Only three types of aircraft necessary in WW2?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by wiking85, Jun 18, 2013.

  1. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    I was thinking over the various classes of aircraft that each nation developed in WW2, but really could only find rationale for having the following: a one engine, two engine, and four engine aircraft.
    The one engine would be the fighter, the two engine a bomber and multi-purpose aircraft, and the four engine aircraft as a strategic bomber/long range patrol aircraft/transport/etc.

    Three basic airframes seem to me all that was really needed with perhaps some additional specialist frames on the margins. Am I off base?
     
  2. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #2 GregP, Jun 18, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2013
    You are not off base in a totallitarian country. But you are in a capatalistic country where the companies are not owned by the government. If any competition arises at all, more and various types will inevitably arise. One set of people will not come up with all the good ides, and competition drives innovation.

    Today, we don't really need more than a small car, a medium car, a pickup, and maybe a utility vehicle for private use. But we have 2 and 4 wheel drive, station wagons, small cars, medium, full size, limos, pickups, heavy duty pickups, and a host of specialty vehicles including an almost bewildering array of choices.

    Much the same can be said of potential uses for aircraft. In your view, where do helicopters fit in? And how big would they be? Where would jets come along in your choice above? If we went with your choice above, we'd never have the C-47 or C-46, no Lysander, no Storch, and probably no liaison or observation planes?

    Just a thought, not an attack. We might have been able to get away with your choice for a minimal-cost war, but the downside outweighs the upside, at least to me. Of course, that is only one opinion.
     
  3. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    I'm speaking from the perpective of maximum production efficiency for military production. I never said that there wouldn't be competition to fill those designs, just that there would only be three airframes up for competition and economies of scale would be created from focusing on producing only three frames (with modifications of course for different roles).

    I'm speaking specifically of having three main airframes that would fill all the roles to maximize production in WW2; the helicopter really didn't do anything during the war, so there is no need for it. The Jet Age really came after WW2, so wouldn't matter to most of WW2 and would fit in as a transition away from piston aircraft by 1944, which would upset having only three airframes. The liaison role is something I didn't consider, same with having trainers for new pilots. Of course perhaps the three airframes could be modified to fit the roles I'm describing? As far as transports go, its not inconceivable that the four engine design could be adapted to transport things, like the Ju 290 was IIRC.
     
  4. Balljoint

    Balljoint Member

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    On the surface your point makes sense. It was rather this logic that led to the Sherman, i.e. we only needed one tank. And that’s about the best rebuttal I can muster.
     
  5. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    #5 vikingBerserker, Jun 18, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2013
    I'll add one, "No Engine". Gliders were used quite a bit.
     
  6. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    You run into the "Jack of all trades, Master of none" problem.

    Take a look at some some of the British bombers. They were trying to meet some of your requirement. For much of the 1930s part of the medium/heavy bomber requirement was that the plane should hold 24 troops for fast reinforcement of the far flung reaches of the empire. This lead to some rather bulky fuselages with the attendant drag. Of course once engines went much over 1000hp each the plane could carry way more passangers than you could fit in a bomber fuselage.

    30.jpg

    Lancaster wing, engines, landing gear and tail. Could carry 52-56 passengers 1000 miles.

    Transports seldom have to perform evasive maneuvers and don't quite need the same structural strength as a bomber.

    You may also have a need for a transport that can get in and out of smaller airfields than a 4 engine bomber can.

    We have plenty of debates as to which was the better, the Mosquito or the P-38. With just ONE twin engine airframe you are trying to cover all the jobs that the P-38 did to the A-20 to the B-25 and possibly the C-47/46? AND be at least good at any of the jobs?

    Or for the British going from the Anson to the Mosquito to the Wellington?

    Please remember that one reason for the different airframes was that the power per engine roughly doubled from the start of the war to the end. Or went from 800-1000hp in 1936-37 to 1400-1600hp with a few exceptions by even 1942-43.
     
  7. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    So what would be the starting point for each of the three airframes proposed, not forgetting the roles that were carried out by actual aircraft during WW 2? For example:
    Roles carried out by single engined aircraft = Short range interceptor; short, medium or long range escort; unarmed high altitude strategic photo recon; armed low level tactical photo recon; fighter-bomber; low-medium altitude fighter; high altitude fighter; carrier fighter; carrier dive bomber; carrier torpedo bomber; carrier level bomber; operational trainer; gun spotting; shipboard recon; search and rescue; turret fighter; two seat carrier fighter.

    Design one airframe, plus permutations to carry out all the possible roles available to that one aircraft, means a design which might be good to outstanding in a few roles, but a complete dog in others. Should your enemy choose to settle on two or more outstanding, designs for each role it might be possible to win, but at a very high price.
     
  8. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    You cannot fit all nations into the same mold. Each country must evaluate defense needs and come up with appropriate solutions.

    Britain, Japan, France and USA had aircraft carriers. Nations without CVs don't need CV capable fighter and strike aircraft.

    Soviet Union was land bound to such an extent that their need for maritime patrol bombers was minimal but that aircraft type was essential for Britain, Italy, France, Japan and USA.

    To some extent dive bombers and artillery are interchangeable as army fire support weapons. To some extent flak and fighter aircraft are interchangeable for air defense.
     
  9. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Artillery works at night.
    Artillery works in rain storms, snow storms and fog.
     
  10. Civettone

    Civettone Active Member

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    I for one thinks it is an excellent idea and I think it would give definite advantages in terms of production, maintenance and logistics.

    For instance, Germany could have done 90% of all jobs done by the Fw 190, Ju 88 and Ju 290.


    Kris
     
  11. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    This was exactly what I was thinking of when I made this thread.
     
  12. bob44

    bob44 Member

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    Only three aircraft for all the roles needed? Do not think this could be possible. Not without some serious modular designs. Even then, looking at the US needs:
    The single engine fighter would have to be carrier qualified, and eventually a long range escort.
    A carrier also needs bombers. A twin the size of a F7F maybe but will not be much use as a transport. Something like a B25 or C47 could work as bomber/transport, but not from a carrier.
     
  13. Civettone

    Civettone Active Member

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    Yeah, it depends on the needs of the country. US needed a lot of different types. Germany is often criticized for its many types of aircraft, but just see how many fighters the Americans had in production in 1942-1943: 4-5 for USAAF and another 3 for the US Navy. On the other hand, if we look at SU: very few types. 2 fighter aircraft, 2 attack aircraft and 2 bomber aircraft. Though also lend-lease aircraft. Still, they could have stuck with Yak-1/-9, Il-2 and Il-4/Tu-2.

    Kris
     
  14. MikeGazdik

    MikeGazdik Member

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    It is idealistic, but not realistic. At least not in a free, capitalistic society. If we are locked into "we will use these three", it spurs no attempt to make a better product by someone else.

    In that thinking, the Army / Marines go to war with a .45 auto handgun, a 12 gauge shotgun, and a bolt action 30-06 rifle. The M1 Garand, which was a massive advantage over a bolt action rifle , does not come to the battlefield?

    Which single engine fighter does the U.S. use throughout the war, the P-39 or P-40?? B-17's are the strategic bomber vs Japan??

    The Hawker Hurricane is the ONLY single engine fighter for the RAF?
     
  15. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Agree with Mike's comment: 'Idealistic but not realistic'. Much more than 3 types were essential to the larger countries atleast during the conflict.
     
  16. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    The reality of warfare requires getting an advantage over your enemy. This means that aircraft are constantly evolving to meet the tactical and strategic needs of the boots on the ground. The US started with 2 fighters in production, the P-38 and the P-40. The teething problems of the P-38 in Europe caused changes in strategy of design and a number of other things. In combat, you often learn as you go and what you planned for versus the reality when the lead starts to fly can be way different.

    The evolution of aircraft design often will lead to new designs rather than to update current models because of advances in technology, knowledge, etc. A lot of advances in aviation took place during the second world war, and that is because of the need to gain advantage.
     
  17. Civettone

    Civettone Active Member

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    Russia and Germany used the same fighters and bombers throughout the war: Bf 109, Stuka, Ju 88, Yak, Sturmovik. Worked fine, at least for the Russians.
    I guess it also depends on adaptability. Some designs had lots of potential, for instance the Spitfire. Agreed, the late war series had not much in common with the original series, but that is not the point.


    Kris
     
  18. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    But the Germans also had the FW-190, Me-262 and others. The Russians had a lot more fighters than one Yak type. While those types may have been "staples" for the two countries, adding more, and newer types added new capabilities. We had the P-38, P-39 and P-40 at the start and while the P-39 didn't see much use for the US, the P-38 and P-40 were used throughout. Neither had the range to provide bomber cover all the way to Berlin and back.
     
  19. R Pope

    R Pope Member

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    Who gets to make the decision on which type to build? The bean counters? The politicians? Even ruling out incompetent decision makers, how do you recognize potential development possibilities down the road? The Brewster Buffalo was thought to be superior to the Wildcat prototype by some "experts". The prototype Spitfire wasn't all that superior to the Hurricane, and both were critical in the BOB. Which one would you discard?
     
  20. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    IF you could have started WW II with 1944/45 engines and airframes then maybe all you would need is three air-frames. Although that is a little dubious.

    Picking winners in 1938 (so you could have the needed numbers in 1939/40) is a lot harder and if the enemy doesn't play by your rules you r 1937/38 designs may be little more than cannon fodder in 1943/44. CAN your more efficient production make planes faster than they can be shot down?

    In June of 1943 the US had a report from a test center that the P-40N-1 ( a stripper model) was the worst performing fighter at the test center. It had the best turning circle but that was it. It was judged that the P-40 line had come to the end of it's life.

    Economy of scale only goes so far, The B-17 was made in at least three different factories, The B-24 was also made in multiple factories. If the B-24 factories had actually made B-17s would you really have gotten very many more planes total or would they have been much cheaper?

    making hundreds of aircraft instead of dozens does make them much cheaper but the savings per plane drops when you are making thousands compared to hundreds and when you are making tens of thousands what is the savings?

    Both B-17s and B-24s were being made at the rate of 300-400 planes a month each at peak production levels. Would making JUST one or the other in the same total number of different locations really have made much difference?

    each "program" had hundreds if not thousands of subcontractors. A small 'shop' making ailerons for B-17s was not the only aileron supplier to the program and more than likely had no spare production capacity to supply another factory.

    US also has transportation problems, sending parts from California to Michigan and/or the east coast or the other way around is not the most efficient way of doing things. US factories could be thousands of miles apart, not dozens or a few hundred. Cross country by truck could be 10 days or more with the road network of the time.
     
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