Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

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vszulc
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by vszulc » 25 Jul 2008 03:53

I'd love to know specifically what these were, and who/where they had been developed. It COULD have been something experimented with in Germany - and turned out to be unsuitable, rather than a "battlefield improvisation" IN Russia. Likewise, whatever they were, they may not have worked well on worn engines, or the He111's inline liquid cooled engines, for example. They may have required equipment and peace to work in the open that ground crews didn't get.
You can read about it in David Irvings Milch biografy. Free for download on fpp.co.uk...
As I remember (Read this two years ago) it wasn't a terribly complicated procedure. Not something that required extra equipment, just adding something to the engineoil...

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by tonyh » 25 Jul 2008 10:49

The Stalingrad Airlift

Source :
Joel S. A. Hayward, STOPPED AT STALINGRAD:

THE LUFTWAFFE AND HITLER'S DEFEAT IN THE EAST 1942-1943.
Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1998.
Second ed 2001. ISBN: 0-7006-1146-0.
http://www.joelhayward.org


When Stalin launched Operation Uranus on 19 November 1942, Richthofen's Luftflotte 4
possessed enough transport planes to keep its own airfields and air units operating adequately
and to carry out limited air supply missions in support of the armies particularly Paulus's Sixth,
in its vast combat zone. Richthofen's transport fleet comprised the 1st (Staff), 50th, 102nd,
172nd, and 900th Special Purposes Bomber Wings, equipped with Ju 52s, and the Fifth
Special Purposes Bomber Wing, equipped with He 111. These transport groups had
performed well since Operation Blue, the German summer offensive of 1942,
began back in June. Between August and October alone, for example, they had transported
20,173 tons of aviation fuel, 9,492 tons of ammunition, 3,731 tons of equipment, and 2,764
tons of supplies to Luftwaffe airfields at the front. They also provided the army with good
support, carrying forward 27,044 troops, 4,614 tons of fuel, 1,787 tons of ammunition,
and 73 tons of supplies, as well as evacuating 51,619 wounded soldiers.

Richthofen was not able to deploy all these transport units in support of Sixth Army after the
Soviet pincers closed around it, because most still had to carry out vital supply operations for
the various Luftwaffe commands they served. The 1st (Staff), 5th, 50th, and 102nd wings
all supplied Fiebig's Fliegerkorps VIII, while the 172nd served Luftgau Rostov
(Air District Rostov, which organized the fleet's supply, maintenance, and ground service
matters), and the 900th directly served the fleet command itself." By this time, Pflugbeil's
Fliegerkorps IV, which had almost ceased to exist since its combat units were transferred
to Fliegerkorps VIII, had no air transport units.

Most of Richthofen's transport units had been in action without a break since Blue began,
and the rehabilitation and refitting of combat units always took precedence over their own.
As a result, their average operational rate, at around 40 percent, was 10 percent lower than
that of the combat units. The operational rate of certain units, particularly those attempting
to meet both the army's and the air force's needs, were as low as 30 percent.
On 9 November, for instance, the 900th Special Purposes Bomber Wing possessed
41 Ju 52s, but only 12 were airworthy, while the 50th had 35 Ju 52s, only 13 airworthy.

The fact that these units still had vital supply tasks to perform for their respective commands
(although the decrease in Fliegerkorps Vlll's combat missions after Uranus began freed up
several dozen transport aircraft for other duties), and the fact that all these units were in poor
shape, explains why Richthofen was able to commit only 30 of his 295 transport planes to
supplying Sixth Army on 25 November. The OKL would clearly need to send the fleet
chief many hundred more aircraft if they expected him to fulfil Goring's promises to Hitler.

To supply Sixth Army with 300 tons a day, the absolute minimum amount demanded by
the army (which really needed 500 tons) would necessitate an average of 150 fully laden
Ju 52s landing in the pocket each day. Of course, because weather would prevent that
tonnage being airlifted on many days, far more than 300 tons would have to be carried in
during good weather. Loading and unloading supplies was time-consuming, so each
plane could fly only one, or perhaps two missions a day. Therefore, because an operational
rate of only 30 to 40 percent could be counted on, Richthofen needed at least 800 Ju 52's
to fulfil Goring's promises an meet Sixth Army's barest needs.
http://users.pandora.be/stalingrad/germ ... irlift.htm


If the above assessment is correct, according to Hayward it seems that the Luftwaffe did NOT have enough planes for the task at hand, even if every single transport aircraft at Luftflotte 4's disposal was operational.


Tony

Jon G.
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Jon G. » 25 Jul 2008 11:32

Simon K wrote:Phylo, I bet aircraft availability rates would have been optimum to about the 20 - 23rd December, the exact time that a break out was mooted for and commenced. Im frantically trying to dig out my Beevor and Clark :|
Indeed, 19 to 21 December 1942 was when the Stalingrad air bridge peaked with about 700 tons delivered over all three days combined.

Another major and long-term consequence of the Stalingrad airlift was the Luftwaffe's mortgaging of its future by enlisting training units for the air bridge. Also, fuel stocks were dwindling over the summer and autumn of 1942 which restricted training further - although the synthfuel programme caught up with the fuel shortage eventually, it meant that the Luftwaffe couldn't really expand its forces in 1943, only catch up on its losses for that year. All plans to replace the transport fleet with Ju-352s had to be scrapped in favour of building more Ju-52s and, from September 1943, by adding captured Italian aircraft to the Luftwaffe transport fleet.

For exact aircraft strengths for LW transport units at various times in 1942-1943, check this site, then proceed to click the 'Flugzeugbestand und Bewegungsmeldungen' link under each unit.

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phylo_roadking
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by phylo_roadking » 25 Jul 2008 13:54

Most of Richthofen's transport units had been in action without a break since Blue began,
and the rehabilitation and refitting of combat units always took precedence over their own.
As a result, their average operational rate, at around 40 percent, was 10 percent lower than
that of the combat units
. The operational rate of certain units, particularly those attempting
to meet both the army's and the air force's needs, were as low as 30 percent.
On 9 November, for instance, the 900th Special Purposes Bomber Wing possessed
41 Ju 52s, but only 12 were airworthy, while the 50th had 35 Ju 52s, only 13 airworthy.

The fact that these units still had vital supply tasks to perform for their respective commands
(although the decrease in Fliegerkorps Vlll's combat missions after Uranus began freed up
several dozen transport aircraft for other duties), and the fact that all these units were in poor
shape, explains why Richthofen was able to commit only 30 of his 295 transport planes to
supplying Sixth Army on 25 November
Interesting set of percentages in there - and of course the note that combat aircraft took precedence.

Jon, -
I bet aircraft availability rates would have been optimum to about the 20 - 23rd December
19 to 21 December 1942 was when the Stalingrad air bridge peaked with about 700 tons delivered over all three days combined.
...here's a question; do we know was there any difference in the number of transport flights flown daily 19th-21st as compared to to 21st-23rd???

Those three days MAY be a peak...BECAUSE as the breakout attempt began there would be more Soviet combat aircraft in the air...? :o The Soviets' activity once the battle began may simply have meant greater losses to transport aircraft in the area.

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Jon G. » 25 Jul 2008 14:39

No exact number of sorties stated unfortunately, but some relevant data regardless. The following is paraphrased from Matthew Cooper's book The German Air Force 1933-1945. An Anatomy of Failure p. 251-256

According to Cooper, Fliegerkorps VIII's effort peaked over the period from December 12 to December 21 with a daily average of 137.7 tons of supplies delivered to Stalingrad each day. The best day of the entire airlift was December 19th, when 290 tons were delivered.

After Dec 21st daily averages dropped quickly. No transport missions at all were flown on Dec. 24th, Dec. 25th and Jan. 2nd owing to the weather, and due to the loss of the airfields of Tazinskaya on Dec. 24th and Morozovskaya on Jan. 2nd. the aircraft involved in the air bridge were reduced to flying just one sortie each day - which threw Richthofen's calculations; due to the number of aircraft he had on hand, he had calculated on each of them flying twice a day; at a pre-calculated serviceability rate of 35% he would have needed 1,000 aircraft but in fact only had c. 500 Ju-52s on hand by November.

Richthofen then committed his He-111 bombers to supply flights from Nov. 30th, which helped somewhat, but it still wasn't enough, so 18 FW-200s were removed from their Atlantic duties (check the link I gave upthread and trace the a/c movements of KG40), flying their first sorties on Jan. 9th. Later two Ju-290s, 'several' Ju-90s and seven He-177s were committed a few days after the FW-200s, but the Heinkels and Junkers all turned out to be useless for the task; the two Ju-290s 'quickly being put out of action' and the He-177s flying only one mission.

Apparently the 300 tons/day target was based on how much the Luftwaffe had been able to deliver on a sustained daily basis to the encircled forces at Demjansk earlier in 1942 - the 300 tons/day figure had no relevance to what the 6th Army actually needed; at Demjansk the weather had been good, abundant fighter cover was available, the distance was short, the front was overall relatively stable, and the beleaguered force was considerably smaller than the 6th Army.

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phylo_roadking
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by phylo_roadking » 25 Jul 2008 15:45

After Dec 21st daily averages dropped quickly. No transport missions at all were flown on Dec. 24th, Dec. 25th and Jan. 2nd owing to the weather, and due to the loss of the airfields of Tazinskaya on Dec. 24th and Morozovskaya on Jan. 2nd.
"Daily averages dropped"...can we tell anything about the actual number of flights landing in Stalingrad vs. the number of sorties flown 21st-23rd? I know there are no totals of flights, but I mean can we extrapolate BACKWARDS from cargo tonnages? Or are we missing precise tonnages too, just have averages?

P.S. I know the tonnage for a JU-52, but given the mess over cargo containers for the He111, do we actually KNOW what weight one could carry?

One thing that's probably lost to posterity now is the condition of the airfield through November-December. Flying conditions may have been bad, but I'd love to know how the runway and apron was once the proper freeze set in i.e. once cleared and smoothed what rate of traffic it could actually accomodate compared to what was flown off.

I'm going to make ONE broad assumption now 8O the LW's ability to deploy larger aircraft as time went on through the winter would make me THINK that not only did they NEED the carrying capacity - of course, BUT the ice runway would be "extendable" once the winter weather "stabilised", just like the panzers were able to start rolling again after the major freezes. It wouldn't need much more that walking and tramping hard, then freezing overnight and keeping clear after that...?

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Simon K
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Simon K » 25 Jul 2008 15:55

Thanks all for good additional info thats been coming in :)

im just trying to move the discussion on a bit..i know its not "wot iff" lol but..

I think we have already established that with the available resources, aircraft available and operational (i know there is a difference) weather conditions, types of aircraft etc; the airlift was doomed.

BUT if the airlift had been used as a part of a focused,determined breakout strategy, in the crucial month (no more) after the encirclement, it may well have succeeded in providing just enough for the troops in the SW of the pocket, to be able to assist in Winter Storm. Just food, Ammo, medical. After all Winter storm was also a revictualling and resupply mission as well as a relief attack (according to Clark) so 6th Armee would have been resupplied by land.
This would make much more sense and arguably was capable of achievement. What makes the Airbridge so untenable in historical eyes, I think, is its stated purpose. To supply 20+ divisions ..until the spring!

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Jon G. » 25 Jul 2008 16:27

I think there are too many variables involved for us to extrapolate the actual number of sorties (and, by extension, landings) from measuring the cargo delivered on any given day.

However, from Cooper, it's clear that von Richthofen estimated that he would need 1,000 aircraft, at an expected serviceability rate of 35%, to deliver 300 tons each day, the implication being that each a/c would fly one sortie each day. That gives a round 350 flights/day, each carrying an average of c. 857 kg. worth of supplies per flight. That seems fairly realistic to me, except that von Richthofen didn't have the number of aircraft that he estimated he would need - so he tweaked things, by planning each aircraft to fly two sorties per day, and by adding his He-111 bombers to his transport fleet. That, of course, made the proximity of Fliegerkorps VIII's airfields to Stalingrad doubly important.

It is interesting to note that the highest tonnages were delivered before the FW-200s (and, for what little they were worth, also the Ju-290s, Ju-90s and He-177s) became active on the Stalingrad route. From this, it would appear that distance was the overriding factor.

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Simon K
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Simon K » 25 Jul 2008 16:47

it should be remembered that 29,000 members of 6th Army were also flown out of the pocket. Two divs worth, roughly.

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Simon K
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Simon K » 25 Jul 2008 18:07

Even if we allow for destruction of the major supply dumps during the encirclement operation, and some destruction of stores afterwards, (60th Mot and 94. I Div) Beever p271 ; the supply situation deteriorated very rapidly.
Did not Wehrmacht Div QMs keep substantial stocks within Div /Corps boundaries? Im having a crash course in logistics :)

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phylo_roadking
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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by phylo_roadking » 25 Jul 2008 20:39

It is interesting to note that the highest tonnages were delivered before the FW-200s (and, for what little they were worth, also the Ju-290s, Ju-90s and He-177s) became active on the Stalingrad route. From this, it would appear that distance was the overriding factor.
Interesting. I hadn't noticed the dates before, but indeed -
After Dec 21st daily averages dropped quickly. No transport missions at all were flown on Dec. 24th, Dec. 25th and Jan. 2nd owing to the weather, and due to the loss of the airfields of Tazinskaya on Dec. 24th and Morozovskaya on Jan. 2nd.
and
so 18 FW-200s were removed from their Atlantic duties (check the link I gave upthread and trace the a/c movements of KG40), flying their first sorties on Jan 9th. Later two Ju-290s, 'several' Ju-90s and seven He-177s were committed a few days after the FW-200s
Looks like the LW's heavy-lift and long-distance assets were being dverted east ASAP after the loss of the two airfields?

This may have looked like a practical solution...but as far as I can see, no; the Ju-290s were the best possible aircraft for the job, with the twin cargo doors on the port side of the fuselage, and its rear ramp...but TWO alone wasn't going to be of any use, while the Condor had all its fragility problems for unmade runways AND could only carry 30 fully-armed troops; its tankage and defensive armament meant it was compromised as a load-carrier, apart from the fuselage weaknesses and the undercarriage problems.

So you have longer-range aircraft...with still-limited cargo/manpower-carrying capacity AND unless KG40 ferried across its own fitters and groundcrew, you suddenly dumped aircraft the LW groundcrews in the East and around Stalingrad weren't familiar with, didn't have spares for AND it dumped the maintenace issues of four-engined aircraft on them...in the middle of a Russian winter 8O

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Simon K » 25 Jul 2008 21:04

Tatinsjaya airfield was over run by Soviet armour on the morning on 24th December. The airfield was aware of the approach of the T34s, but no ground troops were available to defend the airfield approaches, apart from 7 88s from the airfield.
General Fieberg had recently recieved an order that the field was NOT to be evacuated until it came under artillery fire. Practical orders for the airlifts biggest base!
All serviceable JU52s were frantically prepared for take off.
At 5.20am, T34s of General Badanovs 24th Tank Corps began to shell the airfield and advanced to the runway itself.
In one of the most remarkable incidents in the war, "the flight from Tatinsjaya" 108 JU52s and 16 JU86 trainers managed to escape, although conditions on the airfield were basically a shooting arcade for the tanks.
General Fieberg personally flew one of the last 52s out, at 6.15am. 72 Ju52s were lost on the ground.
This was roughly 10% of the transport fleet, according to Beevor.

Moscow claimed 400+ aircraft destroyed. Badanov was made a Hero of The Soviet Union.

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Jon G. » 28 Jul 2008 19:24

A little more info, gleamed from Williamson Murray's book The Luftwaffe, 1933-1945. Strategy for Defeat, p. 213-217:

According to Murray, the target 300 tons/day was reached on three seperate dates; Dec. 7th, Dec. 21st and Dec. 31st. From January 12th and on most deliveries to Stalingrad had to be air-dropped because Stalingrad's main airfield fell to the Soviets on that day. As of Jan 18th, serviceability rates were a mere 7% for Ju-52s, 33% for He-111s, 33% for He-177s and 0% for FW-200s. Murray gives total losses up to Feb. 3rd as 269 Ju-52s, 169 He-111s, 9 FW-200s, 1 Ju-290, 5 He-177s and 42 Ju-86s.

He sources much information to 'Luftversorgung der 6. Armee vom 24.11.42 bis 3.2.43' NARS T-321/18/4758846*

Murray's book is available as a perfectly free, perfectly legal pdf download here

*I wonder if that shouldn't be NARA?

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by phylo_roadking » 28 Jul 2008 20:07

As of Jan 18th, serviceability rates were a mere 7% for Ju-52s, 33% for He-111s, 33% for He-177s and 0% for FW-200s. Murray gives total losses up to Feb. 3rd as 269 Ju-52s, 169 He-111s, 9 FW-200s, 1 Ju-290, 5 He-177s and 42 Ju-86s.
0% servicability for the Condors after only NINE days of operations??? 8O

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Re: Why the Stalingrad Airlift Failed

Post by Simon K » 28 Jul 2008 21:04

33% for HE177 serviceability?? I thought at this time that the aircraft was at the depths of its unreliability problems?
Are these figures correct?

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