One shot victory

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Velius, Jul 16, 2009.

  1. Velius

    Velius Member

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    Hello all,

    Not sure if this is the right place to post this, and it may be a silly question, but I'll give it a "shot".

    I've heard how some warbirds, as powerful and imposing as they are, can be brought down by a single rifle shot in the cooling system. I've especially heard this true for the Mustang. I would think this could be considered a catastrophic failure for the engine. But I was wondering what if it were the other way around?

    Is it possible for a single shot in a critical section of the AIRFRAME to cause a structural catastrophic failure and break up the plane in flight?

    I was thinking of a couple of different variables for the situation. What critical section would/could do it (wing attach points, engine mount, wing spar, etc.)? How big of a round does it have to be before it is considered such a threat and and what range? Would the size of the airplane matter? Would the structure of the aircraft itself matter be it made of metal or wood?

    Thoughts? Comments?
    Thanks!8)
     
  2. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    A single hit by a 30/37/40mm round in the main spar near the fuselage or a similar hit in the vertical fuselage spar at the intersection of horizontal stabilizer would have an excellent chance of causing catastrophic structural failure. Not as likely would be a 20mm hit in same loaction - the aircraft would probably be close to Design limit or beyond in that case.

    A lucky hit on control cable linkage at stick/wheel attach may be enough to cause total loss of control
     
  3. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    I dunno about exact specs, but I'd have to lean with drgndog on this one: a rifle bullet couldn't do it, it'd have to be a larger round. I think if a 20mm hit in just the exact right place under the exact right conditions (high-altitude with cold/brittle steel, and some hard-core maneuvers with lots of G-forces attached), maybe it would cause catastrophic failure. It just depends on the conditions.
     
  4. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    He was blinded in one eye by glass fragments from a bullet that hit his canopy. If glass fragments had hit both eyes it would have been fatal. Theoretically possible.
     
  5. lingo

    lingo Member

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    A single rifle calibre bullet or a small piece of shrapnel can bring down an aircraft depending where it hits.
    Hydraulic lines are vulnerable as are cable looms as fire can follow. The human occupant is not immune either. The Red Baron died with a single bullet to the heart.
     
  6. vanir

    vanir Banned

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    Some large calibre guns like the Nudelman 45mm are attributed with a reputation for bringing down enemy aircraft with single shots from good range. Soviets apparently liked using anti-tank guns for aerial combat, I think they were a bit annoyed with Germans. A couple of Yak-9K prototypes are credited with German fighter kills from over 1km range with single shots with a similar story for the mainstream Yak-9T in service (37mm Nudelman).
    The MK-108 30mm gun fitted from late 43 has a reputation of being capable of downing any enemy aircraft with a few shots. When fitted as a bank of four to the Me-262 it was said it would down a B-17 with a single volley. Two were fitted to Sturmjäger Fw-190A which were known to be very effective bomber interceptors. But it is really the BK 5cm which has the reputation of downing bombers with single shots and it should, it's a 5cm PaK field gun adapted to an aerial mount, basically the same main weapon a Panzer-III had in 1942.

    Ground crew records of Marsielle from 5 June 42 state that following a sortie in which he is credited with 6 Kittyhawks from No5 Sqn SAAF downed, only ten rounds of 20mm ammunition needed to be replenished and 180rds 7.92mm.
    That's a shell and a bit per kill, plus a handful of rifle rounds including misses and tracking shots.

    Marsielle was a bit of a legend however, for obvious reasons.
     
  7. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    I believe he specified Structural or catastrophic failure - otherwise a rifle bullet to head or and API tnto ruptured fuel tank/oild cooler would be the easy one hit victory.

    I forgot that most engine mounts at the fuselage attach points to one of the main longerons might also suffice with perhaps a 50 cal round - this would apply to torque tube/shear bold connect design. A cast or forged mount would probably require a heavier explosive round to fatally damage.

    Last but not least - possibly propeller shaft direct hit for s/e aircraft or the engine magnetos (two for dual plug/cylender arrangement)
     
  8. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    How well protected are fuel or oil lines in aero engines. In auto engines it is possible for a stone chip to put a hole in the crankcase. I would have thought a bullet could have a similar effect to a flying stone chip,so it gets down to how well protected are these vulnerable parts of the engine.
     
  9. Bernhart

    Bernhart <b>2012 Forum Fantasy Football Champion</ b>

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    one bullet hitting the pilot would be catastrophic
     
  10. gumbyk

    gumbyk Well-Known Member

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    Bernhart,
    We're looking at a single airframe hit.
    There are a number of AIRFRAME places that would be vulnerable to a single-shot. Wing attach points, control cable/rod runs, wing spar (depending on the size of ammunition and spar manufacture method). Also, these aircraft carried high-pressure oxygen cylinders, a direct hit to one of these would likely have caused some degree of damage, I'm not sure how bad it would have been.
    Even a direct hit to the propeller would be catastrophic. It would likely cause such an imbalance that the engine could be torn out of the mounts.
     
  11. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I dont know about that. Ive seen pics of fighters at their home airfields with bullet/shrapnel holes in the propellors.
     
  12. gumbyk

    gumbyk Well-Known Member

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    The one time that I've seen an aircraft tthat lost 2 inches off the tip of the prop, it broke two of the engine frame attach bolts, and the engine was pointing 30º to the side. Apparently it all happened in the few seconds that it took for the pilot to react and close the throttle.
    That was in a Piper cherokee though, but a bigger prop would mean bigger imbalance forces.

    I guess it would depend on whether you lost part of the prop, or just damaged it.
     
  13. tpikdave

    tpikdave Member

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    The Mk IIA Series 2 Hawker Hurricane was armed with 8 (4 in each wing) .303 caliber machine guns. Thats basically a rifle round. Its 7.7mm. Hell, I lugged a 7.62mm M-14 rifle around Vietnam for a year.

    Anyway, the .303 IS a rifle round, but there would be a whole bunch of them coming at the target. Then again, a bit later the The Mk IIB came along and it was equipped with 12 guns, 6 in each wing...!!! Talk about a flying porcupine!
     
  14. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    Besides the proverbial "Golden BB", Bill is on the mark.... The weakest points on almost all the aircraft of WW2 where the tail assemblys and the wingroot attachments...
    As far as the 20mm debate, I think that with the right placement and flight conditions, ie high G, it could cause a catatrophic breakdown of vital structural stability... Cause enough damage with that one shot that the whole assembly shears/rips/tears off from the airflow and G-forces......
     
  15. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    It is possible for a "lucky" hit of a round of any size to technically bring an aircraft down.

    This example is modern, but I have even seen an AH-64 Apache brought down by a single 7.62mm round.
     
  16. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    I Agree this point. Taking a prop off at the hub in my opinion would be the 'end' - I acn only imagine the asymmetric loads induced by an out of balance 11 foot prop at 1500 RPM on the engine and engine mounts.

    My father took a 20mm (or 37mm) hit to aft fuse which set the oxygen tank on fire but didn't break the back of the Mustang and the fire went out (eventually) on the way home. His 51 was shot up so badly that he had to land at 150kts with main gear up - all hydraulics gone and many, many holes.
     

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  17. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Thanks for sharing that Bill. Interesting story and great pic!
     
  18. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    This wasn't so scary afterall, he was able to get the tail wheel down!:D
     
  19. Vraciu

    Vraciu Member

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    Even single 12.7 mm (.50) could destroy an airplane - when it reached Zero's fuel tank!
     
  20. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    Sakai's a/c was hit 3 times, on that mission (August 7 1942), according to the Tainan Air Group's 'tactical action record' for that day. Those records usually tell the number of holes counted in returning damaged planes.

    In general, for single engine planes, I would think that a single one of several hits of small caliber was frequently or even usually the key hit which knocked out a key system or the pilot, rather than some combination of hits accomplishing that when no single one of them would have accomplished it. And then it was probably also common for several different hits to inflict damage sufficient to down the plane without the others, overkill. What would be relatively unusual would be one hit knocking down a plane when it was only hit once altogether, except by fairly large caliber rounds. For bigger multi-engine planes it was probably more common for each of several key hits to be have been necessary to down the plane, because of more redundant systems.

    Joe
     
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