Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

WWII naval guns and fire control systems?

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by Varyag, Nov 18, 2006.

  1. Varyag

    Varyag New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2006
    Messages:
    405
    Likes Received:
    0
    via TanksinWW2
    Only a novice myself, and probably not capable of contributing much to the discussion, but could we have a debate comparing the guns and fire control systems (radar, effective range, sights and things like that ) of the warships of WWII? And I get to ask the silly questions?
     
  2. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2004
    Messages:
    928
    Likes Received:
    21
    via TanksinWW2
    A simplistic answer

    A fire-control system does several things. It takes in information, it computes a response to that information, it transmits its findings to the weaponry, and it discharges the weapons.
    Two primary systems existed for taking in information. Optical equipment was by far the most important. Radar became increasingly significant during the war. The big benefit of radar was its ability to provide range data. At no time did radar ever equal optics in the ability to specify bearing data. Consequently, the best FC used both systems simultaneously. Only toward the end of the war, and only for the Allies, was blind-fire radar a reality.
    The two systems had to collect information on two entities: the target ship and the splashes of shells fired at the target. This information would be fed into a fire-control computer. This device took many different forms, and some details remain obscure. Different did not necessarily mean better, though it sometimes did.
    The computer used the inputs from radar and optics (as well as other factors like gun wear, wind, the coriolis effect, and other things that I'm skipping here in my simplistic answer) to determine the best place to point the guns to hit the target.
    The next step was to tell the guns what to do. For big guns, the most common system was follow-the-pointer; crewmen were fed the proper elevation and bearing figures, and they physically adjusted their gear to match those figures. Some ships had RPC, remote power control, to do these things automatically. RPC could control elevation or training or both. And not all RPC systems were equally good.
    For gunnery engagements with fleet units, guns were usually fired in salvoes--typically full broadsides or half-salvoes for large ships. Some multiple gun mounts included a firing delay for one gun to prevent adjacent shells from interfering with each other. In any case, the shells then landed in a pattern near the target (hopefully). The process of spotting the fall of shot was of great importance. All the calculations based on observation of the target were sufficient only to get into the neighborhood; spotting was the key in scoring hits. Hits on a first salvo at long range were quite rare.
    Friedman has just completed a book that will be regarded as the FC bible. Until it's released, you can look at Campbell's Naval Weapons of World War Two and Friedman's US Naval Weapons. Also look at the Naval Tech page at Navweaps. Warship International has just done a two-issue review of USN FC, and a comparative review of USN and IJN systems is due to appear soon.
     
  3. Varyag

    Varyag New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2006
    Messages:
    405
    Likes Received:
    0
    via TanksinWW2
    Thanks for the information and for keeping it on a level I can follow.

    First, to step slightly aside the topic for a moment, Warship International, is that a magazine/journal and where can i get it?

    I can imagine that spotting was crucial, was that why the Japanese were so well equipped with observation planes? I aslo wonder, I read the book by the fire control officer on KNM Stord ( an S-class destroyer, formely HMS Success ) where he describes spotting for HMS Duke of York in the engagement with Scharnhorst. Was it normal for a destroyer to go so close to the target or was it an exception? Scharnhorst had no escort did she?
     
  4. Notmi

    Notmi New Member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2004
    Messages:
    1,958
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Suomi Finland Perkele
    via TanksinWW2
    http://www.warship.org/

    Scharnhorst had no escorts anymore (they were ordered back to Norway earlier). And main reason why those destroyers were so close to Scharnhorst was that they were attacking her with torpedos.
     
  5. Varyag

    Varyag New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2006
    Messages:
    405
    Likes Received:
    0
    via TanksinWW2
    That was apparently later when the Duke of York had cleaned Scharnhorst's deck whatever she had to shoot back with if I'm not mistaken.
     
  6. Varyag

    Varyag New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2006
    Messages:
    405
    Likes Received:
    0
    via TanksinWW2
    I was mistaken. I re-read the part about the attack on Scharnhorst. KNM Stord was closing in on Scharnhorst to attack her with torpedoes as the German ship managed to increase the distance to the Duke of York. The fire control officer on Stord realised that while the Duke of York found it harder to hit her target, he had a perfect position to direct her fire. He took the opportunity, established contact with the Duke of York and gave her corrections to her fire while Stord and the other destroyers continued the attack run.

    So it was not a planned action, it was just an opportunity well exploited.
     
  7. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2004
    Messages:
    928
    Likes Received:
    21
    via TanksinWW2
    At the WI site, you can see an older article by Bill Jurens dealing with American gunnery in the old battleships. One of the interesting tidbits I recall is the mention of a minimum firing cycle imposed for safety reason. I believe it was 24 seconds. When folks look in reference books and see that the old 14in guns fired once every 45 seconds, they often scoff at how slow they were. A great example of how deceitful statistics are--yes, they usually fired every 45 seconds, but that doesn't mean it was their best time.
    One device that deserves a mention is the director. The director is always associated with Percy Scott of the RN. One of the factors that spurred the Dreadnought Revolution was the need for salvo fire. The director was a way to coordinate the guns so they could all fire together when the ship was at the correct point in its roll. The RN was in the process of installing directors when WWI started. Once again, different navies had different directors performing different functions.
     
  8. corpcasselbury

    corpcasselbury New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2003
    Messages:
    4,356
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    High Point, North Carolina, USA
    via TanksinWW2
    Which is one hallmark of a good officer. STORD's captain was evidently on the ball. Any idea who he was, and what he did postwar, if anything?
     
  9. Varyag

    Varyag New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2006
    Messages:
    405
    Likes Received:
    0
    via TanksinWW2
    His name was Nils Owren, but he was not the Captain, the Captains name was Storheill. Nils Owren was the Fire Control Officer (not sure what the equivalent title in the Royal Navy would be). I have his book, but it doesn't say anything about his life beyond his service in WWII.
     

Share This Page