Greg of Auto and Airplanes has asked for a Debate (1 Viewer)

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29 September 1939, 11 Hampden in 2 formations, the second of 5 intercepted, all shot down.
3 December 1939, 24 Wellingtons attacked warships, intercepted, no losses
14 December 1939, 12 Wellingtons, found convoy, spend 30 minutes trying to set up bombing runs in poor weather, 5 lost to flak and fighters
18 December 1939, 24 Wellingtons, bombed ships from 13,000 feet, perfect visibility, 12 Wellingtons lost, 2 fighters reported shot down.
Blenheim reconnaissance flights 20 September to 25 November 1939, 37 sorties, 7 lost.

The USAAF was aware of the early RAF raids, but noted the following would reduce casualties
1) Self sealing fuel tanks (The Wellingtons did not have them in 1939)
2) Increased defensive firepower including effective range, 6x0.303 inch versus 10 or more 0.50 inch
3) Tighter formations
4) Larger formations and/or raids.
5) Heavier airframes being harder to shoot down (Wellington Ia and Ic overload weight was 30,000 pounds)
6) Flying 10,000 feet or so higher
7) Flying faster, the Wellington Ia and Ic top speed was around that of the B-17/24 fast cruise speed.

Similar logic used when considering the Luftwaffe day raids on Britain in 1940

Without escorts present the interceptors had more performance available to trade off for firepower. A rule of thumb is in 1943 the 8th AF heavies shot down around 2 fighters for every 3 bombers shot down by fighters, in early 1944 that became 2 to 1 in favour of the fighters. The USAAF cause of damage reports reflecting an upgrade in average Luftwaffe fighter firepower. No doubt if figures could be calculated the ratio would move further in favour of the fighters during 1944 as more 30mm cannon were carried. During the Battle of Britain the exchange ratio was in the order of 1 RAF fighter to 3 Luftwaffe twin engined bombers, the RAF pilots had 8 rifle calibre machine guns firing at bombers weighing around 5 to 10 tons empty, the bombers single rifle calibre guns firing back but were in formation.

All the above ratios would require accurate bombing causing significant lasting damage to balance the bomber losses and/or enough interceptor losses to escorts. The USAAF calculation 300 heavy bombers being enough to drive average losses down to acceptable levels was done in 1942 at the latest and not revised, even as the defences were strengthened.

Nothing was static, radar made a big difference to bomber casualties once it was hooked up to a tracking and control system, in 1939 the German radar station phoned the airfield with what it was detecting and the fighters took a while to become airborne then were on their own. The Wellingtons were looking for shipping, not flying to a known location then returning. Think of the probable results in 1939 if it was 300 B-17E incoming, not worrying as much about bombs hitting non military targets alternatively the results in 1943 if it was 24 USAAF Wellington I incoming and waiting for absolutely clear weather.
Nothing was static, but all things considered, without escorts - and by dint of their success or otherwise, air superiority converting into air supremacy - even a ratio of one fighter to one supremely armed (and consequently manned) bomber was likely to be unsustainable due to the enormous difference in strategic materials, manufacturing manpower and time between the bomber and fighter... Not to mention the drain on maintenance and especially aircrew training, given it was eight+ men facing their mortality or capture, versus one.

The self defending bomber was a counterproductive WW2 myth.

The harsh teacher of war will often disprove a peacetime theory. But it seems odd to me that the penny of the ultimate lesson took so long to drop.
 
Nothing was static, but all things considered, without escorts - and by dint of their success or otherwise, air superiority converting into air supremacy - even a ratio of one fighter to one supremely armed (and consequently manned) bomber was likely to be unsustainable due to the enormous difference in strategic materials, manufacturing manpower and time between the bomber and fighter... Not to mention the drain on maintenance and especially aircrew training, given it was eight+ men facing their mortality or capture, versus one.

The self defending bomber was a counterproductive WW2 myth.

The harsh teacher of war will often disprove a peacetime theory. But it seems odd to me that the penny of the ultimate lesson took so long to drop.
Not really. Whether it worked or not depended entirely on conditions. It was hardly obvious that it would not work in general prior to testing it. Change the planes or their numbers or the enemies and you get different results. B-29s vs Japanese fighters would have gotten through without escorts. The bombers were fast enough that after the first pass the fighters struggled to catch back up and then had to come up the ass end with low closure speed of a formation of angry super forts.

If you have more of the same bombers you also get a different results. Like a said before, not having enough bombers in the 8th was a big factor. Does anyone in their right mind that that if the AAF had started the war with a huge fleet of bombers they could not have made it to the target?

It didn't take much either to move the needle of attrition in the bombers favor either. Just a token number of fighter groups in early 1944 (2 P-51 2 P-38) swung the pendulum in the entire other direction.
 
B-29s vs Japanese fighters would have gotten through without escorts. The bombers were fast enough that after the first pass the fighters struggled to catch back up and then had to come up the ass end with low closure speed of a formation of angry super forts.

It also depends on how they were used.

A B-17 flying alone could cruise at a higher speed than it could when in the formations used by the Eighth AF.
 
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If you have more of the same bombers you also get a different results. Like a said before, not having enough bombers in the 8th was a big factor. Does anyone in their right mind that that if the AAF had started the war with a huge fleet of bombers they could not have made it to the target?

It didn't take much either to move the needle of attrition in the bombers favor either. Just a token number of fighter groups in early 1944 (2 P-51 2 P-38) swung the pendulum in the entire other direction.

Even if you take an imaginary "huge fleet" of early B-17's to Germany in 1939, then you have to give the Germans an equally strong defence and the early B-17's would be shot to bits.

Your description of the fighter Groups as "Token" is incorrect. The fact is that in the circumstances, their superb capability was sufficient to disrupt the operations of the German Air Defence fighters.

Eng
 
Not really. Whether it worked or not depended entirely on conditions. It was hardly obvious that it would not work in general prior to testing it. Change the planes or their numbers or the enemies and you get different results. B-29s vs Japanese fighters would have gotten through without escorts. The bombers were fast enough that after the first pass the fighters struggled to catch back up and then had to come up the ass end with low closure speed of a formation of angry super forts.

If you have more of the same bombers you also get a different results. Like a said before, not having enough bombers in the 8th was a big factor. Does anyone in their right mind that that if the AAF had started the war with a huge fleet of bombers they could not have made it to the target?

It didn't take much either to move the needle of attrition in the bombers favor either.
Just a token number of fighter groups in early 1944 (2 P-51 2 P-38) swung the pendulum in the entire other direction.
Remember, we (and the debate) was referencing bombers that are relying on their armament as their primary defence - not their superior altitude or speed

#1. Well, it was pretty obvious to the RAF by early 1940 that it would not work in general (and that was backed up by post BoB operational experience over the continent). It was equally obvious to the Luftwaffe too by the end of the same year: Unless your opponents had insufficient fighters or fighters of particularly poor performance, armament and organisation, daylight unescorted raids by large numbers of bombers would result in unsustainable losses.

#2 Touch of strawman there, the issue isn't about bombers not making it though to their target at all, is it? Very few raiding forces were ever completely annihilated by defending fighters. The issue was unsustainable, impractical attrition through combat damage or losses, regardless of how many aircraft you're fielding. When Schweinfurt 1 and 2 were undertaken in strength and the loss percentage was some of the highest ever seen. If the AAF had started its war with a full compliment of contemporary B17b or B17c, and undertook unescorted raids, they would have been absolutely hacked out of the sky. These lacked power operated turrets, even a tail position and would have been utterly easy meat for the experienced Luftwaffe and a Germany that had not yet started to see its fortunes reversed on the Eastern Front.

#3 It took two years, grim experience, ESCORTS and the lives of thousands of aircrew to reduce that level of attrition down to strategically acceptable and then highly favourable levels. But the odds of victory to loss in direct unescorted air combat was almost never in the favour of the bombers in the ETO. To have matched airframe to airframe in manufacturing time , materiel and aircrew, it would have needed to be a loss ration of something like at least 3 fighters for every 1 B17.

No amount of extra turrets and .50s were ever going to achieve that (and never did).
 
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Remember, we (and the debate) was referencing bombers that are relying on their armament as their primary defence - not their superior altitude or speed

#1. Well, it was pretty obvious to the RAF by early 1940 that it would not work in general (and that was backed up by post BoB operational experience over the continent). It was equally obvious to the Luftwaffe too by the end of the same year: Unless your opponents had insufficient fighters or fighters of particularly poor performance, armament and organisation, daylight unescorted raids by large numbers of bombers would result in unsustainable losses.

#2 Touch of strawman there, the issue isn't about bombers not making it though to their target at all, is it? Very few raiding forces were ever completely annihilated by defending fighters. The issue was unsustainable, impractical attrition through combat damage or losses, regardless of how many aircraft you're fielding. When Schweinfurt 1 and 2 were undertaken in strength and the loss percentage was some of the highest ever seen. If the AAF had started its war with a full compliment of contemporary B17b or B17c, and undertook unescorted raids, they would have been absolutely hacked out of the sky. These lacked power operated turrets, even a tail position and would have been utterly easy meat for the experienced Luftwaffe and a Germany that had not yet started to see its fortunes reversed on the Eastern Front.

#3 It took two years, grim experience, ESCORTS and the lives of thousands of aircrew to reduce that level of attrition down to strategically acceptable and then highly favourable levels. But the odds of victory to loss in direct unescorted air combat was almost never in the favour of the bombers in the ETO. To have matched airframe to airframe in manufacturing time , materiel and aircrew, it would have needed to be a loss ration of something like at least 3 fighters for every 1 B17.

No amount of extra turrets and .50s were ever going to achieve that (and never did).

Add to that, the Brits had rear turrets on aircraft that were designed before the B-17, eg Wellington, but the "the bombers will always get through brigade did not think they were necessary on the B-17.

The same mentality meant the RAAFs first aircraft orders after Pearl Harbor were Hudsons and Catalinas
 
The B-17E was ordered in August 30. 1940, not delivered until Sept 15th, 1941 and the early ones had some holes in the defensive scheme. Belly "turret" was aimed by a man using a periscope. This set up did not last long. The 113th aircraft got the famous ball turret. Still wasn't enough.

I don't if the first British orders after PH were Hudsons and Catalinas or not. Maybe they were the first orders after PH that were placed. But the British had been ordering Hudsons since 1938 and the Catalinas since 1939? They ordered them both in multiple batches so there are a bunch of order dates. British actually had Martin Baltimore's and Lockheed Ventura's on order in 1940. First Ventura order (with P&W R-2800s) was in April of 1940. First delivery to the British was in Sept 1941. Trouble is that the first Squadron didn't get them until Spring of 1942 and first combat was not until Nov 1942 ( almost 2 1/2 months after Dieppe and the Spitfire IXs and Typhoons and Mustang Is).

It is this roughly 2-3 year lag between idea/concept and actual use that was a real problem. Single engine fighters were faster to design/deploy than multi-engine bombers.

A 312mph bomber in late 1941 would have been hot stuff, in late 1942, not so much.
 
A 312mph bomber in late 1941 would have been hot stuff, in late 1942, not so much.
Yes, but the 1939 "self defending bomber" wasn't even capable of satisfactory self defence (even when later armed-up to the teeth as the B-17G!) and as has been pointed-out by others, even in 1943-44 the combat bomber formations were cruising at 240 mph and they didn't go slow because they wanted to! One of the few genuine hi-speed bombers was the un-armed Mosquito Bomber, a triumph of design and technology that could have done so much more if the reality of its performance had been better understood earlier.

Eng
 
Contract A-344, first Ventura, for 300 ordered 6 June 1940, first production September 1941, first arrivals in Britain April 1942.

If it was the RAAF, its last Hudson orders were in mid 1941, they were being delivered as the Pacific war broke out. The orders for 7+11 Catalina were completed in October 1941, while in September at the latest the idea was to order 9 more, the submission to War Cabinet came in early October, which asked if the machines were actually available, in the end they came from the 1940 Canadian order, Australian purchase approval in early 1942.

In response to the Japanese attack the RAAF expanded the planned home force size from 32 to 73 squadrons and put together orders which can be thought of as either a don't ask don't get or a wish list. These numbers include already promised allocations/deliveries, as of 10 April 1942 it was 143 B-17, 362 Beaufighter, 119 Catalina, 771 Kittyhawk, 370 Vengeance, plus 270 locally produced Beaufort.

Massed daylight Mosquito raids without escorts would not have worked, individually much harder to intercept, but plenty of targets available, with no one shooting back.
 
One of the few genuine hi-speed bombers was the un-armed Mosquito Bomber, a triumph of design and technology that could have done so much more if the reality of its performance had been better understood earlier.

Massed daylight Mosquito raids without escorts would not have worked, individually much harder to intercept, but plenty of targets available, with no one shooting back.
Historically they only had two daylight Mosquito bomber squadrons and one was switched to night pathfinder work?
The Bomber raids they undertook actually had high loss rates. Perhaps the individual raids were worth the losses, but a more widespread application might have lead to even higher losses and it was hard to scale up. The raids undertaken took a lot of preparation/training and could not be duplicated by less well trained units or units that were assigned different targets every few days.
Low altitude means they have a lot less time to shoot at you, on the other had everybody with a Luger or bigger can shoot at you. Several losses were from collisions with the ground?

Losses to German fighters are not the same as failures to return. Only the later really counts for attrition rates (plus landing accidents)
 
The Mosquito was almost invulnerable at night and also very well placed by day, witness the effective use of day photo-recce Mossie. If the big bombers were "acceptably survivable", where were the massed hordes of big bomber photo-recce? Well, tactics for day Mosquito ops would be very different to day heavies, but the dice had been cast and the big bombers were mass-produced already in an unstoppable process, whereas Mosquito production was small. Almost all Mosquito bomber day ops were high value specialist raids.

Eng
 
If the big bombers were "acceptably survivable", where were the massed hordes of big bomber photo-recce?

Eng

Single heavy bomber recon is pretty easy picking, 100mph slower than the Mossie, and service ceiling 10,000' lower. The defensive tactics of the heavies was predicated upon big, tight formations -- at which point the recon you've asked after has become prohibitively expensive.

In other words, the non-use of heavy bomber recon over Europe really has no logical bearing on their survivability in bombing raids. It turned out that without escort, they were closer to "barely survivable", in my opinion.

Different story, for obvious reasons, in the Pacific. The -17 and especially the -24 did damned good recon work there.
 
105 squadron was the first Mosquito bomber squadron. While it received a handful of Mk.I for training purposes in Nov 1941 it didn't give up its Blenheim IV until May 1942 when it began to receive Mosquito B.IV. The squadron flew its first Mosquito sortie on the evening of 11 July 1942, a low level diversionary raid to Flensburg. The navigator of one aircraft collected bits of a chimney pot in his lap as a souvenir of the raid!

Early missions were flown in daylight at high level (until Sept 1942) on clear days and low level when cloud levels permitted and unescorted. Formations were generally of 1-6 aircraft (only in 1943 with 2 operationall squadrons, did numbers despatched grow but they never exceeded 20) with a loss rate in 1942 of about 8% (which was lower than in the squadron's Blenheim days but higher than the night bomber loss rate of about 5%) and slightly lower in 1943. They were regularly being intercepted by Fw190s.

The next squadron to receive the B.IV was 109 in Aug 1942. Its aircraft were equipped with Oboe for nighttime Pathfinder operations.

The only other day bomber Mosquito squadron was 139 which began to receive its aircraft in Sept 1942 in place of Blenheim V, which it had not used operationally.

Daylight Mosquito bomber operations ceased with a final operation on 27 May 1943 by 6 aircraft of 139 squadron. Sharp & Bowyer in "Mosquito" provide details of all the raids from 31 May 1942 to 27 May 1943.

On 1 June 1943 105 & 139 transferred from 2 Group to 8 (Pathfinder) Group. 105 retrained to become the second Oboe squadron, flying its first mission on 9 July. 139 adopted a nightime nuisance bombing role, later gaining H2S equipped Mossies for Pathfinder operations. 139's nuisance operations were the beginnings of the Mosquito equipped Light Night Striking Force in 8 Group which built up to an eventual 8 squadrons by Jan 1945.
 
Even if unescorted bombers were feasible, they wouldn't have been decisive. During the bombing campaign against German aircraft plants, despite significant initial destruction, production actually increased. ( https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Po...B_0020_SPANGRUD_STRATEGIC_BOMBING_SURVEYS.pdf )
Detailed production data for this period, as far others, were taken by the Survey, and German air generals, production officials, and leading manufacturers, including Messerschmitt and Tank (of Focke-Wulf) were interrogated at length. Production was not knocked out for long. On the contrary, during the whole year of 1944 the German air force is reported to have accepted a total of 39,807 aircraft of all types-compared with 8,295 in 1939, or 15,596 in 1942 before the plants suffered any attack . Although it is difficult to determine exact production for any single month, acceptances were higher in March, the month after the heaviest attack, than they were in January, the month before. They continued to rise.
The bulk of the irreparable damage to the Luftwaffe was done by the escorts:
The seeming paradox of the attack on the aircraft plants in that, although production recovered quickly, the German air force after the attacks was not again a serious threat to Allied air superiority. The attacks in the winter of 1944 were escorted by P-51's and P-47's and with the appearance of these planes in force a sharp change had been ordered in escort tactics. Previously the escort planes had to protect the bomber force as their primary responsibility. They were now instructed to invite opposition from German fighter forces and to engage them at every opportunity. As a result, German fighter losses mounted sharply. The claimed losses in January were 1,115 German fighters, in February 1,118 and in March 1,217. The losses in planes were accompanied by losses in experienced pilots and disorganization and loss of the combat strength of squadrons and groups. By the spring of 1944 opposition of the Luftwaffe had ceased to be effective.
That campaign enabled the later largely unopposed attacks on oil and transportation, along with widespread fighter bomber interdiction and harassment, and marked a sharp rise in the effectiveness of ground operations.
 
Even if unescorted bombers were feasible, they wouldn't have been decisive. During the bombing campaign against German aircraft plants, despite significant initial destruction, production actually increased. ( https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Po...B_0020_SPANGRUD_STRATEGIC_BOMBING_SURVEYS.pdf )
While production did increase, it was also due to the german economy shifting to a war economy. How much the actual output could had increased if not interrupted by the need to stop due to air raids and the need to relocate and disperse the factories?
 
The B-17E was ordered in August 30. 1940, not delivered until Sept 15th, 1941 and the early ones had some holes in the defensive scheme. Belly "turret" was aimed by a man using a periscope. This set up did not last long. The 113th aircraft got the famous ball turret. Still wasn't enough.

I don't if the first British orders after PH were Hudsons and Catalinas or not. Maybe they were the first orders after PH that were placed. But the British had been ordering Hudsons since 1938 and the Catalinas since 1939? They ordered them both in multiple batches so there are a bunch of order dates. British actually had Martin Baltimore's and Lockheed Ventura's on order in 1940. First Ventura order (with P&W R-2800s) was in April of 1940. First delivery to the British was in Sept 1941. Trouble is that the first Squadron didn't get them until Spring of 1942 and first combat was not until Nov 1942 ( almost 2 1/2 months after Dieppe and the Spitfire IXs and Typhoons and Mustang Is).

It is this roughly 2-3 year lag between idea/concept and actual use that was a real problem. Single engine fighters were faster to design/deploy than multi-engine bombers.

A 312mph bomber in late 1941 would have been hot stuff, in late 1942, not so much.

The first RAAF as in Australian Air Force, not RAF as in Britain, were definitely Hudsons and Catalinas and the US had to almost force the first batch of P-40s on the Australians. The USAAF wanted to give them lots of P-40s but only enough pilots to train the RAAF pilots. Instead they took a small number of P-40s and the 49th USAAF Pursuit Group were sent here.
 

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