Naval powers at the start of WW2

Triceratops

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
3,016
Late Cretaceous
It is interesting that - from that angle - the Northampton class CA gives the impression of a battleship. :)

Yes, it is easy to see how an observer could misidentify a ship

And it did happen. Hood mistook Prinz Eugen for Bismarck in the opening phase of the Denmark Strait battle.
 

pikeshot1600

Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
10,001
Yes, it is easy to see how an observer could misidentify a ship

And it did happen. Hood mistook Prinz Eugen for Bismarck in the opening phase of the Denmark Strait battle.
At Pearl Harbor, Japanese torpedo bombers misidentified a former battleship (USS Utah BB-31) that had been converted to a radio controlled target ship. Something like six or eight torpedoes were dropped and the ship sank by the stern. USS Utah had been re-designated as an auxiliary (AG-16) after the London Naval Treaty of 1930.

There were supposed to be nine battleships with the Pacific fleet, but only eight were present on 7 Dec. Utah had a battleship shape and from the air apparently that was good enough for the IJN air crews.
 
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Aug 2014
302
New York, USA
At Pearl Harbor, Japanese torpedo bombers misidentified a former battleship (USS Utah BB-31) that had been converted to a radio controlled target ship. Something like six or eight torpedoes were dropped and the ship sank by the stern. USS Utah had been re-designated as an auxiliary (AG-16) after the London Naval Treaty of 1930.

There were supposed to be nine battleships with the Pacific fleet, but only eight were present on 7 Dec. Utah had a battleship shape and from the air apparently that was good enough for the IJN air crews.
Misidentifications of ships was pretty common on all sides. Sometimes even oilers, refueling ships, were identified as aircraft carriers.... Usually you don't get to come in close and look at the ship to determine what exactly you're looking at. You are either really far away, or you are close enough where you are taking fire and are in the heat of the battle. It was a case when the range of guns was starting to outscale the distance of eyesight.
 

pikeshot1600

Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
10,001
Speaking - as we have been - about the five Treaty Powers, the 1930s were a period when the importance and utility of naval aviation became more appreciated. That was the case even though only Japan and the US did very much about it.

The Royal Navy only received full authority over the Fleet Air Arm in spring, 1939. The RN had seven aircraft carriers, but the development of naval aircraft lagged because the Royal Air Force had by far the most input into military aviation. Land based air power was what concerned the RAF, and the admirals were still mostly interested in gun power at sea, and with submarines. That may be too simplistic, but the most famous FAA instrument of war in 1939-41 was the Fairey Swordfish, the beloved "Stringbag." The Fairey Fulmar fighter and Blackburn dive bomber were planes that were used early in the war, but were not in the class of German, Italian, or Japanese aircraft.

France, with widespread colonial responsibilities, had one elderly and slow carrier, and one seaplane carrier. The French navy used a variety of mostly obsolescent and otherwise suspect aircraft, none of which were produced in any numbers. By 1939, France had plans for two modern keel-up CVs and had orders in for US naval aircraft, both carrier based and land based. IIRC the Grumman F4F, Chance-Vought and other dive bombers and torpedo bombers, and the Consolidated PBY were on order but hung up because of production and then because of US neutrality issues.

EDIT: The French navy also ordered the two engine Martin 167F light bomber (Martin Maryland) as a land based aircraft. I don't know if it was able to carry torpedoes or not.

The Italians had essentially no air arm except for the float plane pilots aboard cruisers and the newer battleships (not commissioned before 1940). The air force was a hotbed of Fascist politics and the navy was far more attached to the monarchy. Coordination was spotty at best and land based air support, while theoretically a logical idea in the Mediterranean, was reliable only in the central Med. As the war in that narrow sea unfolded, it was the RN that had the better of the Italian navy, including the air attack at Taranto, Nov., 1940, where several battleships were taken out of effective service.

The Italian navy attempted to convert two fast passenger ships (about 30,000 tons) into CVs, but that happened too late, and both were unready at Italy's armistice with the Allies in 1943. I am not aware that Italy had any suitable carrier aircraft that could have been operated from these ships. Their air groups were to have been air force personnel.

The USN and the IJN both have to be the subject of a separate post(s).
 
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Kevinmeath

Ad Honoris
May 2011
14,069
Navan, Ireland
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The Royal Navy only received full authority over the Fleet Air Arm in spring, 1939. The RN had seven aircraft carriers, but the development of naval aircraft lagged because the Royal Air Force had by far the most input into military aviation. Land based air power was what concerned the RAF, and the admirals were still mostly interested in gun power at sea, and with submarines. That may be too simplistic, but the most famous FAA instrument of war in 1939-41 was the Fairey Swordfish, the beloved "Stringbag." The Fairey Fulmar fighter and Blackburn dive bomber were planes that were used early in the war, but were not in the class of German, Italian, or Japanese aircraft................................
I have always read (for ever) that it was the RAF's fault that the FAA was so poorly equipped for aircraft when WWII started because they were not 'interested'.

Reading recently that's that is only part of the truth-- and one beloved by the RN -- but that their lords at the Admiralty could never decide what they actually wanted from an aircraft so their specifications were always broad and often changed mid-design. For instance the Fairy Fulmer 'fighter' suffered because the RN ordered a fighter but add in dive bombing and maritime recon so that the aircraft delivered by the companys-- that met RN requirements were at best a 'Jack of all Trades'.

The Swordfish is a good example.
 
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pikeshot1600

Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
10,001
I have always read (for ever) that it was the RAF's fault that the FAA was so poorly equipped for aircraft when WWII started because they were not 'interested'.

Reading recently that's that is only part of the truth-- and one beloved by the RN -- but that their lords at the Admiralty could never decide what they actually wanted from an aircraft so their specifications were always broad and often changed mid-design. For instance the Fairy Fulmer 'fighter' suffered because the RN ordered a fighter but add in dive bombing and maritime recon so that the aircraft delivered by the companys-- that met RN requirements were at best a 'Jack of all Trades'.

The Swordfish is a good example.
I am not so sure that the Admiralty is that much to blame for the naval aviation reality in 1939. Budget money goes only so far, and carrier aircraft - of which there were only a few hundred, or maybe 500-600 - certainly took a back seat to warships and much other expense. In the late 1930s, the minimal number of carrier aircraft was a minor issue. Few naval experts at that time, even though sensing that it would become increasingly important, fully understood the impact of naval air power.
 
Oct 2015
949
Virginia
Why did the Admiralty insist on dual-role, two-seat, fighter/scout-bombers in their specifications? The Japanese A5M and the US F3F were more or less contemporary with the Skua; but both were single-seat, single-function fighters, and had better performance. The next generation Fulmar and Firefly also had to fill both fighter and observation roles, had two crew members and suffered in performance compared to the A6M, F2A & F4F.
 
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pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,759
Why did the Admiralty insist on dual-role, two-seat, fighter/scout-bombers in their specifications? The Japanese A5M and the US F3F were more or less contemporary with the Skua; but both were single-seat, single-function fighters, and had better performance. The next generation Fulmar and Firefly also had to fill both fighter and observation roles, had two crew members and suffered in performance compared to the A6M, F2A & F4F.
apart of the problem was the RN had no real in house air expertise. All RNAS went to the RAF when formed and FAA was part of the RAF. The RN did not really have pilots in senior roles.
The USN I think commandeer of carriers were meant to have flight experience.

In the 1920s/1930s., air forces were very new organizations fighting for their existence and purpose. Subordination and fear of sublimation within theolder services of the Amy and Navy drove iar focre leaders outlook. Whihc lead to such an emphasis of strategic bombing in many air forces as this was the mission performed independently of other forces, was the real independent role for the air force. Tatcial support for the army or navy was disidained as leading to subordination or sublimation by those organizations
 

Triceratops

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
3,016
Late Cretaceous
The RAF did form Coastal Command in 1936, to carry out maritime duties, eg anti-submarine patrols, from shore. This Command however was very much at the back of the queue when receiving funding.
The numerically most important aircraft with Coastal Command at the beginning of the war was the Avro Anson. There were also two squadrons of Vickers Vildebeests, vintage 1928, and six squadrons of flying boats, of which the best were the two Short Sunderland squadrons.
The new Lockheed Hudson was arriving to replace the Anson, 78 were in service by September 1939.

Short Sunderland.