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With battlecruisers' abysmal performance at Jutland and HMS Hood being very quickly sunk by the Bismarck, why would I be wrong in concluding that the battlecruiser concept was a failed idea?

TL;DR: No, they worked admirably when used for their intended purpose.The British line of battlecruiser was built to fight a very specific sort of enemy, this:This is the German armoured cruiser Prinz Adalbert. With a speed of 20 knots she could outrun contemporary battleships, while sporting a main armament of 21 cm and 15 cm guns. Enough to handle most smaller ships.Technically the armoured cruiser were built for trade protection, and for “showing the flag” on foreign stations who did not warrant a battleship stationed there. But any ship built for trade protection could just as easy be used for commerce hunting. Some nations, including the French did at times favor the so-called Jeune Ecole line of thought, swarms of torpedo boats for home defense, fast armoured cruisers to cut off the trade lines of their enemy.The core of this strategy was the the UK would never allow itself to be outbuilt in battleships, and had the resources to ensure their superiority. Rather than try to match the RN in battleships, the idea was to rather aim at the most obvious weak point; the trade routes bringing resources to the islands.Great BritainThe British response was to build bigger and faster cruisers to protect their vital supply lines:As a counter, the British armoured cruiser grew to massive proportions, this is the HMS Drake, capable of 23 knots. At 14 450 tons she was larger and more expensive than the Duncan-class battleships built at the same time, although rather lightly armed with two 9,2 inch guns and a battery of six inch guns in casemattes. The main reason for the size was that the speed and range needed demanded huge stores of coal.So this was the situation around the turn of the century, Britain needed to protect her trading routes against a possibly large number of enemy armoured cruisers coming for the trading fleet.Enter HMS Invincible, the pride and joy of Admiral Fisher:Rather than trying to build ever bigger armoured cruisers, the battlecruiser were meant to make their intended foe completely obsolete.In order to examine her, it is useful to take a look at the Battle of the Falklands. Two German armoured cruiser had annihilated a British cruiser squadron and were roaming the South Atlantic. Local forces were unable to stop them, and any trading ship in the area risked destruction. Invincible and her sister Inflexible were sent to sort out the matter, and found the Germans at the Falklands. The following engagement highlighted the strengths of the battlecruiser against the intended opponent.First, Admiral Sturdee used the superior speed of his ships (25 vs 24 on paper, likely bigger since the German ships had been at sea for a while) to keep out of range of the enemy secondary battery. The enemy, the cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, had a main battery of 8 21 cm guns each, with a maximum range of some 16 km. The secondary 15 cm battery had a range of around 13 km.Sturdee, with the battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible had a total of 16 12-inc guns, with a range of over 20 km. So from his perspective, what he wanted was to keep the distance between the ships around 15–18 km. This would allow him to use his main guns, while the Germans could only use their main battery, and at at extreme range.As for the thin armour of the battlecruiser, they would be vulnerable to the main guns of the cruisers. But as long as they maintained the optimal distance, the Germans would get very few chances of landing a hit. If the Germans would turn and charge, he could simply turn around and steam out of rangeIn the end the Battle of The Falklands played out exactly as planned, both German cruisers were sunk with minimal losses on the British side. The only negative was a very low hit rate, other than that they worked just as Fisher had intended. However, this was also the only time the battlecruiser got the chance to perform their intended main mission. Within a few months all German cruiser were gone from the high seas, there would never be another Falklands.A second mission was also envisaged, the battlecruiser would take over as scouts for the battlefleet, a role previously undertaken by the armoured cruisers. By using their speed they would probe the enemy fleet and report back to the Admiral on the numbers and positions of the enemy fleet. Obviously a more dangerous task, but their speed should ensure that they could retreat if they ran into trouble.The danger was however spotted early, any Admiral would be tempted to add the battlecruiser to the line, in order to take advantage of their heavy guns. This would however put them in a position they were not designed for; a heavy slugging match where they could not use their main defensive advantage, the speed.GermanyAs for their main opposition, the German battlecruiser, were built for a slightly different task. While Germany had a large trading fleet, she was severly hindered by geography. The only routes to open ocean passed by major UK bases. Going to sea to hunt for cruisers was just not an option, any sortie would risk ambush by a stronger enemy. Even if a ship got out the return would be even more dangerous.The German ships were therefore optimized for the fighting scout role. Smaller guns, slower speed, but an armour scheme almost as good as the battleships. They could scout, but when the clash came the battlecruiser could fight along the main fleet. The Kaiserliche Marine would always be smaller than the Royal Navy, and it was important that every major asset could be thrown at the enemy.The verdictWhen looking at the success, my conclusion is that the battlecruiser worked just fine, when used as intended. The Battle of the Falklands was a complete success for the British concept, with two large German cruisers sunk with minimal damages. The only issue was a low rate of hits, other than that the engagement proved that the armoured cruisers were useless in modern warfare.Jutland was a completely different saga though, although sloppy British safety protocols were probably as much to blame as the ships. Even so, having it out with enemy heavies was not really their intended role.As for their German counterparts, they performed their scouting duties and joined the line, performing as intended. Their heavier armour helped most of the battlecruiser survive the major engagements.

What are US Special Operations Forces? What is their role and organization?

My first answer on Quora, in English, was precisely about this, but since I talked in some depth about the Russian military ‘Spetsnaz’ recently, I might as well revisit this subject in more detail, too…Gabriel Cabral's answer to What is the Russian Spetsnaz? Is it the Russian Navy Seals or just the title for Russian Special Forces, what is Russia's elite force?[*I won’t link my first answer on US Special Operations Forces because I will discuss them in depth in this answer, so… no need. Also: be warned that this is a LONG answer — and I can’t make a “Too Long; Didn’t Read” (TL;DR) summary, because this ALREADY IS a general summary on the subject.]So, the Special Operations Forces (or SOF) of any country are the individual military units or military organizations doctrinally oriented for the conduction of ‘Special Warfare’ (colloquially, “Special Operations”).This doctrine is VERY broad, with many mission-sets for different contexts; however, simply put, this doctrine revolves around the conduction of specialized operations “on the backstage” of military efforts — missions of strategic value, as well as of high tactical or operational value — through the employment of non-conventional techniques, usually directly on the front lines or behind enemy lines (all under varying degrees of secrecy).In the United States military — specifically, the branches under the Department of Defense, or DoD (thus excluding the Coast Guard) —, these dedicated, full-time SOF are maintained and coordinated through the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM, or just SOCOM), and administratively overseen and managed by each branch’s own Special Operations command (which are component commands under the USSOCOM).Emblem of the USSOCOM.The Navy component of the USSOCOM is the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command (NavSpecWarCom or NSWC, sometimes referred to as “WARCOM”). The operational elements of this command are the Sea, Air and Land Teams (SEAL Teams, or just SEALs), supported by the SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams (SDVTs) and the Special Boat Teams (SBTs), whose members are called Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC). The command is organized into Groups, those being:The Naval Special Warfare Group 1: comprehends the SEAL Teams 1, 3, 5 and 7;The Naval Special Warfare Group 2: comprehends the SEAL Teams 2, 4, 8 and 10;The Naval Special Warfare Group 3: comprehends the SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams 1 and 2;The Naval Special Warfare Group 4: comprehends the Special Boat Teams 12, 20 and 22;The Naval Special Warfare Group 10: comprehends the NSW Support Activity One and Two, as well as the Mission Support Center;The Naval Special Warfare Group 11: comprehends the SEAL Teams 17 and 18 (Reserve);and the Naval Special Warfare Development Group: constitutes the Navy’s contribution to the Joint Special Operations Command; I’ll comment on it later in the answer, when discussing this command.ABOUT THE SEAL TEAMS:They are a mixed ‘Naval Special Forces’*-type and ‘Naval/Amphibious Commando’-type organization, which means that their Special Warfare Operators (SOs) — or Special Operators (or just Operators) — are indoctrinated, under a naval/amphibious context, in the conduction of ‘Irregular/Unconventional Warfare’ operations and ‘Direct Action’, respectively (I’ll clarify on these missions later on in the answer).[*NOTE: In the US military, only the Army Special Forces are referred to as ‘Special Forces’, but this is simply a technicality of official terminology; US SOF are referred to strictly by their designation (or nicknames), not by unit type — and only the Army SF are designated ‘Special Forces’. However, in the ‘Special Warfare’ doctrine, ‘Special Forces’ constitutes a unit or organization with a doctrinal focus toward ‘Irregular/Unconventional Warfare’ (and thus, based on this defining trait, one can determine whether any one SOF is a ‘Special Forces’-type unit or not, regardless of official nomenclature).]The original Teams (SEAL Teams 1 and 2) were created in 1962, having been developed from among the Navy’s Underwater Demolitions Teams (UDTs) to conduct seaborne Reconnaissance, Intelligence Gathering and Raids in coastal and riverine areas, primarily in support of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam — Studies and Observation Group (MACV–SOG), coordinated by the CIA for strategic-value and clandestine operations in the context of the Vietnam War.Each Active Duty SEAL Team (also referred to as “Squadron”) is effectively a Company, comprising 8 Platoons, each made up by 16 Operators (often working in 4-person Fireteams or 8-person Squads) — each Reserve Team comprises only 2 Platoons.The Navy SEALs’ missions can be summarized as:Underwater Operations: Hydrographic and Harbor Reconnaissance, Underwater Demolitions and Ship Mining;Maritime Operations: Maritime Interdiction/ship Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS), Gas/Oil Platform operations (capture/recovery), Counter-Piracy and Maritime Counter-Terrorism (includes Hostage Rescue);Amphibious/Land Operations: Intelligence Gathering, Amphibious and Special Reconnaissance, Direct Action (strikes, assaults and raids), Personnel Recovery, Irregular/Unconventional Warfare, Counter-Terrorism (again, includes Hostage Rescue), and many more.ABOUT THE SEAL DELIVERY VEHICLE TEAMS:They are part of the SEAL organization, and serve as its mini-submersible crews and experts in submarine-borne operations (though every SEAL is by default a Combat Diver, fully qualified for underwater operations, overall). Like the SEAL Teams, each SDVT is effectively a Company, but comprising 4 Platoons instead of 8.ABOUT THE SPECIAL BOAT TEAMS (SWCC):They conduct maritime, coastal and riverine boat operations, and primarily support the SEALs through special boat transportation, insertion and extraction, as well as through amphibious rescue and recovery of personnel (‘Casualty Assistance and Evacuation’) — think of them, if you will, as the Navy’s boat equivalent to the Army’s “Night Stalkers” (I’ll discuss them later in the answer). They were established in 1987, but can trace their roots to the Navy’s WWII Torpedo Boat and Riverine Warfare units.Seal of the NSWC.The NSW/SEAL insignia.An SDV team preparing to launch a Mk-VIII MOD 1 SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) for a submarine-borne ‘Underwater/Amphibious Operations’ exercise.SEALs during an ‘Amphibious Reconnaissance’ simulation.SEALs during a ‘Visit, Board, Search and Seizure’ (VBSS) exercise.SEALs during a ‘Winter/Arctic Warfare’ exercise.SEALs engaged in urban combat during ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ (OIF).SEALs conducting troop movement coordination and surveillance alongside Afghan Commandos during ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ (OEF) — Afghanistan.The Special Warfare Boat Operator (SB — or SWCC) rating badge.Special Boat Operators (SWCC) launching a Boeing Insitu ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) during maritime/coastal operations with a VT Halter Marine Mark V Special Operations Craft (Mk V SOC).A SWCC tends to a simulated casualty during a ‘Casualty Assistance and Evacuation’ exercise.Two SWCC teams, supported by the U.S. Army’s “Night Stalkes”, conducting a ‘Maritime External Air Transportation System’ (MEATS) insertion exercise with Rigid-hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIBs, or RIBs).A SWCC team conducting a ‘Riverine Warfare’ exercise with a United States Marine, Inc. Special Operations Craft — Riverine (SOC–R).The Marine Corps component of the USSOCOM is the U.S. Marine Corps Forces — Special Operations Command, simplified as Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC). The operational element of this command is the Marine Raider Regiment. The command is composed by:The Marine Raider Regiment (MRR);The Marine Raider Support Group (MRSG);And the Marine Raider Training Center (MRTC).ABOUT THE MARINE RAIDER REGIMENT:It is a mixed ‘Amphibious Special Forces/Commando’-type organization, oriented for many of the same missions as the Navy’s SEAL Teams regarding amphibious operations, as well as those of the Army’s Special Forces regarding land operations.It is a relatively new organization, having been established in 2006 as the Marine Special Operations Regiment (MSOR) after the experiences gained through the Marine Special Operations Command — Detachment One (MCSOCOM–Det 1) between 2004 and 2006 in Iraq. Its Operators are designated Critical Skills Operators (CSOs; Enlisted) and Special Operations Officers (SOOs; Officers), being collectively called Marine Raiders in trubute to the WWII Marine Raiders, to whom the Regiment traces its roots.The Regiment is made up by 3 Battalions, in turn organized into 4 Companies, each one comprising 4 Teams — each Marine Raider Team is a 14-Operator strong Squad/Platoon, which can divide itself into smaller teams according to a mission’s requirements.The Marine Raiders’ missions can be summarized as:Maritime Operations: all the same as the Navy SEALs;Amphibious/Land Operations: primary focus on Amphibious and Special Reconnaissance, Direct Action and Military Assistance (training, advisory and limited assistance to partner forces), with a secondary orientation for Information Operations and Irregular/Unconventional Warfare, as well as Counter-Insurgency and Counter-Terrorism.MARSOC’s seal/emblem.The Marine Raider Regiment’s insignia.The Marine Raider badge/insignia with their Latin motto, which means “Unconquered Spirit”.Marine Raiders after a diving infiltration during an ‘Urban Operations’ exercise.Marine Raiders during a helicopter-borne ‘Visit, Board, Search and Seizure’ (VBSS) exercise.A Marine Raider preparing an ambush during a ‘Counter-Insurgency’ mission alongside Afghan Commandos, as part of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ — Afghanistan.Marine Raiders undertaking the ‘Advanced Sniper Training Course’, gaining familiarity with foreign weapon systems.Marine Raiders during a pre-deployment ‘Urban Operations’ exercise (Exercise ‘RAVEN’).Marine Raiders during a ‘Tactical Vehicle and Weapons Training’.The Army component of the USSOCOM is the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (Airborne), or USASOC. The operational elements of this command are the Special Forces Groups (SFGs), which constitute the Army’s Special Forces branch, and the 75th Ranger Regiment (75 Rgr Rgt), both directly supported by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), or 160th SOAR (A), as well as by many more non-combatant units. The command is organized into the following subcommands:The 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), or 1st SFC (A), which comprehends:The Special Forces Branch, comprising the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 10th Special Forces Groups (Airborne), which are Active Duty Groups, as well as the 19th and 20th Special Forces Groups (Airborne), which fall under the Army National Guard (ARNG);The Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Groups — the 4th and 8th Psychological Operations Groups (Airborne);The 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), comprising the 91st, 92nd, 96th, 97th and 98th Civil Affairs Battalions (Airborne);The 528th Sustainment Brigade (Special Operations) (Airborne), comprising the 112th Special Operations Signal Battalion (Airborne), a Special Troops Battalion (Airborne), an Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) Support Operations Cell, 6 ARSOF Liaison Elements, and 2 Medical Role II teams;And the 389th Military Intelligence Battalion (Airborne).The U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (Airborne), or USASOAC, which comprehends:The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), or 160th SOAR (A);The USASOC Flight Company (UFC);The Special Operations Aviation Training Battalion (SOATB);The Technology Applications Program Office (TAPO);And the Systems Integration Management Office (SIMO).The 75th Ranger Regiment (75 Rgr Rgt), which is a separate Regiment within the U.S. Army regimental system;The U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS);And the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment–Delta (Airborne), or 1st SFOD–D (A), which constitutes the Army’s primary contribution to JSOC; I’ll comment on it later, when discussing JSOC.ABOUT THE SPECIAL FORCES BRANCH:It is a ‘Special Forces’-type organization, which means that it has a doctrinal focus on the conduction of ‘Irregular/Unconventional Warfare’*. Its Special Forces-qualified members are designated Special Forces Operators (a.k.a. “Green Berets”).[*‘Irregular Warfare’ comprehends ‘Asymmetric Warfare’ (skirmishing, guerrilla and insurgency) as well as ‘Counter-Guerrilla/-Insurgency’; ‘Unconventional Warfare’, on the other hand, consists in the training and coordination of partner forces for the conduction of ‘Irregular Warfare’, be it during combined efforts or under a ‘Military Assistance’ context.]The first SF Group to be established — the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), or 10th SFG (A) — was founded in 1952 to support resistance efforts in the Central European States against an eventual aggression/occupation by the Warsaw Pact States, in the context of the Cold War. The Group based its doctrine on the experiences of WWII units such as the Americo-Canadian 1st Special Service Force (1 SSF), the OSS Jedburgh Detachments, the Alamo Scouts, and many more.The Branch comprehends 5 Active Duty Groups and 2 Army National Guard Groups, as listed before. Each Group is effectively a Regiment, made up by 4 Battalions (or 3 in the ARNG Groups), a Group Support Battalion/Company and a Chemical Reconnaissance Company/Detachment; each Battalion is organized into a Battalion Headquarters Operational Detachment–Charlie (SF ODC) and 3 Companies, each comprising a Command and Support Operational Detachment–Bravo (SF ODB) and 6 Operational Detachments–Alpha (SF ODAs) — each ODA is a 12-Operator strong Squad/Platoon, which can divide itself into smaller teams according to a mission’s requirements (each ODA is also specialized for a specific mission-set, such as ‘Scuba Operations’, ‘Military Free-Fall Operations’, ‘Urban Operations’, etc).ABOUT THE 75th RANGER REGIMENT:It is a ‘Commando’-type unit, doctrinally oriented toward ‘Direct Action’ operations — which constitute the planning and conduction of short-duration, high-intensity strikes, assaults or raids to capture, disrupt or destroy/eliminate high-value objectives.The Regiment, in its current form, was established in 1984, but the first modern Ranger Battalions were raised during WWII (the 1st Ranger Battalion has been continuously active since 1942), based upon the British Commandos, adopting their ‘Direct Action’ orientation. The Rangers, however, can trace their roots to the Ranging/Raiding Companies of the American colonial and revolutionary period — as can the Special Forces, arguably, for those Companies were oriented for ‘Irregular/Unconventional Warfare’ (as well as for ‘Direct Action’). Since WWII, the Rangers incorporated Airborne roles during the Korean War (in the form of the Airborne Ranger Companies), as well as Long-Range/Special Reconnaissance capabilities during the Vietnam War (in the form of the 75th Ranger Infantry Regiment–Airborne and its LRR units), thus establishing the Regiment’s current doctrine over time.The Regiment is organized into a Special Troops Battalion (STB), a Military Intelligence Battalion (MIB) and 3 operational Battalions, each made up by 4 Rifle Companies and a Support Company, with the Rifle Companies comprising 3 Rifle Platoons and a Weapons Platoon — each Rifle Platoon comprehends 24 Rangers, which can divide themselves into smaller teams according to a mission’s requirements.[*For a detailed comparison between the Special Forces Groups and the 75th Ranger Regiment, as well as for a complete and comprehensive list of their respective missions, see: Gabriel Cabral's answer to What is the difference between the Army Ranger and the Army Green Beret? What type of operations are they generally assigned to do?]ABOUT THE 160th SPECIAL OPERATIONS AVIATION REGIMENT (AIRBORNE):It is a specialized helicopter unit, oriented for the aerial transport, insertion and extraction of other SOF, as well as to provide them with helicopter fire-support and emergency evacuation of casualties.The Regiment was formed in 1981 to establish a dedicated helicopter doctrine to support other SOF, after the aviation disaster that caused the abortion of ‘Operation Eagle Claw’ the year before, with different aviation units operating jointly without having a proper coordinated doctrine and experience for an operation of the type.The Regiment is organized into 4 Battalions, each with Companies dedicated to operating specific helicopter assets — its aircraft inventory is composed by MD Helicopters A/MH-6M Little Birds, Sikorsky MH-60M Black Hawks (including its ‘Direct Action Penetrator’ version, or DAP), and Boeing MH-47G Chinooks, among other secondary assets.Emblem of the USASOC with its Latin motto, which means “Without Equal”.The U.S. Army Special Forces unit insignia with their Latin motto, which means “To Free The Oppressed”.Special Forces Operators (a.k.a. “Green Berets”) during an ‘Underwater Operations’ exercise.“Green Berets” during a ‘High-Altitude, Low Opening’ (HALO) parachuting exercise.“Green Berets” from ‘Task Force Dagger’ coordinating with the Afghan Northern Alliance for combined operations against the Taliban regime during the invasion phase of the War in Afghanistan.“Green Berets” conducting a combat patrol during ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ — Afghanistan.A “Green Beret” in Syria while supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).The 75th Ranger Regiment’s unit insignia.Rangers engaged in urban combat in Iraq, supporting ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’.A Ranger Squad performing a security halt during a night operation in Iraq.Rangers during combat operations in Afghanistan, in support of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ — Afghanistan.Rangers, supported by the 160th SOAR (A), approaching a target area by helicopter during an ‘Urban Operations’ exercise.A Ranger Platoon preparing to board a 160th SOAR (A) Boeing MH-47G Chinook for a night operation in Afghanistan.Rangers honing their ‘Close-Quarters Battle’ (CQB) skills at a “Kill House”.The unit insignia of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), a.k.a. “Night Stalkers”.An MD Helicopters MH-6M Little Bird light assault helicopter of the 160th SOAR (A) during a helicopter ‘Fast Rope’ insertion exercise with Army Rangers.An MD Helicopters AH-6M Little Bird “Killer Egg” light attack helicopter of the 160th SOAR (A) during a fire support/attack exercise.A Sikorsky MH-60M Black Hawk medium multi-mission helicopter of the 160th SOAR (A).A close-up view of a ‘Direct Action Penetrator’ (DAP) variant of the Sikorsky MH-60M Black Hawk, operated by the 160th SOAR (A).A Boeing MH-47G Chinook heavy multi-mission helicopter from the 160th SOAR (A) preparing for take-off.The Air Force component of the USSOCOM is the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). The operational elements of this command are its Special Operations Groups (SOGs) and Special Tactics Squadrons (STSs). The command was founded in 1983, after the aviation disaster during ‘Operation Eagle Claw’. This is a VERY large command, with multiple aviation, infantry and support elements; so, instead of listing the command’s composition, here’s the command’s general Order of Battle (OrBat):ABOUT THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS GROUPS:They operate the aviation assets of the AFSOC; everything from multi-mission Boeing CV-22B Ospreys, going through the Sikorsky M/HH-60H/G Pave Hawk (and the new HH-60W Jolly Green II), to fixed-wing platforms such as the Lockheed Martin AC-130 gunships, MC-130H Combat Talon II, EC-130H Compass Call, etc. These assets are used to support SOF efforts, as well as conventional operations.ABOUT THE SPECIAL TACTICS SQUADRONS:They comprise the AFSOC Tactical Air Control Parties (TACPs), Special Reconnaissance (SR) Operators, Combat Controllers (CCTs) and Pararescuemen (a.k.a. “Pararescue Jumpers”, or PJs). These are the specialists who provide, respectively, combat air-ground coordination, Special Reconnaissance, Combat Air Control and Pathfinder capabilities, and Combat Medical Rescue/Search and Rescue.Shield/emblem of the AFSOC.A USAF Special Operations Sikorsky MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter during a demonstration with Special Tactics personnel.A USAF Special Operations Boeing CV-22B Osprey multi-mission convertiplane refueling in-flight.A view of a USAF Special Operations Lockheed Martin AC-130U Spooky II gunship.A USAF Special Operations Lockheed Martin MC-130H Combat Talon II taking off.The USAF Combat Control insignia.Combat Controllers clearing the airspace and an improvised runway to coordinate a C-130 aircraft’s take-off in support of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ (unclear location).Combat Controllers from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron (23rd STS) providing air traffic control coordination at the Toussant L’Ouverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake that shook the country, in support of ‘Operation Unified Response’.Emblem of the USAF Pararescue.Pararescuemen (a.k.a. “PJs”) conducting a high-altitude ‘Military Free-Fall’ (HAHO/HALO) parachute jump in support of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’.A Pararescue team conducts a hoist extraction of a simulated “survivor” during an Urban Operations Training Exercise (UOTE), while supporting ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’.A PJ provides medical attention to a wounded Afghan soldier during ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ — Afghanistan.A PJ from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron (23rd STS) helping conduct the rescue of a survivor inside a collapsed building in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, in support of ‘Operation Unified Response’.The dedicated ‘Special Missions’ and ‘Counter-Terrorism’ component of the USSOCOM is the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Its primary operational elements are the Navy’s Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG) and the Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment–Delta (Airborne), or 1st SFOD–D (A), both supported by the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance Company (RRC) and the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron (24th STS), among many more non-combatant units.[*For the command’s composition, see: Gabriel Cabral's answer to Who are the four Tier 1 Units in the US military?]ABOUT THE NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE DEVELOPMENT GROUP:It is the Navy component of JSOC, oriented for the same overall missions as the regular SEAL Teams, but added ‘Information Operations’, ‘Clandestine Operations’ and a dedicated, specialized ‘Counter-Terrorism’ doctrine (primarily focused toward ‘Hostage Rescue’ at sea and the recovery of vessels/platforms).It was founded in 1980 as SEAL Team 6 after the failure of ‘Operation Eagle Claw’, as a supplement to the 1st SFOD–D (A).The Group is essentially a Battalion, made up by a selection and training Squadron/Team, 2 support Squadrons and 4 Assault Squadrons (essentially Companies), with each one comprising 3 Troops — each Troop is a 24-Operator strong Platoon, and can be divided into smaller teams according to a mission’s requirements (usually working in 4-Operator Fireteams or 8-Operator Squads, just as the regular SEAL Teams).ABOUT THE 1st SPECIAL FORCES OPERATIONAL DETACHMENT–DELTA (AIRBORNE):It is the Army component of JSOC, oriented for the same overall missions as the Army’s Special Forces Groups and the 75th Ranger Regiment, but added ‘Information Operations’, ‘Clandestine Operations’ and a dedicated, specialized ‘Counter-Terrorism’ doctrine (focusing on ‘Counter-Hijacking’ and ‘Hostage Rescue’).It was established in 1977 in response to the waves of international terrorism (namely aircraft hijackings and hostage crises), and has changed its designation* a few times since its foundation.[*Because it is not officially acknowledged by the US government, the “official” name and other re-designations are all extra-official.]The Detachment is essentially a Battalion, made up by an aviation Squadron, a combat support Squadron, a Nuclear Disposal Squadron, a ‘Clandestine Operations’ Squadron and 4 Assault Squadrons (also essentially Companies), with each assault Squadron comprising a Reconnaissance/Sniper Troop and 2 Assault Troops — each Troop being, again, a 24-Operator strong Platoon, which can be divided into smaller teams according to a mission’s requirements.[*For a comprehensive overview of the 1st SFOD–D (A), see: Gabriel Cabral's answer to What is the 1st Special Forces operational detachment?]JSOC’s seal.Insignia of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG, a.k.a. “DEVGRU”).NSWDG (“DEVGRU”) SEALs posing for a photo after a night mission in Afghanistan, circa 2009.The USASOC ‘Shoulder Sleeve Insignia’ (SSI), as worn by members of the 1st SFOD–D (A) on their service and dress uniforms.1st SFOD–D (A) Operators during a Counter-Terrorism response alongside French Special Forces Operators (far-left, with face cover) in Burkina Faso, 2014.Aaannd this is it; these are all of the main American military Special Operations Forces.I’m sorry if the answer ended up being too long, but I did warn at the beginning — and all of this truely is a “general summary”, and really couldn’t have been made shorter (not when the question asked about roles and organization, on top of the units’ basic descriptions)…

Were battleships obsolete in WWII?

In defense of the battleships, i will say no.A lot of people just keep having this idea that “airplane is the future”, “aircraft carrier made battleship obsolete”, and whatnot without knowing any context. These people treated the invention of aircraft carrier as like the end of the battleship era. Using events such as Pearl Harbor, or Battle of Taranto, or Swordfish fight against Bismarck to show that the carrier is so much superior to battleships.I generally don’t really agree with the whole argument. The arguments generally lacking in context and necessary materials to explain the argument. I’m going to explain to you why battleships weren’t really exactly obsolete by the start of World War II and by that, i meant not just merely for shore bombardment or escorting carriers.To understand what we’re talking about here, first we need to understand the carrier designs of the two largest navies in World War II, the Royal Navy and the US Navy. Because the designs of their carriers were different from each other and there are some explanation we can get out of them. The carriers we’re going to look at are HMS Ark Royal, and the Illustrious & all of its subclass from UK. While we’re going to take Yorktown and the Essex class for U.S., because all of these carriers were designed, well more or less, at the same period.The most prominent difference between the British carriers (apart from HMS Ark Royal) and U.S. carriers was the deck area. On the Illustrious & its subclass, they had something called an armored flight deck. On the American, Yorktown and Essex didn’t have an armored flight deck. The reason of this was that both of them were operating in two different theaters (although yes both have global commitment in their usage of their navies).For the American carriers mostly operating in the Pacific, the main threat for the US carriers were the enemy’s own carriers which plane capacity would be well within the US carriers to matched. These enemy’s carriers, since they operating in the Pacific, would also suffered from the same operational constraint the American carriers had. In the era before radar, the only way to spot an enemy carrier or worse, an enemy attack air group, was done by visual (ex: sending scout bombers, or sending destroyers ahead of you, etc).American naval historian Norman Friedman states this in his book, U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History:Almost from the beginning, then, the chief threat to their existence was the airplane. From the mid-twenties on, dive-bombing appeared to be an extremely potent threat to relatively lightly protected ships. At the same time, treaty restrictions on carrier displacement made it impossible for the U.S. designers to provide what they considered adequate flight-deck armor to repel dive-bomb attacks. Moreover, repeated experiments seemed to demonstrate that the carrier’s own fighters would be unable to protect her, given the very limited warning pickets ships could provide.(Friedman, Norman: U.S. Aircraft Carriers page 8)So Americans solved this problem by concluding that whoever attack first, usually tends to win in an engagement.During the twenties, U.S. doctrine increasingly detached the battle line from the carrier, so as to allow it concentrate, at the outset, on destroying enemy carriers. For example, the standard U.S. carrier air groups of the early thirties included in its four squadrons a scout squadron whose task it was to find the enemy carrier or carriers before its own ship was discovered.(Friedman, Norman: U.S. Aircraft Carriers page 11)Indeed, by the early thirties the absolute need to deal preemptively with enemy carriers led the United States to provide a specialized squadron of long-range scouts aboard of its carriers. Identical aircraft were used for dive-bombing, whence the SB or scout-bomber designation of U.S. dive-bombers of World War II.(Friedman, Norman: U.S. Aircraft Carriers page 63)And since you’re going to attack first, why not as well bring the maximum numbers of aircraft as humanly possible onto your carrier to maximize the damage when you sent your aircraft to the enemy carrier, hopefully before he get the chance to do the same to you.To achieve maximum offensive power against enemy carriers, U.S. tacticians developed the technique of the deck-load strike, which became the basis for U.S. carrier design: carriers were designed to launch the maximum number of aircraft for a strike in a single operation. Some inflexibility had to be accepted: with all aircraft aboard, the takeoff area was fully occupied. If only one airplane were launched, it could not land aboard when the landing area was filled with the rest of the aircraft waiting to takeoff.(Friedman, Norman: U.S. Aircraft Carriers page 12)Indeed, throughout the thirties the U.S. Navy promoted a policy of achieving carrier security by striking the enemy carriers first. It followed that success would come, not from an ability to absorb damage nearly so much as from an ability to launch the largest possible strike in the shortest possible time. There would be little belief in the efficacy of defensive fighters until about 1940, and that would be justified only by the advent of radar for early warning.(Friedman, Norman: U.S. Aircraft Carriers page 83)This is why, if you ever see a picture of American carriers of WWII, the flight deck is often depicted as cramped with so many planes like this:Now we had talked about the American carriers. Now, onto the British ones. The British faced a different problem. Operating in European waters, the British didn’t have to worry about its carrier getting attacked by another carrier, at least until another European country make an operational carrier. The problem with operating in European waters is that the main threat for British carriers were land-based aircraft. Since unlike carrier planes, land-based planes didn’t have the operational constraint of the carrier planes such as short runway. Not to mention, unlike carrier planes whose payload tends to be around 500 lb - 1000 lb, land-based with the benefit of longer runway to takeoff from they can carried payload greater than 1000 lb and the planes can also carried more fuel, due to the aforementioned longer runway, thus longer range.The bombs that hit the armoured carriers in the Mediterranean were 550 lb, 1100 lb and (according to US and British analysis), 2200 lb. These were often dropped at optimal release heights by trained pilots (X Fliegerkorps) to gain maximum effective penetrative velocities. However, maneuvering warships would often force even experienced dive-bomber pilots to release lower in order to increase their chances of a hit in exchange for poorer penetration potential.The bombs used against the US and Britain in the Pacific tended to be lighter 550lb (250kg) weapons (and a greater variety of types – including modified naval shells). These were usually dropped at very low altitudes or left strapped on kamikaze aircraft, drastically reducing their penetrating properties.( Armoured Aircraft Carriers in World War II )And again, another Norman Friedman quote (and you can expect i’m going to quote him again):At first, the element of surprise enjoyed by the carrier appeared to give her the advantage. However, improvements in land-based aircraft changed the balance by the late thirties. Now land-based reconnaissance aircraft could easily outrange the carrier strike planes, and it seems likely that a carrier would be detected and struck during her long run-in toward the target. It was argued that unless carriers were provided with the longer range attack aircraft, they would be too vulnerable to land-based planes, which were not limited in performance by carrier flight decks. Thus it was a surprise, not least to naval aviators themselves, that carriers were so successful in the island raids early in 1942. This expected vulnerability to land-based aircraft was little more than a corollary to the intense concern with attack by enemy carriers, but where air control at sea could be assured by the destruction of a few enemy carriers, no such security could be assured against land-based air forces, with their greater resources.(Friedman, Norman: U.S. Aircraft Carriers page 13)For the British, this wasn’t an option. The enemy would come from dozens of airfields coming from several direction in overwhelming numbers. No planes in a carrier or carrier group could matched the attackers. No matter how hard you defended your carrier, those enemy would get through and your carrier would, inevitably, got hit. So the main focus is to survive the inevitable hit.However, Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson, the Third Sea Lord and Controller, Admiralty Board member responsible for new construction, was determined not to build further Ark Royals because he regarded the design as being vulnerable to air attack by land-based bombers in the confined waters of the North Sea and Mediterranean.(Hobbs, David: British Aircraft Carriers Chapter 11)British carriers, unlike its American counterpart, regarded the AA guns as its main AA defense instead of the fighter planes since British practice required all planes to be kept under the deck in case of an air attack.Given a clear area on the Yorktown deck of about 64,962 square feet for eighty-one aircraft, it could be estimated that 72,180 square feet would be required for ninety aircraft (891 by 81 average width compared with 802 by 81 feet). The greater length could not be achieved on anything like the 20,000 tons available; the only alternative was to rearrange the flight deck. Preliminary Design sought to reduce the areas lost to cutouts for antiaircraft guns and to the island structure itself. It had already experimented with deck-mounted 5-in guns in its abortive design for a 10,000-ton carrier in 1938, and the following year proposed elimination of the starboard deck-level 5-in guns in favor of enclosed mounts superimposed on the island. However, the portside weapons were retained, since the deck guns would be unable to fire across the flight deck when aircraft were on deck. This consideration contrasts with the contemporary British doctrine, which envisaged striking all aircraft below decks in the face of air attack.(Friedman, Norman: U.S. Aircraft Carriers page 136)Now, if you remember what i said in the beginning of the answer, you’d recalled that HMS Ark Royal was different. That is because unlike the Illustrious, Implacable, and Indomitable, Ark Royal was designed with the intention of fighting in the Pacific when the most probable enemy of Britain when Ark Royal was been designed was Japan. Thus it had the same design with the American carriers (ex: no armoured deck, maximize the amount of aircraft it could carried). As this schematics show:However, unlike the Americans, the British didn’t put their planes on the flight deck.By way of contrast, it was British practice to keep all aircraft in the hangar; they were struck below upon landing. The British view, then, was that carrier-air-group size was what the hangar could hold, at least until the middle of World War II.(Friedman, Norman: U.S. Aircraft Carriers page 2)So the British equipped their Illustrious and all its subclass with armored deck with the cost of reduced plane capacity.A quote from British naval architect D.K. Brown’s book, Nelson to Vanguard:The price to pay for the armour was a heavy one; Illustrious could only carry only thirty-three aircraft as compared with Ark Royal’s nominal sixty.(Brown, D.K.: Nelson to Vanguard page 50–51)It also didn’t help that British carrier planes were mostly outdated at the start of World War II or even well until middle of World War II. Stuff like swordfish comes into mind.The swordfish got this almost-mythical level of praise because it hunts the Bismarck. People tends to say stuff like “Because it was so outdated, it’s tough since bullets went through”. Although yes that is true, it lacking context. Against one ship, yes the Swordfish is pretty good but most people who overly-praised the swordfish tends to just forget the fact that against multiple ships with intense anti-aircraft fire and fighter cover, the Swordfish will just get cutted down, as the Channel Dash show us:Just as the MTBs were attempting to withdraw, the six swordfish and a fraction of the promised escort of three squadron of RAF Spitfires commenced their attack — the two additional squadrons of Spitfires tasked with attacking the German anti-aircraft gunners did not arrive at all. Attacking in two sub-flight of three aircraft, the swordfish were mercilessly attacked by German fighters; by the time the first sub-flight passed over the screen of E-boats and destroyers, all three had been damaged and the leading aircraft flown by Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde had had one of its lower wings almost completely shot away. Esmonde, whose aircraft got to within 3,000 yards of the German battlecruisers before being hit again and crashing into the sea, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery. The remaining two aircraft continued to close and both dropped their torpedoes before crashing. Again no hits were scored. The second flight of three swordfish torpedo bombers were last seen flying straight toward the German ships. Once they passed beyond the ring of E-boats and destroyers, they were not seen again.(Redford, Duncan: A History of the Royal Navy: World War II page 111)The usefulness of Battleships, not just for carrier escort or shore bombardment, for main striking power of the fleet is best shown by the leading European naval power, the Royal Navy.Carriers were valued at first for the reconnaissance and artillery spotting their aircraft could provide the battle fleet, and for the denial of these advantages to an enemy; the strike power of the carrier was, at first, very much a secondary asset. The former roles were extremely important in the context of battle-line engagements as they were understood during and immediately after World War I; indeed, they continued to dominate Royal Navy thinking through the beginning of World War II(Friedman, Norman: U.S. Aircraft Carriers page 9)The British, for most part, used their carriers for support role for the fleet. The idea was that the carriers were only used to stall the enemy fleet, long enough until the big-guns ships could do the finishing job. This is best exemplified by the hunt of Bismarck where Ark Royal sent their torpedo bombers to stall the enemy, which they did, and later on the British battleships dealt the finishing blow (something the carrier advocates tends to forgot or just outright ignored) and Battle of Cape Matapan when the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto tried to escape battle and Admiral Cunningham whom wanted a fight with the Italian fleet, sent torpedo bombers against them so that British battleships Valiant, Warspite, and Barham could reach the italians.There was then a pause in the action as the British tried to catch up with the retiring Italian force and readied themselves for action, but it was soon clear that unless the Italian fleet was slowed down by an air attack, they would escape. A second strike of torpedo bombers from HMS Formidable was sent in, attacking Vittorio Veneto between 15:10 and 15:25 and achieved one hit which slowed her down. It looked like Cunningham’s battleships might just catch up and force a night action with the Italians; thus the cruisers and destroyers were let off the leash to find, attack and disorganize the enemy fleet, followed by the three British battleships.(Redford, Duncan: A History of the Royal Navy: World War II page 151)Nelson to Vanguard also has something to state:To some extent, British naval thinking concentrated on a rerun of Jutland in which Fleet Air Arm torpedo bombers would slow the enemy battlefleet which would then be engaged and sunk by the guns of the RN.(Brown, D.K.: Nelson to Vanguard page 8)Really, the efficacy of carrier only took a quantum leap when they were fitted with radar some time in the middle of World War II:The critical development in carrier design was the combination, after 1942, of radar, the combat information center (CIC), and the effectively directed combat air patrol (CAP). From 1939 onward some improvement in carrier self-defense had been attempted in carrier self-defense had been attempted in the form of doubled fighter complements and airborne scouts to direct larger standing CAPs. However, only with radar and the CIC did the carriers achieve a significant level of self-defense. The Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944 was probably the culmination of this development, in that it represented exactly the type of attack which, in the prewar period, would have been considered fatal: a mass surprise air raid against a concentration of carriers tied geographically to a relatively limited area, in this case the sea around Saipan. Radar and fighters protected the fast carrier task force, and the chief result of the battle was the destruction of the attacking Japanese aircraft. Indeed, from about 1943 on, fighter aircraft rather than ship antiaircraft guns were the major defense of the carrier task force, a situation that continued after the war, and that had important effects on the composition of carrier air groups.(Friedman, Norman: U.S. Aircraft Carriers page 9)Radar and the CIC/CAP made it possible for U.S. carriers to launch massive air strikes, such as the ones that sank the Japanese super-battleships Yamato and Musashi in 1944 and 1945.(Friedman, Norman: U.S. Aircraft Carriers page 13)Aircraft carriers weren’t really very effective before they were equipped with radars. Battle of the Coral Sea is a good example where each sides’ carriers search for each other for days. The success of Swordfish attack against Bismarck mostly depends on the radar that was equipped in the swordfish since the battle was a night battle and as contemporary carrier warfare doctrine goes, the doctrine generally rules out night battle since night battle was very dangerous for the carrier planes. Had the swordfish didn’t have radar on them, the battle would not happen in the first place. And even then, many Swordfish were lost returning to the carrier after torpedoing Bismarck because, again, it was night.Even when they were already equipped with radar, stuff like Battle of Samar still happen when the Japanese surface fleets managed to surprised Taffy 3.In Europe, with many enclosed spaces, the sinking of HMS Glorious by the German battlecruisers Sharnhorst and Gneisenau shows the threat of battleships/battlecruisers to carriers still remain. Carriers just generally weren’t suited for European theater.Among all the above points, weather also plays a role why each sides operates the way they are. For the Americans operating in the Pacific, they can do those massed air strike because the ocean is calm most of the time. The name “Pacific” itself should already suggested the nature of the ocean. For the British, operating in North Atlantic, North Sea, Mediterranean they got this problem:Yeah good luck taking off and land with your carriers being shaken like that in the Atlantic. The First Lord’s reply to the War Cabinet regarding the War Cabinet’s perception that because Tirpitz was sunk by aerial bomb marked the era of battleship exemplified this best:There seems to have been considerable opposition in the War Cabinet to this attempt to continue the battleship programme. The sinking of the Tirpitz by 12,000lb bombs was seen to mark the end. The First Lord’s reply made the usual points that aircraft, particularly from carriers, could not be sure of sinking a battleship in bad weather and that battleships were an essential part of the carriers’ protective screen. Perhaps for the first time, it was suggested that guided weapons would swing the balance away from aircraft. The sinking of the Tirpitz was countered by the failure to sink Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, only 150 miles from British air bases.(Brown, D.K.: Nelson to Vanguard page 39)Unlike carriers, battleships still can fight by firing its main gun whether on calm or rough seas.So the conclusion is were battleships obsolete by WWII ? No, they didn’t, especially in European theater. It remain the main offensive power for the European navies, not because the incompetence of the Naval High Command as most people suggested but because circumstances forced the Europeans to build more battleships than carriers.To end this answer, i would like to quote British naval architect David K. Brown:It is often said that the battleship died because it was vulnerable. This is incorrect; it was replaced by the fleet carrier which was much more vulnerable. The battleship died because it was far less capable than the carrier of inflicting damage on the enemy.(Brown, D.K.: Nelson to Vanguard page 39)Sources:Friedman, Norman: U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History. Naval Institute Press: Annapolis, Maryland, US: 1983Brown, D.K.: Nelson to Vanguard. Seaforth Publishing: Barnsley, Yorkshire, Great Britain: 2012Redford, Duncan: A History of the Royal Navy: World War II. I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd: London: 2014Bradford, ErnLe: The Mighty Hood. Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.: New York, NY: 2014Hobbs, David: British Aircraft Carriers: Design, Development, and Service Histories. Seaforth Publishing: Barnsley, Yorkshire, Great Britain: 2013Armoured Aircraft Carriers in World War IIYoutube: Drachinifel, ‘Armoured’ and ‘Unarmoured’ Carriers - Survivability vs Strkie Power.

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