French Aircraft Carriers – Tier VI

Introduction

Following the comments on my post on Béarn, I have gone back through and made a few adjustments to the rest of the tree. While this does not have any major effects for the Tier VI, it ended up changing the Tier VIII and X ships. I shifted what I had for Tier VIII up to X and inserted a new design in its place. This does mean that my original statement about the ships I had is no longer correct. The Tier IV and VI both had actual physical construction, while the new Tier VIII was much more of a design than anything else. What I have placed at Tier X is the one that was ordered but cancelled soon after, with extensive plans and models having been made.

Tier VI: Joffre (1938)

Joffre was intended to be the first fleet carrier in French service, as a replacement for the failure of Béarn. Two ships were planned, the second being named Painlevé. Both took their namesake after military personnel, Joseph Joffre having commanded forces in World War One (as well being awarded the title of Marshal of France) and Paul Painlevé was the French Minister of War in 1917 and 1925. Joffre was laid down in 1938, but was promptly delayed with focus being given to other ships such as Strasbourg. When work ramped back up, it was intended for a launch some time in 1941 with full service starting in 1943. In May 1940, Joffre was only around 26% completed and a month later barely any additional progress had been made. Following the signing of the Armistice and the fall of France, there were plans to secretly launch the hull as it was to secure it but the Germans ordered it to be destroyed. Painlevé was never laid down, and was formally cancelled in 1940.

Joffre incorporated a wide range of unusual characteristics into its design. Many of these served to decrease the expected effectiveness, but there were also some advances brought into the plans based off of experimental testing carried out on Béarn. The flight deck is offset and the hanger size was not on par with contemporary carriers (40 aircraft, with the likes of Yorktown and Ark Royal carrying well over 60). These were largely due to the weight limitation put on the design by the French, as PA16 was set for 15,000t initially and only later rose to the 18,000t standard that Joffre was laid down at. The superstructure was far too large for the weight, which took away from vital flight deck space. However, the individual aircraft planned for Joffre were quite unique and very well advanced. The strike aircraft were all to be twin-engine designs, which would have been the first in any navy. The anti-aircraft defenses would also have been very capable of self-defense although this is because of the excessive superstructure. Joffre may not have been a exceptionally good carrier, but it would have proven useful in much of the naval action that took place in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

  • Ship Dimensions: 236 meters x 24.6 meters (w/l)
  • Speed: 33 knots @ 125,000 HP
  • Ship Displacement: 18,000t Standard – ~20,000t+ full load

The fastest of all the Tier VI carriers, that may be its best defense. Joffre’s HP is more in line with same tier carriers, having ~42,900 HP. In terms of size, Joffre is about the same as the other fleet carriers at Tier VI (Ryuujou being much smaller). She also did have some armour, with a 105 mm main belt and a 37 mm deck, which was 70 mm over the magazines.

Attackers

Plans for the Dewoitine D.790, showing the folding wings and tail hook
  • Aircraft: Dewoitine D.790
  • Cruising Speed: 158 knots
  • Maximum Speed: 212 knots
  • Armament: 4x FFAR
  • Rocket Damage: 1,900
  • Strike Wing Size: 2 planes
  • Squadron Size: 6 planes
  • Plane HP: 1,260

Perhaps the best fighter available to the French before the start of the war was the Dewoitine D.520. It was designed in late 1936 with prototypes flying in late 1938 and 1939. Production officially began in the middle 1939, but very few were being made. When the war started an order was placed for over 1,000 followed by an additional order of nearly the same amount. In early 1940 the French Aéronautique Navale placed their own order for 120, but none were ever produced. It was designated D.790 and would have largely similar to the original production D.520 (in 1939/1940). When the Germans took over France, the prototype was never finished and the program was cancelled.

Compared to the other attackers at this tier, the D.790 is a bit faster and has more HP than the F4F Wildcat (1,000) and the A6M2 Zero (980), but less HP than the Sea Hurricane (1,310). While they are using the same FFAR that the F4F uses, they only have 4 of them on each plane rather than 6 (the same number that the A6M2 has). There are also only 6 planes in the flight, so the overall offensive power of these attackers is the lowest of any by far (45,600 total rocket damage, and the next lowest is the Sea Hurricane with 54,000). This should reinforce the idea of the French planes handling better and surviving more, but having lower strike power.

Torpedo Bombers

The sole Late.299 prototype
  • Aircraft: Latecoère Late.299
  • Cruising Speed: 120 knots
  • Maximum Speed: 170 knots
  • Armament: 40 cm (15.75″) 26DA Toulon / St. Tropez
  • Torpedo Damage: 8,300
  • Torpedo Range / Speed / Detection Range: 3.00 km / 35 knots / 1.2 km
  • Strike Wing Size: 2 planes
  • Squadron Size: 6 planes
  • Plane HP: 1,320

Much like how the D.790 was a naval version of the D.520, the Late.299 was a conversion of the Late.298 hydroplane. It had folding wings and a 920 HP engine for a top speed of 345 km/h (186 knots). A single prototype was completed and flown, but the war caused the program to be shelved indefinitely. Work was put towards the Arsenal VB.10 fighter program instead, and the single Late.299 was destroyed by allied bombing in 1944.

The Late.299 keeps the same torpedo which does still have considerable damage (even for Tier VI). However, this time around the plane is slower than others, as the B5N2 has a 128 knot cruising speed (with 179 knot max speed) and is a tad slower than the Fairey Barracuda. It is a bit more survivable though, with a bit more health than the TBD Devastator (1,270) and a lot less than the Barracuda (1,550).

Dive Bombers

Three plan view of the LN.40, showing the inverted gull wing
  • Aircraft: Loire-Nieuport LN.401
  • Cruising Speed: 124 knots
  • Maximum Speed: 174 knots
  • Armament: 1x 200 kg (~500 lb) No.1 G.P. H.E
  • Bomb Damage: 9,400
  • Bomb Fire Chance: 58%
  • Bomb HE Penetration: 62 mm
  • Strike Wing Size: 2 planes
  • Squadron Size: 6 planes
  • Plane HP: 1,380

Work on the plane that would become the LN.401 started in 1935, using an earlier design from the Nieuport-Delage company (before they were absorbed by Loire and became Loire-Nieuport). Using an inverted gull wing design and a relatively light frame, the LN.401 was planned to be the primary dive bomber for the French carriers. Only 15 of main version were produced, with more of the LN.411 land-based variant being made. Béarn had tested a few of the pre-production models and deemed them fit for service, but there were many flaws in the basic design. Both the Air Force and Navy found them to be too slow which prompted the development of the LN.42, which was to be equipped much a much more powerful 1,100 HP engine and removed the inverted gull wing. Only one of these was ever built.

I have the LN.401 only marginally faster than the Late.299, which means it is around the middle in terms of speed when compared to other dive bombers. While the D4Y2 is blazing at 137/192 knots, the SB2U Vindicator is crawling at 117/164 knots. The health is just slightly better than the SB2U (1,290) while well below the bomber Barracuda (1,630).

  • Secondary Battery: 4×2 130 mm/45 Model 1932
  • Anti-Aircraft Battery: 4×2 130 mm/45 Model 1932 + 4×2 37 mm/70 ACAD Model 1935

A fairly decent defense against planes, although it won’t do much to save you if you get focused. As with the cruisers and battleships that currently have the 37 mm/70 ACAD, it was never completed but was planned for a wide variety of ships.

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