Luftwaffe Torpedo Operations 1936-40.

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by redcoat, Dec 26, 2013.

  1. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

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    Luftwaffe Torpedo Operations 1936-40.

    The first operation use of airborne torpedoes by the Luftwaffe was in the Spanish Civil War. From mid 1936 a small number of Heinkel He 59 seaplanes served with the Seeflieger Gruppe AS/88 of the Condor Legion, operating from the island of Majorca. This unit was operational until the spring of 1939, and during this time launched a number of airborne torpedoes in combat. However due to problems with the LT F5 torpedo only one was successful. An attack on the British merchant ship Thropeness (4,700 GRT) which on the night of 21st July 1938 was entering the Spanish port of Valencia loaded with grain. At the time it was claimed by the Spanish Nationalists that this ship had been sunk by a mine.

    By the start of WW2, the Seeflieger possessed 30 operational He 59s in four Staffeln. At this time the He 115 was starting to come into service, but due to the fragility of the LT F5 torpedo it couldn’t be carried, as the He 115 couldn’t fly slow enough, without stalling, to release the LT F5 torpedo successfully.
    From October 1939 the few He 59s flew a limited number of torpedo operations against Allied shipping, but the only success recorded by He 59s using torpedoes in WW2 was the sinking of the British fishing steamer, Active (185 GRT) on the 18 December 1939.

    In March 1940 with technical improvements to the LT F5 torpedo (including a new rudder) the He 115 was made operational with this torpedo, replacing the He 59 in the role, though the torpedo was still far from satisfactory, as it still required the He 115 to fly as slow and low as it possibly could, and even then failures were common.
    Over the next few months due to limited available supplies of the torpedo (135 in March) few operations were undertaken.
    In July 1940 the only operational airborne torpedo Staffel ready for action was 3/Ku.Fl.Gr 506 based at Stavanger, to be followed by 1./Ku.Fl.Gr 106 from mid August based at Norderney

    From August as other He 115 torpedo attack units became operational, combat sorties increased though the limited number of torpedoes available was always a problem ( in September the figure was down to 38 at one point)
    The first successes of the He 115 units may have been the sinking of Llanishen (5,035 GRT) and the Makalla (6,680 GRT) of Convoy CA 203 in the Moray Firth on the 23 August 1940, but some sources put their loss down to bombs not torpedoes.
    The first confirmed success of He 115 torpedo bombers was the sinking of the Remuera (11,445 GRT) by Ku.Fl.Gr 506 on the 26 August 1940.

    Over the next 4 months until the end of the year the Luftwaffe used about 160 airborne torpedoes in operations against British shipping in Northern waters, Luftwaffe claims were high (one unit alone, 3./Ku.Fl.Gr 506 was credited with sinking 124,000 GRT) but when checked against British losses, Luftwaffe torpedo bombers probably sank a total of 7 or 8 Allied merchant ships of around 50-60,000 GRT in 1940.


    During this period there were attempts to use both the He 111 and Ju 88 in the torpedo bomber role, but due to problems with inter service rivalry, and the LT F5 torpedo, none became operational in 1940, though the He 111 did become operational as a torpedo bomber in early 1941.

    Source for the facts and figures used in this article
    Luftwaffe Aerial Torpedo Aircraft and Operations in World War II, by Harold Thiele
     
  2. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    Hi. Thanks for the info. Does Thiele give and/or discuss Luftwaffe combat and operational losses during these missions? One of the big problems I often run across is while English language books about Luftwaffe operations are available, they seldom mention Luftwaffe losses.
     
  3. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

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    Very true, as Thiele doesn't mention Luftwaffe combat losses at all.
     
  4. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Here's a good discussion concerning WWII German torpedo bomber operations.
    German Torpedo Bombers? What Were they?

    What impresses me most is the German Navy showed so little interest in aerial torpedoes or maritime attack aircraft in general that the entire program finally transferred to Luftwaffe control during January 1942.

    Seems like the better solution would have been to replace Admiral Raeder around 1935 with someone who had an appreciation for naval attack aircraft. Then serious development of this powerful weapon system could have begun seven years earlier.
     
  5. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I think that Goering laid claim to everything that flew and that the only aircraft the Kriegsmarine were allowed to have under it's control were the float planes on it's battleships and cruisers.
     
  6. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #6 nuuumannn, Dec 26, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2013
    I don't think that was the problem. Pattle has nailed one of the biggest hindrances in advancing German aerial torpedo ops; with the debacle over the F5 torpedo, there was considerable argument over which branch of the services should operate torpedo bombers; the Luftwaffe or the Kriegsmarine. Both services had their advocates for torpedo and maritime strike operations, including Hans Geisler, who, although held the rank of General in the Luftwaffe transfeered from the navy in 1933 and had served in the navy during WW1. He chose other former naval officers who had served under him in the navy to work with him in promoting maritime strike operations.

    Perhaps the biggest issue affecting torpedo strike ops was of course, the ineffectiveness of German torpedoes themselves, which gave both the Kriegsmarine submarine and surface fleet considerable headaches and missed opportunities.

    Its worth noting that the Germans carried out successful torpedo bombing operations during WW1, so the practical application of the art had been researched and the information was there, along with the men with the enthusiasm for it.
     
  7. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    27 Jan 1939. German naval Z Plan approved.
    2 CV in addition to the 2 Graf Zeppelin class already under construction.
    6 H class BB.
    3 O class BC
    12 Kreuzer P class.
    6 M class CL.
    6 Spahkreuzer.

    If Admiral Raeder had enough political clout to get this massive warship program funded I suspect he had enough clout to reestablish the Marinefliegerkorps which had proved so useful during WWI. Just cross out a few of the dreadnoughts and insert aviation items costing a similar amount.
     
  8. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I think Goering had more say so than Raeder, I'm not sure but I think that even the aircraft on the Graf Zeppelin carriers would have been Luftwaffe rather than Kriegsmarine.
     
  9. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

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    It needs to be remembered that Raeder built up the fleet in the pre-war period in the belief that the Royal Navy would not be the enemy, and that the German navy would operate mainly in the Baltic, well within range of land based aircraft support. He was also under the assumption that war would not occur until around 1944.
     
  10. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

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    You are correct.
     
  11. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    I believe ( but am open to correction) that even the float-planes on the battleships/cruisers were flown by Luftwaffe pilots. Goring controlled (or wished to) everything concerned with the "air" including both AA guns and Paratroopers. The chances of Raeder being able to 'establish' a second air force NOT under Gorings control was vanishingly small no matter how many battleships he cut from his program.
    In fact his "program" may have been part of "empire" building so beloved by The Nazi's ( and a lot of other military organizations). Sort of "maybe we don't need it/them but at least the ARMY/AIR Force didn't get the money!!".


    AS an example of how ridiculous this can get I was told many years ago by a tour guide at the Smithsonian Silver Hill facility ( OK, I don't Know if it is true) that by law NONE of the Smithsonian aircraft are airworthy. This in response to question about a Cessna Bird dog on exhibit. Tour guide claimed it landed on the air strip outside the building and then had it's airworthiness stripped (could not legally fly out). Back in the 30s the congress didn't want the Smithsonian to become a 4th (?) US Air Force after the Army, Navy and Coast Guard so declared that any aircraft donated to/acquired by the museum should be "non-flight worthy".
     
  12. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    The rise of the CAF must have given some pen pusher a blue fit
     
  13. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Not really as the CAF wasn't using government funds :)

    Congress was apparently afraid of end run around the funding process or something.
     
  14. pattle

    pattle Member

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    Maybe it was a tax dodge or something similar?
     
  15. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    The Smithsonian is the national Museum and as such is funded by congress.
     
  16. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #16 nuuumannn, Dec 29, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2013
    The fact is, this was not as unusual - although it was odd - as it might have seemed. We forget that on 1 April 1918 the Royal Naval Air Service ceased to exist and all British naval flying thereafter was done by the RAF; the Fleet Air Arm was a branch of the RAF until 1939. Look at the USAF; not formed as a separate branch of the United States armed forces until 1947.

    I.e. the taxpayer. The same situation exists with national aviation collections around the world. In the UK the RAF Museum, the FAA Museum etc are funded by the public/MoD and their policies also do not permit flying aircraft in their collections. This is for a number of reasons; historical value of the items and also the cost of maintenance. Also, where do you draw a line as to which aircraft you wish to restore to flying condition when you have, in the example of the RAF Museum nearly 300 airframes in storage and on display? Museums are/should be about conservation and preservation and only where necessary, restoration. Putting many existing historic airframes into flying condition would mean there wouldn't be much of the original aircraft left - which is contrary to what museums are about.
     
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