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Rescue the Bismarck!

Discussion in 'Atlantic Naval Conflict' started by UncleJoe, Mar 26, 2015.

  1. Thoddy

    Thoddy Member

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    the succes of the swordfish vs Bismarck with no own losses was the only one success. Nevertheless an event of considerable significance.

    But to note Bismarck AA suite -AA firecontrol was incomplete/ partially not matching and the crew was not adequately trained on the subject.


    All other instances I am aware ended otherwise, partly with massive losses of this type of aircraft

    -Scharnhorst at Utsira on 21 th June 1940

    -The channel dash "Operation Cerberus"

    -Tirpitz and fifth destroyer flotilla (Ihn, Schoemann and Z 25) venture towards Bear island on 9th march 1942

    -Prinz Eugen during "Zauberflöte" (Return of the cruiser after torpedohit in the stern) accompanied by the destroyers Paul Jacobi and Z25 and the torpedoboats T11 and T12, about 50 nautical miles westward from Kristiansand on 17 th May 1942
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    How about Tarranto? And the Swordfish was used as an ASW ac with some considerable success as well wasn't it? Torpedo bombers in general proved quite vulnerable especially if they went in alone.
     
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  3. Thoddy

    Thoddy Member

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    Taranto was a surprise attack the situation doesnt compare well with Rheinübung and the other samples mentioned by me.
    (ships underway and combat ready vs stationary targets no closure condition)
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Put any other torpedo plane of the era in the same positon and can you reasonably expect them to do better? The channel Dash in particular was comparable to Torpedo 8's attack at Midway but Torpedo 8 at least took the heat off the dive bombers that followed up. The Swordfish had no such follow ups. It would appear to me that the fleet air arm really needed to rethink their daylight useage of torpedo bombers. Note that both the USN and the IJN used torpedo bombers as part of a combined arms approach that included both dive bombers and fighters. The RN lacked the former and didn't seem to use the latter in the same way, at least offensively, as the IJN and USN. The RN did push the envelope as far as night attacks with carrier ac goes so it isn't all one sided.
     
  5. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    No, no VT-8 didn't.

    Torpedo 8 was the first of the carrier squadrons to attack Kido Butai. That attack lasted from about 0920 to 0937, about 40 minutes before the divebombers arrived. The next attack was by VT-6 which lasted from about 0940 to 1000 - with some A6M2s continuing to attack VT-6 until 1010. The "death knell" of Kido Butai began around 1006 when the torpedo bombers of VT-3 were spotted(but not, apparently, VF-3 & VB-3 which were flying well above them).

    It was this long development of VT-3's torpedo attack that kept and held Japanese attention, and allowed the divebombers their clear shot. As divebomber pilots egressing the battle reported that VT-3 Devastators were still approaching the Japanese carriers to drop their torpedoes.



    The Fleet Air Arm really needed to rethink a lot of things. However, they were still under RAF control until late-May 1939, so, it was your typical "make do and mend." The FAA struggled along, fixated on multi-role aircraft, with the Blackburn Skua and it's replacement the Fairey Battle, as fighter-bombers. Unfortunately, these aircraft performed neither job very well unless they were faced with no enemy fighter opposition. The Fairey Swordfish, was the only real gem to come out of the pre-war and early war FAA aircraft designs. But, then again, it never faced any real opposition early in the war, and after it did it was relegated to ASW work. Ironically, as originally conceived, the Swordfish was to be a spotter/reconnaissance aircraft - the ability for the design to carry a torpedo came in a later design requirement.

    As to the FAA lacking a "combined arms" approach, I tend to chalk this up to a few factors. First, the FAA was under RAF control during the time period. As such, the FAA likely was not allowed the necessary freedom to fully approach naval air doctrine the way their compatriots in the USN and IJN were doing. Second, the air groups aboard her carriers tended to be much smaller than those aboard typical USN & IJN carriers, as such it would greatly limit the offensive punch that one British strike package would be capable of. Further along those lines, the British had a vast amount of territory to cover and few carriers with which to do so. As such, they were deprived what was needed for a really effective strike, and that was mass. It would not be until the waning months of the war, with Germany almost defeated, that the British were able to achieve this "mass" in the Pacific. Finally, the third factor is that the British faced no real competition in a speculative carrier war, out side of Japan - half a world a way - and where the British Empire had plenty of land bases to serve as "unsinkable" aircraft carriers. Indeed, Britain herself was one such "unsinkable" aircraft carrier. With no real competition, one can see why the FAA was "stuck" with RAF hand-me-downs and mostly abysmal multi-role aircraft.
     
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  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    You are correct I shouldn't have singled VT-8 out in that regard. It did perform the opening torpedo attack in a string of attacks the did keep the focus of the IJN effort down on the deck though. The losses in all those torpedo squadros were prohibitive that day as well from what I recall. Indeed that makes the case for the Swordfish even stronger.

    Your summary of why the Fleet Air Arm had some problems was very good IMO. It does make there concept of radar guided night attacks by torpedo bombers early on even more remarkable in some ways.
     
  7. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The swordfish proved very effective in the Med, Matapan wouldn't have happened without the two torpedo hits on Vittorio Veneto and Pola and I'm pretty sure those were from swordfish not albacores, a number of other ships were hit in attacks on the harbours during the previous year. It was a sitting duck against fighters, and probably wouldn't have survived to launch distance against late war AAA but for 1941 it was ok. "Replacing it's replacement" is not a terribly good recommendation, AFAIK one of the planes that had that distinction was the Me 110, and the Swordfish survived in late war mostly on escort carriers where it's low stall speed was big advantage,
     
  8. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The hit on the Vittorio Veneto was from Albacore off of HMS Formidable. The hit on the Pola was from one of the two Malme, Crete, based Swordfish.
     
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  9. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    It is not so much "making a case" for one attack type over another, as it is making a case for carrier attack aircraft in general. In the face of an adequate determined defense, the carrier attack aircraft will take losses, sometimes very heavy ones. Let's not forget that it was the SBDs that suffered heavy losses at Coral Sea - although, that is slightly mitigated by the fact that some of the lost SBDs were acting as an anti-torpedo bomber patrol when they were engaged by A6M2 Zeroes. Still, while the loss of 37 of 41 TBDs is prohibitive, 53 SBDs were lost to all causes(taking into account those based at Midway, as well as on the carriers) - with only 5 of that number(3 from Yorktown & 2 from Enterprise) sinking with the USS Yorktown. Finally, Japanese carrier attack aircraft also suffered high losses in these two battles - particularly, IIRC, Zuikaku and Hiryu.
    ppages 152-154: http://www.atrecovery.com/Images/2106/DAUNTLESSreport2106.pdf


    Thanks for the compliment.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Indeed if the USN hadn't taken heavy losses they might have followed up and inflicted signficant additoinal damage to the IJN. If you didn't want to take heavy losses with carrier airpower you needed overwhelming numbers and/or some other edge like tech, skill, or doctrine (I'm thinking here of the Marianas). Early war though no one seems to have had a really good handle on this although perhaps the IJN had the basics down.

    Oh the basic case I was making was that the Swordfish was hardly obsolete in 41 and that it's losses during early war operations wasn't that out of line with other torpedo bombers although as you point out that could be widened a bit.
     
  11. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    I would say that both the USN and the IJN had the basics down, with the USN having the edge in technology and being more able to quickly adapt new tactical doctrine and tactics.


    I think the better case to be made was that all the naval carrier attack aircraft were obsolete in the face of modern fighters. After all, let's face facts. The British were looking to replace the Swordfish in 1936, when the Air Ministry issued it's Specification S.41/36, and again, in 1937, when Specification S.24/37 was issued for what became the Fairey Barracuda. The Americans, as early as 1938, were looking for a replacement for the SBD, and began competition between Curtiss and Brewster for the new design. A year later, the US Navy began looking for a replacement for the TBD, and the would become the TBF Avenger. The Japanese were doing their own development work during this time. Beginning in 1938, the began the development of a new dive-bomber, the D4Y "Judy". A little over a year later, they began the process of designing a new torpedo bomber, the B6N "Jill".

    Of these new carrier attack aircraft, only the Fairey Albacore would appear in 1941, while the TBF Avenger and D4Y1 Judy would make their appearance by 1942. However, the D4Y Judy would suffer design and developmental issues that would prevent it from going into full scale production until mid-1943. The rest of the new designs would suffer their own problems that would prevent them from going into action until 1943-44.
     
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  12. Smiley 2.0

    Smiley 2.0 Smiles

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    I think what I said earlier about Swordfish being obsolete might have been a bit of an 'overstatement.' Like you said Takao, in the face of modern fighters they were obsolete especially with their older design. However in cases such as Taranto and the Bismarck they proved the area in which they weren't obsolete which one them was low flying torpedo runs. The swordfish were successful in ther torpedo runs against the Bismarck because they were flying so close to the water that the Bismarck's AA guns couldn't go as low as the Swordfish were. The swordfish against modern day aircraft at that time would be very obsolete, but in situations where they are attacking ships, plus the tactics they used against ships like the Bismarck, they certainly showed the area in which they were not obsolete.
     
  13. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Dont forget a bi-plane has prodigious manouverability, it may not have the fire power or speed, but the swordfish could out manouvre pretty much anything...unlike the Albacore.
     
  14. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Well, the Albacore was also a bi-plane, and as you state, it lacked the maneuverability of the Swordfish.

    The downfall of the Albacore was that for a modest increase in performance and range, it was nearly twice as heavy as the Swordfish.
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I was thinking about in regards to massed attacks. The IJN seemed to have considered an attack by at least 2 carriers the minimum desired and preferred to use more especially if opposing air was expected.


    I strongly disagree. Indeed I think that's a misuse of the term "obsolete". The consept of unescorted bomber attacks in the face of fighter opposition could be considered obsolete. Indeed the Buffallos at Midway shot up the IJN attack planes pretty badly in the short time they had before they were jumped by the Zeros. But 8th AF also suffered badly when faced with fighters and lacking escort. In the mean time the carrier attack planes inflicted significant damage on their opposition in the early years of the war. One of the big lessons that should have been obvious is that if you become decisivly engaged and don't have an edge it's going to be costly.
     
  16. Thoddy

    Thoddy Member

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    no the swordfishs were only succesful against Bismarck in all other comparable attacks against german capital ships they appeared much more like cannonfodder; the other german capitalships handled torpedoattacks from Swordfish aircrafts and other types much better then Bismarck.

    Bismarck was not the rule - Bismarck was the exception from the rule.

    All german capitalships had a very similar AA outfit and AA firecontrol so the should handle the same problem in a approximately similar matter.

    Bismarcks AA-guns could depress to -10 degrees. The reasons for not downing a single aircraft you may find in my post No 14 of this thread.

    nevertheless if any aircraft can deliver a torpedo into a capitalship this becomes a success
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I have collected some data for the attacks mentioned in my previous post so i will present them also on this board:

    Utsira 21 th June 1940
    Scharnhorst
    4 waves
    a) first wave 16:05 - 6 Swordfish with torpedoes
    3 crashes observed(therof 2 proof) several damaged
    all torpedoes missed

    B) second wave 16:30 combined high and low altitude bombing attack 5 Bomber
    2 crashes observed (all proof) second crash several hits by 10,5 and 3,7 cm in addition assistance by own CAP

    c) third wave 17:05 combined high and low altitude bombing attack 9 Bomber in three formations
    2 crashes observed by 10,5 and 3,7 cm in additon assistance by own CAP

    d) fourth wave high altitude attack from above the clouds barrage fire no hits observed

    ammunition expenditure
    906 X 10,5 cm
    1256 X 3,7 cm
    2385 X 2 cm

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Tirpitz and fifth destroyer flotilla (Ihn, Schoemann and Z 25)
    venture towards Bear island 6th to 9th march 1942
    9 th march 0800 clear view, cloud cover decreases
    contact holder aircraft detected no aircraft cover for Tirpitz available
    full ahead to the Vestfjord (distance about 50 nautical miles)
    one reconnaissance plane started
    only one destroyer(Ihn) available as AA cover

    at around 0930 detection of about 20 torpedo carrying aircraft heading towards Tirpitz by recon plane
    From 1015 - 1024 repeated approaches of several swarms of aircraft (three to six each) total count 25 aircraft
    3 aircraft shot down several damaged

    ammunition expenditure
    15 cm X 33 (barrage fire)
    10,5 cm X 345
    3,7 cm X 897
    2,0 cm X 3372

    additional 1 aircraft shot down by a destroyer

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Prinz Eugen during "Zauberflöte" (Return of the cruiser after torpedohit in the stern) accompanied by the destroyers Paul Jacobi and Z25 and the torpedoboats T11 and T12, about 50 nautical miles westward from Kristiansand on 17 th May 1942
    own CAP by six Me 109
    combined attack of more than 30 aircraft
    approach of the enemy was directed by aircraft search radar, these radar emissions had been detected above visual limits with passive detectors at ranges above 50 km

    1915 radio message attack order for seven enemy squadrons intercepted by B-Dienst
    1957 shooting down of a contact holder by CAP
    1958 approach of a single aircraft
    ~2008 large number of low flying aircraft at 40 km visual distance detected, they were approaching in a triple dwars line about 800 m long composition mixed torpedo and bombing aircraft
    ~2016 distance 20 km split of formation for a pincerattack
    speed of attacking aircraft (85m/s - 120m/s)

    2021 aircraft downed by 10,5 cm
    2022 aircraft downed by 10,5 cm
    2023 aircraft downed by 10,5 cm own CAP also attacks the same target
    2024 aircraft downed by 3,7 and 2,0 cm
    2024 aircraft downed by 10,5 cm
    2028 attack over
    around 2028 aircraft downed by board aircraft

    ammunition expenditure Prinz Eugen
    4 x 20,3 cm barrage fire
    361 x 10,5 cm
    486 x 3,7 cm
    2082 x 2,0 cm

    the report mentions that the heavy AA performed as usual (including Firecontrolequipment)
    little effect visible for light AA hits noted

    T12 reports two aircraft downed


    Prinz Eugen during Channel dash "Operation Cerberus"
    1200 whether
    wind south-west 5
    sea state 2-3
    cloudy
    visibility to the east 3-5 nautical miles to the british coast about 8 - 10 nautical miles

    1344
    four aircraft from aft 10,5 cm opens fire
    until 1348 three torpedoaircraft (swordfish) shot down ammunition expenditure 10,5 x 50 under central firecontrol
    open fire at 90 hm stop fire at 50 hm
    one fighter shows smoke trail hit probably hit by other ship or CAP

    visibility conditions then became worser
    1455 several two and four engined bombing aircraft approaching, CAP downed 1 aircraft bombs fall far
    1511 six Spitfire fought by CAP
    1520 two bomber fly over ship L-Flak and S-Flak opens fire several hits observed one aircraft shot down additionally own CAP at the enemy, ammunition expenditure 10,5 x 21
    1530 detonation on Scharnhorst ship stopped
    1542 airwarning many bombers from westerly directions
    1602 Scharnhorst back on track southerly course
    1608 one Spitfire as contact holder
    since 1612 rain very low visibility
    1615 one bomber L-Flak fire
    1638 Scharnhorst hits mine
    1641 bomber detected S Flak fires
    1648 enemy ships detected one cruiser three destroyers
    ammunition expenditure 20,3 x 110 two ships hit one in sinking condition extremly worse visibility
    1710 bomber astern is shot
    1718 bomber sightet
    1725 several bombers sighted
    1736 several bomber sighted
    1739 bomber sighted
    1742 bomb impact 500 m away
    1745 bomb impact 1000m away
    1746 bomber sighted series of 6 bombs thrown 50 - 150 m away L flaks fires several hits observed
    1752 bomber sighted S and L flak fires severel small hits bomber downed
    1754 bomber sighted
    1758 Bmber sighted
    1800 rain low clouds visibility less then 2 nautical miles
    1851 bomber sighted
    1853 bomb impacts nearby
    1920 aircraft about the ship detected
    1922 nightfall
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    hope this helps
     
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Let's see the 21st of June attack on Scharnhorst is an anemic 6 swordfish unescorted in the face of German CAP. I can't see any attack planes from WW2 doing well in this scenario.
    So that one doesn't support your positoin.

    Having some connection problems now so will wait until things clear up to add aditional comments.
     
  18. Thoddy

    Thoddy Member

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    Your level of information seems insufficent

    At the time of the first attack
    16:05 - 6 Swordfish
    ther was no fighter escort available as the fighter escorts leave the area at 1550 direction port for replacement and the replacement (2 new fighters) arrived at 1622

    At the time of the torpedoattack there was no own fighter above the german ships (explicitely mentioned in the wardiary)
    So the final approach against Scharnhorst remain undisturbed from aerial interception.
     
  19. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    There are still only 6 planes. Furthermore from what I read the Germans were expecting them. Hitting a warship that is up to speed and with adequate AA ammo is a non trivial exercise. Look at the problems the Luftwaffe and Italians had off Crete. Most of the losses and indeed damage came when the British ships were lacking in AA ammo or not up to speed and capable of maneuvering unconstrained.

    From what I read the follow on attack(s) didn't involve Swordfish either.

    For comparison purposes look at Hiei as she struggled North after being heavily damaged by gunfire off Guadalcanal. Info taken from:
    http://www.combinedfleet.com/atully03.htm
    The first arial attack:
    This is against a lone battleship with only a light cruiser for escort. Furthermore she had significant battle damage that prevented her from reaching full speed and significantly limited her maneuverability and affected her fire control. Indeed she only manages to make to 15 knots when she's attacked by 3 B-17's which actually manage a hit. Then she's attacked by 9 TBF's from Enterprise there are a couple of DD's near her now for what that's worth and the 9 TBFs manage a hit maybe. Then
    Then the finally a seriously damaging attack:
    Which is followed by another futile attack by dive bombers on the now stationary Hiei:
    USN dive bombers had a pretty good rep at this point and those form Enterprise were highly rated among the USN but 9 failed to score a hit on a weakly defended stationary battleship. How then does one consider the lack of damage inflicted by 6 Swordfish attacking a fully functional and maneuverable battleship as being an indication that they are "obsolete".
     
  20. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Just looked this one up on wiki at:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_battleship_Tirpitz
    Not sure how this impacts your points about Swordfish as
    Note that the numbers and losses don't match your account. Likely that's because wiki was using British sources. Note that in a much abreviated account kbismarck contains the same numbers:
     

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