Best USAAF fighter for escort missions over Japan

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Jenisch, Apr 21, 2014.

  1. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    #1 Jenisch, Apr 21, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2014
    Hello,

    I was wondering which USAAF fighter was the best for long-range escort of USAAF bombers to Japan in 1944/45. I'm with the impression that given the long durance of overwater flight required in such missions, the P-38 is a very interesting option with the supposed twin-engine safety, despite that I have the impression it was not as combat capable as the P-51D or the P-47N.

    What are your impressions about the subject?
     
  2. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #2 GregP, Apr 22, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2014
    I'd take the P-38 myself, as would a LARGE number of fighter pilots., including the top two aces of the war for the USA.

    But there is nothing wrong with the P-51 / P-47N either that would preclude them from being selected as number one by many. They perform somewhat better (though not all that much) and have the range but, if you have an engine problem that results in loss of power over the ocean, I'd bet they would be wishing for a P-38 all the way down and even well after they ditched.

    I suppose that means that if you were flying a P-51 or P-47, you should endeavor to keep your crew chief happy above all other people.
     
  3. timmy

    timmy Member

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    I agree with the P-38 twin engined advantages

    But does anyone here have any figures to back it up. I mean I always thought the P-38 would do well against flak. But someone here posted a losses to flak chart which has it as only middle of the road survivibility, a guess due to its large target area. Are there any figures out there that say how many planes where lost due to mechanical failures ???
     
  4. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    That'll be a tough one, but good luck with it.

    In the Pacific, when you encountered flak, it was on an island or on a ship, and both were ready and primed for intruders, and probably saw you coming, ... being hard to hide from a ship or an island unless the weather was bad, in which case you might also miss the ship or island anyway.

    I've never seen figures for mechanical failure, just sustained losses as combat, operations, or on the ground or ship. Operations includes, mid-airs, running out of fuel, mechanical failure, poor navigation resulting in not finding your base or carrier before fuel or oil expired, and all other causes, all put together. The only losses that are definitive are combat losses ... self explanatory ... and on ship or ground which are obviously not the fault of the aircraft.
     
  5. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    But it could fly with one engine, isn't? Even if it could not RTB flying with a single engine, at least for head to a rescue submarine or other rescue vehicle avaliable it would be better than a single-engine machine.
     
  6. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    Great conquestion! Hope someone can answer it.
     
  7. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Hi Jenisch,

    Yes, that's what I meant ... the P-38 could continue on one engine while any single-engine aircraft obviously cannot.
     
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  8. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    BTW, in theory the extra safety of the twin engines of the P-38 also applies to Europe, something we don't commonly heard about it. Perhaps just because in the Pacific the things were really more sinister for the pilots: long flights over water and the possibility of being captured by the Japanese and receive inhumane treatment.
     
  9. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    BTW, I remember to have read in somewhere that the P-47Ns escorting the B-29s late in the war had auto-pilots installed. If this indeed occured, the P-38s and P-51s also had such system?
     
  10. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    I think it is very possible in Europe that there were a LOT of airplanes in a relatively small airspace coupled with aircraft spotters, and a single-engine P-38 probably had much less of chance of getting home over enemy territory where aircraft were flying at close intervals.

    Over the Pacific, most ... but not all by any means ... encounters were 1 - 4 airplanes against 1 - 4 other airplanes and escape was MUCH easier by comparison. All you really had to do was to avoid islands and enemy carriers while flying home with possibly a dogleg or two change in course.

    The ocean airspace is a large one and you are not easily intercepted unless the enemy know your landfall and have planes waiting for you. Unlikely over an American base on a small island without a planed attack that would probably work only once or maybe twice before being diligently defended. That's why we sent planes BACK over the islands where Yamamoto was shot down ... to reinforce the randomness of it all. We didn't want them to suspect we could read their code.

    So if you could get away from the initial attack, your possibilities for getting home single-engine and unmolested were very much higher over the Pacific than over continental Europe where airfields and flak batteries were scatted at random.

    Just a thought ...
     
  11. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    In case the target is more than 800 miles away, the P-47N is the choice. It does offer a 50 mph advantage over P-38 at altitude. Major shortcoming: a bit late arrival in service units.
     
  12. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    The P-51H would certainly be the most cost-effective choice.
     
  13. BiffF15

    BiffF15 Well-Known Member

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    Gents,

    The long range escort in the Pacific is something I find curious especially since Lockheed offered the P-38 in the K version. Looking forward from a commanders perspective, and knowing that the B-29's would need escort I find it suprising that the K wasn't advocated (long range accolades due to the Yamamoto mission).

    Any data on this would be appreciated.

    Cheers,
    Biff
     
  14. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    The P-38K was to have up-rated engines, paddle blade props, water injection and different prop gearing (to cater for greater RPM). Fuel tankage, in best case, should be as of the P-38J/L. Those have had, under same cruise and combat conditions, only 2/3rds of the radius of the P-47N.
     
  15. Shinpachi

    Shinpachi Well-Known Member

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    #15 Shinpachi, Apr 22, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2014
    P-51 was best and enough.
    By July 1945, Japanese pilots were ordered not to combat anymore to secure their precious fighters until the final homeland battle expected in October.
    Even if a P-40 might have come, it would not have found its opponents soon.
     
  16. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Never knew that, Shinpachi.

    The pilots probably didn't like it much but they largely followed orders.
     
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  17. Hiromachi

    Hiromachi Active Member

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    They didn't have much choice. The fuel shortage prevented them even from flight training's. Combined with machine shortages I can say the same as Shinpachi - Americans wouldn't meet any opposition in the air.
    In this case I guess there would be no need for new machines, as old P-51D would do the job.
     
  18. Koopernic

    Koopernic Active Member

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    The problem with the P-51 is the vulnerability of its coolant system. A coolant leak through minor battle damage would soon enough lead to engine failure. Over Europe one might ditch in the water and be picked up before one froze to death in the Frigid North Sea (if winter), at worst one abandons the aircraft, either over allied lines or one gets captured, and essentially for airmen one has nearly a 100% chance of survival in German captivity. The status of POW in Japan was not quite so good. The problem being not the Japanese Army but the populations lack of appreciation for Lemays blatant carpet bombing but I believe the chances of being picked up after ditching at sea were not so good either. The P-47 radial was not so vulnerable and offered a greater chance of returning home and survival. It was also a bigger more comfortable aircraft, with air conditioning and the turbo chargers quietened the exhaust.
     
  19. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    How much was the 'problem' with vulnerability of the liquid cooling system of the P-51 (or another similar A/C) really pronounced?
     
  20. Elmas

    Elmas Active Member

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    If I remember well two P-38 actually did return from the Yamamoto mission with just one engine.....
     
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