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Dumb Question: Why fighter aircraft?

Discussion in 'Aircraft' started by the_diego, Oct 28, 2019.

  1. the_diego

    the_diego Member

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    Who or what country before WW2 insisted that fighter aircraft be continuously developed, not just to defend against bombers but also to establish air superiority over a given area (was that term known before 1939?) Just reading the Mitchell paper, it says that fighter aircraft are expensively counter-productive since they cannot bring the war over to the enemy. An air force should focus on its most efficient (his words) role which is strategic bombing.

    And therefore, an air force should consist mainly of long range heavy bombers with large bomb loads, and bristling with cannon and machine guns.
     
  2. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Remember the Few?
     
  3. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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  4. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Many countries continued to develop fighter aircraft...theres no better weapon against an air threat than a fighter...be it bomber or re-con or the fighters that protected them. Fighters are primarily a defensive weapon. Defending an area of ground, sea or air or other aircraft...its only as good as its speed (reaching a target or avoiding an enemy) and weapons load, what damage it can do - and of course the training and experience of the pilot.
    As other countries continued to improve their fighters one had to "keep up" or its defensive capabilities dwindle. So, the French, the Germans and the Brits kept careful eyes on each other and the burgeoning capabilities of the fighters being developed. Stronger engines meant more speed, more weapons...To "defend" against this a country had to keep up. The Japanese were in this, but behind almost the whole way leading up to WW2...Italy created some worthy aircraft but that's during not pre-war. USSR? ...yeah well...Even the US were under prepared, they soon corrected this.
     
  5. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..wasn't it like today's weapons? = developed to counter the other weapon---then that needs to be countered/etc etc
     
  6. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    To some extent...although the technology was still being developed, so it was still "just make it faster and put more guns on it" type of thinking. For sure they were looking at other countries too (more so to know how their bombers would fare)
    The thinking that bombers should take precedence is a one sided argument IMO...Bombers are offensive, fighters defensive they shouldn't been seen as one or the other. Not surprisingly, the closer a country was to its enemy the more fighter development was undertaken.
     
  7. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    The difference between fighters and interceptors is minor but important. P-51 fighters flew with the Mighty 8th Air Force to protect the bombers from the interceptors the Luftwaffe put up to stop the bombers. The lack of "fighter cover" earlier in the war meant loses were higher.
     
  8. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    One can begin to see Hitler's thinking when he insisted all fighters (109-190) even the 262 were to be fighter bombers...the thinking a single aircraft can be both offensive and defensive...The problem is the same as everything...if you try to do two things you do neither very well.
     
  9. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Blame the whales, they're the ones who wanted all-porpoise aircraft.
     
  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    First we should keep in mind that people like Mitchell, Trenchard, Seversky, and Douhet were air power advocates, pressing for a greater role (and budget share) for air forces at a time when armies and navies were predominant. In the case of Mitchell there was also the push for an independent air force; at that time it was still the Army Air Corps. I think they were sincere in trying to do what they believed was best for their countries, but it was not at all unbiased analysis.

    Books like Victory Through Air Power presented apocalyptic visions of armies, navies, cities, and industries swept away by fleets of heavy bombers. In their view, the counter to enemy bombers was to have a bigger bomber fleet of your own and destroy his military and industry faster that he could destroy yours. Ironically, these modern revolutionary thinkers were promoting essentially attritional warfare.

    They also believed that their fleets of aerial battleships bristling with guns would brush aside opposition, which as we know turned out not to be so. The only experience to date was that of WWI, when a gunner with a single or twin machine gun matched the firepower of a fighter.

    Skipping ahead to WWII, bombers carried up to thirteen .50-caliber machine guns, but could only bring a few to bear in any one direction. Now consider the armament of WWII fighters: 6-8 .50s, four 20mm cannons, maybe a couple of MGs in addition, maybe heavier cannons or rockets. The fighter actually had the advantage. Fighter tactics and mass attacks countered the firepower of bomber formations.

    Finally, there was the critical development of radar and its integration into nationwide air defense systems, first seen in the Battle of Britain. This enabled fighter forces to concentrate against the bombers. Prior to radar and the associated command and control infrastructure, interception would be very haphazard. Fighter flight time might be wasted on standing patrols, or they would take off in response to ground observer sightings and try to catch bombers moving several miles per minute from where they were last reported. Nor could the fighters themselves assemble into "big wings" and be guided to their targets. Most likely, if interceptions were made at all, it would be small groups of fighters up against mass formations of flying fortresses. Radar and integrated air defense networks changed the whole picture.
     
  11. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    13 .50 cals. per plane
    750 rounds a minute per gun
    1000 B-17s (tops) per raid

    (Counts on fingers.)

    Many rounds from the bombers. And they STILL needed escorts.
     
  12. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Are not we "developing" the F 35 in which the airframe is sorta universal to save cost in which a variation of one plane does all:) , a fighter, fighter bomber, interceptor, aircraft carrier versions, vertical take-off versions, etc so the Marine Corps, Navy, Airforce are all happy and no doubt a version for Homeland security and the local sheriff will get theirs. Will any work well? I hope But the parts savings will shave billions off the trillions it cost!! What is the children's cartoon where one machine turns into another magically? Required Pentagon reading. Maybe a version of the f-35 can turn into an MBT!

    Did not I just read where they are ordering 100+ new F 15 C's to tide them over until the F-35 is combat-ready? I guess the savings from the 35 will cover that.
    Do not mean to sound too cynical, just the military-industrial complex at work. I wish Congress would stay out of who in their district benefits most and not what the military needs. both naive and wishful thinking on my part.
     
  13. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Most WWII fighters could double as fighter-bombers without major modifications or significant detraction from their performance. Of course they'd have to ditch their bombs for air-to-air combat, in the same way that they would drop external fuel tanks. There were a few exceptions like multiple bomb racks or rocket rails or tubes, but these were attachable/removable by ground crews, not structural changes to the aircraft.

    There were a few specialized ground-attack versions of fighters like the FW-190F/G or the A-36, but even these retained their effectiveness in air-to-air action.
     
  14. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    AFAIK, no gun had one minutes worth of ammunition. Most had about 30-40 seconds worth.

    And how much time was spent over enemy territory.
     
  15. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    It depends how you interpret "offensive". In China, the IJNAF used their A6M2s to clear a path for their bombers. Which is perfectly offensive use of fighters, without saddling them with bombs. But, that was not Western thinking at the time.
     
  16. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Ammo boxes held 200 rounds. I don't remember how many rounds the maximum belts held. I only ever used boxes.
     
  17. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Found this:

    B-17 Chin Turret 365 Rounds x 2

    Top Turret 400 Rounds per Gun

    Radio Compartment 250 Rounds

    Ball Turret 500 Round x 2

    Left Waist Gunner 600 Rounds

    Right Waist Gunner 600 Rounds

    Tail Gunner 566 Rounds x 2

    Unless you're a rock-and-roller you don't fire continuously. Doesn't do the barrel any good and targets rarely cooperate for that long.
     
  18. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    There were also the 'cheek' guns on either side of the nose; there may not have been room for a lot of ammunition. I've seen the B-17G credited with 6,750 rounds total, a bit over 500 per gun.
     
  19. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Just before the war, designers often put as much emphasis on a fighter's turning ability as on speed. This, of course, was a hangover from the last war. Extra power wasn't so much for speed, but for the ability to turn tight and not stall out. A more powerful engine would often give more lift than speed. Increases in speed came as much from streamlining and airfoil design as from raw power. Example: The P40 vs the P51A. Both had Allison engines but the P51 had a 40mph advantage at 15,000ft.
     
  20. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    If you don't clear the enemy fighters, you can't use bombers effectively, much less use fighter/bombers at low levels. The German bomber offensive in the BoB was halted due by losses to British fighter aircraft. It just became to expensive to continue. When the allies turned that around to bomb Germany, the German fighter arm was already hurting and with continued losses were never able to make the allied air assault too expensive. By 44 and the landings, the allies completely dominated the air and were able to bomb from altitude at will, and perhaps just as importantly severely curtail enemy supply movement and troop movement with Jabos. It was fighter aircraft that made all that possible.

    .
     

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