Bomber escort tactics questions

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by freebird, Mar 2, 2009.

  1. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    Sort of an unusual question.


    Suppose the British have a vital daylight mission early in '41, but not enough escorts to deal with enemy interception.

    {For example, a bombing strike against a "channel dash"}

    The British expect the target to have strong air cover, perhaps both Me109's 110's, so they decide to send fighter escort.

    They don't have enough fighters with decent range {Tomahawk I would imagine} so they have to use some slower Blenhiems as escorts, how best to utilize them?

    Do the slower Blenheims surround the bomber stream, to prevent enemy fighters from getting a clear shot at the bombers, and using the dorsal turret guns for defence?

    Do do they try to dive in from altitude, to attack the German Me109 fighters that are heading for the bombers?

    Or do they use the Blenheims to go after the slower Me110's?


    How best to coordinate the defence of a bomber group, using both single twin engine fighters?
     
  2. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    I don't think I'd send out a Blenhiem as an escort for anything other than a convoy of ships against U-Boats. Too slow, too underarmed. 109s and 110s would tear them up.

    Not sure what the answer to your question is. Sounds like a long range daylight attack with out effective escorts. One way trip.
     
  3. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    The Blenhiem saw very limited service as a dayfighter in the BoB, but by 1941 it was out of widespread service as a bomber, so would almost certainly not have been used as a fighter at that point. What the RAF would have done in your scenario (Channel Dash), is exactly what they did in 'real life' - send Spitfires. Flying from Manston, Spits can be on target in a matter of minutes, leaving plenty of fuel for combat. If you want to go further, use Beaufighters. They were available in the timeframe, had a longer range, and were more than capable of dealing with 109s.

    On a side note, your notion of using the Blenheims dorsal turrets to screen the bombers echos the USAAF's experiments with B-17 'gunships', and would fail for the same essential reason - the key to a good escort, or defense of any kind, in any medium, is to be proactive and flexible. Waiting for the enemy to hurl himself upon your guns is generally not the most successful way of defending anything.
     
  4. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    It could be a summer 1940's mission where the Blen 4 fighters are in daylight service, or perhaps later with the Beau 1's.

    Also, assume that all the British land based fighters are out of range, there are only a squadron of Tomahawks or Martlets that can reach. Perhaps this is a hypothetical strike to hit a German naval force with the "Graf Zeppelin" before it breaks into the open Ocean.

    So you are saying the stationary "gunship" defence doesn't work, better to dive in from altitude? Would the British twins try to target the Me110's and leave the 109's for the faster British fighters?
     
  5. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    Leave them at home
    unless you want to needlessly sacrifice valuable aircrews.
    Consider the Bf110, a far better aircraft than the Blenheim in just about every respect that I can think of. How did it fare during the Battle of Britain? Not well.
    Fast-forward to the period that you're thinking of; the Blenheim lumbering along, for all intents and purposes almost as vulnerable as the bombers its been assigned to protect. Heavily-armed Luftwaffe fighters would thump it and these aren't the machine gun-armed fighters that the Bf110 was facing.
    It would be a turkey shoot.
     
  6. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    In such a desperate case, yes, I would envisage the twins going after 110s and smaller fighters going after 109s.

    In terms of defensive strategy, a good parallel can be drawn with the Atlantic convoy escorts. In the early years of the war, escort groups were small and under-armed. The stuck close to the convoys, usually staying within sight of the merchants. And they only reacted to U-boat attacks. As a result, many merchants were lost, and the escorts spent more time rescuing survivors than fighting U-boats.

    As the war progressed. escorts became larger and more became available, so all-warship hunter groups could be formed which roved well away from the convoys, clearing a path and guarding the flanks. These groups were highly successful, and by 1944-5, most U-boats were destroyed many miles from any merchant ship.

    Taking this analogy into the air, the best escort for a bombing raid is in fact a series of fighter sweeps or Circus-types raid sent in ahead and into the area around the target. This forces the enemy to engage the lighter bombers (and their disproportionately strong escort), to take losses and to spread forces across a large volume of threatened airspace. Whether or not the light bombers do any real damage is relatively insignificant as long as the enemy is harassed and dispersed by the time the heavies show up. They should have a minimal close escort briefed not to necessarily destroy the enemy, but to break up his attacks and drive them away toward the fighter sweeps on the flanks. The heavies roll in, face the flak, level the target, and roll out again. That, IMHO, is as complicated as it should ever get. You don't even need local superiority of numbers to make this work, if you can threaten a large enough volume, the enemy will be forced to spread thin and expose himself to defeat in detail.
     
  7. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    Or consider the Beaufighter instead if you prefer.

    I'm not asking if you think it's a good idea, but how you would attempt to do it, even if the odds are bad {obviously Corsairs or Seafires would be preferred! :lol: }

    Assuming that the Chiefs have ordered the mission, how best to use slower less-manouverable Beau's etc to attempt to protect the bombers?

    Again, remember that war is seldom ideal, like the 1940's attack on the bridges with the only plane available- the Battle. Sometimes you just end up with a crappy mission... :(
     
  8. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    Do you have the slower twins sweep ahead, or do you use the more capable fighters and have the twins stay above at altitude, so that the can dive down to break up an attack from those interceptors that do break through?

    Do the twins come in a pair or a full flight?
     
  9. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    I'd leave the Blenheims in among the bombers, where the not-that-restricted-really airspace could possibly serve to curtail the superior manoeuvrability of the German interceptors.

    I'd give the Tomahawks free rein to defend the bomber stream. Normally, I'd send them higher than the bombers to give them an altitude advantage on any interception but I'm not sure the Tomahawks could get higher. It would be pointless sending them ahead to draw the Germans into an early fight, I doubt the Germans would take the bait, they'd know the real fighting was in the bomber stream.
     
  10. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Freebird,

    >Do you have the slower twins sweep ahead, or do you use the more capable fighters and have the twins stay above at altitude, so that the can dive down to break up an attack from those interceptors that do break through?

    I'd send in everything I have in a large, close formation with the Blenheims weaving slightly above the bombers in vic formations, pretending to be bombers but when attacked, actually manoeuvring defensively like a fighter. Crossover between different vics will help to keep their tails clear, and if they get bypassed by Messerschmitts diving at the heavies they can try to dive after them and relieve the heavies.

    The reasoning is that even with a careful set-piece formation, you're going to take heavy losses because you're technologically greatly inferior.

    The single large formation will saturate the defenses, and maybe the German fighter controller will hold back part of his force for fear of a second wave (which might be simulated with a few Window droppers if available).

    The silly Blenheim tactics might take the Luftwaffe by surprise and force them to come up with improvised counter-tactics. This will gain a bit of time, and probably not all fighter pilots will come up with equally effective responses. Along with the single large saturation formation that keeps the duration of exposure to enemy fighters to a minimum, that will reduce the losses if we assume that in a target-rich environment, a fighter can shoot down bombers at a constant rate if he's following standard procedures.

    As such an attack would only be ordered if the destruction of the target was of extreme importance, I guess I don't need to worry about the losses on the way back to friendly bases. It's here that the Me 110 with its long endurance has good chances of killing a lot of my bombers - as it can outfly the Blenheim, there is not much one could do against it.

    Mabye the best course would be to instruct those Blenheims that are still combat-worthy on the way back not to try and protect stragglers as that will lead to themselves becoming targets.

    You're sending us on a suicide mission for sure ... I hope you have a good reason for that! ;)

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  11. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    I would leave the Blenheims at home. Period. Their defensive firepower against the Me 110 and Me 109 was pitiful at best and certainly far less than say a B-17 in defense.

    It has no offensive capability against either ship.

    Unless you hope the LW is so giddy at the possibility of shooting every 'escort' down and ignore the bombers it is a waste of assets and bad for morale.

    Once past the notion of using them as escorts go to the next option in the planning scenario. If the Spits or P-40s don't have the range then let them excort in two phases. The first phase is penetration escort in which the fighters are with the bombers, cruising to stay with and above them and in front. The second group of excorts cruises at optimal cruise to economise on fuel to a predetermined escort R/V, and escorts to limits or range with a 30 minute reserve if no combat.

    The first group of escorts will have to turn back at R/V, the second may get them close to the target. Another force of fighters will be sent to limit of range to provide Withdrawal Support and R/V with returning bombers (if any).

    The LW, if this is one off mission, is not likely to guess precisely the target and deploy to engage only after the second force of fighters has to turn back, as the LW effectively did in 1943.

    This planning reminds one of trying to plan an 8th AF Regensburg/Schweinfurt mission with SBD's or TBF's as planned escort in 1943.

    You might get away with fewer losses this way
     
  12. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    Something vital to be sure. Perhaps a string of invasion barges with a Panzer division aboard, heading for the UK coast. If the bombers don't get through it will be a major disaster


    Consider the twins to be Beau's, not Blenhiems. There are only a dozen P-40's and perhaps 18 Beau's. The enemy has pehaps 20 Me109's and 16 x Me110's.

    The bombing force is about 30 Hampdens Wellingtons

    Everything else is out of range or out of service or unavailable.
     
  13. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    If the target that important, saturate the fighter defense as much as possible with bomb carrying blenheims - more targets to confuse the LW. P-40's and half the Beaus fly high and front escort

    Have the P-40 fighters go after the 110's if possible (heavier firepower threat to bombers) but any engagement is going to burn fuel down on the 109s also.

    I would sweep with half of the Beaus at low altitude hoping to catch the German fighters on the deck and if they miss - continue to the target and strafe it...the other half sweeps in front of the bombers and hope there is cloud cover in the area.

    If the low force gets hammered, perhaps many of the engaging German fighters have to land and refuel.

    Then I would visit all the families and explain why their sons were sacrificed.
     
  14. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    What if the LW splits his fighters so that the Me110's circle around to come up behind the bombers, do you split the P-40's do deal with both threats? Or have the P-40's meet the 109's the Beau's deal with the 110's?
     
  15. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    If I am leading the P-40 fighters I send a flight after the first batch, and keep 'releasing' as more appear until I run out of flights. If I spot the 110s first those are the ones I go after, otherwise the 109s if they show up. If its 110s I stay and dogfight, if 109s depends on tactical situation.

    If I am flying Beaus I would try the same approach but keep on going after the first pass (if there is any cloud cover) - otherwise take to the deck and try to draw the pursuing fighters with me. If the fighters don't pursue then climb back to altitude and try to re-engage

    It's a win if you lose fighters but the bombers get through so any distraction to the German fighters is a good thing.

    Then I go visit the families...
     
  16. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    I think (please tell me if incorrect) that the Beaufighter was used as a long range escort in a similar role to this, not just as a NF!
     
  17. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    The RAAF certainly did, especially to places like Timor.
     
  18. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    How did it perform in combat against the Zero?
     
  19. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    Obviously the zero held the advantage over a Beaufighter. The standard procedure was to dive to sea level and simply outpace the attacking zero(s). However over places like Timor, RAAF Beau's would frequently engage Japanese aircraft (Rufes, pete's, Jake's, Nicks, Bettys) with success. Off the top of my head 31 sqn shot down 21 enemy a/c in air to air combat. Sqn/Ldr Gordon being the most successful, shooting down 3 Nicks, a Betty and a Rufe in a three month period.
     
  20. MikeGazdik

    MikeGazdik Member

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    Lower the main bomber force down to an altitude that the P-40's can better operate. Send the Blenheims down low in front of the bomber force to engage the flak units, which may also take away some of the enemy fighter force to go after them.

    And to borrow from drgondog; Then go visit all the families.
     
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