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Premium Ship Review Dunkerque8/12/2016 11:49:34 AM
Published By: LittleWhiteMouse
The Tier 6 French Battleship
Dunkerque
"Battlecruiser 2:  Revenge of the Battlecruiser"

Quick Summary:  A lightly armed and armoured battlecruiser with eight 330mm guns mounted between two quadruple turrets on the bow.  The ship is fast, her reloads are quick and her muzzle velocity is excellent.
Cost: Undisclosed at the time of writing this article.
Patch & Date Written: 2016.07.30 & 2016.08.12, Patch 0.5.9 to 0.5.9.1

Closest in-Game Contemporary: Molotov
Degree of Similarity: Clone / Sister-Ship / Related Class / Similar Role / Unique
 
Despite the superficial similarities to the Izumo, the Dunkerque has much more in common with the play style of the Soviet premium cruiser, Molotov.  Both are fast, fragile vessels with more speed than agility.  Yet they both rely on engaging enemies at range with hard hitting alpha strikes from high-muzzle velocity weapons.  Both are unable to conceal themselves.  They are gunship support vessels, relying on clever use of speed and turning to keep themselves safe from reprisals.

PROs:
  • All of her guns are mounted on the bow, making it easy to maximize firepower.
  • Fast turret rotation of 5' degrees per second.
  • Good rate of fire with a 28 second reload.
  • Excellent muzzle velocity on shells of 870 & 885m/s between AP & HE.
  • Good HE performance with 4800 alpha strike and 35% chance of starting a fire.
  • Excellent range of 18.2km which can be extended with a float plane.
  • Secondaries have a 5.0km range
  • Fast with a top speed of 29.5 knots.
CONs:
  • All of her guns are mounted on the bow.  She is unable to fire to the rear.
  • Turrets are very vulnerable at close ranges.  Losing one halves her firepower.
  • Ship ripple fires 4 guns at a time.
  • Lowest alpha strike and Armour Piercing DPM of any of the tier 6 Battleships.
  • Very weak belt armour and citadel protection of only 225mm.
  • Small secondary gun battery compliment with highly restricted arcs.
  • Poor overall AA defense.
  • Sluggish handling, with a large turning circle of 730m.
  • Very large surface detection range of 16.4 km.
 The first of the French Navy warships has arrived in the form of the Dunkerque.  This all-bow mounted gun design will be something we see repeated in the Richelieu-class and may become something the French ships are known for.
 
Options

There are no surprises with the Dunkerque.  If you were hoping for some unique French flavour to be found in her consumables or modules, I didn't find any present here.  The only option she has unique to Battleships at tier 6 is the option of swapping out her Spotting Aircraft for a Catapult Fighter, but that's hardly enough to get excited about.  She does not get access to the Artillery Plotting Room 1 Modification. That remains American only.

Her Damage Control party conforms to the standard we've seen so far for German and Russo-Soviet Battleships.  This provides a 15s immunity window and a 120s / 80s reset timer.  Similarly, her Repair Party is also standard, restoring up to 14% of her maximum base HP per charge.

Consumables: Three slots
  • Damage Control Party
  • Repair Party
  • Your choice of a Spotting Aircraft or Catapult Fighter.

Module Upgrades: Four slots, standard options. 
Premium Camouflage: Tier 6+ standard. This provides 50% bonus experience gains, 3% reduction in surface detection and 4% reduction in enemy accuracy.

 
Firepower
Primary Battery:  330mm in 2x4 turrets mounted in an A-B superfiring configuration. 
Secondary Battery:  130mm in 2x2 turrets in wing mounts, and 3x4 turrets on the stern.
 
The most defining feature of the Dunkerque is the layout of her primary battery.  She has only two turrets but they sport four guns each.  At 330mm, these are the smallest caliber weapons found on a Battleship at tier 6.  You could be forgiven for expecting them to have a bunch of excellent traits to justify her matchmaking weight.
 
The Bad News
 Let's get the bad news out of the way. The Dunkerque is not going to be wracking up big damage totals as quickly as her peers.  She's an eight-gun Battleship with a lot of short comings in terms of firepower.  The Dunkerque is competing head to head with twelve-gun, Super-Dreadnoughts like the New Mexico-class, Fuso-class and the Arizona.  The Bayern and Warspite may also only have eight guns, but their shell caliber is much larger at 380mm.  While the Dunkerque has an accelerated reload to help prop up her DPM, this isn't any faster than the Fuso's.  At 28s per volley, she doesn't really gain any ground n the DPM race.
 
The Dunkerque's armour piercing DPM weighs in at a theoretical maximum of 166,300hp, while the twelve gun Dreadnoughts all top well over 215,000hp.  Even the Jutland veterans manage over 175,000hp with their eight guns.  To put this into perspective, the tier 5 Kongo with a 30s reload manages 163,200hp.
 
The Really Bad News
On paper, her secondary compliment looks like it can take up some of the slack from her primaries.  With a total of sixteen 130mm rifles mounted in some impressive looking turrets, they have an excellent range for their tier of 5km.  However, the angles at which they can fire are horrid.  All of the quad-mounts are facing the stern and will only engage enemies once they clear well past 40' off the bow of the Dunkerque.  This is hardly ideal with her primaries all mounted forward.  It's best to forget any pretense of her secondaries helping at all.  This leaves only a pair of 130mm rifles off each side (each in a dual mount) that will attack enemies coming from the front.
 
The Really, REALLY Bad News
I was hoping to see the Dunkerque's 330mm turrets modeled with their historical compartmentalization when it came to taking damage.  Without going into too much detail, the big quad-mounts were divided into two pairs of guns so that a single hit to the turret wouldn't deprive their ship of half their firepower.  If modeled correctly in World of Warships, while the ship would have two turrets, it would take four separate critical strikes to knock out all of her guns.
 
Except it isn't present here.  I heard rumours to the effect that the game engine couldn't handle half of the turret being knocked out at a time.  I don't know the truth of this rumour but it sounds feasible enough.  Hopefully this could be remedied in the future, the same way AA mounts couldn't be mounted on turrets previously.
 
As it stands, the Dunkerque's 330mm turrets can and will be knocked out wholesale by single hits.  Though effectively immune to 203mm batteries head on up to (and including) point blank range, even the 283mm rifles off of the Scharnhorst are capable of catastrophically damaging the Dunkerque's turrets.  As you'll want to be facing bow on to enemies to minimize her profile, your gun mounts often take the brunt of the punishment.  Don't be surprised if you lose a turret.  Don't be surprised if you lose both turrets if you end up in close-range encounters with enemy Battleships.
 
The main batteries of the Dunkerque are not compartmentalized. Critical hits will temporarily damage or destroy the entire turret, not two guns at a time. 
 
 Why Can't I Quit You?
Yet for all of these faults (and some minor ones besides), the Dunkerque's gun batteries perform very well.  The first thing you'll notice is that she has rather fast turret traverse.  At 5' per second, she'll complete a 180' rotation in 36 seconds -- except that she never really has to complete a 180' rotation.  With all of her guns mounted on the bow, adjusting fire takes mere moments.  Tracking targets or acquiring a new one is a breeze.
 
And let's emphasize  this.  All of her guns are on the bow.  Short of wiggling your tush at the enemy, you can always fire all eight guns at a target.  This is something the other Battleships can't boast -- not without risking exposing themselves to return fire and getting spanked.  The Dunkerque can point her snout right at the enemy and confidently unload all eight barrels with every reload cycle.  My feeling is that while she may not have the same theoretical DPM as her competition, it's far easier to maximize the DPM of the Dunkerque than say the Fuso, Arizona or New Mexico.
 
And it gets better.
 
Her shell grouping is downright fantastic.  Unlike recent German Battleships, the Dunkerque's dispersion is very kind.  On paper, she has the same linear value as the German warships, however the concentration of all four guns in close proximity combined with what appears to be a very favourable sigma variable means that her shells seem to stick together in flight and land in tight clusters.  You can (and should) equip Aiming Systems Modification 1 to further capitalize on this great accuracy.   With very little flight time from her high velocity shells, you can try taking pot shots at even elusive targets like dodging cruisers and slippery little destroyers with surprising levels of success.
 
At 9,700 damage per AP shell, this is punchy enough to really thoroughly gut a target that you hit.  While it pales compared to the 380mm of the Bayern or Warspite, it's less than 1000hp behind the New Mexico and Arizona.  This is enough to make a cruiser suffer a significant emotional event when you disembowel him with a single hit.  With her accuracy, it's rare that it's lone shells that strike the target in this manner.  With some good aim, you will readily print yourself some Devastating Strike medals.
 
Against heavily armoured or angled targets, you can reach for her fantastic HE shells.  With 35% per shell to start a fire, the Dunkerque's HE volleys are something to be respected, especially with their 28s reload.  Stacking fires is childishly easy and you can force higher tiered Battleships to turn away when sufficiently scalded.  
 
Summary:
  • Great gun handling with a fast turret rotation and good range.
  • Easy to maximize firepower and keep all eight barrels singing.
  • Only modest alpha strike potential from AP.  HE is decent.  Lowest potential DPM.
  • Guns are very accurate with excellent shell grouping.
  • The potential of her secondaries are limited by poor gun arcs.
  • Losing a gun halves her firepower.  Ill suited to brawling other Battleships.
 
The Dunkerque can make a very dangerous opponent for destroyers that get too close.  While her secondary armament is light and poorly arranged, her main battery is very easy to bring to bear.  With good HE shells, excellent accuracy and tight shell grouping, enterprising destroyers can find themselves taking several penetrating hits at a time.  This poor Minekaze made this discovery to her cost as did the Kiev the Dunkerque sank moments before with the same trick.

Maneuverability
Top Speed:
29.5 knots
Turning Radius:
730m
Rudder Shift:
14.0s

The Dunkerque has a really good top speed.  And it will get you killed on occasion.
 
 At 29.5 knots, she's the fastest of the tier 6 Battleships.  This isn't by a small margin either with a 4.5 knot advantage over her closest competitor.  This exceeds all of the 7 Battleships as well with the exception of the Scharnhorst against which she can claim near parity.   It's important to keep the engagement range up in the Dunkerque when there are enemy Battleships present.  The flip side to this is that you do want to get closer to cruisers and the occasional destroyer to ensure their demise.
 
It's very tempting in the Dunkerque to find yourself a good gunnery position and then cut the engines.  Bow onto the enemy, with your finger on the rudder for little adjustments, you can easily seesaw back and forth at 1/4 to 1/2 ahead and then alternate with reverse to throw off the aim of your opponents. Players of the North Carolina will recognize this maneuver.  With all of your firepower mounted on your forward decks, it's easy to see the merits of not moving if you don't have to.  Smart opponents will punish you for this though.
 
As a Battlecruiser, her speed is supposed to be her armour and there will be times you will need to open up the throttle.  While her straight-line speed is excellent, her handling is best described as poor.  With a similar turning radius and rudder shift to the Fuso, she doesn't corner well or quickly.  The one consolation is that she will not out turn the traverse of her guns.  Still, when engaging enemies at the limits of her range, even this poor agility can throw off the desperate return-fire of your opponents.  
 
 The Dunkerque pursues a fleeing Cleveland-class cruiser through the narrows of the Two-Brothers archipelago at nearly 30 knots.

Durability
Hit Points:  52,600
Citadel Protection: Up to 225mm.
Bow & Deck Armour:  Minimum of 25mm each.
Torpedo Damage Reduction: 27% 

 So ... 225mm of belt armour.  That about summarizes the fragility of the Dunkerque.  Think of the Dunkerque like a tier 6 Kongo and you get a better appreciation of how much damage she'll take from various sources.   You can bounce battleship shells off her belt with some angling and the 25mm of bow armour is proof against most 356mm rounds thrown at you. The landscape of tier 6 battles is changing, however.  380mm will soon be the new normal, found on the Bayern as well as the Warspite.  Like the 410mm guns found at tier 7, these can and will overmatch the 25mm sections of your bow and deck and result in penetrating hits, regardless of the angle. 
 
It's worth speaking again about the vulnerability of her turrets.  The casemates have a maximum of 225mm of armour, which makes them rather vulnerable to Battleship caliber shells.  Thankfully, the front face is rather small -- little taller than the gun barrels themselves and the roofs of the turrets are sloped.  However, torpedo strikes hitting the bow or midships can also knock them out as the blast damages the barbettes or ammunition magazine.  She has poor torpedo mitigation so be very conscious of this.
 
Sitting stationary, bow onto the enemy is just asking to get plastered by these large caliber shells or long range torpedoes.  This is where the speed of the Dunkerque becomes key and you'll need to keep the distance open to give yourself time enough to shift and dodge incoming fire -- or at least minimize the damage it will do.
 

Concealment & Camouflage
16.9km Surface Detection,  12.0km Air Detection

You're not hiding this ship.  Battleships generally have poor concealment.  However, there's poor concealment and then there's poor concealment.  In her matchmaking spread (from tier 5 through to tier 8) only two Battleships have a larger surface detection range, and that's the Fuso & Nagato.  The Colorado comes close at 16.7km.  Why is her poor concealment a big deal?
 
The Dunkerque will usually be one of the first ships spotted.  Short of having a Fuso beside you, you can count on being the first target lit on your team.  This means that every gun on the enemy team will be pointing at you from the onset and you need to take defensive measures immediately until more of your team engages and fire disperses among your allies.  The hail-mary shots from every Battleship will be heading your way early on in the match, so take care.
 
Her large surface detection range also makes it easy for stealth-gunships -- those boats that can sit in open water and fire without being spotted, to pick out the Dunkerque.  Short of clever use of terrain, you'll never be sneaking up on anyone.
 
 

Anti-Aircraft Defense
AA Battery Calibers: 130mm, 37mm, 13.2mm
AA Umbrella Ranges: 5.2km, 3.0km, 1.2km
AA DPS per Aura: 54dps, 12dps, 40dps

 
Time for some more bad news:  The Dunkerque has rather poor anti-aircraft defense.  As a Battleship scuttled in 1942, she never received the upgraded AA armaments that became commonplace later on.  Think of her like the Arizona ... but worse, which is definitely saying something.  She does have some good range with her 130mm dual-purpose secondaries and they're pretty punchy for their tier but her smaller caliber weapons really let her down in either DPS or range.
 
You could attempt to bolster her poor numbers by heavily investing into anti-aircraft buffs -- most notably, Basic Fire Training, Advanced Fire Training & Manual Fire Control for AA Armament from your Captain skills.  This would boost her 130mm DPS from 54dps to 130dps at  6.2km against targets that you manually select..  Still, even coming in the 650hp pulses every 5 seconds, the Dunkerque will not be likely to shoot down more than a plane or two before competent CV players complete their attack runs.  This will murder any planes that loiter around her and is worth considering. 
 
You can also prop up her flagging AA power with the choice to use her Catapult Fighter instead of a Spotter Aircraft.  I have found these to be very handy in helping relieve some pressure off my Dunkerque, but these aircraft never last long in the face of a concerted attack.
 
Still, this is a pretty heavy investment to nudge her AA rating from "poor" to barely acceptable.  Still, when working with other warships, you can surprise yourself by racking up a good number of air-kills this way.
 
The Dunkerque burns after being struck by American dive bombers.  She was unable to shoot down any of the attack planes as they made their approach, but she shoots down two before they escaped with the help of her Catapult Fighter.

Overall Impressions

Mouse' Summary:
  • Interesting guns, both in gun layout and performance but hampered by low overall DPM.
  • Prefers to engage at range and very vulnerable in a brawl.
  • Poor armour protection.  Losing a gun halves her firepower.
  • Good speed, poor agility and impossible to hide.
  • Meat on the table for enemy CV attacks.

Objectively, there's not a lot to like about the Dunkerque.  She pays a very big price for having all of her firepower easily accessed upon her snout.  Bad armour, bad handling, bad camouflage, bad anti-aircraft guns, bad secondaries ... bad, bad, bad.  So why the heck do I love her?

 I think it's a simple case of the comfort level that comes with the ease of use of her guns.  Unlike other Battleships, I never found myself fighting with her guns.  They turn well (and they never have to turn much).  And the shots go where you point them.  There's little to none of this wonky fire where shells go flying everywhere, so it gets pretty easy to stack appreciable damage with her.  And for that, I think I was willing to forgive a whole lot.  When you compare her gun handling to other Battleships, it's hard to find one that has the same combination of good turret traverse with good accuracy and a good range and a non-punitive reload.
 
Playing the Dunkerque was relaxing for me, like lying on the beach at Marseilles. 
 
Her carry potential really isn't there, let's be honest.  She specializes in murdering cruisers and when those targets dry up, she's a little out of her element.  Though she's classified as a Battleship, she's truly a Battlecruiser at heart.  Her guns can out-range and out-muscle any cruiser she might face.  And she's got the speed to out run the Battleships she can't outfight.  It's a bit of a delight to see that this original design brief for a Battlecruiser is alive and well in the Dunkerque... even if it is a little underwhelming overall.  If this style of play doesn't appeal, I would keep clear of her.
 

Would I Recommend?
Yeesh, this is going to be a tough one to recommend. 

  • For Random Battle Grinding:

You'll get your money's worth here.  Her accuracy and gun handling will make farming the damages (and thus the credits and experience) easy enough.  At tier 6, you're not going to recoup tons of credits.  Also, keep in mind that as a Battleship, you're likely going to be running with at least one premium consumable, so that's going to eat into your earnings.  I found her a delight to play, but she doesn't have tremendous carry potential.  So that in turn is going to hurt those looking to pad their win rates.  She can do very well, but like the Molotov, you need to do well early with overwhelming ad strategically placed damage to effect a win.

  • For Competitive Gaming:
No.  I wouldn't recommend the Dunkerque for things like Team or Ranked Battles.  She takes damage too easily and losing one turret to a single torpedo or volley of shells will really set your team back.  There are much better ships at her tier.
  • For Collectors:

She's the first French ship in the game.  That's novel enough for many to grab her.  She didn't have an illustrious career, so that tarnishes her worth, but at least she's a historical vessel.

  • For Fun Factor:

I would pick her up for this alone.  Her guns are a joy to use -- so much so that I am willing to forgive a whole lot of her flaws.  I'll be putting a lot of play time into the Dunkerque.

In defense of the base, this badly damaged Dunkerque pursues and destroys an enemy Myoko-class cruiser.  While the IJN warship is faster than the Dunkerque in a straight line, she made the mistake of turning to launch torpedoes which allowed the French ship to keep within close range and finish her with two salvos of her 330mm rifles.

 

Outfitting your Dunkerque

Recommended Modules

There's thankfully few surprises here.

  • It's an absolute necessity that you equip Main Armaments Modification 1.  You need to do everything you can to prop up your main battery.  If you lose even one, you're in very rough shape.
  • Take Aiming Systems Modification 1 for your second slot.  None of the others are worthwhile.
  • For your third option, I take Damage Control System Modification 1.  I keep hoping they'll make these choices more interesting for Battleships, but until they do, this module is the only one worthwhile.
  • And for your fourth option, you have a choice. I would strongly recommend Damage Control System Modification 2 to reduce the amount of time a fire burns.  You can opt to take Steering Gears Modification 2 to reduce her rudder shift time from 14.0s down to 11.2s.

Recommended Consumables

  • As a Battleship, taking a premium Damage Control Party is always a sound investment.  This reduces her reset timer to 80s from 120s which can be the difference between life and death when fires and flooding begin stacking.  You can expect a lot of pressure from aircraft attacks, especially when facing higher tiered CVs so proper use of this consumable to mitigate damage is imperative.
  • There's less need to take a premium version of her Repair Party.  I usually favour doing so with my Battleships for the shorter reset timer (80s from 120s).  The extra charge is nice but often not needed.
  • For your third slot, you have the choice on which to take.  Both are rather good options.  Her Catapult Fighter helps with her AA defense.  They also have a long air-time which can help with spotting incoming torpedoes.  Alternatively, her Spotter Aircraft plays to the strengths of her main battery and it's unlikely you will ever play a game without an opportunity for very long range shots.

Recommended Captain Skills

The Dunkerque uses a fairly standard set of Battleship skills for her tier.

  • The first skill I would grab for the Dunkerque is Basics of Survivability.  Your secondaries are poorly placed and your AA power is overall lacking to make Basic Fire Training a first choice, but it's decent enough for a follow-up.
  • For your second skill, take Expert Marksman. This will reduce the time it takes your guns to rotate 180' from 36s down to 31.6s.
  • At tier three, there's always the debate.  Superintendent gives your Repair Party an extra charge.  I would only take this if you're good at disengaging with the Dunkerque to give yourself time to use all of the charges.  Vigilance is very handy for helping spot torpedoes, especially with her poor handling where every second counts.  Lastly, High Alert is probably your best choice to give you a faster reload on your Damage Control Party.
  • At tier 4, Advanced Fire Training should be considered the best choice. Your AA guns and secondaries will reach out to 6.2km (with Aiming Systems Mod 1).  This can set you up to take Manual Fire Control for AA Armament and make her dual purpose 130s really put the hurt on attack craft and maybe bluff your way out of being picked on.  This will preclude you from being able to take a tier 5 skill, however.
  • At tier 5, Jack of All Trades is your best choice.  This reduces the reset timer on all of your consumables which is helpful.  Concealment Expert looks nice, but combined with camouflage this will only reduce your surface detection range to 14.1km which is better but not really amazing.
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