"Most pilots shot down didn't see the enemy coming"

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Civettone, Jun 3, 2013.

  1. Civettone

    Civettone Active Member

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    Today I read "Beyond that most fighters shot down in the BoB (~80%) didn't see the enemy coming". I have seen similar claims several times before. What is the basis for these statements?

    I have a feeling it is something which was once written somewhere and simply copied every since.
    Kris
     
  2. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    I don't doubt this is completely true. Pretty much every account I have read from pilots who were shot down involve everything being fine until there was a loud bang and the cockpit filled with smoke. And pretty much every ace when questioned about tactics emphasises getting in close without being seen and opening up with all they had.
     
  3. Kryten

    Kryten Member

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    Tactics dictated that if you bounced an enemy and he broke into you, your next move was to blow through or climb away not hang around dogfighting, it would seem few actual dogfights where one pilot attempted to outfly the other actually occurred, I think it was Geoffery Wellum who said "the easiest time to shoot an enemy down was when he was trying to shoot someone down himself", I suppose the longer you spend chasing your opponent the longer someone has to get into position on you!
    A big no no it would seem!
     
  4. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Spotting another aircraft in the sky is actually pretty difficult, in or out of combat. Most pilots will admit to having at least one near miss.
     
  5. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    "Always try to secure an advantageous position before attacking. Climb before and during the approach in order to surprise the enemy from above, and dive on him swiftly from the rear when the moment to attack is at hand."

    Item 1, Dicta Boelcke
     
  6. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I was told on a few occasions by a couple different pilots that they would engage in an actual dogfight because they were forced into it. The explanation was that in a turning fight, you're using all your resources and skill to get a firing solution (or refusing the enemy behind you), which will take your attention away from the other aircraft in the area. A good wingman will cover his leader's tail, but if the wingman is already involved or is slow in getting into covering position, then the pilot can be in trouble from a bounce. A turning fight can also draw you down to lower altitudes, bleeding off your airspeed and leave you vulnerable.
    The attack from above (and preferably out of the sun) was the preferred method of attack. Dive down, hit hard and fast, maintain your speed and get back up to either recieve the enemy or repeat the attack.
     
  7. DonL

    DonL Banned

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    #7 DonL, Jun 3, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2013
    This is exactly what Erich Hartmann said about his tactics, also that he was closing in at 100m or below to hit very hard with a short burst out of his weapons.

    From Tollivers book, it was a original citation from Hartmann, that he think 80% of his enemys didn't know he was behind them, as they were shot down by him.
     
  8. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Why is something like this so hard to believe?
     
  9. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    That statement has a lot of truth to it. Ever been in the bumper cars at the carnivals? From every first-hand account I've heard, and, I've heard a few, it was a lot like that, except more spread out. That's why Butch O'Hare said, in reference to the Wildcat, paraphrasing him, "We need something that could get upstairs faster." You peel off, you make your run on your target, and you get the hell out of there, as, if you're in any kind of traffic, somebody is likely trying to do the same thing to you. Then, you do it again. That was the ideal, anyway. In reality, especially when the aircraft were rather equally-endowed, it stands to reason, that was a lot easier said than done.
     
  10. Civettone

    Civettone Active Member

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    I think there are two interpretations to what is meant by "shot down without seeing the opponent"
    - you didn't see there was an enemy plane - this is what the Boelke dictum seems to talk about
    - you didn't see the plane which shot you down, but you did realize you or you unit was under attack

    If 80% of the kills happen without the victim seeing any attacker ... why is it that the experienced pilots and best fliers survive while rookies die? Because experienced pilots are simply better at looking around? That seems an insufficient explanation. Thus, I don't think 80% of kills happened with the pilot sensing no danger. It would basically mean that it is a lottery. Plus, it is unlikely to happen for larger formations. And coming out of the sun was a well known tactic known by all (though still successful if perfectly executed by a single plane or small formation).

    If it's the second interpretation, I can agree with this. It would be a matter of situational awareness, which is what the best pilots possess. During a melee there is a lot of movement going on and it is extremely difficult to have an overview of the situation, to see who is who, to see keep an eye on your target, on your wingman, on your friendlies and on possible enemy attacks on you or your wingman. Having a reliable wingman eases the workload, but one can never be certain. It is at these moments that the best pilots survive and the rookies fall.

    Kris
     
  11. nincomp

    nincomp Member

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    #11 nincomp, Jun 3, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2013
    I believe that many people tend to think of fighter pilots as "the knights of the sky" jousting with the enemy. We have the romantic notion that the aerial encounters were fought man-to-man in swirling dogfights with the best pilot prevailing.
    Despite the fact that a pilot's job was to down the enemy planes, I am sure that many people think that sneaking up and shooting an unsuspecting pilot somehow seems sneaky, cowardly, or "not playing fair."

    I am certain that most fighter pilots would prefer to regale the audience with stories about dogfights in which they proved their mettle against a worthy adversary. Somehow, "I snuck up on the fellow and killed him before he had a chance to defend himself" doesn't sound very heroic.

    As for " If 80% of the kills happen without the victim seeing any attacker ... why is it that the experienced pilots and best fliers survive while rookies die?" I suspect that it takes some time for a new pilot to get to the point where flying the plane and looking around for the enemy becomes second nature. In addition, the new pilots probably are concentrating on staying in formation with their leader. Remember, however, that a significant number of even the best pilots were eventually shot down and killed or taken prisoner.
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    "Most pilots shot down didn't see the enemy coming"

    I would say that there is a huge weight of anecdotal evidence to support this contention. It comes both from the victors and the victims.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  13. DonL

    DonL Banned

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    #13 DonL, Jun 3, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2013
    Stona with all respect,
    but why should someone like Erich Hartmann, as an active lieutenant colonel and commander of the JG Richthoven at the Bundeswehr (also at the cold war,) lying to trainee pilots of the USAAF at around 1960, as he did this statement at a lecture in USA?

    Edit:
    Sorry Stona for my post, I didn't translate your post proper at my brain and was to fast with the reply.
    Sorry again.

    Thanks tyrodtom for your advice
     
  14. Greyman

    Greyman Active Member

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    edit:error
     
  15. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    I don't see where you two are in disagreement. Or did you mean that statement for Civettone ?


    That was just Erich Hartmanns opinion, he can't know for sure. But giving his experience, his opinion should carry a lot of weight.
     
  16. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    There are plenty of stories I was told by pilots who were either family members or close friends of my family, where surprise was a deciding factor on the outcome, several instances where it was instant.

    It would seem that there is a huge difference between the skies over the PTO/ETO, etc and the skies of Hollywood...
     
  17. altsym

    altsym Member

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    Bubi said one many occasions, he avoided dogfights at ALL costs.
     
  18. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Most of the pilots who have given talks at the Museum don't really dwell on kills, they dwell on stories about the aircraft and war in general. The few who DO talk about victories or about being shot down are almost unanimous that their victims didn't take evasive action until they were hit by a burst and already badly damaged, which made them realtively easier targets as their aircraft didn't have full performance available and, in many cases, were smoking or had lost power and the enemy was trying to bail out instead of fight. Same for themselves.

    One guy (Navy) said his flight was doing a CAP and they were sure they were high and alone until they got hit from above and behind without warning. They were in a flight of four and two went down, including him.

    I'm sure there were many fights where the protagonists WERE aware and DID dogfight, but the "many" was relatively few compared witrh the total number of fights in the war. For instance, the US Navy Hellcats flew about 66,000 action sorties. If they engaged in even 1,000 individual dogfights, it is "few" compared with 66,000 planes flying action sorties and means only 1 in 66 had a dogfight when they encountered the enemy.

    Please, I do not claim the 1,000 number is real; I made it up ... it is just an example number.
     
  19. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    No worries. Had you posted in German I would have been even more confused as my German is very "school boy" :)

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  20. Civettone

    Civettone Active Member

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    Doesn't this say something about what a fighter plane should be?
    If almost all kills are the result of a fast and deadly approach, wouldn't that favour a small, fast and hard hitting aircraft? Who cares if it turns like a schoolbus? BnZ all the way??


    Kris
     
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