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

Comparable Destroyers to the Fletcher class

Discussion in 'Weapons & Technology in WWII' started by Jaeger, Aug 31, 2008.

  1. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2005
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    223
    As a PROUD member of the infantry, my knowledge to affairs happening out on the blue wet thing is rather weak. However I keep hearing that the US Fletcher class Destroyer was the best thing since Ice cream.

    So I wondered if anyone could offer their opinion on this vessel. (no History channel drivel please.)
     
  2. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,998
    Likes Received:
    805
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    If we discount the war designed and built Sumner and Gearing classes, the Fletchers are probably the best over all destroyer design of the war.

    The Germans and Italians never get a true mulit-purpose destroyer in service. Theirs always are lacking in antiaircraft firepower. The German Z types are overloaded, have a poor choice of armament in the 15cm gun (its too big for a destroyer) while the Italians built destroyers that were capable but lacking in sea legs. Of course, this is due to their planned employment in the Med and not beyond.

    The British start with a poor but cheap design in their various lettered classes. The choice of a 4.7" gun was good from a handling standpoint but bad from a all purpose one. It was never going to be a worthwhile AA gun and in that the RN was hit. But, the RN needed numbers more than top notch ships and didn't have the luxury of building both like the US did.
    So, for most of the war the British were in a position of trying to come up with a workable multi-purpose destroyer and do it on the cheap. They really never got there.
    By the end of the war the British Battle class appeared. It was too complex a solution to the RN's wartime problems. The 4.5" BD mount was good but too heavy for its firepower. The 40mm STAAG mounts gave a Battle just four medium AA guns for a total weight of 15 tons of mounts and another 15 tons of ammuniton and space.

    The Japanese did reasonably well with their destroyer designs. The six 5" gun mount designs with dual purpose guns and a devastating torpedo battery were very good. They were let down by a subpar ASW suite with poor sonar and a poor mix of weapons. The continued reliance on a Y gun was a mistake for example. They were also let down by poor fire control and electronics. This was due more to lack of engineering and manufacturing capacity than oversight.

    The Fletchers on the other hand were just a solid development of the previous Benson / Livermore classes. The Fletchers had the same 5 5"/38 single mount battery as their predicessors. They had a good torpedo armament of ten tubes.
    But, their real strength was in fire control and sensors. The Mk 37 director with Mk 12/22 radar was undoubtedly the finest destroyer fire control director of the war. It beat anything the British or Japanese had in service by miles. The Germans et. al. were not even in this race.
    The Mk 51 controlled 40mm battery of 14 guns (2 x 4 and 3 x 2 mounts) was vastly superior and better laid out than anything the British managed and far ahead of the lash up Japanese who had to rely on the undersized 25mm alone.
    Their 600 psi propulsion plant was near legendary for its reliability and performance. Compare this to the 300 to 400 psi British plants that were much heavier for the same output or the German 1500 psi plants that never worked long enough to allow their destoryers to consistantly go to sea.
    The inclusion of a diesel generator for emergancy power was a luxury not known on most destroyers in other navies. This generator was often a life saver for ships that had taken serious battle damage.
    The all AC electric system was a big plus too. The British and Germans in particular were still using DC systems for the most part. With the big influx of electronics a DC electric system was a huge liability.
    In ASW the Fletcher could best be said to be adequite. There were better ASW platforms than this class. But, these were optimized for ASW work whereas the Fletcher was a far better all-rounder. The class normally could lay either a 7 or 9 pattern depth charge attack. Their sonar(s) (one or two depending on ship) were as good as any in service. Some of the class received a hedgehog late in the war in place of #2 mount.

    As for problems: The Fletchers proved wet boats in the Atlantic. This was due largely to their being optimized for operations in the Pacific. They were also quickly overloaded weight-wise during the war. But, this was common to most classes of ship in everyone's navy.
     
    A-58 likes this.
  3. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2001
    Messages:
    395
    Likes Received:
    37

    The Fletcher's were more than able to stand up to their Japanese equivelents, the Fubuki Class Destroyers very well, as evidenced in the latter days of the fighting around the Solomon Islands when Arleigh Burke was their Commander. As one destroyer crewman later obseved. "We cleaned their clocks."
     
  4. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2005
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    223
    Thank you for the reply T.A. it was most informative.

    Comparing to the vessels of the RN would you say that the RN Destroyers were geared towards ASW work? I have read that light cruisers in the RN was sometimes referd to as AA cruisers. Is this the RN way of adressing the problem of not having an 'ideal' vessel?
     
  5. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,998
    Likes Received:
    805
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    Once the war began RN destroyers really could be grouped into two lots. The first were fleet destroyers that operated with the main body of the RN. These were generally more multipurpose retaining a full torpedo battery and gun battery. Their general weakness was lack of a true dual purpose main battery and associated director system.
    This latter problem plauged the RN throughout the war. This was due in part to lack of a suitable gun which in turn was a result of a combination of lack of finances and foresight prewar by the Admirality.
    Once the war began the Admirality was loath to build destroyers with 4" guns, the only modern size available for AA work. Wanting to retain the 4.7" for its surface punch, they were unable to find a way to mount a gun that size in a housing that would give good elevation for AA fire. The result was that RN destroyers generally went short on heavy AA guns. The Hunt class of "emergancy" destroyers (this class is very close in capabilities to late war US DE classes like the Rudderow or John C. Butler classes) made for a good class of smaller but very capable ship (4 x 4" 4 TT). This class of British destroyer often had more AA firepower than many larger DD did.

    The second group of British destroyers were those on Western Approaches duty. These were geared to ASW entirely. They often had a protion of their main battery removed along with half the torpedo tubes. Instead, they carried a massive ASW battery of 8 K guns and two racks with as many as 108 or more depth charges aboard. These ships could lay down massive 14 charge patterns. By late war a hedgehog often replaced "A" gun, B being retained due to its dryer position up one deck.
    Their AA battery was suitable for driving off the occasional patrol aircraft. These ships were usually older classes that were deemed less suitable for fleet work.

    As for AA cruisers the British had two groups. The first were the purpose designed Dido class that were similar to the US Atlanta class light cruisers. The British ships in this class saw alot of hard action and most of the class were eventually sunk in battle. They certainly proved their worth in the Med though.
    The second type were older "letter" class cruisers dating back to the end of WW 1 like the "C" class. These were refitted with 4" HA guns instead of their WW 1 6" single purpose guns along with receiving several 40mm Pom poms (Vickers mounts). Curlew in particular proved exceptional holding the RN record for most aircraft shot down.

    Of interest is the Dehli of the D class. She was refitted in the US prior to the US entering the war with 5 5"/38 turrets and US Mk 37 fire control. The RN was very impressed with her new armament and wanted to convert this class completely but the US entry into the war made that impossible.

    As for addressing the problems of destroyer design during the war the British did this in their postwar Battle class. This was supposedly the "ideal" destroyer. Yet, it proved too complex and expensive for what it was capable of. The pendulum had swung too far in the other direction as often happens.
     
    Sheldrake and A-58 like this.
  6. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2005
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    223
    Thank you once more T.A.

    This is pretty much what I have gathered from other sources. Too little funding and little forsight. Go to capital ships and there was the problem with 'treaty cruisers' etc. But little is said on what actually went wrong.

    There are two ships who are pointed out as great acheivments during the war. The Fletcher and the Essex Carrier. From what I have read rightly so.
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Messages:
    12,312
    Likes Received:
    1,238
    Location:
    Michigan
    Also consider that by early war standards the Fletchers were big DDs.

    As others have stated the 5"/38 was the best dual purpose gun of the war. It had a relativly heavy shell, not the greatest of velocities, and the highest rate of fire of any similar weapon. The late war Japanese 3.9" gun was the only one that came close but it was more optimized for AA and hard on barrels from what I recall.

    The US had a very good DD fire control system as well and when radar came along put it on everything down to and including torpedo boats.
     
    Jaeger likes this.
  8. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2005
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    223
    The extra fascination of the naval side is an elderly gentleman who had wrote a greeting in my late grandfathers book on HNoMS Sleipner. The 'Phantom ship' that was unsinkable.

    The story of this tiny destroyer is quite exiting. With just 1 40mm Bofors and two .50cal Colts as AA it managed to fend of waves of bombers during the Norwegian campaign. On the 19th of April no less than 14 raids. And it never got hit. Captain Ullring conned it himself during some of the engagements. And according to the spectators Sleipner jumped around like a dog playing with a ball.

    At anyrate one of the AA crewmen knew my grandad and wrote a greeting in the book. And all of a sudden the war at sea was a lot closer to me. (Both of my grandfathers were like myself and my father in the Army)

    Thanks to lwd, TA and John for you inputs on this thread. :salute:
     
  9. Richard Phuc

    Richard Phuc New Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2020
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    im know im late to this thread but i would like to make a correction to John input about japanese equivalent of the Fletcher, it was not a Fubuki class but Kagero and Akizuki class, with 1( Kagero ) follow the conventional japanese approached armed with 127mm gun and a powerful torpedo armament, plus a good mobility and the other is a modified version of the former designed to be more suited for AA role by replacing the 127mm and sacrifice her torpedo armament with a more capable AA platform 100mm type 98. Still like other have said, the lacking in technology is ultimately what held back the Japanese in the latter day of the war
     
  10. Riter

    Riter Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2020
    Messages:
    794
    Likes Received:
    198
    Battle Class DD and later Japanese Yugomo class DD?

    The German Narviks 5.9" guns were not DP like the 5/38 DP found on the Fletchers. True they tossed a shell almost twice the weightt of tthe 55 lb shell of the 5/38, but AA seems more useful than surface to surface fighting.

    I have to check the books but they (later British Battle Class and Yugumo) would be contemporaries of the Fletchers.

    Don't know about their radar capability or fire control system. One thing we had were proximity fuses and great AA (twin bofors).
     
  11. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2020
    Messages:
    277
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    The Shire
    The basic flaw in the OP is failing to define what the job of a destroyer was in the latter half of WW2. Without this definition the question of then best destroyer. is meaningless. The role of the destroyer had continued to evolve since its inception as a torpedo boat destroyer to defend its fleet. With the addition of torpedoes it took over the role of its prey whilst continuing to act as a fleet protector and extended its original role to include anti submarine work. Submarines effectively being submersible torpedo boats (which was what the USN categorised its own subs as at first). For the RN it rapidly became an alternative to the gunboat sent to protect distant parts of Empire and thwart recalcitrant foreigners, in doing so it began to encroach on the job of the light cruiser. During WW2 it became increasingly clear that torpedo attacks on battle wagons were most likely to be delivered from the air than from small vessels.
    Different theatres required different functions. In the Atlantic its role as a fleet protector became less important than that of a commerce protector. As roles expanded it became increasingly difficult for one vessel to encompass them all effectively and as with all evolutionary processes specialisation began to emerge. I would argue for example that the British Battle Class were occupying the light cruiser niche and should the assessed in this light.
     
  12. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Messages:
    10,019
    Likes Received:
    2,525
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    Actually, at it's inception, it was a torpedo gunboat. However, these proved to be to slow to operate with the fleet. So, the design evolved into the torpedoboat destroyer.
    Success & Failure - The Story of the Torpedo Gunboat | Naval Historical Society of Australia

    The basic torpedoboat destroyer always had torpedoes, as did it's predecessor, the torpedo gunboat.

    The destroyer never became an RN alternative to the gunboat to protect distant parts of the Empire, unless only to serve as localized port protection, simply because they lacked the range to do so. It was only during WW2 t
    hat range became more of a priority concerning destroyers. As such, they never really "threatened" that job of the light cruiser.

    Well...Not so much for the RN... Bismarck, Scharnhorst, and Gneisenau all had destroyers fire torpedoes against them. I would have to check on the Italian BBs though. Further, there were plenty of torpedo worthy targets...Not just enemy BBs. Finally there were plenty of British complaints that the Battle class destroyers lacked firepower for their weight displacement.

    Depends where in the Atlantic...The Murmansk Run, areas around England, and areas down to Gibraltar and Off Africa were all under threat from Axis aircraft. Thus needing fleet protection rather than commerce protection.

    Well, it is not that difficult...What is difficult is building such a vessel on a budget of time, size, and cost. The British did not have the luxury of time - They needed a lot of ships yesterday. The British did not have the luxury of size - larger ships required more crew, were more expensive, limited by the few shipbuilders that had larger slipways and facilities necessary for constructing larger ships, etc. Hence, the British favored specialized vessels which could be built faster & at more shipyards, on smaller hulls, and at less expense in cost & crew.

    You do not define the job of a light cruiser...
    An AA light cruiser like the Dido class or Atlanta class?
    A trade route cruiser like the Arethusa class or Leander class?
    A fleet cruiser like the Town class or Cleveland class?
    Unfortunately the Battles occupy none of these niches...So which light cruiser job is it?
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2020
  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Messages:
    10,019
    Likes Received:
    2,525
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    As to a comparable British destroyer, that would be the L/M classes. Although, they had their own set of problems. The closest comprable, specifically would be Lance, Larne/Gurhka, Lively, and Legion, which were fitted with HA twin 4-inch guns. Which was done because the twin 4.7-inch turrets, limited to 50 degrees elevation, were not yet completed.

    When designing the Battles, the British looked at the German Narviks, Japanese Asashio, and the American Sumner. Of course, the Sumner design was gone over most closely, because of lack of detailed knowledge on the others.

    The French had some decent classes, but were limited by having short range, limited elevation of main armament, and shell hoists, elevating gears, and RPC(Remote Power Control) for the main armament that needed much work to fix ongoing problems.
     
  14. the_diego

    the_diego Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2016
    Messages:
    373
    Likes Received:
    72
    The French Le Terrible if only for its speed.
     
  15. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Messages:
    10,019
    Likes Received:
    2,525
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    It had comparable speed, but roughly half the range...Despite being several hundred tons heavier.
     
  16. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    26,462
    Likes Received:
    2,200
    Were the French Matched in any combat. We know the Norwegian masacrre of the Germans but they were in the end of the fjord. And once the Stukas entered the battle as far as I know the allied were in trouble??
     
  17. the_diego

    the_diego Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2016
    Messages:
    373
    Likes Received:
    72
    Fletcher can do 42 knots?
     
  18. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Messages:
    10,019
    Likes Received:
    2,525
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    The La Terribles could not sustain 42-43 knots...their engineering plants were fragile and tended to break down & fall apart at those speeds, so they were limited to about 36 knots in wartime.
     
    Kai-Petri likes this.
  19. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    26,462
    Likes Received:
    2,200
    The Stukas made it good for the Germans?
     

Share This Page