June 14, 2019

Museum Review - Newark Air Museum

Reader Alexander was kind enough to provide this report on the Newark Air Museum in Nottinghamshire, which is about 2.5 hours north of London.1

An Avro Vulcan at Newark2
Type: Air Museum,
Location: Newark, Nottinghamshire, UK
Rating: 4.5/5, limited collection, but the cockpit tours make up for it.
Price: £9 ($11.50 US) for adults

Website

June 12, 2019

Soviet Battleships Part 1

After the overthrow of the Tsarist regime, the energy of the new Soviet military was primarily concentrated on the army, and with good reason. The USSR faced threats on every land border, while naval threats were fairly minimal. The Soviet Navy soldiered on with a few ships from the days of the Tsars, most prominently the remaining battleships of the Gangut class. But this would all change in the 1930s.

Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsiya, formerly Gangut, in 1934

Joseph Stalin began talking about a new navy as early as 1931, apparently seeing a great oceanic fleet as necessary to the power and prestige of the Soviet state, a deterrent against the enemies he was sure were plotting against him.3 However, nothing came of this discussion until 1935, when serious work on designs began, under the designation "large armored artillery ships". This was prompted by a worsening international situation, particularly the rise of Germany under Hitler. In fact, the first batch of design studies were for ships of 26,000 tons, the same size that had recently been announced for the Scharnhorst class. The plan actually approved in June 1936 showed 8 35,000 ton ships and no fewer than 16 26,000 ton vessels, a battleship construction program unmatched by even the major naval powers. Read more...

June 10, 2019

Rule the Waves 2 Game 1 - January 1900


The recent vindication of Captain Dreyfuss has comprehensively upset the political situation here in France. As a result, the government has been replaced, and you have been asked to serve as the primary advisors in the Ministère de la Marine. Our strategic situation is reasonably strong, but perils loom. It is up to you to guide us.


June 09, 2019

The Falklands War Part 15

In early April, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a few desolate rocks in the South Atlantic. The British mobilized their fleet in response. The carriers arrived off the Falklands on May 1st, swiftly defeating the Argentine Air Force. The Argentine Navy tried to interfere the next day, but withdrew after the cruiser General Belgrano was sunk by a submarine. Two days later, the Argentines struck back, sinking the frigate Sheffield with an Exocet missile. Two weeks later, on May 21st, British troops landed at San Carlos Water on the west coast of East Falkland. The Argentine Air Force quickly got wind of this, and launched numerous sorties against the invasion fleet. May 21st was brutal for both sides, with the British losing one frigate and having several others damaged, while the Argentinians lost almost a third of the aircraft that actually attacked.

The Argentine 707 crew after surviving their encounter with Cardiff

On the 22nd, the British braced for a repeat of the attacks on the 21st, but bad weather grounded the Argentine aircraft. However, it didn't reach the Falklands, and unloading continued uninterrupted. The 22nd also saw the land-based Rapier batteries finally set up and aligned, adding another layer of defenses to the British positions at San Carlos. The most exciting parts of the day were a pair of incidents where Argentinian 707s, searching for the British, nearly came to grief. The first occurred at 0300 just off the Falklands, when one of the big jets blundered within range of Coventry, waiting to form a missile trap just off Falkland Sound. Unfortunately, the Sea Dart system had a technical fault and refused to fire until after the target had escaped. The second incident was five hours later and 1,800 miles away. A group of escorts, built around the destroyers Bristol and Cardiff and five frigates, had departed the UK on May 10th, and was now well on its way to the Task Force. The group commander picked up the searching 707 and positioned Cardiff to intercept, altering the position of the other ships to conceal his maneuver. The scheme worked, and the Type 42 fired a pair of Sea Darts, which the airliner only narrowly managed to dodge. From that point on, the 707s were much more circumspect when approaching British warships. Read more...

June 07, 2019

Museum Review - Haifa Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum

Inky has graciously contributed a review of Israel's premier naval museum.4 Based on his description, I look forward to going some day.

The sail of Dakar5
Type: Museum
Location: Haifa, Israel
Rating: 4/5, Lots of interesting vehicles on display, however signage in languages other than Hebrew is not present everywhere.
Price: ₪20 (aprox 5.5 USD)



June 05, 2019

A Brief History of the Submarine

The idea of hiding under the water to strike at a superior enemy is not a new one. Inventors over the centuries have sketched craft that would allow them to approach in secret, then do violence to their opponents. Problems of propulsion, of endurance, and of weaponry thwarted them, and the first serious attempt wasn't made until 1776, when an American named David Bushnell devised the Turtle, a wooden submersible that would be piloted by a single man underneath a British warship, attach an explosive charge, and then run away. When a volunteer, Sgt. Ezra Lee of the Continental Army, attempted to do just that to HMS Eagle on September 6th, he was unable to attach the charge and had to abandon the effort. Turtle was later destroyed to keep her from falling into British hands.

A model of Turtle at the Submarine Force Museum, Groton, CT6

It took another 88 years for a submarine to actually manage to sink an enemy ship. The pressure of the Union blockade during the American Civil War forced the Confederacy to search for asymmetric advantages, and an inventor named Horace Hunley built a submarine that could carry a spar torpedo, a charge on the end of a long boom. A crew of eight drove the propeller through a crank. The submarine, named after Hunley, was not a spectacular success, sinking twice in testing and killing 13 men in the process, including her inventor. Despite these setbacks, the Confederates persevered, and on February 17, 1864, Hunley managed to attack the sloop Housatonic, sinking her and killing five Union sailors. However, the victory proved Pyrrhic, as Hunley was sunk by the same blast.7 Read more...

June 03, 2019

Open Thread 27

It's once again time for our regular Open Thread. Talk about anything you want, even if it's not defense-related.

Following on from last OT, it seems there's definite interest in an RTW2 community game. Some reminders: you will be the general staff of whatever nation you pick, making shipbuilding decisions and providing strategic direction. The game plays at one turn/month and theoretically can last 50 years, so I'm going to have to implement a lot of decisions independently. I plan to play 1 year/week, and do a summary post every Monday (this will alternate with the OT, with the OT-week post going into the RTW2 thread from the previous week). I'll give you guys a couple of days to make decisions, probably until Thursday or Friday. I don't plan to restrict who can contribute to decision-making, as the community here is pretty small and congenial, but I might revisit this if there are problems.

So this OT, I'll let you guys decide on what nation you want to play. Options are the US, Britain, Germany, France, Russia, Italy, Japan and Austria-Hungary. Some of these will definitely be easier to win wars with than others, but that's up to you. I'm going to say 1900 start and Very Large fleet size, because this should give the easiest ramp in and a big fleet to play with.

Recently overhauled posts include The Falklands War Part 2, Learning From History - The New Maginot Line, So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Coast Guard Part 1 and all seven parts of the Jutland series:

June 02, 2019

Battleship Aviation Part 3

I've discussed the development of fixed-wing battleship aviation from the earliest days through WWII. But when people learn about the subject for the first time, the biggest question is usually about how it worked. As such, I'm going to look in more detail at the techniques involved.8 I'm going to focus mostly on American practices, and discuss where those of the RN differed.

An OS2U is launched from Missouri, 1944

Battleship seaplanes lacked wheels, so they had to be stored on special trolleys. Each catapult had one, which supported the airplane during both storage and launch. Wheeled dummy trolleys were used when there were more airplanes than catapults or when seaplanes had to be moved around on land. When it came time to launch, the seaplane was secured to the trolley by a set of hooks that would keep it on the catapult during the stroke, then release it at the end. The plane would be checked over, fueled, and the engine started up. Read more...

May 31, 2019

The Battle of Jutland

May 31st, 1916 saw the Battle of Jutland, the greatest clash of battleships in history and the only time the British and German main fleets fought each other. As befits such an interesting and pivotal battle, I've written a long series on it, but for the benefit of those who don't want to wade through all seven parts, I thought it appropriate to write a single-part summary.

In the runup to WWI, the British and the Germans had built huge fleets of battleships, spurred on by the Kaiser's love of shiny toys and the British understanding that the loss of maritime supremacy would be catastrophic. In 1914, the British, who had outbuilt their rivals, instituted a blockade of Germany, plugging up the exits to the North Sea with the Scotland-based Grand Fleet. The Germans, hoping to wear the larger fleet down, attempted to use raids to draw out detached elements and crush them with the High Seas Fleet. By mid-1916, the only result had been a few indecisive battlecruiser engagements, and both sides wanted action. Read more...

May 29, 2019

Shells at Jutland

One of the great scandals to come out of the Battle of Jutland was the relative ineffectiveness of the British armor-piercing shells. For a variety of reasons, the British had been well behind the other European powers in shell design for at least a decade, and at Jutland, only one of the 17 heavy shells that struck thick German armor penetrated successfully.

Shells being loaded on HMS Lion, February 1917

But how did Britain, the world's leading maritime power, and an early proponent of most technological advances during this time, end up with ships full of shells that didn't work? The answer is a tangled mix of learning the wrong lessons from war and trials, problems with organizational structure, and the unusual way British procurement took place in the early years of the 20th century. Read more...