March 03, 2023

Open Thread 125

It's time once again for our regular Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't Culture War.

In news, I am going to be in Tucson this coming weekend for a DSL meetup. I plan to go to Pima on Friday the 10th and the whole group is going to the Titan silo on the 11th. Anyone who wants to is free to join, although Cassander demands his traditional fee, so be sure to think up some good insults for him. Email me or reach out on the discord for more details.

Also, I was wondering if any readers have access to Warship 2006, and would be willing to scan/photograph the article on the Stalingrad class battlecruisers and send it to me. My local library isn't filling my interlibrary loan requests.

I have been busy, and forgot to wish Iowa a happy 80th on February 22nd. I have to say that she looks good for her age.

Overhauls are Strike Warfare, A Brief History of the Cruiser, The Designation Follies and for 2022, A Brief Overview of the British Fleet and The Battleship Review.


  1. March 03, 2023Alex said...

    Blogger Austin Vernon has written a series of posts in the past 2 weeks speculating strategy, tactics, and equipment for a naval conflict with China:

    I think regular readers of this blog will find many of his specific suggestions laughably ill-advised (e.g. saving money on carrier construction by eliminating running water from heads and galleys 🤢, building a 1000 meter-long carrier to save on cats and traps, etc.), but there are enough nuggets of not-obviously-terrible ideas to hopefully prompt some interesting discussion here.

  2. March 03, 2023bean said...

    Note that I've updated the OP here with an additional request.

    saving money on carrier construction by eliminating running water from heads and galleys

    I find myself not particularly interested in the opinions of anyone who would suggest this. There's a bit of room to trade quality of life against cost. This is not it.

  3. March 04, 2023hnau said...

    I didn't read Vernon as actually recommending that we build carriers this way, especially today. It's more that he's trying to estimate the minimum viable cost of an aircraft carrier under wartime conditions where they're an semi-expendable resource due to the risk of enemy attack (similar to e.g. Liberty ships in WW2). And he's accepting for the sake of argument that high-tech missiles have a decent probability of killing them. That's what he means by statements like "When we do the math, fifty $20 million missiles equals a $1 billion carrier." Which he then uses to conclude that carriers can be viable in the face of missiles.

    I don't know whether his analysis is right, but his argument comes off as much less silly when read charitably.

  4. March 05, 2023alanl said...

    Speaking as a civilian whose entire experience of seafaring is cross channel ferries, habitability and crew comfort strike me as important.

    Crew fatigue very rapidly degrade performance on an extremely austere ship even in wartime. But even more importantly, most warships spend most of their time (thankfully!) not at war, and when not at war their major roles are show-of-force deterrence, and training. Both of which involve spending lots of time at sea, which in turn involves offering volunteer peacetime crews at least somewhat tolerable living conditions.

    So the hypothetical barely habitable hostilities-only ship will not only rapidly degrade the performance of its highly trained but heavily fatigued crew; it won't even have that trained crew in the first place, because hardly anybody will have been willing to sail and train in it in peacetime

  5. March 06, 2023EdH said...

    You can, through the end of April, get a tour of the bottom of the USS Texas in dry dock:

    I imagine earlier might be better than later, to see damage and internal structure repair work in progress.

  6. March 06, 2023bean said...

    Hmm. An emergency trip to Houston might be in the cards.

  7. March 16, 2023Vikki said...

    Comment regarding "There Seems To Be Something Wrong With Our Bloody Ships Today", since the final admin comment on that post directs commenters to post in the latest Open Thread:

    The basic problem with the conventional theory is that no German shell penetrated deep enough into the surviving ships to have been able to set off a magazine if it had hit one.

    Digging into the details of which ship got hit where at Jutland, that might not actually be problematic for the conventional theory, at least for one of the ships that blew up.

    The British battlecruisers at Jutland fell into two categories. One of these was the four 13.5" ships (the Lions, Queen Mary, and Tiger), which had (relatively-)thick armor (having been built with the possibility of fighting German battlecruisers in mind), and for which the lack of shells that penetrated deep enough but missed the magazines is a pretty-solid argument for these ships having been safe from magazine detonations caused by shells punching straight through to the magazines (although not safe from turret explosions flashing down into the magazines, as Queen Mary demonstrated).

    However, as regards the other five, the 12" Invincibles and Indefatigables, while it's true that none of the surviving ships took any hits that got deep enough into the ships to reach the magazines but happened to miss same... that seems to be primarily, if not entirely, because, IIRC, the surviving ships from this group (Indomitable, Inflexible, and New Zealand) took a grand total of one main-battery hit between the three of them (the shell from Von der Tann that knocked a chunk of armor off New Zealand's X barbette). Of the three ships in this grouping that were actually hit by German main-battery fire, two exploded, and the third, New Zealand, took a single hit that, by chance, didn't land somewhere its explosion could set off anything explodey. Quite possibly not coincidentally, these ships were also much-thinner-skinned than Lion and her full-and-half-sisters; the Invincibles' armor was proof only against cruiser-grade gunfire, and much of the Indefatigables' armor (especially on Indefatigable herself) couldn't reliably stop even this lesser threat. It's perfectly possible that hot fragments from a shell that punched through the belt armor of one of these ships would be able to not only reach, but also set off, its main magazines; indeed, in Indefatigable's case, this seems, at least on first glance, to be a more-likely explanation for how Von der Tann's gunners were able to detonate first the British ship's aft magazines, then her forward ones, with two consecutive salvoes (as opposed to said gunners getting insanely-lucky enough to land penetrating turret hits on both salvoes and then have both of those flash down into the magazines). In Invincible's case, although the fatal hit was to a turret, the fatal shell would've been perfectly-capable of punching through the side of the ship and setting off the magazine had it hit somewhat lower down.

    In short, although it's true that none of the surviving British battlecruisers took hits that penetrated deep enough to have potentially reached the magazines had they hit elsewhere, this seems, in the case of the Invincibles and Indefatigables, to have simply been the result of not getting hit (apart from that single hit to New Zealand that happened to not land near anything explodey).

  8. March 16, 2023bean said...

    First, yeah, that post got locked because of spam. Swatting it was getting annoying.

    Interesting theory on Indefatigable, but I don't think it's dispositive. I checked the Ines McCartney book on Jutland, and while it's not at all clear what set off the first explosion aft, the forward magazine exploded after the ship was most of the way onto her side. McCartney speculates that it may have been a secondary from shells falling over, a la Audacious, or it could have been from the next salvo, but from the one photo we have, that salvo is unlikely to have gone through the belt.

    I also think you're overestimating the differences in armor between the two types. The upper belt on Lion et al was 6" and it was penetrated several times, with the results as indicated. Campbell's hit 9 on Tiger is about as clear-cut a case of this as we're likely to get, and it didn't get anywhere near the magazine. Yes, if they were very unlucky, fragments might reach the magazine, but that seems less likely than the turret hit, which accounts for a reasonable proportion of known hits at Jutland. Also worth pointing out that even if fragments reached the magazine, they probably wouldn't have done much if proper safety features were in place.

    Also not sure where the theory that Indefatigable was thinner-skinned than Invincible comes from. IIRC, they were very similar in terms of armor.

  9. March 16, 2023Vikki said...

    @bean The Invincibles had a 6-inch belt over their machinery and magazines. The Indefatigables also had a 6-inch belt over their machinery and P/Q magazines, but, to allow for the longer main citadel that resulted from their amidships turrets being more spaced out than those of the Invincibles (this being done to improve the cross-deck firing arcs of the amidships turrets) without too much increase in displacement, the Indefatigables' belt armor over the A and X magazines was thinned down compared to that of the Invincibles. Indefatigable herself had only 4 inches of belt armor over her A and X magazines... which just so happen to have been the two that detonated at Jutland. By the time Australia and New Zealand were built, everyone had recognized that a capital ship having magazines protected by only 4 inches of armor was a stupid idea, and so the latter two Indefatigables thickened the belt armor over their A and X magazines back up to 5 inches (paying for the weight of this additional armor by eliminating the armor from the ends of the ships).

    While the upper belt of Lion et al. was indeed only 6 inches thick, the main belt of the 13.5-inch battlecruisers (the primary protection for the magazines and machinery themselves) was 9 inches thick. The Invincibles had only 6 inches, even directly over the magazines and machinery, while the Indefatigables, as detailed above, didn't even have this over some of their magazines.

  10. March 17, 2023bean said...

    You're right about the armor on Indefatigable. I didn't note that in the post I wrote on battlecruisers and was trying to get out the door for work.

    As for the various belts on Lion, I know that the upper and lower belts were of different thicknesses. I checked the best source we have on damage at Jutland, and at least one hit that penetrated the 6" upper belt on Tiger and still didn't get anywhere close to where the magazines would have been. That's a fact of fuze timing. There just wasn't enough delay on the German shells to reach the magazines through the side armor. Also worth noting that any magazine hit would have also needed to penetrate the deck, which would have been a major extra layer of protection even with a 4" belt.

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