Another question for the LW experts

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by syscom3, Jan 12, 2013.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    One more question for you experts. I don't want to embarrass myself in giving a statement I am totally off on.

    What was the quality of the pilots of the LW of the western front in Nov/Dec 1943? Where they still generally good at all levels?
     
  2. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #2 stona, Jan 12, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2013
    In September 1943 the Luftwaffe lost 343 fighter pilots,or 15.7% of strength.
    In October it was 339,or 14.5%.
    In November it was 245,or 9.9%
    In December it was 252,or 10.4%.

    Add those figures up and in those 4 months the Germans lost 1,169 fighter pilots.

    The average fighter pilot strength in 1943 as a whole was 2,105. In those four months they lost 56% of total strength!

    Losses for the whole year were 2967. That represents 141% of total strength.

    These figures are for fighter pilots. Given losses at that level,combined with the parlous state of Luftwaffe training which had largely collapsed with the crises in the East and in Africa in late 1942 you can safely assert that the level of skill,training and general competence of a typical Luftwaffe fighter pilot in late 1943 was well below that of their predecessors and well below that of his typical allied adversary.
    The level of attrition at what we might call the peripheries (Eastern Front,North Africa) combined with the huge losses in defence of the Reich was unsustainable. Within months of December 1943 the Luftwaffe was defeated and Allied air supremacy was ensured in time for the invasion. The Luftwaffe could still bite you in the arse but it was incapable of defending the skies over the Reich any more.

    The more aircraft Germany produced (1,263 fighters in July 1943) the more the Allies shot down with the obvious potential for the loss of the pilot. In 1943 Germany produced 64% more aircraft than in 1942,the rise in fighter production,as the Luftwaffe was forced to reconfigure itself in a defensive posture,was 125.2%.
    Despite the huge increase in production of fighters through 1943 the number of aircraft in frontline units actually began to decline from July 1943. In August it was only 71% of authorised strength compared with 81% in February,though the total present had gone up slightly (1,336 to 1,581). That's a lot of lost aircraft and a lot of pilots to replace.

    By June 1944 the saying went that if you saw a silver aircraft it was American,if it was camouflaged it was British,if it was invisible it was German.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  3. Kryten

    Kryten Member

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    this is one of those factors that has always fascinated me, if I can generalise for a moment,
    1939 the Luftwaffe was better prepared than any air force after thier experience with the Condor Legion, the other airforces were playing catchup, the RAF the VVS etc expands massively after 1940 leading to large numbes of rookies, by 43 the US is having to learn the lessons, so during this time the Luftwaffe had an experience advantage in it's senior pilots?
    however by the end of 43 heading into 44 the other forces are catching up , Luftwaffe losses are mounting and it's the Germans now fielding more and more rookies, by the end of 44 into 45 it's the Luftwaffe on the back foot after attrition has reduced the ranks of veterans. the games come full circle?

    could anyone be more sepecific as to the situation?
     
  4. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I'd agree with that generalisation except that I'd move the US catch up back. By 1943 there were many very experienced US pilots flying in European skies and they already had a qualitative advantage.
    We are generalising and there are of course many other factors. I'm sure someone will point these out soon enough :)

    From a Luftwaffe perspective it is a lack of training,simply a lack of hours,particularly on operational aircraft,that was reducing the ability of their pilots. These half trained men were also thrown directly into the fray. Many of them could barely fly the front line aircraft,let alone fight them.

    A newly trained US or British/Commonwealth pilot arriving at a squadron had many more hours total and an enormous advantage in experience flying operational aircraft.

    In 1943 a typical Luftwaffe pilot had 10 hours on operational types. His British counterpart had 80 and an American 120. On non-operational types the figures were,Luftwaffe 190,RAF 340,USAAF 330.
    These are average figures for average pilots from June 1943-June 1944. Obviously the hours could vary depending on what specialities and courses an individual took.

    The allies also had effectively limitless aircraft,fuel and pilot instructors and could carry out their training programs far from the fighting in the US and Canada as well as other Commonwealth countries.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  5. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    What's so special about Condor Legion experience?

    Soviet and Italian pilots got as least as much combat experience in Spain. I would hazzard a guess quite a few French communists also flew in 1930s Spain.
     
  6. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Get hold of "Condor" by Patrick Laureau. It,or I suppose any other well researched and reputable history,will illustrate the invaluable experience gained by the "Luftwaffe" in Spain. This applies to every type of unit and every level of organisation,not just fighters and bombers.

    I am not aware of any French or Soviet pilots flying in the conflict but that doesn't mean that they didn't. It's hardly the same as having an entire Air Force organisation in place. The Legion Condor comprised Recconnaissance,Bomber and Fighter units as well as Flak and Maintenance units. It had attached Munition and Supply units,Transport units,Communications units and even a Field Hospital. All these came with their various staffs and command and control systems. Further up the command chain were the various staffs to liase with the Spanish and Italian staffs. There was even an Office of Marine Operations.

    The opportunity was also taken to develop aircraft and tactics with an experimental fighter group (VJ/88,versuchsjagdstaffell 88 which worked with Bf109s,He112s and Ju 87 As before integration with J/88 ). There was also an experimental bomber group (VB/88,versuchsbomber 88 which tested the first Do17s and He 111s before forming a fourth operational bomber squadron in 1937).

    How exactly does that sort of experience compare with,possibly,a handful of pilots flying effectively as mercenaries in a foreign cause? All the practice,theory and excercises in the world don't substitute for real world operations,opposed and at the end of a long supply chain.

    The men who flew in these units reads like a whose who of operational Luftwaffe commanders,from Staffel through Gruppe to Geschwader,when WW2 started.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  7. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    in a word YES, Reichsvertidigung was in full swing on the Western front, the US 8th AF except for the 9th AF 354th fg flying the P-51B did not have the necessary ranges quite yet to fly with the 4-engines to target and back to England thus as you could realize the single and twin engine LW fighters could get in wi9th little interference on the norm. LW pilots aces were still in s7upply and attrition had not whittled down their ranks ................. yet.
     
  8. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Thank you gentleman.
     
  9. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    We are all generalising,which is fine, and I don't disagree with the resume by "Kryten" or Erich's comment.

    1943 was the critical year in the air war and I would have to be a bit more specific.You could say that in January the Luftwaffe still had an advantage or at least parity in average pilot skills. Experienced pilots were lost at an unsustainable rate throughout the year. By the late summer,say July/August, the average Luftwaffe pilot was qualitatively inferior to his Allied equivant.

    Unfortunately,in air fighting,the incredible courage displayed by many of these young Germans could not compensate for a lack of training and experience.

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  10. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    I agree that 1943 was the critical year, in the west it wasn't only the pilot skills but also USAAF became much more important player and also RAF got better during 1943 and made its contribution to overall Jagdwaffe downturn. Also RAF pilots had learned from past errors, they got Spitfire IX with Merlin 63s and 66s which were better than those with Merlin 61s and more and more reliable Typhoons for lower altitude combats. Also during early part of 43 RAF got new, longer range radars for fighter control over France which meant better situation awareness to RAF formation leaders over France.

    In fact, once I checked July and Nov 43 from Caldwell’s The JG 26 War Diary and noticed that still during July 43 the combat results were rather even, LW had a slight advance but in Nov 43 Spitfires seemed to have won all the bigger combats. I was a little bit surprised myself on that. Of course only 2 months but I had not more time then.

    Juha
     
  11. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    #11 bobbysocks, Jan 13, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
    i have to wonder how many loses were the rookie pilots...but even in 45 there were a lot of veteran pilots out there...though not as plentiful as they were in 42. off the top pf my head i would guess the average us pilot had 40-60 hours in a fighter type ac before his first mission....still a darn sight more than a LW cadet going through at the same time.
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #12 stona, Jan 13, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
    Operational type is operational type. That doesn't mean a basic trainer but the sort of aircraft they would fly in combat.
    The figures are from the USSBS.

    Here is a personal account from the son of an RAF pilot,with log books to hand:

    "My father was a Beaufighter pilot, and joined up in early 1941. He did 5 weeks in Cornwall on classroom theory, then went to Meir, in Stoke on Trent, for EFTS on Miles Magisters, which took some 100+ hours. After that was Little Rissington (operating from a satellite airstrip at Windrush) for c 200 hours on Oxfords, after which he was awarded his wings.
    January 1942 saw him do about 100 hours on Blenheim 1 IV's, with an hour solo in a Beaufighter before being sent to 219 nightfighter squadron at Tangmere. One hour being little use, he went off to St Athan to get some hours up flying (top secret) radar tests, getting about 40 hours in 3 weeks."

    He had a total of more than 400 hours before being sent to a squadron! 300 on trainers (Magister,Oxford) and 100 on an operational type (Blenheim). This fits well with the 340/80 which I originally posted as an average for a typical RAF pilot.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  13. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Another factor that must be considered is the number of pilots the LW was starting to face. When you have an experienced 'old head' LW pilot being attacked by 10 Allied rookies, it doesn't always go to the experienced pilot.
     
  14. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    The US used up a lot of P-39s and P-40s as "advanced" or "operational" trainers after the decisions to equip no NEW US units with them was made. Chuck Yeager flew P-39s in "training".
     
  15. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    It’s worth remembering that the LW also had some serious organisational problems right form the get-go, despite it’s excellent pilots and ground crew. The RAF was far better organised in the BOB, and Goering was a vainglorious sycophant who refused to listen to anything he didn’t want to hear.
    Having the best pilots is only useful if you make good use of them
     
  16. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    that is a lot of hours! the beaufighter and blenheim were both multi engine so that may have added some time. for us cadets ( early 44 to fall 45 ) i have the basic cadet getting ~200 - 225 hours in pt19, bt13, and at6 trainers. they got just under 50 hours in P40Fs. 10 of that was just normal learn to take off, get used to something faster and heavier, and learn to land. then they got an addition 40 doing gunnery, bombing ( regular and skip ). after that they were shipped overseas. 10 -15 hours in a 51B. so that is ~ 60-65 in their operational type ac. NOW earlier pilots may have had more time. i dont have any records for this. mine start in early 43 when the usaaf started to "fast track" cadets...they relaxed the requirments. prior to that they wanted college educated pilots in late 42 ( oct or nov iirc ) they dropped that requirement. a lot of servicemen who were fast tracked during this time got their commision as officers before guys who had been in long ahead of them.
     
  17. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The here and now of my initial question is about the quality of the LW pilots stationed in the west in November and December 1943. The quality of allied aircrews is irrelevant.

    I think Erich was right on, when he explained that the attrition the LW was going to experience had not happened at that date. Allied fighters could not get past the frontiers of Germany proper. That meant low time pilots still had a chance to gain experience while protected by more experienced pilots.

    At this date, the LW squadrons were still something to attack with caution and woe to the allied pilot who underestimated their capabilities.

    Anyone disagree with that?
     
  18. Denniss

    Denniss Active Member

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    And that would be using them in Fighters, the big fat man insisted to have them in his bombers.
     
  19. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #19 stona, Jan 14, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2013
    Yes and no. As I posted at the beginning between September and December 1943 the Luftwaffe lost lost 1,169 fighter pilots or 56% of its strength. Over the year they lost 141% of strength,that's their entire fighter pilot establishment and virtually half again!

    The attrition had certainly happened by late 1943. It started in 1939/40 but 1943 is the critical year. No organisation can endure losses at that rate and maintain its quality and efficiency and the Luftwaffe was further hampered by a hopelessly inadequate training program.

    In 1944 German fighter pilot losses rocketed again from this already unsustainable level as the Allies began to impose air superiority. The work had been done in 1943. Now the allies simply swamped the Luftwaffe. In September 1943 the US 8th AF had an effective combat strength of 274 fighters. By March 1944 this had risen to 720 and by D-Day 906. (From "Statistical Summary of 8th AF Operations,European Theatre")

    Luftwaffe losses reflect this trend.

    In 1940 JG 26 lost 51 pilots. In 1942 this had increased slightly to a loss for the year of 69. In 1943 the number is 149 and in 1944 it is 249. Total pilots lost by JG 26 for the entire war is 640 (From Golucke,I have another source which gives a total of 631,close enough for government work). These are losses to enemy action and do not include the roughly 130 pilots of JG 26 lost in accidents etc throughout the war.

    Just prior to D-Day in May 1944 the Luftwaffe lost 25% of all its fighter pilots in one month,578 lost

    We should not under estimate the impact of other factors. The increasing range of allied,particularly USAAF,fighters is one important consideration.

    Was the Luftwaffe something to be treated with caution and respect in late 1943? Absolutely yes,I agree with you there. It was however teetering on the brink of defeat.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  20. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    In my opinion mid 1943 was a pivotal point in time for the Luftwaffe with respect to attrition and re-supply of the 'old hands'. The LW was winning the battle of Germany, the allies were increasing pressure - day and night - despite alarming losses. The LW was battling VVS and still had an upper hand with respect to pilot quality but were losing control over the battlefield in their ability to Protect the ground forces.

    The Allies committed to the destruction of the LW in mid 1943 due to the importance of securing air superiority over Normandy to increase the odds of succes. The RAF re-engaged in force, the USAAF built up strength of 8th and 9th AF Fighter Command, the P-38s arrived in the fall and the P-51s in December.

    The LW and the German High Command as well as Speer recognized the threat to industry that daylight strategic bombing presented to critical industry and the stage was set to make a critical decision - East vs West? The defense of the Reich was the decision and en masse migration of skilled daylight resources were shifter from East and South to build up LuftFlotte Reich.

    The stage was set in the fall of 1944 in which many experten and skilled flight leaders transferred to Bolster JG 26 and JG 2 to bolster a 'ring' defense for Germany after the US bomber force crossed German borders. It was succesful for two reasons - first the LW could employ twin engine day fighters with very heavy firepower out of range of the US fighters to augment the bolster in s/e day fighters. Second, as bad as it was attacking B-17s and B-24s in daylight, many low time German fighter pilots developed skills and experience while out of range of US day fighters.

    The Mustang dribbled into the ETO between December and March, took the initiative and brutalized the LW day fighters, driving the t/e off the battlefield and then took over the skies between April and May.

    Thus the careful custodial management of redeveloping air strength and quality by the LW was reversed in the Spring of 1944 building up to the air campaign against Oil which in turn put the final nail in the coffin of training and deploying adequate time replacements, discounting ease of introduction of experience at the front. There was no longer any transition time for new students or converted bomber/transport pilots.

    On a slightly different track, the Advantage of Spain for LW was that the experience was comprehensive for the LW in that complete Unit deployment and sustained combat operations enabled replacement and maintenance and tactics to be executed and reviewed with lessons learned re-applied to increase combat capability. This represented the core training and indoctrination of Effective tactics by the LW. IMHO it was huge.

    Had the AVG been in existance in 1939 in China it could have provided a massive leap in knowledge and tactics - assuming any of the bomber Mafia were so disposed to listen.
     
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