Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by Juha » 10 Aug 2014 18:23

Gamle Lode wrote:Compare it with the D.XXI, and then tell Karhunen it's rubbish. Fokker did the main business in the Winter War, and it was slower than Db-3 and SB-2. If LeLv.24 had had a plane to catch the Soviet Bombers, the days of VVS had been way gloomier.
See Suomen Ilmailuhistoriallinen Lehti 1/2001. One of the countries which at first thought to buy He 112s was Hungary and when they tested it they found out that in reality its max speed was 430km/h, not much better than that of an average Mercury powered Fokker D.XXI (418km/h) and Fokker climbed clearly better than He 112 which was importatnt for an interceptor and in fact for all fighters.

PS I forgot to mention that He 112 was appr 3 times more expensive than D. XXI and IMHO FiAF was better off with 36 Fokkers than with 12 Heinkels

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by Mikko H. » 10 Aug 2014 20:22

IIRC, when the He 112 was available, the FAF didn't have the money. When the money was finally available in 1939, Germans were building up for war, and not selling anything, at least to Finland. Neither were the British nor the French, so Finns eventually ended up buying the Fiat G.50, largely because nothing else was available in short order.

Therefore I think we should compare Fiat G.50 and He 112. How did they match?

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by Juha » 10 Aug 2014 22:35

Mikko H. wrote:IIRC, when the He 112 was available, the FAF didn't have the money. When the money was finally available in 1939, Germans were building up for war, and not selling anything, at least to Finland. Neither were the British nor the French, so Finns eventually ended up buying the Fiat G.50, largely because nothing else was available in short order.

Therefore I think we should compare Fiat G.50 and He 112. How did they match?
I don't have any info on He 112 air tests made by a customer so I cannot say anything definite. Finns found out that also G. 50 was slower than advertised, using "overboost", maybe same as the German Notleistung or US combat power, max appr 445km/h instead of the promised 484km/h. If we guessed that He 112 was more or less as fast as the smaller and lighter Bf 109 C and climbed a bit worse than it there would not have been significant differences in speed or climb rate. G. 50 would probably have been more manoeuvrable and better diver. With 20mm cannons He 112 would have been better armed but even if Breda was a mediocre heavy mg it had effective ammo and G. 50 would have had fair armament if the gun mounts had been adequate. Altogether G. 50 was a maintenance nightmare and probably He 112 would have been better in this category. But IMHO Curtiss H-75A Hawk would have been the best option available for the Finns in spring 1939.

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by durb » 12 Aug 2014 10:43

Curtiss Hawk 75 was probably the best plane accessible for Finnish Air Force toward the end of 1930´s. However such thing as political realities and limitations of defense budget must be taken in account. My guess is that the high prize was the most decisive factor why Hawk 75 was not bought for the Finnish Air Force before Winter War. There were also other political factors - to license build and maintain Fokker D XXI wooden parts and Finnish raw materials could be used (all-metal construction would not have allowed this option) - this allowed local production and created jobs - things that politicians liked. Probably Fokker as a well-known North European manufacturer was also considered more reliable partner than Curtiss far away in America. It is also well known that many narrow minded Europeans (incl. Finns) tended to underestimate grossly the potential of USA and US manufacturers in late 1930´s. For many USA was just a homeland of jazz music.

When it comes to performance of Hawk 75, there are different evaluations according to different testers. The American/English literature mentions usually that Hawk 75 could reach the top speed of 500 km/h at the altitude of 4000 meters. But this seems to be a "factory" figure used for the marketing of plane (test plane flown probably without full armament, radio equipment and camo). French tested the combat ready Hawk 75 in 1939, and test flights showed that Hawk 75 could achieve max. speed of 486 km/h at the altitude of 4000 meters (comparable to that of Brewster Buffalo). In mock fights Hawk 75 proved to better than Morane 406 and it certainly would have been better than Fokker D XXI.

When Finns tested Hawk 75 in 1941, Hawk 75 reached the max. speed of only 430 km/h at 4000 meters - comparable or even little less than that of the later models of Polikarpov I-16 and I-153! The reason of the very slowness of Hawk 75 in Finnish test flights may have been the 87-octane fuel used by the Finnish Air Force. French used fuel of higher octane, thus better performance in their tests.

If I remember correctly, Finns bought from Germans new batch of Hawk 75 and Morane 406 as late as in 1942/1943. Thinking that Soviets were modernizing their air force with new Yaks, La 5 and Lend-lease aircraft, this was a odd decision and tells a lot about the narrow vision and conservative attitude of those who made decisions of aircraft purchases in Finnish Air/Defence forces. Finnish pilots were good enough, but it was almost a war crime to put them fight with technological inferiority. I wonder how much they paid to Germans for the obsolete equipment - how good bargain it really was?

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by Juha » 12 Aug 2014 11:26

durb wrote:Curtiss Hawk 75 was probably the best plane accessible for Finnish Air Force toward the end of 1930´s. However such thing as political realities and limitations of defense budget must be taken in account. My guess is that the high prize was the most decisive factor why Hawk 75 was not bought for the Finnish Air Force before Winter War. There were also other political factors - to license build and maintain Fokker D XXI wooden parts and Finnish raw materials could be used (all-metal construction would not have allowed this option) - this allowed local production and created jobs - things that politicians liked. Probably Fokker as a well-known North European manufacturer was also considered more reliable partner than Curtiss far away in America. It is also well known that many narrow minded Europeans (incl. Finns) tended to underestimate grossly the potential of USA and US manufacturers in late 1930´s. For many USA was just a homeland of jazz music.

When it comes to performance of Hawk 75, there are different evaluations according to different testers. The American/English literature mentions usually that Hawk 75 could reach the top speed of 500 km/h at the altitude of 4000 meters. But this seems to be a "factory" figure used for the marketing of plane (test plane flown probably without full armament, radio equipment and camo). French tested the combat ready Hawk 75 in 1939, and test flights showed that Hawk 75 could achieve max. speed of 486 km/h at the altitude of 4000 meters (comparable to that of Brewster Buffalo). In mock fights Hawk 75 proved to better than Morane 406 and it certainly would have been better than Fokker D XXI.

When Finns tested Hawk 75 in 1941, Hawk 75 reached the max. speed of only 430 km/h at 4000 meters - comparable or even little less than that of the later models of Polikarpov I-16 and I-153! The reason of the very slowness of Hawk 75 in Finnish test flights may have been the 87-octane fuel used by the Finnish Air Force. French used fuel of higher octane, thus better performance in their tests.

If I remember correctly, Finns bought from Germans new batch of Hawk 75 and Morane 406 as late as in 1942/1943. Thinking that Soviets were modernizing their air force with new Yaks, La 5 and Lend-lease aircraft, this was a odd decision and tells a lot about the narrow vision and conservative attitude of those who made decisions of aircraft purchases in Finnish Air/Defence forces. Finnish pilots were good enough, but it was almost a war crime to put them fight with technological inferiority. I wonder how much they paid to Germans for the obsolete equipment - how good bargain it really was?
To point is that US was offering in spring 39 a loan which could have been used to acquire the Hawks. The Finns turned the offer down, one source says that it was Ryti who killed the idea another that the social democrats.

There are different version Of Hawk-75As,the French test you mentioned was flown by a Hawk 75A-1, British tested a Cyclone engined Hawk 75A-4 (Mohawk IV), 486km/h at 4300m IIRC, Finns got 476km/h at 3,500m (CUc-506) but most of the FiAF Hawks had the same P&W Twin Wasp as the French Hawk 75A-1 or because we didn't have 100 oct fuel their later P&W Twin Wasps produced the same power, the few Cyclone engined Hawks we got soon got the P&W engine (which powered A-1 - A-3) because there were reliability problems with the Cyclones and also because they were wanted for the Brewsters.

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by SVaaka » 12 Aug 2014 13:52

In my opinion the main reason for this handicap was inside FAF. Bad desiditions one after an other. Thinking money insted of preformance. Choosing some aged and unpowered engine to "main" engine and thinking this will do. Instead of stopping manufacturing of Fokkers and trying to develope during a war a first-class fighterplane with poor engine and nearly no rawmaterials at all. All money and time wasted. And same thing through whole of finnish armsindustry- manfacturing 37 mm antitank guns, LS- lmg's and so. No wonder all casualties.

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by Mangrove » 12 Aug 2014 14:28

SVaaka wrote:Choosing some aged and unpowered engine to "main" engine and thinking this will do.
When the Bristol Mercury was selected as the main engine type of the Finnish Air Force in 1934, it was one of the best types available for both fighter and bomber aeroplanes. Mercury VIII produced 825 hp in 1935 and it had power-to-weight ratio of around 1.88 hp/kg. The ratio for Kestrel V was 1.60 hp/kg and for Jumo 210 it was 1.58 hp/kg.
durb wrote:Curtiss Hawk 75 was probably the best plane accessible for Finnish Air Force toward the end of 1930´s.
SVaaka wrote:Instead of stopping manufacturing of Fokkers and trying to develope during a war a first-class fighterplane with poor engine and nearly no rawmaterials at all. All money and time wasted.
VL Myrsky II was around 40 km/h faster at sea level than the Curtiss Hawk equipped with the same R-1830SC3-G engine. It climbed 1 m/s faster than the Curtiss (a difference of 24 seconds when climbing from 0 to 5000 meters) and had better armament (4 x 12.7 mm instead of 1-2 x 12.7 mm + 2-4 x 7.7 mm).

If the development of the Myrsky would have been started in late 1937 or early 1938 (instead of late 1939), the first operational planes would have possibly been ready in late 1941 or early 1942 instead of mid 1944. This way the plane would also have avoided the problems with inferior glue (the last of the pre-war "Tego" bakelite glue stocks were used to manufacture Blenheims during the Continuation War).

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by durb » 12 Aug 2014 17:16

I believe that Myrsky project was too ambitious thinking of available resources. Smallish Finnish aircraft industry had capacity only for license building - it could not produce genuine prototypes which would have been quickly developed in series production and put in combat like in bigger countries. Hawk 75 A or P-36 would have been a good bargain on 1938/1939 - better than Fokker D XXI or Fiat G 50. Another interesting option in late 1930´s was Curtiss CW 21, which was offered as early as in 1937. More quick and better performing planes - less bombs falling over Finnish targets and less FAF pilots lost in combat. And to get those planes quickly - not with some development project, which in its Finnish framework was just too slow to keep up with the rapid development of aviation technology.

Technical handicap of FAF was caused both by the limitations of defense budget and conservative thinking. And there were misguided "made in Finland" politics - the idea to promote local production and self-sufficiency led actually to fruitless waste of limited resources. It would have been better idea to use those reserves to buy good planes from aboard. When this was finally realized, it was already too late. When it comes to purchase politics of FAF, I would say that it is one of the less glorious chapters of the wartime history of FAF.

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by Mangrove » 12 Aug 2014 18:20

durb wrote:I believe that Myrsky project was too ambitious thinking of available resources. Smallish Finnish aircraft industry had capacity only for license building - it could not produce genuine prototypes which would have been quickly developed in series production and put in combat like in bigger countries.
By 1939, the State Aircraft Factory had developed and produced 10 different prototype and production models, including four different fighter models. Many of these prototypes were as good or even better than the competitors (I.V.L. Haukka II, VL Tuisku etc.). The largest production run was 120 planes.

Developing a mixed construction out of wood and steel was in many ways much better choice in a situation where there was no idea if the war would start in 1939, 1940 or even 1941. For starters, bakelite glued birch is superior to duraluminum as a skin of the aircraft as it can be make much thinner and thus the weight can be reduced. Secondly, producing quality birch in a country like Finland is easier than producing equally good aluminium and/or steel.

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by Gamle Lode » 13 Aug 2014 10:46

Curtiss Hawk was totally unrealistic request for FAF in late '39. Even Seversky P-35 had been too expensive. Neither had skis either...

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by Juha » 13 Aug 2014 12:02

Gamle Lode wrote:Curtiss Hawk was totally unrealistic request for FAF in late '39. Even Seversky P-35 had been too expensive. Neither had skis either...
But clearly cheaper than Brewster B-239 which we bought in Dec 39 and as I wrote, we could have got a loan for the deal.

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by durb » 13 Aug 2014 14:00

The Fokker D XXI was available in 1936 and it was better than the biplanes of FAF at that time. I can see the logic in that. Also the license-building possibility and some raw materials (available in Finland) for Fokker made it appealing. It is also noteworthy that license-built and Mercury-equipped Fokkers were available for FAF before the Winter War.

However, the development of aviation technology was so rapid that Fokker was becoming outdated by 1938/1939. It was not speedy enough to catch easily SB 2 and DB 3 bombers. Fokker was inferior in dogfight vs. I-16 and I-153 and it was not ideal for hit-and-run tactics vs. Soviet fighters. There was a possibility to equip Fokker with 20 mm wing cannons, but only one Fokker was equipped with them and the wing cannons proved to be of little value during Winter War (so they removed them). When it comes to Fokker deal, there are strange things: the plane was not flown by Finnish test pilots before the decision to buy Fokker was made and the option of (untested) wing cannons proved to be useless, although it was one of the reasons to buy Fokker!

There were better options available than the license-building of Fokker by 1937. Curtiss CW 21 could have been an interesting option (although technically yet "raw") and it was available in 1937. Heinkel 112 was also available by 1937 (but maybe not so good?). By 1938 Hawk 75 A would have been available (but too expensive? and would deliveries reached Finland before the outbreak of war?).

By 1939 it was finally realized in FAF that something better than Fokker was needed. In September 1939 the decision to buy Seversky P-35 was made, but it was too late by then.

If one has to name one person responsible of questionable decisions, it is probably Jarl Lundquist, who was not a ideal person to command FAF. It would be wrong to blame only him, but I think that his conservatism and limited aviation knowledge had important or even decisive importance. Also Mannerheim has some responsibility for choosing Lundquist - a wrong man to command Air Force.

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by Juha » 13 Aug 2014 18:19

CW 21 is still a bit mystery, anyway it was very lightly built and even the a little beefed up CW 21B had problems to take the strains of the normal peacetime use. P-35 seems to be a failure and Heinkel 112s of the Romanian AF didn’t do very well against the VVS in 1941. The problem was that there were not good European fighters in the free markets and US planes were expensive and rather unknown. Same to dive-bombers. Ripons needed a replacement so the interest to Fokker T.VIII was understandably.
On Curtiss, delivery was promised in 3 to 8 months from the order and time to the beginning of the Winter War was 6 months and at least a month was needed to get a rudimentary ability to use the planes, so too tight for comfort but if we had got most of the planes in 5 monts, maybe rudimentary operational readiness in late Dec. 39.

I know too little on “Lunkka” to form a firm opinion but I think that Karhunen and the “Fighter Mafia” had painted too dark picture of him.

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by Mikko H. » 13 Aug 2014 19:13

Markku Iskanius is working on a two-volume biography of Lt. Gen. Jarl Lundqvist. The first volume has already been published by Apali:

http://www.apali.fi/kauppa/product_details.php?p=438

I found the book very good, although Iskanius might have painted a slightly too positive picture of him. But given how much negative publicity Lundqvist had had, the book is a good corrective.

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Re: Technical handicap of Finnish Air Force?

Post by Juha » 14 Aug 2014 09:34

On Hawk 75As
The second French order was finalized on 8 March 39 (the 100 Hawk 75A2s) and the planes were delivered to the FrAF between July and September 1939, so 4 to 6 monts from the signing the contract. Intrestingly the designation A2 was purely burocratic, the first 19 A2s were identical to the A1s, from 20th a/c onwards they got the better SC3G engine and from 41st a/c the 2 additional wing mgs. So the Curtiss promised delivery timetable to Finns seems realistic. And the beginning of the war didn't stop the deliveries nor block new orders, the 3rd contract was signed on 5 Oct 39.

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