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Semi OT - Turret Armor

 
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Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 2:05:22 AM   
wdolson

 

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I was pondering turret armor on warships yesterday. Many cruisers and battleships had turret armor much better than anywhere else on the ship, but I got to wondering why do that engineering sacrifice? It adds topside weight which is almost always a problem in warship designs and while it might give the blokes in the turret a warm and fuzzy, it really didn't buy much in the conditions large ship surface battles were fought. There are so many things that have to work right to keep a turret operational, the ship's electrical system needs to stay intact, the magazine needs to remain operational, the ammunition lifts need to remain operational, and the ship needs to stay afloat.

I would argue the armor on the turrets shouldn't be any better than the belt armor and magazine armor (assuming the critical electrical systems are inside the belt). Maybe a designer could have skimped a little and downgraded the turret armor a little in exchange for a bit more belt armor. The ship can stay in the fight with one turret knocked out, but it can't stay in the fight if it sinks.

Maybe the designers were designing for a close in fight where ships could aim at specific spots on a ship, but the reality of big ship naval combat showed that ships were usually lucky to score a hit anywhere on an enemy ship. Jutland should have demonstrated the likely range of any future surface encounters. I think the only time large ships engaged at close range in WW II was in some of the battles around Guadalcanal, and those were in the dark and devolved into confused melees pretty quickly. I don't think anyone was targeting anything specific on enemy ships in those battles, they were just trying to get as many hits as possible in the shortest amount of time.

I can see armoring destroyer turrets. The nature of destroyer and other small ship actions can be much closer quarters and somewhat different.

There are people here who understand naval architecture better than I do. I just thought I would toss out my thoughts and see what y'all think.

Bill

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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 2:25:01 AM   
mind_messing

 

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A ship that can't move but can still fire back is still capable of inflicting damage.

A ship that can move but not fire back is merely a target.

I'd also warrant that large caliber gun barrels don't grow on trees. In terms of the materials and skill involved, I'd say that the gun barrels are the single most expensive component of a ship. It makes sense to give them protection to such high value items, even more so considering that replacing them requires a major naval base for the cranes.

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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 2:29:00 AM   
geofflambert


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The barbettes must be the most armored part of the ship if not the magazines themselves. In addition proper procedures must be followed in delivering ammo from the magazine through the barbette to the turret. I agree with you on the turret armor, a well placed aerial bomb could bounce the turret right off the barbette. Back to the procedures; Beatty said (roughly) 'There's something wrong with our ships today' at Jutland. He was wrong, the loading procedure was just asking for it, a turret penetration led directly to the magazine.

The most expensive part of the ship is the ship.

< Message edited by geofflambert -- 11/11/2015 3:34:51 AM >


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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 2:49:53 AM   
wdolson

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: mind_messing

A ship that can't move but can still fire back is still capable of inflicting damage.

A ship that can move but not fire back is merely a target.

I'd also warrant that large caliber gun barrels don't grow on trees. In terms of the materials and skill involved, I'd say that the gun barrels are the single most expensive component of a ship. It makes sense to give them protection to such high value items, even more so considering that replacing them requires a major naval base for the cranes.


I suppose the barrels are expensive, but a deck hit next to the turret could possibly warp the barrels.

With a small gun like a destroyer, the crew can crank the turret around manually to aim the gun if power is lost, but you can't do that with a battleship. If you did have a hand crank, it would have to be geared down so far to allow a human to crank it that it would take an hour to turn the turret 1 degree by hand. If the ship looses electrical power, it's now a sitting duck target. Look at the South Dakota in the Battle of Guadalcanal. A circuit breaker failed a few minutes into the fight and the ship just sat there and absorbed a lot of punishment, most of it too small caliber to penetrate the belt, so the ship stayed afloat, but the guns were as useless as a hood ornament until they got the power back.

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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 2:59:43 AM   
Big B

 

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A quick glance at American warships shows me that Barbettes, main belt, and armored bulkheads were usually to the same standard thickness on American cruisers and BBs - getting more uniformly heavily protected through the late 30's.
Only the turret faces and conning tower seem to be consistently thicker, magazines usually are the thickest.
I believe in the All-or-nothing armored scheme - the magazines were also fully enclosed by the main belt as well.

On the other hand I know that turret armor on Japanese cruisers was significantly less armored than the belt (only about 25mm on heavy cruiser turrets), while Japanese Battleships had turrets as well protected as the belt; not sure about older British cruisers off the top of my head, but do I know that like the Americans - the later British cruiser designs (and to an extent Japanese as well) had much more complete and uniformly armored designs.

Not sure why the turret faces and CT got significantly more armor than the other vitals on later American cruisers, designed as they were to immunity zone standards (medium and greater gun range).
It made tactical sense to the naval designers of the day....




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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 3:15:50 AM   
geofflambert


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Back to Bill's original point, or rather his rejoinder, at the beginning of WWII I believe all US BBs had their electrical cables fully exposed, not in any kind of conduit, even. Before a battle you could, among very many things, communicate with your gun turrets and coordinate them from the conning tower. A few hits from 5" guns from a DD could put an end to that. Really bad idea.

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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 3:35:03 AM   
BattleMoose

 

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A penetrating hit on a turret would have the capacity to detonate the charge that is stored there and might lead to an explosion all the way down to the magazine? Magazines are kept deep in the bowels of the ship so it is unlikely that even a belt penetrating hit can breach the magazine. The turret is the place where it is most likely that a shell could detonate any charge. As a surface area it doesn't take that much steel to thicken the turrets as compared to the whole belt.

At least that is why I thought it was done.

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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 3:39:50 AM   
geofflambert


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At Jutland, the Brits did not close the doors in their elevator shaft thingies (sorry about that) so the blast in the turret could reach the magazine. The Germans didn't make that mistake. You could operate rearming the turrets without a large vulnerability that the Brits ignored.

Furthermore, it's not the shells that are to be most worried about, it's the cordite which was packed in bags all the way up from the magazines to the turret and then to the guns.

That cordite was in big bags that could make a young man groan trying to feed it to a gun and they might use up to three of those bags to fire one shell. It's amazing that any ships survived such.

< Message edited by geofflambert -- 11/11/2015 4:47:27 AM >


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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 4:43:01 AM   
Hermit

 

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And in reply to the comment about DD crews being able to swing the turret around manually, most early war destroyers had open guns or just a shield, not an enclosed turret. So armoring them would have been an excellent idea. I'm guessing the same "top-heavy" concerns influenced that choice.

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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 5:53:22 AM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: geofflambert

At Jutland, the Brits did not close the doors in their elevator shaft thingies (sorry about that) so the blast in the turret could reach the magazine. The Germans didn't make that mistake. You could operate rearming the turrets without a large vulnerability that the Brits ignored.

Furthermore, it's not the shells that are to be most worried about, it's the cordite which was packed in bags all the way up from the magazines to the turret and then to the guns.

That cordite was in big bags that could make a young man groan trying to feed it to a gun and they might use up to three of those bags to fire one shell. It's amazing that any ships survived such.
warspite1

What you seem to want to say is right, but you appear to be struggling with the explanation so let me help you .

The cause of the catastrophic losses of three battlecruisers (compared to one such German ship) was because of the poor cordite handling procedures in the former. From Nelson’s day the British believed that rate of fire was the all-important factor in naval battle – put more shells into the enemy ships and they will sink quicker; brutal but undeniably effective in the days of cannonballs and sails. While still important in 1914-18, rate of fire was far from the only important aspect in modern surface engagements. British rate of fire at the Battle of the Falkland Islands had been too slow. In 1915 Beatty sanctioned a relaxing of procedures to speed things up.

Because rate of fire was still seen as the ‘match-winner’, anything that impeded this – like closing magazine doors - was a candidate to be ignored. It was all about speed. In order to save time and keep the guns firing, the British were guilty of ignoring the flash-proof scuttles they had fitted to their dreadnoughts, and thus exposed their battlecruisers (and other ship types) to the danger from a shell exploding inside a turret, igniting the cordite, and the resulting fireball travelling, unchecked, down the sixty foot hoists into the powder magazines.

And so the British ships sailed to meet the Germans at Jutland....

At Jutland nine German turrets were penetrated by British shells. Immolation and death of the crews however did not result in the ships blowing up. Why? Well the German battlecruiser Seydlitz had had a lucky escape previously at Dogger Bank. Seydlitz was hit in the turret by a shell and only the quick flooding of the magazines saved her from destruction. Learning from this episode the Germans fitted anti-flash protection between the handling rooms and the magazines – and the effectiveness of this protection would become all too apparent at Jutland.

I wonder if, as he made that famous remark, "There's something wrong with our bloody ships today", Admiral Beatty knew deep down that he had been instrumental in their loss?.....

< Message edited by warspite1 -- 11/11/2015 7:43:05 AM >


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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 7:26:32 AM   
Shark7


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As pointed out, the main guns are probably the most dangerous weak point on the ship. An explosion in a turret can turn into a magazine explosion. Also with the big gun turrets, you lose more than 1 gun if the turret goes down. Take the Iowa or Yamato for examples. A turret being knocked out on one of these ships results in a full 33% decrease in firepower.

Conning towers also have very thick armor due to having all the command and control located there. The thick armor in these areas is compensated for by leaving non-vital areas of the ship completely unarmored.

Also, you'll note that the turret faces are almost universally covered with thicker armor than the sides or back. The simple reason is that in theory the turrets should always be pointing towards enemy ships meaning that the front is the most likely part of a turret to be hit.

Also warspite1 makes a good point. A lot of problems are usually a case of command error rather than actual design flaws.

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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 10:42:55 AM   
spence

 

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quote:

And in reply to the comment about DD crews being able to swing the turret around manually, most early war destroyers had open guns or just a shield, not an enclosed turret
.

Later DD's had enclosed gun mounts, not turrets. A turret has a barbette or an armored elevator shaft protecting it's ammunition handling (according to BuShips). The enclosed mounts were made of mild steel and just kept the weather off the gun crews (and minimal protection from shrapnel).

The earlier DDs had much smaller displacements than the later Fletchers, etc. Adding more topside weight to completely enclose the gun mounts factored more significantly into their stability than the same weight on later ships. If the enclosed mounts had been armored the extra topside weight would have made a significant dent in their overall stability so the mounts were not armored.

< Message edited by spence -- 11/11/2015 11:47:18 AM >

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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 12:27:09 PM   
geofflambert


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quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1

quote:

ORIGINAL: geofflambert

At Jutland, the Brits did not close the doors in their elevator shaft thingies (sorry about that) so the blast in the turret could reach the magazine. The Germans didn't make that mistake. You could operate rearming the turrets without a large vulnerability that the Brits ignored.

Furthermore, it's not the shells that are to be most worried about, it's the cordite which was packed in bags all the way up from the magazines to the turret and then to the guns.

That cordite was in big bags that could make a young man groan trying to feed it to a gun and they might use up to three of those bags to fire one shell. It's amazing that any ships survived such.
warspite1

What you seem to want to say is right, but you appear to be struggling with the explanation so let me help you .

The cause of the catastrophic losses of three battlecruisers (compared to one such German ship) was because of the poor cordite handling procedures in the former. From Nelson’s day the British believed that rate of fire was the all-important factor in naval battle – put more shells into the enemy ships and they will sink quicker; brutal but undeniably effective in the days of cannonballs and sails. While still important in 1914-18, rate of fire was far from the only important aspect in modern surface engagements. British rate of fire at the Battle of the Falkland Islands had been too slow. In 1915 Beatty sanctioned a relaxing of procedures to speed things up.

Because rate of fire was still seen as the ‘match-winner’, anything that impeded this – like closing magazine doors - was a candidate to be ignored. It was all about speed. In order to save time and keep the guns firing, the British were guilty of ignoring the flash-proof scuttles they had fitted to their dreadnoughts, and thus exposed their battlecruisers (and other ship types) to the danger from a shell exploding inside a turret, igniting the cordite, and the resulting fireball travelling, unchecked, down the sixty foot hoists into the powder magazines.

And so the British ships sailed to meet the Germans at Jutland....

At Jutland nine German turrets were penetrated by British shells. Immolation and death of the crews however did not result in the ships blowing up. Why? Well the German battlecruiser Seydlitz had had a lucky escape previously at Dogger Bank. Seydlitz was hit in the turret by a shell and only the quick flooding of the magazines saved her from destruction. Learning from this episode the Germans fitted anti-flash protection between the handling rooms and the magazines – and the effectiveness of this protection would become all too apparent at Jutland.

I wonder if, as he made that famous remark, "There's something wrong with our bloody ships today", Admiral Beatty knew deep down that he had been instrumental in their loss?.....



So my elevator shaft thingies are your "flash-proof scuttles", well la-di-dah!


< Message edited by geofflambert -- 11/11/2015 1:36:05 PM >


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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 12:32:04 PM   
geofflambert


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Shark7


Also, you'll note that the turret faces are almost universally covered with thicker armor than the sides or back. The simple reason is that in theory the turrets should always be pointing towards enemy ships meaning that the front is the most likely part of a turret to be hit.



That is the theory, and it's true for tanks (unless they're attacked by planes with cannons) but by WWI plunging fire was the killer and armouring the top was most important (in theory).

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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 12:37:17 PM   
ny59giants


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quote:

I'd also warrant that large caliber gun barrels don't grow on trees. In terms of the materials and skill involved, I'd say that the gun barrels are the single most expensive component of a ship. It makes sense to give them protection to such high value items, even more so considering that replacing them requires a major naval base for the cranes.


Actually, its the reduction gears. The engineering of these was very difficult.

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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 1:50:22 PM   
crsutton


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I suppose that it was done because a turret hit could be a one shot affair considering the ready ammo and connection to the magazine, whereas a hit any where else in the ship would not necessarily be fatal. Only a guess though.

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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/11/2015 9:45:53 PM   
spence

 

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quote:

On the other hand I know that turret armor on Japanese cruisers was significantly less armored than the belt (only about 25mm on heavy cruiser turrets),


IJN doctrine emphasized offensive capabilities. The 10x8 inch guns, torpedoes and torpedo reloads carried by most IJN heavy cruisers were certainly in accordance with that doctrine. The upshoot of that doctrine was both that the cruisers were in violation of the naval treaties of the time but were also somewhat top-heavy. Since every warship design tends to end up as a compromise with something given up the Japanese decided to give up (heavy) armor on their main armament turrets.

According to CombinedFleet.com the Japanese determined that one of their very offensively designed (for the time-1920s odd) destroyers capsized in a storm because of the instability it had as a result of its heavy offensive loading. Consequently they knew there were limits to just how much capability they could build into a given size hull.

< Message edited by spence -- 11/11/2015 10:56:40 PM >

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RE: Semi OT - Turret Armor - 11/12/2015 5:02:55 AM   
1EyedJacks


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I would guess the better armor was more a nod towards night time warfare. These ships were designed before the advent of radar. Night time combat can be like a knife fight - things can get personal.

< Message edited by 1EyedJacks -- 11/12/2015 6:04:05 AM >


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