Effectiveness of World War II aircraft against tanks

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by 17thfabn, Nov 26, 2007.

  1. 17thfabn

    17thfabn New Member

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    This is an article about British and U.S. aircraft against German tanks:

    http://mr-home.staff.shef.ac.uk/hobbies/rocket.txt

    Looking at the results Allied aircraft did not appear to be able to destroy German tanks very easily. Their biggest contribution to stoping German armor appears to have been in destroying their supporting elements, their repair, and fuel units.

    It is interesting that the number of claimed kills is much higher than the verified number. This is a good example of the fog of war!
  2. Millwright

    Millwright Well-Known Member

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    The top surfaces of tanks are more vulnerable than other aspects. Aircraft cannon/mgs of the era could possibly penetrate German tanks engine compartment's top cover and disable them that way. The problem would be getting a steep enough approach angle and a long enough shot - provided the wing guns were harmonized for straffing. The Allies didn't field a dedicated 'tank killer' like the cannon-equipped Stuka's the Germans employed against the Russians. The Typhoon, Jug and others used in the air/mud role were improvisations to fill a need. >MW
  3. PDF

    PDF New Member

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    Definitly the best tank killer airplanes of ww2 were the IL2 sturmovik and the FW190F8. But the Typhonn with antitank rokets were very efective; actualy one of then killed panzer ace Michelle Witman
  4. Oneida Steve

    Oneida Steve Active Member

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    IIRC, the Bell Aircraft Company provided hundreds of their Airacobra planes to Russia during the early years of WWII. The plane was slow even by 1940 standards and couldn't hold up as a fighter, but with a 37mm nose cannon it could handle any tank of the time. Our noble Soviet allies used the Airacobra as a ground attack plane until they themselves developed better & faster planes.

    The Soviets never really liked the Airacobra and they only used it out of necessity. However, they were so impressed with the 37mm cannon that for years afterwards all MIG jet fighters were equipped with the same gun.
  5. Millwright

    Millwright Well-Known Member

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    According to my references, Han Rudel was the dean of the German tank snipers using a Stuka with 37 mm wing-mounted cannon. The Russian IL Stormovik was the Soviet answer to the Panzer - and a good one, BTW - but its armour made it vulnerable to air attack. Yes the Russians did appreciate the Bell P-39 and used it in the air/mud role where it did well. A role which, BTW, it was designed for..... >MW
  6. 17thfabn

    17thfabn New Member

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    PDF, most historians believe that Michael Wittmann was killed by ground fire from British firefly tanks (Sherman tank armed with a British 17lb gun).
  7. The German infantry referred to the Sturmovik as the "schwarzer tod", or "Black Death," which was a pretty apt name for it considering its heavy armor and 23mm cannon in the later models.

    17th, there's always been a lot of controversy over that 17 pounder the Brits mounted on the Sherman. It was certainly a far better main gun for the Sherman than that 75 or 76mm potato gun we mounted on it. At least it had some possibility of penetrating German armor.
  8. 17thfabn

    17thfabn New Member

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    Polish, I've never heard any knock on the 17lb as an anti-tank weapon. The only down sides to that weapon that I've read of are it was heavy, as were all such weapons and did not have a very good H.E. (high explosive) round.
  9. 17thfabn

    17thfabn New Member

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    Looking at the data from this report, it is amazing how FEW tanks the aircraft (mostly British Typhon fighter bombers) actualy destroyed. They were much more effective against trucks.

    Take for instance one of the most famous shooting galaries for Allied fighter bombers in France, the "Falaise Pocket". After the break out by Allied forces in Normandy in August 1944 a large number of German forces were trapped in an area known as the "Falaiise Pocket". As German forces tried to exit this area they were attacked by allied fighter bombers. The British 2nd Tactical Airforce, and American 9th Airforce flew over 12,000 missions in this area. Together they claimed the destruction of 391 armored vehicles (tanks, self propelled guns, and armored cars) and 5,861 motor vehicles. The area was inspected by teams from the airforce after the battle. In fact aircraft had only destroyed 33 armored vehicles. And they had only destroyed 325 motor vehicles.

    Pilots flying at hundreds of miles per hour have a hard time knowing exactly how much damage is done. If a enemy vehicle stops moving aircrews might assume they have knocked it out. They vehicle might have stoped moving because the dust raised made it to hard to see where to drive. After the aircraft left the area and the dust cleared, the vehicle might start moving again.
  10. Recon 173

    Recon 173 Member

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    At the Battle of the Bulge, Patton used P-47 fighter-bombers to secure his right flank as he pushed to Bastonge. Patton even credited the P-47 for being such a terrific tank buster and keeping his tanks safe.
  11. FPDoc

    FPDoc New Member

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    Hawker typhoons and tempests were 20mm cannon armed and destroyed soft targets. Armor (I've seen photos of Panthers destroyed by allied aircraft) was probably engaged with both cannon and HVAR's which did a good job from concussive impact.
    Bell P-39 (late P63 King Cobra) was armed with a hub mounted 37mm cannon that the Russians put to good use.
    Would imagine that 50 cal armed fighters like the Jug even with AP ammo could penetrate decking of the Panzer IV and to some degree Panther. Turret roof on earlier Panthers and tigers was 25mm and later increased to 40mm which I believe is still within penetrating range of the M2 with an AP round. Granted, firing from a plane at an oblique angle was chancy.
    Most more dedicated anti-armour aircraft were fielded by the Russians and germans as this is were most of the titanic armored clashes occurred. The HS129 was a dedicated ground attack with 2-4 20mm and 7.92 mm guns and gondola mounted 30mm or 75mm cannon.
  12. Millwright

    Millwright Well-Known Member

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    IMO, little besides the 2.5" FS rockets and bigger had much effect upon German armour. Most of the successful A/M attacks in and around the area of the, "Bulge" involved rockets, not Mg's, regardlessof aircraft involved. >MW
  13. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    Actually, Steve, the Russians LOVED the P-39s, and usually only the top fighter pilots from "Guards" Regiments got to fly them! They also had a VERY good kill rate against ME-109s and FW-190s. They called them their "Little Shavers."
    .
    They were NOT "slow" by WWII standards, and were in fact pretty FAST, IF you kept them below 12000 feet, where the big Allison SHINED. Throw in the fact that the Russians ALWAYS fought in "gaggles" with the throttle to the bulkhead, AND at low levels, usually under 10000 feet, getting in CLOSE, the armor and toughness of the Bell, besides the firepower tailor made for strafing and close in fighting, made them killers in Russian hands, both ground targets AND as escorts for the Sturmoviks. Conversely, the ME-109 and FWs were better at higher altitudes, not at low levels, which is also why the P38 Lightning was so feared by the Luftwaffe in the Mediteranean and Africa, where most engagements were at 20000 or less, but were virtually ignored as an adversary over Europe, where most engagements took place at 25-30000 feet, where the Allisons sucked. Just like the P40 was a GREAT fighter against the Zero at 15000 or less in the Pacific....Allisons had only a single stage blower so performance fell off rapidly at 12-20000 feet, but they were SCREAMERS down low.

    And the Airacobra did pretty well in the Solomons for us too, providing they stayed LOW. The P-39s and P-400s were hard to beat for close support, and many Jap planes including Zeros that got down to their level were in for a fight and many lost. The reason they did NOT do a lot of the air to air combat is most of the fighting started at 25000 feet, they could not GET to that altitude in less than an hour, and were wheezing when they got there...BUT down low, they were ready to pounce when the fight spiraled down, which they invariably did in any dogfight when speed bled off. Bong got several kills in P39s before transitioning to P38s.
  14. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    What is interesting, in that report, 17th, however, is how many German tanks were found to be abandoned, intact, or destroyed by their former crew, just from the THREAT of air attack..which also shows the relative demoralization of the crews, and the fact so many GREEN panzer crews there were in Europe after 1944...most of the best and most experienced panzertruppen had already been killed off or in convalescence for the most part.

    This squares with all the reports from this time of the war of columns of German tanks "surrendering" or abandoning to strange causes like 4.5 Mortar fire, thinking they were zeroed by 155s, or in Sicily or other times near the coast, where they thought it was Naval Gunfire, and similar reports, like the Tiger that surrendered after a bazooka missed and shattered a tree nearby, again thinking he was under large caliber artillery fire.

    But if you read any accounts of Panzers at this time, it also squares with the number one abject fear of German Tankers- allied fighterbombers, that they called "Jabos." It is prominently mentioned in most accounts written after the war.

    Whether it HIT or not, or even caused damage, life inside a Panther or a Tiger probably would not have been considered worth living after a 500 lb GP bomb hit even "within 15 feet.":cool:

    I guess what was important was yes, the Jabos chewed up columns of soft skinned vehicles or lightly armored AFVs, along with trains, which hurt supply and ALSO left scenes of destruction that were pretty morbid, coupled with the COMPLETE air superiority the allies had (the German gallows humor joke at this time was if you saw green or brown planes overhead, they were probably British, if you saw shiny silver planes overhead they were probably American, and if you didn't see any planes overhead, they were probably German) just the THREAT of attack would be pretty terrifying.



    But it goes both ways, just about any US Infantryman who came under German artillery fire was scared to death of the "88s," even though the Germans virtually NEVER used 88s in the artillery role, and in the West rarely even in the Anti-tank role either. Most of them were used as intended, in the anti-aircraft role only. They had decent OTHER artillery pieces and anti-tank guns, but "reputations" are tough to shake, so until the day they die, WWII vets will "remember" being shelled by "88s."
  15. FPDoc

    FPDoc New Member

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    Same Allison engine as was in earlier P51's that limited their usefulness as fighters. Was actually a boon if you needed a ground attack aircraft.

  16. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    Yeah, FP, the first P-51s were actually classified as Attack, as dive bombers.

    Don't misunderstand me, the P-39 will never be considered a great "fighter" plane, and before radar and the coastwatchers gave adequate warnings in Port Moresby or Cactus, they were scrambled and told to fly AWAY from the fight as soon as possible just to save them, in fact therre were special names for them in Moresby, that I forget, something like "Air Raid Alert Warnings," when they saw them taking off and hightailing it to the south everybody on the ground KNEW the Japs were about to appear overhead.

    And altitude and speed are the two most important things in air to air combat, you can trade one for the other, but the 39s were already one short, plus their rate of climb was so slow it was tough even to get up to 10000, so interceptors they were not, and they were forever vulnerable to getting jumped from above which could mean death at any time, and not much altitude under them to dive away. Plus the P-400s didn't even have oxygen, so over 10000 was out for them even if they could reach it...

    It's just that they weren't THAT bad if you kept them low and kept their speed up, and any Jap Zero down low and slow after a turning fight trying to climb back up into the fight with the P-40s or Wildcats was just as vulnerable to the P-39 or P-400 screaming in with the 4-.30s, 2-.50s and either the 37mm or 20mm, they weren't TOTALLY helpless like a lot of people think, they did a decent job when they had to....plus they were ALL the "artillery" available at Buna, so the US and Aussie soldier came to LOVE them in that hellhole, and many others later.

    As far as The "Tank Busting" by aircraft goes though, Patton (and other WWII Allied armored Generals less famous too) used the 47s and 38s and Typhoons on his flanks to be as much "scouts" to warn him of any threats from there, as much as to kill or at least neutralize or delay any threats they found, so even if they DIDN'T kill as many tanks as thought, it allowed them to use the superior road mobility of the US Tanks, SPGs, Trucks and Half-Tracks to cover HUGE chunks of ground with whole ARMIES that caught the Germans by surprise many times...so they were actually the forerunner of the modern US AirLand Battle Doctrine, rather than simply the "Combined Arms" spearhead followed by conventional foot or horse drawn Infantry which was the essence of the German Blitzkrieg...
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