Big Wing compared to Gefechtsverbande.

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by stona, Mar 28, 2012.

  1. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The "Big Wing" strategy much promoted by Leigh Mallory,Bader and others as a defensive ploy in 1940 is widely regarded as having been a failiure. Now admittedly it was promoted by 12 Group who were not strictly speaking at the sharp end and not adopted by Park at 11 Group who was but 12 Group would theoretically have had more time to assemble their formations to meet the attackers.
    Early in 1944 Luftwaffe units who were very much on the sharp end of the US daytime bomber offensive did officially adopt a similar policy. I Jagdkorps for example reorganised its three Jagddivisionen and kept the various Gruppen of each Geschwader on nearby airfields with the express intention of making it easier to assemble into Gefechtsverbande. They did this right in the middle of the USAAF's "Big Week".
    The use of these large formations was deemed successful by the Luftwaffe and the practice was maintained for as long as was practically possible.
    Why do you think it worked for the Luftwaffe but not the RAF? Timing? Radar? Command and Control? The sheer size of the american formations?
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  2. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    Time over Target would be the reason the LW was making short sharp thrusts 150 miles or using D=Rate x Time about 45 minutes not giving time for the big wing to get to altitude nor into position whereas the LW had hours to plan and assemble the forces needed as the raids were 500-600 miles long
     
  3. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Exactly my first thought. However the Luftwaffe managed to get some fairly large formations in place against relatively low penetration raids on occasion. They didn't take off as soon as the USAAF started assembling over Suffolk,they didn't know where they were going and would have run out of fuel before the raid arrived. The raid may well have been detected several hours before the take off time but the defenders' take offs were still a scramble from a provisional thirty minutes cockpit readiness (sitzbereitschaft) typically. The RAF had a much better idea where there opponents were headed and I just think that had they seriously tried they might have had more success. The Luftwaffe seems to have been far more flexible as well. They managed to assemble large ad hoc formations to make a second attack on the bombers on their way out on many ocassions.Not,I concede,an option for the RAF.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  4. Tante Ju

    Tante Ju Banned

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    Perhaps because already in their force structure the Germans were thinking in Gruppen (Wing), and the RAF thought in smaller Squadron sized units? British Wings were more like ad-hoc units, while German Wings tended to be the very base of operational thinking.

    Point is, its probably easier to coordinate several Wings than to coordinate Squadrons into Wings first, and then form a Big Wing from them.
     
  5. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    Its also good to recall the very short ranges of both 109/Spit but the overiding difference is the time over territory that was controlled by LW several hours as opposed to 25 minutes that gives you lots of leeway , brings me back as to why no attempt made on LW radar
     
  6. Crimea_River

    Crimea_River Well-Known Member

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    My 1.5 cents:

    1) Americans were assembling 700-800 bombers. Luftwaffe maybe half that?
    2) As with Neil's observations, on their way deep into Germany, course reports and target projections could be made as opposed to the relatively short distance from France to England. More time to react and more time to get into favourable position.
    3) Tactics - LW head on strikes were more effective than rear attacks
    4) Cannon vs 303's
     
  7. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Again I'm with you all the way apart from #3. A "Sturmangriffe" which amounts to a close formation attack from the rear and at the same level,as performed by the heavily armoured Fw190 "Sturmbocke" could be devastating.
    Lt. Walter Hagenah of 10.(Sturm) JG 3 describes such an attack by his Gruppe,flying in two broad vees which downed an entire squadron of B-24s. They even opened fire on a given order (Pauke,Pauke). It was only breaking away,at very close range,that was left up to the individual pilot.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  8. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    I think Neil and Tante Ju both have the essential differences between RAF/BoB 'opportunity' and LW/Battle of Germany.

    The ability to create the 'Big Wing' did favor the Luftwaffe because of the time between take off, formation and Task Force penetration over the Axis coast line assisted the LW controllers in reducing the course/target options as well as gave the Gruppen withing range significant time to form ahead of the USAAF.

    Having said this the tactics were evolving on both sides from mid 1943 through Big Week where the tide of battle favored the LW for two reasons - One, the ability of the LW to form, attack and re-form unmolested. Two, the LW was able to achieve long contact/engagement times with heavily armed s/e and twin engine day and occasionally night fighters.

    During and immediately following Big Week, the long range escorts quickly eliminated the ability of the Bf 110/210/410 and Ju 88's to form and attack without suffering heavy losses. March 16, 1944 is the day that the relatively small force of long range escort fighters destroyed more LW aircraft than all the P-47s combined (8th and 9th AF), and from Big Week forward started taking heavy toll of LW fighters still using the same tactics that had proved so successful in the summer and fall of 1943.

    IMO the days of the large Wing form up and attack, while successful in a handful of instances after April 29, just made it easier for the Mustangs to find and attack. May 12, June 20, July 7, September 27 and November 26 come to mind where a large force of Zerstorers and/or Sturm Fw 190s were able to find a bomber force lightly defended and punish the bombers. Having said that, even those sucesses were very painful for the LW due to the bomber to fighter communication bringing very fast re-direction of escorts to the battle.

    In retrospect, I wonder if the LW would have been more successful attacking with one pass in squadron level strength over many points in the bomber stream, directed to weak points in escort coverage by combination of 'stalking' recon Bf109s radioing info to the controllers - and back to the Staffel.
     
  9. Crimea_River

    Crimea_River Well-Known Member

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    I agree but the Strumstaffel usually just formed a relatively small part of the overall attack formation. No doubt they did contribute to the success though.
     
  10. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    True,and due to the nature of their attack they manoeuvred sepearately with their own high cover. They were very successful.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  11. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Steve -They were certainly successful on July 7, September 27 and November 27.. what other dates were you thinking of?
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Again I think that is fair enough. I'm not sure about November 26th though!
    November 26th was unmitigated disaster for the Luftwaffe. The three Gruppen of JG 301 shot down 21 B-24s before P-51s arrived and destroyed them.
    The Americans wrote of 42 bombers and 11 escorts but the Luftwaffe lost 122 aircraft and more importantly 62 K.I.A./M.I.A. and 32 W.I.A. I./JG 301 alone had 13 pilots killed,II/JG 1 lost 10 and III./JG 301 lost 9.

    The Luftwaffe did try to direct fighters to weak spots in the bomber stream but usually in force. I think that the sheer size of the formations and numbers of escorts,often hundreds of them,made the controllers fear that smaller units would simply be overwhelmed.
     
  13. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    #13 drgondog, Mar 29, 2012
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2012
    Kind of my point Stona. The Sturms suffered heavy losses inflicting heavy losses on those three dates. On November 26 my father's group (the 355th) fought off three waves starting with two waves of JG1/JG6, then the first waves of JG301, but had parcelled out all of the original 38 Mustangs by the time the last of the JG301 Sturms swept through the 491st and 445th BG to take out the 21 B-24s just se and south of Misburg. Only the attached 2nd SF flight five arriving after the first pass prevented a real disaster - by breaking up the last JG301 Gruppe.

    Similarly, the Sturms nearly annihilated the 445th on September 27 when the 445th BG separated from the Kassel force and they (LW) caught it unescorted - but paid heavily when the 361st and 4th caught them around Eschwege. Ditto the Sturms attacking just south of Bernburg on 7 July and destroying a squadron of 491st BG B-24s before getting caught by 55th FG, 357th, and 4th from Bernburg to Halberstadt/Magdeburg area.

    The Sturms were devastating in the first wave of every one of those actions but were soon hammered as well.
     
  14. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Yes,sadly for the Luftwaffe neither the pilots (for the most part green or converted from bombers etc) nor the aircraft were trained in or capable of engaging in fighter v fighter combat. They were not adequately protected from the escorts when they arrived.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
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