Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:09 am

PQ-18 alone had some 40 destroyers, 7 cruisers, 2 battleships and 1 light carrier, plus a host of smaller escorts, in various layers of protecting the convoy...
The British covering forces did not operate with the convoy or aywhere nearby the convoys. The British had adopted the policy of distant cover to prevent their first line warships from being sunk by U-boats and land based air. The Edinburgh loss was an example of operating fleet units with or near convoys. An example of just how far distant the distant cover could be is actually North Cape. Had Bey only been on time-adhering to the time table drawn up by Schniewind's staff, he could have fallen on the convoy and returned to base before the British battle groups could have done anything about it. As it was, only the storm, by restricting Luftwaffe operations, allowed Fraser to cut off Scharnhorst from returning to base. Otherwise he could have never brought Duke of York that close to the N. Cape. They needed to stay out of range of the Luftwaffe in most cases. In the case of PQ18, with no fleet carrier, Tovey's range of operations was greatly hindered. The Britsh have only two options once the convoy reaches a position beyond bear Island if the Germans sorti-recall the convoy or risk both convoy and covering forces to unacceptable damage or loss.

The German naval officers understood this and this is why the high command's over timid policies were so frustrating to them.
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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by RF » Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:16 am

Going back to the original question, per the title of this thread, the answer has to be no, for reasons so far not really discussed.

The Type XXI could have defeated Britain by blockade - but it couldn't force the USA, by its own efforts, to surrender. Unless it was given a missile launching facility, which it wasn't, the Type XXI couldn't even scratch the mainland USA.
Neither could it defeat the Soviet Union. It couldn't stop the Soviets storming Berlin, as that was a land campaign.

No, the Type XXI could only alter the manner of Allied victory - by handing it completely to the Russians. The Iron Curtain wouldn't have been the Oder-Neisse line, but the Rhine or further west, possibly even the English Channel.
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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by RF » Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:21 am

LeopardTooth wrote:"Hitler lost the war one way or the other on June 22 1941"

I think a case could be made that the Nazis, if they were smart, should have made sure to finish off the UK before ever choosing to tangle with the USSR, or perhaps even never initiated Barbarossa at all.
I would suggest that December 11 1941 was the fatal date on which Hitler lost the war.

Barbarossa almost succeeded. Had Hitler not interfered and altered the original invasion plan prepared by Marcks, it probably would have succeeded, particulary if proper winter clothing and equipment had been prepared in the autumn of 1941.

Without the USA in the European war, then the Type XXI could have defeated Britain - while the Wehrmacht could have overcome Soviet Russia.
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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:59 am

The Arctic Convoys gave the KM something to do, as that was the only place German surface ships could or would operate after the Bismarck debacle. This inevitably drew the RN that way, as soon as they had ships to spare. Given that the proportion of supplies going to the Soviet Union via the arctic route was relatively small, one can almost feel a sort of unspoken understanding between the navies to concentrate on a less than vital theatre but the only arena they could meet. The RN obsession with sinking the Tirpitz, despite that she almost never left port and had hardly any fuel seems almost motivated by prestige.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by alecsandros » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:41 am

RF wrote: No, the Type XXI could only alter the manner of Allied victory - by handing it completely to the Russians. The Iron Curtain wouldn't have been the Oder-Neisse line, but the Rhine or further west, possibly even the English Channel.
If Britain would be forced to surrender by U-boat blockade, the USA would defer any invasion plans.

The soviets had about ZERO chances of success against the germans without massive help from Britain and the USA.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by alecsandros » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:42 am

RF wrote:
Without the USA in the European war, then the Type XXI could have defeated Britain - while the Wehrmacht could have overcome Soviet Russia.
:ok:

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by alecsandros » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:49 am

Dave Saxton wrote:
PQ-18 alone had some 40 destroyers, 7 cruisers, 2 battleships and 1 light carrier, plus a host of smaller escorts, in various layers of protecting the convoy...
The British covering forces did not operate with the convoy or aywhere nearby the convoys.
Indeed, but they could intervene quite quickly.

A wide array of submarines and reconnaissance planes operated along the fjords and convoy routes, and most of the German surface movements were observed immediately.

A quick hit-and-run attack, like the one attempted by Tirpitz during the Loffoten raid, could succeed, but the risks were enormous.

To mitigate that risk, I would see a good destroyer escort (to keep submarines away) and a serious screen of cruisers...

This might have been helped by the Luftwaffe, but with sea-to-air cooperation as it was, sending Tirpitz away with the promise of air support was near suicidal...

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by LeopardTooth » Tue Feb 05, 2013 12:56 pm

People seem to be assuming that the UK/US would have been helpless in the face of an Type XXI onslaught. The assumption seems to be that, even if the Germans changes the historical script, the Allies would have stayed on it.

If faced earlier in the war with modern, quiet, fast, submerged subs that effectively shut down the Atlantic sea lanes and bring Britain close to starvation, however, I assume that the Allies would presumably have temporarily diverted massive R&D resources from the Manhattan Project, aviation research, surface and air-scan radar research, civilian technology R&D, etc into anti-submarine measures. Faced with a more serious threat, the anti-sub tech that they discovered and deployed later would have been discovered and deployed earlier.

As we all know, Allied physicists and engineers came up with a panoply of ever-improving detection and attack technologies as the war went on, including some specifically to combat the Type XXI. There were late-WW2-tech ways to detect and sink quiet and submerged subs. Also, the Allies eventually built bombs large enough that strategic bombers could smash the roofs of even the most thick and hardened sub pens. And of the Western Allies built a thousand plus DDs, DDEs, sloops, corvettes, etc in 1943-1945, they probably had the shipbuilding resources to build fewer of them, but with 25 knot max speeds.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by alecsandros » Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:28 pm

LeopardTooth wrote: As we all know, Allied physicists and engineers came up with a panoply of ever-improving detection and attack technologies as the war went on, including some specifically to combat the Type XXI. There were late-WW2-tech ways to detect and sink quiet and submerged subs.
What are you thinking about ?
AFAIK, the type XXis went unnoticed on their few patrols...
Also, the Allies eventually built bombs large enough that strategic bombers could smash the roofs of even the most thick and hardened sub pens. And of the Western Allies built a thousand plus DDs, DDEs, sloops, corvettes, etc in 1943-1945, they probably had the shipbuilding resources to build fewer of them, but with 25 knot max speeds.
War tends to accelerate rate of technological innovation.

I don't know how much it would take to succesfully counter the XXIs on the open sea; but I would expect at least a few months, if not more.

People tend to forget just how advanced those weapons were for their time - staying submerged for weeks, launching 20 torpedoes in less than 1 hour, obtaining 18kts submerged, recharging by schnorkell, etc.

"The streamlined hull also offered a much smaller sonar signature and with her silent running capability, and high underwater speed, she was a much more difficult boat for enemy ASW vessels to find or detect. Equipped with a sophisticated echo chamber, which could identify, track and target multiple vessels, the Type XXI could fire blind from up a depth of 160 feet. Her firepower was also increased significantly. With a new rapid reloading hydraulic system, the Type XXI could launch three six torpedo salvos or eighteen torpedoes in just under 20 minutes; whereas it took over ten minutes to reload just one tube on the Type VIIC. This meant that the Type XXI could attack more vessels in a single engagement. The increased space also allowed more torpedoes to be carried – 23 instead of 14 on the Type VIIC. "

from here:
http://www.uboataces.com/uboat-type-xxi.shtml

Speed, stealth, firepower and range were all very good, thus making counter measures difficult to take.
After all, most Uboat losses after mid-1942 came from air attacks against surfaced sumbarines. Against submerged ships, the aircrafts were useles...

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Feb 05, 2013 3:27 pm

Technologies such as active homing torpedoes and air dropped sound bouys were developed during the war. However, these technologies are useless if they do not first locate the general position of the U-boat, or the U-boat's schnorkel.

The Germans had developed and were continuing to develop stealth technology for schnorkels and submarine sails. Reduced radar signature for surfaced U-boats and/or their schnorkels meant that the range that allied radar could detect them was very short. The U-boat would have long before detected the approaching enemy aircraft or ASW vessel and disappeared.

To insure that the U-boat would detect the approaching enemy before the enemy detected it, two new radar technologies were planned for the Type XXI's. One was the Cuba-II submersable antenna system, which both the active Berlin U centimetric radar could use and/or the Anthos centimetric radar detector system-while at schnorkel depth or with only the conning tower above the surface. Another was Lessing. Lessing was an active air warning radar system which could be operated from a pole antenna while the submarine was operating the schnorkel. Lessing could warn of approaching ASW aircraft well before the aircraft got close enough to detect a trimmed down U-boat or schnorkel.

Additional, counter counter measures actually used as early as Dec 1943 were fake schnorkels and floating buoys to attract allied radar to a dead end location and balloons extended from bouys that mimicked the radar signature of a surfaced U-boat, and ballons that then ejected chaff into the air.
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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by LeopardTooth » Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:29 am

Read http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/hi ... tml#PhaseI

In the immediate post-war years, to counter presumed Soviet Type XXI-clones, the US and UK military introduced various detection and destruction technologies:

* the APS-20 radar
* the QHB scanning sonar
* magnetic anomaly detection devices
* active and passive sonobuoys
* large, low frequency passive acoustic array - SOFAR (sound fixing and ranging) channel and SOSUS (sound surveillance system)
* LIMBO, anti-submarine mortar mark 10
* RUR-4 "Weapon Alpha", ahead-throwing ASW rocket launcher

* the ASW submarine, or SSK
- HMS Venturer torpedoed a submerged U-864 off the coast of Norway in submerged by tracking using hydrophones and manually calculating a three-dimensional firing solution
- A submarine introduced the least possible self-noise into the passive array, thereby maximizing the signal-to-noise ratio and therefore the detection range
- Direct path detection ranges against snorkelers of 10-15 miles were achieved using passive arrays in exercises by essentially unmodified WWII fleet boats in the late 1940s
- USS K-1, off Bermuda in 1952 using a passive array picked up a snorkeling exercise submarine at 30 miles and maintained contact

If Type XXIs had appeared in large numbers in, say, 1943, and convoys across the Atlantic started taking unacceptable losses, developing such technologies would have been the highest, emergency-level national priority for Allied scientists, and would presumably have been introduced before too long. One would presumably have also seen earthquake bombs deployed against sub pens before they actually were.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by alecsandros » Wed Feb 06, 2013 6:13 am

LeopardTooth wrote:

If Type XXIs had appeared in large numbers in, say, 1943, and convoys across the Atlantic started taking unacceptable losses, developing such technologies would have been the highest, emergency-level national priority for Allied scientists, and would presumably have been introduced before too long. One would presumably have also seen earthquake bombs deployed against sub pens before they actually were.
But how far were those technologies from 1943 ?
It\s not a question of "if" the XXIs would be countered, but "when"... And if they manage to buy 6 months - 1 year, the war could take another turn.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by RF » Wed Feb 06, 2013 9:47 am

Ersatz Yorck wrote:The Arctic Convoys gave the KM something to do, as that was the only place German surface ships could or would operate after the Bismarck debacle. This inevitably drew the RN that way, as soon as they had ships to spare. Given that the proportion of supplies going to the Soviet Union via the arctic route was relatively small, one can almost feel a sort of unspoken understanding between the navies to concentrate on a less than vital theatre but the only arena they could meet. The RN obsession with sinking the Tirpitz, despite that she almost never left port and had hardly any fuel seems almost motivated by prestige.
This whole post is factually incorrect and presents a rather blase atitude to this theatre of operations. I would imagine that those who served on these convoys who are still alive today would find this blase atitude and ignorance offensive.

After May 1941 German surface warships operated in the North Sea, Baltic Sea, English Channel and in Biscay, while smaller vessels operated in the Med.

The Arctic convoys were not incidental or the means of using unemployed resources for both sides. They constituted major efforts for both sides. Allied aid in equipment and technology transfer was substantial and did help Soviet operations on the land front.
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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by alecsandros » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:00 am

RF wrote:
After May 1941 German surface warships operated in the North Sea, Baltic Sea, English Channel and in Biscay, while smaller vessels operated in the Med.
Maybe, but the only place were they actualy concetrated ships and actualy done something with them was NOrway.
The Arctic convoys were not incidental or the means of using unemployed resources for both sides. They constituted major efforts for both sides. Allied aid in equipment and technology transfer was substantial and did help Soviet operations on the land front.
I done some reading, it seems about ~ 25% of the total supplies brought through the Lend-Lease act were delivered through the northern route.

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Re: Could the Type XXI U-boat have won the war?

Post by RF » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:01 am

alecsandros wrote: The soviets had about ZERO chances of success against the germans without massive help from Britain and the USA.
I think this is opinion rather than fact.

The Soviet counter attack in December 1941 came without massive help from anybody. The Soviet five year plans had already established heavy industries outside the European USSR. The Germans did not have the manpower or logistics to advance east of Moscow or Stalingrad.
On their own the Soviets, having survived Barbarossa, and Hitler throwing away any opportunity of allies within the territory of the Soviet Union, would gradually have worn the Germans down in their own back yard and would have destroyed them by attrition and weight of numbers. It would have taken ten or more years to do so, but Nazi Germany was economically unsustainable in the long term, rather like apartheid South Africa (which changed peacefully because that unsustainability was recognised by the Boers). Hitlers verdict on 29 April 1945 was right - the Soviets had proved to be stronger than the Germans.
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