The Depth Charge remained the principal anti-submarine weapon in both World Wars. Although aircraft versions were developed prior and during World War II, only one non-Soviet submarine was possibly sunk by aircraft and another shared with surface ships. Surface ships accounted for twelve submarines in addition to the one shared with aircraft. Information on Soviet submarine losses are unreliable even now, but, omitting harbor or stranded losses, it appears that about five were sunk by aircraft and about 18 by surface vessels.

World War II DC had six depth settings for each type, running from 49-82 feet (15-25 m) up to the maximum depths listed below. The depth was controlled by a time fuze. No magnetic (influence) or other triggers were ever developed. The maximum destructive radius against a 0.5" (12 mm) hull were 26 feet (8 m) for the WBD and 18 feet (5.6 m) for the others. WB = "Wasserbombe" or Depth Charge.

There were several ASW weapons under development in 1945, including long-range mortars and rockets, but none appear to have seen service.

Post-war, Germany has used USA and other NATO ASW munitions.

"Blind Time" is the time between when a weapon is launched and when it reaches the target location. In addition, most early sonar systems lost the target submarine on close approach, usually requiring a "sprint" to reduce blind time. For depth charges, this meant that they were dropped or fired after the sonar contact was lost.

ASW Complement

World War II destroyers were designed with four DC throwers abreast the after superstructure and two racks on the port and starboard quarters. Up to 1939, only 18 DCs were carried, with six of these being in the racks. These numbers were increased once the war started. For example, on her surrender in 1945, the Z33 carried thirty lightweight DC with four throwers.

Types

C/15

Date Of Design 1914
Date In Service 1915
Total Weight 200 lbs. (91 kg)
Explosive Charge 110 lbs. (50 kg)
Sink Rate / Terminal Velocity N/A
Settings N/A

The only depth charge used by the Germans during World War I. Produced by Carbonit Gesellschaft, this used a float with a lanyard with a back up timer device. This DC worked only about 50% of the time, and the Navy considered it to be too heavy for the charge weight. It was also faulted for having too slow a sink rate and being difficult to manufacture. Only 2,256 were produced during the War.

WBD

Date Of Design N/A
Date In Service N/A
Total Weight 397 lbs. (180 kg)
Explosive Charge 276 lbs. (125 kg) SW18
Sink Rate / Terminal Velocity 11.5 fps (3.5 mps)
Settings 394 feet (120 m) max

Developed prior to World War II.

WBF

Date Of Design N/A
Date In Service N/A
Total Weight 306 lbs. (139 kg)
Explosive Charge 132 lbs. (60 kg) SW18
Sink Rate / Terminal Velocity 7.3 fps (2.23 mps)
Settings 246 feet (75 m) max

WBG

Date Of Design N/A
Date In Service N/A
Total Weight 397 lbs. (180 kg)
Explosive Charge 132 lbs. (60 kg) SW18
Sink Rate / Terminal Velocity 11.5 fps (23.5 mps)
Settings 394 feet (120 m) max

WBH

Date Of Design N/A
Date In Service N/A
Total Weight 529 lbs. (240 kg)
Explosive Charge 132 lbs. (60 kg) SW18
Sink Rate / Terminal Velocity 14.3 fps (4.35 mps)
Settings 492 feet (150 m) max

Racks

Designations are not available at this time. It would appear that stern racks held three DC and that smaller vessels had several single DC holders arranged along the sides of the after superstructure.

Projectors

Most were single DC throwers. A Rheinmetall drawing shows a weight of 606 lbs. (275 kg), initial velocity of 115 fps (35 mps) and an arbor weight of 77 lbs. (35 kg).

Sources

Data from:

  • "Naval Weapons of World War Two" by John Campbell
  • "S-Boote: German E-boats in action 1939 - 1945" by Jean-Philippe Dallies-Labourdette
  • "Find and Destroy: Antisubmarine Warfare in World War I" by Dwight R. Messimer
  • "US Naval Weapons" and "The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems 1991/92" both by Norman Friedman
    "German Destroyers of World War Two (Revised Edition)" by M.J. Whitley

Page History

23 May 2006 - Benchmark

07 January 2012 - Added picture of WBG Depth Charges