Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

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Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by Trackhead M2 » 13 Apr 2012 23:51

Andy H wrote:When Repulse and the Prince of Wales plus destroyers set out to counter the Japanesse landings in Malaya, it was envisaged that the fleet carrier Illustrious(?) would have been with the force, but the carrier had been forced into dock in the US for repairs.

Given that when both ships were sunk, the Japanesse bombers were approaching the limit of there range, would the presence of the British carrier have saved the force?

Andy H
Dear AH,
If the Illustrious had a full complement of Martlet(Wildcat) figthers there would have been a fighting chance to get through.
Strike Swiftly,
TH-M2

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Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 17 Apr 2012 01:52

Reread the entire thread here and was suprised to find this was the only post that considered even slightly the battle might not occur or occur on the historical date.
aghart wrote: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.
Leaving aside Agharts outcomes for a moment; The major difference the aircraft carrier makes is Phillips would have his own air reconissance. This is a major game changer. To understand why take a close look at Phillips knowledge of the enemy and his movement. The short version is he was probing in the dark. Litteraly so during the night Like the USN SBD planes the Albacores and Swordfish had a dual function. Doctrine was to send out a few scouts as soon as the range allowed. To understand how this worked take a look at Brit aircraft operations during events like the pursuit of the Bismarck, against the Italian fleet, & other operations in the North Atlantic. Bottom line here is Phillips does not have to expose his group in range of the Japanese bombers until he has a clear target/opportunity. No risky probing northwest wasting fuel on a high speed run to and from. He can better time any approach to take full advantage of night than historically.

Related to this is the question of the radar equipped Swordfish & Albacores. Not all on each carrier were so equipped in late 1941, but a portion were, and the Brits had experience in using them in combat operations. The role of the radar equipped aircraft in the Mediterrainian & North Atlantic campaigns is understudied and generally not well understood.
aghart wrote: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.
In this case Brit doctrine would be to open with a air strike long before the surface ships were in gun range. Very possiblly the airstrike would be at night, or at dawn with the torpedo bombers coming from the east out of the rising sun. A torpedo hit on one of the 'Kongos' would change the equation a bit.

With reliable information it is also possible Phillips would be able to achieve a night battle. Unlike the USN the Brits had trained for this, and had combat experience at it during the previous year. They also had a much better appreciation or their search and gunnery radars aboard their ships than the USN of December 1941.

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Re:

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 17 Apr 2012 02:18

To understand what might have happened with a CAP vs torpedo bombers examine the experience of the USS Lexington & TF11 vs the IJN G4M1 of the 4th Air Group. The veterans of the 4th AG making a textbook bombing attack were massacred by green USN interceptor pilots.
Kurt_Steiner wrote:I wonder what the PoW and the Repulse, plus the carrier, could have done if they had survived the attack. In case they do, are we thinking that they could manage to destroy the Japanese troops convoys send against Malaysia? I don't think so. In case they survived, they IJN would gather enough carrier and airpower to sink them for once and all. Or not...
One alternate is they would be ordered to withdraw to the Indian Ocean. In March the two battleships might supplement Somervilles fleet as he stalked Nagumo during operation C. Another is they would join the Allied fleet under the ABDA command and be present at variously the Java Sea or Sunda Strait battles. In the latter case a radar equipped British ship, trained for night fighting would alter certain aspects of that battle.
Last edited by Carl Schwamberger on 17 Apr 2012 14:28, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Re:

Post by Tim Smith » 17 Apr 2012 08:07

Carl Schwamberger wrote:To understand what might have happened with a CAP vs torpedo bombers examine the experience of the USS Lexington & TF11 vs the IJN G4M1 of the 4th Air Group. The veterans of the 4th AG making a textbook torpedo attack were massacred by green USN interceptor pilots.
True - but there was only one attack on the Lexington on that occasion.

There were five separate attacks on Force Z, by five times as many bombers. The chances of the British running short of airborne CAP fighters is very high. (CAP fighters often have to land to refuel and rearm after engaging the enemy.)

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Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by LWD » 17 Apr 2012 13:39

But there was enough time to cycle them was there not? Or was British doctrine to put them all up at once if a raid was detected? The US also used Dauntlesses in a CAP role at times did the British do similarly with some of their bombers?

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Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 17 Apr 2012 14:27

LWD wrote:But there was enough time to cycle them was there not? Or was British doctrine to put them all up at once if a raid was detected?
Have to dig out the detailed descriptions of the air attacks to answer that one. I think the skill of any central interceptor control would have more to do with it, and pilot discipline, than cycle time. Tho recovery cycle would be important. The USN fighter control system was not 'perfected' in 1942. Some of the shipboard controlers used a confusing terminology for commands, ect.. On the pilot side discipline frequently broke down with pilots ignoring orders, and jamming the radio frequencies with transmissions during combat.
LWD wrote: The US also used Dauntlesses in a CAP role at times did the British do similarly with some of their bombers?
The Albacores & Swordfish bombers were impossibly slow. A head to head shot would be the only likely killing approach. I dont even know if either had forward firing MG ??? Neither had the speed to make astern pursuit or beam approaches to a bomber very practical.

There is also a question of what ammunition the Brit fighters would have carried. The Japanese bombers were extremely flammable, and structurally fragile. A higher portion of tracer rounds or incendiary, and HMG means a higher kill rate.

And, yes the USN dive bombers were credited with a few IJN bombers in 1942. At least one with a Zero with a head to head shot as well.

My previous post was incorrect. The Japanese did attack the Lexington with torpedo bombers, but there were no torpedos available to the just arrived 4th Air Group. They attacked with bombs either in the 250 or 500 kilo weight range. The attacks were made from low altitude with the final approach well under 5000 feet, possiblly as low as 1000 feet. What was the actual attack altitude of the bombers on the British? I recall from the photographs and text it was far under 10,000 feet. Is that anywhere near correct? Were they dropping from above 10,000 feet I'd be suprised if more than a single hit were recorded. Vs the Lexington about a third of the attackers dropped bombs near the carrier. One plane load landed close enough to scatter fragments onto the ship. Several of the bombers were on fire & had parts like engines and wings falling off when the bombs dropped.
Tim Smith wrote:
Carl Schwamberger wrote:To understand what might have happened with a CAP vs torpedo bombers examine the experience of the USS Lexington & TF11 vs the IJN G4M1 of the 4th Air Group.
True - but there was only one attack on the Lexington on that occasion.
Techincally two attacks. The Japanese commander split the bombers into two groups, which managed to attack from two different directions in the same few minutes. That led to a example of the CAP being maldistributed with only two fighters intercepting one of the bomber flights.

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Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by waldzee » 01 Nov 2012 11:57

alf wrote:Hi Direwolf,

that was an excellent post, welcome to the Form :D

The Buffalos flown y the RAF and RAAF were not the same models as those flown by the Finns in their war, its been done to death (lol) in the equipment section

In Malaya it was a dog of a fighter but the pilots who flew it could have made a difference, I agree, at low level against torpedo bombers, it would have broken up the attacks.

At high level, above 18000 ft the pilot had to manually pump fuel via a hand pump in his cockpit, making it useless but the bombers would have had to bomb from above that height and to hit a ship at high speed from 18000 ft and above was more good luck than good management in those days.

Few Zero's were encountered in the Malaya campagain, it was normaly Japanese Army fighters the RAF and RAAF encountered but like the Spitfire phobia suffered by German pilots during the Batttle of Britian, in Malaya, all fighters tended to identifed as Zero's by Allied pilots. ie the Bombers that attacked Force Z were land based bombers from Vietnam so Zero's would not have normaly accompanied them..

No one knows why Phillips failed to call for air support but its moot, he didnt till it was to late and he died for his mistake.

Up till that point of the war though, no major capital ship had ever been lost to airpower alone whilst at sea, Taranto, Pearl Harbour etc were air attackes against moored ships. Bismark was damaged by a million to one torpedo hit supposedly (least that is what the battleship advocates comforted themselves with) so all the pre war atttudes of complacency were still present.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
What THE bREWSTER 339 HAD was relatively long range, ( esp when lightened.
http://www.warbirdforum.com/britdifs.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brewster_F2A_Buffalo

apparently, theengines were re manufactored airline engines with rejected & rebuilt fuel pumps, etc!

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Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 07 Nov 2012 00:09

Something that came up in another discussion elsewhere I'll interject here in the form of a question. How much reinforcement would be required for the Brits to have a better than 50/50 chance of defeating the Japanese invasion? That is defeating it before the army can be fully established and start advancing south.

The second part of this is would the necessary naval and air reinforcements have been practical?

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Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by phylo_roadking » 07 Nov 2012 00:34

Just a minor point now, really...but -
apparently, theengines were re manufactored airline engines with rejected & rebuilt fuel pumps, etc!
Every RAF combat aircraft that reached the Middle East via the Takoradi Air Bridge flew into combat on completely stripped and rebuilt engines...and many OTHER components too! The rigours of the trip across the Sahara from south-west to north-east put far more wear on the aircraft engines and airframes and systems than the flying hours would indicate - and every aircraft required a full strip and service and replacement of ALL consumable spares...seals, filters etc. - before it was rostered as operational.
Twenty years ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs....
Lord, please keep Kevin Bacon alive...

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Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by LWD » 07 Nov 2012 14:04

Carl Schwamberger wrote:Something that came up in another discussion elsewhere I'll interject here in the form of a question. How much reinforcement would be required for the Brits to have a better than 50/50 chance of defeating the Japanese invasion? That is defeating it before the army can be fully established and start advancing south.

The second part of this is would the necessary naval and air reinforcements have been practical?
I'm not completely sure which invasion you are talking about. If it is Singapore then I believe adequate forces were present if a good or better general had been in charge. Given the command structure that was present I have no idea what would have been required. If you are talking one of the other invasions sory about wandering OT.

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Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 07 Nov 2012 16:26

I was thinking of the early December invasion of Maylaya/Thailand. & reinforcements in terms of air groups and warships.

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Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by aghart » 08 Nov 2012 00:01

Carl Schwamberger wrote:Something that came up in another discussion elsewhere I'll interject here in the form of a question. How much reinforcement would be required for the Brits to have a better than 50/50 chance of defeating the Japanese invasion? That is defeating it before the army can be fully established and start advancing south.

The second part of this is would the necessary naval and air reinforcements have been practical?
If the reinforcements that were historically sent, had been in theatre before hostilities commenced I think the japanese would have been defeated. I think though that the way it would have been achieved is a slowing down of the Japanese advance/British retreat rather than "beating them on the beaches". The lack of logistics skills was the Japanese fatal weakness and they would have ground to a halt against a better enemy. Reinforcing the Japanese to combat British reinforcements would not work, they would struggle to supply or feed this expanded force.

99 Hurricane fighters (half were diverted to Sumatra) almost 2 Divisions of Infantry and an Armoured Brigade (diverted to Burma in real history) would have made a real difference. There were no real Naval forces available that could have been sent to boost Force Z. To stop them at the start point would also have required a powerful force of Torpedo bombers (Beauforts) and strike fighters (Beaufighters) which were simply not available. In Feb 1942 only 3 Squadrons of Beauforts were in the UK to deal with the Channel dash, there was not an armada of strike aircraft sitting in the UK doing nothing in this time frame (unlike the situation with fighters). Hopefully people will not go on about "Spitfires" Malta had to wait until 1942 to get them, there is no way at all that Spitfires would ever have been sent to Singapore in 1940/41 no matter what the situation there was like.

All in all, upgrading the army was the only real credible thing that would have worked and importantly, was possible to have been done if the will had been there.

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Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 08 Nov 2012 22:30

aghart wrote: If the reinforcements that were historically sent, had been in theatre before hostilities commenced I think the japanese would have been defeated. I think though that the way it would have been achieved is a slowing down of the Japanese advance/British retreat rather than "beating them on the beaches". The lack of logistics skills was the Japanese fatal weakness and they would have ground to a halt against a better enemy. Reinforcing the Japanese to combat British reinforcements would not work, they would struggle to supply or feed this expanded force.
I agree with most of this, but I can't see it as a Japanese defeat, more likely fighting to a stalemate, and then a respite while both sides build up supplies and reserves. Depending on where the Japanese are stopped, and what airfields they had, so their ability to interdict the British supply route becomes a big part in who enjoys success in the second phase of fighting.

But it strikes me that had all these extra troops been in Malaya (6th and 7th Australian Divs), then the Japanese would have developed a different plan. I'd suggest after securing Singora (I still don't think Op Matador would happen) the Japanese would have built up their forces. I accept aghart's point about logistical difficulties, so maybe the Japanese 56th Inf Div would still not have been deployed.

But instead of a two pronged attack on SE Asia, they could have put more resources into the Philippines campaign, to speed up its capture, and the rotated through Borneo, Java and then Sumatra, isolating Singapore, and then attacking from Thailand.

Only strong Naval forces with good air support could have stopped that, and I don't think that was realistically available

Steve
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Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 10 Nov 2012 22:58

Thanks for those two responses to my question. I've never analyzed or gamed the Brit situation in late 1941. What naval air forces were available to reinforce are a unknown to me.

From following a few other discussions on the defense of Maylaya I've thought the greatest Commonwealth defect in ground force was the leadership from the top down. Perhaps substantial reinforcement of the ground forces would not have been necessary were there a higher portion of capable general officers.

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Re: Aircraft Carrier with Force Z 1941

Post by aghart » 26 Apr 2013 19:32

alf wrote:
Martin Middlebrook in his book "Battleship" does offer a theory as to why Phillips did not call for immediate air support once a Japanese recon aircraft had spotted the task force.

Middlebrook mentions that Phillips and "Bomber" Harris had shared a flat in the 1930's while both were living in London and Phillips had a marked disdain for airpower (perhaps being ear bashed by Harris all the time) and it was his disbelief in airpower that led him to hesitate for over an hour before requesting a CAP.

I
The reason Phillips did not call for fighter cover once spotted at Kuantan is not hard to find. Surviving officers from POW have confirmed that Phillips believed that Force Z was beyond the range of torpedo bombers and that he thought he had only high level bombers to deal with. Phillips knew that these aircraft were of no real threat to Force Z. Phillips was unlikely to call on the RAF if he felt his ships could deal with the expected air threat with ease.

It was in fact Capt Tennamt of Repulse who actually signalled details of the situation to Singapore.

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