Author Archives: Fishbreath

Rule the Waves 2: To May, 1942

A very busy August and a moderately busy first half of September are now behind us, so. Let’s see, where were we…

Ah, yes, it’s August 1940, and we’re crossing swords with the Austrians again. It sounds like the plan was, more or less, ‘crush Austria’, so that’s what we’ll do.

August 1940

Bit of a bummer to have one of our three carriers under repair, I have to say. Happily, she’ll be back at the beginning of 1941, and shortly after, we’ll have some fresher light cruisers too.

The first battle of this new update is a destroyer action in the Adriatic: nine French ships against a yet-unknown number of Austrians. We’re very near our air support, but it’s also twilight-soon-to-be-night, so we may not get the advantage of being within forty miles of around 120 friendly aircraft.

Just after night falls, we pick up some radar contacts 16,000 yards toward land. I guess we’ll try some blind torpedo launching.

Several in-game hours of frenetic micromanagement later, it turns into one of the most lopsided French victories in history: in exchange for the loss of one destroyer, the unlucky recipient of a brace of Austrian torpedoes early in the battle, we sink thirteen Austrian ships.

Not all of it is do to with my adroit tactics. Part of it comes to shipbuilding. Our recent Espignole-class destroyers are superb ships, fast and heavily armed, and for once we outmatch the Austrian hardware.

September 1940

I decline two battles to start the month, but the third catches my eye: a cruiser action off Brest. I don’t have any cruisers in the North Atlantic, but I do have the 27-knot battleship Rouen and an awful lot of aircraft. We’ll see how it plays out.

It plays out by them saying ‘no thanks’, and we get another destroyer action in the Adriatic. This time, it’s 11:00 a.m., so our tremendous quantities of air power should factor in.

Six French ships on seven Austrians, and we sank their modern destroyer fleet last time out. (They only have nine in service at present, so a big win here would basically eliminate the Austrian destroyer force.) Hopefully, this is a straightforward victory.

001

Since I don’t want to get any more of my ships torpedoed, I’m playing this one a little more cautiously than has historically been my style, staying at near-maximum gun range.

002

A long history of gunnery practice has made the French fleet a fearsome force in long-range gun duels, and by 12:51 p.m., the balance of hits is already substantially in our favor.

The afternoon sees some trading of blows by air strikes, though the French bombers come out looking better. It seems like a relatively dreary destroyer battle, wherein the vastly superior French ships sink a bunch of obsolete Austrian ones, when at 4:19 p.m., I see this report…

003

Surely there’s not a carrier out to play in a destroyer action? Then again, it’s awfully hard for even the greenest of land-based dive bomber pilots to mistake a destroyer for a carrier.

The next bombers in line ID it as a light cruiser, which means that whoever was in charge of the radio report from the first attack should probably be sacked.

A bit later in the afternoon, another few waves of aircraft find the target previously identified as a carrier and a light cruiser, and proceed to identify it as a battleship and a destroyer, which more or less runs the gamut of possibility.

In the end, it turns out to have been a destroyer.

October 1940

Maddeningly, the Austrians sue for peace before we’ve crushed them sufficiently to gain Morocco, either by treaty or by invasion. I guess we’ll just have to cheese them off again and try to win more slowly next time.

The peace dividend is a little easier to deal with this time; I mothball a few battleships and most of our old destroyers, and we’re sufficiently set so that the money will be there in a few months, as shipyard jobs finish.

Speaking of which, it’s still four months until Bearn finishes her refit.

November 1940

Evidently, I had a medium bomber prototype request in progress. This time, I pick the shortest-range option, because it can carry an aerial torpedo 565 nautical miles. This is a massive force multiplier for our land-based air. No longer will they have to ineffectually attempt to hit moving ships from moving planes!

December 1940

A bit of saber-rattling toward Japan brings our budget back into the black, even though we’re spending almost 13,000 funds per month on ship construction.

March 1941

004-cosmao

A new light cruiser design appears, similar to our existing Friants but with one fewer turret and a pair of floatplane scouts.

June 1941

A fascist coup takes place in Germany, and their flag changes once more to something a bit more historically familiar.

August 1941

Given that we lost a destroyer or two in the preceding war, I update the Espignole class into the Carqouis class, and plan to start one or two building in the next month. Once our cruiser Sfax finishes in two months, I’ll start another light cruiser.

September 1941

New aircraft types enter operational service; most of our combat planes are of 1941 vintage. The only thing left to upgrade is the floatplane scout, so I do that.

November 1941

Eh, cancel the starting another light cruiser. Maintenance and new aircraft construction are eating into our funds a bit, so we only have a 933-funds surplus of the 1,663 it’ll cost.

We’re able to build 80-plane airbases now, so I start to expand some of our most strategic ones—in particular, those suited to strike at Austria-Hungary and Italy, the one at Brest, and those closest to Germany.

January 1942

It’s a little confusing to be deep in the war years, and yet not have any wars on.

We do figure out the forward-firing ASW mortar, which is a delightfully useful tool. I prepare an upgrade of our escort-style Arc-class destroyer with one mounted.

February 1942

We have now developed airborne radar sets! I guess that’ll make our future search planes even better? Or maybe just better at hunting submarines.

May 1942

I’m going to pause here, not because I’m out of stamina for the game, but because the carrier Egalité just entered service, and her final sibling Terreur will be arriving in a few months. That means we’re going to have money hors du wazoo, which means interesting decisions.

Plans and Intentions

The first issue is one of strategy. It would be nice to snipe Morocco off of Austria-Hungary, but Austria keeps on wimping out of wars. Is there someone else we should go after? If so, who?

The next is one of shipbuilding. How do we stack up against the world?

005
006

We’re extremely light on dreadnoughts compared to the world leaders, and on par with to slightly light on them compared to other countries in the Mediterranean. We’re middle of the pack on carriers, but our French Revolution-themed class, at 35,000 tons, are the largest carriers in service in the world, and carry 90 aircraft to the next best carrier’s 60. (The Americans are catching up here.) We have one carrier under construction, due to be finished in six months.

As ever, we have almost no heavy cruisers. We do, on the other hand, have a ton of light cruisers, but only seven of them are on hand in Europe or the Mediterranean, with the rest scattered around the globe to fulfill our colonial service obligations. Only four of our European ships are truly modern. We have one light cruiser under construction, due to be finished in 10 months.

We’re in decent shape on destroyers, especially compared to our fellow Mediterranean countries, although it should be noted that twelve of them, soon to be 15, are multi-purpose corvette-ish ships, and many of them are obsolescent. The other four destroyers we have under construction are modern, fleet service ships, of the kind that so adroitly slaughtered the Austrian destroyer force.

We’re behind on submarines, but between our airbases and our carriers, we have the most naval aircraft in the world, a lead we’ll only expand on as our airbases in strategic areas grow and our carrier force gets larger.

So, with those facts in mind, what do we build? We have a surplus of 3,410 funds right now (a pretty good carrier, a bad battleship, a cruiser and a half, two light cruisers, six to ten destroyers). In the next 11 months, we’ll have an additional 8,000 or so funds to allocate. We could afford a battleship or two, but that era is more or less behind us. We could spend it on more carriers, a newer destroyer force, the start of a modern cruiser force… really, the world is our oyster.

What’s it going to be?

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Sep. 16, 2020)

Buckle up. We’ve got a lot to cover this week, and (because I submitted more articles than parvusimperator) a myriad of topics.

China

Defense

I got almost all the way through the week’s articles before I had to start a defense section.

Science and Technology

History

Guns

Grab Bag

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Sep. 9, 2020)

While drafting these, I keep on forgetting I’ve already shared match videos, and have to go dig them out later. Oops.

Defense

Guns

Science and Technology

  • In China, GitHub is a bastion of free speech – Because GitHub is HTTPS-only, China can’t ban repositories individually, and China’s technology industry has enough clout to keep the Party from banning GitHub altogether.

Riots etc.

Grab Bag

  • Eternal Brexit – The article didn’t quite pay off the title—in particular, it seems to insinuate that Brexit is, rather than being eternal, likely to come to some sort of conclusion as the EU tires of the whole process.
  • The planning of US physician shortages – It’s because think tanks in the 80s concluded that there would be a glut of physicians, and people made plans based on that.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Sep. 2, 2020)

Two weeks and a short post is what you get when both of your hosts are on the road and/or occupied in such a way as to prevent a great deal of reading.

Coronavirus

Defense

Guns

Grab Bag

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Aug. 19, 2020)

We’ll call it a biweekly-what-we’re-reading this time.

Your correspondent writes to you from the New Mexico countryside, watching the scrubland give way to thin forest as the Southwest Chief wends its way toward Chicago.

Random Thoughts

  • One of the set of frequently-wrong ‘thought leaders’ on Twitter (Yglesias, maybe?) had the shocking realization that, although Chicago started as a rail hub, it’s now mainly a large city on the basis of network effects. Like, you know, every city.
  • The Planes of Fame museum in Chino, CA is worth a visit, if you’re into airplane museums. They have the only airworthly A6M with an original Nakajima engine.

WuFlu

  • How to test every American for the coronavirus every day – The short version: spit test strips at a low, low price per unit. As accurate as PCR testing? No, but much easier to mass produce. It would cost a few billion dollars, but you can find that behind the sofas on Capitol Hill, and the economic benefits would be massive.

Defense

Guns

  • Testing rifle muzzle brakes – The methodology is ingenious. Parvusimperator has some additional thoughts, which I believe he’s turning into a full post.
  • Parvusimperator and I saw, in the latest issue of the USPSA magazine, a review of a custom-fit earplug guy. Unfortunately, he isn’t coming this far north this year. Fortunately, I ran across Decibullz, a silly name for a mold-your-own-earplugs solution. I haven’t had very good luck with in-ear protection beyond you classic orange foamies, but I’m hopeful that a custom fit and the so-called percussive filters will a) serve more comfortably for a full day of shooting, and b) let me hear things while still blocking shooting noise. There will be a review to come.
  • Duncan v. Becerra opinion – The train wending its way toward Chicago originated in the greater LA area, where my wife and I spent some time quarantining with her family, who are also people of the gun, and you can bet this was a topic of excited conversation.

Grab Bag

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.

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