Finally free of my busy schedules (taking a dual degree with a thesis makes me cry) I thought I'd do a bit of a necro in this forum. The chances are low that people would see this, but I'd post this anyway just for the sake of putting up my thoughts about a game that I love.
My Steam and Iron Naval knowledge - I must admit - is limited. My curiosity with it was ignited by Leviathans, and was further inspired by the game "Rule the Waves". It showed me that naval warfare during that era was a mix of technological, strategic positioning, and fleet communication techniques, and gunnery... lots of gunnery. So I wonder what ramifications eteroid technology would have change in the tactics and strategies.
1.) The Speed and Maneuverability of Leviathans confounds gunnery efforts
As I've learned so far in my readings and with "Rule the Waves" game. Naval warfare boils down on gunnery skill. Admirals would lead their fleets in favorable positions. They'd ideally be down-wind of their target so that the smoke created from prolonged firing won't linger in front of them.
They'd position themselves behind the sun, to make it difficult for enemies exactly to spot for them, and vice versa.
Gunners ranged their targets from observing their targets - of direct hits and of the water sprays caused by misses. In that aspect...
Long ranged fights were often line vs line affairs, as both ship lines would want to maintain their heading and speed, any sudden turns or changes can affect the gunnery alignment.
This is to remember that most dreadnaughts and battleships back then had usually a 15-20 knot speed. But Leviathans, even their Type 4 classes can boast an impressive 30-40 knots, with Type 1s and 2s reaching 40-50+ knots. They can also maneuver easier than wet navies, able to increase and decrease altitude, sideslip and even take advantage of the wind.
This maneuverability makes long ranged shooting almost impossible for Leviathan warfare. For Long ranged spotting, with no water to serve as target markers. I postulate that one of the avenues that leviathan guns would adapt would be putting smoke trails on their ranging shells (For shells used for ranging targets at least, not necessarily all). Making them more visible for the spotters. This however makes it easily visible to enemies as well allowing them to respond and evade. Another idea would be to put timed smoke explosives - wherein they are timed to blow up at a certain time/distance at a certain elevation. It'll be harder to spot as there are no trails, and the gunnery spotters need only look for the timed explosions. From there, they'd employ equations and adjust targeting depending on their distance and height difference from the target. Nevertheless from the above, one could say that Long ranged gunnery is much harder in the skies than in the seas. There would be technologies and mathematic theories that would be developed. One example would be gyroscope turrets that automatically adjust and stick to their aim whenever the ship turns.
Other extra side notes:
- With strong winds in the skies, gunfire smoke won't be much of an issue.
- Sunlight and silhouetting tactics will still be useful in long range scenarios.
- Development of faster projectiles might be another avenue that would give a lev an edge, since such shells would be harder to evade from.
2.) In the eyes of naval warfare, Leviathan combat are knife fights
Since long ranged fights would produce minimal results, they'd make sense in a brush battle, wherein gentlemen commanders just need to sate their demands for honor, fire a few salvoes from range, and retreat once even minor damage is taken or if its taking too long. But as time progresses and war requires more serious efforts, captains and commanders would result to closing the distances.
Because of the points I made from no.1 above, Leviathan ships with serious intents would close to distances that naval officers would consider damnably scary.
To make best use of their guns, the levs would have to get very close (I cannot supply a distance, as I myself are unsure). But imagine that in wet navies, battleships would lob shells from afar, while cruisers, destroyers, and gunboats close to knife fight distances of 500 meters or so. In Leviathan warfare, All levs have to close to such distances to effectively reliably inflict damage.
Battles would be thus reminiscent of Age of Sail warfare, wherein lethal trade of salvoes is done. Or to put it in another view, akin to gunboat warfare. With close distances, there is not much need for spotting, and the results of gunnery are immediate. This makes for some exciting battles in the eyes of a bystander and a terrifying time in the eyes of the participants.
3.) Orderly line vs line fights give way to flotilla attacks and wolf packs
Let me first picture you how WW1 wet navies would fight: Battleships would form a core battlegroup taking a line astern formation. (Single file). Battlecruisers and light cruisers would take a flanking, scouting, and screening role either independently or in their own battlegroups. Then the small destroyers would be attached to the core, screen, or support battlegroups.
When scouting reveals the position of enemy forces, the core battlegroup (led by the flagship) would then attempt to maneuver themselves to a favorable position, and would then engage the enemy battleship in long ranged salvoes, while the cruisers and "flotilla" of destroyers stay close to the core - their guns to weak to contribute in the exchange.
When the 2 groups close, the screens of cruisers and destroyers can then engage, launching torpedoes, forming smokescreens, chasing away flotilla sorties. It was often dangerous affairs. Hence most admirals would prefer the longer range engagements trusting in gunnery skill and perfect maneuvering.
There are situations wherein the admiral can signal a "Flottila attack" wherein they launch their cruisers and destroyers in a wave assault. Often to launch torpedo salvoes or to get close and pester the battleship at "knife fight range".
Keep in mind, that Radio is in its infancy during these times, and signalling was done via other means (flag/semaphore/light flash). Hence it is the norm for fleets to stick together, any attempts for elaborate formations and coordinations often leading to mixed and disastrous results.
In Leviathan Warfare
Due to the difficulties of long range combat, It'll only really be employed when on the approach, battle will culminate into "Flotilla attack" that includes all ship types. The extreme speed and maneuverability of Leviathans means that they will close pretty quickly. While the slower going Type 4s and Type 3s can maintain a Line abreast formation to present maximum broadside firepower, but unlike Wet Navies, the distances are shorter, and hence the Type 2s and Types 1 are able to enter the fray. And their job? To cross the T's of the lines or screen the bigger levs from the former act.
In the historical (alternate) scenario "Their Cohorts All Gleaming" a British Fleet exercise, three Type 2s manage to defeat two Type 3s and a Type 1. The Type 2 commander, Sky Captain Alexander Christopher chose to order a "general engagement" releasing his levs from the constraints of the line abreast formation. While Rear Admiral William Coxmire kept his Type 3s in a line formation. The Type 2s ended up being able to consistently position themselves to the aft of the type 3s, and since the former are separated, turning the Type 3 line to face one Type 2, would expose them to another Type 2.
Results may vary, but it seems that a "flottila attack" style, meaning just letting each lev do its best engaging is more plausible and efficacious in leviathan warfare as compared to wet navies. The speed and the requirement to be at close range makes it more often likely that this will occur. And remember that communications are limited, even if admirals wish to maintain order and bring the fleet in a configuration similar to wet navy formations outlined above. In the chaos of close ranged fighting, type 1s and type 2s are tempted to break formation and engage, whether it is caused by captain's desire or by changing circumstances (targets of opportunity / taking damage). Instead of Battleship and lines, you'd find Type 2 and Type 1 wolf packs, with the occassional Battleship and Cruiser lending support fire or being the center of the battle themselves.
There will be factional differences though, but I realize I'm entering into a broader topic of discussion. so I'll end it there.
4.) Armor and Speed over Gunnery Development
- With the established point that Lev combat is closer and messier, technology which historically focused on gun and gunnery improvements - would now also include armor improvement. Notice how I'm not saying, it'll shift to armor development. And said "include". Back then the prominence of armor was not as important as compared to making bigger and more effective guns.
My opinion is that armor technology would have an equal weight of importance, alongside gunnery, and speed.
Other Caveats and Questions
1.) High attrition rate is possible due to close range combat as compared to the long ranged combat of naval warfare, where retreating is easier and admirals often tend to baby their battleships (being a sign of prestige and all). There would be an initial high attrition rate on early battles where wet navy tactics are still employed - who's logical conclusion would be tight flotilla attacks after both sides realize long range combat is negligible. Later on, as navies adapt, they'll stick to decentralized smaller fleets of wolf packs. Due to losses and to lessons learned. This is just one of many possibilities of how the leviathan warfare would develop. Do you agree or have any other ideas? Do share
2.) Torpedo tactics will most likely have similar developments and usage to its real wet navy counterpart. It'll be used as area denial weapons and battleship threats. Over time, Type 1s will get better and more aggressive in firing off salvoes. I think this is more likely in leviathan warfare as compared to wet navies. Since levs are faster, sallying out to deliver a torpedo salvo is not as risky as compared to the slower wet navy destroyers - their captains often weighing the risk of the action vs being caught in range of enemy guns, being isolated and detached from the core group, etc.
3.) My general belief is that there would be a shift to the importance of destroyers and light cruisers. (Way earlier even before the advent of missile technology which made Battleships obsolete) While their wet navy counterparts are only able to threaten enemy battleships via use of torpedoes. The leviathan versions are fast enough to perform flanking or dive attacks that can seriously threaten the aft of bigger ships.
4.) That said, Battleships and heavy levs still take a role as powerful weapon platforms and shell sponges. They have the weight of fire to destroy type 1s and type 2s outright, while attracting the attention of enemy wolf packs. While the battleships will no longer be able to do a line astern formation with other battleships as often, (Due to being fewer in number due to the decentralization theory). They will often be the center of all battles, as they are a prize target. She will lend her firepower and armor, while the smaller levs will screen and do sorties for her. Though again I state that this is just an opinion, and is subject to factional differences.
5.) An admiral (and a grand admiral for this matter) has two choices - 1.) rely on formation strategy to project firepower in deadly broadsides, in which case armor, gunnery and discipline is the key. They can maintain a semblance of line astern and blast their enemies from the skies before they could ever get close. They would be easier to command as levs would be closer to each other. Navies who focus on that strategy would over time turn into battleship-centric bulwarks, I'm looking at you Britain and Germany.
Or 2.) Launch the flotilla right away, with a swarm and wolfpack mentality, with the heavier ships lending support. In which case, individual captain quality is important, with equal measures of speed and daring. Over time, these navies would develop a healthy naval tradition and good officer academies, and would have developed faster levs. Though the downside is that they would be harder to coordinate once the "engage" order has been sent. They are chaotic, commanding them mid battle is no longer reliable, which the admiral must accept. You'd expect this kind of focus in France and Italy.
6.)Random engineering genius/crackpot: in the moment a leviathan's keel is broken, and the lev breaks apart falling to the ground. The ship is divided into sections to the remnants of the main electroid tanks. There is a safety switch in each section wherein when pulled can lead to the overload of the electroid tanks of that section, leading to the flashover. Just prior to the flashover is a point of extreme lift power. A falling leviathan and (most of its) airmen can be saved by timing the flashover just before ground impact. Results vary, but its the only chance left.
7.) The Germans can still use that overpowered gun they have. You know, the one that made the entire battleship tip over leading to the death of a royal? They just need to develop a system that automatically
turns off the trim tanks of the firing side, and boosting the power of the trim tanks to the recoil side. The system automatically adjusts in a few seconds after firing. Though with my discussion above of firing distances, I think this overpowered gun is moot.