Which performance aspects of a fighter were most crucial?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by grampi, Feb 19, 2015.

  1. grampi

    grampi Member

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    Speed? Climb? Turning radius? Roll rate? Diving ability? Please rank in order and explain why, and add any other performance category you feel was also important...
     
  2. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    Speed, it gets you in and out of the fight
    Armament the more fire power you have the shorter time you need to be on target
    Rate of roll apart from a loop all maneuvers start with a roll
    Climb/turn rate allows you to get altitude to attack and turn onto the adversary
    Dive can get you out or catch an opponent

    pilot protection armour and self sealing tanks
    maximum altitude
    range
    visibility
     
  3. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Max speed is important no matter what the fighter type. So are centerline mounted weapons (i.e. improved accuracy), climb, acceleration and predictable handling (i.e. no unexpected stall). Beyond that it depends on what the aircraft is designed for.

    For instance low stall speed is important for CV based aircraft. Range / endurance is important for bomber escorts. Banked turns are important for combat below 300mph. Roll is relatively more important at higher speeds. Cockpit armor and protected fuel tanks are good features but must be balanced against performance loss caused by weight increase.

    Engine should produce close to max power across altitude band where aircraft is expected to fight. You don't want to climb or dive and find your engine producing less power then expected. This power regulation should be automatic. Fighter pilots should not be adjusting prop pitch, fuel mixture, supercharger setting etc. in the middle of fight.
     
  4. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Rarely, if ever in ww2 a slow(ish) fighter was a better choice than a faster one, when there was a choice at all. A slow fighter cannot catch a bomber that is currently a modern one. A fast fighter should be able to dictate whether it will engage in combat, or disengage so it can have another chance minutes after that and/or a sortie after.
     
  5. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    In conjunction with speed you have to throw in acceleration. Speed is great but what good is the speed if the aircraft accelerates like a turtle?
     
  6. dedalos

    dedalos Member

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    1)Power to weight ratio
    2)Total drag area
    3) Wing loading
    4)Diving mach limit
    5) adequate structural strength for manouvering
     
  7. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Depends ENTIRELY on the Mission. Bomber Interceptor different from Air Superiority different from Close Air Support different from multi Role Fighter Bomber.

    The USAF stepped into the multi role Fighter Weapon Systems biz in 1955 and didn't dig out of it until 1975 with the F-16 then F-15.. we are now back into that game with the V-35 and praying that Stealth Technology will not be compromised.
     
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  8. BiffF15

    BiffF15 Well-Known Member

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    Drgondog,
    Agree completely!
    Cheers,
    Biff
     
  9. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    IMO that's not a proper mission design requirement for WWII era fighter aircraft. It's something you do as an emergency measure when purpose built CAS aircraft aren't available.

    Or in the case of USA it's what fighter aircraft do because B-17 wonder bomber did not live up to bombing accuracy expectations. So you jury rig P-40s and P-47s as dive bombers.
     
  10. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    #10 pbehn, Feb 19, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2015
    I believe the cab rank system was as effective a system of CAS in WWII as anything that is operated today.


    quote
    Fighter bombers began a new direct support role, operating with the assistance of radio-equipped Forward Air Controllers (FACs). The fighter bombers were on call from "Cab Ranks", orbiting points close to the forward edge of the battle area. From these Cab Ranks, the FACs could very quickly call on air support for any targets of opportunity or threats to the troops in their area. The FACs were both RAF and Army personnel, specially trained to identify targets to the pilots and direct thier fire. Also, and seemingly almost permanently, airborne over the beachheads were the Artillery Spotter aircraft. These light aircraft directed fire from naval vessels off-shore initially, before they began directing artillery fire once the regiments were established on land. The light aircraft of the RAF, Army and US were also were the first to operate as airborne FACs, sometimes directing the fighter bombers themselves.
     
  11. kool kitty89

    kool kitty89 Well-Known Member

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    #11 kool kitty89, Feb 19, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2015
    Or P-51 ... except the A-36 was more a fully featured dive-bomb capable CAS/fighter-bomber than jury rigged. (The F4U had the langing gear configured as fast-acting dive breaks too ... another reason it might have been interesting to see with the USAAF )


    Edit
    Navy fighters seem to be the big exception here, at least to a moderate performance extent. The F4F and especially F6F did well due to better handling characteristics and/or reliability than their contemporary alternatives. (The F2A had serious production and quality control issues -and odd engineering decisions on later models like the massive fuel capacity- and the F4U had poorer low-speed and stall characteristics than the F6F)
     
  12. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    I think speed is overrated by a long shot. You had to be fast enough, to be sure, but you ALWAYS cruised into an unexpected battle at cruise speed. Once you got into the unexpected fight, acceleration, rate of climb, armament, maneuverability, armor, ruggedness, and excess fuel were prime qualities.

    A P-51D could go 437 mph at best altitude (around 17,500 to 22,500 feet or so), but they spent less than 0.5% of their time at or above that speed. They spent the bulk cruising around a bomber stream looking for trouble. If they DID get to high speed, it was in a descending chase that could not descend forever ... the ground gets in the way. Once they were at ground level, ALL the speeds were down in the 350 mph range give or take a bit.

    But the ability to turn, climb, shoot stably, and take damage while still getting home, possibly with some damage, were WAY ahead of top speed. Most people in here will acknowledge the Spitfire, P-51, Fw 190, and Bf 109 as great fighters. None of these had the really high top speed. The Ta-152, one of the fastest, doesn't count since they made almost none of them. They were all fast enough to make them deadly opponents, but they had the other qualities in large quantity ... except for the Siptfire when it comes to range. It was mostly a short-range unit, but the missions were too ... as a consequence, so it worked out well.

    If I think of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, it has all the qualities of a great except ruggedness. A few hits could finish one. And it still swept the war in the first year to year and a half. It wasn't until we figured out it's weaknesses that the tide changed. The fighter with the best kill ratio in US service was one of the slowest of the bunch, the F6F Hellcat. But it was fast relative to the competition it was primarily used against, proving speed is relative. The fact that the P-38 was the mount of our two top aces proves that using you aircraft's strengths against you opponent's weaknesses was the best tactic, at least for the U.S.A. in WWII. It wasn't a P-51 in the ETO ... but the P-51 certainly wasn't a P-38 in the PTO, either.

    I suspect the guys like Erich Hartmann did EXACTLY the same, used their own strengths against the weaknesses of their usual opponents. Erich didn't always win the day, he was shot down more than a few times, and lived to tell about it. But he largely DID fight HIS game, and I doubt very much if top speed played a big part considering he never mentions it in his many post-war interviews.
     
  13. Garyt

    Garyt Member

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    What I think would be interesting, as GregP started to do is look at sucessful fighters of WW2, and see what sets them apart. Look at unsuccessful ones perhaps as well :D

    And also look at WHEN these planes were effective, at the competition at that time. For example, the Zero was a successful fighter early war - and it was about average in speed. Later in the war, it was relatively slower compared to it's competition, but it was no longer successful.

    And look at other factors as well. The Hellcat was very successful, but it had better numbers and better pilots as well as better radar (not in the plane of course) to give an advance warning as to what and how many were coming.
     
  14. BiffF15

    BiffF15 Well-Known Member

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    #14 BiffF15, Feb 19, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2015
    Greg,

    I follow your logic train with regards to things in addition to speed that are important. However, in my opine speed still ranks as numero uno. If you look at the AVG they used altitude exchanged for speed in the bounce (hit and run) with guidance not to turn with Zero's (or whatever they were really fighting). The F6F couldn't turn with a Zero and used speed and firepower to write itself into history. The P-38 did the same. If you ready Hartmann's bio, "The Blond Knight of Germany", he states IIRC he liked to observe, attack from a position of advantage, hit and run (he didn't like turning either). All of these were done with speed, either generated from the powertrain, or from an altitude advantage. The majority of gun footage I've seen is from less than 10 degrees off the tail (non-maneuvering). I'm not discounting the ability to turn, climb (usually a side product of speed), or a decent weapons platform. I think they all combine to make up a great plane, however speed is on the top of the absolute heap. With speed you pick when the fight will start, how long you will be anchored, and when it's over (if you do it right). The Zero was very maneuverable, and in the hands of a well trained aviator a total porcupine. However, the hit and run (done with speed) played well against it's weakness. The Me-262 had speed and then some over all the Allied fighters, and could easily stay away from them (unless it turned, or got caught in or near the pattern). The higher speed can compensate for quite a few shortcomings.

    Cheers,
    Biff
     
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  15. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Is it any coincidence that all the top performing aircraft were beautiful compared to the poor performing aircraft that were ugly?

    I think not...and that is your answer right there. Forget the math, forget the engineering notes, forget the charts and tables.

    The crucial performance aspect of a fighter is good looks. :lol:
     
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  16. Garyt

    Garyt Member

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    Considering the AVG was NOT fighting Zeros, give them advantages in speed, durability, and firepower.


    I look at it as there are two aspects of fighting, a turner and a vertical fighter. Not really any plane is all one or the other, they all have abilities in both aspects. But "turners" are often slower, and it's harder for them to make a vertical type play their game unless the vertical one agrees to. But pilots play a big role here, I think one of a pilots best abilities was to make his opponent play the game that best suited the superior pilot's plane.
     
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  17. kool kitty89

    kool kitty89 Well-Known Member

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    Top speed in level flight is just one aspect of the 'speed' category, though. Acceleration in a dive and ability to maintain control at high speeds (not to mention structural integrity) are all major factors even if the top level speed is more modest. Dive performance is one of the strengths generally played up on some of the more overweight aircraft too ... so long as their airframes and controls could cope with it. (one of the reasons the P-38's compressibility issues were so problematic was its exceptional dive acceleration)

    Dive performance was also one of the areas the P-40 and F4F fared rather well against their contemporaries. (both in acceleration and control)
     
  18. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    I fully agree, Biff, that they had to fast enough, but top speed was not what made the great fighters great. None of the top fighters had the highest speed in the class. But they mostly had enough speed and a generous serving of all the other traits that made combat a winnable proposition.

    That is, they were stable in that they didn't snake around in yaw, pitch, or roll. They had good acceleration from cruise to combat speed ... which usually wasn't top speed, but was up in the 320+ mph area. They had good maneuverability, decent protection, decent armament, and were rugged enough to handle the stress of many flights at high power output levels as well as to survivie a few hits from another fighter ... unless it was large cannon hits anyway.

    There were no Spitfires that cruised into the Battle area at 420 mph, ambushed Bf 109's and flew home at top speed, too. It didn't happen. You might be able to do that in a jet, but piston engines won't stay together under that type flight plan. They cruised in at 250 mph, accelerated when required for battle, and joined well before hitting top speed ... unless they were high and could dive down on an opponent out of the sun. If they chanced upon this stroke of luck, then yes, they might be attacking at top speed.

    But the sun rises from the east and the Germans were east of the incoming bombers. Now I ask you, who was coming from the sun in gthe morning?

    As for P-51s, they were escorts and had to stay with the bomber stream. You can't DO that at 400+ mph and it isn't even easy at 270 mph if escorting a 185 mph bomber formation. They cruised in at about 230 - 250 mph with their eyes open and accelerated when combat was imminent.

    The Germans tried to get above and dive through the formations firing at targets of opportunity. In that scenario, an escorting P-51 might well apply full pwoer and dive after the German fighter, but if he stayed in the dive too long he would lose the formation and the bombers would be left without escort. So the P-51 could dive a few thousand feet, spray some shots and them use the excess speed to zoom back up to escort height and catch the now distant formation of bombers.

    When the escorts left to go chasing first-wave fighters, the second and third-wave Germans cheered on the radio and bored in for target practice. That is according to former WWII pilots who give talks every month at the museum, not according to Greg. I wasn't there, but the guys giving the talks were.

    The AVG weren't flying escort and were free to implement their own tactics that were designed for winning agianst superior fighters while flying a P-40. And those tactics worked in a non-ETO environment. They wouldn't work at all in the ETO. They MIGHT have worked in the PTO because when you are over the ocean and encounter enemy fighters, you usualy encountered about 4 - 8 enemy fighters to your own 4 - 8 enemy fighters and you could keep the more or less same size group engaged while the bombers flew on.

    It wouldn't work agianst an enemy with numerical superiority though. A few would stay and fight you and the rest would go after the bombers you were escorting. That's what WE did to THEM. They returned the favor whenever they could.

    I don't buy the speed at number one. It has to have enough speed, yes. But top speed was hardly a big factor in a level dogfight. It came into play in a diving fight, but tghe speed wasn't a level top speed ... it was dive speed. If you got down to ground level, it wasn't a diving fight anymore and superior maneuverability OR top speed could be used to run or win in equal shares. It you had the higher speed you could flee or catch someone. If you had a more maneuverable plane you could turn the tables and go aggressive. If you had both, you were probably the winner unless you were outnumbered and they got in a lucky or well-planned ambush shot.

    I'd believe whatever you say about modern jet fighter combat, but the guys who were flying the pistons in WWII hardly ever mention speed in their talks, except when they got sacred in a dive and survived to tell about it.

    Hey, you might be 100% right about top speed.

    I remain doubtful. I don't think 20 mph made a difference at all in combat unless both planes were at top speed going the same direction and very close to one another. Then it MIGHT matter ... unless the slower guy was just a better pilot. And that puts us back to the pilot factor, not the fighter characteristics factors.
     
  19. kool kitty89

    kool kitty89 Well-Known Member

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    Higher top speed can also mean retaining more speed when diving and zooming. (from cruise to near-top speed rather than say a lower top speed plane going from cruise to well above top level speed and risking more loss in energy and loss in ability to zoom back to altitude)

    Granted, you can still bleed off lots of speed/energy from maneuvers in any case, but minimizing that loss outside of maneuvering is still a significant variable. (as is just good energy retention of a clean airframe, including retaining energy better ABOVE top speed too, taking longer to slow down when you don't want/need to ... all assuming you can maintain control throughout that -again, the P-38 had the curse of being belessed with great dive acceleration but relatively nasty critical mach behavior with that huge nose-heavy CoG shift; the F-84 was a bit like that too, heavy and clean enough to dive really well if not for the mach limit, though also going into pitch-up instead tucking under )
     
  20. Edgar Brooks

    Edgar Brooks Active Member

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    Large numbers of modifications, carried out on the Spitfire, were done solely for the purpose of increasing its speed.
    Cellulose paint was replaced by synthetic, because it was smoother, but remained matt; the aerial mast was (eventually) replaced by a whip aerial; the mounting for the mirror was changed to a more aerodynamic version; engine covers were made tighter-fitting to stop drag; rivets and panel lines were filled and sanded smooth on wing leading edges; tail wheels were made retractable.
    Reading Air Ministry files finds almost an obsession with going faster.
     
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