German Night Fighters, 1940-41

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Cybermat47, Dec 26, 2015.

  1. Cybermat47

    Cybermat47 New Member

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    Would anybody be able to tell me, were German night fighters active over France in 1940-41?
     
  2. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    In this period the developing night fighter arm was engaged in protecting Germany and the Ruhr. The aircraft operated mainly over Germany and the Low Countries. Airfields developed along the Kannhuber line, Schleswig, Stade, Luneburg, Wittmundthaffen, Oldenberg, Vechta, Leeuwarden, Twente, Deelen, St Trond and Venlo among others. It's a line running from the NE Franco-Belgian border in a north easterly direction, up towards Denmark, facing the North Sea, where the RAF bombers would come from.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
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  3. Cybermat47

    Cybermat47 New Member

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    Thanks again stona :)
     
  4. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    FYI here's a reproduction of a German map showing the 'operational outline/structure' (gliederung doesn't translate easily!) of the Luftwaffe night fighter force as of December 1941.

    [​IMG]

    From Aders 'History of the German Night Fighter Force 1917-1945'

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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  5. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #5 stona, Dec 27, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2015
    Since we're on German night fighters in 1940/41 I think it is worth mentioning just how far behind the Germans were, particularly with AI radars. At this time they didn't really have an AI radar. Interceptions were supposed to be made in the illuminated areas and radars were concentrated with the flak and search lights. The German night fighter pilots were attempting to make ground controlled interceptions, at night. Various systems were used but here is not the time to go into that. Night fighters did receive some infra red equipment to help them see their targets. 'Spanner 1' which comprised an infra red search light (1,000w needing an upgrade to the aircraft's electrical system) and sight worked quite well. It's intended successor did not and was abandoned.
    A few 'Lichtenstein' radar operations were flown in late 1941, despite concerted resistance from the night fighter crews. Oblt. Ludwig Becker recorded the first AI radar assisted victory on 10th August 1941 and then claimed five more between 12th August and 30th September. It seems that the first and only AI radar set then became unserviceable because the next recorded Lichtenstein assisted victories were not until June 1942.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
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  6. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Early on, 1940-41, Luftwaffe have had a good success with the 'iluminated night hunt', a rough translation of 'Heller nachtjagd' term. The radar-less and infra-red-less (in want for beter term) aircraft were directed by ground control, making the kills on the targets illuminated by searchlights.
    In the map Steve kindly provided at the above post, there are several 'Heller Nachtjagdraum', or, rougly, 'airpace for illuminated night hunt (or night fighting)', as well as 'Kombinierte Nachtjagdgebiet' - 'combined (ie. both aircraft outfitted with necessary electronics and those without it) night fighting area'.
     
  7. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Different systems were used for this sort of operation.

    The earliest involved a night fighter orbiting a standby zone, usually an illuminated or radio beacon behind the illuminated zone. When a bomber was detected and acquired by sound detectors and searchlights the night fighter would fly into the illuminated zone and make the interception.

    The early radar guided interceptions operated on guidelines from Kammhuber. The night fighter now orbited in the illuminated zone. The radar (Wurzburg) and fighter control post were situated ahead of the illuminated zone. When it had acquired a bomber the night fighter was vectored to make an interception but would now pick up the bomber in front of the illuminated zone. This led to confusion between the bomber and night fighter because both aircraft were now also in front of the sound detectors and there was no IFF. This in turn led to many aborted interceptions.
    There were many critics and several senior night fighter commanders complained that the interceptor was directed through the search light zone to a target. The commander of search light Rgt. 1 wanted the radar to guide a master search light (as would happen later). I./NJG 1 returned to the old method (above) on its own initiative and had some success, including 5 victories on the night of 15/16 October.

    Despite all this the night fighters claimed 42 enemy aircraft up to the end of 1940, more than the 30 claimed by flak.

    It wasn't until late 1941 and then into 1942 that the multiple radar (Wurzburg-Riese, Wurzburg-C, Freya) systems with radar controlled advance search lights and a more sophisticated plotting and fighter control system were developed.

    AI radar was not fitted in an operational sense to night fighters until four aircraft of II./NJG 2 were equipped in February 1942, it was three months before they were successful. The re-equipment centre at Diepensee had a capacity of six aircraft a week, but bottlenecks and production problems with the radars meant that the first order, for forty sets, wasn't completed until August 1942.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  8. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Behind who? Nobody had an effective night fighter force during 1940.
     
  9. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    #9 DerAdlerIstGelandet, Dec 27, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2015
    Let me help you...

    1. First read post.
    2. Then think about it.
    3. Then re-read post.
    4. Then think about your response.
    5. Then post your response.

    He said nothing about the German night fighters being behind anyone. He said the German radar system was behind everyone else, and that is true and well documented.

    This is what he said. "think it is worth mentioning just how far behind the Germans were, particularly with AI radars. At this time they didn't really have an AI radar."

    On that note if the intercept radars are behind, then the NF force is behind as well.

    It is all in the context.
     
  10. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #10 stona, Dec 27, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2015
    The British actually had 30 fighter equipped with a rather crude AI radar in September 1939. The first successful British interception using AI radar was in July 1940, using an AI Mk III radar, so give or take a few weeks you could say that they were two years ahead of the Germans. Kammhuber only asked for an AI radar in the autumn of 1940.

    In March 1941 the British started testing, in flight, the first centimetric AI radar. In June 1941 100 AI Mk VII sets were ordered. Again the Germans were lagging behind. At around this time Major Helm at Rechlin was flying trials with the Lichtenstein AI radar, which required the complicated 'Matratze' ( thirty-two dipole elements, mounted in four groups of eight) external antennae. According to Rechlin the antennae reduced the speed of the Bf 110 by 40 kph, far from ideal on an aircraft which already struggled to keep up with the faster British bombers as they dived through the illuminated zones.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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  11. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Double post!
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    In December 1939 a certain Arthur Coningham, then commanding 4 Group Bomber Command, predicted that the night bombing war would be "a never ending struggle to circumvent the law that we cannot see in the dark".
    The same could be said of night fighter operations. The British grasped this very early in the war. It is best summed up in a note that Dowding wrote to Harold Larnder, regarded by some as the founder of operational research, in which he wrote,"This war will be won by science thoughtfully applied to operational needs."

    It was in this application of science, not the science itself, where the British had and maintained a lead over their German counterparts. It helped that the political leadership did not interfere in the programs as was the case in Germany, in this context the development of centimetric radar springs to mind. Development work on the system was officially halted in 1941 by a political decision not to develop new systems during the war.

    The Luftwaffe only got the Lichtenstein AI radar because it was a simple adaption of an already existing radar altimeter, deemed to expensive by the RLM, under development by Telefunken. The company was trying to adapt the altimeter, by mounting the aerials horizontally, into a system that would enable bombers to remain in contact at night. When Kannhuber issued a requirement for an airborne locator Drs. Ruge and Muth at Telefunken suggested a further alteration to the Lichtenstein system to fulfill this role.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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