USAAF philopshy of the heavies being able to defend themselfs

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Jenisch, Jan 5, 2012.

  1. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    #1 Jenisch, Jan 5, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
    Guys, I was thinking: the USAAF didn't conducted simulated combats with his latest fighters against it's heavy bombers and perceived they would need escort? What exactly was the idea of "self-defense" of the bombers?
     
  2. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    How much of the concept of the self-defending bomber can be credited to (or blamed on) General Billy Mitchell?
     
  3. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    During 1934 most fighter aircraft were probably still armed with only a pair of machineguns. That's the threat B-17s were designed to handle.

    The U.S.A.A.C. mistake was not reacting to increases in fighter aircraft firepower. By 1939 everyone except the U.S.A.A.C. was moving to 20mm or 23mm cannons for fighter aircraft. That should have made U.S.A.A.C. leaders re-think the concept of self defending bombers.
     
  4. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    Self-defending bombers wasn't a USAAF philosophy, but a general combat doctrine that was in place across a lot of airforces (UK, Italian, US, German, Soviet) at various stages between the mid 1920s and the beginning of WW2. Mitchell, Douhet, Spaight, Trenchard and others all developed elements of the theory, at a time when fighters were lightly armed and often no faster than the bombers they were meant to be attacking.

    Only the British and the US really had the wealth and the necessary aircraft to pursue the theory, with others abandoning the concept due to their pre-WWII experiences (Spain, Manchuria) or their changing operational/technical/aircraft mix.

    The development of the fully powered turret in the 1930s was seen as the ultimate expression of bomber defensive fire and reinforced the concept in the UK and to a lesser extent in the US.

    The British pretty much abandoned the concept after their experiences in 1940, with occasional re-runs when the 4 engine heavies entered service. The USAAF was convinced that its higher flying, heavier armed and armoured bombers could do the task, but seemed to be reluctant to learn the same lessons as the British, as its operational concept for strategic bombing was firmly tied to daylight operations. I put the British reluctance to develop a long-range escort fighter in the same category.
     
  5. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    For all practical purposes Germany abandoned the concept during April 1936 when General Walther Weaver opted for the high speed Bomber A.
     
  6. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    #6 Jenisch, Jan 5, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
    Thanks for the answers.

    I already heard that the major problem for the heavies were the "formation destroyers", like the Bf 110, armed with weapons beyond the range of the .50 mg. They would broke the formation to the single-engine fighters finnish the job. Proceed?
     
  7. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    The concept of bomber defence (defense) was based on covering each other within the box formation with their guns. If the bombers stayed within the box formation , they'd be covered. When the British employed its Fortress Is in the European theatre, they realised their armament was totally inadequate, but I guess the Americans were unwilling to accept British experience. The Eighth Air Force suffered enormous losses to begin with, and its bombers' accuracy left as lot to be desired - all the lessons Bomber Command had already learned had to be learned by the Americans the hard way.
     
  8. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    #8 Jenisch, Jan 5, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
    I keep scratching my head on apparently how the Americans didn't conducted simulated combats if the problem was with conventional fighters. They even had better high altitudes fighters than the LW.

    I think they always knew fighter escort was necessary, simply didn't have it. Perhaps they carried out the missions because they belived the Norden was a wonder and would bring a lot of destruction. And I'm skeptical about the frustration with the Norden as well.
     
  9. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    yes but the RAF did not use the same formation as 8th AF nor did they follow protocol on the aircrafts use IIRC .
     
  10. TheMustangRider

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    #10 TheMustangRider, Jan 5, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
    One of the reasons might have been, as far as I'm aware, of how underrated fighter capability became against the mighty heavy bombers during the late '30s by those pushing in the USAAF for the self-defense bomber.

    The fact that the 8th BC entered the air war over Europe relying on high-altitude flying, its Norden bomb-sight; later on is forced to adopt the combat box formation and finally realizes the need for strategic long-range escort fighter support is supporting evidence IMO that some believed fighter opposition would never evolve to be on par with bomber defense capability.
     
  11. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    American self defending bombers did work against Japan, and would probably have worked again the Soviet Union and Italy as well.
     
  12. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    What could simulated combat tell you about the effectiveness of the defensive fire, or how effective the fire of fighters intercepting the bombers could be. There's some things you can only learn by doing the real thing.
     
  13. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    #13 Jenisch, Jan 5, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
    Well, it's all about science. The Bf 110 for example, it's poor service record over Britain was not a surprise for many in the LW. They knew the plane was vulnerable to the Bf 109, and therefore would be against the similar British fighters. Even so, the USAAF probably had it's reasons, I just want to understand the historical point of view of them.

    About the B-29, different airplane. It's fire system was state of the art, with an early computer that calculated air density, wind drift, target speed, etc. Against the Japanese planes, specially at altitude like it flown initially, it certainly would be capable of hold it's own. Later, with better Japanese aircraft like the Ki-84 and the J2M, and the missions being flown at medium altitude, fighter escort proved necessary.

    Logically, the more independent the bombers were, the best would be. But personally, I think the USAAF always wanted escort for it's wartime bombers. A fighter in escort work can shoot down the enemy more easily and avoid casualities to the bombers. The long range fighter also would clear the enemy from the sky.
     
  14. TheMustangRider

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    Although that's true for the most part, I think it's worth noting that the IJAF and IJN never posed the same level of threat to the 20th BC as did the Luftwaffe to the 8th/15th BCs.
    I have some statistics that claim that only 26% of all Japanese fighter defense capability was ever assigned to confront the B-29 threat to the Japanese homelands; if these numbers are close to reality, one can see why more B-29s were lost to mechanical or operational malfunction than to fighter opposition.
     
  15. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    #15 Jenisch, Jan 5, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
    By the war's end, the Japanese were increasingly interested in Kamikaze missions. They were also building a reserve, both from Kamikaze and conventional planes to the invasion of their island. I think they were waiting their new aircraft, specially the jets to make favourable cost-benefit attacks in the 29's.
     
  16. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    Even before the B29, Japanese fighters didn't do real hot against B17's and B24's either. They did some pretty deep missions, unescorted, early and midway through the war.
     
  17. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    There would have been a long, long wait on the jets, the only jet developed was the Nakajima Kikka, and the prototype first flew on Aug. 7 1945. Everything else was just paper dreams, design studies.
     
  18. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    #18 Jenisch, Jan 5, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
    This is true to some extent. But the war progressed, the Japanese started to field their new fighters. Certainly, unescorted B-29's against numerous J2M's would be a problem. But escort was probably not needed at all, as the night firebombing proved so effective that the Japanese likely didn't have much of a chance. It was impossible for them to have anything like the Luftwaffe night-fighter force and defense system, and the B-29 was much better than the Lancaster and the Halifax.
     
  19. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    Does anyone have drawings of the changes to American bomber formations (8th, 15th AFs) as the war progressed?
     
  20. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Bear in mind that the Fortress I was poorly armed compared to even the B-17Fs that were the workhorses of the 8th AF for the early stages of the daylight bombing campaign. Perhaps the USAAF senior staff believed that the addition of a powered upper turret, tail gunner and ball turret positions, coupled with the box formation (to maximize mutually defensive firepower) would enable unescorted daylight bombing to succeed?
     
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