Centerline Guns configurations

Discussion in 'Weapons Systems Tech.' started by danjay1, Dec 27, 2007.

  1. danjay1

    danjay1 New Member

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    Good evening all
    Just a quick question to the experts and general groups out there. Our historical gaiming group is having a discussion about if centerline guns such as those in the P38 had an appreciable effect upon the damage delivered as opposed to wing and or/ combination mounted guns. Any comments or data would be useful.
    Thanks
    Dan
     
  2. therritn

    therritn New Member

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    IMHO, I think that what makes the difference is the type of weapons as opposed to the position. With both wing and nose mounted weapons..they're usually boresighted to converge at a certain distance. It all depends on the type of weapon or weapon group

    For example: the P-38 Lightning has four .50 caliber MGs and a 20 mm cannon in the nose. If you subtract the cannon, a plane with 4 .50s mounted in the wings would do as much damage.
     
  3. Seawitch

    Seawitch Member

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    Hi Dan
    I've seen it argued that centre line guns were a very good arrangement for a very good shot, but wing mounted guns with one or more points of convergence offered a more forgiving 'shotgun effect' for the inexperienced pilot, of which there was plenty.
     
  4. therritn

    therritn New Member

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    IMHO it depends on the weapon size (20 mm as opposed to say .50 caliber) rather than position. Both wing mounted and nose mounted configurations can hit at roughly the same range and inflict the same damage.

    For example: the late model F4U Corsairs carry four 20 mm in the wings and the early model P-61 Black Widow night fighters carry four 20 mm in the belly. Both can inflict equal damage regardless of weapon position
     
  5. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Dan,

    >Just a quick question to the experts and general groups out there. Our historical gaiming group is having a discussion about if centerline guns such as those in the P38 had an appreciable effect upon the damage delivered as opposed to wing and or/ combination mounted guns. Any comments or data would be useful.

    The destructiveness of wing guns depends strongly on range, while the destructiveness of centreline guns is (in the first approximation) independend of range.

    The reason is geometry - wing guns are way out of the centreline and fire inwards, with the two "beams" crossing at a certain distance (called "harmonization range"), and then diverging outwards.

    Another factor in destructiveness is dispersion (the random deviation of the bullet from the average trajectory), which is usually greater with wing guns than with centreline guns simply because wings are inevitably somewhat flexible and will vibrate worse then the much more fuselage or the wing roots where centreline guns normally are mounted. In turns, the wings will additionally bend a bit and change the average aimpoint.

    As a rule of thumb, the percentage of hits achieved is inversely proportional to the square of the range. That rule of thumb is mainly based on the aiming error of the shooting pilot. Weapon dispersion further decreases the percentage to hits achieved, though the larger the aiming error assumed for a specific attack, the less of a difference it makes.

    The geometry of wing guns further decreases the percentage of hits, too: At ranges short of harmonization range, some bullets will tend to pass to the left or the right of the target, though at this short range the target silhouette is still quite big so the effect is not as bad as at long ranges. At harmonization range, the destructiveness of wing guns is exactly equal to that of an equal number of identical guns in a centreline mounting (ignoring the difference in dispersion for the moment), but beyond harmonization range, the destructiveness drops off pretty quickly.

    (At very long range, the pilot has the theoretical chance of increasing destructiveness by not putting his aim point directly at the centre of the target, but a certain distance to the left or right of it so that the "beam" of fire from the guns on one side is exactly on target. If he makes a perfect guess of range and distance off centreline, that will give maximum hit percentage - but it will obviously be only 50% of the equivalent centreline battery because the beam from the other wing's guns will be pointing into empty airspace.)

    I have attached two series of diagrams comparing wing gun patterns varying with range for the P-47 with wing guns and for the Me 109 with 30 mm cannon. I made it a while ago to contrast two extremes - maybe not perfect for your purposes as two very different gun types are used, but it gives the general idea. (Data was from P-47 and Me 109 harmonization instructions, with MK 108 trajectory data from the corresponding ballistic table. Dispersions are from different sources.)

    The size of the yellow ring represents the size of the pattern in which 75% of the shots will land. Note that the target silhouette is roughly the size of a P-47 and is at a certain vertical position in the sight ring in every frame because I assumed the pilot to adjust his aim point perfectly to compensate for trajectory drop. The graduation of the scale is in mil. The ranges are 100 m in the lowest frame, increasing by 100 m with each frame as you go up.

    The third diagram is a somewhat rough comparison I prepared from similar diagrams, assuming that the pilot made no correction for range but simply put his pipper right on the P-47-sized target. For the sake of the exercise, the target is considered to fly straight and without manoeuvring while the shooter is considered to make no aiming error (except for disregarding range).

    The "hit power" figure on the vertical axis is the total energy of the projectiles impacting the target (kinetical energy plus chemical energy). Kinetical energy is based on muzzle velocity, not actual downrange velocity, because the impact on this comparison is minor. For your purposes, you could simply consider the maximum hit power "100%" to apply the results for identical batteries.

    The three batteries have different dispersions - the MK 108 as a short-barrel, low-velocity, advanced primer ignition gun has a very low dispersion (but hit chances drop abruptly to zero at 600 m due to the curved trajectory) of 3 mil for the 100% circle. The Browning M2 as a long-barrel, high-velocity, short recoil weapon has a larger dispersion of about 8 mil for the 100% circle. In a wing mounting, the dispersion increases by about 50%, giving the wing-mounted M2 battery a 12 mil 100% dispersion circle. (There are different and sometimes contradictory figures to be found in the literature, I just decided on these because they looked best at the moment.)

    Regarding the results:

    The low-velocity, low-dispersion centreline cannon of the Me 108 is highly accurate at ranges out to 500 m. It shows a peculiar intermediate drop at 300 - 400 m though which is owed to the trajectory curving up so that some shells will be lobbed above the target (unless the pilots aims low). At 600 m, all shells will fall below the fighter-sized target. (The pilot might try to compensate, but with increasing range the drop becomes increasingly steeper so that any slight error in range estimation will cause a complete miss.)

    The high-velocity, medium-dispersion centreline battery of the P-38 is highly accurate out to 1000 m, dropping in firepower only very gradually, because the target area becomes an increasingly small fraction of the pattern area and because the pattern drops below the target a bit. The pilot could even increase the destructiveness by aiming slightly high at 700 m and more.

    The high-velocity, high-dispersion wing battery of the P-47 shows the disadvantage of the wing gun geometry - at most ranges, its destructiveness is less than the P-38's battery which has only half the number of barrels. P-47 destructiveness peaks very sharply at harmonization range, but is poor at shorter ranges and worse at longer ranges. In practice, this is somewhat compensated for by the the increased hit chances due to the larger size of the pattern at ranges near harmonization range, but at very short and very long range, the P-47 really has two separate patterns of which only one can be on target. It would be quite realistic to expect P-47 pilots to aim at the sky next to their target to consciously bring one of the two patterns on target (because that's better than missing with both), and this has been in fact anecdotally been reported for short-range combat. (Missing with both has also been reported by Luftwaffe pilots who found tracers overtaking them on both sides when they were jumped by a P-47.)

    With regard to aiming errors, the optimum I found was a figure of just 1 mil for the continued tracking of a moving target with the help of a lead-computing optical gunsight by a very experienced USAAF pilot under test flight conditions in a non-hostile environment. Obviously, it would be worse in actual combat, though German reports on the experience with their version of a lead-computing gunsight shows good precision against USAAF heavy bombers, too.

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  6. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi again,

    Hm, guess the attachments were ditched by the forum due to a timeout after upload ... here they are again.

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     

    Attached Files:

  7. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    Wow HoHun....
     
  8. Kurfürst

    Kurfürst Banned

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  9. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    There was another harmonisation pattern that was used by some in WW2 with wing mounted guns. With a 6 gun battery the 2 inboard weapons were sighted to converge at 100 yards, the next two out converged at 200 yards and the outboard weapons converged at 300 yards.
     
  10. Seawitch

    Seawitch Member

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    Hi enrich
    Just the sort of shotgun I was talking about!:)
     
  11. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Renrich,

    >There was another harmonisation pattern that was used by some in WW2 with wing mounted guns. With a 6 gun battery the 2 inboard weapons were sighted to converge at 100 yards, the next two out converged at 200 yards and the outboard weapons converged at 300 yards.

    Good point - I hadn't found mention of a pattern with these exact figures, but different harmonization ranges for dfferent guns were in fact an option. (It did not change anything fundamentally, it just meant the minimum firepower was not as low, and the maximum firepower was not as high as with all guns harmonized to one spot.)

    Another possiblity was to adjust the guns in each wing to fire at a different elevation - there are patterns for the Spitfire with one wing cannon firing higher than the other. The intent was to compensate for wing flexing under G, which would move the pattern off the aim point.

    (The British also sometimes made a difference in terminology between harmonization - the point at which the trajectory crosses the sigh line - and cross-over - the point at which the trajectories cross in the horizontal. This doesn't appear to be systematic, though; but it highlights the possibility of keeping those two points separate.)

    Even centreline guns were harmonized to one spot occassionally: The wing root guns of the Fw 190 and the nose guns of the Me 262 were set up for rather long cross-over distances - due to their small base distance, they can be considered as firing parallel for all practical purposes though.

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  12. Micdrow

    Micdrow “Archive”
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    Wow Henning, your a machine on this subject. Very interestesting. May have to move this message to technical area once is slows down. :lol:
     
  13. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Micdrow,

    >Wow Henning, your a machine on this subject. Very interestesting. May have to move this message to technical area once is slows down. :lol:

    Glad you found it interesting :) It's a topic I've been collecting information about for quite a while, but I guess this was the first time I summed it all up in a single post.

    Oh, and here is a link to a site with an interesting article on gun effectiveness and (if you click "home" at the end of the article) quite a few more gun-related topics.

    WORLD WAR 2 FIGHTER GUN EFFECTIVENESS

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  14. Micdrow

    Micdrow “Archive”
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    Thanks Henning,

    I will have to check it out.

    Thanks again.
     
  15. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Henning, another part of this subject you might shed some light on is the advisability of using tracers or not. I started handloading for pistols and rifles many years ago but did not think of the difference in the ballistic coefficient of a tracer bullet versus a ball round until fairly recently. Obviously what a tracer is doing at say 200 or 300 yards is different than the solid bullet since the tracer will have lost mass and shape. Any research on that? Also did anyone have tracer rounds for the cannons?
     
  16. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    There are three issues between fuselage mounted and wing mounted guns.

    1.) it is much easier to boresight the nose mounted package
    2.) wings flex under load, and the flex varies with the G forces... torsion and vertical deflection
    3.) the wing mounted guns will NOT converge to small pattern except for one range and even that is suspect for manuevering fight do to wing loading deflection/torsion - whereas fuselage is much 'stiffer' to line of sight.

    So in a fight in which deflection is present (assuming pilots of equal skill) wing mounted 50's in both a P-47 and 51 would be unlikely to even converge at the boresight range (or any other range) whereas the P-38 would be concentrating its fire to limit of combination of mount stiffness and ballistics of the weapon.

    I suspect the inboard mounted 20mm on the Fw 190 would be more accurate than the outboard (propeller arc) mounted weapons because the wing root would be far stiffer and less subject to the load deflections as the mid wing mounts. The nose package on both the 109 and 190 would be a better arrangement than the 51/47.

    Henning probably has the data but I wouldn't be suprised if 3 weapons on the 109 would consistently put more weight on target at all ranges than either the 51 or 47.
     
  17. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Renrich,

    >Obviously what a tracer is doing at say 200 or 300 yards is different than the solid bullet since the tracer will have lost mass and shape. Any research on that?

    Tracer round had ballistically different properties, to the point of being considered misleading. It seems to be very difficult to discern whether tracers pass in front of or behind a target, and air gunners were warned to rely on the gunsight only and use tracers only as a secondary aid. I have read that B-17 or B-24 waist gunners were not provided with any tracers at all because the curved trajectories they'd give when firing abeam were just too confusing. (This might have been the practice in one particular unit only, unfortunately I don't remember where I read this.)

    An additional problem was that tracers "extinguished" after a short time (in order to reduce the possible confusion), and if they "disappeared" on the sight line to the target, this could give the impression of the target being hit when in reality, the bullets where nowhere close. The Luftwaffe used a share of "observation rounds" in air gunners' belts to combat this impression - they worked a lot like the famous de Wilde ammunition, which blew up with a visible flash when it struck the target. While the chemical content of rifle-calibre explosive ammunition is not very impressive, this effect seems to have greatly contributed to the usefulness (and popularity) of the de Wilde ammunition :)

    It was not so bad for forward firing guns as the "sidewind" component was (almost) zero, but still tracers had disadvantages as well as advantages. Shooting by tracers alone was considered pointless, and proper use of the gunsight was drilled into the fighter pilots trainees. The advantages must have outweighed the disadvantages in the end, as tracers were kept in use universally (as far as I can tell ... I'm not sure about the Soviets, for example :)

    >Also did anyone have tracer rounds for the cannons?

    It's my impression that everyone had tracer rounds for cannon. The Luftwaffe certainly had them for 15 mm, 20 mm and 30 mm, and they were available for the Hispano 20 mm cannon as well. The Japanese had tracer cannon rounds, too. The typcial tracer round was a high-explosive incendiary tracer which had a larger chemical content than needed for the tracer job alone. (I'm not sure if these "extinguished" - that might have been a feature of rifle-calibre bullets only.)

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  18. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    I read somewhere that some USAAF pilots did not want tracers loaded because the tracers gave warning to the enemy pilot that he was being shot at. Makes sense to me in that most air to air shoot downs I believe were from the six o clock position and the downed AC was not aware of his attacker until it was too late.
     
  19. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    I've heard the debate both ways - my father's preference was to put several tracers at the 30 round mark to warn him when he was running out. Henry Brown and Kinnard had same preference.
     
  20. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    Hope the Germans did not catch on about the tracers showing the ammo was about used up. I also read that some of the Corsair pilots, since the F4U had separate gun switches would cut off two of the guns, going with four until the ammo ran out on them, leaving them two guns with full ammo for a reserve.
     
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