From the the British Orion class of 1912 up to the American Colorado class of 1921-23, and everything between, which class of super dreadnoughts from that time were the best? I always see these discussions for 1940s fast battleships, but not for this period.
Though built with different objectives in mind, probably the US battleships had an advantage, if used as a fleet. They were homogeneous with a tighter turning radius, better protected in their all-or-nothing schemes, and all with a similar speed, as designed. Plus they held up better when put to the test in WW II.
Good discussion of US “standard” BBs compared to British, French, Italian, and IJN ships of the time.
Just finished Massey's Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea about a month ago. What struck me (and was mentioned in the navweap piece above) was the over-reliance of the Grand Fleet on pure numbers, thereby keeping obsolescent types in service far too long, and Fleet's gun parity with the High Seas Fleet and need for large numbers of cruisers and destroyers in the escort role. In essence (leaving unimaginative admiralship aside) the Grand Fleet's limitations and confused missions never allowed it to project its supremacy as indicated on paper.
The High Seas Fleet's biggest limitation was the Kaiser's over-riding command to maintain itself above any risk to its integrity. As for the American's, yes they were technologically ahead of the British (as were the Germans), seemingly borrowing Tirpitz's maxim that a ship's first obligations was to stay afloat. Jumping ahead, one has to wonder what could have been if the Montana class had been built before WWII, consigned to one or the other (logically the Pacific) coasts for the duration.
I'd say that as a theoretical concept, the British G3 and N3 Battlecruisers and Battleships (designed with the results of actual combat during WW1) would probably have been "the best". Hard to argue with 18" guns, all or nothing armour and 25+ knots.
Of course it's pretty easy to claim that for ships that were never built. Of those built, the German late war BC's and BB's were pretty good and formed the basis for the design of the Bismark/Tirpitz that gave the RN so many sleepless nights. The German ships were able to devote more space to protection as they didn't have the range or habitability requirements that the RN and USN needed.
And the US South Dakota's were certainly an interesting approach to the battleship question. It would have been interesting to have had at least one completed.
Whilst there is a lot of useful information of from that link above. It's not a bible on battleships and ignores many important facts about naval gunnery.
For example. Then 11" guns of the Scharnhorst class was better then the 15" guns of the Queen Elizabeth class. The US 16" guns were considered superior to the 18" guns of Yamato and so forth. Basically each gun had it's advantages and disadvantages.
Likewise each ship had it's advantages and disadvantages.
Whilst WW1 ships were outdated by WW2, the modern ships that saw combat performed bloody well. Just look at the insane amount of resources used to sink Prince of Wales, Bismark, Musashi, and Yamato when they were in the open see and had a chance to fight back.........even in impossible of odds.
At the end of the day no ship is better then the other. From the Queen Elizabeth class onwards any battleship that came across another battleship could sink another battleship. Even HMS Dreadnaught could just as easily sink the Yamato.
The factors that contribute to the success of a battleship have very little to do with the actual ship itself. It is all about crew training, discipline, intelligence, damage control, and **** a ton of luck.
HMS Hood was destroyed by a lucky shot to a magazine that exploded.
Lutjens decided not to refuel in Norway and was forced to travel slower.
Yamato was sunk when Japan had no local air superiority.
Duke of York had Radar Controlled gunnery installed before it sailed with the convoy and sank the Scharnhorst.
In every single case of a Dreadnought being sunk, not once was it due to inferiority of any given ship. Rather they were sunk due to a combination of factors and a lot of luck that had nothing to do with their designs.
Hmmm, maybe, I guess it depends upon your definition of the word "better" when it comes to guns - penetration vs amount of explosives delivered and so forth.
Luck definately had its part to play too, although you'll note that the more skillfull the navy, the more "luck" went their way. The difference in competency between the IJN of 1941 and that of 1944/45 is massive. Likewise in the other direction for the USN.
To give another example. At Jutland. The Battlecruisers the Royal Navy lost. The loss of these ships was caused by doctrine error and not over ship design. The Royal Navy wanted a higher firing rate and thus left an important hatchway/flash arrestor open which gave any explosion a clear path the main gun magazines.
A lot has been made about the battleships weakness against air power. Again it took a while before both Axis and Allied navies/airforces worked out how to properly use air power against them.
Compare the Bismark situation to the Yamato situation. Whilst no Swordfish was lost in the attacks, the AA suit of the Bismark no doubt played a significant role in preventing the Swordfish from significantly damaging the the ship. Fast forward to the Yamato and the Allies are also sending over fighter escorts to strafe the ship and suppress the AA suite. Makes the torpedo and bombers jobs much much easier.
Another interesting thought is that navies today are slowly returning to the idea of the all big powerful surface vessel. Today's destroyers are the size and weight of a WW2 cruiser.
the USS Arleigh Burke is of similar proportions to HMS Dreadnaught. Only 10 Metres shorter and 5 metres wider. No doubt the guns of the Dreadnaught provide for the difference on tonnage.
Well I am sure that it didn't help that both the Yamato's AA suite was rubbish (the Japanese made almost no improvements to their AA the entire work compared with that of the RN and USN) and that the aircraft attacking the Yamato were moving twice as fast as the Swordfish and were capable of carrying much heavier torpedoes and bombs.
I do agree though that no prepared battleship (ie not sitting in a harbour with no damage control at the ready like at Taranto and Pearl Harbor) was lost to carrier borne aircraft until 1944 which is a fair representation of just when the advantage finally did swing the carriers way.
The Burkes are coming in at 9,000+ tonnes, the same size as a late WW2 heavy cruiser and (as you say) not much short of HMS Dreadnaught. But a lot less weight on guns and armour and a lot more on weapons and supporting systems - I can't imagine Dreadnaught had enough generating capacity to power a single radar system on a Burke...
Well permit me to offer some facts and attempt to re-state the original question… which was … who’s “super dreadnaughts” were the best.
By super dreadnaughts” I believe the common interpretation would be those battleship classes built post dreadnaught, pre Washington treaty,in other words, designed and built mostly in WW I. This eliminates many of the classes being mentioned here as examples… Bismarck, Yamato/Mishashi, even the US Missouri and South Dakota classes, which are more accurately identified as "treaty" BBs.
And when those limits are applied, it does allow specific comparisons based on performance, as most of the candidate “super dreadnaughts” were in action in WW II.
One problem answering this question of course would be the question “at what point in time…?” i.e. does the comparison mean ships as they existed in 1922, or 1935, or WWII?
Many/most of these battleships were rebuilt, upgraded, even totally redesigned. The US “standard” BBs were almost all upgraded beyond recognition… new armoring, new compartmenting, new guns, newfire control, new secondary armament, new AA, and in the case of most even new profiles making them almost indistinguishable from the South Dakota/Alabama class.
In my opinion, the performance of these "super dreadnaught" classes in WW II clearly demonstrated the superiority of the US construction of the “Standards,” … but it also it reflects the superiority of US technology in that the constant upgrading of the FCS, anti-torpedo and all-or-nothing armoring scheme, high angle gun technology was always ahead of most of the other super dreadnaughts, from initial construction to end of the line.
Speed was their weakest point, but in a full battle line that was only marginally less than the other powers… and by 1930 with the addition of the Mk-1 FC computer, the homogeneity, gunnery, turning radius, FCS, etc., would have given the US line the edge. Even given the outstanding optical systems of the German Navy and IJN, the early Mk-1 computer allowed the US ships to receive a firing solution faster, fire faster, and their total FCS probably would have made them more accurate with the ability to track the opposing force quicker. And their gyro stabilization provided a basically superior platform. And as we know, rate of accurate fire wins…
By WW II, the superiority of the “Standards” was further enhanced by the complete rebuilds following Pearl Harbor, and the addition of the radar controlled advanced Mk-8 radar range finders and the Mk-38 general fire control system which outperformed the contemporary IJN, German, British reliance on the input from optical systems.
It is true that technology, crew training, etc. were often a large factor in BB v BB… but it is also true that the US ”Standards,” judged purely on the measurable qualities of the ships, were always generally superior ACROSS THE BATTLE LINE in all key categories except speed.
By the time of Leyte Gulf, it is doubtful the Yamato herself could have taken on one of the rebuilt “Standards” and won. Remember, West Virginia hit Yamashiro at 23,000 yards with her first 16" salvo in Suragao Sts. The Yamato, depending on the Shagekiban FC computer in the Hosen Shiki Sochi general FCS, and couldn’t hit anything off of Samar.
Interesting view on Yamato vs. "standards", I recently read Japanese Destroyer Captain by Tameichi Hara and for the first time fully realized the dread the IJN felt at prospect of facing USN radar controlled fire.