VLR B-24 Liberators and the Mid-Atlantic Gap

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by gjs238, Aug 1, 2014.

  1. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    Why were not more Very Long Range B-24 Liberators utilized sooner to help close the Mid-Atlantic Gap?

    Was this an aircraft production issue?
    Politics (Bomber Command vs Coastal Command)?
     
  2. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Most histories seem to say politics. As in strategy/tactics.

    Some leaders could not grasp that the mere presence of aircraft, even if actual U-boat sinkings were minimal, significantly reduced the U-boats effectiveness and significantly reduced the number of merchant ships sunk.

    Bombing Sub bases and building yards was viewed as more "offensive" in spirit and the results were badly over estimated.
     
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  3. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    B24's were not in abundance until 1944. Everything being built prior to then was going to operational units and to make good for war losses.
     
  4. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Coastal command was an operational "unit".

    British got 20 of the first production batch of 38 B-24As after the fall of France. One was damaged during delivery so British recieved 19. Went into service with 120 Squadron of Coastal Command in June of 1941, went out of service Dec 1943 beieng replaced by later Marks. A few were used as long rang transports. The LB-30B/Liberator I didn't have power turrets or turbos.

    The British ordered 165 Liberator IIs in 1941 and 140 were built, one crashed and the US may have requisitioned up to 75 aircraft from the British (or added to the order?). The British aircraft got British power turrets. 3 Coastal command squadrons and two bomber command squadrons operated them. I don't know if they got full compliments. At least 16 were operated as freighter/transports by BOAC.

    British got 366 Liberator IIIs starting in June of 1942. These were the first British Liberators with turbos. The British used few, if any, Liberators as bombers in Europe, most bomber command Liberator squadrons operating in the Middle East or Far East.

    Ensuring British supply lines to England should NOT have been seen as a secondary theater and dumping ground for aircraft deemed unsuitable for front line operations.
     
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  5. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I agree, but everyone is looking at this with 21st century eyes.
    Ensuring the safety of trans Atlantic trade routes, and all the others across the Empire, was primarily perceived as the job of the Royal Navy. It was the raison d'etre of that service. Very few naval officers had any concept of how useful aircraft might be, nor how to use them.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  6. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #6 oldcrowcv63, Aug 2, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2014
    There may have also been a misperception that convoy-accompanying CVE's (AFAIK emerging in small numbers in late '42) would be adequate to close any remaining gap. Might seem like a good idea until one does the math and realizes that, as good as carrier based air can be, it'e aerial coverage footprint (~200 mile radius around the flight deck), is woefully small compared to the much larger expanse of the ocean. An extrapolation might have been made from the need for coordinated land and carrier based air in SOPAC that proved so effective for both sides, but of course the perceived missions are quite different. Fleet reconnaissance vs Long Range ASW. IN any event, the lesson was well learned and long range maritime patrol aviation remains a vital if unheralded component of modern military forces.
     
  7. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    By saying "Operational Units" ; I was referring to the AAF demand for B24's for its own global needs.
     
  8. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    A bit of the same reasoning.

    The Air Force boys ( of both countries) were trying to prove that their branch of the service was more deserving of money, resources, prestige than the other two services.

    To convince the legislature/parliament they needed headlines or dispatches about damaging bombing raids that were hurting the enemy where he lived rather than a bunch of inconclusive sightings/contacts with little to show on a score board. How do you prove that that sub that submerged when sighted by an aircraft was NOT in a position to attack the convoy several hours later?

    Both the US and British would have been better served by using more squadrons ( and not a lot in the overall scheme of things) of newer, better aircraft for anti-sub patrol.
     
  9. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    It is not so much 21st century eyes but a lot of lessons from WW I were forgotten ( or misplaced ?) between the wars. Aircraft flying anti-sub patrols had proven effective during WW I. Not so much in sinking U-boats but in restricting their operations in areas the aircraft could patrol. A submerged sub is nearly blind compared to one running on the surface and it's mobility is reduced to around 1/3-1/4 of what the surfaced sub can do. Submerged subs usually running at around 4 knts to preserve batteries.

    However if you are trying to establish a "NEW" military service and fighting for equivalent ranks to Admirals and Generals you need to argue that you can win wars and fight the enemy in his homeland, not argue you can do a better job than corvettes, sloops and converted fishing trawlers.

    The British managed to forget a lot about night fighting during the 20s and early 30s and even forgot (according to some stories) that night fighters could use guns that pointed up despite a variety of British fighters that used guns firing at upward angles going from B.E.2Cs to the Defiant.

    There were several hundred flying boats used in addition to land aircraft during WW I. Somebody had an idea of how to use them, at least until they were retired/beached.
     
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  10. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    #10 gjs238, Aug 3, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2014
    Seems related to suppressive fire: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suppressive_fire
    Perhaps there is a military term for this "restriction or denial of operations."

    We've discussed on this board use of air power against armored ground units.
    Post battle surveys found less damage than claimed, but the effectiveness of the armored units being attacked was greatly reduced.

    While the aircraft flying the patrol don't need to maintain constant suppressive fire, just being present restricts enemy operations, like an aircraft over or a tank on a battlefield.
     
  11. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    It was only with the advent of the Avro Anson in 1936 that the RAF received its first land based maritime patrol aircraft, although the Blackburn Kangaroo of Great War origin was earlier, it was RNAS and in small numbers. Using land based maritime patrol assets was a relatively new concept to the British, although the RAF did operate strictly land based torpedo bombers between the wars in the Hawker Horsley, aside from its ship based aircraft aboard the navy's carriers.

    This was the argument for the use of airships as maritime patrol assets. During the Great War the British had a large number of non-rigid airships, but lost its lighter-than-air capability in 1921. The RNAS claimed that no merchant ship was sunk by a enemy submarine under escort by airships, while this isn't strictly true, there being a couple of recorded incidents where merchant ships were sunk by U-boats, while under airship escort, the presense of the airships was a deterrent to attack by submarine. Non-rigid airships made ideal MPA assets as they were reasonably fast compared to the submarines they were searching for, they could carry a relatively large warload compared to aeroplanes, they had a much greater range and endurance, they could come to a stop in the air and hover over a particular area and since the Mark 1 Eyeball was the principal sensor aboard, could carry a useful number of people for spotting duties in the larger ships. The US Navy continued using airships throughout WW2. Britain had the capability to build airships, just not the desire; after the R.38 disaster, built for the US Navy as ZR-2, the British military was in no mood for LTA aircraft and lost a useful capability.

    Politics played a part in the lack of effective maritime patrol aircraft. It was originally assumed that the flying boats the RAF operated were sufficient, but in fact they had considerable limitation in terms of capability and numbers and Coastal Command used whatever it could get old of, usually derivatives of heavy bombers, Wellingtons, Whitleys, Halifaxes, Warwicks and eventually Lancasters, which it requested, but Harris refused to allow any to any other command except his own. The use of American aircraft was out of a desire for greater number of assets owing to a short fall in capability, hence the Hudson, then Fortress and Liberator.
     
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  12. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Good info on the Liberator Mk.II here: Liberator II for the RAF/LB-30
     
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