Planes as tankbusters: what was their worth?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by tomo pauk, Apr 11, 2012.

  1. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Is the jury still out, or we should know for fact what was the worth of the tank-busting planes? Not just the rocket-armed ones, but also the once carrying cannons that were, at least in theory, well suited both to hit and to destroy a tank.
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Killing tanks requires a weapon with enough punch plus enough accuracy to hit a vehicle size target. IMO you've got three choices during WWII.

    Folding fin rockets such as the R4M. Other rockets aren't accurate enough.
    .....Available only during 1945. Barring an early technical breakthrough these arrive too late to matter.

    High velocity cannon at least 3cm in size with proper AP ammo.
    .....A few 20mm and 23mm cannon are powerful enough to shoot up APCs and armored cars but they aren't powerful enough to reliably penetrate tank armor.
    ......50cal MGs are just weight for nothing. They will do no more then scratch the paint.
    .....Slow speed maneuverability (i.e. low wing loading) essential for accurate aiming.

    AP cluster munitions such as the German AB 250.
    .....Perhaps the best solution of all as aiming doesn't need to be precise. So they can be effectively employed by fighter-bombers such as the Fw-190F.
     
  3. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    #3 Juha, Apr 11, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2012
    It depends on circumstances, Hurricane Mk IID seems to have been fairly effective against Afrika Korps tanks but was vulnerable, so the cardinal rule was to attack only tanks separated from AA guns, if not followed, result was heavy losses. They were also effective against Japanese armour in India/Burma area even if jungle country but AA was much weaker than that of Germans. In ETO 40mm cannon armed Mk IV was deemed too vulnerable

    Rockets were too inaccurate to produce much material damage, iMHO that goes also R4M type rockets, after all a tank was smaller target than a heavy bomber. But rockets were potentially lethal weapon and had a certain moral effect on tank crews.

    Fighter bombers could be effective like at Dompaire in Sept 44. I./PzR 29 lost 34 of its Panthers and after the battle had only 4 operational Panthers left. PzAbt 2112 had only 17 of its original 45 Pz IVs operational. Of the 33 tanks found in Group Massu’s sector, 13 had been knocked out by tank or TD fire, 16 by air attack made by P-47s and 4 had been abandoned intact. French losses were 5 M4A2s, 2 M5A1s, 2 half-tracks and 2 Jeeps. One P-47 was shot down.

    One ought to remember why German offensive in Ardennes in Dec 44 was timed for a long period of bad weather. That would have been illogical if Allied CAS was totally ineffective.

    I don’t have reliable info on Soviet tank losses inflicted by Ju 87Gs and Hs 129Bs.

    Soviet thought that cassettes of AP bomblets were more effective than their powerful 37mm cannon, but at least partly because of its unsatisfactory installation in Il-2s. But 400 Il-2s didn’t destroy a single Finnish tank or StuG during the major Soviet Summer 44 offensive in Karelian Isthmus. But they were occasionally more effective against Germans in more open enviroment.

    Juha
     
  4. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    ".... rockets were potentially lethal weapon and had a certain moral effect on tank crews."

    Were Typhoons effective at Falaise ...? They may not have hit much, I don't know, but they totally demoralized the Germans trying to escape - and the roads were clogged with vehicles of all descriptions and dead horses, the air was black with flies.

    Of course Falaise can't be compared with a battlefield such as Kursk.

    MM
     
  5. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    My understanding is that part of the carnage at Falaise was made by artillery firing into pocket, and of course by the Polish Armoured Division.

    Juha
     
  6. yulzari

    yulzari Active Member

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    #6 yulzari, Apr 11, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2012
    I don't have the figures to hand (have a look at Tony Williams Quarry Nildram site), but post war examination of WW2 tank losses clearly show that the major tank killer was an antitank gun, then other tanks, mines and artillery with air attack barely registered statistically. What air attack did usefully do was isolate armour from it's logistical support. Rather than a tankbuster you would be better off with a soft transport buster.

    My hobby horse on this one remains a pair of fuselage mounted 40mm Vickers S guns using thin case HE rounds. Very accurate and very effective.

    Indeed Juha. We underestimate artillery power. We see 1945 photographs of a wrecked Berlin used when bombing is being looked at but much of the damage was from weeks of Russian artillery fire.
     
  7. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure nobody told the infantrymen that one of our defenses against the Tiger was to run it out of gas.
     
  8. MIflyer

    MIflyer Member

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    In the book Druid's Circle by Group Captain H.W. Dean the development of gun and rocket armament by the RAF is described.

    The Vickers Gun on the Hurricane was tested against a captured German tank and found to be effective. At the urging of the USAAF the 37MM gun mounted in the P-39 was tested the same way and found to be ineffective. So much for those Soviet tank buster P-39 assertions!

    For the rockets they found them to be very inaccurate at first, a kind of a "shotgun" weapon, but they improved. They also discovered something amazing. The antitank armor-piercing warheads turned out to be great for attacking U-boat while the antiship rockets were not very good against ships but were great against tanks. The shape of the head of the antitank rockets would cause them to turn upwards after hitting the water and penetrate the hulls below water. The greater explosive in the antiship warheads would not penetrate tank armor but would blow off treads and generally disable the tank. So they switched the uses!

    The U.S. versions of the rockets were first mounted on P-47's and deployed to support the Normandy invasion in late July 1944; the author flew with them. And they did hit tanks with the rockets, blowing them up, knocking off their turrets or otherwise disabling them. While they could not take out a Tiger directly they could damage it enough to disable it. They even went to Normandy to view their handiwork.

    And the author reported knocking out a Panzer IV with a P-47's .50 cal guns, pentrating the rear engine cover and setting it afire.

    I recommend the book. It's a great read!
     
  9. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Germany produced only about 800 Hs-129Bs plus about 200 Ju-87Gs and they didn't all serve on the Russian front. So I suspect their overall contribution to the war effort was rather small.

    The Soviet Union produced about 36,000 IL-2s. If Germany had produced 36,000 Ju-87Gs with an adequate supply of fuel and adequate fighter cover I think the result would have been different.
     
  10. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    Also by the fact that more planes attacking a target have more chance of overcome accuracy problems.
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I think cluster bombs are the easiest way for typical green WWII pilots to get tank kills. Do we have any idea what percent of CAS missions employed cluster munitions?
     
  12. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    The only cluster munition the Germans had that was anti-armor was the SD-4HL, a about 10 lb hollow charge bomblet that had just a little less explosive that a Panzerfaust, looks like it would be deadly when dropped from above, with all tanks having less armor on the top, than the sides. But it's listed as semi-armor piercing and anti-personnel.

    It would have had to be deadly against the Russian tank rider troops , probably very useful on the eastern front.
     
  13. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    It turns out the gun armed ones were much more effective but also much more vulnerable. A large part of their (both types) effectiveness depends on the AA defenses in the area. The gun armed planes had to get in closer and maintain a steady course longer which gave AA guns a better target.
     
  14. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Could something like a Mosquito FBXVIII have been useful with its 57mm gun? Would tehy still have to get in close and thus be vulnerable?
     
  15. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    I Hope people don't start to make jokes, but in the IL2 flight sim the first thing I do before attack ground targets is launch rockets in the AA guns. The heavy rockets of Western Allied fighters are precise and have a large explosion radius. They keep me safe of the effective range of the guns. How was real life in comparison with this?
     
  16. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    OK, no jokes, i'll only chuckle.

    In real life, I doubt you'd you be able to see many of the AA guns. The heavy flak would only be a big flash, that you couldn't locate it unless you just happen to be looking at it when it shoots. The light flak you can locate by their tracers, if they're kind enough to shoot a burst long enough so that you can follow the stream to it's source. But most AA gunners are thinking too, so they're not going to be that dumb. While you're taking on one, another gets you.

    The AA is there to get your attention away from more important targets.
     
  17. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Heavy flak is worthless against CAS aircraft except by total accident. Plane happens to fly in front of gun as gun is fired. The heavy guns (75mm and up) cannot traverse fast enough to follow (or lead) low flying fast planes, let alone the fuse setting problem. That is why there are light flak guns to begin with. It was standard German procedure or organization to attach one or more 20mm guns to most 88mm batteries for "protection" against low fliers.
     
  18. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Hello Jenisch
    In real life some planes were given task first to attack AA positions as Flak supression to make easier the task of the planes attackin the main target(s). Usually it was possible to notice the positions of the AA guns because AA guns needed open space around them to be effective. Of course some real underdogs like Palestinians against IDF used well hidden AA guns which can fire only a short burst when an IDF a/c happened to fly across their restricted firing arch.

    Juha
     
  19. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    You've got the right idea but real war is a team sport. Rudel's Ju-87G was normally escorted by Fw-190Fs who were responsible for suppressing flak and protection against enemy fighter aircraft.
     
  20. MikeGazdik

    MikeGazdik Member

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    I think the existence of the "modern" U.S.A.F. A-10 is proof that they are effective. Anti-tank aircraft in WWII was the beginning of this learning curve, so lack luster success is expected.

    Forcing a tank to "button up" was taught to the infantry units when I was in the Army back in the 80's. I would think that would apply with the WWII anti tank aircraft. This was before all the electronic and infrared gadgets, they tankers had to see what they were shooting at. And as stated they take away or diminish the support infrastructure around the Armor and thus makes the tank less effective.
     
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