Effectiveness of Heavy Bomber defensive fires vs LW Fighters

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by kettbo, Nov 16, 2012.

  1. kettbo

    kettbo Member

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    I cannot seem to find a thread with the answer to this:

    How effective were defensive fires from the B-17 and B-24 bomber boxes?

    With the STURM attacks 1944, we have motivated pilots in armored planes (sometimes more armor, sometimes less), big radial engine up front usually armed with 2x 20mm and 2x 30mm cannon (weapons fit varied) vs tail gunners, sometimes turret gunners with twin .50s. Pretty easy firing solution for the tail gunners, tougher for all the other positions and fleeting targets. We have attacks from other angles, simultaneous attacks, etc, etc for other time periods.

    I have seen the shoot down claims for some of the missions. Often less than the LW recorded, totally understandable. But, am curious if anyone has studied this in any depth? Would be pretty interesting if someone has looked into a few missions, looked into the claims from DEF FIRE only. Wondering if there is any LW study addressing their losses from various attack angles.

    Would be thrilled to see something like Fighters engaged, fighters damaged (how much), fighters shot down, pilot losses etc. and successes.
    Curious too how the Bf109G holds up to DEF FIRE compared to the FW190

    Thanks in advance
     
  2. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    Good question. I am anxious to see good data on this as well.
     
  3. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    I haven’t time to dig up any numbers, but the def fire was fairly effective, it forced LW to adopt massed frontal attacks because easier rear attacks were too ineffective and costly. Of course gunners' claims were vastly exaggerated but they shot down substantial number of LW fighters and the firepower of US bomber formations left permanent impression to the memories of at least some LW aces. And the need of special Sturm units with specially armed and armoured planes was in itself a proof that the defensive fire of USAAF combat boxes was fairly effective.

    Juha
     
  4. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    I agree - the key point is that the defensive firepower was not enough to impose the will of the daylight bombing campaign without unacceptable losses. There is a reason the 8th AF lost more KIA than the USMC during WWII.
     
  5. meatloaf109

    meatloaf109 Well-Known Member

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    Hence the need for the long range escorts.
     
  6. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #6 stona, Nov 17, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2012
    And there are reasons that those losses were mitigated by large and long range fighter escorts.

    My records for Luftwaffe losses in Reich defence don't specify how a Luftwaffe fighter was shot down but it is noticeable that the rate of loss escalates around the time that comprehensive fighter escort was established and deeper raids became normal.

    In the months September -December 1942 the Luftwaffe lost 29 fighters and 18 pilots (KIA/MIA)
    In the same months in 1943 it lost 130 fighters and 68 pilots.

    Of course its a biased comparison,in 1943 there were many more raids which spent much longer in enemy airspace,but I doubt that it was the bombers defensive armament doing the damage.

    Steve
     
  7. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    That doesn't sound right.

    130 fighter aircraft lost over Germany during September to December 1943 is a very small number relative to the number of German aircraft sorties.
     
  8. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Caldwell "Day Fighters in Defense of the Reich" has as follows: Ac Destroyed/KIA-MIA/
    Q4 1942 35/21
    Q1 1943 48/23
    Q2 1943 125/52
    Q3 1943 320/136
    Q4 1943 573/330
    Q1 1944 1263/679
    Q2 1944 1288/704

    Caldwell has accounted only for LuftMitte and Reich as well as LuftFlotte Reich defending against 8th and 9th AF.
     
  9. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Probably my maths,or I added the wrong figures......I added up from one of Caldwell's books :)

    The correct figures illustrate the point even better.

    Steve
     
  10. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Steve - Table A, Page 449-450. The losses match up pretty well with 8th/9th AF FC credits but then you have to subtract RAF and credis and 8th AF BC to sort out the over credits... The other aspec t is that a lot of the credits in 1944 were German aircraft which crash landed (and credited as a kill) but were not salvaged - deemed less than 60% destroyed.
     
  11. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    hate to say it but you will never know the proper 100 % defined US 8th and 15th AF Bomber crew mg credits, too many variables, the two missions alone for credits of LW fighters in August/October 1943 over Schweinfurth and Regensburg alone should warrant a good warning right up till the last bomber missions over Germany in spring of 45.

    by the way even with SturmFw's laying on their sides and exposing their bellys to bomber crews .50's as they zoomed through the bomber pulks - LW fighters were still hit and shot down.
     
  12. TheMustangRider

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    Another variable to consider when it comes to bomber's defensive fire is formation integrity.
    It's well referenced by historians and veterans alike how tight combat box formations suffered less attritional rates than loose or scattered formations.
    Flak, fighters and weather of course conspired time and again against the 8th combat boxes.
     
  13. kettbo

    kettbo Member

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    Thanks for reminding me, YES, massed DEF FIRES certainly forced different tactics, forced the LW pilots to flinch closing in....and yes, even the armored STURM planes got shot up and shot down.

    For my amusement, I got out several of my small scale B17s, mounted them onto gaming stands. I have been wanting to do this for ages. This lead me to dig out a low-altitude scaled gaming mat or two, the camera, etc.

    Pretty sure I have something close to a correct Bmr Group formation

    003.JPG

    Long ago I painted these Bf109G6 in JG300 markings with underwing cannon. These were to match a buddy's Schwarm. Having been on the threads here, doubt this is correct...oh well

    005.JPG

    The HOHEN guys arrive, Mustangs fast-tracking to intercept, then a FURBALL

    008.JPG

    010.JPG

    then the STURM element arrives

    013.JPG

    014.JPG

    016.JPG

    Lots of painting to do on the planes and some high altitude terrain mats to create
     
  14. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The formation of the Squadrons within the Group formation changed throughout the war. A scale model,no matter how good,can't give the iimpression of the amount of space within the Group formation,nor the differences in altitude. Early versions of the bomber box were 3,000ft "tall",in scale about 30 B-17 wingspans. Even late war boxes were still 7-800 ft from highest to lowest.

    The box had to be a compromise between a formation offering mutual fire support and one allowing a concentrated bombing pattern,preferably without higher aircraft striking those in lower formations with their bombs. It was also important that a single shell burst should not damage several aircraft. Much careful thought was given to each evolution of the box.

    Like an atom there was more nothing than something in the overall formation(s).

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  15. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it is a well established fact that while fairly effective the defensive firepower of US heavy bomber formations wasn't effective enough to allow sustainable unescorted deep-penetration bombing campaign in ETO. Especially after Germans had had time to figure out effective counter measures. (new tactics, heavier armament etc)

    Juha
     
  16. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Nicely done George..
     
  17. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Grabbed this from the book; "Half a Wing, Three Engines and a Prayer".....

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  18. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    When enemy fighter aircraft have enough firepower to cripple a heavy bomber on a single firing pass nothing can protect them except escort fighters.
     
  19. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    Most WW2 fighters already had the armament to bring a heavy bomber down in a single pass. If they were allowed to approach, undisturbed from the rear and concentrate on the bombers vital areas, it wouldn't take long.
    That was what the on board turrets were there for, them and the fire from nearby bombers forced the attackers to shorten their firing passes, make them break off attacks early, or force them to make firing from angles hard for the turret guns to track, but just as hard for the attackers to get strikes from.

    All the uparming, uparmoring, and changes in attack stratagies by the aircraft tasked with bomber destuction is proof of the effectiveness of the bombers defensive firepower.
     
  20. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    is that proof of the effectiveness of defensive firepower or quantity of bombers?
     
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