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The 4 Plane Flight

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by Wildcat5372, Jan 4, 2012.

  1. Wildcat5372

    Wildcat5372 Member

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    I know in many recent wars, and even in WW2, Americans and other nations used the 4 plane flights. I also knew that the flight would be a V shape, with the tip being the leader. My question is, what spots would the 2nd, 3rd and 4th planes specifically fly in?
    [​IMG]
     
  2. luketdrifter

    luketdrifter Ace

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    Left to right, top to bottom? Not really sure.
     
  3. Poppy

    Poppy grasshopper

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    Excellent question. My 2 bits- based on German experience over Spain? The finger four. Did the Brits use the Vic?
     
  4. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Not exactly sure what the question is but...a quick run down...
    Aircraft config isnt written in stone...its what fits with the strategey being used. With a (finger four) or four x 3 (to make 12) or even 4, configuration the leader (Blue leader) would be at the head...2nd would be his wingman, sits on his right and behind. Number 3 is the second "fighter" with number 4 his wingman. In a "finger" config, number four is on the left and behind 3 making the two "elements". Flight configurations are changed during flight or for a mission...so the V is but one config they could fly in. The picture isnt a finger four...This help??
     
  5. 693FA

    693FA Member

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    Not sure the question either but maybe more fuel to the fire...."the diamond formation" which the Thunderbird's consider their signature along with the "diamond loop"....#1 is lead 2,3 wing and #4 is the slot directly behind and below #1.

    United States Air Force Thunderbirds - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia read section under demonstration routine...especially Diamond formation
     
  6. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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    The "finger four" is named because of the resemblance to the tips of the fingers on a hand. The flight lead would be the 'middle' finger, his wingman (#2) on his left (for a 'right-handed' formation). The second element lead (#3) would be to the right of the flight lead, and his wingman (#4) would be the 'pinkie' to the right of #3.

    The Navy used their 'beam defense' formation in 4 ship groups also, the two leads abeam each other with a bit of separation, the two wingmen echeloned behind the respective leaders and to the outside of the formation (jump in here RLeonard).
     
  7. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    The Thunderbirds' diamond is an air show formation, not something anyone would use in combat, nor would they be so close together. Ditto for the Blue Angels' six-plane wedge or the nine-plane diamond some teams use (Canadian Snowbirds, Italian Frecce Tricolori).
     
  8. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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    For fighters, I would agree. The bombers did fly several variations of the diamond formation, although not at the close range of the T-Birds, or Blues. The B section in the attached formation was offset high and right, and the C section was offset low and left. Later versions of this formation used 7 ship boxes, with the number 5,6 and 7 ships making up a second diamond off the number 4 ship.
    View attachment 15369
     

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  9. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Yes, with all the chat about finger fours, I was only thinking fighters. I think the compact diamond formation makes a lot of sense for bombers, though I had not thought about it at the element level. It strikes me as odd, for example, that heavy bomber groups with four squadrons would often form a combat box with only three of them, in a large vee - why not tuck the fourth in to form a diamond? This would mass more firepower and not leave the "tail end charlies" quite so isolated. Putting the fourth squadron directly behind the lead would also seem to facilitate concentrating bombs in the center of the target area.

    Do you know what type aircraft that June 6 document was for?
     
  10. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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    The formation chart is for a 15th AF B-24 Group. My father was aboard Ship #25 that day, the target was the Romano Americano refinery at Ploesti.

    At that time, SOP was for three squadrons to fly the mission and the 4th squadron supplied alternates, spare crews and spare aircraft. Later in the war the same group would fly all four squadrons with each putting up 7 aircraft (typically) in the 'double diamond' box.
    View attachment 15392
     

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    Poppy likes this.
  11. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Len Deighton's 'Fighter' touches on this topic. The formation pictured would definitely not be used in combat. The finger four formation was conceived by Werner Molders as his experience in Spain. During the Battle of Britain, the RAF changed it's formations. They started out in close formations but spent more time avoiding running into each other than scanning the sky. I believe there may have been a diagram in the book showing each pilot's position

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Wildcat5372

    Wildcat5372 Member

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    The post right above this is exactly what i was looking for, would the flight wingman be the #2 and the element leader the #3?
     
  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

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  14. Vanir

    Vanir Member

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    I did study this once with an RAAF pilot cadetship but that was more than twenty years ago now, my memory isn't perfect. I've been looking up bits and pieces just now to jog it, but I'm speaking a bit on the fly here.

    As PzJgr inferred, Mölder's design was that wingmen never leave their leaders and leaders do the shooting. Run out of ammo, you swap. Someone goes for the leader, the wingman spoils it either by blocking or by coordinated BFM he can usually get a firing solution on the enemy before the enemy can on the leader (ie. if leader breaks, enemy follows for the firing solution, wingman yo-yo's and bang, dead e/a).
    For cruise/patrol you use finger four (schwarm) to coordinate observation of airspace and it is better than a 3 ship formation for positioning, coverage and avoiding sun glare. In combat you break into pairs (rotte). Usually larger formations are composed of independent and spaced schwarm, which can also coordinate coverage between them (like a combat box).

    Prior to this the 3 ship formation was used as the basic patrol element by pretty much everybody (reason was simplest, smallest coordination of scanning airspace), and they broke into individuals for combat. For large scale formations they used a V (kette in german), which came from WW1. The V formation was copied from birds and is a method of reducing induced drag among the formation and increasing range.
    The Poles and Finns started using two ship elements in place of the 3 ship (thanks wikipedia) but as far as I know larger formations still used the V (kette). Luftwaffe also used the kette sometimes throughout the war but would always break into rotte if bounced.

    Between the wars the RAF downsized ship type formations equipped to units terribly, eg. hypothetically speaking (figures are fictional) there might be 55 bulldogs, 62 furies and 70 gauntlets serviceable in the field at a moment's notice, in the mid thirties as opposed to 250 hurricanes and 95 spits in the late thirties or 150 siskins and 50 snipes in the mid 20s. During that period of decline (but continuing, furious development for international prestigé) the V-formation was tightened up for parades, almost wing to wing and the 3 ship was still the standard patrol group. That didn't work out so well when you put 36 planes up in 15 minutes from one airfield in 1940 and had the basic combat doctrine of tally ho, every man for himself. Aerial crashes became very common.

    Apparently Bader's squadron was one of the pioneers of the finger four in the RAF and it was independent of the German schwarm too, but identical conceptually. I don't know US tactical evolution but I wouldn't be surprised if the same story of independent development is there too.

    So as it turned out it was more like a problem solution that everyone picked up on at some point or another. It even carries through to today to coordinate and maximise radar fields efficiently. You still break into pairs and must stay with flight leads and cover him in case of ACM, despite that generally the idea now is BVR so the wingman in jet combat generally tends to have a career with no kills unless he gets promoted to element/flight leader, and just functions as an escort/observer. But air forces are tremendously downsized today from WW2 and early Cold War days anyway.


    Anyways, the whole thing is, everything is about a gunman, and his bodyguard. Everything is built on that. Bombers kept the 3 ship formation in WW2 fyi. This was a fighter thing.

    So to the OP, you're not talking about combat formations, you're talking about parade and aerobatic formations. The planes are going to be something like 30 miles apart on formation patrol today.
    ie. that's not a finger four in the photo, it's an aerobatic display, they don't really have anything to do with each other. The pilots are thinking about completely different things, their doctrine and training is completely different, their concerns are completely different, and coordination by the flight leader is completely different. It's just a coincidence that picture and a diagram of a finger four, it wouldn't make any difference if that was a 5-ship flight, in fact often that kind of aerobatics display is.
     

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