeasures would have continued to develop similarly. By late 1942 Allied airborne radar was far enough advanced that unescorted bombers at night would have been nearly as vulnerable as in daylight. Allied successes in 1944 and 1945 owe a great deal to the paucity of Axis production by that late stage of the war. After all, strapping complicated electronics to an aircraft adds considerably to the cost, even in 1940s dollars. And some of the materials used for radar sets were in rather short supply in Germany and Japan. (Tungsten comes to mind rather quickly.)



    One other aside:


    While I am of the opinion that Germany was rather destined to lose the war at sea no matter what they did, and another 200 submarines don't seem likely to change that, I am curious why a Z-plan aircraft carrier would have greater difficulty sneaking past the Royal Navy than did a battleship. Carriers aren't noticeably larger and they're generally faster. The biggest (only) salient difference is how they project ordinance against the other guy. So far as I can tell the advantage always goes to the aircraft carrier. While the BB might be slightly more durable (and this is clearly relative as they are demonstrably vulnerable to aerial attack), at least the CV has better native defenses against said. (I strongly suspect Swordfish are only an "effective" anti-shipping asset to the extent that the target is "effectively" undefended.)

    Now, what a CV might accomplish is another matter, but it isn't likely to be any less than the BBs. Japan's carriers proved remarkably successful at commerce raiding in the early war. Supply will be a problem, but this is always true.
     
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  4. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    I live close to RAF Defford...At bottom of Bredon Hill...all trials for UK and indeed some US aircraft testing and such was carried out by the sqns here...with would you believe it Malvern in sight...They even had an early version of Awacs which I put a pic up of...on a Wellington or Halifax.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Defford
     
  5. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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  6. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Carriers are not very good long endurance commerce raiders, the amounts of avgas and aircraft otdonance they carry is limited and carrier planes are subject to "non combat attrition" that will bring an end to a cruise much faster than with a battleship. Also from a treaty perspective, and the Germans did, at least intially, try to honour those treaties, unescorted merchants cannot be fired upon but must be asked to stop and be boarded to check for contrabband (that the British extendended the definition of contrabband to such an extent that practically any cargo would fit is irrelevant, the treaty still required you to follow the pocedure) so severely limiting the usefulness of the carriers.
    The merchant losses by the Japanese "Indian ocean raid" where mostly not from Nagumo's Kidu Butai but from Ozawa's cruiser force that only included Ryujo.

    On the other hand the addition to a German raid of even the poorly designed Graf Zeppelin's small airgroup would make life very difficult for Catalinas and Swordfishes thus negating the biggest advantage advantage the RN has.
     
  7. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    URQH,

    My sincere apologies. I must not have quite understood what you were driving at. Please forgive me for preaching such an ineloquent sermon to such an august and well located choir. I am envious of what you have seen and look forward to seeing some of it myself one day.

    TOS,

    I confess that I'm getting rather off the topic of the Überschiff, but . . .

    Avgas use and non-combat attrition are functions of sorties flown. (And the latter is also quite dependent on visibility and weather.) Judicious use of air assets could husband fuel and limit attrition. I could easily see the Germans using only limited air operations: search and IAP as visibility allows with CAP limited to times of greater threat. It stands to reason that air operations as a part of a guerre de course would differ considerably from conventional sea control.

    Of course, if you wish to follow older rules of war you will have to be a little creative, but I don't see this as impossible. Carriers can (and frequently enough did) carry amphibians. Strictly as a hypothetical your German commerce raiding Graf von Akagi (bought at a ridiculously inflated price from the local Mal-Will store, complete with slightly used air wing) might field 21 Na-97 torpedo bombers, 18 Mi-96 fighters (they are, after all, second hand in 1940), 18 Ai-99 dive bombers, and perhaps 6 Na-95 "reconnaissance" seaplanes. The 97s make great search assets when not lugging a ton of ordinance. Spot your quarry with these, then send off a few seaplanes and a swarm of attack aircraft. Some appropriately armed 97s can strafe alongside as a warning. The attack planes circle, and the seaplanes land and form a boarding party. After inspections have verified that there are contraband Brits aboard passengers, stowaways, crew, and all other relevant people, possibly including the contraband Brits, are evacuated from the ship and the ship is duly dispatched. If she refuses to allow the seaplanes to board and search then you have the right to move those warning shots a little closer to the ship, yes? And perhaps make them with AP ordinance or torpedoes? Say close enough to decrease the displacement of the vessel below neutral buoyancy? That should all be in accordance with the honorable Herr Hoyle.

    Yes, Ryujo sank the merchies. If a small carrier with a similarly small airgroup can inflict such losses on an unsuspecting ocean imagine what a large one with marginally better luck (and a willingness to drop on "low value" targets) might do. The very fact that Ryujo got the honors only helps to prove the point. Sure you'll need to send Nord Maru out with spares and avgas, but how is this different than shells and bunker-C? Akagi has a smaller crew than Bismark, even with the airwing, a higher top speed, and a longer cruising range. I still fail to see how the wagon bests her. Ever. At anything. I simply do not see a role for which Battleships are well or economically suited by WWII. The limited range of gunfire simply cannot compete with aircraft.

    While aircraft carriers were not historically used much for commerce raiding that doesn't mean they could not have done so effectively. The three major carrier navies all subscribed to rather Mahanian theories of sea control, it is thus not surprising that they each used their principal combatants in that role and not in a guerre de course, which none felt would accomplish their primary war aims. (That the U.S. Navy pursued something resembling one in the later half of the Pacific war, while simultaneously executing a tremendously successful conventional surface war speaks more to the lavish excess of production they enjoyed than it does to any widespread acceptance of the theory.)

    But this is off topic and belongs in the Graf Zeppelin thread of a year or so ago. With apologies, I will now turn this thread back over to the battleship enthusiasts. They are, after all, wonderfully lovely ships capable of tremendous mischief. And they were for many many centuries, in one form or another, the way you got it done.
     
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  8. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    SP .....Don't be daft mate...I wasn't being defensive...Just thought the Defford bit although Air centric..has a story to tell on The U boat war thru technology.

    Text is not always the best medium of communication. Appreciate your thinking though.
     
  9. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    My real point is that they need a CV to create a fleet that can "outrun what it can't outfight" if they have one, and even poor Graf will do, the RN has little chance of a replicating Bismark until they replace the air wings with something that has a reasonable chance of getting through a CAP. If your best chance is a night attack against radar equipped ships in open waters you are probably better off keeping the CV home and avoid the wear and tear.

    With a carrier to make the squadron "Swordfish & Catalina proof" the German Überschiff have a chance to make a big enough impression on the British command to force a temporary halt of the convoys, that is the German strategic objective not sinking a handful of merchs, a carrier fleet is less likely to achieve that, the RN has the edge in carriers, training and numbers counts more than better planes in a protracted fight, and the Germans are unlikely to get a Hood like initial shock with carriers.

    BTW i really don't like the Z plan ships, beautiful to look at but that anacronistic 150mm secondary battery grates me, the Germans had an excellent 128mm AA gun that could be adapted to naval use, they finally got to it with the 1945 destroyer design that were never completed, replace the 105 and 150 with 20 of those and you may even not need Graf to deal with a one carrier strike.

    Great post Poet but are you sure about Ryujo ? might be confusing with the 1944 raid, that included no carriers, but IIRC even in 1942 it was Ozawa's cruisers that sank most merchies, why send a strike risking lucky AA shots or accidents when you can send a 34 knots 8" cruiser at no risk to dispatch a spotted merch?. (the strike may make some 150+ knots but in needs time to bomb up launch etc, not that sure it will get there that much sooner).
     
  10. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    TOS,

    No, I'm not sure about Ryujo. I did a little quick checking and saw in print that "Attacking on March 31, Ozawa's aircraft sank 23 ships." It turns out I found this on Ask.com, whose only virtue was that it was the last writeup I read before posting. I didn't question it since you'd said something I understood to be along those lines and Wikipedia, WW2DB. and PWEncyclopedia made similar (but slightly differing) claims. A closer examination leads me to believe Wiki and PWE are closer to the standard story and that this story is itself inaccurate. Combined Fleet's tabular record for Ryujo is much more circumspect. It notes that center force claims 8 ships to all causes, half and half to gunfire and aircraft, but states that actual losses are unknown. Paul Dull's A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy: 1941 to 1945 gives total allied merchant losses in the area from 4 to 9 April as 23 freighters of 32.404 tons, citing the second volume of Stephen Roskill's The War at Sea, 1939 to 1945.

    To be frank, without actually digging through archives in a dozen cities on several continents myself I'm not quite sure what to believe. Surely Ryujo's airwing did sink something, but it was evidently much less than the claim I'd enthusiastically endorsed. (Which really would have been an astounding catch for a weeks worth of flying.) So I will revise the claim downward. Drastically.

    But that still leaves me a little confused about your point. You state that a German carrier is unlikely to get a "Hood like initial shock," which ignores the facts both that Bismark was more than a little unlikely to get such a result herself and that aircraft got similar results on at least one occasion. (Albeit against a ship in harbor.)

    As to the strategic objective of the German Überschiff, be it schlachtschiff oder flugzeugträeger, that's the central question, isn't it? I suppose Germany would like to create conditions such that the British sue for peace rather than continuing a lengthy and costly war, but I can't for the life of me see how Germany can accomplish this. I am inclined to believe that only two paths would lead to this result: the occupation of England or the complete and catastrophic defeat of the Royal Navy. Certainly one carrier, or even two or three, will not remotely suffice. In either case Germany would likely need a large, well trained, balanced fleet, not a few commerce raiders, whatever their type.

    But this is beside the question I wish to address. My aim here isn't to address a grand German strategy for the defeat of England, but rather to assert that one well designed and handled aircraft carrier might possibly be a more effective commerce raider than one well designed and handled battleship, which I continue to believe.

    To your final question, "why send a strike risking lucky AA shots or accidents when you can send a 34 knots 8" cruiser at no risk to dispatch a spotted merch?" here is my answer:

    Time and distance. One 8" cruiser can occupy only one location at a time. 60 aircraft can occupy 60. And they can get there more quickly. If an 8" cruiser attacks a convoy of 30 ships and that convoy immediately scatters the 8" cruiser might, at best, sink a few of the ships, since it hasn't the speed to go in all directions at once. An aircraft carrier, however can send small strikes in many directions at once and could hope to sink most or even all of the ships in the convoy, even if they did disperse. Further, a carrier would be largely unhindered by any escort short of another carrier, which simply isn't true of a cruiser or even a battleship. Destroyers are considerably more effective against treaty cruisers than aircraft.
     
  11. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Poet, I tend to agree that a Carrier could be an effective commerce raider if employed as such. I do however see your proposed plan of operation in post 27 is deeply flawed.

    I suspect that your seaplanes could carry at most three boarders per plane, probably only two. Necessitating at least 3 possibly 4 such craft which would constitute a quarter to a third of your operational squadron, perhaps more late in the cruise. Then they have to inflate rubber rafts and paddle to the target to make an inspection. A lot of time in the air for your strike aircraft to circle awaiting news. Those craft landed are at risk from any type of crew served weapon that might be on the merchant and her captain might decide taking a few planes with him worth the loss of his ship, which is likely in any event.

    To be honest I see no point to this in any event.

    German land based aircraft did not stop ships for inspection, just attacked on sight. Why would carrier aircraft need to do so? They could signal the target to heave to and await a surface escort traveling with the carrier if a inspection is warranted. Much like Submarines, adhering to the rules of war would be forgotten as impracticable.

    As to which is the better platform, there are two sides.

    A carrier can search farther, and strike more targets at the same time. Valuable in the case of a convoy.

    A surface ship can accept greater damage if caught by an enemy force and still retain the ability to engage an enemy. One bomb on a flight deck, significant list or loss of speed could render air ops impossible.
     
  12. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    There is, of course, the implicit assumption that a well handled carrier cannot be caught unawares by a surface force. The two cases where surface units brought carriers under fire are both pretty classic blunders.

    Addendum: Yes, you are correct. The proposed boarding scheme would require the bulk of the amphibians. And your objections are quite reasonable. I like your proposal to simply blinker orders. Shoot on sight will become the order of the day very quickly in any case. This is, after all, a war.
     
  13. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    In truth any raider, Carrier, surface warship, Q-ship or submarine are subject to attack from on, below or above the surface so I am not sure a carrier offers that much greater ability to avoid an enemy attack simply by its range of the air group. Conditions in the North Atlantic, coupled with nighttime could allow a surface ship to pounce on a carrier. Anything that a carrier observer could see, could inturn be seen by a enemy carrier hunting the raider.

    Any surface ship or submarine could operate independently, but I can not recall this ever being done with a carrier. It could of course, but nobody ever did it except for possibly in "Safe" areas. I would imagine that if one were to attempt a carrier commerce raider expedition, it would include a Cruiser (or lager) to make any inspections, and 2 to 3 escorts for ASW protection. A supply vessel that could make 20 to 25 knots would be a great plus as well.

    The down side is that you tie up a lot of men and ships and provide a very tempting target for enemy hunter-killer groups, but if you only catch one convoy and return home you could do a tremendous amount of damage.
     
  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I disagree. Carriers were a lot more fragile than battleships and even easier to disable vs sink. A battleship operating as part of a surface action task force (i.e. cruisers and destroyers as escorts) in the mid and late war periods was not particuarly vulnerable to air attack by say a single carrier strike.

    Some of the late war US carrier strikes would tend to refute this. Of course the USN had a significant floating log structure that was difficult for the IJN to do much to.


    That's far from certain, especially given the KM 's reluctance to use their radios and radars. Quite a few times carreirs were suprised by opposing planes during the war.
     
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  15. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    How do you figure? Torpedo protection hadn't really improved any from the beginning of the war, but torpedoes and torpedo planes had. I grant that the U.S. Navy threw an unholy amount of ordinance at Yamato and Musashi but it was there to be thrown and there weren't really any other comparable targets by then. Might be a certain amount of overkill involved.


    Further, the goal of a "raiding" carrier isn't to sink enemy battleships, but rather to sink the freighters they're escorting. The wagon will improve the group AA, but I'm not aware of any occasion when even the best AA prevented aircraft from attacking the targets they most wanted to sink. The Japanese hit Enterprise past North Carolina, Atlanta, Portland, and six destroyers (and CAP); Hornet past a pair of Atlantas, two heavy cruisers, and six destroyers all firing proximity fused ammunition (and past CAP); and Princeton past two battleships, an AA cruiser, three light cruisers, and seventeen destroyers with proximity fuses and radar control (and past a monumental CAP including the USN's highest scoring ace). The short version is that in WWII terms no amount of AA was ever enough. (Half the time the CAP won't even do you and they ALWAYS did better.) And if you can't bag something in one strike, refuel, reload, and go get 'em again. How many sorties did Enterprise TBFs fly against Hiei?


    I will happily grant that one deckload isn't too likely to be decisive against a battleship, but it should be plenty to grab a few merchants. And the goal of our hypothetical raider isn't to win battles, but to sink merchants. And yes, pilots will die in the pursuit of commerce raiding, but that's no different than hotshot pilots dying at any other time, or sailors when stray shells from pesky deck guns land on their ship, or when they get washed overboard in Atlantic storms for that matter. Accidents happen. That's why you carry spares.


    Belasar,

    Why would conditions in the North Atlantic allow a surface warship to sneak up on a carrier unawares? A prudent CO will post lookouts, even during daylight when the airwing can search. The posited carrier is German and therefore has something resembling RADAR. There's no way a surface unit could realistically see the carrier from further than the carrier could see the surface unit, and generally the carrier can see the surface unit first. Unless the carrier is doing something colossally stupid it will be virtually impossible for anything it can see to close it. We're not talking about Glorious with half her boilers cold or a twenty knot Kaiser Coffin. This is a raider on a war cruise, after all. Some silliness we can disregard.

    In theory a cruiser might be able to close it, but the odds of being in the right place at the right time are somewhat slim and there is a reason early carriers mounted cruise-grade guns. Even dead to rights the carrier turns tail and runs at the first shell splash. A stern chase is a long chase, they say, and long range shots aren't notoriously accurate. Especially at night against a target that will be evading hard with no real concern about returning fire. I just don't think surface units, apart from other carriers, would be a real threat to a well handled carrier. Subs are always a problem, but it's a large ocean and the key here is to make your location difficult to accurately predict.

    And again, I don't think there's any way this hypothetical raider can do Germany any real good. I just think it could do better than a Z-plan wagon. It still looses, but by a smaller margin. Anyway . . .
     
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  16. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I probably should have stated a for the time modern battleship.. AA protection had improved considerably in several ways, as had damage control, at least in most navies. Modern battleships tended to be faster as well.


    Most navies didn't use battlships to escort convoyes except early in the war some old BBs were used in the Atlantic. But I was comparing carriers to battleships in general not specfically as raiders.

    There were any of a number of times Japanese raids were turned back in the Pacific with no hits. By the time the planes are within AA range you are already under attack so it makes it hard to find cases where the AA actually turned back attacks. The fact that the Japanese Kamikaze planes changed from capital ships to picket DDs is an indicator though. AA was something you always wanted more of but it was enough on a fair number of ocasions. As for repeated strikes that only works as long as you have planes to do so. Even successful strikes against well defended targets tended to deplete the number of planes available for the next strike.


    The problem is in the North Atlantic there's lots of time when planes can't fly or more importantly can't land. Carriers are also easy to put out of action. A single relativly small bomb or medium caliber shell hit or two can render them incapable of conducting flight ops. Then there's the need to use radio and/or homing beacons much less radar which can be a bit of a giveaway.


    Night for instance, storms, fog that sort of thing. The Germans had radar on most of their large ships. However their doctrine was to limit their use to avoid giveing away their positions. A raider located is a raider in trouble. At night if it's clear simply being in the wrong spot in regards to the moon can give one party or another a huge sighting edge. Multile search ships can also represent a problem for the carrier and of course an opposing carrier can also be a problem in that regard the Hindenburg wouldn't want to run into even a CVE.


    A single cruiser perhaps but a cruiser or even a DD operating as part of a search line has a decent chance. As for turning and running away. If they aren't considerably faster than the warship they are going to burn a lot of fuel and other ships will be closing and not all of them from behind. And agian it only takes a few, perhaps only one hit, on the flight deck and the carrier looses many of its advantages. One reason Bismarck escaped after Denmark straits is that the second British battle group made a navigaitional error.

    I'm not sure it does better but I don't think raiding with BBs works for Germany either. Certainly not after 42. As it was on a tonnage basis I think Germany's "Qships" were her most successful raiders but again once you get far into 43 their day has passed as well.
     
  17. freebird

    freebird Member

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    In actual fact, probably not. (even assuming that they did try to use them in the channel)
    There would be considerable difficulty in coordinating carrier operations with land based strikes, and in fact is was difficult enough to coordinate different groups frome the SAME airfield or carrier, let alone trying to coordinate a bomber group over the channel with a carrier launched fighter wing.

    Not if the strike was made at night, or in rough weather when Swordfish could operate and not much else

    Keep in mind that unless we are contemplating time-warp scenarios (Corsairs in 1940 etc) the impact of German super-ships would be minimal, as they couldn't realistically be expected before 1944. Both the Germans and British took 5 years to complete a battleship, so as the H-39 would be expected in mid 1944 it's far too late to have much effect, other than target practice for the combined Anglo-American fleet. (Much the same as Yamato/Musashi was)

    The situation for Germany is much different in the North Atlantic, and lacking the support craft that Japan had.
     
  18. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Missed this until I saw the post above.
    One thing you didn't want to do with a carrier was linger near a supperior land based airforce. Trying to use carrier fightrs to escort strategic bombers would result in short lives for said carriers.
     
  19. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Maybe, maybe not.

    The Americans were skittish about using carriers within range of enemy land-based air until combat experience taught them otherwise.

    The Germans successfully escorted Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen during Operation Cerebrus/Channel Dash using land-based air cover.

    The Americans did it once with Halsey's carrier attack on Rabaul on November 5, 1943. The American carriers, USS Saratoga & USS Princeton, launched all of their aircraft to attack Rabaul, meanwhile, US land-based aircraft provided the two carriers with air cover while the carrier aircraft were away. While this operation was also successful, IIRC, the American carriers and their land-based air cover were never seriously challenged by Japanese aircraft - if they were attacked at all.

    Still operating in the narrow confines of the English Channel would put the German carrier in a very precarious situation. Threats would come not only from aircraft, but also any English surface warships and submarines in the area. Which adds another poser - if the GZ is carrying only fighters for bomber escort, she has no aircraft to operate against English naval assets, on the other hand, if she carries attack aircraft for self-protection, her fighter compliment is not even worth using as escorts.
     
  20. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    two problems with the Graf, Goering was not going to allow the Luftwaffe to man the planes and where is the Kreigsmarine going to get the pilots. Even when they get the pilots, training and establishing a air group and crew for flight operations is going to take time. The second problem is escort ships, there are only a few destroyers and did any of them have long range capacity and there are only a few cruisers available. I believe that no German destroyer ever went out into the Atlantic.
     

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