Best Battleship: Fire Control

Fire Control: Optical Yamato Iowa Bismarck Richelieu King George V Vittorio Veneto South Dakota
Main Rangefinder Base Length 15 meters 13.5 meters 10.5 meters 12 meters 4.6 meters
(6.75m in later ships)
12 meters 13.5 meters
Turret Rangefinder Base Length 15 meters 13.5 meters 10.5 meters 12 meters 9.25 meters 12 meters 13.5 meters
Quality of Optics 10 7? 10 7? 7? 7? 7?
RPC (training,elevation) No, No Yes, Yes No, Yes Yes, Yes1 No, No Yes, Yes2 Yes, Yes
Night-Fighting Optics 10 7? 8 7? 7? 7? 7?
Overall Optics Rating 10 7 9 7 6 7 7
Fire Control: Radar Yamato Iowa Bismarck Richelieu King George V Vittorio Veneto South Dakota
Gun-Control Radar Mk 2, Mod 2 Mk 13 FuMO 23 Type 284M (UK) Type 274 E.C.3 ("Gufo") Mk 13
Wavelength 10cm 3cm 82cm 50cm 10cm 75cm 3cm
Power Output 2kW 50kW 8kW 150kW 400 kW 1kW 50kW
Capability Limited FC Blindfire Limited FC3 Blindfire Blindfire Range Only FC Blindfire
Raw Radar FC Rating 5 104 5 8.5 9 5 104
Overall Fire Control Rating5 5 10 5 7.5 8 5 10

GENERAL COMMENTS: The bottom line is that, after 1943 or so, having the world's best optical fire-control systems was largely irrelevant. The night battle between Washington and Kirishima near Savo pretty much settled the point; good radar usually beats good optics in a stand-up fight. And the radar used by Washington off of Guadalcanal was not as good as the sets fitted aboard Iowa.6

Then there's the fact that all radar fire-control is not created equal. Radar operating at meter or decimeter wavelengths is useful for ranging, but lacks the angular accuracy necessary for training. In practical terms, this means that a decimetric set can develop a range solution via radar, but must rely on an optical director to supply training information for the battery. This hybrid fire-control solution is, of course, limited by the quality of the optics available, and also by the visual horizon (which is closer than the radar horizon), and weather conditions. Only with the advent of 10cm and (later) 3cm wavelength sets was true 'blindfire' radar fire-control achievable, wherein the firing ship need never come into visual range of the opposing vessel. The Germans, Japanese, and Italians never developed sets of this capability (both the Japanese (despite its 10cm wavelength) and German sets were usable for fire control against a battleship-sized target only out to a range of about 27,000 yards.) The bottom line is, then, that the Allied vessels, and particularly Iowa and South Dakota, would enjoy an enormous advantage in gunfire control over their adversaries. She would have the ability to lob shells over the visual horizon, and would also perform better in complete darkness or adverse weather conditions.

The final adjusted rating also reflects the fact that American FC systems employed by far the most advanced stable vertical elements in the world. In practical terms, this meant that American vessels could keep a solution on a target even when performing radical maneuvers. In 1945 test, an American battleship (the North Carolina) was able to maintain a constant solution even when performing back to back high-speed 450-degree turns, followed by back-to-back 100-degree turns.7 This was a much better performance than other contemporary systems, and gave U.S. battleships a major tactical advantage, in that they could both shoot and maneuver, whereas their opponents could only do one or the other.

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