British Bomber Armament Question

Discussion in 'Technical' started by Von Frag, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. Von Frag

    Von Frag Member

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    Why did all of the main British bombers of wwII have .303 inch defensive armament? Why after the German night fighters began to be really effective did they stick with it and not goto a heavier calibre?
     
  2. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    For true some had also .50, my little opinion the mg on bombers are dissuasive and or psycologic weapon
     
  3. Von Frag

    Von Frag Member

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    Good point! But I think that .50's would have been even psycologicaly better. :D
     
  4. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    For how long?
    The German nightfighters were becoming really effective for what reason? The fact that in an engagement their armament would defeat the bomber before the bomber's defeated them? Or because the bomber never saw what hit it, just before it broke up?
     
  5. FlexiBull

    FlexiBull Member

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    I have read several times that nightfighters did not like being discovered. Often an alert gunner firing 303's or .5's would deter the fighter attack. This together with evasive corkscrew action was quite effective.

    But when hits were scored by the bombers gunners, the results were not as effective as the gunners may have reported. British claims when placed against Luftwaffe Quartermaster reports show many fighters with only minimal damage.

    It has to be remembered that it was not just the callibre of the USAAF aircraft defensive guns, but the fact that a fighter might have faced 20 x .5 callibres with several aircraft firing on one aircraft and very few fighter attacks came as a complete surprise
     
  6. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    I can imagine they didn't like being discovered when stealth was their key advantage but how close would the bombers need to be to each other (at night) in order for 'several aircraft' to see well enough to bring down a combined solution onto an intruding nightfighter? Close enough not to be able to 'corkscrew' as an evasive manoeuvre? If spaced sufficiently to allow for this technique, then they must have had stunning night vision to pick out a nightfighter skulking around someone else's ship.

    Do you any statistical grounds for suggesting that 'very few fighter attacks came as a complete surprise'?

    How would the bomber crews see Schrage Musik coming in the inky blackness below the aircraft - accomplishments of this system would include 78 bombers from 800 over Leipzig 19Feb44 and 107 from 800 over Berlin 30Mar44?

    RAF Bomber Command reacted painfully slowly to this threat - why? Because debrief reports from crews gave no indication of the presence of the threat - they didn't know it was there.
     
  7. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    I posted on this some years back... can't find the thread now, but here's my thoughts in essence:

    Why move to a bigger calibre? The effect of bomber defensive armament when aircraft were operating basically alone at night is always going to be psychological - the gunner squuzes of a burst in the few seconds he is aware of the nightfighter's presence, hoping to make the German pilot break off. Aiming to destroy a large, twin-engined nightfighter (probably an ex-bomber) in a few seconds with two MGs is, IMHO, overly ambitious, regardless of the calibre of weapon used. In such cases, why move to a bigger calibre when the overall effect will be much the same? Think of the complication it causes for the RAF - fitting of new weapons, training of air and ground crew in use and care of said weapons, maintenance of two complete logistical organizations to deliver .303 AND .50 ammo to bases until all .303 armed a/c are withdrawn from service (which might not happen before the war ends - unless you want to scrap hundreds, if not thousands, of otherwise perfectly serviceable bombers)... the list goes on, and the overall gain will, as far as I can see, be almost nil. As Colin has said, it still does nothing to help against Schrage Muzik, nor is a combat-box solution possible (and in any case, it wasn't all that great a solution in daylight).

    What would have been more use, IMHO, was some kind of rear/downward facing AI radar to catch the Ju-88 snuggling up underneath you. Maybe with that kind of fitting, a .50cal ventral 'stinger' could have been useful. I strongly doubt, however, that anything like a suitable rate of radar production was possible to put this kind of gear in every aircraft in Bomber Command - the time and resources were needed in other critical areas too, like H2S...
     
  8. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    I question how effective that bomber command felt the defensive guns were. Mostly they may have been there to make the crew feel good. Four 303s firing tracers at night probably looked pretty scary.
     
  9. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    A point I'd echo
    the USAAF were shooting at fighters from more heavily armed and more numerously armed (in terms of number of gun stations) aircraft in the B-17s and B-24s than the RAF were in Lancasters etc - and they were shooting at them in broad daylight. The folly of the unescorted bomber had been proven more than once by this stage, however well armed.

    How much more effective could a smaller calibre armament have been at night? We can allow for a less frenetic battle as employing daylight tactics would likely have been as disastrous for the nightfighters as the RAF through inevitable collisions but it doesn't change the fact that you can't hit what you can't see.

    I doubt up-gunning to .50s would have made a significant difference to the RAF's night-bombing fortunes.
     
  10. FlexiBull

    FlexiBull Member

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    Colin I think you have taken what I said the wrong way. My point about "very few fighter attacks coming as a complete surprise" was connected to my comments about the American daylight raids.

    Maybe read it again.

    My comments are in line with what has been said, I tried simply to point out that it was not just the difference between .303 and .5 that made the difference it was the number of such weapons that could be directed and the fact that the attack was in daylight and therefore should have been much easier to detect.

    Clearly an undetected nightfighter was lethal and could not be dealt with, but if the attacker was observed gunfire what ever callibre was often enough to put the attacker off, as I said in my post and as emphasised by BombTaxi.
     
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