Fleet Battle Theory

Battle Line Ships for Senior Fleet Battles
Some nations have better ships than others, and at Tier X this is no exception. I will start by ship type and nation, then comment on the strength and weaknesses between them. 

Battleships

For Battleships (BB) RANGE is the MOST IMPORTANT stat for the ship, with antiaircraft and gun handling coming second. All other factors (HP or armor) do NOT matter with the exception of the British battlecruisers.

Going through the list of Battleship lines we can see that the Germans have by far the greatest range of all with the British and Japanese lagging behind, leaving the Americans at a dead last.

However, when we examine the Japanese Tier X ship more closely, we find that it has only 3 x 2 main battery guns with an appalling reload of 40+ seconds, this severely limits the damage output of the Super Yamato and even with its increased alpha strike, it is offset by the slow calibration rate of its shells. This ranks the Super Yamato at a dead last.

The Lion II is objectively superior to the Illiniois because of its 200m range advantage over it (especially with Matsuda Chiaki at 5 star with the +5% range boost) 

The K-Class along with the Illinois are ranked as mediocre because the K-Class lacks sufficient armor to reliably deflect cruiser caliber shells and so suffers penetrating hits from nearly everything. The Illinois for its aforementioned bad range. 

The H41 is the best because it offers an outstanding gun platform with superb range and adequate anti-aircraft protection. 

BEST - H41

GOOD - Lion II 

MEDIOCRE - Illinois K-Class

WORST - Super Yamato

Destroyers

Destroyers in fleet battles serve as anti-submarine escorts and flak-ships. They SHOULD NOT be considered as effective front-line scouts UNLESS air superiority is confirmed. AIRCRAFT CARRIERS will ALWAYS be the MOST effective scouts as their aircraft are the only things able to see through the thick clouds of smoke that everyone likes to throw around. (All good destroyer captains mount the x3 regular smoke as well as the x5 premium smoke). Therefore the biggest threat to revealing a destroyers position is aircraft which makes ANTI-AIR rating the most important stat. 

Ideally a destroyer would shadow his comrade submarine assisting him against opposing destroyers who are foolish enough to attack a submarine with guns trained on him. Additionally, a destroyer should be able to reveal a submarines position and direct friendly carrier torpedo bombers onto their target. Moreover, in the event that a destroyer is in position to strike a submarine safely or MUST to preserve stability of the main battleline the effectiveness of the DEPTH-CHARGES being able to take out a submarine in one hit is paramount. 

BEST - Gearing (Features very effective flak and the best depth charge placement in the game)

GOOD - L-Class (Powerful 4 x 2 main battery and decent flak with an enormous depth charge compliment)

MEDIOCRE - Shimakaze (Decent flak with the largest torpedo armament of any destroyer but is only able to launch 2 salvos)

WORST - Z-1945 (AWFUL flak but powerful 4 x 2 main battery and has a great torpedo load of 60)
 
 
Submarines
Submarines are by far one of the most effective tools at disrupting fleet coordination and often times force CVs to run more torpedo bombers harming the amount of fighter squadrons they can put in the air. 

The most VITAL stats a submarine must possess are diving time and submerged speed. Speed enables the submarine to get into position faster and diving time allows it to evade torpedo attacks from enemy ships. 

Currently there are 3 VERY DIFFERENT submarines available in Steel Ocean

U-XXI
  • The FASTEST submerged speed in the game (can go 22+ knots at deepest depth)
  • The FASTEST dive time in the game
  • The SMALLEST and most maneuverable of the 3 tier IX submarines
  • 6 torpedos at the front


Tench
  • The ONLY one of the 3 to carry rear torpedos (6 at the front 4 at the rear)
  • More striking power than U-XXI as well as greater oxygen capacity
  • Slightly slower underwater with mediocre dive time


I-400
  • The LARGEST hp pool and size of any submarine
  • The most LETHAL torpedos in the game (you can choose between 3k fast and 4.5k slow torpedos) It also carries 8 of them at the front
  • Only submarine in the game to carry 3 divebombers (you get one plane with hyper accuracy)
  • Greatest oxygen capacity in the game (can reach more than 5 minutes with commanders)
  • Has 3 decent flak guns


Keep in mind the role of a submarine is to bait and harass enemy destroyers while at the same time dodging carrier torpedo bombers thereby wasting their resources in futile attacks. The end goal of course is to break through the destroyer pickets and launch torpedos at the battleship line to disrupt their attacks.

The U-XXI is the BEST out of the three because of its superb agility and ability to tie down enemy fleet resources as it can easily evade attacks from destroyers and lead them into the guns of your friendly cruisers. HOWEVER, it is hampered by poor torpedo damage making it difficult if not impossible to sink battleships EVEN if you happen to land all six. 

The Tench is GOOD if you have proper air-support from your carriers enabling you to be free from attacks by torpedo bomber, as you have much more submerged endurance than a U-XXI and more damage potential making it far more effective if it can achive breakthrough. (Make a pass through the battle line with your front torps and then fire with your rear torps)

The I-400 is SITUATIONAL as it cannot function properly without heavy aircover as the dive time is atrocious and its massive body struggles to turn against torpedos. On the plus side it can ram destroyers and other submarines to death with its giant displacement of 3550 tons. However, if it can find itself in the middle of a pack of battleships it can cripple and destroy many of them, as the torpedos are almost unaffected by bulge armor. You want to proceed with caution on the surface especially if you are out of smoke. The great size of the thing makes it very easy for battleships to delete you. 

For fleet battles, you are best off running 3 U-XXI and perhaps 1 Tench or 1 I-400
 
 
Carriers
Carriers provide all the vision for your fleet. Sonar and radar are unable to pierce through smoke whereas aircraft can. 

They provide the primary solution for killing enemy submarines as well as supporting your own against attacking aircraft. 

Shinano
  • Most maneuverable aircraft in the game (but the most fragile)
  • Highest survivability of all the carriers (19000hp and decent bulge armor)
  • Second best deck loading rate (9.5s)
  • Very effective against submarines due to how agile the torpedo bombers are
  • Decent plane capacity (120 ie you will have enough aircraft if you play well)
  • Highest plane dodge-rate in the game

Midway
  • Most survivable aircraft in the game
  • Fastest aircraft in the game
  • Most powerful fighters in terms of damage(14 vs 10)
  • Least maneuverable aircraft in the game
  • Least powerful torpedo bombers in the game (struggles against bulge armor)
  • Highest plane capacity in the game (137 ie you will never run out of planes)

Malta
  • Most powerful torpedo bombers in the game (pierces through bulge armor)
  • Fastest deck reload rate (8.9s)
  • Worst armor and flak of all the carriers
  • Balanced maneuverability and plane health
  • Lowest plane capacity in the game (108 ie you will run out of fighters)

For these three carriers, you can't really go wrong as they all have their uses. Midway for scouting inside of smoke (survivablity and plane count), Malta (for that damage output), and Shinano for fighter♥♥♥♥♥♥(Bigharold 4 fighters 1 tile anyone?)

I would probably reserve one carrier for pure fighters, one for torpedo bombing, and the other for both.
 
 
Cruisers
Cruisers are ships that were historically designed to intercept destroyers as well as commerce. Since commerce is not modelled in the game, We must delve into the role that a cruiser might play in Tier X fleet battles.

Good - 1941 Plan , CA-B Plan

Worst - P-Class

In order to kill destroyers quickly and efficiently, a cruiser must have a high reload rate, as otherwise it is much harder to correct for aiming failure and achieve the calibration bonus.

While the P-Class may have the highest range out of the three (Battleship level) it has a horrible loadout of 2 x 3 280mm cannons. This affords you only two chances of hitting the destroyer and severely limits the dpm of your ship. Additionally it is also slower, pushing out only 29 knots. This makes it fail in the aforementioned role of a cruiser and you are probably better off running a battleship in its place. 

The 1941 Plan and CA-B Plan while having slightly longer reloads than the P-Class (shockingly) they more than make up for this by equipping a hefty 4 x 3 broadside and adequate flak ( x9 and x8 respectively) The 1941 Plan also features 4 x 4 torpedos however these are unlikely to be used effectively unless there is a night battle.

Cruisers should keep within gun range of their fellow submarines in order to provide them with fire support against any enemy destroyers that are detected. They usually are positioned ahead of the group of destroyers, also making them the second line of anti-aircraft defense (the first of which being destroyers)
 
 
Fleet Cohesion and Smoke Mechanics
In order for a fleet to be effective, commands must be given in ways that offer strategic depth. IE, you need to be able to recognize a changing situation and react appropriately. This means that simply outlining where the different ships go at the beginning of the battle and expecting them to do their thing is a fools errand and will result in total disorganization against any enemy who has a proper strategy. 

A group of ships must be able to smoke properly and also know when and how to fall back from a position which is disadvantageous. For example, if a submarine approaches too close to the main group (within 4km) it is safe to say that proceding forward into the path of torpedos is often a poor choice. Additionally, if there are swarms of enemy aircraft ahead of or on the ships, and you are under fire it is also neccessary to turn around. 

To retreat in a COORDINATED manner, the ships should lay a smoke screen in the direct line of fire between themselves and the enemy ships. This DOES NOT mean laying smoke directly atop your own ships, as firing INSIDE of smoke REVEALS your position. Firing BEHIND a smoke SCREEN, affords the enemy no targeting solution except for the tracers of your shells. They should turn around together and lay return fire on any visible enemy ships provided by spotting aircraft and/or submarines. Should there be a spotting submarine, he must also turn around lest he be left without cover fire and be sunk by destroyers or bombers.

A fleet commander must always keep an eye on his minimap to determine the best approach for his different battlegroups. Should his carriers be left behind the main group, it is crucial that they are covered by a screening destroyer or submarine lest they fall prey to an undetected enemy sub that slips through the cracks. If the enemy is making a concentrated push on a flank, but is lacking in aerial support, destroyers can make a line of smoke and fire torpedos behind it to punish the advancing flotilla and delay it with forced evasive maneuvers. Alternatively, if you are on the receiving end of this tactic, it would be wise to turn around and engage any flanking squadrons on the other side of the map, as there is nothing you can do against destroyers inside of smoke without spotting aircraft. 

To properly use smoke bombs, a destroyer must understand that should he fire INSIDE of smoke and reveal himself, a quick use of a smoke bomb ontop of himself will IMMEDIATELY obscure him (this will not prevent shells already in flight from that instant you are revealed from hitting you so make sure to power on your engine). Firing smoke ahead of yourself and firing through also applies to destroyers (and any other ship) so you can safely withdraw behind your smoke, quickly drop torpedos and fire and then pop back into your smoke to keep spotting. Keep in mind that anti-aircraft fire, firing your guns, and dropping torpedos all will reveal your position through smoke if they are within spotting distance (I'm not sure about depth charges but they most likely have the same efffect)
 
 
Cruiser Submarine Theory
Cruiser Submarine Theory is the prevailing doctrine among the three major fleets that run senior fleet battles (TaoG, Crimson Blade, and Bonkers) It involves the use of coordinated fleet submarines along with supporting cruisers and destroyers (as well as adequate air support) to breakthrough an enemy battleline and expose the vulnerable battleships to disruptive torpedo attacks.

Because enemy carriers are most often concerned with the approaching submarine, this allows a fleet to detract from the enemy's fighter strength, enabling an easier time for air-superiority (the more torpedo bombers the use and miss, the less of an effect they will have on your battle line). 

There are currently two methods for achieving submarine breakthrough:

The first of which is operational concentration of submarines into a "wolfpack". (German Spearhead Doctrine)
  • This involves concentrating all or most of your submarines to one position, allowing you to overwhelm defending submarines and destroyers with sheer volume of torpedo fire.
  • The concentration of forces also makes it very easy for friendly carriers to assist as they can commit vast amounts of fighters to one area, and if the opposing carriers try to run torpedo bombers they will surely lose air-superiority (ideally this would be done with the Midway as it has the best performance in a "ball" of fighters with its massive damage.
  • All of the friendly destroyers, cruisers, and battleships would have their guns trained on the area, annihilating any destroyer foolish enough to get detected.
  • Should the enemy commit submarines to the area, friendly u-boats can attack and occupy them, as even one submarine that reaches its target area is able to cause chaos with ensuing salvos.

The second of which is coordinated probing attacks at all vectors of the enemy battle line. (Soviet Deep Battle Doctrine)
  • This involves multiple submarines attacking from multiple different vectors dividing the enemy's ability to focus on any one area (effectively forcing carriers to micro and splitting destroyer forces).
  • Multiple destroyers and cruisers would be in position to effectively support against defending destroyers.
  • The attack vector which has the least amount of resistance would have a mobile reserve commited in force to achieve breakthrough.
  • This would cause chaos to the entire enemy fleet as by then their ships would be disorganized and unable to focus down and destroyer all the attacking ships in a reasonable amount of time.
 
 
Carrier Doctrine
Carriers are primarily for spotting purposes and also for dealing damage through the use of torpedo bombers (never use dive bombers they are terrible unless you go full dive bomber commander in which case all your other aircraft are garbage). A good spotting carrier would want to have fast, and durable planes to get in position faster and last longer against enemy anti aircraft fire (Midway). A good damage dealing carrier would want to have maneuverable high damage torpedo bombers (Shinano and Malta). The difficulties in carrier play lie not in the carrier itself but the actual usage of the aircraft in the grand strategy of a fleet battle encounter. 

At the beginning of the match, carriers may consider launching 4 groups of 1 scoutplane to determine where the initial concentration of enemy vessels may be.

For spotting purposes there are two main strategies, the first of which is balling up your fighter aircraft, shooting down the enemy planes and then sending the whole cluster♥♥♥♥ of planes ontop of the enemy fleet. This has the practical effect of LOWERING THE FRAMERATE OF THE ENEMY'S COMPUTERS because all the flak and smoke effects on a DX9 game are very taxing on newer graphics cards. 

The second of which involves sending all (or small groups) of fighter aircraft directly at the enemy fleet forgoing any sort of fighter engagement and instead gunning for the fasting firing solution for your battleships against the enemy battle line. 

The problems arise between balancing the number of fighter aircraft and torpedo bomber aircraft in the air to maintain spotting potential and the ability to deter submarines forcing them to waste precious oxygen or killing them outright. However, it is never a good idea to run pure fighters as the enemy submarines will be uncontested by your aircraft making it difficult to impossible to sink them under concerted enemy supporting fire. 

For torpedo bombers, it all depends on the degree of air superiority you have. Should you maintain a reasonable degree of it, you can simply send the bombers directly at the target submarine or battleship, however difficulties will arise if you come across a screening destroyer like the gearing. Otherwise, it may be a smarter idea to send the bombers around the battleline and attack towards the rear where most peoples attention will be lax.