Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bomber Command 15% losses: night offensive called off

Bomber Command's losses never reached the prohibitive 15% level. If it consistently had in 1943-44, due to better German radars or earlier Night fighter Uhu deployment, and the night offensive by heavy bombers had been called off, how would the British have best employed their 4,000 redundant bombers? If they had joined the Americans in massive 2,500 bomber even unescorted daylight raids, would it have overwhelmed the Germans defences? With hindsight, would combined Anglo-American daylight attacks have shortened the war?

One can play out the "what if" game forever....

What if...

...the British captured an SN-2-, Schrage Musik-equipment Ju-88 earlier than July 1944?

...0.5" turrets and the "Village Inn" AGLT system became operational earlier?

...Pathfinding techniques were perfected ealier?

...No. 617 Sqdn and the Grandslam were available in 1942?

...the Fernnachtjagd campaign was not abandoned?

...two RAF officers never thought to equip the Mustang with a Rolls Royce Merlin engine?

Remember that until the introduction of the Merlin-equipped Mustang, the USAAF strategic bombing campaign was hanging in the balance because of a prohibitive loss rate.

One can argue the relative merits of the day and night campaigns but, in the end, it was both that led to the end of Germany.

Mossie vs Uhu
26 Mossie nightfighters were lost to Heinkel Uhus and 15 to Ju88s. Mossies accounted for over 200 Nazi nachtjaegers themselves, most of them Me110.


"A 1944 British study concluded that large bombers were not suitable for night attacks as their defensive armament was of little use and larger numbers of smaller bombers were more efficient. However, if night fighters became too successful it might be necessary for the bombers to fight their way through in daylight, as the USAAF was doing. There was some argument about the best type of daylight bomber, with some favouring a heavy bomber mounting two 3.7" (94 mm) AA guns, for a total weight of guns, mountings, and 20 rounds of ammunition per gun of 6,800 kg. This was seen as the best defence against German fighters armed with big, high-velocity, long-range guns. Others preferred a very fast medium bomber defended with 20 mm guns."

This is from documents at the PRO.

Stirling markedly inferior to Lancaster?

 If the Stirling had had those extra feet of wing span that its design engineers wanted, giving it the requisite ceiling, would the Lancaster ever have been developed? Would the Stirling have been up to the job? Aside from having an interrupted bomb bay and hamstrung by a low ceiling, was it markedly inferior to the Lancaster in any other respects? Did it have development potential?

I doubt it...
Had it had those extra feet of wingspan, it would have been even heavier. It would have needed more powerful engines, and that's a game two can play.

There are a number of other design features that betray its earlier design - the high cockpit looks both unnecessary and draggy, the engines are a bit high on the wing leading edge (like the Merlin Halifax) and hence draggy. The wing has a wide chord, implying poor altitude and range even with the extension.

If you compare it with the Supermarine design to the same spec, the Stirling is massively longer. As indeed it is compared with the Halifax and Lancaster, but although those were initially designed to a medium bomber spec., you can't say the same about the similarly sized B-17 or B-24. Or indeed He 177 - as mainstream WW2 heavy bombers go the Stirling was too long and would have had too great a span.

The big-wing Stirling can most closely be compared to the B-15, too big for its time. Which is what the Air Ministry thought, but Shorts only took on board half the message. Shorts could perhaps have redesigned it with a shorter fuselage by reducing the total bomb load, but it seems that Shorts were unwilling to trade off one parameter against another - although clearly the Ministry were prepared to let designers lose parts of the spec in return for superior performance. They did it with Supermarine, and Handley Page, at this time. Apparently Shorts were too nervous, or just too inexperienced in the military aircraft business. I don't believe that they didn't think of it, that would imply an unfair level of incompetence.

Basically they got the design wrong at the start, and everything after that was fire-fighting.

1 comment:

  1. mitich ,

    you sent so many posts and i can't wrte about each post ...this ost about night operations is....wonderful !

    so many thnaks , mitch !