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1Sherman

Question: How come the U.S. Navy in WWII decided to buy foreign-made AA guns for their ships?

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The title gets across the gist of it. As I'd imagine a lot of you know, the two most widely used and effective AA guns mounted on American ships during WWII were the 40mm Bofors and the 20mm Oerlikon. I'd also imagine that a lot of you know that those were Swedish and Swiss guns, respectively, purchased by and built for the U.S. military. 

The question I have is this: Why go to foreign designs? I'd imagine that it wasn't cheap for the States to get their hands on these designs, and that money possibly could have been used to improve the U.S.' existing AA designs or to come up with new ones entirely. Likewise, selling weapons to the Allies must have presented a terrible risk to neutral Sweden and Switzerland. By 1941 both countries were completely surrounded by Axis territory (since Finland joined the Axis when Operation Barbarossa began), and the pretense of stopping the selling of weapons to their enemies would have presented a golden opportunity for Germany and Italy to invade.

However, since I know I'm not even close to the most well-versed history buff here, I now turn over the mic to those among you who are: Why did the United States purchase Swiss and Swedish AA guns and their designs as opposed to trying to improve on/create their own?

Thanks in advance to anyone who answers my question.

Sincerely,

1Sherman.

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1 minute ago, 1Sherman said:

The title gets across the gist of it. As I'd imagine a lot of you know, the two most widely used and effective AA guns mounted on American ships during WWII were the 40mm Bofors and the 20mm Oerlikon. I'd also imagine that a lot of you know that those were Swedish and Swiss guns, respectively, purchased by and built for the U.S. military. 

The question I have is this: Why go to foreign designs? I'd imagine that it wasn't cheap for the States to get their hands on these designs, and that money possibly could have been used to improve the U.S.' existing AA designs or to come up with new ones entirely. Likewise, selling weapons to the Allies must have presented a terrible risk to neutral Sweden and Switzerland. By 1941 both countries were completely surrounded by Axis territory (since Finland joined the Axis when Operation Barbarossa began), and the pretense of stopping the selling of weapons to their enemies would have presented a golden opportunity for Germany and Italy to invade.

However, since I know I'm not even close to the most well-versed history buff here, I now turn over the mic to those among you who are: Why did the United States purchase Swiss and Swedish AA guns and their designs as opposed to trying to improve on/create their own?

Thanks in advance to anyone who answers my question.

Sincerely,

1Sherman.

I would suspect, if the AA gun came from  A NATO country, they're interchangeable... The same as NATO ships can use our hardware and weapons as well...

Its to create uniformity between NATO assets (this applies to other areas as well, like gun ammo, Rifle Ammo).

Neutral countries were non-affiliated..They can do business with NATO and non NATO countries. Which was great for us in getting cool weapons.

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They were simply MUCH better than anything we were making at home. We paid them money for a licensing agreement and they suddenly became American made.

Problem solved. 

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14 minutes ago, Prothall said:

They were simply MUCH better than anything we were making at home.

This is it. The Bofors was the best AA gun on the market at the time. We had access and resources. They had the supply. Winner winner chicken dinner.

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I don't know for sure, but there's no way Sweden and Switzerland had the capacity to produce the numbers the US needed (the US was after all bolting 20mm AA to literally any available flat surface). That's ignoring the rather large problem of transport and neutrality violations. I assume the US bought the license for both guns, turned them over to a couple of typewriter factories or something, and started cranking them out by the millions. Pay for the license once, and then bam, made in America AA.

As to why not making a homebuilt design? If there's a very good design available, it's way more effective to use it then try to come up with one from scratch. The US needed AA yesterday, there was no time to develop, test, and retool for a new AA guns when there were multiple designs available. Now they did continue development, it just never made it mainstream for the war effort. In fact the US did realize they needed something with a bit more punch than the 40mm. They started developing the 3in radar guided mount. But the earliest that made it in was the Des Moines, which was far too late. Even then it took several more years to get the kinks worked out. Rather than deprive the fleet of a good AA gun while they developed one (learn from the brits I guess) they just went with the best available option, which happened to be foreign.

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They were

  1. Much better than anything the US had
  2. Available

Could the US have developed AA weapons on par with the Bofors and Oerlikon? Possibly. Would they have had them available in time to matter? Nope.

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35 minutes ago, 1Sherman said:

The question I have is this: Why go to foreign designs? I'd imagine that it wasn't cheap for the States to get their hands on these designs, and that money possibly could have been used to improve the U.S.' existing AA designs or to come up with new ones entirely. Likewise, selling weapons to the Allies must have presented a terrible risk to neutral Sweden and Switzerland. By 1941 both countries were completely surrounded by Axis territory (since Finland joined the Axis when Operation Barbarossa began), and the pretense of stopping the selling of weapons to their enemies would have presented a golden opportunity for Germany and Italy to invade.

However, since I know I'm not even close to the most well-versed history buff here, I now turn over the mic to those among you who are: Why did the United States purchase Swiss and Swedish AA guns and their designs as opposed to trying to improve on/create their own?

Switzerland is an odd story.  We bombed their cities, then paid them reparations.  We shot down their planes..  They shot down our planes..  

But once we had samples of their weapons - and reverse engineered them, we made many improvements.  But the name stuck.

So the question of foreign design is a bit of silliness.  We used the name of what we started with.  Politically, we also wanted to make these folks happy, so they got a stimulus check for each barrel we made.

Most important is that these were used on Navy ships, and dominantly in the Pacific.... where they wouldn't be shooting down German planes that much.  That might have gotten a bit touchy if they became uber-weapons like the Germans were using the 88mm Flak guns against tanks.

So think it through and I think you will get it.

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7 minutes ago, Lert said:

They were

  1. Much better than anything the US had
  2. Available

Could the US have developed AA weapons on par with the Bofors and Oerlikon? Possibly. Would they have had them available in time to matter? Nope.

What about the risk to Switzerland and Sweden, then? The existence of Operation Tannenbaum means that Germany and Italy had intentions to invade Switzerland, and Germany had Sweden in a very disadvantageous position after the occupation of Norway and Denmark. Do you think it's possible the Germans could have found out about the American usage of Swiss and Swedish weapons and used it as an excuse to invade the two countries, on top of partitioning Switzerland with Italy along its German and Italian-speaking boundaries and cutting out the middle man in Germany's iron ore imports from Sweden?

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49 minutes ago, Navalpride33 said:

I would suspect, if the AA gun came from  A NATO country, they're interchangeable... The same as NATO ships can use our hardware and weapons as well...

Its to create uniformity between NATO assets (this applies to other areas as well, like gun ammo, Rifle Ammo).

Neutral countries were non-affiliated..They can do business with NATO and non NATO countries. Which was great for us in getting cool weapons.

NATO was not formed until 1949...….

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49 minutes ago, Navalpride33 said:

I would suspect, if the AA gun came from  A NATO country, they're interchangeable... The same as NATO ships can use our hardware and weapons as well...

Its to create uniformity between NATO assets (this applies to other areas as well, like gun ammo, Rifle Ammo).

Neutral countries were non-affiliated..They can do business with NATO and non NATO countries. Which was great for us in getting cool weapons.

This was long before NATO and as @Prothall pointed out they were far better than what we were making.

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1 minute ago, 1Sherman said:

Do you think it's possible the Germans could have found out about the American usage of Swiss and Swedish weapons and used it as an excuse to invade the two countries

I don't think Germany needed excuses to invade a country.

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Because the 1.1s and water cooled AA .50cals the USN started the war with were mediocre at best? and could only really hit things in most cases after the fact.

In any case; as others have said it was a licensing thing. I would imagine the US would have reverse engineered the guns and used them anyway, even without a license.

In any case; the Germans also used Orlikons.

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7 minutes ago, Gafwmn said:

NATO was not formed until 1949...….

They made NATO "official" in 1949... Countries in NATO were long been sharing/collaborating  hardware and military assets among each other before the formation of the block...

Treaties and other diplomatic documents made it possible to interchange... NATO was the culmination of these efforts, not the start of it..

 

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1 hour ago, 1Sherman said:

The question I have is this: Why go to foreign designs?

Because they worked. 
Because they were available for licensed production. 
Because they were preferable, to competing or similar equipment, according to the criteria being used by the nation doing the "shopping".

During WW-I, a British machine-gun design was being used by the Germans (who purchased it outright or produced it under license).  Once the war broke out, the Germans stopped paying the license fees, but continued to use and produce the machine gun.
Similar situations have happened with varying nations and equipment involved.

Makes for some interesting history.  :-)

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23 minutes ago, BrushWolf said:

This was long before NATO and as @Prothall pointed out they were far better than what we were making.

I would also point out, the US didn't have time to improve on what we had... So it made sense to buy it somewhere else to buy time...

No better example of this philosophy, could be found in liberty ships... The ships that were astonishing great at being mediocre. It was cheaper and efficient to make good with the quantity over quality model.

The UK owes a big dept of gratitude to these legendary ships. With out them, German would be the maiden Language in Britain.. 

The same way, we owe a dept to capitalism for allowing us to buy hardware that was better then what we had.

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40 minutes ago, Lert said:

I don't think Germany needed excuses to invade a country.

They still used them all the same. The excuse for invading Poland was because they refused to cede Danzig, after all, while one of the big goals for the invasion of France was to reclaim Alsace-Lorraine.

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35 minutes ago, Estimated_Prophet said:

In any case; the Germans also used Orlikons.

And yet none of the German ships in the game have Oerlikons mounted on them. The closest any of them get is those quad 20mm Wirbelwind mounts.

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1 minute ago, 1Sherman said:

And yet none of the German ships in the game have Oerlikons mounted on them. The closest any of them get is those quad 20mm Wirbelwind mounts.

Most of the examples I've read about were mounted on E-Boats and the armed barges the Germans used in the Med, at least around Sicily.

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1 hour ago, AVR_Project said:

Switzerland is an odd story.  We bombed their cities, then paid them reparations.  We shot down their planes..  They shot down our planes..  

But once we had samples of their weapons - and reverse engineered them, we made many improvements.  But the name stuck.

So the question of foreign design is a bit of silliness.  We used the name of what we started with.  Politically, we also wanted to make these folks happy, so they got a stimulus check for each barrel we made.

Most important is that these were used on Navy ships, and dominantly in the Pacific.... where they wouldn't be shooting down German planes that much.  That might have gotten a bit touchy if they became uber-weapons like the Germans were using the 88mm Flak guns against tanks.

So think it through and I think you will get it.

The United States Navy's Bureau of Ordnance purchased a twin-mount air-cooled example, spare parts and 3,000 rounds of ammunition directly from Bofors, which arrived in New York on 28 August 1940 aboard the Army transport USAT American Legion, which had evacuated 897 people, including members of the Norwegian royal family, through the Finnish port of Petsamo.[12] During that month another Dutch ship, the Van Kinsbergen, demonstrated the Hazemeyer mount to Navy observers. The gun was quickly chosen as the Navy's standard anti-aircraft weapon over the British 40mm calibre, 2-pounder pom-pom; however, negotiations with Bofors for licensed production stalled when the Swedes requested airplane export and manufacturing licenses in return.[11] Reportedly, the Navy secretly imported a set of imperial designs from Britain and started production illegally. A formal contract with Bofors was reached in June 1941. The resulting Mark 1 and Mark 2 weapons were intended for the left and right side of a twin mount, respectively, and were adapted by Chrysler for water cooling.[9]

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So my question would be:

Why are IJN 23 & 25 mm inferior to 20 mm orlikens?

Why are Russism 37 mm inferior to 40 mm befors?

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3 minutes ago, dEsTurbed1 said:

So my question would be:

Why are IJN 23 & 25 mm inferior to 20 mm orlikens?

The Japanese 25mm AA gun is a poor design.  It was taken from a French Hotchkiss design which Japan for all intents just copied.  The gun loads from a 15 round magazine that has to be swapped out when it empties.  This means frequent magazine changes slowing the rate of fire significantly.

The gun and mounting were relatively complex and expensive to manufacture.

Worse, by 1940, the gun lacked the range, hitting power, and rate of fire necessary to be a truly effective AA gun.  For naval use, the Japanese never adopted water cooling, another serious deficiency.

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10 minutes ago, Murotsu said:

The Japanese 25mm AA gun is a poor design.  It was taken from a French Hotchkiss design which Japan for all intents just copied.  The gun loads from a 15 round magazine that has to be swapped out when it empties.  This means frequent magazine changes slowing the rate of fire significantly.

The gun and mounting were relatively complex and expensive to manufacture.

Worse, by 1940, the gun lacked the range, hitting power, and rate of fire necessary to be a truly effective AA gun.  For naval use, the Japanese never adopted water cooling, another serious deficiency.

Thanks.

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2 hours ago, Lert said:

I don't think Germany needed excuses to invade a country.

And Bofors are mounted on the PE and Hipper...

As they were at the end of the war in real life.

Bofors.jpg

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