Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Discussions on alternate history, including events up to 20 years before today. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
User avatar
Kurt_Steiner
Member
Posts: 3980
Joined: 14 Feb 2004 13:52
Location: Barcelona, Catalunya

Post by Kurt_Steiner » 26 May 2005 19:12

I don't think so. At least, it would be quite easy, I guess.

aghart
Member
Posts: 170
Joined: 02 Jun 2011 19:39
Location: Poole, Dorset, UK

Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by aghart » 13 Jun 2011 23:34

There was never any possibility of HMS Indomitable being with Force Z on 10th December 1941. This has nothing to do with her running aground in the Carribean. Indomitable was commisioned in October 1941 and sent to the west Indies to conduct her work up training prior to deplyment to Singapore. She was NOT en-route to Singapore when she was damaged on 3rd November, she had only just arrived and still had at least 2 weeks (minimum) training to complete before she could be considered fit for duty. In theory if she had not been damaged she could have left for Singapore on or about the 17th November but would then have had to steam at full speed to get to Singapore in time.

As the British were sending HMS Repulse to Australia on a flag waving excercise in Early December 1941 I don't think that signals urging Indomitable to "make Singapore with all speed" would have been sent.

The whole point of Force Z was political, a small but powerful force of fast Capital ships was to show Britain "meant business" Having Hermes along was a pointless excercise, why bother? Indomitable would soon be ready, and an old and slow carrier together with an old and slow R class battleship (HMS Revenge was available at Trimcommalee in Ceylon) would indicate a "scratch" force cobbled together being all that Britain could spare, not the image required.

Also, no Zero fighters took part in the action on 10th December and assuming historical sightings and movements took place it is unlikely they would have been much use.

The Japanese did not know where Force Z was on 10th December, the scout planes took off first, followed about an hour later by the strike force who would be guided to the target by the scouts. The zero's stayed on the ground, ready to be scrambled once Force Z was spotted. They could not have got to Kuantan before the majority of strike planes had historicly attacked. any defending fighters (RAF, RAAF or RN) would not have had to deal with zero's until later on.

The presence of even a small number of fighters over Force Z could have made a huge difference. The early and crippling hit on POW would have been much more difficult with a force of fighters chasing the bombers.

Dave Bender
Member
Posts: 3533
Joined: 24 Apr 2006 21:21
Location: Michigan U.S.A.

fighters over Force Z could have made a huge difference

Post by Dave Bender » 14 Jun 2011 00:14

IMO "Could have" is exactly the right description.

The IJN had plenty of CAP at Midway but it was poorly coordinated. Scratch 3 CVs in a couple minutes. Would RN CAP be better coordinated during December 1941? I doubt it. So it largely comes down to luck but having even a small (1 CV) CAP improves the odds a bit.

User avatar
LWD
Member
Posts: 8618
Joined: 21 Sep 2005 21:46
Location: Michigan

Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by LWD » 14 Jun 2011 13:59

Midway is hardly a decent comparison though. At Midway the Japanese were getting hit by multiple raids coming in from different vectors. While there were multiple attacks on Froce Z they all pretty much came in on the same vector did they not? There's also a good chance that had a carrier been present it would have had a functioning air search radar and British fighter direction was perhaps the best in the world at that point. The relativly small size of the raids would also have made even a small CAP quite effective and vs torpedo bombers fighters have a decent chance of getting in postition to intercept soon after launch.

Dave Bender
Member
Posts: 3533
Joined: 24 Apr 2006 21:21
Location: Michigan U.S.A.

British fighter direction was perhaps the best in the world

Post by Dave Bender » 14 Jun 2011 14:59

Perhaps. But it didn't prevent HMS Illustrious from being hit by 6 bombs on January 6th, 1941. HMS Illustrious was saved by good damage control and luck.

If Force Z includes a CV that ship will be a magnet for IJN air strikes. Once the RN CV can no longer operate aircraft the battle will proceed as it did historically. So the Force Z CV had better be a lucky ship and continue to provide CAP for the entire day.

User avatar
Tim Smith
Member
Posts: 6177
Joined: 19 Aug 2002 12:15
Location: UK

Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by Tim Smith » 14 Jun 2011 15:31

Agreed.

Had Illustrious been with Force Z, most of the bombers in the initial Japanese strike would have gone for her instead of the battleships. Result: Illustrious is overwhelmed and sunk immediately despite the efforts of the badly outnumbered British CAP, but the two battleships survive with relatively minor damage. The CAP might shoot down about a dozen Japanese bombers before they reach the carrier, but the Japanese bomber crews aren't Italians - they aren't likely to give up and run away just because they've had a few casualties.

Illustrious historically went to the West Indies for work-up training - why the West Indies? Maybe to pick up Martlets? Maybe this could have been avoided. Maybe Illustrious could have gone straight to Singapore for work-up training - quite feasible prior to Dec 7th 1941. Perhaps her fighters would have been British Fulmars and no US Martlets.

So with Force Z on December 8th, you'd have Illustrious, a brand, spanking new carrier with an new and poorly trained crew. Doesn't bode well for efficient damage control on Illustrious, sadly, considering what happened to Ark Royal in November.

aghart
Member
Posts: 170
Joined: 02 Jun 2011 19:39
Location: Poole, Dorset, UK

Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by aghart » 14 Jun 2011 18:42

Tim Smith wrote:Agreed.

Had Illustrious been with Force Z, most of the bombers in the initial Japanese strike would have gone for her instead of the battleships. Result: Illustrious is overwhelmed and sunk immediately despite the efforts of the badly outnumbered British CAP, but the two battleships survive with relatively minor damage. The CAP might shoot down about a dozen Japanese bombers before they reach the carrier, but the Japanese bomber crews aren't Italians - they aren't likely to give up and run away just because they've had a few casualties.

Illustrious historically went to the West Indies for work-up training - why the West Indies? Maybe to pick up Martlets? Maybe this could have been avoided. Maybe Illustrious could have gone straight to Singapore for work-up training - quite feasible prior to Dec 7th 1941. Perhaps her fighters would have been British Fulmars and no US Martlets.

So with Force Z on December 8th, you'd have Illustrious, a brand, spanking new carrier with an new and poorly trained crew. Doesn't bode well for efficient damage control on Illustrious, sadly, considering what happened to Ark Royal in November.

HMS Indomitable not HMS illustrious is the carrier in question, her air group was Albacore torpedo bombers and a mixture of Fairy Fulmar and sea Hurricane fighters. The west Indies was likely chosen for training as it was away from the war zone, no U boats, no surface raiders, reasonable fine and warm weather. The perfect place for an aircraft carrier to conduct her work up training. Indomitable was "earmarked" for sevice in the far east, my understanding is that the "final" decision to send her to Singapore would not be taken until her work up training was complete. As stated, Ark Royal had just been sunk and Britain was short of modern carriers. Had Britain been aware of the Japanese time table i'm sure a carrier would have been sent earlier. The reality is that there is no way at all that a carrier would be at Singapore before the Japanese onslaught.

Dave Bender
Member
Posts: 3533
Joined: 24 Apr 2006 21:21
Location: Michigan U.S.A.

Doesn't bode well for efficient damage control on Illustriou

Post by Dave Bender » 14 Jun 2011 19:55

Doesn't bode well for efficient aircraft control either. That sort of thing must be practised. Otherwise you get a result like Clark Field where IJN airstrikes were tracked on radar but the attempt to intercept with American fighter aircraft was a complete failure.

aghart
Member
Posts: 170
Joined: 02 Jun 2011 19:39
Location: Poole, Dorset, UK

Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by aghart » 14 Jun 2011 22:17

Assuming by some miracle a modern (illustrious class) aircraft carrier was part of Force Z in December 1941, I think it likely that the only thing that would be the same as actually happened is the weather!

Would Admiral Phillips listen to the advice of his carrier captain? would the carrier captain ignore Phillips and liase with the RAF to ensure he had more fighters on call to protect his ship if required.

Would more destroyers be present? it is unlikely that a modern and important capital ship such as a CV would sail to Singapore without an escort? Would Australia and New Zealand now send a cruiser apiece to boost the force? Would Japanese scout planes be shot down before they reveal the fleet's position/ The Japanese had no spare torpedo's for their bombers so every torpedo attack thwarted by fighters gave the British more of a chance.

One thing is for sure, there is more to consider than would a carrier off Kuantan made any difference?

User avatar
LWD
Member
Posts: 8618
Joined: 21 Sep 2005 21:46
Location: Michigan

Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by LWD » 15 Jun 2011 12:44

From what I read there were no dive bombers in the attack on Force Z. In the face of CAP this can make the probability of hits rather low. If a British carrier was present assuming she is taken out early in the action is not well founded.

Dave Bender
Member
Posts: 3533
Joined: 24 Apr 2006 21:21
Location: Michigan U.S.A.

Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by Dave Bender » 15 Jun 2011 14:05

If a British carrier was present assuming she is taken out early in the action is not well founded.
Did HMS Illustrious continue to operate fighter aircraft after being hit by 6 bombs?

User avatar
LWD
Member
Posts: 8618
Joined: 21 Sep 2005 21:46
Location: Michigan

Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by LWD » 15 Jun 2011 15:22

Dave Bender wrote:
If a British carrier was present assuming she is taken out early in the action is not well founded.
Did HMS Illustrious continue to operate fighter aircraft after being hit by 6 bombs?
Irrelevant to my point.

User avatar
Tim Smith
Member
Posts: 6177
Joined: 19 Aug 2002 12:15
Location: UK

Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by Tim Smith » 15 Jun 2011 18:25

LWD wrote:From what I read there were no dive bombers in the attack on Force Z. In the face of CAP this can make the probability of hits rather low. If a British carrier was present assuming she is taken out early in the action is not well founded.
I disagree. I think the CAP would successfully fight off the Japanese attacks at 10:45, 11:13, and 11:44, but some of the torpedo bombers from the three separate attacks between 11:58 and 12:05 would get through, since the CAP would not have recovered from the 11:44 attack yet. Numbers of fighters in the air would be low since many will have landed to refuel and rearm by this time, leaving insufficient fighters to stop three separate attacks all at once. Then the attacks at 12:20 and 12:46 would finish the job as far as the Indomitable is concerned.

It's similar to the US attacks from Midway on the Japanese fleet, wave after wave of separate attacks, initially failing with heavy losses to the strike aircraft, but eventually overloading the defence. And, unlike the Battle of Midway, we are talking only ONE British carrier here trying to fight off all these attacks. The attacks detailed below are just too much for a single carrier to cope with.

However, the Japanese focus on Indomitable may result in Prince of Wales and Repulse surviving. Plus, in the historical battle, the Japanese lost only 3 bombers. With Indomitable present, Japanese losses may be as high as 30 bombers.

Timeline of attack:
Attack On Force Z
Three days after Pearl Harbor on 10 December, Japanese torpedo and high level bombers flying from Saigon across the South China Sea engaged the British Navy's Force Z off the east coast of Malaya and sank the battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser HMS Repulse.
Near midnight of 9-10 December 1941, Lt. Cmdr. Sohichi Kitamura's submarine I-58 located Force Z 100 miles off the east coast of Malaya. He could not immediately engage because a torpedo jammed in one of his tubes. After the jam was cleared, he fired a spread of five torpedoes which missed because the ships were now too distant. Kitamura then reported the force to Admiral Nobutake Kondo who ordered the three bomber kokutais (air groups) of his 22nd Air Flotilla into action. Unlike the targets at Pearl Harbor, these ships were fully alert and ready to fight back, sailing at full speed with destroyer escorts.

10 December, 0625-0800 hours: 31 level bombers and 51 torpedo bombers took off from Saigon

1045: nine G3M 'Nell' level attacked the destroyer HMS Tenedos which had run short of fuel and was returning to Singapore. They missed.

1113: eight 'Nell' level bombers commanded by Lt. Yoshimi Shirai scored a direct hit and two straddles on Repulse with 250kg bombs from 11,500 feet. Five suffered AA damage and two were badly hit, returning immediately to Saigon.

1144: Lt. Kaoru Ishihara attacked Prince of Wales with nine 'Nell' torpedo bombers. Two torpedoes hit their mark but AA fire destroyed one bomber and damaged three others.

1158: Lt. Takai led his torpedo bombers against Repulse. Four of the eight planes were damaged by AA fire. Taki's torpedo failed to release, and all the others missed. Takai made a second solo attack but also missed. A few minutes later, Lt. Shirai led his six remaining 'Nells' on a second bombing run against Repulse. Braving fierce AA fire, they dropped their last 250kg bombs from 12,000 feet and missed.

1205: Within minutes, seven 'Bettys' made torpedo attacks on Repulse. All missed.

1220: 6 Mitsubishi G4M 'Bettys' armed with torpedoes struck at Prince of Wales and four of the first six torpedoes launched hit. 17 'Bettys' then turned on Repulse, attacking from all directions. Three torpedoes scored hits while two of the attacking aircraft were downed by AA fire. Eight aircraft suffered heavy damage, and one later crashed while trying to land at Saigon

1232: A final torpedo struck Repulse's propeller shaft and she sank.

1246: 17 'Bettys' attacked Prince of Wales from 8,500 feet. All 9 of the 3rd Hikotai's bombs missed. Lt. Hachiro Takeda's 2nd Hikotai dropped 8 more bombs and scored one hit.

1318: Prince of Wales sank.

Only two out of the 40 bombs dropped actually hit their targets, giving the Japanese level bombers a 5% accuracy rate. Counting near-misses, their accuracy improves to 10%. Ten out of 51 torpedoes found their mark, giving a 20% accuracy rate.

User avatar
LWD
Member
Posts: 8618
Joined: 21 Sep 2005 21:46
Location: Michigan

Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by LWD » 15 Jun 2011 19:42

Tim Smith wrote:
LWD wrote:From what I read there were no dive bombers in the attack on Force Z. In the face of CAP this can make the probability of hits rather low. If a British carrier was present assuming she is taken out early in the action is not well founded.
I disagree. I think the CAP would successfully fight off the Japanese attacks at 10:45, 11:13, and 11:44, but some of the torpedo bombers from the three separate attacks between 11:58 and 12:05 would get through, since the CAP would not have recovered from the 11:44 attack yet. Numbers of fighters in the air would be low since many will have landed to refuel and rearm by this time, leaving insufficient fighters to stop three separate attacks all at once. Then the attacks at 12:20 and 12:46 would finish the job as far as the Indomitable is concerned.
I don't see that as being taken out early in the action. Furthermore the fighters don't have to stop the seperate attacks. All they have to do is mess up the timing. I seem to recall the Japanese split their forces to do "hammer and anvil" type attacks. If one element is disrupted then the AA can concentrate on one at a time and the ships only need to maneuver vs a single attack. Furthermore between the 11:13 and the 11:44 attacks and between the 11:44 and the 12:20 attacks there should be time to recover some of the CAP and put additional fighters in the air. I'm not saying she or Force Z for that matter will survivie but I wouldn't write them off automatically either.
http://www.fleetairarmarchive.net/ships ... table.html
gives her 21 fighters vs 88 Japanese aircraft with no fighters. (Japanese numbers from wiki). That should be enough to disrupt the Japanese attacks as long as the British can keep fighters in the air and in position. Furthermore it's the torpedo bombers that are the real problem so the fighters don't have to get very high to play a role.

aghart
Member
Posts: 170
Joined: 02 Jun 2011 19:39
Location: Poole, Dorset, UK

Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by aghart » 16 Jun 2011 17:51

Three possible outcomes for me,

1. CAP shoots down Japanese floatplane on 9th December preventing radio message bringing two more floatplanes to Force Z. Force Z unseen, carries on with the mission, evades the cruisers under the flare dropped by the search plane at night and arrives off Singora at dawn. The British find no transports but meet 2 Kongo class battleships, cruisers and lots of aircraft. The result is a magnificent but doomed fight with the entire eastern fleet including the carrier sunk.

2. As above, but the ships meet the japanese cruisers in a suprise night engagement. Anything could happen but they eventually break contact and head south, they then divert to Kuantan as per history, see outcome 3.

2. Force Z proceeds to Kuantan as per history, Japanese aircraft is shot down by CAP, no message to Saigon, japanese air fleet returns to base having failed to locate the british ships.Fforce Z make Singapore unscathed and live to fight another day.

Return to “What if”