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Old December 30th, 2017, 08:07 PM   #1
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Could the Imperial Japanese Navy do an Operation Sea Lion and land troops on England?


There is a cliche that Imperial Japan hands down was superior to the Kriegsmarine in technological, manpower (including number of ships) and war tactics and doctrine with the only thing the Germans being superior in was their U Boat (and even than Japanese subs were not too drastically inferior that a underwater battle would mean a guaranteed curbstomp) and radars (though it was still inferior to what the Allies had).

So I wonder. Suppose the entire Imperial Japanese Navy magically transported into Europe and was able to dock at Germany. Lets ignore considerations such as the amount of docks needed to hosts Japanese ships, fuels the IJN needed, and other real life considerations and assume they are all solved and Japan could go ahead fight a war. Would they have been able to succeed where Germany failed?

Scenario 1)Japan repeats the same attempt Germany did in the Battle of Britain with her entire navy.

Scenario 2) Same as one but we assume they lose but decide to continue invading Britain as opposed to how Germany gave up quickly after losing the Battle of Britain and instead focus on USSR. In this scenario we magically assume all of Japan's resources, war factories,and other war making capacities magically gets transported to Germany.

I know OTL resources was a major problem for German in trying to adapt to get pass the English channel along with the fact she had to focus her concentration on other fronts such as USSR and the fact her naval war science was quite inferior to Japan (especially in adapting to other warfares outside of the open ocean such as ship battles in a large river, etc).

With Japan's warmaking capacity (supposedly superior at producing battleships and other essential naval technology and naval logistics in general) and her more vast knowledge in fighting in different types of water terrain, would Japan be able to repeat major attempts to invade Britain where Germany could never again try after losing once? Could Japan potentially capture UK in a second or third Battle of Britain?

3)Same as scenario one but Japan learns from Germany's mistakes in advance (say this takes place a month or two after the real Battle of Britain).

4)Japan somehow manage to land a large number of troops in any of the scenarios a few days after the battle starts. To keep it realstic lets assume they land the same number of troops as in Guadacanal. How long does Britain last.

5) Same as 4 but this time much larger troops comparable to their real life successful campaigns such as the capture of Singaphore or Indonesia. With a real army and a capable commander like Yamashita or Kawaguchi will Britain fall in a matter of a month much like Singaphore and Indonesia did in real life? Or will it be too bloody a battle for a single campaign for Japan to conquer?

I am very curious how a much more competent navy would do in an Operational Sea Lion. Does Japan have what the German navy lacked to pull it off?
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Old December 30th, 2017, 09:38 PM   #2

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So I wonder. Suppose the entire Imperial Japanese Navy magically transported into Europe and was able to dock at Germany. Lets ignore considerations such as the amount of docks needed to hosts Japanese ships, fuels the IJN needed, and other real life considerations and assume they are all solved and Japan could go ahead fight a war. Would they have been able to succeed where Germany failed?


3)Same as scenario one but Japan learns from Germany's mistakes in advance (say this takes place a month or two after the real Battle of Britain).


I am very curious how a much more competent navy would do in an Operational Sea Lion. Does Japan have what the German navy lacked to pull it off?
So obviously one of the biggest differences between a hypothetical Japanese Sealion and the later attack on Pearl Harbor is that the Japanese wouldn't have the A6M Zero in significant numbers, there were only couple dozen or so introduced in July 1940, so there would likely be less than 50 operational by Aug/Sept 1940, this would pit A5M Claude fighters vs British Hurricanes.

The IJN would probably suffer pretty badly vs British subs, as their ASW capability was far below British standard
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Old December 30th, 2017, 10:09 PM   #3
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So obviously one of the biggest differences between a hypothetical Japanese Sealion and the later attack on Pearl Harbor is that the Japanese wouldn't have the A6M Zero in significant numbers, there were only couple dozen or so introduced in July 1940, so there would likely be less than 50 operational by Aug/Sept 1940, this would pit A5M Claude fighters vs British Hurricanes.

The IJN would probably suffer pretty badly vs British subs, as their ASW capability was far below British standard
If we assumed they were at full capacity at their peak in the war, would having amax amounts of Zeros make a difference like it did at Pearl Harbor? Or is it still doomed to defeat?
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Old December 30th, 2017, 10:50 PM   #4
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The British had a air defence system, better pilot training (interns they were geared up for a log war, while the Luftwaffe and Japanese had a highly trained cadre at the start of the war, thier systems were poorly geared for along war), better repair and maintenance, better production. The RAF fighting over it's home ground was pretty formidable.

The IJN had naval landing experience, but not that much and none in contested landing. The Japanese army was not equipped or prepared to fight a modern equiped army (Asia the lighter equipment was much less of a problem). They did have real landing craft and some appreciation of the logistics. But they landed relatively small forces, unopposed and not many land craft or adapted merchant ships as landing ships. 20,000 was a big landing for the Japanese and they would ferry a lot of those troops in tenders. Landing 200,000 troops is a huge stretch that the Japanese were not prepared for, either were opposed landings.

The Japanese had better naval attack doctrine, (than either the British or Germans in 1940) and really good torpedoes. Aircraft carriers are not a huge factor, as limited strike forces compared to ground based aircraft and the relatively short ranges.

The Zero was not all that good as a fighter, it had strengths and dogfighting it was generally a mistake once allied pilots adapted it wasn't a dominate aircraft and it's weaknesses were more exposed (no armour no self selling tanks)

The Japanese army air force had 300 odd fighters in 1940. The RAF 600 and the Luftwaffe 800-900 (all figures operational and a bit rough someone might have better figures) and historically the RAF increased to rough parity as the Luftwaffe suffered high lesses and was less able to replace pilots and aircraft.
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Old December 30th, 2017, 11:19 PM   #5

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No way. They defeated the British in the Far East, largely due to bad British tactics and distance from key supply lines.

So they might get through the Pacific or Indian oceans. Once they reached the Atlantic though, Japan would not have had the capability to transport troops and materiel that distance. The Royal Navy was considerably larger than the Japanese navy, and any landing party would have been destroyed by the time it reached the Falklands, let alone anywhere near the UK itself.

The only true fighting between them would have ben in the Far East, as it was.
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Old December 30th, 2017, 11:32 PM   #6
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No, for several reasons.

A, the Atlantic wasn't the Pacific and unlike the Lufwaffe in 1940, who were taking off from France and Germany, the carriers and airplanes the Japanese would be using would not be replaceable and would be vulnerable to attack. If the Japs lose pilots and carriers, they had a hard enough time replacing them in the Pacific nm transporting those things around the world again. The RAF would have no such issues. This isn't the Pacific were sinking an aircraft carrier could have got the Japanese naval superiority, in this venue the British isles basically serve as an unsinkable aircraft carrier.

B, The Japanese best capital ships were very much quality over quantity. However, while the Japanese only produced 10 battleships after the dreadnought age started, they had 9 going into WWII and 4 battlecruisers and that's all the non CV capital ships they produced over three decades. While the 2 Yamato class ships were better than any ship on earth, the rest of the Japanese ships were mostly obselete with only 2 other battleships having been built after WWI The UK on the other hand had 10 battleships and 2 battlecruisers in reserve from WWI alone, and these were their newest 10 which were more advanced than all but 4 of the Japanese capital ships. UK had also 7 battleships from after WWI, and the HMS Hood depending on the date. The 2 ship Yamato class indiviudally beats any of these ships but this is a huge disadvantage that 1 or 2 ships quality can't overcome.

C, Yamato's quality would even be less relevant in the small north Atlantic than the giant Pacific. In the Pacific battleships had a lot more room to avoid air attacks, in the Atlantic even the best battleships could not only easily be done in by air power, but their movements were seriously restricted by this, just look at how airpower limited the Tirpitz and Bismarck's effectiveness. Also if the scenario takes place when you said it did in 1940, the Japanese wouldn't even have those ships and the navy would be even more outclassed.

So Japan didn't have the ships to acquire naval supremacy, nor the planes to acquire air supremacy. I guess the best case scenario is a sneak attack where Japanese take the UK by surprise and get air superiority long enough, sink enough important ships to land troops. This would be temporary and the moment those carriers are gone the Japanese soldiers are sitting ducks. Maybe someone's thinking what if the Japanese destroy the RAF on the ground and there's a few responses, A, Japan can't get all the planes due to her limited capacity, this is a 70,000 square mile island and you're trying to multitask by destroying the navy and B support a landing force, B, UK still has a bunch of small carriers that can come into the region and C, UK has the capacity to replace their losses while the Japs don't.

For what it's worth I think Japan is more powerful overall at this time due to their larger population BUT being a slightly more powerful country doesn't mean you can successfully pull off something like this. UK would have no chance of doing the same to Japan either, and even a hypothetical US 1945 invasion of Japan would have happened with all sorts of advantages these operations didn't have, mainly 1, bases nearby and 2 the fact that basically all the Japanese capital ships had been sunk by this point giving the US unquestioned naval and air superiority. 3 US was closer regardless and could get more men into the theater much more quickly, how would Japan get reinforcements to the UK, it's like reverse Russo-Japanese war almost. If Japan had these advantages over the UK, sure she can succeed here but these are advantages that would be less likely than hell freezing over.

Last edited by EmperoroftheBavarians43; December 30th, 2017 at 11:36 PM.
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Old December 30th, 2017, 11:57 PM   #7

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Another excellent post from Pugsville.

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The Japanese army air force had 300 odd fighters in 1940. The RAF 600 and the Luftwaffe 800-900 (all figures operational and a bit rough someone might have better figures) and historically the RAF increased to rough parity as the Luftwaffe suffered high lesses and was less able to replace pilots and aircraft.
He did however specify only the IJN, (presumably not including the IJA), so there would only be the 4 fleet carriers extant in 1940, with about 100 fighters, and 200 odd Kate & Val bombers.

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If we assumed they were at full capacity at their peak in the war, would having amax amounts of Zeros make a difference like it did at Pearl Harbor? Or is it still doomed to defeat?

The Zero was not all that good as a fighter, it had strengths and dogfighting it was generally a mistake once allied pilots adapted it wasn't a dominate aircraft and it's weaknesses were more exposed (no armour no self selling tanks)
Better than the Claude though, and 20 or 30 Zeros would be a tough opponent for the British in 1940
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Old December 31st, 2017, 12:02 AM   #8

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While the 2 Yamato class ships were better than any ship on earth. The 2 ship Yamato class indiviudally beats any of these ships but this is a huge disadvantage that 1 or 2 ships quality can't overcome.

C, Yamato's quality would even be less relevant in the small north Atlantic than the giant Pacific. .
EoB - No Yamatos are available in 1940, so the IJN has only Nagatos and older BBs
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Old December 31st, 2017, 12:50 AM   #9
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EoB - No Yamatos are available in 1940, so the IJN has only Nagatos and older BBs
As I noted near the end, I was giving the scenario it's best chance to succeed and that would be in 1941 ,1942 when a few of the UK's capital ships were gone and the Yamato class existed rather than in 1940, but yeah for both to be in service you have to go post Midway. But yeah the disparity is great, what's sad is that Japan built better ships in terms of state of the art especially at the end but they built them so few and far between, they didn't even have an option of retiring those first generation Dreadnoughts.
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Old December 31st, 2017, 05:55 AM   #10
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As I noted near the end, I was giving the scenario it's best chance to succeed and that would be in 1941 ,1942 when a few of the UK's capital ships were gone and the Yamato class existed rather than in 1940, but yeah for both to be in service you have to go post Midway. But yeah the disparity is great, what's sad is that Japan built better ships in terms of state of the art especially at the end but they built them so few and far between, they didn't even have an option of retiring those first generation Dreadnoughts.
After 1940 the RAF is much stronger. Better aircraft and tactics. And better at naval strikes. The British army had replaced their equipment, wasn't the half equiped force of 1940.
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