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Subject: In WWII there were really 4 types of planes rss

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Steve
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Everyone knows about 3 of them, fighters, bombers and recon planes.

Edit to add a few days later. Also 2 more types I forgot: Air transports and trainers.

I want to assert that the airforces of the 20s and 30s for some reason missed creating the 4th type: the attack plane. See, it doesn't even have a catchy name. I'll call them, Attackers for this thread.

The difference between a Bomber and an Attacker is --
Bombs fall behind the plane, which makes it hard for the crew/pilot to learn by experience how to hit the target better.

Attackers OTOH have their ordinance hit the target in front of the plane where the pilot can see where the ordinance is going and correct his aim and or learn easier how to hit the target. Attackers were armed with MG, heavy MG, auto-cannon, rockets, and rarely 75mm guns. The MG were really too light. Hv MG were much better. Rockets didn't come along until '43 or '44. They were good but not that accurate. I think the best would have been Hv MG and auto-cannons. The 75mm guns didn't work at all well. They were too heavy and had a very low rate of fire.
. . . We all know that the Ger. used Stukas later armed with 37mm auto-cannon as tank busters mostly on the eastern front. I wonder if the Me-110 might have been a good Attacker.

Add: Planes could be and often were a mix of 2 types. Examples.
1] The P-47 was an excellent PA-47 [fighter-attacker].
2] The A-20 was more of a bomber than and attacker so it was a BA-20.
3] The B-25G was a BA-25G.

I assert that this list of types is better because it relates to an important characteristic of the plane type. Then these types are further sub-divided into light, medium, and heavy or whatever other sorts make sense.


In land combat I assert that Attackers did a better job than Bombers for most purposes. Yes, bombers were better at dropping bridges, but it took a huge amount of bombs to drop a bridge. It wasn't really cost effective.

Strategic Bombers didn't live up to the hope and resources put in them. In Europe they did make the Germans come up and fight in the air where we could shoot him down. This helped us gain air superiority. However, the same effort put in Attackers flying all over France might have had the same effect. Any thoughts on this exact point?

I think 2 Attackers for every Bomber would have been a good mix. Plus fighters and Recon.

At sea Attackers could only be effective against small unarmored ships, like AP and DD. You needed Bombers to hurt carriers and torpedo bombers to sink BB. However, later in the war in the Pacific many Bomber types became Attackers.

In a way the difference is like the difference between AT Guns and Field Howitzers using indirect fire. It takes more training and skill to get hits with indirect fire.
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Leo Zappa
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Hi Steve. Would examples include such aircraft as the Typhoon and Tempest, the Dauntless and Helldiver, and the B-25G and H models (the gunship, skip bombing versions)?
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Cargo/transport aircraft?
Trainers?
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Jeff Saxton
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Hmmm, the USA even had planes like the Douglas A-20 Havoc -- 'A' for Attack, btw. So the OP is just a bit behind the curve.
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Steve
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desertfox2004 wrote:
Hi Steve. Would examples include such aircraft as the Typhoon and Tempest, the Dauntless and Helldiver, and the B-25G and H models (the gunship, skip bombing versions)?

I don't think dive-bombers qualify. It is a matter of where the ordinance hits. It takes a lot of practice to hit a small target dive-bombing, I think.
Not sure about skip-bombers. This is behind the plane but it is hard to miss.
The others? Yes.
I would add the P-39 with its 37mm cannon. It sucked as a fighter but was good as an Attacker. Which is what we used it for.

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Steve
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Ozludo wrote:
Cargo/transport aircraft?
Trainers?

I knew I was omitting something.
I could try to weasel with adding "combat", but I forgot them.

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    B-26 might fit this category. Bombs still dropped out and back but it did its job at low level and in tight maneuvers.

    "Close Support" is often used for a similar category, a tactical aircraft used to bolster troops in the field.

    The big bombers played a strategic role and I wouldn't deem them ineffective, either from a physical perspective or a morale perspective. But I'll agree, B-25s and B-26s played a very different role, more tactically oriented.

             S.


 
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Carl Fung
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Steve1501 wrote:

I want to assert that the airforces of the 20s and 30s for some reason missed creating the 4th type: the attack plane. See, it doesn't even have a catchy name. I'll call them, Attackers for this thread.


I think much of it had to do with military politics. Generals in the Air Force, whether its under the army like the USAAF, or independent like the RAF and Luftwaffe, would not want to be subservient to the land armies. The pre-WWII thinkers were conceiving strategic bombing as a means to end wars. Why bother supporting the land army when I can fly my planes to the enemy's capital with bombers, escorted by fighters, and scouted by recon planes?

Even into and through WWII, there were no real dedicated attacker aircraft. Planes like Typhoon and Thunderbolt were fighter planes that were found to be great at supporting land forces. The Dauntless and Stukas were dive bombers, attack aircraft by modern standards but considered tactical bombers. The Dauntless and Helldiver were dedicated naval air arm as the USAAF never employed dive bombers. The A-20 Havoc and A-26 Invader were great attack aircraft with MG"s facing forward but initially conceived as light bombers. But all these aircraft listed were developed in the 1940's (except the A-20 in 1939).

That said, I'd say an additional category is to split bombers into light and heavy bombers or tactical and strategic bombers. The Luftwaffe never employed any strategic bombers and the Soviets had them but couldn't use them en masse.

For attack aircraft, you have the whole issue of air to ground coordination. Most armies and air forces still struggled with it during WWII, with the Americans having the most elaborate set up after teething problems even after Normandy.

Even look today with the A-10. It does the job great, but the Air Force hates it.
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The USA also used the "P" designator, for Pursuit, yet the Northrop P-61 Black Widow wasn't really used as such. In the end, there were dozens of actual uses, whether they were designed for a utility is sort of irrelevant, it's how they ended up being used that mattered.

For the record, my dad's squadron of B-25's based in Corsica and Italy had one equipped with the 75mm cannon. It was pretty ineffective for bridges, rail yards, and such that they were commonly targeting.
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Steve
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Mack_me_Bucko wrote:
Hmmm, the USA even had planes like the Douglas A-20 Havoc -- 'A' for Attack, btw. So the OP is just a bit behind the curve.

Well, that is true. However, it had a 4000 lb bomb load and only 6 50 cal MG [my Hv MG] for the attack role.

It was therefore as designed more of a Bomber. If It had also been armed with 2 to 4 20mm auto-cannon then it would be my idea of an Attacker.

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Steve
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calvinboy24 wrote:
Steve1501 wrote:

I want to assert that the airforces of the 20s and 30s for some reason missed creating the 4th type: the attack plane. See, it doesn't even have a catchy name. I'll call them, Attackers for this thread.


I think much of it had to do with military politics. Generals in the Air Force, whether its under the army like the USAAF, or independent like the RAF and Luftwaffe, would not want to be subservient to the land armies. The pre-WWII thinkers were conceiving strategic bombing as a means to end wars. Why bother supporting the land army when I can fly my planes to the enemy's capital with bombers, escorted by fighters, and scouted by recon planes?

Even into and through WWII, there were no real dedicated attacker aircraft. Planes like Typhoon and Thunderbolt were fighter planes that were found to be great at supporting land forces. The Dauntless and Stukas were dive bombers, attack aircraft by modern standards but considered tactical bombers. The Dauntless and Helldiver were dedicated naval air arm as the USAAF never employed dive bombers. The A-20 Havoc and A-26 Invader were great attack aircraft with MG"s facing forward but initially conceived as light bombers. But all these aircraft listed were developed in the 1940's (except the A-20 in 1939).

That said, I'd say an additional category is to split bombers into light and heavy bombers or tactical and strategic bombers. The Luftwaffe never employed any strategic bombers and the Soviets had them but couldn't use them en masse.

For attack aircraft, you have the whole issue of air to ground coordination. Most armies and air forces still struggled with it during WWII, with the Americans having the most elaborate set up after teething problems even after Normandy.

Even look today with the A-10. It does the job great, but the Air Force hates it.

It is my considered opinion that the Navy needed its own planes. The system in UK of a Fleet Air Arm provided by the RAF was stupid.
The nation needed an Air Force. It could specialize on strategic bombing with fighter escorts and interceptor fighters for defense.

However, the Army then and still now [just like the Navy] needs its own planes of whatever sort it needs. The A-10 should be Army planes.

This reminds me of the prewar law that made Tanks an Infantry weapon. The Cav. also needed Tanks, no ifs ands or buts.

After the 3 services buy their designs the nation can decide what to build in a war [if we have the time]. If no time we can find a use for what we have.

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Jon M
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Steve1501 wrote:
...
It is my considered opinion that the Navy needed its own planes. The system in UK of a Fleet Air Arm provided by the RAF was stupid...


It has been under the command of the Navy since 1939.
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Jon_1066 wrote:
Steve1501 wrote:
...
It is my considered opinion that the Navy needed its own planes. The system in UK of a Fleet Air Arm provided by the RAF was stupid...


It has been under the command of the Navy since 1939.


The RAF was always trying to get FAA to give them their planes, inter-service rivalry was still nothing new then.
 
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Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
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I'm not sure I hold with your taxonomy of aircraft types. The differences in mission between light, medium and heavy bombers is profound, for starters.

Also I'm not sure I'd define 'attacker' the way you do, by weapon.

The problem is that some of these weapons such as rockets and guns have very specific application, for specific targets. They promised precision, but at the cost of hitting power and effect. Rocketing trains is one thing, but you wouldn't use them to attack a factory, or break a dyke, or do many of the other things that bombs are designed for. Bombs, depending on type, were far more devastating to all kinds of targets. And with certain kinds of aircraft such as the dive bomber, conventional bombs could achieve precision. It's notable that the fighter-bomber used a variety of weapons, but carried bombs more frequently than these other weapons.

It's certainly true that the fighter-bomber proved in many ways more cost-effective than the strategic bomber against certain targets. They cost a fraction the price to build and operate, and towards the end of the war achieved considerable range with substantial payloads. And they were far better at defending themselves. Not that this had a lot of traction with the strategic bomber generals, who won that particular inter-service battle and reigned supreme, until Vietnam reasserted the vital role of tactical air.
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These threads remind me of my son asking questions after he found my Ballantine Books of WW2 collection when he was 12.

Fighters
Pursuit
Interceptors
Escort

Bombers
Heavy
Medium
Light
Attack
Dive
Torpedo
Harrassment
Whatever you have.

Fighter Bombers
Fighters got more engine, more armor and more carry capacity. Ad Hoc would become doctrine.


Recon
High Fast
Low Fast
Flying Boat
Pathfinders
Artillery Spotters
Whatever you have

Transport
Troop
Airborne
Cargo
Flying boat
Whatever you have

Specials
Mistels
Kamikazes
Aphrodite
Dam busters

Liaison
Designed for the job
Hacks

Then we have Night Fighters - most are bomber like fitted up with Radar some are not - all patch jobs with very few dedicated designs.
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Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
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When you consider aircraft you must consider what the mission is. What is the target? Where is the target? When do you attack? What are the environmental conditions at the target?

Answers to these questions start determining the aircraft you need and the weapons you must use.

If the target is far away you need an aircraft with range and, possibly, a dedicated navigator aboard. Or maybe it needs navigation aids such as radio navigation, or radar, to aid you in bad weather or at night.

If the target is particularly tough you may need a certain bomb load. Or maybe a specialist bomb type like the High-Capacity 'Cookie', that requires a certain lift capacity, and that is capable of being carried to that range. Remember that larger loads over long distances require more fuel. Specialist weapons such as torpedoes require aircraft capable of carrying them, and crews intensively trained to use that weapon.

Maybe you need an aircraft that must be escorted. Maybe the aircraft can survive without an escort because it has considerable speed, like the Mosquito, or some other useful defensive feature.

And this is even before we consider the weapon to be used. Do you need an armour-piercing weapon? Do you need a high capacity explosive weapon that creates a lot of blast? Do you need fragmentation effects and shrapnel? Do you need incendiaries to accompany the weapon? What kind of coverage of the target do you need? (Which loops back to questions about total bomb load.) And so on. . .

Airmen thought in terms of missions and the tools needed to achieve them. They did not think in terms of weapons that fired forward or dropped behind, except where the mission determined that a weapon of that type was required.

I recommend Alfred Price's book 'The Bomber in World War II' as an excellent high-level overview of bomber design.
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Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
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Steve1501 wrote:
It is my considered opinion that the Navy needed its own planes. The system in UK of a Fleet Air Arm provided by the RAF was stupid.


As someone has already pointed out, the Fleet Air Arm was operated by the Royal Navy, not the RAF.

Steve1501 wrote:
The nation needed an Air Force. It could specialize on strategic bombing with fighter escorts and interceptor fighters for defense.


There's a strong case that it was a mistake to make the USAF a separate command and that it should have remained under the Army's umbrella. The case for strategic bombing is far from airtight. And certainly it came at the expense of resources for support of the armies.

I'm sympathetic to the view that in World War II strategic bombing came good at the very end, with the Transportation Plan and the Oil Plan. But it took a vast expenditure of resources to perfect the weapons (by which I mean the whole apparatus of strategic bombing) to execute those plans, and there's a case to be made that those resources might have been better spent elsewhere. Let's not forget that the European war was largely won by Soviet Armies, fielding tactical air forces in support of those forces. When you read about the resources the Luftwaffe devoted to the East from Bagration onwards, you begin to realise what a sideshow, destructive though it was, the Combined Offensive was.

One other issue with strategic forces was the way in which they dominated post-war thinking, to the great detriment of tactical air. This was not reversed until the '60s and '70s and the rise of the TacAir generals.

Steve1501 wrote:
However, the Army then and still now [just like the Navy] needs its own planes of whatever sort it needs. The A-10 should be Army planes.


See above. Maybe all non-Naval air should be Army 'planes. The USAF has consistently tried to make the case for airmindedness as a unique quality of airmen in their doctrine, and they have a point. But I don't see how airmindedness cannot be bred in Army officers.

Steve1501 wrote:
After the 3 services buy their designs the nation can decide what to build in a war [if we have the time]. If no time we can find a use for what we have.


I don't think it works like that. Without going into the whole process of weapon acquisition and design , you have to begin with a doctrine and a requirement before you can begin planning the tools you need to execute the doctrine.
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Steve1501 wrote:
I would add the P-39 with its 37mm cannon. It sucked as a fighter but was good as an Attacker. Which is what we used it for.


Except that it was interesting that the Soviets rarely used it in the ground attack role, but preferred it as a fighter.

The gun was rather mediocre. Rate of fire was very low and the M54 HE round didn't carry all that much punch. The Soviet NS-37 was a superior weapon. The P-39 was competent in the ground attack role, but it's notable that it was soon passed over in the USAAF for other higher-performing types. Yet another piece of data that suggests your 'gun uber alles' theory holds little water.
 
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Add a post about aircraft is like a bat signal for Lee



Now for this...

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In my day we called those fighter-bombers or ground-pounders. Typhoon and Tempest are two great examples, I'd throw the late-war Hurricanes (IIB, IIC, IID, IV, and the not-produced V) into that mix (as the more fragile, but increasingly optimized Spitfires gradually outclassed them in the air-to-air fighter role as the war went on), as well as the famed Mosquito, and all of the similar aircraft in other nation's arsenals, i.e., Ilyushin Il-2.
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Strafing was a solution to certain tactical problems, but it had limited application. One problem with strafing is that it brought an aircraft well within range of enemy AAA, including small arms. It could be effective against soft targets but ineffective against harder targets.

Using larger calibres could help against precision targets like tanks and submarines, but it's notable that calibres over 40mm were heavy and unwieldy, requiring twin-engined aircraft. Their success rates were patchy at best. The Mosquito FB Mk.VIII Tsetse had some success against submarines, but it's interesting that the 75mm on the B-25 never really did well against ground targets. Again it was primarily an anti-shipping weapon, for use against barges and small craft. In other words, the big gunships were highly specialist weapons, for special targets.

The calibres around 37mm to 40mm seem to have had a mixed bag of results. the Soviets reported good results with their NS-37 gun against armour, while the British had modest success with 40mm S-guns on Hurricanes. But again, these were specialist weapons for specialist roles. The 37mm M4 on the P-39 did nothing spectactular, hampered by the low rate of fire, low muzzle velocity and indifferent AP and HE ammunition.

When you look at the history of the aircraft that mounted these weapons, you find they were niche 'planes fulfilling niche roles and were never the basis for massed fleets of strafers.
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Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
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An excellent book summarising bombing, bombing techniques and weapons development in the war is Bombing 1939-45: Air Offensive Against Land Targets in World War II by Karl Hecks.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bombing-1939-45-Offensive-Against-1...

Goes into detail on some weapons and programs that don't normally get mentioned in the regular histories. For example, it has brief but interesting coverage of chemical weapon programs.
 
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Steve
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pilotofficerprune wrote:
Steve1501 wrote:
It is my considered opinion that the Navy needed its own planes. The system in UK of a Fleet Air Arm provided by the RAF was stupid.


As someone has already pointed out, the Fleet Air Arm was operated by the Royal Navy, not the RAF.


To me controlling and operating are not the pint.

It is who decides what to buy.

The Skua and Swordfish were ordered by the RAF for the FAA to use.

Both were obsolete before they flew. IMHO.

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Steve
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pilotofficerprune wrote:
An excellent book summarising bombing, bombing techniques and weapons development in the war is Bombing 1939-45: Air Offensive Against Land Targets in World War II by Karl Hecks.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bombing-1939-45-Offensive-Against-1...

Goes into detail on some weapons and programs that don't normally get mentioned in the regular histories. For example, it has brief but interesting coverage of chemical weapon programs.

Sorry to be dismissive, but I have retired to live in Thailand on a very limited budget. Add in the shipping and the Thai VAT and books are out of reach.

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Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
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Steve1501 wrote:
To me controlling and operating are not the pint.

It is who decides what to buy.


I disagree. The intended operator, the customer, matters. These were not RAF aircraft repurposed as naval aircraft, but aircraft designed specifically for carrier operation.

Steve1501 wrote:
The Skua and Swordfish were ordered by the RAF for the FAA to use.


I think you're arguing a technicality. The Skua and Swordfish were ordered by the Air Ministry for the Fleet Air Arm, to specifications set and guided by naval aviators for a naval aircraft.

Steve1501 wrote:
Both were obsolete before they flew.


That may be true, but the list of aircraft that applies to in the pre-war and early war period is a very long one. And obsolescence is something that's most apparent in hindsight. The Skua, for example, was one of many attempts by several air forces to produce a multi-role aircraft (see also the French BCR) and at the time it was designed had many advanced features such as flaps and retractable landing gear.
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