Most effective nightfighter

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by pattern14, Dec 29, 2013.

  1. pattern14

    pattern14 Member

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    Just recently I was setting up the airbrush for my youngest son, who was just finshing a 1/72 scale Heinkel He 219 "Uhu". Although I am not a big fan of conventional luft aircraft, I read the blurb on the side of the box, which gives you some basic deatils and generalised comments on the subject aircraft. It started me thinking about dedicated nightfighters that were operational during WW2, and was wondering if anyone out there had some solid facts about the most effective/efficient night fighters that were operated, on all sides. I realise that most were modified day fighters like the Me 110 etc, but specialised aircraft like the He 219 and P61 Black Widow must rate fairly well. I haven't thought through all the parameters of what would rate a nightfighter being the most effective, but I suppose kills to sorties/losses etc would be a good start. Interested in seeing what comes up....
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I'd hazard a guess these two types accomplished at least 80% of all night aerial kills during WWII. That sort of result speaks for itself.
     
  3. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Good pilots scored whatever they flew. Oblt. Josef Nabrich, Staffelkapitan of 3./NJG1 claimed 14 bombers with the He 219, including 2 Mosquitos.

    The majority of the 'Nachtjagd' 7,308 victories were achieved by Bf 110 and Ju88 night fighters, which were also the most numerous. It wasn't until July 1944 that the Luftwaffe reported that it had 500 serviceable night fighters, from a front line strength of 830.

    German night fighters, even those derived from existing types were very specialised machines. A Ju 88 G-1 could manage 320 mph at 6,000m (near enough 20,000ft) even with all its night fighter equipment and bore little resemblance to the bomber from which it was descended.

    In the realms of 'what if' the Me 262 would probably have proved a very effective night fighter along with the Do 335 for which the He 219 (and Ta 154) would have been sacrificed.

    For the RAF there is only the Mosquito in the running. Surviving Luftwaffe night fighter pilots are unanimous that towards the end of the war the Mosquitos which flew to Germany with the raids were the scourge of the 'Nachtjagd'. Many say that by the autumn of 1944 they, previously the hunter, had become the hunted. The Mosquito was a better aircraft and crucially the British had established a significant advantage in the electronic war.

    For the USAAF I have no idea :)

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  4. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I have my doubts.

    Me-262 was a small aircraft (I've seen one at USAF museum). There's no internal space for additional fuel and electronic equipment which were essential for successful late WWII night fighter aircraft.

    Do-335 would be better as it has decent endurance. However it also lacks internal space for electronic equipment.

    However this begs the question why anyone would even try these experiments? Ju-88G airframe was just right for Luftwaffe needs. More powerful versions of Jumo 213 and/or DB603 engine would keep the aircraft competitive with newer bombers (i.e. B-29) right up to 1950. Ju-88G would almost certainly receive stabilized gun sight and MG213 revolver cannon too.
     
  5. Jeff Hunt

    Jeff Hunt Well-Known Member

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    When one looks at the impressive scores wracked by by some German pilots one cannot rule out the target rich environment that the Luftwaffe nightfighters went into battle against as well as great ground control that got them to the scene of the battle. In addition they were flying against aircraft that they outperformed by a wide margin. ( Lancasters, Halifaxes etc) IMHO, if the 219 and the Mossie were to meet I would wager on the Mossie pilot surviving the majority of the time as I believe it to be not only a superior fighting machine but a better aircraft all around.

    Just my 2 cents worth

    Cheers,

    Jeff
     
  6. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The Me 262 B-1a/U1 was only an interim night fighter. Even so it carried two additional 140 litre tanks, one each side of the second seat, giving a total of 2,070 litres internally. It carried two 300 litre drop tanks and had provision for a towed fuel tank containing another 900 litres though I can't find any evidence that this was ever used operationally.
    All the current radio and radar equipment, with the possible exception of the FuG 350 Zc 'Naxos' was fitted to the few conversions completed at Staaken, so there was enough room.
    The developed night fighter (B-2a) was to have a 1.5m extension fitted giving more room and an overall length of 11.70 metres. Amongst other changes a taller canopy was to be fitted to accommodate the 'Naxos' scanner.
    Another proposed development was for a three seat version of the Me 262 B-2a to be powered by two HeS 011 engines. The aircraft was lengthened again to 12.59 metres and have a completely different canopy,wings and tail planes swept back at 45 degrees. It never made it off the drawing board, but we were talking what ifs.

    The Do 335 was also considered large enough for the fitting of all electronics needed for a night fighter. A three seat version was also proposed. The totally equipped Do 335 A-6 prototype (2 seat) was only 90 Kg heavier than the standard A-1. The radar antennae were mounted on the wings rather than the nose obviously :)

    I would suggest that both types had more room available for the necessary equipment than the Bf 110 which seemed to manage okay.

    The RLM and Luftwaffe both thought that the Do 335 night fighter would out perform any current versions, including the He 219, and planned to abandon the others in favour of the Dornier. We'll never know because the war was lost, but the RLM had a habit of changing plans and moving the goal posts.

    A developed and reliable Me 262 would have made an outstanding night fighter.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  7. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Both the He219 and the Ta154 would have been contenders for top Nachtjager if complications hadn't prevented them from serious production.

    As far as the Me262 goes, Kurt Welter claimed 25 mosquitos during night interceptions and he wasn't alone, there were several other Experten that did well against night targets. These were done in a standard Me262, not a modified Night Fighter version. So it was very capable of the task.
     
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  8. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Going back to the original question Discuss Most effective nightfighter in the World War II then the Mosquito clearly is one of them. The second I would suggest is probably the Ju88 It had a good enough performance to effectively fight the bombers in the bomber stream, but so did the 110. However the Ju88 also had the range required for a nightfighter, an often overlooked requirement.

    Extremely high speed aircraft such as the 262 and Do335 are not going to be at much of an additional advantage. , As the bombers of the time tended to cruise at approx. 200 - 220 mph (even the B29 cruised at 220 mph), a major problem for night fighters was overshooting the target so a max speed of 500 mph is likely to add little to your chances over an aircraft such as the Ju88 which went 320 mph. The Japanese were able to shoot down the B29 with their nightfighters (as did the RAF on one blue on blue incident using a Beaufighter) which shows that you don't need to have an extreme performance.


    So I believe the Ju88 was more than capable, had the performance, range, firepower and easy handling required for the job and it proved itself, in short for me it was the second most effective nightfighter of the war.
     
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  9. Denniss

    Denniss Active Member

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    The He 219 had multiple problems and was not the best night fighter the Luftwaffe had. It was too heavy resulting in too high wing loading and also underpowered (especially at altitude). They couldn't easily do a lot to reduce weight or wing loading (larger wingspan planned for later versions) but got engines with better alt performance in Summer 44. The lack of a defensive gun made operations dangerous in late war with lots of Mosquitoes around.

    Nobody knows what the Ta 154 could have delivered, especially with more powerful Jumo 213 engines. At least it looked somwhat promising.

    The best allround night fighter was the Ju 88G, especially the G-6.

    If I remember right most of Welter's Mosquito kills were day intercepts as the Me 262 was more or less the only type able to catch the damn recon birds at higher alt.
     
  10. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I don't disagree, The Ju 88 and Bf 110 were the most effective Luftwaffe night fighters of the war.
    The Luftwaffe felt that improved performance would enable the night fighter to deal with the RAF's Mosquito, something that became something of an obsession. It also believed that better performance would enable more of the night fighters to manoeuvre to engage more targets on each mission. This latter point appears in night fighter discussions at the RLM without any explanation or justification.

    There was also the matter of reaching the bomber stream quickly.
    During the raid on Peenemunde the Luftwaffe controllers had fallen for a diversionary raid on Berlin and tasked many night fighters to the area. This is why the heavy losses inflicted on the RAF that night occurred mostly as the bombers withdrew and mostly in the Groups that had bombed last. Had the night fighters got there sooner it could have been a lot worse. Some night fighter crews actually saw something going on in the Peenemunde area, well over a hundred miles away which gives an idea how good visibility was that night, and took it upon themselves to fly there. There were many similar failures to intercept in time or sometimes at all.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  11. DonL

    DonL Banned

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    To my opinion the Ju 88 G-6 with Berlin Radar.
     
  12. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Weren't most of his claims bogus?
     
  13. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Not range. Loiter time.
     
  14. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    In a target rich environment such as existed later in the war, no need to loiter.
    Range...they were right overhead...how much more range could you ask for?

    As far as Welter's claims go, there is disputes as to the actual number, but as it stands, the fact that he was successful in intercepting night-flying intruders in a non-modified Me262 is notable.
     
  15. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    It rarely worked that way in real world. Night fighter aircraft would remain on station until vectored by ground control or until bomber stream was located by another aircraft. After mission is complete you might need to loiter some more until airfield has been declared free of enemy intruders or runway has been patched back to usable condition.

    It was common for short range "Wild Boar" fighter aircraft to run out fuel before they could land. One of the reason the method was discontinued. I doubt low loiter time Me-262s would fare any better.
     
  16. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    Gentlemen the word on Welter has not been written ...........yet and no he did not take out 25 Mossies plus. his claims actually were from several other Kmdo
    Welter pilots, but more on that later in a couple years. the Me 262 had the fuel tanks been internal may have exceeded the loiter time of the Ju 88 series, Welter knew that his band if going to catch and carry out duties against BC bombers the two seater with radar was needed. by spring 45 he admitted the chase of the wooden fighter had been a waste of time.

    most effective was the LW Ju 88G-6, the He 219 had a total of 12 Mossies shot down in I./NJG 1, too few and only 1 gruppe can hardly be stated the best the LW had to offer.

    the RAF/BC command had the Mosquito in different NF variants and with AI radar could really not be beat.

    another point when McKenzie/Boiten release their new series on the Nachtjagd in 2015 you will read more .....
     
  17. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Well 2,370 litres was actually flown on the interim night fighter and there was a definite provision for another 900 litres. 3,270 litres would give a reasonable loiter time even for a Jumo powered Me 262.

    Early jets were thirsty beasts. The SFC for a Jumo 004 was 0.139 kg/(N-hr).

    Just like the British in 1940/41 the Germans were trying to reduce loiter time with a sophisticated ground control system. Dowding had realised back in 1940 that flying around at night in the hope that something might turn up was a waste of time and resources and the Germans had come to the same conclusion.

    The Me 262 as it existed, even the few converted two seat 'interim' night fighters, may not have been the most effective night fighter but given time and development (neither of which happened) it could have been a formidable one.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  18. yulzari

    yulzari Active Member

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    Effective must also mean available. One squadron of super night fighters is not effective but several good ones are.

    The only charge against the Mosquito is numbers. The USAAF in the Mediterranean theatre were always pressing for Mosquitos to replace their tired Beaufighters but had to soldier on in the Beaus into 1945 (ironically the night skies over the Adriatic in 1945 could contain Wellingtons and Beaufighters in a re run of 1941).

    The Ju88 was a satisfactory mature design that was made in numbers that made it effective. More Ju88s and trained crews would have been a better investment than new designs.

    Their environments differed. Mosquitos had to deal with fewer and faster targets (He177s were entering british airspace in 1944 at 400mph in a shallow dive and V1s at similar speeds). Ju 88s had to deal with huge numbers. The Mosquito needed speed and the Ju88 needed endurance.

    If we swapped them around the Ju88 would be hard put to engage fast bombers and V1s but the Mosquito could engage multiple slow bombers. When we add in the comparative radars and their effects upon performance the Mosquito has to edge into top spot.

    One could look at the performance of Do335s, Me262s or P61s etc but they were not effective at the time simply due to numbers available; whatever their performance. By the Grace of God the war ended in early May 1945. Had it dragged on then the picture might have altered.

    So, my vote is for the De Havilland Mosquito and I would have kept them from Coastal Command to make more night fighters (and yes, I would have sympathy for the crews having to use Beaufighters instead).
     
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  19. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The Mosquito wasn't primarily engaging the Luftwaffe's bombers in British air space, though it did. It was primarily engaging the Luftwaffe's night fighters over Europe.

    In both roles it definitely had the edge. Not only was it a better aeroplane, it was also better equipped.

    Of operational night fighters of WW2 I'd go, as I did way up the thread, for the Ju 88 and Bf 110 for the Luftwaffe (the former with an edge in the later stages of the war) and the Mosquito for the British.

    If I had to choose one night fighter for all the various roles it would be the Mosquito, hands down, every time. I reckon the RLM would have too, they were continually trying to develop a night fighter to match the Mosquito. It was the standard against which even the Germans were measuring the performance of their night fighters.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  20. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    I agree with Steve's choices for both Luftwaffe and RAF and like Steve, if I was to choose only one; it would be the Mosquito.

    For the sake of enlightening Pattern14, it is worth mentioning that from late 1940 to mid 1942 the most effective British night fighter in terms of enemy aircraft destroyed was the Boulton Paul Defiant. Daffys shot down more enemy bombers than any other British night fighter in this period, equipping some 16 RAF night fighter squadrons, although some of which did not fully convert to the Defiant.
     
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