In the spring of 1945, a rare phenomenon was observed in the northwestern part of the Philippine Sea. Thunderstorm front 50 miles wide, roaring the air and sea aviation motors.
The approach of this thunderstorm was not reported in the weather reports. The phenomenon had a technogenic origin and was called "Task Force 58". In the original - Task Force (TF) 58 or "Teffi 58".
The connection had a variable index. As part of the 3rd fleet it was designated OS 38 and was under the command of Admiral Halsey. As part of the 5th Fleet, the designation OS 58 was used, Admiral Mitscher became the commander.
The uncertainty principle of Compound 58 was that it was undoubtedly real. But there was no material evidence of this.
No regular naval personnel, no permanent command, no area of responsibility, no stable designation. Only the crackle of interference on the radio and flashes somewhere on the horizon.
OS 58 was a local compaction of combat matter. The selected square, where the best of the combat-ready ships rushed, following the directions of the arrows on the tactical maps of the admirals.
On the night of April 6-7, the storm in the Philippine Sea intensified to the highest category. In one place 11 aircraft carrier groups converged at a time, under the cover of 8 battleships and battle cruisers of the most advanced projects - Iowa, Alaska, South Dakot, numerous Cleveland-class cruisers, heavy cruisers of new and old types and several dozen destroyers ...
Destroyers from the "Task Force". Fragment of the list.
The destroyers were contemptuously called "cans", they were considered consumables. They were placed in pickets in the most dangerous directions in such a way that single ships would certainly attract the attention of the kamikaze. The "false target" was supposed to warn with its death about the approach of the enemy. And the order to enroll in the "radar patrol" was akin to a death sentence.
Lame legs were not kept in OS 58 either. All damaged ships were on their way to the forward repair base in Ulithi Atoll. And the most difficult - in the deep rear, in Pearl Harbor and on the west coast of the United States. In exchange for the retired units, Admiral Mitscher ordered new ones - in double the number. Because of this policy, the connection grew continuously, reaching completely indecent dimensions.
The enemy was not going to surrender
By the 45th year, Japan practically did not have its own fleet. But there was an "asymmetric response" that made an impression on the enemy. The prototype of modern anti-ship missiles: a plane filled with explosives with the most reliable and trouble-free guidance system - a living person.
At first, the Japanese tactics looked convincing. By the end of March, the aircraft carriers Franklin, Wasp and Enterprise were burned. An additional Essex-class aircraft carrier was disabled during a night air raid on Ulithi Atoll. The number of destroyed destroyers went to dozens.
With such skill and courage, the kamikaze could burn to the ground any fleet in the world. But here, contrary to expectations, the enemy's forces did not diminish in the least. And the Japanese began to run out of planes.
The burned out "Franklin", "Wasp" and "Enterprise" under the escort of cruisers and destroyers left the combat zone. And their place was taken by Hornet, Bennington, Bella Wood, San Jacinto, Essex, Bunker Hill, Hancock, Langley, Intrepid, Yorktown and Bataan ...
“There are two of them - there are eight of us. Before the fight
Not ours, but we will play! "
Not ours, but we will play! "
AUG, led by the aircraft carrier Randolph, was urgently thrown to the aid of the American compound. This ship was returning to the combat zone after refurbishment caused by a meeting with the kamikaze.
In this state, on the morning of April 7, Task Force 58 was greeted with news of the discovery of a detachment of Japanese ships, which (contrary to common sense) were advancing towards Okinawa.
386 planes took off ...
More aircraft were involved in the sinking of the Yamato than in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Another example can be cited: Admiral Mitscher had more aircraft at his disposal than in Army Group Center in June 41.
How did you manage to collect 10+ aircraft carriers in one square and maintain their number at the same level, compensating for daily losses?
At least seven of the members of the compound were first-rank units, capable of carrying 90 aircraft each.
Seven heavy aircraft carriers can hardly be history the Japanese fleet. At the same time, the Japanese had a maximum of four such ships in combat.
The fleets of most countries could not even count on a pair of AB. Modeling enthusiasts are still discussing the appearance and possible use of the unfinished Italian aircraft carrier Aquila or the German Graf Zepellin. But when it comes to the sinking of the Yamato, the planes taking off from eleven aircraft carriers are perceived as the most common occurrence.
The composition of OS 58 was inadequate. It looked like a caricature against the background of the remnants of the imperial fleet, which miraculously survived until 1945. And each element of the Connection raised a perplexed question - why?
A dozen cruisers are on the right abeam. A couple dozen more - a rear reserve, in case of replenishment of losses, ensuring the rotation of the ship composition and rest of the crews. It is worth noting that the American enemy went through the war, having in stock only 10 cruisers with a displacement of 10+ thousand tons.
Someone may reproach the author for praising OS 58. But this is not true.
All comparisons were made for a single purpose. Show how unusual the situation was on the morning of April 7, 1945.
Out of respect for the Japanese sailors who chose to die with their ship, we will not use the word beating. It was a real brutal fight. The last fight "Yamato", which had an obvious result.
There is not much to analyze there. Everyone knows how to win with a 10-fold superiority even without the Americans.
Ingenious naval commander
Any mistake that, from the point of view of the navies of other countries, could lead to the disruption of the operation, for Admiral Mitscher meant nothing.
The command understood that some of the air groups would be lost and would not be able to reach the target. In reality, this is what happened - almost 50 planes passed the Yamato. The Americans provided for such an option and solved the problem in the simplest and most affordable way. Allocating nearly four hundred aircraft to strike. Thus, it was achieved complete confidencethat the required number of squadrons can gather over the target.
Everything turned out so smoothly because the Yamato was not drowned on the last pennies.
OS 58 forces have been duplicated multiple times. This allowed the command to decide all tasks at once, without prioritization. There was enough strength for everything. There was no risk of falling into a situation between Scylla and Charybdis.
While one group was sinking the Yamato, an even larger air force was waiting in the wings on the decks of the ships. Hundreds of aircraft were left in case of a threat from any other direction.
And the enemy was not long in coming: that morning, the kamikaze struck another attack on the ships of OS 58. The aircraft carrier Hancock suffered the most - a suicide bomber rammed the aircraft on the deck, which caused an explosion and death of 62 crew members. Due to a fire on the flight deck, the aircraft from the Hancock, raised to fight the Yamato, were forced upon their return
Plus or minus one aircraft carrier meant nothing to OS 58. All risks were insured.
In the event of a hypothetical breakthrough by Japanese surface ships into the area where aircraft carriers were located, significant linear forces were allocated - more than at any time in history. Against submarines - endless lines of PLO. To control the perimeter - the destroyers of the radar patrol. Relay aircraft lifted into the air provided stable communication with squadrons sent 400 km away to sink the Japanese battleship.
All this allowed the command of OS 58 not to be distracted by trifles and focus on the main task - to bring the dead head of the Yamato.
Air army over the sea
Of course, many believe that "airplanes" appeared over the sea out of nowhere. But the paradox was not only in the number of squadrons and floating airfields.
Aviation issues do not quite correspond to the naval theme. Still, a couple of notes should be made about
"Small and cheap planes that sank such a huge and clumsy battleship."
The planes that sunk the Yamato were markedly different from the German Stukas that bombed Kronstadt. Just like they were different from the Japanese Keith and Zero attacking Pearl Harbor.
At that time, the target was in the East China Sea, at a distance of more than 400 km from the combat maneuvering area of OS 58. A point, moving target, with negligible dimensions against the background of the surrounding seas. In the presence of clouds with a height of the lower edge of 500 m, the planes could sweep over the sea all day without finding anything.
During the attack, means were used, the description of which sounds unusual in the context of the events of the Second World War.
The strike teams were led by command aircraft equipped with surface surveillance radars. By the end of the war, AN / APS-4 stations appeared in service with naval aviation. Suspended container with radar (in place of a standard bomb rack) and equipment for the operator's workplace. A simplified version of the AN / APS-5 was installed on single-seat fighters.
The presence of overhead radars explains the stories of how planes approaching at high altitude "dived" into the clouds and miraculously found the Yamato right in front of them.
There were not many dive bombers "Helldiver" in the grouping - only 75 pieces. Other aircraft were used to deliver missile and bomb attacks: 180 Corsair and Hellcat fighters. With a payload - like two Il-2 attack aircraft.
A special role in the sinking of the Yamato was assigned to the Avenger torpedo bombers (131 units). Also not biplanes made of plywood. In terms of normal take-off weight, Avenger was 1,7 times heavier than its closest competitor, the Japanese B5N2 Keith.
It may seem strange, but even with such "advanced" target designation, radio compasses, suspended tanks and multichannel radio stations with voice control - almost 50 aircraft circled the sea and returned with nothing.
Only aircraft of the 45th level could complete the task under the indicated conditions. And only with the participation of hundreds of aircraft.
As for the Yamato, in addition to all the incredible events of that day, the Japanese had a chance to fight the aircraft of a new era.
Air defense issues
A universal shipborne weapon of 127 mm caliber had a consumption of 1 rounds per 127 shot down aircraft. This is the official US Navy data for 1. When most of the ships were provided with Mk.1944 directors to control anti-aircraft fire. A very perfect sighting system, in which the data from the radar stations was processed by an analog computer Ford Mk.37A, which weighed over a ton.
The fire from the 20 mm Oerlikon guns was apparently completely ineffective. 9 shots on one shot down plane means that the hit was accidental, and the fire from the MZA had, rather, a psychological effect.
In both cases, the numbers are very obvious. They show how great an achievement each anti-aircraft gunner was.
The Yamato formation included, in addition to the flagship, a light cruiser of the Agano class and eight destroyers. The basis of the ships' air defense was 127-mm universal guns and numerous anti-aircraft guns of 25 mm caliber.
The Japanese 127-mm gun used unitary rounds, in contrast to the American 5`` / 38 gun, which used separate-case ammunition. Despite this, both systems showed the same rate of fire. The American gun differed from the Japanese by better ballistics and more effective guidance drives (specific numbers depend on the type of installation, one-two-gun, one or another modification).
The differences in fire control were really significant. But given the magnitude of the disaster, the lack of the Japanese supercomputer Ford Mk.1A can be neglected. The Americans had to spend 1 rounds on the downed plane, the Japanese - not less, but rather much more. Any such figures clearly indicate the unwillingness of the naval air defense of the 127s to resist massive air raids.
One could scrupulously calculate the number of 5 '' guns on Japanese ships and estimate how much effort and time was spent on the destruction of each of the 12 aircraft shot down in that battle. But we will leave this occupation to those who are unable to accept the obvious.
If we abstract from the last campaign "Yamato", then at the time of entry into service (1941) battleships of this type had a decent air defense system, at the level of other representatives of their class. 12 five-inch guns and three dozen small-caliber anti-aircraft artillery (MZA) barrels.
There is no need to talk about the superiority or critical lag of the air defense of Japanese ships. All battleships of that period (equally) had their merits and ridiculous disadvantages. For example, the German Bismarck received excellent stabilized platforms, for which no automatic anti-aircraft guns were created.
Over the next years, the Yamato air defense system underwent 4 successive upgrades, during which six onboard anti-mine caliber towers (155 mm) were replaced with six twin universal caliber installations. The number of five-inch guns increased to 24 units, which made the Yamato one of the leaders in this respect among other ships.
According to the initial design, the composition of the MZA included eight units with built-in 25 mm Type 96 assault rifles. Japanese anti-aircraft guns are mercilessly criticized for a strange set of fighting qualities, in which they took the worst from the Erlikon (weak ammunition, short firing range) and Bofors (significant weight of the installation and low rate of fire).
The 20 mm Oerlikon was, of course, a waste of space on the Allied ships: its aiming range (1000 yards) was less than the drop range of aircraft torpedoes. In this sense, the Japanese Type 96 assault rifle looked more presentable: an aiming range of 3000 meters and a twice as heavy shell.
In theory, this made it possible to destroy aircraft before they reached the range of use. weapons... The installations themselves had a good firing angle diagram and were covered with shrouds to protect the crews from splashing water.
All were spoiling weak targeting drives and ammunition supply from magazines containing only 15 rounds. The rate of fire of the Japanese Type 96s was several times lower than the Oerlikons, which clearly did not improve their effectiveness.
The number of machine guns on the Yamato was constantly increasing, reaching 152 barrels by the end of the war. This figure does not mean anything. Taking into account all the shortcomings of the Type 96 guns and the known “successes” of systems of a similar purpose (Oerlikon assault rifles), the MZA fire threatened only balloons.
It is possible to dispute this statement, but the statistical data on the consumption of 9 thousand projectiles per one shot down plane lead to precisely such conclusions.
It is better to simply keep silent about the results of the use of anti-aircraft ammunition of 460 mm caliber or anti-aircraft machine guns.
For obvious reasons, the Japanese could not agree with Chrysler on mass deliveries of 40-mm Bofors assault rifles. Japan did not create its own automatic machines for a similar purpose. Military-technical cooperation with the Germans also yielded nothing. Kriegsmarine sailors throughout the war were forced to fight off planes from semi-automatic antiaircraft gun 3.7 cm SK C / 30.
In theory, the appearance of "Bofors" with Mk.14 fire control devices could not dramatically increase air defense. The Americans recorded the consumption of 2 rounds per shot down plane. Ten minutes of continuous firing from coaxial 364-mm guns! Even if 40 installations can fire on one side, the question is - will the planes wait?
A massive strike increased the effectiveness of the attackers by disorganizing the defense. No matter how dense the barrage was, sooner or later the first bomb will fall on the deck. If the enemy continues to bring fresh squadrons into battle, then the work of air defense will become less and less effective, and attacks will become more effective. Until the ending comes.
At this point, the global conclusion about the superiority of aviation over clumsy ships should follow. But the story of Yamato tells a different story.
The emperor's random question about the fleet's involvement in the defense of Okinawa was seen as an accusation of cowardice. It was impossible to act otherwise. The sailors put out their last ships.
The squadron, which had more aircraft carriers than all the fleets of the world put together, easily replenished its combat account.
When OS 58 was not nearby, then naval battles developed according to completely different rules.