Was Air Power decisive in the two battles of El Alamein?

Wild_Bill_Kelso

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What were the key factors during the first and second battles of El Alamein? Was the stalemate in the first battle and British victory in the second due to Bernard Montgomery reigning in the tank commanders with their dreams of emulating the Light Brigade from the Crimean War? Or was it more the improvements in tactics and kit in the Desert Air Force (the former perhaps largely attributable to Air Marshal Arthur Tedder and some of his other colleagues), or was it down to improved kit for the ground forces like the M3 and M4 medium tanks and other new kit.

Or was it some combination of two or more of these factors. My main focus here is on the relevance of the Desert Air Force vs. the Luftwaffe. My premise is that the Luftwaffe, having dominated the skies for most of mid 1941 through mid 1942 (and contributed greatly to Axis victories in that period), started having some trouble with the British air forces in mid 1942 and that the British had acquired some abilities (through improving kit and tactics) that the Luftwaffe did not have. And that this, in turn, led to the downfall of the Luftwaffe in North Africa and the increasing efficacy of the DAF as a factor in the ground battles, followed swiftly by the demise of the Afrika Korps.
 

Shortround6

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All the cruiser tank designs came with Close Support options, the 3.7 inch howitzer, but doctrine said tanks fight tanks. Despite this the official organisation of an armoured brigade in 1940 had 166 tanks including 18 CS but it does not look like many CS versions made it to the desert.

The CS tanks were issued on a scale of 2 per squadron (assuming they had two available.)
The 3.7 tank howitzer shared only it's bore dimension with the 3.7in pack howitzer. It was a pretty bad weapon all around.
It mostly fired smoke, sources vary on if it could fire HE or not. Apparently could, if HE was issued, which it often was not and if issued was around 10% of the ammo.
So you might have 4-10 HE rounds to support 14-16 tanks.
The muzzle velocity was 620fps, and the max range was about 2,000yds, however with that low a velocity getting a first or 2nd round hit at long range was nearly impossible.
The projectile weight was 10 1/2 pounds and even with a thin shell wall that is not enough explosive or more importantly, smoke compound, to really do the job.

The 3in Howitzer was the replacement used in the Maltidas, Crusaders, NA didn't see any CS Valentines. CS Matildas filled in for Valentine units at times.
3in How was a marginal improvement. Shell weight was up to 13 1/4-13 7/8lbs but max veleocity was only 700fps. sometimes give lower. Apparently more HE was issued. Against the Japanese HE was the dominate round.

Problem was that the support weapon had to pretty much weight what the 2pdr weighed and balance the same so they could use that aim using the shoulder piece arrangement.
Now try to lob even smoke rounds at targets 1800yds away when it took well over 9 seconds for the shell to arrive. Max range and practical range were not the same thing.

Basically the British tankers had the co-ax gun and firing 2pdr solid shot to deal with any and all battle field targets.

Radio use and Artillery support made advancements during this time but I am guessing it was in fits and starts. By the fall of 1944 the British army had the best rapid responce Artillery support network in the world. How long it took to get there is a question.
 

Shortround6

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I think we will find that there were a host of small changes involved and not a few "key" changes.
British got some Bishops into action.
They also got some M7s into action, together not even 20% of the field artillery.
More 6pdrs, The 6pdrs showed up in the spring but as the months went by their numbers increased.
The 4.5in howitzer was being phased out, not many left in the 2nd 1/2 of 1942 but the last didn't disappear until the end of the NA campaign. Maybe the last dozen hung on for months, I don't know.
Perhaps more artillery shells. 2nd Alamein opened with the greatest artillery bombardment seen in the west since WW I.
Not sure if there were more new guns involved or if all the old junk that was used in 1940/41 was finally gone in 1942.
They had about 100 Crusader IIIs at 2nd Alamein in addition to the American tanks. Not decisive but an indication that the average level of equipment was going up in a number of areas.
More AA guns? More 40mm and 3.7 to defend the front areas? maybe only a few batteries.

From Wiki
"Supercharge started with a seven-hour aerial bombardment focused on Tel el Aqqaqir and Sidi Abd el Rahman, followed by a four and a half-hour barrage of 360 guns firing 15,000 shells.[92][better source needed]"
This was on D +10, Nov 2. quibble with the numbers, The British were firing large numbers of shells on the 10th day of the battle.
Trying to sort through which area was responsible for which success in the battle is going to be a long undertaking.
 

Wild_Bill_Kelso

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The CS tanks were issued on a scale of 2 per squadron (assuming they had two available.)
The 3.7 tank howitzer shared only it's bore dimension with the 3.7in pack howitzer. It was a pretty bad weapon all around.
It mostly fired smoke, sources vary on if it could fire HE or not. Apparently could, if HE was issued, which it often was not and if issued was around 10% of the ammo.

You beat me to it. The CS tanks had almost all (or all) smoke ammo. Which didn't work nearly as well in practice as in theory. They also didn't carry a lot of rounds. They were almost useless.

So you might have 4-10 HE rounds to support 14-16 tanks.
The muzzle velocity was 620fps, and the max range was about 2,000yds, however with that low a velocity getting a first or 2nd round hit at long range was nearly impossible.
The projectile weight was 10 1/2 pounds and even with a thin shell wall that is not enough explosive or more importantly, smoke compound, to really do the job.

The 3in Howitzer was the replacement used in the Maltidas, Crusaders, NA didn't see any CS Valentines. CS Matildas filled in for Valentine units at times.
3in How was a marginal improvement. Shell weight was up to 13 1/4-13 7/8lbs but max veleocity was only 700fps. sometimes give lower. Apparently more HE was issued. Against the Japanese HE was the dominate round.

Problem was that the support weapon had to pretty much weight what the 2pdr weighed and balance the same so they could use that aim using the shoulder piece arrangement.
Now try to lob even smoke rounds at targets 1800yds away when it took well over 9 seconds for the shell to arrive. Max range and practical range were not the same thing.

Basically the British tankers had the co-ax gun and firing 2pdr solid shot to deal with any and all battle field targets.

Which is why the 75mm M2 and M3 came in very handy. It wasn't an automatic savior but it gave them a chance. These types also had about twice as much ammnunition for their cannon(s)

Radio use and Artillery support made advancements during this time but I am guessing it was in fits and starts. By the fall of 1944 the British army had the best rapid responce Artillery support network in the world. How long it took to get there is a question.

How long it takes depends on a lot of factors, like are the artillery guns specifically targeted for that particular sector, do they have target reference points already, does the spotter who actually sees the target have authority to call artillery to that spot (or does somebody have to approve it)

But realistically probably anywhere from a minute to 3 or 4 minutes at least in 1942.
 

Wild_Bill_Kelso

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I think we will find that there were a host of small changes involved and not a few "key" changes.

I kind of agree with this, especially on the ground side, but I think it's a mix - some "key" changes and a lot of incremental ones. I don't discount the myriad of small improvements the British were making to command and control, coordination, tactics as well as improved kit, (and this includes the removal or combat death of some bad leaders) but I think the new medium tanks were a big jolt and the new aircraft and new DAF tactics were even bigger. I'll cover that in another post.

British got some Bishops into action.
Nice because mobile, but they still have 25 pounder, which is similar to a longer ranged 81mm mortar, rather than the 105.

They also got some M7s into action, together not even 20% of the field artillery.

Just a few M7s but I think these made a significant difference. More likely to cause casualties with each strike (if relatively accurate).

More 6pdrs, The 6pdrs showed up in the spring but as the months went by their numbers increased.

Effective AT guns - hard hitting, flat trajectory and small targets. Pretty easy to hide. But useful for the most part on defense, not on attack. Attack and defense are very different animals in the Western Desert.

The 4.5in howitzer was being phased out, not many left in the 2nd 1/2 of 1942 but the last didn't disappear until the end of the NA campaign. Maybe the last dozen hung on for months, I don't know.
Perhaps more artillery shells. 2nd Alamein opened with the greatest artillery bombardment seen in the west since WW I.
Not sure if there were more new guns involved or if all the old junk that was used in 1940/41 was finally gone in 1942.
They had about 100 Crusader IIIs at 2nd Alamein in addition to the American tanks. Not decisive but an indication that the average level of equipment was going up in a number of areas.
More AA guns? More 40mm and 3.7 to defend the front areas? maybe only a few batteries.

From Wiki
"Supercharge started with a seven-hour aerial bombardment focused on Tel el Aqqaqir and Sidi Abd el Rahman, followed by a four and a half-hour barrage of 360 guns firing 15,000 shells.[92][better source needed]"
This was on D +10, Nov 2. quibble with the numbers, The British were firing large numbers of shells on the 10th day of the battle.
Trying to sort through which area was responsible for which success in the battle is going to be a long undertaking.

The Crusader III was certainly a big improvement over the Mk I / Cruiser Mk IV. about 10mm more frontal armor and .. get this, some had an extra machine gun. But most importantly a 6 pounder gun rather than the 2 pounder, making it a fairly good tank destroyer. They got into action by Second Alamein but not the first.
 

Shortround6

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How long it takes depends on a lot of factors, like are the artillery guns specifically targeted for that particular sector, do they have target reference points already, does the spotter who actually sees the target have authority to call artillery to that spot (or does somebody have to approve it)
You have hit some of the key points. A late 1944 Infantry division had almost 1000 radios, a 1939/40 division had around 40.
The 1944 forward observer had authority to call for every tube within range (even neighboring divisions) but he had to answer for his decision later.
Later war artillery units were sending up metrological balloons twice a day to update the firing data.

I would note that the 5.5in guns first showed up in the Western Desert in May of 1942, how fast they filled in I don't know.
Again a small creeping change in ability rather than a big jump.
 

Wild_Bill_Kelso

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Well I've already described what I think is the single biggest "big jump" with the ground forces - the M3 and M4 medium tanks with their ability to engage at least the small and medium caliber German AT guns at range, rather than needing to get within a few hundred meters. I think that is big.

You made a good point about the Crusader III as well because that confers a pretty lethal anti-tank capability. A six pounder can kill just about any German tank in the region in 1942 and has quite a flat trajectory, making it pretty accurate. Crusader III is still pretty vulnerable to AT guns or tanks but if used cleverly, they could be quite an asset (similar to the later M10 or M18).

One problem the US tanks had was poor optics. Before the war they were buying their lenses from the Germans, so they had to scramble to replace their gun sights. The ones they had in 1942 weren't so good. So this limited their effective range a bit more. They relied on good binoculars quite a bit for a while to site enemy AFVs and guns (requiring somebody to have their head out of the hatch).

The other biggest change on the ground I already covered - the 105 mm howitzer I think has a much better chance to knock out soft targets, over a wider area etc. The other issue about calling in artillery is that you often have to do it several times before you actually knock out an enemy battery. That is the difference with the 105, maybe you call them in 2-3 times instead of 5-6 before you get the job done (if the observer(s) last that long).

Aside from the radios all armies were still using hard communication lines with field phones. We still had those in the 80s (some rednecks in our unit figured out the winders on them made them pretty good for fishing as they generate a fair amount of electricity).

A tank with a radio makes a good observer / spotter partly because they are basically immune to machine gun fire and can retreat away from most artillery before being knocked out. The German machine guns outranged the allied (except for M2) and that was another problem for the tankers, making them have to button up a lot.

But sometimes the best forward observers are well-hidden infantry guys with a com wire. They can be a lot harder to spot. The tank is easier to spot and can be quickly victimized by an AT gun or another tank, sometimes mid sentence while trying to call in artillery. The infantry FO is relying on stealth, basically, especially in a desert area. Com wire can also be cut by artillery of course.

One other point - there are indeed a lot of incremental changes that have to be made with increasing and improved communication kit. If you go from 40 to 1,000 radios in a Division, you are quickly going to have a cacophony unless you very carefully organized your HQ into different units which can filter the communication and direct fire (and air strike) missions accordingly. Sometimes this meant using different bands or (especially with the air strikes) entirely different radios. I know the Americans were particularly good at this type of organization, McCaullife manage to very quickly organize the artillery of half a dozen smashed divisions into one vast artillery park at Bastogne, with spotters cunningly distributed around good (but not too obvious) OPs.

I wasn't aware the British were so good at this but it makes sense. It's the type of organization they used during the BoB, essentially... except in fox holes, armored vehicles and tents instead of big palatial buildings or cellars. One of the things they apparently did in 1942 was use the M3 tanks (sometimes with the gun removed) as mobile command posts with extra radios, as they were so big and roomy (the original M3 medium had a crew of 7, and that is with the big main gun).


But i do think all of this pales compared to the air forces, which I'll address in another post.
 

Shortround6

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German machine guns outranged the allied (except for M2) and that was another problem for the tankers, making them have to button up a lot.
And here was a difference in sights.
The British tanks used 7.9mm X 57mm ammo, the same as the Germans, not .303 ammo.
And yet the German tanks could shoot to 1200 meters or more. (sights may have gone higher).
The German sights had graduations for the different ranges and it had geared elevation (on the co-ax gun) so the gunner could fire a burst and the commander could call corrections, like up 200 and the gunner could simple bring the correct aiming mark to the target or use the elevation wheel move the sight in relation to the gun.
British gunner basically had cross hairs and had to guess how high to hold over to get 200 yds. and fire another bursts while trying to hold his shoulder steady against the shoulder piece.
The US had two types of ammo. M1 Ball (and some other equivalent stuff) and M2 ball. Ultimate range for the M1 was almost 2000yds further than the M2, practical difference was several hundred meters. I don't know what the differences were in the scopes.
 

Shortround6

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The other biggest change on the ground I already covered - the 105 mm howitzer I think has a much better chance to knock out soft targets, over a wider area etc.
I am not sure the British got many (or any) towed 105mm Howitzers. Could be wrong.
They did get the M-7s but I don't know how much of the artillery park that made up.
There is no doubt the 25pdr was behind the curve in regards to it's HE performance regardless of what other attributes it had. It could outrange the 105mm but just barely.
The 5.5in was replacing both the 6in Howitzer and the 6in Field gun so things may have been getting more efficient even if the number of tubes wasn't changing much.
The two old weapons only had 8 degrees of traverse and so had limited fields of fire without digging out the recoil spade and repositioning the entire gun in the gun pit.
The 6 in Howitzer also only had 11,400yds of range.
 

Wild_Bill_Kelso

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Ok for AIR POWER, just a quick summary or teaser which I'll try to flesh out later. I'll mark these per my opinion / guess as (I) (incremental) or (K) key changes:

Early 1942 Martin 187 Baltimore shows up. Initially used in solo strike missions and got decimated. By March 1942 they shifted to using these at medium altitude against operational targets (with escorts), this type ended up having the lowest loss rate of the Theater. Still a light bomber but about double the payload of a Maryland (effectively 1,000 lbs for Maryland, 2,000 for Baltimore) and twice the range of an early Boston, much faster and better defended than a Blenheim. (I) This gives long (or medium / operational) range strike capability to British.
Feb 1942 Beaufighters start making strikes on shipping in Med (I)
March - April 1942 Hurricane fighter bombers start carrying up to two 250 lb bombs, Kittyhawks carrying one 500 lb or 1,000 lb plus two 250 lb bomb, or three 500 lb bombs (later up to three 1,000 lb bombs for very short trips). (I)
Around April-May 1942 DAF approved increased boost on their Kittyhawks from 45" Hg to ~60" Hg. This meant at lower altitudes where they usually flew (6-10,000 ft), they had potentially a lot more (300 hp+) power, enabling them to disengage successfully much more often, and conferring an advantage if the Luftwaffe stuck around to fight such as to attack bombers. They also spread an innovation of Clive Caldwell's to start training for gunnery by shooting at aircraft shadows, which seems to have helped. (I)
June 1942 Bombers started being escorted consistently, with low and high cover. This included fighter bombers. Improved radios for fighters (I think they went from VF to HF?). (I)
July 1942 Kittyhawk III (mostly P-40K type with some P-40M) arrive, with improved capability (K much faster down low, up to 1500+ HP, M with higher critical altitude of about 17k' rather than 12k for De and E type). (I)

July to August 1942 - Tedder arrives. Big changes are made. Biggest is for fighter units going from Vic to Figure Four formations with wingmen. They had been doing this in the BoB but for whatever reason this hadn't been employed in North Africa. This is a big change! They also develop tactic of turning into attacks from above as a squadron, with greatly improved discipline another very important change. (K)
Improved coordination of 8th Army with fighter bombers including HF radios with Forward Observers vastly improving effectiveness of tactical air strikes (K)

Begin concentrating on attacking Axis Airfields, mainly using Baltimore and Boston bombers and Kittyhawk fighter-bombers. This did more than anything to reduce Axis fighter and bomber strength. (K)

Improved Fighters: July 1942 first P-40F units arrive (Squadrons of US 57th FG flying with 211 Group DAF, P-40F as "Kittyhawk II" with 250 RAF). These were used largely as high cover escort on strike missions as they could engage Bf 109 or MC 202 at 20,000 feet, about 5-8,000 feet higher than the earlier Kittyhawks. The Germans thought these were P-43s or P-60s. July 1942 first Spitfire MK V arrive with 92, 145, 601 Sqn RAF. These can engage the German & Italian fighters at 20,000 ft. These were mainly used as cover over the battlefield and defense of Allied air bases from Axis attack. (I) (put together with the P-40Fs I'd call this (K))

July 1942 first of four squadrons of B-25C (81st, 982nd, 83d and 434th) become operational. Long range ("operational") air strikes - Allied air strikes are reaching as far as Benghazi and Axis unable to stop. (significant, but maybe we still call this an I)
I think some B-17s were available somewhere by this time but couldn't track that down yet.

First battle of El Alamein (July 1-27 1942)

June - August 1942 Beaufort bombers flying from Malta sink 7 Axis supply ships totalling 42,000 tons (I)
Sept 1942 - Coastal Command and RAF Wellington, B-25 and Beaufort bombers and Beaufighter strafers hitting more Axis maritime vessels (couldn't find exact tonnage). (I)
October 1942 57th FG fully operational as a Group, with P-40F/L, (I)

Allied aircraft: ~336 fighters including 128 Hurricanes, ~50 Spitfires, 75P-40F, ~120 older P-40 types. Not all serviceable but most were. I think about 300 bombers of various types.
Axis aircraft: ~300 fighters, 97 Bf 109F-4, 12 E-7and 46 BF 110 mostly in Crete, ~80 x Ju 87, ~60 x Ju 88. <<Not all serviceable>>. 420 Italian aircraft, including about 210 MC 202, 50 MC 200, 150 x CR 42 fighter bombers + 20 Z1007 and 40 SM 79 and a few other miscellaneous << Definitely not all serviceable... actual numbers maybe 40% of this >>

Second Battle of El Alamein (Oct 23 - Nov 11 1942)

Prior to El Alamein, German vs. Allied air battles had been heavily skewed in favor of the Germans, sometimes as much as 5-1.
During Oct 1942 the Axis lost 62 aircraft shot down plus 19 more crash landed (81 aircraft total). This included 34 Bf 109s, 10 MC 202, and 13 Ju 87.
During Oct 1942 the Allies lost 73 aircraft shot down plus 17 crash landed (91 aircraft total). Included 67 fighters- 31 older P-40s 17 Hurricanes, 12 Spitfires and 15 P-40Fs, but only 5 bombers (4 Bostons and 1 B-25).

November 1942 (Operation Torch) (K)

(B-17s arrive, 33 FG arrives with P-40F, first of three P-38 FGs arrive, two US Spitfire FG arrive etc.)

Summary -
In air to air combat, Allies go from being heavily beaten up in air combat to near parity. Combination of new kit and new tactics are key factors, plus many incremental.
Axis losing too many aircraft and pilots in Air Combat at this point. (JG 27 is pulled out in December 1942, replaced by JG 77 and elements of JG 53).
Allies can bomb Axis operational targets from airfields, supply dumps, staging areas, supply convoys, and merchant ships as far away as Benghazi, for little cost.
Allied fighter bombers and bombers are increasingly effective on the tactical / battlefield zone as well (precisely how effective is something we can dig into).
Axis are losing aircraft heavily in strikes against their air bases.
Allies are now protecting their bombers quite well and bomber losses are pretty low, though fighter bombers are being hit a lot.

Axis are not able to use bombers as effectively, though their bomber losses are still arguably sustainable. They are mostly using the Stukas for tactical strikes so short range.
Allied fighter bombers are not as accurate as stukas (maybe half? a third?) but there are more of them and they are hitting tactical targets much more often than the old light bombers (Blenheim etc.) ever did, which is new because British bombers were fairly ineffective in tactical strikes in 1941 and early 1942. Axis commanders complained about the DAF fighter bombers as a problem increasingly from mid 1942 (again something we can get into later).

It's also worth noting that the Americans, despite some of their pilots having learned the valuable lessons from the British in 1942, did not incorporate all these tactical and organizational changes after Torch and suffered badly from Axis air attacks in Feb 1943, while their own CAS was notably lacking in efficacy. They did adjust pretty quickly after this sharp setback, but it shows the lethality of institutional inertia.
 
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Wild_Bill_Kelso

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I am not sure the British got many (or any) towed 105mm Howitzers. Could be wrong.
They did get the M-7s but I don't know how much of the artillery park that made up.
There is no doubt the 25pdr was behind the curve in regards to it's HE performance regardless of what other attributes it had. It could outrange the 105mm but just barely.
The 5.5in was replacing both the 6in Howitzer and the 6in Field gun so things may have been getting more efficient even if the number of tubes wasn't changing much.
The two old weapons only had 8 degrees of traverse and so had limited fields of fire without digging out the recoil spade and repositioning the entire gun in the gun pit.
The 6 in Howitzer also only had 11,400yds of range.

The big guns (US 155 came a bit later i guess? had a range of 14,000 meters in that era though it improved I think over time) had a lot of impact if they hit, but they tended to have less ammunition, shot smaller salvoes (in terms of number of shells fired) and take longer to respond. I think they were organized like at division or corps levels. The M7 were designed for rapid shoot and scoot and shoot again, and may be available with less authority so to speak.

With artillery it's helpful to shoot a lot of rounds, IMO, though certainly heavy artillery has it's own special merits. Probably the most casualties are actually from the mortars though that is at shorter ranges usually.
 

EwenS

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By Second El Alamein 93 M7 Priests had been delivered to Egypt.

The first 24 were issued to 11th (Honourable Artillery Company) Royal Horse Artillery, part of 1st Armoured Division. One battery was provided to each of the three armoured regiments in 2nd Armoured Brigade at the start of the Battle. The only criticism was “the round was heavy to handle and the smoke poor”.

The next regiment to equip with them did so in Jan 1943 followed by 165th Field Regiment. Other units converted from March 1943 and all went on to serve in Italy.

As for the Bishop 25pdr SPG, it’s origins were in June 1941 as a “rush job”. It is believed all were shipped to NA eventually. Orders placed as follows:-
Nov 1941 - 100 (80 built by July 1942)
June 1942 - 50

It proved less than ideal as the gun had limited traverse and elevation so limiting its range. Space also limited ammo capacity to 32 rounds so it towed a limber with another 32. Initial deliveries to NA went to 121st Field Regiment supporting the Valentine equipped 23rd Armoured Brigade with 2 batteries (16 vehicles) equipped by Second El Alamein. It continued to be used through the NA campaign into Sicily and maybe even the early days of the Italian campaign.

AFAIK Britain never took towed 105mm. While the Priest remained in service in Italy to the end of the war, it was withdrawn from units in Normandy as soon as the Sexton was available in sufficient quantity.
 

EwenS

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The first Beaufighters arrived in the Med in May 1941. 272 flew to Egypt and settled at Idku where it started by flying fighter cover for the evacuation of Crete. Then onto intruder mission, and cover for other anti shipping squadrons.

A detachment of 15 aircraft from 252 Beaufighter squadron flew to Malta in May 1941 moving to Egypt in June.
 

Wild_Bill_Kelso

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True for this battle, and most other land battles I've read up on.

Well lets put it this way, in broad strokes:

Axis Air power, especially Luftwaffe but also sometimes RA, was having a field day dealing brutal losses to British fighters (with a few exceptions) from late Spring 1941 up to about mid 1942, while taking relatively few losses themselves (again with a few exceptions).
After mid 1942, losses in air to air combat were much closer to parity. This led to the swift demise of the premier Axis FG, J.G. 27 (including the loss of about half of their vaunted 'experten', mostly in mid - late 1942)
Axis used to have air superiority over the battlefield up to mid 1942 - from that point on it was at least contested, sometimes arguably won by Allies.
Allies had little realistic longer range / operational bombing capability until maybe late spring of 1942. After that they started hitting Axis ships and supplies for sure (verifiable).
Allies had basically marginal tactical strike capability in 1941 (think Blenheims level bombing from 5,000 ft, and Lysanders doing CAS), which gradually improved. By mid 1942 they had large numbers of fighter bombers (carrying ~ 1,500 bomb loads) and light bombers which were hitting targets on the battlefield. In other words, they went from almost nothing to 'something'.
Axis air bases had been relatively safe for the whole war, by late Spring 1942 British strikes start destroying large numbers of Axis aircraft of all types. By fall 1942 this was becoming a major issue (10-20 planes destroyed in a single strike wasn't unusual).

Luftwaffe went from having a decisive role in land battles (as reported by ground forces on both sides), and British air forces very little, to basically the reverse.

So on that basis alone, I'd say clearly, air forces were playing a major role in the shift of momentum toward the Allies.

Getting into the weeds which I'll try to do later, consists of things like did Allied aircraft take out any 88mm AA / AT guns at Second El Alamein. I know several air units, including at least one American one, were specifically tasked with doing this and thought they had done so. It will be worth finding out from the Axis side if they actually did... and how significant it was. If you destroy 2 guns out of a 6 gun battery, maybe that really doesn't make any real difference. But if you get 4 of them, or force the whole battery to be abandoned, maybe it does. Maybe not if there is another better camoflaged battery nearby that you missed.
 

Thumpalumpacus

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So on that basis alone, I'd say clearly, air forces were playing a major role in the shift of momentum toward the Allies.

Of course! I wasn't arguing against that, but simply pointing out that other factors were involved as well: Monty taking over and demanding both drive and accountability, British deception in where the offensive would land, the provision of 300 Shermans and 100 M7s, the German shortfall in supply, and other factors as well.

(Recollect Rommel's plans in Normandy almost two years later; that shows what a deep impression airpower made on him in the desert).

So with that in mind, was airpower the decisive change? Not really convinced, I think it was more a combination of factors -- of which the application of airpower was an important one. The equation is multivariate.
 

Wild_Bill_Kelso

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Some of that goes down to context. If you look at key victories by the Germans in 1940- early 42, including the Western Desert, once you get into the weeds quite often it turns out key moments hinged on Stuka strikes blowing holes in the lines of their enemies.

This was swiftly going on away by the time of second El Alamein.

Then there is the issue of Axis supplies, which we know were definitely being affected.

After that there are the details of the tactical impact of Allied bombing, which we can plunge into, I think there are some answers there.
 
Hi,

I wrote my Honours thesis on the Axis air force in the lead-up to the Second Battle of El Alamein, and thought it might be of relevance to this thread. Have attached it to this post. Contents are as follows:

Introduction
Chapter 1: Malta and the Supply War 13
Chapter 2: Technology, Personnel and Tactics 27
Chapter 3: Higher Level Leadership Issues – Priorities and Cooperation 47
Chapter 4: Intelligence and Special Forces 58

Cheers,
Andrew A.
 

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  • Andrew Arthy - Axis Air Forces in the lead-up to the Battle of El Alamein.pdf
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Shortround6

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Central Florida Highlands
March - April 1942 Hurricane fighter bombers start carrying up to two 250 lb bombs, Kittyhawks carrying one 500 lb or 1,000 lb plus two 250 lb bomb, or three 500 lb bombs (later up to three 1,000 lb bombs for very short trips). (I)
These would all be Kittyhawk/P-40Es
The first P-40K was delivered in May of 1942.
600 P-40K-1s delivered May though August 1942.
200 P-40K-5s delivered Sept 1942.
335 P-40K-10s delivered Sept though November 1942, first long fuselage Ks.
165 P-40K-15s delivered in Nov 1942.
This is "delivered" at the Curtiss factory in Buffalo NY.
The K's were rated at 1500lb bomb load.
This meant at lower altitudes where they usually flew (6-10,000 ft), they had potentially a lot more (300 hp+) power,
The extra power varies with altitude and around 10,000ft the extra power was closer to 100hp. The 300hp was a lot closer to 6,000ft.
July 1942 Kittyhawk III (mostly P-40K type with some P-40M) arrive, with improved capability (K much faster down low, up to 1500+ HP, M with higher critical altitude of about 17k' rather than 12k for De and E type)
The P-40Ms( with the Higher altitude engine) was first delivered on On Nov 25th 1942. Too late for 2nd El Alamein. Production lasted until Feb 13th 1943. Of the 600 built 595 went to the British Commonwealth, Russia and Brazil. Some were passed back to the US in India to the South Pacific area.
The Ks had the same critical altitude as the P-40E unless repowered with a later engine.
Bomb loads are all over the place. Designed load was 500lbs under the fuselage and a 250lb under each wing. Designed load is not the same as later approved or as used in squadrons. However "book" figures for range were 810 miles clean, 350 miles with a single 500lb bomb and 1600 miles max for ferry. Speeds and fuel not given so it is not worth much.
The P-40Ls with Merlins replaced the P-40Fs on the production line starting on Jan 4th 1943.
The 57th fighter group with P-40Fs scored it's 20th victory in early November 1942.
 

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