Was Operation Pedestal a greater Axis air attack than any faced by the USN in 1942? (1 Viewer)

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The question is if any other fighter of the time, in similar conditions , have done any better? Or perhaps much better?

Having now looked thoroughly through the operational history of the Ki-43 in Burma and India, I think the answer to that question is clearly a resounding yes., The P-40 units did much better than the Hurricane units.
 
Would you include proper tactics in that category of 'similar conditions'? If we're judging the two machines in that time and space it really seems the P-40 was used properly (more often, at least) vs. the Ki43 than the Hurricane was.
 
Would you include proper tactics in that category of 'similar conditions'? If we're judging the two machines in that time and space it really seems the P-40 was used properly (more often, at least) vs. the Ki43 than the Hurricane was.

I guess that is possible, but we aren't talking just 1942 here. The P-40 was in action until late 1944 and early 1945 in that Theater. The Hurricane was being used well into 1945.

By late 1944 the Japanese air forces are fading a bit for sure, thanks largely to P-51s and Spitfire Mk VIIIs, and P-40s. But that is the better part of three years, operating in almost exactly the same environment, against exactly the same units. I think the RAF had figured out the hit and run tactics, in fact I read a perfect description of it by a Spitfire Mk VIII pilot in 1944.

It may have taken a while to adapt but I think they eventually did, probably in 1942. I suspect the real problem was that the Hurricane was just not well adapted to the hit and run role, due to some characteristics of the aircraft.

In spite of heavy losses, they kept them in the breach almost to the very end, and i think that decision cost a lot of lives. It was already coming up as an issue in early 1943, probably long before that. But some commanders didn't want to switch them out for reasons that are still not clear to me.
 
It may have taken a while to adapt but I think they eventually did, probably in 1942. I suspect the real problem was that the Hurricane was just not well adapted to the hit and run role, due to some characteristics of the aircraft.

See page 88 of Shores' Bloody Shambles volume 3. They're well into 1943 and it seems like the 'boom and zoom' tactics proposed by Paul Richey aren't received too well by the higher ups.

My feeling is that because the Hurricane was a very good 'turn-fighter' against most fighters, there was some stubbornness in letting go of that approach. The P-40 had no hope in this regard, so they were forced to adopt proper tactics right away.

At least by the same time next year (with Spitfires, as you say) things are in writing:

TACTICAL BULLETIN NO. 34
SPITFIRES IN THE ARAKAN (DEC. 1943 / MAR. 1944)
...
Perhaps the most notable feature of the Fighter v. Fighter operation is the reversal of Tactics in this theatre as opposed to the Western War, where our fighter squadrons used their superior manoeuvrability to tactical advantage.
The lesson is obvious. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DOG FIGHT THE JAP. Keep your speed and use the superior dive and climb of the Spitfire then the Jap fighters cannot use their manoeuvrability.

...

Emphasis in original.
 
Having now looked thoroughly through the operational history of the Ki-43 in Burma and India, I think the answer to that question is clearly a resounding yes., The P-40 units did much better than the Hurricane units.

Would you include proper tactics in that category of 'similar conditions'? If we're judging the two machines in that time and space it really seems the P-40 was used properly (more often, at least) vs. the Ki43 than the Hurricane was.
I have not read the operational histories so I am not making a judgement either way. I was trying to read on Osprey book on Hurricane aces but it is near useless. It might be 100% accurate, but mostly it just says which pilots shot down what and when. Not much how or why as far has how the planes got into the positions for deciding bursts. Like which formation started higher or other advantages or disadvantages, I am not saying never, but not often enough to draw any conclusions.

As far as both the P-40 and Hurricane go, there were several versions of each from early 1942 to 1944/45 and they may or may not have operated the same. The Hurricane was slower, it dived slower so it can not use the P-40 dive away from trouble as well. Books on victories don't often give accounts of get aways ;)
The Hurricanes may very well have flown in the same time and space. I have no idea if they were flying the same missions. British tactical air in Normandy is a classic example. They had more Typhoons than Spitfires. Over a several month period the Typhoons claimed 2 (yes 2) air to air victories, The smaller Spitfire contingent claimed several score of German aircraft.
Perhaps the Spitfires were flying top cover for the Typhoons? The Typhoons carried a much larger war load than the Spitfires so maybe it made made sense. Flying from the same airfields (or next door) in same area at the same time for the same parent organization but very different combat results.

At what point did Hurricane II's with bomb racks show up? When did the IIC's with 20mm guns show up? In spite of the .50 cal Mafia ( ;) ) 20mm guns are better for barge busting than .50 cal guns. Where the Hurricanes using 250lb bombs or 500lb bombs, when did they get rockets, One or two squadrons got 40mm guns (and one one .303 in each wing so they were in no hurry to get into air to air tussles. P-40 war load changed considerably by the end of the war. Problem is that both planes changed the ground attack capabilities during the war/campaign and that may have a made a difference in combat mission assignments during different periods.
Hurricanes can use a much shorter airfield than a P-40. Maybe they always shared airfields, I don't know but there could be legitimate reasons why some commanders wanted Hurricanes over P-40s, assuming they actually had a choice. Aircraft deliveries in China/Burma area was rather sketchy in 1942/43, What was initial requested was often not what showed up. The First 600 P-40Ks were ordered Oct 1941 for China (pre Pearl Harbor), China did not get any P-40Ks until June of 1943 and then only a few. At least one P-40K-5 wasn't handed over to China until Dec 28th 1945.
 
See page 88 of Shores' Bloody Shambles volume 3. They're well into 1943 and it seems like the 'boom and zoom' tactics proposed by Paul Richey aren't received too well by the higher ups.

Well maybe it is a bit more complex issue than it seems, and you are making a fair point here, but I'm still not convinced. It may be looking into a bit further though. Maybe another new thread is a good idea.

So the thing is I remember that there was a debate in late 1941 and early 1942 between RAF and AVG pilots in Rangoon over this issue. "Boom and Zoom" was already policy with the AVG, though individual pilots were unevenly sold on it at first. Some of them were explaining it to RAF Buffalo and I think Hurricane pilots during carouses around town, and RAF leadership got wind of this and published a warning that anyone seen "fleeing combat" would be subject to courts martial.

But at that time, this policy of denial of the tactic evaporated within weeks as everyone saw the uneven outcomes between AVG and RAF units vs the JAAF, and this would be like December 1941 and January 1942. At least some British pilots seem to be using the tactic by then.

It is possible of course that the tactic was unevenly adapted, and that might be worth exploring.

My feeling is that because the Hurricane was a very good 'turn-fighter' against most fighters, there was some stubbornness in letting go of that approach. The P-40 had no hope in this regard,

I'm curious what makes you think that. P-40s were probably the best turning (active) US fighter, and were definitely thought of as 'turn fighters'. In fact several pilots noted that P-40s could out turn A6Ms at higher speeds. They routinely out-turned Bf 109s and MC 202s as a standard tactic in the Middle East.

so they were forced to adopt proper tactics right away.

I think actually that the leadership, including Claire Chennault but also the commanders of some other units like 49th FG, saw the need to use this strategy early on, and ordered their men to adopt it. Use of the tactic was unevenly applied at first, which cost some pilots their lives. Then they learned to adhere to it. At least initially.

But that is one of the other problems I have with this idea of yours. It's clear from the numerous P-40 pilot accounts that they were not strictly following "Boom and Zoom" tactics, they were turning with the Japanese fighters, they were just keeping their speed up and using escape maneuver + high speed dive if and when things started to "go south".

Sticking really strictly to hit and run tactics can result in (for example) inability to protect friendly bombers under escort, or inability to fight past close cover for enemy bombers, both being problems that the Luftwaffe experienced in North Africa.

At least by the same time next year (with Spitfires, as you say) things are in writing:

TACTICAL BULLETIN NO. 34
SPITFIRES IN THE ARAKAN (DEC. 1943 / MAR. 1944)
...
Perhaps the most notable feature of the Fighter v. Fighter operation is the reversal of Tactics in this theatre as opposed to the Western War, where our fighter squadrons used their superior manoeuvrability to tactical advantage.
The lesson is obvious. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DOG FIGHT THE JAP. Keep your speed and use the superior dive and climb of the Spitfire then the Jap fighters cannot use their manoeuvrability.

...

Emphasis in original.

Yes but this may be just a reminder to new pilots, or to new units transferring in from other Theaters. It was a lesson that Clive Caldwell had to learn over Darwin for example.

But with other units that were fighting for years in Burma and India, with the exception of maybe the Mohawk units which could apparently out turn or at least turn with Ki-43s, they would know all about the strategy and it's hard for me to imagine pilots or squadron leaders refusing to dive away and come back when turn fights start to slow down. For example 136 Sqn RAF was active in India from March 1942 and were fighting in Burma, with Hurricanes, from December 1942 - November 1943 when they were pulled out to convert to Spitfire Mk Vs. They later got Spitfire Mk VIII in Jan 1944. I'd have to double check Shores but there were multiple Hurricane squadrons active all through 1943. It seems wildly unlikely that, considering US fighter units were also operating out of the same area, they never learned hit and run tactics, given that their lives depended on it.

In fact in reading numerous accounts of these battles, I do see Hurricane pilots talking about "diving away". Now I'm going to go back and look for specific references to a "hit and run" tactic.

One final issue with this theory is that, within the AVG, former AVG / 23rd Fighter Group, and the 51st FG and later on, the 80th, they all had multiple aircraft types engaged with the enemy. The 23rd FG had P-40s, P-43 Lancers, P-66 Vanguards, P-51A, P-38F/G/H, and later on, P-51B, C and D. 51st FG had the P-51A and P-38s IIRC, 80th FG just had the P-40s and later P-51s.

Only the Merlin P-51s and the P-40s had consistently good outcomes against the Ki-43, Ki-44 and other Japanese fighters in China / Burma / India. The P-51A, the P-43, P-66, and even the P-38s in this Theater did not do as well... in spite of the fact that they clearly did use the Hit and Run tactic and it was USAAF policy.
 
I have not read the operational histories so I am not making a judgement either way. I was trying to read on Osprey book on Hurricane aces but it is near useless. It might be 100% accurate, but mostly it just says which pilots shot down what and when. Not much how or why as far has how the planes got into the positions for deciding bursts. Like which formation started higher or other advantages or disadvantages, I am not saying never, but not often enough to draw any conclusions.

As far as both the P-40 and Hurricane go, there were several versions of each from early 1942 to 1944/45 and they may or may not have operated the same. The Hurricane was slower, it dived slower so it can not use the P-40 dive away from trouble as well. Books on victories don't often give accounts of get aways ;)
The Hurricanes may very well have flown in the same time and space. I have no idea if they were flying the same missions. British tactical air in Normandy is a classic example. They had more Typhoons than Spitfires. Over a several month period the Typhoons claimed 2 (yes 2) air to air victories, The smaller Spitfire contingent claimed several score of German aircraft.

Interesting analogy, but the answer is - they definitely were flying the same missions. They may not have been sharing the same exact airfields. Same general region but under different commands, it wasn't like the Desert Air Force where they were all mixed together in a single force under a unified Allied command.

If you go through the thread on the Ki-43, almost all of the combats reported in that particular book, and the vast majority of the ones I've read so far in Shores "Bloody Shambles", are of the same variety of types:

1) Escorting friendly bombers, for the Hurricanes that would mean initially, Blenheims. Later Vengeance dive bombers and Liberators.
2) Intercepting enemy bombers, usually Ki-21, Ki-48, or Ki-49 escorted by Ki-43s
3) Fighter sweeps
4) Intecepting reconnaissance planes
5) Strafing attacks

And some fighter bomber attacks too, but these seem to have been fairly rare at least in the accounts I've read so far (partly because the Ki-43 history focuses on air combat). But clearly many RAF units were flying the same 1) escort and 2) patrol / interception missions routinely, as in every few days, just like the US P-40 units were.

Hurricanes can use a much shorter airfield than a P-40. Maybe they always shared airfields, I don't know but there could be legitimate reasons why some commanders wanted Hurricanes over P-40s, assuming they actually had a choice.

There could definitely be reasons, I'd love to know what they were though.

Aircraft deliveries in China/Burma area was rather sketchy in 1942/43, What was initial requested was often not what showed up. The First 600 P-40Ks were ordered Oct 1941 for China (pre Pearl Harbor), China did not get any P-40Ks until June of 1943 and then only a few. At least one P-40K-5 wasn't handed over to China until Dec 28th 1945.

Aside from P-40Es already there, P-40Ks were as well certainly in 1943, lot of P-40Ns were in the Theater by that point as well.
 
I'm curious what makes you think that. P-40s were probably the best turning (active) US fighter, and were definitely thought of as 'turn fighters'. In fact several pilots noted that P-40s could out turn A6Ms at higher speeds. They routinely out-turned Bf 109s and MC 202s as a standard tactic in the Middle East.

Plenty of anecdotes on this, but I find the report from the Air Corps Material Division succinct:

P-40E vs. Hurricane:
The Hurricane can easily turn inside the P-40E and was able to continue turning after the P-40E had stalled. With the P-40E on the tail of the Hurricane it was possible for the Hurricane to tighten the circle and within 720° be in shooting position again. The P-40E squashes on turns, whereas the Hurricane does not.

This would have been the Hurricane II that was sent over to the US.

Full report over at: http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/P-40/PHQ-M-19-1307-A.pdf

**EDIT: I think I misunderstood your response. When I said 'no hope' I meant against the Ki-43. Whereas the Hurricanes -- being markedly better in this regard overall (though not vs. Japanese types) -- hung on to this method of fighting far too long.
 
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One final issue with this theory is that, within the AVG, former AVG / 23rd Fighter Group, and the 51st FG and later on, the 80th, they all had multiple aircraft types engaged with the enemy. The 23rd FG had P-40s, P-43 Lancers, P-66 Vanguards, P-51A, P-38F/G/H, and later on, P-51B, C and D. 51st FG had the P-51A and P-38s IIRC, 80th FG just had the P-40s and later P-51s.

Only the Merlin P-51s and the P-40s had consistently good outcomes against the Ki-43, Ki-44 and other Japanese fighters in China / Burma / India. The P-51A, the P-43, P-66, and even the P-38s in this Theater did not do as well... in spite of the fact that they clearly did use the Hit and Run tactic and it was USAAF policy.

How many air combats were there involving US-flown P-43s and P-66s? The P-43 was withdrawn from combat roles in Oct 1942. The only unit I can find that flew the P-66 was the 74th Fighter Squadron but accounts are suitably vague about its operational employment (if there was any of note). Given that neither the P-43 nor the P-66 had armour plate or self-sealing fuel tanks, I'd be surprised if either type was used by the USAAF for anything other than training or as hacks. From what I can see, only the CAF flew the P-43 and P-66 operationally.
 
How many air combats were there involving US-flown P-43s and P-66s? The P-43 was withdrawn from combat roles in Oct 1942. The only unit I can find that flew the P-66 was the 74th Fighter Squadron but accounts are suitably vague about its operational employment (if there was any of note). Given that neither the P-43 nor the P-66 had armour plate or self-sealing fuel tanks, I'd be surprised if either type was used by the USAAF for anything other than training or as hacks. From what I can see, only the CAF flew the P-43 and P-66 operationally.
A handful of P-43s were used for recon, as their turbocharger gave them excellent high altitude performance to avoid interception.
 
A handful of P-43s were used for recon, as their turbocharger gave them excellent high altitude performance to avoid interception.

Yep...but recon P-43s aren't going to score any kills against Japanese aircraft. The context of the discussion is about the relative combat performances of different aircraft used against the IJAAF, specifically the Ki-43. Personally, I quite like both the P-43 and P-66 but, then again, I'm an odd duck who swims against the flow. :)
 
Plenty of anecdotes on this, but I find the report from the Air Corps Material Division succinct:

P-40E vs. Hurricane:
The Hurricane can easily turn inside the P-40E and was able to continue turning after the P-40E had stalled. With the P-40E on the tail of the Hurricane it was possible for the Hurricane to tighten the circle and within 720° be in shooting position again. The P-40E squashes on turns, whereas the Hurricane does not.

This would have been the Hurricane II that was sent over to the US.

Full report over at: http://www.wwiiaircraftperformance.org/P-40/PHQ-M-19-1307-A.pdf

**EDIT: I think I misunderstood your response. When I said 'no hope' I meant against the Ki-43. Whereas the Hurricanes -- being markedly better in this regard overall (though not vs. Japanese types) -- hung on to this method of fighting far too long.

Yes I agree Hurricane did turn tighter than a P-40, at least in most configurations and speeds & so on (Hurricane IIC did not turn as well as a P-40 in the Soviet turn-time tests but that is a specific testing regime)

I suspect the problem with the Hurricane, aside from speed, was actually it's rate of roll.
 
Yep...but recon P-43s aren't going to score any kills against Japanese aircraft. The context of the discussion is about the relative combat performances of different aircraft used against the IJAAF, specifically the Ki-43. Personally, I quite like both the P-43 and P-66 but, then again, I'm an odd duck who swims against the flow. :)

They were not just used for recon, that's what I used to think to. But 23rd FG had some and used them in interceptions of raids and other actions, and they took losses several times in engagements with Ki-43s. I posted several of these in the recent Ki-43 thread.
 
They were not just used for recon, that's what I used to think to. But 23rd FG had some and used them in interceptions of raids and other actions, and they took losses several times in engagements with Ki-43s. I posted several of these in the recent Ki-43 thread.

'Fraid I can't find them. I specifically searched that thread for P-43 and P-66 but only found references to CAF engagements, not the 23rd FG.
 

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