Discussion in 'Aircraft' started by Flack, Nov 14, 2009.
I've read the pilots liked the b-24 more.
Armour isn't everything...
I also like the Lancaster, but I had a chat recently over on the History Channel forum which started with a 1944 Bomber Command raid on Berlin, presumably mostly Lancasters by then, that averaged about three tons per plane rather than the 14,000lb we usually see the Lanc credited with. A fellow called PeteParadis provided some data on the sensible point that bombload varies with range, from Bombers of the Second World War by William Green (for Lancaster III):
1,160 miles with 1,440 Imp. gallons fuel and 14,000lb bombs
2,230 miles with 2,580 Imp. gallons fuel and 7,000lb bombs
Those ranges would translate to mission radii of about 400 or 800 miles.
We usually see B-17s credited with 5-6,000lb, so it occurred to me the difference might not be as great as we often think. For a quick comparison I looked up the Dresden raids; the RAF's main effort averaged out to 3.44 tons/plane and USAAF missions 2.41-2.96, the latter being the raid with the lowest proportion of incendiaries. I'd be delighted to see some more detailed data, but it appears the Lanc and Fort are closer than we usually think.
Although I have an affinity for the B-17, the concept of the self-defending bomber turned out to be fundamentally flawed. It might have better to confine armament to a Lancaster arrangement - nose, tail, top - plus something for the lower hemisphere* and put a ton or so worth of excess guns and gunners into more bombs - though I'm not sure I'd want to try to convince the crews of that!
* the ball turret is one option, but it adds weight and drag to the plane and is uncomfortable, possibly dangerous to its operator. My idea is low waist guns like in the B-26, perhaps with bulged perspex windows. Particularly for planes in formation, they should be able to cover the area beneath the nose or tail gun's field of fire.
Too often, people look at specifications which are maximum values and take them as normal operating values. The two most important spec numbers when it comes to available bomb load are maximum takeoff weight and basic empty weight. The difference between those two numbers is the useful load, what can be loaded on the aircraft. The 'useful load' includes fuel, crew plus their equipment, ammunition, etc. and bomb load. Fuel load consumed a large portion of the useful load. For instance, the normal 15th AF B-24 fuel load for most missions was 2700 gallons, or 16,200 lbs. Reduce the fuel load for shorter missions, and the bomb load could be increased.
Reducing crew weight plus the weight of their guns was not without merit, especially late in the war when the fighter threat was low. Many of the 15th AF crews flying their tour late '44 into '45 never saw an enemy fighter. But, as you say, convincing the crews would have been a tough sell.