Author Archives: Fishbreath

Wednesday What We’re Reading (May 29, 2020)

Apologies for the delay on this week’s what we’re reading, and on the Rule the Waves Let’s Play. I had a death in the family recently, and although it wasn’t a very surprising one, it’s nevertheless occupied a lot of my time.

I should be back to regularly-scheduled posting going forward.

Coronavirus

Defense

Science and Technology

Guns

Race and Culture

Grab Bag

Wednesday What We’re Reading (May 20, 2020)

The ‘Rona

Defense

Science and Technology

History

Guns

Grab Bag

Wednesday What We’re Reading (May 13, 2020)

Coronavirus

Venezuelan Coup Attempt

Defense

Guns

  • USPSA matches look like they’ll be starting back up in June, so you can expect some content relating to practical shooting as we get deeper into summer.
  • Ahmaud Arbery: good shoot or bad shoot? – I think the opinion among your correspondents is ‘bad shoot’, at least with the information we have at hand. The way I see it: leaving aside all the surrounding circumstances, I don’t think a three-on-one fistfight the easy way rises to the standard required for lethal force.
  • The 3D printed armaments crowd answers the ‘BuT tAnKs’ people… – … with initial work on a 3D-printed disposable anti-tank launcher. I love this country.
  • Innovative Arms has a waiting list for Welrod pistol clones – Instead of the quick-wearing rubber baffles from the original, it has a more modern, long-lasting setup in the innards. Innovative Arms estimates a price in the $1200-$1400 range. A bit much for something as simple as the Welrod, but then, pretty cheap for a custom-CNC low-volume replica of an oldtimey curiosity.

Science and Technology

Grab Bag

  • USS Nevada found – By ‘Florida-based archaeology firm SEARCH Inc.’, among others, which sounds like it could be the subject of a series of modern archaeological adventure novels. Someone needs to take up the Clive Cussler mantle, and I’m fresh out of time, so consider this idea a freebie.

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1933

At the end of the last update, I asked four questions. Here they are again, with (the answers):

  1. Big guns or high speed for the next battleship? (Majority favors big guns.)
  2. Rebuild or scrap Marengo? (Approximately a tie, so I’ll break it: scrap her.)
  3. Destroyer-cruiser mix, or destroyers? (Destroyers win by a country mile.)
  4. Montcalms to light carriers? (Approximately a tie, so I’ll scrap one and carrier-ize the other.)

January 1931

Time to get some ship designs… designed.

001-marengo

In honor of the dear, departed Marengo, I name this new class of ships Marengo. 16″ guns, AA directors, level 4 torpedo protection, and a seaplane hangar and catapult. Still only 27 knots against our ~30-knot carrier fleet, but she’s not so much slower that she’ll be entirely left behind.

Montcalm goes to the scrappers, while her counterpart Bruix becomes a 29-knot, 24-plane light carrier.

002-epee

Our new destroyers will be called the Epee class. Because we haven’t figured out dual-purpose main guns or dual turret mounts on destroyers yet, they’re still notably inferior to their Austrian counterparts, but nevertheless a good followon to our existing Glaives. They are a bit spendy, though—two at once, for the moment.

April 1931

Catastrophe! Tensions are low, and Parliament votes to reduce naval spending. I think we’ll still be able to fit Marengo in, but it might scupper our plans for a fleet exercise this summer.

May 1931

003-bigger-dd

Ah, what timing, after we just designed a new class.

Honestly, though, I’m not inclined to redesign it until we have dual-purpose guns and twin mounts for destroyers.

French scientists also work out +1 quality 14″ guns. Regunning Ocean, Suffren, and Courbet will make them much better ships at very little cost—4 months at 718 funds per month, plus a litle extra for Ocean and Suffren to retrofit better fire control.

July 1931

Blueprints for an Austrian cruiser suggest that our sole remaining cruiser is still superior.

004-austrian-ca

In fleet tactics, we’ve figured out reliable voice radio, which will further reduce the likelihood of signaling errors during battle. We also develop improved arrestor wires, and buy a slightly longer-legged torpedo bomber from Dewoitine.

September 1931

The Navy League mobilizes against a new government attempting to cut naval spending, at the cost of very mildly increased tensions with Germany.

January 1932

Bruix finishes her rebuild and ten new submarines are launched this month, freeing up the budget for rebuilds of Ocean and Suffren to use the most advanced 14″ guns and fire control available. (Suffren packs on some more AA, too.) In addition, there’s money for another pair of Epee-class destroyers.

August 1932

With money in the bank and no wars on the horizon, it’s time for a quick exercise.

Fleet Exercise 1932

The goal: see how well our heavily-armored and AA-gunned battleships can do against determined air attack. Ocean, Suffren, and Marseilles (the latter as a control) face off against Bearn, Bruix, and Arromanches, each side with small supporting forces.

It’s a nice day, and over the course of the first hour, recon planes take off and head for the horizon.

005-biplane
Answering a reader question, they are in fact biplanes.

Something I didn’t realize when I bought the Gloster Goblin license was that it’s relatively short-legged compared to our torpedo bombers. (The yellow circle against the purple one.)

006-range

Also of note in the preceding image: the enemy force has been spotted. The course and composition in the scouting report look good, so I’m going to gamble a bit on the whole report being high-quality and throw a Sunday punch at it.

007-strike

That’s… 53 planes. Not our whole force (we can’t launch every plane without leaving some below deck and spotting them after the first wave launches), but not bad for 1932. They’ll be on target at around 2 p.m., against 12:55 right now.

Or sooner, maybe.

008-spotted

At 1:06, the screening light cruisers come across enemy light forces, then turn tail and run toward the carriers.

009-strike

By 1:23, a number of planes are already in the air. (They’re going piecemeal, since I didn’t hit the ‘coordinate strike’ button, but I think that’s okay given that they aren’t facing any CAP. Also, we haven’t developed coordinated multi-carrier strikes yet anyway.)

At 1:36, a formation of 8 torpedo bombers and 9 dive bombers approach enemy ships. Four minutes later, I get the first results in the combat log.

010-results

A few dive bomber hits on a destroyer, but withering AA fire from the dual-purpose guns on the battleships seem to blunt the torpedo strike pretty effectively.

By 1:46, the first wave seems to have wrapped up, with the AA guns the clear victors. The total score is three bomb hits, two on a destroyer and one on what the log reported as a battlecruiser—perhaps Marseilles?

At 2:15, aircraft begin returning. I ready them for a second strike.

It, and indeed the wargame as a whole, are the definition of inconclusive. The strike comes across what seems to be a dispersed enemy force, focusing more on the seaplane tender (Commandant Teste) accompanying the battleship force than any of the heavy units.

The final tally after two large strikes is one torpedo hit and two bomb hits, spread across Marseilles and Commandant Teste. (The reported hits on a destroyer must have been fog of war.) Teste took heavy damage, Marseilles took light damage.

Very few of the torpedo bombers made accurate launches, and the dive bombers didn’t obtain a great measure of glory, either. In Rule the Waves, light and medium AA are much more important for causing inaccuracy in attacking aircraft, rather than actually destroying them. That seems to be borne out by today’s results, and suggests that a retreat in carrier building over the next few years might be wise.

September 1932

The traditional upheaval in an African colony results in a budget bump and a rise in tensions. Austria might be the next war.

October 1932

Joffre enters service. Her air wing is 26 each of fighters, torpedo bombers, and dive bombers.

Her completion, along with an increase in budget from the rising tensions with Austria, permit me to lay down a second Marengo-class battleship—the first time we’ve had two battleships under construction at the same time in almost two decades.

January 1933

Austria-Hungary has seized a colony, and not just any colony, Morocco. This cannot stand! That’s our northwest-African slice of the pie!

In less affronting news, we can now build destroyers with twin turrets.

Status: Image Dump Style

I’m a bit behind already this week, so it’s going to be light on analysis and heavy on information.

Finance and Diplomacy

012-status

011-tensions

Naval Comparison

016-almanac-1
017-almanac-2

The Fleet

014-fleet-1
015-fleet-2

Shipyards

013-construction

Plans and Intentions

I think it’s obvious that we should go to war with Austria and take Morocco from them—it’s an affront that they have it in the first place.

Beyond that, it seems like the question is, should we go all-in on air power, or wait until the 1935 update (or later)? We have two brand-new battleships coming, one in early 1934 and one in mid-1935, Magenta and Marengo. As they leave the yards, should we replace them with Joffre-style fleet carriers? Or should we continue the battleship-building program into the late 1930s?

And, since that’s a fairly specific question, do you have any thoughts about our strategic direction? Anything I’m neglecting to consider? Anyone else I should be picking fights with? Feedback generally?

Big Iron: Gearing Up for Revolver Competition

That’s right. It’s happening. This year, your correspondent is dedicating himself to the noble art of the wheelgun, embodied in the Revolver Division of the United States Practical Shooting Association.

In the spirit of previous posts, such as my CZ Limited and CZ Carry Optics shopping lists, I’m going to talk first about why I decided to embark upon this new task, and then about the gear I chose to carry me through it.

Why Revolver?

Because nobody writes ballads about semi-auto gunslingers1. The history they carry with them means revolvers are inherently romantic.

On top of that, they’re fascinating bits of clockwork. Take a gander at an exploded parts diagram! All kinds of tiny parts working together in non-obvious ways to turn and align a cylinder, bring a hammer back, push a transfer bar up (maybe), and let the hammer drop, just at the right time. It’s a kind of mechanical beauty.

Next up, revolver competition is fertile ground for a young(ish) guy like me. I may not have the hundreds of thousands of rounds of experience that the leaders of the pack do, but I do have fast, non-arthritic hands and good movement speed by USPSA standards. I think I can work that to do better in revolver than I can in more traditional divisions.

Finally, my choice of USPSA divisions in the past has trended more and more toward speed, extra bullets in the pipe, and limited reloading. Revolver gives me a reason to slow down and work on accuracy, which will be handy for, say, Carry Optics, where I’ve previously wasted a lot of time on make-up shots.

The List

Reader, you know me. I am cheap. Getting into a new division, however, is frequently not cheap. I did my best to keep the costs down, and I think I did a pretty good job in the final tally. Prices are all-up

Ruger Super GP100 .357: $1,138

When I first investigated revolvers for USPSA competition back in 2018, the only revolvers fit for USPSA rules (which favor 8 round cylinders and forbid barrel porting) were the Smith and Wesson 929, which I objected to on cost and everyone’s-shooting-it grounds, and the Ruger Redhawk, whose single-spring lockwork limited how much tuning you could do. My 2019 shopping list, written after Ruger’s release of the .357 Super GP100 but before the release of the 9mm Super GP100, settled on the former.

The first question this raises, which I don’t think I answered in preceding articles, is why Ruger, when Smith has all the aftermarket attention? For one, aesthetics. I don’t mean looks alone, though looks play into it, I also mean the hipster points. I don’t like shooting the same gun as everyone else. That’s boring. For the other, practicality. I had the chance to play with both a 929 and a Super GP100 at the local we-have-everything gun store. I liked the way the Ruger sat in my hand better, I could reach the cylinder release and the hammer spur more readily, and I thought the trigger on the Ruger was better out of the box. There are more Smith smiths out there, but on the other hand, I spent twenty minutes replacing springs on the Super GP100, and I have what I’d consider a match-ready trigger.

The second question is, why .38 over 9mm? Two of the three reasons are the same as above: aesthetics and practicality. 9mm is not a suitable cartridge for a revolver, stylistically. On practicality grounds, I have a ton of 9mm pistols already, with higher capacities and faster rates of fire than a 9mm revolver. I do not have very many powerful handguns, and none at the junction of powerful and easy to reload occupied by a .357 revolver cut for moon clips. Is that a common need? No, but there are guns for way less common uses in my safe, so there is at least an argument that it’s a practical choice.

The third reason is tinkering. Like parvusimperator, I see the reasoning behind buying a competition-ready gun and doing very little to it. It’s nice to have a gun that Just Works. Of course, that leaves me with nothing to do with my spare time2. .38 leaves me room to experiment with reloading in more exciting ways than 9mm—shortening cases, wadcutters and semi-wadcutters, different crimps, and the like.

Oh, and the .357 Super GP100 is about $100 cheaper.

Anyway, this is not a full review of the gun. One of those is forthcoming at a later date, after I’ve had a few range sessions and at least one match to try it out.

SpeedBeez Kydex Holster: $73

My previous shopping list called for a Guga Ribas universal holster, but that preceded the availability of SpeedBeez’s Kydex option.

It’s thicker than any of my other plastic holsters, and there’s a way to place the gun in it so that it rests rather than clicking into place, making it appropriately speedy. It’s also cut low on the top, so that I only need a short pull up on the draw before the gun is free to come forward.

All in all, a good buy, and it saves me a bunch over the fancy custom holster, which I put toward some other items.

eBay Holster Hanger: $24 with coupon

The holster, of course, came with a belt clip, but when I was putting my gear together, the USPSA had not yet corrected the rulebook to note that revolver holsters are allowed to sit up to the length of an overlay (3 3/8 inches, I believe) from the inner belt, so the Kydex drop-offset piece it came with was too offset and also insufficiently dropped.

I found this one on eBay for $27.50. Between tax and a $5 coupon, I got it for $24.

It does the job admirably, although I’m not using it quite as specced. Because the mounting points on your average semi-auto holster are further toward the muzzle than they are on the holster called out above, I had to mount it in such a way that I can’t actually use the adjustable offset. That said, the mounting holes on the holster provide for what just so happens to be the perfect amount of offset, and there are other hole options on the holster body. I was able to get the holster set up perfectly for my taste, with the grip straight horizontal and the grip just protruding above the top of the belt, as required by USPSA rules.

SpeedBeez Moon Clip Rack: $160

The SpeedBeez moon clip rack is the most competition-focused piece of equipment I own. What possible other use is there for an 8-rack of moon clips?

It does its job well, and is more or less the standard for moon clip shooters. What more is there to say?

SpeedBeez Moon Clips: $130

While I was at SpeedBeez, I figured I’d order some moon clips. For a bit more than I was prepared to pay at TK Custom in my 2019 shopping list, I got two and a half times as many.

Of course, there are tradeoffs. These are 0.020″ clips, whereas both the stock Ruger option and TK Custom’s standard are 0.025″. A tiny difference, but enough of one to matter. I bought a half case of PPU .38 Special to start out my revolver career. Loaded into the three stock Ruger clips, they drop into the cylinder cleanly. Loaded into the SpeedBeez clips, they wobble just enough to bind, slowing down a good proportion of my reloads.

There are a number of ways this could be fixed (a slightly more aggressive chamfer on the cylinder, a slightly more aggressive crimp on the case, thicker/stiffer moon clips), but unfortunately, I’ll have to live with it until I can implement one of the other solutions.

Crimp seems like the easiest thing to manage, especially given the ease of recovering brass when it’s stuck to your discarded moon clips, and the fact that my more-aggressively-crimped dummy ammo drops right in. One of those Lee classic turret presses is pretty tempting, not gonna lie.

SpeedBeez Moon Clip Tester: $37

I had a bit of budget left over, so I got one of these to simplify moon clip checking. Nifty little gadget. Does its job.

Original Precision Moon Clip Tool: $76

There are some ridiculously spendy moon clip tools out there, but this one does both moon clip loading and unloading for the price of one of TK Custom’s fancy moon clip loaders by itself.

It doesn’t work quite as well as a really purpose-built tool would, I suppose, but it’s perfectly adequate for loading a bunch of clips while I watch a Youtube video or something on my workshop computer.

Ammo Can Moon Clip Box: $15 and some scrap wood

Readers, I confess that your correspondent is beginning to come down with cabin fever3. So, two weekends back, I ordered a surplus .50-cal ammo can from Midway, set about some scrap wood in my basement with circular saw and drill4, and put together a moon clip box.

It has sixteen pegs arranged in two squares, with a missing peg in the middle of each square so I can get my hand down and into the box. Each peg holds up to four clips, for an ammunition capacity of 512 rounds pre-loaded—enough for all but the most grueling of match days. Handy little piece of kit for the revolver competitor on the go, and when the rust developing on this box grows beyond the tolerable, I can pop the caddy into one of the newfangled plastic jobbers.

If I can’t be at a match, at least I can be making my match days better!

Total: $1,653

Not only did I get more gear than I called for in my 2019 shopping list, I came in under the $1,705 total therefrom.

Granted, $1,653 makes it my spendiest gun project to date. (The Limited/Carry Optics CZ P-09 cost about $250 more.) Plus, reloading gear to come…

Even so, though, revolver’s been one of my dream divisions for a long time, to the point that parvusimperator wrote down his guess when I was debating between the Glockblaster 2.0 and the revolver last summer, and on my final selection a month or two ago, opened the paper to reveal he was correct. I like revolvers. (Clearly.) I’m looking forward to the chance to shoot one in competition, when they finally start back up.

And when they do? Why, you can expect a full review of the Super GP100 with attached match report, and you can certainly expect some match videos. Until then.


  1. At least, nobody I listen to. 
  2. This is a joke. I have way too much to do and way too little spare time to do it in already. 
  3. A little less, now that I can get out to driving ranges and golf courses, but man, would I really like to have shot a few matches already this year. 
  4. I really need to get myself a drill press, or at least a plunge router. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (May 6, 2020)

I feel like we’re not closing in on WWRW #100 nearly as quickly as we used to be. Maybe it’s quarantine time dilation.

Coronavirus

Reader Projects

Defense

Games

  • This year’s Flare Path community Combat Mission game is a hoot – Try this (fictional movie synopsis) on for size, if I don’t turn it into a Nathaniel Cannon story over at Many Words Main first: “This year’s challenge conscripts Combat Mission: Fortress Italy and is inspired by the final fifteen minutes of classic Seventies war movie Colonel Croesus (aka The Montaretto Millionaires aka The Tiger Under the Mountain). We join the story on the night following the double-cross. The ragtag band of Allied treasure hunters, deserters, and lotus eaters led by Colonel ‘Croesus’ Cresswell (Robert Duvall) is poised for action outside the ‘abandoned’ Italian sub pen where Hauptmann Otto Steiner’s (Wolf Kahler) equally disreputable Kampfgruppe of chancers is busy loading the stolen bullion onto a waiting U-boat. Unless Croesus acts quickly, the Germans will escape with the loot!”

Science and Technology

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1931

Collating all the feedback as usual, I have four recommendations:

  1. Rebuild an old battleship or two. I’m going to rebuild Marseilles, on the basis that our battlecruisers were always heavily armored and can be brought up to the speed of our new battle line much more readily. I may do one of the Redoubtables, or I may put them on the scrap heap. Devastation will probably go soon too.
  2. Update our light forces some, as I’m able. A Glaive-alike won’t be too too spendy, and will help us move away from the obsolete Harpons.
  3. Build to treaty limits for the next battleship. It’ll be expensive, but intentionally building a second-rate battleship is risky.
  4. Build the next aircraft carrier bigger, to get a proper 1930-ish air wing of 70 to 80 planes.

And we’re off!

February 1929

We now have advanced gun directors for our ships, making them yet more accurate, and meaning we have to install them on yet more ships. I think I might pop them onto the Rouen-class battlecruisers first, since they’re now marked obsolete.

April 1929

Bearn enters service. Because we still, evidently, haven’t unlocked the secret to building our own dive bombers, I buy a license to build the British Gloster Goblin. Bearn‘s air wing is nine torpedo bombers, 18 dive bombers, and 19 fighters. Not bad. Maybe we’ll try another exercise this summer, or in summer 1930.

October 1929

Having asked for a new fighter a few months back to match our new torpedo bombers, I pick a new one which can match our torpedo bombers and dive bombers for range.

December 1929

In the last two months, I traded a bit of prestige for a bit of budget, and a bit of tension for a bit of prestige. Worthwhile, in the end, although we are also tweaking Britain slightly.

We make an important advance in fleet tactics: in large battles, aircraft carriers will operate in their own force, meaning that a) I can control them directly even if they’re out of sight of the battleship force’s flagship, and b) they’ll start well out of the way of the enemy, generally.

March 1930

A colonial crisis with Great Britain leads to increased tensions, but also massively increased budget.

I use it on Joffre, a new aircraft carrier.

001-joffre

She’s not the fastest of carriers, but with a 78-plane air wing, she is quite a capable one.

We’ll lay down the first ship in five months.

May 1930

Or perhaps a bit later than that. A new liberal government takes over, slashing naval budgets. (Happily, not slashing naval budgets too much.)

June 1930

I can just fit the rebuilds of Rouen and Nancy (to use advanced director fire control) in before Courbet and Marseille leave the yards, which I elect to do.

That way, it’ll be October, and I’ll be able to reserve some money the use of which we can discuss prior to the next update.

August 1930

Since we have a pile of money sitting around, I upgrade some of our strategically-important airbases to 60-plane capacity. That group includes the one at Dunkerque, which is well-sited for wars with potential North Sea foes Britain and Germany, and the ones framing Italy and Austria-Hungary in the Mediterranean.

December 1930

002-prime-minister

If you scratch the politicians’ backs, they’ll scratch yours.

Some of the money goes toward equipping some new squadrons on our new airbases. I’m reserving the rest until next month.

January 1931

Another uneventful update passes.

Plans and Intentions

Tensions are highest with Britain and Austria-Hungary, at 4 and 5 (of 12 before war), respectively.

Budget

Our annual budget, 358,300 funds, is on par with Germany’s and only 20,000 less than Britain’s—our wars have been successful, between reparations and worthwhile colonies, at enhancing our monetary capacity to wage further wars.

We spend 8,863 funds per month on ship maintenance, 4,639 on aircraft maintenance (the French naval air service is the largest in the world), and 5,653 on other items, leaving a budget of 10,703 funds per month for construction.

Shipbuilding

At the moment, we’re building ten submarines and our new fleet carrier Joffre.

Ship Planning

We didn’t get a new battleship laid down this update, instead electing to rebuild three ships (Marseilles and the two Rouen-class battlecruisers) and lay down Joffre.

Obviously, that would be a good thing to remedy over the next two years. So, what manner of battleship will we be building? A 30-knot ship with 14″ guns, or a 27-knot ship with 16″ guns? (At present, our battle line is good for 25 knots, or 26 knots if we leave Requin behind.) That’ll account for around 4,000 funds per month.

Of our obsolete battleships, Marengo is the only one left. We could rebuild her to 26-knot speed, given 14 months at 2,300 funds per month, or we could scrap her. Scrap her or rebuild her? Note we have eight other battleships to Germany’s nine (although Germany also has eight battlecruisers to our zero, and we’re far superior to Germany in naval aviation).

Whatever we do with Marengo, we’ll have ten months or so at the end of the update during which to build some new ships. A thoroughly modern light cruiser, with triple turrets, anti-air armament, and room for a scout plane will cost us around 1,850 funds per month, while a modern destroyer with 5″ guns, anti-air armament, and a huge pile of torpedo tubes will cost us around 450 funds per month. So, after Marengo‘s rebuild (or in place of it), we could build five new destroyers at once, or one new destroyer and one new light cruiser. How should we update our light forces: more destroyers, or a destroyer-cruiser mix?

Finally, we have two 27-knot heavy cruisers on hand which date back to 1919 and 1920. They’re too slow to play heavy cruiser in the modern era. We could scrap them, or we could convert them to light carriers. In the latter case, they’d be able to carry 24 aircraft a pop, and we could bump their speed to 29 knots, for a 12-month/2,180-funds rebuild—effectively, two light carriers for the price of one purpose-built new hull. What should we do with the Montcalms?

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

I’m working on a tightly-estimated customer project at work these days, so I haven’t been doing as much reading during the day, nor as much blog-post-assembling. Sorry for the wait!

Coronavirus

Defense

Science and Technology

History

  • A series of videos on the Bronze Age Collapse – And perhaps a warning to hyper-interconnected modern societies? I saw a guy on Twitter ask whether Singapore or North Korea has greater food security. Granted, I agree with him that the answer is Singapore in almost every case, but there are moderately-plausible scenarios where the answer flips. If the merchant republics of Italy and their dealings with the Ottoman Empire are any indication, tiny rich city-states have some serious downsides in times of strife.

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1929

January 1927

So, based on voting and my own intuition, here’s what we’ll be doing construction-wise this update.

  1. Bearn, our first full-size aircraft carrier.
  2. The next OceanSuffren-type battleship.
  3. A 30-knot battlecruiser or heavy cruiser, to provide some punch against enemy ships of the same time and ensure our aircraft carriers have protection against heavy surface forces.
  4. New airbases in Bizerte, Tunisia, and Kalamata, Greece, along with re-equipping our flying boat squadrons with medium bombers.

Of the designs I can come up with, the heavy cruiser seems to make the most sense—I can get a capable 32-knot ship for a reasonable price.

001-latouche-treville

The Latouche-Treville class mounts nine 9″ guns as its main armament, along with dual-purpose 4″ secondaries in twin turrets (a new innovation). Her armament will stop 7″ guns, so she’s an overmatch for any light cruisers she can catch, and she carries a pair of seaplanes with seaplane catapults, allowing her to serve as a fleet scout when the carrier becomes a primary tool in our toolbox.

February 1927

002-all-forward

Why is this good for us? Well, on the surface, because our battleship designs have featured an all-forward main armament already. A bit deeper, because mounting all your heavy guns forward allows you to make your armored citadel shorter, which saves weight on armor. The next battleship design’s scheduled for summer. We’ll see what it buys us then.

March 1927

003-war

More opportunities to tweak the Austrians! I’ll take it.

Our new medium bomber enters service, which means I’ll have to slowly and laboriously change a bunch of air groups around. I haven’t done a game with a lot of land-based air before. I wonder if I’m missing some feature in the UI that makes this easier.

With an awful lot of money free, I start on another of our projects, rebuilding the Lyon-class battleships to slightly more modern standards.

April 1927

The second Voltaire-class light cruiser enters service. They’re capable ships. It’s a shame there’s only room in the budget right now for the two we have.

If war breaks out, we’ll have a chance to build a few more, I suspect.

May 1927

All-forward main armament buys us a few features: more secondary guns, more rounds per main gun, and crucially, another knot of speed. In the grand tradition of naming these after our old pre-dreadnoughts, meet Courbet.

004-courbet

June 1927

The fleet sails for the Mediterranean to counter aggressive exercises by Austria.

July 1927

005-krain

Blueprints for an under-construction Austrian battleship—the most precious of spy data. It’s strictly inferior to our own modern ships.

Suffren enters service, and will be joining the fleet in the Mediterranean soon.

August 1927

The Prime Minister wants more battleships. I take the deal, on the theory that we’ll be at war with Austria soon enough that there won’t be time for the fact that I’m not going to hold up my end to come back to haunt me.

October 1927

Who called it? War is declared, after Austro-Hungarian saboteurs blow up a French destroyer in Brest.

The first battle of the war is a destroyer raid; a number of our corvette-destroyers are in action, because I haven’t had time to set them to trade protection yet. The plan is more or less to run toward port and leave the field to the Austrians, unless there are fewer of them than I expect.

There is, regrettably, little fighting to be done. This is where the Austrians are better than we are. It still comes out as a marginal victory because they elect not to get stuck in, abandoning the bombardment target which was their objective.

November 1927

This month’s battle is a convoy defense. The convoy is well to the west, but the Austrians have caught us in an interesting position. North of the sighted ship is our carrier force—Amiral Charner and Arromanches. South is a trio of screening light cruisers. West are Ocean and Suffren, our new modern battleships.

006-defense

Our medium bombers are in range of the enemy. It’s 1:36 p.m. on a blustery day; sighting range is limited, but air operations are possible, and when the carriers turn into the wind, they’ll be heading away from the enemy. They immediately begin to prepare a torpedo bomber strike.

Dusk comes in three hours.

1:43 p.m.

Another ship appears to the north of the carriers; they’re sandwiched. Both ships, however, are destroyers.

2:40 p.m.

Although our new light cruiser d’Alembert takes a torpedo hit, she has (unusually for a light cruiser) substantial torpedo protection, and weathers it like a champ. Our light forces may not be quite up to Austrian standards, but three light cruisers and six or eight destroyers are perfectly sufficient to force the Austrians back.

The carriers get some reconnaissance aircraft in the sky, following the destroyers as they run north, and turn south, to hide behind the battleships.

4:40 p.m.

The recon planes fan out from the carriers to the north, passing the Austrian destroyers (fleeing north) and turning back as dusk approaches. They don’t spot anything else.

1:56 a.m.

So, imagine my surprise when the scenario ends and I see an Austrian force not twenty miles from my own.

007-end

The Austrians were just north of my searching planes (which had gone a little ways past the dots representing the destroyer sightings) when they turned back, shortly before 4:00 p.m. If the Austrians had been twenty minutes faster, we probably would have spotted them, and therefore known they were out there.

December 1927

This one’s a wash. I decline battle with the Austrian destroyer fleet in the Adriatic, the Austrians decline to attack a convoy in the Atlantic protected by Montcalm.

January 1928

Austrian submarines sink a French destroyer and one of our older seaplane tenders. A battle between an Austrian heavy cruiser and a French light cruiser ends inconclusively. The Austrians break off the fight as night approaches.

February 1928

We get some back, sinking a submarine, thwarting several patrolling Austrian raiders, and intercepting a raiding light cruiser.

The light cruiser Surcouf, of the Lavoisier class, approaches a target steaming about midway between Mers El Kebir and Murcia, Spain.

It’s the sole Austrian Jupiter-class light cruiser, their largest and best example of the type. She has more guns than Surcouf, but Surcouf‘s guns are high-quality 6″ numbers against the Austrian 5″, and Surcouf has better armor to boot. We’ll see if we can ring Jupiter‘s bell enough times to slow her down to Surcouf‘s speed.

Over the course of the battle, Jupiter gets very lucky. Although she scores only 8 hits to Surcouf‘s 14, Jupiter‘s last hit disables Surcouf‘s electric generators, slowing her down and giving Jupiter time to escape.

Not, however, for very long. One of our submarines, lurking nearby, torpedoes Jupiter and sinks her as she flees the scene. It goes into the books as a major French victory.

March 1928

008-anticlimax

Well, that wasn’t quite the ending I expected. It was such a quick war that we didn’t even get any serious reparations out of it. Bit of a waste, truthfully, and now we have to deal with the postwar budget malaise.

April 1928

I make the tough decision to scrap Amiral Charner. She’s slower and less capable than our two purpose-built light carriers, and aircraft aren’t quite the deciding factor yet they will be in the future.

July 1928

Dewoitine comes up with an improved version of their medium bomber, which adds 15 knots of speed and 30 miles of range. It doesn’t take me long to decide that yes, I want to buy that.

October 1928

009-treaty

I wasn’t for it, but France signs another naval treaty. The limitations on this one are a bit less restrictive—35,000 tons, 16″ guns—but the concomitant budget hit means I’m going to have to delay or cancel some projects.

November 1928

An improved torpedo bomber enters service, nearly identical to our current model but with slightly longer range and slightly better speed.

In technology news, we’ve unlocked AA directors (which improve the accuracy of anti-air guns, and should be refit onto our ships as we have time) and triple turrets for light cruisers, which should make for some designs with better weight efficiency.

January 1929

We come to the end of another update, tragically much shorter than I had hoped it might be, given the joys of wartime budgets.

Fleet Report 1929

I haven’t provided a full picture of the fleet in some time, so I thought I’d do so in this update.

Battleships

  • Devastation, built in 1910 and rebuilt in 1916. 22 knots, 8 12″ guns in four double turrets, including wing turrets with cross-deck fire. Mothballed. Candidate for retirement.
  • Lyon, built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1927. 26 knots, 6 15″ guns in three non-superfiring centerline turrets. In reserve.
  • Marseilles, a Lyon-class battleship built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1916. 24 knots, 6 15″ guns. Mothballed. Candidate for rebuild to 1927 spec (12 months, ~2300 funds per month) or retirement.
  • Redoubtable and Marengo, Redoubtable-class battleships built in 1913 and rebuilt in 1917. 22 knots, 10 12″ guns in four non-superfiring centerline turrets. In mothballs.
  • Requin, built in 1915 and rebuilt in 1923. Our first fast battleship. 25 knots, 12 12″ guns in four superfiring turrets. Active.
  • Ocean, built in 1923. First in our line of modern battleships. 26 knots, 8 14″ guns. Active.
  • Suffren, built in 1927. 26 knots, 8 14″ guns. Active.

Battlecruisers

  • Rouen and _Nancy, Rouen-class battlecruisers built 1915 and 1920. 27 knots, 9 12″ guns. Candidates for rebuild (would push speed to 29 knots, add AA armament). Active.

Heavy Cruisers

  • Montcalm and Bruix, Montcalm-class cruisers built 1919 and 1920. Slow for their role. 27 knots, 12 9″ guns. Candidates for retirement? One active, one in reserve.

Light Cruisers

  • Three Chateaurenault-class cruisers, built 1903-1905. Designed for cheap foreign service. Badly obsolete, but cheap to maintain, and they fill tonnage requirements overseas where most of our preferred opponents have no presence. 24 knots. 10 4″ guns. Active.
  • Two Pascal-class cruisers, built 1910. Also obsolete, but also filling tonnage requirements. 24 knots, 8 5″ guns. Active.
  • Two Lavoisier-class cruisers, built 1916-1917. 27 knots, 8 6″ guns with a 6-gun broadside. Might benefit in terms of maintenance costs from a rebuild, but a bit too old-school in design terms. In mothballs.
  • Five Troude-class light cruisers, built 1917-1919. 28 knots, 8 6″ guns with a 6-gun broadside. Similar situation to the Lavoisiers. One in mothballs, four active.
  • Four Condillac-class light cruisers, built 1924-1926. Exclusively for foreign service. 28 knots, 6 4″ guns, 6-gun broadside. Active.
  • Two Voltaire-class light cruisers, built 1927. Some of the best in the world, with mines, torpedo tubes, an all-centerline armament, and a dual-purpose secondary battery. 31 knots, 8 6″ guns. Active.

Aircraft Carriers and Seaplane Tenders

  • Commandant Teste, seaplane carrier, built 1923. 27 knots, 10 aircraft. Active.
  • Arromanches and Dixmude, light carrier, built 1925-1927. A bit slow, but still capable enough to keep on the books for years to come. 28 knots, 24 aircraft. Active.

Destroyers and Corvettes

  • Five miscellaneous obsolete destroyers, rebuilt 1919-1921 to serve as corvettes. In mothballs.
  • 16 Harpon-class destroyers, built 1915-1919. Obsolete by the game’s reckoning, but still reasonably efficient by the standards—speed and torpedoes—by which I judge destroyers. 33 knots, 3 3″ guns, 4 torpedo tubes. Active.
  • Seven Flamberge-class destroyers, built 1921. 35 knots, 3 4″ guns, 6 torpedo tubes. Active.
  • Four Glaive-class destroyers, built 1923-1925. 34 knots, 4 4″ guns, 6 torpedo tubes, 16 mines, anti-aircraft guns. Active.
  • Fifteen Carabinier-class destroyers, built 1926-1927. Built to serve as corvettes, in place of a similar number of obsolete 500-ton destroyers from the turn of the century. 26 knots, 2 3″ guns, 4 torpedo tubes, 6 mines. In reserve.
  • Seven Diamant-class corvettes, built 1918-1919. 20 knots, 2 4″ guns. In mothballs.

Comparison

Here’s the national-comparison almanac page, so you can see how we stack up.

010

Plans and Intentions

In out-of-character news, the game’s been updated to version 1.18, which has a number of changes of various impact. It also has an improved and updated manual, and a change to the order of events in a turn so that I can adjust ship statuses before the first battle in a war. Put another way, the first battle in a war (except for surprise attacks when Japan’s involved) happens on the month following the outbreak of the war.

Budget

This is where things get tough. With some extremely aggressive mothballing and reserve-fleeting, here’s how our budget looks right now.

011

That is, we have about 6,500 funds per month. What does that buy? Some combination of the following.

  1. 4,000-4,200: an advanced battleship (see below, under Ship Design). ~36 months.
  2. 3,500: a standard battleship (like our existing series). ~36 months.
  3. 2,700: a heavy cruiser. ~24 months.
  4. 2,550: an aircraft carrier a la Bearn. Future carriers will carry more aircraft, because they’ll be free of the requirement to have cruiser-style guns. ~24 months.
  5. 2,500: a rebuild of an existing battleship to use up-to-date machinery and add anti-aircraft capability. ~12 months.
  6. 1,550: a light cruiser a la Voltaire. ~18 months.
  7. 350: a destroyer a la Glaive. ~12 months.

There are four ships in the dockyards right now: Courbet, a standard battleship, Latouche-Treville, a heavy cruiser, Diderot, a light cruser, and Bearn, an aircraft carrier. Courbet and Latouche-Treville are paused for money reasons—we don’t have enough surplus to resume construction on either one right now.

Diderot and Bearn will be complete in six months, which will free up just enough budget to finish Courbet and Latouche-Treville. Assuming that’s what we do, Latouche-Treville will enter service in mid-1930, and Courbet will arrive right around the next update in early 1931.

Ship Design

The new treaty is the limiting factor on battleships again. We could make either a 27-knot, 16″ battleship within the treaty limits (~4000 funds per month), or a 30-knot, 14″ battleship (~4200 funds per month).

Or, we could continue to build existing budget battleships, like the ones we have now, and focus on other ships. Our destroyer force is weighted toward old ships right now, and it always seems like we need more light cruisers than we have.

What Next?

I didn’t ask any direct questions above, on the theory that there’s enough information that some ideas might be coming to you already. Are they? If so, what do you think we ought to do? How should we prioritize ships over these next two years, given our budget constraints? What should we do with the ~2,000 funds per month we have on hand now?

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

The weeks seem to get longer and longer every day.

Books

  • Parvusimperator finished the French Rifle Book from Headstamp Publishing, and speaks very highly of its content and production values. He’s now reading First In, Last Out, a history of South African artillery in the latter days of the Cold War.

Time-Sensitive

La Corona

Defense

Guns

Sport

Grab Bag