Fit for the Job?

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Fatboy Coxy
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Fit for the Job?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 23 Apr 2020 21:00

Hi all, the Fairey Battle is much maligned aircraft, primary for its disastrous losses in May 1940, when it was called upon to destroy the bridges and pontoons across the Meuse. Attacking without fighter escort, flying low to avoid detection from German standing fighter patrols, it was badly exposed to AA ground fire, attacking vital strategic points which were sure to be well defended. Losses were simply horrendous.

But was it so bad, the Blenheim, the new French Breguet 693 and the German Stuka all suffered catastrophic losses when caught alone without fighter escort, while operating in a tactical air role, attacking key points. If we put the Battle in an environment of clear air superiority, how well does she stand up to the task of attacking those bridges and pontoons?

Firstly, she doesn’t have to approach targets at tree top, and be exposed to light AA flying to the target, which was something they did to avoid the German fighters, so her approach can be at something like 5,000 ft

Secondly, she can dive bomb, not at the fantastic angles of the Stuka, but 60 degrees would surely give a better accuracy than level bombing at 5,000 feet.

Thirdly she carried four 250lb General Purpose bombs, a good size for the time, which wouldn’t have any problems with pontoon bridges, and I suspect if all four could hit a steel truss bridge, they might well take a span down.

She was very vulnerable to ground fire, in part due to no self-sealing tanks, and her acceleration away after the bomb release, despite being 1,000 lb lighter, was very poor. Self-sealing tanks could have been back fitted in late 1940, if not earlier, but being re-engined, which was greatly needed, meant a commitment to a tactical approach which without air superiority wasn’t viable.

Nevertheless, she would have done ok for the time, in that environment, accepting the instillation of seal sealing tanks, and maybe some amour protection being fitted. What do you think?

Regards
Fatboy Coxy

OldBill
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Re: Fit for the Job?

Post by OldBill » 24 Apr 2020 02:11

Interesting idea!

aghart
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Re: Fit for the Job?

Post by aghart » 24 Apr 2020 07:37

Not fit for purpose in Europe, They could have possibly been sent to Malaya instead? Still in danger from fighters, but they would not have faced the level of AA fire they got in Europe. As tactical strike aircraft they might have achieved much more (albeit still at great cost) in Singapore.

John(txic)
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Re: Fit for the Job?

Post by John(txic) » 24 Apr 2020 09:09

Fair assessment, Coxy - forced to operate in a hostile environment with p-poor planning.

Have you read this?

https://www.fonthill.media/products/the ... raf-career

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Sheldrake
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Re: Fit for the Job?

Post by Sheldrake » 24 Apr 2020 11:15

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
23 Apr 2020 21:00
Hi all, the Fairey Battle is much maligned aircraft, primary for its disastrous losses in May 1940, when it was called upon to destroy the bridges and pontoons across the Meuse. Attacking without fighter escort, flying low to avoid detection from German standing fighter patrols, it was badly exposed to AA ground fire, attacking vital strategic points which were sure to be well defended. Losses were simply horrendous.

But was it so bad, the Blenheim, the new French Breguet 693 and the German Stuka all suffered catastrophic losses when caught alone without fighter escort, while operating in a tactical air role, attacking key points. If we put the Battle in an environment of clear air superiority, how well does she stand up to the task of attacking those bridges and pontoons?

Firstly, she doesn’t have to approach targets at tree top, and be exposed to light AA flying to the target, which was something they did to avoid the German fighters, so her approach can be at something like 5,000 ft

Secondly, she can dive bomb, not at the fantastic angles of the Stuka, but 60 degrees would surely give a better accuracy than level bombing at 5,000 feet.

Thirdly she carried four 250lb General Purpose bombs, a good size for the time, which wouldn’t have any problems with pontoon bridges, and I suspect if all four could hit a steel truss bridge, they might well take a span down.

She was very vulnerable to ground fire, in part due to no self-sealing tanks, and her acceleration away after the bomb release, despite being 1,000 lb lighter, was very poor. Self-sealing tanks could have been back fitted in late 1940, if not earlier, but being re-engined, which was greatly needed, meant a commitment to a tactical approach which without air superiority wasn’t viable.

Nevertheless, she would have done ok for the time, in that environment, accepting the instillation of seal sealing tanks, and maybe some amour protection being fitted. What do you think?

Regards
Fatboy Coxy
I agree. The Fairy Battle wasn't that far in concept from the most numerous, and one of the most successful ground attack aircraft of WW2 - the IL 2. The specifications and general characteristics are similar. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairey_Battle ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilyushin_Il-2 The IL2 M3 variant quoted in the specifications is the 1944 version.

If the RAF had wanted to they could have turned the battle into an IL 2. Remove the third crewman and used the saved weight for armour plate. However, the RAF did not want an aircraft to deliver close air support. They were only flying the battle because there weren't enough heavy bombers in the late 1930s to equip our strategic Bomber Command.

Knouterer
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Re: Fit for the Job?

Post by Knouterer » 24 Apr 2020 11:29

Another thread about the Battle:
viewtopic.php?f=54&t=241392&p=2238366#p2238366
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Gooner1
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Re: Fit for the Job?

Post by Gooner1 » 24 Apr 2020 11:31

Generally the Battle was a waste of a Merlin engine wasn't it?

Probably would have been far better to make Hurricanes instead and remembered a bit earlier that Fighters could drop bombs too.

Knouterer
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Re: Fit for the Job?

Post by Knouterer » 24 Apr 2020 11:32

I agree that the Battle's problem was that it was a tool for a job the RAF didn't really want to do.

The RAF had always been anxious to secure an independent role for itself, especially in times of budgetary stringency that might threaten its very existence. In 1940 its commanders, and in particular Portal of Bomber Command, saw the strategic air war against Germany as their main task. Churchill agreed: “The Navy can lose us the war, but only the Air Force can win it. Therefore our supreme effort must be to gain overwhelming mastery in the Air. The Fighters are our salvation but the Bombers alone provide the means of victory. In no other way at present visible can we hope to overcome the immense military power of Germany.” (memorandum of 3 September 1940).

From that perspective, providing air support for the army was clearly a secondary consideration, or even an unwelcome distraction from the real job. This attitude had been reinforced by the campaign in France, where the Blenheim and Battle squadrons had suffered horrendous losses for very little result. The Air Ministry and the RAF firmly resisted design and procurement of any kind of tactical bomber that could not be used for the strategic offensive. If under exceptional circumstances in the future Bomber Command had to come to the aid of the army, it would be with twin- or even four-engined bombers. And in that case, such air support would take the form of battlefield interdiction, i.e. attacks on communications hubs, headquarters, bridges, transport columns, ammunition dumps, and other targets well behind the front line and out of artillery range. In the summer of 1940 the intention was to re-equip the remaining Battle squadrons of No. 1 Group with Wellingtons as soon as the latter became available, in spite of the fact that there were over two hundred new and unused Battles standing around in storage units. Most ended up as trainers or target tugs.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Fit for the Job?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 24 Apr 2020 15:50

John(txic) wrote:
24 Apr 2020 09:09
Fair assessment, Coxy - forced to operate in a hostile environment with p-poor planning.

Have you read this?

https://www.fonthill.media/products/the ... raf-career
No, but the reviews are very good

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Fit for the Job?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 24 Apr 2020 15:57

aghart wrote:
24 Apr 2020 07:37
Not fit for purpose in Europe, They could have possibly been sent to Malaya instead? Still in danger from fighters, but they would not have faced the level of AA fire they got in Europe. As tactical strike aircraft they might have achieved much more (albeit still at great cost) in Singapore.
And this is the point really, in a contested air space, ie Europe, they were a liability, as were the Blenheim, Stuka etc but who wasn't, unless you had air superiority. But in a Tactical role, and not being asked to fly low, but swoop into the attack, they could have fared better, with reasonable accuracy. Their lack of ability to sustain damage from AA fire was their Achilles heel.

Moving onto Malaya, the same problem of working in an environment with the enemy having air superiority would have still meant them being shot down in droves.

Regards
Fatboy Coxy

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Fit for the Job?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 24 Apr 2020 16:05

Gooner1 wrote:
24 Apr 2020 11:31
Generally the Battle was a waste of a Merlin engine wasn't it?

Probably would have been far better to make Hurricanes instead and remembered a bit earlier that Fighters could drop bombs too.
With regard to the point of bombing the pontoons and bridges over the Meuse, not sure if it was available then, but the Hurricane Mk IIB could be fitted with either one 500 lb bomb or two 250 lb bombs. I think either could do some serious damage to a pontoon, but that's only half the bomb load of a Battle, and a bomb loaded Hurricane would also be easily shot down without fighter cover.

Regards
Fatboy Coxy

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Fit for the Job?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 24 Apr 2020 16:07

Knouterer wrote:
24 Apr 2020 11:32
I agree that the Battle's problem was that it was a tool for a job the RAF didn't really want to do.

The RAF had always been anxious to secure an independent role for itself, especially in times of budgetary stringency that might threaten its very existence. In 1940 its commanders, and in particular Portal of Bomber Command, saw the strategic air war against Germany as their main task. Churchill agreed: “The Navy can lose us the war, but only the Air Force can win it. Therefore our supreme effort must be to gain overwhelming mastery in the Air. The Fighters are our salvation but the Bombers alone provide the means of victory. In no other way at present visible can we hope to overcome the immense military power of Germany.” (memorandum of 3 September 1940).

From that perspective, providing air support for the army was clearly a secondary consideration, or even an unwelcome distraction from the real job. This attitude had been reinforced by the campaign in France, where the Blenheim and Battle squadrons had suffered horrendous losses for very little result. The Air Ministry and the RAF firmly resisted design and procurement of any kind of tactical bomber that could not be used for the strategic offensive. If under exceptional circumstances in the future Bomber Command had to come to the aid of the army, it would be with twin- or even four-engined bombers. And in that case, such air support would take the form of battlefield interdiction, i.e. attacks on communications hubs, headquarters, bridges, transport columns, ammunition dumps, and other targets well behind the front line and out of artillery range. In the summer of 1940 the intention was to re-equip the remaining Battle squadrons of No. 1 Group with Wellingtons as soon as the latter became available, in spite of the fact that there were over two hundred new and unused Battles standing around in storage units. Most ended up as trainers or target tugs.
Well said

Gooner1
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Re: Fit for the Job?

Post by Gooner1 » 24 Apr 2020 18:42

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
24 Apr 2020 16:05
With regard to the point of bombing the pontoons and bridges over the Meuse, not sure if it was available then, but the Hurricane Mk IIB could be fitted with either one 500 lb bomb or two 250 lb bombs. I think either could do some serious damage to a pontoon, but that's only half the bomb load of a Battle, and a bomb loaded Hurricane would also be easily shot down without fighter cover.

Regards
Fatboy Coxy
Hurricane didn't get bombs until late '41 I believe. Quite how the RAF had forgotten for so long the usefulness of a single-seat fighter in the ground-attack role I don't know. Being faster, smaller and nimbler the Hurricane should be significantly less easily shot down than a Battle.

In a wider aspect of the Battle of France I think the Allies would have been better served by 10 additional squadrons of Hurricanes - with or without bombs - than the 10 squadrons of Battles.

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Fit for the Job?

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 24 Apr 2020 19:19

I think in a basic effort to justify their own existence and not be a Corps in the Army or Navy, it was important that the RAF create a fundamental role, and strategic bombing was that. So Bomber Command was the be all and end all. Fighter Command was needed because although the 'Bomber always got through' there had to be some defence of the Homelands. The Battle was a product of a 1933 spec that provided for a bomber that couldn't be caught by the biplanes of the day. The RAF became Myopic, and were only put off bombing Germany in 1939, because it was expected that the Germans would do the same and thus mutual devastation would ensure at home. I think it was that simplistic. The Germans, on the other hand, went tactical and never developed a strategic bomber force.

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