Updating the KGV class

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Byron Angel
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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by Byron Angel » Fri Apr 10, 2020 3:05 am

paul.mercer wrote:
Thu Apr 09, 2020 9:50 am
Gentlemen,
As always many thanks for your contributions to what is obviously a fairly controversial subject.
From what I can gather in my non technical mind it seems that the British 14" gun and the later shells were actually pretty good but they were let down by poor turret design. As has been mentioned earlier, the quad 14" was considerably heavier (by around 150 tons) than the triple 16", so going back to the subject of how many guns it was practicable to put on a KG within Treaty limits i wonder if sacrificing one gun and mounting 3x14" in triple turrets would, in the light of the problems experienced with the Quad design, been a better option?
As has been said in other posts, hitting at long range was very much a chance of luck, certainly in the earlier stages of WW2, at 20,00 or more yards a ship is very much a dot on the horizon, so in effect one is merely aiming at that dot and hoping to hit it somewhere, in all probability somewhere on the superstructure, which although armoured is less likely to withstand the impact of a heavy shell, in which case the more hits one gets 'on the top' the more likely that severe damage will be done to the radar, range finders and bridge personnel etc.therefore surely this in turn is more likely to incapacitate a ship than hull or deck penetrations, so perhaps more, but lighter shells was the real answer?
Hi Paul,
I would speculate that 3 x 14-in triple turrets would have been a viable alternative and the lighter weight of the triple turret versus the quadruple might have perhaps made for more reliable operation, which would have reduced the penalty of losing one gun from the main battery as built. But, with the original design plan calling for 3 x 14-inch quad turrets, it would be interesting to learn what drove the designers to embrace untried, never before manufactured quad turrets. Who or what was the driving force behind that decision?

Byron

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by wadinga » Fri Apr 10, 2020 9:57 am

Fellow Contributors,

Byron's question is highly valid and I think the answer is in the RN's pragmatic approach based on reverence for the "volume of fire" that served Nelson so well. Get in close and smother the opposition with shells and if we suffer heavy casualties, well, "we've got the ships and we've got the men and we've got the money too" as the Jingoistic song had it. This is why ammunition stowage constraints and anti-flash precautions were widely unofficially ignored before Jutland, to disastrous effect, merely to get the rate of fire up in the hope that means a higher number of hits.

The efforts of men like Percy Scott and Arthur Pollen to get a more organised scientific approach to gunnery was laudable, but always struggled against the "fire faster, spot the misses, correct empirically and get more hits that way".

Nothing illustrated this better than Bismarck with all its brand-new state of art interconnected integrated computational equipment, long baseline high mounted stereo rangefinders and range measuring multiple radars taking on Hood, still operating a fire control table unmodernised since 1919. The AVKS report includes many details of this hugely complex science based German control system. Why the fire control systems in RN warships, as relatively low cost systems requiring little in terms of major vessel reconstruction, could not be continually updated throughout the interwar period is the greatest mystery.

As with the NCs in the US, after the "battleship holiday", the KG Vs went through many, many radically different configurations as committees wrangled over the importance of various factors. Armament vs speed vs armour. Undoubtedly there were Senior Officers with considerable influence who wanted as many heavy guns as possible and 12 by 14" would theoretically produce a deluge of shells on and around the target. Engineering this reliably would be somebody else's problem.

Which of those proud British Naval engineers would stand up and say "we can't do what the French have already apparently done and the Americans say they will do"? Despite the crippling constraint of the Treaty they produced a compact, relatively lightweight design which was actually manufactured (unlike the US), and by all accounts worked considerably better, eventually, than the French units. The interlocks and enhanced anti-flash precautions were built to be incapable of disablement by over-enthusiastic crews so as to minimise the chances of the nightmare of Jutland being repeated.

The KG Vs had to get in the water as quickly as possible, and rethinking and re-engineering the design and thus generating delay could not be allowed to happen.

All the best in trouble times

wadinga


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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by Byron Angel » Fri Apr 10, 2020 6:49 pm

Another possible factor in the thinking that led to adoption of 14-in as the main battery weapon of the KGV class:
Assuming that these ships were intended primarily for operations in the North Atlantic, the typical ranges of weather, sea, visibility were certainly taken into account. The latitude of Scapa is just shy of the southern tip of Greenland. - those seas very often feature very difficult weather conditions with restricted visibility. It has been said that the average annual visibility in the North Sea was but seven sea miles (14,000 yards). If the overall likelihood in a selected area of operations is relatively short engagement ranges (say < 20,000 yards), a prudent designer would presumably take that factor into consideration when deciding upon a main battery gun best suited to the mission of the ship.

What guns did British designers have in the cupboard to choose from?

WEAPON - - - - - - - - - - - - -Gun Weight - - - Muzzle Velocity - - - Projectile
16-inch 45 caliber Mk I - - - 108 tons - - - - - - 2,600 f/s - - - - - - - APC 2,048 lbs 6crh
15-inch 45 caliber Mk II - - - 97 tons - - - - - - 2,510 f/s - - - - - - - APC 1,935 lbs, 5/10crh
14-inch 45 caliber Mk VII - - 79 tons - - - - - - 2,484 f/s - - - - - - - APC 1,590 lbs, 6/12crh

The 16-inch 45 caliber Mk I gun alone was 30 tons heavier than the 14-inch Mk VII even before the additional mounting weights and dimensions were taken into consideration; it also had shown itself (according to Navweaps) to have been a bit of an operational problem child as a result of its relatively high MV.

The 15-inch 45 caliber Mk II gun was somewhat lighter than the 16-inch Mk I, but was still 20 tons heavier than the 14-inch Mk VII gun before accounting for its mount weight and dimension penalties. Nevertheless, it was likely the only other realistic option for the designers of the KGV class. Would the superior ballistic performance of the 15-inch Mk II have justified its adoption? It appears (once again courtesy of Navweaps) that the ballistic performance of the 14-inch 1,590 lb 6/12crh were actually equivalent to that of the 15-inch 1,938 lb 5/10crh. As well, the 14-inch APC projectile carried EXACTLY the same burster weight - 48.5 lbs - as the 15-inch round. Coincidence? I'll let you decide.

I'm not going to get into armor penetration comparisons between the two rounds, as I can find no really reliable "like for like" data.

Conclusion? Adoption of the 14-inch Mk VII as the main battery gun for the KGV class was a very sensible decision, as was later confirmed by events. The gun mountings ..... were another story.


Byron

paul.mercer
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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by paul.mercer » Sat Apr 11, 2020 9:23 am

Byron, Wadinga
Many thanks for your constructive replies,I think this goes along way into settling some of the arguments around the KGV class that have been featured in this Forum for years, it seems that they were not too bad a design after all and if all the guns were working as they should the were in fact a match for any enemy ship that was around at the time- including Bismarck.
One small thing that still puzzles me is Byron 's chart of striking velocity, it seems that most shells when fired at around 2500 fps lost about 1000 fps or so by the time that they hit at a given range, which makes me wonder why there are claims that Bismark's armour was not penetrated by either the 14 or 16" shells which at point blank range of around 4000 yrds in the final stages of the battle must have been still travelling at fairly close to their muzzle velocity. We know from the pictures and description of the wreck that most of the upper works were completely destroyed, but when firing from a low angle at close range, some must have stuck the hull but the holes are now either below the mud line or the cameras were not capable of exploring deep into any holes above the mud line. i just find it a bit difficult to believe that a 16" shell weighing about a ton and still moving at probably around 2000 fps would not penetrate Bismarck's amour and I sometimes wonder if this myth of invincibility of what was admittedly a very fine ship has grown from her supporters refusing to admit that she had any faults and was practically unsinkable ( a bit like Titanic in fact!).

paul.mercer
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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by paul.mercer » Sat Apr 11, 2020 10:05 pm

paul.mercer wrote:
Sat Apr 11, 2020 9:23 am
Byron, Wadinga and everyone,
Many thanks for your constructive replies,I think this goes along way into settling some of the arguments around the KGV class that have been featured in this Forum for years, it seems that they were not too bad a design after all and if all the guns were working as they should the were in fact a match for any enemy ship that was around at the time- including Bismarck.
One small thing that still puzzles me is Byron 's chart of striking velocity, it seems that most shells when fired at around 2500 fps lost about 1000 fps or so by the time that they hit at a given range, which makes me wonder why there are claims that Bismark's armour was not penetrated by either the 14 or 16" shells which at point blank range of around 4000 yrds in the final stages of the battle must have been still travelling at fairly close to their muzzle velocity. We know from the pictures and description of the wreck that most of the upper works were completely destroyed, but when firing from a low angle at close range, some must have stuck the hull but the holes are now either below the mud line or the cameras were not capable of exploring deep into any holes above the mud line. i just find it a bit difficult to believe that a 16" shell weighing about a ton and still moving at probably around 2000 fps would not penetrate Bismarck's amour and I sometimes wonder if this myth of invincibility of what was admittedly a very fine ship has grown from her supporters refusing to admit that she had any faults and was practically unsinkable (a bit like Titanic in fact!).
As an afterthought, As I understand that Bill has actually visited the ship and inspected the damage at least as far as he could see, perhaps he would like to make a comment?

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by Bill Jurens » Sun Apr 12, 2020 4:26 am

My examination of the wreck of Bismarck was quite detailed and -- as might be expected -- I spent a good deal of time looking for specific instances of belt penetrations, etc. There were, in fact, very few of those -- as I recall, two to port and two to starboard. Curiously, the small number of large-caliber hits on the belt seems to be a result of the extremely short ranges at which the British engaged. As angles of fall at these ranges were very small, i.e. because the shell was travelling quite close to horizontally throughout, it appears that most projectiles that were aimed at the hull ended up being intercepted by waves en-route, subsequently ricocheting afterwards and either passing above Bismarck or intercepting the superstructures fairly high up often at odd angles of impact so that fuse action was problematical. There are a lot of light-caliber impacts on the side belt, probably because the lighter shells were travelling along a somewhat more highly-curved trajectory, thus striking with a somewhat higher angle of fall and passing above the wave tops. I did want to include a discussion of this in the recent book, but it turned out that space and time did not permit its insertion.

Bill Jurens

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by paul.mercer » Sun Apr 12, 2020 9:54 am

Many thanks Bill,
In your last sentence you said:
"I did want to include a discussion of this in the recent book, but it turned out that space and time did not permit its insertion."
Can we dare to hope that this is a gentle hint that a second or revised book will be published at a later date?
Also, what is your opinion of the KG class and could they have benefited from a different gun turret and calibre arrangement?

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by Byron Angel » Sun Apr 12, 2020 4:07 pm

Hi Paul,
Just an aside regarding your question about claims of invulnerability for Bismarck's main vertical belt. I do not believe that anyone has actually made a serious claim that Bismarck's vertical main belt was invulnerable to penetration. Given that her belt was <13 inches, such an assertion would be unsupportable.

The assessment of "invulnerability" revolved around the overall degree of protection from side hits afforded to Bismarck's vitals by the combination of her vertical belt plus the very shallowly inclined (20 - 30deg from horizontal?) 4 inch "scarp" (created by the downward slope of her armored deck to meet the lower edge of the vertical belt. Nathan Okun did a detailed technical analysis on this design feature and concluded that no known AP projectile of the era could have successfully defeated both the belt and the scarp behind at any realistic velocity.

FWIW.

B

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by Bill Jurens » Sun Apr 12, 2020 5:39 pm

Mr Mercer asked:

"Can we dare to hope that this is a gentle hint that a second or revised book will be published at a later date?

I somewhat doubt that a second edition will be published, first, because it would take a good deal of work to get the editorial team back together again for any extended further work, and secondly because, as time goes on and veterans (and veterans' sons...) pass on, interest in World War II issues tend to wane. I would like to do another book on this ship, which would be much more technical in nature, but have quite a few other irons in the fire right now, and -- as I age -- my energy tends to wane as well...

"Also, what is your opinion of the KG class and could they have benefited from a different gun turret and calibre arrangement?"

I have long since passed the point of trying to establish the relative qualities of various ships in any sort of realistic and objective manner. Truly egregious blunders aside -- and these were rare -- It's a bit like comparing automobiles -- what's the 'best' (or better) for me is not necessarily the best (or better) for you. A smaller navy may have nominalized its designs to produce ships that were more capable of working alone and nominalized to engage one or more ships from larger opposing navies simultaneously whereas a larger navy may have nominalized its ships so as to always be working in consort, concentrating on a fewer number of opposing vessels. And, of course, the designers are always trying to create a design which fits political values -- the government holds the purse strings -- while at the same time trying to sort out exactly what set of tactical circumstances MIGHT be actually encountered in action, as opposed to what sort actually WOULD be encountered in action. This requires a crystal ball, which at best is fairly foggy because one's opponents will, of course, be trying to arrange things so that the tactical situation you have designed for will not, if possible, actually take place.

So, the short answer is; Yes, the KGV could have benefited from a different gun turret and caliber arrangement, provided that new arrangement better fitted the tactical requirements of the action to be fought. It's easy to, after the fact, comment that a different arrangement might have been better, but the quality of the arrangement and caliber largely reflects the degree to which the tactical situation that was encountered in real life matched that aimed for by the designers. When KGV was sunk, her best arrangement of gun mounts and caliber probably would have been to have no 14" guns at all, and to have equipped the ship only with huge amounts of anti-aircraft batteries...

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by Bill Jurens » Sun Apr 12, 2020 6:24 pm

Mr. Angel commented on some aspects of Bismarck's alleged invulnerability ballistic penetration of the side protection system, or at least that portion of the system expressed above the waterline. Cogent observations.

I want to emphasize at the outset that although this reply is being posted in response to one of Mr. Angel's comments, it is not intended to be argumentative in any way or to suggest that his comment was other than entirely clear and well-thought out. The observations are both valuable and valid.

Insofar as the subject does refer to armor penetration and arrangment however, I do want to take the time to caution readers against over-emphasizing the degree to which the geometric arrangement of armor might have on the practical resistance of the ship to damage in action, particularly when the precise nature of the attacking weapon may be problematical, and recognizing that there are trade-offs involved in determining exactly where and how the energy delivered by an attacking weapon might be most favorably dissipated on the target, at least as seen from the receiving end. There is a tendency to believe that battleship designers spent many sleepless hours agonizing about the precise arrangements of the armor suite of the battleship(s) they were designing, and that it represented a very high priority in the design scenario. It did not. Although protection was always an important item on the table, the arrangement of the armor suite was just one factor to be taken into account in producing a suitable design. ONE factor, not THE factor...

The extensive discussion in the secondary literature revolving around so-called 'immune zones' and 'all-or-nothing' protective schemes, while interesting represents only one aspect of overall design. Why are there no equivalent discussions revolving around messing arrangements? Not because these were not of equal importance to the designer, but because they were not of equal interest to those preparing the secondary literature. Yet messing arrangements -- to take just one example -- were very important indeed. Changing from individual messes to 'cafeteria-style' messing, for example, created huge changes in the way the internals of ships were laid out, and in at least one case of which I am aware, significantly reduced the amount of health issues experienced by the crew. But one never hears of this...

It is quite commonly assumed that protection of the so-called 'vitals' was always to be chosen insofar as damage to other areas, affecting different systems, would have been seen to be, overall, of lesser consequence. This ignores the concept that the 'vitals' concerns more than the mechanical components comprising the ordnance and engineering plants, but actually involves a number of other 'vital' concepts as well, such as the necessity to retain stability. In the case of Bismarck, the two-part 'belt and slope' system did probably save weight, but meant that flooding inboard of the outer belt would be more common, and that projectiles penetrating the thinner main belt would thereafter expend their energy on the ship's internals. Protecting the engineering spaces directly via a slope prevented penetration into those areas, but meant that the energy of the penetrating projectile was necessarily expended above the slope, damaging other structures, and -- by allowing penetrations of the relatively light bulkheads above -- decrease the ship's watertight integrity, reserve buoyancy, and stability.

So the question then becomes: Once the projectile encounters the slope, is it better to allow it to penetrate into the engineering spaces (to take one example) and perhaps disable one boiler-room, or would it be more beneficial to deflect the projectile upward into the ship's superstructure and have it reduce watertight integrity and perhaps start fires above the armored deck while keeping that one additional boiler online. As an alternative, is it better to simply thicken the outer belt so that the projectile doesn't make it through the first barrier in the first place?

These are not easy problems to solve, especially when one must keep in mind that a good deal depends upon circumstance. In some situations, keeping that one boiler on-line might allow the ship sufficient additional power to 'keep the lights on' in a few additional compartments where other damage-control efforts might prevent the ship from capsizing, or at least listing so much that the main armament can no longer engage. In other situations, one might be better off simply loosing that one boiler, perhaps reducing the overall casualty count, and maintaining watertight integrity above the slopes so the ship isn't in danger of loosing stability in the first place.

My apologies for the perhaps somewhat off-topic rant here. Perhaps COVID-19 isolation issues are beginning to affect my thinking processes...

Bill Jurens

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by paul.mercer » Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:36 am

Bill
Many thanks indeed for all your replies on this topic,I suppose we have all concentrated perhaps a little too much on the armour and armament on battleships and have not taken all the other important items such as messing arrangements, fuel,food and water storage etc.all of which had to be taken into account by the ships designers. i think the comment from the Admiral on KGV '"Cannot sink her with gunfire" has also contributed to the myth Bismarck's supposed invulnerability.
In the final part of your post you said, "Perhaps COVID-19 isolation issues are beginning to affect my thinking processes..."
I'm beginning to think that In these troubled times it is perhaps affecting us all, particularly when we are under 'lockdown' for most of the day.
So Keep well and keep safe everyone, it can't last for ever!

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by Francis Marliere » Mon Apr 13, 2020 10:26 am

Bill,

thanks for this very interesting comments. Feel free to elaborate if you wish.

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by Bill Jurens » Mon Apr 13, 2020 3:59 pm

My thanks for the comments.

To elaborate just a bit, and perhaps at the cost of some redundancy, what's not often fully appreciated is that in some cases -- perhaps many -- the outcome is decided at least as much by the qualities of the crew manning the guns and working the ship than the qualities of the armor and the guns, i.e. many battles are is in effect 'won' a fair time before combat occurs.

A designer might make quite an investment in weight in order to give the crew better living conditions, for example, which could mean that the crew was -- at least compared to that of its opponent -- was relatively well-fed, rested, and healthy. Cleanliness was important, and one very experienced designer once said that one quite important consideration in his viewpoint was 'how far is it to the head?", as a crew with easy access thereto would overall be healthier and more efficient than one where trips to the heads, as required, were less frequent and pleasant.

So, on fixed displacement, one might ask how many of inches of armor, or how many guns, might one sacrifice to purchase a relatively well-fed and well-rested crew?

Bill Jurens

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by paul.mercer » Tue Apr 14, 2020 9:26 am

Thanks Bill,
That's a very interesting point.
Would it be fair to say that the RN ships were perhaps more open with their accommodation as they had to spend much longer at sea than other nations like Germany, who mainly concentrated on sending ships on relatively short raiding missions and therefore could concentrate more on armour etc- although the 'Pocket Battleships did tend to venture further afield?

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by Bill Jurens » Wed Apr 15, 2020 2:37 am

This is an observation that has been made many times before, and may -- or may not -- have much validity. British warships almost certainly did have to provide methods of accommodation that would be compatible for long-sea voyages to remote outposts in the Empire, whereas the Germans probably did not have to worry about this as much. Although this may have made some difference if German and British ships were engaging in mid-Pacific, the comparison for Atlantic operations fairly close to the British Isles would be, I think, somewhat more problematical, as both navies would likely have been participating in relatively short-range operations and fatigue etc. might not play as great a part. The British, however, would probably gain some advantage in endurance, i.e. in the ability to remain at sea for rather longer periods, at perhaps some cost in other areas, as it's really a 'zero-sum-game". How important these sorts of things might have been tactically remains -- at least in my opinion -- somewhat speculative at best.

Unfortunately, many of these things represent areas where decisions were quite often made 'off the record', not in order to obscure the situations involved in any way but simply because the minutes of various meetings -- as most of us know from actual experience -- often capture only a very small fraction -- and not necessarily a representative fraction -- of the overall discussions. By historical coincidence, there are very good examples of this existent in USN records, where one can compare the minutes of meetings of the General Board with the actual transcripts of what was said. (Some lacunae remain as about 5-10 percent of even the word-for-word transcripts were kept 'in camera' from any record at all, but the vast majority of the discussions remain essentially intact.

These word-for-word transcripts did enable me to understand more clearly how decisions on various armor arrangements were actually made, as opposed to how the results were presented in the minutes, which are usually (and fairly legitimately) considered the best primary source material. The actual transcripts often reveal that the senior designers really didn't obsess nearly as much about armor thickness and immune zones etc., as some researchers feel they did.

Bill Jurens

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