Mark V wrote:
Six Nifty .50s wrote:
As the British Navy demonstrated in 1941, a battery of six .50 caliber guns was more than adequate to destroy large airplanes like the Focke-Wulf 200 Condor -- they were occasionally seen and shot down by FAA Martlet IIs (Grumman Wildcats) of No. 802 Squadron. The Fw 200 was a formidable opponent with an imposing defensive armament -- but if the skies were clear, the encounter usually ended badly for the Condor. In one instance, there was a mid-air collision in which the Martlet survived and the Fw 200 did not.
Fw-200 is not best example. It was an notoriously underpowered and structurally weak aircraft. Some models did had considerable defensive armament ....compared to B-17, Condor was an childrens Lego toy compared to 60ft lenght solid steel piece of railroad rail.
Hello Mk V,
I concur that the Fw 200 was not so robust as the B-17, B-24 or B-29. However a question remains as to whether the German aero industry could mass produce a fleet of reliable, four-motor bombers with a stronger airframe and similar performance at high-altitude.
I would say that is doubtful, because Germany (and Japan) had so many difficulties improving the high-altitude performance of their piston-engined day fighters, and night fighters. The Germans did not keep pace with the Allies in those respects, in quality or numbers, possibly because they were diverting so much effort to unconventional weapons like jets and rockets.
Mark V wrote: About .303. It was clear to everyone already 1938-39 that it would not be sufficient in long term. Why else RAF did go to time- and resource-consuming project developing promising but not yet ironed-out foreign (British also knew NIH) cannon to their standard fighter armament ?
I don't think that was clear to the RAF in 1938. Why did the RAF go to war with the .303s? Before World War II, they had a chance to adopt .50 guns, but they decided the smaller .303 filled their needs. Had they chosen the .50 in the first place, it may have stayed in service until after World War II .
Mark V wrote: Hispano was not an easy weapon to made to work properly in wing-mountings.
This is another reason why the Hispano may have diminished in priority, had the .50s been made the standard gun in the Spitfires and Hurricanes before the Battle of Britain.
Mark V wrote: Hispano came at last moment. Could you imagine RAF going to battles of 1941-1944 with .303 ?
No, but the British did go into battle with .50s in their Wildcats, Hellcats, Mustangs and Corsairs. I have not read about any complaints from their pilots about the hitting power or weight of fire from the six shooters. One of the No. 802 Squadron pilots who shot down an Fw 200 was Eric Brown (as a test pilot he also flew a Condor). He had this to say about the Grumman Wildcat with six .50s:" I was to engage in many mock combats with RAF Hurricanes and
Spitfires and was soon convinced that the Martlet was a formidable
fighting aircraft, capable of holding its own in every phase except that
it was slower than its RAF opponents in the dive. However, this short-
coming was more than compensated for by its steep climb, excellent
turning circle and completely innocuous stalling characteristics. The
pilot had a better all-round view from the Martlet and, of course, there
were those 'fifty calibre machine guns which were to prove to be
possibly the best fighter weapons of the war "
He was even more impressed with the Hellcat, but did not like the Corsair because of its deck-handling chracteristics. His time was limited in those two, and he did not fly them in combat. However, Brown claims to have test piloted every major revision of the Seafire, which had even worse deck-handling than the Corsair, but he was apologetic about it. It occurred to me that maybe Eric Brown was overly sentimental about the Wildcat and Seafire because he had so much stick time in those types.
Mark V wrote: BoB was .303s last moment of glory. After that it (and other RCMGs) went to obscurity
I agree. Development work on the 20mm cannon installation in the Spitfires was accelerated by combat experience prior to the Battle of Britain (in that the limitations of the .303 were more obvious).
Four 20mm cannons were installed in a limited production run of P-51s (RAF Mustang IA). Apparently the guns operated satisfactorily, but the USAAF felt that the increase in firepower was not enough to justify making it the standard battery. They were also interested in reducing weight, so the .50 caliber nose guns were removed from later Mustangs, and four .50 caliber wing guns became the standard battery in the P-51A and P-51B. After some trial and error, the air and naval forces settled on six wing guns for the most of their fighters.
Mark V wrote: PS. It is interesting that it took 15 years longer before cannon armament was universally accepted by USAF, compared to British, French, Germans and USSR...
Ultimately, the decisions were reactions to practical experience, not visions or opinions before the fact. In every branch of military service in the world, you can find officers clamoring for bigger, more powerful guns. For various reasons, officers in higher places do not pay much attention until a war begins, somewhere in the world.
The Luftwaffe did not persistently test different gun systems because someone had a premonition before World War II. Large numbers of multi-engined Allied bombers is what made them do it. The Spanish Civil War also had some influence on the German aircraft gun systems used in the Battle of Britain. Had the RAF been there, maybe they would have reconsidered their decision that the .303 was adequate.
So far no one has written a detailed chronicle of .50 caliber aircraft guns, so we don't have the entire picture of decision-making. I'm sure all the reasons are buried in the archives. The short answer is that .50 caliber six shooters enjoyed a long life because there were few complaints about the system until jet vs. jet combat over Korea.