French vs Italian navies World War 2, who would win?

"I" just realized that "I" never originally was first to write the Italians were trashed. I wrote and I thought carefully, that the Italians were struggling against massive odds.

In my own defense, it might seem that "trashed" might be inferred, but I never intended or actually wrote that intent except (^^^) as an explanation for a naval disaster that was a nadir from which to recover.
I got you guys mixed up. Sorry, man. :p
 
Note the French were unable to deploy all their forces in the Mediterannean, due to geopolitical demands elsewhere. They needed a significant part of their naval forces in the Atlantic an a smaller part in the oversea SE Asian region as well. This would remove about 30 % of overall naval strength at least, given that the Mediterranean was the core of the French Fleet operational territory. Italy had no such restrictions to start with and dominated the region simply due to geographical positioning.

In a millitary way, the French were possessing a good number of fairly modern warships, which in theory could be effective, though the Italian Navy was mostly composed of relatively modern ships as well, backed up by a very potent Regia Aeronautica, or airforce which the French lacked completely. This is where things go bad for the French, as they fleet at sea could not depend on aircover, while the Italian fleet could.

So in any direct confrontation between the two, much would depend on where it was to take place, as the Italians could choose where to fight and the French mostly could not. It would surprise me to see the Marine National come out victorious here, as the Italians had all the major advantages in this, just as the Royal Navy had in the Great War, as it could dictate terms where to strike under what circumstances it desired, which the germans could not.

Good analysis, with two caveats. The French could deploy almost all their capital ships in the Mediterranean, their commitments around the world involved smaller units. As for the Italian Air Force I don't know how much better they would have coordinated with their fleet then the French. The Italian Fleet in WWII didn't get much air cover, though that was in the Central Med, not the Western. Italian Torpedo Bombers were very good, but French Fighters were much better. Italy would have been in a good position for a distant blockade of the French Mediterranean Ports, which is likely what they would have done in a one on one war.
 
the French have an ace up their sleeve called Italian ammunition
Italian industry was behind the rest of the world when it came to ammunition Manufacturing. The Italian Navy had a 1% tolerance in the weight of shells and charges. that doesn't sound like much but when you are dealing with guns with a range of 20 miles that can mean a deviation from the aiming point of up to 700 yards.
the French would win due to accuracy of Fire
 
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Not that anyone should be interested, but the hypothetical results of the "Battle of the Ligurian Sea" are in.

Outcome in 10 sets?
France wins 5.
Italy wins 4.
Draw 1.

Notes: If France foils the Italian surprise attack on Toulon, as modelled on the more recent Operation Trident of Indian Navy fame, then Italy is screwed, as the French by the square root law have a 9-5 local gunpower superiority with three Bretagnes against two Cavours in the central gun action. In the light forces brawl that accompanies this shoot-ex; the odds are closer with the math being roughly 9-7, but the Italians still take a severe beating in a daylight and then night battle that resembles all too disturbingly Empress Augusta Bay.

Italy, on the other hand, if they can pull off a surprise, either by a special ops (Decima Flottiglia MAS or 10th special attack flotilla) penetration into Toulon a la "Raid on Alexandria" or by some miracle can evade French aerial reconnaissance and show up with their gunships loaded for bear (How did the British do that one, anyway?) has an easy opening victory if they catch the Marine National at their moorings. They can shoot the place up and start their war off with a bang. I did not wargame the outcome on land where the French presumably, conduct a campaign into the Po Valley and decapitate the Rome regime via the tried and true methods of land warfare.

Now what the Regia Marina does after the MN pulls themselves up by their keels and goes looking for revenge, I leave to others... BUT the wargames 10 times strongly suggest cruiser destroyer brawls like the Americans and Japanese fought in the Southwest Pacific. Ambush and who shoots first determines victors. This is not Jutland. It, if anything, resembles more the WWI Dardenelles and/or Adriatic actions by the respective navies.

Mine warfare, light forces, and submarines would be decisive in a campaign, but for an opening battle, that is what I believe would happen.

Now we will see what happens when it is the French who surprise attack.
 
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Good analysis, with two caveats. The French could deploy almost all their capital ships in the Mediterranean, their commitments around the world involved smaller units. As for the Italian Air Force I don't know how much better they would have coordinated with their fleet then the French. The Italian Fleet in WWII didn't get much air cover, though that was in the Central Med, not the Western. Italian Torpedo Bombers were very good, but French Fighters were much better. Italy would have been in a good position for a distant blockade of the French Mediterranean Ports, which is likely what they would have done in a one on one war.
I doubt the effectiveness of the French airforce (in 1940!!!), which was purely a land war orientated instrument for assisting the Army, not the Navy. Its aircraft were of mediocre quality and all were very short ranged and incapable of providing duration aircover on land, nor at sea. In this case the Regia Aeronautica performance was far better, though not always in cooperation with the Navy. At least the Regia Aeronautica had the strikecapability to attack targets at sea, which the French lacked.

Second: France could not deploy all its capital ships in the Mediteranean as the Atlantic was also demanding a strong presence in case another enemy, perhaps Germany, showed up. The Marine Nationale always had a split fleet, just as the USN always had one between its two seaborders and never could deploy all its assets in one local area. Even more interesting is that the main buildingyards and facilities were on the Atlantic coast and not the south of France. As such in 1940, the Maine National would in normal conditions get at its best a parity in capital ships in the Mediteranean, with the note that the French Bretagne class was quite obsolete already and the even older Courbet class was not longer considered fit for frontline duties. The newer Dunkerque class was available but tied to the Atlantic ports until the larger Richelieu class was entering service. (Unless you can arrange some sort of a deal between France and Germany for instance to take away such tensions as well.)

Another thing is the Anti aircraft capabilities on both navies as both were known to have mediocre AA capabilities in all its ships at best. This might be tending to the Italian superiority in local Italian controlled waters given its far better suited Regia Aeronautica in anti shipping operations. This would mean the Italians could hang in the back and let the french come out to them, which was their main strategy from the start in WW2 as well. Once at sea, the French would have to face the airforce of the Italians unprotected, due to their lack of training and preparation of combined airforce and navy operations. (Only the Japanese actually had such a combined naval and airforce as their Naval Airforce was an independent unit compared to the Army airforce).
 
Not that anyone should be interested, but the hypothetical results of the "Battle of the Ligurian Sea" are in.

Outcome in 10 sets?
France wins 5.
Italy wins 4.
Draw 1.

Notes: If France foils the Italian surprise attack on Toulon, as modelled on the more recent Operation Trident of Indian Navy fame, then Italy is screwed, as the French by the square root law have a 9-5 local gunpower superiority with three Bretagnes against two Cavours in the central gun action. In the light forces brawl that accompanies this shoot-ex; the odds are closer with the math being roughly 9-7, but the Italians still take a severe beating in a daylight and then night battle that resembles all too disturbingly Empress Augusta Bay.

Italy, on the other hand, if they can pull off a surprise, either by a special ops (Decima Flottiglia MAS or 10th special attack flotilla) penetration into Toulon a la "Raid on Alexandria" or by some miracle can evade French aerial reconnaissance and show up with their gunships loaded for bear (How did the British do that one, anyway?) has an easy opening victory if they catch the Marine National at their moorings. They can shoot the place up and start their war off with a bang. I did not wargame the outcome on land where the French presumably, conduct a campaign into the Po Valley and decapitate the Rome regime via the tried and true methods of land warfare.

Now we will see what happens when it is the French who surprise attack.
outside the scope of the OP, but have wondered about a battle around the Balearic Islands which Italy attempted to base themselves on during SCW? a quick glance shows the Dunkerques were not available? (but that might be incorrect, they may be operational) so Italy might have a brief window of numerical superiority?
 
outside the scope of the OP, but have wondered about a battle around the Balearic Islands which Italy attempted to base themselves on during SCW? a quick glance shows the Dunkerques were not available? (but that might be incorrect, they may be operational) so Italy might have a brief window of numerical superiority?
Are the Italian rebuilds not unfinished and very much docked without the ability to steam anywhere, unless they stop the second pair (but they would presumably be in a bad way so long without much work?) and fight at just the right moment in 37 with the first two just working up?
 
Second: France could not deploy all its capital ships in the Mediteranean as the Atlantic was also demanding a strong presence in case another enemy, perhaps Germany, showed up.
But if you add Germany to a theoretical France v Italy why not add the RN battleship squadron and CVs shadowing the French fleet , I mean why would HMS Hood a couple of QEs and Rs with C,G&F covering them matter much to the balance of power?
 
But if you add Germany to a theoretical France v Italy why not add the RN battleship squadron and CVs shadowing the French fleet , I mean why would HMS Hood a couple of QEs and Rs with C,G&F covering them matter much to the balance of power?
Even in WW2, the Marine National maintained a strong presence in the Atlantic, even when allied to the UK, so this is not so much a question of numerical possibilities, but more to political willingness. The French were to maintain an Atlantic Fleet no mater what was going on in the Mediterranean Sea, either on her own, or allied to what ever other naval power. Besides this, the toppic suggested a one vs one war, but not allied coalitions, so normal practice of global politics and powerplay remained as much relevant as always.

Speaking of a one vs one war between France and Italy in 1940, this would most likely be mostly a landwar as the two shared a common border, so naval activities were secondary to this in most cases. As both the Armee Francais and the Italian Army were not the most effective fighting forces in the world in 1940, a stalemate of some sort is logic. France unable to wage war offensively, due to her military doctrine, purely concentrated on defensive war with powerful fixed strongpoints along the borders, while the Italian Army mostly was ill equipped and not that well trained, besides having a very low morale overall.
 
Italian surprise attack on Toulon
Please note that OTL, the MN concentrated it's heavy assets in Mers-El-Kébir in late April and early May. It's probably because they thought that Toulon was too exposed to air threats. Incidentally, I think it put MN's battleships more at risk of MAS types special ops than at Toulon. Mers-El-Kébir has only one choke point protecting the anchorage, while Toulon has three, in a raw.

I doubt the effectiveness of the French airforce (in 1940!!!), which was purely a land war orientated instrument for assisting the Army, not the Navy. Its aircraft were of mediocre quality and all were very short ranged and incapable of providing duration aircover on land, nor at sea. In this case the Regia Aeronautica performance was far better, though not always in cooperation with the Navy. At least the Regia Aeronautica had the strikecapability to attack targets at sea, which the French lacked.
You're forgetting the French Naval Air Arm which far expected to operate in support of the French Fleet. They were decently equipped in torpedo and dive bomber (though not in fighters) and contrary to the Italians, they trained with the fleet. OTL, the dive bomber were sacrificed against the Luftwaffe, the gold standard of the time, but the Italians at sea are really far from that standard in 1940.
I must add that, in 1940, the Italians don't have a good strike capacity at sea. They don't have dive bombing capacities (with heavy bombs, 250 kg or more), not until the German give them the Ju-87 in 41. They don't have a torpedo capacity until mid-40, and only in few numbers until 41.

Second: France could not deploy all its capital ships in the Mediteranean as the Atlantic was also demanding a strong presence in case another enemy, perhaps Germany, showed up. The Marine Nationale always had a split fleet, just as the USN always had one between its two seaborders and never could deploy all its assets in one local area. Even more interesting is that the main buildingyards and facilities were on the Atlantic coast and not the south of France. As such in 1940, the Maine National would in normal conditions get at its best a parity in capital ships in the Mediteranean, with the note that the French Bretagne class was quite obsolete already and the even older Courbet class was not longer considered fit for frontline duties. The newer Dunkerque class was available but tied to the Atlantic ports until the larger Richelieu class was entering service. (Unless you can arrange some sort of a deal between France and Germany for instance to take away such tensions as well.)
Except that, in May 40, the Marine Nationale had concentrated it's battleships in the Med. There were 2 Bretagne and 2 Dunkerque in Western Med and 1 Bretagne in Eastern Med. You're right that the 2 Courbet were death traps in a battleship fight at the time, that's why they were still in Brest and Cherbourg to support land operations.
So, when Italy entry in the war became probable in the spring 40, the MN concentrated it's assets in the Western Med and deferred to the RN for the rest of the world. I seem to recall that there was some sort of agreement between France and the UK on this. I don't see why it would go otherwise here.

Speaking of a one vs one war between France and Italy in 1940, this would most likely be mostly a landwar as the two shared a common border, so naval activities were secondary to this in most cases. As both the Armee Francais and the Italian Army were not the most effective fighting forces in the world in 1940, a stalemate of some sort is logic. France unable to wage war offensively, due to her military doctrine, purely concentrated on defensive war with powerful fixed strongpoints along the borders, while the Italian Army mostly was ill equipped and not that well trained, besides having a very low morale overall.
You're right that the French Army was not very efficient in 1940, but it's still far better equipped and far more functioning than the Italian Army. And the French have the industrial capacities and the cash to buy in the US to reduce their short comings, given time. The French can mobilize almost twice as much men than the Italians (from a lower manpower base) and arm them, but, the biggest element in favor of a stalemate is the Alps and the rough terrain, negating most of the French advantages.

There will be a second land front in North Africa which will be far more active and mobile than in the Alps. There, the French will have the advantage, and I think that most of the naval war will concentrate in convoys warfare. But neither France nor Italy can block convoys of the other for Africa, only block some ports of the other.
Here, French North Africa infrastructure gives far more possibilities as the French can simply run convoys in the Atlantic to Morocco and then trains to Tunisia. To the contrary, if Tripoli is blockaded, the Italian will loose anything west of Syrte in the medium run. It's simply far too difficult for them to support their forces from Benghazi, specially if the French have the advantage in manpower, mobility material and, most likely, air power.
 
I doubt the effectiveness of the French airforce (in 1940!!!), which was purely a land war orientated instrument for assisting the Army, not the Navy. Its aircraft were of mediocre quality and all were very short ranged and incapable of providing duration aircover on land, nor at sea. In this case the Regia Aeronautica performance was far better, though not always in cooperation with the Navy. At least the Regia Aeronautica had the strike-capability to attack targets at sea, which the French lacked.
That would be news to the French.

That would be news to the French 2.0.


Credit: Late 298 photo from Cols Bleus August 16, 1975 (This image comes from Gallica Digital Library and is available under the digital ID bpt6k9607455s)

The French had assorted contraptions like that one (^^^) buzzing around since WWI.



Credit: Loire 130 photo from L'Aerophile June 1944 (L'Aerophile magazine - http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k65537820?rk=64378;0)

That one spotted fall of shot and conducted air sea rescue missions. Actually was better than the USN Seagulls, Kingfishers and Seamews. What can I say? The French had a talent for floatplanes.

Second: France could not deploy all its capital ships in the Mediteranean as the Atlantic was also demanding a strong presence in case another enemy, perhaps Germany, showed up. The Marine Nationale always had a split fleet, just as the USN always had one between its two seaborders and never could deploy all its assets in one local area. Even more interesting is that the main buildingyards and facilities were on the Atlantic coast and not the south of France. As such in 1940, the Maine National would in normal conditions get at its best a parity in capital ships in the Mediteranean, with the note that the French Bretagne class was quite obsolete already and the even older Courbet class was not longer considered fit for frontline duties. The newer Dunkerque class was available but tied to the Atlantic ports until the larger Richelieu class was entering service. (Unless you can arrange some sort of a deal between France and Germany for instance to take away such tensions as well.)
That is actually a good point because the French navy was stuck in schizophrenia mode between the world wars. (See Map).



Credit: (https://www.naval-history.net/Map43Mediterranean.htm) and McPherson

Thing is that the French Marine National between the wars and especially between 1935 -1940 was focused on two types of navy. The one on the Atlantic coast of Metro France was a true battle fleet, the Force de Raid. Usually deployed at Brest, St Nazaire and la Rochelle, this was a surface action group built around France's biggest fastest meanest longest ranged ocean going warships and was intended to operate in the North Atlantic. You'll find the Dunkirks and the Algerie and the Magadores and such operating from this region. Their mission was to protect France's sea-lines-of-communication to west Africa and to operate forward into the English Channel and North Sea if it became necessary to thump the Kriegsmarine. They were very good at their missions.

In the Mediterranean Sea, it is a different navy. Here the French were Italy oriented. Their assets were SLOW. The Bretagnes and Courbets were 10 m/s (20 knot) WWI dinosaurs that were unable to even catch their WW I Italian counterparts. When the Italians started to modernize the Cavours,and Dorias; well that was NTG. The French had to do something but modernizing a junkheap like a Bretagne was expansive and expensive and for technical reasons the Courbets were just not worth the francs.

So the French navy went schizo. They designed short ranged and extremely fast super destroyers and a series of light and heavy cruisers that would plow ahead of their battleline of Bretagnes and brawl with their Italian opposites to get in close to deliver massed torpedo attacks upon the Italian battle-line to cripple one or two battleships and then the Bretagnes would slowly move in and polish the cripples off. If that sounds familiar, it is what the Japanese called "reduction and attrition".

Fine, but the Italians are still faster and they can raid SLOCs between France and Algiers. The French answer to that one was AIRPOWER and fortified ports. Yup, we're back in the era of Endicott and the US fortress port system out of which convoys move from port to port in short little hops to find safe haven behind coast defense artillery. The French calculated (Correctly) that the Italian fleet sortie radius was no further west from La Spezia, and Naples than Minorca and Ibiza. Guess what the two terminii of that convoy route were? Toulon and Mers el Kebir. Heavily fortified with strong coastal and air defenses. If the Italians are going to hit that route they have to come AT TOULON. It is the end their fleet can reach.

Another thing is the Anti aircraft capabilities on both navies as both were known to have mediocre AA capabilities in all its ships at best. This might be tending to the Italian superiority in local Italian controlled waters given its far better suited Regia Aeronautica in anti shipping operations. This would mean the Italians could hang in the back and let the french come out to them, which was their main strategy from the start in WW2 as well. Once at sea, the French would have to face the airforce of the Italians unprotected, due to their lack of training and preparation of combined airforce and navy operations. (Only the Japanese actually had such a combined naval and airforce as their Naval Airforce was an independent unit compared to the Army airforce).
Regia Aeronautica aircraft were slightly longer ranged than French aircraft but let us not exaggerate. Both air forces could operate off their coasts with aircraft that were fairly well matched. Italian aerial torpedo plane forces do not come into their own until AFTER 1940. (@Palantir covers this.) The French already have a formidable seaplane torpedo force in place since 1935. We don't see it in WWII because the French MN has no-one Italian to fight for more than two weeks in the Med. and their naval air force was kind of busy up north.

Please note that OTL, the MN concentrated it's heavy assets in Mers-El-Kébir in late April and early May. It's probably because they thought that Toulon was too exposed to air threats. Incidentally, I think it put MN's battleships more at risk of MAS types special ops than at Toulon. Mers-El-Kébir has only one choke point protecting the anchorage, while Toulon has three, in a row.
That is 1940 and that move is to get away from the Germans from the north, who were bearing down kind of fast. Additionally, while I agree that Mers el Kebir is an open invitation for a mini-sub attack, it is not likely to be the basing mode for the French pre-war in this ATL or a target for an Italian surprise attack. It is out of the Italian sortie range if they try to pull a Trident which is what Campagnalia was yelling at Mussolini to do in 1940. If the Moose was going to take the Italians into war then Toulon was their best shot at an early Marine National knockout punch. Since this timeline is kind of 1935-1940ish I went with what the French and Italians had at that time (~1937.).

BTW, you covered the airpower situation quite well.

Except that, in May 40, the Marine Nationale had concentrated it's battleships in the Med. There were 2 Bretagne and 2 Dunkerque in Western Med and 1 Bretagne in Eastern Med. You're right that the 2 Courbet were death traps in a battleship fight at the time, that's why they were still in Brest and Cherbourg to support land operations. So, when Italy entry in the war became probable in the spring 40, the MN concentrated it's assets in the Western Med and deferred to the RN for the rest of the world. I seem to recall that there was some sort of agreement between France and the UK on this. I don't see why it would go otherwise here.
The opening naval move is a surprise attack from peacetime. It really is the only chance either navy has for a decision at sea. They are too evenly matched otherwise. Deployments (see above) are based on the Anglo-French coverage agreement and did not change until May 1940 when French naval intelligence got wind that the Italians were up to something.

You're right that the French Army was not very efficient in 1940, but it's still far better equipped and far more functioning than the Italian Army. And the French have the industrial capacities and the cash to buy in the US to reduce their short comings, given time. The French can mobilize almost twice as much men than the Italians (from a lower manpower base) and arm them, but, the biggest element in favor of a stalemate is the Alps and the rough terrain, negating most of the French advantages.
Expect a bombing campaign and siege warfare mountain style. Caporettio; only far worse.

There will be a second land front in North Africa which will be far more active and mobile than in the Alps. There, the French will have the advantage, and I think that most of the naval war will concentrate in convoys warfare. But neither France nor Italy can block convoys of the other for Africa, only block some ports of the other.
I think it is Toulon or bust for Italy. Going the other way? Goodbye La Spezia. French surprise attack looks a lot more like Karachi every time I wargame it. The French gun advantage in such a surprise is crushing.

Here, French North Africa infrastructure gives far more possibilities as the French can simply run convoys in the Atlantic to Morocco and then trains to Tunisia. To the contrary, if Tripoli is blockaded, the Italian will loose anything west of Syrte in the medium run. It's simply far too difficult for them to support their forces from Benghazi, specially if the French have the advantage in manpower, mobility material and, most likely, air power.
Out of French sortie range. It works both ways, you know, that sortie range limit? They, the French, will have to do something about Sardinia and SICILY. I note that the British tried and NEVER could break the Italian lifeline to Libya until Anglo-American TORCH solved the problem overland. That is a HUGE logistics and terrain land warfare nightmare.
 
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Grins and giggles update. Just wanted to see what a French Bretagne Cavour style "might" look like.
France_Bretagne_4.png


Actually turned out better than I expected. The refit is "US style" based on a post Pearl Harbor refit model.
 
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Out of French sortie range. It works both ways, you know, that sortie range limit? They, the French, will have to do something about Sardinia and SICILY. I note that the British tried and NEVER could break the Italian lifeline to Libya until Anglo-American TORCH solved the problem overland. That is a HUGE logistics and terrain land warfare nightmare.
For a traditional blockade maybe, but close enough for aerial bombardments, for cruiser raids (and bombardment), for mines and for submarines. Given the lack of heavy equipment in Tripoli, it's likely enough for at least slow supplies to a crawl and force the Italians to divert most convoys to Benghazi.
 
For a traditional blockade maybe, but close enough for aerial bombardments, for cruiser raids (and bombardment), for mines and for submarines. Given the lack of heavy equipment in Tripoli, it's likely enough for at least slow supplies to a crawl and force the Italians to divert most convoys to Benghazi.
Could work, but you have to base forward at Sten and it would take a lot of air power and logistics. I think it still stalemates around the Mareth Line on land. Like I wrote, the logistics and terrain is not easy.
 
Thing is that the French Marine National between the wars and especially between 1935 -1940 was focused on two types of navy. The one on the Atlantic coast of Metro France was a true battle fleet, the Force de Raid. Usually deployed at Brest, St Nazaire and la Rochelle, this was a surface action group built around France's biggest fastest meanest longest ranged ocean going warships and was intended to operate in the North Atlantic. You'll find the Dunkirks and the Algerie and the Magadores and such operating from this region. Their mission was to protect France's sea-lines-of-communication to west Africa and to operate forward into the English Channel and North Sea if it became necessary to thump the Kriegsmarine. They were very good at their missions.
always think that is what the KM should have built, their (best as can) version of Force du Raid ( oops all together now Force de Raid), instead of the largest brutes just gone for speed (of course that is assuming a second pair of Scharnhorsts would be improved)

The opening naval move is a surprise attack from peacetime. It really is the only chance either navy has for a decision at sea. They are too evenly matched otherwise. Deployments (see above) are based on the Anglo-French coverage agreement and did not change until May 1940 when French naval intelligence got wind that the Italians were up to something.

I think it is Toulon or bust for Italy. Going the other way? Goodbye La Spezia. French surprise attack looks a lot more like Karachi every time I wargame it. The French gun advantage in such a surprise is crushing.
thought Adm. Darlan was ready to attack before Italy even declared war? that would have been a hell of a change to WWII.
 
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always think that is what the KM should have built, their (best as can) version of Force du Raid, instead of the largest brutes just gone for speed (of course that is assuming a second pair of Scharnhorsts would be improved)
Well... two things. I goofed. It is "force de raid", not "force du raid" which can be transliterated into "surface action group". In concept, the surface action group was not too dissimilar from the prevailing concept of a British "force". A core of battleships supported by an aircraft carrier for aerial scouting, recon and opportunistic anti-ship attack was to operate along and protect a sea-line-of-communication. This is not anything like the USN concept of a specific mission/objective oriented temporary grouping of ships drawn from a common pool called a "task force". They are thrown together, go out, succeed or fail at the mission/objective and then are folded back into the force pool.

Raeder in his Z-Plan concepts wanted two semi-permanent raid forces built around 2-3 battleships and 2-3 cruisers supported by an aircraft carrier (Raider-Flotte). That might have been interesting if the Germans had ever figured out aviation at sea. I give them about zero chance of ever making it work.

thought Adm. Darlan was ready to attack before Italy even declared war? that would have been a hell of a change to WWII.
Darlan seems to have been okay; until the British snubbed him somehow on protocol grounds at King George's coronation (Put him behind a Turkish naval officer and a pillar in the greeting line, if I remember properly.) . Thereafter he goes "nuts" very much like the American ADM King and maybe for the same exact reasons. I would not put a surprise attack past him... aimed against the British.
 
Grins and giggles update. Just wanted to see what a French Bretagne Cavour style "might" look like.
View attachment 515663

Actually turned out better than I expected. The refit is "US style" based on a post Pearl Harbor refit model.
Good job. I guess they did this in a U.S. Ship Yard, so yes a post Pearl Harbor refit. I would think this ship would have a very low priority, so it wouldn't be till 1944 that they could find the time to do this. The deck armor is good, but the rest is more like an early Dreadnaught. Even the 11" guns of the Scharnhorst could penetrate her main belt, Turrets, or Barbettes. 24kts is better then a lot of WWI era Battleships. Under water protection is probably poor. I guess they could escort convoys like the British R Class Battleships did.
 
Good job. I guess they did this in a U.S. Ship Yard, so yes a post Pearl Harbor refit. I would think this ship would have a very low priority, so it wouldn't be till 1944 that they could find the time to do this. The deck armor is good, but the rest is more like an early Dreadnaught. Even the 11" guns of the Scharnhorst could penetrate her main belt, Turrets, or Barbettes. 24kts is better then a lot of WWI era Battleships. Under water protection is probably poor. I guess they could escort convoys like the British R Class Battleships did.
You might not be able to see it in the render, but there is a 2 cellular deep tier TDS blister that runs from A-Y main armament, and the over-plating of the casemates is also cellular (Gun boxes on armored hoist and magazines, not continuous as the French originally built.), while the suppressed casemate spaces are framed and built for flotation cells in the float bubble). Cannot do a thing about the side belt, since it is kind of integral and it is HEAVY. These were not all or nothing ships. The re-mod has to move a LOT of weight around. About 3000 tonnes! The lighter machinery helps in the center of the sausage as does stripping out the useless casemate armor from the fore and aft ends when those positions are suppressed, but Murphy what can one do with that main belt?

Still managed to add an inch to the protective deck where needed. That in my opinion gives the Bretagnes a chance at range. Scharnhorst had 5.0 cm decap plus another 5.0 cm internal to keep out plunging fire, which brings up another problem. The 34 cm/L 45s as for 1935, had horrible cradles, trunnions and slides. AFAIK elevation to 23 degrees or so, at that time, limited effective engagement range to 25,000 meters. THIS was a factor in the La Spezia problem I ran as a wargame. If the French don't deepen their slides and pits in their barbettes, the Italian coast defense artillery is going to have a joyful time sinking French battleships. I had to handwave it and give the French the mythical modernization (^^^) or they would be reduced to a cruiser raid force. That hurts.

That is what not doing your homework does to you. Forces you to do an ATL do-over.

As for Scharnhorst versus Bretagne? the improved 28 cm guns might be able to belt punch, but I am more worried about plunging fire from the German ships. Give the Bretagnes an immune zone of 10,000 to 30,000 meters from the twins and even at 23 degrees the 34 cm/45 (13.4") Model 1912M will ruin the Germans quickly. These guns were accurate with little dispersion (about 100 meters or comparable to the 28 cm (11") SK C/34. This is also important, because it turns out that from 20,000 meters to 30,000 meters the Bretagnes can bounce the German APC soft nose, both belt and deck, provided the deck is thickened. That gives them a 16,000 meter shooting window where the Germans' Scharnhorsts cannot bounce French shell deck hits and where their belts are kind of "iffy".
 
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