Ark Royal vs Bismark

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by pinsog, Sep 18, 2010.

  1. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    Could the Ark Royal have sunk the Bismark, by itself, on the open ocean, given the equipment it had on board at the time of the historical engagement?
     
  2. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    short answer is no, the torpedoes carried by the swordfish were not strong enough to penetrate the main belt and underwater protection of the BB.

    However Bismarck after that one "lucky" hit was immobilised and needed a dockyard to effect repairs. She needed to be towed to get there ("lucky" because that was the exact aiming point for the swordfish crews....they hit what they were aiming for, so calling it a "lucky" hit sort of dimishes their achievement).

    If the British had allocated two oir three carriers to keep watch on the Bismarck, sinkiung anything that tried to rescue her, the Bismarck would have been forced to either scuttle, or surrender.

    In 1945, the Americans used over 200 aircraft to disable and sink the Yamato....so I guess in theory it might be possible for British torpedoes to do the same to Bismarck.
     
  3. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    I never thought about "Laying siege" to Bismark once she was crippled. I guess you could have put a few subs out there instead of carriers and done the same thing. If I understood correctly, didn't the Swordfish torpedoes penetrate the armor, just not very well? Could they have set them to run deeper where they would hit at or near the bottom of the ship where armor was the thinnest?
     
  4. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Im not an expert on Bismarcks armouring scheme, but it was very good. I know that tordedoes did hit her midships section, and did next to no damage. Bismarcks weak point in her armouring, in common with most capital ships, was near the shafts and rudders, Here ther is insufficient hull bulk to have anything but the most rudimentary protection around some of the most vital parts of the ship,,,,,the rudders and the screws. As it turned out the British torpedoes hit the rudder(or perhaps just forward of it, I'm not sure), and either forced the rudder over to a wheel over position, or kept it ther as a result of German manouvering. The Germans tried desperate measures to restore steeerage, to no avail. Given what is believed to have happened to the rudders, it would have taken a dockyard to repair the damage.

    Sub torpedoes are much bigger and heavier than the relatively lightweight airborne types, but I doubt if even they could have penetrated the great ships main belt. She was one tough ship....no doubt about it.
     
  5. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    Here is a cross section of the armour and underwater protection of Tirpitz and HMS KGV:
    [​IMG]

    Ships don't use armour, per se, to defend against torpedoes, but a system of layered compartments that allow the torpedo explosion to dissipate before it can force a hole into the vitals of the ship. Bismarck's system was reasonably effective against aerial torpedoes but repeated hits in the same areas would eventually overwhelm the underwater defence system, leading to flooding of the machinery spaces of the ship, thus sinking her.
     
  6. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    If Ark Royal had carried on launching strikes and the Swordfish had kept aiming at the vulnerable stern, surely eventually there would have been sufficent hits to knock out the propellors. Then you have Bismark dead in the water and the RN could have done with her what they wanted.
     
  7. Kryten

    Kryten Member

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    Read an enginnering analysis of the Bismark design a few years ago, apparently its biggest weakness against torpedo attack was in the counter flooding ability to prevent listing, the wide beam of the hull made any counter flooding very difficult to manage and was critical to the ships mobility once damaged!

    I cannot however provide a counter argument to this perhaps someone else has a bit more knowledge of the subject?
     
  8. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    I would argue thats what happened historically anyway. The question was howeverm, if Ark Royal, withy just 32 Swordfish embarked, had the firepower to kill the great ship by herself....
     
  9. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    I think eventually it would have been able to as well. You keep it hitting it over and over eventually she is going to crack. To me the real question is if the Germans could have gotten more vessels out to the Bismark in time to save her before the Ark Royal had the chance to do such a thing.
     
  10. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    In a sense, if the Bismarckhad survived, she might have proven a big liability anyway. Say she had hung aound for a week, until somehow the germans had been able to tow her back to a French Port. That port would have to be St Nazaire, incidentally as it possessed the only drydock in France capable of supporting the great ships tremendous weioght and beam. In that week, one could expect the Ark Royal (and her relief carriers) to have thrown everything thay has at the ship. Bismarck would have been hit by multiple hits, and suffered a great deal of non-lethal damage. Fixing that damage would probably have taken many months, if not years to repair. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau each suffereed far less damage by bombs mostly, and spent many months repairing at Brest, and all the while were subjected to heavy air attack. If bismarck was there as well, she would have been subjected to even greater sustained attack. I can see her repasir being so delayed as to reduce her to historic interest only.

    Battleships were obsolete by 1941, though no-one had quite realized that at the time of the Bismarcks demise
     
  11. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    I can see the same thing happening.
     
  12. delcyros

    delcyros Well-Known Member

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    in within the scope of circumstances, I dare to say possible- but unlikely. The TDS was adaequate against aerial torpedoes hitting the sides. Sinking may be possible by bypassing the TDS (repeated hits in the same compartement or hitting below the keel). the former requires extreme luck and at least 8 compartements flooded this way, the latter required magnetic pistols. ARK ROYAL had them but they didn't work properly ( luckily SHEFFIELD was attacked and hit so that the pistols could be replaced by contact ones) and in top of this BISMARCK was equipped with MES and thus save from this type of attack.
     
  13. Nikademus

    Nikademus Member

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    Yes, but the chances were less than one would expect. Firstly the # of bombers was small making it more difficult. Generally it takes a large swarm of aircraft to sink heavy armored and armed warships. Yamato is an extreme example being the biggest and most heavily armored BB of her kin, but was attacked by something like 300+ aircraft on her last sortie, all modern types. The torpedoes were bigger and armed with TORPEX warheads, and the USN had learned from experiences with her sister Musashi to focus on attacking one side of the battleship to promote capszation. So pitting one carrier vs a battleship is a chance affair in general. Mass is a key component to overwhelm a ship. The + side of course is that even en-masse, aircraft are cheaper and less costly a proposition vs. another battleship, and thats what doomed the type.

    Ark Royal's Swordfish faced poor sea conditions, had reletively modest torpedo payloads and which apparantly were set too shallow allowing Bismarck's armor belt to come into play. Bismarck's TDS (torpedo Defense System) was reletively unsophisticated. Enough torpedoes hitting below the armor belt, or (as historically occured) a hit in a critical spot such as rudders and props can bring even the most powerful warship to a halt.
     
  14. tail end charlie

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    Another point is that all large battleships were invested with huge national pride losing the Hood or the Bismark affected national pride apart from the huge loss of life. The Bismark had a compliment of 2200, so I suppose keeping the Tirpitz on the edge of going to sea but not actually doing it tied down 2200 trained sailors.

    Come to think of it how long could the Bismark stay at sea before it ran out of food?
     
  15. Markus

    Markus Banned

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    Why not? She was a sitting duck after the first airstrike and could not go anywhere but round in circles. I guess that would have made hits much more likely had Ark Royal attacked again. Then its just a matter of time until the cumulative damage sinks her. Yes, the warheads were not as powerful as 1945 US warheads but I guess BM was not as well protected as Yamato either. 388 lbs. (176 kg) TNT times a dozen, all on one side?
     
  16. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Can the Bismark catch the Ark Royal? Seems the Carrier can always outrun the BB. As such, it becomes less of a question can the BB sink the CV but can the BB absorb the CV's attacks and still run down the CV? I'm inclined to say not. Even if the CV doesn't score a kill shot on the BB, the cumlative affect of the torpedoes/bombs will be enough to at least slow the BB down. And that gives the CV a larger envelope of action versus the BB.

    The Ark Royal may not be able to sink the Bismark, but the affect of the attacks would make the Bismark unable to catch the CV. If, and this is a big if, the BB can even find the CV. The Atlantic is a big place an all the Ark Royal has to do to get away from the Bismark is change direction now and again. Meanwhile, the Ark Royal can park a Swordfish over the Bismark whenever it needs to track it.

    My money is on the Ark Royal in a longish fight. Most likely, the BB never even gets a glimpse of the CV.
     
  17. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    AND, no one has really even mentioned the Fulmars dropping 500lb bombs on her also. While definately not BB killers, they would sure tear up the upper works, anti aircraft guns, radar and radio antenna, started fires and killed people. If you managed to destroy all or most of the anti aircraft guns, Swordfish could have pushed their torpedo drops to within a few hundred yards. Can't miss range against a non manuevering target.
     
  18. Markus

    Markus Banned

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    I´m fairly sure 1941 Fulmars did not carry bombs. A shame, 500 pounders would have made the Fulmar quite useful.
     
  19. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    #19 RCAFson, Sep 20, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2010
    However the Swordfish was stressed for dive bombing.

    I've read that the Fulmar could carry 2 x 250lb bombs, or a single 500lb bomb on the centre line.
     
  20. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Fulmar mkIIs could do that, AND were equipped with ASV radar. However they were introduced after May 1941
     
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