Most Significant Development of British Aircraft

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by SilverSword, Aug 16, 2010.

  1. SilverSword

    SilverSword New Member

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    Hi,

    I'm currently in the middle of a researching for a project based on British Aircraft in service during World War Two.

    My final essay title will be 'What was the most significant development of British Aircraft throughout World War Two?'

    My research so far has been split into four main groups: weaponry, engines, structure and pilots/tactics. I've already done a lot of research into the Merlin engine as well as the layout and structure of the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster.

    I'm hoping everyone on here can give me their opinions on the subject and why they deem one area to be more important than another.

    Any ideas for research sources would also be much appreciated.

    Thanks :)
     
  2. claidemore

    claidemore Member

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    Hi SilverSword,
    Most significant developement? Just off the top of my head, putting the Merlin engine on the Mustang airframe.
    A quick brainstorm might include:
    - getting the Hispano 20mm cannon working reliably for aircraft
    - airborne radar
    - Meteor jet fighter
    - the wooden wonder, Mosquito figher/bomber
    - and as you already mentioned, the Spitfire and Merlin engine
     
  3. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    Mass production of engines. Mass production of complex shapes - Spitfire wings for example. And mass production of alternate materials - persplex, plywood, etc. Mosquito and Malcolm Hood. The fact that the Meteor was in service by war end also speaks to strong R&D in design and materials.

    MM
     
  4. kration

    kration Member

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    Airborne radar - both for fighters and bombers (first radar guided intercept, H2S etc) (edit - just noticed Claidemore already suggested that)

    Bomber tactics:
    Surgical strikes (Dambusters, Amiens raid, Gestapo headquaters)
    Firestorms

    Ground attack tactics:
    Forward air control
    'cab rank' principle
     
  5. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Tough to quantify.. here are some thoughts.

    Britain wasa leader in the development of jet engines, radar, and night bombing/interception capability. germany of course also made extremely important contributions in parallel development, sometimes ahead of Britain and sometimes behind.

    Tactics? - certainly the use of radar and ground co-ordination of RAF Fighter Command during BoB. Daylight Air to air intercept and formation tactics seem to be advanced initially by Germany with Allies folowing suit.

    Structure? Only the Mosquito deserves mention in conrtext of innovative contributions 'leading the pack'. The plywood construction utilization, the manufacturing techniques and the ability to tap a non strategic resource for materials were huge.

    Engines? The Merlin certainly should have a place at the top of the heap based on initial excellence and continued development of power and versatility.

    Airframes...of the entire British inventory I would place the Mosquito at the top of both performance and mission flexibility when considering all other British and Allied airframes. About the only role I would cull would be daylight air superiority/escort role.

    I believe I might tend to favor using the Mosquito as the Most Significant Development of British Aircraft and the evolving deployment to diverse missions, further extending to increased development of tactics to maximize effectiveness, with full capability to use any and all Merlin variants to give it an edge in a specific mission.

    Regards,

    Bill
     
  6. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Weapons - 20mm cannons as a standard

    Engines - For the war the Merlin/Griffon development, as a basis for the future the Jet

    Structure - Mass production for instance the standard Merlin/Griffon/Hercules engine packs

    Pilots - Training

    Tactics - Anti Submaring warfare. Not as glamourous as fighters and bombers, but vital and an area where the UK was a world leader. Long Range aircraft, ASV radar, escort carriers, Huff Duff, air sea co operation, leigh lights the list goes on. None existed before the war and the potential impact if not developed, scary, very scary.
     
  7. Timppa

    Timppa Active Member

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    Weaponry: Barnes Wallis' "Bouncing Bomb", "Tallboy", "Grand Slam". "Cookie".
    Engines: Merlin, Griffon.
    Structures: De Havilland's wooden aircraft.
    Pilots/tactics/equipment: "Bomber stream", "Cab Rank", Chaff/"Window"/jamming, ASDIC, Chain Home, Cavity magnetron, H2X, Oboe, Pathfinders, gyro gunsight.
     
  8. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    In my opinion the greatest RAF development wasnt an aircraft but the Ground Control Interception system that was developed by Air Marshall Hugh Dowding in the years from 1935 to 1939. This was the first truly integrated national Airdefence system.

    It consisted of the Chain Home and Chain Home Low radar systems, the Observer Corps, the Royal Artillery Anti Aircraft Command, RAF Fighter Command and was all controlled from Bentley Priory. We all talk about Spifires and Hurricanes versus the Luftwaffe but often forget that the fighters were essentially (manned) guided missiles launched at the Luftwaffe by ground controllers.

    The integrated Air defence of Great Britain system was truly radical and has been copied, enlarged and technically improved but never bettered. All modern national air defence systems owe everything to the Grand daddy of them all.
     
  9. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Mass production of heavy bombers and the aircrew to fly them. Prior to 1945 RAF Bomber Command probably operated more heavy bombers then all other nations combined.
     
  10. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "... and the aircrew to fly them."

    Which raises the bar to include The Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Thousands of aircrew were produced ... :)

    MM
     
  11. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Dave I tend to agree through 1943 but US fielded heavy bombers in MTO, PTO, Coastal Command around US and SA.

    I suspect that 1944 was the cross over point where the number of B-17s and B-24s overtaook the RAF.
     
  12. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    That's part of what I have in mind. Britain also arranged for Merlin engines to built by Packard and those powered a substantial portion of Lancaster bombers. 1940s Britain produced little aluminum and had to arrange for massive aluminum purchases from Canada and the USA to build all those bombers. 1940s Britain had to arrange for massive quantities of aviation fuel to be imported for RAF Bomber Command. Gathering these resources from all over the world to produce the world's largest heavy bomber force was a first rate management achievement.
     
  13. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    Airframes wise, the Mossie is easily the most significant development. As well as all the reasons listed above, it tapped into a massive woodworking skillbase that would have been massively under-utilised had they not been working on the Mosquito.

    Also, radar in all it's forms, CH, AI and ASV was a critical development. ASV, in particular, revolutionised ASW operations and ensured that the surfaced submarine had nowhere to hide.

    Tactically, I'm tempted to point to Circus and Ranger as critical developments, ensuring the destruction of the LW by forcing it to come up and defend territory. The logical conclusion of these tactics was the strategic bombing offensive, which tied vast numbers of German fighters into a purely defensive role and prevented them from supporting offensive operations in other theatres. It also compelled the Germans to commit large resources to the manufacture of night fighter instead of medium/light bombers which, again, could have supported offensive operations elsewhere.
     
  14. looney

    looney Member

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    Tactics: What about the adoption of a 2 plane fighter group instead of the 3 plane group?
     
  15. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "... Gathering these resources from all over the world to produce the world's largest heavy bomber force was a first rate management achievement."

    Totally agree.

    MM
     
  16. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    The answer to this question rather depends on whether you're talking about significance during the war or after the war. A number of wartime developments had their biggest impact after the war (eg the jet engine) while technologies that had an impact during the war had their genesis in the inter-war period (eg radar, high-performance liquid-cooled engines).

    Engines
    Sir Frank Whittle and the jet engine has to be high on the list. I'd also include the mighty Merlin (previous comments notwithstanding) and, to keep our radial brethren happy, the work to make sleeve valve technology an operational reality.

    Technology
    Radar in all its forms had a massive impact on aerial and naval warfare. I'd also add code-breaking, in particular the development of COLOSSUS. We should also put a vote in for radio navigation aids and other precision-bombing technologies. Finally, I believe the development of photographic reconnaissance capabilities deserve an honourable mention - the 3-phase exploitation process remained valid for more than 50 years, while the building up of "Sydney Cotton's Air Force" to one of the largest PR and imagery exploitation efforts in the world was of major importance.

    Airframes
    I love the Mossie and still marvel at the achievements of the design team who developed such an elegant and capable airframe without using strategic materials. Of course, the Mossie was of no relevance in the longer term but as a wartime expedient I can't think of anything that compares. I'd also put a vote in for the Lancaster which was the best heavy bomber in the world until the advent of the B-29. Its lifting capacity and general performance was truly remarkable.

    Armament
    Sir Barnes Wallis' numerous explosive inventions must merit some mention. His ability to divine solutions to seemingly insoluble problems, from UPKEEP to TALLBOY and GRAND SLAM, were all remarkable. Cannon armament was also significant although not unique to the UK. An honourable mention should also go to rocket projectiles whcih were put to great use in anti-shipping and anti-tank missions.

    Tactics
    My vote would go to low-level penetration raids developed by the early Mosquito units (105 and 139 Sqns). The concepts they proved persisted as the best means of penetrating enemy air defences until the advent of stealth technology.

    Sorry for the long post...:oops:

    Cheers,
    Mark
     
  17. SilverSword

    SilverSword New Member

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    Thanks everyone for your feedback it’s all been really helpful and definitely opened up new areas of research to follow. My main focus is significant developments that occurred during the war that helped with the war effort rather than the aviation industry post-war.

    I may be dedicating a section to the Mosquito as it was at the time completely different to all RAF aircraft and managed to find a perfect role as a Pathfinder. I'll be sure to pay a visit to the de Havilland Mosquito museum in Hertfordshire and have a look at their aircraft. There doesn't seem to be much else to put under structure so I may leave it to the Mosquito for that area.

    I'm thinking of putting much more emphasis on the tactics and support systems used by Bomber and Fighter Command rather than just the aircraft themselves; the RAF wouldn't have been anywhere near as effective without its thoroughly planned control systems. I'm currently looking for more information on pilot training, does anyone know where I can find details of the training followed by fighter and bomber pilots going through OTU, in particular combat manoeuvres?

    What would you say was the most effective radar development? Oboe definitely helped with precision of bombing but it had quite a few limitations when the targets were further away.

    As the Merlin will be one of the main focuses I’m trying to determine if there was a stage of its development that was more radical than others or simply that it could be adapted for different roles so easily.

    Thanks again everyone, I’m bowled over by the detail and number of responses to this. :)

    Laura
     
  18. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    The National Archives have a large folder on the training of Pilots during the war, details are as follows.

    AIR 10/2316 Standard War Syllabus of Pilot Training in the Royal Air Force

    If that doesn't have it, nothing will
     
  19. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    I can recommend the Mosquito Museum, well worth a visit for the Mossies and the other DH types on display there 8)
     
  20. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    The most important phase of the Merlin development - hard to say but perhaps the change from single stage two speed blower to two stage/two speed could be considered.
     
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