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JediMasterDraco

Destroyer Armament Question

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Anyone who knows my reputation on this forum knows that I have a special hatred for the US 5"/38. I get that IRL it was a great weapon because it's phenomenal rate of fire, anti-air capabilities, and the advanced fire control system of the US meant it was a rather accurate. But my question is why was it selected for a number of inter-war designs when few people really believed aircraft would play the central role that they did. And, more importantly, the initial turret mountings actually prohibited its use as AA artillery. Seems a little contradictory given that it was mainly a 5"/25 (the heavy naval AA gun) with a longer barrel. I'll acknowledge that it could be seen as a matter of standardizing armament to make logistics easier, but I'll then add the point that many of the Standard-type battleships used both the 5"/51 and the 5"/25 and these were the bulk of the main battleline as these new destroyers came into service. And only four of the Standards received the 5"/38 (and only during post-Pearl Harbor reconstruction).

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10 minutes ago, JediMasterDraco said:

Anyone who knows my reputation on this forum knows that I have a special hatred for the US 5"/38. I get that IRL it was a great weapon because it's phenomenal rate of fire, anti-air capabilities, and the advanced fire control system of the US meant it was a rather accurate. But my question is why was it selected for a number of inter-war designs when few people really believed aircraft would play the central role that they did. And, more importantly, the initial turret mountings actually prohibited its use as AA artillery. Seems a little contradictory given that it was mainly a 5"/25 (the heavy naval AA gun) with a longer barrel. I'll acknowledge that it could be seen as a matter of standardizing armament to make logistics easier, but I'll then add the point that many of the Standard-type battleships used both the 5"/51 and the 5"/25 and these were the bulk of the main battleline as these new destroyers came into service. And only four of the Standards received the 5"/38 (and only during post-Pearl Harbor reconstruction).

The 5"/51 was an old school bag loaded gun, where's the 5/25 and 5/38 used cartridges. Better rate of fire, easier and safer to load, ect... Also, of the surviving standards, only the New Mexico's and Colorado retained the split 5/51 and 5/25 batteries. Nevada, Pennsylvania, California, Tennessee, Maryland and West Virginia all received twin 5/38's. On the older and smaller DD's, I'd suspect the 5"/38's were not very useful as AA weapons due to them being lively gun platforms, and several of the smaller DD's lost a 5"/38 or two in favor of 40mm guns, I'd bet a case of throwing more lead in the air to bring an aircraft down.

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> the initial turret mountings actually prohibited its use as AA artillery

Pretty much everyone at the time of initial adoption didn't anticipate using a destroyer's main battery for AA fire.

I think the Fubuki class was the first to use a mount capable of 75 degree elevation (Model B onward IIRC), and like in numerous other ways, the Fubuki set the stage for later DDs.

> both the 5"/51 and the 5"/25

The 5"/38 was a compromise. On a DD, the extra barrel length means a lot of additional weight and top-heaviness, which would make it less seaworthy, but they also recognized that a dedicated AA mount (like a 5"/25) would not have the length required to get the shells far enough or going fast enough for surface combat (or moderate range AA work). They decided on 38 calibers for that reason.

Edited by NATOMarksman

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5 hours ago, JediMasterDraco said:

Anyone who knows my reputation on this forum knows that I have a special hatred for the US 5"/38. I get that IRL it was a great weapon because it's phenomenal rate of fire, anti-air capabilities, and the advanced fire control system of the US meant it was a rather accurate. But my question is why was it selected for a number of inter-war designs when few people really believed aircraft would play the central role that they did. And, more importantly, the initial turret mountings actually prohibited its use as AA artillery. Seems a little contradictory given that it was mainly a 5"/25 (the heavy naval AA gun) with a longer barrel. I'll acknowledge that it could be seen as a matter of standardizing armament to make logistics easier, but I'll then add the point that many of the Standard-type battleships used both the 5"/51 and the 5"/25 and these were the bulk of the main battleline as these new destroyers came into service. And only four of the Standards received the 5"/38 (and only during post-Pearl Harbor reconstruction).

Can you please post a picture of the gun / turret so I can see which ones you are talking about? I don’t have them all memorized,  by numerical name, but can tell them apart on sight and know there capabilities usually. 

Off hand though  I can point out how the German Flak 88 and other such sized or greater sized AA guns could shoot diennaircraft, but also could prove to be highly effective artillery or even armor piercing weapons, particularly the allied 90mm guns and German 128mm AA Artillery.

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The low-angle mountings don't entirely prohibit use as an AA weapon.

They can still be used against torpedo bomber attacks and similar, and in (fatally flawed) British doctrine it was assumed that aircraft would only attack the capital ships the destroyers were escorting allowing them to put up flak over their compatriots.

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7 hours ago, JediMasterDraco said:

Anyone who knows my reputation on this forum knows that I have a special hatred for the US 5"/38. I get that IRL it was a great weapon because it's phenomenal rate of fire, anti-air capabilities, and the advanced fire control system of the US meant it was a rather accurate. But my question is why was it selected for a number of inter-war designs when few people really believed aircraft would play the central role that they did. And, more importantly, the initial turret mountings actually prohibited its use as AA artillery. Seems a little contradictory given that it was mainly a 5"/25 (the heavy naval AA gun) with a longer barrel. I'll acknowledge that it could be seen as a matter of standardizing armament to make logistics easier, but I'll then add the point that many of the Standard-type battleships used both the 5"/51 and the 5"/25 and these were the bulk of the main battleline as these new destroyers came into service. And only four of the Standards received the 5"/38 (and only during post-Pearl Harbor reconstruction).

The biggest reason we switched to the 5" 38 caliber, is because of the effectiveness of the pearl harbor attack, and all other attacks that happened simultaneously (there was a lot more going on, on that day in history, than just Pearl Harbor). US recognized the might that Aircraft can bring to naval warfare. A lot of our ships were fitted for anti-air capabilities as well, and since we didn't want to make our destroyers unable to defend themselves against surface targets, the 5 inch 38 caliber dual-purpose gun, became a go to for all destroyers, and eventually all ships, with exception to Midway class carriers, which used 5"/54 dual-purpose guns for its secondary armament.

Then when the Japanese military started suicide attack runs with their aircraft, AA became even more prominent because "you don't stop shooting until the aircraft hits the water."

Now onto the bolded sentence in that quote: what exactly do you mean by "with a longer barrel." Do you mean, longer barrel compared to other AA batteries at the time, or longer barrel than 5"/38?

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14 minutes ago, Counter_Gambit said:

The biggest reason we switched to the 5" 38 caliber, is because of the effectiveness of the pearl harbor attack, and all other attacks that happened simultaneously (there was a lot more going on, on that day in history, than just Pearl Harbor). US recognized the might that Aircraft can bring to naval warfare. A lot of our ships were fitted for anti-air capabilities as well, and since we didn't want to make our destroyers unable to defend themselves against surface targets, the 5 inch 38 caliber dual-purpose gun, became a go to for all destroyers, and eventually all ships, with exception to Midway class carriers, which used 5"/54 dual-purpose guns for its secondary armament.

Then when the Japanese military started suicide attack runs with their aircraft, AA became even more prominent because "you don't stop shooting until the aircraft hits the water."

Now onto the bolded sentence in that quote: what exactly do you mean by "with a longer barrel." Do you mean, longer barrel compared to other AA batteries at the time, or longer barrel than 5"/38?

Uh, the first US DDs to be equipped with the 5"/38 were the Farragut-class which began seeing service in 1934. And there was no other destroyer gun used by the US Navy until the 5"/54 first mounted on the 1953 Mitscher-class. And the 5"/38 became the main secondary gun of battleships (starting with the North Carolina begun in 1937), heavy cruisers (Wichita, 1935), and light cruisers (St. Louis, 1937). And the main effect of the kamikazes was to cause some designers to favor the 3"/50 over the 20mm and 40mm.

As for the bolded bit, it's exactly what it sounds like. The 5"/38 was basically a lengthened version of 5"/25.

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