Wednesday What We’re Reading (Aug. 5, 2020)

If I call it ‘Weekly What We’re Reading’, maybe I won’t have to feel so bad about missing Wednesdays.

Coronavirus

Defense

Science and Technology

Guns

Grab Bag

Rule the Waves 2: To July, 1940

It has been several weeks, but the end of summer has proven to be busy. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be several more weeks before the next one. Happily, parvusimperator seems to have briefly regained his muse; with a little luck, he’ll cover me for a while.

Also, this update turned out to be all text, so we’ll see how closely you’re paying attention. There’ll be a quiz next week.

November 1938

Scrapping the three light carriers, the bevy of obsolete corvettes, and our five oldest submarines, mothballing three battleships and Latouche-Treville, and pausing one of our carriers under construction saves us enough money to move forward. We’re still shedding about 2,700 funds per month, but before we run out of money, we’ll finish building enough things to get back in the black.

Objectives remain as they’ve always been: crush Austria-Hungary, take Morocco, complete our domination of Africa (at least the parts not occupied by the Royal Navy).

It occurs to me that a fun ‘boss fight’ might be v. the UK, provided we can keep the US (or perhaps a resurgent Communist Germany?) on our side.

December 1938

A rebellion breaks out in New Calendonia, halfway around the globe. Evidently a lack of naval force there made it possible. Well, this month, our redeployments should bring our forces around the globe back into accordance with the requirements.

We also unlocked 6″ dual-purpose guns (not a sure bet; the chance to get that tech is relatively low), a perfect thing with which to equip our next light cruiser.

Finally, naval intelligence provides us with a brief on how we shot down enemy aircraft in the most recent war. We shot down 27 in total; here’s the breakdown.

  • Fighters: 15
  • Heavy AA: 8
  • Light AA: 3
  • Other aircraft (i.e., defensive armament): 1

So, the clear lesson here is that fighters are the answer, and heavy AA failing that. We didn’t quite face enough air attacks to draw further conclusions, which I suspect accounts for light AA being more effective than medium AA.

January 1939

The government wants to further cut the naval budget, in response to which we put our foot down, throw a tantrum, and manage to head off such wooly-headed talk with only minor concessions.

February 1939

Thanks to the press fearmongering about Italy, we get a nice bump in budget, nearly clearing out our deficit. Since tensions with Italy are already in the high yellow, I’m also going to start moving the fleet into the Mediterranean.

May 1939

French engineers develop an improved surface search radar, which we’ll start mounting to ships as soon as possible.

Only 11 ships in the entirety of the French Navy are not radar-equipped at present—an advantage we may be able to press in a hypothetical war with Italy.

July 1939

Tweaking Austria-Hungary again leads to increased budget. We’re already in the black.

August 1939

Between that increased budget and some global economic expansion, we have enough money for me to bring our three mothballed battleships up to reserve fleet status—wise, considering the rising tensions with Italy and Austria—and to re-activate Latouche-Treville.

September 1939

New Caledonia has thrown off the yoke of its French colonialist oppressors! Which is not great for us, except in that it doesn’t seem to affect our score and also reduces our overseas force requirements enough to bring a Troude home. So actually, it’s pretty great for us.

We also bring a new torpedo bomber into service. It can sling a torpedo as a medium bomb load, which means it has a combat radius of some 380 miles.

October 1939

We go from a slight budget deficit to a surplus of 5,200 funds per month, on the back of a few events and the completion of 12 destroyers. I put the money into a new carrier design (Egalité, except with a deck park and deck-edge lifts for improved aircraft capacity and ease of handling) and another of the Friant-type light cruisers. (I may see about a smaller 6″-gun option to help build out our numbers again.)

November 1939

Several more money-boosting events free up enough moeny for a few more of our corvette-destroyers.

I try a few things to build a better cruiser than the Friant, but the Friant seems to have a pretty good balance of just about everything. Another one goes into the yards.

February 1940

Three submarines and the new Egalité begin construction. I also decide to spend a bit of money rebuilding Bearn, our original carrier. She gains a much heavier AA fit and capacity for six more planes.

April 1940

Morane-Saulnier gets the nod for our next model of dive bomber, with a 1000lb-bomb range of 225 miles and a 250lb-bomb range similar to that of our torpedo bombers.

May 1940

Quite a short break between wars, it looks like. We accuse Austria of torpedoing our old battleship Rouen, driving tensions nearly to the limit.

June 1940

Italy’s rattling sabers, too. Might we get the chance to take on both of our Mediterranean rivals at once?

July 1940

Austria-Hungary declares war.

The first battle is a convoy defense, our destroyers against theirs in the fading moments of dusk. Radar suggests it’s nine of ours against eight of theirs.

It turns out to be exactly so. The French destroyer forces, with the massive advantage of radar—we were able to torpedo the Austrian line from beyond visual range—sink four of the attacking ships in exchange for one loss.

Capabilities, Plans, and Intentions

The Fleets

We are, of course, well-suited to war against Austria-Hungary. They’re a weak power, with a small budget of around 60% of France’s. our six battleships are, on average, newer than theirs, although most of their battleships outgun ours—only the two Austrian 8×13″ ships are inferior. Where French ships beat them handily is speed. Suffren is, at 26 knots, the slowest ship we have in service. The fastest Austrian battleship makes 25 knots. We have five battleships in the Mediterranean. Rouen, recently in mothballs, is operating on trade protection duty in the North Atlantic while her crew comes up to speed. (As I’m sure they will. Rouen holds the current record for battle stars in the French fleet, with seven.)

In aircraft, we’re again superior, with more than twice as many as the Austrians, and the ability to bring nearly as many as the Austrians have to their own home waters. One of our carriers, Bearn, is currently under refit, and will be back in service in seven months. Until then, we just have Liberté and Fraternité, representing a combined aircraft strength of 180 planes.

Trade warfare is where we’re inferior, somewhat. The Austrians have thirty submarines to our eight, and six cruisers to our one. We’re also a bit light on light cruisers right now: we have fourteen of them, but most are tied up overseas on foreign service. There are five in home waters, and two of those are our new Friant class, which are still working up in Europe. (I’ll let them get up to speed before sending them into battle.) The other three are obsolescent Voltaire-class ships, built in the late 1920s.

We’ve flipped things around somewhat on destroyers. Our most recent ships are faster, heavier, and better-equipped than their Austrian equivalents.

Things get a little spicier if Italy decides to join in. They’re quite close to us in overall strength, and adding them to Austria would put us on the back foot. Happily, we’re more or less immune to blockades from Austria and Italy—they have no bases in our build zone, so they can’t sustain a large fleet there. Since we have more bases in the Mediterranean than we do even in Northern Europe, we’re perfectly capable of blockading Austria forever. (Not Italy, though. They’re too strong.)

Shipbuilding

Besides the aforementioned Bearn, still in refit, we have seven ships in the yards. We’ll start with three new Arc-class destroyers, which are approximately equal to the most recent Austrian ships but inferior to both sides’ top-line options.

Next are two 90-plane Liberté-class carriers, Egalité (to round out the revolutionary trio) and Terreur (I ran out of positive-sounding French Revolutionary names). At 35,000 tons, they’re the envy of the world, nearly twice as large as most other powers’ largest ships. (Of couse, that does mean it’s a disaster if one of them gets sunk by, say, an Austrian submarine. Knock on wood.)

Finally, we have two more Friant-class light cruisers, 9,400-ton ships with large batteries of dual-purpose guns: 12 5″ and 20 3″. They also carry mines and torpedoes, but no aircraft. (Nowhere to put them, with all the guns.) Given that our carriers are large, losing the scout planes is no great drawback, especially since most of our battleships carry them now.

War Plans

Pretty straightforward here. Our goals are as before: take Morocco as soon as possible, so that the plot of Casablanca can take place on schedule. An invasion is already being planned.

As far as battles go, we can outmuscle the Austrians in most fights. Battleship actions are a bit iffy, however, given the ship-for-ship Austrian superiority, as are cruiser actions, where we’re badly outnumbered.

On the other hand, I’m absolutely going to take a chance on any battle where there are carriers involved, provided it doesn’t take place in the depths of the Adriatic. Anywhere else in the Mediterranean, we have a massive advantage in our land-based aircraft.

If there’s anything I ought to do differently, now’s the time to mention it.

TO&E: Austere Companies

There’s an exercise that exists to get one to challenge one’s own assumptions by imposing a very difficult condition on a problem so one sees what tradeoffs come out. Let’s play with an example. Inspired by the interview with former General der Panzertruppe Hermann Balck, let’s give this sort of problem a try.

The criteria in question is that rifle companies shouldn’t number more than 70-80 men. Let’s firm this up a bit and call it a hard limit of 80 men. Arbitrarily choosing mechanized infantry as our guinea pigs, what would an 80 man mechanized infantry company look like?

Let’s start by thinking about our vehicle. Balck also postulated a 10-tank company, with 3-tanks per platoon. Let’s assume our mechanized infantry company mirrors this structure, which is pretty reasonable. We have a few simple options depending on how we want to operate our IFVs:

  1. Keep a crew of 3 men in the IFVs during mounted and dismounted operations. Have five dismounts in two of the IFVs in the platoon and six dismounts in the third, giving us two eight-man dismount squads. There are, of course, a few other ways to think about this problem, but that’s a pretty standard one.
  2. Have a crew of 3 men in the IFVs during mounted operations and a crew of two men in the IFVs during dismounted operations. Have five other dismounts per IFV, giving us two nine man squads (or three six-man squads if you prefer). Having two crew in the IFV is suboptimal but doable. We could also look into extra automation, but that brings up our next option:
  3. Have a crew of 2 men in the IFVs during mounted and dismounted operations. This gives six dismounts per IFV. Two-man crews might be as effective as three man crews given modern technological aids. Certainly the US Army wants a two-man crew for the OMFV.

My preference is for #3. I’ve read enough good test data to justify the design,1 and we’re going to want plenty of optics on our IFV anyway.

We could also consider variations that would give us two ten-man dismount squads if we preferred, but I’ll stick with those classic US Army nine-man dismount squads, that could also be reconfigured (either ad-hoc or doctrinally) into three six-man squads. That gives each platoon a total manning of 24. We’ll postulate that one of the IFVs is commanded by the platoon leader (a lieutenant), and the platoon sergeant will command another IFV or one of the squads. So we’ll have one officer and 23 enlisted personnel in our platoon.

Three platoons gives me 72 men total. Not bad so far. All we need is a company HQ. CO, XO, First Sergeant are pretty obvious. We’ll also add a supply sergeant, and we’ll stipulate that the HQ has one IFV and probably a truck. So, that’s four men in the HQ, and 76 men altogether. Done.

That was a little less hard than I thought it would be, so let’s look at those squads. As mentioned before, we can use a ‘split squad’ method to give us two 9-man squads in the pattern of the US Army. And, while the US Army has made this work, I’ve never quite been a fan of splitting squads across vehicles. Our other obvious choice is to use each six-man dismount team independently as squads. Let’s unpack that a little.

There are a bunch of ways to work with a six-man squad, but I like having a squad being able to fire and maneuver, and I like symmetrical teams, which gives us a six-man squad comprised of two three-man teams. Which should function like four-man teams, except with less ability to absorb casualties. Or so the theory goes; that was the stated reason for the marines to switch from three to four men per fireteam in the 1940s. Three men in the fireteam does mean that we’re low on riflemen, especially if we add grenadiers. We could make the teams asymmetrical, but that makes the command burden harder, and per Balck, the whole point of this was to make command burden easier.

Looking at the other configuration, two dismount squads of nine men each in a mechanized platoon has been tried before in the US Army and they found it unsatisfactory. Specifically, they didn’t like the lack of infantry, and they revised the platoon in the early 2000s to have three dismount squads of nine men each in the same four Bradley platoon, and there haven’t been much in the way of complaints about that after the Iraq war. Certainly, there are no calls to change it.

And, unlike the 10-tank company that Balck also proposed, no one has put forward a formal organization for an infantry company that’s this small. Likely because it’s pretty bare bones, and when one adds casualties, transfers, absences for leave, training assignments, and the like, the platoon never starts at full strength. It should be noted that, while on paper the US Army’s mechanized infantry platoon consists of 1 officer and 38 men, plus a few attachments, and there are only 36 seats in four Bradleys, veterans in Operation Iraqi Freedom never reported having a problem finding seats for everyone in the platoon.


  1. Yes, I know Chieftain doesn’t like it. He’s entitled to his opinion. I disagree with him based on test data showing it works that goes back to the early 90s. All successful. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jul. 29, 2020)

Missed a Wednesday again. Oops.

Books

  • Celestial Matters, a science fiction novel where the science is that of ancient Greece.

China Watch

Defense

Games

  • Star Wars Squadrons hands-on from PC Gamer – parvusimperator and I both cut our teeth on the X-Wing games of the end of the last millennium and the start of this one, and we’re both going to withhold judgment on this one until we’ve seen it in action. That said, there are reasons for cautious optimism.
  • 12 minutes of Star Wars Squadrons in-game footage – It looks… pretty good. All the debris and huge space constructions to fly around inside are, together, something of a space flight sim trope, but it looks pretty much like Modern X-Wing Alliance otherwise.
  • Computers: ha ha, we’re better at chess than you. Humans: oh yeah? – 5D Chess with Multiverse Time Travel! (Granted, the computer is pretty good at it.) It’s chess, except with two time dimensions (and an unused spatial z-axis counting as the fifth dimension from the title). Talking about games sounds like describing the plot to a Terminator movie.
  • MS Flight Simulator 2020: Ars Technica hands-on – The PC Gamer hands-on was similarly effusive. I don’t do much flight simming presently, with summertime pursuits weighing heavily upon my time, but man, do those clouds look good.

Science and Technology

Guns

History

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jul. 22, 2020)

Another two-week gap, and this time, I’m writing it on Tuesday night so I don’t run out of time tomorrow.

WuFlu

China-Watching

Defense

Science and Technology

Games

  • A train sim that’s actually hard? – In a 2016 article (holy cow, has it been that long?), I perhaps snidely referred to games in the transport simulator genre as ‘podcast screensavers‘. I also slagged off Train Simulator and its fans as ridiculously easy and bad at games, respectively. So, when Flare Path chieftain Tim Stone said, “This train simulator is hard” (albeit in more words), my ears perked up. Not so much that I’ve bought the game yet, but nevertheless, it’s on my radar now.
  • Can a Formula 1 car actually drive upside-down? – Unfortunately, building a test track for this in real life is still not feasible, so we have to settle for simulator runs.

Grab Bag

Suppressor Vindication

A couple years ago, I wrote an article talking about how suppressors should be general issue for the modern infantryman. At the time, I thought this idea was good but a little out there, since it was the only one of my force multipliers not adopted by a major military. A little while later, I discovered that someone at the US Marine Corps had a similar idea, and they were putting it to the test.

Now, it appears this testing has produced some results, and these results have been analyzed. The United States Marine Corps has announced that they’ll be issuing suppressors to every infantryman. Check out the full story here, courtesy of Task & Purpose.

I think that’s awesome. Better communication. Hearing protection works better. More effective infantry. Fewer hearing issues for the soldier after he musters out. But you already gathered that. It’s nice to see the Corps coming to the same conclusions.

Let’s talk a little bit about how they plan to implement that in the short term. They’ve got a contract with Knight’s Armament for NT4 suppressors. The NT4 is an older suppressor, with the design dating back to 1998.

This is not a state of the art suppressor, but it’s a known one. It’s in the system already. It’s pretty durable as far as suppressors go. And the mounting is super cheap: the NT4 just requires replacing the crush washer behind a standard A2-type flash hider with a shim kit. So an existing rifle is ready to get quieter for less than $5. And all M27s already have a venting gas block to bleed off excess gas from the suppressor. It’s not the suppressor I would choose if I had to buy a new general issue setup right now, but given the system as it is, the choice is a reasonable one.

It’s great to see this idea get some serious traction. Bravo Zulu, Devil Dogs!

FN HAMR

When the US Marine Corps put out an RFP for companies to submit automatic rifle candidates, FN responded with a SCAR derivative that had some neat technological tricks. Let’s take a look.

The HAMR-16 (Heat Adaptive Modular Rifle) looks like the SCAR-16 that it was derived from at first glance. Same monolithic upper, same folding/telescoping stock with two-position cheek riser. Same polymer lower with short-throw (90 degrees of total travel) safe/semi-/full-auto selector. Same love-it-or-hate-it reciprocating charging handle.1 The barrel has a notably heavier profile than on a regular SCAR-16, and there is a heatsink protruding from under the handguard.

All of that might be expected to handle the sustained fire requirements of the IAR program. But FN hid an extra trick inside the HAMR. They put in a bimetallic thermocouple on the barrel, just in front of the chamber. As the barrel heats up from use, the thermocouple draws a linkage forward, activating a secondary sear. So when the gun got hot enough, it would automatically convert from closed-bolt to open-bolt operation. After the gun cooled, the thermocouple would push the linkage back, automatically returning the weapon to closed-bolt operation.

I might have suspected such a system to potentially cause problems, but the USMC 60,000 round reliability/endurance test showed otherwise. The goals for the IAR were as follows:

  • Three Units Under Test (UUTs) were provided for each model under evaluation.

  • The UUT shall have a Mean Rounds Between Failure (MRBF) of 900 for Class I and II failure combined (Threshold), 5,000 (Objective). The MRBF for Class III failures shall be 15,000 (Threshold), 20,000 (Objective).

The definitions for failure classes are as follows:

  • Class I failure: A failure that may be immediately corrected by the operator within 10 seconds or less while following prescribed immediate action procedures.
  • Class II failure: A failure that may be corrected by the operator, and that requires more than 10 seconds but not more than 10 minutes to correct (less the TM/OM defined cool down period if a hot barrel condition exists). Only the equipment and tools issued with the weapon may be used to correct the failure.
  • Class III failure: A failure of a severe nature. The failure (1) can be corrected by an operator but requires more than 10 minutes; (2) cannot be corrected by an operator and requires assistance (no time limit); or (3) requires higher level of maintenance or correction by an authorized operator cannot be accomplished because of unavailability of necessary tools, equipment, or parts.

The HAMR-16 met the objective goal of 5,000 mean rounds between class I and II failures, and was the only entrant to do so. It did not experience any class III failures, so MRBF for class III failures could not be computed. It was also the only entrant to not experience any class III failures.

For comparison, the winning HK entry that would become the M27 IAR had an MRBF for class I and II failures of 1,622, and a MRBF for class III failures of 20,000.

The HK entry was estimated to have a significantly longer barrel life than the HAMR. It was also somewhat lighter, with the HAMR weighing in a bit over ten pounds (unloaded and sans grip pod it’s usually shown with), and the M27 weighing a bit under eight pounds (unloaded and sans accessories). I might also expect the HAMR to be a bit more expensive than the M27.

I would have rated the HAMR better at being an automatic rifle, and the M27 better at being a backdoor carbine improvement, for what that’s worth.

As for my opinion of the project, I think it’s a very cool design with some well thought out innovations. However, I’m not a big fan of the automatic rifle concept, so I’d pass. It might be interesting to see what the thermocouple/sear setup does in a more standard SCAR design as far as reducing cook offs goes.


  1. Lots of people hate it, but SOCOM did request it in the original design. For what that’s worth. 

Rule the Waves 2: To November, 1938

The field agrees on more carriers, but is split on what to do with the rest of the budget. So, here’s my plan:

  1. When the battleship Solferino completes, start a new carrier.
  2. When the carrier Fraternité completes, start 2-3 light cruiser escorts.
  3. When next the budget allows, build another battleship.

March 1938

There is no battle this month—France declines to fight Germany near Jutland, France declines to fight Austria-Hungary in the Adriatic, Austria-Hungary declines to fight France everywhere else.

An enemy submarine torpedoes and sinks our light cruiser Friant, one of the three remaining Chateaurenaults puttering around on foreign service.

Otherwise, an uneventful turn.

April 1938

The Germans decline battle twice, when it would take them within striking distance of French land-based air.

They accept a convoy attack (that is, we’re fighting a convoy defense) far enough from the French coast that the dive bombers are out of reach. On the French side we have two light cruisers and a destroyer screen, so I don’t expect much of a glorious victory unless the Germans are not out in force.

I commit to the fight, gambling on the chance to sink an old German battlecruiser, but German torpedo gunnery seems to be more accurate than my own. We lose a light cruiser (Forbin, one of our newest ships) and four destroyers for my trouble.

May 1938

I decline a bunch of unfavorable battles. Our old battleship Lyon hits a mine and sinks; maybe it’s time to build a little minesweeper or two. There are also reports of food shortages in France thanks to merchant shipping losses. I crank up the number of destroyers under construction, and consider maybe combining a corvette-minesweeper into a slow destroyer.

In more positive news, I have a new AA picket light cruiser design:

001-friant

June 1938

A surprise battle occurs in the eastern Mediterranean: a German squadron of unknown composition encounters a combined French-American cruiser squadron.

Steaming south of Heraklion, the French squadron heads east. It includes three heavy cruisers: our modern Latoche-Treville, and the obsolete American Frederick and Pueblo. Together, we have 17 9″ guns and 8 10″ guns, along with ten destroyers and air support from French bases in Kalamata and Benghazi.

Additionally, we have our old seaplane tender, Commandant Teste, in attedance. She launches some search planes.

Altough the weather is cloudy, one of Teste‘s floatplanes nevertheless spots a German cruiser, steaming east at the far end of Crete. My mismatched squadron, with a top speed of 27 knots, nevertheless sets off in that direction.

002-cruisers

The two American ships date to 1923 (Frederick) and 1916 (Pueblo). Pueblo, at 15,000 tons, has armor nearly as thick as Latouche-Treville, and the only 10″ guns in the squadron. She’s the slowest of the three ships at 27 knots.

Frederick has the same 31-knot speed as Latouche-Treville, but is very lightly armored, and ships one fewer 9″ gun. Being American ships, however, they’ve been upgraded to the gills. Both sport advanced gun directors and search radar.

By late morning, Kalamata has launched an air strike. Dive bombers approach the enemy cruiser, still 60 miles from our force, at about 11:00 a.m. They hit it two or three times. A group of medium bombers, following up, score no hits. (Oh, how I long for the days when we can put torpedoes on medium bombers…)

At 12:14 p.m., our light cruiser Linois spots the enemy ship. We turn to engage.

003-spotted

The target, a Roon-class heavy cruiser, has taken some damage from bomb hits already, and is slower than our ships are now. Latouche-Treville scores the first main battery hits at 12:40, with three in one salvo from her six forward guns.

She has very much found the range, with at least one hit per minute for the next twelve minutes.

By 1:06, the enemy cruiser is on fire and slowing to five knots. I believe it ships torpedo tubes, so I’m going to keep my distance, and perhaps send the destroyers in on a flotilla attack to deliver the death blow.

Before they can arrive, the German ship comes to a complete halt, and her bow settles beneath the waves.

Latouche-Treville hit with nearly 10% of her main battery fire. The German ship took 55 hits and delivered 2.

July 1938

Strikes and anti-war demonstrations roil Austria-Hungary, and our spies indicate that France isn’t the only country experiencing food shortages. Perhaps we can knock one foe out of the war soon.

Another Mediterranean cruiser battle against Germany lies before us, this one off Rhodes rather than Crete. It’s cloudy and before dawn, and we’re too far from our airbases to expect much help. (Maybe we need a small airbase at Rhodes with a group of dive bombers?)

Still, we have three heavy cruisers in the area to zero enemy heavy cruisers, so maybe we’ll get lucky and happen across the German ships.

Before even that can happen, at 4:07 a.m., we pick up a radar contact at a distance of about ten and a half miles.

004-dawn

We survive the predawn encounter to discover a German light cruiser/destroyer squadron as dawn breaks. If we can avoid getting ships torpedoed, this is a good matchup.

We do avoid getting ships torpedoed, at least to the point where the torpedoing means they’re combat-ineffective, and in a chase up the Rhodian cost, sink two Austrian and one German light cruiser, along with a few destroyers.

August 1938

We have some extra money, and I said originally I was going to build a battleship with it, but things have changed. I think instead I am going to make a class of 32-knot corvette-destroyers, only 1500 tons and much cheaper than our top-line ships. I can get a good ten of them building immediately, which may help with anti-submarine work should this war continue for that long.

The month’s battle is a destroyer action in the Adriatic. Surprisingly, we emerge the victors—the Austrians had a seaplane tender deployed, and we happened upon it while running from the main force of Austrian destroyers.

September 1938

France’s unrest score is now 5, which is a worrying upward trend. Solferino, our newest battleship, is in the dockyards for five months after eating a torpedo.

The UI now has ‘Fuel Shortage’ across the status pane in big bold letters. Consulting the manual, I see that can happen when a nation doesn’t have native access to oil, and is blockaded for a long time. What it means is that large ships may not be able to participate in battles, and strategic moves may be canceled. (Well, that part isn’t too bad.)

October 1938

After another month of declining unfavorable battles, High Command recommends that we not do that anymore or suffer losses in prestige. I’d much rather lose prestige than lose ships, at this point, especially given that we’re well ahead in victory points.

November 1938

The battle is an unexpected fleet battle. Weather limits air operations, which is good, because we’re in the Heligoland Bight and that’s a bit close to Germany’s heartland.

It’s a fleet battle, which is bad, because there are a lot more German ships than French ones. The goal here is going to be straight preservation of forces. If we can launch an airstrike or two, that’s great, but otherwise, fleeing to the northwest is the order of the day.

A Battle at Jutland

Radar contacts at 7:19 a.m. open things up. Hopefully it’s just scouts.

005-jutland

Regardless, the fleet turns north and opens the throttles.

Five hours later, and I’ve forgotten to take screenshots, but in my defense, not much has happened. The light cruisers Surcouf and Coetlogon, serving as scouts, were trapped between the German main force and scouting force. By turning east while the main body fled northwest, they distracted the German fleet while our own ran for the open waters north of Britain.

Surcouf and Coetlogon are lost, but at least two of their escorting destroyers look likely to escape, and all three might. Before Surcouf and Coetlogon sank, they and their destroyers launched two effective salvoes of torpedoes. Perhaps we’ll see some German losses in the after-battle tally.

In the end, it actually goes into the books as a French victory—a submarine sank a German light cruiser as it was returning to port, and the torpedo barrage orchestrated by Surcouf and Coetlogon heavily damaged several German dreadnoughts.

November 1938 continued

And, in the aftermath of that loss…

006-germany

(The game even has a Communist German flag, and it isn’t even the real Communist German flag!) 007-flag

In the peace agreement, we take Pommern, a 30-knot, 16″-gun battleship, as well as all of Germany’s possessions in Africa, and we still have a bit of headroom left for reparations.

Annoyingly, the collapse of Germany means the collapse of Austria as well, and we don’t get a chance to take territory from Austria-Hungary. Morocco remains in the hands of our enemies.

Now that the war is done, however, it’s time for us to take off our dashing admiral’s peaked hats and put on our boring bean-counter’s green visors.

Slashing the Budget

We have a monthly deficit of (drumroll) 9,312 funds, and a current balance of 26,500 funds.

There are a few things we can either mothball or scrap right off the bat:

  • 1300 funds: 13 Carabinier-class corvettes. We have 10 new Arc-class minesweeping destroyers in the dockyards, 11 months away, and they’re more capable than the Carabiniers in every way. At 32 knots, they could actually serve in a fleet battle in a pinch.
  • 105 funds: 5 Diamant-class corvettes. They’re basically useless, and if we want another class of corvettes, it’s not hard to build them down the road.

Those are the obvious candidates, and get us up to 1,405 of savings. Unless there are any objections, I’m going to do those two things.

For the rest, read on.

State of the Fleet

We have six battleships left after the war: Rouen (395 funds per month, an ex-battlecruiser with 9 12″ guns), Suffren and Courbet (two of our late-20s 8×14″-gun battleships, well armored; Suffren is the slowest one left at 26 knots; 500 funds each), Marengo (611 funds, a 27-knot, 16″-gun battleship), Solferino (~650 funds, a 30-knot, 14″-gun battleship), and Terrible (656 funds). Terrible is the ex-Pommern, a 30-knot, 8×16″-gun battleship. Her armor isn’t quite up to the standard of our mainline ships, but she mounts a heavier secondary battery and carries two floatplanes. Solferino is still being repaired from a torpedo hit. Once she’s back in fighting trim, we’ll save another 600 funds per month.

We still have the heavy cruiser Latoche-Treville; she proved her worth in combat in the Mediterranean toward the end of the war. She is, however, all alone, and all of our possible enemies have cruiser squadrons of moderate size. She costs 365 funds per month, and might be one to mothball or reserve.

Our light cruiser force comprises 13 ships, but 10 of them are on overseas service or most likely earmarked for it. We need more light cruisers.

We have five aircraft carriers of various types: the stout and dependable Bearn, the new 90-plane Liberté, and the light carriers Bruix (a converted cruiser), Arromanches, and Dixmude.

The latter three have speeds below 30 knots and only carry 24 planes each. Together, they account for 597 funds per month in maintenance (plus a bit more for their air wings, I suspect). Compared to a Liberté-type carrier, they cost 130% as much to maintain while carrying 80% as many aircraft, and it’s harder for them to coordinate air operations to boot. Potential candidates for mothballing.

For destroyers, we no longer have any really, truly obsolete ships. Our eldest ships, four each of the early-20s 1500-ton Flamberge and Glaive classes, are still in the 34-35-knot range, and each carry plenty of torpedoes. We also have eight 1500-ton Epees from 1933, four 2000-ton Arquebuses from 1935, and four wartime 2000-ton Espignoles from 1938. The Espignoles carry torpedo reloads. The 1500-ton ships each cost 32 funds per month to maintain, while the 2000-tonners cost about 44 funds per month each.

We have thirteen submarines as well, about a third of which date to 1915, a third to 1926, and a third to 1932.

In the Yards

Under construction, we have two ‘light’ cruisers, Friant and Jean Bart, each of 9,400 tons. They’re primarily anti-air pickets, fitting 12 5″ dual-purpose guns in their main battery, 20 3″ dual-purpose guns as a secondary battery, and eight anti-air machine guns of various calibers. They cost 1,675 funds per month each, and are 19 months from completion. We need light cruisers.

Next up are Fraternité and Egalité. They’re weighing us down to the tune of 3,560 funds per month a piece. One will be ready in 13 months, the other in 22. Big carriers are nice to have, and if we’re ditching the light carriers, we should probably keep both. We can pause Fraternité while other ships build, if it makes sense to do so.

We also have two Espignole-class destroyers 11 months away, at 532 funds each. They’re our most modern, most powerful destroyer design, with dual-purpose main guns, torpedo reloads, extra depth charges, K-guns… all the bells and whistles.

Also under construction are ten 1,200 Arc-class destroyers, built for second-line/auxiliary service. They’ll be our first minesweeping ships, which might be handy in future wars. We’ve lost a number of ships to mines. Each costs 360 funds per month; they’ll all be done in 11 months.

Back to Budget-Slashing

So, to recap, here’s where we are:

  1. 1,405 funds: scrapping old, useless destroyers.
  2. 700 funds: ships currently under repair (another 4 months or so).

That puts us at a deficit of 7,260 funds. Ships in reserve cost 50% of their ordinary maintenance, which means that reserving the entire fleet still would leave us about 3,000 funds short of break-even.

Ships in mothballs cost 20% of their usual maintenance, but obviously we wouldn’t want to mothball all that many ships. Mothballing Rouen, Latoche-Treville, and the three light carriers would only save us about 1,000 funds per month.

Pausing one carrier and one light cruiser saves us 5,250 funds per month, and in combination with some relatively broad reserve-fleeting or some targeted mothballing would get us there. It also delays entry into service of critically-needed fleet units.

Finally, pausing both carriers would get us over the hump without any other measures. That would delay their entry into service by about a year.

Re-Deploying the Fleet

We also have a deficit of ships overseas. We need another 2,250 tons in West Africa, another 4,250 tons in the Indian Ocean, and another 2,500 tons in the South Pacific. We can deploy our aging Troude-class cruisers and one or two old destroyers for the moment. Should we build another class of foreign service cruisers, or just continue our habit of shuttling obsolete ships overseas?

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jul. 8, 2020)

Still busy here, hence the double delay in getting this done. Maybe when the project I’m working on at the office slows down? But then, I have several other ones lined up afterward, so maybe not. (I guess I’d rather be busy than the alternative.)

Hong Kong

  • China forced an oppressive state security law through Hong Kong’s government, laying the groundwork to fully tear down the two-systems… system.
  • UK offers British citizenship to three million Hong Kongers eligible for British National Overseas passports – We’ll take the ones who like guns, if Britain doesn’t want them.
  • I saw it said on Twitter that one distinction we in the West should be careful about is this: the sentiment in Hong Kong is more in favor of autonomy (as part of China) than it is about independence (from China). … for now, at any rate. The seed that became the United States was an argument over representation. Look where we are now.

Defense

Technology

Guns