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"Operation Excess" Topic

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World War Two at Sea

408 hits since 12 Feb 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP12 Feb 2018 8:58 p.m. PST

Of possible interest?


Hope you enjoy!.


21eRegt13 Feb 2018 9:53 a.m. PST

Very interesting. Thanks.

Mark 113 Feb 2018 4:10 p.m. PST

On other fora I have seen hot debates over the merits of the armored flight deck of WW2 RN carriers.

This account is the first detailed account I have read of the beating that Illustrious took.

I will say this -- I am impressed that the ship took such a pounding and survived to reach port under her own power, and to go on to further service during and after the war.

In reading the account, it is not entirely clear to me how much the armored flight deck contributed to the ship's survival. It seems that the flight deck was penetrated … I did not see in the account or in the damage assessments any information on bombs bouncing off or being detonated on the flight deck. So did the 3 inches of armor actually protect the ship?

On the other hand, the Germans were quite explicit in seeking to sink the Illustrious. Due to their concern about how well armored the ship was, they seem to have relied upon AP bombs. These had notably heavier casings, and notably weaker bursting charges. So maybe the presence of the armored deck meant that even if bombs could penetrate, only less-lethal bombs could penetrate.

On the other side, the description of the fires in the hanger space seem quite nasty. The Illustrious (and RN fleet carriers in general) had armored hanger decks -- armor of the flight deck overhead, but hull side armor too. With mid-deck elevators, this meant that all those hanger spaces were in an enclosed box. This must have made fire-fighting in the hanger decks a living (or dying?) h3ll.

With all of that tossed out as a starting point, I am interested in opinions and analysis. Was the Illustrious well served by her armored flight deck? Would a USN style fleet carrier have done as well or better in the same situation?

The closest comparable would probably be the USN Wasp -- about as new, and in the same general size range. Wasp was known to carry as many as 100 aircraft, but that was mostly on aircraft ferry missions. More common would have been a 72 plane aviation group -- about exactly double the strength of Illustrious. Of course, if the Wasp carried only 10 Fulmars, as Illustrious did, all that capacity would have been of no use. But Wasp in that same timeframe would have been equipped with 20-24 F4F-3 Wildcats.

Would the USN emphasis on fire-control procedures have matched the RN's? Was this a more important factor in Illustrious' survival than the armored flight deck?

Would the USN emphasis on fighters have made enough difference to overcome any disadvantage in deck armor? USN doctrine would have meant more fighters available for defense. But also it would have meant BETTER fighters available for defense. The biggest shortcoming of the Fulmars in Illustrious' defense were their slow climb speed and the weakness of their .303 armament against Stukas. The Wildcat may have been no Spitfire or Me-109, but it sure beat the Fulmar by a wide margin on both of these factors!

Imagine half the Wildcats being in a position to actually engage the Stukas before they dove. As it was, Fulmars with NO ammo managed to get 2 Stukas to jettison their bombs by making false attack runs. Real Wildcats, with real .50cals blazing, would have disrupted the attack more. Enough? Hard to say.

What say ye?

(aka: Mk 1)

Captain Corcoran14 Feb 2018 5:12 a.m. PST

I'd highly recommend reading through some of the articles and accounts of the British armoured aircraft carriers on this website Trial by Fire, Armoured flight deck, aircraft carrier action and damage reports, 1940-19 It will tell you everything you need to know about the RN armoured carriers and detailed information on operations and damage.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2018 10:21 a.m. PST

Glad you enjoyed it my friend!. (smile)

Thanks Captain Corcoran!.


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