T. A. Gardner wrote: ↑
02 Oct 2023 18:06
Well, RN practice at the time was each ship for itself when it came to AA fire. So, the carrier was on its own. RN doctrine, at the time, also called for AA fire to be the primary defense of the ship along with maneuvering. The RN CAP would likely be something like 4 Fulmars up to take on the raid. So, you have what amounts to--sort of--four Fairey Battles up for fighters. That is, the Fulmars are like F2A Buffaloes dragging a couple of large sandbags trying to take on Zeros. What they aren't is tough little F4F's that are a match for the escort when it comes down to it. We know from the Fulmar's performance over Celyon that it was no match for a Zero.
The AA fire from a single ship isn't going to have anywhere the same impact as a battlegroup operating in a ring formation where every ship in range is firing on the attackers in support of the carrier. With Force Z you have three capital ships (2 x BB 1 CV) maneuvering independently to avoid attack. On of the BB's has pretty crappy AA capacity on top of that.
The escorting destroyers, such as they are, have for all intents zero AA capacity. Typically, they had something like a couple of quad .50 Vickers mounts or maybe 4 20mm and an antique, ancient, 3" HA gun with no fire controls. They were going to contribute nothing to the air defense.
The number of bomb hits on any of the RN ships of Force Z was exactly one. A 250 kg bomb hit a seaplane hanger & failed to penetrate the deck armor. If my information is correct the japanese bombers were attacking from about 10,000 get, as per their doctrine. This low hit rate by bombs was characteristic of the Japanese twin engined navy bombers. ie: multiple attacks on the US cruiser Houston resulted in exactly one hit. That was without a 'escort ring' or CAP. Like many other air forces the Japanese bombing tactics vs ships in 1942 were not very good. Where dive bombing techniques were impractical the doctrinal medium altitude techniques were 'poor'.
Against the Lexington they sent unescorted bombers
, tho the reconnaissance planes did report a carrier in one message, and "carriers" in another. Against admiral Waters TF in January 1943 they again sent unescorted bombers, despite a intel evaluation there were carriers present. (half right, the escort carriers were sent away). Int hat case the bombers carried torpedos and were able to get some damaging hits, sinking the Chicago.
In the case of Force Z the Japanese attacked in relative small groups, averaging about nine planes. The Lexington fended off 17 divided in a well coordinated simultaneous attack in two groups.