Luftwaffe pathfinders (22.6.41)

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drhiggins
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Luftwaffe pathfinders (22.6.41)

Post by drhiggins » 01 Jun 2021 02:11

I've been reading up on the batch of aircraft, with their hand picked crews with previous nighttime navigation experience that preceded the first wave of Luftwaffe planes during Barbarossa's opening day, but have found an inconsistency. Regarding Luftflotte II the prevailing narrative is that several, three-bomber Ketten struck Soviet airfields near the 1939 frontier to eliminate a large portion of the Red Air Force fighters using SD-2 submunitions. Another version has these pathfinders strike the airfields using incendiary bombs, and then (presumably) the follow-on first wave used butterfly bombs. Now the time was pre-dawn, with no moon visible, but in looking at astronomical charts for mid-late June 'night' didn't mean pitch black, so I'd think rivers would reflect the eastern sky and be visible and villages still had lights on. Any insight on whether the pathfinders used SD-2s (and possibly SD-10s as well) or only dropped incendiaries (to presumably illuminate the areas for follow-on planes to drop SD-2s)?

Thanks,
Dave

Larry D.
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Re: Luftwaffe pathfinders (22.6.41)

Post by Larry D. » 01 Jun 2021 16:37

I believe the daily reports cited below give the composition of the bomb loads for each attacking wave.

[U.S. Government] U.S. National Archives (NARA), College Park, Maryland, Record Group 242, Microcopy T-77, rolls 921-24, Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, Lageberichten (Lw.), from 16.6.41 to 14.9.41, Geheim.

L.

Peter89
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Re: Luftwaffe pathfinders (22.6.41)

Post by Peter89 » 01 Jun 2021 17:51

drhiggins wrote:
01 Jun 2021 02:11
I've been reading up on the batch of aircraft, with their hand picked crews with previous nighttime navigation experience that preceded the first wave of Luftwaffe planes during Barbarossa's opening day, but have found an inconsistency. Regarding Luftflotte II the prevailing narrative is that several, three-bomber Ketten struck Soviet airfields near the 1939 frontier to eliminate a large portion of the Red Air Force fighters using SD-2 submunitions. Another version has these pathfinders strike the airfields using incendiary bombs, and then (presumably) the follow-on first wave used butterfly bombs. Now the time was pre-dawn, with no moon visible, but in looking at astronomical charts for mid-late June 'night' didn't mean pitch black, so I'd think rivers would reflect the eastern sky and be visible and villages still had lights on. Any insight on whether the pathfinders used SD-2s (and possibly SD-10s as well) or only dropped incendiaries (to presumably illuminate the areas for follow-on planes to drop SD-2s)?

Thanks,
Dave
Hello Dave,

I think the answer is kind of simple. (Or surprising :D )

There were 3-4 types of radio navigation at the Germans' disposal at the time of Barbarossa:
- Lorenz beam
- Knickebein
- X-Gerät
- Y-Gerät

Lorenz beam falls immediately out of the question because it was like "approach-beacons", so could not really be used for targeting. In other words, it was a system to find the home airfield.

Knickebein also falls out, because no station was established in the operational range (4-500km) of the 1939 SU border.

X-Gerät, the most likely candidate, is also extremely unlikely, 1. because there was no Sendundstellen (sending stations) near the border, but also because of 2. the angle between the guiding beam (Weser) / Rhine, Oder and Elbe beams. Although it was possible to use with considerable accuracy, hitting an airfield, especially with marker groups, an airfield was an extremely small target for using SD-2 ammunitions, which could only damage parked aircrafts.

The main pathfinder Kampfgruppe, the KGr 100 (see Unternehmen Mondschein) was also not present at Barbarossa.

Y-Gerät required a specialized station command and radio beam tower, which were, to the best of my knowledge, only present in the west.

If you happen to confirm otherwise, please do tell!
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

drhiggins
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Re: Luftwaffe pathfinders (22.6.41)

Post by drhiggins » 02 Jun 2021 06:17

Thank you Larry and Peter. Of course I don't have T-77 / R921-924, but I'll certainly find a copy! As for the navigation angle I learned something, but like Peter indicated, none of the four technologies seemed to fit. I'm thinking these crews had blind navigation experience and relied on instrumentation and visual ground clues. Logic would make me think that any 'incendiaries' mentioned were probably the submunitions detonating Soviet aircraft fuel tanks.

Again thank you for the insight.

Dave

Peter89
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Re: Luftwaffe pathfinders (22.6.41)

Post by Peter89 » 02 Jun 2021 09:00

drhiggins wrote:
02 Jun 2021 06:17
Thank you Larry and Peter. Of course I don't have T-77 / R921-924, but I'll certainly find a copy! As for the navigation angle I learned something, but like Peter indicated, none of the four technologies seemed to fit. I'm thinking these crews had blind navigation experience and relied on instrumentation and visual ground clues. Logic would make me think that any 'incendiaries' mentioned were probably the submunitions detonating Soviet aircraft fuel tanks.

Again thank you for the insight.

Dave
Dear Dave,


the night-to-dawn bomber / transporter Luftwaffe operations in 1941 (like the famous ones in Greece) had a pattern; first, the most experienced pilots took off, and then the rest followed the flames coming out of their exhaust fumes visually.

My best guess is that the aircrafts took off during the night with the most experienced pilots in the vanguard, used some crude direction finding, and led the bulk of the team to the airfields at dawn or by other celestial lights. The van could have used some incendiaries, to provide better visual for the rest of the team, but I believe the technical background was not similar to the tactics employed above England.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

Larry D.
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Re: Luftwaffe pathfinders (22.6.41)

Post by Larry D. » 02 Jun 2021 15:08

Dave wrote:
Thank you Larry and Peter. Of course I don't have T-77 / R921-924, but I'll certainly find a copy! As for the navigation angle I learned something, but like Peter indicated, none of the four technologies seemed to fit. I'm thinking these crews had blind navigation experience and relied on instrumentation and visual ground clues. Logic would make me think that any 'incendiaries' mentioned were probably the submunitions detonating Soviet aircraft fuel tanks.
Peter89 wrote:
My best guess is that the aircrafts took off during the night with the most experienced pilots in the vanguard, used some crude direction finding, and led the bulk of the team to the airfields at dawn or by other celestial lights. The van could have used some incendiaries, to provide better visual for the rest of the team, but I believe the technical background was not similar to the tactics employed above England.
You are both on target. I do not recall the use of any navigation, guidance or targeting technology being used for these low-level and medium-level attacks on Soviet airfields during the summer of 1941. The incendiaries were part of the load package with the added benefit of lighting up the field and infrastructure for the on-coming second and third waves, if these were planned. The Luftwaffe unit histories for Kampfgeschwader all have after-action aircrew narratives that confirm this.

L.

drhiggins
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Re: Luftwaffe pathfinders (22.6.41)

Post by drhiggins » 04 Jun 2021 04:47

'...on target.', huh? Nice pun, Larry.

And thank you both, again Sometimes my reference material only gets me so far.

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