Heavy AAA: was it worth it

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by tomo pauk, Jan 22, 2009.

  1. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    After some reding that suggests that it was required to fire thousands of shells to destroy aircraft, one may conclude that it was a vain effort to have the air defence that way. Any thoughts?
     
  2. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    I'm not sure the bomber crews of the Fifteenth over Ploesti would agree with the sentiment
     
  3. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Well, if we could have some info about AAA guns ammo expenditure, then see how it's compared with number of fighters that could be bought for the same amount of money... See where I'm aiming :)
     
  4. delcyros

    delcyros Well-Known Member

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    AAA is cheaper but less efficient. In top of this, it doesn´t cost as much in crew training and upkeep and may be upgraded quite easily.
     
  5. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    Aha!
    I see your line now
    Sounds like an interesting thread in the making, some observations of my own while I'm here

    if we're considering flak emplacements and ammo expenditure, shouldn't we be comparing them with fighters and their ammo expenditure too ie

    ordnance expended as a function of platform vs ordnance expended as a function of platform

    Not sure how easy that would be

    In commercial terms, I've no idea what a flak emplacement costs but I'm wondering if it's not cheaper than a fighter, maybe all the fine-tolerance machining bumps the price up...
    Unit cost of a flak shell is obviously more than even a heavy-calibre aircraft shell - bit of a balance there?

    In strategic terms, did the military thinking of the time consider fighters and flak as separate assets or two threads of the same asset ie did they consider the bang-for-buck of one vs the other or did it not occur to them to contemplate it, on the grounds that the fighters weren't going to shoot down all of the bombers on their own and neither were the flak emplacements?
     
  6. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    In considering the effect of flak, you shouldn't just be looking at the nuber of shells fired vs. number of planes bought down, IMHO. Flak of all calibres could also have a significant effect on aircrew morale and effectiveness, especially in poorly-trained crews. Flak could break up bomber formations, making fighter attacks easier, and put bomber and ground attack aircraft off their aim, reducing the damage they did - an example of this is how ships fired their main guns into the water ahead of torpedo bombers, making splashes which would either wreck the aircraft or throw the pilot off during the sensitive torpedo run.

    Furthermore, heavy flak could inflict heavy but non-lethal damage to a plane which would require serious repair work to correct. This further drained material and consumed man-hours which could be invested in new aircraft. It could also lead to the writing-off of an a/c as a structural loss even if it returned to base after the mission. And of course, the a/c might return with some of it's crew dead and wounded, further debilitating a squadron without necessarily destroying the airframe itself.
     
  7. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    The American bomber crews dreaded the German flak almost as much, if not more, than the German fighters. Flak can inflict a serious amount of damage to bomber formations, and can deter future bomber strikes if the concentration is high enough around a certain area.

    If you want to compare the cost of defending a target in shell expenditure, compare the defending the same target with aircraft.

    Of course you have the cost of training the flak crews as well as pilots, but you also have the additional expense of training the aircraft's ground crew as well. Add to that the logistics of maintaining a local airstrip to support the defending fighters and the cost of attrition when you have to replace the pilot and/or aircraft when it becomes damaged or lost in battle.

    You can also factor in the cost for the aircraft's ammunition, which can be at least a thousand rounds (this figure is an example) per sorte. And let's not forget the logistics of moving the airfield to another location, as the tides of battle shift.

    On the other hand, a flak battery consists to the artillery peice, the truck used to haul it, the crew that mans the peice and a support crew that supplies ammunition from the depot. Your cost of maintaining the artillery peice would most likely consist of repairing the breech mechanism and various parts over time, you could even factor in replacing the barrel efter a certain amount of use. Perhaps replacing the weapon hauler if it becomes disabled, etc. You would simply need to billet the crews locally and typically being mobile, you don't have to establish and maintain any one area to stage that artillery unit.

    I would think that a flak unit would be far more cost effective than it's aircraft equivellent. :)
     
  8. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    they feared Flak the worst over fighters, they could not fire back at the Flak bursts. Will say that for the larger industrial centres in southern Germany/Austria it was good for the Germans that they indeed had zwilling and single barrel 128mms at their disposal as LW S/E and T/E a/c were far few and between nothing could compare to the Defense measures up to the north in the heart of the Reich, Flak was a definate plus
     
  9. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I Definately agree, Erich...plus, I've seen pictutres of those Flak Towers in Berlin...the sight of those monoliths alone was impressive...

    I can't begin to imagine what they would have looked like when they went into action...
     
  10. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    noisy that is a fact, or just even 10 8.8cm's in a batterie. had a good friend who was a gunner of one serving at Kiel before he was moved further estward, he told me the sound was defeaning during the encounters with Bomber Command a/c at night and US heavies by day. he always felt in the 2 years in this position that they were providing some sort of assurance to the German folk even if meager
     
  11. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    we had a pretty good discussion about flak some months ago as i recall. it was a very intersting discussion. IMO there is no doubt that flak had far more effect than it is given credit for. It affected the accuracy of bombing, kept the bombers high, and damaged huge numbers of bombers compared to the fighters.

    German Flak needed to expend far more ammunition per kill at the end of the war than it did at the beginning, but we never really got to a satisfactory explanation for that. I still dont know why that happened......
     
  12. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    I would venture that declining standards of training were responsible for that Parsifal. By the later stages of the war, sixteen year old kids were being drafted to man flak batteries, and I think it would be safe to surmise that their training was not as thorough as that of their elder predecessors.

    Could it also be the case that heavy AA weapons were being diverted to the AT role in support of the Wehrmacht? I have no concrete evidence for how significant this might be, but I understand that Luftwaffe 88s were deployed in the AT role during the Seelow battles in 1945. I wonder if this and other diversions might have weakened the defences of cities under attack from heavy bombers :?:
     
  13. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    don't forget about the jamming of LW and W ground based radar systems to track. certainly several LW Flak units were sent to the Ost front, new ones were evolved so in 44 there were actually more Flak apparent per space in the Reich and in 45 when the LW seemed to be absent, truth of the matter 3/4's of the Reich defense day fighters were sent to the Ost front
     
  14. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    Ah, I didn't think the effect would be particularly huge. Presumably the jamming of ground radar would have forced battery CPs to fall back on optical range heightfinding methods? I imagine that combined with lower training standards that would have had quite a serious effect on effectiveness.
     
  15. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Agreed that the psychological impact of flak was alot higher than that of fighters. If industrial targets hadn't been ringed with AAA emplacements, our bombers would've pounded the living hell out of their logistics systems and manufacturing plants with impunity, and (IMO, at least) the war would've been shorter. Also...take a look at the Normandy invasion. Flak most definitely played a greater role there than aircraft did.

    Also, as mentioned earlier, the 88 was easily shifted from AA role to AT role, and presumably could be done in the middle of a battle, without having to go back to refuel and rearm.
     
  16. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The 88 was an effective gun as either AA or AT. But IMO it was a better AT gun. It had an effective ceiling of about 26000 feet, which meant that B-17s could just skim over the top of its effective ceiling.

    By 1944, so many of the flak guns were over used, that many of them had reduced ceilings to well below the theoretical 26000 feet. It was not unheard of for flak batteries of 88s to have effective ceilings of only 21-22K The problem was simply over-use. Guns produced in 1939-40, had by 1944 expended well over 30000 rounds per gun. They were literally starting to fall apart by that stage.

    It is also true that m any of the elite crews had been drafted to serve in the east and elswhere. The huge expansion of the flak Arm had to be done out of necessity by using part timers, and these crews were only a fraction as accurate as the crews of 1941-44.

    German flak artillierie in my opnion reached its peak year of effiicincy in 1842, based on the numbers of artillery shells expended per kill. It was around 4000 incidentally. By 1944, with many factors now working against them, the flak artillerie was down to about 16000 rounds per kill, over germany.
     
  17. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    I'm not sure how 'convertible' the 88 was once deployed on the battlefield - I am almost certain that good AT positions and good AA positions are very different beasts, and the 88 still required a large prime mover and sizeable crew to shift it about. Also, I would surmise that the different ammo types for AA and AT roles were not issued together - could one of our resident LW/Wehrmacht gurus please clarify this?

    I think we can all agree however that flak had an effect material and psychological far beyond that suggested by raw statistical analysis
     
  18. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    What were they shooting at? :D
     
  19. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Probably low flying birds at that date....obviously I meant 1942:oops:
     
  20. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Those pesky French observation balloons :lol:
     
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