P-47, P-51, Spitfire: ways to have night fighters from them?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by tomo pauk, Dec 4, 2013.

  1. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    The F4U and F6F were turned into useful night fighters, mostly for the needs of the USN (and USMC?), despite being single seaters. Admittedly, it would be quite a task to use the multi engine/multi space aircraft on the carriers, so necessity came 1st. We also have Defiant and Fairey fighters turned into night fighters, having a second crew member was a good starting point (not sure that Defiant's gunner had anything to do also with radar equipment - help here!).
    So - how good/bad would've been the Spitfire/P-47/P-51 modified into NF? Hopefully the modifications (like shrouding the exhausts) would've cut the performance down too much; not an issue for the P-47? How good or tricky were they during landing, so the pilots would've been more or less safe? What about P-40/39/Hurricane/Typhoon/Tempest? How much of electronics is enough, vs. desirable? Any hope to shoehorn a place for extra crew member, to man the radar?

    Disclaimer: I don't advocate those aircraft being better or equal than a Mosquito in the role (some of them might be a tad faster; more the NFs like this, more Mossies can be produced as bombers?), just would to have a good discussion about the idea.
     
  2. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Nightfighters need range and that rules out the Spitfire, but some Hurricanes were converted for the role in Burma. As for the others, with the same radar installation as the F6/F4 I don't see why not.
     
  3. Balljoint

    Balljoint Member

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    Some of the problems are evident from the cobble that was used in 1943. A couple of Wildcats would find and be guided by a TBF in the dark to intercept JIN night bombers. This was the technique used on the mission on which Burch O’Hara was lost. When you can really see friend, foe or the water, it seemingly would be a tough go. Perhaps later radar would allow a single plane’s pilot to multitask rather than spreading the work.
     
  4. meatloaf109

    meatloaf109 Well-Known Member

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    Don't know why anyone would want to. The P-61 was on the way, and the P-38 could, and did, fill the gap. Not to mention the Mossie.
     
  5. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    OK, back up some. Why would you think those couldn't be used at night? Unless I'm missing something, all that's going to take is, navigation training. Flights in everything from F4Fs to SBDs have been lost at night in those training exercises. In fact, I'm still looking for one, an SBD lost over the Atlantic. I want to know who the crew members were. Those pilots don't get that training, though, they're not going to send them up at night, I don't care what they're flying. Maybe they just never had that training curriculum in these fighters? I couldn't tell you. I wouldn't know.
     
  6. Crimea_River

    Crimea_River Well-Known Member

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    109s and 190s worked, so why not? Hurricanes were also used. Just need pilots trained on blind flying.
     
  7. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    Spitfires were used, both Mk Is and Mk Vs, in very limited numbers, over 1940 through 1942 as nighfigthers. Sailor Malan was one of the pilots who flew nightfighter sorties in a Spitfire.

    There were some problems with exhaust flames dazzling pilots, but they were solved with some exhust adjustments.

    The main issue was that without radar, the pilots were essentially bumbling around in the dark, hoping to run across a target. The Luftwaffe realised that if they stayed above the effective ceiling of the British searchlights, they were pretty much safe from night fighters without radar.
     
  8. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    The Spitfire was meant to be a day/night fighter, as can be seen in the specifications: (Hurricane and Defiant had similar requirements)

    [​IMG]

    7 C 'Night Flying Equipment' not specified, but the Spitfire had retractable landing lamps (provision for these was not removed until the C series wing), flare tubes retractable dimmer screen that slid up behind the windscreen. Not sure what else was included as NF equipment. Otherwise ditto Jabberwocky, some NF missions were flown but no radar, results unimpressive.

    Night flying tests were conducted with the prototype:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  9. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Many thanks for the feedback.
    Some questions: how/by whom the radar was operated in the NF Defiants? How big was the bulk of the radars employed in it? Capabilities of the radar?
     
  10. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    It is worth pointing out that F.10/35 was issued before airborne radar became a possibility. It was a long way away. A 'night fighter' at the time of that Specification was really a day fighter with a night fighting capability and not a night fighter in the sense it would be understood a few years later.

    The Luftwaffe started attacking largely by night on 7th September 1940. Between that date and the end of the month four times the tonnage of bombs was dropped by night (5,300 tons) than dropped by day. During the 68 nights between 7th September and 12th November there were only 10 on which the Luftwaffe did not launch a major raid, classified as one on which at least 100 tons of high explosives were dropped.

    To counter this the RAF had 8 night fighting squadrons, 6 of Blemheims, 2 of Defiants, all of which were more or less useless. The RAF and Air Ministry had pinned its hopes in November 1938 on the Beaufighter development of the Beaufort. Unfortunately this would not be ready until March 1941.

    To make an interception ground radar had to vector a fighter to within 3 miles of an enemy. This was the maximum range at which airborne radar was expected to 'see' once it became operational. Unfortunately British ground radar looked out to sea and in September 1940 could not fulfil this role. The Observer Corps didn't work at night as they couldn't see anything anyway. There really was no proper defence.

    All sorts of interim measures were proposed by various committees, some were implemented and proved ineffective. Books have been written on the saga of British airborne interception (AI) radar.
    The bottom line is that in late 1940 and early 1941 neither the aeroplane (and that includes Blenheim, Defiant, Spitfire and Hurricane) from which a decent night fighter could be produced, nor the radar systems (both ground controlled interception (GCI) and airborne interception (AI) existed.

    Single seat fighters were not considered suitable night fighters from late 1940 onwards. On 16th October 1940 Admiral Tom Phillips, Vice Chief of the Navy Staff, echoed Sholto-Douglas' view that day fighters should patrol over London at night. Dowding replied that spotting a bomber, even on a clear moon lit night was almost impossible. He continued, "You will note that Admiral Phillips suggests no method of employment of fighters, but would merely resort to a Micawber like method of ordering them to fly about and wait for something to turn up."

    Why the C-in C Fighter Command was having to defend himself against one of the Chiefs of the Navy Staff is another question.

    The Luftwaffe tried single seaters in a controlled role (tame boar) but soon abandoned this in favour of more suitable twin engine aircraft. The free lancing wild boar as an interceptor was something that Dowding's successors also considered a waste of resources once faced with the reality of the situation, it was never seriously adopted. This is distinct from the intruder role for which single seat fighters were used early on with limited success.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  11. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    They are during their initial flight training (or I should hope so!). Depending on conditions you really don't have to be instrument proficient to fly at night, visibility can be just as good at night as during the day in some aspects....
     
  12. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Actually it was Hellcats...
     
  13. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    More like " A 'night fighter' at the time of that Specification was really a day fighter with a night flying capability "

    But I got what you meant. A suitable "night fighter" was easy to take-off and land. Had exhausts that didn't blind the pilot. was equipped with one (or two) landing lights (think headlights on a car) and often 2 (or more) parachute flares for lighting up an air field not normally used for night operations if the pilot couldn't find his home field. I would note that there was NOTHING about finding the enemy aircraft and the "night fighters' were expected to get lost often enough to warrant carrying 60-70lbs worth of pyrotechnics inside the aircraft in special discharge chutes. :)
     
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  14. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Shortround, that is exactly what I meant :)
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  15. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    The pilot operated the AI radar in Defiants the gunner was essentially ballast though he was useful as a lookout.
     
  16. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    ...and to fire the aircraft's only armament!
     
  17. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    The cadets got night training in the N2S before they even saw an SNJ.
     
  18. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    you actually have an interesting division of duties between the crewmen of a Blenhiem/Beaufighter and a Defiant. In the conventional night fighters the radar operator (who is a number of feet of way from the pilot and can only communicate verbally) has to guide the pilot into flying the plane into a firing position or at least visual range of the target without going past it, keeping it the forward cone where the pilot can get a shot. He may say things like "getting close, look upper left" or "Look a little to the right and down". Once they get within a few hundred yds the target disappears from the scope and the radar operator becomes a visual look out. If they pass the target they may never find it again after doing a 360 degree circle.

    With the Defiant the Pilot has the extra duty of watching the radar screen BUT the intercept envelope is a bit wider and HE is telling the gunner where to look/point the guns in order to be ready. It doesn't do any good if the pilot sees the target aircraft but the gunner does not. The Defiant can be off to the side a bit more when visual is picked up and guns still brought to bear.

    In a single seat night fighter the Pilot has to fly, operate the radar, get himself into the firing position/visual range. (and again, it does no good to "See" the target aircraft as you are passing it by) Now in some cases it may be easier for a single man than two men with poor team work but most "ace" night fighter pilots will give a full share of credit to their radar operators. Most successful crews were permanent teams who knew what the other meant when he said " a little to the right" instead of "middling right" or some such:)
     
  19. Rick65

    Rick65 Member

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    From Mosquito, Typhoon Tempest at War by Bowyer, Reed and Beaumont
    One Typhoon prototype was converted by Hawkers as a night interceptor, with one of the wing fuel tanks removed and replaced with an underwing tank, and the space used for radar which was to guide the pilot on to intruding Germans.... The version was not proceeded with, because it was considered that flying a Typhoon at night while operating radar would have put too much workload on the pilot.
     
  20. beitou

    beitou Member

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    What sort of range could the German passive radar receivers that detected allied airborne navigation radar detect an aircraft from and be used to guide an interception? I take it these were operated by the radar operator?
     
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