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dseehafer

Germany's 'almost' aircraft carriers: Part 2: Europa

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Greetings all,

 

   Most people know that Germany never had an operational Aircraft Carrier (though they did have a few catapult ships). Most people have heard of Graf Zeppelin, the only German carrier to reach an advanced stage of construction. But most people do not know just how many carriers Germany had planned. Before we can talk about any of these carriers we must first understand why Germany felt she needed carriers at all, and for what purpose they were needed....

   In the years leading up to WWII Germany's primary potential enemies were France and Poland (Germany was hoping to avoid war with Great Britain), of those two France was the only nation who possessed a sizeable navy. France needed a big navy, 3/4 of all of France's resources are imported by Sea. If France cannot defend her sea-lanes, she cannot survive for long in a major conflict. Germany needed specialized ships to hunt and destroy French shipping. Indeed Graf Zeppelin (and her unfinished sister) were designed to fulfill this very purpose, to hunt French shipping. They were quite literally designed to be commerce raiding Aircraft carriers. They had all the tools necessary for the job, a whopping 35kn top speed, the surface-firepower of a cruiser to be used against commerce vessels, a handful of fighters and bombers to defend herself against large enemy warships and France's only small aircraft carrier Bearn, and a catapult launching system that allowed her to launch planes in any sea condition, any wind, and any direction.

    However, France fell a lot quicker than Germany had though and Great Britain had somehow been convinced to declare war on Germany, much to Hitler's dismay. With France out of the picture, Graf Zeppelin found herself without a purpose and so construction was halted. Graf Zeppelin found a new lease on life when construction was resumed in March 1942. Why the sudden change of heart? Germany had observed how Bismarck was crippled by carrier aircraft and how Tirpitz's hunt for Convoy PQ12 had to be canceled when she came under torpedo attack from carrier aircraft. Germany saw how much of a threat carriers were to her capital ships and decided the only way to protect her capital ships was with carriers of her own. In this way, any capital ship escorted by a carrier would be theoretically protected against enemy carriers. Now Germany needed as many carriers as possible, and fast! Several ships of all walks of life were chosen for conversion. Work on several designs was started but all were soon halted and canceled after Hitler's famous hissy fit after the failure of the Battle of the Barents Sea.

 

Now, let us take a look at these little-known carriers!

 

 

    Europa was the first candidate considered for being converted into a carrier. Before the war, she served as one of the world's largest and fastest ocean liners and had been sitting idle since the war broke out. Germany having no real need for troop transport ships meant that converting her into a carrier would have had little consequence in that regard. The project started in March/1942 under the name "Deutsche Flugzeugtreager I". The designers immediately ran into several problems. The need to recess the primary hangar deck into the primary structural deck would have strained the hull and caused it to be too weak for operations in the North Atlantic. Europa was a poor seaboat (most ocean liners were) before the extra weight of being converted into a carrier was considered. Wind tunnel tests proved that not even the addition of bulges would remedy the conversion's stability issues. The ship was also a proven gas guzzler. To make matters worse, even though she was designed for a complement of 80 aircraft Hermann Gðring (commander in chief of the Luftwaffe) agreed to spare only 42 aircraft. By the time November/1942 rolled around these problems proved impossible to rectify and the project was halted before any conversion work had begun on the actual ship. Still, had the conversion gone ahead, she would have been the longest warship to serve in WWII coming in at a staggering 956' long (not counting the flight-deck overhang), almost 100' longer than even the Graf Zeppelin (who was herself no small-fry of a carrier by any stretch of the imagination)!

 

The giant German ocean liner Europa

Image result for ocean liner Europa

 

 

Europa embattled in the rough seas of the North Atlantic. As a carrier, she would have been too weak and unstable to operate in these conditions.

Related image

 

 

 

Deutsche Flugzeugtreager I (Europa conversion)

Image result for europa aircraft carrier

 

   The ship would have measured 291.5m (956') long, would have been 37m (121') wide, would have gone to a depth of 10.3m (34'), and would have displaced some 56,500t fully loaded. The ship's flight deck would have been 276m (906') long and 30m (98') wide. She would have been propelled to a maximum speed of 31kn by four sets of Blohm und Voss geared steam turbines producing 100,000shp through 4 screws. At maximum speed, the ship could steam for 5,000nmi, at 19kn the range was doubled to 10,000nmi. No armor or protection was planned to be added during the conversion. The ship's hull was divided into 16 watertight compartments and featured a double bottom. She was to have one large 216m (709') long hangar. The hangar would have been 25m (82') wide forward and 30m (98') wide aft. The hangar would have been serviced by two 6.5t elevators. Although designed to be able to fit some 80 aircraft, only 24 Bf109s and 18 Ju87s would have been provided by the Luftwaffe. Two catapults at the bow could launch a total of 32-34 aircraft at a rate of two per minute (per catapult) before requiring approx an hour to recharge. As designed her armament would have consisted of 6x2 105mm Sk C/33, 10x2 37mm Sk C/30, and 9x4 20mm C/38.

 

 

 

3d render of the conversion

KM CV Europa [1942] 3d printed Computer software render

 

 

Here is a 3d render of her (back) next to two other German carrier conversions, Wesser (middle), and Elbe (front). I'll be showcasing Wesser in a future installment (Elbe I've already covered)

 

1/2400 KM WWII Carrier Projects 3d printed

 

 

After the war Europa, redesignated AP-177, was used by the Americans as a troop transport ship. 

 

Image result for europa liner

 

 

 

After the Magic Carpet campaign ended the ship was handed over to the French to replace the French ocean liner Normandie which burned and capsized while in American hands. The French renamed her Liberte and, in true French fashion, decided to make her funnels EVEN BIGGER!! Liberte served until she was scrapped in 1963, having been replaced by the brand new SS France.

 

Image result for liberte liner

 

 

Stay tuned for part 3 featuring another little-known German carrier design!

 

 

Part 1: Elbe and Jade - 

 

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Sweet! Nice little tidbits of naval history.

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Great write-up as always, D.  +1

 

Keep up the great work!

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So, which service commands the air group and which service commands the ship?

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Any chance you can include Graf Zeppelin to the size comparison?  Since she's rendered in-game, it'd help with understanding the scale :)

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16 minutes ago, Lord_Zath said:

Any chance you can include Graf Zeppelin to the size comparison?  Since she's rendered in-game, it'd help with understanding the scale :)

 

Which size comparison? The one show in this thread? That was just an image i found on the interwebs, I don't actually have those models.

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58 minutes ago, Bill_Halsey said:

So, which service commands the air group and which service commands the ship?

 

The Luftwaffe would have controlled the air group. The pilots and commanders would have been Luftwaffe personnel. The Kriegsmarine just owned and operated the ship they operated from. Interestingly enough, the Luftwaffe had its own personal navy of catapult ships during WWII.  

 

Image result for falke and bussard

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Nice, was waiting for the second part.

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Edit: Added a little tidbit about her life and fate after the war.

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11 minutes ago, dseehafer said:

The Luftwaffe would have controlled the air group. The pilots and commanders would have been Luftwaffe personnel. The Kriegsmarine just owned and operated the ship they operated from. Interestingly enough, the Luftwaffe had its own personal navy of catapult ships during WWII.  

 

Talk about empire building by Goering. The Fallschirmjaeger was the Luftwaffe army. That lack of command unity would had have been problematic at the strategic level. 

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Just now, Bill_Halsey said:

 

Talk about empire building by Goering. The Fallschirmjaeger was the Luftwaffe army. That lack of command unity would had have been problematic at the strategic level. 

 

It was, Goering (and Himmler) power plays and sheer stupidity played a major role on many defeats of both the Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine and Army.

 

Another amazing post by @dseehafer

By 1942 they really should have been focusing in other things instead of loosing time with dreams of naval airpower.

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Interesting post, I'd say Europa was less 'almost' than some. She was pretty far away from being a carrier.

I'm not sure as well on the timeline making sense as I believe Germany was BY '42 long term planning for the war to be over by '43 or '44 (beat the Soviets in the next summer campaign, then deal with the UK - deluded, but the plan anyway).

If they'd commenced the conversion in early '43, needed months for that, months to build up an airgroup, months of trials and training it's hard to see her being useful that soon.

4 hours ago, Bill_Halsey said:

Talk about empire building by Goering. The Fallschirmjaeger was the Luftwaffe army. That lack of command unity would had have been problematic at the strategic level. 

There were the 'Luftwaffe Field Divisions' too, which didn't go that well.

 

The Royal Navy suffered pretty badly from losing control of its air power to the RAF from 1918 to 1939, a situation for the German Navy of lacking direct control of airmen, aircraft etc. would be similarly bad news.

 

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3 hours ago, mofton said:

Interesting post, I'd say Europa was less 'almost' than some. She was pretty far away from being a carrier.

I'm not sure as well on the timeline making sense as I believe Germany was BY '42 long term planning for the war to be over by '43 or '44 (beat the Soviets in the next summer campaign, then deal with the UK - deluded, but the plan anyway).

If they'd commenced the conversion in early '43, needed months for that, months to build up an airgroup, months of trials and training it's hard to see her being useful that soon.

There were the 'Luftwaffe Field Divisions' too, which didn't go that well.

 

The Royal Navy suffered pretty badly from losing control of its air power to the RAF from 1918 to 1939, a situation for the German Navy of lacking direct control of airmen, aircraft etc. would be similarly bad news.

 

 

Yeah, used 'almost' anyways to keep consistency. Considering editing the series titles. Don't know yet.

 

As for the timeline. Not really sure about what the German thought of the war in March 1942. Even if they were expecting a quick victory in Europe by the end of 1943, Hitler still had those crazy aspirations about invading New York City (and you thought the invasion of Great Britain was a far stretch).

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On 11/22/2017 at 8:02 PM, dseehafer said:

 

Yeah, used 'almost' anyways to keep consistency. Considering editing the series titles. Don't know yet.

 

As for the timeline. Not really sure about what the German thought of the war in March 1942. Even if they were expecting a quick victory in Europe by the end of 1943, Hitler still had those crazy aspirations about invading New York City (and you thought the invasion of Great Britain was a far stretch).

He even had plans for a fleet of...

8 aircraft carriers

25 battleships

50 cruisers

140 destroyers

400 submarines.

 

Had that actually come to fruition (or anywhere near it,) how would that have fared against the U.S.? Considering that we managed to crank out hundreds of aircraft carriers, 10 battleships, dozens of cruisers, the billion+ Fletcher-class DDs, and many more support ships during the war, I doubt that would have ended well for the Fuhrer. That, and a battle most likely would have been fought within range of American land-based aircraft. (And this says nothing about what would have happened to the remnants of the Royal Navy had Britain fallen.)

 

 

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