Most underrated air forces in WWII?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by ShVAK, Oct 2, 2012.

  1. ShVAK

    ShVAK Member

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    #1 ShVAK, Oct 2, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2012
    Yes we all know the Luftwaffe had the best pilots and were pioneers in technology, the RAF was probably the most successful tactically, and that the USAAF and USN's level of supplies and equipment were virtually second to none.

    However what about the air forces of other countries that rarely got the spotlight, that performed admirably often with second rate equipment, constant challenges in supply lines, facing numerical superiority, etc.? Which would you consider the most underrated air force?

    My vote goes to the Regia Aeronautica. In action with very outdated types (Fiat CR.42's were the most advanced fighter they had in numbers in 1940), forces in Africa were routinely cut off from supplies and faced brutal conditions in the Sahara, and all suffered from numerous production delays and shortages. Yet by all accounts the Italian airmen, many seasoned by time in the Condor Legion over Spain were by no means bad pilots and were able to hold their own against RAF and USAAF aviators in the MTO and elsewhere on a number of occasions, achieved air superiority over Greece in 1940 (not a huge accomplishment but still notable) and under the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana banner a number continued the fight alongside the Luftwaffe long after the 1943 armistice. There were est. 20-25 RA aces with 10 kills or more by the war's end.

    Second place IMO, the Finnish Air Force. With only a fraction of what the Soviets had in manpower and a cobbled-together force of foreign aircraft working in very hostile terrain and weather conditions with limited supplies the Finnish pilots were able to bring unconventional tactics to battle and succeed time and time again, racking up nearly unheard of kill ratios against 20:1 odds and a force that was slowly but steadily gaining technological and tactical ground throughout WWII. The FAF produced 96 aces in total, including Ilmari Juutilainen who was the highest scoring ace outside the LW with 94 confirmed victories and estimated to be even higher (he claimed 126) and Hans Wind (75 confirmed).

    Discuss, and let's keep the politics and ethnic stereotypes out of it please.
     
  2. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I'd place the Finns at #1 not only because they were completely outnumbered, but because unlike the Italians who were manufacturing first-rate aircraft, the Finns were pitting obsolete and outclassed aircraft against more advanced fighters and making the enemy pay dearly for thier airspace.
     
  3. ShVAK

    ShVAK Member

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    That much is true, but you also have to consider the RA was fighting on multiple fronts with the smallest air force of the Axis powers, and was working with a fraction of even their previous small size after 1943.

    And I don't know about "first rate" aircraft, they had some great if underarmed (until Serie 5) fighters from Macchi, Fiat and Reggiane and the SM.79 was a decent medium bomber but their other aircraft were decidedly lacking in reliability and/or performance, or weren't produced in significant numbers. Their pilots still did a good job with what they had available.
     
  4. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    How about the Romanians? Always liked the IAR.80 series aircraft. For a "small" nation to come up with such a capable indigenous design is pretty impressive and it achieved some success operationally.

    That said, I'd have to go with the Finns too. Rather like the Gurkhas, I'd prefer to have them on my side!
     
  5. andy2012

    andy2012 Member

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    #5 andy2012, Oct 2, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2012
    What about the Polish AF? Polish pilots in PZL-11 fighters shot down over 170 Germans. Plus look at there contribution in the exiled Polish Air Force in the UK, though they were not using Polish planes, the still had a large impact.
     
  6. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Actually, the Italians had a decent sized airforce compared to Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, etc.

    As far as the Italian's aircraft, they had some exceptional machines!

    Just imagine if the Finns had aircraft like the Macchi MC.202/MC.205 or the Fiat G.55!!
     
  7. iron man

    iron man Member

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    How about the RCAF?
    Nobody even acknowleges their existance as an independant entity...they usually just get lumped into the RAF.

    Which is total BS.

    For example? In addition to all of our guys that were scattered throughout Bomber Command, Canada also equipped, trained, and paid for an entire RAF level "Group" in Bomber Command's force structure. And that's only the tip of the iceberg. Dozens of fighter squadrons , dozens of tac air squadrons, transport groups, maritime air, BCATP (all paid for on our own dime). Nothing much ever in the way of acknowlegment though.

    Something wrong with that picture?
    I happen to think so...
     
  8. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Probably because the RCAF had squadrons of top of the line fighters bombers which were either produced there in Canada or provided by the U.S. or Britain, well trained pilots crews and a steady supply line from both Britain and the United States. They flew joint tactical missions with RAF, U.S. and other Allied nations and contributed greatly to the airwar over the ETO...

    How does this make Canada an under-rated airforce?
     
  9. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    How about the RNZAF? Persisted in the Pacific with P-40s until 1944 and had a kill loss ratio of 13:1, with most of the kills being Zeros
     
  10. ShVAK

    ShVAK Member

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    The other nations were co-signatories to the Tripartite Pact but not "powers." That is, the three main nations that initally wrote and signed the thing.

    And yes the Serie 5 were remarkable fighters but too late to have made much difference to the Axis war effort. If they had been introduced alongside the first Bf 109G's, we would've probably seen otherwise.

    As it was the Finns got 159 Bf 109G's during the Continuation War and got 667 kills with only 34 lost in combat.
     
  11. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    Finns are not underrated, I think everyone acknowledes that they were very good. I agree with Coberkane, the RNZAF. Held the fort in dark times for the RAF in the far east. But you don't hear much about that.

    On my patriotic side: the Dutch also shot down quite a lot of ac with only 120 aircraft of which most were horribly obsolete. The LW lost over 400 aircraft ot of aprox. 1200 here in 5 days, but I must admit, the majority to AAA. Stil I think they deserve an honourably mention.
     
  12. ShVAK

    ShVAK Member

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    Indeed, Witold Urbanowicz comes to mind along with a number of other brave Polish airmen working with the RAF.

    Yeah I know the writing in that site is hardly polished and scholarly but I'm a sucker for really profane uses of hyperbole.
     
  13. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    And don't forget the ML-KNIL in the Dutch East Indies!
     
  14. Rick65

    Rick65 Member

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    By the end of the war, the RAAF?
    from the history section of the RAAF website

    "World War II

    In World War II, Australian aircrew fought in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; over the North Atlantic, the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the Mediterranean; India, Burma, Malaya, Singapore, Thailand, China, the Netherland East Indies, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Philippines and Borneo. They also fought over Australia, its territories, and its approaches.

    In late 1944, the RAAF peaked at over 182,000 personnel and 6,200 aircraft in 61 squadrons. In 1945, Australia had the fourth-largest air force in the world (after the USA, USSR and UK).

    Over 215,000 men and women served between 1939-45, and 9,870 RAAF personnel lost their lives. Over 55 per cent of these deaths occurred in the air war against Germany over Europe."

    The casualty figures for the many Australians bombing Germany were horrific and the RAAF's record with P40s in both the Middle East and against Japan is impressive.
     
  15. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Might I suggest that there is a difference between under rated and under appreciated.

    The contributions of the Commonwealth countries are often under appreciated.

    Under rating an air force may be different. The Western powers certainly under rated the Japanese air forces up until Dec of 1941. The Italian and French Air Forces were over rated until combat was joined. And perhaps under rated by History.

    Many "Air Forces" of small size performed well in trying conditions. As a general "stereotype" air forces tended to have better educated and higher quality personnel than ground forces. I am referring to the less obvious rather than the pilots. The mechanics, fitters and other ground crew. They may be able to "problem" solve better than regular "infantry". Many Armies had it wrong and thought that anybody who could walk and chew gum at the same time could be an infantryman. They could carry a rifle and make up a large parade but being effective in combat was another story.

    In the lead up to WW II rating an Air Force (or Navy or Army) was often a numbers game of simply counting the numbers available with little consideration to capabilities. Either of the air craft or the air crews.

    Some quicky histories later tended to focus too much on overall results or simple explanations. France had a large Air Force and was defeated in 40 days=they must not have been very good. They weren't but WHY? Large number of obsolete aircraft made up too much of the "numbers" used to rate the air force. The ground personnel had a high turn over rate so that even with a high number of men to count they weren't long service men who had years of experience. Too many "new" aircraft (helps the count) and not enough spare parts.

    Some other air forces had similar problems. Taking nothing away from the men who flew and serviced the aircraft. Many of them performed exceptional feats every day. Just getting normal patrols into the air on the Russian front for an Italian fighter group that lacked proper engine heaters, canvas hangers and other cold weather gear was a major feat and was repeated day after day.
     
  16. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Excellent observations, Shortround. Well put, sir!!
     
  17. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    The American Air Forces (land and naval) was 'under rated' at the beginning of WWII. The Japanese, Germans and Brits all rated the USAAF and USN aircraft as 'below par'. The pilot pool was marginal when compared to the three when Our war started.

    To suggest, as the opening thread statement suggested, that the primary attribute of the US was "that the USAAF and USN's level of supplies and equipment were virtually second to none' is pretty humorous. Somewhere in between December 7, 1941 and September 2, 1945 there was more to US Airpower than 'supplies and equipment'.
     
  18. ShVAK

    ShVAK Member

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    True, they also had close to unrivaled manpower (the Soviets were close but suffered in terms of training) and since they had the luxury of being at least half an ocean away from most fronts, their industries and just as importantly their pilot training facilities were never touched. They also had the ability to rotate out their most skilled pilots to the homefront to train new recruits virtually at will. The U.S. was never threatened by attrition to the extent that the other nations were.
     
  19. meatloaf109

    meatloaf109 Well-Known Member

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    Hear! Hear!, I agree with both of the preceding posts. That being said, I think the Finns take the honors.
     
  20. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    To clarify an earlier post, selecting or debating an "under rated" airforce in no way diminishes the efforts, bravery and sacrifices made by the crews of all air forces great and small, regardless of the flag they served under.
     
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