Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

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

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reniwqwil5
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Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by reniwqwil5 » Thu Jul 30, 2020 1:03 pm

Often times, I hear people (Probably fans of the ship) praise it so much for its reputation of sinking the Hood and taking a lot of punishment during its final battle.

Some people even go as far as to say it was *the* best battleship of its time. But is the Bismarck really that good? Was it deserving of its reputation? How did it compare to other similar ships and what were its major flaws?

Steve Crandell
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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by Steve Crandell » Sat Aug 01, 2020 7:23 pm

I don't think it had any major flaws, but it was a compromise like all BBs were, reflecting the design philosophy of the Germans. They had very heavily damaged ships make it back to port during WWI, and I think the Bismarck design emphasized the ability to stay afloat after absorbing a lot of punishment. I think they succeeded in that, but once a ship's weapon systems are rendered inoperable it's likely to sink eventually anyway, as shown in Bismarck's last battle. With respect to her fire control and weapons she wasn't really any better protected than anyone else. I think that was the inevitable weak link in all battleships.

OpanaPointer
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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by OpanaPointer » Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:27 am

Verily. Compromises are the fact of life. Protection + Mobility + Defense = 1. No truly 1/3 + 1/3 + 1/3 warships out there? Even if there are, is that a good idea?

Thorsten Wahl
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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by Thorsten Wahl » Sun Aug 02, 2020 5:56 pm

Bismarck Hull Construction.jpg
Bismarck Hull Construction.jpg (91.14 KiB) Viewed 104 times
Meine Herren, es kann ein siebenjähriger, es kann ein dreißigjähriger Krieg werden – und wehe dem, der zuerst die Lunte in das Pulverfaß schleudert!

RobertsonN
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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by RobertsonN » Wed Aug 05, 2020 11:40 am

A related question, which is perhaps easier to answer was: Was Bismarck well suited to its design requirements? Each nation had its own requirements and, as others have pointed out more of one characteristic inevitably meant less of another. The weights devoted to each of the following: hull, fuel capacity, speed, armament and protection add up to the full load displacement. In addition, the individual components each break down into a number of sub-components. For example, armament breaks down into main armament, secondary armament and AA armament. Protection breaks down into close range, long range and underwater. Another aspect, often neglected, was when exactly in time a comparison is made. For example, the light AA armament of US ships was far inferior in 1941 to what it was by 1943.

In the case of Bismarck, in comparison with the ships of other nations, there was a requirement to operate on their own. To meet this, German ships had a relatively high speed, to avoid action if necessary, and heavy secondary and tertiary armaments. The protection featured a very long citadel but the chances of hits on the vitals were reduced by the low armor deck, sloped at the sides. The close range protection, consisting of a layered system of belt + deck slope + torpedo bulkhead, was outstanding but the protection against heavy armor piercing bombs was weak. On the other hand, the upper armor deck, extending over most of the ship's length, did provide better protection than most contemporaries against large capacity HE bombs, which were dropped from low altitudes from which hits were more probable than with AP bombs which needed to be dropped from considerably higher altitudes. The protection against diving shells could have been better but it was superior to that in Nelson and Littorio.

Technology-wise, an advantage compared with other nation's ships was the fact that the Wh armor was welded, so that the armor decks were not laminated or scarphed. Part of the main armament charges was in cartridges rather than in bags. The ships of some other nations featured more advanced machinery than that in Bismarck. The AA armament and radars, although later outclassed, were good by the standards of 1941. The general intelligence network supporting German naval operations, had earlier in the war been as good as that of the British (see Alan Raven's book on British cruisers operations in 1939 to 1941), but by 1941 the British were establishing a decisive advantage in code breaking as well as radars,

Neil Robertson

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Re: Was the battleship Bismarck really the best of its time?

Post by RobertsonN » Wed Aug 05, 2020 3:07 pm

To complete the last post on the armament side. The German guns were of the lighter shell/higher muzzle velocity type. These had the advantage of a greater danger space at most ranges and they also reduced the benefit of sloped side armor a bit in enemy ships as the obliquity angle was less and penetration fell off rapidly with obliquity above a certain point. On the other hand, higher velocity meant higher barrel wear and higher velocity with higher obliquity meant lower deck penetration at practical ranges. Shorter shells were subject to lower stresses than long ones at higher obliquities with fewer problems related to breaking and bending. This in turn meant there was less need to restrict the size of the charge than in some other ships. The fire control arrangements for the surface armament featured three topside control posts compared with two in most foreign ships. The fire control computers were duplicated aft, which offered a higher reserve against breakdowns and damage than in any foreign ship except the later Iowas,

Neil Robertson

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