Altitude of attacks by Lancasters

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Jenisch, Feb 23, 2013.

  1. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    Hello,

    I'm wondering in which altitude the RAF used the Lancaster to bomb the German cities. Someone can solve my doubt?
     
  2. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Average altitude around 19,000 to 24,000 feet.
     
  3. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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  4. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #4 stona, Feb 23, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2013
    Really? Average? I'm not at home but some notes which include bombing heights for several Mainforce missions and various Lancaster squadrons are 14,000 to 16,000 feet. These are fairly early and may have increased somewhat as the war progressed,and German defences improved.

    Service ceiling or even optimum cruising heights are not the same as bombing heights given as part of the mission briefing.

    If I remember I can check properly in a few days time.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  5. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    The Lancaster could fly with up to 22,000 lbs worth of bombs on some special models. Usually they carried 14,000 lbs of bombs. Flying at night they usually flew between 16 and 21,000 feet.
    The lower the altitude the more bombs they could carry by not having to use up more fuel (weight) to climb to a higher altitude.

    Cheers
    John
     
  6. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Yes,it makes sense that the bombing height would be part of and depend on the overall mission profile.

    I know that I've got the answers at home but I'm not there!

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  7. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Yep, you're right Steve. Just had a quick look - was basing my original reply on an account I read recently, where the particular op was flown between 15,000 and 22,000 feet, with the author climbing to 24,000 feet. The Halifax's were lower, between 14,000 and 17,000 feet on this op.
    Looking at some other ops, and notes I made some years ago from info supplied by two Lanc pilots and one Flight Engineer, it seems the average op was more or less as you say, between 14,000 to 19,000 feet, depending on load and target range. One op, where the Lanc was shot down over Stuttgart, was flown at 15,000, with the crew bailing out at 10,000 feet.
     
  8. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    According to Lancaster Performance Trials the average service ceiling was about 22,000 - 23,000 ft, depending on weights and equipment; http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/Lancaster/Lancaster_III_Performance.pdf bombing heights were generally set about 2-3,000 ft below service ceilings.

    One data card for a Halifax I shows a service ceiling varying from 18,000 to 23,000 ft, depending on weight http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/Halifax/Halifax_I_ADS.jpg while one for a Halifax II shows 21,000 ft http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/Halifax/Halifax_II_ADS.jpg and for a Halifax III 20,000 ft http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/Halifax/Halifax_III_ADS.jpg

    One thing to note is that because the British bombers generally flew in streams, rather than set formations the bombing heights were not set as tightly as (for example) American bombers, so it was possible for some Lancasters to climb as high as possible; I have a book by a Lancaster flight engineer in which he explained that the Lancaster allocated to his crew was a "good un" and the pilot regularly flew as high as 23,000 feet on operational missions.
     
  9. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Isn't that the answer right there? I mean, I'm sure the Damnbuster raid wasn't flown at 13,000! :)
     
  10. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    It has been kindly pointed out to me by someone who knows a lot about such things that atmospheric/meteorological conditions often forced a lower bombing altitude. Contrails are highly visible at night,highly visible in certain conditions, and would attract nightfighters into the bomber stream. The bombers would fly below the altitude at which the contrails formed.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  11. Rick65

    Rick65 Member

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    I gained the impression that when they had the option the crews thought the higher they were the better their chances. I have read (some where in Lancaster by M Garbutt and B Goulding?) stories of crews progressively jumping the planes in a series of steps to absolutely as high as they could get by dropping the flaps then retracting them. As the fuel burned down, the planes would go higher. Pg 61 of the same book describes an attack on Berlin, described as the 16th and last "there were about 900 heavy bombers ordered to fly that night, in two minute waves of 180 aircraft each between 19,000 and 23,000ft.
     
  12. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    Makes sense for AAA, but I don't know how much the night-fighter versions of the Ju-88 and the 110 would become more sluggish as the altitude increased.
     
  13. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    There were also many reported instances of crews jettissoning their "cookies" over the North Sea in an effort to lighten their load and gain some altitude. It is fair to say that altitude was perceived as a bomber crew's friend. This is not relevant to the bombing height. Most crews followed orders and did their best to bomb from the stipulated height and fly in and out at the pre ordained height and on the correct route.
    It tended to be a few of the more experienced men who did their own thing. Some bent the rules considerably.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  14. Jack_Hill

    Jack_Hill Member

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    For standard carpet bombing, members said it all I guess.
    Where Lancaster and her crews are outstanding too is her low level pinpoint attack ability.
     
  15. Greyman

    Greyman Active Member

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    I've read anecdotes of Halifax and Lancaster crews cheering when they heard that Stirling Squadrons were participating in the operation. The Stirling flew a few thousand feet lower than the other two aircraft and always ended up drawing most of the attention from flak, searchlights and fighters.
     
  16. Balljoint

    Balljoint Member

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    The Stirling had its wings clipped during the design stage so it would fit the standard hanger.
     
  17. TheMustangRider

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    I wonder what their crews had to say about that.
     
  18. Jack_Hill

    Jack_Hill Member

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    Like this :
    ww2today.com/17th-april-1942-low-level-lancaster-raid-on-augsberg
    ... Augsberg...
     
  19. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    I have never understood this. 1st because most prewar bomber field hangars were huge and though I have never measured one the doors must be about 120 ft wide and the hangar about 150 ft wide. 2nd the RAF didnt keep its aircraft in hangars during the war. It cant have been too difficult to fit extended wings to them once the problem was realised, Shorts based the design on its flying boat wing which was 112 ft iirc
     
  20. Balljoint

    Balljoint Member

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    I suppose it’s possible that some of the stories floating around may not be entirely factual. Supposedly the wing span had to fit a 100’ hanger door. The Halifax had a 98’10” span and the Sterling 99” 1”. The exception that tends to support the story is the Lancaster which had a 102’ span. However, it picked up 12’ in the morph from the Manchester. It’s consistent that the bombers may have had a 100’ limit during the earlier design period.

    Hangers were probable used for maintenance rather than storage. And, when the Sterling’s limitations were recognized, the Lancaster was available and would get any incremental effort. The Sterling eventually was withdrawn from strategic bombing duty.
     
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