RBS 15 Gungnir Mk.3

Sweden’s re-armament in the face of increasing concern over Russia’s assertive steps against neighbouring countries has extended to re-establishing mobile coastal defence missile systems disbanded after the end of the Cold War. Local press reports suggest that some land-based launch equipment for the potent RBS-15 Mk.3 missile has had to be recovered from museums to get the systems back up-and-running.

The Baltic’s status as part of the new `front line’ between Russia and the rest of Europe has resulted in a new focus on defence that shows no signs of abating. Efforts to strengthen military posture have been particularly evident in Sweden, which has announced it will reintroduce military conscription from 1 January 2018. The measure is aimed at resolving a recruitment shortage and – unlike the previous measure abolished in 2010 – will extend to both men and women. Other significant developments have included the reintroduction of the RBS-15 land-based surface-to-surface missile system, some seven years after the coastal artillery network was abandoned. The missiles have been taken from stocks released from decommissioned surface vessels, whilst some of the launch vehicles have reportedly been recovered from museums. 17 Significant efforts are also being made to extend the lives of existing surface vessels, including a SEK1.2bn (c. US$150m) contract announced on 30 June 2017 for the modernisation of the two Gävle class corvettes. They will join the five Visby class vessels to form a seven-strong force of front-line surface combatants, supported by two older Stockholm class ships acting in a second-line surveillance role. Some of the Koster class MCMVs are also receiving further modernisation, whilst a comprehensive recapitalisation of the submarine fleet was announced in 2015

A new, next-generation version of the SAAB Dynamics RBS 15 ASM was awarded by Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) in March 2017 to equip the Royal Swedish Navy’s VISBY class corvettes and Air Force’s JAS GRIPEN E multirole fighters. Externally similar to current generation RBS 15, the new missile is reported to be a re-architectured development of the existing RBS 15 Mk.3 anti-ship missile, introducing technology enhancements in the airframe, navigation suite, on-board processing in addition to the RF seeker to improve the all-weather capabilities and develop a significant range enhancement. The latter is reported to have been achieved thanks to a lower weight obtained mainly by composite material use in the airframe design.

The new RBS 15 version for both ship- and airborne applications will be operational from the mid-2020s. Jointly produced and marketed by Saab, Sweden, and Diehl BGT Defence, Germany, the current RBS 15 Mk.3 is in production, under delivery or in service with the Swedish, German, Polish and reportedly Algerian navies. With a range of 250+ km, all-weather and fire-and-forget capabilities, the 4.35-metre-long and 660 kg (flight weight) Mk.3 version is equipped with a high-resolution radar seeker, intelligent processing and a state-of-the-art navigation system with GPS.


Project 665/Whiskey Long-Bin

The definitive Whiskey SSG was Project 665/Whiskey Long-Bin, the term referring to the enlarged fairwater configured with four forward-firing Shaddock launch tubes. Six of these submarines were produced, their significance soon being overshadowed by the large Soviet SSGN program.


The Project 644/Whiskey Twin-Cylinder marked the first operational deployment of the Shaddock missile system. The paired canisters elevated to fire aft. The Whiskey-class submarines served as test and operational platforms for several missile systems. Note the blast shields at the forward end of the canisters.

Whereas the U. S. Navy initially developed submarine-launched cruise missiles for strategic attack and then shifted to ballistic missiles for the strategic role, the Soviet Navy displayed continuous interest in both types of missiles for the strategic role. The USSR was not the target of German V-1 cruise missiles. 23 In July 1944, however, Great Britain provided a damaged V-1 to the Soviet Union and by the end of the war, work was under way on cruise missiles at the aircraft design bureaus headed by Georgi M. Beriev, Vladimir N. Chelomei, Sergei V. Ilyushin, and Seymon A. Lavochkin. Chelomei would be the most successful in developing ship-launched cruise missiles.

In 1952-1953 design efforts began on Project 628, an updated Soviet XIV series (K-class) submarine configured to conduct experimental launches of the 10XN Volna (wave) subsonic cruise missile. This missile-developed by Chelomei’s design bureau-was powered by twin ramjets; the missile was launched from a ramp with the aid of a single booster rocket. Although Western intelligence reported launchers installed near Leningrad and Vladivostok for this missile, it did not enter ground or naval service. It was rejected for naval service because of guidance limitations, the high fuel consumption of available ramjets, and the ongoing development of supersonic missiles. (A version of the 10XN did enter service with the Soviet Air Forces in 1953.) A still further refinement of the V-1 design by Chelomei was the 15X missile, based on the availability of the Rolls-Royce Nene centrifugal-flow turbojet, provided by Britain’s Labour government for civil use [that went well!] in the Soviet Union. This engine, which also became the powerplant for the famed MiG-15 turbojet fighter, and an advanced point-to-point guidance system gave promise of an effective submarine-launched strategic weapon. The submarine would transit to a preselected launch position with the missile either in a towed launch container or fitted in a container on the deck of the submarine. The former concept had been developed by the Germans to tow V-2 ballistic missiles to an underwater launch position.

Chelomei’s design bureau was disestablished in December 1952 because of political intrigues within the defense industry. The decree closing Chemomei’s bureau was one of the last such documents signed by Josef Stalin, who died in March 1953. Chelomei’s facilities were taken over by aircraft designer Artyem I. Mikoyan. From January 1953, as a professor at the Bauman Institute of the Moscow Technical University, Chelomei continued to work on missile designs. In 1954 he conceived the idea of ship launched missiles with wings that automatically extend in flight. This would permit the missiles to be carried in containers essentially the same size as the missile’s fuselage. Aerodynamic improvements made possible the elimination of a launch ramp, permitting the missile to be launched directly from the canister. He applied this concept to the 20X missile which, upon provision of more-flexible guidance, become the P-5 (NATO SS-N-3c Shaddock26). This deck-mounted canister would be adopted by the Soviet Navy, with the structure providing both the storage and launch functions, simplifying installation in surface ships as well as in submarines. This was in contrast to the U. S. Navy’s method, which employed the canister as only a hangar, with the missile having to be manually extracted, placed on launch rails, wings extended, and other manual functions performed before launching.

Chelomei gained the support of Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev. In August 1955 his design bureau was re-established as OKB-52, initially to develop submarine-launched cruise missiles. That year the decision was made to produce both the P-5/Shaddock cruise missile of Chelomei and the P-10 cruise missile being developed by OKB-48 under seaplane designer Beriev. Both missiles were intended for strategic strikes against land targets.

A single Project 611/Zulu design was modified in 1955 to the Project P-611 configuration to test launch the P-10 missile. The P-10 was housed in a hangar, with the missile extracted from the hangar, its wings opened, and then launched (as with the U. S. Regulus). The hangar was on the deck casing, aft of the conning tower, with the missile to fire forward, over the bow. The submarine was modified at Molotovsk shipyard (subsequently renamed Severodvinsk). During the fall of 1957 four P-10 missiles were launched from the submarine P-611. But work on this missile was halted because of the successful tests of the P-5 missile, which was supersonic (Mach 1.2), had a range of 300 n. miles (570 km), and incorporated other advantages when compared to the P-10 missile.

In that same year, Project P-613-the modification of the Project 613/Whiskey submarine S-146- was undertaken to conduct tests of the P-5 missile. That modification, like the P-611, was under chief designer Pavel P. Pustintsev of TsKB-18. The work was undertaken at the Krasnoye Sovormo yard in Gor’kiy, inland on the Volga River. The missile canister for this submarine was also placed behind the conning tower and, again, the launch took place on the surface, over the bow.

Following P-5/Shaddock tests at Kapustin Yar in 1956, the first P-5 missile was launched from the S-146 on 22 November 1957 in the White Sea. After extensive tests the P-5 system became operational in 1959 and was installed in operational submarines. Work on competing anti-ship cruise missiles was halted.

Six Project 644/Whiskey Twin-Cylinder submarines were converted in 1960 at Gor’kiy to a Pustintsev design. Each submarine was fitted with paired missile canisters aft of the conning tower, built into the deck casing, which elevated and fired aft, over the stern. Simultaneous with this effort, guided missile submarine Project 646 was developed on the basis of Project 641/Foxtrot. Another design effort of Pustintsev, this craft had a submerged displacement of approximately 3,625 tons and featured several major variants: the basic design was to carry four P-5 missiles or two P-10 missiles; the improved Project 644P had two P-5 missiles. However, further development of these designs was not pursued.

Instead, the definitive Project 613/Whiskey SSG design was Project 665, known by NATO as the Whiskey Long-Bin (for the enlarged conning tower structure). These were new-construction submarines of a design developed by TsKB-112 under designer B. A. Lyeontyev. Each had four forward-firing P-5/ Shaddock missiles installed in the front portion of the large, bulbous conning tower. The launch tubes were fixed at an upward angle of 14 degrees. From 1961 to 1963 the Gor’kiy yard and the Baltic shipyard in Leningrad together delivered six Long-Bin submarines.

The P-5/Shaddock land attack missile had a range of 300 n. miles (550 km), a terminal speed of Mach 1.2, and an accuracy of plus-or-minus two n. miles (four km). While limited in missile range and effectiveness, these submarines provided the Soviet Navy with valuable experience and training in cruise missile submarines. Unlike the two converted fleet boats used by the U. S. Navy in the Regulus program (Barbero and Tunny), the Soviet Project 665 submarines did not undertake long-distance missile patrols.

Battle of Albemarle Sound

May 5, 1864

In April 1864 the new shallow-draft Confederate ironclad ram Albemarle (with two 6.4-inch rifled guns) played the key role in the capture of Plymouth, North Carolina. The attack on the Union base, begun on April 17 by 7,000 Confederate troops under Brigadier General Robert F. Hoke, had failed in large part thanks to gunfire support provided by Union gunboats on the Roanoke River. Early on April 19, however, the Albemarle, captained by Commander James W. Cooke, appeared and attacked the Union wooden gunboats Miami (with one 6.4-inch Parrott rifled gun, six IX-inch smoothbore Dahlgrens, and one 24-pounder boat howitzer) and Southfeld (with one 6.4-inch Parrott rifle and five IX-inch Dahlgrens). With Union shot bouncing harmlessly off its plated sides, the Albemarle rammed and sank the Southfeld. The commander of the Southfeld, Lieutenant Commander Charles W. Flusser, was killed; 11 other Union seamen were wounded, and 8 were taken prisoner. The Albemarle lost 1 man, killed by a pistol shot.

The Miami and other Union ships then withdrew from the river to watch the ram from a distance. The Albemarle now controlled the water approaches to Plymouth. Its guns and the sharpshooters aboard the Confederate steamer Cotton Plant enabled the more numerous Confederate infantry to take Plymouth on April 20.

Following the loss of Plymouth, Captain Melancton Smith, commanding Union naval forces in the North Carolina sounds, assembled additional ships below Portsmouth. His squadron consisted of the double-ender gunboats Mattabesett (the flagship), Sassacus, Wyalusing, and Miami; the converted ferryboat Commodore Hull; and the Ceres, Whitehead, and Isaac N. Seymour.

On the afternoon of May 5 another engagement occurred at the head of Albemarle Sound, off the mouth of the Roanoke River, in consequence of Cooke’s plan to convoy the Cotton Plant to the Alligator River. On exiting the Roanoke, the Albemarle, which was accompanied by the ex-Union steamer Bombshell, was met by six Union gunboats under Lieutenant Commander F. A. Roe in the Sassacus. The Bombshell surrendered early in the action, and the Cotton Plant withdrew back up the Roanoke, but the Albemarle continued the action alone.

USS Sassacus ramming CSS Albemarle

Making between 10 and 11 knots, the Sassacus rammed the Albemarle on its starboard side just abaft the casemate. Simultaneously, the ram fired a rifle bolt that passed completely through the Union ship. Meanwhile, crewmen on the Sassacus tried to throw hand grenades down the deck hatch of the ram, and both sides traded rifle fire. Another Confederate rifle round then smashed into the starboard boiler of the Sassacus. Steam filled the Union ship and killed several men, forcing the Sassacus out of action.

The Union side-wheelers Mattabesett and Wyalusing continued to engage the ram. The action continued for three hours until halted by darkness, but the ram was little damaged. The Albemarle then withdrew up the Roanoke River, and the Union side-wheelers Commodore Hull and Ceres took up position at the river’s mouth to try to prevent the ram from reentering the sound.

With the Albemarle posing a serious threat to Union coastal operations, Captain Smith sought to find a way to destroy it, but Union monitors drew too much water to operate in the sound, and wooden ships were too vulnerable. The destruction of the ram was finally accomplished by a spar torpedo launched on October 28, 1864.

CSS Albemarle

One of a number of powerful Confederate ironclad casemated rams and certainly one of the most famous Confederate warships. The Albemarle was the first of a two-ship class-the other being the Neuse-constructed by Gilbert Elliot at Edward’s Ferry on the Roanoke River in North Carolina. The smallest of Confederate naval constructor John L. Porter’s coastal defense ironclads, it was laid down in April 1863. The Albemarle was launched in July and commissioned in April 1864. It was some 376 tons, 139 feet between perpendiculars (158 feet overall length), with a beam of 35 feet, 3 inches, and hull depth of 8 feet, 2 inches. Driven by two screws from two steam engines capable of 400 horsepower (hp), the Albemarle could make in excess of four knots. It had a crew complement of 150 men. Armed with only two 6.4-inch rifled guns, its deck armor was 1-inch iron plate. The casemate sides were all angled 35 degrees and were protected by two layers of 2-inch plate.

Damaged at launch, the Albemarle was taken to Halifax, North Carolina, for repairs and completion. The ship was completed in time to participate in a Confederate Army assault led by Brigadier General Robert F. Hoke against the Union blockading base at Plymouth, North Carolina, on April 17, 1864. Early on the morning of April 19, captained by Commander James W. Cooke, the Albemarle attacked and sank one Union gunboat, the Southfeld, and drove off another. It now controlled the water approaches to Plymouth and could provide valuable assistance to Confederate Army moves ashore.

On the afternoon of May 5, accompanied by the gunboats Bombshell and Cotton Plant, the Albemarle engaged a squadron of seven Union gunboats off the mouth of the Roanoke River. The Bombshell was captured early in the action, and Cotton Plant withdrew up the Roanoke. The Albemarle continued the action alone, disabling the Union gunboat Sassacus. The Albemarle posed a great threat to Union coastal operations because its shallow draft enabled it to escape the larger, deepdraft Union monitors, and it easily outgunned smaller Union coastal craft. For months the Albemarle dominated the North Carolina sounds.

Early on the morning of October 28, 1864, U. S. Navy lieutenant William B. Cushing sank the Albemarle at its berth, employing a spar torpedo mounted on steam launch Picket Boat No. 1. The Albemarle was the only Confederate ship lost to a Union torpedo. Destruction of the Albemarle enabled Union forces to capture Plymouth and gain control of the entire Roanoke River area. It also released Union ships stationed there for other blockade duties. The Union Navy subsequently refloated the ironclad. Towed to Norfolk in April 1865, the hull was repaired, and the ship was taken into the U. S. Navy. It was condemned and sold on October 15, 1867.

Destruction of CSS Albemarle

October 28, 1864

The Confederate ironclad ram Albemarle posed a great threat to Union coastal operations in Albemarle Sound, and the Union Navy was determined to destroy it. With ironclads drawing too much water and wooden gunboats too vulnerable, a boat raid appeared to be the only option. On May 25, 1864, five volunteers went up the Roanoke River in a boat with two 100-pound torpedoes (mines), hoping to place them against the ram’s hull at night. The men were discovered before they could reach their objective, but all managed to escape.

In early July, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron commander Rear Admiral Samuel P. Lee met with 21-year-old Lieutenant William B. Cushing and asked him to lead another effort. Cushing proposed several plans, and Lee approved an attack by two launches fitted with spar torpedoes, but sent Cushing to Washington to secure final approval from the Navy Department. When Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles agreed, Cushing proceeded to New York City and there purchased two 30-foot steam launches and armed each with a 12-pounder Dahlgren howitzer. Each launch had at its bow a 14-foot-long spar that could mount a torpedo and be lowered by a windlass. Once the torpedo was in position under the target ship, a tug on the line would release the torpedo to float up under the hull. A second line would activate the firing mechanism. Cushing planned for the first launch to carry out the attack, while the second fired canister from its boat howitzer and stood ready to attack should the first attempt fail.

Both launches experienced engine problems on the trip south, and one had to be scuttled off Virginia, where its crew was captured. The other, Steam Picket Boat No. 1, arrived safely in the North Carolina sounds on October 24, whereupon Cushing revealed his plans to the crew. All seven volunteered.

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral David D. Porter had replaced Lee, and he approved Cushing’s request to undertake the mission with only one launch. Cushing set out on his attempt the night of October 26, 1864, but the launch grounded at the mouth of the Roanoke. The crew managed to free the launch, but the mishap forced Cushing to postpone his attempt until the next night.

The night of October 27 was dark and foul, and Cushing was able to get close to the Plymouth waterfront where the Albemarle was moored. Fourteen volunteers accompanied him. The launch towed a cutter with 2 officers and 10 men to neutralize the Southfield, which the Confederates had scuttled in the middle of the river about a mile from Portsmouth to serve as a picket.

The steam launch passed undetected within 30 yards of the Southfield, when at about 3:00 a. m. on October 28 a sentry ashore gave the alarm. Cushing immediately ordered the cutter to cast off, to make for the Southfield, and to secure it, while the launch got up steam for the run to the Albemarle.

The Confederates opened fire on the launch from both the Albemarle and the shore. Pickets ignited a ready bonfire to provide illumination, but this also enabled Cushing to spot a protective boom of logs around the ram. Calmly ordering the launch about, Cushing then ran it at full speed toward the obstruction while firing canister from the boat howitzer against the Confederates ashore.

Striking the boom at high speed, the launch rode up and over the logs and came to rest next to the Albemarle. As bullets whizzed around him, Cushing somehow managed to lower the spar under the ram and detonate it. When the torpedo went off, the resulting wash of water swamped the launch.

The explosion tore a gaping six-foot hole in the ram, causing it to settle rapidly. Of the 15 men in the launch, only Cushing and 1 other escaped; 2 drowned, and 11 were captured. All those on the cutter returned, bringing with them 4 prisoners from the Southfield.

Admiral Porter hailed the event, and the Union ships fired signal rockets in celebration. Destruction of the Albemarle enabled Union forces to retake Plymouth and control the entire Roanoke River area, and it released Union ships there for other blockade duties. Congress commended Cushing and advanced him to lieutenant commander.

References Elliott, Robert G. Ironclads on the Roanoke: Gilbert Elliott’s Albemarle. Shippensburg, PA: White Mane, 1999. Navy Historical Division, Navy Department. Civil War Naval Chronology, 1861-1865. Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1971. Still, William N., Jr. Iron Afloat: The Story of the Confederate Armorclads. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1985. Schneller, Robert J., Jr. Cushing: Civil War SEAL. Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 2004.

Warships and Fleets Transformed

The principal navies could not avoid taking a lead in modernization after Hampton Roads and Lissa. The majority of warships in commission were out of date and virtually defenceless against any minor naval power which equipped itself with a mere handful of modern warships. Now that steam propulsion of screw-driven ships was established, sails could be abolished and full attention paid to improving power plant. HMS Devastation, the first battleship without sails, was launched in 1871 but like all those to follow, she also incorporated the latest gunnery system. Notice had been given that henceforward priority would be paid to ways and means of destruction versus means of protection. In fact, there were two separate but coincidental lines of approach in naval thinking: attack by guns upon hull and superstructure, rivalled by underwater attack by mines and the locomotive torpedo.

As cheaper steel became available in vast quantities and demonstrated superior qualities over iron, nearly all guns were made from it. Simultaneously, the earlier system of `hooped’ barrels was superseded by a method of steel wire wound over the inner tube. And any controversy over the attributes of muzzle or breech loaders was finally resolved in the 1870s by the need to solve problems inherent in loading and firing pieces which grew steadily in weight and length. A British- built 17 3/4-in calibre gun weighing 100 tons and firing a 2000 lb shell was in service by 1876, while pieces of 40 feet long were already in existence. Lengths were bound to increase, as this proved the best way to augment muzzle velocity in order to pierce thick armour. The business of manoeuvring a long gun inboard, off-target, in order to push charge and shell into its muzzle was both laborious, complicated and time-consuming. Rates of fire for breech loaders could be twice as great. Their most notorious defect, when first produced in quantity by Krupps and Armstrongs, was a susceptibility to bursting cases or emission of gas and flame due to inadequate sealing between breech and chamber. But by the time of the Franco-German war these faults had largely been eliminated.

Controversy attended the development of the turret, also due to the problems of loading longer guns, but this was overcome once muzzle-loaders were finally done away with. From the 1880s onwards, the turret became the almost universal, self-contained housing for a ship’s main armament, its ammunition supply brought up by hoist from magazines located below. Loading and traversing were powered by hydraulics (or later by electricity); and recoil was no longer taken up by friction devices or rope restrainers, but absorbed by steel spring and hydraulic systems (first suggested by the Siemens brothers in England in 1862) which returned the barrel to rest in its firing position and dispensed with the need to reposition guns after every discharge.

In parallel with the intensive work devoted to guns and turrets went development of new shot and shells to defeat the thicker armour protecting their targets. Solid iron shot failed as an armour penetrator because it broke up too easily on impact. It was superseded by steel shot with a hardened tip, later improved by the addition of a soft steel cap over the nose to take the first shock of impact. Quite as much research and trial went, of course, into improvements to the armour these missiles were intended to smash or penetrate. Naturally, under trial, steel proved superior to iron. When one of the 2000-lb shells from a 17 3/4-in gun struck iron armour backed by 29 ins of wood at 1470 ft per second, it penetrated; against steel, however, it pierced only 21 ins deep.

More efficient guns depended to a large extent upon improved propellants. The start made by Rodman in the 1850s was steadily built upon by others from many nations. In 1846 CF Schonbein, a German, had created guncotton (nitrocellulose) by adding nitric acid to cotton; subsequently improved by the Austrian Baron von Lenk in the 1860s, it was stabilized in colloid form by Paul Vieille and adopted by the French Army as Poudre B in 1885. This was four times more powerful than existing explosives. Then, in 1875, the Swede Alfred Nobel successfully mixed guncotton with nitroglycerine and in 1885 went a stage further by developing this mixture into ballistite, which was smokeless — a vital advance. Also about this time, Frederick Abel and James Dewar (both British) discovered cordite by mixing nitro¬ cellulose and nitroglycerine with mineral jelly. These smokeless propellants not only increased the effective range of artillery and led to a new generation of guns and small arms, they opened a new era in shooting techniques and tactics since the gun position would henceforward not be clouded in smoke (as an advertisement of its position) and the gunners would be free of smoke obscuration, enabling them to observe the fall of shot and make positive corrections to aim.

In parallel, significant hardening and strengthening of steel came from the addition of special elements, such as tungsten, nickel, chromium and manganese. Greatest among the metallurgists researching alloy steels was the Briton Robert Hadfield, who invented manganese steel in 1882 and silicon steel in 1885 – the former of immense importance for armour and shot; the latter of great use in the burgeoning electrical industry. Simultaneously, M Marbeau of France invented nickel steel, soon used in America for ships’ armour plate. Alloy steels were more expensive than plain carbon steel, but their application by armed forces on sea and land, quite apart from civilian usage, was fundamental and implemented with astonishing rapidity. It was another step forward when in 1876 France launched the Redoubtable, the first ship built of carbon steel frames and armour and incorporating a watertight double-bottom and internal subdivision for damage control. It was even more important when, in 1891, the US Navy opted to armour its ships with nickel steel, which did away with the need to back wrought iron or carbon steel with timber.

Attack below the waterline by static mines as a defensive measure had sunk 26 ships during the American Civil War. Offensive underwater operations might have occurred had the US Navy adopted the rocket-propelled torpedo of Pascal Plant, but when his model was tried out before President Lincoln in December 1862, it ran wild and sank a luckless schooner which happened to get in the way. It was collaboration between Giovanni Luppis of Austria and Robert Whitehead of Britain which, in 1864, produced the first practical locomotive torpedo. Luppis demonstrated (as Bushnell and Fulton had shown 90 years previously) that when a gunpowder charge was exploded underwater, the water had a tamping effect. Whitehead put on sale in 1866 a 14-ft, cigar-shaped torpedo, 14 ins in diameter with an 18-lb charge in the nose. It was powered by a compressed air engine driving a propeller, had a speed of 6 knots and a range up to 700 yards. When launched, initially from under¬ water tubes, but later from tubes carried above water, it ran a set course, controlled in depth by a hydrostatic valve and a pendulum weight working together to activate a pair of horizontal rudders called hydroplanes.

Rudimentary as the Whitehead torpedo was in the 1860s, its impact upon naval thinking and ship construction was immediate and positive. While investigations to improve the existing model went on, foresighted officers began to study changes in tactics which this weapon would impose upon fleet commanders and ships’ captains. Among many innovations came the idea of a new class of warship to specialize in attacking with torpedoes. By 1876 the British had built a 33-knot, 19-ton coastal torpedo boat called , HMS Lightning. Eight years later the Russians had in service 115 sea-going, 40-ton torpedo boats with a speed of 22 knots. Although many old-guard admirals might disapprove of torpedoes, the advent of the torpedo boat could not be ignored. Henceforward battleships would require better protection below the waterline and more watertight compartments, plus extra defensive armament in the shape of quick-firing, breech-loading guns. Escorts, or so-called torpedo boat destroyers, were also called for to supplement firepower. In 1881, the Royal Navy finally abandoned slower firing muzzle-loading guns and three years later was compelled to take note of a British-built, 386-ton destroyer called Destructor, fitted with a triple-expansion engine (the first ship to be powered with this invention by a Frenchman, Benjamin Normand) and with a speed of 22 1/2 knots.

The inescapable outcome of threatening firepower and underwater attack was a race between nations to maintain parity. No nation which looked to the sea for its trade and security could afford to permit rivals a decisive technical superiority. Inevitably increases in weight, power and complexity of arms were called for, together with a considerable rise in costs and a demand for specialists to build and run the machinery and then control the weapons. A wooden ship of the line in 1850 weighed around 3000 tons, mounted some 100 guns up to 10 ins in calibre (with a range of 400 yards) and had its speed controlled by the wind. By the 1890s a steel battleship could weigh 13 000 tons, carry a mere four or six powerful guns of about 14 ins in calibre, with a 10-mile range at a speed of 18 knots.

The overhead costs and logistics of replacing every old ship with types of a totally different kind were enormous. Building and manufacturing called for new industries and the recruitment and training of technicians and labour for unfamiliar tasks, while acquiring new traditions of quality production. So rapid was progress that, in unprecedentedly short periods, equipment was made obsolete by more inventions coming to hand. Warships had recently remained combat-worthy for half a century and more. Now they could qualify for replacement within a decade. Doing away with sail not only placed demands upon engine designers and manufacturers, but also had repercussions in other fields. The rope and sail-making industries were faced with severe cut-backs in production which in turn caused a reduction in the growing and milling of flax and hemp, thus generating problems for farmers. Calls for higher speeds and greater radius of action drove marine engine designers to improve the efficiency of steam engines and forced ship designers to provide far more space for the bunkering of coal. Nations like Britain and France, with world-wide commitments of empire and trade, were compelled to establish coaling bases at strategic points, such as the Falkland Islands, in order to maintain the mobility of their ships. No longer could a fleet be victualled for a year’s voyage: movements beyond the range of home ports had to be carefully arranged within a new logistic system, requiring time to assemble, good communications and practice.

Ironclads and the Steel Navy

The Peruvian ironclad Huascar engages two Chilean vessels, the Blanco Encalada and the Cochrane, during the battle of Angamos on 8 October 1879. Huascar (Peruvian Monitor, 1865)

Peruvian ironclad monitor ram. Designed by England’s Captain Cowper Coles, the Huascar was built by Lairds at Birkenhead. Launched in October 1865, she displaced 2,030 tons and was 219′ × 36′ × 18′. Her single-expansion 1,650-horsepower engine, four boilers, and single screw drove her at a maximum speed of 12.3 knots. Armed with 2 × 10-inch Armstrong muzzle-loading rifles in a revolving turret, she also mounted 2 × 40-pounders. Her crew complement was 170 men. The Huascar had a 4.5″ belt armor and a 5.5″ turret armor. She carried a sail rig, which greatly extended her range.

The Huascar compiled a unique combat record on the West Coast of South America in Peru’s war with Spain, in a subsequent coup d’état, and in the 1879 War of the Pacific between Peru and Bolivia against Chile. She took a leading role in the 21 May 1879 victory at Iquique but was captured in the 8 October Battle of Angamos. Refitted by her Chilean captors, she eventually became a museum ship in Talcahuano, Chile, where she may be seen today.

Warrior (British Navy, Armored Frigate, 1861)

The world’s first iron-hulled, oceangoing warship. Conceived as an armored frigate and not a battleship, the Warrior had a design that emphasized speed—14.5 knots under steam and over 17 knots under steam and sail—and long-range firepower. Her 4.5-inch armor was restricted to a box battery covering the central two-thirds of the ship, leaving the bow and the stern exposed.

Although the Warrior was built in response to the French wooden-hulled ironclad Gloire, which was a seagoing harbor assault ship, the Warrior’s design was developed from the massive wooden frigates of the Mersey-class. The Mersey had been built in response to the United States’s Merrimack type. The hull lines and style of the Warrior were simply scaled up from the wooden ship. Recognizing the impossibility of building longer wooden warships or carrying the weight of armor plate on a hull designed for high speed, the British adopted the iron hull. They were world leaders in this design and created an epochal ship. Displacing over 9,000 tons, the Warrior was the biggest ship afloat after Brunel’s Great Eastern. Her armament of 40 × 8-inch smoothbore and 7-inch rifled guns combined long-range accuracy with the first effective armor-piercing capability afloat. In 1867 she was rearmed with much more powerful 8-inch and 7-inch muzzle-loading rifles.

Begun in 1859, the Warrior entered service in 1861. With her sister, the Black Prince, and others of the type she defeated the French in a naval arms race. This was a critical victory, as if France could build a navy as powerful as Britain’s it could influence British policy in Europe.

The Warrior served in the active fleet until the end of the French Second Empire in 1870, when she went into the reserve. This demotion reflected the reduced threat and her unsatisfactory performance as a fleet unit. After 1863 the British built true ironclad battleships, which did not perform well tactically with the long-hulled frigates of the Warrior type. The long, sharp hulls of the latter made them a poor squadron unit, as they took a long time to respond to the helm. After three decades of growing obsolescence, the Warrior was hulked in 1902; she then served as an engineering workshop in Portsmouth harbor. In 1923 she moved to Milford Haven in Wales, where she served as a jetty at an oil terminal until the 1970s, when she was removed to Hartlepool to be restored to her former glory. In 1986 she returned to Portsmouth to take up a mooring in the harbor, where she remains as the largest historic ship in the dockyard complex. The Warrior survived to be restored because she was built of wrought iron, which is far more durable than steel, to a design that was seriously overengineered. Her hull was inordinately strong, and it has never leaked. This is a testament to the quality of work and materials put into the ship, while her current condition reflects the commitment of major funds and the skill of the restorers.

The celebrated Battle of Hampton Roads started a new era in naval warfare, in which armour was challenged by guns and shells, and which persisted until the development of aircraft and submarines altered combat at sea still further.

The CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor were by no means the first ironclad warships. The first such vessels, built by the French Navy and used in the Crimean War, were floating batteries – barges mounting guns whose sides were covered with iron plates. It was a simple step to add the plates to a steam warship, and the French built the first such ironclad, the broadside ironclad Gloire, one of a class of three ships.

When the Gloire entered service in 1860, the British Royal Navy was the largest fleet in the world. They were aware of what the French were building and were already at work on their own version. Whereas the French ship was a wooden-hulled ship with armour plates arranged in a belt along her sides – like the floating batteries – the British class, the Warriors, were iron-hulled with a similar, if shorter, belt of armour.

The use of armour on warships coincided with a number of other important changes to naval warfare, each change having some influence on the others. The development of naval shell guns, first used at the Battle of Sinope in 1853, seemed to threaten wooden ships. Armour was the counter to this, but the long belts needed to cover the length of a ship’s side were expensive. It was more efficient to put the guns in a turret that could swivel to cover both broadsides of the ship, which reduced the number of guns needed and allowed the armour protection to cover them completely. The first warship to have a turret, the USS Monitor, also was involved in the first battle between ironclad warships, the Battle of Hampton Roads in March 1862.

The cumulative effect of all these changes was ultimately to revolutionize ship design. At one end of this revolution lay the Battle of Sinope, fought between ships clearly resembling the battle fleet led by Lord Nelson at Trafalgar; at the other end lay HMS Colossus, which entered service in 1886 and was a turret ship almost completely without masts.

Although the American Civil War was the first conflict to feature a battle between ironclads, the lack of a significant iron industry in the Rebel states, and of any substantial pre-war navy, meant that most battles involving ironclads involved no more than one or two Rebel ones. The main naval battles all involved a fleet attacking a defended port, such as the battles of New Orleans (1862), Mobile Bay and Charleston (both 1864). The first battle between fleets of ironclads occurred in European waters, during the Seven Weeks’ War in 1866 which involved Austria, Prussia and Italy. The Italians had 12 ironclads, the Austro-Hungarians seven. Since gunfire seemed to lack the penetration against armoured vessels sufficient to sink them, success came from ramming enemy ships. The Austro-Hungarians sank two of the Italian ironclads, while suffering no losses, although ships on both sides were badly damaged by gunfire. The Austro-Hungarians’ ramming tactics influenced naval warfare for decades after.

There were few battles involving ironclads in the years that followed, although those that did occur were carefully studied. One engagement, the Battle of Callao, between Peru and Spain, resembled those of Mobile Bay or Charleston in the American Civil War, with a fleet of ocean-going ships attacking a defended port. Both sides had ironclads, but these did not engage each other heavily. In 1877 a battle between two British wooden warships and the mutinous crew of Peruvian ironclad Huascar ended in a draw. The effectiveness of iron armour was clear. Over 400 shots were fired at the Huascar, 50 struck her, but only one penetrated the armour. Peru was involved in the next major actions involving ironclads, in the War of the Pacific (1879-84). The Huascar engaged her Chilean opponents in two battles, the naval Battle of Iquique and the Battle of Angamos. Only the second involved ironclads on both sides and ended with the capture of the Huascar, which was heavily outnumbered six ships to one.

The lack of much combat meant that different theories were applied to ship design, making the Ironclad Era one of the most fascinating to look at in terms of sheer visual variety. The arrangement of the guns was a major matter for debate. Some ships were fitted with turrets, while others had either a broadside battery or some kind of central area known as a barbette or citadel, with the upper deck often considerably narrower than the main deck to allow a degree of gunfire forward. Sailing rigs were not retained out of love of tradition, as is sometimes implied. For most ships, the availability of coal to feed their boilers was by no means assured if they were far from their home ports, so sails provided extra motive power that might otherwise have been lacking.

By the time the Huascar was captured, the revolution in naval affairs had advanced further. The advantages of iron hulls over non-iron ones were well established – the main disadvantage lay in the great weight of iron, which kept the speeds of ships low. However, steel provided a lighter alternative to iron, with most of the same advantages, and naval shipbuilders began adopting steel hulls for their designs.

The first large steel-hulled ship was the French battleship Redoutable, which was completed in 1878. The first naval action involving a steel warship was fought during a civil war in Brazil in April 1894, when a torpedo sank the battleship Aquidaban during a night action. Later that same year came the first battle between steel warships, during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, when two small squadrons fought off the island of Phung-Do in the Yellow Sea in July 1894. The Japanese sank one vessel and damaged the other. The result was never in doubt, for the Japanese ships were more modern. A larger fleet engagement occurred in September at Yalu, when the Japanese defeated a Chinese fleet containing two battleships, although at heavy loss to themselves.

Development of the Torpedo

During the 1861–1865 U.S. Civil War, mines anchored underwater or mounted at the end of boat spars and detonated by contact (or electricity) were known as torpedoes, after an electric-shock catfish by that name. In the 1870s and 1880s, however, John Ericsson experimented with a steam-powered torpedo connected to the mother ship by a hose. This underwater, compressed-air-powered explosive device with dynamite filler reached a speed of 61 knots, but had a range of only 100 yards. Ericsson also worked on an electric-powered torpedo, as did American Robert Lay. Both types were controlled by an electric cable extending from the ship.

More successful was the less complex flywheel-powered torpedo developed in 1870 by John Adams Howell of the U.S. Navy. Over the next quarter century its speed increased from 8 to 30 knots and its range doubled to 800 yards. In the 1890s the United States also tested rocket- and steam-powered torpedoes. All such self-propelled weapons, totally disconnected from the launch vessel, were called “auto-mobile,” “locomotive,” or “fish” torpedoes.

The most successful torpedo, however, was developed in Fiume (then part of Austria) in 1868 by Austrian Giovanni Luppis and Englishman Robert Whitehead. That weapon, powered by compressed air, reached a speed of six knots and carried 300 pounds of dynamite a distance of 200 yards. A virtually identical weapon was produced soon after by the Schwartzkopff Company in Berlin. In 1870 Whitehead returned to England and sold his manufacturing rights to the Royal Navy. However, Whitehead torpedoes were also manufactured in Italy and France by the time of his death in 1905. Their speed had advanced to 29 knots, and the torpedoes carried 200 pounds of explosives for 6,000 yards. Carried by inexpensive small craft known as torpedo boats, they were viewed by many nations, including France, as the weapon to counter the largest naval powers.

By the turn of the century John P. Holland perfected the modern submarine, which he related to the design of the Whitehead torpedo, and which became the vessel now most commonly associated with the torpedo. By World War I torpedo velocity advanced to 40 knots and range to 10,000 yards (at reduced speed).

The Sinking of the Glorious

In 1929 a German admiral named Wegener published a book entitled The Sea Strategy of the World War (i. e. World War I). In this book he put forward the theory that the British sea blockade and stranglehold over the North Sea could and should have been broken by German seizure of the ports in Norway. He had good reason to pen such ideas, for the German nation had indeed suffered through the British naval blockade which had prevented many imports from reaching Kaiser Wilhelm’s countrymen. In that war, the German Army had not taken over all its neighbouring territories and, unlike in the second great conflict, Germany did not manage to expropriate or import to anything like the same extent. But Admiral Wegener’s book was dismissed by the chief of Germany’s small post-war navy, the Reichsmarine, though it provoked much interest among lesser officers.

Both Norway and Sweden were of great importance to Germany in both wars, the latter because of its vital supply of iron ore, the first owing to its convenient ports, especially Narvik, for in winter the Baltic sea often froze over, which meant that ore trains had to be routed to the northern port in Norway to be shipped down the coast to Germany. Of the ten million tons of ore exported by Sweden to Germany in 1939, only one million tons travelled directly to the German ports. Narvik remained ice-free from January to April and was the best port of transit.

Another obvious fact was that with ports such as Narvik in German hands, the Navy would stand a much better chance of breaking out into the Atlantic, where its surface warships could wreak havoc with Allied convoys. Which is precisely what happened on several occasions in World War II. Although the `pocket’ battleship Graf Spee was eventually lost, it did, with the Scheer and Deutschland (later renamed Lutzow), create some panic at the British Admiralty and sink a worthwhile number of British ships. These were early operations; the Germans had already sent these heavier ships to sea before war came. With Norway occupied, the threat would and did multiply. Risks were taken to interrupt the Germans’ ore supplies – mines were laid in Norwegian waters – and when the German prison ship Altmark anchored in a fjord the destroyer Cossack sailed in to rescue all the British seamen aboard.

British explanations for these breaches were met with strong protests from the Norwegian government and, of course, rage from the German side. This situation enlivened the `Phoney War’ in the early spring of 1940, crisis looming when both the Germans and the British prepared expeditions to occupy at least the port of Narvik. German warships were sighted moving northwards along the Norwegian coast, and the Polish submarine Orzcl sank the German supply and troopship Rio de Janeiro off southern Norway, large numbers of German soldier survivors being rescued by Norwegian fishing boats. The enemy were reported as saying they had been heading for Bergen to help the Norwegians defend them¬ selves against British aggression.

Hitler was sensitive to his northern flank throughout the war; this fear was encouraged by the British, who maintained various fictional threats towards Norway. But the notion that the British and French could seize and hold Narvik in 1940 was a fantasy thought up by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, the future Prime Minister, fond as he was of dreaming up grand expeditions. On the German side, the Kriegsmarinds Grand Admiral Raeder did all he could to promote the scheme of taking over Norway, for he was a `big ship man’ who still believed in the might of the battleship.

As for the Norwegians themselves, they had been at peace for hundreds of years; not since the days of the Vikings had that nation indulged in war. But the Nazis had been pursuing a relentless campaign of unsubtle propaganda designed to thoroughly undermine Norwegian minds and convert them to the idea of a benevolent, protective Reich. As a result, when invasion came the country was quite unprepared. The Nazi theme of `Nordic brotherhood’ had some effect in various quarters. Hitler Youth groups and others made many visits to Norway, bearing gifts and propaganda in an attempt to win over Norwegian opinion to the National Socialist cause. The complete lack of subtlety on the Germans’ part was made clear when, during the evening of 9 April 1940, the German minister in Oslo invited many distinguished guests, including members of the host government, to a special film show at the German legation. If the guests had expected a Hollywood western or musical, then their hopes were rudely shattered; the one long feature film shown was the propagandist record of the subjugation of Poland by the Wehrmacht. Included in this epic was the bombing of Warsaw, the inhabitants, so the grating commentator assured, having only the Allies to thank for it. The guests filed out in a state of shock and bewilderment; the show had obviously been intimidatory, a warning to Norway, despite all the assertions of Nordic neighbourliness. It was clear the Nazis would mete out similar treatment to any who dared oppose them.

Over the following days the drama escalated as both Britain and Germany despatched military expeditions to Norway. Despite the rushed and in some ways bungled nature of the British-French arrangements, some success was achieved: a foothold was made at Narvik and heavy losses were dealt out to the German Navy during several encounters in the fjords and at sea. But lack of experience at that stage in combined operations, and above all the lack of air cover, brought ever-increasing difficulties for the Allied corps as the enemy succeeded in occupying much of Norway, having already invaded Denmark. During these hard weeks, following Prime Minister Chamberlain’s ill-judged assertion that `Herr Hitler’ had `missed the bus’, and no matter how much supremacy the Royal Navy maintained at sea, fuddled thinking and lack of swift decision-making in London enabled the enemy to gradually squeeze the Allied forces into an impossible position. At least so it seemed to the Allies, the British bearing much of the burden since neither the French Navy nor Armee de I’Air did anything to assist. Some success was achieved at the two major Norwegian ports of Trondheim and Narvik, but in the air a handful of obsolete Gladiator biplanes were soon lost, while in the north some Hurricanes ferried over with pilots and ground crews prepared for evacuation from Narvik. In fact, as the Heinkels swept over unopposed to bomb and strafe the Allied troops the decision was made to evacuate all forces from Norway. This, at a time when the German General Died had himself decided his troops were unable to succeed at Narvik, surprised the enemy.

The Allied expeditionary corps had landed at Narvik on 15 April 1940 and had fought valiantly for weeks, well past 10 May, when the Wehrmacht attacked in the west. On 10 June the last Allied troops left Norway. The Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm had inflicted very heavy losses on the Kriegsmarine – the destruction of ten German destroyers practically crippled the enemy’s destroyer fleet – but on 8June the Royal Navy suffered its own grievous loss.

Unknown to the Admiralty, the German Navy’s B-dienstradio listening service had been reading most of the Royal Navy’s signals. The larger German warships carried such personnel aboard, and all British wireless traffic was monitored so that captains could be kept abreast of enemy ship movements. By breaking British naval codes the Germans learnt that on 5 June the battleships Renown and Repulse were being sent north with destroyers and cruisers to intercept two German raiders believed to be trying to break into the Atlantic via the Faroes Passage south of Iceland. The Kriegsmarine also learnt that the carriers Ark Royal and Glorious were at sea off Norway. In view of General Dietl’s belief that he was losing the battle for Narvik, two of the heaviest German Navy units, the battlecruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, plus the cruiser Hipper and four destroyers, were despatched to support Dietl’s men by bombarding the Allied troops battling around Narvik. Died would soon be hailed in Germany as the `hero’ of that battle, which the Germans actually won because of the unexpected Allied withdrawal (a German victory would in all probability have come later had the troops opposing them not been evacuated).

However, the German naval task force was diverted en route to attack British shipping. A tanker and the empty liner Oriana were sunk, 274 of the latter’s crew being rescued; the hospital ship Atlantis was allowed to sail on unharmed. The German fleet commander, Admiral Marschall, then received news from his B-dienst officer that more enemy ships were positioned to the north, these believed to be the cruiser Southampton with the two carriers mentioned. The temptation to intercept the latter prizes was great. Forgetting his primary task for the moment, Admiral Marschall ordered full speed ahead, his intention to sink the two British carriers before going on to support the Germans ashore. But the warships were no longer needed around Narvik, for the Allied forces were busily embarking for home. The only way General Diet! could notify the Navy of this event was by using a Norwegian telephone via Sweden back to Trondheim where `Admiral Norway’ – Captain Theodor Krancke – had installed himself in the Britannia Hotel. Dietl’s report never reached Admiral Marschall, whose small fleet sailed on northwards.

At 16.45 a midshipman in the crow’s nest of Scharnhorst reported ships off the starboard bow. At first he saw only smoke, but gradually, through his powerful rangefinder, he made out a masthead, the range forty-six kilometres. The German crews were already on alert; they were now brought to action stations, everyone aboard the ships aware that if a more powerful British force appeared they would have to turn tail.

Not until 17.10 was the first enemy vessel seen to be an aircraft carrier, wrongly identified as the Ark Royal, a ship Nazi propaganda had claimed was destroyed the previous year. Then came news that the carrier was escorted by only two destroyers. In fact, the carrier was the older-type Glorious, which according to the official line, much disputed since, had been allowed to head straight for home owing to a fuel shortage, 200 miles ahead of the main convoy leaving Narvik. Even Winston Churchill, close as he was to the staff at the Admiralty, found this hard to believe, and obfuscation continues to this day. The Admiralty archivist insists that a signal sent by Glorious to the cruiser Devonshire reporting heavy German units was not received, a vital point flatly contradicted by a surviving telegraphist from the cruiser who swears he delivered such a signal to the bridge staff. This is important, since Devonshire had aboard King Haakon of Norway, and most likely his entourage, probably important archives and perhaps even state funds. At all costs, the British government and Admiralty were anxious this party should reach Britain safely – not that this is meant to imply they used Glorious and its meagre escort as bait or sacrifice. In fact, no reports of German warships moving north had been received by the Admiralty, whose intelligence at this time seems to have been inadequate.

Meanwhile, the heavy British units despatched to intercept `two raiders’ heading for the Atlantic drew a blank. Both Devonshire and Glorious were virtually helpless against the far mightier Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, which carried eleven-inch guns. Even though the cruiser Hipper and the destroyers had turned back, the two German battlecruisers would have had little trouble destroying the British cruiser, but fortunately for this ship and its royal cargo they were beyond danger. Not so Glorious, which came under fire from the enemy as soon as the range closed. Despite the great bulk of the carrier, the first eleven-inch shells fired by Scharnhorst at 17.21 from twenty-six kilometres failed to hit, but by 17.38 both German ships were on target. Gneisenau had also been shooting at the destroyer Ardent, which was soon set ablaze.

Admiral Marschall and his staff, watching the Glorious through their binoculars, believed the British were trying to get their torpedo planes readied on deck, but shellfire soon put paid to this attempt. The German B-dienst team were listening carefully for any distress calls from Glorious, and at 17.52 hrs picked up a rather mangled, oscillating signal which was unreadable. A further, much clearer, message was intercepted at 18.19 hrs and immediately jammed by the German signallers.

German shells wrecked all the Hurricanes and naval aircraft ranged on the carrier’s deck, and fires took hold below among the aviation fuel and other stores. The German battlecruisers had first opened fire at maximum range – 27,000 yards, or fifteen miles – their eleven-inch guns fully elevated, the range closing steadily as the enemy drew closer until a rain of heavy missiles reduced the British carrier to a blazing wreck. By 18.30 Glorious was listing so badly the remains of its aircraft were sliding off the flat top into the sea. One can imagine the chaos and carnage below. Yet the ship struggled to remain afloat for a further half an hour before finally slipping beneath the waves.

The destroyer Ardent was also sunk, but the captain of the other escorting destroyer, Acasta, drove his little ship hard at Scharnhorst, whose lookouts reported three or four torpedoes fired at the battleship from bows-on. Scharnhorst’s Captain Hoffmann altered course drastically while the warship’s great guns blazed away at the impudent attacker. On Acasta, the captain, Commander C. E. Glasford, had broadcast to his crew before turning towards the enemy: `You may think we are running away from the enemy – we are not! Our chummy ship [Ardeni] has sunk, the Glorious is sinking, the least we can do is make a show. Good luck to you all!’ Leading Seaman Carter would be the sole survivor from this unequal and suicidal attack; David would not prevail against Goliath. It was Carter who fired two of the torpedoes, commenting later that he thought the enemy very surprised at the audacity of it all, Acasta emerging very suddenly from its own smoke screen. `They never fired a shot at us!’ Carter recalled. This soon changed as the enemy crew recovered their poise and began shooting at the destroyer with all the weapons that could be brought to bear. According to Carter, Acasta got in close before its missiles were launched, yet according to a German account nine minutes elapsed before one torpedo struck Scharnhorst. Meanwhile, German shells were peppering the destroyer and a big explosion seemed to lift Acasta out of the water. When last seen, the surgeon lieutenant was trying to tend his captain; both men went down with the ship. Some 1,474 Britishers were lost on the carrier and two destroyers (1,515 according to one source). Captain D’Oyly-Hughes of Glorious also went down with his ship, and only thirty-nine men were saved by the Germans; another thirty-six were picked up by a Norwegian ship later and returned to Britain.

The torpedo struck the German battleship’s starboard quarter, tearing a 36 x 12ft hole in its bow. Again, according to German sources the time elapsed (nine minutes) seemed to indicate quite clearly that the British torpedoes had missed, which was why Captain Hoffman had his ship resume its original course – with disastrous results. Forty-eight German sailors lost their lives as sea water and oil from a ruptured fuel tank gushed into the forward compartments of Scharnhorst.

Despite Hitler’s continued doubts, Grand Admiral Raeder sent Gneisenau and Hipper to sea again on 20 June. Close in to the Norwegian cliffs lay the British submarine Clyde (Lt Commander D. C. Ingram), which put one of its torpedoes into the German battlecruiser, the explosion blowing a hole as big as a house in the warship’s bow. The only remaining German battleship serviceable, Gneisenau was put out of action for months. In fact, at the close of the Norwegian campaign the greater part of the Kriegsmarine’s surface fleet was out of action: apart from those sunk, twenty-four ships were in dock for refurbishment, a further fifteen were being serviced, and seven more had had their crews paid off while refitting was carried out, these including the pocket battleship Lutzow (exDeutschland). The Germans had suffered greatly at sea, their small fleet virtually incapacitated, yet in propaganda terms the victory seemed the enemy’s: Norway was lost to Hitler, the Allied corps had withdrawn. The recriminations were muted, overborne perhaps by the far greater disaster in France and Belgium. Hitler secured his ore supplies from Sweden and threw the British off the continent.

All the airmen aboard Glorious were lost. None had been sent aloft to watch out for enemy vessels. Such lessons were hard learned; as was proved against Bismarck, even antiquated biplanes could deliver deadly torpedo attacks. Aircraft carriers should never have been sent across the North Sea without battleship escort.

Soviet G5 Torpedo Boat

The extremely fast G5 torpedo boat was ultimately derived from a series of designs by a team under the leadership of the noted aircraft designer A.N. Tupolev. Nearly over 300 were built, with 73 being lost during the war, and dozens remained in commission after 1945.

There were strong influences working on the post-revolutionary Soviet navy to develop a powerful and effective force of coastal craft. The fleet itself had been relegated to the status of a means of guaranteeing the seaward flanks of the primary service, the army. These seaward flanks were all of shallow and sheltered water, and distances involved were small. Further, the successful attacks by British CMBs in 1919 had shown the potential of even a few such boats in the right hands, and a couple of unserviceable and damaged Thornycroft 55-footers were available as exemplars, From these beginnings the Soviets had produced by 1928 a reasonably successful 18-m (59.06-ft) craft known as an S4. The indifferent Soviet technology of the time required the incorporation of American petrol engines, but the reliability of these and the sound hull shape made for a very high trials speed, approaching 50 kts, though considerably diminished by a load of two 457- mm (18-in) torpedoes or anything but calm conditions. About 60 S4s were built, giving the Soviets considerable experience,

The Tsarist navy had been known for its innovation and readiness to adopt ideas, and this policy continued with the purchase of technology in hull design and machinery from France, Germany and Italy as available. With this as a baseline the Soviets produced a 19-m (62.3-ft) G5 type, which was still heavily influenced by the British CMB in having a stepped hull and two troughs aft for the stern launching of torpedoes that had been increased in size to 533 mm (21 in), For this craft the Soviets built a successful petrol engine that was tolerably reliable and capable of being upgraded. The fault with the G5 was its early use of aluminium alloy for both shell and frames, so that it was plagued with corrosion problems. For this reason, the follow-on 21.6-m (70.9-ft) D3 craft were wooden-built, differing further in having side launching gear for their torpedoes.

Numerous G5 and D3 types served during the war, supplemented by over 200 boats from the USA and UK. Also produced in large numbers were armoured craft of many types, comparatively slow but armed with guns and cannon in tank turrets. They proved formidable craft both offshore and up rivers.

Soviet torpedo boats [MTBs] were developed from ‘experience with their own Type Sch4 (an earlier Russian design–itself based on British First World War CMBs), Italian plans, and new Soviet design ideas. The majority of all Soviet high-speed motor torpedo boats of World War II were of this type, called G-5.

Interesting features of Type G-5 were the light aluminium hulls and the change to the more powerful 21 inch torpedo (earlier Soviet attempts to develop MTBs used the 18 inch torpedo). Type G-5 was built from 1930 to 1939 to various specifications as Series 7, 8, 9,10, and 11, with the last named series being produced in 1939, fitted with two GAM 34 BSF engines which called for more robust hulls, and one boat was reportedly able to attain a speed of 62 knots unladen.’

Some 329 boats were built to this design from 1934-1944, divided into five basic series. In 1942, following the successful use of home-made Katyusha 88mm rocket-launchers from boats of this type, the naval authorities ordered 82mm and 132mm army rocket-launchers to be adapted for naval use (242 had been ordered by 1945). Some of the G5-class boats completed from 1943 to 1944 had torpedo wells plated out, and missile-launchers mounted above the conning tower.

Vihuri was a Soviet G-5 type torpedo boat captured by the Finns— they captured three of them during the war, although they only made use of two (all had to be returned to the Soviets in 1944 as part of the armistice provisions.  The Finns would also eventually turn over to the Russians coast defense vessel Vainamoinen, the biggest ship in the Finnish Navy).  The metal-hulled G-5 boats (59 feet long, 17 tons), designed by the aircraft designer Tupolev, were extremely fast, capable of making 53 knots, and carried two 21-inch (533mm) torpedoes plus a 12.7mm machinegun.  Both the Russian G-5 and the Finnish Syoksy-class boats used an unusual torpedo launching system.  The torpedoes were not fired from tubes, nor suspended outboard and dropped, but mounted on rails aft, and were ejected tail-first behind the boat, which then had to get out of their way (a safety device ensured a delay before the torpedo started running, to give the boat a head start on evasive action).

Altogether 321 “G-5” boats were produced. They were actively used in all the theatres of war, except in the North.

“G-5” was one of the most high-speed boats in the world and was armed very well for her displacement. She was suited for daring attacks on the still water. Foreign boats of the same displacement were usually armed with less powerful torpedoes of 450 – 457-mm caliber. But the advantages of the boats were accompanied by disadvantages. The redan that allowed attaining high speed also was the reason for the high yawing and loss of speed on the waves. In heavy seas at full speed the boat was beaten by the waves. Heavy splashing hampered the work of the crew and observation. This in turn decreased the accuracy of torpedo and machine-gun firing.


G-5 series VII, factory №194.
The most numerous series of G-5 boats. It was originally armed with the kwim DA machine guns that were lately replaced by the single DShK.
 Displacement  14,98 tons
 Length  19,08 m
 Width  3,33 m
 Draught  1,2 m
 Machinery  2 х 850 h.p. GAM-34BS
 Full speed  51 kts
 Economical speed  31 kts
 Radius at full speed  160 miles
 Radius at economical speed  200 miles
 Armament  2 TA х 533mm, 1 х 12,7mm DSHK


G-5 series XI, factory №194.
The last prewar series. On some of the boats of the series two DShK machine guns were installed and the durability of the hull was increased.
 Displacement  17,84 tons
 Length  19,08 m
 Width  3,33 m
 Draught  1,02 m
 Machinery  2 х 850 h.p. GAM-34BS
 Full speed  51 kts
 Economical speed  31 kts
 Radius at full speed  160 miles
 Radius at economical speed  200 miles
 Armament  2 TA х 533mm, 1 х 12,7mm DSHK


G-5 series XI-mod., factory №532.
The Black Sea boats, they were manufactured in Kerch. Just as boats of X series they were armed with the more powerful modification of the GAM engine.
 Displacement  17,17 tons
 Length  19,08 m
 Width  3,33 m
 Draught  1,22 m
 Machinery  2 х 1000 h.p. GAM-34F
 Full speed  54 kts
 Economical speed  36 kts
 Radius at full speed  156 miles
 Radius at economical speed  255 miles
 Armament  2 TA х 533mm, 1 х 12,7mm DSHK