Bomber gunner ammo

Discussion in 'Weapons Systems Tech.' started by Maxrobot1, May 14, 2011.

  1. Maxrobot1

    Maxrobot1 Member

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    We all know that U.S. fighter pilots soon asked for all Armor-piercing Incendiary rounds be loaded in their wing guns (except for a few tracers to let the know they were running low) and that regular Ball ammo was being phased out of production for lack of demand.
    What loads did the average Bomber gunners use? did they retain the usual 5 ball rounds and one tracer or did they go for AP-I rounds too?
    I thought I read somewheres where at least one tail gunner had all tracer rounds so it would frighten off attackers.
    When a Bf-109 flew though a formation of B-17s or B-24s it must have looked like those films of Kamikaze attacks on USN Carriers!
     
  2. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Loading a few tracer rounds to indicate low ammo was a bad idea because it told the enemy. Most did not do that.
     
  3. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Different fighter groups had different philosophies. the 355th loaded 10 tracers before the last 50 rounds to indicate 'low'.

    There is no reason why a flexible hand controlled waist/tail/radio hatch, etc. gunner needs any particular tracer string - all he has to do is peek at his ammo box.
     
  4. krieghund

    krieghund Member

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    Tracer trails coming at you might make you throw off your aim against the bombers
     
  5. Kingscoy

    Kingscoy Member

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    #5 Kingscoy, May 15, 2011
    Last edited: May 16, 2011
    Hi,
    A few years ago we did research the crash of a 351st BG B-17F which was shot down on June 22, 1943. It exploded in the air near the village of Beek(Gld) in the eastern part of Holland aprox 25km east of Arnhem with all crew save and POW. The a/c came down over a large area. We recovered many parts including the complete left waist gun. The ammunition we found was linked, 2 Incendiaries(blue tip)/ 2 AP (black tip/ 1 tracer(red tip). I think this sequence was pretty common. I'm also pretty sure that all gunnery stations in this bomber used this sequence as we didn't found any other. Some tracer rounds were British made.
    Hope this helps a bit,
    Cheers,
    Sander
     
  6. Maxrobot1

    Maxrobot1 Member

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    #6 Maxrobot1, May 15, 2011
    Last edited: May 16, 2011
    .50 ammo that was black tip was straight armor-piercing. AP-I was silver tip. Ball ammo was unmarked. Incendiary was blue tipped but I thought most used Armor-piercing incendiary.
    I would think that free handled guns like ball-socket nose guns and waist guns tracers would benefit the gunner most but I guess all positions tracers rounds helped tracking a fast moving target.
    I always wondered how many gunners hit other friendly planes while tracking enemy flights through their formation.
     
  7. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    I have often wondered if the US would have been better off replacing its .50s with twin .30s firing nothing but very bright and visible from the front tracer. The point of defensive guns is not to shoot down the attacking fighter but to stop your own bomber from being shot down. 2,500 rounds of tracer per minute must surely have had an effect on a pilot trying to carefully aim for a bombers vitals. The .30 rounds would have had little effect on a well armoured Fw190 but then how much effect did a .50 round have on the same aircraft.
     
  8. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    The .50 cal. had 10,700 ft. lb of muzzle energy, verses 2700 for the .30 cal. they weren't there just to put out tracers.
     
  9. Kingscoy

    Kingscoy Member

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    #9 Kingscoy, May 16, 2011
    Last edited: May 16, 2011
    Maxrobot, you are absolutely right regarding the AP round being black tip. We did also research a B-17G which crashed on October 28, 1944. We found the API(silver tip) aswell as tracer rounds. Didn't find linked ammunition so I can't tell what the sequence was.
    And the effects of a .50cal hit are big! We found many hits on german a/c we excavated. Propelorblades being shot up, engine parts with huge entry and exit holes etc etc. Attached photo is from a valve cover of a fw190A-5 with an entry and exit hole caused by a .50cal of a B-17. I'll bet if you have a few of these that your engine will not run that smooth anymore.

    Cheers,
    Sander
     

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  10. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    My point wasnt about hitting the attacking plane but putting the pilot of the attacking plane off his aim. A .50 API round with 10,700 ft lb of muzzle energy that misses is of no consequence to the attacking pilot he cant see it and 999 out of a 1,000 rounds fired probably missed. In fact it was probably a much higher ratio of rounds that missed, aiming a hand held weapon from a hatch of a bouncing aircraft must have been very difficult. An attacking pilot flying into what would have looked like a cloud of fire flies must surely have been distracted. Admittedly an experten pilot once he got over the initial surprise would possibly have been able to ignore the blizzard of bright tracer.

    Postwar USNavy research found that tracer was one of the main factors in the effectiveness of automatic anti aircraft weapons. The conclusion was that 40mm munitions should have had tracer in every round and 20mm tracer in every 2nd or 3rd. The AA defence of a naval vessel is similar to that of a bomber not getting sunk or shot down is the measure of success not how many attacking aircraft were shot down. Shooting down the attackers is a welcome but not neccesary bonus.
     
  11. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    #11 tyrodtom, May 16, 2011
    Last edited: May 16, 2011
    You may be getting the wrong idea from their conclusion.
    A 40mm is quite a bit slower firing than a .50 cal. every round needs to be a tracer so you can get quicker realtime information as to where your fire is going, and correct your aim.
    20mm is slower firing also, and needs a higher tracer count.
    You'd think with all the tracers in the air it would be hard to keep track of which tracer is coming from your gun, but when you're behind the gun you can keep track of your own tracers easily.
    You seem to think the gunners were just there for morale, and scared the Luftwaffe with a show of tracers.

    I know it's hard to determine how many Luftwaffe aircraft were shot down by bomber crew, the USAAF method for granting claims for aircraft shot down was extremely generous.

    Surely there was a study postwar to see just how many aircraft was actually shot down.
     
  12. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    I am not saying the gunners were there for morale, they were there to protect the aircraft. Neither was it my suggestion that they should frighten the Luftwaffe because it wouldnt work that way.

    The gist of my proposal is not to hit the attacking aircraft, it is human nature for the eye to be distracted by a fast moving bright object in the peripheral vision. Its something that a person can be trained to ignore but is very hard to do. If the pilot of the attacking aircraft is distracted for even a millisecond he might miss his opportunity for an accurate shot.
     
  13. Kingscoy

    Kingscoy Member

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    I have a first hand account from a Luftwaffe Me 109 pilot. He was quiet an expert...flew fighters from early 1944 'till he was shot down himself in januari 1945. He told me that he but also his fellow pilots were not eager at all to attack bomber formations. It was hard to get in range and focus to get a clean shot due to the "kill box" of the formation. He also told that indeed the tracer rounds were frightning, it made concentrating very difficult and it was almost suicide to try to get closer, by his words. It was full throttle in and out. I think the combination of both the tracers but also the area covered by the guns made it hard for the Luftwaffe to get in close.
     
  14. Kryten

    Kryten Member

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  15. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    The gunnery problems faced by a bomber crew, and a Navy ship in the Pacific, were apples to oranges, especially late in the war.

    I see your point on bomber crews, any way they could make the Luftwaffe pilots job more difficult was helpful, if they could make him break off his run early, they were successful. I'll point out the effective range of the .50 is twice that of the .30, and their tracers burned longer too.

    But the Navy was in a different situation, late in the war, they had to shoot the aircraft down, it's hard for even a amateur pilot to miss something as big as a ship, ( Kamikaze ) Though some did, but there's no way to know if they were distracted by the tracers, and shell splashes, flying a partly disable aircraft, or dead at the controls.
    .
     
  16. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I have wondered the same thing.

    There were flak fragments flying about. And late war German fighter aircraft used 13mm cowl mounted machineguns. Might be difficult to tell at a glance exactly what caused a half inch hole in the aircraft skin.

    Cannon hits are a different matter. If you are lucky enough to survive 20mm or 30mm mine shell hits you know exactly what caused them.
     
  17. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    The LW fighter pilots were bound to know that the American bombers were mostly armed with 50 cals, not 30 cals and those 50 cals were pretty lethal. If they had only been armed with 30 cals, I suspect the LW would not have had as much respect for the defensive armament, regardless of how many tracers were seen.
     
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