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What if Italy had been a capable air/naval power?

Discussion in 'Alternate History' started by Skontos1, Jan 28, 2012.

  1. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I was thinking of cruiser guns, the battleships were never involved in night actions like the cruisers were or had trained for night combat, which is one reason the admirals tended to retreat at dusk. A battleship calibre starshell is a waste of precious ammo space and would interfere with fire control but usually navies had starshell for the secondaries not dedicated guns. IMO the space / weight of the starshell guns would be better used for more 37mm AA.
    What ammo the 135mm had is interesting, the gun eventually developed into a DP weapon with a pretty large ammo range but none of the ships that entered service with the 135mm had true DP capability.
     
  2. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    No no : the Italian navy and merchant fleet were not doing badly during the war :without them,there would be no myth of Rommel the Great and no conquest of Crete .
     
  3. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Certainly Italian Naval operations were essential to the success of DAK, but their failure to control the central Med also contributed to their final defeat.

    I seem to recall one of the handicaps for the Italian fleet, especially the heavier units, was poor quality control with their ammunition. This being I think in gunpowder charges which could lead to erratic results during firing, resulting in rounds going longer or shorter than expected after registering range.

    Anyone confirm?
     
  4. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    One example I've read is the cruisers Taranto and Bari, ex-German Strassburg and Pillau, transferred to Italy as WWI war reparations. They were delivered with stocks of 15cm ammunition, but when that was used up and had to be replaced with Italian-made ammo, their gunnery performance deteriorated significantly.
     
  5. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    adding on to what Takao said about their leadership, from my reading the British were very aggressive with their navy., as they had been throughout history.....even when the odds were not great....and they did lose a number of the smaller ships.....whereas the Italians were not as aggressive.........even with air cover would they still have the leadership, tactics, training,communication system, etc to succeed??
    you can't just put men on ships and expect it to be an efficient fighting force, much less a good one....much goes into it...history, training, standards, finding and correcting problems, ....in many, many aspects such as re-supply, gunnery, exercises, cummunication with each other and the air force, etc
    for example, in the early South Pacific Battles, I thought Burke made sure his officers knew what he wanted during combat and trained them for it...from my reading the Japanese trained ''realistically'', especially for night operations....they trained like they fought.....I haven't read much on the Italian navy though...any insights regarding training?? did they have any esprit de corp??
     
  6. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Esprit the corps was there, realistic training a bit less, especially pre-war, according to most info I have and some talks with RM veterans.
    Bari and Taranto, BTW why not Ancona (Graudenz) as well?, are poor examples, you might as well judge US small arms by the failed attempts to copy the MG 42, making ammo for weapons you did not design in the first place (or vice versa) is hard, especially when they are built to different principles. The Italians planned to replace Premuda's guns when captured ammo ran out for that reason.

    Judging the accuracy of the Italian day gunnery compared to the RN one is difficult as there is reason to suspect the British fudged the after action reports, all considered I believe it was roughly comparable, though there are plenty of stories on bad ammo quality control hanging around the net I don't recall anything official about it. The single sleeved cruiser gun turrets had accuracy issues, but in the one occasion I recall where they faced a British 8" ship they still managed a hit while HMS Berwick didn't. It's also possible they had problems with fuses, HMS Beduin survived multiple 6" hits, some sources quote 12, before being finished off by an aircraft torpedo. Night gunnery is a different story.
     
  7. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    This is questionable ,as it is not provable that an Italian control of the central Med would have prevented Italian's defeat .

    While it is so that the Italian navy lost most of its battles against the RN,this does not prove that the RN was lord and master in the Med : between june 1940 and may 1943 almost no convoys to east of Suez went through the Med .
     
  8. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The biggest problem Italy faces in doing any of this is the same one the Germans and British faced pre-war. That is, the Italian Air Force was an independent branch and had gotten control of all aircraft as well as dominating the political and economic situation regarding aircraft production. For all three nations, the Luftwaffe, RAF, and RA had little or no interest in naval aircraft, particularly carrier borne aircraft. They were focused on "strategic" roles for their service like bombing the enemy with large multi-engine bombers.

    So, the first thing Italy would need is a navy that has a separate air force, with a reasonable budget. That would give the Italians at least one, and probably two reasonable aircraft carriers to support their navy. Without that, and with an air force that really doesn't give a $h!+ about naval operations, does little or nothing to train with the navy, the Italian navy is going to be operating, like they did historically, without air support.

    The next thing Italy would need is access to a reasonable supply of petroleum to fuel their air force and navy. Historically, they were short on this right from the beginning of the war and things only got worse. It became increasingly impossible just to sustain air operations or send ships to sea.

    Had the Italian navy had adequate fuel and say two carriers with 80 to 120 modern aircraft between them they could have done far, far better at sea. But, the politics of their military command doomed that to be a non-starter. Look at how woefully equipped the FAA was for the Royal Navy in late 1939. The Luftwaffe did the same thing to the KM.
    The fuel problem might have been solved if Italy had discovered oil in Libya several years before the war started and had time to get production in place. But, that too didn't happen.
     
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  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I've read somewhere that on one occasion during test one of the Littirios shot very tight groups on another occasion there was a lot of dispersion. I think mixing ammo from different manufacturing plants was suggested as the cause of the latter or perhaps it was one plant that had sloppy tolerance and another that didn't. In any case they are in the competition for second place in the longest hit on a moving enemy which suggest that they weren't total garbage.

    along another line. I remember reading accounts of the invasion of Crete where the RN expressed considerable admiration of the performance of the Italian escorts for the German seaborne force.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Back to creating strawmen I see.
     
  11. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Two other points :

    the composition of the Italian navy (more or less DD,aircraft carriers, battle-ships) would depend on the strategy the Italian navy would have to follow,and this would depend on the possible/probable enemy . but,the quick German victory in 1940 forced/convinced Mussolini to join the war, to have some booty.This improvised DOW while nothing was ready resulted in a lot of unsoluble problems .

    for the fuel : the Italian navy had enough fuel,for a very short war of a few weeks ,and as the decision to join the war was founded on the assumption that the war would be very short.....

    for the carriers: it is the same : if Britain had capitulated in july, the lack of carriers would not have the same effect as it had later .
     
  12. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I.e. Italy was not prepaired for a war, especially a naval war, with a major European power. Such wars are seldom short by the way.
     
  13. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The Italian navy's lack of air power and carriers showed flagrantly in their early actions with the RN. The presence of a British carrier with a relative handful of obsolete Swordfish and a few Sea Gladiators was able to repeatedly attack and successfully damage Italian warships in combat actions. By contrast, the Italian air force would be called on to provide air cover or to attack enemy warships and show up too late to do either. In some cases, the air force planes found their own warships and the air crews, lacking ship recognition skills, bombed their own ships mercilessly. That forced the Italian Navy to adopt those massive red and white strips on the decks of their ships in an effort to prevent amicide by their air force.
     
  14. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    As far as I know the two "longest hit" competitors are HMS Warspite against Cesare and Sharnhorst against HMS Glorious, what hit are you referring to ?
    I do not believe there were many manufacturers of large calibre shells and charges so production inconsistency would be between batches from the same manufacturer or even within the same batch.

    The red and white stripes was one those quick fixes that realistic training, if carried out, would have suggested.

    The air force, based on Spanish civil war experience, believed medium level bombing would be effective against ships, add to that the lack of heavy bombs, that the underpowered Italian planes could not have carried anyway, and chances of having any effect are slim. The air force was the pet of the regime, they passed a law forbidding the navy from having planes, that was revoked only very recently to get the Harriers on Garibaldi. Even post war the ASW patrol planes had mixed crews with airforce pilots and navy "observers" though I believe they were paid from the navy budget. The only effective anti shipping planes the Regia Areonautica had were the torpedo planes, that were just entering service at war start, and the purchased Stukas that I believe were the R variant optimized for range, less than a couple of hundred planes overall at any time, even the small air groups of British carriers could oppose that considering they were dispersed in bases from off the Turkish coast to Sardinia.

    Against the remnants of the Harpoon convoy the air force decided to use available fighters to escort more strikes rather than provide top cover to the navy, had they taken a different decision it's possible none of the ships would have made it to Malta as by then the escort had been reduced to vey little and some merchs were barely afloat, by 1942 the Regia Marina had made up gunnery training deficiencies though not much could be done for other equipment.
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Yamato's hit on one of the Taffies (Gambier Bay I think it was). Range was a bit over 30,000 yards.
     
  16. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    Would a remedy be allowing foreign designers -- who would likely be German -- to help design weapons that incorporate various valuable parts from previous designs ? The Soviet designers came up with T-34 from BT series and other designs. Why couldn't Italian be able to ?
     
  17. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Why would Italy need before the war something as the T -34 ? And,even after its DOW in june 1940 .
     
  18. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Well if they didn't have it before the war they aren't vary likely to have gotten any significant number into action during the war were they? A robust effective tank is rather helpful in creating an effective armored force isn't it? Something on the order of the Stuart may have actually met their needs better at least through the first two or three years of the war though. Depends a bit on how close a parallel is being suggested.
     
  19. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    It's not a lack of design capability, or reluctance of adopting foreign designs (as long as you didn't have to pay royalties). The Reggiane fighters for example come from the same "design line" starting with the Severski P 35 that eventually gave birth to the P 47, and the 81mm mortar is, like most WW2 mortars, a close relative of the French Brandt mortar. Autarchia created most issues at the component rather than at the overall design level, lack of reliable electroric components is one of those fields, and that was a major stumbling block to producing, as opposed to designing, radars, sonars and tactical radios.
    Obsolete production processes also limited output, Italian production techniques required lots of man hours, and changing that was something the extremely conservative industrialists, that still had huge power, were very reluctant to do.

    The Army never issued a requirement for a true medium tank before the war, the M13 was a light tank despite the "M" designation and while in 1940 having a light as your main tank was perfectly acceptable, by 1942 it was not and the industry was unable to produce anything in the 20 to 30t bracket in time to replace it. Add to that that it was a pretty poor light, went directly from the assembly lines to units with no operational testing (a bit like the Panther at Kursk) and that the tank force had had no experience with indigenous gun tanks, so had still to evolve effective tactics, and you will understand why they made such a poor showing in the early desert battles. The army would have been more than happy with a desert capable T34, the "carro sahariano" that had sloped (but bolted) armour and Christie type suspensions was an attempt in that direction. But that also was a pretty late design, the lack of an effective medium can be equally attributed to army shirt sightedness (no requirement) and industrial limitations (very slow design once a requirement was made and lack of technical innovation).
     
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  20. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    If Italy had say two carriers each with a capacity of about 40 to 50 aircraft available on the outbreak of war with one in Italian East Africa and one in home waters the situation for the RN would have been very critical indeed. The HMS Eagle and Hermes the two most likely carriers for service in the Med and IO would have been overwhelmed by the Italians. Eagle had a single Sea Gladiator assigned on the outbreak of the war.
    Even flying off something like the CR 42 would have overwhelmed the British carrier. The Italian squadron in East Africa with a carrier and a couple of underway replenishment ships would have ruled the East African coast. They could literally have brought Commonwealth shipping to a halt.
    Even facing a superior RN force brought in to deal with them they could have escaped to Japan had it come to that. A carrier and being able to replenish at sea would have given them that ability.
     

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