How many strategic bombers could Germany realistically field?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by wiking85, Apr 19, 2014.

  1. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    Assuming Germany got a heavy strategic bomber working, even the He177A, but probably more likely the He177B, how many could they realistically field? I've been thinking it over and considering the fuel costs and other logistics issues around fielding those big bombers they would probably top out at about two air corps (1 Geschwader per corps coupled with air transports and escort fighters). I think at any one time they couldn't field more than about 250-300 depending on smaller Kampfgruppen (more maritime patrol/bombing) due to the fuel cost and limited production capacity (historically only 1200 He177s were produced), which would mean that production ends up getting eaten up replacing losses due to combat and wear-and-tear. Historically most of the He177s were sidelined not just due to engine issues as the lack of fuel to even use them, so they sat on their airfields gathering dust. Assuming the engine issue did not exist, what can actually be in service at any one time?
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Just like everyone else. 12.19% of British defense budget was spent on RAF Bomber Command. Spend 12.19% of German defense budget on heavy bombers and they can put 1,000 heavy bombers over England every night.

    What is Germany willing to forgo to build and maintain such a heavy bomber force?
     
  3. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    If Germany had ramped up it's production at the onset of war and not as a late-war priority, they may have had a chance to field an effective force.

    Considering that strategic bombers were not given the priority that medium bombers were as the Luftwaffe was preparing for war and even still, production was slow on all existing types until they were fighting to keep the noose from around their neck.
     
  4. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    But relatively the Germans wouldn't be able to field the massive army they needed in the East and on all other fronts...of course if the strategic bombers do their job against Soviet industry, then perhaps they won't need to.
     
  5. Greyman

    Greyman Active Member

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    Battleships and aircraft carriers?
     
  6. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    Well Germany did build about 1200 He177s historically, so there is that. Plus they could avoid FW200 and Ju290/390 if they get the strategic bomber in service early enough, as it was intended the He177 would fill the maritime recon role historically, but was never really ready for that, so we got the 260+ FW200s and 67 Ju290s (which were twice as heavy as the He177). Perhaps they could avoid the V-2 and V-3 if there were a useful strategic bomber? Then the V-1 could get into service sooner and prevent the need for the V-2 without the diversion of R&D resources away from the V-1...

    Plus avoiding silly things like the Maus tanks and Tiger II wouldn't hurt. Effectively bombing the Russians and limiting their combat potential would go a long way to helping reduce losses in the East in all categories, especially if one of the effects is to divert Russian resources away from offensive weapons to air defense, like the Allied strategic bombing did to the Germans. Say if Operation Eisenhammer is launched in 1942 against the 11 power stations (not the dams) the Soviets would lose power to 80% of their tank engine production and 75% of their aircraft engine production. Of course they could be moved eventually to other areas and have some power restored, but it would take time, cost resources, especially production time lost, and even then there would be electrical shortages, so something would have to be cut from production to make up for it (like light tanks and some engine production among other things). Then the Soviets would have to alter their production to defend resource production and manufacturing West of the Urals; they can't evacuate everything beyond the Urals due to limited electrical and other resources there, so some stays in the West and has to be defended from the air. It would take time to get enough AAA set up, so in the meantime thing like the synthetic rubber plants at Yaroslavl are intensely vulnerable to say 250 He177s carrying 6 tons of bombs each, with following He111s carrying 2 tons of incendiaries.

    Once that's done the Germans need less other stuff in the East due to Russian capabilities being reduced...
     
  7. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    That gets my vote too.

    However if 1930s Germany chooses not to recreate the fleet scuttled at Scapa Flow I can think of better uses for the money. Why not build large tank factories like the Soviet Union did during early 1930s? Then 1939 Germany would have 24 ton medium tanks and assault artillery armed with high velocity 7.5cm cannon rather then 5 ton tankettes armed with machineguns.
     
  8. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    The German economy wasn't really set up for such a thing, the government would have to make even more serious interventions in the economy earlier, which they were not politically comfortable with historically (they actually increased privatization and were eager to limit investments in large production facilities that would be privately owned). It took a while to get things like the St. Valetin tank factory set up and in mass production...especially as it was predicated on slave labor, which too a while for Germany to adopt.
     
  9. OldSkeptic

    OldSkeptic Active Member

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    The answer ... none. Germany didn't until about mid to late 43 really put it's economy onto a 'real' war footing. it was incapable of mass producing 'big' bombers in any way, it's manufacturing was already stretched to the limit by army, navy and Luftwaffe requirements. It's production of tanks, artillery, fighters, medium bombers, etc, etc was lagging well behind it's enemies.

    Even as early as the BoB Britain was producing more fighters than Germany did. By late '42 the USSR was producing more tanks than it did (and better ones too), despite the disruption of moving its industries east.

    If it had really tried to build such planes, it would have lost the air war sooner (because it would have taken away production from more useful things).
     
  10. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    How so? Several hundred He177s, Ju290s, FW200s, and Do217s were built prior to 1943 and all of the above could have been standardized on one model of four engine bomber by 1940 when the first Fw200s were produced. The Do217 wasn't really even in a useful form until 1942, yet was being built since late 1940. The Ju290 was just way too big, twice as heavy as the HE177. By 1943 nearly 200 He177s had been built. I think it was easily possible to field 1 full wing of He177s if they worked by mid-1942 plus several other Kampfgruppen in addition for naval missions and recon work.
     
  11. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The problem was that even by 1943 the He 177 can't really be described as 'working'. It had the sorts of serviceability and other technical problems that would have kept it from being operational in any western allied air force, indeed such a flawed design would never have been built in such numbers.

    From 1939-42 the German aircraft industry was not capable of delivering large numbers of a strategic bomber. It wasn't even capable of keeping up with Luftwaffe losses of the types already in service. In 1943 the Germans produced 64% more aircraft than in the previous year, this included a 31.4% increase in bomber production and a 125.2% increase in fighter production.
    Had the Germans had a really viable strategic bomber and had they diverted some of the increased resources for bomber production in 1943 into a strategic bomber they might well have had a reasonable force of strategic bombers. The difficulty is again that even this increase in production failed to keep pace with increasing attrition and anyway a strategic bomber at this time would already have been two years too late.

    By 1944 it all becomes moot as the Germans much vaunted production of 36,000 aircraft is represented largely by fighters (for obvious reasons). The actual rise in production in terms of airframe weight was only 24% over 1943. It's also only 8,000 more than Japan produced in the same period. US factories were out producing both countries, comfortably, at a canter and then there was the substantial British and Soviet production.
    Even had a German strategic bomber existed, I doubt that it could have been produced in numbers during the final eighteen months or so of the war.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  12. Koopernic

    Koopernic Active Member

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    #12 Koopernic, Apr 20, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2014
    The common claim that Germany was not ramping up its production at the onset of the war has been dismissed by Adam Tooze, who is an economist as well as a historian. There was a huge investment in munitions production but until 1942 it manifested itself as investment in factories, tooling etc. When the huge production surge manifested itself Albert Speer was there to reap the credit for what was actually a well planned for production expansion. Speer was intelligent, honest, dutiful and made his own contributions but clearly few heads of department would not take advantage of such a thing. I don't know where the myth comes from, probably Kershaw.

    The other myth is that the Nazis didn't mobilise the female workforce. Certainly National Socialist ideology was very concerned by the reproduction of the race and so idealised motherhood, but truth be told they weren't much different to the rest of the western world in this, just more explicit. In fact what was going on was that German women took over increasing levels of farm work as men were conscripted although unlike British women they didn't need to be recruited to agriculture from the cities, they were already there. This mean not as many were available for factory work but many were in fact so committed. Not even 48% of the food eaten in Britain was grown in Britain, most of it came from the USA and had been doing increasingly so for a hundred years and by the time lend lease came in the US was effectively subsidising it. Britain had a more modern trade oriented economy, impressive financial power and a well developed industry. I rather suspect that Roosevelt's agricultural adjustment act, designed to help us farmers, was dumping us farm produce to Britain anyway and so helping indirectly. By contrast 82% of German food production came from their own land and so with men drafted into the services or industry women took over the farm work. In fact before the war German female participation rate in the workforce was already higher than Britain and USA so they had less latent to potentially gain.

    The big problem for the Germans in 1940 is that with their exchange trade blockaded and low on foreign reserves they were actually on the precipice of famine. Food security became a priority.

    Now as far as production goes the decision to focus on twin engined bombers and fighters makes sense given resource limitations and the enemy, the German Army and Luftwaffe were set up to fight France, Poland, Lithuania (which had annexed Memel) which individually massively outnumbered German forces in 1934 and could easily have invaded Germany. They had troops on the border, bombers minutes away. It was not set up to fight a war against Britain let alone the USA. France had in fact "invaded" the Rhineland in the 1920s and occupied the industrial and coal mining heartland of Germany for a while which precipitated the economic stress that triggered hyperinflation. Trotsky had lead a massive army to invade Germany and Western Europe in 1920 only being turned back by the Poles. The threat was immediate, not 650 miles away over the English Channel.

    Now consider the situation in 1941 with the Me 210. It had been designed by Dr Woldemar Vogt but Herr Direktor Dr Willy Messerschmitt had intervened in the design process to shorten the tail and remove slats in a well meaning but foolish attempt to improve performance. The result is the Me 210 is not suitable for combat and the tooling is wrong. You are Erhardt Milch, you need to get thousands of aircraft produced and sent to the troops per month. To you the Me 210 has missed the boat, you must commit to expanding a production line now. Me 210 was supposed to replace the Me 110, Ju 87 and part of the Ju 88 production while He 111 was phased out as He 177 and Me 210 came in. What happened is that Ju 88 production actually replaced He 111 in places and it was hugely inefficient due to the tooling not being set up. The Me 210 was fixed as the Me 410 and was an excellent aircraft but was too late to achieve much production.

    Of course the Germans did invest in a long range heavy bomber He 177 which on paper should have been excellent. The debacle this became is still not entirely explained. Ernst Heinkel as early as 1939 had recognised the problem of the coupled engines and begged for a 4 separate engine design and though he was eventually supported in this it seems to have been too late. Incidentally the coupled engines had been tested in the He 119 and no problems manifested. The follow on to the He 177A-5, which had solved the engine problem from 1944 onwards was the He 177-A7 which had enlarged wings and bigger coupled DB603 engines. However this wing had also been designed to handle 4 separate engines as the He 277 and this aircraft is what was the model being developed when after the d day landings the fighter emergency program was used to justify the scrapping of the airframes.

    In a way the USA was lucky to enter the war late or it may have also ended up frozen with outmoded designs on its production lines.

    By 1939 B25, B26 and B29 had long been ordered of the drawing board. Even the B-36, the only intercontinental bomber of WW2 was underway by 1940. Had the USA entered war in 1939 North American might have been told to set up to produce P-40s as fast as possible and time not been allowed to waste time on designs such as the P-51 and retooling a factory over from P40 to P51 seen as unviable. The Legendary P-38 was execrable years late and repeatedly "not combat ready" for at nearly 2 years.

    To me it seems the Germans gambled on these important programs too much, when they were delayed there was no adequate plan B for risky aspects . He 177, Me 210/410 and to a lessor extent the Ju 288 and Me 309. But who had that kind of experience of such complicated projects? The book "secret Messerschmitt jet projects" is very interesting in this regard, it is one of the worst translations ever but it is by insiders from the German aviation industry and you can see the latter Messerschmitt programs did have a plan B, plan C for risky areas of an aircrafts design.

    As far as resources to build a 4 engined bomber force; it can be taken from the 1200 or so Do 217, Ju 188 and several thousand He 111, 200 Fw 200 Condors, several dozen Ju 290. Transport aircraft such as the Ju 290 and Fw 200 could have done their job as transports rather than maritime aircraft perhaps making things better for Rommel in Africa and Paulus in Stalingrad for they were dependant on failing air transport by the inadequate Ju 52.

    The big impact, had the He 177 roughly matched Lancaster deployment would have been far better support of the u-boats in terms of reconnaissance, the planed He 177 with a pair of 30mm guns in a chin turret might have disrupted Sunderland's and Liberators operating over the Atlantic gap. He 177 performed several successful missions against soviet targets, their high speed making them hard to intercept. The He 277 matched the B29 in almost every respect.

    The possibility that the Germans might have produced nearly as many bomber as Britain 20,000 Lancasters, Halifaxs and Sterlings seem remote; I figure that in addition to 1200 He 177 they might have added some 3600, they were according to Griehls book planning on producing 100 month.

    The problem with this rate of production is this: 4 engined bombers are vulnerable, they are like wildebeest and only make sense when operating in truly massive numbers so as to saturate defences. For the German a smaller fleet of faster 4 engined bomber of higher speed but smaller war load might have been better. Killing of their piston bombers in 1944 makes sense. What they might have achieved is a significant impact on Soviet production with some impact on British production but potentially a bigger result in the maritime war, they might have offered the u boats some respite.
     
  13. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    There never was a 'huge surge' in aircraft production. If anyone can take credit for the 1942-43 increase it would be Milch not Speer. The 1943-44 increase is numerical but not much in terms of total airframe weight which is a far better measure of production capability.

    The Germans started the war in 1939, when was this 'surge' supposed to happen? Three years into the conflict, in the last quarter of 1942, Anglo-American aircraft production exceeded Germany's by 250% in single engine fighters, 196% in twin engine aircraft and a massive 20,077 % in four engine bombers. I don't have figures to hand for the USSR. German production was barely making up for losses, and for some types wasn't even doing that.
    That, despite Tooze's contention, at least for the aircraft industry, does not look like a well laid plan to me.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  14. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    The aircraft industry was severely hampered by a number of bad choices starting with the Ju288 program, the failed He177, the wasted Me210, the repeated Messerschmitt failures, command changes (Udet and Milch), power struggles (Goering, Udet, Koppenberg, Milch), the Ju222 failure, etc. Constantly changing orders from Hitler disrupted production, while underlings took on inappropriate authorities in decisions like putting the He219 into production despite Milch's decisions against it. The poor leadership and choices made from 1936-1942 (and beyond to a lesser degree) really hurt production and technical capabilities throughout the war, which culminated in the late war extreme dispersion of efforts in all sorts of bizarre programs. Frankly it was amazing the LW managed to survive as long as it did given all this dysfunction.

    "arming the luftwaffe" one volume by Edward Homze and a different book of the same name by Daniel Uziel cover all this in detail. Then there is the Richard Overy doctoral thesis about LW production from 1939-41 if you can find a copy of it that shows how badly Udet messed up production and how Milch had to sort out the mess for years after when he resumed authority over production.
     
  15. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Koopernic, the facts show that Germany was not producing nearly as many aircraft before, and during the early years of, the war.

    That's not a myth, that's a hard statistic etched both in manufacturing records and obvious fact like loss attrition during the BoB.

    Also, had Germany devoted manufacturing to heavy bombers early on, they may have had an advantage in heavy strikes against British and/or Soviet industrial centers IF and only IF they could maintain air superiority.

    Without that, and even IF the heavy bombers were heavily armed (which Luftwaffe bombers were not), they would have suffered the same fate as the RAF BC and 8th AF bombers did in the early campaigns over Europe without escorts.
     
  16. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    Unless, like they did during the Blitz, they operated at night. Also the He177 wouldn't get into service before 1942 due to technical development reasons, so it wouldn't appear in production until after the BoB and Blitz, long after they learned to operate at night.
     
  17. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    But, like mentioned earlier, heavy bombers were not given a priority until after the war was well under way and even then, it didn't produce anything that could be used in any signifecant numbers.

    The Bomber A program in the mid-30's showed promise for a strategic iniative, but it lost priority and momentum with Wever's death.

    Once the realization that the war may not be going well, did they start looking at heavy bombers again (Me264, Ju390, Ta400, etc etc) but by then German manufacturing and resources were dedicated to trying to maintain a two-front war.
     
  18. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    In the East there were many vulnerable targets that a limited number of strategic bombers could seriously damage, such as the Operation Eisenhammer plan, which focused on 11 power stations (not the dams) that would have cut off about 50% of Soviet electricity and effectively killed a massive part of their manufacturing base, as they were already having rolling power outages due to heavy demand. It would have taken at least 1 year to get replacement equipment from the US and then need time to assemble it and rebuild the lost experience and manufacturing momentum thereafter.
     
  19. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    1935. RM 143 million. KM Scharnhorst.
    1935. RM 146 million. KM Gneisenau.
    Fall 1939. RM 65 million. Nibelungenwerk tank plant.

    You'll have a tough time convincing me 1935 Germany couldn't build RM 65 million factory complexes ILO RM 143 million battleships.
     
  20. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    Or even cancel Plan Z, which was scrapped anyway with huge waste in skilled man hours, machine tools, and metal. Or the West Wall, which would have had all the steel, concrete, and labor that would have completed multiple plants.
     
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