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dseehafer

The most accurate, fair, and unbiased assessment of the design of the Bismarck class ever written

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Greetings all,

 

   This is the conclusion drawn on the overall capabilities of the Bismarck class by "Sea, War, and Peace" and it really is the most honest, unbiased assessment I have ever read on the design of the Bismarck class....

 

Translated from Russian by Google

 

"

     The battleships of the "Bismarck" type were and still are ships, causing a huge number of judgments and diametrically opposite assessments, and if during the war and the first post-war decades their "rating" was extremely high, then recently enthusiastic reviews were replaced by derogatory ones. In this case, as a rule, we discuss hypothetical fights in the style of knight fights one on one - "Bismarck" vs. " Iowa ", "Bismarck" vs. " Yamato ", - far from historical realities and common sense. What is the German ship really a super-battleship or a myth?

     "Bismarck" and "Tirpitz" became the largest battleships that participated in the Second World War in European waters. It cannot be said that the Germans were the only ones that exceeded the contractual limit of 35,000 tons, but their excess was greatest. Let's try to find out, how competently German designers have disposed of the opportunities given to them.

     First of all, let's consider the main "battleship" characteristics - a complex of armor protection and armament. Following the German tradition, "Bismarck" carried a lot of armor, significantly exceeding its 35,000-ton "classmates" in its mass and share in the total displacement. Its location was also traditional, generally repeating "Scharnhorst" and the last three types of dreadnoughts of the Kaiser Navy of the open sea and going against the "all or nothing" principle - the battleship was calculated for close combat in conditions of reduced visibility prevailing in the North Sea. About how justified this calculation was, we'll talk below.

     The main side belt "Bismarck" still remained rather narrow, and its thickness was even reduced in comparison with its predecessors - from 350 to 320 mm. The slopes of the main deck, on the contrary, became thicker - 110 mm with a slope of 67 ° from the vertical. The second ship of the series - "Tirpitz" - had small differences in the thickness of the reservation, but they were not of a fundamental nature. The combination of the belt and the sloping turtleback of the armored deck at short distances was equivalent to 600-700 mm of vertical armor. As a result, it was impossible to hit the vital centers of the last German battleships with flat fire, which was confirmed in battle on May 27, 1941, when despite a huge number of shells that got into the ship, the Bismarck power plant remained operational until its death.

     As for horizontal protection, here the archaic nature of the scheme applied by the Germans was particularly clear. The upper deck protected the ship well from 152-mm shells and high-explosive bombs of that time, but from the point of view of the main function - removing armor-piercing caps of large-caliber projectiles and firing detonators of armor-piercing bombs - its thickness (50 mm) was superfluous. Its reduction and increase due to this thickness of the main armored deck would contribute to the basic principle of protection: "a system with a thicker component is always stronger". The main deck itself was too thin: 80 mm above the machines and 95 mm above the cellars. A similar equivalent of foreign contemporaries was much more. In addition, it was located very low. As a consequence, the armored volume was very limited, and the vulnerable inter-deck space is extremely large. As a result, from bombs and long-range artillery fire "Bismarck" and "Tirpitz" were protected less than 35,000-ton battleships of other countries.

     Anti-torpedo defense "Bismarck" was slightly strengthened in comparison with the previous type " Scharnhorst ", but still remained rather mediocre. Its depth (5.5 m in the middle) was insufficient against modern torpedoes. In the system PTZ there were unreliable nodes, especially the place where the upper edge of the anti-torpedo bulkhead was fastened to the armored deck. In general, we can not disagree with the conclusion of the classic work of IM Korotkin: "Bismarck type battleships in terms of their displacement and dimensions could have a much stronger underwater protection." However, the battleships of the main enemy, the United Kingdom, looked even worse with regard to constructive underwater protection. Damage to the "Bismarck" from torpedoes and "Tirpitz" from subversive charges of British "midshots" demonstrated yet another drawback peculiar to Scharnhorst: the poor design of the foundations of the main and auxiliary mechanisms, fixtures and wiring. Underwater explosions they too often went out of action from shocks, even if the integrity of the hull was not broken.

     Armament also fit into the concept of "battleship bad weather." Kruppovskie 380mm / 52 guns had a high initial speed of a fairly light projectile and fit well for close combat. At distances of up to 20 km, they theoretically pierced the waist armor of any battleship of a potential enemy. Worse was the case at long distances, where you need to hit horizontal armor. Pay special attention to a small elevation angle - only 30 °, less than that of any contemporary. Accordingly, the angle of the meeting of the projectile with the armored deck of the enemy ship was also small.

     The German system of protection was not based on the concept of "invulnerability zone" or "free maneuvering zone", common in other fleets. Apparently, the Germans were aware of the artificiality of such calculations.

     Indeed, during the Second World War there were only four clashes in which German battleships were opposed by ships of a similar class: the battle of the Lofoten Islands on April 9, 1940, the battle in the Danish strait on May 24, 1941, the last battle of "Bismarck" on May 27, 1940 and the Battle of the North Cape on December 26, 1943. Among them, the farthest distance from which the fire was fired was about 26 km, but, as a rule, skirmishes were fought at ranges of 11-20 km. In this case, opponents have always sought to reduce the distance, rather than increase - if only one of them did not aspire to leave the battle as soon as possible. It turns out, the Germans were right in assessing the nature of the coming battles and choosing a scheme for armoring. 

     The location of the main caliber in the four linear-elevated two-turret towers was optimal from the point of view of German artillerymen, but was not too economical in weight. Because of this "Bismarck" became the owner of the longest citadel.

     The division of the middle artillery into an anti-mine and anti-aircraft art corresponded to the tasks posed to designers. However, the experience of the war unambiguously refuted the pre-war views of the leadership of the German fleet. And it's not just the lack of universality of the 150mm guns, but also the inadequacy of their fire control system, which the Germans combined with the fire control system of the main caliber. The use of a single universal caliber would not only increase the effectiveness of air defense of ships, but would also relieve the deck and superstructures from a number of installations and a duplicating fire control system, which would lead to significant weight savings. The task of counteraction to destroyers could, in this case, be solved no worse at the expense of increased fire performance.

     Despite this, anti-aircraft artillery "Bismarck" can not be called weak. Moreover, among 35,000-ton battleships of European countries, he is the undisputed leader. No matter how you try to give out the 152mm guns installed on the Richelieu for the universal ones, they will not be those at all, which the French themselves were compelled to duplicate with an additional 100mm battery, now purely anti-aircraft. British 133-mm guns were closer to the ideal, but as anti-aircraft guns did not have the required rate of fire and reaction speed. Finally, in Italian " Littorio" There was also a division of the middle artillery into an anti-mine and anti-aircraft gun, and the caliber of the latter was the smallest among all capital ships of the last generation, against which 16 105 mm anti-aircraft guns of German battleships look preferable: their weakest points were the small weight of the projectile and the low velocities of the vertical and horizontal guidance, but in terms of range or rate of fire, they were not inferior to foreign models.

     Energy installations "Bismarck" and "Tirpitz", as, indeed, most of the surface ships of the German fleet, were far from expectations. The voluntaristic decision to switch to high-parameter steam without proper testing of such installations in sea conditions had a very negative impact on their reliability, and overly optimistic estimates of the profitability of high-pressure boilers coupled with an unjustifiably wide use of fresh steam in auxiliary mechanisms led to a drastic reduction in the range of navigation. High-speed and seaworthy qualities of the "Bismarck" corresponded to the level of their time, however, the specifics of the service of the ships did not give the material for their reliable assessment.

     Summarizing the foregoing, it can be concluded that the last German battleships, in general, corresponded to the requirements imposed on them, although they did not possess any supernatural qualities capable of justifying their inflated displacement.

     The strategic realities of the war that began were far from the pre-war calculations of the German naval theorists. "Bismarck" and "Tirpitz" were created to counteract French battleships and could cope with the planned task. In fact, they found themselves in an "abnormal" situation of counteraction to the British (and then Anglo-American) fleet, while Germany did not manage to create its own serious fleet. The use of these ships as raiders, issued after the fact for the main task, was in fact improvisation. Like surface raiders, battleships did not have great prospects, not even due to tactical and technical characteristics, but due to the very viciousness of the idea of a surface raider war. In general, it failed in the Germans and in 1914-1918. in much better conditions: All raiders were quickly destroyed by superior forces. In the Second World Chance, there were no: there were no supply bases, aviation could effectively search for raiders, so in this capacity battleships did not pay for itself. It is significant that after the death of "Bismarck" no surface ship went into the ocean raiding. The use in accordance with the principle of "Fleet in Being", apparently, remained the only possible application of German battleships.

"

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20 minutes ago, dseehafer said:

the most honest, unbiased assessment I have ever read on the design of the Bismarck class....

 

Translated from Russian

Something doesn't line up here

 

Spoiler

Actually, it's a good read, thanks for posting

 

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36 minutes ago, dseehafer said:

Despite this, anti-aircraft artillery "Bismarck" can not be called weak. Moreover, among 35,000-ton battleships of European countries, he is the undisputed leader. No matter how you try to give out the 152mm guns installed on the Richelieu for the universal ones, they will not be those at all, which the French themselves were compelled to duplicate with an additional 100mm battery, now purely anti-aircraft. British 133-mm guns were closer to the ideal, but as anti-aircraft guns did not have the required rate of fire and reaction speed. Finally, in Italian " Littorio" There was also a division of the middle artillery into an anti-mine and anti-aircraft gun, and the caliber of the latter was the smallest among all capital ships of the last generation, against which 16 105 mm anti-aircraft guns of German battleships look preferable: their weakest points were the small weight of the projectile and the low velocities of the vertical and horizontal guidance, but in terms of range or rate of fire, they were not inferior to foreign models.

 

Bismarck herself had quite a AA armament on paper however, she had a lot of issues while her problems were largely all corrected aboard Tirpitz. 

 

While Bismarck's 5.9 inch guns were not fully dual purpose, I can largely give her a pass as only the Americans and British used homogeneous DP AA at such a time. 

 

The 4.1 inch guns on Bismarck were of two different mount models, meaning the fire control director could not effectively synchronize their fire. The fire control directors themselves were not stabilized and were of an older, inferior model, meaning they were less effective out in the open sea. Throw in the inadequate waterproofing of the 4.1 inch mounts themselves and you have a bad combination. Her 3.7 inch mounts were manually guided and single shot, giving them a laughable rate of fire and pitiful tracking rate. 4.1 inch and 3.7 inch mounts were also largely unprotected and open. Bismarck's Captain Lindemann wrote a report about the various problems with the firing angles of the 3.7 inch and 20mm cannons, none of which were fixed before Bismarck set to sea, the crew also did not have very many AA training drills.

 

Add all these factors to the weather faced by Bismarck and you can see why she was so abyssal against aircraft. 

 

Bismarck and Tirpitz were both fine ships and are easily in contention as some of the best European battleships produced during WWII however, the sheer amount of ineffective uses of weight does annoy me.

 

Overall, great post!

 

 

 

Edited by xX_Critical_ClopOut69_Xx

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7 minutes ago, xX_Critical_ClopOut69_Xx said:

 

Bismarck herself had quite a AA armament on paper however, she had a lot of issues while her problems were largely all corrected aboard Tirpitz. 

 

While Bismarck's 5.9 inch guns were not fully dual purpose, I can largely give her a pass as only the Americans and British used homogeneous DP AA at such a time. 

 

The 4.1 inch guns on Bismarck were of two different mount models, meaning the fire control director could not effectively synchronize their fire. The fire control directors themselves were not stabilized and were of an older, inferior model, meaning they were less effective out in the open sea. Throw in the inadequate waterproofing of the 4.1 inch mounts themselves and you have a bad combination. Her 3.7 inch mounts were manually guided and single shot, giving them a laughable rate of fire and pitiful tracking rate. 4.1 inch and 3.7 inch mounts were also largely unprotected and open. Bismarck's Captain Lindemann wrote a report about the various problems with the firing angles of the 3.7 inch and 20mm cannons, none of which were fixed before Bismarck set to sea, the crew also did not have very many AA training drills.

 

Add all these factors to the weather faced by Bismarck and you can see why she was so abyssal against aircraft. 

 

Bismarck and Tirpitz were both fine ships and are easily in contention as some of the best European battleships produced during WWII however, the sheer amount of ineffective uses of weight does annoy me.

 

Overall, great post!

 

 

 

 

It should be noted that all of Tirpitz's 10.5cm mounts were uniform, all being SK37 mounts, by the time she was declared combat-operational. Bismarck did not achieve this same state of readiness before she was prematurely forced out on her first and only combat mission.

 

The 37s aboard Bismarck were still much better than the 37mm AA guns being fielded on French warships at the time. In reality, the German 37mm guns were high-powered and very accurate. People make the mistake of assuming that these were to be used against low-flying torpedo bombers. No. This was not the case. They were a medium-altitude weapon. In this role, traverse speeds and reload speed are not as important. Instead, accuracy and hitting power are key, both of these are strong points of the German 37. Now, can they compete with the likes of the 40mm Bofors? Absolutely not (though, the bofors did not become available until 1942). But in 1939, when war broke out, these were by no means bad weapons. They were eventually replaced by new rapid-fire 37mm guns and 40mm bofors on most ships as the war went on, though, Tirpitz and Scharnhorst used them until their deaths (being unable to safely return to Germany for an overhaul/refit by late-1942)

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You can really feel the despair of the German navy after this read...

The Kriegsmarine tried to recreate the miracle of Kaiserliche Marine Battlecruisers in a different time, except there's no longer a Jutland for these Seydlitz 2.0 to fight, and there's no longer a High Seas fleet to cover their retreat...

Feels like the last powerful upper cut from an exhausted boxer.

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2 hours ago, AJTP89 said:

Something doesn't line up here

 

  Reveal hidden contents

Actually, it's a good read, thanks for posting

 

Yeah, wasn't the Russian Navy a "Fleet in Being" throughout the war?:Smile_teethhappy:

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Yet if you look at the time at launch you can fully understand why the British were so scared of her, she was faster than any other BB at the time, she was heavily armored and fielding some of the big guns. The Allies had nothing in their eyes to counter it if it broke out to sea. The only thing they could do is try to surround it and pray for luck, which they kind of did. This is why the North Carolina was initially set to patrol the area she did, she was one of the few BBs at the time that had the speed and the guns to effectively counter the Tirpitiz 

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1 hour ago, Psycodiver said:

 This is why the North Carolina was initially set to patrol the area she did, she was one of the few BBs at the time that had the speed and the guns to effectively counter the Tirpitiz 

1

 

Well, not the speed.. NC could do about 27.5kn, Tirpitz could manage 31kn. The only battleships that were both faster and more powerfully armed over the Tirpitz were the Iowa-class battleships. Renown could theoretically catch Tirpitz, but she lacked the armor and armament to really challenge her. Jean Bart could also catch Tirpitz and engage her on equal terms, but she wasn't completed until 1955. Even the Iowa's entered the picture too late to be of any real use against Tirpitz. Tirpitz truly was more powerful than anything faster and faster than anything more powerful in her time of unrestricted operation ( that is, before the X-craft attack).

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The Bismarck's AA armament also suffered from a combination of complex mount that slowed the rate of fire in many cases as it moved relative to the loaders, and from a near horrid reliability rate.  

The Germans, in typical fashion, over engineered the mounts and made the whole mass triaxialy stabilized.  What this did in effect was make the stabilization of the mount unreliable.  Added to that, the mount was poorly designed for weather so there were frequent electrical problems with it and the stabilization.

WNGER_41-65_skc33_pic.jpg

You can get some idea how difficult it would be to load these guns as that mount moved on three axis in a seaway.  

 

Oh, as a side note, higher speed in a battleship on battleship fight is only good for running away.  If the enemy is in range, then you are too...

 

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4 hours ago, Murotsu said:

The Bismarck's AA armament also suffered from a combination of complex mount that slowed the rate of fire in many cases as it moved relative to the loaders, and from a near horrid reliability rate.  

The Germans, in typical fashion, over engineered the mounts and made the whole mass triaxialy stabilized.  What this did in effect was make the stabilization of the mount unreliable.  Added to that, the mount was poorly designed for weather so there were frequent electrical problems with it and the stabilization.

WNGER_41-65_skc33_pic.jpg

You can get some idea how difficult it would be to load these guns as that mount moved on three axis in a seaway.  

 

Oh, as a side note, higher speed in a battleship on battleship fight is only good for running away.  If the enemy is in range, then you are too...

 

 

It's worth noting that shown in the picture is the Sk33 mount, originally designed to house 88mm guns. The improved Sk37, designed specifically for the 10.5cm guns, solved many of the problems that plagued the Sk33 mount. All of Tirpitz's 10.5cm guns were in Sk37 mounts, she was the only capital ship in the Kriegsmarine who could boast as much as Bismarck's battery was half Sk33 and half Sk37. It's also worth noting that the triaxial stabilization of the mount could be turned off entirely or operated manually if need be (for example, in the case of a short circuit)

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The single shot small caliber weapons were utterly useless on any ship they were placed on. Good ballistics is nice, but a slow traversing mount and manually operated loading system is still just trash. Fortunately the Germans had an excellent clip loaded 37 mm automatic to switch to when they got the chance.

 

Also, "Kruppovskie" made me spit orange juice all over my desk.

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7 hours ago, Murotsu said:

The Bismarck's AA armament also suffered from a combination of complex mount that slowed the rate of fire in many cases as it moved relative to the loaders, and from a near horrid reliability rate.  

The Germans, in typical fashion, over engineered the mounts and made the whole mass triaxialy stabilized.  What this did in effect was make the stabilization of the mount unreliable.  Added to that, the mount was poorly designed for weather so there were frequent electrical problems with it and the stabilization.

WNGER_41-65_skc33_pic.jpg

You can get some idea how difficult it would be to load these guns as that mount moved on three axis in a seaway.  

 

Oh, as a side note, higher speed in a battleship on battleship fight is only good for running away.  If the enemy is in range, then you are too...

 

I assume the tri-axial mounting was taking into account the pitching and rolling in heavy seas?

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51 minutes ago, BrentD15 said:

I assume the tri-axial mounting was taking into account the pitching and rolling in heavy seas?

Correct.  The Germans weren't the only ones to do something like this either.  The British tried it with some of their 40mm Bofors mounts like the Hazemeyer and had the same issues the Germans had.  It was definitely a case of over engineering.

Normally, what designers do is include a stable element in the fire control system that delays fire by a second or two until the ship comes to level in pitch and roll, that sort of thing.  This is a big weight saving over trying to stabilize many tons of gun mount.

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13 hours ago, dseehafer said:

 

Well, not the speed.. NC could do about 27.5kn, Tirpitz could manage 31kn. The only battleships that were both faster and more powerfully armed over the Tirpitz were the Iowa-class battleships. Renown could theoretically catch Tirpitz, but she lacked the armor and armament to really challenge her. Jean Bart could also catch Tirpitz and engage her on equal terms, but she wasn't completed until 1955. Even the Iowa's entered the picture too late to be of any real use against Tirpitz. Tirpitz truly was more powerful than anything faster and faster than anything more powerful in her time of unrestricted operation ( that is, before the X-craft attack).

 

Well said

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3 hours ago, Murotsu said:

Normally, what designers do is include a stable element in the fire control system that delays fire by a second or two until the ship comes to level in pitch and roll, that sort of thing.  This is a big weight saving over trying to stabilize many tons of gun mount.

None of which is taken into account in WOWS where ships can maintain target lock and rate of fire at all times unless they are "out turning" their turrets. Of course even WOWS typhoons have glass calm seas, no pitch or roll. IRL ships had to cruise straight (and probably broadside, more guns give real life RNG more chances to hit) while the a target solution  was calculated, to have any hope of hitting a distant target. Turn the ship and you have to recalculate. Slow turret rotation wasn't such a horrid thing for surface combat. I know, it is an arcade game using ships that look like real ships (most of the time) with some nod to real performance factors (unless said ship is Russian).

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Very good read.

1st time I read something relating Bismarck design and the fact that it most likely battle scenario would be the North Sea.

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2 hours ago, Jumarka said:

Very good read.

1st time I read something relating Bismarck design and the fact that it most likely battle scenario would be the North Sea.

 

Precisely! People make the mistake of comparing her to different battleships. It is pointless to compare Tirpitz to, say, Iowa because they were designed to fulfill completely different roles.

 

Tirpitz was designed to counter French battleships, specifically Richelieu. She was designed to fight within 20km in the poor conditions of the North Atlantic. From within 20km she could penetrate the citadel of any of her potential battleship rivals while at the same time her own vitals were impenetrable from within 20km. The armament being arranged in 4 turrets (Bismarcks were the only battleships with 4 turrets launched after the Hood in 1920) was specifically because the Germans preferred to fire 4 shell salvos. By dividing the ship's armament into 8 turrets the firing of the armament could be staggered between the forward and rear turrets and the Germans would get their preferred 4-shell salvos. While this does have the downside of creating a very long citadel, this is essentially a non-issue if the ship is fighting within 20km where her massive citadel cannot be penetrated anyways. And finally, as mentioned, Tirpitz was also faster than any of her potential battleship rivals.

 

In short, for what they were designed to accomplish, that is to fight French battleships from within 20km, the Bismarck's were very good ships indeed. It is only when one tries to unrealistically pit her against the likes of an Iowa or a Yamato that she starts to look bad. This is perhaps why the Bismarck's get such a bad rap in modern naval-discussions because people are ignoring the requirements that each ship was designed to meet and are instead trying to pit them in unrealistic 1v1 scenarios with other battleships that would have never happened in real life.

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13 minutes ago, Lampshade_M1A2 said:

What sort of provisions did the 4.1" guns or their fire control directors have for engaging surface targets?

 

For use against surface and land targets, these guns fired HE shells. There were slits in on either side of the mount's face for the local-control rangefinders. (see image below). Though, in some cases, there were periscopes instead of slits.

 

7_tirp3.jpg

 

 

Under normal circumstances, the guns were under the direction of four SL-8 4m rangefinders (seen below).

 

6_bism5.jpg

 

However, as far as I can tell these were used only for the direction of AA fire. This would mean that shooting against surface targets would be under local control. I could be wrong though. What is for certain is that these mounts were used against both surface targets and air targets, dismissing the ridiculous claim made by some that these were purely AA weapons and that they were not DP.

 

A 10.5cm Sk33 turret (likely aboard Admiral Scheer) firing upon a victim. (note the periscopes on either side of the guns on the front of the turret, these are in place of the slits shown earlier)

 

1WtHBSW.png

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7 hours ago, dseehafer said:

her own vitals were impenetrable from within 20km.

Does her electrical cabling count as vital?

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Bismarck has plenty of armor, but little actual volume with complete protection from battleship shells.

 

The magazines and machinery are safe, but literally nothing else is. Unless she has another ship to tow her away after the battle, she's still effectively a write off after an engagement where the enemy doesn't just explode instantly.

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4 hours ago, Big_Spud said:

Bismarck has plenty of armor, but little actual volume with complete protection from battleship shells.

 

The magazines and machinery are safe, but literally nothing else is. Unless she has another ship to tow her away after the battle, she's still effectively a write off after an engagement where the enemy doesn't just explode instantly.

 

This comment is confusing to me.

 

For one, why would she need another ship to tow her away if her machinery spaces are impenetrable? Even if beaten off she should still realistically be able to escape under her own power without the need of a tow.

 

And then you make the mistake of thinking that only the magazines and machinery spaces are below the main armor deck. This is not true at all. (see link below) Yes, the Bismarck's had 2 extra decks above the main armor deck where ships like SD, NC, and KGV had only one but unlike the previously mentioned ships these areas on Bismarck were at least armored against up to 6" shells and could, in-theory, decap heavy shells where on the Allied treaty battleships they were not armored at all.

 

In no case is a Bismarck "effectively a write off after an engagement where the enemy doesn't just explode instantly". I don't think any naval historian worth his wit would make such a ridiculous claim. Though, maybe I'm misinterpreting what you're trying to say.

 

http://www.schlachtschiff.com/kriegsmarine/schlachtschiff_tirpitz/images/gallerie/planrolle/Plan5.pdf

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