US Navy in World War II - Was there sufficient production capacity to complete more heavy combatants (Battleships, Carriers etc.)?

EwenS

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My personal belief as to why the extra Midways where cancelled:
The 1946 Carrier was a better alternative to the massive, expensive, and cumbersome Midways. It would be cheaper and easier to produce similar sized vessels without the armored flight deck.
The problem with that theory is that the 1945 Midways were cancelled before any thought was given to a new 1945 carrier design. And when that design work was begun the USN still wanted an armoured flight deck in view of the kamikaze experience. The final C2 design study presented in mid 1946 was actually not that much smaller than a Midway - 40,400 tons standard displacement (54,500 full load) (compared to Essex 27,500 tons standard, 36,380 tons full load; Midway 45,000 tons standard, 60,100 tons full load; all as designed) with a 3" armoured flight deck (v Midway's 3.5" FD) but less side belt armour and dimensions only marginally smaller than that of Midway.

Where the 1945 carrier design was an improvement over both the Essex and the Midway was in its ability to better operate its 53 aircraft airgroup comprised of bigger 35 F7F fighters and 18 BT3D strike aircraft. It also gained from having 4 deck edge lifts (2 each side) and 3 much more powerful H-8 catapults (with one sponsoned out to port). While the flight deck armour was 3" v Midway's 3.5" it covered a far greater part of the hangar, but still not it all.
 

Antonio

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Against Midway class (US Aircraft Carriers by Norman Friedman)

It wasn't full consensus about an armored deck could give better survability over speed and manoeuvrability.

Compared to Essex, Midway was less efficient launching an attack with its more numerous air group of Hellcat/Avenger/Helldiver.
 

T. A. Gardner

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Against Midway class (US Aircraft Carriers by Norman Friedman)

It wasn't full consensus about an armored deck could give better survability over speed and manoeuvrability.

Compared to Essex, Midway was less efficient launching an attack with its more numerous air group of Hellcat/Avenger/Helldiver.
This was the major issue with the Midway class initially. The carrier air wing was going to be so large it couldn't be cycled efficiently in combat. That is, there were more planes than time and space to launch and land them all. That concern diminished as the size of carrier aircraft increased during the war. Then with the advent of jets and the need for a plane that could carry an early atomic bomb, it vanished.
The Midway class became the new norm for carrier size due to these larger, faster, and heavier planes.
 

EwenS

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It wasn't full consensus about an armored deck could give better survability over speed and manoeuvrability.
Especially considering that armored deck provided little-to-no additional protection against nuclear weapons and shaped-charge munitions.
Despite there not being full consensus, the armoured deck supporters won out in 1941/42 in the design period of the Midways and were still winning out in 1945/46 when the 1945 carrier was going through the design process. And that continued postwar with the 2" flight deck of the United States and it was still being favoured into the early 1950s with the design of the Forrestals. In all cases the consideration was protection against conventional weapons. Nuclear doesn't seem to figure.

As for shaped charge munitions Friedman quoted BuOrd in the Forrestal chapter which is worth repeating in full:-

"It is impracticable to carry enough armor, to keep AP bombs from penetrating the flight deck, provided they are dropped from sufficient altitude to acquire the necessary veolcity....

You have heard the view expressed that the shaped charge and the guided missile render armor of such doubtful value that we might as well do without armor. I do not underestimate the capabilities of these weapons, but I can not concur with this view. Space and weight for the warhead of a guided missile are at a premium. If our armor forces the enemy to provide an AP warhead in order to penetrate, it will have seriously reduced the destructiveness of his missile.

As for shaped charge bombs, most of the energy of the detonation is expended in front of the triggering plate. It is true that the jet will penetrate into the ship and will be a serious fire hazard. This is better, however, than permitting the entire bomb to penetrate into the ship. The situation is different in tank warfare, where a shaped charge hit is almost certain to disable a tank, regardless of any thickness of armor it can carry, because of the density of vulnerable components inside a tank."


And in relation to the atomic bomb, it wasn't until after the Operation Crossroads Bikini Atoll A bomb tests in June / July 1946 that the full effects of the A bomb against ships was able to be studied in detail, and that would take time to filter through to new ship design. From reading Friedman all the discussions about carrier development in this period are about its use to deliver atomic weapons, not protecting the ship against them.

I also think, like Friedman, that we place too much emphasis on the A bomb in naval warfare in the 1945-55 period. It really wasn't a threat to the West. The USSR only exploded its first Bomb in 1949 and in 1950 only had 5. At the same time the USA had approximately 300. Five years later the stockpiles had grown to 200 and 2400 respectively and in 1960 to 1600 and 19000 respectively. As Friedman notes in his "Postwar Naval Revolution" in relation to US Bombs:-

"....Until about 1952 they were moreover quite scarce....In a period of nuclear scarcity, bombs could be used only against the most important strategic targets... Bomb design became more efficient and US bomb material production expanded, so that after about 1952, nuclear weapons were sufficiently plentiful that they could be used tactically ....as depth bombs, targeted against individual submarines rather than against submarine bases...."

If that was true for the US then it must also have been true for the USSR. But with its later startimg point, the point it can use nuclear weapons tactically also moves to the right. And given the size and structure of the Soviet Navy, the threat comes from land based aircraft which would then require to penetrate several layers of defence to hit the carrier. Even given US overestimation of the Soviet stockpile rhe tactical threat against the carriers isn't there until the latter part of the 1950s.

So let us not use hindsight and look at the published information, and there is plenty, in looking at whether armoured flight decks on carriers were any use or not. Too many start from a position that, as a bomb got through / could get through, armour was useless and wasted weight. There are too many armchair admirals around today who think they know better than those taking the decisions at the time with all the information immediately to hand.
 

Dilandu

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I also think, like Friedman, that we place too much emphasis on the A bomb in naval warfare in the 1945-55 period. It really wasn't a threat to the West.
Maybe... but who exactly could guarantee that in 1945-1955? Especially after USSR exploded its own bomb far before US intelligence assumed it could. After such sucsess, any quantitative assumptions about scale of Soviet arsenal became rather doubtful, because nobody could exactly be sure about scale of Soviet production.

The USSR only exploded its first Bomb in 1949 and in 1950 only had 5.
In 1949, three RDS-1 bomb were made, one spent on testing. In 1950, nine bombs were produced. In 1951, eighteen more bombs were made.

In 1952, production switched to more advanced RDS-2 and RDS-3 bombs. By 1 January 1953, Soviet total stockpile was 75 units (including rebuild RDS-1 bombs).

As for shaped charge munitions Friedman quoted BuOrd in the Forrestal chapter which is worth repeating in full:-

"It is impracticable to carry enough armor, to keep AP bombs from penetrating the flight deck, provided they are dropped from sufficient altitude to acquire the necessary veolcity....

You have heard the view expressed that the shaped charge and the guided missile render armor of such doubtful value that we might as well do without armor. I do not underestimate the capabilities of these weapons, but I can not concur with this view. Space and weight for the warhead of a guided missile are at a premium. If our armor forces the enemy to provide an AP warhead in order to penetrate, it will have seriously reduced the destructiveness of his missile.

As for shaped charge bombs, most of the energy of the detonation is expended in front of the triggering plate. It is true that the jet will penetrate into the ship and will be a serious fire hazard. This is better, however, than permitting the entire bomb to penetrate into the ship. The situation is different in tank warfare, where a shaped charge hit is almost certain to disable a tank, regardless of any thickness of armor it can carry, because of the density of vulnerable components inside a tank."

Essentially Friedman stated that the armor would not be able to protect the vital parts of the ship, but maybe somewhat limit the secondary damage, which is not exactly very encouraging. If the jet caused carrier's magazine detonation, it is, frankly, irrelevant, that the rest of bomb's explosive power did not enter the hangar...
 

T. A. Gardner

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Well, with modern carriers--at least the US ones-- the armor scheme (and I have to tread lightly here and avoid stuff that's classified) is primarily designed to limit damage from fragmentation of a warhead penetrating or not. One of the things the US found in WW 2 was that often times the secondary damage from fragmentation and blast was more difficult to deal with than the area destroyed by the hit itself.
That is, small holes and deformed bulkheads allowed progressive flooding, fire, and smoke to occur and these caused more damage in many cases than the area hit itself was. So, the object of large carrier armor schemes was to keep the damage out of critical areas of the ship and limit the area damaged from near misses and hits rather than try and keep the weapon from penetrating at all.
 

Archibald

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Well, with modern carriers--at least the US ones-- the armor scheme (and I have to tread lightly here and avoid stuff that's classified) is primarily designed to limit damage from fragmentation of a warhead penetrating or not. One of the things the US found in WW 2 was that often times the secondary damage from fragmentation and blast was more difficult to deal with than the area destroyed by the hit itself.
That is, small holes and deformed bulkheads allowed progressive flooding, fire, and smoke to occur and these caused more damage in many cases than the area hit itself was. So, the object of large carrier armor schemes was to keep the damage out of critical areas of the ship and limit the area damaged from near misses and hits rather than try and keep the weapon from penetrating at all.

Another example - the six Illustrious / Victorious carriers, postwar. And their mostly aborted rebuilds.
Two out of the six (Illustrious and I think Indomitable, from memory) had been badly wrecked - the former by stukas in 1941 and the latter by a kamikaze in 1945.
While the damage was patched, then repaired, it came haunting back these ships at the time of their planned "massive rebuild" in the late 40's / early 50's.
Victorious had not been crippled but was already a nightmare to rebuild. His half-sisterships, notably Illustrious, were found to be rather worn-out - if only by the bomb damage they had received in WWII.
 

EwenS

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Well, with modern carriers--at least the US ones-- the armor scheme (and I have to tread lightly here and avoid stuff that's classified) is primarily designed to limit damage from fragmentation of a warhead penetrating or not. One of the things the US found in WW 2 was that often times the secondary damage from fragmentation and blast was more difficult to deal with than the area destroyed by the hit itself.
That is, small holes and deformed bulkheads allowed progressive flooding, fire, and smoke to occur and these caused more damage in many cases than the area hit itself was. So, the object of large carrier armor schemes was to keep the damage out of critical areas of the ship and limit the area damaged from near misses and hits rather than try and keep the weapon from penetrating at all.

Another example - the six Illustrious / Victorious carriers, postwar. And their mostly aborted rebuilds.
Two out of the six (Illustrious and I think Indomitable, from memory) had been badly wrecked - the former by stukas in 1941 and the latter by a kamikaze in 1945.
While the damage was patched, then repaired, it came haunting back these ships at the time of their planned "massive rebuild" in the late 40's / early 50's.
Victorious had not been crippled but was already a nightmare to rebuild. His half-sisterships, notably Illustrious, were found to be rather worn-out - if only by the bomb damage they had received in WWII.

Badly wrecked? People tend to ignore the extensive post war service for all these ships, except Formidable.

Illustrious and Formidable both suffered from heavy bomb damage in the Med in 1941 and the former was certainly haunted by it through until 1945 when her centre shaft had to be removed before she went to Okinawa. Underwater damage from a kamikaze near miss in April 1945 added to that. But this was all put right in her year long 1945/46 refit. After that she was operated succesfully as a trials and training carrier, not finally paying off until Feb 1955. Her operational tempo in this period does not support the idea of her being "badly wrecked" with no more than the regular refits being undertaken.

Formidable's bomb damage in the Med in 1941 was arguably worse than that of Illustrious by virtue of the near misses from large bombs on her stern structure. But, with the exception of a major machinery breakdown en route to the Pacific, she operated successfully right through to the end of the war in Aug 1945. She suffered the worst kamikaze damage of all the British carriers, taking two heavy hits, and then compounding this with a serious but accidental hangar fire.

While Indomitable suffered both heavy bomb and torpedo damage in 1942/43 (the only one of the class to be torpedoed) her kamikaze damage was minor. After trooping duty she was laid up between 1947 and 1950 and then refitted and brought into active service again. She was laid up in 1953 after the Coronation Review and after suffering a fire, the damage from which, while serious, was repairable but the decision was taken to concrete and paint it over. her modernisation was only to be a limited one to enable her to act as a training carrier from 1957.

When it came time for the reconstructions Formidable was first choice from the 3 Illustrious class because she was immediately available, being in reserve. With regard to her condition Hobbs in Warship 2020 put it this way:

"However a survey of her hull found her to be in poor material state, having been laid up without maintenance for some years. Victorious, in commission as a training ship, was found to be in much better condition and it was decided to modernise her first."

Friedman aso uses the phrase "poor material state" in his work. But what exactly did it mean? Hobbs in his earlier work "British Aircraft Carriers" mentions both the wartime damage and the lack of maintenance. It doesn't however seem to go so far as to suggesting she was "badly wrecked".

Illustrious was ruled out of the running according to Friedman because she was fully employed in the trials and training role, which was particularly important at the time as the new generation of jets were being tested. Then attention switched to Implacable and then the whole project was scrapped due to the difficulties involved not to mention the escalating costs.
 

Archibald

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relax, man - no need to get excited over "badly wrecked" - english is not my native language...
 
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