Last battleship duel in Atlantic- IOWA vs TIRPITZ

Just saw on UKTV HIST channel last night how it was initially planned to dispatch the USS IOWA and NEW JERSEY as well IIRC on their 1st operational deployment to the north Atlantic in Aug 1943 to hunt down and sink the TIRPITZ as Germany's 1 last remaining surface ship threat to the Allied convoys. This battleship duel however never occurred after the TIRPITZ was restricted to Norwegian ports due to suffering significant British X-Craft damage before being sunk by RAF Bomber Command in late 1944. But WI the IOWAs had actually been deployed to the Atlantic and were given their chance to see action against Hitler's remaining battleship ? Who wants to speculate on the likely outcome of such a titanic duel in the north Atlantic ?
 
Melvin Loh said:
Just saw on UKTV HIST channel last night how it was initially planned to dispatch the USS IOWA and NEW JERSEY as well IIRC on their 1st operational deployment to the north Atlantic in Aug 1943 to hunt down and sink the TIRPITZ as Germany's 1 last remaining surface ship threat to the Allied convoys. This battleship duel however never occurred after the TIRPITZ was restricted to Norwegian ports due to suffering significant British X-Craft damage before being sunk by RAF Bomber Command in late 1944. But WI the IOWAs had actually been deployed to the Atlantic and were given their chance to see action against Hitler's remaining battleship ? Who wants to speculate on the likely outcome of such a titanic duel in the north Atlantic ?

TIRPITZ goes to the bottom after inflicting some minimal damage on the IOWA or NEW JERSEY. The TIRPITZ was completely outclassed by the IOWA class battleships.
 
I completely agree with Robert. The Iowas were superior to Tirpitz in all important measures. Luck or poor decisions by the American commander could change things, but if these factors balance out, Tirpitz is left a cripled hulk with Iowa only slightly to moderately damaged
 
Some of the differences

The Iowa class ships had many advantages, but there is one thing that must always be remembered. The whims of fate or inspired decisions make any battle an uncertain thing--especially when shells of this size are flying around.
That said, here's some of the differences:
Guns:
Iowa had one extra gun, and the guns are larger. The size difference is more than one might think, since the Iowa is firing a super-heavy shell, 2700 pounds, at 2500 feet per second (new gun velocity) from a 16"/50.
Tirpitz is firing a 1764 pound shell at 2690 feet per second fom a 15" gun. The penetration of the American shell is far greater.
The rate of fire of the german ship may be higher, but at long range, that won't be a decisive factor, IMHO. The next salvo usually isn't fired until the one in the air lands and aim is corrected. Since Iowa is faster, and American doctrine calls for a longer range battle, I'd expect things to stay at long range if the weather permits. Under German doctrine, if Iowa is slowed down, I'd expect Tirpitz to run away.

Protection:
The Bismarck class had poor turret protection, leading to a possible rapid reduction in firepower, although Hood style explosions would surprise me. In addition, some vital systems were above the Tirpitz's armored deck, leading to their rapid loss even if American shells didn't get through the armor.
Both ships have well protected vitals, but at shorter ranges, they can be penetrated. Once again, I don't expect things to get to a really close range.

One note--if things do start off at close range, Tirpitz does have torpedoes--best fire them fast, as they are in unprotected deck mounts.

Crew quality is hard to call--Tirpitz has been bottled up, but Iowa's a brand new ship, with the teething bugs just worked out.

One further point--Iowa will have destroyers with her, and Tirpitz, judging from the German deployments, likely won't. It's hard to engage a battleship when you have to dodge American torpedoes.

Just a few thoughts, there are far more knowlegeable people and far more thorough comparisons of the two ships and navies out there.
 

Kadyet

Banned
The Iowa had a huge advantage in its firing control system. Unlike the Tirpitz, she could fire over the visual horizon. In addition, she could hold a solution while doing crazy manuevers to avoid getting hit.

In 1945 test, an American battleship (the North Carolina) was able to maintain a constant solution even when performing back to back high-speed 450-degree turns, followed by back-to-back 100-degree turns.

http://www.combinedfleet.com/b_fire.htm
 
As much as I like this particular brand of What If, they are always presented as if the BB vs BB encounter takes place in some sort of high seas petri dish. Everyone wants to believe you can remove the plum from the surrounding pudding and have the battlewagons go at it mano a mano, That just ain't gonna happen. folks.

Look at the Hitler (ahem) History Channel's presentation of the idea; both IOWA and NEW JERSEY were penciled in for this operation. They'd deploy with their own DDs and most likely a CA/CL or two. TIRPITZ would have no where near that kind of support, although KM DDs are a certainty. (NHBL - look at SCHARNHORST's few sorties including her last, TIRPITZ' only, aborted anti-convoy sortie, plus the Spitzbergen operation. KM heavy units in Norway routinely deployed with DDs. BISMARCK and PRINZ EUGEN didn't due to fueling concerns.) So, it wouldn't be a duel of singletons, the Allies would have a marked numerical advantage let alone the qualitative one.

Next, you must figure in aircraft for both sides. The RN, RAF, and Luftwaffe kept up a pretty hectic sortie rate in the Arctic despite the weather. The proposed USN BB task force steaming to intercept TIRPITZ would have air cover, either land or carrier based. IIRC, WASP was still in the Atlantic at this time. I can see that anglophobic rat bastard Ernie King insisting on USN aircover for the operation rather then relying on British efforts.

Now, throw in the U-boats. Yes, they had a poor record versus warships in this theatre, but the USN would still have to factor them into the equation.

Finally, Allied SIGINT and ELINT will give them an even greater advantage. TIRPITZ' orders will be picked up and decrypted by Enigma. TIRPITZ' and her escorts' message traffic will be picked up by Huff-Duff. Allied radar, even in '43, will be another nail in TIRPITZ' coffin.

The entire affair will be a major operation on both sides with TIRPITZ eventually mousetrapped and pounded into scrap by a vastly superior force. As much as we might like it to be, it will NOT be some mano a mano, battlewagon, boxing duel under the midnight sun. ASBs may make it happen that way, but reality isn't as romantic.


Bill
 

Redbeard

Banned
I would be careful to say that Tirpitz is totally outclassed by Iowa. Tirpitz's worst problem would probably be, that after the X-craft attack in 43 she wasn't fully operational and her crew training standards quickly fell.

Iowa's main advantage was her better outfit of radar, which in bad visibility would be a serious advantage, but otherwise not. Tirpitz was optimised in protection and firepower for short to medium range fights, and if getting below 15-20k yards I guess Tirpitz would stand a fair chance. Iowa's veritcal protection would be vulnerable but Tirpitz's belts backed by a socalled turtle deck would stand a fair chance of keeping out Iowa's shells from vitals. As already mentioned Tirpitz´s turrets were relatively weak in protection, but at short ranges both ships would be vulnerable.

At longer ranges (>20 k) Iowa's 5+1" decks are virtually immune while Tirpitz's are vulnerable (and belt hits are unlikely) and the much heavier broadside of Iowa will have a good chance of deciding the matter. The Iowa's guns did suffer from reduced accuracy however until after Leyte (according to Campell: Naval guns of WWII), due to poor gun allignment. I'm not aware of the extent to which this was a problem, but from my knowledge it ought only to be a problem in the first salvoes (I have a past in land artillery, and had Fire Control as one of my "specialities").

Iowa have a theoretical speed advantage of some 3 knots, (important to keep/close range) but with her hull form, going 33 knots in the North Atlantic would probably on most days mean the front turrets being unworkable. In practical terms I guess their speed difference is insignificant which would have the range at which the two parts discover each other important. With Iowa's radars she has a good chance of early detection, but I'm not sure the allies then were aware of Tirpitz's specialisation for short range fights, and I guess Iowa would try to close, if possible, to be sure to decide the matter. Hit percentage is very low at long range and you risk emptying your magazines before deciding the fight.

A battle would be unlikely to be only a Iowa vs. Tirpitz though, and Tirpitz seriously risk being battered by cruisers and destoyers before ever getting into range of Iowa. If it happens in the winter, where it's dark 24 hours a day, that will be very serious and Tirpitz will share the fate of Scharnhorst. On a bright summers day/night the adsense of radar will not be important and I would hate to be in in the cruiser or destroyer ordered to attack. This will also motivate Iowa to close the range ASAP.

At above 25k I guess an encounter is most liklely to end in a draw, but with Tirpitz taking most of the damage (but getting away). At 20-25k Tirpitz is in serious danger, but still has a say 10% chance. At below 20 K Tirpitz's chances improves, but I guess never goes above 50%. But a 40% chance at 10-15k isn't bad.

Adding in other allied vessels, which is likely, will of course reduce the chances of Tirpitz.

Regards

Steffen Redbeard
 
Barring the dumb luck factor I'd say the odd are firmly in the Iowa's favour in a one on one fight. Tirpitz will probably leave Iowa a little something to remember her by but that is all. Bear in might that the rep of the Bismark class is based on the performance against an enemy who was twenty years older and the fact that they were significantly heavier than stated.

As an earlier commenter has observed there are no possible circumstances that will see Iowa wandering around on it's own. There will always be swarms of American cruisers and destroyers around and probably a side order of aircover. All in all it's likely to get ugly for the Germans very quickly.
 
Redbeard said:
A battle would be unlikely to be only a Iowa vs. Tirpitz though, and Tirpitz seriously risk being battered by cruisers and destoyers before ever getting into range of Iowa.

That's the crux of the issue. The POD, as stated, is that Tirpitz faces IOWA and NEW JERSEY plus escorts. TIRPITZ is at a disadvantage against one IOWA class battleship. Against TWO of them, she is toast. Not to mention the destroyers/cruisers/etc. that might be escorting them.
 
robertp6165 said:
That's the crux of the issue. The POD, as stated, is that Tirpitz faces IOWA and NEW JERSEY plus escorts. TIRPITZ is at a disadvantage against one IOWA class battleship. Against TWO of them, she is toast. Not to mention the destroyers/cruisers/etc. that might be escorting them.

I agree, Tripitz is pretty much screwed here. Two Iowa class battleships + escorts = 1 sunk Tripitz.
 
I entirely agree that in reality the chance of a one-on-one battle between the two ships would have been negligible. However, it was consideration of exactly this kind of battle which strongly influenced the design of the ships, so it's not unreasonable to compare their characteristics for 'pros and cons'.

I don't at all disagree that the Iowa was better in (at least) most respects than Tirpitz, and if you ran a 'one-on-one' battle with the two of them 100 times, the Iowa would win the vast majority of the encounters. However, I never rule out the operation of random chance in such matters. One weakness of the Iowa has been pointed out - the class were very 'wet' ships, and they also rolled badly in heavy seas, which would have affected gunnery accuracy. Postwar, an Iowa was in company with HMS Vanguard in a heavy N Atlantic gale and the Vanguard was reportedly much drier and rolled far less. So in such heavy weather it may be that the Iowa's advantages would have been reduced to some extent, giving the Tirpitz a chance.

Tony Williams: Military gun and ammunition website and Discussion forum
 
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