RAF starts early with 4-engined bombers: feasibility, plausability, consequences?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by tomo pauk, Oct 6, 2013.

  1. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Even historically, RAF was quick to employ 4-engined bombers, with Short Stirling being in production from May of 1940. For the sake of discussion, let's say that Vickers designs a 4 engined bomber instead of Wellington, and Armstrong Whitworth designs a 4 engined bomber instead of Whitley (bot covered by RAF's specifications, of course). What would be the benefits of such early bombers, what would be the shortcomings? Any changes for the European air war, and what to do with those when deployed overseas? Engine choice would be about the same - from A-W Tiger, Bristol radials, maybe Kestrel, Merlin?
    Hampden stays with 2 engines - maybe it can now receive Merlin and/or Hercules?
     
  2. yulzari

    yulzari Active Member

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    No great difference until summer of 1940 as the French government persuaded the RAF not to bomb Germany in case it lead to the Luftwaffe bombing France.
     
  3. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Historically the Stirling originated in a 1936 specification as did the Halifax, though bizzarely the specification from which the Halifax originally developed was P.13/36 for a two engine aircraft.
    The "ideal bomber" specification, which included I think a 9,000lb bomb load, wasn't issued until 1939.
    This would indicate that the Air Ministry didn't envisage a need for the much larger bomb loads during the 1930s making the question moot in reality. Given that most bombers designed in the 1920s and serving in the 1930s looked a lot like a Vickers Vimy it may not have been a practical possibility for the old buffers at the ministry.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  4. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    You also need crews that can actually find the right city, something the RAF took quite a while to do.
    The RAF could have used it's existing aircraft much more effectively with better training and policy. Bigger planes with bigger bomb loads don't do much with bad policy (3-6 plane raids???) and poor training. Many "night" bomber squadrons in peacetime 1939 flew very few training missions at night and then only over limited areas of England.
     
  5. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Not just find a city, find a target. It wasn't just some kind of deal with the French that precluded bombing Germany. It seems incredible with the benefit of hindsight, but there was a great deal of concern over the prospect of attacking German industrial targets as these were deemed to be private rather than public, that is government, property.
    So much for Douhet!
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  6. bob44

    bob44 Member

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    Probably would make little difference for the RAF. Early in the war, too few bombers, poor trained/experienced crews, restrictive targets, without fighter escort, the bombers would be in a bad way. Perhaps the Brits would develop a long range escort?
    But the Germans would see a need for a heavier armed bomber destroyer. Perhaps accelerate their own heavy bomber(s) into service? And of course a long range fighter escort that could handle the Spitfire.
     
  7. pattle

    pattle Member

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    If the British had of developed such a four engined bomber earlier then my guess is that it also would have been out of date earlier. I suspect if something had of been produced it would of been like the Wellington or Whitley but bigger.
     
  8. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Yep, pretty much, Pattle. If the RAF was to have a four engine bomber by the outbreak of WW2, with the pace of bomber development in Britain, it would have had to have been built to either B.9/32, to which the Vickers 271, which evolved into the Wellington and the Handley Page Hampden were built, or B.4/34, to which the AW Whitley and the HP Harrow were built. Just as an aside, German born Dr Gustav Lachmann, HP's Chief Designer produced the unconventional (for a British bomber) Hampden to the earlier specification than the very conventional high wing, fixed undercarriage Harrow. The very similar Bristol Bombay bomber transport was built to a different specification.
     
  9. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    As a second part to my post, the Stirling was built to B.12/36 and simultaneously P.13/36 was released, which called for an advanced twin engined bomber with power operated turrets. The winner of this was the Avro 679, which was ordered off the drawing board as the Manchester. Geroge Volkert's (who had become Handley Page's Cheif Designer in the interim) HP.56 also recieved a production order, but in mid 1937 the Chief of the Air Staff requested that the HP.56 be powered by four Merlins instead of two Vultures, as was the Avro 679. This was as a result of his suspicions regarding the reliability of the Vulture, which, as we know proved entirely accurate. From here, Volkert designed the HP.57 Halifax.

    Based on this and bearing in mind hindsight, it seems odd that the same request was not made to Roy Chadwick with Avro and that the Manchester was allowed to proceed as planned with the Vulture. It is also known that Chadwick also had drawn up plans for a four engined Manchester before the decision to power the Manchester with four Merlins to produce the Lancaster. So, the RAF could have had the Lancaster or a four Merlin engined Manchester within the same time period as the Halifax, Vulture Manchester and Stirling were in real life.

    Continuing with this line of thought, it is likely, but not certain - there being a war on, that because of the issues suffered with the Halifax - and they were severe and required that the aircraft undergo considerable redesign to rectify them - the four engined Manchester would have been Bomber Command's mainstay sooner and the Halifax might not have even progressed into production. Back to reality; because of the Stirling and Manchester not living up to expectations, much pressure was put on Handley Page to get the Halifax right, Volkert promising the Halifax Mk.III as the future mainstay of Bomber Command, which the BC heads looked forward to considering the continuing problems with the Halifax I, to the extent that there was concern that Chadwick's four engined Manchester would not be able to match the Halifax III - at the time still undergoing development, when it was proposed. As it was, the Lancaster proved superior in performance and warload to the Halifax III.

    So, if the four Merlin Manchester had been built instead of the Vulture variant, Bomber Command would have had a superbly designed modern bomber a lot sooner, although it would not have been without its issues; the Manchester had stability problems as well as a raft of electrical faults, the majority of which had been rectified by the time the Lancaster was put into production. Nevertheless, Handley Page might not have had the same pressure put on it to continue with the ailing Halifax and it might have been canned altogether. Although the pressures of the war could have meant that the design would have progressed in the way it did.
     
  10. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #10 nuuumannn, Oct 6, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2013
    It has always been quite easy to criticise the RAF and its early war experiences, but the reality was that apart from the Luftwaffe, no other bomber force had the same experience as Bomber Command and it is highly likely that none other, again, apart from the Luftwaffe would have been able to do what it did any better in the environment it operated in. Not the USAAF, not the Russian air force, nor the Japanese or Italians.

    The Luftwaffe bombers were severely mauled over Britain in 1940 during daylight and turned to night bombing as Bomber Command had done so sooner. The difference was that the LW had advanced radio navigational aids that meant they were far more accurate at finding the target area and placing their bombs than anyone else in the world.
     
  11. OldSkeptic

    OldSkeptic Active Member

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    Until RV Jones organised to 'bend' them and their accuracy fell considerably.
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Indeed, the Germans lost the "battle of the beams" along with just about everything else.

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  13. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I suppose the British government could of asked Boeing to produce a version of the B17 to RAF requirements, maybe with an armament layout similar to the Wellington or Lancaster, turrets front, dorsal and belly with a stinger at the back. I think the US government would have blocked the sale of it though, besides which there would have been a lot of other practicalities standing in it's way not least the cost.
     
  14. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #14 nuuumannn, Oct 7, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
    Needless to say, really, but in 1940, before Jones had figured out X Gerat, which wasn't until early/mid '41 that he could safely say they had beaten the threat, the Germans were the most accurate bar none (mind you, in saying that, they largely wasted the potential of this equipment - another failing of the Germans). It wasn't for another year or so before the RAF had anything similar.

    My point being that no one else could have been able to carry out a bombing campaign any more successfully than Bomber Command had done so in the first couple of years of the war in the hostile environment it operated in over France and Germany, by day or night. This early experience, as bitter and hard as it was led to BC becoming by 1944 the most advanced and modern night bombing force in the world, armed with aircraft such as the Lancaster and Mosquito equipped with modern navigation aids superior to their German counterparts.
     
  15. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    The British may have been able to do as well as anyone else, except the Germans in 1940. But that is damning with faint praise indeed.
    The British had issued specifications for "night bombers", they had built "night bombers", they had issued said bombers to squadrons that were called "might bomber squadrons". Yet they rarely ( for safety reasons) flew at night in training so were "night bombers" pretty much in name only. Granted other air forces were pretty much in the same situation but changing which type of aircraft the RAF used in their "night bomber" squadrons is going to have no effect on the training/policy areas and so no effect on actual results.
     
  16. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    yep, I agree, Shortround and Bob44; the only difference being if the RAF had four engine bombers sooner was that areas that were nowhere near the target would be bombed with a greater load. It wasn't until Jones had proven to the heads of the Air Staff that the German navigation/bombing aids actually existed (there was some scepticism) and he had put in place measures to confuse the German operators aboard the aircraft (strictly speaking, the beams weren't 'bent'; Knickebein had repeating signals broadcast over the German ones to confuse the operators and X-Gerat was jammed by broadcasting 'noise' on the same frequencies), that he began to make the point that Bomber Command was wasting its efforts by night unless similar equipment was developed by the British.

    As for bomber escorts; I doubt having four engined heavy bombers sooner would have made any difference to RAF policy.
     
  17. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Maybe the USAF will be convinced earlier that an escort fighter is necessity - RAF has 4-engined armed bombers, yet they still don't operate them in daylight?
     
  18. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The RAF wasn't going to develop a long range escort fighter. I've seen much bluff and bluster here about why that was but most of it doesn't understand what RAF fighter aircraft were supposed to do in the inter war years. The reason for the existence of an RAF fighter force was to protect London, as simple as that. It had an entirely defensive role. The offensive role of the RAF would be carried out by its bombers.
    Without going into too much detail of "aircraft fighting zones" and other considerations this led to the evolution of two types of fighters.
    Zone fighters with long endurance, radio guided and capable of operating at night would fly standing patrols. These aircraft (Siskins, Bulldogs, Gauntlets, Gladiators) had to carry a lot of fuel, a heavy radio and have low landing speeds for night time operations. They were not going to evolve into a long range offensive fighter anytime soon.
    The second type which evolved slightly later, were the interceptor fighters which would not operate by night but would rise from airfields near the coast to make visual interceptions. They had no radio, a much smaller fuel load and higher landing speeds (and wing loadings etc). The Hawker Fury became the RAF's interceptor and due to the factors above was about 40mph faster than the Bulldog.
    In 1934 the eight gun armament was adopted for a new interceptor to replace the Fury. In 1935 it was adopted for a new zone fighter to replace the Gladiator and Gauntlet. The Air Ministry intentionally blurred the line between the two types, accepting reduced endurance in the zone fighter in order to increase performance. When modern protagonists believe that the RAF should have been developing a long range offensive fighter for some kind of nebulous role that nobody apart from the Germans with their "zerstorer" concept had envisaged, it was in fact accepting reductions in the range of its defensive fighter in order to increase their performance.
    This led directly to the development of the Spitfire and Hurricane, short range interceptors with speed and firepower. History would show, in 1940, that the correct decisions had been made.
    The zerstorer concept was shown to be deeply flawed in the face of fast, manoeuvrable, well organised and determined opposition. The zestorer could not blast a path for the bombers and the bombers were forced to revert to night time operations.
    The sort of long range fighter that would eventually be successful in the ETO owed little to either the concepts of the zone fighter or zestorer.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  19. pattle

    pattle Member

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    And also with the idea of a RAF long range escort fighter, as France was not expected to fall no need for such a range was foreseen.
     
  20. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    A problem in early development of long range escort fighters was the limited power of the 1930s engines or perhaps the power to weight ratio. The initial specifications for the P-38 and P-39 are remarkably similar except for endurance. For the same speed, at the same height and with the same payload (armament) but with twice the endurance Kelly Johnson figured he needed 50% more power. Since such an engine was not available in the near future He went with two engines.
    The Mustang was able to be the escort fighter it was because it not only had excellent aerodynamics but because fuel and engine development allowed for 50-60% increase in power (at 18lbs boost) with only a 35% increase in basic powerplant weight. Either one alone is not be enough to come up with the result. This is the reason that all pre-war long range fighters were twins.
     
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