Luftwaffe philosophy

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by ralphwiggum, Mar 20, 2010.

  1. ralphwiggum

    ralphwiggum Member

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    Did the Luftwaffe leaders believe in the Self defending bomber? If they did, why didn't they add more mg's
    to their bombers?:arcade:
     
  2. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    I believe the philosophy - at least at the beginning - was that the bombers could fly faster than any of the fighters and didn't need that much defensive weapomery.
     
  3. Maximowitz

    Maximowitz Active Member

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    The philosophy in pre-war years was for the bombers to be supported by Zerstorer, long range heavy fighters.
     
  4. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    I believe Njaco is right. Luftwaffe leaders believed in Schnellbomber (fast bomber) doctrine in prewar and early war years. The concept proved successful during Spanish Civil War when He 111 and Do 17 bombers were capable to outrun contemporary fighters of the time. If bomber could fly faster then the fighter then additional defensive armament was not needed. This changed in BoB. Just take a Do 17 as an example of how many additional defensive MGs were fitted.
     
  5. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    #5 Colin1, Mar 20, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2010
    Quite possibly a longer answer than you were expecting but worth a read:

    Lessons from World War I and the debates of air power enthusiasts influenced the development of German air war doctrine during the interwar years. L.Dv.16, Luftkriegfuhrung (Conduct of the Air War), was developed in the mid-thirties and was the Luftwaffe's main doctrinal statement. It remained unchanged throughout the war.

    Because of its lack of doctrinal prioritization, this manual was not an effective framework for employment of the Luftwaffe during the war. Throughout WWII, Luftwaffe priorities changed frequently, assets were often not concentrated, and the full value of achieving and maintaining air superiority was never appreciated. The brief and dazzling successes in Poland and the west blurred any flaws in doctrine, organization, or operational practice. In the Battle of Britain changing priorities and a failure to achieve air superiority assured the Luftwaffe's defeat.

    German military tradition and ideals emphasized operational art, especially the attributes of manoeuvre and flexibility and on tactics. The impact of technology and logistics on warfare received less attention. Yet precisely this emphasis on flexibility and the art of warfare resulted in vague doctrine which undermined the principles of concentration and mass in the employment of Luftwaffe assets. This would lead the Luftwaffe into an attrition war of both aircraft and pilots.

    During the interwar years, from the onset of any conflict, the Reich faced the prospect of a major struggle on the ground. In recognition of this strategic position in Europe, the concept of Operativer Luftkrieg (operational air warfare) was developed and embodied integratinq an independent air force into fighting a total war. The key tenet of this concept of air warfare was supporting ground forces. In fact, as late as 1941- 1942 there were few other air forces which could provide ground forces with decisive assistance at a critical juncture in the battle.

    Of the inter-war year prophets, only Billy Mitchell argued that fighter support missions were essential to other air operations and stated that the proper aircraft ratio for Air Corps aircraft should be 60% fighter aircraft, 20% bombardment and 20% reconnaissance. Mitchell's ideas in this regard would have little influence on the doctrinal development of the Luftwaffe.

    Giulio Douhet, whose treatise Command of the Air was published in 1921, influenced how the Germans thought about air power. The nucleus of his theory comprises three main ideas:

    - achieving air superiority
    - destruction of enemy centres of gravity through large formations of bombers
    - the use of airpower to break the will of the people.

    German thinkers embraced his ideas of the need for an independent service and importance of control of the air, but viewed his notions regarding the effects of area bombing as overly optimistic. He rejected the idea that an enemy air force should be fought in the air, but rather by destroying the collection points, the supply, and the manufacturing centers of enemy aviation. He rejected the notion of specialized fighters to defend against enemy bombers, preferring instead to devote all resources to battle planes which could carry out bombardment and be self-defending. These ideas would be reflected in the Luftwaffe throughout much of the war.

    The Spanish Civil War, however, highlighted the fact that fighter aircraft would play a crucial role in gaining air superiority. As a result, Ernst Udet, in charge of production by the late 1930s, changed the long run goal for the Luftwaffe's force structure from a ratio between fighters and bombers of 1-3 to a ratio of 1-2.

    Bombers were viewed as a primary asset in the battle to gain air superiority by destroying the enemy air forces on the ground. Primarily, however, the Luftwaffe was viewed as an instrument of attack

    The Bomber Chief of the Operations Department of the Luftwaffe General Staff, Major Deichmannn, claimed that when in 1936 he called together all General Staff officers and made them write down their definition of the concept, he got as many definitions and interpretations as there were officers present.

    The lack of clear-cut doctrinal priorities and ambiguities associated with the concept of operational air war were weaknesses which would manifest themselves throughout World War II.

    Not typed verbatim, extracts taken from:

    Research paper of
    Lt Col H Stoll USAF
    Air War College
    Maxwell AFB
    April 1994
     
  6. Maximowitz

    Maximowitz Active Member

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    Basically pre-war thinking was dominated by the belief "the bomber would always get through", a belief strongly held by the RAF, known as the "Trenchard Doctrine."
     
  7. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    More like "self defeating bomber". By the time you add 6 additional gun positions plus ammunition plus gunners plus their support equipment you've made the bomber cruise speed so slow that it's practically guaranteed to get intercepted. It's also a much easier target for flak.

    Schnellbomber plus long range fighter escort is the way to go.
     
  8. Kurfürst

    Kurfürst Banned

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    Generally this is the conception, but reading Mankau and Patrick makes me believe there was no real concept what to do with the 110 actually. The long range escort theme came up early, but even early they took a surprisingly realistic view on bombers escorted by 110s, describing this as a "Forlorn Hope" (suicide) tactic.

    The 110 was more intended as a sort of multirole fighter, with longer range, but not as an escort fighter (for which its range was inadequate!). The heavy twin engine types (several French, Dutch designs, or the P-38 for that matter) in the 1930s were more of a result of the technical limitation of the time: in order to carry heavy weaponry, and have some range, powerful engines would be required which were simply not available (keep in mind for example, when the 110 was conceived, the most powerful aero engines were of 6-700 HP output). Also such "heavy" types with forward firing armament were and a rear gunner to boot were quite successfull in World War I.
     
  9. Negative Creep

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    Besides, it was proven no matter how many guns a bomber has it couldn't defend itself
     
  10. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    True, but it wasn't "proven" until 1943 which was a little late in the game. Most "post war" bombers were already on the drawing boards by then.
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that a .50cal machine gunner is at a serious disadvantage vs enemy fighter aircraft armed with 3cm cannon and mine shells. Air Force generals get paid the big money because of their ability to think these things through.
     
  12. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    When was the 30mm cannon introduced?

    The close formations were supposed to provide mutual support with massed .50 cal fire from multiple aircraft let alone multiple gun stations on a single aircraft. One bomber vrs one fighter "duals" were never considered.

    The Air Force generals were wrong but it had little to do with 30mm guns and mine shells.

    Once fighters shifted from a pair of MGs to 4 or more guns per plane the fighter would have a fire power advantage over the bomber. The concept of the mutual fire support didn't work out as planned/hoped.

    That didn't stop such projects as the "B-40 and B-41" escort bombers. or the array of defensive guns on the B-35 and B-36. It often took several years of experience to displace pre/early war Ideas, theories and doctrines.
     
  13. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    It is slightly ironic that the British were deeply entrenched in the concept of the 'heavily armed' self defending bomber and put so much effort into developing power operated gun turrets to produce 'the best defended bombers in the world', while the German 'schnellbomber' was to rely chiefly on its own speed for defence, when the most successful 'schnelbomber' of them all was the DH Mosquito, which the air ministry were a bit sniffy about when it was first proposed :)
     
  14. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    It certainly ranks right up there with the Me-410A and A-26 as best of the bunch.
     
  15. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    Head and shoulders above the pair of em I'd say, but perhaps I am biased. you know what they say about opinions being like arseholes don't you, Dave? :)
     
  16. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    The German air attack on Bari was arguably the most successful Schnellbomber attack of the entire war. And it was performed by the good ol' Ju-88A. Those high tech Mosquitoes, Me-410s and A-26s could have performed the same mission but it's difficult to see how they could achieve better results.
     
  17. zoomar

    zoomar Member

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    The other point to make about philosophy is that all German bombers (even including the maligned He177 heavy bomber) look and act like they were designed to depend on speed and independent manuevering to avoid destruction, not massed firepower. That this was a poor decision is an understatement to say the least, unless one only intends to use such planes as tactical attackers rather than strategic bombers.
     
  18. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Do you have any historical data to show that unescorted B-17s had a better chance for survival then a similiar number of unescorted He-177s?
     
  19. zoomar

    zoomar Member

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    Nope. But in the Little Blitz of 1943-44, unescorted He-177s (those that survived engine fires, etc) adopted such bizarre tactics to avoid interception (individual shallow long range dives to reach speeds exceeding 400mph) that they failed completely to effectively bomb anything. Imagine if one had to mount a sustained bombing campaign with heavy bombers using such tactics.
     
  20. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    The same can be said for most RAF Bomber Command and U.S. Army Air Corps heavy bomber missions during WWII. The heavy bomber barons were wildly optimistic concerning bombing accuracy from high altitude.
     
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