US-built bombers: suitability for the RAF BC night bombing campaign?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by tomo pauk, Jun 16, 2012.

  1. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    As a spin-off from the another thread: in case the British find themselves lacking good high-altitude engines in good numbers to build large numbers of 4-engined bombers, how well would the US-built bombers would've fared in the night bombing role, within the RAF Bomber command? Either as-is, or with some easily-achievable modifications?

    Hopefully this would not turn into who-had-better-bombers thread :)
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    B-17s and B-24s need more powerful engines if they want to carry a bomb load similiar to the Lancaster @20,000 feet. Waist gunners and top turret could be deleted to save weight.

    The bottom ball turret might come in handy as night fighters normally preferred to attack from below, to silhouette a bomber against the lighter sky.
     
  3. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    I think the B24 is the only real option as the bomb bay of the B17 was limited in size. Taking out the waist and nose guns would save a lot of weight which would go a long way to improving payload/range performance.
    Re the ball turret it does seem an obvious advantage, but RAF 100 group did use a small number of B17's at night in support of Bomber Command. Initially they used the ball turret but removed them as they 'proved impractical' at night. Unfortunately there was no clue as to what 'proved impractical' meant, so there is a question mark there.

    If anyone knows more I am all ears
     
  4. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    The B-24 still had a restricted bomb bay - any bomb over 2000lbs had to be carried externally.

    Also wondering if the ball turret and teh rear turret wouldbe the only ones worth keeping:

    The Luftwaffe's preferred method of night time attack was to sneak up from below and to the rear, firing obliquely upward into the bomber's fuselage. I know the Lancaster kept front and upper turrets most of teh time, just wonder how much work they actually did.

    With the ball turret, it may end up having to be deleted to make way for navigational equipment like H2S.

    http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/southfly/images/LancasterJNM.png

    Some Lancasters had a lower turret fitted, but these were omitted. They were aimed by periscope, which may have limited their effectiveness.
     
  5. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Not normally.Some did and obviously this was the method used by "schrage musik" equipped fighters.

    A typical B-17 bomb load was about 4,000lb,a B-24 slightly heavier. Both these aircraft managed 8,000lb loads on special missions. This is still way less than a typical 12,000lb Lancaster load and pales somewhat in the face of the 22,000lb maximum load that the Lancaster could deliver. There's no point in arguing about the exact loads which obviously vary according to the mission profile. The ones above are just rough averages.
    Neither US bomber was capable of delivering anything like the tonnage dropped by Bomber Command aircraft and would need a lot more than more powerful engines to do so. I suspect that the Americans would strip much of the defensive armament and armour,and carry much less defensive ammunition in an effort to up the night time load somewhat. They could subsequently reduce the crew too. Nonetheless to achieve similar nightime results to the RAF the USAAF wouldn't be making 1,000 bomber raids but 2 or 3,000 bomber raids and that wasn't going to happen.
    There's no reason that the B-17 and B-24 couldn't operate at night with the appropriate equipment,crew training and tactics,they were both good aircraft and noone has ever doubted the skill or determination of the American crews,but they couldn't deliver the same tonnage as Bomber Commands larger bombers (principally the Lancaster and Halifax)
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  6. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    A turret on the bottom might seem like a good idea, but I doubt the gunner would be able to see anything below against the dark ground.

    I've read the German night fighters like to approach from below even before they had the slant music guns, that way they were invisible to the tailgunner , and the bomber would be visible to them against the night sky sometimes. They'd start a gentle climb from below, and fire, ending up in the tailgunners lap before he could react.
     
  7. Edgar Brooks

    Edgar Brooks Active Member

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    The biggest problem would probably be the typical bomb load, which was a (minimum) 4,000lb cookie + smaller bombs + incendiaries; the idea was to blast the buildings open, then set the contents on fire.
     
  8. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    That also holds true for the tail gunner.

    During the approach a night fighter is a sitting duck for for the tail gunner. Most of the time the tail gunner doesn't notice until too late but you cannot take that for granted. Nor can you take for granted the tail gunner of a dying bomber won't shoot at the night fighter before it has a chance to dive away. More then one night fighter was shot down by a mortally wounded bomber.

    A ball turret might make life even more dangerous for enemy night fighter aircraft. Perhaps the tail gunner is half asleep but the ball turret gunner is wide awake and has an itchy trigger finger.
     
  9. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    RAF tail gunners generally did not engage nightfighters unless they were sure they were lining up an attack. Their best defence was invisibility.
    If they were sure the nightfighter was lining them up the gunner (usually the tail gunner) would call "Corkscrew Port" or "Corkscrew Starboard" initiating violent
    evasive action and squirt a burst from his machine guns in the general direction of the fighter. A rear gunner told me that it was impossible to fire accurately from a corkscrewing bomber but that once the attacking fighter saw the burst of fire and the bomber start evasive action they almost invariably broke of the attack and went in search of easier prey.
    I have read accounts of nightfighters following corkscrewing bombers for considerable time,attempting to line up a shot but these are exceptions to the general rule.
    Some nightfighters passed within a few yards of bombers having failed to see them but usually the gunners would let them pass rather than risking an aerial battle.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  10. Balljoint

    Balljoint Member

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    I heard it second hand, but a while back a local ex-RAF gunner shot down two night fighters. He said he aimed by firing back down the tracers.
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Luftwaffe attacks on RAF Bomber Command aircraft numbered in the 10s of thousands. If the tail gunner fires only 10% of the time that's still enough to make a night fighter pilot nervous. Especially since there are plenty of first hand night fighter pilot reports stating the tail gunner shot at them.
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Out of context,please quote me properly.

    "RAF tail gunners generally did not engage nightfighters UNLESS THEY WERE SURE THEY WERE LINING UP AN ATTACK"

    I'm repeating what I have heard,first hand,from the men who were there.

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  13. Edgar Brooks

    Edgar Brooks Active Member

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    One tail-gunner told me that his captain had told him, that, if he opened fire, he'd have him court-martialled; he was only to warn him, so that he could take evasive action. I doubt that captain was unique in his feelings.
    Towards the end of the war, the combination of Village Inn radar, a gyro gunsight, and infra-red recognition, meant that gunners no longer needed tracer, so its likely that some nightfighters were shot down without knowing they'd been seen, especially if the Lancaster had also been fitted with the .5" Rose turret.
     
  14. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure he wasn't. The bombers best defence was not to be seen and definitely not to attract attention to itself unless this was unavoidable. Their job was to deliver their load and return home,hopefully unmolested,not to destroy the Luftwaffe's night fighter force in air to air combat.

    The cork screw( "weaving flight" as the Luftwaffe called it) seems to have been an effective evasive manoeuvre,definitly not for those with a weak stomach. I have heard cases of crew members being injured due to the violence with which pilots would wrench their aircraft around the sky.
    As for the contents of the Elsan.......probably best not to think about it.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  15. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    In tests even in daylight a corkscrewing bomber was difficult to hit even with a single engined fighter. It was the standard technique used by RAF bombers by day and night.
     
  16. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    The ideal US bomber for RAF Bomber Command would be the B 29. A big bomb truck with near Mosquito performance it would have been a very tough target for the majority of LW nightfighters.
     
  17. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Yes and no, on Bombers the important number is the cruising speed and the b29 I believe cruised at approx 220 mph which isn't that much faster than a Lanc which cruised at 200 mph.

    In a friendly fire incident one B29 was shot down by a short burst from a Beaufighter, hardly the fastest thing in the air
     
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