Naval powers at the start of WW2

pikeshot1600

Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
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The "light cruiser" of the early 20th century was a fast scout for the battle fleet. The CL also served to screen the battle line from torpedo attack by enemy destroyers and sea going torpedo boats. Due to the impact of the 1922 Washington Treaty, emphasis for most navies was on 10,000 ships with 8" guns, a specialized ship that combined gun power with high speed. In the later 1920s, these "heavy cruisers" became the scouting and screening force for the fleet.

The Washington (1922) - and then the London (1930) - treaties set limits on tonnage for specified warship types. By the mid 1930s, the treaty limits for 8" gun cruisers (CA) had mostly been reached. In order to increase the number of cruisers available to the Treaty navies, smaller ships with 6" guns were more attractive.

In the USN, there had been complaints over the slow rate of fire of the Treaty cruisers' 8" gun. Probably it was similar in the case of other navies. The available 6" guns were able to provide a rate of fire of about three times that of the 8". These generally smaller cruisers were also less expensive to build, perhaps could join the fleet sooner, and, in the economic distress of the 1930s, could provide for some employment in the ship yards and ordnance works.

In post #137 and #140, the 1920s post-war light cruisers of the USN, the IJN and the Royal Navy were mentioned, and some pictures linked. These ships were the products of World War I experience and of the technology of that period. Fifteen to twenty years later, on the verge of WW II, the light cruiser had made a comeback as an important ship type.

The French navy laid down a more modern class of three 6" gun cruisers in 1922-23, all commissioned in 1926 - the Duguay-Trouin class. Thereafter, the French built to the limit of 8" gun cruisers until the middle 1930s. The only other smaller cruisers built after the war by the French navy were two "school ships" of 4,800 T and 6,500 T. These were of limited military utility due to speed and armament.

Duguay-Trouin class: 7,249 T displacement; speed 33 kts; 8 - 6" guns (4 x 2), 12 T.T., (4 x 3).

Duguay-Trouin-class cruiser - Wikipedia

In 1931, France laid down the Emile Bertain as a a prototype of destroyer flotilla leader. This ship was fast and well armed for its displacement, and it was the template of a subsequent class of six CLs, the La Galissonniere class, which were intended as scouts and also destroyer leaders. They were considered excellent sea boats with very effective artillery. All six were commissioned by 1937.

Emile Bertain: 5,886 T; 35 kts (39.8 on trials); 9 - 6" guns (3 x 3), 6 T.T., (2 x 3).

French cruiser Émile Bertin - Wikipedia

La Galissonniere class: 7,600 T; 35 kts; 9 - 6" guns (3 x 3), 4 T.T., (2 x 2).

La Galissonnière-class cruiser - Wikipedia

The Italian navy, of course, replied with CLs of their own. The next post will address those, with the USN, RN and IJN to follow. There will be an additional post on pre-war anti-aircraft cruisers.
 
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Lord Fairfax

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,499
Sea of Fate
Does it really matter when the 'O' was added
That's the point though, the "O" for observation was never added, it was the primary intended function of the Fulmar from the first day of the Ministry proposal requests.
The poor maligned Fulmar has a very undeserved reputation, it was a sturdy aircraft with long range, which performed well in its intended primary role.
The Royal Navy had very different expectations than the Japanese or Americans for their carriers, with the Pacific powers optimization for "pulse" engagements, where large strike waves would be launched at enemy fleets/carriers whose position was known.
The British were optimised for a wider variety of operations, in all weather and around the clock.
Monitoring convoys, shipping and scouting for surface raiders or enemy warships required a long range reconnaissance/observation aircraft, as the pilot of a single seat fighter couldn't operate ASV radar or fold out a nautical chart in his cockpit. ;)
The fact that it's top speed was equal to the Japanese A5M or Italian CR42 seemed adequate for its secondary role of fleet defence, but obviously by 1941 it was outclassed by more modern types.
Nevertheless, the Fulmar ended up shooting down far more Axis aircraft than it suffered in losses.

Armoured Carriers said:
In the final accounting, the Fulmar proved a worthy aircraft. It was credited with 122 kills.

A total of 40 Fulmars were lost to enemy action. About 16 of these were in air-to-air combat. Only three Fulmars were lost to single-seat fighters: The 5-to-3 kill-to-loss ratio shows the Fulmar giving as good as it got against its single-seat opponents.
Armoured Aircraft Carriers
 

Lord Fairfax

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,499
Sea of Fate
So Carriers weren't going to be used in the North Sea, Channel , Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean -- just in the deep oceans? muddled thinking.
Channel - No, never. The channel was mined, narrow and constricted for Carriers, within range of hundreds of enemy aircraft - a death trap for Carriers

Bay of Biscay - No. That's a French problem

Mediterranean - No. Med is French naval resposibility, and is instead covered by dozens of airbases (Malta, Corsica, Algeria, Tunisia, Alexandria, Cyprus etc)

North Sea - Yes, but not within range of German airbases, and the North Sea was partially covered by land-based aircraft from Orkneys or Shetlands.


The truth is, the British never contemplated that the French could be knocked out of the war in 6 weeks, and never expected to contest the Mediterranean on their own.

The lack of a FAA single seat fighter at the start of WWII was indeed unfortunate, but its hardly surprising that in 1938 the British didn't expend resources to develop one, and instead they concentrated on expanding production of Spitfires and hurricanes.
Ultimately, it didn't end up as a critical shortcoming, as they were able to procure Martlet and Sea Hurricane aircraft instead
 

Lord Fairfax

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,499
Sea of Fate
the point remains that the RN as much as the RAF were responsible for the mess the FAA was in because they really couldn't decide what they wanted a plane to do.
The FAA wasn't in a mess at the start of WWII, all three major naval powers were in roughly similar shape.
All 3 were in the process of replacing biplanes with monoplanes, and had roughly similar progress.

At the start of WWII, all carrier aircraft were biplanes, except that each nation has introduced a new monoplane.
Interestingly, each of the three nations has chosen a different role: the Japanese have introduced a monoplane fighter, the Americans a monoplane torpedo bomber, and the British a monoplane scout/dive bomber.


So back to the thread topic - naval powers at the start of WWII
Here are the primary carrier naval aircraft in Sept 1939

I've broken it down into two year phases, 1.) Pre-war, 2.) Early War (Sept 39 - Aug 41) and 3.) Mid War (Sept 41 - Aug 43)
Aircraft listed are three categories 1.) Fighters 2.) Scout/Dive bomber and 3.) Torpedo bombers




Pre War

Fighters

American
1. F3F Bearcat Grumman F3F - Wikipedia

British
1. Gloster Gladiator

Japanese
1. Mitsubishi A5M - Wikipedia


f3f-4a.jpg
F3F Bearcat



glad2-Gloster-Gladiator-I-K7985-G-AMRK-960x640.jpg
Gloster Gladiator



f80ac317a425b5b2e89f9f5251c01233.jpg
A5M Claude
 
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Lord Fairfax

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,499
Sea of Fate
So, here are the three aircraft that didn't quite make the previous list, but were deployed within the first 4 or 5 months of the start of WWII.

American

Brewster Buffalo fighter (entered service Dec 1939)

British

Fairey Fulmar scout/fighter (Jan 1940)

Japanese

Nakajima B5N "Kate" (From Sept/Oct 1939)



b4a744deafb27f3f2585c3629b4f8dd6.jpg
Buffalo


c0264e12944e1e7ed07ee497c3db2853.jpg
Fulmar


download (7).jpeg
Kate
 
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pikeshot1600

Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
10,084
@Lord Fairfax,

Great posts with visuals. Most people are only aware of the airplanes they saw in war movies. These planes were essentially transitional, but they are mostly what the navies had in the inventory.

Is there any chance you might post on the sea planes and flying boats of the treaty navies in 1939-41?
 

Triceratops

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
3,028
Late Cretaceous
A short film from 1941 about a USN Fleet Exercise, when "Black Fleet" threatens the Panama Canal.

Note the carrier has biplanes, and the decisive action is fought by the battleships.


 

pikeshot1600

Ad Honoris
Jul 2009
10,084
A short film from 1941 about a USN Fleet Exercise, when "Black Fleet" threatens the Panama Canal.

Note the carrier has biplanes, and the decisive action is fought by the battleships.


That was a good look at the pre-war USN. Since it is a 1941 film, its strange to know that many of those BBs would be out of action at the end of the year. The treaty cruisers of the scouting force and the newer DDs, some with only gun shields rather than turrets, are all interesting examples of 1930s naval technology and equipment.

The carriers (looks like USS Lexington and a Yorktown class) with their 1930s aircraft are views of 1941 that have rarely been seen. As mentioned above, people are only familiar with the planes they saw in war movies. Good job!
 
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