Why did the German Aces have so many air kills?

Intro

When it comes to World War 2 many people often cite the high kill numbers of German and Japanese Pilots. The problem is they usually try to use these numbers to make various points on how effective the Axis forces were, well, there are many problems with this. Luckily the third most successful German ace of World War Günther Rall, actually spoke out on this in a polite and indirect manner. He answered the question: why did German Aces have so many air kills compared to Allied pilots. I will use his answer and expand on it a bit.

The conditions stated by Günter Rall

Günther Rall outlined several conditions:
1) First off he notes that in order to shoot down enemy planes, you need a sufficient number of them in your mission area. Many Allied fighter pilots in the later stages of the war never saw a German plane and even if they did, they often heavily outnumbered their foes. In contrast this situation was very uncommon for the German side after late 1941, after all they faced the Soviet Union, British Empire and the United States. Each of them usually matched or outnumbered the Germans in total planes alone, together they had a considerable numerical advantage. Let’s just look at the initial numbers for operation Barbarossa. At the time of the German attack the Soviet Air Force consisted of about 10 000 to 15 000 aircraft, of which 7 500 were deployed in the Soviet’s Western theatre. Whereas the German Air Force had around 2800 aircraft deployed for Operation Barbarossa. (Jones, David R.: From Disaster to Recovery: Russia’s Air Forces in the Two World Wars: p. 272)

Even earlier in the war during the Battle of Britain in summer 1940 the Germans had about the same number of fighter planes as the British. During the height of the battle in August 1940 the Fighter Command had around 1000 fighters, which was about the same number as the Luftwaffe. (Source: Overy – Battle of Britain)

This strategic disparity in planes didn’t necessarily transfer down to the tactical situation. Because the Germans could to a certain degree decide when, where and how to engage the Allied aircraft, particularly when they were attacking Germany and the occupied territories. Thus, tactical victories were still quite common and those improved the kill counts of German pilots.

2) Second, Western Allied pilots usually had a limited number of missions to fly and then they were rotated out or could return home. Due to the lack of German pilots this wasn’t a possibility, hence German pilots usually fought until they were killed, captured or incapacitated in one way or another way.

There were other factors as well, like the initial superiority of German training in combat pilots due to the pre-war build up and experiences from the Spanish civil war. Furthermore, nearly every major country used a different system for the counting of kills and losses in World War 2. Additionally, especially in air combat the kill claims for all sides could be up to twice as high as the losses of their enemies. In short, there are many problems with deriving valid and comparable kill to death ratios from these value across different countries.

In a strategic war the Average Pilot Counts

But let’s take at the bigger picture, one way to properly determine the effectiveness of combat pilots is by taking a look at the average pilot, because in a total war the achievements of exceptional individuals rarely have an effect above the tactical level. But the combined force of a large number of soldiers, pilots or sailors usually is the determining factor that has strategic effects.
This is the reason why proper training programs were so important, something both the Germans and Japanese didn’t put enough emphasis on during the war. Thus, armed forces should not be judged solely based on their current or initial quantity and quality, but also in their ability to maintain this quantity and quality during a war.

Conclusion

To conclude comparing the individual achievements of aces usually doesn’t provide meaningful information about major aspects of the air war. It usually only serves as an excuse for nationalistic tendencies and/or contempt, which in a way is probably the same thing. Most people note that national pride is important, and I agree with that, but I think real pride has no need for a comparison, it comes from within and not from an outside measuring stick. After all, it is important that we respect the achievements and service of all men and women that served, no matter if they flew 50 missions with no kills or were aces with more than 200 kills. Quite many pilots that once fought each other became friends after the war, I think they serve as great examples that mutual respect is a true virtue of a hero and that despite various differences an honest agreement on core values like respect is more important than the color of our flags.

The Interview with Günther Rall

Sources

Books and Articles

Overy, Richard: The Battle of Britain – The Myth and the Reality (amazon.com affiliate link)

Jones, David R.: From Disaster to Recovery: Russia’s Air Forces in the Two World Wars. In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail (amazon.com affiliate link)

Jones, David R.: From Disaster to Recovery: Russia’s Air Forces in the Two World Wars. In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail (amazon.de affiliate link)

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Online Sources

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Why the Imperial Japanese Air Forces Failed in World War 2

Intro

The Second World War to a large degree was determined by the disparity of the economic capacities and manpower between the Axis and the Allies. Yet, solely looking at production numbers and men can lead to a deterministic or even fatalistic interpretation that prevents us from looking at other factors that also played a vital role in the defeat of the Axis Forces.
This video is based on the article: The Imperial Japanese Air Forces by Osamu Tagaya. (See Description)

High Level Organization

The Japanese leadership was well aware of its limited capabilities in both resources and industrial capacity. Yet, it failed to unify the two branches of the Japanese Armed Forces, notably the Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy to focus on one strategy in the years leading to the war. The Army for a large part saw as their main enemy in Russia and later the Soviet Union, while the Navy determined the United States of America as their principal foe. Both branches couldn’t agree and since they were not subordinates of the Japanese Government, there was no unifying power to force them into cooperation. This lead to two different strategies that were competing with each other for resources, manpower and equipment. This also lead to parallel development of similar aircraft types, like bombers and prevented the creation of uniform standards. (Tagaya: p. 178-180) Such inefficiencies and waste of resources are problematic in general, but in combination with limited industrial capacity and resources such effects weigh several magnitudes higher than for industrial giants, like the United States.

Army Shortcomings – The Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF)

Let’s take a look at the shortcomings of the Japanese Army Air Force. Since the Japanese Army Air Force was mostly developed for tactical support of a land war against Soviet Union, it lacked capabilities for naval navigation and long-range capabilities, something that was crucial for their use in South East Asia and especially the islands of the Pacific. As a result the Navy had to fly long-range bombing missions in the Philippines for the Army. (Tagaya: p. 179-180)

One major problem was that the Japanese Army lacked strong advocates for air power in its ranks. This was due to the fact that the Japanese had a very limited amount of army officers with air combat experience. Although the Japanese were among the first to use combat aircraft in World War 1, it was a short a limited engagement in 1914. These experiences were too limited to convince enough officers of the importance air power. The army initiated two times the creation of an independent air force as a third branch, like Germany and the United Kingdom with the Royal Air Force. Yet, the Navy disagreed, because they feared that similar to the British RAF that the Fleet Air Arm would only play a marginal role in an independent branch. (Tagaya: p. 180-185)
The main roles for the Army Air Force lay in recon and air combat, whereas bombing missions received only limited attention. This is reflected in the slow build-up of its bomber squadrons in the 1920ies.(Tagaya: p. 182)

For a short time the Army like the Navy saw the United States as their main opponent, during that period the development of a large four engine bomber was started. Furthermore, there were projects to use aircraft catapults on land-bases in order to circumvent the problem of building long air strips after an invasion of the Philippines. Yet, once the Army focused again on Russia and Asia, these projects were discontinued in the early 1930ies. Due to annexation of Manchuria by the Japanese an extended land border to the Soviet Union changed the strategic situation. Furthermore, the development of the TB-3 bomber by the Soviets put the Japanese home islands into the range of the Soviet Air Force. (Tagaya: p. 182-185)
Around the mid 1930ies the Army started a major expansion of its air arm and in 1937 declared the destruction of the enemy’s air force as the primary mission. Yet, in the conflicts in China and with the Soviet Union the Army Air Force mainly contributed on a tactical level. Furthermore, in 1940 the emphasis on destruction of the enemy air force was weakened and the offensive power remained mostly on a tactical level. (Tagaya: p. 185)

The main problem with Japanese Army aviation lay in a lack of initiative and a conservative senior leadership that was mostly reacting to international developments instead of formulating its own doctrines. This lead to a shortage of officers with proper experience during the rapid expansion. (Tagaya: p. 186)
“This often resulted in poor leadership and unimaginative staff work, giving rise to operations that where questionable in their effectiveness and all too predictable and conventional in nature.” -Osamu Tagaya:The Imperial Japanese Air Forces, p. 186 (link in the description)

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN)

IJN Achievements

Now, before we take a look at the shortcoming of the Imperial Japanese Navy, which were quite different to those of the Army. Let’s take a look at their initial achievements first.
The Navy unlike the Army had strong advocates for air power in its ranks. This is due to the fact the modern Navies usually have a more open attitude towards technology and innovation. After all an infantry division consists mostly of men, whereas a battleships consists mostly of steel with a lot of technological components and a handful men.
The Imperial Japanese Navy was a pioneer in naval aviation. It built the world’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier the HIJMS Hōshō in 1922. Furthermore, it introduced the first operational deployment of an all-metal monoplane carrier-fighter plane in 1937. And in 1940 it was able to perform the mass deployment of torpedo and dive-bombers in coordination with fighters launched from several aircraft carries, something no navy at that time was able to do. Right before Pearl Harbor, the IJN had more aircraft carriers than any other Navy and had the world’s leading naval air arm.

Furthermore, there were some other aspects were the IJN achieved leading roles. In terms of aircraft the Zero outmatched all it counterparts and sometimes even land-based aircraft. Furthermore, the IJN possessed a strong land-based naval bomber force the so called “rikko” units, which were initially developed to counter the limits on the number of carriers due to Naval Treaties. These units sank the Royal Navy’s battleships the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse early on in the War. Also the attack on Pearl Harbor and the following half year the IJN basically marked the start of domination of aircraft carriers in naval warfare. (Tagaya: p. 186-187)

IJN Shortcomings

Yet, despite all these achievements in naval aviation, it is quite surprising that the IJN didn’t drop the battleship as a core weapon prior or after these initial successes of carriers. Its fleet organization still focused on the battleship and didn’t create a complete carrier task force organization, unlike the US Navy later in the War. Although, the enormous amounts of resources put into building the Yamato and Musashi super-battleships are to a certain degree understandable, because before the war in the pacific, it was not clear how important carriers would be, but the reluctance to change the naval organization was major flaw. This is also reflected by the presence of Japanese Battleship fleet at the Battle of Midway in June 1942. (Tagaya: p. 187-189)
One major flaw of the IJN was its focus to primarily target enemy warships and often ignore the enemy supply ships. Like after the defeat of the Allied cruisers at the battle of the Savo Island, where the transport ships were left unharmed. This was not just one incident, the IJN submarine doctrine focused on destroying enemy warships as did the Japanese air men. To some degree this maybe hindsight bias, but misjudging the strategic value of merchant ships and supplies, probably stemmed from the focus on a classical decisive battle thinking.
In defense of the Japanese, we need to take into account that even the Western Allies that focused on strategic warfare early on didn’t focus on the German supplies in their bombing campaigns, it took them until May 1944 to focus at fuel production, which severely limited the mobility and combat effectiveness of all German forces. (Deutsche Reich & 2. WK: Band 7; S. 483-485) In the Pacific with its long supply lines between the islands, the strategic value of attacks against merchant shipping was about as crucial as fuel for Germany. Because, without supplies and fuel ground, naval and air forces are extremely limited in their effectiveness. (Tagaya: p. 188-189)

Japanese Capabilities

Let’s take a look at Japanese capabilities. As mentioned before the focus of the Japanese Army and the Japanese Navy was on supporting battles. This narrow view lead to a neglect of logistics and other crucial elements. Similar to the German Luftwaffe there was a certain neglect for all elements that didn’t surround actual combat, yet to a far greater extent. After all, the Luftwaffe possessed one of the leading air transport arms in the beginning of the war quite contrary to the Japanese that lacked transport aircraft. For instance the Japanese lacked pilots for ferrying aircraft to the front lines and their capabilities to construct airfields was limited. Furthermore, there was a severe lack of warning and communication equipment like radar and effective radios sets for fighters. (Tagaya: p. 189; Corum: p. ) Unlike the German Air Force in Western Europe, the Japanese couldn’t rely on an existing infrastructure in the Pacific, thus these shortcomings reduced the combat effectiveness and readiness of their units. As a result naval bombers were used several times to drop supplies, because there were no transport aircraft available. This was in stark contrast to the Allies that airlifted an infantry division from Australia to New Guinea. Furthermore, the Japanese periodically used combat pilot to ferry planes due to lack of ferry pilots.
The lack of mechanized engineering equipment to create and improve existing airfields also had severe long term effects. It not only resulted in a huge delay and back-breaking labor on the Japanese side, additionally, the resulting installations were often very limited in size. As a result Japanese airfields were usually congested with planes that were parked closely to each other on several occasions this lead to severe losses when those air fields were attacked. (Tagaya: p. 189-190)

Often these attacks occurred without any warning, due the Japanese lack of radar equipment. Although the Japanese were once among the leaders in radar technology, they fell behind by not investing and employing the technology for military purposes.

In general the Japanese efforts and capabilities surrounding communication and coordination were limited. There was a lack of effective shortwave radios, thus Japanese fighter pilots basically communicated with visual signals. This prevented to a large degree that they could fully exploit their initial advantages in training and equipment. Furthermore, it also prevented the creation of a proper ground- or carrier-based-control capabilities like the British used during the Battle of Britain or the US Navy developed throughout the war. (Tagaya: p. 189-191)

Japanese Priorities and their Consequences

Let’s take a look at the Japanese Priorities and their consequences. The Japanese focus on battle and combat units was the determining factor throughout the war and the lack of unified strategy between the Navy and Army showed a lack of foresight and strategic perspective. The missing unified strategy prevented a proper and effective allocation of Japans limited resources before and during the war. In contrast even though the United States enjoyed an abundance of industrial capacity and manpower, it still committed to the Grand Strategy of “Germany First” with the British. (Tagaya: p. 191-192)

The Japanese aircraft industry lagged behind in terms of powerful engines, this problem was circumvented by using no armor plates and self-sealing fuel tanks in their early models. Due their experiences fighting the Chinese although they assumed that these measures were sufficient. Unlike the Germans that improved their aircraft after their experiences in the Spanish Civil war.
Thus, during the Guadalcanal campaign Japanese losses increased and their highly-trained airmen thinned out quickly. The lack of proper training programs were similar to the Germans and since the Western Allies put a strong emphasis on training early, this soon lead to a situation where the average Japanese pilot was less trained than the average Allied pilot. (Tagaya: p. 191-193)
“In the end, the initial margin of superior training and experience exhibitied by its airmen proved insufficient to prevent serious attrition.” (Tagaya: p. 193)

Japanese Aircraft Industry

Let’s take a look at the Japanese Aircraft industry. Japan before and shortly after the First World War was dependent on Western technology and imported aircraft and equipment at that time. During the 1930ies they reached self-sufficiency in engine and air-frame design, but their development cycles were still quite long. Furthermore, in aircraft components and subsystems, like radios Japan was still very dependent on Western imports. The duration of the development cycles was a problem. Yet, this could have been dealt with by ordering follow-up types early enough, but the Japanese didn’t issued specifications for follow-up designs early enough. Prior to April 1942 there was serious effort invested to create a successor for the Zero fighter plane. If these measures would have been taken in 1940, then the Japanese could have had an aircraft to counter the Corsair or Hellcat when they arrived, but they still had to fight them with their modified version of the Zero. Furthermore, the initial successor of the Zero the A7M “Reppu” failed and wasn’t abandoned soon enough thus delaying the N1K1-J “Shiden”, which entered combat in October 1944 and its improved version the “Shiden-Kai” (also known by older war thunder players as the UFO) was ready in March 1945. Hence, even though the development cycles of the Japanese were not as fast as that of the United States, this problem could have been averted by ordering a replacement at an early stage. (Tagaya: p. 193-195) As a result the end of the war, the Japanese only fielded a handful of types that introduced during the war, whereas the United States replaced a large amount of its pre-war models.

Result of Training and Industry Policies

As a result, in June 1944 the Japanese faced highly trained US pilots with new superior planes in their slightly upgraded planes flown by poorly-trained pilots. This resulted in an ineffective air force, which had almost no other option but to resort to Kamikaze attacks due to insufficient training and equipment. Note that we are talking about average pilots here, because those win the war not a small number of extraordinary aces. (Tagaya: p. 192-193)

Conclusion

To conclude, similar to Germany, Japan wasn’t ready for a war long-war on a global scale in terms of its industrial capabilities. But only looking at the industrial side of a country when it comes to analyzing a war can be misleading, because one might miss important areas of improvement. One way to avoid this is, to take a look at engagements, when the economic power of the winning factions wasn’t yet the determining factor. For the War in the Pacific these were the Guadalcanal campaign and the Battle of Midway. In both cases the Japanese committed various errors and the United States proved to be a skillful enemy even without superior numbers. Thus, the turning point of the war in the Pacific was before the United States could bring its full numerical advantage to the table. Something that was clearly different from the war in Europe. (Tagaya: p. 196-197) Finally, the Japanese reluctance to move away from their strong focus on combat at the cost of logistics and support, played an important role in the reversal after their initial successes. (Tagaya: p. 196-197)

Notes

The video a summary of the article listed in the sources.

Sources

Books & Articles

  • Tagaya, Osamu: The Imperial Japanese Air Forces, In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail
  • Corum, James S.: Defeat of the Luftwaffe, 1935-1945, In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail
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Arado Ar 234 – The First Jet Bomber and some special Variants

Intro

The Arado 234 was the first operational jet-powered bomber in the world. Only a little more than 200 were built, even less saw actual combat. Nevertheless, it earned its place in aviation history and is worshipped by some members of the War Thunder community as a deity.

The initial studies for the Arado 234 were started as early as late Fall 1940. Yet, these designs were focused on creating a medium-range recon aircraft not a jet-bomber. It should use jet engines that at that time were still in development. The planned aircraft should be immune to interception due to its operational altitude and speed. In 1941 one air-frame (E370) was selected and the designation Ar 234 was chosen. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich: p. 49)

Basic Design

The design was a one seated air frame with a shoulder-mounted wing, it was a clean and simple design. The cockpit should be pressurized. The design provided an all-around view to the front, yet there was no view to the rear. Since a large part of the fuselage was used for fuel tanks and the thin wings didn’t provide sufficient storage space for a traditional undercarriage there were many different proposals to solve this issue. The system, which was selected was a take-off trolley that would be dropped shortly after take-off and in order to land a centrally-mounted skid with smaller skids was used.

This system was kinda odd, but what followed was probably even more odd. The air-frame was ready in Winter 1941, but the jet engines were still not ready for about 1 year. Thus, it was proposed to install piston engines, yet due to the low ground clearance this wasn’t possible. Yet, meanwhile nobody started to redesign the air frame in order to house a proper landing gear system or at least I couldn’t find any information about this. Because later on, it became obvious rather quickly that a landing gear was needed and the air frame was redesigned to create space for a landing gear mechanism. I am not sure if the landing skid oversight is hindsight bias, lack of sources, an engineering or political issue.

Series Overview

There were three different main series of the Arado. The A-Series which were the prototypes with the landing skid, the B-Series, which was an improved A-Series with landing gear and other improvements and finally the Ar 234 C Series, which had 4 jet-engines instead of 2, although of a different type.

Now the production numbers for these series vary widely, but take these values with a grain of salt, because prototypes and pre-production aircraft are sometimes counted and sometimes not, furthermore some C-Series planes were converted from the A-Series, thus there is probably some double-counting going on:

Around 7 A-Series prototypes were built, the B-Series saw 210 production aircraft and the C Series saw 10 prototypes and 14 pre-production and production types.(Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich: p. 56) Thus, in total less than 250 planes were produced. These numbers are very low, in comparison around 1400 Me 262 were built, 6500 He-111 and 15 000 Ju 88. (and 34 000 Bf 109s.) (numbers from Wikipedia)

Now of these few hundred planes even less were operational at any given point in time, this was due to several factors like the unreliable engines that needed be overhauled after a few flight hours and had a very limited service life:

the short operational lifespan of the jet engines – rarely more than ten hours between [a] major overhaul – dictated the availability of the jet for combat.

(Source: p. 2 Sterling Michael Pavelec: The German Jet Program 1939-1945)

The reasons for this were that jet engines were a new technology, but this situation got more complicated due to the lack of rare materials, thus leading to the use of lesser quality substitutes and finally since fuel was also very limited often low-quality fuel was utilized.

Now let’s take a closer look at the different types:

Ar 234A Series

As mentioned before the original air frame was ready in late 1941, but due to the lack of engines and inability to use piston engines, it couldn’t be properly tested. It took more than a year for the first pre-production jet-engines to arrive in February 1943 (pre-production Jumo 004A). Yet, these engines weren’t cleared for flying, thus they were only used for taxying around the plane on the runway. Finally, after new engines arrived the first flight was performed in Mid-June 1943 (15th).

The main problem with the skids became apparent early on. The aircraft couldn’t be maneuvered after landing and had to be towed, which was problematic with cluttered airfields and especially due the threat of strafing attacks. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich: p. 51) Furthermore, the parachute on the trolley usually didn’t work properly thus breaking it repeatedly. Hence, the plane was redesigned to add an undercarriage system into the fuselage. This lead to the Arado 234 B model.

Ar 234B Series Blitz

Which had its maiden flight as a prototype (the Ar 234 V9) in March 1944. In June 1944 the first pre-production flight of the Ar 234B-0 was performed. Another prototype was equipped with a periscope bomb sight and bomb shackles for bombing trials. Some planes were also equipped with a landing chutes and so called “Rauchgeräte” literally meaning “smoke devices”, which were rockets that assisted in take-offs. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich p. 51-53)
Pre-Production planes were tested and in one flight Mach 0.86 was achieved, but it is not sure if this is correct, because compressibility effects normally began to manifest themselves in the vicinity of Mach 0.78. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich p. 51)

The two main version of the B Series were the Ar234B-1 and the Ar234B-2. The Ar234B-1 was a simple recon version. Whereas the Ar 234B-2 was more versatile and suitable for bombing, pathfinding and photographic recon. There were many different modifications and systems that were fitted on some planes like special recon equipment, drop tanks and bomb sights. There was a bomb sight for level bombing, but also a bombing system that allowed for glide and shallow dive-bombing. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich p. 53)

Operational History

The B-Series aircraft were the only once that were used on the front line, yet due their limited number and the fuel situation they had very little to no influence beyond the tactical level. Hence, the operational history will be rather short.

The very first units flew recon missions above British East Coast harbors in order to determine if an invasion of the Netherlands was being prepared. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich p. 53) Some units of the Kampfgeschwader 76 flew bombing missions during the Ardennes Offensive in late 1944 and early 1945. Furthermore, in March 1945 several missions in combination with Me 262 were flown against the Rhine bridge at Remagen, which was captured intact by US forces earlier on. Yet, these attacks were without success. A few planes were also used for recon missions in Northern Italy. The last planes were basically grounded due to a lack of fuel.(Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich p. 54-55)

Ar 234C Series

Now, the intended follow up for the B-Series was the C-Series. The air-frame of the Ar 234 was strong enough to withstand considerably more power than two Jumo 004B engines could provide. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich: p. 55) Thus it was proposed to create a variant that used 4 BMW 003A turbojets that were smaller and lighter. The first trials began in February 1944 and used airframes from the Ar 234 A variant (Ar 234 V8; Ar234 V6 followed in April 1944). One version used four engines in two nacelles (Ar 234 V8), whereas another used 4 engines in 4 individual nacelles (Ar 234 V8), the first version proved be more suitable and was adapted for the Ar 234 C series. There were several modifications in the C Series that differed from the B Series, most notably a redesigned cockpit, cabin, skin re-contouring, aileron design and an enlarged nose wheel. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich: p. 56) Yet, only pre-production aircraft were produced. There were around 8 sub variants planned and developed, which delayed the overall process. The first five variants were the:

  • Ar 234C-1: a recon plane, with camera and 2 aft-firing MG151.
  • Ar 234C-2: a bomber variant, intended to use 1×1000 kg bomb and 2x 500kg bombs and probably the best known variant due to War Thunder the
  • Ar 234C-3: a multipurpose variant that could be used as a bomber, ground attack or night fighter, armed with 2 forward firing MG151 and 2 aft-firing MG151.
  • Ar 234C-4: BMW 003C powered recon
  • Ar 234C-5: two seat bomber, with bombardier and navigator

Size & Dimension

Time to take a look at the size and dimensions of the Arado 234. In overall the dimension of the different series were very similar or unchanged, for instance the wingspan and horizontal stabilizer didn’t change at all and length only increased by less than half a meter between the A and the C Series. Since, the B Series saw the most action, here are the dimensions for Arado 234 B-1 according to the drawings from the 6th of December 1944 by the “Entwurfsabteilung” which means design department in English. For scale there is a figure with a height of 1.8 m.
The Arado had a length of 12.62 m, a wingspan of 14.4m, the distance between the highest point of the rudder and the lowest of the undercarriage was 4.28 m and the horizontal stabilizer was 5 m wide. Now these absolute measures more or less intuitive.

Dimensions for all 3 Series

Arado 234-A (according to the drawing from 13th July 1943)

Length: 12.58 m (41.3 ft)
Wingspan: 14.2 m (46.6 ft)
Height (from top to the bottom of the extended skid): 3.75 m (12.3 ft)
Wingspan horizontal stabilizer: 5 m (16.4 ft)

Arado 234 B-1 (according to the drawing from 6th December 1944, Entwurfsabteilung; S. 21)

Length: 12.62 m (41.4 ft)
Wingspan: 14.4 m (47.2 ft)
Height (from top to the bottom of the undercarriage): 4.28 m (14.0 ft)
Wingspan horizontal stabilizer: 5 m (16.4 ft)

Arado 234 C- 3 mit 4xBMW 109003 A1 (according to the drawing from 9th September 1944, Entwurfsabteilung; S. 28)

Length: 12.84 m (42.1 ft)
Wingspan: 14.4 m (47.2 ft)
Height (from top to the bottom of the undercarriage): 4.15 m (13.6 ft)
Wingspan horizontal stabilizer: 5 m (16.4 ft)

Comparison to Bf109 and He111

So let’s take a look how they compare to other planes.
The Bf109 had a length of around 9m, the He 111 was almost 4 meters longer than the Arado with it’s 12.6 m, as you can see the Arado is even small for German medium bombers. In contrast a a B-17 G was about 22.7m (22.66m) in length although this should only give you an indication on the size difference, because both planes were designed with completely different concepts in mind.

Technical Specification

Now let’s take a look at the performance and weapon loadout, as noted before the Arado 234 was designed primarily as a recon plane, it was later fitted with bombs, but those were mounted outside and thus created drag. Yet, considering the small size of the plane the maximum bomb load was not too bad with 1500 kg, in comparison the He-111 could carry up to 2000 kg in its internal bomb bays.
(Values for the Ar 234B-2 according to Green Williams: Warplanes of the Third Reich, p. 55)

The maximum speed at an altitude of 6000 m (19500 ft) was 742 km/h – 461 mph
At an altitude of 10000m (32800 ft) it was 700 km/h – 435 mph
It’s Range without bombload was 1630 km and with bombs around 1550 km
Range: 1630 km – 1013 Miles
Range with bombs: 1556 km – 967 Miles

The overall flight performance of the Arado was very well perceived by its pilots. It was a highly maneuverable plane and handled well at speeds below 900 km/h (560 mph), thus the handling was only problematic during dives. At that speed the plane became nose-heavy and the elevators sloppy, thus maintaining a straight dive could be problematic. (Green Williams: Warplanes of the Third Reich, p. 55) The major problem was the reliability of the engines, which also could flameout during flight and under certain circumstances not be restarted again. (Green Williams: Warplanes of the Third Reich, p. 55)
The major problem was the reliability of the engines, which required frequent overhauls. Also if an engine flamed-out it could only restarted below 4000 m and a speed between 400 km/h (250 mph) and 500 km/h (310 mph). Above these values relighting was not possible. (Green Williams: Warplanes of the Third Reich, p. 55)

Interesting Variants

Now, I got my hands on a book full of Arado documents and there were many interesting variants in it, some, which never left the drawing board, but are nevertheless interesting so let’s have a look.

Early Fighter Variant

The first that caught my attention was a basic drawing dated to the 22nd of May 1943. (S. 14-15) It is a fighter Variant of the Arado. It has a different nose configuration, which should have included armor plates to protect the pilot from the front, since the regular version only had an armor plate in the back. Furthermore, it was proposed to equip it with 3x30mm Mk 108 machine cannons and 4x20mm MG151 machine cannons. Whereas 2 of them would be aimed backwards.
It seems that this early fighter variant served as a foundation for the propsed Night Fighter Variant the Ar 234P. (Green Williams, Warplanes of the Third Reich: p. 58)
Now, you might think that the Arado would be not a good fighter, but well, there is a report from from Mid-June 1944 about various flight demonstrations of German and captured Allied aircraft. Due to the agility of the Arado, the State Secretary of the Aviation Ministry (Erhard Milch) wanted to see a comparison between the turning performance of the Ar 264 and the Me 262. To quote from the report:

It showed the clear superiority of the Ar 234 in a turn fight; Ar 234 V10 had the 262 several times in front of its barrels. The Me 262 yet was able to run away during disengagements.

(Report about the Exhibition of the Ar 234 in Rechlin 12th & 13th June 1944 – Source: Arado Ar 234 – Eine Dokumentation, Band 1; Karl R. Pawlas, 1976, S. 157)

Dieser zeigte die eindeutige Überlegenheit der Ar 234 im Kurvenkampf; Ar 234 V10 hatte die 262 mehrfach vor den Rohren. Die Me 262 konnte jedoch bei Absetzbewegungen davonlaufen.

(Bericht über Vorführung Ar 234 in Rechlin am 12. u. 13.6.1944 – Source: Arado Ar 234 – Eine Dokumentation, Band 1; Karl R. Pawlas, 1976, S. 157)

I will probably do a short video and transcript on the full report, because it contains some interesting views of the Germans on their own and Allied planes. Furthermore, it would be an interesting idea for a War Thunder reenactment, because many planes are actually available in the game already.

Anti-Escort Variant

There was another proposed version that was title “Jagdeinsatz gegen Begleitschutzjäger – 16.12.1944 Entwurfsabteilung” which roughly means “Deployment against Escort-Fighters”. It included a sketch and also a chart with the altitude and speed for the P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang. It is dated for Mid-December 1944 and was one of the many subvariants for the Arado 234 C Series. It should have been equipped with 3 so called “Magirus Bombs”, which were gun pods with 2×20 mm MG151 machine gun cannons. One under the fuselage and one under each engine, similar to the bomb layout.(S. 37) The weight for such a gun pod with 2xMG151 with 200 shots per barrel is given with 230 kg (507 lbs). (Since there is a bomb loadout with 3×250 kg for the Arado 234 C3 in War Thunder you could try out the basic flight performance.) These gun pods would probably be a very interesting variant for War Thunder.
Now, there is also a protocol from a meeting held about 6 months earlier in June 1944, just a few days before D-Day. Which clearly states that the Ar 234 C could be equipped with 3 Magirus bombs and used a “Hilfsjäger” support-fighter, but there is no interest in such an arrangement. Although it is noted in the paragraph below that an Ar 234 C should be equipped with an armored and pressurized cabin to be used as a high-altitude fighter “Höhenjäger” with 2xMG151 (S. 141). Hence, the Anti-Escort variant was probably the high-altitude fighter variant with additional gun pods.

Conclusion

Although the Arado 234 was initially designed to be a recon plane it was successfully adopted as a jet bomber and probably would have been also successful as a night-fighter and maybe even as a day-fighter. In this regards it is similar to other German medium bombers like the Do 217 and Ju 88, which also served as night fighters. Considering that it was the first of its kind, it definitely performed very well besides the engine reliability, which was also heavily influenced by the desperate state of German resources that late in the war.
Today, there is only one surviving Arado 234 left, which is owned by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Right now, it seems to be located at the Steven F. Udvar-Havy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, but better check the link to be sure.

Sources

Books & Theses

William Green: The Warplanes of the Third Reich (amazon.com affiliate link)

Karl R. Pawlas: Arado Ar 234 – Eine Dokumentation, Band 1; 1976 (amazon.de affiliate link)

Sterling Michael Pavelec: The German Jet Program 1939-1945 (Master thesis, free to download)

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Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon.com.ca, Inc. Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.ca.

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Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à.r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu amazon.de Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden können.

Online Resources

Airvectors Arado 234 Article

Aviation History Arado 234 Article

Arado 234 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Battle Of Britain – Setting and the British Defense Organization

Men & Equipment

Probably one of the most iconic references to the Battle of Britain is the quote ”Never was so much owed by so many to so few”, hence let’s start with the numbers of men and equipment:
During the height of the battle in August 1940 the Fighter Command had around 1380 and the Luftwaffe 870 fighter pilots.
In terms of planes the British had 1000 fighters, which is around the same number as the Luftwaffe.
Yet, only 700 of the British fighters were operational, whereas 800 of the Germans.

The main part of the Fighter Command planes were Hurricanes with about 55 % of the operational fighter aircraft whereas the Spitfire only reached around 30 %.
The German Luftwaffe used only one Single Engine Fighter the Bf109 (of the E-Series/Variant.)

Organization

The Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe were organized differently. The RAF used a functional approach having a command for bombers, coastal aircraft, reserves, training and fighters. Furthermore, Fighter Command had operational direction over the Anti-Aircraft Command, which was part of the British Army.

The Luftwaffe was organized in so called “Luftflotten” literally meaning “Air Fleets” that used a mix of fighter, bomber and other aircraft.

Yet, the organization wasn’t a major problem for the Luftwaffe. In Poland and the Battle of France the Luftwaffe achieved air superiority in a short amount of time. Thus, it had little experience in escorting and especially defending large formations of bombers. Furthermore, the Luftwaffe was first and foremost a tactical-oriented air force for providing close support to the army, but it was not suited for strategic operations. Thus the Luftwaffe went into a battle it was neither experienced, trained nor built for against the RAF, which also had a well-organized defense system. (So let’s take a look at it.)

British Command and Control System

Fighter Command was divided into 4 Groups and these were divided into individual Sectors with their sector station, whereas sector station is a fancy name for airfield. This hierarchy also reflected how information was transferred.

When enemy aircraft were detected by radar the Fighter Command headquarters was informed. This information was relayed to the Group HQs and individual sector stations. The Group HQs decided which sectors were activated, whereas the sector commanders decided on which squadron would be sent into combat.

Since radar stations could only provide information on planes flying over the sea, once planes were flying inland further information was provided by trained volunteers to the Observer Corps, which relayed it directly to the sector stations, who reported to the Group HQ.

Radar

A central part of this system was the so-called Radar, which is an acronym for “Radio Detection and Ranging”.

The Chain Home System had 21 radar stations that could detect the range and altitude of planes up to a 200 mile or 320 km radius, but the average was only 80 miles or 130 km. Aircraft flying below 1000 feet or 300m could not be detected by this system. To detect low flying planes the Chain Home low station system was used which had only a range of about 30 miles or 50 km.
Although this system seems flawless in theory in practice there were many problems, e.g., radar stations being out of order due to upgrades and inaccurate data from the Observer Corps.

Also relaying the radar information to the squadrons took at least 4 minutes, whereas a German squadron could cross the Channel in about 6 minutes.

Another source of viable information was signal interception. Decrypted enigma traffic usually couldn’t be provided fast enough to help intercept raids, but due a weak low-level-radio discipline on the German side there was usually a steady information about destination and origin of enemy squadrons.
This system allowed Fighter Command to choose when and where to attack. Something the Luftwaffe Command never faced before and even more important probably never fully realized throughout the whole Battle.

Notes on Accuracy

The numbers are mostly from Overy (see sources). Often those numbers are at the beginning or end of the month, but usually for different dates for the German and British forces. For simplicity I only state the month. This video is intended to give a clear and short overview, hence certain details can’t be included.

Sources

Books

Overy, Richard: The Battle of Britain – The Myth and the Reality (amazon.com affiliate link)

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Disclaimer amazon.com

Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Disclaimer amazon.co.uk

Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.

Disclaimer amazon.ca

Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon.com.ca, Inc. Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.ca.

Disclaimer amazon.de

Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à.r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu amazon.de Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden können.

Online Resources

The RAF Fighter Control System

RAF Museum – Background Battle of Britain

Never was so much owed by so many to so few

Soviet Air Force 1941/1942 – Defeat & Recovery

The Soviet Air Force in World War 2 got a very rude awakening, it endured one of the most devastating defeats in aviation history. At the time of the German attack the force consisted of about 400 000 personnel, and 10 000 to 15 000 aircraft, of which 7 500 were deployed in the Soviet’s Western theatre. Whereas the German Air Force had around 2800 aircraft deployed for Operation Barbarossa. The Germans achieved total surprised and launched an attack with about 1000 bombers against 66 airfields in the Russian border districts. (p. 272)

Aircraft Losses during Operation Barbarossa

The reported losses on these initial attacks vary, but the 1970s Soviet official history states the loss of 800 aircraft destroyed on the ground and a total loss of 1200 aircraft. This basically crippled the Soviet air force stationed near the front lines. These attacks also inflicted significant damage and chaos on the logistical side. Thus, by day three of operation Barbarossa the Luftwaffe was free to focus mainly on supporting the ground troops, who captured the Russian airfields.(p. 273)

In Mid July 1941 the Soviets admitted to the destruction of almost 4000 (3985) aircraft, whereas the German air force claimed around 6900 (6857) planes destroyed. The kill claims were probably a bit higher than the real ones, but the official war time number probably lower. Yet, most importantly both numbers are substantial.

These losses were during the initial phase of operation Barbarossa and are based on war time claims by both side. Now according to post-war Soviet and German records between the beginning of the operation and the end of the year 1941 ( 22nd of June 1941 and the 31st of December 1941), the losses were approximately as follows:
A total of 21 200 aircraft were lost on the Soviet side. With 17 900 combat aircraft and the loss of 3300 support aircraft. (Greenwood: p. 67/ p.88) Yet, only 50 % of these losses were combat losses. The German side lost a total of 2500 (2505) combat aircraft and 1900 (1895) damaged. (Greenwood: p. 67)

Note: That these numbers may be quite off and shouldn’t be compared 1:1, because both sides counted losses differently, the problem is I haven’t found a proper article on this topic yet. Although a knowledgeable user indicated that German losses were usually total losses, whereas Russian losses seemed to include damaged vehicles.

Reasons for the Disaster

The reasons for the disaster are many, some of them were the result of ongoing processes, some were structural shortcomings and others were definitive failures in leadership. In any way Stalin played a major role in most of these factors.

Although the Soviet Air Force was successful in the Far East in 1938 and 1939. During the Spanish Civil War the German Bf 109 outclassed the Russian planes like the I-15. The performance of the Red Air Force in the Winter War against Finland was a disaster, thus a major reorganization was started in February 1941 which would at least take until Mid-1942, thus it wasn’t finished when the Germans attacked and made the force even more vulnerable. (p. 274)

Additionally, the Soviet expansion into Eastern Poland and the Baltic States required many resources that would have been needed elsewhere, about two thirds of built or renovated air fields were located in these regions. (p. 275) Thus, many units were still located on unsuited air fields, which were too small or unfinished, which also made camouflage and dispersal more difficult. Unlike the British the Soviets lacked a proper early warning system, which resulted in a total surprise combined with Stalin’s reluctance to prepare properly to the upcoming German attack. (p. 275)

Purges

Another major structural problem was created by Stalin purges. In 1937 the Air Force had 13000 officers, of those 4700 (4724) were arrested. Followed by another 5600 (5616) in 1940. (75 % of the most senior and experienced commanders were among those.) Although some of the arrested officers were later released it were only around 15 % (about 900 (892) or 16 percent of those in 1940). This of course had a severe impact on morale and effectiveness, because the Air force consisted of to a large degree of purge survivors, promoted inexperienced young officers and fresh recruits. (p. 276)

The purges also affected the design bureaus for weapons and aircraft. Some were dismissed, some were arrested, which often lead to the execution and some were put in special prison bureaus like Andrei (Nikolayevich)Tupolev.(p. 277-278)

Furthermore the drastic measures and understandable fear surrounding the purges also inflicted the production of aircraft, because changing the production line from one aircraft to another can be quite complicated and usually includes a severe reduction in efficiency for adapting machinery and processes, this “loss” or better investment of time could be easily seen as sabotage. So most factories were reluctant in switching over to new models.(p. 278)

This meant that in 1940 7300 (7267 old fighters and bombers) old designs were produced whereas only around 200 of newer models.(186 new fighters and ground attack “machines” (p. 277))
The numbers especially for newer models increased in 1941, yet the training on the new aircraft was kept to a minimum due to fear of losses caused by accidents, which could also lead to “sabotage” or other charges. I guess Stalin would have been a huge Beastie Boys fan or maybe the other way round, that would at least explain all those moustaches… Oh, well I digress.

Recovery Summer 1941 to Winter 1942

Let’s take a look at the recovery of the Soviet Air force, although the German losses were way lower than the Soviet ones, the Luftwaffe also had far fewer aircraft available in the beginning. Furthermore, the logistical system of the Luftwaffe was unsuited for a long war in Russia, something I discussed already in one of my previous videos. Already in October and November the Russians ordered attacks against Luftwaffe airfields. Additionally, since the Japanese were no longer a threat, more than 1000 aircraft from the Far East arrived, all this helped to slowly tip the balance.
Whereas in end of September (30th) 1941, the Russians could oppose the 1000 Luftwaffe air planes with only 550 (545) of their own. In mid-November the situation was quite different with 670 Luftwaffe planes versus 1140 (1138) Russian planes. (p. 279) Yet, the numbers alone didn’t win the battle for the Red Air Force, but the balance was slowly changing and in fall 1942 the Luftwaffe got seriously challenged. (p. 279)

After Hitler denied the 6th Army to break out of Stalingrad it was supplied only by the Luftwaffe, the Soviet established a so called “aerial blockage” and after two months of intensive fighting the Luftwaffe’s air superiority was finally lost. (the Germans could only field 350 fighters vs. 510 (509) Russian fighters in November 1942 (19th))

Important Factors in the Recovery

Let’s take a look at the major factors that contributed to the resurrection of the Soviet Air Force. One aspect was the mostly successful evacuation of the air craft industry and the lack of German attacks on this industry. Furthermore, the successful creation of a talented command staff and successful reorganization, which was supported by Stalin. (p. 280) The restructuring efforts included the transformation into air divisions, whereas each division consisted of one type of aircraft, which improved the logistics and command efficiency.(p. 281)
Additionally, the use of on-board radios grew, which allowed better coordination with ground stations for warning and command-and-control. (p. 281) There were also tactical changes like the creation of special ace units and the use of free hunts with experienced pilots. The Soviet Air doctrine focused strongly on fighters in order to achieve air superiority, thus a considerable effort was spent to develop the fighter arm into an elite force. (p. 75 Greenwood)

All these changes and the continuous Luftwaffe losses, allowed the Soviet Air Force to break the air superiority of the Luftwaffe and subsequently force it into the defensive role. Thus, within a mere 18 months the Soviet Air Force was able to recover and deal a severe blow against its enemy.

Additionally, the Soviet Air Force was starting to receive more and more planes, due to the lend-lease program which supplied around 18000 (18303; p. 280) planes during the whole war.

Sources

Books

Amazon.com (affiliate link): Jones, David R.: From Disaster to Recovery: Russia’s Air Forces in the Two World Wars. In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail
Amazon.de (affiliate link): Jones, David R.: From Disaster to Recovery: Russia’s Air Forces in the Two World Wars. In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail

Amazon.com (affiliate link): Greenwood, John T.: Soviet Frontal Aviation during the Great Patriotic War, 1941-45. In: Russian Aviation and Air Power in the Twentieth Century
Amazon.de (affiliate link): Greenwood, John T.: Soviet Frontal Aviation during the Great Patriotic War, 1941-45. In: Russian Aviation and Air Power in the Twentieth Century

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Online Resources

CHAPTER V -ATTRITION ON THE PERIPHERY: NOVEMBER 1942-AUGUST 1943

Axis and Soviet air operations during Operation Barbarossa

Pop-culture Beastie Boys Reference – Sabotage

Logistics of the Luftwaffe in World War 2

for a more thorough look check my video on why the Luftwaffe Failed in World War 2.

Intro

In order to understand the logistics of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) in World War 2, we must take a look at the rearmament process, the military control of the industry, the attitude towards logistics and the dominance of the operational-tactical approach.

The Type/Sub-type Madness

The German re-armament focused on a fast build-up of arms and equipment. To achieve this many different models were produced by a wide range of companies. Yet, such an approach increases the cost of maintenance and supply due to the wide range of different vehicles and weapons.

This problem becomes apparent, if you look at the numbers in 1943: the US Army Air Force has 18 types of aircraft, whereas Germany had 50. This problem was prevalent in other areas too, like the armament of planes.

Take the B-17, it had one type of defensive gun, the 0.50 cal machine gun, whereas the He-111-H6 had three different types [SHOW 7.92 mm, 13mm and 20mm]. Nearly every German plane usually had a combination of at least two different types of guns throughout the war, whereas the US Forces usually used only one type of gun at all.

Luftwaffe in charge of its own industry

This problem was to a certain degree due to the control of the arms industry by the Luftwaffe. Until 1944 as the only branch of the German Armed Forces, it controlled its own industry. Which was in contrast to the United States, where the industry delivered the units most suited for mass production to the military.

Now, these circumstances were already problematic, but although German engineering is usually highly regarded throughout the world. The relationship of the military and engineering was “complicated” at best.

Disdain for Engineering

Many officers had a lack of technical understanding and were fine with it, some were even blatantly ignorant. Technology for them and thus the engineers were basically “meager”/mere servants.

This is divide between military and engineering is well illustrated by the debate about special insignias for technical officers. It was assumed that a technical officer would be perceived as less valuable by normal officers.

The attitude of the military towards technological and logistical matters manifested itself in the overall doctrine and principles.

Primacy of the operational-tactical approach vs. logistics

For instance, the primacy of the operational-tactical thinking was codified in the directive for the quartermaster. It clearly states that the supply chain management acts as a servant to the operational and tactical command.

“Alle im Versorgungsdienst tätigen Offiziere und Fachbearbeiter müssen sich bewußt sein, daß die Versorgung stets Dienerin der operativen und taktischen Führung ist und niemals zu deren Hemmschuh werden darf.” (Horst Boog, S. 242-243; referring to Quartiermeister-Vorschrift, Berlin 1936)

“All officers and clerks working in the supply services must be aware that the supply chain management is always servant of operational and tactical leadership and must never become the stumbling block.”

This is again in contrast to the Allies, in the RAF War Manual on operations, it is stated that every operational commander had to be aware of the supply/logistical situation. Yet, there is nothing similar in the German directive.

The Result

To conclude, the German Air Force was well suited for small and short wars with its operational (and military) focus, but the fast buildup and military dominance in industrial matters lead to a logistical nightmare as the war prolonged and turned into a war of attrition. Whereas other air forces usually adapted their logistical approach, the German Air Force command was reluctant due to disregard for anything outside of the operational and tactical realm. Thus, to a certain degree the Luftwaffe resembled very well the so called “Knights of the Skies”, yet in a time when the outcome of a war was mostly determined by “mere servants”.

Sources

Books

Boog, Horst: Luftwaffe und Logistik im Zweiten Weltkrieg; in: Vorträge zur Militärgeschichte 7: Die Bedeutung der Logistik für die militärische Führung von der Antike bis in die neueste Zeit.

Further Reading and Recommendation

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Disclaimer

Amazon Associates Program: “Bernhard Kast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.”

Amazon Partner (amazon.de): “Bernhard Kast ist Teilnehmer des Partnerprogramms von Amazon Europe S.à r.l. und Partner des Werbeprogramms, das zur Bereitstellung eines Mediums für Websites konzipiert wurde, mittels dessen durch die Platzierung von Werbeanzeigen und Links zu Amazon.de Werbekostenerstattung verdient werden kann.”

Online Resources

Heinkel He 177

Why the Luftwaffe Failed in World War 2 – Failures, Shortcomings and Blunders

Video

Note the following is the script for the video NOT an article, furthermore it might be a bit different to due last minute changes. There is usually also a bit more detail in the script. Continue reading “Why the Luftwaffe Failed in World War 2 – Failures, Shortcomings and Blunders” »

Falklands War – Argentine Perspective – An Inevitable Defeat?

Note the following text is the script, not an article.

Intro

In the Falklands War in 1982 Argentina suffered a disastrous defeat, thus many believe that Argentina never stood a chance. Yet, taking a closer look at the Argentine side reveals that the conflict wasn’t a forgone conclusion at all.
During and prior to the conflict the Argentine leadership committed many blunders. Note that at that time the Argentina was led by a military junta consisting of the commanders in chief of the army, navy and air force.So let’s take a look at the various factors that were crucial for the outcome of the war.

Timing

The first major problem was the timing. The original Argentine invasion of the Falkland Island or Islas Malvinas as they are called Argentina was scheduled for the 15th of May or later, which would have made British operations more difficult due to the changing weather. After all the Falkland Islands are located in a rather cold area of the Atlantic.

Yet, the occupation began on the 2nd of April, basically the Argentine Navy and Army performed the “landing at a time that now looks almost if it had been picked by Britain” Robert L. Scheina (Naval Historian; quoted after Pedraja, p. 239). It should also be noted that the Argentine Forces were due to receive new equipment, whereas the British Forces were experiencing major cutbacks.
Furthermore, the invasion itself was performed with an unnecessary show of force. The Islands were defended by a British garrison of around 100 men, yet the Argentine Navy showed up with almost all of its warships including it’s aircraft carrier. Due to this major mobilization the British were notified a week prior to the actual occupation of the islands.This commitment to use the whole Argentine navy was a clear contrast the following lack of commitment that happened after the occupation.

Rivalry

The next major problem was the rivalry within the Argentine Armed Forces. The whole invasion was planned by the Army and Navy alone, only in January 1982 they informed the Air Force, but since the Air Force wasn’t part of the operation, it couldn’t oppose the operation. Since there was no certain date and the Air Force wasn’t allowed to perform maritime operations anyway, it didn’t prepare until late March 1982.

Also the rivalry didn’t change significantly even after the bullets started flying. The conflicted was started by the Navy and Army, yet both largely dropped out of the war rather soon leaving the heavy lifting to the Air Force, which was basically dragged into the conflict shortly after the occupation of the islands. Nevertheless, the commander of the Air Force and his men were eager to show of what they were capable off. So let’s take a look at the air force.

The Ugly Duckling – State of the Air Forces

The Argentine Air Force was the ugly duckling of the Armed Forces, although it was military the best trained, it was politically the weakest, especially in the junta during the Falkland War. Army bases were located near air force bases officially for protection, yet this was mostly to keep pressure on the air force.
One aspect that severely inhibited the air force in the Falkland War was the fact that the in 1969 the Navy received the exclusive jurisdiction to defend Argentina from a sea attack, thus equipment, training and doctrine was completely oriented towards ground attack.

Nevertheless the Air Force could field an impressive number of around 200 combat planes. Yet, most of these couldn’t be used to their full performance above the Falklands, due to their limits in range. They main land air bases were located at ranges from 750 km to 690 km away from the Falkland Islands. “Partly for reasons of dispersal, and partly because of the inability to handle more flights, the air force scattered its planes among the three air strips rather than concentrating them at Río Grande, the base nearest to the combat theater.” (p. 242)
Another major problem was the lack of navigation equipment, especially for maritime operations, but some planes lacked even a simple navigational radar. To deal with this situation better equipped planes were used as guide and also civilian Learjets.

Lack of Equipment – Radar at Port Stanley

Furthermore, due to the navigational deficiencies” the radar on the Falkland Islands assumed an importance out of proportion of tis traditional role” (p. 247). It became probably the single most important equipment for the entire Argentine war effort. It provided navigational coordinates for the planes, warned them of nearby harriers and also detected many ships. A second radar would have been crucial as a backup and also due the “radar shadow” that was created by the mountains on the island, but none was deployed. This radar shadow allowed the British to remain undetected when they moved in for their landing troops.

The State of the Navy & Army

Although the overall state of the Argentine Navy and Army was probably not the best, their performance was definitely abysmal or even counter-productive. The main contributions of the the Navy came from one battalion of marines on the Falklands and their fleet air arm that operated from land bases, because after the loss of the cruiser Belgrano the commander-in-chief recalled all ships into the ports, thus the troops on the Falklands could only be supplied by the Air Force.

The Army should have defended the Falkland Islands against a British invasion, but it mostly sent conscripts that were ill-equipped. Also the leadership of the garrison openly told them that the whole occupation was just a mock theater to reach a peaceful solution, thus while air force troops prepared air raid shelters they army didn’t fortify their positions properly. Nor did the army ship heavy artillery to the island.

Probably one of the dumbest decisions was to reinforce the garrison on the freezing island with a brigade of conscripts from a subtropical region, while the best troops were kept in Argentina in case Chile would declare war. The fear of an attack from Chile and the fear of British submarines was constant, yet no action was taken to prepare the defense of the island in case of a British naval blockade. As mentioned before the Argentine Navy showed up with nearly all warships during the initial occupation. But these ships didn’t bring along heavy equipment to dig in nor a vast amount of supplies. This is probably one of the few examples in Naval History, when a cargo ship full of supplies would have better suited than an aircraft carrier. This lack of proper preparations was also – yet to a smaller degree – a problem with the air force.

Lack of improving the air fields

The general lack of the Army and Air Force to build fortifications and improve existing facilities was striking. On the mainland most of the improvement of existing air fields was done by local citizens, without them not much happened. Also the air force didn’t try to create new air strips closer to the islands. But most notable was the failure to improve the existing runway on the Falkland Island. Just adding access lanes or parking spaces could have improved the capacity of the air strip for cargo planes. (Limited to 6 planes simultaneously.) A certain amount of these shortcomings can of course be tracked back directly to the Argentine leadership.

Misjudgement of British Willigness to fight and International Support

It completely misjudged the international relations. First they assumed that the United States would prevent a war between Argentina and the United Kingdom, after all both were Allies of the States. Furthermore, they assumed that they accumulated enough favors, yet this completely wrong assumption should have been abandoned when the United States tried to convince Argentina to accept the British demands.

Another major misconception was the underestimation of the British to fight instead of seeking a diplomatic solution. This view was even prevalent at the lower ranks in the armies. The strong British determination was in complete contrast the Argentine unwillingness to commit after their initial steps. Basically, Argentine leadership kicked a British bulldog then turned around and thought everything would work out fine.

The Three Fatal Flaws of the Air Force

Basically the only service that prepared itself at least properly was the air force and it also did very well. Yet, there were three major flaws that significantly lowered its overall effectiveness.

  1. The pilots focused their attacks mainly on warships, although the initial plan considered landing craft and troop ships as high priority targets. Although those ships were also attacked. Generally, air force pilots preferred war ships, but sinking those ships wouldn’t prevent the British troops from landing. These made the British merchant ships the weakest link in their plan. Something the air force failed to exploit.
  2. The air force used mainly small formations to attack British warships although evidence suggest that larger formations had a higher success rate.
  3. Probably the biggest problem was that a 60 % of all bombs dropped on ships failed to detonate. This was of course the result due to the focused on ground support, but the Naval Air Arm didn’t face this problem. Yet, due to the rivalry between the air force and navy, the navy didn’t provided any support on this matter nor did air force ask for assistance.

Conclusion

Despite all of these shortcomings and the almost complete absence of the army and navy, the Argentine Air Forces still achieved several successes. Together the planes of the air force and navy destroyed 2 destroyers, 2 frigates and 3 support ships.
The Falkland War could have a very different outcome if the Argentine forces would have fortified their positions properly and used their best troops instead of conscripts to defend the island. Furthermore, the construction and improvement of air fields on the island and on the mainland would have increased the air forces capabilities. The Navy originally planned an sortie after the British landing began, combined with an attack from the army against the invasion force this could have been enough pressure to defeat or at least stall the British invasion considerably. Only one of these aspects would have prolonged the conflict and due to the overstretched British supply lines, the changing weather and new aircrafts for the Argentine Air Force time wasn’t favoring the Royal Navy.

Bonus – Argentine Air Force Numbers

The Argentine Air Force had around 200 combat planes:

Bonus – Ranges

Rio Gallegos 750 km ( 496 miles)
San Julián: 700 (438 miles)
Río Grande at Tierra del Fuego 690 (431 miles).

René De La Pedraja: The Argentine Air Force versus Britain in the Falkland Islands, In: Higham & Harris: Why Air Forces Fail: The Anatomy of Defeat

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