Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

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aurora
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Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by aurora » Fri Dec 19, 2014 11:32 am

BATTLE OF CAPE ST GEORGE

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Situation was pretty simple: After American forces landed on Bougainville, Japanese navy switched the end station of a famous "Tokyo Express" - supplies delivered by fast destroyers under the cover of night - to this island. In previous months this did lead to several engagements, in which IJN often dealt significant damage (for example at the Battle of Tassafaronga), thanks to the superior night fighting training and the feared "Long Lance" torpedoes, as well as mistakes in coordination on the US side.

On this fateful night, though, the tables were about to be turned. The force of three transport destroyers ( Fubuki class: Amagiri, Yūgiri; Mutsuki Class: Uzuki; note: Unlike US specialised transport DDs, IJN used line destroyers most of the time, often discarding torpedo reloads, but otherwise fully armed), escorted by two destroyers carrying no cargo (Yugumo class: Ōnami and Makinami) was spotted in time and DesRon 23 was redirected to intercept.

Destroyer Squadron 23 composed of a quintet of Fletcher class destroyers: Charles Ausburne, Claxton, Dyson, Converse, and Spence. Commanded by Captain Arleigh Burke on Charles Ausburne, the squadron was well trained and well coordinated, but also lead to independent action - a point Burke was rather strict on based on his experience from previous engagement, where his hesitation with giving order to fire caused a certain confusion.

While DesRon23 was limited in speed to 31 knots by a burst boiler on USS Spence, it managed to intercept the IJN convoy on return trip from Bougainville. In a remarkable feat, not only were the US destroyers able to detect IJN ships y radar long before being detected - they managed to close in to torpedo range and fire off a salvo of torpedoes before Japanese lookouts spotted them - given the limited range of US torpedoes, this was most unusual.

The initial salvo was devastating. Both escorts were hit - Onami by several torpedoes and sunk instantly, Makinami was hit by one torpedo and disabled. The trio of transport destroyers tried to retreat at a high speed and Burke had to divide his forces - Spence and Converse were left behind to sink the burning Makinami, while remaining destroyers squeezed the most out of their engines. Even while crippled, Makinami was not an easy prey - USS Converse was hit by a torpedo and only by a lucky coincidence escaped damage, when the torpedo did not explode.

A prolonged tail chase ensued, in which both Fubukis tried to fend off the attackers with well aimed - but unlucky - salvos of gunfire (AAR mentioned that there were two inches of water on the bridge of USS Claxton, caused by near misses). In the end, Japanese group separated - and so did the fire of pursuing US destroyers. However while the two-ship group (Amagiri and Uzuki) was target for only USS Claxton, remaining two US destroyers concentrated on a single target - Yugiri. After the other two ships managed to escape, Claxton rejoined her sister ships and while there were no reported effects of gunfire (such as fires or explosions), after numerous hits Yugiri sunk. Its prolonged resistance however allowed Amagiri and Uzuki to escape to Rabaul without further damage.

As the entire Solomons campaign was drawing to an end, with most islands being taken or isolated and Rabaul being cut off, this was the last surface action in the area. Commander of DesRon23, Arleigh Burke, proved with his crews that his basic rule of aggressive independent action was right and he went on to advance in the Navy to the post of Chief of naval Operations.
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Jim

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Re: Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by Steve Crandell » Fri Dec 19, 2014 3:31 pm

I believe that was the first time in the entire campaign where US destroyer torpedoes worked, and that they set the depth to 5 feet, the minimum setting. They had finally learned that they ran much deeper than what they were set for.

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Re: Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by aurora » Fri Dec 19, 2014 4:31 pm

Agreed Steve-- however Burke did not prevent the Japanese from landing their reinforcements,or evacuating the bulk of the aviation personnel,he did oversee the sinking of three Japanese destroyers- without loss to themselves in creditable fashion-in a surprise torpedo attack-the Biter was bitten for once.On the other hand he had underused Austin's Division of DesRon 23,The two Fubuki's- Amagiri and Uzuki could have had their escape blocked off by his intervention; and possibly sunk these two as well :shock:
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Re: Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by Dod Grile » Fri Dec 19, 2014 8:50 pm

I didn't know our DDs fired torpedoes which were the same type as those trouble-plagued submarine fish...

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Re: Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by Garyt » Fri Dec 19, 2014 10:04 pm

I didn't know our DDs fired torpedoes which were the same type as those trouble-plagued submarine fish...
I think our aerial torpedoes were OK, but the Sub and DD ones were the terrible ones.

Our aerial torpedoes could not be launched from as fast of a moving plane or from the same altitude as Japanese aerial torpedoes, but otherwise I think they worked OK, though I think we corrected this problem with our aerial torpedoes by mid war.

Actually, the speed at which Japanese aerial torpedoes could be launched caused US anti aircraft some difficulty, as we thought the torpedo bombers would have to be moving a fair amount slower, and this incorrect calculation caused some problems in the firing solutions when firing on the "Kate" torpedo bombers.

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Re: Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by Steve Crandell » Fri Dec 19, 2014 11:00 pm

US aircraft used Mark 13 torpedoes, and they were also used by USN MTBs.
US submarines used Mark 14 torpedoes.
US destroyers used Mark 15 torpedoes.

ALL had serious defects. Mark 13 torpedoes were simply unreliable. In one test, only about 1/3 of them ran normally. I believe that pretty much all air dropped torpedoes of all nations had to be dropped low and slow, but most were more reliable than the USN Mark 13s. I'm ready to be corrected on that last.

Mark 14 and Mark 15 torpedoes had other problems, but the two marks experienced similar defects to each other. They ran too deep and had defective contact and magnetic fuses.

All of the above problems were eventually corrected, and late war Mark 13 torpedoes could be dropped successfully from 2400 feet and 410 kts airspeed.

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Re: Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by Garyt » Sat Dec 20, 2014 12:18 am

From Navweaps:
with a mid-1943 analysis of 105 torpedoes dropped at speeds in excess of 150 knots found that 36 percent ran cold (did not start), 20 percent sank, 20 percent had poor deflection performance, 18 percent gave unsatisfactory depth performance, 2 percent ran on the surface and only 31 percent gave a satisfactory run. The total exceeds 100 percent as many torpedoes had more than one defect. The early models were further handicapped by the need to drop them low and slow - typically 50 feet (15 m) and 110 knots - which made the torpedo planes carrying them vulnerable to attack.
From Wikepedia (Yeah, it's Wikepedia, but it corresponds with other info I have read on Japanese Torpedoes that I do not have at the tip of my fingers):
In August 1941, Japanese aviators were practicing dropping torpedoes in the shallow waters of Kagoshima Bay, testing improvements in the Type 91 torpedo and developing tactics for the attack of ships in harbor. They discovered that the Nakajima B5N torpedo bomber could fly 160 knots (296 km/h; 184 mph), somewhat faster than expected, without the torpedoes striking the bottom of the bay 100 feet (30 m) down. On December 7, 1941, the leading wave—40 B5N torpedo bombers—used the tactic to score more than 15 hits during the
The Japanese had studied the attack on Taranto and had practiced dropping specially modified Type 91 torpedoes in the shallow waters of Japan's Inland Sea. The Type 91 torpedo was considerably more capable than any others in the world at that time, being very fast and reliable, as well as allowing a much higher launch speed from a much greater altitude than other types.
So the Kates could drop at 160 knots, US torpedoes could not be dropped in speeds of excess of 110 knots and be expected to work at all well. Quite a difference. I cannot find the exact height the 91's could be dropped at right now, but it was certainly higher. Much had to do with how fragile the components of the torpedo were.

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Re: Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by aurora » Sat Dec 20, 2014 10:14 am

The American torpedo problem was compounded by RAdm Robert English, at Pearl Harbor, and RAdm Ralph Christie, in Australia. Christie had worked on the Mark-6 exploder at Newport, and was convinced that it worked. He presumed that any problems came from poor maintenance or other user error. And it wasn't until English died in a California plane crash, and Lockwood took over at Pearl, that anyone would really listen to the commanders. Lockwood allowed the magnetic exploders to be deactivated on Pearl Harbor boats, though Christie persisted in mandating their use for a while longer.

But there was a third part of the problem. Because the captains had been under orders to use the magnetic exploder, and had been setting their torpedoes to run the required five feet under their targets, few of them had had the opportunity to realize that that contact exploder was also defective.

Now, time after time, a perfect shot would send a torpedo squarely into the side of a target, only to have it fail to explode. It might punch a hole in the side of a freighter, but most likely not something that couldn't be repaired at sea. And with a warship, made of thicker steel, it might do nothing more than cause a small dent.Curiously, bad shots, made at extreme angles, where the torpedo hit the target at an oblique angle instead of square, very often resulted in the warhead detonating and the target going down.

Lockwood ordered more tests. Swede Momsen suggested firing live torpedoes at the cliffs on Kahoolawe, which rose vertically from the sea. Three torpedoes were fired from U.S.S. Muskallunge, with the third failing to explode. Navy diver John Kelly found the dud and swam down to attach a line. The torpedo was hauled aboard the rescue/salvage vessel Widgeon and returned to Pearl Harbor, where it was taken apart.

It was found that the contact mechanism, built to essentially the same standards as that in the slower Mark-10 torpedo, had failed under the greater impact of the much faster Mark-14. Instead of striking the primer, the firing pin had bent and jammed in the guides, which had also distorted. More tests were made, this time by dropping dummy warheads fitted with live exploders onto steel plates from a height of 90 feet, confirming the diagnosis.

Once understood, the problem was fairly easy to fix. New firing pins were machined from a light, high-strength aluminum alloy—the metal reportedly came from the propellers of Japanese fighters shot down during the Pearl Harbor raid—and the guides were strengthened, so that they would hold up long enough for the firing pin to strike the primer and detonate the warhead. This "PHM" (Pearl Harbor Modification) was fitted to all the torpedoes in the inventory, and the changes incorporated into new production.After that, the Mark-14 torpedo suddenly became a model of reliability, and sinkings finally did soar.
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Re: Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by Steve Crandell » Sat Dec 20, 2014 1:40 pm

There was still the problem with them running too deep, but once it was realized (which took all too long) that could be solved by simply setting torpedoes much shallower than normally indicated. Of course, that could also result in large ships being hit much higher on their hull than was optimal.

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Re: Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by aurora » Sat Dec 20, 2014 1:55 pm

Steve Crandell wrote:There was still the problem with them running too deep, but once it was realized (which took all too long) that could be solved by simply setting torpedoes much shallower than normally indicated. Of course, that could also result in large ships being hit much higher on their hull than was optimal.
Surely Steve-the torpedo's running depth could be set for INDIVIDUAL targets-shallow for a destroyer and much lower for a CV or BB.I confess to making a guess at this and not at all certain- what the capabilities of adjusting depth settings- were on board ship :?: :?:
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Re: Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by Steve Crandell » Sat Dec 20, 2014 3:58 pm

aurora wrote:
Steve Crandell wrote:There was still the problem with them running too deep, but once it was realized (which took all too long) that could be solved by simply setting torpedoes much shallower than normally indicated. Of course, that could also result in large ships being hit much higher on their hull than was optimal.
Surely Steve-the torpedo's running depth could be set for INDIVIDUAL targets-shallow for a destroyer and much lower for a CV or BB.I confess to making a guess at this and not at all certain- what the capabilities of adjusting depth settings- were on board ship :?: :?:
They could adjust them with no problem. The problem was guessing what the appropriate setting was. For example, in the above mentioned attack on the IJN destroyers, the US crews set the depth to the shallowest setting possible on their torpedoes, which as IIRC FIVE FEET, which would be almost guaranteed to cause broaching if the torpedo actually ran at that depth. I don't think they knew what depth it actually ran at ... just that it turned out to be shallow enough to hit the destroyers they were attacking.

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Re: Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by aurora » Sat Dec 20, 2014 4:17 pm

But surely Steve, skippers of DD's (and Subs) would have on board-the details of any ship's displacement and how much of the hull was under water; to assist them with setting a torpedo's depth of run-I agree there was bound to be guesswork at first; but their results would dictate the success or failure of any previous prediction :think: :think:
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Re: Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by Steve Crandell » Sat Dec 20, 2014 6:10 pm

aurora wrote:But surely Steve, skippers of DD's (and Subs) would have on board-the details of any ship's displacement and how much of the hull was under water; to assist them with setting a torpedo's depth of run-I agree there was bound to be guesswork at first; but their results would dictate the success or failure of any previous prediction :think: :think:
I'm not sure you understand. They knew what depth the torpedo should run against various targets. What they didn't know was the depth the torpedo was going to run when they set it for a given depth.

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Re: Fletcher v Fubuki Class Destroyer Battle

Post by aurora » Sat Dec 20, 2014 6:30 pm

Ah! I see the torpedoes were still maverick but By August 1942, the faulty running depth situation was in hand and submarines were getting more hits with the Mark 14. However, curing the deep-running problem caused more prematures and duds, as more hits were being achieved. The number of sinkings did not rise.

A more serious reason for the torpedoes running deep was hydrodynamic flow effect on the torpedo's depth sensor. The pressure tap for the torpedo had been placed in the rear cone section where the measured pressure would be substantially lower than hydrostatic depth while the torpedo was moving through the water.

The torpedo's depth control engine was therefore given erroneously shallow depth indication and responded by trimming the torpedo to run deeper. This was finally addressed in the last half of 1943 by relocating the sensor point to the midbody of the torpedo where hydrodynamic effects were minimized.
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