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Sinking the Bismarck with no Swordfish Torpedo Bomber

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  • Sinking the Bismarck with no Swordfish Torpedo Bomber

    I am curious about the anachronism known as the Fairey Swordfish Torpedo Bomber and the infamous Bismarck. Had the Royal Navy been able to replace this plane with a swifter catapault launched torpedo bomber in the late 30's, would the sinking of the Bismarck ever have happened?

    A buddy was telling me that the plane actually evaded the fire control of the AA guns on board by being too slow and therefore was able to land a hit on the Bismarck's rudder (turning the ship in circles) making escaping the other pursuing vessels impossible.

    So my main question is this, would the Royal Navy have been able to have pursued and destroyed this monstrous capital ship without the aid of outdated air technology? And was my friend honest when he was telling me about fire control technology being designed for then modern monoplane aircraft speeds and not outdated bi plane speeds?

    Are there any Naval Aviation enthusiasts on this site? I suspect there are...

  • #2
    one of my very first movies ever seen was 1958's "sink the Bismark" where the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen foray into the Atlantic was played as this ever dangerous and important battle.

    what were the Germans thinking? sending 1-2 ships against the combined strength of the British Fleet???


    so what if the Bismarck after it's very lucky sinking of the Hood would head up to Brest and by avoinding the British home Fleet, end up there in Safety? Yeah, sure, it would join with Gneisenau and Scharnhorst and then what? roam the atlantic? sink a few ships and then end up cornered by the superior british fleets - that is if British bombers don't damage it first...

    as for the damage done by the Swordfish, indeed, hitting the Bismark rudder was a very lucky shot.... a few meters more or less and the damage would not have been the same!

    Had the Ark Royal or Victorious been equipped with more modern torpedo bombers, then what? a better hit? no hit?

    all in all this was not an important battle, imho, the real battle was, as Doenitz knew, vs. Raeder with the U-boote, not with surface ships.

    Bismarck and Tirpitz were an awful waste of resources for Germany. thankfully.
    "Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights."--Oriana Fallaci

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    • #3
      Originally posted by TrenchRat View Post
      A buddy was telling me that the plane actually evaded the fire control of the AA guns on board by being too slow and therefore was able to land a hit on the Bismarck's rudder
      BS.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by piero1971 View Post
        one of my very first movies ever seen was 1958's "sink the Bismark" where the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen foray into the Atlantic was played as this ever dangerous and important battle.

        what were the Germans thinking? sending 1-2 ships against the combined strength of the British Fleet???
        The movie is actually very good and explained in detail what the (British) problem with the Bismark was.

        The Bismark didn't go to battle with the fleet. The Bismark went to evade the fleet and keep the fleet busy chasing it and hence useless elsewhere. The Bismark is too dangerous to ignore but still too hard to find if she's out in the open Atlantic.

        The movie goes into great lengths to explain why the German plan, if successful, would have meant a great disadvantage to the British.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by TrenchRat View Post
          So my main question is this, would the Royal Navy have been able to have pursued and destroyed this monstrous capital ship without the aid of outdated air technology?
          Outdated technology like the Air to Service Vessel radar?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Redwolf View Post
            The movie is actually very good and explained in detail what the (British) problem with the Bismark was.

            The Bismark didn't go to battle with the fleet. The Bismark went to evade the fleet and keep the fleet busy chasing it and hence useless elsewhere. The Bismark is too dangerous to ignore but still too hard to find if she's out in the open Atlantic.

            The movie goes into great lengths to explain why the German plan, if successful, would have meant a great disadvantage to the British.
            I know, but let's assume the best case scenario for the Germans : no detection in norway and ability to sail in the Atlantic without much detection. once it would start to raid on the first convoy, the full british fleet from Scapa Flow to Bermuda would sail to interecept it. as it did with the Graf Spee. then the bismarck would have to evade it and get to a French port from where it would be perhaps useful as a fleet in beeing but not as a raider.

            the damage such an expensive ship would be able to ever do was minimal compared to the use of the same resources in U-boote. imho
            "Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights."--Oriana Fallaci

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            • #7
              Originally posted by piero1971 View Post
              I know, but let's assume the best case scenario for the Germans : no detection in norway and ability to sail in the Atlantic without much detection. once it would start to raid on the first convoy, the full british fleet from Scapa Flow to Bermuda would sail to interecept it. as it did with the Graf Spee. then the bismarck would have to evade it and get to a French port from where it would be perhaps useful as a fleet in beeing but not as a raider.

              the damage such an expensive ship would be able to ever do was minimal compared to the use of the same resources in U-boote. imho
              It really doesn't work that way in 1941. In the open Atlantic the Bismark could practically not be found except by chance. With the available planes at the time it's pretty much a non-starter even if the Bismark strikes. It is a surface ship, fast, sustainable and practically undefeatable by anything you would put into a convoy.

              Keep in mind this is before Pearl Harbor and the aftermath and people don't know yet how powerful airplanes and aircraft carriers actually are. Similar issues apply to submarines, the British in 1941 didn't have a submarine fleet that would be used to hunt Bismark nor did they know it's even possible.

              So that would have left only two options for the British:
              • Suspend transatlantic traffic (keep in mind the U.S. is only helping with supplies at this time).
              • Or send the majority of the surface fleet to hunt it, in which case there is parity between British and German forces everywhere else and the Germans would get cocky.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by TrenchRat View Post
                ? And was my friend honest when he was telling me about fire control technology being designed for then modern monoplane aircraft speeds and not outdated bi plane speeds?
                Its a myth.

                1)Torpedo planes attacked by directly flying towards their targets, therefore anyone firing at them would have little or no deflection shooting, due to the speed they are travelling at, to calculate.

                2) Torpedoes in this period could only be air launched at around 90-120 mph, any faster they would break up on hitting the sea.

                3) At the time of the design and construction of the Bismarck, the torpedo bombers in service and due to enter service with the major powers all flew at a similar speed to the Swordfish.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Redwolf View Post
                  Similar issues apply to submarines, the British in 1941 didn't have a submarine fleet that would be used to hunt Bismark nor did they know it's even possible.
                  its often thought that the torpedo bomber attack on the Bismarck was the last chance the RN had to damage or sunk the Bismarck, but the RN had in fact set up a picket line with submarines near the port of Brest to intercept it.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Redwolf View Post
                    Keep in mind this is before Pearl Harbor and the aftermath and people don't know yet how powerful airplanes and aircraft carriers actually are.
                    The British knew Exactly how powerful aircraft and aircraft carriers were a year before Pearl Harbour since with only 21 swordfish the British Navy had sunk 3 Italian battleships (and damaging or sunk 2 cruisers, 2 destroyers and 2 auxiliary ships also)at Taranto in the most successful aerial attack on naval ships in history. The attack was planed for Trafalgar day 21st October 1940 but a fire on Illustrious caused a delay. This was not a surprise attack on a nation at peace. The Italians were alert as British Sunderland flying boat flew over the fleet just hours before the attack as well as over flights in the days leadding up to the attack. Considering they only had 11 torpedeos total (rest had carrying bomb or flares to illuminate the night) they did incredible damage.
                    FoxNEWS "The World is unfair and we are running scared"

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                    • #11
                      Another aspect of the Bismark sortie: the time. May 1941--why notr use her in the Baltic instead a month later? That would have a much better use of her as a resource.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by PatBC View Post
                        The British knew Exactly how powerful aircraft and aircraft carriers were a year before Pearl Harbour since with only 21 swordfish the British Navy had sunk 3 Italian battleships (and damaging or sunk 2 cruisers, 2 destroyers and 2 auxiliary ships also)at Taranto in the most successful aerial attack on naval ships in history. The attack was planed for Trafalgar day 21st October 1940 but a fire on Illustrious caused a delay. This was not a surprise attack on a nation at peace. The Italians were alert as British Sunderland flying boat flew over the fleet just hours before the attack as well as over flights in the days leadding up to the attack. Considering they only had 11 torpedeos total (rest had carrying bomb or flares to illuminate the night) they did incredible damage.
                        That's what I'd heard, but I wonder did those Italian battleships have AA aboard? I'm sure they had something, but then again I don't know for certain. When something is moving at 200 knots / hr its a wide open target....but what a stable torpedo dropping platform!

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                        • #13
                          hmm. wait in 1939, the Graf Spee, already at large, ended up beeing cornered.

                          why wouldn't the british fleet in 1941 be able to corner down the Bismark.

                          the bismark was one of the best Battle ship designs - improved Baden - but still a shp and still a match for King George V type battleshipe - I think there were 3 of them available then, plus Renown, plus Nelson and Rodney.

                          Mind you British cruisers and destroyers, while not able to fight head to head long against the Bismark, would due to their agressive tactics (I always foind british destroyer commanders the boldest and bravest of ww2, with Japanese ones as well) surely be able to eventually hit the bismark and slow it while the British Battleships arrive.

                          the sinking of the Hood was really a strike of luck... (I am not saying that German gunnery was bad though - the Bismark optics and gunnery control were of greater quality)
                          "Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights."--Oriana Fallaci

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by PatBC View Post
                            The British knew Exactly how powerful aircraft and aircraft carriers were a year before Pearl Harbour since with only 21 swordfish the British Navy had sunk 3 Italian battleships (and damaging or sunk 2 cruisers, 2 destroyers and 2 auxiliary ships also)at Taranto in the most successful aerial attack on naval ships in history. The attack was planed for Trafalgar day 21st October 1940 but a fire on Illustrious caused a delay. This was not a surprise attack on a nation at peace. The Italians were alert as British Sunderland flying boat flew over the fleet just hours before the attack as well as over flights in the days leadding up to the attack. Considering they only had 11 torpedeos total (rest had carrying bomb or flares to illuminate the night) they did incredible damage.
                            It didn't take long for the RN to forget most of what they learnt. 10 Dec 41 was not a high point in the RN's history, losing Repulse and PoW to air attack.

                            HP
                            "Ask not what your country can do for you"

                            Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

                            you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by TrenchRat View Post
                              That's what I'd heard, but I wonder did those Italian battleships have AA aboard? I'm sure they had something, but then again I don't know for certain. When something is moving at 200 knots / hr its a wide open target....but what a stable torpedo dropping platform!
                              Carrying a torpedeo attack speed for swordfish is less then 90 knots, a very slow target.

                              The Italian fleet that was at Taranto consisted of 6 battleships (one was not seaworthy), 7 Heavy Cruisers, 2 light cruisers and 8 destroyers. Clearly this is strong force only 300 nautrical miles from Malta and has the potential to do serious damage

                              Vittorio Venetos and sister ship Littorios (Littorios was sunk at her mooring)

                              3 × 3 381 mm (15.0 in)/50
                              4 × 3 152 mm (6.0 in)/55
                              12 × 1 90 mm (3.5 in)/53 (AA)
                              20 × 2 37 mm (1.5 in)/54
                              30 × 2 20 mm (0.79 in)/65

                              Conte di Cavour (never sailed again)

                              Armament:
                              13 × 305/46 mm
                              18 × 120/50 mm
                              16 × 76/50 mm
                              6 × 76/40 mm
                              3 × 450 mm torpedo launchers

                              Caio Duilio (beached to prevent her sinking)

                              10 × 320 mm (12.6 in) guns (Two triple and two double turrets)
                              12 × 135 mm (5.3 in) guns (Four triple turrets)
                              13 × 76 mm guns
                              10 × 90 mm (3.5 in) anti-aircraft guns
                              15 × 37 mm anti-aircraft guns
                              16 × 20 mm anti-aircraft guns

                              Giulio Cesare

                              10 × 320/44 mm
                              12 × 120/50 mm
                              8 × 100/47 mm
                              8 × 37/54 mm
                              12 × 20/65 mm

                              Andrea Doria was the 6th battleship but was not considered operation as the crew was still in post re-fit workups

                              10 × 320 mm (12.6 in) guns (Two triple and two double turrets)
                              12 × 135 mm (5.3 in) guns (Four triple turrets)
                              13 × 76 mm guns
                              10 × 90 mm (3.5 in) anti-aircraft guns
                              15 × 37 mm anti-aircraft guns
                              16 × 20 mm anti-aircraft guns

                              4*Zara class heavy cruisers (Pola, Zara, Goriza, Fiume)

                              8 × 203 mm / 53 caliber
                              6 x 100 mm / 47 caliber
                              4 x 40 mm / 54 caliber AA
                              8 x 12.7 mm AAMG

                              3* Trento class heavy cruisers (Trento, Trieste, Bolzano)

                              8 x 203 mm / 50 caliber
                              16 x 100 mm / 47 caliber
                              8 x 40 mm / 39 caliber AA
                              8 x 12.7 mm AAMG (Bolzano: 8 x 13.2 mm)
                              8 x 533 mm torpedo tubes

                              2 * Duca Degli Abruzzi clas light cruisers ( Luigi Di Savoia Duca Degli Abruzzi, Giuseppe Garibaldi)

                              10 x 152/55 mm
                              8x90/50 mm
                              8x37/54 mm
                              12x20/65 mm
                              6x533 mm torpedo launchers

                              4* Oriani Class destroyers

                              4 × 120 mm guns (2 × 2)
                              4 × 37 mm guns (2 × 2)
                              6 × 13.2 mm guns
                              6 × 533 mm torpedo tubes (2 × 3)

                              3* Folgore class Destroyers

                              4 120 mm guns (2x2)
                              2 40 mm pom pom anti-aircraft guns
                              4 13.2 mm machine guns
                              6 533 mm torpedo tubes

                              Libeccio destroyer

                              4 120 mm guns (2x2)
                              2 40 mm pom-pom anti aircraft guns
                              4 13.2 mm machine guns
                              6 533 mm torpedo tubes (2x3)

                              In addition

                              In a report sent by Supermarina to "Comando Supremo" immediately following the British attack, the defenses of the military stronghold were described as follows:

                              Antiaircraft defenses fully active and including:

                              21 batteries armed with 101 mm guns
                              68 machine-gun installations for a total of 84 barrels both on fixed and floating positions
                              109 light machine-guns both in fixed and floating positions.
                              Antiaircraft obstructions consisting of 27 round balloons, 16 moored west and north of the ships on the Tarantola jetty. 11 moored along the eastern part of the same jetty.
                              The balloons should have been 90, but bad weather in the days before the attack had caused about 60 balloons to be lost. Due to a shortage in the local production of hydrogen, spare barrage balloons could not be deployed. Reportedly, the actual number of balloon in the air the night of the attack was 27.
                              http://www.regiamarina.net/engagemen...efenses_us.htm

                              The Italians cetainly had reason to be alert

                              One of the planes in the first wave, due to a navigational error, reached Taranto 15 minutes before the rest of the squadron, causing the antiaircraft defenses to go into full alert.
                              http://www.regiamarina.net/engagemen...nto_us.htm#Top

                              The more I read the more incredible the success of the attack. Even if only half the available AAA was firing the volume must have been impressive.
                              FoxNEWS "The World is unfair and we are running scared"

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