GRAF ZEPPELIN- Germany's aircraft carrier

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Melvin Loh, Mar 11, 2004.

  1. Melvin Loh Member

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    http://members.rogers.com/admfisher/html/grafzepplin.html
    http://www.csd.uwo.ca/~pettypi/elevon/baugher_other/grzepp.html

    The GRAF ZEPPELIN was to be Nazi Germany's 1st aircraft carrier, laid down in Dec 1936 and to be equipped with specialised carrier versions of the Me109 fighter and Ju87 Stuka divebomber to support major surface units of the KRIEGSMARINE. However, by 1939, construction was halted as shipbuilding priorities were shifted to U-Boats, and by April 1940 a new perspective in German naval thinking led to all work on the GRAF ZEPPELIN being halted. As such, Germany never had an operational flat-top during WWII.

    WI the GRAF ZEPPELIN had been completed by 1939-40, and German naval planners hadn't been so fickle-minded in deciding which projects to focus on ? What difference could a German carrier have made to the course of the war in such campaigns as Norway in 1940 and interdicting the Murmansk-bound relief convoys 1941-42 ? I remember reading long ago WI the GRAF ZEPPELIN had accompanied the BISMARCK and PRINZ EUGEN during the May 1941 North Sea chase, where the carrier's presence would've assured the safety of the capital ships by her Me109s effectively countering the FA's Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers, and her Stukas wreaking havoc in divebombing attacks on pursuing RN capital ships.
     
  2. David S Poepoe Banned

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    Another thing that will severely hamper its deployment is the overbearing of the Luftwaffe to have control over all aircraft. It was a fairly common ministerial arrangement in the early 20th century, I think even Italy is plagued by such an arrangement to this day. One would have to get Goering to sign off on what would be a rival air arm, which isn't likely to happen the way the Nazi's ran their 'fiefdoms'.
     
  3. robertp6165 Confederate Troll

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    A big problem the Graf Zeppelin would have had is NO TORPEDO BOMBERS. In the Pacific war (and in the Atlantic, as well) , most ships sunk by aircraft were sunk by torpedo. Except in special circumstances (like Midway, where the dive bombers caught the Japanese carriers with their decks covered iwth fuel lines and ordnance while they were refueling and rearming their aircraft), dive bombers were rarely ship-killing weapons.

    Now, I don't see any special reason why the Stuka could not have been adapted to carry a torpedo...were there any such plans?

    And, of course the ME109s would have dominated the air in the Atlantic...they were far better aircraft than any of the carrier-borne fighters available at that time.
     
  4. robertp6165 Confederate Troll

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    Excuse me...upon reading the cited articles, they did have a torpedo bomber planned...so the Graf Zeppelin would not have suffered under that handicap after all.
     
  5. David Howery Fear my adamantium chainsaw

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    it would have been bad news for the Brits; a big part of their carrier aircraft were those Swordfish (?) biplanes... dead meat when they go up against the german planes. What about after the US enters the war? Are the '41 US carrier planes able to take on the German ones? Will the US carrier strength in the Atlantic have to stay there to take on the German carrier? If so, this will certainly have an affect on the Pacific war. Would the US go for a carrier vs. carrier battle in the Atlantic (wouldn't that be weird?), or will they try to take out the german ship with a horde of subs?
     
  6. robertp6165 Confederate Troll

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    The main US carrier fighter in the early part of the war (and some of these were sold to Britain as well) was the Grumman Wildcat, capable of 328 mph and armed with (usually) four .50 caliber Browning MGs.

    The naval version of the ME109 was capable of a max speed of 450 mph and was armed with 2 20mm cannon and 2 7.9mm MGs.

    Even the later Grumman Hellcat (not available until mid-1943) would have been inferior with a max speed of 375 mph and armed with six .50 caliber Brownings.

    The Vought F4U Corsair (available early 1943, max speed 446 mph, six .50 caliber MGs) could have matched it, but it had a very troubled history as a carrier fighter, and it was not until 1944 that these problems were resolved enough to make carrier operations feasible.

    So, unless the allies come up with something else, there will be nothing to match the naval ME109 until 1944.
     
  7. Sargon Grand Master of the Stronghold

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    A little piece of fantasy, but interesting reading nonetheless:

    CV Graf Zeppelin

    Enjoy,

    Sargon
     
  8. David Howery Fear my adamantium chainsaw

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    of course, the Brit and US carriers would outmatch the lone german one, even if their planes are outclassed. When you outnumber them 6 or 7 to 1, the difference in quality isn't all that important. THe only hope for the GS to survive a battle against allied carriers is to stay close to land and get the support of land based air power... which kind of defeats the purpose in having a carrier in the first place....
     
  9. Scott Rosenthal Member

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    There seems to be the unspoken assumption that the navalised Me109 would be just as good as the conventional model, and that no compromises would be necessary. The history of the SeaFire (the navalised Spitfire) suggests that this might not be the case. The Germans had NO carrier experience, and the Me109 was a somewhat finicky aircraft without modifications. Why do we presume that it is going to be a worldbeater when it goes naval?

    Another issue is the theatre in which these carriers are operating. One reason that carrier warfare never became a big issue in the Atlantic was the easy availability of (far superior) land-based aircraft. The GrafZep would be a fairly easy target for land-based strikes once spotted, and even in cases where there wasn't the threat of land-based air, its relatively small air wing wasn't going to do enough damage to justify its enormous cost. Of course this applied to the stupidity of the German BB fleet as well, but I suppose that hindsight is often 20/20 on such things...
     
  10. NHBL Member

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    Getting a carrier opperational

    It's going to take a long time to get the first carrier opperational, and there will be glitches. If she's put in action too soon, they could be severe, even fatal.
    The ME 109's narrow undercarriage is NOT good for carrier use--I'd expect the stringbags to be able to attack in weather that keeps the entire German air arm safely on the deck. If Graf Zeppelin took a torpedo and was slowed down, she couldn't even launch. Alternatively, while Bismark was dealing with Hood, Suffolk and Norfolk might have slipped around Bismark and engaged the Graf Zeppelin.
    If she does manage to make a difference, the squadron makes it to Brest, where the Royal Air Force keeps bombing until the time comes for the Channel Dash, if it occurs. A most formidable force--Bismark, Scharnhorst, Gneiseneau, Prinz Eugen, and Graf Zeppelin. Even so, getting out of France is necessary for survival. With the RAF concentrating on the carrier, she may not even be able to make the run for Germany.
    Of course, this force could try for another breakout--that would be messy. Still, I think it would evade battle, and return to Germany, possibly with casualties. The war might take longer, but the force would be caught eventually. (IMHO, it's far too late for a German victory)
    This force against Washington, North Cariolina, and Massachussetts, with Wasp providing air cover, would be an interesting fight. Note that the US carrier has far more planes--and could bring a second carrier into play. American and British ship losses will be rapidly replaced, German ones are gone forever.
    A more interesting POD, IMHO, for Graf Zeppelin is this:
    After the war, she makes a Soviet port safely, and is taken into the Red Fleet. After evaluating her, learning the strengths and weaknesses of the design, the Red Fleet has somewhere to start work on a fleet carrier. They then convert the partly built Sovietsky Soyuz class to large carriers, now that they have learned something of what not to do. The US has to prepare to deal with a Soviet navy right rom the late 1940's
     
  11. robertp6165 Confederate Troll

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    In OTL, the few ME-109T's which were produced were stripped of their naval equipment (tailhooks, catapault gear) and used in a land-based role. They performed as well as regular BF 109s, with the added advantage of being able to take off from short fields. So such evidence as there is suggests that they would have been far superior to any of the early war allied carrier fighters.

    British carriers never seemed to have been able to operate in areas where the Axis powers had land-based airpower superiority. Why couldn't the reverse have been true as well?
     
  12. Scott Rosenthal Member

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    Granted, I am no expert on the 109's navalized configuration, but if you strip off the naval gear, isn't this going to affect performance in a positive way? This is to say that using the 109s in a land-based mode, with the naval gear removed doesn't tell us much about how they would perform in a carrier-based mode.

    Regarding the british carriers, I am not sure I understand your point. Operating carriers in an environment where the opposition has air superiority is a good way to lose carriers, no matter who the opponent is. I am not familiar with any cases where the Brits, or anyone else, operated carriers for any extended period where their opponents enjoyed air superiority. Please show me my error...
     
  13. knightyknight Member

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    Actually the BF 109T2 only have a maximum speed of 357 mph (source: German Warplanes of World War II by Chris Chant) and is a much inferior compared to the ground models. The whole Graf Zepplin carrier is an inferior and an inexperience design overall by the Kriegsmarine. The deck is overload with secondary cannons for ship to ship combat which is a complete waste of space, it can only hold a maximum amount of around 50 or so aircrafts, and even though the hull is heavily armored, the deck is very weak (weak deck + dive bombers attack = bottom of the sea).

    I've heard about how the Graf Zepplin was supposed to be going to protect the Bismarck and I believe that maybe it could of. But once the American's send their giant carriers over, then it's going to be adios muchachos for the Zepplin.

    Perhaps a better war changing scenario would be, can the Graf Zepplin have a strong impact on the war if it was miraculously armed with Me262s?
     
  14. Scott Rosenthal Member

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    The Me262 had such a high landing speed (and LONG takeoff runs while those turbines spun up) that it required ridiculously long runways to operate. Most of the 262s killed were the results of allied P-47s lingering over the airfields, then dropping out of the sky to pick off 262s using the runways.

    The point of this trivia is this: no way, no how, no CHANCE that a 262 could be carrier-based...

    It would be fun though...
     
  15. knightyknight Member

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    Scott, I said miraculously. Cut me some slack, man.
     
  16. David Howery Fear my adamantium chainsaw

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    well, obviously, the GS isn't a war winner. Still, it could have an impact on the war, even if it isn't such a great weapon. Suppose it stays in the baltic or Med, within range of land based air to help protect it. How much impact would this have on allied fleet commitments. Would the Brits have to send fewer carriers to the Pacific? Would the Americans? This wouldn't make much difference from '43 on, but wouldn't it be pretty bad in '42?
     
  17. Fearless Leader Member

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    Perhaps...

    So lets say the Graf Zeppelin accompanies the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen out into the North Sea. The confrontation between the Hood and the Bismarck goes pretty much the same with the Bismarck still suffering that fatal blow which in OTL caused her to turn back to France. So in TTL she is escorted to an acceptable distance and then sails back to France under the cover of 4 Me-109's (only one way....) Then the Graf Zeppelin and the Prinz Eugen basically go out into the Atlantic and raise hell untill they are joined by the Schnarnhorst and the Gneisenau which was the plan IIRC in OTL, and they raise some more hell. British Carrier aircraft at this time are horrible and have their pants whipped by the superior Me-109's even if they are slower... Those stringbags wouldn't even get close to the German taskforce IMO. So basically you can kiss a whole lot of the British Merchant Marine goodbye coupled with the U-boat "Happy Time" Which would be concurrent. Perhaps some more raids on Britains port facilities and Churchill would be forced to sue for peace? Or is that wishfull thinking...?
     
  18. David S Poepoe Banned

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    Ah, the old 'fleet in being' trick. The Kriegsmarine used that with the Tirpitz in the fjords of Norway. It would tie up a few additional ships, until the Allies figured a way to bomb the ship at anchor.
     
  19. David S Poepoe Banned

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    Wishful thinking. The British can effectively close the path back to Brest leaving the German battle group without a port to return to. The force can't be kept at sea indefinately being refueled by U-Boats unless it heads for Spain and interment.
     
  20. Mifletz Banned

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    Just how much closer to France in OTL did the Bismark have to get to come under an effective Ju88, He111 & Condor umbrella sufficiently strong to deter Rodney & King George V?