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Final Review: French Tier VI Premium Aircraft Carrier Béarn

13 min read

Mes amis…. C’EST HONTEUX!

Béarn, the first French aircraft carrier of the game will soon be available in the Armory for 6 300 doubloons or in the premium shop with the lowest bundle that should be at 20.72€.

Is she worth it? Is her gimmick Patrol Fighter able to compensate for the nerfed offensive capacities? Here is my opinion on the subject.

Spoiler, the ship makes me sad. Really, sad.

Historical Background

The Béarn was an aircraft carrier converted from the incomplete hull of a Normandie-class battleship. Béarn was, until the Clémenceau and Foch in the 1950s/1960s, the first and only French-built carrier to serve in the Marine Nationale.
The ship was laid down in January 1914, launched in April 1920 and commissioned in December 1927.

Overall, Béarn had a fairly quiet career and actually never launched aircraft in combat. She was mostly used to train pilots and test aircraft as she was far too slow for any sort of fleet operation. Her terrible elevator system also limited her effectiveness at launching/landing aircraft.

The plan was to have the planned carriers Joffre and Painlevé replacing her as both would be able to operate in a fleet thanks to their greater speed. Béarn would then serve as a backup until the construction of more advanced aircraft carriers.

In May 1940, Béarn was used to ship 147 metric tons of gold from France to the U.S. to pay for the planes France just purchased and to later bring them back home.
This plan never came to be as France fell in June and once the Armistice was signed, Béarn was ordered to sail for the Antilles after delivering the gold. The Vichy government ordered that the ship be sabotaged alongside her escort but Admiral Georges Robert refused and instead, she was run aground.

Once the Antille joined the Free France, Béarn was refloated and towed back to Puerto Rico. During the next months, the ship was repaired and refitted. Due to her age and limited performances, she was converted into an aircraft transport and it was not until February 1945 that she was brought back into service.
After the war, she was used to transporting troops, vehicles and materials to French Indochina as part of an attempt from France to reassert their colonial rule. We all know how well that went…

Later, the ship was reactivated as the flagship of the Marine Nationale’s submarine and anti-submarine group and also served as a submarine tender.
As years went on, the ship ended up being relegated to a barrack ship for submarine crews until her maintenance cost became so high that it was cheaper to just build barracks.

In September 1967, Béarn was sold for scrap to Italy.

In World of Warships, we are getting Béarn as she was at the start of the Second World War but her air group is actually… a bit of a What-if. In this case, it’s implied that after she received the Vought V-156F (SB2U Vindicator) from the U.S.A., she was able to use them during the war. In reality, she was only a test platform for them.

Ship’s commemorative flag

The Good and the Bad

The Good

  • Effective skip bombers against destroyers and cruisers
  • Fairly high fire chances on the bombs
  • Somewhat reliable AP bombs against battleships
  • Good reserves on both types of planes
  • Above-average plane restoration speed
  • Very high number of charges for Patrol Fighters (8 per squadron)
  • Larger fighter patrol radius than on other CVs (3.0 km instead of 2.5 km)
  • Massive Patrol Fighter squadrons of 8 planes
  • Fighters with massive HP pool (1670 HP per plane instead of 125 HP for other tier VI Patrol Fighters)
  • Above-average armor protection, especially with the 24 mm deck

The Bad

  • Low skip bombs penetration
  • VERY long preparation time for skip bombers, forcing you to start the attack run much earlier than you would like to
  • AP bombs with high arming threshold, making them terrible against cruisers.
  • Weird 0.3s delay within the AP bomb drop leading to half of the bombs being either dropped too early or too late
  • 50/50 spread between the outer and inner part of the dive bombers reticule
  • Only two deployable Patrol Fighter squadrons at a time
  • Long duration of the Patrol Fighter, meaning that you need to be careful when deploying them
  • The Patrol Fighters can only spot enemies units at less than 2.0 km from them
  • Laughable secondary armament
  • Weak anti-air
  • HORRENDOUS maximum speed of the ship (22.6 knots WITH the Sierra Mike flag)
  • The animated elevator only works in port

The camouflage

The permanent camouflage of the Béarn provides the classic bonuses for tier VI ships:

  • -3% to surface detectability range
  • +4% to maximum dispersion of shells fired by the enemy at your ship
  • -10% to the cost of ship’s post-battle service
  • +50% to experience earned in the battle

Modules

Hull
Dive Bombers
Skip Bombers
Propulsion
icon_module_Hull_installedBéarn

Vought V-156F

Vought V-156F

icon_module_Engine_installedPropulsion: 39 000 hp

General Characteristics and Playstyle

Tier VI
Health 44 700 HP
Torpedo damage reduction 19 %
Displacement 28 900 tons
Dimensions
Overall length 182.5 m
Beam 34.4 m
Overall height (keel to the highest point on the ship) 30.2 m
Freeboard 15.5 m
Aircraft on deck
Dive Bombers 16
Skip Bombers 16
Secondary Armament
155 mm/50 Mle 1920 8 x 1 155 mm
Maximum Firing Range 5.600 km
Anti-Air Armament
75 mm/50 Mle 1922
37 mm/50 CAS Mle 1925
6 x 1 75 mm
8 x 1 37 mm
13.2 mm/76 CAD Mle 1929 16 x 2 13.2 mm
Maximum speed 21.5 knots
Turning Circle Radius 790 m
Rudder Shift Time 12.9 s
Surface Detectability 12.96 km
Air Detectability 9.18 km
Consumables
Slot 1
Slot 2
Damage Control Party
Work time: 60 s
Cooldown: 90 s
Fighter
Number of charges: 6
Work time: 600 s
Cooldown: 40 s
Patrol Radius: 3.0 km
Planes in a squadron: 8

Well… now I know what the Germans felt with the very first version of Graf Zeppelin back in the days of RTS carriers. The Béarn is a massive disappointment with a gimmick that is also relatively hard to master and simply doesn’t compensate for the performance drop of the rest.

Before covering in detail her gimmick, let’s first talk about the two squadron types available. There are both fairly specialized as the dive bombers will be focused on targeting battleships or well-armored cruisers. On the other end, the skip bombers should only be used against destroyers, cruisers and thinly protected battleships because of the low penetration capacity. Overall, there really isn’t one that’s better than the other. Both are equally underwhelming although, I gotta admit that the skip bombers are very good against broadside destroyers. Against everything else, the damage output is just too low.

When it comes to positioning, you have to be extremely careful with Béarn. Because of her painfully low top speed, it will be impossible to outrun anything chasing you. As such, always keep an eye on the enemy movements and if you see that a flank might fall, move ASAP to the other side of the map.
Just to be clear, DO NOT just reverse in the border at the start of the game. This is a terrible practice.

If you want to see the ship in action, here is the replay of one of my games:

Here are the post-battle results for those who might want to see them.

Now… let’s talk about Patrol Fighters. Before we start though, let’s be clear on something. You must not only focus on annoying the enemy with fighters. You are still a CV and you are having a race on damage and kills with the enemy. Only go annoy the enemy with fighters if their squadrons are on your way to the target.

How to Patrol Fighters with Béarn:

I never thought that I would see this day coming but somehow, we are witnessing the first fighters that are fairly functional in random battles. They are also the first fighters that pretty much cannot be used as spotting ward as they only have a view range of 2.0 km.

To be honest, it’s a welcome idea as it will limit the constant spotting a carrier can put on destroyers.

These Patrol Fighters come by squadrons of 8 planes, being able to one-shot any squadron that they might tag. The patrol radius is also bigger than those of other tier VI carriers with a 3.0 km patrol radius compared to 2.5 km.
Initially, I had some doubts about the effectiveness of these fighters but then, I just went “Screw that, let’s do it!” and it turned out that the cheese was absolute. I lost count of the number of games where I ended up with at least 25/30 plane kills. Now, let’s be honest, bullying people with CVs at tier VI, while it’s very satisfying, is a bit sealclubbing. I’m pretty sure that half of the guys I faced didn’t even know you could recall planes by pressing F.

With these Patrol Fighters, it is important to understand one thing. Especially because of their long duration, they should never be used defensively unless you are 200% sure that they will tag and kill an incoming squadron.
The big problem is that you only have up to 2 charges available at a given time compared to 3 with most other CVs. Since each fighter lasts longer (100 seconds vs 60 seconds), if you deploy them wrong, the enemy CV will have all the time in the world before you get to use your Patrol Fighters again.

However, when used properly and with a fighter build, the results can be pretty disgusting.

What you want to do is to fly right into the enemy squadrons and deploy the fighters so that the enemy is more or less right in the middle of the patrolling area. Except for things like the dive bombers of Erich Lowenhardt, no tier VI planes will be able to get out of the area before getting tagged. With the 3.6 km radius obtained with the skills Search and Destroy and Interceptor combined with the reduced time for the fighters to become active with Enhanced Reaction, the planes have no time to escape. Since Interceptor also prevents your fighters from getting tagged by enemy ones, the enemy CV also cannot get away by sacrificing their own fighters.

Another great thing with the fighters of Béarn is that you can even drop them right on top of most enemy ships because of the huge HP pool per plane. If the enemy carrier tries to mess around with you while you are attacking ships, you can literally pull the “No U” card and annihilate their squadron with your fighters.

Of course, while these Patrol Fighters work well against the average Joes, the moment the enemy carrier discovers that they can just call back their planes to escape, your fighters lose a lot of value. You still force the enemy to cancel his attacks and make them lose time though.
For the players not smart enough to call back the planes, you can basically shut them down.

Dive Bombers

Dive bomber – ‎Vought V-156F

Tier VI
Hitpoints per plane 1 490
Cruise speed 123 knots
Maximum speed 158 knots
Engine boost time 20 s
Engine boost reload time 40 s
Size of attacking flight 2
Aircraft per squadron 8
Bomb type AP 500-kg G.P. Mle 1930
Bomb per plane 2
Maximum bomb damage 3 600
AP penetration capacity 219 mm
Arming threshold 36 mm
Detectability range 10.0 km
Aircraft restoration time 65 s
Aircraft on deck 16
Consumables
Slot 1
Slot 2
Engine Cooling
consumable_PCY034_ForsageBooster
Number of Charges: 2
Work time: 5 s
Cooldown: 80 s
Patrol fighter
Number of Charges: 8
Work time: 100 s
Cooldown: 10 s
Aircraft per squadron: 8
Patrol radius: 3.0 km

With the Béarn, you only have the choice between Dive bombers carrying AP bombs and Skip bombers carrying HE bombs. When it comes to her AP bombs, they are badly specialized in dealing with cruisers with thick horizontal protection or battleships.

The first problem of these AP bombs is that they have a high arming threshold of 36 mm. In comparison, the AP bombs of Ryujo and Weser have a 20 mm arming threshold. This means that most cruisers that you will face will just take overpenetrations. At best, the bombs will arm on their citadel deck but won’t have the time to detonate in time. They will just pass through the ship. On tier VIII heavy cruisers, it’s somewhat fine but overall, it’s just really unreliable.

The second problem of these AP bombs is that for…. whatever reason, Wargaming added a 0.3s delay within the drop. You first drop half of the payload and then the rest. The value might not seem much but it really makes all the difference. Because of that delay, half of the bombs will generally either drop on target too soon or too late and it’s really a massive pain in the ass to get the proper lead on a moving ship. With targets coming at you, it’s by far the worst.

In the end, if you find yourself an isolated battleship with weak horizontal protection like the Germans, for example, you will get relatively easy damage. For the rest, get ready for the headache.

As a last nail in the coffin, the reticule of the AP bombs suffers from a 50/50 spread between the outer and inner parts of it. This leads to the bombs going very often where you didn’t want them to fall.

Fully aimed dive bomber reticule on a Queen Elizabeth
Fully aimed dive bomber reticule on a Queen Elizabeth

Skip Bombers

Skip bomber – ‎Vought V-156F

Tier VI
Hitpoints per plane 1 490
Cruise speed 123 knots
Maximum speed 158 knots
Engine boost time 20 s
Engine boost reload time 40 s
Size of attacking flight 2
Aircraft per squadron 8
Bomb type HE 500-kg G.P. Mle 1930
Bomb per plane 2
Maximum bomb damage 6 100
HE penetration capacity 32 mm
Explosion size 0.98
Fire chance 35 %
Number of skips 2
Detectability range 10.0 km
Aircraft restoration time 65 s
Aircraft on deck 16
Consumables
Slot 1
Slot 2
Engine Cooling
consumable_PCY034_ForsageBooster
Number of Charges: 2
Work time: 5 s
Cooldown: 80 s
Patrol fighter
Number of Charges: 8
Work time: 100 s
Cooldown: 10 s
Aircraft per squadron: 8
Patrol radius: 3.0 km

While the dive bombers of Béarn are specialized against large armored targets, the skip bombers are more focused on dealing with smaller, thinly protected ones.

The bombs are only able to penetrate 32 mm of armor which limits the number of potential targets quite a lot. It’s especially painful at tier VI where many battleships have well-armored upper belts and weather decks. For lighter targets though, especially if you can catch broadside destroyers, the bombs slap fairly hard.

Sadly… these skip bombers also have a very big problem in the form of a preparation time of 5 seconds before being able to drop. This huge preparation time forces you to start the attack run at around 6 km if you want the last reticule to be ready in time to drop on target. It basically nullifies the benefit of skip bombers as you have to spend a lot of time within the AA of the target. It’s especially true since you can only drop the enemy at a maximum range of 2.6 km.

In the end, just like the Dive bombers, these Skip bombers have glaring weaknesses and in both cases, you end up with a damage output that is overall really disappointing.

Fully aimed skip bomber reticule on a Queen Elizabeth

Secondary Armament

8 x 1 155 mm/50 Mle 1920
Maximum Firing Range 5.600 km
Reloading Time 9.0 s
Sigma 1.00 sigma
Shells
Type of Projectile HE – 155 mm HE OEA Mle 1920
Alpha Damage 2 200 HP
Damage 780 HP
HE penetration 26 mm
Explosion Size 0.56
Chance to Cause Fire 11 %
Projectile Speed 870 m/s
Air Drag 0.34
Projectile Mass 59 kg

These secondaries are mediocre at best.

You can only have up to four guns on a target and with the combined short firing range and fairly long reload, you won’t achieve anything. If a DD gets close to you, especially when taking into account the horrendous speed of the Béarn, consider yourself dead.

Anti-air Armament

8 x 2 75 mm/50 Mle 1922
6 x 1 37 mm/50 CAS Mle 1925
Sector range 0.1 km – 3.0 km
Hit chance 100 %
Sector’s damage 28
Sector’s damage frequency 0.29 s
Sector’s damage per second 98
6 x 2 13.2 mm/76 CAD Mle 1929
Sector range 0.1 km – 1.5 km
Hit chance 100 %
Sector’s damage 20
Sector’s damage frequency 0.29 s
Sector’s damage per second 70

The anti-air of the Béarn is pretty much as effective as Capitaine Haddock that would be swearing at the planes approaching. The DPS is low, the firing range is incredibly short and of course, you also don’t have any flaks.

The Armor

For what it’s worth, Béarn is well armored compared to other tier VI carriers. The flight deck is immune to most HE shells from destroyers and will not get overmatched by certain low-tier battleships.

External armor protection

Turtleback

Citadel armor protection

Hidden armor protection inside the bow and stern:

Final Opinion

I think that, by now, you understood that I really didn’t appreciate Béarn. Her whole offensive aspect was gutted just for the sake of the Patrol Fighter gimmick. My little finger tells me that Wargaming are using her as an early draft for Support Carriers and it really saddens me that they butchered good ol’ Béarn for it.

It’s even more painful when I remember the first version we tested and she had only 2 bombs per drop but these were hitting like trucks. Now… now we have this…

At least, she is as good in-game as she was historically… also she remains the only carrier with an animated flight deck. Great success!

Recommended Build

For the Béarn, I recommend the following build:

  • Air Supremacy
  • Improved Engines
  • Aircraft Armor
  • Survivability Expert
  • Bomber Flight Control
  • Search and Destroy
  • Enhanced Reaction
  • Interceptor

I recommend using Philippe Auboyneau as ship commander because of his improved Survivability Expert.

When it comes to the fighter build, if you really don’t feel like using fighters (that are sadly the only really redeeming feature of the ship), you can swap Enhanced Reaction for Enhanced Aircraft Armor, Interceptor for Sight Stabilisation and Search and Destroy for Improved Engine Boost. The problem is that Enhanced Aircraft Armor is honestly close to useless in low tier as you won’t be dealing with big walls of flak explosions. Sight Stabilisation is also very questionable because the reticule has all the time in the world to fully shrink during the preparation phase, both on dive bombers and skip bombers.

This concludes my review of Béarn. Thank you for reading this article!

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Have a good one and see you soon!

6 thoughts on “Final Review: French Tier VI Premium Aircraft Carrier Béarn

  1. You know what would’ve been hilarious? If Béarn had been given torpedoes.

    No, not torpedo bombers (though by all rights she ought to get those too). Historically Béarn had the same torpedo armament as La Galissonnière.

  2. Lazy useless french navy …. surrendered to a pod of dolphins in 1991 , not sure why a article longer than a paragraph is needed ?????

    1. I think you’re describing the Soviets. The French atleast had CV’s. We did not.

  3. “As a last nail in the coffin, the reticule of the AP bombs suffers from a 50/50 spread between the outer and inner parts of it. This leads to the bombs going very often where you didn’t want them to fall.”

    I’ve never understood how this mechanic works? What are the inner and outer parts. Is it correct that most CVs are 75% outer, 25% inner?

  4. “As a last nail in the coffin, the reticule of the AP bombs suffers from a 50/50 spread between the outer and inner parts of it. This leads to the bombs going very often where you didn’t want them to fall.”

    I’ve never understood how this mechanic works? What are the inner and outer parts? Is it true that most CVs are 75% outer, 25% inner?

    1. Basically, the reticule for bombs and rockets is divided in two parts. The outer and inner parts. The size of each varies from one CV to the other.
      For each of these parts, there will be a percentage of chances for the bombs or rockets to land inside one of the area.

      It isn’t true that most CVs have 75/25. Don’t have all numbers in my head right now but U.S. CVs have that spread on their DBs. IJN CVs have the opposite. 25 outer, 75 inner. Same goes for Graf Zeppelin’s DBs.
      Parseval and Richthofen have 0.33/0.66.
      It really varies from one line/one ship to the other.

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