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mofton

HMS Furious - The Ugly Duckling Carrier

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Hello All,

Another summary look at an upcoming ship from the dev blog. For my last effort see:

Tier 6(?) HMS Furious

5THZZiP.jpg
IWM Image FL 4910 - Furious in her final form with stubby island, AA guns on the former flying off deck and disruptive camouflage

Design History: Furious, in her configuration as the apparent incumbent T6 carrier for the Royal Navy is a relatively pedestrian design. A big flat deck. A smaller than usual island on one side. Planes land on the back, and take off over the bow.

The story of how she came to be on the other hand, is quite odd.

Furious was ordered as the third Courageous class ‘large light cruiser’. Just being a ‘large light cruiser’ would have made her an odd ship – the class was conceived as part of Admiral Fisher’s insane scheme to invade the Baltic coast of Germany, a venture of rather desperate merit given the challenges of operating in German home turf, in areas susceptible to being mined and filled with submarines. Even had a force been landed Chancellor Bismarck, when asked what he’d do about a British Army landing in Europe replied that ‘I’d get the Belgian police to arrest them’.

The Courageous class displaced more than some Dreadnought battleships, had an armor scheme reminiscent of that famously survivable cruiser Emerald, carried an odd battery of 2x 2 15in guns and could churn through the water at 32kt, or about 5kt faster than any German battlecruiser. The original design for Furious took that, and replaced the 2x 2 15in battery… with 2x 1 18in guns.

As Furious was lain down in 1915 and not launched until mid-1916 there was time however for the Royal Navy to notice these newfangled aeroplane things, and decide that they were rather spiffing. The combat shortcomings of the 'large lights' were becoming clear, and the chances of any Baltic Project succeeding clearly dwindling so Furious was a decent candidate to convert. Which was initially done while under construction by removing the forward 18in turret and replacing it with a small flying off deck and hangar, plus a derrick for handling seaplanes. This allowed Furious to launch up to 8 aircraft, and, if they were seaplanes to recover them. Furious was therefore first in service in a ‘battlecarrier’ configuration, planes in the front, a single ludicrous gun in the back.

 

XLQAYPOg.jpg
IWM Image Q 74095 - Furious at sea in her as-completed configuration, a short-lived arrangement

Given that a single 18in gun was of no real combat value, while by golly the planes are just the ticket(!) in 1917-1918 a landing deck with hangar was added aft, replacing the 18in gun. The central superstructure including armored conning tower and spotting top was retained however, dividing the ship in two, and planes had to be precariously wheeled around it. Given this was completed during the war, in just 4 months I’d like to hope it was mostly due to speed rather than any solid planning that she ended up that way.

 

0CRzU2gg.jpg
IWM Image of Furious in her 'split' configuration, the original superstructure remains while there are fore and aft landing decks

Fortunately for Furious, as the other ships in the fleet laughed at her, and for potential players who probably want a functional ship, in 1922-1925 Furious was extensively rebuilt, ironically transforming from the carrier with the biggest superstructure, to one without one at all as a new hangar was added, and exhausts were trunked aft and a small, open deck-edge navigating position added on the starboard side. Furious became one of only two Royal Navy ‘Fleet’ carriers (the other being Argus) to complete without any island superstructure. Her half-sisters, Courageous and Glorious converted later in the 1920’s would have a traditional starboard side island with funnel and conning tower fitted as would every purpose built ship to follow. Furious also completed with an upper and lower flight deck, being able to launch aircraft from the lower deck as well as the upper deck, a feature similar to some early Japanese carriers such as Kaga. After the 1925 refit the last major external changes to Furious came in 1938-1939 with a small island fitted to port, the removal of her single purpose low-angle battery and the addition of more anti-aircraft guns.

Furious in 1939 (as she seems to be in-game) therefore has the look of a hybrid carrier. Her flight deck only extends for ¾ the length of the ship, with the lower flying off deck dotted with AA weapons. She has a small island superstructure and is relatively modern in appearance, though clearly a conversion in origin.

With the imposition of the Washington Naval Treaty and the general growth in interest in air power through WWI several capital ships were converted into carriers. These included merchant conversions (USS Langley, HMS Argus) battleship conversions (HMS Eagle, French carrier Bearn) the three British large light cruisers and the very large American Lexington and Japanese Kaga/Akagi which were lain down post-war. The British Courageous/Furious compare well to the early battleship conversions, but fairly poorly to the larger ships which were better suited and better converted into carriers. Nonetheless Furious did provide useful naval service through WWII, even though by 1939 her original design was 25 years old.

To summarize:

  1. Designed as a 2x 1 18in ‘Large Light Cruiser’
  2. Completed with 1x 18in aft and a flying off deck and hangar forward
  3. Refitted with an aft deck and hangar, no big guns, big superstructure in the middle
  4. Refitted as a grownup carrier with upper hangar with no superstructure at all
  5. Refitted with a small island and slight changes

Service History: After commissioning in June 1917 with her ‘business up front, 18in gun in the trunk’ configuration, Furious was used for a period of trials during which she was the first ship to have an aircraft land onboard while underway, with Squadron Commander Dunning managing the feat twice before being killed on the third attempt.  Aside from trials she saw only a single North Sea sortie, in October in which she unsuccessfully attempted to intercept two German light cruisers which sank a pair of destroyers and nine of the merchantmen they were escorting. In November 1917 she headed back into the dockyard for her first conversion.

The first major refit allowed her to carry double the complement of aircraft, up to 16 from a previous 8, but this was not utilitzed during her major combat action of WWI – the Tondern Zeppelin raid. In May 1918 the Furious steamed to a position off the Danish coast and launched a strike of seven Sopwith Camels. The attacking aircraft did manage to destroy two airships and damage a balloon, though all aircraft were lost as they ditched rather than land-on. It was a tiny strike, but it was a first, and it was Furious’ major WWI action.

Interwar Furious spent a lot of time in refit, 1922-‘25, 1931-‘32 and 1938-’39 and even in reserve. When operational she did trial a wide range of aircraft, a quick tally suggesting almost 20 different types and worked as a training ship. Deployments took her to the Mediterranean and out into the Atlantic, and to the Spithead Fleet Review in 1937.

With the outbreak of WWII in Europe Furious was one of seven in-service Royal Navy carriers. After the loss of Courageous to a U-boat in the opening weeks she’d be one of six. As such her early war career was busy and typical, patrolling for German warships, escorting convoys and involvement in the Norwegian campaign. Off Norway she operated with an airgroup solely comprised of Swordfish despite a desperate need for air cover, and launched several attacks on German shipping, without much success. Also off Norway she sustained damage from bomb near-misses, and flew off RAF Gladiator biplanes to an airfield ashore, the first of many occasions in which she’d act as a ferry.

After a quieter period in refit following the fall of both Norway and France in mid-1940, Furious was nominated to act as an aircraft transport, running deckloads of aircraft down the Atlantic to the Gold Coast (from where they could fly across the Sahara to the Middle East) and Freetown. Of note on one mission in company with the cruisers Dunedin, Berwick and Bonaventure and the carrier Argus, the convoy was intercepted by German heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. In a less than credible engagement Berwick discovered she was a punching bag for Axis heavy cruisers of all nations, Furious discovered the bombs for her Skuas were on Argus, Argus discovered the torpedoes for her Swordfish were on Furious, Bonaventure discovered the forward turrets on Dido class cruisers like to jam and Hipper discovered that discretion was the better part of valor.

Through early 1941 and after a refit into 1942 Furious remained in the ferry role taking batches of Hurricanes to Gibraltar for transfer to Ark Royal, and also taking them into the Med herself to fly off to the relief of Malta. In total in 1941-1942 225 Hurricanes and 102 Spitfires were transported by the veteran ferry to the Med in numerous trips. The climax of these runs was probably operation Pedestal in which Furious (accompanied by in-game T8 powerhouse destroyer Lightning among other ships) flew off a reinforcement wave of Spitfires, while fellow carriers Eagle, Victorious and Indomitable escorted the crucial convoy. Furious survived a submarine attack, though Eagle was not so lucky and was lost. On one occasion 64 Hurricanes and 9 Swordfish were carried, which would be a fun airgroup if not for the carrier rework and the fact that it couldn’t practically be operated.

NwcTzF2g.jpg
IWM Image A 22695 - Double Hangar level with Barracuda and Seafire

Freed from the glorified RAF taxi role in late 1942, Furious helped support the Torch landings in Oran, Algeria. With an airgroup now a far cry from the Sopwith Camels of 1918 and consisting of a mix of Seafire and Albacore aircraft, Furious along with RN Escort Carriers launched a series of airstrikes against Vichy French airfields, destroying significant numbers of aircraft on the ground while Seafires tangled with French fighters. A quantum leap in 24 years from biplane Camels to Seafires flying three times faster with four times the payload, with the added improvement of being able to land back aboard. Once again Furious was unsuccessfully attacked by a submarine.

With Operation Torch sealing the fate of Axis forces in the Mediterranean, Furious could be redeployed homeward and her swansong would be operations with the Home Fleet attacking Norway. The first operations were basic carrier strikes on coastal shipping and convoy escorts, but in April 1944 Furious along with the fleet carrier Victorious and escort carriers Emperor, Fencer, Pursuer and Searcher was sent against Churchills ‘Beast’ the perennially bored and moored battleship Tirpitz. Operation Tungsten was the most successful of several carrier launched strikes on Tirpitz, causing heavy superstructure damage at light loss. The Barracuda aircraft launched by Furious suffered one casualty from 39 aircraft embarked, a small but useful force in comparison to the 48 of the younger Victorious or 20 of the small Escort Carriers. After Tungsten came less successful follow up strikes in Operations Mascot and Goodwood.

 

AYLsyvtg.jpg
IWM Image A 22795 Furious at sea with a Short Sunderland flying overhead and an Escort Carrier trailing behind

By the autumn of 1944 Furious was nearly 30 years old. Of the seven carriers the RN had started the war with, five had been sunk – Ark Royal, Courageous, Glorious, Eagle and Hermes. Furious was one of two survivors, though the equally old Argus had been reclassified an Escort Carrier and relegated to training missions in early 1944. Furious had been lucky to survive but with new ships coming into service her value was dwindling and her shortcomings growing more apparent. Furious went into reserve, and was scrapped post war.

Although Furious never achieved the glory of the Ark Royal or Illustrious she can claim a couple of firsts they can’t – first carrier launched air strike, first aircraft landing on a moving ship. Her combat service included launching airstrikes as far afield as Norway, Germany and Algeria. She contributed to the hold-out of Malta helping the RAF get somewhere useful. She escorted convoys from the UK to America and as far south as South Africa and operated something like 30 different types of aircraft, from the Sopwith Pup to the Supermarine Seafire.

Aircraft in Game:

The Furious has an apparent stock loadout of Albacore torpedo and dive bombers and Sea Hurricane fighters. Her upgraded machines are Seafire fighters and Barracuda dive and torpedo bombers. The Seafire/Barracuda configuration accurately reflects her 1944 loadout, though she did make use of both the Albacore and Sea Hurricane earlier in the war in lesser numbers.

The Fairey Barracuda is an odd beast. A high-wing all metal monoplane, with serious design flaws in part due to the influence of the ‘Observer Mafia’. The Barracuda was designed both to carry a torpedo and with dive brakes act as a dive bomber as needed, in many ways it was a modern design but entering service in 1943 from a specification issued in 1937 rendered it near obsolete on entry into service. Entry into service in 1943 also meant that it missed out on many of the key strike opportunities carried out by the earlier and more famous Swordfish. Capable of carrying a torpedo, 1,600lb bomb or other munitions and with a crew of 3 the Barracuda is generally unremarkable.

  image.png
IWM Image A 22693 - a Barracuda with flaps well down demonstrating the rather thick and 'shoulder level' wing landing on a carrier

The Supermarine Seafire was produced by taking the Spitfire, and replacing ‘Spit’ with ‘Sea’. As the preeminent British fighter of WWII the Spitfire was a clear candidate for navalization, though a flawed one. The addition of an arrester hook, folding wings and other improvements made the Seafire a passable naval aircraft, though it was always hampered by short range and a weak undercarriage susceptible to collapse. Used correctly it could give good service, as a high speed anti-Kamikaze interceptor and escort. Operated off slow Escort Carriers (too slow to cushion the landings) off Salerno under the command of Admiral Vian, it was disastrous.

JZyulKSg.jpg
IWM Image A 14864 - A Supermarine Seafire onboard HMS Illustrious displaying the key feature of folding wings with double joint to reduce height

 

Edited by mofton
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6 minutes ago, Lert said:
Quote

"What do you mean, "There is no battlecruiser class in this game"? What do you mean "Until there is, it'll either be a cruiser or a battleship in this game"? What do you mean "They were also called 'large light cruisers'"? That last one makes no sense whatsoever with her tonnage and armament."

I can't wait until we get another "It's not a battlecruiser but a large light big super XXL duper something cruiser" thread. Add to this the hybrid possibilities (who doesn't want 2 x 1 18 inch guns on their cv?) and endless in game meme worthy hilarity.

Oh and 

+1 of course @mofton for the excellent writeup.

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2 minutes ago, LoveBote said:

(who doesn't want 2 x 1 18 inch guns on their cv?)

As a carrier she only ever carried 1x 18", in this game it would count as secondary. And, yes, I'd hate to be the destroyer blabbed by that.

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9 hours ago, Lert said:

As a carrier she only ever carried 1x 18", in this game it would count as secondary. And, yes, I'd hate to be the destroyer blabbed by that.

Destroyer driver’s needn’t worry Lert, carrier drivers will be too busy having fun flying their planes to worry about apparently pedestrian activities such as defending their carrier.

Edited by Estimated_Prophet
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4 minutes ago, Estimated_Prophet said:

Destroyer driver’s needn’t worry alert, carrier drivers will be too busy having fun flying their planes to worry about apparently pedestrian activities such as defending their carrier.

That 18" will be a secondary, thus automatic, and will miss 95% of the time.

That remaining 5% though ...

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1 hour ago, mofton said:

5THZZiP.jpg
IWM Image FL 4910 - Furious in her final form with stubby island, AA guns on the former flying off deck and disruptive camouflage

i saw "final form" and i couldnt resist 

kpBuIxm.jpg

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Makes me sad to see how CVs are being reworked when one sees how much work this little CV did. It seems like the boat management style is really getting sidelined for action plane flying. (although that is pretty cool). 

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1 hour ago, BlailBlerg said:

Makes me sad to see how CVs are being reworked when one sees how much work this little CV did. It seems like the boat management style is really getting sidelined for action plane flying. (although that is pretty cool). 

If the CV rework does what I think it will do to this game, ie., ruin it, then I might spend my money elsewhere despite the 2.5 year investment in game play time and money.

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Quote

In a less than credible engagement Berwick discovered she was a punching bag for Axis heavy cruisers of all nations, Furious discovered the bombs for her Skuas were on Argus, Argus discovered the torpedoes for her Swordfish were on Furious, Bonaventure discovered the forward turrets on Dido class cruisers like to jam and Hipper discovered that discretion was the better part of valor. 

Just imagine if WG really set out to make this game more realistic.

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