Did the RAF have designs for a long range escort fighter?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by MikeGazdik, Mar 26, 2013.

  1. MikeGazdik

    MikeGazdik Member

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    The great thread on "Innovative to Obsolete" made me think of this question and I didn't want to muddle up that topic.

    Did the RAF have a design or an airplane that could perform the duties the Mustang ended up performing? I know the RAF mostly carried out the night-time bombing of the Third Reich and I guess (ignorant on the information here) they didn't utilize escorts on these missions.

    Were they working on, or did they have, a daytime long ranger fighter?
     
  2. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The RAF bombed by night because,like the Luftwaffe,it had discovered in 1940 that the bomber most certainly did not always get through in daylight against determined and organised opposition. That this came as a surprise and ran counter to doctrine is shown by the complete absence of a capable nightfighter on either side in 1940. Noone thought that bombing would be carried out at night and no serious thought had been given to how such a strategy might be countered.

    The RAF's night time raids were not escorted in the true sense of the word,though as tactics developed they were supported by nightfighters hunting the Luftwaffe's nightfighters and attempting to supress enemy nightfighter fields (amongst many other things). These roles were most commonly carried out by Mosquitos.

    In the 1930s Fighter Command was developed as a defensive organisation. Dowding and many others made it perfectly clear that the job of RAF fighters was to shoot down enemy bombers. To this end short range interceptors were integrated into a coordinated command and control system. This obviated the need for standing patrols or other endurance operations and worked very well.

    This short range made the RAF's frontline fighters useless as long range escorts,a role never envisioned for them and one which they could not perform. Bomber Command's pre war doctrine did not foresee the need for escorts either,so the Air Ministry never developed one. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s the Air Staff argued that fighter escort was tactically unsound,diverted resources from its beloved bombers and was in any case technically infeasible. This last argument has some merit.Most long range escort fighters designed in the mid 1930s,like the Bf 110,did indeed prove to have insufficient performance to hold their own with the shorter ranged single engined fighters of their era.

    With the adoption of night time bombing no real effort seeems to have been devoted to developing a long range escort capable of tangling with the Luftwaffe's single engined fighters. The experiences and losses of the USAAF as it started daytime operations may have confirmed British prejudices. Aircraft already in existence which might possibly have developed into long range escort fighters,the Whirlwind springs to mind,were never developed in this role.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  3. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    I forget the name at the moment (old age) but one of the top British "boffins" had declared that a long range single engine fighter was "impossible" and the RAF trusted him.

    It was darn difficult to do with 1000-1100hp engines or engines of a certain power to weight ratio. But to keep insisting it was impossible as engine power grew a lot for little increase in weight was a big mistake.
     
  4. alejandro_

    alejandro_ Member

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    The Chief of Staff of the RAF, Marshall Portal, did not believe a single engine fighter with that sort of range could be built, thus no resources were allocated for this purpose.
     
  5. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    To be fair, nor did the Americans.
     
  6. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    I agree with Stona - maybe the Whirlwind could have been the platform to develop for this role?
     
  7. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    I really like the Whirlwind but I am not sure this is a good idea. The Whirlwind was actually a small airplane with less wing area than a Hurricane. There were schemes to add fuselage tanks but there is only so much room.

    The escort fighter needs enough fuel inside the plane to engage in combat and make it home ( winds are out of the west) after the drop tanks are gone so bigger drop tanks only get you so far.
     
  8. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    All true but if in 1940,had the British decided that they needed a longer range fighter,I think this is just about their only option,at least as a stop gap whilst something more capable was developed.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  9. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    #9 Jenisch, Mar 26, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2013
    I'm skeptical of such statement.
     
  10. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    UK was on the forefront in development 1800-2500 HP engines, with RR, Bristol, Fairey and Napier having engines flight testing prior P. Harbor.
     
  11. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #11 stona, Mar 26, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2013
    They were all far too late.
    These decisions were taken in the early/mid 1930s when the aircraft that would fly in the BoB were being developed. The principal protagonists (let's say Hurricane Spitfire,Bf 109,Bf 110 and the various Luftwaffe medium bombers) were already flying when your three examples existed only on paper if at all.

    P-38....first flight of XP-38 was Jan 27 1939. Design work didn't start until early 1937.

    F6F.....first flight June 26 1942 following a request of June 1941 for an improved F4F to support the Vought Corsair.

    F4U.....results from a proposal submitted by Vought in April 1938. First flight of XF4U-1 prototype was on May 29 1940.

    Just possibly a P-38 type aircraft might have made it before the RAF switch to night time bombing in 1940,had the British considered it worth copying. Luckily,given the limitations of the early versions,they did not.

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  12. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Steve,
    Who was too late? And too late for what?
     
  13. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Those US designed aircraft were too late to influence 1920s/30s British doctrine regarding the feasibility of long range fighters to escort bombers. They would have had to have been flying by 1935/6 at the latest.None were even on the drawing board,let alone flying,then.
    Even then I don't think it would have made a difference. The Air Staff would have regarded them as a waste of resources.
    Cheers
    Steve
    Edit: The post I was replying to has gone AWOL :)
     
  14. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    True but somehow they were viewed as "bomber" engines although things like the Typhoon were equipped with them. And there is another part of the problem, you need not only a big engine but one that has a good power to weight ratio ( and works at altitude) or you are back to not enough performance to get the job done. The Typhoon held 150 imp gallons in it's wing tanks which is what the Allison Mustang and early Merlin Mustangs carried. Trying to feed the Sabre with only 150 gallons of fuel was going to be a problem.
    The Early Vulture, Sabre and Centaurus engines didn't really offer enough better power to weight ratio than the smaller engines. later versions got better and getting rid of that thick wing helped :)
     
  15. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Agreed, 'viewed' and 'being' not always being the same thing :)

    The big engine does need to have bigger power to weight ratio as the smaller engine, same ratio will do. The big and powerful engine can make the good long range fighter better/easier than small and non-so-powerful smaller engine. The Sabre, Vulture or Centaurus of 1942 have had the power to be the basis of the 600 miles fighter, reliability aside. Problem is that RAF did not felt the need for such a plane.
     
  16. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Exactly. The Air Staff not only did not feel the need it thought it was technologically impossible,at least in the early/mid 1930s,and would anyway be a waste of money. The bombers were always going to get through!
    Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  17. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    Maybe if Frank Whittle had been given some support and resources, we may have had the first operational jet fighter?
     
  18. Kryten

    Kryten Member

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    the RAF did have a long range fighter, the Beaufighter, difference is they had a different design requirement to what we think of as a fighter!
     
  19. MikeGazdik

    MikeGazdik Member

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    I guess I should have been a little more specific. What I am wondering is once the war began, and it became obvious that daytime bombing needed an escort fighter, was there work then to develop an aircraft?

    If for whatever reason the U.S. bailed, couldn't fulfill the mission, whatever and the RAF needed to conduct both day and night bombing.

    I knew there was no long ranger fighter (single engine) even really dreamed of by any of the allies. Certainly the U.S. learned this the hard way.
     
  20. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    #20 Jenisch, Mar 26, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2013
    I think the British problem was economic. The British needed to maintein an already large number of single-seat fighters to defend their island. If escort fighters would also be employed, perhaps it would be beyond of what FC could have. The night bombing strategy of the RAF allowed destruction of the German industry in unescorted bombers.

    But I'm not certain of what I wrote above. Before Germany invaded the USSR, paralell with a strategy to survive, Britain was working to built of force of 4000 heavy bombers to destroy the German industry. The British were not thinking in return to the continent for a long time. I think that in such situation, the British Army would be smaller, and hence more personal could have been asigned to the RAF. I also think that with the Americans supplying fighters such as the P-38, and bombers like the B-17 and the B-24, the British might well have been considerating built a daylight long-range fighter force. However, after the US entered in the war, my view is that the British abandoned immediately the plan to operate a daylight bomber force with fighter escort. My opinion is that the guys of the RAF thought, as they warned the Americans to not fly unnescorted missions in daylight, something like: "ah, the yankees would be slaughtered, but they have long-range fighters, they would just bring them after that".
     
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