Operational Differences: RAF Bomber Command & SAC

Discussion in 'Post-War' started by Zipper730, Apr 15, 2017.

  1. Zipper730

    Zipper730 Member

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    I'm curious about the period between 1953 and 1968: The British first started fielding nuclear weapons in 1953, and the Korean War ended at this time, and in 1968, RAF Bomber Command became Strike Command.

    Provided it's not classified or in some way an OPSEC violation: I'm curious how SAC and Bomber Command compared in terms of training, tour-length, fixation on safety, and provision for innovation.

    SAC, for example encouraged little innovation at lower levels (squadron to air-wing level), employing heavy reliance on tactics being standardized. Everything was centralized out of Omaha such as targeting and planning, and overseas commanders ranging from squadron commanders, wing commanders, to numbered Air-Force units being little more than administrators, basically ensuring all the orders from Omaha are followed (in WWII, there were many operational commanders that had massive latitude to do things as they saw fit such as the 8th Air Force, the 15th Air Force, the 20th and 21st Air Force, as well as the 5th and 15th Air Force. The 5th and 15th even had depots to build their own drop-tanks).

    There was also a fixation on safety, which limited effective training: Did these problems apply with RAF Bomber Command during these periods?
     
  2. Zipper730

    Zipper730 Member

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    I'm just curious because SAC seemed to be highly dysfunctional by Vietnam and yet RAF Bomber Command seemed to have no difficulties...

    I could be wrong of course
     
  3. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    Vietnam was a conventional war, SAC was a nuclear strike force. Sort of out of their element a little, they had to do some relearning, something no military establishment seems too good at.
    When you're carrying nuclear weapons, you can't afford to have a causal attitude toward safety, SAC had enough close calls with nukes as it was.
    The RAF surely had fewer incidents, maybe even none. Not much out there on Bomber Command's almost incidents with nukes . But they were only carrying a fraction of the number that SAC was carrying day after day.
    And other than the very short Falklands war, what conventional war did the post WW2 RAF Bomber Command participate in ?

    Sounds like a sort of apple to oranges comparison .
     
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  4. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Well, there were the Avro Lincolns of Bomber Command that operated during the Malayan Emergency where they flew over 3,000 sorties over 7.5 years and dropping 500,000lb of bombs. Still nowhere near as much as the USAF in Vietnam...but hardly trivial, methinks.
     
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  5. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    #5 tyrodtom, Jul 3, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2017
    Was there even the remotest possibility that there might be any aerial opposition to those RAF Lincolns,or AA ?

    I was never in SAC, but I was in TAC and stationed at a SAC base Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.,
    You wouldn't have to be present during many of their alerts, and witness their minimum interval take offs to see that they weren't overly concerned about safety.
    Though they could be quite anal on following SOPs exactly, no excuses accepted .
     
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  6. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Probably not much...perhaps some AAA. But that's not the question you asked. You asked if Bomber Command participated in any fighting and, yes, it did. :)
     
  7. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    I learn something every day on this forum, I knew the RAF used fighters to bomb insurgents in the Malay Emergency, but wasn't aware they used bombers as big as the Lincoln also. I wasn't trying to belittle the RAF.

    The USAF's nuclear goofs got a lot of attention .
    If the RAF had any incidents, they're not as well known.
     
  8. Zipper730

    Zipper730 Member

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    Technically, I was under the impression that (on paper at least) SAC's job was strategic bombing of either conventional and nuclear (once nukes became small enough for all bombers to carry, it was effectively a nuke force, but...)
    I wasn't talking about safely maintaining the nukes. That makes logical sense.
    That's the problem -- everything was almost scripted.

    Combat is chaotic and while it requires a battle-plan, any plan that is so excessively procedural there's little room for creativity, and to make it worse, almost all the planning was done up top with little planning at the squadron, wing, or numbered air-force units, it was pretty much all whipped up at SAC central.

    I'm curious if Bomber Command was as anal and scripted so to speak
     
  9. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    You should realize to get a SAC base's alert bombers and tankers off the ground in a minimum time and not have a debacle requires a lot of practice, or a script.

    A ballistic missile on it's way doesn't care if you're improvising or following SOPs.
     
  10. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    The Malayan Incident was pretty complex from an air participation perspective. We had Beaufighters, Brigands, Hornets and Venoms providing CAS with Lincolns and Canberras doing heavy bombing. There were also Mosquitos and, IIRC, Spitfires flying PR missions and Dakotas flying psyops equipped with loudspeakers playing messages to Communist groups hidden in the jungle). Whirlwinds were also used to airlift troops into remote jungle clearings and, along with Dragonfly helos, for casevac. In many respects, it was the Vietnam War in miniature, albeit without the air-to-air or SAM threat present in the latter conflict. This was due, in no small part, by the lack of an overland border between Malaysia and a supporting Communist nation (unlike Vietnam and China).
     
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  11. Zipper730

    Zipper730 Member

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    True, but the range of tactics the crews were proficient in seemed rather limited.

    It would also appear that innovation was mostly left to those at the top: I'm not sure how this compared to Post-War Bomber Command, but in WWII, the Groups seemed to be almost individual fiefdoms, and in the heirarchy, seemed to rank somewhere between an air-group, and a numbered air-force.

    With SAC, the tactics pretty much were made almost totally at SAC central, not at the numbered AF units, or the air-wing level.
     
  12. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    I think you're putting the fault for SAC's less than successful use in the Vietnam war on the wrong people.

    The crews, like most every other military in the world, followed the orders of those appointed to command them.
    Whether they would have been proficient or not in other tactics is only guesswork on your part.

    To blame the crews is doing them a grave injustice.
     
  13. Robert Porter

    Robert Porter Well-Known Member

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    Keep in mind there was a lot more to SAC than bombers or missiles. While I was in from 1978 - 1982 our weapons storage areas often held Army nukes and even Navy nukes. We were tasked with not only maintaining the security of those weapons but also the transfer of said weapons to theater commanders as needed. Moving nukes across the country to and from weapons manufacturers sites and the various weapons storage areas as well as the missile field was a very demanding procedure. Warheads had a shelf life so they were often removed and replaced with newer or refurbished weapons. In addition to all of this there was a huge set of systems, codes, procedures, and processes around handling launch codes, access codes, transportation codes and convoys etc.

    The missile sites, (I worked on the Minute Man system) were also hugely complex and dispersed. Getting men and material to and from those facilities across civilian roads safely and securely was a logistical nightmare at times. A typical LCF hosted several security response teams, facilities maintenance, roving technical teams tasked with maintaining the missile sites and LCF as well as vehicles, and mundane tasks such as cooking and telephone service people, and people to mow the lawns and shovel or plow snow.

    SAC took operational and day to day security very seriously, at least while I was in, no one team or group was ever allowed access to a weapon on their own. Usually at least two separate groups were required to authenticate to gain access. No Lone Zones were enforced at gunpoint and warnings were not, officially, given. (I learned how to communicate a great deal in a forced cough or clearing of my throat.) Prominent Use of Deadly Force Authorized signs were everywhere.

    Just as an example, while traveling civilian roads we were of course subject to civilian laws, at least when not accompanying an actual weapon. But, if we were detained or arrested we were expressly forbidden to surrender our arms to civilian authority. More than one Security Response Team found itself in a local lockup fully armed awaiting someone from base to arrive. Some of the towns and areas where missiles were deployed did not look favorably on the USAF making them a high priority target. This resulted in sometimes strained relationships with local law enforcement.
     
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  14. Zipper730

    Zipper730 Member

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    Hey... I'm not dumping on the crews: I'm criticizing the policy.


    Really? I would have thought that would have been solely the USN or US Army's responsibility...
    Yeah, I remember somebody making a comment about a 25 year service life.
    Makes enough sense.
     
  15. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    When at Seymour Johnson, the bomb dump I worked in was adjacent to the SAC nuclear storage area, almost shared a fence with them, but there was a space of about 10 feet between fence lines. But being so close, even our bomb dump was a No Lone Zone too..

    The nuclear shapes were stored in our storage area though.
    Nuclear shapes were dummy nuclear bombs, inert, but the same size, weight, and balance as the real deal. Used for practice loading, and handling by the SAC crews. They were never touched by us, just the slightest flaw on their immaculate white paint would indicate somebody messed up during the loading or handling. Asses would get chewed, at the minimum, and the shape would be stripped and repainted by the guilty. They'd use our air compressor, spray guns, and maintenance bay. One time I saw a Cpt. in the repainting crew.

    If they were that particular with those inert training shapes, I would think they could give new meaning to anal when they were handling the real thing.
     
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  16. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    I considered that to be a criticism of the crews.
     
  17. Zipper730

    Zipper730 Member

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    Only because they weren't trained right. That's a policy matter...
     
  18. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    What tactics were they not proficient in ?
     
  19. Zipper730

    Zipper730 Member

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    They seemed to use a fairly narrow range of maneuvers from what I remember reading. The Avro Vulcan crews seemed to better mix it up, though I could be wrong about range of maneuvers.
     
  20. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    Your answer tells us nothing.
    Could you be a little more specific, more details.
     
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