Saturday, 26 January 2013

An excursion into naval bombardment

At some point it is likely that I am going to fight a battle that involves an amphibious landing, and I decided that I ought to see how effective naval gunfire would be against well-constructed coastal defences. As I had a suitable model warship to hand, as well as my Hexon II terrain and a Hexon II fortification that could easily 'stand in' for a coastal defence fortress, I ran two play-tests this afternoon ... with some interesting results.

Scenario 1
A Rusland battleship has been sent to take part in a naval gunnery training exercise. An obsolete coastal defence fortress has been prepared so that it can act as a target for the battleships guns. The latter has been told that it must fire at the target from a range of between eight to ten hexes (the sort of range at which any artillery mounted in the fortress would be able to fire) and it must assume that there are two Coastal Defence Artillery Units in the fortress. Its own armament is equivalent to two Units of Heavy Artillery (the main armament) and a Unit of Medium Artillery able to fire on each beam (the secondary armament).




Shells that landed and did no damage were marked with white markers and those that did damage were marked with black markers.

The results were very interesting!

Turn 1
3 shells on target; no damage caused.


Turn 2
2 shells on target, 1 shell under; no damage caused.


Turn 3
3 shells over; no damage caused.


Turn 4
1 shell over, 2 shells under; no damage caused.


Turn 5
1 shell on target, 2 shells under; no damage caused.


Turn 6
1 shell on target, 2 shells over; no damage caused.


Turn 7
1 shell on target, 1 shell over, 1 shell under; no damage caused.


Turn 8
1 shell over, 2 shells under; no damage caused.


Turn 9
3 shells over; no damage caused.


Turn 10
1 shell on target, 1 shell over, 1 shell under; no damage caused.


Turn 11
1 shell on target, 1 shell under, 1 dud shell; 1 casualty caused ... at last!


Turn 12
2 shells over, 1 shell under; no damage caused.


Turn 13
1 shell on target, 1 shell over, 1 shell under; one casualty caused.


Turn 14
3 shells over; no damage caused.


Turn 15
2 shells over, 1 shell under; no damage caused.


Turn 16
1 shell over, 1 shell under, 1 dud shell; no damage caused.


Turn 17
1 shell on target, 2 shells over; one casualty caused.


Turn 18
1 shell over, 1 shells under; no damage caused.


Turn 19
2 shells on target, 1 over; one casualty caused.


Comments
It took 57 shells(!) to knock out the two Coastal Artillery Units in the fortress! This was mainly due to the range at which the battleship was firing (i.e. outside the range of the Coastal Defence Artillery).

Scenario 2
In this scenario the battleship opened fire at almost point-blank range (i.e. three to four hexes). This should increase the accuracy of her gunnery but would also leave her at risk of being hit by the guns of the Coastal Artillery Units if they were firing back.


Turn 1
3 shells on target; damage caused.


Turn 2
3 shells miss; no damage caused.


Turn 3
1 shell on target, 2 shells miss; one casualty caused.


Turn 4
1 shell on target, 2 shells miss; damage caused.


Turn 5
2 shells on target, 1 shell missed; 1 casualty and damage caused.


Turn 6
3 shells on target; 2 casualties caused.


Comments
It took only 18 shells to knock out the two Coastal Artillery Units in the fortress, and this was almost entirely due to the range at which the battleship was firing (i.e. inside the range of the Coastal Defence Artillery).

These two scenarios gave me the opportunity to play-test the possible outcomes of a naval bombardment of a coastal defence fortress at both long and short range, and they would appear to show that it if time is short, it is vital to get as close in as possible, and to risk the damage that might be caused to the ship or ships conducting the bombardment.

20 comments:

  1. The question that came to my mind, Bob, is one of ammunition supply.

    Will this factor in?


    -- Jeff

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  2. Bluebear Jeff,

    It certainly might be a factor, especially if the bombarding vessel (or vessels) needed to break off to resupply, leaving the amphibious force without any fire support.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. You might expand that somewhat in size and complexity by a scenario involving trying to force the straits at the Dardanelles in 1915. The main problem would be the mine field (as it was historically) with light, fast ships clearing out the mines while under fire from powerful and protected shore batteries. Larger ships could provide cover fire, but could not come into effective range until the batteries were blown out or try to make a run for it down the gauntlet if the mines are cleared but the guns are still effective.

    It might be even more of a kick to change it around a bit by having the action take place circa 1877 in the Russo-Turkish War by having Rusland ships attempting to force the straits. The guns would be less accurate, the mines would be electrically exploded, however the ships would be fairly vulnerable and no submarine action. In this one, the UK might be supporters of the Ottoman against the Rus in this case. Soft underbelly of Europe indeed!

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  4. It might be interesting to see what sort of damage a warship could expect to take on during a short range bombardment.

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  5. On D-Day, the destroyers came up to the surf-line off Omaha beach to engage the German defenses effectively. So your results seem...not invalid.

    I'm with the Archduke,I would have liked to have seen the shore batteries firing back. Big game of paintball anyone?

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  6. CoastConFan,

    You have certainly got some good ideas! I would love to run a scenario like the one you propose, but I would need a bit more space and some more model ships.

    Few years ago (at least 20!) I ran a game at COW about submarines operating in the Dardanelles and I did quite a lot of research about the mine defences and coastal defences. I think that I might still have it somewhere!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Archduke Piccolo,

    Once I get around to building some proper coastal defence artillery - and crews - I may well stage a play-test that will enable me to see the results of a battle between a ship and some coastal defences. After all, I have a suitable set of naval rules that I could easily adapt.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  8. SAROE,

    It is amazing quite how close some of the warships got to the beaches on D-Day (and other landings) in order to be sure of destroying their targets.

    I may well stage a ship vs. coastal defences play-test at some time in the future ... once I have the requisite ship models and coastal defence artillery.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Bob, this is just what I needed to see! I have been "stuck" trying to figure out how best to model "ship vs. fort" actions for the American Civil War. Most of what I am finding in the Official Naval Records indicate very little ability for ships of that period to knock out a fort. "Running past' a fort seemed to be the real challenge. Your results seem very indicative of what should be expected, even with better armed battleships. I too look forward to the shore batteries answering the challenge!
    -Steve

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  10. That is a sweet looking ship model and the board looks great.

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  11. Steven Page,

    In the two scenarios the ship was assumed to be stationary; had it been moving its gunnery would have been less accurate. One can assume, therefore, that trying to run past a shore battery might mean that the battery would remain fairly intact for most if not all of the action.

    Under the rules as they are currently written the shore battery's gunnery will improve after the first salvo if it remains firing at the same target (it gets a bonus for firing at the same target) ... because it will not have moved even though the target might have (it gets a bonus for not moving). If the ship keeps moving it will gain a bonus for firing at the same target and a penalty for moving that cancels it out.

    I will try to play-test a ship vs. coastal defences battle in the near future, but I would like to build some proper model Coastal Defence guns to arm the fort first.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  12. Dale,

    Thanks for the compliments about the model ship and the terrain.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  13. Bob, you've sold me on the benefits of Hexon II, now if you can sell THEM on the benefits of having a US based manufacturer. It costs a tremendous amount just to ship it here.

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  14. Justin Penwith,

    I have owned Hexon II terrain ever since it was first made, and have gradually built up my collection over the years. I would use it even if I was not using hex-based rules as it is so simple to set up, take down, and store.

    The cost of buying Hexon II outside the UK is seriously affected by the cost of postage and packing, although the unit cost does come down the more you buy. If you could get together with other people who wanted to buy some and put in a singe order it would save you money. I suspect that the makers of Hexon II would like to be able to sell it in the USA in greater quantities, but I doubt if there is anyone in the USA who would want to take on the set-up costs, which would be quite high.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  15. Hi Bob,

    A interesting experiment and I note the use of multiple gun dice for the warship....I have a bit of a plan about that!

    All the best,

    DC

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  16. David Crook,

    It seemed to make sense to equate a main armament turret on a battleship to a battery of heavy artillery and the secondary armament to a battery of medium artillery.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  17. Bob, did you blog the construction of the ship used here? I have looked, but didn't see it. If you didn't, would you mind showing more on how ou constructed this ship, and any others you haven't yet explained the "how to", please?

    I am getting into 15mm colonials, myself, and your ships are what I'd like to do for my own fictional fleets, or something close to them.

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  18. Justin Penwith,

    The method I used to construct this model was exactly the same as that outlined in the relevant link from my 'How to' page. (Here)

    For more about this particular model, look here, here, here
    here, and here.

    I hope that this information will be of assisatnce to you.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  19. Bob,

    Yes, thank you, the information will be of great help!

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  20. Justin Penwith,

    I am glad that I was able to help.

    All the best,

    Bob

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