Fans of German military prowess make much of the so-called “Z-plan” that the Kriegsmarine embarked upon in the winter of '38-39. The story goes that Admiral Raeder proposed to Hitler two plans: The first was a short term warplan that only included surface ships either commissioned or in advance stages of construction and submarines. The second was the more ambitious Z-plan, which would center around a massive capital ship program. The Z-plan would not be ready until 1944, and Hitler promised Raeder that the fleet would not be needed until 1946. The Z-plan was selected, with 6 H-class BBs and three new BCs projected for '44-'45. By 1948 the Kriegsmarine would have grown even larger in size, and been a terror to the RN. If only Hitler had held off invading
As my mother likes to say, “If 'ifs' and 'buts' were fruits and nuts we'd all have a Merry Christmas.”
The likelihood of WW2 in
For one, the RN would have been in a much better position then they had in 1939. The massive building program across the North Sea would not have gone unanswered, and it seems likely that at the very least all 5 KGVs and the 4 planned Lion class BBs would have been completed(or in the case of the Lions the first hull or two would have been finished with the others in advanced stages of construction). The Mighty 'Ood would have undergone it's much needed modernization, and the QEs not modernized in the original timeline would have been as well. The RN Battleline would have been more formidable, not less, with a delayed start to a European war.
Across the Channel, the FN re-arming proceeds apace, with the fine Richelieu class BBs entering service, as well as a new aircraft carrier that will provide much needed air cover for the fleet(the old Bearn being unsuited for modern operations). The only concerns are whether or not
In the Baltic new Soviet BBs have begun to enter service, further complicating the correlation of forces.
This all assumes, of course, that
In short, just like so many other “invincible” Wehrmacht plans and weapons systems, the Z-Plan does not hold up to scrutiny as a war winner. With no immediate war need to concentrate on escort production, the number of the RN and USN capital ships increases dramatically. The delayed start means more capital ships for
The Great Ships: British Battleships in WW2 by Peter Smith
The Unsinkable Fleet by Joel R. Davidson