Battleship Bismarck: A Design and Operational History

Discussions about the history of the ship, technical details, etc.

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Re: Battleship Bismarck: A Design and Operational History

Post by pasoleati » Sat Jul 27, 2019 8:03 pm

Does the book discuss why Germans adopted 3-shaft propulsion? In detail discussing prod and cons.

I think the way to accommodate everyone's wishes would have been a two-volume set. One volume concentrating on the design and engineering while the other on operations. Those not interested in machinery etc. could have chosen the second volume only.

BTW, I have the book on order...

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Re: Battleship Bismarck: A Design and Operational History

Post by marcelo_malara » Sat Jul 27, 2019 8:17 pm

To be fair, the only instance I know of warship machinery described in absolute detail is an article of WI, Vol 41 Issue 4, 2004, titled "The machinery arrangement of USS Massachusetss", about 60 pages of description, diagrams, plans and photos, etc...For the technically minded and with knowledge of physics and thermodynamics.


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Re: Battleship Bismarck: A Design and Operational History

Post by RobertsonN » Sat Aug 03, 2019 1:07 pm

My main criticism of this book so far in reading it has been the lack of German evaluations of the ship, particularly in relation to foreign ships.

I have now come across some comment on this subject, although it is brief and made in passing in the operational history sections. The authors make no comment or evaluation of this German assessment. It is stated that both Raedar and Lutjens considered the Bismarck was superior to any British ship in both firepower and staying power.

This assessment might seem odd in relation to Nelson which had a nominally heavier main armament and near identical secondary armament. However, in the comparison of Bismarck with Nelson in Gkdos100 for a given MPI on-target assumption the Bismarck was thought to achieve about 20% more hits with its main armament than Nelson. The Germans thought the muzzle velocity of the British 16 in gun was 840 m/s. This would have given it a bigger danger space than the actual weapon but likely a greater dispersion. Consequently, the faulty information about muzzle velocity did not necessarily invalidate this comparison.

Santarini in his book about Bismarck and Hood gives a definition of initial staying power as

SP = speed(knts) x sq rt(full load displacement(t) x weight of armor (t)).

This might apply to ships of a given vintage. More generally, staying power might be considered to consist of firepower, F/C capacity, ammunition, speed, range, electric generating capacity, stores/food, buoyancy, stability, list and trim. Some of these quantities would inevitably fall during the course of a cruise without any effects of enemy action and others might be reduced by enemy action. In fact, Lutjen's orders gave priority to maintaining as far as possible sea worthiness and in conserving ammunition (by sinking merchant ships at close range using mainly 5.9 and 4.1 in guns). A factor in the scutling of Graf Spee was her limited remaining amount of ammunition. The German heavy cruisers were considered wanting in both range and ammunition capacity.

Many of the factors listed above for staying power would increase with displacement, which forms some justification for the inclusion of full load displacement in the formula for staying power given above by Santarini.

The lack of any real discussion in the book about staying power and its particular importance is perhaps a missed opportunity by the authors,

Neil Robertson

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Re: Battleship Bismarck: A Design and Operational History

Post by Bill Jurens » Sat Aug 03, 2019 5:25 pm

There have been, over the years, a large number of attempts to in some way calculate or quantify things like the 'staying power' of a ship. Some attempts concentrate on offensive capabilities, others on defensive capabilities, i.e. essentially resistance to damage, and others on some combination of the two, often with other characteristics added. Usually, these are rather informally known as 'fighting strength' calculations, i.e. attempts to quantify the relationship(s) between one's own real or proposed designs and those of one's potential adversaries.

I know of none of these which are entirely satisfactory. Some issues, e.g. the offensive capabilities of the ordnance installed are fairly easily quantified, whilst others, e.g. the precise relationship -- assuming that one exists in the first place -- between hits received and the associated degradation in performance are, at best, somewhat problematical, and can at worst be seen to be essentially intractable.

Further, there is often no way to determine exactly what combination of characteristics -- usually broken down rather simplistically into 'speed', 'armament', and 'armor' represents the ideal. Each nation will, depending upon strategical and tactical circumstance, weight these somewhat differently. Further, this sort of 'iron triangle' analysis intentionally or otherwise tends to omit a variety of other issues -- range, machinery reliability, and habitability, for example -- which are also very important. In many cases the algorithms presented have been created or doctored in order to demonstrate the superiority of a previously-derived (and somewhat arbitrary) determined model.

The main difficulty in attempting comparisons between various battleships built by different nations revolves around determining which choices were tactically i.e. 'client' driven (e.g. number of guns) vs choices that were made based on purely engineering considerations (e.g. the manufacturer of the main circulating pumps), whilst at the same time not ending up writing a textbook on naval architecture, which would tend to under-emphasize the more political aspects of the design problem.

There remains a broad 'grey area' between problem-solving textbooks on naval architecture, which tend to be filled with what are to most somewhat intimidating equations, and more generalized accounts which deal with political and tactical issues whilst ignoring most technical design issues (e.g. propeller design) almost entirely. It's a tough middle-ground to identify, and an even tougher ground to occupy as an author. In that regard, for readers wishing a general and not-to-intimidating treatment of the battleship design process as a whole, I'd recommend Norman Friedman's 'Battleship Design and Development 1905-1945'. A slim volume, but one which should be in every enthusiast's library.

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Re: Battleship Bismarck: A Design and Operational History

Post by RobertsonN » Sun Aug 11, 2019 4:05 pm

I am now close to the end of this book, having started on June 25.

The authors remark that there was difficulty in damaging Bismarck at very close range because of the sea state. Waves were six to eight meters high. This would have meant that under a range of 5000 m, the last 100+ m of the shell trajectory would have been below wave height. The greater resistance of passing through water would have slowed shells down, perhaps appreciably.

One of the features of the wreck is the low number of penetrations of the upper belt. This contrasts with the side of Graf Spee after the Battle of the River Plate, which was holed mainly by splinters in many places. The authors do not say this but it seems likely that the Bismarck would have capsized and sank much earlier, possibly soon after 09.30 when the port list had brought the upper deck level with the sea surface, had it not been for the upper belt. Otherwise, the side of the hull here would have been shredded under the impact of penetrating 8 in, 6 in and even 5.25 in hits,

Neil Robertson

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