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Bismarck vs. Yamato

Discussion in 'What If - Other' started by dasreich, Aug 16, 2002.

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  1. KaiserWilhelm

    KaiserWilhelm Member

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    There are a lot of 'fans' here of Bismarck here, which I believe (innocently, of course) is clouding the judgement of a few people.

    Bottom line? Yamato and Musashi were designed with the intent of engaging entire squadrons of battleships simultaneously. That was the whole point of the 'super battleship' - to combine the equivalent performance characteristics of smaller ships into one very large juggernaught.

    Were this question 'USS Iowa vs. Yamato,' I would lean a very different direction, but the fact of the matter is that Bismarck and Tirpitz, despite being 'newer' ships, were hardly the triumphs of design that Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were. Germany's two behemoths were basically just an enlarged, modernized Bayern-class.

    All things being equal, Bismarck and Tirpitz were precisely the type of 'old design' foes that Yamato and Mushashi had been built to engage. As pointed out, Bismarck was heavily reliant on optical (as opposed to radar directed) range finding, and her basic armor scheme, muzzle velocity, shell size and weight were all adequate (but hardly outstanding) for their day. The legend of Bismarck and the havok that chasing her across the Atlantic caused far outweigh the real military value of the ship itself.

    Had Bismarck caught, say, HMS Nelson alone, Bismarck would have likely won, should she have chosen to fight. British gunnery, other than that of Jelicoe's Grand Fleet, was notoriously bad since the advent of Dreadnought. This is the type of opponent that Bismarck could have caught and killed (although, honestly, this is highly unlikely in of itself. Bismarck was built as a commerce raider, capable of breaking up convoys and outrunning older battleships. She [or 'he,' as the Germans preferred], would have likely run even from an elderly Revenge-class ship simply to avoid the innevitable - however light - damage).

    Bismarck vs. Yamato? This one easily goes to Yamato. I am a massive fan of German warship design, the fighting spirit of German crews and the traditionally high accuracy of German gunnery, but the sad fact of the matter is that Yamato was out of Bismarck's class, and barring a catostrophically lucky shot (and the ensuing magazine explosion), Bismarck is pounded to a crisp, charred pile of twisted metal before she can respond with enough weight of shell to inflict similar damage to Yamato.

    Here are a few more interesting lineups of 'what if vs. what ifs':

    SMS Derfflinger vs. HMS Queen Elizabeth (Vintage WWI. The Derfflingers were better gun platforms, faster, had armor and internal subdivision that essentially made them fast battleships, had reliable shells, and probably shot better. The QEs were larger and had far bigger guns.)

    Bismarck vs. HMS Vanguard(On paper, very similar ships)

    Yamato vs. U.S.S. Iowa (Again, Yamato is larger, but this time is opposed by an American with absolutely superior range-finding, and an all-or-nothing armor scheme that lets him likely remain in the fight longer than Bismarck could have, and larger guns)

    OpenDNS vs. OpenDNS (Wow. This is a fanboy's playground)
     
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  2. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Member

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    I don't disagree with most of what you say, but I think you're wrong on this one. I'm currently reading Friedman's new book "Firepower", which focuses mainly on battleship fire control systems. This includes a comparative analysis of the performance of Bismarck and the RN ships which engaged her, and concludes that Bismarck's shooting was not as good. I haven't reached the end of the book yet, but the impression I'm forming was that the then state-of-the-art RN system was the best surface fire control system in service (but not all of the British battleships had the latest system).

    Unfortunately, the RN's high-angle AA fire control systems were markedly inferior to the US Mk 37 director, but that's another matter.
     
  3. JagdtigerI

    JagdtigerI Ace

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    Yamato, with bigger guns, and superior armor would decimate Bismark hands down. KaiserWilhelm makes a good point, Yamato and Musashi were constructed to fight and destroy other battleships, while Bismark was more suited to a surface raiding role due to her rather small guns 15in. which were totally outclassed by the American 16in/50 rifled gun and the massive 18in. type 91. Also Yamato would out range the Bismark by several thousand yards, so she could get off several shots before Bismark could even get in range, and if one of those shots hit the Bismark then she would have lit up like a Christmas tree. If the Bismark was not already destroyed when she got in range of the Yamato even if she hit the Yamato she could never penatrate the Yamato's turret armor. Japanese radar was reliable and duralbe, and withstood shock well beacause it was cruder and lacked as many sensitive advanced parts. Therefore, even if the ship the Yamato somehow was sinking, it could still probally fire because the fire contorl would probably not have been taken (there is also the fact that the fire control was way up on the massive pagoda structure).
    I vote Yamato
     
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  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    While I agree Yamato is going to win this one most of the time.
    I don't think I'd call 15" small. There were advantages to the German guns. Against earlier 16" rounds they actually look pretty comparable. It's only when you start comparing them to the US "super heavies" and of course Yamato's 18" rounds that they start to look a touch week.
    The range of the guns was more or less irrelevant. Neither had a fire control system that would allow them to have a good chance of hitting at over 30,000 yards. There was also a lot of Bismark that wasn't particularly critial area so while an 18" round would hurt it wouldn't necessarily "light" her up.
    There's a lot more to Yamato than turret armor. It's also possibe for Bismark to peneterate said turret armor. The turret face is theoretically impossible for her to penetrate but even there those calculations often don't include things like multiple hits and edge effects.
    Where did you get the data on the reliability of Japanese radar. I would think, by the way, that being high up in the sturcture would in some ways be more problematic.
     
  5. dahlhorse

    dahlhorse Member

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    Very true; most people forget this fact and the megacentric balance and watertight compartments the DKM Biz had as other German ships had. My bet goes to Bismarck beating the Yamato; yes the Bismarck might get hit but the Yamato is more vulnerable to internal explosions.
     
  6. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    The Bismarck took noticeable damage in it's first engagement with an over-armed cruiser* and new battleship with failing main weapons. Damage that ultimately lead to her loss a few days later.


    *Let's face it, that is essentially what the Hood was. It was armored like a heavy cruiser but armed like a battleship. She was beuatiful ship, nonetheless.
     
  7. skunk works

    skunk works Ace

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    Someone mentioned crew quality/training/expierence ?
    I recall watching a show interviewing some Japanese guys, some former crew members and others just around the ship.
    They remember the Yamato being "laughingly" referred to as
    "Hotel Yamato", because it just sat in "Kure" harbor, for lack of fuel or a survivable/winable mission.
    Good training there as far as fire control, damage control, fire direction, sailing .... combat ... eh ?:confused:
     
  8. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    But Bismark has to get shells inside her to do so. Yamato has a lot easier time doing that to Bismark than Bismark has doing it to Yamato. Particularly if Yamato fights at range like she wants to.

    As for crew quality depends a lot on when you propose this happening. I suspect Tirpitz crew was declining a bit in the months before she was sunk.
     
  9. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    It always amazes me that some people don't bother to read entire threads, especially when there are already long and detailed answers in them before injecting their two-cents.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    It used to amaze me but it happens so often. Often if it's more than page or two back it might as well not be there.
     
  11. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    Welcome to the instant gratification culture, Terry and LWD ;)
     
  12. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    This statement is definitely incorrect. Japanese radar was absolutely unreliable and very likely to go out at critical moments. In the battle of the Sibuyan Sea, Musashi's main FC Director was put out of action by a torpedo hit that was barely felt by most of the crew. Yamato's FC radar was considered so fragile and so unreliable by her gunnery crew that they neglected to practice with it prior to the Battle Off Samar. According to the First Fleet Staff Gunnery officer, the gunnery crew of Yamato had absolutely no confidence in the radar FC system installed in the summer of 1944 and could barely use it.

    Yamato was never considered a good gunnery ship and, in fact, there is no evidence that she ever hit anything with her main battery rifles. Part of the reason for this was that, in her entire career, Yamato's crew engaged in just five practice shoots, firing a total of 75 shells. This represented just a small fraction of the practice shooting done by US battleships each year.

    The reason for this lack of practice may have had to do with the fact that that Yamato's main battery gun barrels had a service life of only 150-200 esr. That means that after about 150 to 200 rounds, her main gun barrels would have to be replaced. The design of the gun barrels was such that they could not simply be relined as was the case with most battleship's guns, Yamato's gun barrels had to be replaced with entire new barrels. And the IJN had neglected to manufacture any spare barrels. The only barrels in existence were a set for Musashi, a set for Yamato, and a set for Shinano. The set for Shinano did not become surplus until sometime in the fall of 1942 when it was decided to convert Shinano into an aircraft depot ship, and even then there were only nine barrels; not enough to rebarrel both Musashi's and Yamato's turrets.

    The ships of the Yamato class were essentially "one trick ponies", meant only to be expended in one "decisive" battle with the USN battleline. The maximum range usually quoted for the Yamato's guns is a joke because, at anything beyond about 20,000 yards, it would be plain random chance for her to hit anything. Even inside that range, she did not have a very good chance of hitting.
     
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  13. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Even if the radar was reliable the lack of practice (like the Germans) would have caused problems.

    As far as optical control is concerned Yamato probably had the best on any battleships and I'd give her a decent chance of hitting out to around 30,000 yards given good optical conditions. The battle off Samar is hardly a good representation of how she would have done in a BB vs BB engagement.
     
  14. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    What's you source for the statement about the Yamato having the "best optical control on any battleship?" You do realize there are many elements in an FC system, not just optics? What about Yamato's stable verticals? What about FC data transmission to the turrets (RPC or "follow the pointer)? Overall, the Yamato's total FC system was somewhat antiquidated and relied extensively on manual input for data, vastly increasing the chances for human error.

    Also, please elaborate on why the Battle Off Samar was not representative of how she would have done against other battleships. The Japanese came upon sitting ducks which they should have dealt with like targets in a shooting gallery.
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I'm short on time right now so just a coupe of things. As far as the optics go Japanese optics were extremely high class and Yamato had the longest base line of any BB giving.

    As for stable verticals I believe the US alone possessed them and they were not specific to optical fire control.

    The US and Japanese fire control systems are compared over on the nav weapons site. It's been a while since I read them but from what I recall they would have compared very favorably with the German ones and were pretty close to the early war US ones (excepting the stable verticle).
     
  16. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    In fact, the Yamato's optical rangefinder had a base length of 15 meters which was 4.5 meters longer than Bismarck's. However that doesn't mean the actual range finding capability was better. German optics were also very good. Stereoscopic range finders were very dependent on well trained and skillful operators. Tired, poorly trained, or inept, operators had a definite negative effect on any ship's fire control capabilities. Again, not that I doubt your veracity, but I would like some authoritative source confirming that Japanese optics were at least on par with German optical systems.

    As for stable verticals, they most certainly are necessary, if not "specific", to optical fire control systems. All fire control systems, regardless of how range and bearing were determined (which is all the optical rangefinder did), require some way of establishing an artificial horizon. The USN had developed the finest vertical stables, using gyro's of any navy during WW II. The USN report on Japanese stable verticals note that they were primitive and the word "backward" features prominently in the postwar report of Japanese capital ship LA FC systems.

    Just mentioning the optical side of a FC system is neglecting a whole range of vitally necessary functions which must take place before a ship can place a shell on target. Arguably, the Yamato's FC system was more primitive and less capable than Bismarck's, and her gunnery crew was less well trained than most. The fact that Yamato never managed to score even one well documented main battery hit on any target at any range stands in stark contrast to the rather good shooting accomplished by Bismarck at Denmark Strait. To expect Yamato to be able to consistently score hits at something like 30,000 yards is contrary to the known facts.

    See:

    Best Battleship: Fire Control

    http://www.fischer-tropsch.org/prim...Reports/USNTMJ-200E-0595-0632 Report 0-29.pdf

    http://www.fischer-tropsch.org/prim...Reports/USNTMJ-200F-0023-0085 Report O-31.pdf
     
  17. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I really doubt that there was any significant difference between the quality of the optics or design of stereoscopic rangefinders between major combatants in WW 2. Basically, it comes down to the whole system on a ship as to accuracy. This includes the rangefinder, the fire control system itself, the gun and turret design, and the crew.

    Optical rangefinders become less and less accurate with increasing range. A base figure can be had from the formula:

    e = 58.2R^2/BM

    Where:
    e = error in yards
    R = range in thousands of yards
    B = base rangefinder length in yards
    M = Magnifying power of the optical system

    (Just take this as a PFM formula. It is official US Navy so I won't dive into a page of how it is derived).

    In addition, the accuracy of the rangefinder reference marks and their accuracy also need to be known. There is both a horizonal (bearing) and vertical (range) error introduced here depending on the marks and the operator.

    Next, the height of the rangefinder above the waterline needs to be known. This will determine the distance to the horizon. Ranging on a ship that is hull down to the horizon is far more difficult than on one that can be completely seen.

    Lastly, there is the spotter's method of determining fall of shot. This will determine how quickly and accurately fire can be brought onto an enemy vessel.
     
  18. dahlhorse

    dahlhorse Member

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    The Bismarck was not only the most famous Battleship but also feared to the point of Churchill sending the entire Britsh fleet after Bismarck. As far as gun size goes actually the 15 inch and American 16 inch guns were actually superior to the Japanese 18 guns as far as velocity, accuracy and deep penetration. this is a quote from KBismarck about it's main guns "The calibre of the German 380 mm guns (i.e. diameter of bore multiplied by number of calibre to give length of barrel) has traditionally been stated at 47. This figure is no longer quoted in qualified sources and it has been impossible to trace its origins. Furthermore, cal. 47 seems to be inconsistent with the considerable weight of the piece (more than 110 tons) compared with the weight of other modern battleship guns." Bismarck buns were actually 52 caliber which gives it walloping hitting power. People only look at the inches when comparing gun power which is only half of the equation. The Bismarck would have won this battle; also look at the fact that Bismarck is in one piece on the bottom of the ocean; whereas Yamato went kerplewy" blew up into two pieces like Hood. Bismarck wins.
     
  19. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    Forgive me my non existing knowledge on naval issues, but instinctivley I would say Poor Bismarck.

    Regards
    Kruska
     
  20. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    :lol: Best laugh I've had in weeks ;)
     
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