Turret Fighters

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by wuzak, Aug 26, 2014.

  1. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    With hindsight, we know that turret fighters basically went nowhere during World War II.

    In discussion over the merits of Supermarine's Type 327 cannon fighter the following was put forward:

    And

    These are from notes of a meeting held on November 24, 1938.

    Also mentioned was the F.11/37 program (Boulton Paul P.92) and another turret fighter specification to be added to that year's (1938) program, though I can't find a reference to that.

    The F.11/37 fighter was to carry 4 x 20mm cannon in its turret.

    This clearly shows how enthusiastic the RAF and Air Ministry were for turret fighters. With hindsight we can say that their logic was faulty and led to a dead end. But in 1938, without having experienced war with modern monoplanes (as Germany had in Spain), was their thinking sound?

    Bearing in mind that they had already started the Whirlwind project F.37/35, the Gloster F.9/37 and were considering the Bristol Beaufighter proposal, all of which had fixed 20mm cannon armament.

    Perhaps they were having a bet each way?
     
  2. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #2 stona, Aug 26, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2014
    The turret fighter 'theory' was fine for intercepting unescorted bomber formations. An almost naval type of engagement was envisaged in which the turret fighters would fly alongside the bomber formation attacking with enfilading fire from their turrets.
    Some had doubts it is fair to say.

    [​IMG]

    And this was BEFORE the fall of France which enabled the bomber formations to arrive in UK air space escorted by 'zerstorer' and single engine fighters, something nobody had anticipated.

    A further problem was that the ability of the current production turret fighter (Defiant) to actually make an interception of bombers travelling at the speeds of the late 1930s was doubted.

    [​IMG]

    The concept was dead in the water by late 1940 and so unfortunately were all too many turret fighter crews.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  3. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Was this for bomber defense or for bomber interception?

    536bec617f40ac8d5b43d2d981d29233.jpg

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    In early 1939 Vickers submitted a scheme for mounting the gun in a large dorsal turret in a Wellington ‘heavy fighter’ with a predictor and a rangefinder. Such an aircraft it was claimed, could engage hostile formations at a range well beyond that of the fighters’ defensive fire.

    Granted the Wellington may have been used as a test rig and the 'service' aircraft would have been a higher performance machine.
     
  4. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Wasn't that with the 40mm Vickers S gun?
     
  5. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Surely that Wellington reflects the same philosophy, that it would engage an enemy formation, in this case at range, whilst flying alongside it. It really was a ludicrous idea with hindsight as remaining outside the effective range of the formation's defensive fire certainly wouldn't protect it from a marauding escort. Even at the time these proposals were being made the Luftwaffe had the Bf 110 to do this. From airfields in western Germany (say around Dusseldorf/Cologne) to south eastern England is only about 500 km (310 miles).

    If the RAF were worried about a Defiant being quick enough to make an interception of an enemy formation flying at 230 mph the Wellington had absolutely no chance. I'm not surprised that nothing came of the proposal.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  6. Siddley

    Siddley Active Member

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    What was the average speed of a Luftwaffe bomber formation during the Battle of Britain ? I know the document says 230mph but it's dated January 1940
     
  7. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The same bombers were flying in the BoB a few months later. A formation has to cruise at the speed of it's slowest component and the Luftwaffe types involved in the BoB were all comfortable at around the 230-240 mph mark at the range of altitudes they came in at. That's probably why Fighter Command based the anticipated speed of incoming formations at this level in the January document.

    Planning for this had started years earlier, it's why the Spitfire Mk 1 was a 350mph fighter and the Hurricane just a little slower.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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  8. yulzari

    yulzari Active Member

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    #8 yulzari, Aug 27, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2014
    I recall the 40mm S gun Wellington being discussed elsewhere some years ago. IIRC the idea was for the bomber to be able to engage attacking fighters beyond the range of the attackers fire. With the rangefinder and predictor it was, effectively, a flying anti aircraft gun. The vulnerability of bombers from attack from multiple directions, especially below, was being found at the same time so it was shelved. With a 40mm HE round on a lightweight fighter it was a one hit one kill. The geodesic structure of the Wellington proved ideal as the forces were distributed along the members into the entire fuselage structure. When they tried the same gun in the front of a Flying Fortress the nose structure was not up to the challenge.
     
  9. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    I am not so sure turret fighters went nowhere. The P-61 seemed to have enjoyed some success.
     
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  10. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    One hit one kill for sure but what chance did the Wellington have of hitting a 350 mph fighter before it got a shot in? The problem becomes even more difficult if several fighters attack at once.
    Many US bombers were equipped with many more guns which out ranged those of the attacking fighters, but it didn't save them, even in defensive formations.

    How many P-61s actually got the turret?

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  11. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #11 nuuumannn, Aug 27, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2014
    The first 37 P-61As had the turret, but it was removed from those because of buffeting, I think, when the turret was turned in flight, but the final 250 P-61Bs of 450 built were fitted with the turret, presumably the buffeting issue being cured.

    In hindsight, the turret fighter was not the best idea, but even though the Defiant didn't set an altogether rosy example, the British Air Ministry did not let the turret fighter die quite so quickly as is often led to believe, after August 1940. Turrets were a novelty during WW2 and the British were the first, as we know, to apply them to in-service aircraft. Not all the combatants had the know-how to produce effective technology from the outset, so not everyone adopted the idea (powered turrets in general, that is). Regardless of what we think of the turret fighter idea today, back in late 1940, and this is after the Defiant was deemed a night fighter only, the turret fighter idea had many proponents. It is also worth remembering that the British were also conceiving fitting turrets to everything they could, believing they had the key to an advanced and more effective weapon system.

    A list of turret fighter specifications issued by the British Air Ministry:

    F.9/35, which produced the Defiant and Hawker Hotspur: other companies to submit tenders include Bristol, Fairey, Gloster, Supermarine and Vickers. Armstrong Whitworth produced a twin and BP produced an alternative to the Defiant.
    F.11/37 for a two-seat twin engined turret fighter, this produced the BP P.92, which was never built, but a flying scaled down test bed was built. Other firms include AW, Bristol, Gloster, Hawker.
    F.18/40, this was initially issued as a fixed forward firing cannon armed, two-seat night fighter spec, but on 9 December 1940 the spec was amended to include a turret. The aircraft also had to be fitted with radar. BP produced an enlarged Defiant with and without the turret with either a Sabre or Centaurus powerplant as well as a podded twin that looks just like the P-61, Fairey, Gloster, Hawker, Miles and Vickers all submitted proposals. Gloster produced the Reaper to this spec.

    Bristol modified a Beaufighter by fitting it with a turret in mid 1941 as a stop gap, but it was found that it was slower than the Defiant it intended to replace, so it wasn't progressed with. De Havilland was suggested that the Mosquito be fitted with a turret, but GdeH scoffed at the idea and a mock-up was produced but not progressed with. It's interesting to note that when GdeH was first proposing the DH.98, Sholto Douglas insisted that the high speed bomber be built with a rear turret and at one stage this was going to be produced, despite GdeH's protestations that the turret would knock some 30 mph off its top speed, with the unarmed prototype being a concept demonstrator only. Luckily common sense and the efforts of Freeman caused a change of heart, although this was still the status quo by the time the prototype flew for the first time.

    The Mossie played a big part in the death of the turret fighter idea in Britain; after 1940, it was no longer considered a good idea for a day fighter, but as a night fighter the concept had more impetus, as can be seen with the experiments to the revamped F.18/40. All this came to nought because of how good the Mossie turned out to be.
     
  12. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Interestingly, when testing the turret in a Mosquito (W4053 IIRC) it was found that the motors weren't strong enough to turn the turret and it got stuck in position at speed. John de Havilland was trapped in this manner during one test flight.

    Also note that the turret prototypes were fighters - if they put turrets in the bombers there wouldn't be the space and/or capacity to carry bombs.
     
  13. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    That's right, the turret armed DH.98 bomber was never built and it was to be a tail turret, so wouldn't impinge on the bomb bay.
     
  14. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    The turret concept on a single engined aircraft was not completely dismissed by the U.S., the Navy's TBF(TBM) had a turret where it's predecessors had free gunmounts.
     
  15. rank amateur

    rank amateur Member

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    #15 rank amateur, Aug 28, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2014
    I wonder if the TBF Avengers' turret was more effective than for instance the gunmouth in the Helldiver or the Dauntless. Would anyone have info on that? Well obviously a .50 has more impact than a .30 but besides that I mean.
     
  16. swampyankee

    swampyankee Active Member

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    I think the effectiveness of the defensive armament on the TBF and SB2C can be estimated by the fact that their successor aircraft, the AD and AM had no gunners.
     
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  17. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    By the end of WW2 in the Pacific, you could probably have flown a Piper Cub on most attacks, Japanese fighters weren't much of a problem at that time because at that time all naval bombers were escorted by huge swarms of Hellcats and a few Corsairs. Defensive gunners probably slept the whole trip hoping they weren't shot down by ground fire or crash into the back on the carrier when they got home.

    Now, back during Midway, I'm would imagine that all those US torpedo crews would have welcomed the Avenger, with its speed, armor, self sealing tanks, and that turreted Browning 50 in the back. A few more might have made it back alive.
     
  18. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    There were 6 Avengers that flew at Midway. 5 shot down and 1 barely making it back to the deck with a dead gunner and an injured pilot and navigator. Without fighter cover and a mix of bad luck and bad tactics I doubt having all the USN torpedo squadrons in early model Avengers would have made a great deal of difference.
     
  19. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    The only turret (ish) fighter that I know that had any success was the Bristol
     
  20. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    To be fair to the Defiant it did enjoy some limited success in its role as a makeshift night fighter.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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