What was the best stop-gap fighter of WWII?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by CobberKane, Jul 18, 2012.

  1. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    Hello all. Here is what I hope might be new slant of the ‘What was the best…’ discussions that dominate this forum: What was the best stopgap fighter of WWII? By this I mean, which of the many examples of WWII fighters that were rushed in to service in the name of wartime expediency, or shoehorned into roles they were not originally designed for, ultimately went on to the most success? I can think of quite a few strong candidates but I’m going to go with the one that will incite the most outrage and vitriol from the word go – the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
    Designed as a high altitude interceptor and never intended for mass production, when America entered the war the P-38 was the only USAAF fighter within a country mile of its German opposition. Still throughout 1943 it struggled in the European climate against the Fw190s and G model Bf109s of the Luftwaffe, and only towards the end of the war did it really achieve parity with the best German designs. By that stage contemporary models of the P-47 Thunderbolt could do everything a Lightning could at less cost and the P-51 was better and cheaper again in the air-superiority role.
    American production knowhow and bucks eventually made the Lightning a capable - albeit expensive - performer in the ETO, one that held the fort admirably until it was largely replaced its two famous siblings.
    Now excuse me while I duck for cover…
     
  2. Bernhart

    Bernhart <b>2012 Forum Fantasy Football Champion</ b>

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    I think it would depend on which airforce your talking about, the finns made do with the buffalo, and fiat g 50's, did rather well with them. Same could be said for the Gladiators early malta years.
     
  3. Oreo

    Oreo Member

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    You better duck, but not from me. I'm going to leave your choice alone. Based on your criteria, you probably did ok there. Based on your title alone, I might have gone with the Ki-100. With your criteria, maybe the Beaufighter to augment your P-38. Then again, were there any other stop-gap fighters, and what exactly is one anyway? I would have defined it as a fighter that was hastily pressed into service to cover until better things were available, and then dwindled out of service when better things arrived (or until hostilities ceased without better things arriving). I would look at the He 162 as a stop-gap fighter that didn't make it into service. The Blenheim IF and IVF, F2A, Do 17, 215 and 217 NF variants, P-70, Ki-100, fighter variants of Ki-46, P1Y, J1N, Ki-45, C6N, and maybe a few others. Some of them were not much good, there was a reason they were stop-gap. Others caught on and did ok for themselves.

    More often, existing fighters, for which there had been great plans, but which ended up being not so useful, ended up being the stop-gaps in the squadrons until better versions, either of themselves, or of other planes, could be brought along. For instance, the Spitfire VB squadrons that were equipped well into 1943 and maybe later, long after many other squadrons were equipped with IX and other fast marks. The Hurricanes, F2A's, P-40's, H 75's, Gladiators, I-16's, I-153's, MiG-3's, Bf 110's, Fulmars, and so on, serving with their units until better stuff could arrive. You could consider FM-2's being stop-gap fighters on the escort carriers, waiting for F8F's or other things to replace them. I just think the term stop-gap has various applications, but for an entire aircraft type to be considered a stop-gap measure, it would have to be employed rapidly into a role it was not quite or just barely suitable for, and then, when its better replacement arrived, it would be rapidly withdrawn. But anyway, you didn't include a poll for this thread. :-/
     
  4. Oreo

    Oreo Member

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    Maybe I should do one called what was the best Hail Mary fighter?
     
  5. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    I think all of these aircraft were outdated designs that okay for a while against lacklustre opposition, then faded from the scene. The P-38 was pressed into service in roles it wasn’t really designed for and ultimately rose to the occasion to the point it was as good as (or close to it ) as the best opposition at the end of the war. At the end of the day I would contend that the USAAF had better options, but the 38 was still in there swinging – that’s my definition of a successful stop-gap fighter
     
  6. Oreo

    Oreo Member

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    I think we all (or most) can agree that the P-38 was a great plane. . . . . .
     
  7. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    #7 CobberKane, Jul 19, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 19, 2012
    I think I may have been a bit vague in my definition. I’m thinking of planes that were thrown into the fray in the absence of a purpose built or more modern alternative, then proved so successful in their new role, or in another role that came their way, that they ultimately made a far greater contribution than was originally envisaged. Regarding a poll, how about:
    Spit IX – intended to give some degree of parity against the Fw190 until the new Mk VIII came on line, turned out to be so good it went right through to the end
    Hawker Typhoon – Also rushed in to match the 190, marginal in that role but turned out to be one of the best ground attack fighters of the war
    Hawker Hurricane – biplane technology in a monoplane. But in exactly the right place at the right time and achieved an historical victory out of all proportion to its potential
    I hadn’t thought of the K100 but it is exactly what I was thinking of. As I understand it the Japanese were looking to do something with all the Ki-63 airframes they had witing for inline engines, mated them up with radials and got a better result than they could have hoped for
     
  8. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    Sure - a great, expensive and high maintenence plane that for most of it's service co-existed with great, less costly alternatives
     
  9. Oreo

    Oreo Member

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    Absolutely right. But still great in many ways.
     
  10. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    I think the P-38 could be considered a stopgap of soughts. It held the line until better aircraft came along, but it performed so well it didn't go away. Stopgaps? F4F, P-40, Hurricane.
     
  11. Oreo

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    Yes, especially in their mid- to late careers. Might also call them something like "run-on planes" because the production kept running on and on due to it being too difficult to switch over to something else. Or so I've heard. The F4F had to hold out for the escort carriers, didn't it? FM-2's still holding the line in 1945? Good thing they didn't have to tackle any Bf 109K's or Fw 190D's.

    naturally, I suppose it is the typical way of warring nations to place their most capable aircraft (or other units) at any given time into position on the battle fronts where the most powerful enemies are encountered. So it is no huge deal if Canadian home defense squadrons were still using Hurricanes and Kittyhawks at war's end. I guess there was often a difference between what the front-line units were using and what the backwater operatives had to make do with.

    I guess many, if not most, aircraft could be considered stop-gap types at the end of their careers. But I usually associate the term "stop-gap" with a related crisis or serious need.

    The SBD's were thrown into use as stop-gap fighters during the Battle of the Coral Sea. Whirraways served as stop-gap fighters for the defense of Australia. That's what I normally think of for the term "stop-gap". Blenheims were stop-gap night-fighters for Britain.
     
  12. Tankworks

    Tankworks Member

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    I think the Spit IX was the best stop-gap fighter. It was a rush job to get something in the air to try and match the FW 190 and turned out to be a winner. It more than held the line until the later more powerful marks came on.
     
  13. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    I disagree with the fundamental premise that the P-38 was a 'stop-gap' fighter: it was designed from the get go as a high performance single seater and entered serial production prior just a month after the outbreak of the war in Europe, let alone US entry into the war.

    The onset of WW2 may have accelerated the development of the P-38, but that hardly qualifies an aircraft that had been flying for just under three year prior to the US entry into the war as a 'stop-gap'.

    There are a number of aircraft that would qualify as a stop-gap fighter much more thoroughly.

    CAC Boomerang - Design started just three weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbour, as Australia realised it had no local fighter defence. Built from a modified trainer aircraft aircraft and the engine that was more of a bomber/transport powerplant than one for a fighter aircraft.

    Ki-100 - The Japanese were forced to cobble the airframe of a Ki-61-II together with a radial engine, as Ha-40/DB 601 deliveries had almost stopped due to US bombing and an earthquake. The end result may have been the best all-around fighter the Japanese developed during the war

    N1K1/2-J - Take the float-fighter you have no more used for, remove the floats and viola - instant success. Now the IJN has a fighter able to fight F6F and F4U on much more even terms, even if it can't operate from flattops.

    La-5 - Take the decidedly underperforming LaGG-1/3, graft the nose of an Su-2 onto it and produce a fighter that can match the FW-190 and Bf-109 under 10,000 feet. Not bad for something primarily that was made out of laminated wood and was designed without official sanction.

    Spitfire IX - Panic reaction to the FW-190. Because the fuselage redesign for the Mk VII/VIII was taking too long, the RAF decided to squeeze the Merlin 60 family onto the Mk Vc airframe. Result, parity (or near enough) with the FW-190 and the second most produced Spitfire mark of the war.

    P-51B/C/D - Take the P-51, already designed in something of a panic for a foreign customer, and replace the Allison with a foreign Merlin. All of a sudden you have the finest long-range fighter of the war and the best US land based fighter of the war (in my opinion), combining high speed with superlative handling characteristics, as well as half the production costs and vastly fewer man hours to produce than the P-47 or P-38.

    Mörkö-Morane - Finland takes an MS 406 and 'tweaks' it a bit to improve performance. So, take a French fighter, put a Russian re-design of a French engine in it, fit it with a German 20 mm cannon, Soviet LMGs and the oil cooler from a Bf-109 and ta da - possibly the most international confused aircraft of the war.
     
  14. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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  15. Edgar Brooks

    Edgar Brooks Active Member

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    Neither the (original) Spitfire, nor the Hurricane, can be considered "stop-gap," since they were produced to a specification, issued well in advance, put out by the Air Ministry in anticipation of future requirements. The IX, as said above, was rushed into service, as a counter to the Fw190, and the XII also came about due to a need for a counter to low-flying Baedecker raiders.
     
  16. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    I would contend that the Spit IX was a stop gap solution for exactly the reason you’ve stated – it never would have existed without the imperative to match the Fw190. When the German fighter appeared the next generation Spit VIII was still in development so the Brits put its new engine into the existing Spit V airframe to tide them through, and the resulting IX surpassed all expectations, to the extent that the VIII was deemed no longer nessecary.
    As for the Hurricane, it was a stop gap in the sense that construction harked back to the biplane era when everyone knew the future lay with fully alloy skinned fighters, but it fitted in with the construction facilities and workforce of the time and if was good enough to do until the conversion the new production methods could be made – and it was exactly what was needed in the BoB
     
  17. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    #17 drgondog, Jul 19, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2012
    A couple of points on your thesis. First, both the P-47 and P-38 were designed for, and intended for, high altitude long(er) range interception roles that were not achieved by other fighter designs at the time. The P-38 was originally a prototype built on a contract for ONE aircraft as 'proof of concept'. Lockheed did not have the funding for a production series and hence did not invest non-existant funds to build the tooling. The subsequent crash landing by AAF test pilot Kelsey to set speed record set the program back two years on R&D relative to compressibility studies. On the other hand it probably enabled the follow on 'Proof of concept' order. Production tooling funding and execution didn't follow until after the Service Test quantity of 13 a/c were built and into test programs - this was all Pre-WWII involvement when funding was tight and Lockheed an unproven company.

    Following that thought regarding stopgap versus 'wildy pursued as primary choice', the PTO/Kenney could never get enough of the P-38s nor could Spaatz in the MTO before he took over USSAF prior to Invasion in UK. While it did not quite live up to expectations in the ETO it achieved above expectations in the MTO/PTO and was more desired than the P-47 in both of those theatres. If the P-38 was a 'stopgap', then the P-47 was no less so in that it never performed the High Altitude Interceptor role but performed every other task asked of it.

    The A-36 was a 'stopgap' to keep the P-51 production going until US Army could get additional fighter funding rather than 'attack aircraft' for which it had some residual funding in late 1941-early 1942. It enabled NAA to invest in the continued performance enhancements and production tooling leading to the P-51B.

    The P-40 and P-39 were stopgap aircraft simply because they continued yeaoman service when better aircraft were on the production lines but not in sufficient quantity (or priority) to replace them in the fighter bomber role.

    F4F (and derivatives) labored on for similar reasons. perhaps the FW 190D series also fits the definition of stopgap until the Ta 152 reached maturity?

    I find it curious that you would claim the only reason to 'up-engine' the Spit V to the Spit IX was solely to counter the Fw 190? When has a military procurement agency resisted the temptation to markedly improve performance of an existing airframe when a new design/test/production cycle is the alternative? See the reference to the FW 190D for similar contrast...
     
  18. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    I think the spit IX was a stop-gap for exactly the reason you mentioned - it was rushed into service in place of assumedly more potent model (The VIII) that wasn't ready to meet a present danger - the Fw190. What made it a succesful stopgap was the fact that it proved so good that the VIII wasn't even needed.
    As for the Hurricane, I see it as a stop-gap fighter because it still had a foot in the bi-plane era construction-wise, even though everyone knew the future lay with monocoque designs like the spitfire and Bf109. But it took advantage of existing production techniques and expertise and, while its development potential was distinctly limiteed, it was just good enough to be in the right place at the right time to win a vitory out of all proportion to its future potential.
     
  19. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    My God - same post and same points twice lol - that's what happens when you are posting from work: cant remember what you wrote and what you were thinking. I call it multitasking...
     
  20. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    The P-38 was never a stop gap fighter. The P-40 was. The P-40 was ordered in quantity because it was a re-engined P-36 and required only modest changes in factory tooling to get into production. It could be gotten in service use about year before the P-38 and months before the P-39.

    To me a real stopgap fighter is one that is designed, or ordered, to fill in while a better design is being worked on at the same time. An airplane that is continued in production in order to make up numbers after better designs have been in production for a while isn't really the same thing.

    The Ki-100 maybe a stop gap or a necessary conversion. The LA-5 is not a stop gap as the Russians didn't have a better fighter in prospect, at least not realistically. The Ash-82 was the best engine they had and there was no other better engine even close to service use to power any other fighter design.
     
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