Question of Battleship design.

Turret design .A Failure or success?

If I have not already stated before, my main interest in naval ship design started off the Questions; "How well did a particular ship or class design perform in combat? Did the design fail to operate as expected? And if so why"?

My response is to ask; The simple question of; "Was the design operated correctlly to it's design parameters in the first place?" There is a number of different answers to these questions that fall into a number of different categories.

The rariest answer is definate yes Usually when your side has won the combat situation and any equipment failures were fixed 'on the fly' during combat or sometime shortly after combat.

Neither situation lends itself to an indepth analysis for review at a latter date.
If the ship is sunk, you then have to rely surviour's accounts, accounts that are affected by traumatic shock of the slaughter they have just experieced and they may have only second hand knowledge of areas of concern.

Case in point is the sinking of the Bismarck. Putting aside the descovery the wreck and the battle damage analysis that this decovery allows, up until that point, all we had to go on were subjective battle analysis of British observers, and the records of interview of the surivours that made it back to Germany.

The question about the armor layout and it's performance could not be answered until the wrecks discovery.

I still have questions about the behaviour of the Germn command structure on board the ship and the expectations of the high command to operate their major units in a strategic manner contrary to their overall design specfications.

Some interesting questions raised by these interviews relates to the on board command structure and the reported behaviour of the Admiral and ship's Captain. Adrm Luten's performance leading upto this mission seemed to be typical German; Coldly competent.

A demeanour that lasted right up to the time of intercept by the Hood and Pof W. He was hesitant in opening fire to the point that an reportly angery Capt. Linderman defies his superoir and gives the order himself!

For the rest of the voyage he acts if they were dead and sunk (even before the fact is assured) and what worse he clearlly transmits his doubts to his suboridinates and the crew. The interesting part he was considered 'crazy' by the crew and they wonder amongst themselves what this 'Crazy Admiral' arival on board ment to their futures.

Personally I think it shows how psychotic the whole sitaution in Germany's Armed Forces really was at that time.

I would find it fascinating to investigate Turret Bertha's damage, and the other turrets, to see exactlly what damage was done and complete a battle damage report.

Getting back to point of this essay is to look into the Turret safety designed of the main turrets of the  Modern battleship. And how successful was it? 

A good place to start would be the Turret design of the Iowa class. In particular the Iowa turret 2 incident.

As the details of this tragic event are widely published, I will concentrate on the areas of concern I have identiied.

In reading the final report from the 1991 Sandia National Laboratories and the GAO 'Battleships issues arising from the explosion aboard the uss Iowa', including the conclusions drawn in The jagman investigation report part 2 dated 19 aprl 1989 make for interesting analysis as it contains a detailed summary damage and a record of injures recieved and cause of deaths.

You have take into account the age of the weapon system and the effects of the structure of the modern fiscal system of how and when critical and non-critical on-board maitainance was carried out.

The fact that an unathorsed Gunnery experiment was taking place is complettly immateral to the dicussion as it was an open breech explosion, so any possibility of 'over pressure' of the canon is moot. Could have the under crewed gunnery space attributed to the powder shuttle' s interlock failures or was that failure in the apparent lack of Qualified operators the cause or was there a equipment issues been overlooked? Both reports dance around these issues,

Certain 'powers to be' in the US Navy definitely did not want to explore too deeply into what seems to be systematic failures in the US Navy's ability to correctly maintain critical ship systems, maintain correct crew numbers and train personal to a safe standard so when an accident occurs like this you can be assured that certain minimium safety standards existed.

Due to the lack of these basic standards too many unkowns remain to be 100 % sure of how each failure contibuted to this accident.

My observations are as follows.

Allowing a Captain to decide what gets fixed after funding approval and been allowed to redirect that funding to another system would be called, in business accounting, as 'misdirection of funding'.

The question of hydraulic leaks or the ongoing blockage of valve bodies by the residual left permanentally from the last de-activetion presevations process where never considered in any way ;Either of which could lead to a change in operation of rammer that an inexperienced operator may not have been able to counter. Hense the possibly of over ram or too fast a speed can not be excluded..

What caused the deaths in the other compartments which should have been sealed from the effects of the initial explosion can not be definitively answered as there is a possibilty that Condition Zebra was not always maintained with seperate compartments been secured (access doors dogged shut) at all times. By reading the damage reports and the cause of death of the 47 sailors killed, a number of conclusion can be stated.

1./ The path of the explosive force clearly overwhelmed the access hatch between the centre gun room and the Turret control booth compartment. The fact that the hatch was blown out/off it' mounted position allowing the force and thermal effects access to the left and right gun rooms. This indicates one of two conclusions only.

a./ The turret control booth access hatches to the three gun rooms were not 'secured' contary to 'condition zebra' and the central hatch was blown off it mounting with the failure in the turret bulkhead itself.


b./ The central hatch was secure and was blown off its mounting with the failure in the turret bulkhead itself and the other two Hatches failed to remain sealed and were blown open.

Either way the one fact remains is the turret design failed to contain a flash over event to the single gun room as it was designed too!

2./ The powder trunk interlock system failed completely. It is stated that the hoist trolly was still in or near it's final delivery position, instead of returning to its lower position down in the powder handling flat. That movement was suppose to completed in the time taken to ram at the slower speed. The reports indicate fairly conclusivelly in my mind that an 'over-speed' ramming has occured.

Ok that gives us a probable cause of igintion, but the fact remains there is suppose to be blast doors inside the trunk itself that remain closed except for the passage of the trolley itself. That is basic Turret design safety design since Jutland.

That is the second failure of design.

I will quote the operation guide for the operation of 16/50 tripple turret bb-61 class here' Ordnance safety precautions require that in each flametight stage of the ammunition train, not more than one charge per gun ( for the guns being supplied through that stage ) shall be exposed or allowed to accumulate...... further implies that when ever an empty powder car(trolley) is returned to the lower handling room..... the crews reload immediately. end quote

According to the jagman report turret two was to fire ten rounds using five bag charge per projectile. A total number of 50 bags of powder to be used. 40 of those bags were passed onto the powder handling flat of the turret. Now this is where operations seem to breech the safe ordnance handling instructions.

My reading of the above quote is when the empty cradles returns they are loaded with the next gun powder charge only. No accumulation of exposed powder is to be allowed.

That means a total of 10 extra exposed powder charges were allowed to accumulate on the powder handling flat.That is a operational failure that added to destructive forces. That is 940lb of cordite explosives. Ops!

Further reading of naval ordnance pamphlet op769 all hoist operations are manually operated by certain members of the turret crew. It therefore reaonable to think that the hoist operators were incapacated before they had the order to return the cradle/trolly/car (what ever you want to call it) to it's lower position.

Further is reasonable to assume the possiility that the lower hoist operator, anticipating the return of the powder car, has opened the lower hoist doors before it's arival to 'speed things along'. They have already acumulated 10 extra powder bags, contary to safety instructions;

The logical conclusion that they would concerned about the speed of their evolutions (work rate) been short of personal as they were. The recorded actions clearly indicate a desire to cut corners.

The end conlusion can only be that two critical safety design features failed and at least one failure to operate and or maintain the turret systems safely as it was designed to be. 

It does make think what woud have been the result of a penetrating hit on the turret would have lead to in the WW2.

According to penitration charts for the 18/45 canon could cause some problems.

 You can expect more matters of interest to posted on this page.









Latest comments

19.05 | 15:01

Good point! I was thinking Helo pads but never got around to it. The design thought been why not have full port or base resources including dry dock and repair

19.05 | 11:44

Why is there no airport on top of the base?

03.04 | 13:07

Just found your site-very cool. Also agree with your views regarding government decision processes, all about looking after their arse after they're booted out

19.01 | 08:39

Detailed answers on blog page.