hellcat in europe?

Discussions on all aspects of the United States of America during the Inter-War era and Second World War. Hosted by Carl Schwamberger.
Mark V
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Postby Mark V » 30 Jun 2005 19:22

Six Nifty .50s wrote:
I didn't get the impression that Ki 43s, A6Ms, Bf 109s, Fw 190s and Mc 202s were ever impervious to .50 caliber API bullets. They were chewed to pieces. Sometimes armor plates protected the pilot or certain parts of the aircraft, but did not save it from destruction. Since the majority of targets were not very well protected against bullets, I do not believe that using a larger bore gun system would have noticably changed the number shot down.


I think you are right. .50 was sufficient for duration of WW2.

But that was not an result of good planning or assessment of enemy capabilities - it was pure luck. Decisions about armament procurement that affected till end of WW2 were made around 1938-1940, in time all of their future adversaries (and allies) had already seen the need of aircraft cannon in the future. At that time US wasn't seriously developing an replacement for old .50 - the 37mm cannons are interesting, but can't be viewed as over-the-field replacements.

If USAAF and USN would had faced even somewhat considerable bomber force, we would had heard the loud complaints of inadequate armament.

US worked hard to adopt Hispano as an back-up during current conflict, and weapon for future, but for variety of manufacturing and maintenance reasons they never got it working properly during WW2.

British made the Hispano work, and it could had fullfilled their needs 100%, without the problem of bomber defence armament.

In the end the fighters with most balanced armament were not US ones, but ac like Hispano equipped Hurricane, Spitfire, Typhoon and Tempest, German FW-190 since A-6 variant, and Soviet 3-gun La-7.


Regards, Mark V

Six Nifty .50s
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Postby Six Nifty .50s » 02 Jul 2005 17:53

Mark V wrote:
Six Nifty .50s wrote:I didn't get the impression that Ki 43s, A6Ms, Bf 109s, Fw 190s and Mc 202s were ever impervious to .50 caliber API bullets. They were chewed to pieces. Sometimes armor plates protected the pilot or certain parts of the aircraft, but did not save it from destruction. Since the majority of targets were not very well protected against bullets, I do not believe that using a larger bore gun system would have noticably changed the number shot down.


I think you are right. .50 was sufficient for duration of WW2. If USAAF and USN would had faced even somewhat considerable bomber force, we would had heard the loud complaints of inadequate armament.


Possibly true, depending on the capabilities of the enemy bombers.

The Heinkel 111s used during the Battle of Britain were very vulnerable to the .303 caliber machine guns used by RAF fighters. There was one Spitfire squadron armed with 20mm cannons, but the new guns were so unreliable that the unit converted back to planes with .303s.

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.

Mark V
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Postby Mark V » 02 Jul 2005 19:47

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.


Hi,

Fw-200 is not best example. It was an notoriously underpowered and structurally weak aircraft. Some models did had considerable defensive armament, but it did not solve the fundamental problems of airframe. Also i doubt that fuel tanks of Fw-200 were never protected, thought i dont have 100% info about that. Anyway, compared to B-17, Condor was an childrens Lego toy compared to 60ft lenght solid steel piece of railroad rail.

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 ?? Hispano was not an easy weapon to made to work properly in wing-mountings.

It really was not as simple as previously. During RCMG-era you could just take any unused space in airframe or wings and put weapons there with little complications. With cannons you had to design the mountings as an part of an aircraft design process, and sometimes accept degration of flight performance. Such decisions are not taken lightly.

German aircrafts riddled with .30 bullet holes came home in numbers after every battle in autumn-1940. Germans had decent armour protection and above all quite good self-sealing fuel tanks, which threatened to make the armament of RAF interceptors totally ineffective. Hispano came at last moment. Could you imagine RAF going to battles of 1941-1944 with .303 ???

BoB was .303s last moment of glory. After that it (and other RCMGs) went to obscurity - their installments in aircrafts after that was more of an decoration/intimidation (with whole lots of tracers) than real purpose of hurting anything/anyone.

We observed this already in 1939 when 4 RCMGs were found very ineffective against modern Soviet 2-engined bombers (and even some fighter types). Pilots did see enough of tracers bounching visibly from quite moderately armour protected aircraft, without any other effect that could be seen even on aircraft that had "digested" 100-200 rounds. .30 did not had any effect on structure of aircraft. You had to shoot to engines (with fighters - firing to the front of location of pilots back armour some degree from the side to have any effect) long bursts to down them - and that is way, way too much to asked from rookie/average pilot.

If our pilots would had been asked an opinion which intallation they would rather had: an doubling the number of ineffective .30 cal MGs or cutting the MG number to half and adding ONE 20mm cannon... No doubt about the opinion. And "Messer" pilots did verify this later. Cannon (even one) is worth of dozen .30 MGs or more.


Regards, Mark V


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...

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Postby Six Nifty .50s » 03 Jul 2005 19:42

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.


Hi,

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.
Last edited by Six Nifty .50s on 03 Jul 2005 23:34, edited 1 time in total.

Tiornu
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Postby Tiornu » 03 Jul 2005 22:16

Which Brown book is that quotation from?
Even the four-gun battery of .50's was considered an improvement of the eight-gun .303 battery, at least in the FAA.

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Postby Michael Emrys » 04 Jul 2005 09:31

It's interesting to note that in the mid-war Spitfires the outer wing pair of .303s was replaced by a single .50. So the RAF must have felt that that gun had something going for it. Perhaps the reason they stuck with the .303 as long as they did is because up until the mid-'30s it would have been adequate for the opposition it faced. Until that time most aircraft were at least partially fabric covered and not terribly fast. Combat was expected to be at ranges not dissimilar to WW I and penetration would not be a great problem. Fighters in most airforces were still at least partially armed with rifle caliber MGs. As Six Nifty .50s notes, it took the pressure of combat to drive them toward heavier armament.

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Postby Zygmunt » 04 Jul 2005 10:50

Has everyone here visited Tony Williams' website? The basic url is http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/
I think there are plenty of relevant articles in the "aircraft" section (don't overlook the one about the 20mm in US service - the record of teething troubles is revealing).

Public Service Announcement over, if I may throw in my own tuppence:

The .50cal was not in British service in 1938 in any capacity. The Supply Gods would have been very uncomfortable with the idea of setting up manufacturing capacity and a supply chain of an entire new calibre. Better to try to make the existing .303 (tried, tested, in production and stockpiled already) work than to complicate the logistical chain, especially when the 20mm was being investigated (it would look like a lot of manufacturing capacity expended on a 'stopgap' calibre).

Of course, that situation changed midwar when the US military was in Britain and .50cals were an established calibre/weapon.

Remember, there was enough controversy about introducing a new type of machinegun (the Browning) even in an established calibre (the .303). Convincing the powers that be that a new calibre was warranted too would not have been easy. This is not just a question of the "Not invented here" syndrome. Legitimate (or apparently so) concerns about manufacturing and supply also played a part.

Zygmunt

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Postby Mark V » 04 Jul 2005 17:19

I think the decision to stick with .303 (over .50 cal) and adopt an Browning-MG for main armament of British fighters was made around 1934-35.

...before experiences of Spanish Civil War, during time when fighters or bombers didn't carried armour plate or self-sealing fueltanks, before robustly built all-metal monoplanes were all-around the playfield.

By 1938-1939 British already had second thoughts - obviously. And they wanted to make an leap forward, not just an step, by adopting Hispano.

French were ofcourse there also, and Germans, and Soviets too (MG-FF, ShVAK) - these weapons were developed before the WW2.


Regards, Mark V

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Postby Six Nifty .50s » 05 Jul 2005 03:09

Tiornu wrote:Which Brown book is that quotation from?


Wings of the Navy. Jane's Publishing Co. Ltd., 1980.

Tiornu
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Postby Tiornu » 05 Jul 2005 05:06

Thanks.

maxs75
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F6F vs F4U

Postby maxs75 » 27 Jan 2006 13:37

Hi all,
please help me with F6F vs F4U comparison.
Usually I see that the best performance of F6F was 380 mph, anyway sometimes it is credited of 405 mph at lower level.
I don't know anyway if it was due to the installation of water injection or what else.

F4U with basically the same engine is usually credited of 417 mph. But was it achieved with water injection as well?
417 vs 405 seems comparable and reasonable.

F4U-4 with a more powerful engine is another story. Anyway it was comparable with the F8F top speed, wasn't it?

Max

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Re: US Built Carrier Fighters

Postby sanpifer » 14 Nov 2017 17:08

R Leonard wrote:In Fleet Air Arm service, F4F and FM pilots were credited with bringing down 55 aircraft to 4 losses ... The FAA F6F pilots were credited with bringing down 5 aircraft to 1 loss ... FAA F4F/FM's and F6F's, together then, had a score of 62 aircraft shot down with 5 losses (12.4 to 1).


Maybe this is an error, 55 plus 5 is equal to 60, not 62.

R Leonard wrote:Ask me nice and I'll tell you about USN P-51 and Spitfire squadrons.


Incredible work. I'm surprised! I need to know more!

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Re:

Postby LineDoggie » 16 Nov 2017 16:29

Huck wrote:RN operated some Hellcats in Europe, but they rarely met Luftwaffe's planes.
Anyway, Hellcat's performance was nothing to write home about.

F6F-5 was 7 mph slower than a Bf109G-6
Had a faster rate of climb to the 109G-6
Had a longer combat radius than the 109


So if a F6F was crap so was a 109
"There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here".
Col. George Taylor, 16th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach

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Re: US Built Carrier Fighters

Postby LineDoggie » 16 Nov 2017 16:33

sanpifer wrote:
Incredible work. I'm surprised! I need to know more!
VCS-7 a USN Observation squadron from 1 June 44 to 26 June flew the Mk V while doing Naval Gunfire Spotting over Normandy
"There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here".
Col. George Taylor, 16th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach


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