German Navy's Aircraft Carrier

German Kriegsmarine 1935-1945.

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German Navy's Aircraft Carrier

Postby 2311Marine » Fri Jun 13, 2003 5:15 am

In some past writings I have run into mention of a design for a German Aircraft Carrier. In some computer games they mention an aircraft carrier. Did Germany have a design for an aircraft carrier? Was it the Air Force that stopped its creation?

Thanks in advance.
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Postby derGespenst » Fri Jun 13, 2003 8:16 am

Germany had one aircraft carrier, "Graf Zeppelin" which was launched in December of 1938 but was never completed. She displaced over 32,000 tons, mounted 16 5.9" guns, 12 4.1" AA, 22 37mm and 28 20mm AA and was intended to vcarry 40 aircraft. She could (have) made over 33 knots. In addition, the uncompleted heavy cruiser "Seydlitz" (Prinz Eugen class) was converted to an aircraft carrier in 1942, but was scuttled, still incomplete, in April of 1945. The Russians gave up trying to complete her (as Poltava) in 1950.

Why these ships never came into being has multiple causes. Conflict with the Luftwaffe over who would control the aircraft was certainly part of it. Equally important was Germany's shortage of raw materials and the heightened demand for U-Booten and other vessels once war began and also the lack of any real long-term planning on the part of the regime. The navy intended to be ready for war on the promise that it would not break out before 1945. Oh well.
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Postby 2311Marine » Fri Jun 13, 2003 11:08 pm

On more of a hypothetical note, I suppose as much as the Bismark grabbed the British attention, a couple of German Aircraft Carriers would have really fired up the British Navy. I would doubt that even if the Germans completed them, that they would have lasted long
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Postby derGespenst » Sat Jun 14, 2003 4:44 am

I agree. The Brits would have made it a priority to get rid of any carrier the Germans might complete. But more interesting to me is: how did the Kriegsmarine intend to use them if completed? I have never seen anything written about that. I can imagine their usefulness in an invasion of Norway (or Britain, for that matter) - but how else might they be used? Germany's priority was commerce-raiding. A carrier isn't much good for that. If you take the ships needed to protect it and sent them out seperately, you'd do much better. And I don't really think a fleet action was in anyone's plans.

So how about it Feldgrauers? Anyone have any info/thoughts on this?
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Postby Tom Houlihan » Sat Jun 14, 2003 5:53 am

Well, I see any carrier being used to go after the convoys with the Wolf Packs. That seemed to have been the priority as far as the Kriegsmarine goes.
Use aircraft to find the convoys, and vector in the U-Boats, then launch combined air/sub attacks. I think it owuld have made it a log more devastating to the convoys!!
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Postby derGespenst » Sat Jun 14, 2003 6:28 am

Tom,

You're right that the convoys were the priority, but you may be missing my point. If the carrier is out there looking for convoys, how does it survive being found by the Allies (who will most assuredly be looking)? It could only do so with a powerful screen of destroyers, cruisers and, if available, one of the battleships/battle cruisers.

Well, if you commit that many surface assets to one carrier, once the Allies find it, they've effectively found your whole navy! Wouldn't it have been more effective to send out those destroyers, cruisers, etc. as lone wolves to stretch the Allies thin in searching for them?

So again, I can't see how carriers fit in to a commerce raiding strategy, given the limited resources Germany had at sea. I'm not even sure it would have made that much difference if Plan Z had been completed (a very far-fetched idea to begin with).
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Carrier

Postby behblc » Mon Jun 16, 2003 9:26 am

Would tend to agree carier warfare was beyond Kriegsmarine resources had they had an operational G.Z.
Any operational ship would I think joined Tirpitz , Scharnhorst et al in Norway as a "Fleet in being" , in "a zone of destiny" being a potential threat in port rather than having any actual chance of being an actualt threat to Allied merchant or Navl ships at sea.
By mid-1941 the chances of an active force being supported at sea was fading fast and the decision to take the Brest Squadron to Norway ended in Feb. 1942 any raiding to the Atlantic by Kriegsmarine surface vessels.
Donitz had to beg for air support for his U-Boats and Goring straight away wined and dined him to try and get them back.......no chance of an independent and balanced air arm for the Kriegsmarine if Goring could do anything about it.
Any carrier operating in support of a wolf pack ....a pipe dream beyond what could have been provided.
The JU-87 and Me-109 ?
The 109 could be a handful to land in its own right ....but on a moving carrier deck with its undercarriage ....not something to look forward to....besides which range would have been very poor.
JU-87 without air cover operating against Martlets for example....not a chance of success. The aircraft Germany had would not have been a match for any Allied carrier based aircraft ...Swordfish /Fulmar apart .
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Postby 2311Marine » Mon Jun 16, 2003 11:07 am

So it sounds like the Navy or the Luftwaffe would had to have designed a whole new fleet of aircraft to support carrier ops. Considering the chaotic why things were done on the production side of the house. I think the Carrier would have sat empty for some time. Yes?
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Postby Rommel8 » Mon Jun 16, 2003 2:14 pm

Well the German response to the Swordfish could have feen the Hs.123
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Postby Sam H. » Wed Jun 18, 2003 12:34 pm

The Graf Zepplin, if used with the Bismark, would have changed the results of the voyage. Its Me-109's would have sliced and diced the puny Swordfish, and its Stukas would have wrecked havoc with the British squadrons.

The plan was to use the carriers in support of the surface ships during commerce raiding. Something to provide air cover and search for prey. They would not have been used independently to work with the U-Boats, long range Condors would have worked better for this role.
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carrier

Postby Tiornu » Wed Jun 18, 2003 3:20 pm

It's impossible to say if Graf Zeppelin would have made any appreciable contribution to the Bismarck sortie. Even Britain's operationally magnificent aircraft had a terrible time in those rough seas; I don't think it would be pleasant watching the 109's trying to take off, let alone land. Even if they could operate, the Germans had no experience whatsoever with carrier-based fighter vectoring; this was an art that was never flawless in the Pacific despite years of experience and the prodigal use of radar. It also bears remembering that Bismarck had already diverted on her own to France by the time of the decisive torpedo hit, so GZ's presence on the sortie does not imply her presence at the moment of crisis.
It was only in the second half of 1941 that the Luftwaffe showed it had mastered any form of anti-shipping technique. Divert the men from their anti-ship training in order to teach them carrier ops, and you're left with a feeble attack arm.
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Postby Sam H. » Thu Jun 19, 2003 5:01 am

Why in the world would GZ accompany Bismark only to seperate from her as she headed for port? Now that would be a stupid ploy.

If the Swordfish could take off and land, why not the Me-109's. You are assuming that an operational carrier would have no experience. On the contrary, no major German surface vessel sortied into the Atlantic without adequate training. If GZ was ther, her crew would have been trained.
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various

Postby Tiornu » Fri Jun 20, 2003 4:52 am

"Why in the world would GZ accompany Bismark only to seperate from her as she headed for port?" For the same reason Prinze Eugen separated from Bismarck--to continue the mission. No ploys necessary, stupid or otherwise.
"If the Swordfish could take off and land, why not the Me-109's." A quick review of these two designs will provide the obvious answer. A Swordfish could get going with about the same amount of effort as Fred Flinstone's car.
"You are assuming that an operational carrier would have no experience." I am?
"If GZ was ther, her crew would have been trained." Which argues that she would not have been there.
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Re: various

Postby Sam H. » Fri Jun 20, 2003 4:59 am

Tiornu wrote:"Why in the world would GZ accompany Bismark only to seperate from her as she headed for port?" For the same reason Prinze Eugen separated from Bismarck--to continue the mission. No ploys necessary, stupid or otherwise.
"If the Swordfish could take off and land, why not the Me-109's." A quick review of these two designs will provide the obvious answer. A Swordfish could get going with about the same amount of effort as Fred Flinstone's car.
"You are assuming that an operational carrier would have no experience." I am?
"If GZ was ther, her crew would have been trained." Which argues that she would not have been there.


PE seperated from Bismark so that it could continue the cruise because the Bismark could not shack the British tail. If the squadron had GZ, they could have bombed the British and forced them to back-off, hence, no need to seperate.

I still say that if the Swordfish could take off, I don't see why and Me-109 could not, or even the Stukas for that matter.

And yes, your statement that the GZ was untrained or inexperienced is an assumption that it is without merit. When did Germany ever send out a ship that was untrained. See below ...


Even if they could operate, the Germans had no experience whatsoever with carrier-based fighter vectoring; this was an art that was never flawless in the Pacific despite years of experience and the prodigal use of radar.
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Some more data about GZ and Carrier-Airgroup 186

Postby Arne » Fri Jun 20, 2003 8:22 am

about carrier tactics: belive it or not, your discussion above is quite similar to the same discussion within the SKL (Seekriegsleitung) about the use of CVs.

Let me give you some points from the biography of GZ.:
(I will be to much to list all construction stops and holdups...)

16.11.35 OKM gives building order for carriers "A" (GZ) & "B" (unnamed).
28.12.36 Keel of "A" was layed on the slipway on which "Gneisenau" was just completet.
08.12.38 GZ is launched
01.11.39 A Sowjet Naval-Commision is inspecting GZ.
29.02.40 SKL orders the dismanteling of "B". (I couldn't find the source but I remember that the construction was something like 12%)
11.07.40 Towed to Gothenhafen (out of sight, out of mind)
25.07.41 Hitler orders compeltion of GZ
13.05.42 Decission to convert Liners "Potsdam", "Europa" and "Gneisenau" (not the BB) into Escort Carriers (Additional to "Sydlitz").
16.06.42 Japanese ask for transfer of the GZ, because of the better use they could bring it to... (!!!)
03.12.42 GZ is towed to Kiel for completion.
08.12.42 Decission to convert French Cruisser "De Grasse" to CV.
02.02.43 Construction stoped (this time realy)
21.04.43 Towed to Stettin
25.04.45 GZ scuttled shortly before the Red Army arrives
March 47 GZ lifted
18.06.47 GZ finaly sunk (or was maybe scuttled again) somewhere in the baltic.

On Carrier Airgroup 186 (Graf Zeppelin) ("B" would have got 286):

Planned composition on 01.11.1939:
Staff 186
Trager-Stuka-Staffel 1./186 (Ju87T)
Trager-Stuka-Staffel 2./186 (Ju87t)
Trager-Stuka-Staffel 3./186 (Ju87T)
Trager-Jagdstaffel 5./186 (Me109T)

Instead the Luftwaffe formed (without any explanation):
Staff 186
Trager-Stuka-Staffel 1./186
Trager-Stuka-Staffel 2./186
Trager-Stuka-Staffel 3./186
Trager-Stuka-Staffel 4./186
Trager-Jagdstaffel 5./186 (Me109T)
Trager-Jagdstaffel 6./186 (Me109T)

1940 finaly a multipurpose torpedo carrying aircraft was available.
16 Fiessler 167 where build and delivered, but never incorporated into CAG 186... Finaly this planes endet up in the croatian airforce flying costal patrols in the adriatic.

The combat ready elements of CAG 186 took part in the invasion of Poland. On 05.07.1940 most of the Me109T's where transferd to III./JG 77, some to JG5. Some Stukas on the eastern front carried the emblem of CAG 186 as long as 1942.

Later on the composition of the GZ air asset changed to conversions of landbased aircraft. (Me 109G and Ju 87D). (about 60 in varying numbers for both types)

------------------

Just some raw input, the whole story is realy complex. If you can read german try to get a copy of Ulrich Israels book "Einziger deutscher Flugzeugträger Graf Zeppelin"
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