Perhaps unsurprisingly given my torpedo obsession, I have been keeping a close eye on Benham's development. The most recent update to her ST configuration, giving her slightly downgraded 10.5 km Fletcher torpedoes (lower damage, 1 knot lower speed) in exchange for vastly superior torpedo reload speed (85s versus Fletcher's 106s base reload) is a surprise to be sure, but perhaps a welcome one. This change has certainly raised my eyebrows, and Benham now has my full attention. Consequently, I thought she deserved a quick post.
Benham is vulnerable and underwhelming in a gunfight. If you have trouble surviving in IJN torpedo boats, Benham will be an even greater challenge in terms of match longevity.
Benham is not a hybrid DD or anything close to it–she is a torpedo specialist pigeonholed into that category even harder than Yugumo is. The comparisons between Benham and Yugumo are actually rather interesting.
Her main battery DPM on paper is actually almost identical to Yugumo and Z46 (i.e., near the bottom of the table for Tier IX DDs), and coupled with the USN 5/38 gun arcs this means that her effective main battery damage will actually be substantially worse.
Let me make that clear. She is the worst DD in terms of main battery at Tier IX.
Her AA, surprisingly for a USN destroyer, is also pretty mediocre sans DFAA. No shiny Bofors or Oerlikon mounts. This makes sense when you consider that the in-game version will be based on a hull that was sunk in 1942.
At the same time, choosing between DFAA and speed boost will be a tough decision. That is because Benham is actually quite vulnerable. She has a lower max HP than an upgraded Yugumo (making Benham worst-in-tier HP-wise), and also worse surface concealment than Z46 (!!!).
In other words, you have to choose between not taking DFAA and being guaranteed rocket plane food if your smoke is on CD, and taking DFAA and wishing desperately that you had engine boost as you attempt to escape that pesky Jutland or flee from radar radius for the nth time.
Essentially, you have a DD at Tier IX with fairly impotent guns, a 6.1 km concealment rating, and a max HP of 17650. This is a miserable gun platform. This is a ship that can be screened and chased away effortlessly by any other DD in her tier.
Sure, you have USN smoke, but that doesn't make you a hybrid or an HE harasser. I'd argue that making use of it would hurt you more than it helps. Your DPM is worse than Yugumo/Z46. It also heavily gimps your best aspect–your torpedoes. You can't spin around in your smoke to make use of both sets of torpedo launchers, and spamming from a big fat smoke cloud makes it blindingly obvious where your eight torpedoes will be coming from for the next two minutes. This latter fact is actually an often-overlooked consideration when people make comparisons between Fletcher/Gearing and Yugumo/Shimakaze as torpedo platforms–you can smoke-spam HE and you can stealth torpedo effectively in a Fletcher/Gearing, but you can't do one without sacrificing the effectiveness of the other.
Her best thing going for her in surface gun combat is the fact that she still has the comfortable ergonomics of the USN DD line–fast gun traverse (6s to 180 versus 5.29s for Benson) and good agility. In a gun duel however, she remains food.
That said, Benham is now one of the scariest open-water torpedo platforms.
If one can consistently land torpedoes (as I like to believe I can), then one ought to look at a 2×4/2×4 left/right launcher layout with 85 second launcher reload and immediately think: this is built to stack floodings.
What Benham will excel at is utterly demolishing unscreened flanks. You sail around an unprotected flank, let loose with one wave of torpedoes, and by the time you've executed a full turn to empty your launchers on the other side, you'll fire your second set of fish at a nearly-perfect interval to coincide with the expiration of DCP after your target repairs the flooding from your first set. Less than a minute later, you can repeat the process.
You are also a natural Harugumo/Kitakaze counter. Your torpedo range corresponds more or less exactly with their preferred smoke HE spam range. Your quick-reloading torpedoes and sixteen tubes also means that you get multiple rolls of the dice to dev strike them if they are stubborn about abandoning their smoke. In general, Benham will excel at picking apart static enemy positions–smoke cruisers, bow-tankers, island huggers, etc…
There are a few caveats however:
These are USN torpedoes. I'm expecting further reduced flooding chance relative to 10.5 km Fletcher torps due to their lower damage. It is consequently possible to get very unlucky with flooding procs.
Benham will be awkward to play at max potential in cramped quarters. Executing the turn needed to bring the second set of launchers to bear may involve taking a heavy risk, or might be impossible altogether due to terrain. Even in open water, making a turn inwards might be risky, while making a turn outwards might cause you to wander too far from your targets.
10.5 km range leaves Benham quite vulnerable to radar and other DDs. Given her low HP and average surface detection, mistakes will be punished severely. Turning in to get the second wave of torpedoes off means that if you get hit by radar or run into an enemy DD while sailing straight at the enemy, you are dead meat.
10.5 km range also makes Benham much more awkward to use in open water if the enemy team is sailing away from you. Yugumo and Shimakaze also suffer from this, but they can mitigate this thanks to their 12km torpedo range. Benham players, on the other hand, will have to get used to watching their torpedoes expire frustratingly often behind fleeing enemies.
Fast torpedo reload can even be a bit of a curse. Benham's torpedoes will come in repeated waves of eight fish, and even potato teams will eventually start running hard in the opposite direction. Benham's position will also be easier to guess based on the frequency of incoming torpedoes. As a result, I expect that Benham will have somewhat of a shepard dog effect on enemy teams. Her initial torpedoes will be the most devastating, but successive waves will lose their surprise value. That said, her impact will also come in the form of heavily reducing enemy BB DPM–they will be so busy dodging and running that they will be far less capable of exerting pressure against friendly ships.
Lastly, torpedoes are a skill-based weapon. If you just fire blindly at the lead indicator while enemy ships are mid-turn and Pikachu-face react when the torpedoes miss, your impact will be nil. Strong torpedo marksmanship will be required to take full advantage of Benham.
Overall, I could be convinced that the current iteration of Benham is actually a strong premium concept. She is a USN DD with weeaboo aspirations, a vulnerable platform that gives up a substantial chunk of gun firepower in comparison to Fletcher in exchange for the ability to vomit a steady stream of fairly deadly torpedoes. It's a unique playstyle, requiring higher risk-taking than a true IJN torpedo boat but offering unmatched quantity of torpedoes per minute.
Benham could be just the sort of premium the game needs–a fresh breath of air in terms of gameplay, without being either overpowered or underpowered. One thing is for certain, which is that she will demand a high level of skill from her captains in order to perform effectively.
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