Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

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Simon K
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Simon K » 24 Jul 2008 01:08

I totally understand what you are getting at Phylo, we are looking at the total systemic failure of the Luftwaffe, in doctrine and equipment. Tactical airforce, tactical transport fleet. I think the RAF, at exactly the same period, would have been far better equipped to deal with such a disaster (thank God we didnt have to) 50 -60 stirlings would have easily been able to carry 7 or 8 tonnes per trip. Highly theoretical I know :?

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phylo_roadking
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by phylo_roadking » 24 Jul 2008 02:03

Using gliders for cargo freightage are a mixed blessing :( fully laden aircraft use their power to get themselves airborne, not laden gliders as well. I also asked that a while back, as I didn't know - but Ju-52s with a stick of FJ aboard didn't have the power to loft a glider as well. So swings and roundabouts - a fully laden glider...or a fully-laden aircraft. Also, the LW's gliders were either small or BIG - they had no medium-sized types. The Gigant needed at least a very smooth if not an actually prepared landing ground.

The reason the British COULD theoretically have made a better show of it - but STILL, believe me, with very major problems - was the RAF HAD a number of larger types on the edge of obsolescence that would have done the trick, like earlier marks of the Halifax (used for glider towing as well as freight, later in the war), as well as dedicated types like the DC3-C47 were starting to be available to the RAF under Lend-Lease. Despite its similar spec the Dakota carried - what? - almost twice as much as a Ju-52?

There's one more thing to remember - apart from the Avro York and Lancastrian conversions of the Lancaster wartime design....the aircraft the RAF used for ITS part of the BERLIN AIRLIFT were the wartime aircraft they would have used in a similar situation! :wink: Old lend-lease Dakotas that had been retained, Sunderlands onto the lakes in Berlin etc. The amount of cargo shifted THEN shows the advantage of EXCELLENT traffic control, proper servicing...

...and yet the operation STILL shagged the remnants of Coastal Command's Sunderlands! :lol: The vast majority of them were only fit for scrap after that. Wartime WWII aircraft - particularly combat aircraft - had a much shorter planned lifetime for their airframes than postwar airliners and cargo aircraft. Even many of the "new" Avro Lancastrians, Yorks and Tudors put in SO many hours flying time that they were on their last legs by the end of the operation; this wear and tear is what's generally held responsible for the number of airframe failures and losses suffered by British South American Airlines in its ex-Berlin Airlift aircraft in its three-year history.
tactical transport fleet
The Germans didn't have the industrial capacity by 1943 to replenish its transport fleet AND keep building its fighting aircraft. Remember - it had ALSO taken HUGE losses in transport aircraft trying to supply Rommel in Tunisia... :o

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Simon K
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Simon K » 24 Jul 2008 03:01

Excellent info.
I remember seeing a picture a while back of the Sunderlands used in the airlift moored on a Berlin area lake, and they looked pretty knackered,thats for sure.

Also the loss of the star tiger and the star arial in the carribbean in 1947 -8 could be attributed to airframe fatigue. I recall the concept of metal fatigue was not fully understood until the comet disaster in 1952.

Contemporary design and the materials used were just not up to the demands of the strategists, in some cases.

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Michael Emrys
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Michael Emrys » 24 Jul 2008 03:54

phylo_roadking wrote:Using gliders for cargo freightage are a mixed blessing :( fully laden aircraft use their power to get themselves airborne, not laden gliders as well. I also asked that a while back, as I didn't know - but Ju-52s with a stick of FJ aboard didn't have the power to loft a glider as well. So swings and roundabouts - a fully laden glider...or a fully-laden aircraft.
Just so. On the other hand, something besides a transport could tow a glider—as I believe you well know—leaving the true transports free to carry supplies. But then that presupposes that a sufficient number of non-transports were on hand to do the towing duties, which at the time was no doubt highly problematical too.

Michael
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Simon K
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Simon K » 24 Jul 2008 04:43

I agree. The idea of casting off fully laden gliders in a stand off manner may well have worked. The bombers could certainly have towed them. even ME110s I recall seeing from photographs, could tow gliders.
It certainly would have saved the JU52 fleet from much wear, using them instead for crucial supply delivery,such as medical supplies.
obviously a land breakthrough would have been the only practical solution, but the air bridge could have been maintained for a longer period,sustaining the garrison in food, 7.92 and 9 mm ammo and mortar bombs.
There seems to have been a deeper psychological malaise at work here, which Beever attempts to explore.

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Qvist
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Qvist » 24 Jul 2008 08:54

Right. So now all we need to do is to establish if

a) the Germans possessed a type of glider that was suitable for the task, in terms of load acapcity for example
b) that these Gliders were available in sufficient numbers
c) that they, and whatever supporting paraphernalia and /or personnell they required, could easily and with sufficient quickness be transported to the relevant airfields, and the supply of new gliders maintained for as long as neccessary
d) That sufficient pilots to operate them were at hand
e) That the airfields available had the neccessary characteristics to allow them to operate
f) That flying these gliders were practically feasible under the weather conditions prevalent, which were those of deep russian winter

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Jon G. » 24 Jul 2008 09:18


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phylo_roadking
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by phylo_roadking » 24 Jul 2008 11:52

One factor to remember - positing a number X of twin-engined Me110s...increases the LW's overall servicing in winter issues, winter POL, spares availability, damage to unmetalled runways, availability of trained mechanics etc....all of which is the point of the original article :wink:

(I know Me110s were used as glider tugs...but does anyone know how badly the longer duration at max performance required for towing impacted on their mechanical reliability and servicing requirements?)

Aerial operations in ANY extreme of climate - Russian winter, North Africa, Far East monsoon period - seem to be a fine balance between what you NEED in the air...and what you can KEEP in the air 8O And the FIRST of these isn't necessarily the winner...

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by phylo_roadking » 24 Jul 2008 14:06

(a) the Germans possessed a type of glider that was suitable for the task, in terms of load acapcity for example
b) that these Gliders were available in sufficient numbers
The Go-242 fits the bill, and a total of 1528 were built of various types. What I DON'T have is a breakdown in variant numbers - apart from the 133 converted to G-244s...and unfortunately not a detailed list of operations; though the traditional tale is that "most were deployed in the Mediterranean"...which means a lot were lost supplying North Africa at a guess.

You'd need to determine how many WEREN'T used in the Med, where they were based, what the Go-242's reputation was like...could it survive the ferry miles across the continent with multiple landings on the way? Theoretically it could be BOTH a magic solution - OR a potentially WORSE disaster for the LW, using towing aircraft - it NEEDED an He111 or Ju52 - that were needed in the airlift, using up crews, traffic control resource, airfield space etc. Possibly...mobilising the gliders needed for a solution would vastly DECREASE even the limited effectiveness of the historical airlift.

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Qvist
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Qvist » 24 Jul 2008 14:18

My point was that all of these questions need to be answered before there is ay point in even beginning to speculate about this as a solution to the problems of the Stalingrad airlift. If as many as one of them is a clear negative, then it is out of the question as even a theoretical solution.

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by phylo_roadking » 24 Jul 2008 16:08

If as many as one of them is a clear negative, then it is out of the question as even a theoretical solution
This is of course true...

...but if you applied the list of criteria to the historical airlift...
a) the Germans possessed a type of AIRCAFT that was suitable for the task, in terms of load acapcity for example
b) that these AIRCRAFT were available in sufficient numbers
c) that they, and whatever supporting paraphernalia and /or personnell they required, could easily and with sufficient quickness be transported to the relevant airfields, and the supply of AIRCRAFT maintained for as long as neccessary
d) That sufficient pilots to operate them were at hand
e) That the airfields available had the neccessary characteristics to allow them to operate
f) That flying these aircraft was practically feasible under the weather conditions prevalent, which were those of deep russian winter
Then even the historical airlift was most likely doomed to failure in advance :wink:

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by phylo_roadking » 24 Jul 2008 16:11

One thing I forgot - even in GOOD weather...the weather operating window for gliders was FAR narrower than for powered aircraft.

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Simon K » 24 Jul 2008 17:46

The fluid situation on the ground and the Red army advances to the west and south with the loss of crucial airfields ultimately doomed the airlift. I think this was the ultimate factor.. discuss :)

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Simon K » 24 Jul 2008 17:58

Seriously, the German failure points to the Heers inability to carry out their supreme commanders ' whole strategic fantasy in the east.

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Galahad » 24 Jul 2008 19:24

I'm thinking some people have been missing the point of General Tunner's thoughts. After studying the situation, he came to the conclusion that the Luftwaffe HAD the planes needed to conduct a successful airlift to support the 6th Army; it brought in between 400 and 500 aircraft for the operation. What it didn't have was the proper organization to support the planes and men, nor the proper organization to schedule the flights, see that the planes were properly loaded at the one end, and unloaded at the other.

As one evidence that he maybe is correct, look at the Berlin Airlift, where a city of 2 million had to be supplied entirely by air--and that required a minimum of 5,620 tons per day, of which 3000 tons were coal. The airlift was organized on an ad hoc basis, same as the Stalingrad operation. Initially it had to fly into two airfields, one of which was restricted in the number of flights it could handle. It had to operate day and night in Germany's notoriously weird weather. The requirements were such that a plane had to take off or land at Tempelhof every 90 seconds, in addition to the operations at Gatow. This tempo had to be maintained, regardless of weather, operational strain on pilots and planes, and despite shortages of spare parts and maintenance facilities and crew in the theater.

In order for that to happen, strict organization and control had to be implemented, at all levels, starting with scheduling and ending with loading/unloading. It doesn't do any good to have X planes land if their cargoes can't be offloaded within the time frame needed for the operations. Thus organization was needed simply to ensure that the planes could be unloaded. The end result of the organizing was that the C-47's initially used had a turnaround time of 30 minutes--at either end. During that time, the planes were loaded/unloaded, serviced as needed, and the pilots given the info they'd need for the flight.

Which brings us back to General Tunner's initial arguement. The airlift at Stalingrad failed through a lack of proper organization to support and utilize the equipment the Luftwaffe had. It HAD the equipment needed to do the job. But lack of organization and support caused that equipment to wear out quickly, caused the crews to wear out quickly and failed to ensure that the loading/flight/offloading tempo the operation required for success was simply not there.

Compare that failure to Tunner's success at Berlin. Or even better, compare it to the Wehrmacht's repeated success in organizing ad hoc units that were highly combat capable. The Luftwaffe simply failed to organize, and that lack of organization caused the airlift to fail, regardless of what the Soviets or the weather did.

When the Berlin Airlift began, there were approximately 120 C-47's available, plus TWO C-54's. The first day of operations on 28 June, some 80 tons arrived in Berlin. 8 days later they had delivered about 1000 tons. By the 15th of July, the combined totals for the American and the British flights was some 2200 tons a day. And that was before General Tunner took over and put things on a strictly controlled basis. For comparison, both the C-47 and Ju-52 could lift approximately the same load--three tons.

Which means that 100 fully-loaded JU-52 flights a day should have been able to deliver the 300 tons minimum required by 6th Army. This doesn't consider the other 300 to 400 planes that were committed to the operation.

If you can find a copy, read the section of General Tunner's memoirs--Over the Hump--pertaining to the Berlin Airlift. It'll give you a good idea of all the things the Luftwaffe didn't do right.

But which it COULD have done if it had properly organized and controlled things.

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