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dseehafer

Carrier Graf Zeppelin as she would have appeared in 1943.

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Greetings all,

 

This is basically going to be a big info dump detailing the modifications and changes made to the Graf Zeppelin design by the time work resumed on her in 1942.

 

1: When work on Graf Zeppelin was resumed on May/13/1942 she was scheduled for commissioning on April/1/1943 and was to be ready for operations sometime between December/1943 and Early Spring/1944. 

 

2: After the ship is declared ready for operations she was to be stationed in Faettenfjord near Trondheim. Or, alternatively, she could also be sent to Altafjord instead. This information is provided by two entries in the War Diary of the Sea War Command (KTB der Skl), first on June/28/1942 and then on October/1/1942. At the time it was intended for Graf Zeppelin to operate with German battleships also stationed in Norwegian waters.

 

Note: Concerning points 1 and 2, as we are well aware these things did not go as planned. Lutzow and Hippers failure at the Battle of the Barents sea prompted Hitler to cancel all naval projects at the time, including Graf Zeppelin.

 

3: By the time work resumed on Graf Zeppelin in 1942 it was no longer possible for either the Me 109 T-1 or the Ju 87 C-1 to be produced for the Zeppelin because the engines and production lines no longer existed for these aircraft. Instead, the Me 155 A-1 was designed as a "Trager Jagdflugzeug" (Carrier Fighter-Aircraft) and was to be based as much as possible on the then current Me 109 G production version, which was by the end of 1942 the Me 109 G-6. On May/30/1942 the Me 109 G-6 was ordered to be adapted for aircraft carrier use by adding such features as: foldable wings, detachable wing extensions, manually mountable wings, arresting cable hook, catapult support mountings, fixed tail wheel, upper wing spoilers, and sea rescue equipment. The Me 155 A-1 would have had the ETC 500/IXb bomb rack which would have allowed for the mounting of either a 500-kg bomb or a 300-liter drop-tank. For offensive armament, the plane would have had 2x MG 131 13mm machine guns and 1x Mk151 20mm auto-cannon. By the end of 1942 the Me 155 A-1 design was almost complete and the aircraft was scheduled to go into production in early 1943 with as many as 220 to be manufactured.

 

4: Because the Ju 87 C-1 could no longer be produced the Germans turned to the Ju 87 D-5 of which the navalized version was to have been called the Ju 87 E-1. Unlike the C-1 which was to be used primarily as a dive-bomber, the E-1 was primarily intended for torpedo bombing, though on Graf Zeppelin it was to fulfill several roles. These roles included: torpedo bomber, dive bomber, long range recon aircraft, smoke laying aircraft, and aerial sea-mine laying aircraft. The E-1 was to be armed with 2x Mk 151 20mm auto-cannons in the wing roots and 1x MG 81 7.92mm machine gun in the rear of the cockpit. Up to 1,800 kg (only 1,00kg when using the catapults) of bombs, mines (Luftmine A 650kg or Luftmine B 1,00kg), or torpedoes (650kg) could be carried as well as 2x 300-liter drop tanks. The E-1 was also developed to be able to use "Starthilfsraketen" (Start-Aid-Rockets) to enable the aircraft to take off under overload conditions. At least one E-1 prototype was made from a converted D-1 airframe and 115 E-1 aircraft were scheduled to be built starting in early 1943.

 

5: The War Diary of the Sea War Command (KTB der Skl) records that: on August/25/1942 Luftwaffe Generalmajor Hans Ritter who was Befehlshaber der Marineflieger (Commander of Naval Aviators) and also Inspekteur der Seeflieger (Inspector of Sea Aviators) and also General der Luftwaffe who was attached to Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine (Supreme Commander of the War Navy) ordered that, no later than March/1/1943, a Tragergruppe (Carrier-group) be ready for GZ which was to consist of: 1x Gruppenstab (Group-Staff-Flight-Squardron) with 6x Flight and 6x Reserve (12 total) Me 155 A-1 aircraft, 3x Trager-Mehrzweckstaffeln (Carrier-multi-purpose-squadrons) with 12x Flight and 6x Reserve each for a total of 54x Ju 87 E-1 aircraft, and 2x Trager-Jagd-Staffeln (Carrrier-fighter-squadrons) with 12x Flight and 3x Reserve aircraft each for a total of 36x Me 155 A-1 aircraft. Altogether 102 aircraft (66x Flight and 36x Reserve) were to be carried aboard Graf Zeppelin, a massive increase over her previous 42-plane loadout as originally intended.

 

Note: It should be noted that GZ has more than enough room for these aircraft as she boasted an incredible 5,515 m2 of hangar deck space which is twice as much of the USS Lexington's 2,674 m2 of hangar deck space and even the USS Enterprise falls short of GZ with just 3,195 m2 of hangar deck space. Graf Zeppelin's hangar space boasts a 72.6% increase over the Enterprise's while GZ's 1943 planned aircraft complement of 102 aircraft is only a 13.3% increase over Enterprise's 90 aircraft complement.

 

Further Note: It should also be noted that Graf Zeppelin's original aircraft loadout was EXTREMELY conservative as German designers decided to play it safe in case all or some of their requirements could not be meant. For example, the original 42 aircraft number is what the designers came up with for all aircraft with wings on/not folded and being a minimum of 2.5m apart. By the time work resumed in 1942 none of this still applied.

 

6: It was decided that Graf Zeppelin's aircraft should be painted a two-pattern camouflage with RLM 72 Graugrun and RLM 73 Grunblau with the bellies of the aircraft being RLM 65 Hellblau. The Emblem for Zeppelin's Tragergeschwader 186 was the Hagenhelm and this would have likely also appeared on her aircraft as nose-art.

Hagenhelm emblem

AWPc0dz.jpg

 

7: The Flight deck painting for the Graf Zeppelin was also detailed in the design documents. 
-  The rear of the Flight Deck would have a 2-meter wide hellgelb (bright-yellow) transverse bar.
-   On the Flight Deck there would be a Hellgelb central landing sight bar which was 350-mm from the center of the ship, the bar would be 200-mm wide was to be painted along the full length of the Flight Deck. 
-  The two sides (port and starboard) of the Flight Deck would each have one 400-mm wide hellgelb bar, which would run all the way from the back hellgelb transverse bar until the area where the deck rails branched (just ahead of the funnel), the outside of these bars would be 7700-mm from the center of the ship. 
-  The front end of the Flight Deck would have a 5-meter wide transverse hellgelb bar.

5a15a95097d82_GrafZeppelin-Deck-Nr_02.thumb.jpg.3114dd33b67692e929a8994651cc1971.jpg

 

8: The Flight Deck lighting setup for the Graf Zeppelin was detailed in the design documents.
- To indicate the landing area two green deck lights were installed behind each other at the end of the Flight Deck behind "Bremsseile I" (Arresting Cable I) on the port side and 11-meters from the center of the ship, this installation was used for both day and night landings.
- On the Flight Deck the deck landing lighting to indicate the edge of the aircraft-rollable area was marked on port and starboard with each seven red individual lights at 26-meter intervals.
- The end of the Flight Deck had a red light-bar which ran along the full width of the Flight Deck edge from port to starboard.
- Within and outside of the side-way approach lines in front of each Arresting Cable (Brake Cable) bright yellow light bars were integrated in the Flight Deck, so that the Arresting Cables could always be bright yellow lit and seen and in every condition, even at night.
- The start end of the 2x Compressed Air Catapults each had a white starting light which was integrated in the Flight Deck.
-  On the deck of the forward Deck House 4x red right-angle bar lamps were installed in a straight line behind each other to indicate the prevailing wind conditions, the crest of the red angle lights pointed forward. Depending on the prevailing winds either 1, 2, 3 or all 4 red Angle-Lights would lit.

 

9: According to at least one source Capitan zur See Helmuth Brinkmann was to have taken command of Graf Zeppelin at her commissioning. At the time, Brinkmann was the commanding officer on the Prinz Eugen.

image.jpeg.53135e3101afa24cf1e9af7a667c8012.jpeg

 

10: Graf Zeppelin had 2x KL 5/1-4 compressed air catapults at the forward end of the flight deck for the firing off of aircraft. Each catapult was 21m long and would propel aircraft from 0 to 155 km/h in 1.5 seconds to get them airborne. Each catapult had enough compressed air to launch 8-10 aircraft depending on the load of the aircraft before an hour was needed for recharging. An aircraft could be set up and launched every 26 seconds making it possible to launch 16 aircraft in 3.5 minutes. After the launch of the aircraft the Catapult went back into starting position and the Starter Car was transported down to the Hanger Decks for the next use via an aslant elevator which was mounted at the top of the Flight Deck. These catapults made it possible for Graf Zeppelin to launch aircraft at any speed (or no speed at all) and was not required to turn into the wind to launch aircraft like carriers from other nations had to do. Further, because the catapults only took up the forward section of the flight deck it was possible for GZ to simultaneously launch and recover aircraft, something no other carrier during the war was capable of. These unique abilities would have been especially useful in the cramped Norwegian fjords in which she was to be stationed. Further, she wouldn't need to inconvenience accompanying ships in a tactical situation by having to turn into the wind to launch aircraft. If both catapults were "out of order" or if an air group of more than 16 strike aircraft was needed aircraft could take off from a rolling start (the conventional way). In order for this to be possible planks would be placed over the catapults so the flight deck would smooth, level, and clear of hazards. Aircraft carrying heavy ordinances would have used rockets to assist with take-off. In this case the ship would sacrifice its ability to launch aircraft at any speed, in any direction, and also to be able to launch and recover aircraft at the same time.

Image result for graf zeppelin catapults

 

11: On the hangar deck at all times there were to be 8x Ju 87 E-1s and 8x Me 155 A-1a (16 aircraft) mounted on starter cars for quick emergency launches.

 

12: Graf Zeppelins's octagonal-shaped Elevators were almost circular shaped because the circle is a structurally strong shape which better protects a structure (like a deck etc.) from concussion etc. damage when hit than for example a square-shaped elevator, another design consideration the Graf Zeppelin designers incorporated (many USA, GB and Japanese carriers had square shaped elevators for example).

 

13: In order to fast launch aircraft without going through the regular time-consuming engine warming up procedure the German Air Force used a special starter fuel mixture. After landing an Aircraft would receive a special fuel mixture (with Oktan (Octane) 80, 87 or 100 fuel) which was added to the Engine Oil. This fuel mixture reduced the viscosity and as a result, the Engine Oil was kept fluid in the Aircraft in cold conditions. This allowed the Aircraft Engine to be ready for flight operations in about 3 minutes. This method was developed before WW2 at the Air Force "Erprobungsstelle" (TrialCenter) in Rechlin and used during WW2 by the German Air Force. After about 30 minutes of flight the fuel mixture in the Engine Oil was only about 4% and after about 2 hours it had evaporated fully. This starter fuel mixture would have given the Graf Zeppelin a huge advantage over USA, Japanese etc. Aircraft Carriers which on average needed to have their Carrier Aircraft run their engines for about a minimum of 20+ (!!!) minutes to let the Engine Oil reach the temperatures required for take off and flight.

 

14: On Graf Zeppelin's flight deck there were 4x electro-magnetic arresting cables (interesting considering most other navies used pneumatic or hydraulic arresting cables). Thousands of simulated carrier landings on the rotating runways in Travemunde proved that these arresting cables performed exceptionally well. The normal average brake/landing distance for all tested aircraft and at all aircraft weights was only generally 20 to 35 meters per aircraft. The maximum allowed brake/landing distance was 40 meters with aircraft weighing from 4850 kg to 5800 kg coming in at 135 to 140 Km/h. Graf Zeppelin's flight deck was 244m long, her catapults were 21m long, and the normal maximum distance needed for a carrier landing was 35m, this meant that 188m of her flight deck was available for aircraft processing. Testing at Travemunde showed that on average 1 in 10 landings would miss all 4 cables and so it was recommended to install a 5th cable for the rare over-shooter. Pilots were instructed to aim for the second cable. The average landing processing on Graf Zeppelin as tested and perfected at Travemünde test center allowed landings which took 1.58 minutes (in one such test there were 24 landings in 38 minutes in Travemünde testing) in that 1.58 minutes time frame the following took place per aircraft: the landing approach, cable brake landing, cable releasing and (subsequent) rewinding of the landing cables, resetting the landing cables, rolling away of the aircraft to the flight deck elevator. 

 

15: Graf Zeppelin was originally designed to achieve a staggering 36kn top speed with the help of her massively powerful machinery which was designed to generate 200,000 shp. By 1942, however,  2,780t of extra material and design modifications (including the installation of bulges and an Atlantic bow as well as increased fuel capacity) meant that her expected top speed had fallen somewhat to 33.8 - 34.3kn. Even despite this drop in speed Graf Zeppelin would have still been the fastest aircraft carrier ever built if she had been commissioned. 

 

16: Graf Zeppelin would have had 2x Voith Schneider (shaft) propellors each having 450 horsepower which were underneath the ship's hull and which could be extended and retracted behind closable doors. These 2x Voith Schneider propellors could move Graf Zeppelin at maximum 4.5 knots speed in any direction, they were intended to let the ship navigate canals and narrow waters without the use of a tugboat. In an emergency at sea, these Voith Schneider propellors could technically also be used to turn the ship faster giving her a smaller turning circle radius.

Related image

 

17: By this time in 1942 specialized anti-aircraft shells had been developed in the 150mm caliber and these were to be used by GZ's CASEMATE (lol) 15cm guns against aerial attack by massed enemy aircraft by  "Zonenschießen" (Zone Fire) via "Sperrfeuer" (Barrage Fire). (Tirpitz would receive these shells in 1943 after mass carrier attacks deemed them necessary .)

Image result for graf zeppelin einziger deutscher flugzeugtrager

 

 

Primary Source - "Graf Zeppelin – Einziger Deutscher Flugzeugträger" - Ulrich H.J. Isreal

Image result for graf zeppelin einziger deutscher flugzeugtrager

Credit to Widar Thule for compiling a large amount of this information

 

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Bonus fun fact!!!

 

The War Diary of the Sea War Command (KTB der Skl) on 16 June 1942 records that the German Naval Attache in Tokyo reports that the Japanese War Navy requests to buy the Graf Zeppelin. The Sea War Command (Skl) informs the Japanese liaison officer attached to the Skl that the Graf Zeppelin will not be ready for operations before the middle of 1943 and that she is to be used by the German Sea War Command on operations, without giving further details than that (to the Japanese liaison officer).

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interesting and welcome information! (although Widar Thule's arguments published here 6 months ago about aircraft reserves have already been much debated). What percentage of  the  1943 planned aircraft complement of 102 aircraft were to be stored as catapult launch ready (rather than dismantled), and are you sure all were to stored on board (rather than keeping a shore based reserve complement at the ready to fly out, land and replce losses on board)?

https://forum.worldofwarships.eu/topic/86678-authentic-graf-zeppelin/

 

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The USN was already trying to get rid of the SBD before the war even began, I hate to imagine what their opinion of a navalized D model Stuka in 1943 would be. I’m also worried about the 155s range, which should be at least somewhat similar to the Gustav it’s based upon (~600 miles WITH a drop tank). If that’s the case, it means the Stuka has well over twice the operational range and could potentially be striking things without a fighter escort at even intermediate distances. That’s usually the issue with converted land based interceptors though, there really isn’t that much you can do to them without compromising performance too much. F4U-1Ds and F6Fs against navalized Gustavs might be interesting from a performance perspective, provided they run into one another. I question the utility of the 155 in the potential role of a makeshift strike-fighter though, as IIRC they could only be fitted with a single bomb of any real useable size, and that took the place of the centerline drop tank and further lowered the range. It’s pretty much limited purely to interception.

It is worth noting that American carriers were required by doctrine to always have a rotating CAP, and could warm up its planes on the hangar deck before launching them en masse, which is a practice that neither the British or the Japanese could readily adopt. It typically took the Japanese 40 minutes to spot a strike on the deck, and a further 20 to turn the engines over as they sat on the deck. By 1943 and especially 1944, deck catapults were also seeing heavy use by the USN, which further reduced launch times and enabled the kind of simultaneous launch, recovery and respotting that you’d probably be seeing on GZ although admittedly at a somewhat slower if more sustainable pace.

By 1943 allied carriers are generally going to detect an incoming strike from far enough away to scramble more planes in time for intercept. I don’t know if the Germans planned for rotating CAP or not (this would require a lot of daily activity given the limited cruising range of the Gustav based 155), although I know the British were particularly bad about it with the exception of Victorious, who did a stint with Saratoga in the Pacific and generally ended up operating like a smaller US carrier. Generally speaking, the issue was never about launching enough fighters anyways, but more how to direct them properly. By 1943 the USN had mostly figured out fighter direction after some painful lessons in 1942, and the British had also developed top of the line direction centers after they got tired of “and suddenly, STUKA” early on in the Mediterranean. I don’t know what developments the Kriegsmarine made in this direction without any real carrier combat experience to go off.

 

Those casemate 15 cm guns getting AA shells is a real head scratcher though. I guess it’s to shoot at torpedo bombers, because literally nothing else will be flying low enough to even be near them. A better use of that weight would have been to delete at least some of them in favor of more 10.5 cm HA mounts on deck side sponsons. Especially since dive bombers ended up being the real main threat against carriers, and rate of fire is still key for barrage fire. You should draw up a hypothetical 1945 GZ when the Kriegsmarine has had a bit more time to figure out what they’re trying to accomplish with her. I have a feeling most of those 15 cm mounts would have gone the way of the Lexington’s 8” guns after a few years of service, especially in the North Sea.

 

And hey, the Lexington’s were still the fastest. Both made just under 35 knots during trials, although it was closer to 33.5 in 1944 for Saratoga after the various wartime refits. I think the Shokakus were also close, I recall them making at least 34 knots early on. Gotta go fast.

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9 hours ago, nuttybiscuit said:

interesting and welcome information! (although Widar Thule's arguments published here 6 months ago about aircraft reserves have already been much debated). What percentage of  the  1943 planned aircraft complement of 102 aircraft were to be stored as catapult launch ready (rather than dismantled), and are you sure all were to stored on board (rather than keeping a shore based reserve complement at the ready to fly out, land and replce losses on board)?

https://forum.worldofwarships.eu/topic/86678-authentic-graf-zeppelin/

 

 

66 Flight aircraft, and 36 reserves. That was mentioned in the thread. Widar Thule has never found anything to suggest that any of these aircraft would not be on board. If they had wanted aircraft ashore for replacements they could have used a number of the remaining 61x Ju87E-1s and approx 172x Me155A-1s which were ordered to be built but were not directly assigned to Graf Zeppelin. In either event, even if the 36x reserves are stored on land that is still 66 operational aircraft left aboard GZ, which is still a 14 plane increase over her original loadout (which, again, was extremely conservative)

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1 minute ago, dseehafer said:

 

66 Flight aircraft, and 36 reserves. That was mentioned in the thread. Widar Thule has never found anything to suggest that any of these aircraft would not be on board. If they had wanted aircraft ashore for replacements they could have used a number of the remaining 61x Ju87E-1s and approx 172x Me155A-1s which were ordered to be built but were not directly assigned to Graf Zeppelin. In either event, even if the 36x reserves are stored on land that is still 66 operational aircraft left aboard GZ, which is still a 14 plane increase over her original loadout.

Oh I quite agree, the in game reserves are laughably unfair and unrealistic, 14 more planes in reserve would evidently make a significant contribution to the viability of GZ, and render losses of squadrons (to AA attrition and/or air combat) more bearable. While this extra 14 is a more than reasonable suggestion.

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5 hours ago, Big_Spud said:

 

Those casemate 15 cm guns getting AA shells is a real head scratcher though. I guess it’s to shoot at torpedo bombers, because literally nothing else will be flying low enough to even be near them. A better use of that weight would have been to delete at least some of them in favor of more 10.5 cm HA mounts on deck side sponsons. Especially since dive bombers ended up being the real main threat against carriers, and rate of fire is still key for barrage fire. You should draw up a hypothetical 1945 GZ when the Kriegsmarine has had a bit more time to figure out what they’re trying to accomplish with her. I have a feeling most of those 15 cm mounts would have gone the way of the Lexington’s 8” guns after a few years of service, especially in the North Sea.

 

And hey, the Lexington’s were still the fastest. Both made just under 35 knots during trials, although it was closer to 33.5 in 1944 for Saratoga after the various wartime refits. I think the Shokakus were also close, I recall them making at least 34 knots early on. Gotta go fast.

2

 

Ha! I hear ya! However, having said as much, Tirpitz's 15cm turrets could only elevate to 40 degrees (only 5 degrees more than GZ) and we have her AA ammunition consumption numbers from Operation Goodwood in which she was attacked by multiple carriers worth of dive-bombers. During the raid on the morning of August 22nd, 363x 15cm shells were fired. During the evening raid on the same day 124x 15cm shells were fired. Also interesting to note that during these same raids Tirpitz's 38cm guns (which could only elevate to 30 degrees) fired off 62x and 13x 38cm AA shells during the respective morning and evening raids.

 

In either event, while the German 15cm wasn't the best weapon to be adapted into a DP gun, at least the twin turrets on the late-war DDs had decent elevation.

File:Forecastle of German destroyer Z39 at the Boston Navy Yard in August 1945.jpg

 

 

Huh, I never knew Lexington was that fast, thank you!

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18 hours ago, Big_Spud said:

The USN was already trying to get rid of the SBD before the war even began, I hate to imagine what their opinion of a navalized D model Stuka in 1943 would be.

1

 

Hey now, don't be knocking on the Stuka. It was a proven ship-killer (It's a little-known fact that Stuka's sank more ships than any other model of aircraft ever produced (thought the SB2C sank more overall tonnage)) even without torpedoes! Besides, the competition's primary multi-purpose strike aircraft in 1943 (in the Atlantic) was the Fairey Barracuda which was slower than the Ju87, had half the bomb-load of the Ju87, a lower service ceiling than the Ju87, and had no offensive armament, unlike the Ju87.

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9 hours ago, dseehafer said:

 

Hey now, don't be knocking on the Stuka. It was a proven ship-killer (It's a little-known fact that Stuka's sank more ships than any other model of aircraft ever produced (thought the SB2C sank more overall tonnage)) even without torpedoes! Besides, the competition's primary multi-purpose strike aircraft in 1943 (in the Atlantic) was the Fairey Barracuda which was slower than the Ju87, had half the bomb-load of the Ju87, a lower service ceiling than the Ju87, and had no offensive armament, unlike the Ju87.

 

I never said the Barracuda was a good aircraft either, but comparing it in terms of performance to the Stuka isn't exactly a glowing endorsement of the Stuka either. Both planes were pretty much obsolete, its just that a lot of the time there was nothing around to actually bother shooting either of them down.

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3 hours ago, Big_Spud said:

 

I never said the Barracuda was a good aircraft either, but comparing it in terms of performance to the Stuka isn't exactly a glowing endorsement of the Stuka either. Both planes were pretty much obsolete, its just that a lot of the time there was nothing around to actually bother shooting either of them down.

 

Hmm obsolete in what capacity? The Ju87 had a bomb load that humiliated most every other dive bomber in the world and was also capable of diving at almost 90 degrees when all but one other dive bomber could only manage 70 degrees making the 87 much more accurate. It wasn't the fastest but it wasn't the slowest either. Ju87s badly damaged the Illustrious so it's not like carriers we're immune to it.

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1 hour ago, dseehafer said:

 

Hmm obsolete in what capacity? The Ju87 had a bomb load that humiliated most every other dive bomber in the world and was also capable of diving at almost 90 degrees when all but one other dive bomber could only manage 70 degrees making the 87 much more accurate. It wasn't the fastest but it wasn't the slowest either. Ju87s badly damaged the Illustrious so it's not like carriers we're immune to it.

 

Obsolete as in it was an updated airframe from 1936 with a fixed undercarriage that was rather slow by 1939 let alone 1943, with no room for real further improvement beyond just sticking bigger and bigger engines in it to make up for the gained weight in armor that was being slapped on. The Swordfish was a literal wood and canvas biplane that sank or damaged a rather large range of modern shipping, that doesn't mean it wasn't also obsolete. The Germans had been trying to replace the Stuka with something better since before the war began, but were stuck producing it because thats what they had, and it was rightly being phased out of usage as a strike bomber by the FW 190 later in the war because those actually had a ghost of a chance of reaching the target without just being shot down, and could actively defend themselves if intercepted without needing an escort.

Stukas are pretty great when nobody is shooting at them, but then again so are most planes, even the lowly Po-2. For every story of a Stuka squadron achieving great success against a poorly defended convoy (or god help it, a British carrier thats still trying to use its HACS for barrage fire), there's one of another squadron being totally wiped out as soon as fighters arrive. They were just too fat and slow.

 

Another major potential issue here is the cruising speed and range of the two aircraft envisioned for use on a carrier here. The Gustavs optimal cruising speed and range are nearly twice and less than half that of the D series Stuka, respectively. And that's with drop tanks for the Gustav. The issues of these two aircraft trying to operate in concert with one another are rather numerous, but the main issue will always be the range afforded by a fighter escort. I will argue to deaths door that the 109 is a wonderful interceptor, but an escort fighter it ain't.

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2 hours ago, Big_Spud said:

 

Obsolete as in it was an updated airframe from 1936 with a fixed undercarriage that was rather slow by 1939 let alone 1943, with no room for real further improvement beyond just sticking bigger and bigger engines in it to make up for the gained weight in armor that was being slapped on. The Swordfish was a literal wood and canvas biplane that sank or damaged a rather large range of modern shipping, that doesn't mean it wasn't also obsolete. The Germans had been trying to replace the Stuka with something better since before the war began, but were stuck producing it because thats what they had, and it was rightly being phased out of usage as a strike bomber by the FW 190 later in the war because those actually had a ghost of a chance of reaching the target without just being shot down, and could actively defend themselves if intercepted without needing an escort.

Stukas are pretty great when nobody is shooting at them, but then again so are most planes, even the lowly Po-2. For every story of a Stuka squadron achieving great success against a poorly defended convoy (or god help it, a British carrier thats still trying to use its HACS for barrage fire), there's one of another squadron being totally wiped out as soon as fighters arrive. They were just too fat and slow.

 

Another major potential issue here is the cruising speed and range of the two aircraft envisioned for use on a carrier here. The Gustavs optimal cruising speed and range are nearly twice and less than half that of the D series Stuka, respectively. And that's with drop tanks for the Gustav. The issues of these two aircraft trying to operate in concert with one another are rather numerous, but the main issue will always be the range afforded by a fighter escort. I will argue to deaths door that the 109 is a wonderful interceptor, but an escort fighter it ain't.

 

Ah so you're argument is essentially "what good is such a heavy bomb load and greater accuracy if you'll never get to the target to use these advantages?"

 

Allow me to play the devil's advocate and counter with...

 

"What good is being able to get to the target if you're not accurate enough to hit it reliably and your bombs aren't big enough to damage it?"

 

For example, If the RN had Stukas during Tungsten Tirpitz would have been in big trouble.

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23 minutes ago, dseehafer said:

 

Ah so you're argument is essentially "what good is such a heavy bombload and greater accuracy if you'll never get to the Target to use these advantages?"

 

Allow me to play the devil's advocate and counter with...

 

"What good is being able to get to the Target if you're not accurate enough to hit it reliably and your bombs aren't big enough to damage it?"

 

For example If the RN had Stukas during Tungsten Tirpitz would have been in big trouble.

 

The British had the issue where their planes were even WORSE, (I will NEVER defend the Barracuda as a good plane, let a lone a good bomber) their pilots seemed to not want to listen to what they were being told, and were either dropping rather small bombs (500-600 lb), or large bombs from much lower altitudes than they were meant to be.

 

The Americans specifically gave them a rather large supply of the new 1,600 lb armor piercing bombs for Tungsten... the British pilots then proceeded to drop them from about half the height that they had been instructed to do so, still managed to miss most of them, and as far as I know the one that did hit was going too slow to penetrate the main armor deck.

 

Don't mistake me for trying to defend the Fleet Air Arm, especially its "dive" bombers. There was one instance in the Pacific where Illustrious's Barracudas couldn't even hit a rather large concentration of Japanese above ground fuel tanks during a raid, and most of the damage ended up being caused by her escorting fighters. When I'm referring to what are considered to be good naval dive bombers, its basically exclusively Japanese and American designs.

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1 hour ago, Big_Spud said:

 

The British had the issue where their planes were even WORSE, (I will NEVER defend the Barracuda as a good plane, let a lone a good bomber) their pilots seemed to not want to listen to what they were being told, and were either dropping rather small bombs (500-600 lb), or large bombs from much lower altitudes than they were meant to be.

 

The Americans specifically gave them a rather large supply of the new 1,600 lb armor piercing bombs for Tungsten... the British pilots then proceeded to drop them from about half the height that they had been instructed to do so, still managed to miss most of them, and as far as I know the one that did hit was going too slow to penetrate the main armor deck.

 

Don't mistake me for trying to defend the Fleet Air Arm, especially its "dive" bombers. There was one instance in the Pacific where Illustrious's Barracudas couldn't even hit a rather large concentration of Japanese above ground fuel tanks during a raid, and most of the damage ended up being caused by her escorting fighters. When I'm referring to what are considered to be good naval dive bombers, its basically exclusively Japanese and American designs.

 

It should be noted that even if the 1600lb bombs were dropped at the correct altitude and speed they would have only been able to penetrate the upper deck (and they weren't even sure they had enough penetration to pen even the upper deck). I'm sure a German 1000kg would have had no issues getting through the upper deck and maybe even the main deck.

 

The rest of your points stand. Thank you.

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17 minutes ago, dseehafer said:

 

It should be noted that even if the 1600lb bombs were dropped at the correct altitude and speed they would have only been able to penetrate the upper deck (and they weren't even sure they had enough penetration to pen even the upper deck). I'm sure a German 1000kg would have had no issues getting through the upper deck and maybe even the main deck.

 

The rest of your points stand. Thank you.

 

The 1600 lb AN-Mk 1 has a low end penetration estimate of a 5" deck plate. I've seen as high as 7" quoted. The magazine deck may be hit or miss with its thicker main deck and the armored weather deck, but the thinner machinery deck + armored weather deck and turret tops are going to yield.

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18 minutes ago, Big_Spud said:

 

The 1600 lb AN-Mk 1 has a low end penetration estimate of a 5" deck plate. I've seen as high as 7" quoted. The magazine deck may be hit or miss with its thicker main deck and the armored weather deck, but the thinner machinery deck + armored weather deck and turret tops are going to yield.

 

 

I had misremembered my source. Above 3,500 feet they were expected to be able to pierce both decks (probably over the machinery as the magazine decks are 7.1" together (not counting the 38mm splinter deck above the shell room)) but from 3,500 - 2,000 feet only the upper deck could be penetrated.

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A question and then a few comments:

Does the GZ have one or two hanger decks?

A few comments:

I doubt that in service the launch and land at the same time would have proved largely impractical except with a very small number of planes involved.  There are several reasons for this.  First, as each plane landed it would have to be struck down to the hanger meaning another plane couldn't land until it did as this would require the use of the midship or aft elevator to move the plane.  Landing a plane with an elevator down is only asking for a major accident, and it would only take one.  Next, the launch planes would be limited to the available forward deck space and they too would present a potential for an accident to occur.

So, I think the Germans once the carrier was in service would have quickly given up trying to launch and land at the same time much as everyone else already had.

Continuing to include the 15cm guns was nothing but a waste of weight and space on the ship.  They were all but worthless.

The use of liquid cooled engines on the planes was likely a mistake too.  No other navy in this period used liquid cooled engines on their carrier planes (with a couple of minor exceptions).  I'd say there's a good reason for that if everybody was doing it.

One of the things the USN got very good at was cycling aircraft on carriers.  As the British found out operating the Victorious with the Saratoga, the USN could arrange and ready the deck park in an amazingly short time period.  Typically, the landing and parking of an individual aircraft US carrier was on the order of 30 to 45 seconds between planes.  Launches were likewise made with very short periods between planes.  I doubt the GZ's crew could have done better.

As for US CAP operations, the norm was to have 8 to 12 aircraft up with another 4 to 8 on deck ready to take off and supplement them.  Given sufficient warning, a US carrier would launch everything on deck if they could, with the dive bombers and torpedo planes either simply going out a way to mill around or they would proceed to scout or go on other scratch missions.  This left the carrier of highly flammable planes if it did get damaged.

With a decent FDC / CIC, a US or British carrier by 1943 would typically detect an incoming raid at anything between 40 and 80 miles out giving sufficient time for the CAP to decimate the attackers.  With the advantage of radar and fighter directors vectoring the intercept, the defenders have a big advantage over the attackers.  The CAP would be focused on shooting down the attack planes, not the escorting fighters.  Those would be ignored to the extent possible and the pilots would take on the attack planes wherever possible.

The continued use of the launch trollies was a mistake.

The USN's view on elevators was one of weight they could carry, and the ease of spotting a plane on one.  That is, they wanted to be able to put a plane on the elevator quickly and move it, rather than have to carefully place it just so because of the elevator's shape or size.  The US also sought to minimize the cycle time for an elevator.  That is, they wanted one that moved the plane rapidly to or from the hanger or flight deck.  This was considered of great importance.

Well, there's a few comments.

Edited by Murotsu

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21 minutes ago, Murotsu said:

-snip-

 

Good questions and points, although now I have one of my own. The Essex class began to roll out in early 1943 equipped with the standard borderline unused hangar deck catapult, as well as either one or two full hydraulic deck catapults. From watching videos at the time, it seems like the minimum cycle of that system appears to be between 20-30 seconds when launching fully loaded TBM/TBF Avengers, launching two planes at a time on ships with two catapults. However, I have found great difficulty in tracking down if this was a sort of "burst" capacity, or sustainable. The longest sequence I could find in video form was 5 back to back launches.

 

On the topic of simultaneous launching and recovery, it should be possible on the Essex because of the third deck-side elevator, which can bring fresh aircraft up or spot returning planes down below deck without interrupting landing and takeoff operations fore and aft when using the catapults for launching. I have seen training videos of it being used in such a capacity, but I have no idea if this was a commonly used practice during operations. Any information you have on that subject would be greatly appreciated.

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2 hours ago, Murotsu said:

A question and then a few comments:

Does the GZ have one or two hanger decks?

A few comments:

I doubt that in service the launch and land at the same time would have proved largely impractical except with a very small number of planes involved.  There are several reasons for this.  First, as each plane landed it would have to be struck down to the hanger meaning another plane couldn't land until it did as this would require the use of the midship or aft elevator to move the plane.  Landing a plane with an elevator down is only asking for a major accident, and it would only take one.  Next, the launch planes would be limited to the available forward deck space and they too would present a potential for an accident to occur.

So, I think the Germans once the carrier was in service would have quickly given up trying to launch and land at the same time much as everyone else already had.

Continuing to include the 15cm guns was nothing but a waste of weight and space on the ship.  They were all but worthless.

The use of liquid cooled engines on the planes was likely a mistake too.  No other navy in this period used liquid cooled engines on their carrier planes (with a couple of minor exceptions).  I'd say there's a good reason for that if everybody was doing it.

One of the things the USN got very good at was cycling aircraft on carriers.  As the British found out operating the Victorious with the Saratoga, the USN could arrange and ready the deck park in an amazingly short time period.  Typically, the landing and parking of an individual aircraft US carrier was on the order of 30 to 45 seconds between planes.  Launches were likewise made with very short periods between planes.  I doubt the GZ's crew could have done better.

As for US CAP operations, the norm was to have 8 to 12 aircraft up with another 4 to 8 on deck ready to take off and supplement them.  Given sufficient warning, a US carrier would launch everything on deck if they could, with the dive bombers and torpedo planes either simply going out a way to mill around or they would proceed to scout or go on other scratch missions.  This left the carrier of highly flammable planes if it did get damaged.

With a decent FDC / CIC, a US or British carrier by 1943 would typically detect an incoming raid at anything between 40 and 80 miles out giving sufficient time for the CAP to decimate the attackers.  With the advantage of radar and fighter directors vectoring the intercept, the defenders have a big advantage over the attackers.  The CAP would be focused on shooting down the attack planes, not the escorting fighters.  Those would be ignored to the extent possible and the pilots would take on the attack planes wherever possible.

The continued use of the launch trollies was a mistake.

The USN's view on elevators was one of weight they could carry, and the ease of spotting a plane on one.  That is, they wanted to be able to put a plane on the elevator quickly and move it, rather than have to carefully place it just so because of the elevator's shape or size.  The US also sought to minimize the cycle time for an elevator.  That is, they wanted one that moved the plane rapidly to or from the hanger or flight deck.  This was considered of great importance.

Well, there's a few comments.

Before I begin please note that if I don't respond to a particular note of yours It simply means that for the most part I agree with you or have nothing further to add or don't know enough on the matter to comment.

 

2 Hangar decks, one on top of the other.

 

On the 15cm guns. GZ was to be stationed in Norway with the German Battleships and heavy cruisers already there. Her primary job would be the defense of the battleships from enemy carriers (as the Germans saw it the only way to guarantee the safety of their battleships from enemy carriers was to escort them with carriers of their own! Fight fire with fire, I guess. Interesting as by this time everybody else was using their battleship to escort their carriers) Anyways... I'm getting off point... To defend the German heavies both at anchor and at sea while commerce raiding. Graf Zeppelin was originally built for commerce raiding against the French and it was felt that the majority of her "killing" would be done with the ship's artillery rather than with her aircraft (who's primary job was scouting and damaging/destroying any escorting warships GZ cannot outfight, and also for defending against Bearn (lol)). She also had to be able to duel with the small handful of ships capable of catching her, if it came to it. Even in 1943, though her primary job is now to protect the heavies, if the hunting party has found an unprotected or lightly protected convoy why shouldn't GZ participate in the destruction of the convoy? Especially if it will make the process go faster. And once/if the heavies are lost what is Graf to do then? Probably resume commerce raiding on her own. All that to say that the Germans probably still envisaged her using her heavy artillery either in self-defense or in an offensive manner in some capacity. Having said as much, GZ's 15cm guns were eventually removed for use in the Atlantic wall, but this was after work was halted on GZ for a final time and she became a floating barracks. As for the whole "casemate secondaries aren't usable because half the time they are underwater" this likely wouldn't have been the case with GZ as her 15cm casemates were at about the same height as those of the Bismarck class, meaning that they'd be perfectly usable in all but the heaviest of weather.

 

(vessels slightly overlapped for clarity)

xdHj0dO.png

 

Why was the continued use of launch trollies a mistake? Without the trolleys you cant use the catapults, without the catapults you cant launch planes while anchored in fjords (among other things), if you cant launch aircraft in fjords you cant defend the heavies from air raids.... which was the whole idea behind completing and sending GZ to Norway!

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9 hours ago, Big_Spud said:

 

The British had the issue where their planes were even WORSE, (I will NEVER defend the Barracuda as a good plane, let a lone a good bomber) their pilots seemed to not want to listen to what they were being told, and were either dropping rather small bombs (500-600 lb), or large bombs from much lower altitudes than they were meant to be.

 

The Americans specifically gave them a rather large supply of the new 1,600 lb armor piercing bombs for Tungsten... the British pilots then proceeded to drop them from about half the height that they had been instructed to do so, still managed to miss most of them, and as far as I know the one that did hit was going too slow to penetrate the main armor deck.

 

Don't mistake me for trying to defend the Fleet Air Arm, especially its "dive" bombers. There was one instance in the Pacific where Illustrious's Barracudas couldn't even hit a rather large concentration of Japanese above ground fuel tanks during a raid, and most of the damage ended up being caused by her escorting fighters. When I'm referring to what are considered to be good naval dive bombers, its basically exclusively Japanese and American designs.

Japan kept having the hilarity of making or designing good dive bombers and then the carriers meant to carry them getting sunk.

The B7A2 is the perfect example of this. Probably the best dive bomber design and fielded for WW2 to see combat, the Carrier it was designed for Taiho gets sunk right as they complete enough to arm the ship with them. The US designed and produced the BTD which was extremely comparable to the B7A2, but the BTD never saw combat. The B7A2 could actually handle up to 1200kg of payload if taking off from a landbase, just that for carrier take off with Taiho, only 860kg of payload was capable to meet the speed requirement vs takeoff distance. It should be noted, the B7A2 was the only single engine bomber they had that could carry the Type 4 Mod 4 Aerial Torpedo which was usually carried by G4M's and was a 1104kg torpedo with a 420kg warhead. It was envisioned to use RATO boosters on Taiho to launch them with the larger torpedo's or the Type 91 Mod3's at 850kg on standard take off. The reason for the Type 4 Mod 4's was so that she could drop from altitude to gain up to 400 knot speed and nose up to drop the torpedo at high speeds which would permit a much faster climb after dropping the payload. The later version of the mod 3's permitted a 350kt drop but had a smaller warhead.

The Wikipedia poorly assumed it was limited to 800kg load because the IJN AP Bomb was an 800kg bomb and was able to be carried internally. This wasn't the case, as off land bases the aircraft could still operate at a radius of 2800km with an 800kg bomb in the bomb bay and 6x 60kg bombs on the wings for 1160kg in total, it just couldn't get off a carrier with the bombs on the wings due to drag without the use of a RATO.

The BTD didn't have this limitation due to catapult launching for Essex so it could go with 1500kg off the deck in either bombs or 2x torpedos.

The SB2C and D4Y's are a whole different discussion. Both had their fair share of problems but Japan's biggest one was lack of self-sealing fuel tanks coupled with new inexperienced pilots and the US with a laundry list of defects and faults that caused many issues till 1944. The D4Y was good for 1942 when it first came into the theatre being able to hit 297 kts flat out at 3km with a 500kg payload. Once the F6F's rolled in though, they just started mowing them down once they learned how to deal with the A6M's.

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9 hours ago, dseehafer said:

As for the whole "casemate secondaries aren't usable because half the time they are underwater" this likely wouldn't have been the case with GZ as her 15cm casemates were at about the same height as those of the Bismarck class, meaning that they'd be perfectly usable in all but the heaviest of weather.

I'm still not really sold on their utility - a carrier is always vulnerable to gunfire. When Scheer and Scharnhorst/Gneisenau were opposed by the Jervis Bay and Rawalpindi the AMC's did score the odd hit in return, and that was in the face of significantly more firepower than the GZ's casemates would provide. Even a couple of hits to the flight deck or elsewhere might be pretty compromising.

On the other hand, the practice of escorting a convoy with an old battleship like Ramillies or Malaya would be jeopardized rather significantly if even a moderate strike could be launched against one of those old, AA limited ships. Of course that would apply more to an Atlantic convoy scenario in 1941-1942.

Against an Arctic convoy in early 1944 the picture is quite different (and might change further if GZ were available). For the early JW series convoys of 1944 you're looking at a half dozen destroyers, a mid-range covering force of 3 or so cruisers, frequently 1 or 2 Escort Carriers and variable distant cover - the usual suspects of Victorious, DoY, KGV etc.

I don't think the casemates would ever see much use, but at the same time I don't think they're a major downside - it's weight, but it's a big carrier. It's just fascinating to see a blend of WWI-esque casemates with Vorth-Shneider's on the same ship.

On 3/7/2018 at 9:03 PM, dseehafer said:

1: When work on Graf Zeppelin was resumed on May/13/1942 she was scheduled for commissioning on April/1/1943 and was to be ready for operations sometime between December/1943 and Early Spring/1944. 

Well, she's a little bit more fuel efficient than the Tirpitz, but if Tirpitz had to wait 3 months to build up enough fuel post Sportspalast in March 1942, requiring a similar volume again for the GZ might double that down time, and that's in 1942, not 1944. I assume the plans were made on the basis of promises of improved fuel supply, but without that it seems rather difficult to imagine.

On 3/7/2018 at 9:03 PM, dseehafer said:

The E-1 was also developed to be able to use "Starthilfsraketen" (Start-Aid-Rockets) to enable the aircraft to take off under overload conditions. At least one E-1 prototype was made from a converted D-1 airframe and 115 E-1 aircraft were scheduled to be built starting in early 1943.

This is a very interesting nugget to me. I've only heard of the RN using take off rockets in the Pacific Fleet late war, but everything I've read says they were pretty unreliable pilot-killers of very limited utility. It'd be interesting to see if the Germans could overcome those shortcomings.

17 hours ago, Big_Spud said:

The British had the issue where their planes were even WORSE, (I will NEVER defend the Barracuda as a good plane, let a lone a good bomber) their pilots seemed to not want to listen to what they were being told, and were either dropping rather small bombs (500-600 lb), or large bombs from much lower altitudes than they were meant to be.

 

The 'Observer Mafia' at work.

In the 1930's when the FAA was under RAF control there was a program where you could join the FAA and effectively get immediately promoted as an Observer. This meant come 10 years later and WWII that there was a big body of senior Observers, who wanted their way and got it - and were typically senior enough to for instance lead strikes, but leading them from the back of the plane where they can't even see the target and what's ahead. They also had a disproportionate impact on plane design, the high-tail of the Barracuda for instance hindered the aerodynamics and performance, but it made the view better for the navigator - not a great trade.

As far as I'm aware no other nation ever had strikes led by the navigators.

17 hours ago, dseehafer said:

For example, If the RN had Stukas during Tungsten Tirpitz would have been in big trouble.

Due to better accuracy, or because they could carry something heavier than the 1,600lb AP bomb of the Barracuda?

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11 hours ago, Big_Spud said:

 

Good questions and points, although now I have one of my own. The Essex class began to roll out in early 1943 equipped with the standard borderline unused hangar deck catapult, as well as either one or two full hydraulic deck catapults. From watching videos at the time, it seems like the minimum cycle of that system appears to be between 20-30 seconds when launching fully loaded TBM/TBF Avengers, launching two planes at a time on ships with two catapults. However, I have found great difficulty in tracking down if this was a sort of "burst" capacity, or sustainable. The longest sequence I could find in video form was 5 back to back launches.

 

On the topic of simultaneous launching and recovery, it should be possible on the Essex because of the third deck-side elevator, which can bring fresh aircraft up or spot returning planes down below deck without interrupting landing and takeoff operations fore and aft when using the catapults for launching. I have seen training videos of it being used in such a capacity, but I have no idea if this was a commonly used practice during operations. Any information you have on that subject would be greatly appreciated.

On US catapults and the Essex class:

The early ships had one H4B catapult on the flight deck and an H4A in the hanger.  When the hanger catapult was eliminated two H4B cats were installed on the flight deck.  The minimum cycle time for an H4B is about 45 seconds.  That is limited by the recharge time for the hydraulic system that had a "book" value of 42.5 seconds (I'm sure it varies some in actual operation due to wear, etc.).  The elevator cycle time was about 45 seconds per plane too so it would match the catapult firing rate.

On the whole, that would be about the expected launch or recovery rate with maybe getting this a bit faster if the planes were at lower launch and landing rates than something near the system maximum.  I say that because, the cycle times above are for planes at near maximum system weight which for the early Essex class was 16,000 lbs.  Later this would be increased to 18,000 lbs. and the same cycle time remaining, and then by mid 1944 to 28,000 lbs with an increase in cycle time to about 60 seconds (the H4-1 catapult).

The difference between the H4A and B was the B got 4 versus 2 pumps to make it cycle faster.  The 4-1 was beefed up to handle more weight.

As an added note, the Essex class was the last US "double ender" carrier.  The Essex's, like the earlier carriers starting with Ranger, could launch or land planes over either end of the flight deck and had machinery installed so they could steam astern at up to about 20 knots.  This design feature meant the carrier could recover scouts launched from the hanger catapult over the bow while allowing for a large spotted strike deck park on the flight deck astern.

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On operation Tungsten...

The KM should be happy it wasn't the USN doing it.  Given the same number of carriers and roughly the same aircraft in number, if not type, the USN would have put a relentless series of strikes on Tirpitz with one arriving about every 10 to 15 minutes apart.  That is as one strike finished up, another would arrive to continue the  pounding.  This was a big difference between the RN and USN.  USN doctrine cycled a strike off a carrier about every 30 to 45 minutes followed by a landing cycle.  So, they'd launch X number of planes, then land a similar number, then launch another batch.  With several carriers present the cycle time would have varied some between them such that there were carriers launching more planes pretty much all the time while other carriers were landing their last strike.

The US also had a more flexible air group.  The RN carriers having fewer planes generally had a one-dimensional strike of torpedo planes (or these used as level bombers) and fewer in number.  A US carrier would have about twice the attack planes available and both dive and torpedo bombers.  The norm for both against a naval target would have been 1,000 lbs bombs.

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