Tactics: Spitfire vs Zero

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Njaco, Jul 21, 2010.

  1. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2007
    Messages:
    23,053
    Likes Received:
    994
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Animal Control Officer
    Location:
    Southern New Jersey
    Read in a book about some of the tactics pilots used against Zeros including the following....

    "Australian pilots knew they could dive faster than the Zero. Therefore, after an initial pass they would dive away rather than risk turning (where the Zero was better) or climbing (when the Zero would catch them). Diving away and round, the Spitfire pilots would then regain height and position for another pass."

    I never really considered Spitfire vs Zero combat (I've always been interested in the ETO) but I'm curious about how successful Commonwealth pilots were against the Japanese. I've always placed the Spitfire among the Battle of Britain and the Western Front and this is intriguing to me.

    Please, no wing-loading or 100 octane battles here - just want to know how matched the aircraft and pilots were in this theatre.
     
  2. Kryten

    Kryten Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    436
    Likes Received:
    11
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Llantrisant
    From what I have read that account pretty much covers it, trying to turn with a zero or an Oscar was not reccomended so get the height advantage and make a pass then get out, if you miss, then you miss, but you can always have another go as your unlikely to be caught!

    I suppose thats the biggest problem with building super light agile aircraft, the dive performance suffers!
     
  3. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2005
    Messages:
    23,202
    Likes Received:
    786
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Aircraft Maintenance Manager/ Flight Instructor
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    Keep the speed up, 250 or more...
     
  4. renrich

    renrich Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2007
    Messages:
    4,542
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    real estate
    Location:
    Montrose, Colorado
    From what I have read the Spitfire was not highly successful against Zeros or other similar Japanese fighters. Early in the war, the tactics used by Spitfire pilots were deficient and later, as tactics improved, the Spitfires were hard pressed to attain altitude advantages, ( because they did not get enough early warning) where energy tactics could be successful.
     
  5. Nikademus

    Nikademus Member

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2007
    Messages:
    525
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Occupation:
    Drone
    Location:
    Seattle
    Not being able to read French, my account of the Darwin battles remains generalistic :D. However it is described as following a similar pattern of learning curve as with other airforces when first encountering the plane. Problem was that the incoming Spit pilots were described as ETO veterans so they wern't receptive to the warnings of PTO veterans when told the dos and donts of fighting Zeros. As a result the initial combats did not go in their favor despite the Spit's technical superiority.

    In the Burma theater, more widespread use of the Spit was seen and a curious situation developed by early 1944. The Spitfire, demonstrated it's ability to prevent the JAAF from achieving air superiority most of the time over the battle areas (Shores Vol III BS series), and protected transport and ground attack units well.....but at the same time the Ki-43's they were matched up with proved very difficult to shoot down and of course, it was extremely dangerous to dogfight with. This resulted in a stalemate much of the time.

    The performance edge of the Spit (particularily the VIII model) was overall so superior that the pilots were able to dictate when and where they engaged. Biggest issue was the plane's short range made it primarily a defensive interceptor so could not be used to try to hunt the JAAF at it's lairs. From a statistical angle, the exchange rate was approx 1.8:1 in favor of the Spitfire.
     
  6. renrich

    renrich Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2007
    Messages:
    4,542
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    real estate
    Location:
    Montrose, Colorado
    Your point about the range limitations of the Spitfire is well made Nik. Another facet of the Spitfire story in the CBI was that the Spitfire did not apparently take kindly to the operational environment from the point of view that the conditions on the ground were pretty rugged. The photos I have seen of the Spits in the CBI looked pretty scraggly which must have detracted from it's performance plus the liquid cooled engines suffered from glycol leaks and that was a vulnerability issue against the mostly radial engined Japanese fighters.
     
  7. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,678
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    #7 parsifal, Jul 22, 2010
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2010
    Joe B provides a pretty convincing argument about Spitfires in the PTO and CBI TOs. In the case of the Spits operating out of Darwin I have had some pretty robust discusssions at times about overclaiming of Japanese aircraft.

    Despite some very connvincing arguments, I have to admit I remain somewhat sceptical about Joes arguments at times. I think the main problem is that not all the participating IJN and JAAF units are identified in Joes accounts.

    The air battles over Darwin were the scene where the RAAFs highest scoring Ace (Killer Caldwell) operated.

    Having stuck my neck out with the above statements, there is also no doubt that some pretty bad overclaiming occurred in this theatre, worse than most theatres. Makes me wonder how many of Caldwells kills were real to be honest.
     
  8. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2007
    Messages:
    23,053
    Likes Received:
    994
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Animal Control Officer
    Location:
    Southern New Jersey
    So it would be safe to say that because of range limitations it was used more for defense rather offensive ops (Spitfire I mean)?
     
  9. Nikademus

    Nikademus Member

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2007
    Messages:
    525
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Occupation:
    Drone
    Location:
    Seattle
    It was used primarily as an interceptor and CAP fighter (The spitfire in particular became the bane of high flying Ki-46 recon craft....nabbing 14 of them over the course of the Burma fighting...usually at 30,000 feet or higher), and as escort for transport runs and covering ground attack missions. It's short range did not suit it for deep penetration missions vs. JAAF airfields.
     
  10. Gixxerman

    Gixxerman Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2009
    Messages:
    517
    Likes Received:
    15
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Occupation:
    retired
    Location:
    Northern Ireland
    I know films are rarely a credible source for information but I recently obtained the extended Japanese cut of the film 'Tora Tora Tora'.
    One of the senior Japanese pilots mentions at the start of the film that he had been to Europe and seen first hand the best German and British fighters (the Me 109 and Spitfire, IIRC) and that the Zero (described in the film at this stage as their new fighter pre Pearl Harbour attack) was superior to both.

    Sadly I've not any way of checking if that was based on a historical figure or just invention for the film.

    It does look as if the Japanese were rarely impressed by the pre-war early war European ideas on military aircraft design and philosophy (I'm thinking of their look at some German aircraft which they rejected, the Heinkel fighters for instance) although obviously this changed with the late war designs they did like.
     
  11. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2009
    Messages:
    3,541
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Engineer and overgrown schoolboy
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    Ironic given the outward similarities between the Ki61 and the He100 and the fact that the earlier German design could completely outpace the later Japanese one.
     
  12. Nikademus

    Nikademus Member

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2007
    Messages:
    525
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Occupation:
    Drone
    Location:
    Seattle
    The Japanese pilots fully believed in their mounts and had a high degree of confidence. At the time the A6M debuted, it was fully comprable to the best designs of the day. It's often not remembered that the major planes of the early era also began as unarmored and without self sealing tanks. Problem for the Japanese were that early combats came too easy for them, which did not highlight the importance of defensive measures, the powerplant limitation did not easily allow for said upgrades and their late start in full scale warefare. Still....they enjoyed a brief window, aided by Allied pre-war notions on what they'd be facing.

    The Ki-43 enjoyed a similar run but it's acomplishments are largely overshadowed because it was routinely identified as a "Type 0" in many battle accounts. Also, by the time it appeared in numbers in the South Pacific, the tide had turned, newer, better planes were present and tactics had been refined coupled with a better operational plan. In Burma though, the Oscar continued to give coniption fits thx in large part to the veterans flying it despite being increasingly outnumbered.
     
  13. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2005
    Messages:
    6,160
    Likes Received:
    128
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Consellor
    Location:
    Lincolnshire
    I do know that during the BOB the Japanese in Europe were very impressed with the Spitfire which they believed to have exceptional speed, climb and firpower making it the ideal intercepter. They were also very impressed with the protection of the Me109 and urged the military leaders in Japan to follow the European lead and protect their aircraft (and carriers). As we all know this was ignored until it was too late. The Japanese will have had the opportunity to fly the Me109 but doubt that they would have been able to try a Spitfire.
    However the Zero was a remarkable aircraft and they rightly had every reason to believe in its ability.

    For more on this try the following thread.
    http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/ww2-general/japanese-perpective-battle-britain-8713.html
     
  14. Demetrious

    Demetrious Member

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2007
    Messages:
    104
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Spitfire vs. Zero is an interesting discussion; since the Spit is just about the closest match for the Zero you're going to find. The Spit is an amazing turner, but the Zero is nigh insane in the turn (the figures I remember for flat sustained turning performance is 18 seconds for a 360 in the spit, and 16 for the Zero. Given the nigh infinite variables, consider it a comparative measure.) A similar story in climb performance- the Spitfire is great, the Zero is insane. It's not enough to just say "the Zero is better" in these categories; one must consider exactly how big the Zero's performance advantage is here, because that translates directly to the margin the Zero pilot has to exploit. In turn and climb, that margin is not drastic; turning or climbing won't save the Zero if he let the Spit get a good enough position.

    Where the differences really open up is roll rate and speed. The Zero's Achilles heel was always it's atrocious roll rate. While the Spitfire's roll rate deteriorates rapidly above 300 MPH, the Zero's roll starts out lethargic and becomes almost unresponsive by 300 MPH. The clipped wing Spitfire's roll rate can only be described as terrifying. And in speed, of course, the Spitfire is markedly superior, and since the Zero breaks into itty bitty pieces if it dives past 440 MPH or so, it's ability to exploit altitude is lessened. In short, the Spitfire should be able to keep on top of the energy game.

    Basically the success or failure of the Spitfire in Australia was mostly dependent on how aware it's pilots were of these performance differences. After experience in BoB, they were likely to think they could simply out-turn their foes, which would lead to obvious problems in initial Zero encounters. After they had the Zero's measure, however, things would change rapidly.
     
  15. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2005
    Messages:
    6,160
    Likes Received:
    128
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Consellor
    Location:
    Lincolnshire
    At the end of the day the best advice is always Simple advice that works and you couldn't do better than FJ's earlier in the thread. Stay above 250 mph and the Zero will be in serious trouble.
     
  16. Nikademus

    Nikademus Member

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2007
    Messages:
    525
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Occupation:
    Drone
    Location:
    Seattle
    unless its bouncing you from behind. :lol:
     
  17. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2005
    Messages:
    8,857
    Likes Received:
    376
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Workin' for the man....
    Location:
    South East Queensland
    This was also the case at Darwin until the Spitfire wing there was equipped with the MkVIII. This allowed a handful of strike missions to be flown over the Arafura Sea - usually to the Spitfires limit of endurance though. 79sqn RAAF in the Pacific was pretty much the same, the squadron usually provided CAP over places such as Kiriwina and Momote whilst Allied bombers were launching strikes against New Britain. However being closer to the enemy than the Darwin Wing, 79 sqn did carry out fighter sweeps against enemy airfields and installations on New Britain.
    The role of the RAAF Spitfires changed late in the war when they were grouped together at Morotai, because of an almost complete lack of Japanese aerial activity, ground attack missions were the order of the day. In this role Japanese airfields, water craft, supply dumps, motor traffic, bridges and troop concentrations in the NEI and Borneo all recieved attention from the Spitfires. When bombs were added to their inventory, dive bombing attacks were also conducted.

    It's interesting you mention the Ki-46, as previous to the arrival of the Spitfires at Darwin, they were virtually immune to the P-40 defenders there. I count 9 being destroyed by Darwin Spitfires and a further 2 to Pacific based units. 17 August 43 is a good example, when the Japanese launched four seperate reconniassance flights against Darwin resulting in all four falling to the guns of Spitfires.
     
  18. freebird

    freebird Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2007
    Messages:
    2,658
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    British Columbia
    Were these encounters mostly Spit 9's? Or with Spit V's?
     
  19. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2005
    Messages:
    8,857
    Likes Received:
    376
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Workin' for the man....
    Location:
    South East Queensland
    Of the ones I mentioned above, 9 Ki-46's fell to MkVc's and the remaining 2 to MkVIII's
     
  20. VG-33

    VG-33 Banned

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2009
    Messages:
    273
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Just a point, the sustainted ToT is limited by the power available curve. As the sustainted climb. It's sure that keeping it's energy from a dive recovering the Spit could outurn or outclimb the Zero in the "dynamical" (speed decrease) configuration. Sustainted climb and turn rates, can be considered just as "statical" indicators.

    Regards
     
Loading...

Share This Page