November 19, 2018

Open Thread 13

It's time for our regular open thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't Culture War.

The Naval Institute Press Holiday Sale is here! This is an excellent chance to stock up on naval books for the coming year, as they give 50% off a bunch of books, and free shipping. I've only included items that are specifically on sale, either for Christmas (which runs through 12/14, but was extended a couple times last year) or in their normal "Clear the Decks" clearance. Members get 40% off more books, and the $40 web membership can be well worth it. Shipping is $5.50 for the first book and $3.50 for more books the rest of the year. In the process of making my own list, I also selected a few works that I think would be of interest to readers here. Yes, I do own every single one of these, and there's only a few I haven't read cover to cover.

First, they're selling the History of US Naval Operations in WWII bundle again. This is an excellent series, going into surprising detail on everything the USN did in WWII. I gave a couple sets as presents last year.

Second, a bunch of Norman Friedman stuff is on sale. His seminal US Battleships: An Illustrated Design History, the new British Battleships of the Victorian Era and its sequel British Battleships 1904-1945 are all 50% off. Other works available cheaply include US Submarines Since 1945, Revised Edition, US Aircraft Carriers, Fighters Over the Fleet, and the excellent Network-Centric Warfare. Also, the incredible Guide to World Naval Weapons Systems can be had for only $40.

From other authors we have Nicholas Jellicoe's Jutland: The Unfinished Battle (which formed the basis for my series), Kaigun, on the Japanese Navy, R A Burt's British Battleships 1919-1945, British Aircraft Carriers by David Hobbs, and the superb Nelson's Navy.

Overhauled posts include Iowa parts three, four, and five, Ballistics, US Battleships in World War II, all three parts of The Battleships of Pearl Harbor, and The Battle of Lissa.

Comments

  1. November 19, 2018bean said...

    In news, it appears the Argentine submarine San Juan has been found. Based on reports released so far (which are still fairly sketchy) it looks like the submarine fell through crush depth and imploded. No information on why she went down that far, and getting that information probably depends on the always rather fraught state of Argentine public finance. Still, at least this will bring some comfort to the families.

  2. November 19, 2018Evan Þ said...

    In the recent thread about the Russian floating drydock sinking, you mentioned that USN yard capacity's decayed "to the point that there have been submarines which have sat around for two years waiting for an overhaul." I'm shocked. Why'd this happen? Has anyone been doing anything about it?

    (Technical note: The first time I tried to post this comment, no CAPTCHA loaded. I'm on the new URL, navalgazing.net. One showed up this second time; let's see if it works...)

  3. November 19, 2018bean said...

    Basically, it's a matter of money and capacity. In theory, serious overhauls and the like should be planned years in advance, but it looks like they got this one wrong. Particularly because the attack subs are the bottom of the priority heap at the nuclear-capable shipyards, after the boomers and CVNs. They've been trying to route subs to the commercial yards, but those have their own problems with capacity, and there have been delays in the delivery of the latest Virginia-class boats. I'm not sure exactly what went wrong overall, but I'd guess that the shipyards were easy to cut during the various funding crunches of the past 10 years, and they haven't managed to fix it yet. Aging workforce probably doesn't help.

  4. November 20, 2018Aula said...

    "Jutland: The Unifished Battle" should probably be "Unfinished" instead.

  5. November 20, 2018bean said...

    Hey, unifishing is a thing!

    (No, not really. Fixed.)

    Re our discussion on attack submarines, the GAO released a report yesterday on the matter.

  6. November 20, 2018bean said...

    An update on the USNI Christmas Sale. It appears that they've changed their policy. Last week, only some stuff was listed under the 50% off holiday sale, while today, everything I've checked is. This means that the public price is as good as the member price. (The checkout screen will show you as being able to save if you were a member, but it isn't true.) My bank account is suffering, but if you want anything currently in press from USNI, get it now.

  7. November 20, 2018Evan Þ said...

    I suppose "uni-fishing" would be fishing for narwhals?

  8. November 21, 2018Johan Larson said...

    It seems like we haven't heard anything recently about piracy near the Horn of Africa. Did they finally solve that problem?

    Gwynne Dyer said the problem wasn't so much the inability of navies to stop pirates as the rules set up for doing so having gone awry, since piracy hadn't been a problem in hundreds of years.

  9. November 21, 2018bean said...

    As best I can tell, the problem has been under control for the past few years. Between more naval presence, more aggressive efforts to retake hijacked ships, and private security onboard merchies, they don't seem to have taken many big ships in the past 5 years.

  10. November 21, 2018ADifferentAnonymous said...

    No arguments with giving carriers top priority, but does it make sense to give boomers priority over attack subs? Maybe I'm biased by having recently read about Belgrano, but the latter seem a lot more useful. The boomers will scare China off trying to take San Francisco, but an attack submarine presence seem much more likely to scare them off trying to take Taiwan.

  11. November 21, 2018bean said...

    I think it does. The boomers are deeply integrated into the nuclear war plans, and that means we need to have the right number out on patrol at all times. A gap there is probably not going to cause WWIV, but if it does, then the downside is enormous.

  12. November 21, 2018gbdub said...

    Of all the ships that have gone to the scrapper, which do you most wish had been saved as museums?

    My list would be: 1) USS Enterprise (CV-6) 2) HMS Dreadnought 3) HMS Warspite (03)

  13. November 21, 2018bean said...

    I'm with you on the Big E. I'd put Warspite second, and California third, as a representative of the Pearl Harbor and Standard ships. (I'd prefer a turboelectric standard, and the others are mostly from landlocked states.)

  14. November 21, 2018quanticle said...

    I'm restarting reading Naval Gazing after a while, and I'm wondering if you know anything (or, ideally could write a post) about the the supply convoys that the Allies organized going to Murmansk or Archangelsk, during World War 2. It doesn't seem pleasant to sail that far north, especially through waters that would probably have been infested with U-boats, but how bad was it, really?

  15. November 21, 2018bean said...

    It was really bad. There have been lots of accounts of PQ17, which was unusual in how many ships were sunk, but not in conditions. The north Russia convoys are on my list to write about, but it's going to be a while.

  16. November 22, 2018Johan Larson said...

    The Brits made a good documentary about convoy PQ17 some years back, narrated by Jeremy Clarkson.

  17. November 22, 2018bean said...

    I watched that when it first came out. It is pretty good, particularly if you like Jeremy Clarkson.

  18. November 24, 2018quanticle said...

    Wow, that documentary on PQ-17 was excellent. I had no idea that the arctic convoys were so vital to Russia's war effort. My impression of them was that they were a symbolic gesture that Churchill did to appease Stalin, but it seems like they actually managed to bring over substantial amounts of materiel.

  19. November 24, 2018bean said...

    A friend and I went to see the IMAX film Aircraft Carrier. It veered between the banal and the awful, relieved only by some pretty nice warship footage. Overall, not recommended. Please don’t give these people your money.

    There were a lot of problems with the movie. The biggest was that it was trying to be both a high-level introduction to sea power and a look at a carrier, and failed at both. The history section was particularly execrable. They talked about Jutland, which apparently “signaled the end of the era of the battleships”. Yes, you read that right. They spent most of the time showing pictures of things totally unrelated to Jutland, such as British pre-dreadnoughts at sea (or in one case anchored and in the Victorian paint scheme), footage of Szent Istvan rolling over (right era, and a dreadnought, but on the wrong side of Europe at the time) and some shots of pre-dreadnoughts of nations that weren’t Britain, and probably weren’t Germany. (I’d need more time to work out exactly whose they were, but I think one was Russian.) There was exactly one shot of British dreadnoughts, and maybe one of German vessels. It was awful, and whoever is responsible needs to be delivered to King Neptune for punishment.

    The misappropriation of images continued during the WWII section. When discussing the loss of Japanese carriers during Midway, they had one picture that I think was Wasp on fire, and one that I definitely recognized as Lexington blowing up. The discussion of the Battle of the Atlantic was at a third-grade level, and the only thing I’ll give them points for is recognizing the existence of the RCN, and the director was Canadian, so I'm not going to give very many points. (There were also some errors in the section before the WWI stuff, but I’ll leave them aside for now.)

    The carrier side wasn’t much better, because it simply wasn’t coherent. There were a lot of possible directions to go in here, but they managed to do none of them very well. One would be to do something like Neptunus Lex’s Rhythms series, talking about a day in the life of a carrier. Another would be to do a discussion of sea power in the modern world, and all the forms that can take. They did neither, and instead mashed platitudes together with an attempt to frame it as the story of a RIMPAC, without ever actually telling a story.

    There were other issues. In a couple cases, they used generic CGI of weapons, such that a Virginia launched something out of its VLS that was a generic pointy missile that didn’t even have wings. I was really mad. Also, footage was mixed horribly. They had one big scene at the start with the Vinson, and most of the onboard footage was of the Roosevelt, but the external shots were almost all of the Reagan. If you’re going to track a specific exercise, then at least do me the courtesy of not showing obvious footage of different ships. They have big numbers on the side, so they’re easy to tell apart. The surface escorts got basically no love, either.

    The good parts? Well, there were some pretty shots, but most of them moved too fast. It was pro-F-35, which counts for something, and showed them operating off the America (one of my favorite ships!) although the footage was of course mixed with some that seemed to be from the Wasp.

    Overall, I’m going to not only recommend taking your time and money elsewhere, but actively encourage you to avoid it. These people deserve to have this be a failure, at least until they can tell a story well and actually do history right.

  20. November 25, 2018bean said...

    According to Morison, 17,499,861 tons were shipped from the western hemisphere to the USSR during the war. 22.7% went through North Russia, 23.8% through the Persian Gulf, 47.1% through the Soviet Far East, 3.9% through the Black Sea (not sure how or when) and 2.5% through the Soviet Arctic. The big problem in the Far East was the bottleneck of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, because the Soviets were picking up the cargoes in their ships, and they were neutral relative to the Japanese.

    As for the magnitude of the aid, it was substantial. Most of the trucks that took the Red Army to Berlin were American, and a lot of other supplies, too. Even tanks, which the Soviets actually liked. (If you want to start internet fights, discussing how much Lend-Lease helped the USSR is a good way to do so.)

  21. November 26, 2018Johan Larson said...

    ... and 2.5% through the Soviet Arctic.

    What the heck does that mean?

  22. November 26, 2018bean said...

    No idea. I'm just reporting what the table says. I'd guess it was going into ports more northerly (or westerly) than Murmansk and Archangel.

  23. November 26, 2018gbdub said...

    @bean - my logic for putting Dreadnought ahead of Warspite is that Dreadnought never really got upgraded. Not only was she the first dreadnought, but she would have been crystallized as a "pristine" WWI design (this is a magical world where Dreadnought was saved from the Washington Treaty on the condition that she be decommissioned and made a museum).

    As for California, eh, the gap between USS Texas and USS Alabama is a key one for warship nerds, but I'm not sure the distinctions are as interesting to the general public.

    Would you trade one of the Iowas for a preserved standard? I probably would. I'm not sure we really need all three as museums, and it's unfortunate that we don't have a preserved Pearl Harbor survivor.

    Missouri you have to keep because the war ended there. Is there any real strong objective reason (other than your personal bias) to favor Iowa or Wisconsin? I guess tie goes to the class namer. So preserve California at her berth in Pearl, put Missouri in LA (the war in the Pacific ended on her deck, she should stay in the Pacific) and put Iowa on the east coast (she was built there and actually served in the Atlantic)

  24. November 26, 2018gbdub said...

    Upon further reflection, you convinced me on California and I want to add one more to the list to make it 5:

    1) Big E 2) Dreadnought 3) Warspite 4) California or Tennessee 5) HMS Lion

    Honorable mention to Prinz Eugen and Nagato.

  25. November 26, 2018bean said...

    I think Dreadnought vs Warspite is going to depend on how much you value combat history vs design significance. I'd error the other way from you on this, although I'd definitely rank Dreadnought very high.

    And I'd gladly trade Wisconsin or New Jersey (which you forgot about) for California. But I'd keep Missouri at Pearl, and either transfer Iowa to the East Coast or put California up in San Francisco/the Bay Area.

  26. November 26, 2018gbdub said...

    My preference for Dreadnought vs Warspite is not so much combat experience vs. design, more that there just aren't really any WWI battleships left vs. lots of WWII battleships. Warspite was basically a new ship by WWII.

    What about Lion? Maybe she's the best of both worlds, being a key player at Jutland but going to the scrapper unchanged from her Great War configuration. And there are no battlecruisers of any vintage preserved.

    You're right that I forgot about New Jersey. 4 Iowas is certainly excessive in this hypothetical where we can trade extra museums for scrapped ships.

  27. November 26, 2018bean said...

    Hold on. We need to establish the rules of the ship-trading game before we go any further. Because otherwise, I'm going to trade most of the museum submarines for battleships, and leave the Iowas intact.

    Yes, if I could trade like types, I'd probably be looking to swap New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Alabama for other battleships. I might see if we could swap North Carolina for Washington, too, but that's lower-priority.

    Lion is not a bad choice for preservation, as she ticks most of the boxes. But I'd also point out that we don't have a single British battleship of WWII preserved, so Warspite would still fill a valuable role. And she'd only be slightly less original than Iowa is today.

  28. November 26, 2018bean said...

    I ran down the sourcing on the table in Morison, and it's from here. References elsewhere in the book indicate that the arctic ports were in Siberia off the Arctic Ocean, and supplied out of the Pacific. It was intended to support an air route from the US west coast, but that never happened. The big problem with the Far East was not just the bottleneck of transport, but also that they couldn't ship military supplies due to the law of war.

  29. November 26, 2018Gbdub said...

    I think we agree on the top tier - a few really exceptional ships that would fill big holes in the current museum fleet. Warspite is clearly in that top tier, especially since none of the British battleships have survived.

    I’m not sure it’s fair to call Warspite only “slightly less original” though. Added torpedo bulges, redone superstructure, modified armor, and basically a replacement of the whole propulsion system strikes me as more extreme than Iowa’s reactivation upgrades, which at least kept her overall lines and key guts mostly intact. Not that I’d mind that much - WWII Warspite was just as significant, that she had the bones and guns of a Jutland veteran is even better.

    As for museum swapping, let’s call it like for like, within reason (e.g. battlecruisers count as capital ships and could trade for a battleship, if you want to swap subs it’s for nothing bigger than maybe a destroyer). Any others you’d add to the list?

  30. November 27, 2018Evan Þ said...
    The big problem with the Far East was not just the bottleneck of transport, but also that they couldn’t ship military supplies due to the law of war.

    Wait, what laws of war are we talking about here? If the Soviets are buying weapons from a belligerent power and shipping them in Soviet vessels, what do other belligerent powers have to say about that?

  31. November 27, 2018bean said...

    I don't know all of the exact legalities, but the Japanese had right of inspection on all cargo on the Pacific Route, and took advantage of it. In a lot of ways, what they did wasn't that different from what the British did during WWI.

  32. November 28, 2018bean said...

    Another item of news. It appears that the McCain has finally gotten out of drydock in Japan after her collision off Singapore last year.

  33. November 30, 2018Rolf Andreassen said...

    So the preliminar report is out on the Helge Ingstad. Apart from the crew apparently mistaking the tanker for a fixed installation (it's not mentioned in the link, but I saw other articles reporting that this may be due to the tanker's deck being strongly lit up and drowning out its running lights) there are also concerns about the watertight compartments; apparently water ran back through the propeller shafts from the breach and into the gear compartment. I remember you specifically called out this as a major issue in designing for damage control. Do you think other modern warships might have a similarly underestimated vulnerability, or would it affect just the products of this Spanish builder?

  34. December 01, 2018bean said...

    If what the accident report says is accurate (I tracked down a copy, but am still somewhat confused) then this is rather different from the classical case of flooding due to a damaged shaft. Shafts are hollow, and the water was apparently running through the center of this one. I don't have a good explanation for how that happened. The stuff with the stuffing boxes not stopping flooding is worrying in a more conventional way.

    Getting this sort of thing right takes institutional knowledge, design discipline, and money. I don't really know which one is lacking here. I've heard there were serious budget crunches on the F85, so it's possible the Norwegian Navy accepted lower standards on this kind of stuff. (Something very similar is one of the main factors behind the loss of Sheffield, and export ships for third-world countries are notorious for cutting corners here.) It's also possible that Navantia doesn't have the experience to do this stuff right, because very few of their ships have been mined/bombed/hit with missiles. I suspect that the FFG(X) version would be fine because the USN would insist on its designers doing a lot of the detail work. Of course, then everyone would complain about how expensive it is relative to the F100s, and start going on about military gold-plating.

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