Skip to comments.The Enduring Myth of the Fragile Battlecruiser
Posted on 12/17/2014 7:42:05 AM PST by C19fan
The repetition of the myth of the fragile battlecruiser continues even as the greatest victory of the class is now just over 100 years in the past. This particular capital ship has been on the receiving end of the naval worlds harshest criticism since three of their British number met untimely ends at the May 31-June 1, 1916 Battle of Jutland. In fact, the battlecruiser was a hybrid, cost saving platform designed specifically to support a mature British strategic concept of seapower. Its heavy losses at Jutland were more to do with early 20th century capital ship design and poor British tactical doctrine than the thickness (or lack thereof) of its armor belt. That particular myth was constructed in the wake of Jutland for good reasons of operational security, but there is no reason to continue to repeat it in the present day. The experience of the battlecruiser still has important lessons for contemporary warship designers. Every warship is a compromise of weapons, protective features, speed, and operational range. Operational employment is as important as physical design and construction in determining a warships vulnerability. Time marches forever forward and todays invincible front line combatant can become tomorrows proverbial fighter with a glass jaw if not modernized to reflect technological change. Warship designers seeking lethal, high speed and survivable platforms on a limited hull would do well to consider the battlecruisers performance in their deliberations on how much of these qualities can be achieved in a single class. Sometimes operational employment and tactical doctrine can be just as deadly to a ship in battle as its lack of speed, armament and robust construction.
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ironsides with wooden decks just wasn’t a good enough design. nowadays steel all over isn’t either with advanced weapons.
Its size and sleekness were a huge advantage as it sank in many pieces and with huge loss of life to the bottom of the sea.
Visually appealing? Well, certainly.
It sure did attract the incoming shells. And the attention of the enemy gunners.
More seriously, it was the abject FAILURE of the “consensus” of the British naval gunnery leaders who had rejected the world’s true accurate and workable gun tracking and gun laying systems a few years before that was as much a failure as the pretty but poorly protected British battlecruisers.
From what I understand at Jutland the Germans, of course, had much better optics than the Brits. The Germans were able to get those critical first hits.
I think it was not so much the amount of armor as the design of the gun turrets/ammunition delivery.
If used in their proper roll, cruiser and commerce raider killers, they would've been fine. But with those big guns it was inevitable they would be sent up against similarly armed ships - as they were - and then unless they got very lucky their destruction was inevitable.
Sadly soon American Admirals will be forced to concede that there is “something wrong with our ships” as well. Modern surface ships however well designed and protected are hopelessly vulnerable to modern technological attack, are floating death traps and are obsolete. Today if shooting starts in the Persian Gulf, the American Navy faces a debacle worse than Pearl Harbor in less than fifteen minutes. The Chinese designed advanced shore to ship missiles (complete with American designed guidance systems thanks to the Clinton acquiescence) to clear the Taiwan Strait of hostile naval forces in the event of war with the ROC. They have sold these missiles to the Iranians who have fortified the Persian Gulf shores. If Obama were smart he would get those big blue water ships and their brave young crews out of the narrow shallow gulf. There are too many scenarios for the US to get involved willingly or unwillingly if shooting starts.
The day is past for the Ironclads. I still admire the power and noise of the Big Guns but when a battleship goes to Davy Jones Locker a lot of treasure goes with it.
Scharnhorst (A Battlecruiser) Traded Blows with H.M.S. Duke of York (A Battleship) and Lost.
I.J.N. Kirishima (A Battlecruiser) Traded Blows with U.S.S. Washington (A Battleship) and Lost.
Me Thinks the Battlecruiser V.S. Battleship doesn't have all that great a record.
Not to mention the aforementioned Battle of Jutland.
However, it is also my understanding that a contributing cause to the penetration was the inadequate armor topside which permitted German shells to penetrate down into the areas where the ammunition was stored. Further, there was, as all agree, a failure of discipline in that hatches were not dogged to segregate the explosive areas.
Please note this article stipulates that topside armor was increased as a result of the battle of Jutland suggesting that the armor there was inadequate. HMS Hood, blown to bits by Bismarck in the Denmark Straits in the next war, was under construction at the time of Jutland and the results of that battle caused great consternation among naval architects responsible for Hood's battle worthiness. The problem was construction was so far advanced that it was very difficult to start from the beginning so half measures were used to add additional armor topside (as noted in the article) at the risk of making the ship unseaworthy. In the event, Bismarck had better gunnery and more weight of ordinance and sank Hood almost immediately.
The Brit BC's were another story, three went up like Roman candles from magazine hits.
The BC was originally designed as a super-commerce raider and in the pre-aviation era could have done fine at that role.
But it was supposed to kill everything it could catch and run away from everything it couldn't kill. The admirals forgot the second half of that sentence and could not resist putting these big ships with their big guns in the battle line, with the obvious result.
This article completely misses the point. The major fault of these battlecruisers was quite obvious: failure to provide adequate accommodation for female crew members.
We are all aware of the alleged gaffes by Dean Acheson and Ms. Gillespie over whether Korea and Kuwait were within an area of American military strategic interest allegedly resulting in the invasion of South Korea and Kuwait. After the Korean War we left a tripwire on the 38th parallel for 50 years. After the first Gulf War, we have had a military presence there ever since.
So the United States is now in a position of offering juicy targets to adversaries and, in effect, daring them in the nuclear age to take a bite. This might seem macho but it has a severe disadvantage of offering the initiative, both time and place, to any potential enemy.
I agree that at a time when the American economy is on the brink of a terrible reckoning due to profligate spending, we need a prudent administration which at least has the national interests of the United States as its priority to make the incredibly nice and difficult decisions respecting how to arm the country for the next war. I am no expert but my landlubbers common sense tells me that putting tripwires next to North Korea, China and Iran is less forward thinking than to take the next leap into technological superiority.
I fear the aircraft carrier will be the battleship of the next war, that war will be fought in cyberspace, outer space, with drones and robots and satellites but hardly with vulnerable surface fleets.
The German BC’s sacrificed fire power for more protection. Also they a much better protection scheme to prevent the fire from a hit on the turret going down the hauling system into the magazine.
I didn't know the Italians had Battlecruisers.
And even they had to learn that lesson the hard way, at Dogger Bank.
BTW, if the Southern high command had reinforced and strengthened Bedford Forrest’s highly effective mobile force in 1864, its tactical presence would have made Sherman’s march impossible since his supply lines would have never been secure.
Simplistic statement that essentially points out that if the ships hadn't taken hits, they would have been fine. Armor would have made up for some of the other weaknesses.
A BC closing on a BB with equality in guns is at a disadvantage if equal gunnery is assumed. Its really no harder to hit a 30 kt target from a 22 kt target, than the reverse.
Eggshells armed with sledgehammers.
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