American nightfighters pre-Black Widow

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by kration, Oct 29, 2010.

  1. kration

    kration Member

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    #1 kration, Oct 29, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2010
    I've just read 'Beaufighters in the Night' which is an superb book about a US nightfighter squadron which operated Beaufighters before converting to the P-61 Blackwidow.

    But there was a comment in the book that they used cast-off British Beaufighters as there was no suitable US airframe for the nightfighter role. It referred to the Havoc as being tested as a nightfighter but discarded as being unsuitable.

    I am intrigued about this, as the pre-war American idea about air defence seems ideally suited to night-fighting i.e. heavily armed multi-crew planes stooging about acting as defence (i.e. loitering)

    The US also developed fast medium bombers, as did other nations who then adapted them as nightfighters. But although other nations were succesful in developing them as nightfighters, the US just seems to have given up or been unsuccesful, placing all their hopes in the P61.

    The US adapted the P38 Lightning as a nighfighter late in the war (as the Night Lightning - excellent name!) and even the Hellcat - but none of them seemed succesful. Thought I'm surprised that the P38 Night Lightning didn't work out - with a bit of thought I'm sure they could have got a decent WOp station in that airframe (the rear bubble-canopy seemed a bit half-hearted).

    So, my queston is, which of the pre-Blackwidow US airframes (i.e. early war) could have been developed as a decent nightfighter? And if it didn't work out, then why not?
     
  2. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    As the US found out, none of the early war airframes were suitable. The American medium bombers were larger and bulker than the German twin engine bombers. This meant they were lousier candidates for night fighters (lower speed and climb) even if they were better bomb trucks. Early twin engine fighters (P-38 and Grumman prototypes) were too small to carry early AI radar which rather bulky stuff.

    lack of success of the P-38 and the Navy fighters was more due to lack of targets than lack of ability. They didn't operate in the target rich environment that some other night fighters did.
    They were also built in fewer numbers. 75 P-38s?
    The Navy planes did score some success.
     
  3. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I think the A-20 could have been made into a decent night fighter. However neither the U.S. Army Air Corps nor the USN seemed to like this excellent light bomber. Like the P-39 fighter it was mostly produced to give away as Lend-Lease.
     
  4. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    #4 vikingBerserker, Oct 29, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2010
    I think the A-20 was made into a night fighter called the P-70 but IIRC there were issues with the radar it was issued. The Hellcat did ok but the early ones had to be vectored in using TBF's.

    I think of all the airframes available, I would have picked the P-38. I'm extremely surprised it never worked out.
     
  5. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Try looking up P-70.

    Factsheets : Douglas P-70

    Performance was not what was desired.

    U.S. Army Air Corps did make a fair amount of use of the A-20 bombers but the A-20s didn't have the range of a B-25 and so was much less useful for patrol work or longer ranged missions.
     
  6. norab

    norab Well-Known Member

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    #6 norab, Oct 29, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2010
    The P-38 did work out, just too late

    Lockheed P-38M Night Lightning

    There was also the F4U-2

    http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_F4U-2.html


    There was also a version of the F6G
     
  7. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    But the P-38 was not until near the end of the war.
     
  8. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I'm aware of the P-70. However I suspect the program was not well resourced. IMO if the P-70 had received the resources which historically went to the P-61 it could have been a decent aircraft.
     
  9. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    I am confident that with some imaginagtion and by withholding the temptation to load it with every goodie in town the Boston could have been converted into a decent nightfighter. Its perfromance was comparable with the Ju88C-6 which performed well in this role and it had the space and payload for the extra electronics.

    The mk IV radar was quite small and was fitted to aircraft like the Defiant so space shouldn't have been a problem and the nose could house any guns with ease. It may not have been the best nightfighter in the world but one that perform well.
     
  10. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Mounting the 1700 HP version of the R-2600 (one from B-25, or Avenger), while stripping some armor would've done good for ole A-20.

    I'll venture to agree with people that say night fighting was not one of USAAC top priorities.
     
  11. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    Fifty-nine P-70s, originally ordered as A-20s were completed with R-2600-11 engines as night fighters. These engines produced 1600hp.
     
  12. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    The Corsair was used as a nightfighter in WW2 and Korea. The only Navy ace in Korea was a pilot, Bordeleon(sp?) flying a F4U5N nightfighter.
     
  13. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    So was the Fw-190 but I'll hazard a guess that none of these single crew aircraft were terribly effective as night fighters. A dedicated radar operator was essential.
     
  14. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Yep, that's why I've said the 1700 HP ones would've came in nicely :)
     
  15. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Many of them did have 1700hp engines. about 270 P-70s were made four basic types plus prototypes.

    Part of the P-70s problem as a night fighter is timing. They weren't converted/used until spring/summer of 1942 and then trickled into combat. The 4 squadrons deployed to North Africa were re-equipped with Beaufighters before going into action. The squadron that deployed to Italy was re-equipped with P-61s in theater.
    Some did fight in the Pacific but only started in Feb 1943.

    What may have been great performance in the spring of 1941 over England may not have been good enough 2 years later.
    Or having performance good enough to hunt down RAF heavies that were flying at a ridiculously low cruising speed (Ju-88C-6) may not have been good enough to catch 2 engine planes doing tip and run raids.
     
  16. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    A20
    Loaded Weight. 27,200 lbs
    2 x 1,700 hp engines.

    Ju-88G1
    Loaded Weight. 28,888 lbs
    2 x 1,677hp engines.

    A-20 power to weight ratio was as good as the Ju-88G1. I have a difficult time believing performance was inadequate during 1941 to 1943. During 1944 it would have been superceded by a night fighter variant of the more powerful A-26.
     
  17. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    In reverse order, it was replaced by the P-61. No need to adapt the A-26. P-61 "A" and "B" used navy two stage supercharged engines with better high altitude performance than the single stage supercharged engines in the A-26. P-61 "C" used turboed engines identical to the engines in in P-47Ms and Ns.
    Modifying the B-26 would have take more than just sticking in guns and radar.

    Please try comparing the power available at altitude instead of the take-off power of the planes involved.
    The BMW 801D engines offered about the same power around 4000ft higher than the R-2600 did. Put that together with the Ju 88s almost 25% more wing area and you might get a plane that is a bit more responsive in the 18,000-22,000ft band.

    And, again, what is the intended target of the night fighters?
    Germans were trying to intercept relatively slow 4 engine bombers over their own airspace vs the Allies trying to intercept (by 1943) fast small bombers (Me 210-410--Ju 88s) over their own air space or needing a long range plane to operate as an intruder over German airspace. A-20s were never known as long range planes. Don't bother to quote a "wiki" range unless it says how much fuel was being used. Most of the longer ranges quoted are for planes with fuel tanks in the bomb bay.
     
  18. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I'm not so sure the B-26 Marauder would have been a good Nightfighter platform, even though it had more powerful engines, it was a real handful to fly even in good weather.
     
  19. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Excuse me, I meant the A-26:oops:
     
  20. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Ahh...gotcha, but the A-26 Invader would have made a good dedicated Night fighter had it made it into the war sooner.

    It was used on night interdiction missions in Europe from late summer 1944 onwards, with the 9th AF.
     
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