From Innovative to Obsolete.

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Njaco, Mar 25, 2013.

  1. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    #1 Njaco, Mar 25, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013
    While trolling through all the threads here, I always see that its mentioned that some aircraft are "long in the tooth" or "past their prime" etc, especially just a few years into the conflict while air forces tried to upgrade the design. Two of the main culprits mentioned are the Bf 109 and Spitfire, both of which flew the entire war. But were they really old and done by the end of the war or even by the middle? What constitutes the serviceability or life of a good design. I think about other designs that flew on operations far longer than the Bf 109 or Spit such as the B-52 and others. What is the criteria for saying a design is 'old'?
     
  2. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Obsolete - definition; no longer produced or used; out of date, as opposed to obsolescence, which means no longer wanted; or obsolescent, which is becoming obsolete. Niether the Spitfire nor the Bf 109 were at any time obsolete during WW2 as both were in production before and after the war. Nevertheless, both types underwent constant upgrades to remain current and to avoid obsolescence. (That's just a wee definition session Chris, and not aimed at your intro in any way - cool idea for a thread)

    I guess one reason was a lack of adequate or sufficiently advanced successor; the Swordfish was a good example; despite a worthy and in many ways superior successor in the Albacore, a perfectly good design despite what many claim, the Stringbag outlived the Albacore and remained in front line service until the end of the war. The Hurricane and P-40 are good examples, too; both were supplimented and replaced by superior aircraft, but soldiered on until the end of the war, too.
     
  3. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The Bf 109 and particularly the Spitfire were pre-war designs which were capable of development to keep them competitive throughout the war which was a period of rapid aircraft development. There were many designs from the 1930s about which this could not be said. Neither became obsolete.

    The Hurricane and P-40 could not have been competitive front line fighters in the ETO post 1940,other roles were found for them. The same could be said of the Bf 110,another one in production until 1945. I would not put aircraft like this in the same category as the Bf 109 or Spitfire,they were not capable of the same type of development. A P-40 with something approaching a 2000hp engine we were never going to see!

    Steve
     
  4. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    ".... I always see that its mentioned that some aircraft are "long in the tooth" or "past their prime" etc, especially just a few years into the conflict while air forces tried to upgrade the design."

    Airframes as "platforms" for guns and fuel and engines and avionics - some more viable than others - some more cost effective than others. Could it not be said that the drive for low unit cost and easy manufacturability was the largest single limiter of the Bf109 - and yet in the hands of a skilled pilot it remained deadly? Those same parameters were applied to the design of the P-51. And the Spitfire wing was deliciously complex to make compared to the other two AC.

    Many factors contribute to the longevity and usefulness of an AC, it seems.

    But when all is said and done, people like the Finns (the Israelis) and generally countries with their back-to-the-wall demonstrate that TACTICS, TRAINING and LEADERSHIP trump specific advantages the enemy may have in EQUIPMENT.

    Look what the Finns achieved with The Curtis Hawk and The Gladiator. Look with the Hebrew tribes achieved with the Sherman tank and the Mirage.

    India and China will increasingly dominate the mass-arms market -IMHO - because they learned to use other nations' technology and customize/improve to their own needs and tactics.

    MM
     
  5. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    The fighters seem to be easier to become obsolete than bombers, let alone transports?

    In the time the engine of P-40K was cleared for 1580 HP, the Bf-109F was having some 200 HP less. Pointing out that a 2000 HP P-40 would not be such a long stretch?
     
  6. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    While uses were found for many long in the tooth aircraft they may be roles removed from the primary mission/s the plane was designed for.

    Also remember that many planes of the 1930s were general purpose aircraft. The P-36 was a "fighter", not a high altitude fighter or interceptor or fighter bomber or escort fighter or night fighter or.........
    It was expected to fill all those roles at least to some extent.

    It wound up ending it's days as a ground attack/single engine short range bomber, the P-40N. It was long in the tooth, over 8 years old and nobody was tasking it with air superiority missions anymore. It was still useful though.

    Many other planes were able to grow into new roles. Others grew into few new roles and then retreated back to one or two specialised roles.

    Just because well trained and dedicated crews were able to perform wellnin combat does not mean their equipment was not obsolete. Just think how much better they would have done with up to date equipment.
     
  7. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    It points to how fast some designs become obsolete. The P-40 was all done as a fighter. Stickinengine 2000 Hp engine in it was a waste of a 2000hp engine. However with a 1300-1500hp engine it could carry 2-3 times the bomb load of a 109. :)
    The 109 with a 2000 Hp engine was no longer a general purpose fighter but a specialised point defense interceptor. Which happened to be what Gernnmany needed at the time.
     
  8. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    In WWII, I think an airframe became obsolescent when newer designs arrived that put the older designs at a performance disadvantage most of the time. By way of example, the early Spitfires were basically 350 – 360 mph aircraft and when newer designs came along that were 20 -40 mph faster at normal operatine altitudes, then the new designs could choose when to engage or disengage with the early Spitfires. They became obsolescent at that time and were upgraded to maintain parity or better.

    When they could no longer be upgraded to maintain at least some advantages, an airframe became obsolescent in that role unless it was deployed in numbers. That is not to say it could not have been used in other roles. By deployed in numbers, think of the P-51D Mustang. By late 1944, there were some German fighters that could outperform it, but not when confronted with hundreds of them in one mission. There were simply too many “friends” around and the P-51D was effective until the end of the war despite being outperformed at times.

    I think both the Bf 109 and the Spitfire were still effective at the end of the war, but both had reached their development limits or were very close to it. The Bf 109 K models, while they were capable of 450 mph speeds, simply could not fight there and were either running to or from a fight if they were going that fast. If they wanted to actually fight, they were 280 - 340 mph fighters. The P-51D could fight at 450 mph. The Spitfire could also fight there, but had little to no development potential left. It and the Bf 109 could have endured for another couple of years if the war had dragged on, but would have been increasingly hard put to match any later designs.

    If the war had dragged on another year or so, the P-51H, Grumman Bearcat, and Hawker Sea Fury come to mind along with the P-80, Meteor, and Vampire. The Bf 109 would not really be able to cope with any of these pistons, and any jet was simply too fast for the 109 (it wasn’t alone there). The 3 pistons above were very good and the Douglas A-1 Skyraider would have sealed the fate of any other American attack planes and would rapidly have replaced whatever was being used for attack in American service.

    The Spits would have remained effective as defensive fighters for awhile but, again, I think the development potential was simply about done. Maybe not, but I remain unconvinced otherwise. The Spitfire definitely had better performance than the Bf 109 in the fighter role by late 1944. Just my opinion and I don’t really want to argue it. If you disagree, that’s fine. I just think there was no Bf 109 that was the equal of the Spit XIV or later mark as a fighter.

    The P-40 was obsolescent early in the war but, when placed in areas where the latest designs would not be found, was effective. There were no large populations of late designs in North Africa, the Med, or many places in the Pacific, so the P-40 was effective there. It was not a front-line fighter in the ETO by mid-1943. So they found places where the obsolescent P-40 could be used.

    They did the same for planes like the Bf 110, which was obsolete as a day fighter but came into its own as a night fighter. The key was the role to which a design was assigned. If the people in authority continued to use a design past it’s prime in the primary role, the “obsolescent” would become “obsolete” and simply be overwhelmed by the opposition. If the people in charge were observant and assigned obsolescent airframes to new roles where they could still perform well enough to be effective, then the older design could soldier on for awhile and maybe even do well at it. Many did.
     
  9. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    and of course, the jet made all prop fighters obsolete. :)
     
  10. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    As an airframe, the P-40 was no more obsolete than Bf-109. That Allies have had some better airframes, and complete airplanes, cannot alter that. The outcome being the P-40 would never get a two stage Merlin aboard, let alone Griffon.
    Germany was up to the neck with a production capacity for the Bf-109, and the symbiosis with DB-601/605 was, (bar late 1942 - late 1943) a great one. There were no 2-3 airframes that would compete with Bf-109 for the engines.
     
  11. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    Ummm...

    The Spitfire was a bit like the axeman's favourite axe. Its had 3 new heads, 4 new handles and its the best axe I have ever had.

    The Spitfire in 1945 was a different beast to the lithe Mk1.
    Development? maybe...
    Relevant? I would say yes, even given its lack of range.

    It shows that if you get the design right in the first place you have a winner.

    But, I am very slightly biased.

    Cheers
    John
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Didn't happen though in that airframe :)

    Steve
     
  13. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    Fixed that for you :lol:
     
  14. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Definitely development. Many features ,noteably the wing all the way to the Mk 21,when a name change was considered,were the same.

    It does prove your second point,who would believe that a wing designed in the mid 1930s would have a critical Mach number higher than that of its successor on the Spiteful,Seafang etc.

    A late mark Spitfire,even with a bloody great Griffon bolted on the front is still,recognisably,a Spitfire. It's only fair to say that the same applies to the Bf 109.

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  15. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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  16. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    The same does apply in a way to the 109 Steve, I should have said that.
    The Spitfire's development overtook the 109 by some margin by the end of WW2.
    I think that is solely due to the resources available to the LW not any failings on Willy's original design.

    I think that the Spitfire's longevity is too be celebrated and admired.
    RAF BBMF - Spitfire PS915 (Mk PRXIX)

    1938 - 1954

    Cheers
    John
     
  17. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    #17 tomo pauk, Mar 25, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013
  18. KiwiBiggles

    KiwiBiggles Member

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    #18 KiwiBiggles, Mar 25, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013
    Different, not 'very different'. There was some development, but it was substantially the same aeroplane.

    I don't have the figures to hand, but there's a very good document put out by HMSO soon after the war discussing the economics of weapon production, which highlights the Spitfire as an example of the benefits of initial design vs. development. IIRC, the figures quoted were something like the design effort for all post-prototype Spitfire development being about 10% of the initial design effort. It seems incredible, but these were the official figures. Ten times as much effort went into the initial design as in to all subsequent development. (Although I don't think that went as far as the Mk.21 wing redesign.)

    I'll try to dig out the actual reference - it's well worth a read.

    Edit: I've found the reference:

    Postan, M.M., Hay D., Scott J.D.: The Design and Development of Weapons, HMSO 1964
     
  19. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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  20. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    It's interesting that neither Supermarine nor Messerschmitt were able to develop a suitable piston-engine replacement for the Spitfire and 109. Supermarine tried with the Spiteful/Seafang and ended up with nothing but headaches, mercifully cut short by the emergence of the jets (the Attacker, which used the same wing, was also a failure as a fighter).

    Cf the Typhoon, which morphed into the Tempest which became the uncle of the Fury/Sea Fury, after which Camm was able to design a new sequence of jets. Had Republic been given the go ahead the P-72 would have supplemented/ replaced the P-47: after the P-72 came the F-84 series, plus the F-105.

    The Me 209 II failed because the Ta 152 series was better, and the Me 309...failed. Cf the Fw 190A morphing into the D series and the Ta 152s. Had Heinkel been allowed to develop the He 100, I don't think the 109 wouldn't have survived into the G series.
     
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