The Battle Of Kursk - the air battle

Discussion in 'Old Threads' started by parsifal, Jul 19, 2011.

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  1. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Quite a few people have approached me to start a new thread about the battle of Kursk. A little reluctantly I have agreed.

    So what were the main features in the air battle, how did it progress, what were its outcomes. What were the precursors that led to the battle. I would suggest that we limit our discussion from the last days of Stalingrad, through to the battles in November, but the focus should be the battle in July.

    However, I would also be interested to hear peoples views about the air battle if Mansteins ideas had been adopted and the battle had occurred in late May. Would the outcome of the air battle have been any different?

    And finally, what might have happened, if the germans had not undertaken the battle at all, simply fortifyiong and waiting for the Russians to attack? Would it have been possible foir them to wear down the Russians to the peace table if they had not been so rash as to attack them again in 1943.......

    Anyway, hold on, here we go...enjoy guys
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    According to David Glantz the German 6th Air Fleet began the battle with only two thirds of the required aviation fuel reserve. I think actual combat results prove his point. The Luftwaffe provided good support at first. As the battle progressed the Luftwaffe sortie rate fell off for lack of fuel.
     
  3. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    #3 parsifal, Jul 19, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2011
    We will no doubt get to those and other issues, but if I may, I would like to pick up the story at the close of Stalingrad.

    When Fall Blau had begun, in June 1942, the eastern air fleets controlled 2644 aircraft, of which 1610 were assigned to the southern sector. Under the exceptional command of Von Richthofen, the operational rate of LF4 was to reach the highest level of any major formation on the eastern front....71%

    By 31 January 1943, the state of LF4 had deteriorated markedly. Its Operational readiness rate was down to less than 37%, with just 624 machines available to LF4. Things were desperate. The formations supporting 1 Pz Army...FliegerKorps VIII under Fiebig was in just as poor shape. On the day of Paulus' surrender, there were just 244 airworthy airplanes in the whole of LF4. Things were desperate.

    However not forming part of LF4 was the vast transport fleet of some 477 machines. The majority of the transports were Ju52s, drawn mostly from the advanced bomber training schools (with their instructors), but there were also three groups of He 111s (mostly of obsolete types again drawn from the training formations) and one Gp of Ju88s, There were also odds and sods of other types including He 177s, and FW 200s, both of which had suffered heavy attrition.

    The immediate priority for LF4 was to provide as much support as possible to Mansteins efforts to keep the escape routes open for those formations retreating from the Caucasus, principally 1Pz Army and 17 Army. Richthofen had in fact been making arrangements to that end since 20 January. He ordered one of his Group Commanders, Oberst Kuhl to transfer most of the He 111s away from the makeshift forward airfield at novocherkassk back 180 kms to Stalino. He also ordered Oberstleutnant Von Beust to transfer another group of He111s at Voroshilovsk to withdraw his Groups (I think part of Fiebigs command) back to Konstantinovska. These transfers were made to pull bomber assets out of harms way for respite and propration for further operations. Fighter Groups attached to LF4 were overstretched at this time and the Soviets were putting a lot of pressure on novocherkassk. Re-supply at Stalino and the other rear airfields was much easier....these airfields had good road and rail links making maintenence a lot easier. Richthofen knew he needed to get bomber assets back to a better state of readiness, if he was to provide effective support to manstein. On 23 January Richthofen received the first of many releases from Hitler, allowing some KGs to return to normal combat operations. On that day 30 He111s were released from transport duties (the ones that had already been pulled back for rest), on the stipulation they be ready for a return to trnsport duties within 48hours notice. they never did.

    These first 30 machines were used in direct support operations in those opening days in support of the retreating 17th Army in the far south, which was retreating toward the Taman Peninsula. These attacks were completely unescorted, by aircraft unsuited to ground support by crews untrained for the purpose. It is a testament to the crew proficiency that they were reasonably successful; in these operations, and suffrered only relatively light casualties.

    Meanwhile nearly 200 transports after the surrender had been atached (but not absorbed) to FKVIII for re-supply of 1Pz Army and 17A.

    While these operations and preprations were being implemented, Richthofen began to rest and redeploy some of his other subordinate formations.....
     
  4. Altea

    Altea Banned

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    #4 Altea, Jul 19, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2011
    Herewe go:)!

    Context: After Stalingrad disaster, Werchmacht managed to stop soviet offensive and stabilize the front. During an operational pause created by the spring thaw and mud, german side looked for an opportunity to regain the strategic initiative.

    That's short, i will let someone else to devellop more...

    ODB:

    German: about 1 100 from the 8th Fliegerkorps (south of the salient)
    730 from 1st fliegerdivision (north)

    German industry produced 2000 planes/month so Luftwaffe strengh rised from 6 224 planes in march to 7 089 at the end of june, despite losses (1)...

    But on eastern front the number does not increased and was representing less than a half (~ 3 400, i guess) from the whole number.

    Now, by Alfred Price (2), total serviceable Luft strenght did not exceeded 5 000 planes at the same period.


    Soviet


    16th VA (air army) 1037/117 (Central Front)
    2nd VA 881/149 (Voronezh Front)
    17th VA 638/73 (Steppe (rear) front).

    Total 2 453 serviceable/ 339 unseviceable planes


    So, no polemic about soviet strengh.

    What about German, does someone else can provide other numbers?






    (1) D Khazanov p 6.

    (2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luftwaffe_serviceable_aircraft_strengths_(1940–1945)
     
  5. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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  6. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    IMO aircraft production numbers are meaningless if they didn't have enough fuel. What counts is how many sorties could be sustained with the existing fuel supply.
     
  7. Altea

    Altea Banned

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    #7 Altea, Jul 19, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2011
    Khazanov is more precise than Glantz on that point:

    5 722 of 8 634 tons of B4 fuel
    441 of 1 079 T requested C-3 fuel, recieved.

    But, if the number of Luft missions fail from 2 008 + 2 387 to 1 023 + 1 686 from the 5th to 6th july, it increased to 1 687 + 1 829 for the 7th.

    So i don't think about any brutal and curious fuel starvage of the Luft on the 6th, also being the "official" doubtfull explanation. Germans had several months to prepare the operation.
    I rather think they suffered from VVS and AA fire unexpected opposition, compared to the summer 42's one.

    BTW, i don't believe either soviet "official" claims about gaining the air superiority from the 7th or 8th july, despite Rokossovski promises to Stalin, and memors.

    Regards
     
  8. Altea

    Altea Banned

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    #8 Altea, Jul 19, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2011
    Fur sure, Davebender how many missions were made by Luft in 1943, in eastern front, and during Kusk battle?

    How many flying hours had a Luftwaffe rookie in 1943 before being comited in combat?

    For your information in may of 1943 the soviat aiforce suffered also from fuel starvage, some pilots were going to front units with 20-30 flying hours!
    I (also) think actual combat results prove his point! Anyway, losses that occured to the Luft, reduced flyable planes number much lower to available fuel stocks...In fact threre were soon more fuel than enough for operational needs!
     
  9. Altea

    Altea Banned

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  10. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    #10 Erich, Jul 19, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2011
    Parsifal and all hopeful you will be able to use these two pages of interesting and intelligent information. Some food for thought, we must remember the Hs 129 unit flew in low barely over the earth and with this type of flying it was impossible to accurately confirm "kills". Of course we have discussed Rüdels bogus claims over and over again.

    Tank Busting Aircraft at Kursk - The Dupuy Institute Forum

    as Parsifal started this thread up it really should be up to him on how the thread is formed before we all start spiderwebing, throwing our 2 cents around where the thread will not make much sense and will have to be continually edited.
     
  11. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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  12. Nikademus

    Nikademus Member

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    Eventually. :eek:

    I've about given up hope for Mr Bergstrom to produce Vol IV of his Black Cross/Red Star Series. Been eyeing the Kursk and Batragon to Berlin books for some time now but some consider them "lite" versions of his earlier series.
     
  13. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    I'm surprised at the number of He-111s still being used for tactical air support this late in the war.
     
  14. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Erich et al

    Thankyou for the great sources material. Am out of the loop for a couple of days, will have a closer look and make further narative when I return

    Cheers folks and enjoy
     
  15. Rivet

    Rivet Member

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    Does anyone have any detailled information regarding Russian air strength and missions regarding this conflict on or immediately after July 11, 1943? Russia managed to stage counter offensive operations from a line at Orel. These were countered by German forces. What might have become a complete collapse and route was nullified by Ju-87 operations. I wonder of the presence of the Soviet 2nd and 17th air armies in the area at the time?
     
  16. claidemore

    claidemore Member

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  17. Altea

    Altea Banned

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    #17 Altea, Jul 20, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2011
    Too soon!:!:

    Well, this is the best way to make a discussion stall, or spin....We'll debate about that later!

    For the moment we are looking for german ODB.

    I Repeat:

    In an old encyclopedia of aviation, i'v got different numbers:

    2 100 of the 2 500 planes present on the eastern front participated to the operation.

    This detail has its importance. It means that german commited more than 84% Luft forces, 70% tanks and artillery over the Koursk salient, and were anyway dominated by soviets, in 1.4 for soldiers, 1.9 in artillery, 1.3 in tanks and 1.6 in planes numbers.
    At the same time soviets used only 28% of their soldiers, 24% canons and mortars, 33% and 40% of the active * combat planes and tanks in central, Voronnezh and Steppe (rear) front.

    * active = front line or operationnal units.
    The total planes and tank numbers was about 26 000 / 13 000 and 23 000/ 9 000 total with the rear military districts / active units.

    The conclusion is easy, soviets were able to concentrate forces elsewhere to launch simultaneously another offensive, even without activating their powerfull reserves, that couldn't be said for germans, that concentrated their whole forces and hopes over the Koursk salient.

    Regards
     
  18. Altea

    Altea Banned

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    Prokhorovka you mean?
    2nd and 17th air armies performed 759 + 134 day and 109 + 164 night missions for 654 and 61 respectivly for the Luftflotte 4 .
    All in bad weather conditions, surprislingly soviet 1st Bomber Air Corps (BAK) provided high efficiency due to its Pe-2 equipped by radio-goniometers at morning, since Luft confined to ground.
    But in general soviet air action was irrelevant, since it was not concentrated over the 5th Guards Tank Army attack, that had few fighter cover and virtually no Shturmovik support, those often attacking soviet forces by lack of organisation.
    Anyway the foolish cavalery attack "asswind in the plain" of the 5 GTA had never a single chance to succeed over german well prepared ambush with numerous 75/88 antitank canons, and hidden Tigers and other panzers of the 2nd SS PanzerKorps.
    If i'm not wrong, only Whittman himself is claiming more than 15 T-34 in this action...

    I'm no sure that Luftwaffe is the main factor for the soviet failure/losses of the day.

    Regards
     
  19. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    #19 Juha, Jul 20, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2011
    Hello
    On the fuel situation of the LFl 6, the info seems to come from its CoS Friedfich Kless’ post war study to US Army via Plocher’ book. The problem is that Kless begins in his introduction “In writing this description of the activities of Luftflotte 6, no original reference material dating back to the period involved was available to me. This applies to all but a few instances. I was thus forced to write this study from memory …” As the editor of the book (Steven H. Newton, the book, which I highly recommended to everyone who is interested in Kursk battle, of course to be used with other more up-to date books which also use Soviet material plus better set of maps, but Newton’s introductions are very good to put the articles to modern context, is Kursk. The German View) this put the accuracy of the figures under some doubt.

    And more generally, because LW fuel situation was better in summer 43 than in summer 42, why the acute problem. Kless also mentioned VVS attacks on the railconnections of LFl 6 areas, which according to him, didn’t produce much problem to logistics, the increased partisan activity against those lines on the other hand were more effective in disturbing rail transportation.

    Fuel wasn’t the only problem, Kless:”A/c allotments were generally sufficient to make up for losses, with exception of Fw 190s, Ju 88s and Bf 110G-2s, but engine replacements were inadequate, and no a/c reserve could be amassed prior to the beginning of the offensive. Thus our formations – especially those of Fw 190s [Juha: Which formed the vast majority of the fighter resources of LFl 6] – were bound to lose streght rapidly due major losses and mechanical attrition whenever involved in periods of intensive combat.” There was also insufficient amount of 88mm and 20mm Flak ammo.
    Kless also writes “Besides, even if the supply problem could be resolved and OKL found significant reinforcements for Luftflotte 6, it would have been impossible to increase the number of a/fs available with sufficient speed to assemble these formations if and when they arrived.” This is odd because in the area there were numerous Heer units waiting for the attack, also numerous Pioneer units, which could have used to a/f construction, even if the number of a/fs had increased from 3 to 15 in Orel bulge IMHO more could be done if needed with proper use of resources available.

    Juha
     
  20. Rivet

    Rivet Member

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    #20 Rivet, Jul 20, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2011
    Thanks for the input, Altea. What conditions regarding the Soviet air operations in the area are in regard to what the Russians called Operation Kutuzov, the counterattack against the German Prokhorovka operation? It is my understanding that the Russians had some prior knowledge of this operation, Zhukov having a series of defensive areas prepared in order to absorb the impact of the expected assault of the Germans. The prior knowledge explains the rapid response on the part of the Russians. Interesting to see mention of Panzer leader Michael Wittem, on of the better armor operatives of the time.

    OK. What I am seeking is detailled information regarding Russian aviation fuel reserves, lower level area VVS commanders and airfield conditions during the period July 11, 1943 to August 8, 1943. Could someone cite some period Soviet documentation in English as well as the sources and locations of same? Regards
     
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