In the fog and chaos of war just how reliable are fighter pilot kill scores ?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by war eagle, Dec 20, 2013.

  1. war eagle

    war eagle New Member

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    We are all aware that the various air forces had different rules as regard registering fighter pilot kill this coupled with the general chaos that ensues during war we see the stats but how accurate are they and furthermore should we calculate them in when assessing a particular aces wartime combat performance ?
     
  2. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    One example which I'll quote as I have been looking at this day for other reasons.
    On September 18th the Duxford Wing intercepted a Luftwaffe raid over the Thames Estuary. It's pilots claimed to have destroyed 30 German aircraft. The real number? Probably 4, possibly 5.
    How reliable were those claims? It's a problem that dogged all combatant air forces throughout the conflict.

    There is no point in discussing individual pilot's claims as it will descend into acrimony. They all over claimed, usually perfectly honestly.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  3. war eagle

    war eagle New Member

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    I ask the question because all sorts of factors shape the final kill total - were the kills fighter v bomber or fighter v fighter ? - were the opposing fighters of comparable performance ? for instance i favour kills in inferior aircraft eg Saboru Sakai (zero v F6F,zero v corsair) or Pokryshkin (I-15/16 v ME109).Also it was a tactical RAF decision for the more nimble Spitfires to tackle fighters while the Hurricanes tackled the bombers thus its logical to assume that the majority of hurricane pilots kills were of slower and more vulnerable aircraft.The RAF and USAF also had a pilot rotation system in place whereas the Luftwaffe,VVS and the IJN IJAF didn't you basically flew until you were shot down and killed meaning surviving aces from these countries having been in action more could logically be perceived as better..........YES/NO ? i'd love to hear your views folks.
     
  4. war eagle

    war eagle New Member

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    We know from archive that the most studious records were kept by the Luftwaffe their fighter groups viewed it as a competition not unlike contesting racing drivers most having ego's and drive to be the best that made them solitary hunters although I totally agree all air forces were guilty of some degree of kill exaggeration both innocently and not.From my research claims made by the Soviet pilots are most curious due to the better pilots tendancy to credit some of their kills to the squadron and to lost comrades to allow the pilots families to get more help from the Russian authorities for this reason i think many of Russias top aces underclaimed by as many as 50%.
     
  5. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    And yet during the BoB they claimed for more than three times the actual RAF losses. This is the intelligence problem associated with claims and loss analysis. The number of victories that the Luftwaffe was scoring, admittedly in conjunction with other intelligence failures, led Schmid and the Luftwaffe's intelligence branch to claim at one time that the RAF was down to its last 100 fighters when the real number was more than six times that number.

    It surprises me that people will accept the overall figures which demonstrate obvious over optimistic claiming and then attempt to assert that pilot A,B, or C almost certainly did score X,Y or Z victories. In fact he almost certainly did not!

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  6. FalkeEins

    FalkeEins Member

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    #6 FalkeEins, Dec 20, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2013
    case in point Erich Hartmann - 'only' 289 of Hartmann's 'victories' were 'officially' confirmed before the German claims sytem broke down in early 1945. Only 307 of his supposed 352 claims were 'officially' filed before the end of the war..

    see this link for a piece I compiled on JG 2 'over-claiming' during the summer of 1941 which compares actual Spitfire losses with JG 2 claims....the same summer five JG 2 pilots were awarded the RK

    http://falkeeins.blogspot.fr/2011/06/luftwaffe-fighter-ace-claims-and.html
     
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  7. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    That during the BOB " the more nimble Spitfire was sent against the fighters, while Hurricanes were sent against the bombers"
    That statement might belong in the aviation myths that won't die.

    The British never had enough resources to dole them out so carefully, no matter how much sense it might make.

    Do you think any Hurricane pilot would say " let's wait on the Spitfires " on seeing fighters ? These were FIGHTER pilots.
     
  8. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    And we'd better not get onto the provably fraudulent claiming of the small minority..... 4./JG27's "experten schwarm" for example.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  9. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    #9 FLYBOYJ, Dec 20, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2013
    I believe 100% of Richard Bongs kills were confirmed. I read somewhere when he was still flying with Tommy Lynch he was involved in a mission where he destroyed a Betty Bomber while it was on the runway waiting to take off or on take off roll. Some of the AAF brass wanted him to claim that as an aerial kill, he refused...
     
  10. Alex .

    Alex . Active Member

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  11. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Vogel, Sawallisch, Bendert and Stigler, all of 4./JG27, were busted by their own side colluding in and making spurious claims. Their fraudulent claiming was established by their own unit at the time. A small minority they may be, but it happened. It would be very naïve to imagine they were the only ones, and not just in the Luftwaffe.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  12. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    Quite apart from the fighter pilots desire to believe every aircraft he fires at was a kill, the culture of the service he belonged to would have a lot to do with how lenient the score keeping was. The Germans like to see themselves as sort of aerial sportsmen. The got their promotions and medals according to how many aircraft they (claimed) to have knocked down. That's a system that encourages collusion, though how widespread it might have been is open to debate. The British tended to think of such grandstanding as bad form - I read one account from a BoB pilot who recalled that his sole celebration of his fifth kill was buying himself a quiet pint without recognition from his comrades because the rule was not to make a fuss of such things for fear of being seen to place the individual above team. The Italians were apparently similar in this.
    I've often wondered about the Flying Tigers. I know there are plenty of contributors who will froth at the mouth given any suggestion they might have achieved anything less than popularly believed, but it's a fact that they were paid handsomely for each aircraft they shot down, and they were about the only good news propaganda story going for quite a while. Perhaps this might have had some bearing on their record?
     
  13. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Have you any proof or supported suspicions of that Cobber, or just taking a pot shot?

    Not an invitation to argue, just wondering.
     
  14. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    Hi Greg,

    Neither proof nor pot shot. All else aside, I'd bet the house the the Flying Tigers did over-claim, simply because everybody over-claimed - pilots wanted to shoot down the enemy and were inclined to give themselves the benefit of the doubt. In addition, I believe the AVG pilots were awarded $500 per kill, a lot of money in those day. Given that these pilots were initially recruited as mercenaries and awarded $500 per kill it is legitimate to ask whether the prospect on monetary reward might not influence their claims wouldn't you say? That said, the prospect of handing out cash might have made the Chinese require require a higher degree of confirmation, too. Anybody know the verification procedures for AGV kills?
     
  15. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #15 GregP, Dec 21, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2013
    I'd say they probably overclaimed, too. But my definition of destroyed is different from the general view of the forum.

    I don't give a rat's A** if the aircraft was completely destroyed. If a pilot shot it down and took it out of combat, I say it is a kill. Some in here feel that if the wreck was recoverd and flew again, it wasn't a kill.

    Ridiculous.

    Shooting down a plane is the definition of a kill. If they recover it, that's OK. I would still count it a kill and would defend that with vigor. When you shoot someone down and they hit the ground and are out of action, THAT IS A KILL. If the enemy later comes in and recovers something, that does not negate your kill.

    If that were the rule, then any pilot who wanted kills would fly over a downed plane and strafe the crash until he was out of ammunition, making sure it was a real kill. They could NOT afford to do that at any time in any war.

    Instead, they battled until one started going down and then turned their attention to another threat or potential victim. That's the way the system operated EVERYWHERE. Anyone who later sat in armchairs AFTER the war and wanted to change it is wrong. Taking an enemy out of combat by making him hit the ground or water or bail out IS a kill. Otherwise no fighter pilot could EVER be sure he got a kill. Stupid and not logical.

    Just my opinion. Yours may vary, like your EPA-estimtaed mileage for your car.
     
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  16. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    So why have categories like 'Probable' and 'Damaged'. To qualify for 'Destroyed' which in the RAF was the only category counted as a full victory the aircraft had to be seen to be destroyed, either by breaking up in the air or hitting the ground. The pilot bailing out was also evidence of an aircraft destroyed as it was considered impossible that the aircraft could consequently survive.
    The reason gun camera footage of parachutes survives is not because the man in the parachute was being attacked but because the pilot wanted proof that he had bailed out.

    It is important to realise why these distinctions existed.
    It might not seem important whether an aircraft was damaged and subsequently recovered, or destroyed, to someone today with an interest in individual pilot's scores but it did to the air intelligence services of all air forces at the time. They were not in the business of creating aces, individual 'scores' were not important to them. They were in the business of assessing the damage being inflicted on the enemy and the efficiency of their own air force. To them an aircraft destroyed rather than an aircraft forced down or damaged is a critical difference.

    I guess we could say my opinion does vary from yours but for the reasons above. Essentially the people assessing and crediting claims were not interested in individual claims or scores. They were interested in the damage done to the enemy, particularly how many aircraft were being destroyed.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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  17. pattle

    pattle Member

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    #17 pattle, Dec 21, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2013
    Claims were only important during war time, now we have actual loss numbers claims don't count as factual information anymore. The intelligence people were aware of their own losses, but had to ask the question what were the enemies losses, naturally the enemy would not tell them so they had to investigate and make an educated guess. Aircraft were not shot down to give bragging rights to individuals, this was a war and it was important for the intelligence people to get as much information as they could as so to understand how well their own side were performing and how strong the enemy was.
     
  18. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    As far as the AVG goes, a fair number of their combats took place over areas of ground controlled by the Chinese so confirmation should be fairly easy for most of the time ( no planes lost or not lost in the Channel, seas, ocean) although they are still finding the occasional wreck in Europe so nothing is 100%.

    AS far as "kill" vs "damage" goes, with a "kill" intelligence knows that plane will not be coming back EVER. With damaged things are a lot more "iffy". The "damaged" plane probably won't be flying a mission tomorrow (it is out of the fight today) but will it be available for use in 3-4 days or a week or will it make it back to base and be used for recycling?

    Given the limited information from 'eye' witnesses and gun cameras trying to estimate amount of damage is like trying to do a body shop estimate on a car from a few cell phone picture (early cell phone) taken from several hundred feet away while driving by the "damaged" car at 60mph.
     
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  19. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The RAF made some ludicrous calculations (actually guesses) to estimate how many Luftwaffe aircraft were going down in the seas around the UK. It just goes to illustrate again how unreliable contemporary estimates were.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  20. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    That sounds reasonable to me. Anything else just introduces to many variables. For example, if the aircraft is only moderately damaged but unable to be repaired due to supply shortages, is it a kill? If 50% of the aircraft can be salvaged for re-use, is it half a kill?
    To my mind its a kill if any of the following can be verified via camera or witnesses (wherein of course lies the devil in the detail).

    1. It hits the ground, including crash landings
    2. The pilot bales out
    3. it breaks up or catches fire in the air.

    Some verification procedures seem pretty dopey. During the Korean conflict the USAAF decided (with what justification I know not) that 15 .50 cal hits should be sufficient to knock down a Mig. As one round in every five was an API, if gun camera footage showed five visible hits they concluded the Mig had been hit fifteen times in total and it was therefore credited as a kill, irrespective of whether it was seen to crash, flame or fly merrily on it's way. Just possibly such criterion might have contributed to the Sabre's amazing kill/loss ratio in that conflict
     
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