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Admiral_Thrawn_1

Have Navies Learned From The Past

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Thinking about how it was said Bismarck’s AA was incomplete but really was not really meant to track targets as old as the antiquated Swordfish Biplanes. It has gotten me thinking I wonder if modern navies still remember such lessons and plan defenses against such things as older technologies?

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In the Bismarck's case not so much from the past but having expectations that were too high from the equipment involved.  That is, like the British / RN, the Germans grossly over estimated the efficiency of AA guns.  When you add in that the ones on Bismarck were pretty crappy to begin with it doesn't help the result.  It wasn't that the Swordfish were too slow to engage efficiently, it was the guns and equipment weren't as good as the Germans thought they'd be.

The RN had the same problem with their AA gear even as they installed very heavy batteries for the early war period.  The US likewise had issues with AA fire but in the late 30's began experiments with remote controlled drone targets that acted like actual attacking aircraft rather than firing at towed target sleeves like other navies did.  Early experiments against the Ranger and Utah showed that USN AA training was wholly inadequate and the program was revamped.

The RN and KM didn't have that luxury.

Such things crop up from time to time.  In Serbia during that war back in the 90's the Serbs shot down a supposedly undetectable F-117 stealth fighter.  They were using 1950's radar technology in some cases.  These were long wave metric sets they got from the Russians who developed them from WW 2 era technology.  The F-117 wasn't designed to evade such radars simply because hardly anybody still used them...

 

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2 hours ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

old as the antiquated Swordfish Biplanes

The Swordfish Bombers were only 5 years old when Bismarck fought them, they were hardly "antiquated".  By the end of the war, the Swordfish held the distinction of having caused the destruction of a greater tonnage of Axis shipping than any other Allied aircraft.  Do not think that just because they used 2 wings they were useless, 2 wings meant they had far more lift then the monoplanes, so they would be capable of carrying heavier torpedoes off of a flight deck, capable of taking off at slower speeds and maintaining flight at slower speeds, all advantageous to naval bombers that would still be vastly faster then any naval ship.  RN CVs would not even need to turn into the wind or need clear weather to use Swordfish bombers.  There were even some cases where the RN CVs could launch Swordfish while at anchor.  The Biplane design offered tactical flexibility at sea.

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It's not like the Bismarck missed the Swordfish...they were full of holes.

The Swordfish design was just made for "overpens"...nothing there for the shells to bite into.

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so were did you get that info...have read that the junker87 sunk the most,,,cant find anything on web........post a link please

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2 hours ago, Sventex said:

The Swordfish Bombers were only 5 years old when Bismarck fought them, they were hardly "antiquated".  By the end of the war, the Swordfish held the distinction of having caused the destruction of a greater tonnage of Axis shipping than any other Allied aircraft.  Do not think that just because they used 2 wings they were useless, 2 wings meant they had far more lift then the monoplanes, so they would be capable of carrying heavier torpedoes off of a flight deck, capable of taking off at slower speeds and maintaining flight at slower speeds, all advantageous to naval bombers that would still be vastly faster then any naval ship.  RN CVs would not even need to turn into the wind or need clear weather to use Swordfish bombers.  There were even some cases where the RN CVs could launch Swordfish while at anchor.  The Biplane design offered tactical flexibility at sea.

They were also fabric covered, slow moving, had trouble if the winds picked up. They really were WWI through interwar technology when by WWII there were so many far more technologically advanced designs. But I do consider the Swordfish to still have been effective in WWII, mainly as a testament to the skill of their pilots I think.

And true the slower speeds could be an asset as could the added lift from a Biplane design, it could backfire if the headwinds got to strong. Also with the lack of any armor they could have been vulnerable even to small arms fire if the crews area were to be hit just right.

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4 minutes ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

They were also fabric covered, slow moving, had trouble if the winds picked up. They really were WWI through interwar technology when by WWII there were so many far more technologically advanced designs. But I do consider the Swordfish to still have been effective in WWII, mainly as a testament to the skill of their pilots I think.

And true the slower speeds could be an asset as could the added lift from a Biplane design, it could backfire if the headwinds got to strong. Also with the lack of any armor they could have been vulnerable even to small arms fire if the crews area were to be hit just right.

Even with a strong headwind, the Swordfish with it's top speed of 124 knots with torpedo would still outrun any naval ship trying to escape.  Only a Category 5 hurricane could stop a Swordfish in flight.  And as you say they used fabric, instead of the complex alloy Duralumin which meant they'd be far cheaper to build, faster to build and wouldn't require imports.  It was also that very same fabric that so effectively absorbed the German AA fire. 

And in terms of technology the Swordfish was the first carrier-borne aircraft to use air to surface vessel (ASV) radar which made them deadly against U-Boats.  Yes maybe a submariner can kill the pilot with a small arm, but odds favor the Swordfish sinking a submarine over a rifle taking out the pilot.  More than likely the U-Boats would instead try to dive instead of sending rifles up top to fight it out.

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The Swordfish was acceptable as a torpedo bomber or ASW aircraft in conditions where it faced no, zero, none, enemy fighter opposition.  When it did run into such situations such as the squadron sent to attack Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in their Channel dash, they didn't stand a chance and were shot down wholesale.

The only reason they stayed in service was really because their intended replacements were such pathetically bad designs the FAA had little choice.

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22 hours ago, dadeoo said:

so were did you get that info...have read that the junker87 sunk the most,,,cant find anything on web........post a link please

He specified Allied aircraft sinking Axis tonnage, so the Ju87 wouldn't be a contestant.

The main source for that claim seems to be Wikipedia (yuck) which references a book I don't have and which isn't widely available - Profile 212, Fairey Swordfish MKS. I-IV by Ian G. Stott.

Given the Swordfish had some success anti-shipping in the Med to me it's vaguely plausible, but with the US Carrier air power on an absolute Pacific rampage in 1942-1945 it seems a bit unlikely, though the greater variety of types used might dilute the tonnage per aircraft type.

19 hours ago, Sventex said:

Even with a strong headwind, the Swordfish with it's top speed of 124 knots with torpedo would still outrun any naval ship trying to escape.  Only a Category 5 hurricane could stop a Swordfish in flight.  And as you say they used fabric, instead of the complex alloy Duralumin which meant they'd be far cheaper to build, faster to build and wouldn't require imports.  It was also that very same fabric that so effectively absorbed the German AA fire. 

And in terms of technology the Swordfish was the first carrier-borne aircraft to use air to surface vessel (ASV) radar which made them deadly against U-Boats.  Yes maybe a submariner can kill the pilot with a small arm, but odds favor the Swordfish sinking a submarine over a rifle taking out the pilot.  More than likely the U-Boats would instead try to dive instead of sending rifles up top to fight it out.

The speed is a situational drawback. A speed of 124kt is dependent on being at moderate altitude after which you have to drop down to attack, where you fly slower, and therefore does not reflect approach speed. A strike by HMS Victorious with the similar (a few knot slower) Albacores demonstrated some issues in 1942, where a 90kt air speed was reduced to a just 30kt closing speed - 90kt minus Tirpitz running at 30kt into a 30kt head wind. It made positioning difficult, and 2 aircraft were lost for no result.

Although excellent at being able to take off and land from small decks in a wide variety of conditions, and overall a useful weapon the Swordfish did have disadvantages. At 100kt to close the 5 miles from which a U-boat might sight you would be 3 minutes flying time, a 200kt TBF Avenger gives half that response time. The Avenger did, in a shorter career achieve more kills. Still, 22.5 Swordfish U-boat kills/assists is useful: https://uboat.net/allies/aircraft/swordfish.htm

U-boats would be using small-arms against attacking aircraft, they were equipped with a range of AA guns, up to and including multiple 20mm cannon and even 37mm guns, so if they're going to fight it out, it'll probably be that, and not a rifle. The Allies lost about 120 aircraft to U-boat fire in WWII, including several (2-3) Swordfish.

 

More generally on the topic - some older tactics and weapons probably just aren't going away to some degree. One of the best examples of old technology still being effective would probably be mines. Mines have been around for a long time - Adm. Farragut issued his famous 'damn the torpedoes (meaning mines at the time), full speed ahead' order in 1864. Mines were a big threat through WWI, WWII and have even damaged ships since including cruiser Princeton and amphib Tripoli during the Gulf War and a frigate back in the late 1980's. While I'd say the US is aware of the threat just quite how aware (or how much of a priority it is) they are I'm not sure. I'm also not sure how well suited and equipped the minesweeping and minehunting forces are, for hulls consisting of the aging, slightly diminished (11 Avenger class) as well as modules on some other ships and some helicopter capabilty, but I believe the planned Littoral Combat Ship minehunting 'module' is pretty disastrous.

The USS Cole incident back in 2001 is also 'old fashioned' warfare with explosive rams used since before WWII, that hasn't happened since and I think doctrine, rules of engagement and some close-in weapons have changed since but I'd expect that to remain an ongoing nasty surprise threat from time to time.

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Now, more recently...

The US Navy started the project "Bumblebee" in 1944 that today has become Aegis.  This has been a steady progression in a fleet missile defense system from then to now.

Sonar technology, likewise, has moved from being on each ship as the primary system to arrays on the ocean floor and on specialized ships to scan virtually whole oceans.  The data from these is then linked to individual ships and platforms to conduct local search and location and if necessary destruction of targets.

Interestingly, high underwater speed submarines were invented by the Royal Navy in 1917 with the R class.  In between the wars,  Japan experimented with them with experimental boat No. 71

Japanese_No71_submarine_in_1938.jpg

Yet, most people think that the idea for high speed submarines was somehow "invented" by the Germans late in WW 2...

 

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