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In perfect Hindsight: Build Japan's Carrier Force beginning 1933

Discussion in 'Ships & Shipborne Weaponry' started by the_diego, May 2, 2021.

  1. the_diego

    the_diego Active Member

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    Would it have mattered if Japan had a very "Flat" navy? Say scrap the Yamato project in favor of 3-4 modern fleet carriers. Also, build a lot of light carriers from old and new heavy cruisers.

    Could a development program for carrier-based fighters have produced consistently superior fighter aircraft compared with those of the Americans for at least 5 years of conflict? Could they have matched the US' monthly output of of newly-trained navy pilots?

    The rest of the Japanese navy units will become escorts, heavy on anti-submarine and anti-aircraft warfare. Surface combatants would avoid line engagements using battleships and limit themsalves to fast run-in attacks like those in the slot.

    Last question, not related to the thread question: was there ever a single-engine, carrier based bomber capable of both dive and torpedo bombing?
     
  2. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The Japanese were still under treaty restrictions until they left in 1936. As such, the simply could not start laying down or converting carriers in 1933.

    The Japanese needed more heavy & light cruisers - not less. The lack of these warships hampered and constrained their historical actions.

    No, the Japanese could not match US fighter design & production. Just look at the A7M Reppu(Sam), the Zero replacement. What started out as a superior fighter, lingered in development hell, as Mitsubishi designers were switched to other tasks. Thus, only a few were produced when the war ended & none were operational.

    Matching US pilot graduations, also requires Japan to substantially increase airframe production. More pilots is meaningless without more aircraft. Then there is the AVGAS problem.

    There were very few traditional line engagements in the Pacific War, with most occurring very early or late in the war. Thus, this is also meaningless.

    Yes, the SB2C could divebomb & carry a torpedo, but it was never used to conduct a combat torpedo drop. There were also some US aircraft in development that could do both, but they did not enter production. As an aside, the TBF/TBM could glide bomb as well, and late in the war was usually carrying bombs instead of torpedoes.
     
  3. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ...I thought the US had a lot more pilots pre-WW2 ..so, not only more people, but more that were experienced in flying = US could produce more and ''better'' pilots ...same with mechanics to service the aircraft [ and truck/auto mechanics ] ...so we see an exponential advantage for the US
     
  4. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    As to carrier qualified pilots, they were roughly equal. Japan had more carriers, but they were smaller and mostly carried less aircraft.
     
  5. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..the question was pilot future '''monthly output'''--not how many on hand
    ..I don't know what your post has to do with the reply
     
  6. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Your reply
    Does not concern "future 'monthly output'", but concerns itself with pilots "on hand" prior to WW2.


    As to future monthly output, both sides were already ramping up output. But, the pilots did not have the experience of the older pilots. We see this in the attack on Pearl Harbor, where the Shokaku and Zuikaku torpedo bombers are tasked with high altitude bombing, because they lack the necessary torpedo training, and with USS Hornet pilots at Midway with the infamous flight to nowhere & all 10 Hornet fighter pilots flying away from Hornet to ditch because they thought she was Japanese.

    Japan also did not have the manpower resources of the US to draw on, as they had the smaller population, and they maintained the strict pilot requirements for far too long.
     
  7. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    OK, let's imagine that in the early 1930s the Japanese have an inspiration that no one else does, that aircraft carriers are likely to displace battleships as the arbiters of sea power. Navies, including the Japanese, recognized that carriers were an important component of a navy, as were cruisers, destroyers, submarines and the like, but no one disputed that the battleships were the heart of the fleet.

    Or, we might hypothesize that the "Yamato people" (in both senses of the term) accepted that they could not match their rivals in the conventional way and chose to focus on what a later generation would call "asymmetrical warfare". They did invest in night tactics, long-range torpedos, midget submarines, and other unconventional options.

    Historically they gave the required notice of withdrawal from the treaty system in 1934, were free of its restrictions in 1936, and laid down their first non-treaty ships in 1937, Yamato and Shokaku, followed by Musashi and and Zuikaku in 1938. From a ship construction point of view, these could all have been carrriers, and one or two more would not seem impossible.

    I'm inclined to agree that they should not have torn up existing heavy cruisers. There was a valid need for surface combatants, and reconstructing existing ships - all of which had had extensive work in the past few years already - would be a wasteful strain on Japanese resources.. If we are talking 1933 it might have been possible to order Tone and Chikuma as carriers similar to Hiryu; they were almost as large and had the same 152,000 hp propulsion plant. Ironically, the key feature of their design was to carry a few additional aircraft to supplement the reconnaissance capability of the carrier force.

    Seaplane carriers Chitose and Chiyoda could support 24 aircraft and were eventually converted to aircraft carriers - more tearing up of operational ships - given that treaty limits were no longer a factor, one wonders why the IJN didn't just finish them as carriers to start with.

    Side note - the submarine support ships Takasaki and Tsurugisaki were converted to light carriers Zuiho and Shoho. They originally had diesel engine plants (consistent with subs) of 56,000hp and speed of 29 knots. Their conversion included ripping the engines out and replacing them with destroyer-type turbines of 52,000hp for 28 knots. I'm completely perplexed at the purpose of this.

    As @Takao reminded us, ships are only part of the picture. The carriers in service as of Dec 7, 1941 carried about 500 planes. Recently completed Shokaku and Zuikaku and their air groups were not up to par. Some of the lesser carriers had incomplete air groups as late as Coral Sea and Midway, including obsolescent planes like B4Ys and A5Ms. Junyo, Hiyo, and Ryuho would have needed another 130 or so. The additional carriers contemplated here could need 3-400 more. Even if the Japanese had gone "all in" on carriers in 1933, were their training or production systems up to the task?
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2021
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  8. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    One cannot just decide to produce better aircraft than one's rivals. Every nation is trying to build the best planes, train the best pilots, and develop the best tactics.

    Japanese tactics, reflected in their designs, stressed performance - range, speed, maneuverability - while Americans, and practically everyone else, balanced those against survivability and rugged construction. I expect Japanese designers like Horikoshi Jiro could have produced whatever the establishment asked for.
     
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  9. the_diego

    the_diego Active Member

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    I thought 6 years would be more than enough time to design and stockpile weapons (subject to your available resources of course). But the lead time helped Japan at best during the first six months of the war. For Germany, maybe 2 years. Beyond that, it was a war of production capacity.

    Regarding new pilots, the situation becomes critical when the enemy begins to outpace you in terms of aircraft production and combat performance. Saburo Sakai mentioned some American pilots were so inexperienced they were no better than those he was desperately trying to train, but it didn't seem to matter to the Americans back in 1944. Japan's educational system was far behind that of the US to develop a comparable pool of trainable recruits. That, coupled with old-fashioned structures, like limiting admittees to the naval academy to those of samurai stock, made Japan's naval aviation good for two years of fighting.
     
  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    That's a valid point, but Japan was already devoting an unusually large proportion of her economy to military and particularly naval production. Canceling the Yamatos and their massive armor, armament, and ammunition would free up resources for other items. I assume your scheme would also mean ordering Zuikaku type carriers in place of Shinano or #111, the fourth Yamato which was canceled in December 1941 when about 30% complete..

    The rest of the Japanese navy units will become escorts, heavy on anti-submarine and anti-aircraft warfare. This seems a lot like the Akizuki class destroyer which began joining the fleet in 1942, designed for carrier escort. A large number were planned but only twelve completed. They carried eight of the excellent Type 98 100mm dual-purpose guns with half the torpedo armament of conventional destroyers and more depth charges. Type 98 indicates that it dates from 1938 (Japanese year 2598), so someone was thinking along the same lines you are.

    We should also consider how other nations, particularly the US, would react. They might just write it off as Orientals having a strange idea of how to structure a navy, but more likely we would add at least a few more carriers. We had built up to the treaty limit with Wasp, but when the Japanese dropped out of the treaty we ordered Hornet and Essex, and by 1940 we had a massive program of both carriers and battleships (and everything else). Britain laid down no fewer than six fleet carriers in 1937-39, in addition to new battleships.
     
  11. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Nope. If you begin your buildup in 1933, your only stockpiling aircraft that will be shortly out-of-date by 1940. Remember, the Kate only comes along in 1937, and the Val & Zero in 1940(while the Val was earlier, it only began large scale production at this time.) Further, more decks means more aircraft to replace, and production remained low until after the war began. You seem to forget that the IJAAF was also undergoing a massive build up at the time.

    Also gun production was lagging behind orders - Japanese warships with the older 4.7-inch AA guns retained them, while new production was getting the new 5-inch ones. High-angle fire control sets were also similarly behind schedule. So, it is not just resources, but production capacity too.
     
  12. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    here's the OP:
    ''''' Could they have matched the US' monthly output of of newly-trained navy pilots?'''
     
  13. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    A few more thoughts about this....

    The Tone class cruisers were designed to provide reconnaissance for the carrier force, so apparently the need was recognized. If carriers were built in lieu of these ships, would a portion of their aircraft be tasked for recon? That would certainly be desirable, but it would be a change in the IJN's operational philosophy.

    In 1933, Soryu and Tone were being designed for construction in 1934. Chikuma was laid down in November 1935, after the Fourth Fleet incident and while the improved Soryu design (Hiryu) was being finalized. Would "Chikyu" be built to the existing Soryu design or the new one? Aesthetically and perhaps operationally, I think matched pairs have a certain appeal.

    If Japan built more carriers, the US would likely respond and assign most of the added carriers to the Pacific Fleet, so some might well be in Pearl Harbor on Dec 7. Enterprise and Lexington were absent on specific missions, delivering aircraft to Wake and Midway, but carriers with no such tasks would likely be in home port.
     

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