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What if the Regia Marina was properly supplied with fuel and radar sets?

Discussion in 'What If - Mediterranean & North Africa' started by Volga Boatman, Jan 23, 2010.

  1. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

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    For me this is one of the enduring and least talked about aspects of the entire Second World War.

    The Regia Marina was consistently undersupplied with naval fuel oil by their German 'allies'. The Italians made several attempts to rectify this situation, pointing out that more fuel would have allowed them a much wider operational scope, more sorties by their battle units, and may well have tipped the balance in the central and eastern Med.

    There are many Royal Navy inspired myths about the Italian Navy in WW2, chiefly that the Italians had no 'stomach' for fighting. The Germans, particularly Erwin Rommel, were of the same basic opinion, even though the figures for number of troops and supplies reaching Rommel were good.

    I will provide such figures for the purpose of this discussion, should we get any replys at all....but, basically, troops and supplies WERE reaching North African shores in sufficient numbers. It was certainly not the fault of the Regia Marina that much of it was squandered by Rommel's recklessness, or his insistence that Egypt and Suez were the prize to aim for, rather than CRUSHING MALTA, as the Italian high command, and incidently Mussolini, begged him to do.

    Radar is another issue that gave the Regia Marina the short end of the stick. German seaborne radar sets (Seetackt) were produced in more than sufficient quantities to fully equip the Italian surface fleet, but like most other material requests made by Italy to Germany, they were turned down, blinding the Regia Marina and reducing their tactical efficiency, particularly their fire control.

    Rommel tended to 'hog' all of the airpower for his own operations, and who can forget him pinching Italian transport after 2nd El Alemain, dooming many Italian units to be swept up by the 8th Army?

    So....what do the forum members feel, with our pooled resources and wide opinion base? Agree or disagree? I feel that, based on the performance by the Italian navy with what they had, it would have had a major effect, reversing Rommel's so called 'poor' supply situation, galvanising Italian army units, and decisively swinging the Desert War, and prolonging the war in general by many months, even years. I don't need to tell forum members of the Importance of Iraqi oil to the Allied war effort, or to stopping the principle supply route of Lend Lease to Russia.

    A better fuel supply and better technology could have made all the difference......What say you, fellow members and friends?:)
     
  2. Skontos1

    Skontos1 Member

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    I think if Italy would have at least been able to support their German allies from the sea that does make a world of difference. It's another head to chop off for the allies, if the Germans saw the Italians at least if nothing else troop support and helped make them useful in that fashion who's to say that German efforts in Africa fail? Coordination for me is the key that the allies had that the Axis just didn't, I mean who knows what Germany could have done with reinforcements from Japanese zeros and ships but maybe helping Italy achieve a decent level of air and sea presence could have helped them in a similar way.
     
  3. efestos

    efestos Member

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    IMHO. A fleet with carriers against other without them. Different level of training and experience of crews and commanders...And there's Enigma.
     
  4. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    I'm not sure about the answer to the original question Efestos, but sufficient land based air, using types with sufficient range would have negated the carrier advantage.
     
  5. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    I think having the fuel would have made some difference. The Italians did have a more modern fleet in general, then the British, and were very liberal in expending torpedos. Besides fuel, if they had a decent radar, they would have wreaked hobb with the Brits.
     
  6. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Fuel and Radar would likely only allow the Italian battlefleet to be sunk at sea faster. The problems did not stop there. Timid high command, no co-ordinated air support,, poor quality control in ammunition.
     
  7. freebird

    freebird Member

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    The Axis did have a large number of aircraft based on Sicily, but fared quite poorly on attacks vs the RN, compared to the IJN bombers.
    (Which is perhaps why the British were surprised at the effectivness of the Japanese)
     
  8. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    IMO radar is overrated, in the 1940-43 timeframe it was mostly good only for early warning, bur we now know the real reason the Italian fleets were surprised time and again was ULTRA not radar. Realistic training (including air sea cooperation), and a decent ASDIC would be much more important than radar, the Japanase won most early night encounters despite not having radar. IMO no amount of land based air will replace the CAP a carrier can provide, but the British never had a large carrier force in the med so the advantage was not overwhelming (and cold have been mostly negated had the Italians had better AA. Let's not forget that the Regia Marina, while not winning many battles, did keep the supply lines to NA open (to say nothing of those to Greece, the Dodecannes, Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia), despite overall numerical inferiority, lack of radar, ULTRA, no carriers, fuel shortages, faulty ammo, poor AA guns etc. etc. etc.

    It would be interesting to find out when Germany and Italy started creating specialized anti shipping squadrons, AFAIK there were none at war start and training is very important for attacking ships.
     
  9. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Freebird wrote:
    True, they had large numbers but they didn't use the correct types in sufficient numbers.

    TOS wrote:
    I do agree with the CAP comment but only partially. When you get down to basics an aircraft carrier is only a mobile airfield. When you are talking providing CAP to the task force the carrier is a part of you are entirely correct. In the same way that the landbased aircraft would be superior to the carrier over their own airfield. If providing CAP to an asset not located with it, there is no advantage, this depends upon who is closer, the land based airfield or the carrier, and the type aircraft being used. Germany deployed many more Bf-109's, a fairly short legged aircraft with which to provide aircover, if they had weighted their deployment heavily towards the BF-110 they would have actually had an advantage in the range from base (sea or land) that they could have provided aircover. Level bombing has a greatly reduced effectiveness when compared to dive bombing when used against naval targets. Had the German's deployed more Stuka's, even though they too were fairly short ranged compared to naval dive bombers, and had them dispersed to enough bases, and utilized and effective search doctrine with the appropriate aircraft, they could have denied huge areas of the Med to British carrier operations because they would have presented an effective threat. Proper training in attacking naval vessels would have increased German air effectiveness against naval targets. The US in the Pacific was very effective when using landbased fighters, dive bombers and torpedo aircraft against Japanese naval targets in the South Pacific. Army Air Corps level bombing, against Japanese naval shipping in the Southwest Pacific was only marginally effective. If you also consider Japanese Kamikaze attacks later in the war, and do not consider the terminal/suicide portion of the attack. Land based aircraft, with poorly trained pilots, managed to get through to ships even though at that point in time the US had huge advantages in radar, anti-aircraft gunfire and fire direction, proximity fuses, control and coordination of the CAP, huge numbers of excellent performance fighters flying the CAP, and with highly trained pilots. I will reinterate, IMO, German land based air, if employing the proper aircraft types, in sufficient numbers, with properly trained pilots, using effective doctrine and flying from properly located bases. They could have negated the majority of the advantage that Great Britain would gain from deploying the carriers it did to the Medeterranian.



    JU-87B Stutka-311mi/1100lb bomb load
    JU-87D Stutka-510mi/2420lb bomb load
    SBD Dauntless-1115mi/2250lb bomb load
    D4Y-2 Judy-910mi/1102lb bomb load

    ME/BF 109E-412mi
    ME/BF 109G-528mi
    FW190A-500mi
    BF110-1500mi
    F4F3 Wildcat-845mi
    F4F4 Wildcat-830mi
    A6M2 Zero-1675mi
    SeaFire LF MkIII-513mi
    F4U-1A Corsair-1015mi

    B5N2 Kate-1237mi
    TBF Avenger-1000mi
    Fairy Swordfish-546mi

    Better yet, Germany should not have engaged in a campaign requiring significant naval operations without having developed or aquired and produced from their ally Japan, the proper types of aircraft to support said campaign.
     
  10. efestos

    efestos Member

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    by rote: I remember that the LW had to change the ME 110 for the ME 109 with belly tanks as convoy scorts in the proximity of Malta: The Me 110 didn't survive the attaks of the Bristol Beaufighters!!!
     
  11. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Something like the Zero could have been very useful in the Med, as they had engines of comparable performance to the Sakae it would not be an impossible feat for either Germany or Italy, but it was an extreme deign that sacrificed a lot to range. The design decisions were part of the requirements, the Japanese wanted range to compensate for lack of numbers, the Betty bomber was even more extreme in that regard.
    The Me 110, with it's heavy armament and long range, was a great bomber destroyer but outclassed by most contemporary fighters including the twin engined ones, the only "easy targets" for them would be the the Fulmars. IIRC no Me 110 were deployed in the other German naval support campaigns in the Biscay Bay and against the Artic convoys.
    IMO the only axis fighter with a good range was the Re 2001 (around 650mi) but there were very few of then as production priority was given to the short legged Mc 202 and CR 42 (sic) interceptors.
    Another big gap in the axis air lineup was a good naval patrol plane like the Sunderland, the CANT Z501 were easy prey even for the Fulmars and the Z506 still not very good at protecting themselveves and lacking in ASW weapons, the British subs that used to lay in ambush close the the choke point had liitle to fear from air patrols. That an Eastern Malta resupply attempt was initially spotted by a Ju 52 supply flight to North Africa is a good indication of the lack of air patrols.

    When I was talking about CAP I was thinking of above CV's fleet not of providing aircover to a different fleet, the air cover schedule for the channel dash gives a good idea of the complexity of providing contunous air cover to a fleet without carriers, it basically involved all fighter assets available in France at the time! A carrier based CAP can be mantained a lot closer to dawn and dusk than planes that are hours away from their bases.
    With the exception of the amphibiuos landings carriers in the Med were not used to achieve even local air superiority the fighter complement of British carriers was a couple of squadrons, and not especially good planes (Fulmars and Sea Hurricanes), not enough to engage in a prolonged fight with land based air.
     
  12. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Very good info TOS.
     

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