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What If: 2 Bismarck were replaced by 4 Graf Zeppelin?

Discussion in 'History & Military Discussion' started by HeavyArmor, Dec 25, 2016.

  1. HeavyArmor

    HeavyArmor Trust me, I'm an Engineer

    Location:
    Malaysia
    What if, in an alternate history......

    In 1934, an political event happened, and causes the Naval officers of the Reichsmarine (before Kriegsmarine) to experience a major personnel reshuffle. The older officers were out of position of powers, and much more younger, "Carrier Advocates" came into power.

    Then, in 1936, instead of the Bismarck-class Battleship, both ships of the class were canceled before their keels were laid, and all their resources were diverted to the 4 Graf Zeppelin-class Aircraft Carriers and creating their carrier-born aircraft units.

    And by January 1941, all four Graf Zeppelins were accepted into service, and with their full complement (just barely full, with only a handful of reserves air crew and airframes on land, training the next batch of carrier pilots) of carrier-operations qualified aircraft squadrons (also just barely qualified, and pressed into service).

    After a couple months worth of training as a four-carrier task force in home waters, the entire force of 4 Graf Zeppelins were ordered sortie to Operation Rheinuburg, escorted by Prinz Eugen and 5 destroyers.

    They sailed out of their home port at the night of 18th May 1941......




    Would this be any different than the original history? How would these Graf Zeppelins (should they survive Operation Rheinuburg) affect the rest of the WWII's history?
     
  2. Project30bis

    Project30bis Sells Farms to Loaders

    Location:
    N. America
    Germany has no long range carrier planes, no naval aviation program, and Graf Zeppelin has a very low aircraft complement. Plus, the North Sea is not as kind as the Pacific to air operations.

    Comparisons: (Graf Zeppelin vs. Yorktown vs. Ark Royal)

    Aircraft:
    GZ: 43, YT: 90, AR: 50-60
    Minimum range of aircraft:
    GZ: 311 mi, YT: 435 mi, later over 800 mi, AR: 522 mi
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2016
  3. What about Göring?
     
  4. HeavyArmor

    HeavyArmor Trust me, I'm an Engineer

    Location:
    Malaysia
    Assume some kind of "Compromise" had been settle between the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine.
     
  5. Polandc4

    Polandc4

    Location:
    NC
    Carrier operations need at least a decade to master, and the Graf Zeppelin was a awful carrier . They would have been meat for any 2 RN carriers. One modern carrier may have been enough to beat them.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2016
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  6. ussnimitz1968

    ussnimitz1968 Not an Actual Servicemember

    Do you mean modern for the OP or modern as in today? Because one of today's nuclear-powered supercarriers stands a good argument for at the very least massively changing the course of the war for whoever gets it.
     
  7. Polandc4

    Polandc4

    Location:
    NC
    One modern for the OP , The Graf Zeppelin really was that bad. Its planes were not that good but early war British were't either so it comes down to training. It also needed time to train, that just was not there. The RN would probably also have had more and better planes and at least four carriers ready to go. They had pretty good info on what the Germans were building, and so would have put more money and effort into carriers to match them.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2016
  8. Night

    Night Knight One-One

    Location:
    Jaburo
    The RN carrier force was usually pretty dispersed and stretched out across multiple theaters. The Germans probably could have won a few small battles by concentrating against lone RN carriers, forcing the RN to pull carriers back from the Far East to counter them. The Arctic convoys would have been a lot less fun.

    On the other hand, this merely means that in early 1942 Wasp and some Brits are going to have a knock-down drag-out with a German carrier group somewhere near Norway, which the Germans will almost certainly lose. Whoever survives this fight will spend the rest of their life being the target of American Essexes completed on the East Coast while they're on shakedown cruise before deployment to the Pacific.
     
  9. ussnimitz1968

    ussnimitz1968 Not an Actual Servicemember

    Yeah, I'm quite aware of that (casemate guns? On a carrier?) but "modern" implies you want a freakin' Nimitz to go up against it - you'd either use "contemporary" or just type out "from the same time period."

    And yes I'm quite aware Akagi also had casemate guns. And we all know what happened to that ship.

    Eh, navalized Bf-109Es? I'm currently reading a book on the BoB and it seems the general consensus among the most experienced Spitfire pilots was that they couldn't make up their mind how the performance of the Emil stacked up to the pre-Mark V types (Mark II principally) used in the battle. Based off other readings I recall the Emil was pretty similar to Russian fighters at higher altitude but the Russian fighters tended to have an advantage in lower-medium altitude. I wouldn't exactly write off a Gustav either, or if they'd bother to draw up plans for navalized Fw-190s/Ta-152s.

    Now the Ju-87 Stuka would've been a hilariously bad torpedo/naval dive bomber, but then again on paper so were the D3A1 Val and SBD Dauntless. There's no such thing as a hilariously bad dive bomber when there's no CAP to oppose it.
     
  10. Polandc4

    Polandc4

    Location:
    NC
    How good was the carrier version? All I have been able to find just states it had a shorter take off distance. Most converted fighters have performance issues. The t-1 had a larger wingspan and bigger flaps. in carrier fights its all about sub 20,000' performance so was more weight and bigger wings an advantage?

    There is no way the RN would not concentrate carriers if the Germans have four even near active service.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2016
  11. Night

    Night Knight One-One

    Location:
    Jaburo
    Like they concentrated their battleships for certain against Bismarck? Like they didn't do dumb things early in the war resulting in an under-escorted and alone Glorious getting blapped by surface ships, nevermind carriers? No, it's not that certain, especially because the RN's doctrine was definitely behind the Americans and Japanese on carrier use; massing their carriers just wasn't something they tended to think about.
     
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  12. Polandc4

    Polandc4

    Location:
    NC
    How many battleships do you need to fight one? Remember WW 1 when 20 plus battleships stuck to the North Sea. The RN was not stupid and yes they did use multiple carriers rember Tarento was to have more.
     
  13. 7734

    7734

    Location:
    Philmont
    So he ended up shot in a ditch by a U-boat crew on shore leave? Wonderbar!

    The RN was pretty smart. The Naval Air Arm was full of RAF rejects flying knockoff WWI planes (Swordfish) or junk birds that had maneuvering issues (Firefly) off of METAHL BAWKSES that needed more flak, more fighters, and more damcon. I'm thinking if Germany managed to get a decent Carrrier Group planned out and tested, they could manage to whack a few cruisers and destroyers that the English had puttering about, maybe knock over a convoy or two. The real trick, though, would be getting good navalized fighters to work as strike planes. Junkers and Fock-Wolfe 190s ain't gonna cut it, and Emils and Gustav don't have enough range to be good interceptors.
     
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  14. Night

    Night Knight One-One

    Location:
    Jaburo
    The WW1 example is immaterial, because it's not how the RN used carriers, and Taranto is a fluke. Multicarrier ops were the exception, not the norm, for the Royal Navy at the start of the war. The Royal Navy came into the war a decade behind the curve on carrier doctrine, using them as fleet scouts and shields in ones and twos, with the idea of strike just starting to get traction, and the idea of carrier-based power projection not even on the table yet. They're not fools, they learned, but they didn't catch up until '43.

    Facing German carriers concentrated together would make them learn and learn quickly, it's true. One learns more from defeat than victory. But they would still have to put the time, sweat, and tears in.
     
  15. Jemnite

    Jemnite Atlanta is ours, and fairly won.

    >Having to land the already poorly handling bf109 in an aircraft carrier
    Everyone just ground loops into the ocean don't they?
     
  16. DocHawkeye

    DocHawkeye

    Location:
    New York
    Part of the reason Germany had a lukewarm attitude towards carriers was that they did not really fit well in any overall strategy. Even one aimed at the Atlantic largely saw the Mediterranean, North Sea, and British Isles as the likely arena. Carriers would not be more useful in these territories as land based aviation could cover most of the gaps and grow to cover all gaps eventually. A shift toward Atlantic thinking in Nazi leadership would call for a greater effort in long range bombers, submarines, cruisers, and merchant tonnage, since we're now thinking of dismembering the British Empire instead of colonizing the Belarus and Ukraine. Stalin would certainly be very pleased with all of this.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016
  17. 7734

    7734

    Location:
    Philmont
    Hey now, the 109 had great handling! It just has some really twitchy controls, plus some other issues.

    What would be fun would be a navalized bf 110.
     
  18. ussnimitz1968

    ussnimitz1968 Not an Actual Servicemember

    Could be, but keep in mind the F4F Wildcat had a similar track width, or for that matter navalized Spitfire.

    Like what @DocHawkeye said it probably has enough range as it is that it doesn't need a navalized version (especially with range-extending fuel tanks). Long range was the entire point of that aircraft, as in daylight roles it had few other qualities going for it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016
  19. DocHawkeye

    DocHawkeye

    Location:
    New York
    The 110's problem was that it was a 1937 design being asked to fight aircraft nearly a generation ahead of it, being weighed down by a tail gunner uselessly armed with a light machine gun did not help. It's just important to remember that the Germans had seen things like the PzL 11, I-153, or Boulton-Paul Defiant as its likely opponents, not the Hurricane and certainly not the Spitfire. The 110 had plenty of things going for it, ie: heavy firepower and lots of payload and it found a lot of success in CAS roles in Russia. It was just so damn useful as a night fighter though that the Germans simply needed all of them for that job and the 110 sort of disappeared from daylight roles as a result of that demand.

    Fighter destroyers are expensive airplanes that the Germans really couldn't afford to make in the hordelike numbers they could manufacture the Bf109 in. Perhaps the push for that could be found with an Atlantic Strategy though. The Me210 might still be a disaster and then they still have a problem.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016
  20. Night

    Night Knight One-One

    Location:
    Jaburo
    Of course, this was a prewar conception of reality, and proved wrong by both sides at some point. (Witness the Italians trying to carry this out, or the struggles to get air cover for Mediterranean operations on the Allied side ultimately demanding the use of carriers.) A shift on carriers does not necessarily mean a shift of overall strategy, especially given Goering's poor cooperation and the poor range of German single-seat fighters, existing or proposed. Even selling it as a floating airfield able to bring 109 escort into range of Scotland and link up with bombers from other places would have had great appeal for being able to threaten Scapa and then scurry away.
     
  21. 7734

    7734

    Location:
    Philmont
    Out of curiosity, does anyone else wonder why all the European fighters were light at best and anorexic at worst with no endurance or good powerplants? I mean, lots got better but in the beginning, Jesus...
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016
  22. DocHawkeye

    DocHawkeye

    Location:
    New York
    A design fad of lopsided horsepower to weight ratios with a renewed interest in dog fighting from perceived experience of the Spanish Civil War. Since many European air forces were tactical in nature and were expecting to do lots of direct ground support for frontline troops. With that kind of plan in mind you could expect lots of furballs at low levels rather than high level bomber interceptions. It is not an exaggeration to describe the Me109 as the biggest engine you could possibly mount on the smallest airframe. Also, European nations were perpetually resource strapped, and preferred to build as many as airplanes as possible on a minimum expenditure of aluminum and other precious metals. The Spitfire, Me109, and Yak-9 fully loaded all weighed around 7,000lbs, the Cessna 402 I fly weighs more than some. The P-47, a fighter, weighed twice as much as all of them, sort of what happens when you demand the thing carry its own weight in gas, payload, and turbochargers.

    Only the Americans were really gearing up for strategic bombing before anyone else was, the British had more or less backed down from it pre-war citing the need to defend Britain first, bomb enemies later.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016
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  23. 7734

    7734

    Location:
    Philmont
    Ok, good to know. Also explains why so much of the English Naval Air Arm had grief- a lot of their early carrier planes had either pissy engines which gave them no end of grief on launches, or had a reasonable engine but were crippled by horrible design in the wings and body that made them handle like bombers.

    I mean, look at the Zero. Sure, its anorexic as hell, but it has bigass wings specifically to get the performance it needed. It might not claw for the heavens like a Corsair or a Lightning, but it did handle better in the turn than even Russian planes did- and the Nazis told their pilots specifically never to engage below 10I feet!
     
  24. 100thlurker

    100thlurker atheshtarih and Enemy of the Lie Magistrate

    Location:
    SMS Odette II
    Bear in mind, in addition to what @DocHawkeye mentioned, that almost all the institutional fighting experience in air to air combat was from those who had fought in WW1. In the infancy of military air forces, all the aces had become so by winning turn fights. The standard of what made a good fighter aircraft would naturally then be dominated by the performance characteristics most relevant to winning dogfights. Even light fighters like the Bf-109 were fighting vast skepticism in prioritizing speed and energy retention in the climb at the expense of turn-rate and the minimization of drag. Combined with the fact that the likeliest peer opponent was basically next door as far as supporting infrastructure was concerned and the particular design foibles of interwar fighters are hardly surprising.
     
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  25. Night

    Night Knight One-One

    Location:
    Jaburo
    There was also a fuel issue. Most European aviation gasoline of the time had a relatively low octane rating (about 50) and was kind of gunky. Why design something with great performance that can't actually achieve it on your gas? (This really came back to bite the Germans later when P-47s running on 150-200 octane gas performed beautifully above 20000 feet, while Bf 109s and Fw 190s running on 50-octane gas had much reduced engine power.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2016
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