The Bismarck-class battleship was a class of two battleships used by the German Kriegsmarine during World War II.



The belt armor of a Bismarck-class ship.

The Bismarck-class ships were the heaviest warships ever made in Europe, weighing up 52,600 tons, as well as having a length of 251 meters, a beam of 36 meters and a mean draught of 9.3 meters.[1] The Bismarck-class ships had twelve Wagner superheated water boilers powering three geared turbines. These drove three shafts, providing 148,000 shaft horse power. They had a top speed of 30 knots.[2]

The Bismarck-class's armor took 40% of its total designed combat weight. Only Japan's HIJMS Yamato carried more armor, about 22,895 metric tons, than the Bismarck-class, which was about 19,082 metric tons, but with much a smaller proportion, only about 30% of total weight. The Bismarck-class's armor configurations comprised of plate materials St52, steel with tensile strength of minimum 52 kg/mm^2, a strain of 21% and a yield point of 36 kg/mm^2. KCn/A, alloy steel containing 3.8% nickel (Ni), 2% chromium (Cr), 0.3% Carbon (C). 0.3% Manganese (Mn) and 0.2% Molybdenium (Mo). Wh, A homogenous steel with a tensile strength of 85~95 kg/mm^2, a strain of 20% and a yield point of 50~55 kg/mm^2. Ww, A homogenous steel with a tensile strength of 65~75 kg/mm^2, a strain of 25% and a yield point of 38~40 kg/mm^2.[3]

The vertical armor used KCn/A alloy metal, which was 320 mm thick, 4.8 m wide and 170.7 meters long, covering 70% of the waterline. The belt armor was placed between 2.6 m above the water level and 2.2 m under the water level, about 4.8 m total, backed up with 60 mm of Teakwood to absorb impact. The belt armor was bolted onto side armor plating which had thickness of 16~25 mm. The outboard inclination of side plating was 17º under the first main gun (Anton), 10 under the second main gun (Bruno), 7 under the third main gun (Charlie), and 8~10 under the fourth main gun (Dora). The upper deck of the ship was built from Wh steel. Its thickness varied from 50 mm to 80 mm, covering from frame 10.5 to 224. The middle deck armor was 20 mm St52 steel, located about 2.4 m under the upper deck. The lower deck was 11 m above the keel, and 1.5 m above the designed waterline. Its thickness varied from 80 mm to 95 mm.

The Bismarck-class battleship's main guns were 380 mm SK-C/34 turrets, a pair each on forward and aft, two of them raised. The gun was relatively small compared to the ship's massive size and weight; the recoil did not effect the ship, which helped to increase the accuracy. The maximum angle of fire was 30º, shooting the projectile a distance of up to thirty-six kilometers.

These were supplemented by twelve 150 mm guns, and sixteen 105 mm guns.[2] Anti-aircraft armament comprised of sixteen 37 mm SK C/30 guns and twenty 20 mm FlaK 30 guns.




The Bismarck-class was the largest in Europe, at the time. The actual design work of the class lasted three years, from 1933 to 1936. Both of the ships that belonged to the class, Bismarck and Tirpitz, were laid down in 1936. Bismarck was completed by 1940, and Tirpitz was finished by 1941.

In terms of armor arrangement, bridge structures, placements and type of main battery, the Bismarck-class battleship was very similar to Bayern-class battleship.

Both Bismarck and Tirpitz had short service careers. Bismarck conducted only one operation, Operation Rheinübung. After three days, it was sunk in the northern Atlantic on 27 May 1941. After being damaged by torpedoes dropped by Fairey Swordfish biplanes from HMS Furious and HMS Ark Royal', Bismarck was reduced to a sinking condition by gunfire from HMS King George V and HMS Rodney, before torpedoes from HMS Devonshire finished her off. She had sunk the flagship of the Royal Navy, HMS Hood, and her 14-inch shells damaged the HMS Prince of Wales. Her escort, Prinz Eugen had to cut off and do her duties while Bismarck sailed for Nazi occupied France for repairs when she had been attacked from all sides by two British battle ships and five cruisers and some destroyers.

Her sister, Tirpitz, intercepted merchants between Britain and Russia near Norway. Following a number of failed attacks, including an attempt to place large charges under the hull by midget submarines, she was eventually wrecked by Tallboy bombs dropped by Avro Lancaster bombers of the Royal Air Force, while at anchor in Tromso Fjord, Norway, on 12 November 1944.[4]

Known ships


  2. 2.0 2.1 McMurtrie, Francis E. (Editor) Jane's Fighting Ships of World War 2. Tiger Books International. ISBN 0517679639 Page 144
  4. Green, William. Famous Bombers of the Second World War. Purnell Book Services. 1975. Page 215

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