Can you tell us about any case of direct clash between these two types of ships?
At the dawn of the era of aircraft carriers, namely the second decade of 20th century, battleships represented the might of a fleet. They existed as an illustration of the power that seafaring nations possessed. During these times, naval aviation was an auxiliary tool, useful for reconnaissance and correcting the aim of ship salvos. Later on, in the 1920s and 1930s, the leading maritime countries began to actively experiment with aviation at sea. Aircraft carriers started to be used both as support units and to deal with damaged enemy vessels. When the tests revealed how good they were at it, they began to be included within organisation of operational units.
Despite the increasing combat potential of aircraft carriers, battleships remained the central actors in naval battles. Fleet commanders were reluctant to depart from what was known and understood, and often relied on obsolete approaches to naval warfare tactics. Eventually, the Pearl Harbor tragedy revealed that times had changed. During this attack, Japanese forces made use of their carrier-based airplanes to defeat a group of US battleships that were situated in Pacific Ocean. It was a huge blow for the USA. Relying on battleships wouldn’t have worked for the Japanese as they would have been spotted long before they approached firing range. These events led to instant re-consideration of warfare concepts in the minds of military consultants: now it was the aircraft carrier that indicated fleet might. As a result, it became symbolic when the battleship “Yamato”, pride of the Japanese Navy, was destroyed by US aerial forces during Ten-Go operation, without significant casualties in return.
Essentially, all of this complex evolution from support ships up to the core of any fleet squadron will be reflected in our tech tree and will be sure affect overall gameplay. For instance, battleships will be the true “kings” for low tier battles. Aircraft carrier trees will start with early seaplane carriers whose attacks may be easily repelled by the anti-aircraft guns of most battleships. Further on, things are getting different and starting from Tiers VII-VIII, these ships may fight head-to-head. Getting a bit higher, at Tier IX and X, players will see their carriers starting to have an edge over battleships. Their hangars will embed several dozens of attack aircrafts that are deadly enough (if operated properly) to overwhelm an isolated and careless battleship.
During World War II, naval forces introduced anti-aircraft tactics – ships would move in set formation with carefully distributed firing sectors, so that all ships could cover each other from aerial attacks. This proved successful, and this type of “umbrella” was very hard to penetrate for any sort of aircraft. The battle near Rabaul on November 5th 1943 is a good example. That day, a well-organised attack by Japanese planes was bogged down and ended up facing a shield of explosions covering the US ships. The fire was so dense that it caused a premature aerial detonation of a bomb that was flying towards the deck or the USS Independence.
This type of defence requires a complicated tactical interaction by naval groups. So, during lower tier battles, ships can work fairly independent from each other, but later on, it will become essential for all team members to work together. It will be this cohesion that defines the battle outcome, rather than the individual features of each vessel afloat. A well-balanced group of two aircraft carriers and three or four battleships, supported by cruisers and destroyers would be vastly superior to a team equipped solely with Yamato battleships.
Generally, the main edge of aircraft carriers over battleships is their ability to use aviation from distances exceeding any reasonable range of cannon or torpedo fire. The average firing distance for a battleship is about 40 km with questionable accuracy, whereas an aircraft carrier can launch its “wasps” from hundreds of kilometres away.
This Thursday, February 13th we will continue our discussion on winning tactics for battleship vs. carrier battles.