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Old 08-11-2019, 07:47 PM
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Are there any circumstances where a P.1000 "Ratte" tank would be effective, even practical?


Okay, the Landkreuzer P.1000 "Ratte"óinfamous 1000-ton [sic] supertank, proposed by Krupp for Germany during the Second World War...

And cancelled before construction by Albert Speer in 1943 as, as some might guess, it would have been completely impractical, a waste of resources, and overall crazy.

Something I've mused about, though, in my idle moments: are there any circumstances, no matter how exotic, where a "Ratte" would have been a notably effective war machine, even a halfway practical one?

The only thing I can personally think of is, perhaps, attacking a large, solidly fortified strongpoint, that has the ability to fire back, but somehow no effective air power that could threaten the Ratte. And also the side fielding the Ratte doesn't have an effective bomber force, either.

So, maybe attacking the Cannon City from Otomo's Memories, if it shows up. That's one I guess.

Anyone else? Military scenarios that actually have, or could (even if barely), exist on this world would be super, if at all possible, but I'm willing to fudge it.
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Old 08-11-2019, 09:20 PM
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If you are willing to fudge it, then I would say the super tank could be effective in North Africa. So long as you kept a squadron of fighters above it for air cover. It might be able to move about and not get bogged down in the desert. The guns would destroy any approaching land forces pretty effectively since it could take advantage of their long range. I'm thinking of 1941 and 1942 which is also fudging the timeline too. Could be pretty useful in taking Tobruk.

Still, I don't think it would be worth the resources and logistics. Even in this scenario I can think up counter strategies the British might use to neutralize it.

What could be the most valuable purpose of this super tank is psychological in instilling fear in the enemy and confidence in the German forces. Have it drive down the center of Berlin in a military parade and the crowds would love it. Then leak to the press that you have a hundred more like it ready to fight.
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Old 08-11-2019, 09:53 PM
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The thing would have been as wide as a modern 4-lane interstate, with no ability to cross bridges or be moved by anything other than its own power. That certainly limits its usefulness. But, maybe if it could be disassembled and reassembled on site, you could use it in the siege of a large city. Not that those really happen anymore, but if they did, you could plunk down the equivalent of a small battleship on the interstate outside a city and blast away, moving the massive thing occasionally as you needed to get positioned for different targets. I'm woefully ignorant of many of the details of WW2, but maybe it wouldn't have been entirely useless in the Siege of Leningrad?
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Old 08-11-2019, 10:25 PM
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If you are willing to fudge it, then I would say the super tank could be effective in North Africa. So long as you kept a squadron of fighters above it for air cover. It might be able to move about and not get bogged down in the desert.
"The desert" might be all sand as far as the eye can see, but all sand is not created equal. The Sahara is infamous for its mess of fesh-fesh - unpredictable areas of very very fine sand that behaves almost like water and can't be ID'd visually until you're suddenly axle-deep in it.
Those patches move about with the wind. That's why there have been marked trails and roads even the camel-driving locals follow, and have followed for thousands of years. You move away from those, you're taking your life in your own hands. It's a already a half-a-day pain in the nuts to get a truck out from a sandpit with shovels and planks ; I shudder to think the mess a kiloton tank would be in.

Also, the Sahara desert isn't really all sand as far as the eye can see - there's also lots of broken, rocky ground to be found. Joy on the suspensions and treads, that.
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Old 08-11-2019, 10:29 PM
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But, to answer the OP : no, there wasn't. It was a really, really dumb project. Much like Schwerer Gustav, it's only purpose was to exist as a giant dick-shaped metallic object waved in the world's face.
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Old 08-11-2019, 11:32 PM
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It could defend the factory that built it from ground assault. That's about it.
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Old 08-12-2019, 03:26 AM
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I've read that Tiger tanks wound up basically becoming more mobile pill boxes than actual offensive vehicles in terms of just moving from preset position to preset position in a defensive line. There were also plans of putting disguised Tiger tanks along shore lines so they could engage light naval vessels and then scurry away and hide before any return fire. I can kind of see them being slightly effective during D-Day if you had one disguised and engaging the destroyers and landing craft at close range before a battleship could get coordinates on it.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:16 AM
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In open warfare I don't think it would have been useful in any realistic scenario since even given almost complete air supremacy, it is still such an important target that you'd have dedicated airplanes detailed just to take them out no matter what the cost (for instance, the night witches).

However, given this, for the Germans I only see it being useful in the Battle of Kursk, where you could have one or two of them in any given wedge, supporting the infantry in taking out bypassed strongpoints.

I think it would have been more useful (given the fanciful hypothetical of no air attacks) to the Soviets with their more flexible deep battle doctrine. Again, have one or two of them with every Army and attack along the entire front. They'd be flexible enough that you could hold them in back as a bulwark against counterattacks because you probably wouldn't want that thing in your rear, or used to reduce strongpoints that you needed to take, or to plow forward to threaten the rear.
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Old 08-12-2019, 12:27 PM
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I'd imagine that the Allies would have just got a 8" naval gun and jury-rigged some kind of mounting (railroad gun?) and shot regular naval AP rounds at it. After all, it wouldn't be that much different than a ship on land in terms of speed or armor.
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Old 08-12-2019, 01:11 PM
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It could defend the factory that built it from ground assault. That's about it.
Yes, that's about it, because it couldn't really be moved to any of the battlefields where it might have been useful.

There isn't a bridge in Europe strong enough to support this behemoth crossing over. (And it couldn't just cross a river -- wouldn't work underwater. Even assuming it didn't get stuck in the river bottom mud.) Nor a dock strong enough to load it onto a ship to carry it somewhere that it might be useful. Even if they built special rail cars to carry it, it's still far too wide to be carried on a railroad. And would probably damage the railbed more than any Allied bombing did.

They could have built it, and parked it out in front of the Ruhr factory. But couldn't have even gotten it to Berlin to guard Hitler's hideout.
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Old 08-12-2019, 01:25 PM
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I'd imagine that the Allies would have just got a 8" naval gun and jury-rigged some kind of mounting (railroad gun?) and shot regular naval AP rounds at it. After all, it wouldn't be that much different than a ship on land in terms of speed or armor.
Pretty much exactly like a ship, because the idea was to use battleship main gun turrets left over after planned refits.

I find it astonishing that its design speed is 40km/hr. It was supposed to have 16,000hp, but that doesn't seem like it would be enough to propel 1000 tonnes at that speed. I'd also be rather surprised if it was possible to build a drivetrain to move something of that mass at that speed without breaking a lot. I mean, really big tracked vehicles are possible. This thing is actually puny compared to Bagger 288 (actually produced by Krupp, the same very same company that proposed the Landkreuzer), which tips the scales at 13,500t. However, its top speed is 0.6km/hr, which is going to result in somewhat lower loads on drivetrain components than 40km/hr.
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Old 08-12-2019, 01:26 PM
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Yes, that's about it, because it couldn't really be moved to any of the battlefields where it might have been useful.

There isn't a bridge in Europe strong enough to support this behemoth crossing over. (And it couldn't just cross a river -- wouldn't work underwater. Even assuming it didn't get stuck in the river bottom mud.) Nor a dock strong enough to load it onto a ship to carry it somewhere that it might be useful. Even if they built special rail cars to carry it, it's still far too wide to be carried on a railroad. And would probably damage the railbed more than any Allied bombing did.

They could have built it, and parked it out in front of the Ruhr factory. But couldn't have even gotten it to Berlin to guard Hitler's hideout.
Actually according to the wikipedia page, it was supposed to have snorkels for air intakes for the engines and enough clearance to ford any river it needed to cross. I'm not convinced this would actually work, but that was the stated plan.
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Old 08-12-2019, 02:19 PM
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Pretty much exactly like a ship, because the idea was to use battleship main gun turrets left over after planned refits.

I find it astonishing that its design speed is 40km/hr. It was supposed to have 16,000hp, but that doesn't seem like it would be enough to propel 1000 tonnes at that speed. I'd also be rather surprised if it was possible to build a drivetrain to move something of that mass at that speed without breaking a lot. I mean, really big tracked vehicles are possible. This thing is actually puny compared to Bagger 288 (actually produced by Krupp, the same very same company that proposed the Landkreuzer), which tips the scales at 13,500t. However, its top speed is 0.6km/hr, which is going to result in somewhat lower loads on drivetrain components than 40km/hr.
Actually, the NASA crawler-transporter is roughly on the same scale as the "Ratte" in terms of size- a little longer, about twice as wide, and a lot heavier, but probably the closest thing overall.

So it's doable, but I'd question whether it's possible to make it 1/3 the weight and considerably faster, as well as lugging around all that armor, weaponry, ammo and crew.
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Old 08-12-2019, 02:33 PM
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Actually, the NASA crawler-transporter is roughly on the same scale as the "Ratte" in terms of size- a little longer, about twice as wide, and a lot heavier, but probably the closest thing overall.

So it's doable, but I'd question whether it's possible to make it 1/3 the weight and considerably faster, as well as lugging around all that armor, weaponry, ammo and crew.
It's specifically the 40km/hr thing that I'm questioning, not whether a self-propelled tracked vehicle of that size is possible. The NASA transporter uses a lot less hp, too, but then it's moving very slowly on a perfect concrete surface. The forces its drivetrain is subjected to are not even in the same ballpark as they'd be if it was bouncing over off-road terrain at 40km/hr.
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Old 08-12-2019, 04:14 PM
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Actually according to the wikipedia page, it was supposed to have snorkels for air intakes for the engines and enough clearance to ford any river it needed to cross. I'm not convinced this would actually work, but that was the stated plan.
That was included in the early designs for the US M! Abrams tank, also. As I recall, it didn't work out well during testing. That's also when they discovered that many river bottoms are covered by a thick layer of mud, which doesn't provide much traction for their treads Especially when there is also a strong current running.

I believe current tank procedures is to not attempt to ford any rivers much over 1-1.5 meters deep.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:53 PM
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It's specifically the 40km/hr thing that I'm questioning, not whether a self-propelled tracked vehicle of that size is possible. The NASA transporter uses a lot less hp, too, but then it's moving very slowly on a perfect concrete surface. The forces its drivetrain is subjected to are not even in the same ballpark as they'd be if it was bouncing over off-road terrain at 40km/hr.
I agree completely with your basic statement but I do have a nit I must pick. The crawler does not run on a smooth, concrete surface. Rather the roadbed is made of several feet of compressed gravel.

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Each Crawlerway is 2 m (7 ft) deep and covered with Alabama and Tennessee river rock for its low friction properties to reduce the possibility of sparks.
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Old 08-12-2019, 09:45 PM
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I've read that Tiger tanks wound up basically becoming more mobile pill boxes than actual offensive vehicles in terms of just moving from preset position to preset position in a defensive line. There were also plans of putting disguised Tiger tanks along shore lines so they could engage light naval vessels and then scurry away and hide before any return fire. I can kind of see them being slightly effective during D-Day if you had one disguised and engaging the destroyers and landing craft at close range before a battleship could get coordinates on it.
Engaging a destroyer with a tank would be a bad idea. No battleship needed. The destroyer has 4-6 guns, each larger than a tank gun, they reload faster, have more ammo, and more sophisticated fire control systems. The only advantage the tank has itís size.
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Old 08-12-2019, 10:25 PM
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Engaging a destroyer with a tank would be a bad idea. No battleship needed. The destroyer has 4-6 guns, each larger than a tank gun, they reload faster, have more ammo, and more sophisticated fire control systems. The only advantage the tank has itís size.
Beyond that, what would a, say.. 88mm tank gun do to a destroyer exactly? I can't help but think that it would mostly poke holes, but not necessarily deal a whole lot of damage.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:24 AM
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We did a thread on this. https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...nk+battleships
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:35 AM
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Engaging a destroyer with a tank would be a bad idea. No battleship needed. The destroyer has 4-6 guns, each larger than a tank gun, they reload faster, have more ammo, and more sophisticated fire control systems. The only advantage the tank has itís size.
Ah, but the Ratte's gun is much larger than a destroyer's gun. In fact, when I challenged my imagination to come up with use for the Ratte, this was it: a site that needed to be regularly defended against destroyers or even light cruisers and was subject to air attack or battleship bombardment, but not generally at the same time. In that situation, you could build a big protected bunker (like a submarine pen) that's pretty resistant to even 1000lb bombs, next to an open flat firing platform. Park the Ratte inside (protected) until the destroyers show up, at which point open the door, drive the Ratte out and drop some 12inch shells on the poor destroyers. If a battleship or bomber shows up, park it back inside. I'm assuming that, since the Ratte is basically a battleship turret with treads, it could survive hits from the destroyers' 5inch guns, and am very sure the Ratte's gun would sink any destroyer it could hit.

I'm not necessarily saying the Ratte is the best solution for that circumstance, but it is a situation where if someone gave you a couple you might not immediately melt them down for scrap.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:43 AM
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But Capn Carl was referring to the plan Asuka mentioned of using Tigers against the D-Day ships. A Tiger's gun is slightly smaller than a Ratte's.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:59 AM
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Yes and as correct posts in that thread pointed out, for conventional tanks (WWII mediums* or now) the tank is at big advantage vs an unarmored warship *which comes within effective range of its main gun*. The tanks, and there won't realistically be only one, are much smaller targets which might be hard to even spot, but have to be hit directly. The ship is a relatively huge target on a flat surface with no cover, in most scenario's. And WWII destroyers, generally completely unarmored, were vulnerable to even 75mm or smaller HE shells. Some destroyers were 'mission killed', though few sunk outright, even by .50 cal and 20mm fire.

However in almost all real cases destroyers engaged tanks from outside the effective range of the tank guns. Thus, while WWII claims by ships to have destroyed tanks were generally exaggerated compared to the accounts of the armored units, the ships were not typically in much if any danger from the tanks. And the fact that the armored formations, including accompanying infantry, were under fire they couldn't respond to was in fact effective in some cases in getting them to retreat. But actually destroying tanks with a given round or salvo of naval gunfire was highly unlikely. Any brief study on the dispersion of naval guns at the relevant range v the size of tanks shows that. Same with indirect field artillery fire v armor: tank kills were unlikely, but separating tanks from supporting infantry, and subjecting them to fire they could not directly respond to, might well stall an armored attack.

If instead the 'tank' is a huge vehicle itself mounting heavy naval guns then the equation would change. The tanks would no longer be nearly as hard to spot or hit, and there would not be nearly as many of them. Although OTOH it would have an effective range more comparable to that of ships, maybe longer than destroyers. It would really be an extension in that case of coast defense guns (larger than tank or destroyer guns) v ships, except the coast defense battery would be a more obvious target, though mobile (to some degree), and way more expensive than most ad hoc coast defense emplacements of WWII, which were generally repurposed obsolescent ship's guns or medium/heavy field artillery, sometimes pretty elaborate but most times not.

*not necessarily as true of some small WWII tanks, but if considering WWII medium tanks like Pz.IV, M4, T-34, or heavy tanks.

Last edited by Corry El; 08-13-2019 at 11:02 AM.
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Old 08-13-2019, 11:03 AM
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Ah, but the Ratte's gun is much larger than a destroyer's gun. In fact, when I challenged my imagination to come up with use for the Ratte, this was it: a site that needed to be regularly defended against destroyers or even light cruisers and was subject to air attack or battleship bombardment, but not generally at the same time. In that situation, you could build a big protected bunker (like a submarine pen) that's pretty resistant to even 1000lb bombs, next to an open flat firing platform. Park the Ratte inside (protected) until the destroyers show up, at which point open the door, drive the Ratte out and drop some 12inch shells on the poor destroyers. If a battleship or bomber shows up, park it back inside. I'm assuming that, since the Ratte is basically a battleship turret with treads, it could survive hits from the destroyers' 5inch guns, and am very sure the Ratte's gun would sink any destroyer it could hit.

I'm not necessarily saying the Ratte is the best solution for that circumstance, but it is a situation where if someone gave you a couple you might not immediately melt them down for scrap.
Naw you still would, after pulling the turret off and mounting it in some sort of armoured casement. I mean, we're talking about a shore battery here. It's not like there was a burning need for shore batteries to be semi-mobile. The harbour or whatever you're defending isn't moving around. If you need it to resist aerial bombardment, you dig it into the side of a hill (or make your own hill on top of it) and have it fire through a slit in the side. You get a more stable firing platform and it'll be subject to fewer mechanical breakdowns, and you can use all that steel for something else.

There really is just no point to the Ratte except appealing to a 12-year-old's sense of "Whoa cool!" It's not that you can't dream up scenarios where it wouldn't be useless. It's that in any of those scenarios you can achieve the same end better using fewer resources with some other method of mounting the ex-battleship guns. The design considerations that lead to giant armoured battleships as the methods of choice for carrying around huge guns on the high seas do not apply to land-based scenarios.
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Old 08-13-2019, 12:29 PM
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Something I've mused about, though, in my idle moments: are there any circumstances, no matter how exotic, where a "Ratte" would have been a notably effective war machine, even a halfway practical one?
Should be pretty effective against a phalanx, or Napoleonic infantry. In WW2 not so much. Even if the drive-train could be made reliable the tracks would still be vulnerable to artillery, mines and anti-tank weapons.
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:24 PM
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Naw you still would, after pulling the turret off and mounting it in some sort of armoured casement. I mean, we're talking about a shore battery here. It's not like there was a burning need for shore batteries to be semi-mobile. The harbour or whatever you're defending isn't moving around.
Actually, that was done in Egypt, when the Germans were bombing British harbors at night. The harbor was moved.

Really, they just built a dummy harbor model a short ways away on bare sand shoreline, mostly just small lights that from overhead looked like the harbor. Quite scaled down, since pilots flying overhead couldn't tell the scale. Then during air raids, the real harbor was blacked out, and the fake model was left lighted up until the Nazi bomber pilots saw it, then suddenly went to (imperfect) blackout.

It worked quite well. The fake harbor was bombed extensively, and the real one left undamaged. They even faked 'damage' to the real harbor, with piles of 'rubble', painted bomb 'craters' in buildings, etc., so that the next day enemy photo planes would report success from the nightly bombing raids.

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Old 08-13-2019, 03:16 PM
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Naw you still would, after pulling the turret off and mounting it in some sort of armoured casement. I mean, we're talking about a shore battery here. It's not like there was a burning need for shore batteries to be semi-mobile. The harbour or whatever you're defending isn't moving around.
To defend a limited number of harbors that's true. But the German response to Allied 'over the beach' landing capabilities was to fortify entire coasts of 100's of miles.

So in theory there would be a benefit to mobile coast defense to defend such areas, besides being able to move the guns around locally in defense of particular harbors or straits to reduce their vulnerability to preemptive strikes. And in fact some post WWII coast defense guns emphasized mobility, like the Swedish 120mm Karin system or the Russian 130mm Bereg system, although Scandinavian countries also had fixed coast defense gun and torpedo emplacements built as late as the 1990's and operational till fairly recently. But coast defense anti-ship missile systems are all mobile.

The fundamental problem with a mobile 28cm coast defense gun (the caliber of Ratte's main guns) in WWII was that it wouldn't realistically be that mobile, not practically transportable by rail long distances so would have to move everywhere on its tracks and only on very large/strong roads, with no crossing bridges etc. But even if a system is practically mobile, you have to factor in the difficulty of predicting approximately where the enemy landing will occur, how predictable depends on the situation. In the German situation in WWII in the West that was very difficult, and there wasn't an obvious alternative to the huge number of fixed coast defense installations from France to Norway, which automatically meant only a small % of them were ever likely to be used.
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Old 08-14-2019, 01:20 PM
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Any plan that proposes driving a 1000-tonne hunk of metal across deep wet mud like a river bottom can only be described as harebrained.

However there is a use for the Ratte. Let's say you want Germany to waste resources on something monumentally stupid: persuade them to build a Ratte.
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Old 08-14-2019, 03:25 PM
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However there is a use for the Ratte. Let's say you want Germany to waste resources on something monumentally stupid: persuade them to build a Ratte.
We could also encourage them to build/rebuild some behemoth battleships, like more Bismarcks & Tirpitzs to waste more resources.

Bismarck did one (partial) war patrol, totaling 135 hours before being damaged & scuttled. Tirpitz was also rather ineffective; her 8 main guns only ever fired 52 shells in battle. But she did manage to destroy a British weather Station & fuel depot on Spitsbergen Island.
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Old 08-14-2019, 03:57 PM
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Bismark also took out Hood, which isn't nothing. And the various Kriegsmarine ships did tie up considerable Royal Navy forces which would have otherwise been free to escort convoys, etc. A battleship at Scapa Flow held ready to sortie the moment there was word of German capital ships on the move is a battleship unavailable for action in the Mediterranean or the North Atlantic. That's far more useful than the Ratte would have been.
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