Combat with drop tanks

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Jenisch, Apr 19, 2013.

  1. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    Some years ago, I read in somewhere of the net that the Japanese Zeros sometimes fought with drop tanks. I'm wondering how was the feasibility of this to increase the combat radius of fighters in absence of performance.
     
  2. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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  3. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Mass production WWII era drop tanks didn't always release like they were supposed to. Then you have no choice.
     
  4. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    That still happened with some of the jets, tanks hung up. Pilots were told if this happened to disengage - sometimes easier to say than do!
     
  5. nincomp

    nincomp Member

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    #5 nincomp, Apr 19, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2013
    Did fighters often carry wingtanks into areas where they were likely to be "bounced" by the enemy? I remember seeing the fairly complicated procedure for P-38's to go from economy cruise with drop tanks to powered-up combat mode. It seemed to me that an ambushing fighter could take one or two passes before its prey was up to speed.
     
  6. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    #6 Jenisch, Apr 19, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2013
    I know that drop tanks would reduce the speed, dive speed, g-limits, rate of climb, would add more inertia to the plane's movements and depending of the case they might affect the CG considerably. Not to mention that they would make the plane vulnerable to fire by the enemy hiting the tank.

    Even so, I have the impression that in a situation where one side has a distinct advantage, either in numbers and/or performance of it's aircraft, and the aircraft lacked range by droping the tanks, combat could have proceed with them, at least by some aircraft of the squadron in order to try add some more kills.
     
  7. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #7 GregP, Apr 19, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2013
    As I hear it from the former WWII pilots at Planes of Fame presentations, they were instructed to drop before combat if possible. However, some of the drop tanks used by the Zero (and others) were fairly small in capacity and, if empty, were probably no real hindrance to maneuverability at all. Maybe a slight drop in speed.

    The pilots also say that if they couldn't drop, then the decision to engage or disengage was probably made by how full the tanks were and / or how assymetric the fuel remaining was. If they were flying holding left or right aileron, they'd run if there was much fuel in the drop tanks and fight if they were empty or close to it. If the enemy had the high ground, you engage if he does or die trying to run. In that case, might as well die shooting at the bugger since he's shooting at YOU.

    You might recall that Tommy McGuire died when he engaged without dropping his tanks at low altitude. Sometimes that first big mistake is nonsurvivable.
     
  8. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    On the Hellcat, for ground attack missions only, they found that the aircraft was actually safer if you left the belly tank on.
    The underside of the Hellcat was so tough, that even if a mostly empty tank ( it's most explosive state) blew up, it would do very little damage to the bottom of the Hellcat.
    The advantage to leaving it there was that most impact fuzed AA rounds, if they functioned correctly, would explode on hitting the belly tank, and not do as much, or any damage to the aircraft.
    I've seen films of where they tested hulk Hellcats, with bellytanks and various ammunition and come to this conclusion.

    Don't forget some of those films you're watching of Zeros being shot down may be of aircraft that were surprised, and never had the time to drop their belly tanks.
     
  9. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    What do you mean by "tough"? Did underside of fuselage and/or wings have armor protection?
     
  10. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    Look at page 2 of aircraft videos on this forum, look under "Mother lode of Aviation Videos" movie 52.
     
  11. norab

    norab Well-Known Member

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    The other side of the coin, Thomas McGuire, second highest scoring US WW II ace with 38 kills

     
  12. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Yah, if you have them, better not pull as hard as when you don't, huh?
     
  13. barney

    barney Member

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    I remember reading that for the Japanese the drop tank was not an expendable item. If you left with one you were expected to bring it back.
     
  14. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    I believe that drop tanks used on the Tempest were found to have a minimal impact on performance and were carried through combat and bought back to base. There are also quite a few gun camera footages showing drop tanks on LW fighters being hit and exploding with no apparent damage to the host fighter, though of course it's very difficult to tell
     
  15. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    In defence of the Reich Luftwaffe fighters were supposed to drop tanks before engaging in combat. There is indeed footage in which it is clear that for one reason or another this wasn't done. They only flew the first interception of the day with drop tanks.

    There was a period when Luftwaffe units would attempt to,or threaten to,engage the escorting fighters close to the mainland European coast in an effort to force them to drop auxiliary tanks early,thus reducing their range.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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