Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Discussions on alternate history, including events up to 20 years before today. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
User avatar
Sheldrake
Member
Posts: 3413
Joined: 28 Apr 2013 17:14
Location: London

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by Sheldrake » 21 Dec 2021 17:35

There an earlier thread on AHF viewtopic.php?t=191649

There is a thread on WW2f.com with some relevance. ​
http://www.ww2f.com/threads/cost-of-ww2-weapons.20291/

The figures from year on year costs of US aircraft fell.
https://ww2aircraft.net/forum/threads/u ... cost.5255/

Some of that will be improved manufacturing efficiencies. Others may relate to overhead apportionment.

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 9285
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 21 Dec 2021 18:57

ThatZenoGuy wrote:
21 Dec 2021 14:59
Sheldrake wrote:
21 Dec 2021 13:48


A man is looking for accountant. He asks each applicant in turn what is "two plus two" and he rejects them all until one applicant says

"what do you want the answer to be?"

A economist told me the trouble with accountants is they think their numbers have something to do with reality. It looks like the last interviewe understood the problem.
Sheldrake wrote:
21 Dec 2021 13:48
The unit cost = variable costs, cost to build a single aircraft (labour, materials) + a share of the fixed costs (cost of plant, research and development, management overhead) in proportion to the number built.

Towards the end of the war German labour costs could be quite low.

For technically advanced aircraft there might be high fixed costs. 30,000 Me109 built compared to 15,000 P51 and P47, which carry double the proportion of fixed cost.
That's assumption, estimation and guesses though, not any firm paperwork we can compare.

Although it does explain some cost savings if the German labor was cheaper.
The aircraft manufactures seemed to think guest workers & slave labor cheaper. I wonder if they were correct?

ThatZenoGuy
Member
Posts: 397
Joined: 20 Jan 2019 10:14
Location: Australia

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by ThatZenoGuy » 22 Dec 2021 01:29

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
21 Dec 2021 18:57
The aircraft manufactures seemed to think guest workers & slave labor cheaper. I wonder if they were correct?
Like before that's just a guess, I'd like to see some paperwork if that factor was actually included in their manufacture.

For all I know the Germans were keeping the wages similar and just pocketing it for themselves or for other purposes.

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Banned
Posts: 3255
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 22 Dec 2021 05:11

ThatZenoGuy wrote:
19 Dec 2021 12:34
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
19 Dec 2021 12:08
Yes. Me-109 cost a fraction of what the main Allied fighters cost. P-51 narrowed the gap a bit but was still probably twice as expensive as Me-109. Fw-190 was more expensive than 109 but still cheaper than basically every major Allied fighter*.

*not sure whether this is true of the Hurricane.
I am curious on what made these aircraft cheap though, i've heard many claims they were cheaper so I just parrot it. But the actual numbers and why said numbers are true eludes me.

As I understand it the 190 used some steel in it's construction (steel being far cheaper than aluminum), the 109's tail ended up wooden along with the design being in production for a very long time, presumably lowering costs due to mass production, etc.

The DB 605 was also 'cheap' IIRC due to several cost cutting features like bushings instead of bearings, etc. But that would still only be a small factor for the whole plane.

Do you have any specifications on the cheapness?
I posted a relevant answer in another thread.

So part of the answer is simply that German aircraft production was just more efficient than British (though far less efficient than American). Even the British themselves admitted that Me-109 and He-111 would have cost more to produce by British methods than by German.

Another part of the answer is that German fighters - Me109 especially - were built as smaller, short-ranged interceptors whereas America in particular was producing larger air superiority fighters.

I don't think that quite explains everything, however, as the Spitfire is not significantly larger or longer-ranged than Me-109 or Fw-190 yet required nearly 3x the man hours for airframe production. The Spitfire appears to have been simply a very (economically) inefficient design. Its elliptical wing was hard to manufacture and - so I've read - the design did not prioritize industrial production (unlike Messerchmidt's design).

The debate over which plane was better will surely last forever but if it's even close in per-plane combat value (as seems true at least until 1943) then the Me-109 is just obviously the better weapon system from strategic perspective. Luckily for The Few, however, Germany didn't place much emphasis on building fighters until far too late in the war.
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
https://www.reddit.com/r/AxisHistoryForum/
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Banned
Posts: 3255
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 22 Dec 2021 05:18

Sheldrake wrote:
21 Dec 2021 13:48
The unit cost = variable costs, cost to build a single aircraft (labour, materials) + a share of the fixed costs (cost of plant, research and development, management overhead) in proportion to the number built.

Towards the end of the war German labour costs could be quite low.

For technically advanced aircraft there might be high fixed costs. 30,000 Me109 built compared to 15,000 P51 and P47, which carry double the proportion of fixed cost.
Hard to tell what you're driving at here - what you consider fixed vs. variable costs for example - but you should know that US financed most aircraft plant construction whereas Germany expected procurement contracts to cover investment. Thus only German prices would reflect "fixed" investments while American would not. As I've recently quoted elsewhere, Americans judged German aircraft production methods to be extremely efficient:
Indeed according to an American team of investigating experts in 1945,
German designers were better even than American in designing ‘for easy
production with means at hand. American designs were, by comparison,
unsuited to large-scale manufacture at reasonable cost.’39

FN39: CIOS, Item No. 25, File No. XXV–42.
Audit of War by Correli Barnett

As for labor costs, it isn't clear to me that German firms judged slave laborers as particularly efficient. They had to "pay" them (actually they paid their SS captors/custodians/tormentors) "wages" that, while lower than German, weren't always sufficiently lower to compensate for their lower productivity. Discussion in Uziel's Arming the Luftwaffe, IIRC.
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
https://www.reddit.com/r/AxisHistoryForum/
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

ThatZenoGuy
Member
Posts: 397
Joined: 20 Jan 2019 10:14
Location: Australia

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by ThatZenoGuy » 22 Dec 2021 07:51

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
22 Dec 2021 05:11
ThatZenoGuy wrote:
19 Dec 2021 12:34
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
19 Dec 2021 12:08
Yes. Me-109 cost a fraction of what the main Allied fighters cost. P-51 narrowed the gap a bit but was still probably twice as expensive as Me-109. Fw-190 was more expensive than 109 but still cheaper than basically every major Allied fighter*.

*not sure whether this is true of the Hurricane.
I am curious on what made these aircraft cheap though, i've heard many claims they were cheaper so I just parrot it. But the actual numbers and why said numbers are true eludes me.

As I understand it the 190 used some steel in it's construction (steel being far cheaper than aluminum), the 109's tail ended up wooden along with the design being in production for a very long time, presumably lowering costs due to mass production, etc.

The DB 605 was also 'cheap' IIRC due to several cost cutting features like bushings instead of bearings, etc. But that would still only be a small factor for the whole plane.

Do you have any specifications on the cheapness?
I posted a relevant answer in another thread.

So part of the answer is simply that German aircraft production was just more efficient than British (though far less efficient than American). Even the British themselves admitted that Me-109 and He-111 would have cost more to produce by British methods than by German.

Another part of the answer is that German fighters - Me109 especially - were built as smaller, short-ranged interceptors whereas America in particular was producing larger air superiority fighters.

I don't think that quite explains everything, however, as the Spitfire is not significantly larger or longer-ranged than Me-109 or Fw-190 yet required nearly 3x the man hours for airframe production. The Spitfire appears to have been simply a very (economically) inefficient design. Its elliptical wing was hard to manufacture and - so I've read - the design did not prioritize industrial production (unlike Messerchmidt's design).

The debate over which plane was better will surely last forever but if it's even close in per-plane combat value (as seems true at least until 1943) then the Me-109 is just obviously the better weapon system from strategic perspective. Luckily for The Few, however, Germany didn't place much emphasis on building fighters until far too late in the war.
Awesome information! Thank you! I've wanted to know more about the German plane economic factors for a while.

User avatar
Sheldrake
Member
Posts: 3413
Joined: 28 Apr 2013 17:14
Location: London

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by Sheldrake » 22 Dec 2021 11:42

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
22 Dec 2021 05:18
Sheldrake wrote:
21 Dec 2021 13:48
The unit cost = variable costs, cost to build a single aircraft (labour, materials) + a share of the fixed costs (cost of plant, research and development, management overhead) in proportion to the number built.

Towards the end of the war German labour costs could be quite low.

For technically advanced aircraft there might be high fixed costs. 30,000 Me109 built compared to 15,000 P51 and P47, which carry double the proportion of fixed cost.
Hard to tell what you're driving at here - what you consider fixed vs. variable costs for example - but you should know that US financed most aircraft plant construction whereas Germany expected procurement contracts to cover investment. Thus only German prices would reflect "fixed" investments while American would not. As I've recently quoted elsewhere, Americans judged German aircraft production methods to be extremely efficient:
It does not matter who paid. You can't strip out the cost of the plant because the US Government paid for it wholesale.

The cost per aeroplane would be the total fixed costs divided by the number of aircraft manufactured plus the additional cost to build one extra aircraft. Any comparisons between the cost of German v US aircraft involves a lot of assumptions. As I posted - "what do you want the answers to be?*

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Banned
Posts: 3255
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 22 Dec 2021 12:36

Sheldrake wrote:
22 Dec 2021 11:42
As I posted - "what do you want the answers to be?*
Yeah yeah there's ambiguity in accounting practices, as with any social practice. In law as well: does a law banning vehicles from a park mean that an ambulance gets a fine/penalty for rolling up to an injured park-goer?

The barstool answer is to collapse all ambiguity into nihilism. There's no clear answer in some cases so there's simply no law, accounting, or Truth. Hopefully that response is not up to snuff for us.

What's required is conceptual clarity regarding which costs are fixed (don't vary with output scale) and which are not. Your initial comment hypothesized that higher-tech planes have proportionately higher fixed costs, which makes no sense to me. High-tech items (laminar flow wings, sophisticated avionics suites, airborne radars, radios) are produced in proportion to frames; they are therefore not at all fixed costs.

You haven't answered my query - what do you consider fixed costs? By definition, again, fixed are those costs that the firm/country bears regardless of output. So things like plant - you're paying the mortgage/upkeep/depreciation regardless of how many airplanes a plant makes.
Sheldrake wrote:It does not matter who paid. You can't strip out the cost of the plant because the US Government paid for it wholesale.
Who said anything about "stripping out?" No, the point is that any economic/financial analysis of a bidder for aircraft contracts differs when one group of bidders must cover plant costs (mostly fixed) and another does not have to cover those costs. Any reasonable analyst will recognize there is no retrospective "stripping out" needed, as competent competitive bidders will price (or not price) plant costs into their bids.
Sheldrake wrote: Any comparisons between the cost of German v US aircraft involves a lot of assumptions.
Data and, where necessary, some assumptions as well. Still, these are the kinds of ambiguities that intelligent people can handle even if they're thrown off the barstool.

More importantly, contemporary actors certainly believed so. I've already quoted you the British estimate of their labor costs for a hypothetical British Me109 of He111.
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
https://www.reddit.com/r/AxisHistoryForum/
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 2173
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by Gooner1 » 22 Dec 2021 14:02

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
22 Dec 2021 05:11

So part of the answer is simply that German aircraft production was just more efficient than British (though far less efficient than American). Even the British themselves admitted that Me-109 and He-111 would have cost more to produce by British methods than by German.
One of the reasons UK aircraft production seems so much less efficient than US production is that, certainly for the Spitfire and possible for other models too, the British liked to apply desired modifications (and there were over 1,000 modifications to the Spitfire over the course of the war) to the aircraft whilst on the actual production line, necessarily causing delays. The US introduced modifications to their aircraft only between batches of production, therefore grouping them and allowing an undisturbed run. Those aircraft needing them were then sent to special modification centres. I am not sure whether the man-hours involved in the modification centres were included in the overall man-hours calculations.

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Banned
Posts: 3255
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 22 Dec 2021 14:25

Gooner1 wrote:
22 Dec 2021 14:02
One of the reasons UK aircraft production seems so much less efficient than US production is that, certainly for the Spitfire and possible for other models too, the British liked to apply desired modifications (and there were over 1,000 modifications to the Spitfire over the course of the war) to the aircraft whilst on the actual production line, necessarily causing delays. The US introduced modifications to their aircraft only between batches of production, therefore grouping them and allowing an undisturbed run. Those aircraft needing them were then sent to special modification centres. I am not sure whether the man-hours involved in the modification centres were included in the overall man-hours calculations.
That's a very marginal factor, often overrated in many popular histories. Every country made frequent modifications to airplanes during production runs. I've discussed this elsewhere, such as here.

The primary factor for greater American productivity is simply America's far higher levels of human/physical capital, education, etc. USA was just much wealthier, more advanced in most commercial/industrial aspects than Europe. It's a legacy of having "found", only a few generations earlier, so much productive land that "nobody" was using.
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
https://www.reddit.com/r/AxisHistoryForum/
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 2173
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by Gooner1 » 22 Dec 2021 17:13

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
22 Dec 2021 14:25
That's a very marginal factor, often overrated in many popular histories.
News to me that 'Design and Development of Weapons Studies in Government and Industrial Organisation' by Postan, M.M., D. Hay, J.D.Scott was a popular history.
Every country made frequent modifications to airplanes during production runs. I've discussed this elsewhere, such as here.
No, not during production runs, that's the whole point. "By an arrangement with the Services the aircraft manufacturers were allowed to produce large quantities, varying from 500 to as much as 1,500 aircraft, without any modification in the production line. The modifications would in that case all be grouped and timed to come in at the end of a batch thus frozen and when introduced, they would be again followed by a frozen batch"

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Banned
Posts: 3255
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 23 Dec 2021 01:00

Gooner1 wrote:No, not during production runs, that's the whole point. "By an arrangement with the Services the aircraft manufacturers were allowed to produce large quantities, varying from 500 to as much as 1,500 aircraft, without any modification in the production line.
You're just playing games with the definition of "production run." 500 AC is not an entire "production run" unless - at cost to efficiency - you shrink that production run to break in modifications.

The difference between the cost of breaking up production runs and the cost of post-line modifications to smaller British production numbers would be a marginal factor in the overall picture.

As Zeitlin writes in "“Flexibility and Mass Production at War: Aircraft Manufacture in Britain, the United States, and Germany, 1939-1945”:
In both Anglo-Saxon powers, similarly, frequent design changes demanded a substantial measure of adaptability in aircraft manufacturing methods. In the United States, as we have seen, aircraft firms modified standard line-production techniques to obtain greater flexibility, while in Britain a large proportion of aircraft components were turned out in batches small enough to make bench methods more economical than full mass-production tooling
Gooner1 wrote:News to me that 'Design and Development of Weapons Studies in Government and Industrial Organisation' by Postan, M.M., D. Hay, J.D.Scott was a popular history.
I have lots of news for you but if you don't cite anything when making your claims, and your claims sound like stuff that anybody who's read one WW2 book would say, you can't expect anything more than the response given.
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
https://www.reddit.com/r/AxisHistoryForum/
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 2173
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by Gooner1 » 23 Dec 2021 15:13

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
23 Dec 2021 01:00
You're just playing games with the definition of "production run."
Don't flatter yourself.

As Zeitlin writes in "“Flexibility and Mass Production at War: Aircraft Manufacture in Britain, the United States, and Germany, 1939-1945”:

In both Anglo-Saxon powers, similarly, frequent design changes demanded a substantial measure of adaptability in aircraft manufacturing methods. In the United States, as we have seen, aircraft firms modified standard line-production techniques to obtain greater flexibility, while in Britain a large proportion of aircraft components were turned out in batches small enough to make bench methods more economical than full mass-production tooling
"In theory this [the US] procedure had much to commend it. It enabled quantity production to go on undisturbed for long periods at a time, and made it possible for American aircraft figures to make a brave showing in official returns. But where and when tactical experience was accumulating rapidly and continuously, as in 1942, 1943 and 1944 in the case of Bombers in use in the European theatre of the war, the Army Air Force demanded urgent improvements all the time, and the modification centres were soon choked up with aircraft awaiting modification. When this happened, the flow of aircraft to squadrons was much more meagre than the impressive figures of production suggested, and in the end it was difficult to escape the impression that the advantages of the system from the point of view of quantity were not as great as they first promised to be. In addition, the sacrifices in quality were probably greater than they would have been under the more flexible and looser arrangements adopted in this country."

User avatar
stg 44
Member
Posts: 3372
Joined: 03 Dec 2002 01:42
Location: illinois

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by stg 44 » 23 Dec 2021 15:28

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
22 Dec 2021 14:25
Gooner1 wrote:
22 Dec 2021 14:02
One of the reasons UK aircraft production seems so much less efficient than US production is that, certainly for the Spitfire and possible for other models too, the British liked to apply desired modifications (and there were over 1,000 modifications to the Spitfire over the course of the war) to the aircraft whilst on the actual production line, necessarily causing delays. The US introduced modifications to their aircraft only between batches of production, therefore grouping them and allowing an undisturbed run. Those aircraft needing them were then sent to special modification centres. I am not sure whether the man-hours involved in the modification centres were included in the overall man-hours calculations.
That's a very marginal factor, often overrated in many popular histories. Every country made frequent modifications to airplanes during production runs. I've discussed this elsewhere, such as here.

The primary factor for greater American productivity is simply America's far higher levels of human/physical capital, education, etc. USA was just much wealthier, more advanced in most commercial/industrial aspects than Europe. It's a legacy of having "found", only a few generations earlier, so much productive land that "nobody" was using.
The US also didn't mobilize as large a share of its population for the military as the British, Germans, or Soviets. They had the biggest and most advanced machine tool industry in the world. They alone of all the major powers in the war suffered virtually no internal economic disruption due to enemy combat or sabotage operations. They also imported millions of people from Latin America for labor and had access to the greatest amount and variety of raw materials of all the combatants.

The US wasn't necessarily more technologically advanced than European industry, they just had much larger industry and financial resources due to losing so few people in WW1, immigration to further increase the population, becoming the world's dominant industrial and financial power after Europe suffered political and economic problems as a result of WW1 and the peace, and having a massive internal market due to a still developing country and growing population unlike any European state.

User avatar
TheMarcksPlan
Banned
Posts: 3255
Joined: 15 Jan 2019 22:32
Location: USA

Re: Quantity Not Quality Fighters

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 24 Dec 2021 05:34

Gooner1 wrote:
23 Dec 2021 15:13
"In theory this [the US] procedure had much to commend it."
One reason you're just quoting one expert against another expert is you don't understand the argument we're having. What I said is:
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
22 Dec 2021 14:25
That's a very marginal factor
You think we're arguing about whether it's a factor at all.

The more important facts regarding greater American productivity in general are simply incontrovertible:

Image

...so British wartime productivity in airframes at ~43% of American (see upthread link) is perfectly in line with broader trends between the US and Britain during most of last century.

As regards the metalworking sector, wartime British airframers were slightly ahead of their ~35% US-relative productivity for the broader period. Do the different modification practices explain why they're "only" 57% worse rather than 65% worse? Obviously not on your account - we'd expect the differential to be less than 1935 or 1950 if you're right.
Last edited by TheMarcksPlan on 24 Dec 2021 05:54, edited 2 times in total.
https://twitter.com/themarcksplan
https://www.reddit.com/r/AxisHistoryForum/
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

Return to “What if”