Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

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Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by stg 44 » 13 Apr 2013 17:02

What if instead of waiting until the war started, the Luftwaffe/Kriegsmarine purchased Italian air-dropped torpedoes for its naval air arm?
http://www.ww2incolor.com/forum/showthr ... -Were-they
Potentials of air-launched torpedoes, however, were discovered commensurately very late, because the German torpedo development had been completely in the hands of the Kriegsmarine since 1932, which had actually purchased the Horten naval torpedo patents from Norway in 1933 and the Whitehead-Fiume patents from Italy in 1938. Germans, essentially, had used a variant of the Norwegian aircraft-dropped torpedo – the 450mm Schwarzkopf F5 with a range of 2000 meters and maximum speed of 33 knots. It was armed with a 200 kg Hexanite explosive warhead. Subsequent German derivative, improved LF 5B travelled at a speed of 40 knots, and was armed with a 180 or 250 kg warhead filled also with Hexanite.

It has to be maentioned, however, that the technical development toward German air-launched torpedoes was pursued in a rather leisurely manner, mainly because it was conducted by the Seeluftstreitkrafte (naval air division of the Kriegsmarine), and the results of trials and reports of combat operations were jealously guarded by the navy. During extensive torpedo-dropping trials, carried out in 1939, both the He 59 and He 115 floatplanes were used, and the failure rate of the torpedoes was a amazing 49 percent!

In 1941, the Luftwaffe decided to pursue its own development trials with the intention of setting up a powerful force of torpedo-bombers. The first torpedo development establishment was formed at Grossenbrode, on the Baltic coast. Several aircraft types were intensively tested and it was soon apparent that the proven and long-established He 111, as well as the faster Ju 88 were the most suitable types.
Historically Germany did not develop their own functional aerial torpedo until 1942 and were forced to use Italian torpedoes once they got over their infighting about the lack of functionality of German torpedo technology. Pre-war there was plenty of opportunity for the Luftwaffe to make the Italian torpedo, as the Germans licensed the technology, but did not manufacture it themselves.

Apparently the Kriegsmarine had the patent in 1938, so could have started making that torpedo instead of wasting time on developing their own. What they could have had was a functional model in production instead. When the war starts they have a stock on hand. So in 1939 German naval bombers pioneer combat torpedo techniques against Allied shipping, which proves better than level or dive bombing against naval targets.

What does this mean for the conduct of the war in 1939-1941? Historically there were a dearth of successful German naval air attacks on military targets (merchant shipping losses to German bombing was modest at best, mines were much more effective) in this period, as the Germans lacked functional torpedo and were reliant on level bombing with non-specialist units; a prime example is during the Norwegian campaign the KG 100, the specialist pathfinder unit, was used for level bombing against naval targets and remained in Norway until August, attacking shipping. With a functional air-dropped torpedoes the Germans could have put a serious dent into the RN during the Norwegian campaign, not to mention hurt merchant shipping more, as evidenced by the success of German naval air units from 1942 on.
Luftwaffe unit Kampfgeschwader 26 was anticipated to play the leading role in this new torpedo plan, and Stab, I and III./KG 26 were selected as the specialized torpedo-units, while II/KG 26 remained in the classicist level-bomber role. It sounds almost unbelievable, but the tactical detachment of a few of KG 26’s He 111s to X. Flieger-Korps in the autumn of 1941 for torpedo operations was short-lived due to lack of torpedoes!

In January 1942, the Luftwaffe’s demands for the centralization and control of all German and Italian torpedo development were finally granted. Colonel Martin Harlinghausen was appointed as the head of all Luftwaffe torpedo development, supply, training and operational organizations, with the TorpedoTraining School established at Grosseto in Italy. During the early months of 1942, I/KG 26 underwent torpedo conversion-courses, lasting between three and four weeks. The Gruppe’s He 111H-6’s could carry two torpedoes slung on racks beneath the belly; the standard torpedoes used were the German LT F5 and LT F5W, both of 450-mm caliber, with the latter based on the Italian model made by Silurificio Whitehead di Fiume.

While I/KG 26 underwent conversion at Grosseto, its future and the bases from which it would operate had already been decided. Luftflotte 5, based in Norway and Finland, needed additional bomber support to interdict Allied convoys on the Murmansk/Archangelsk route. In March, Göring ordered Luftflotte 5 to collaborate with the aerial reconnaissance units of the Kriegsmarine and to attack the convoys when they came into range, and also to shift bomber forces from the Finnish front to accomplish this task. Within I./KG 26, based at Banak and Bardufoss, there were 12 crews available for torpedo operations with the Heinkel He 111H-6 planes.

During March and April, various PQ [and retuning QP] convoys were succesfully attacked. Although the Luftwaffe claimed all 35 ships sunk, they had only sunk seven. New lessons had been learned, however, which were to form the basis of later tactics when greater torpedo forces were expected to be available. Coordinated torpedo and bomber attacks sowed confusion among the defensive screen. The most favorable time was at dusk, with the torpedo-bombers coming in from the darker hemisphere aided by the ships' pre-occupation with dive bombers and level bombers by the Ju 88’s of KG 30, thus affording the low-flying Heinkels of KG 26 an element of surprise. The tactic known as "Golden Zange" (Golden Comb) consisted of a mass torpedo attack by as many as 12 He 111’s flying in wide line-abreast, with a simultaneous release of torpedoes to obtain the maximum spread while dividing defensive fire.

Aircrafts have been spaced about 200-300 meters apart, and both LT F5b (improved version) and Italian LT F5W torpedoes were used. The F5W was preferred as the F5b’s whisker-type detonating pistol seldom operated when the target was hit at an sharp angle. Torpedoes were launched at a range of 1000 meters, and usually from a height of 40 meters (125 feet), the parent aircraft flying dead straight and level in order for the weapon to enter the water at the stipulated 12 degrees. AA fire, particularly that of 20mm Oerlikon guns, was considered a greater threat than escorting RN fighters. Observation of torpedo-tracks or hits was next to impossible, as the parent aircraft had to execute violent evasive action as soon as the weapon was dropped. The Ju-88’s of KG 26 had considerably more success than the Ju-88’s of KG 30, and sunk the majority of the merchant ships claimed.

Ill-fated convoy PQ-17 was set upon for five days, in which 23 out of 33 ships were sunk, and Luftflotte V accounting for fourteen of them. This action saw the use of a few He-115 floatplane torpedo-bombers too, but mainly the He-111’s of I/KG 26 and the Ju-88’s of KG 30 were in action.

By the end of July, III/KG 26, under captain Nocken, had completed the course at Grosseto and had transferred its Ju 88A-4 torpedo-bombers to Rennes-St.Jacques. They eventually wound up at Banak along with a considerable anti-shipping force of bombers, torpedo-bombers and reconnaissance aircraft.
With preparations pre-war, which would make sense, given that the North Sea was a planned conflict zone eventually and the Kriegsmarine was building a navy to fight in that area (Plan Z was all about fighting in the North Sea, as the design of German battleships did not have 'Atlantic' bows for open oceangoing).

So what does this mean for the British in the early war if the Germans were using large numbers of aerial torpedoes with their specialist Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine naval air units?

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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 13 Apr 2013 19:44

Any more attention to maritime air warfare would have been better than the near neglect that existed. The torpedos were just one aspect. During the Spanish war a very few German pilots experimented with extreme low level techniques using conventional bombs. This "Swedish Turnip" technique was promising much like some similar experiments in the US. ... but like the US little follow up was done and in 1939-1940 when the German Air Force faced a maritime opponent only a dozen of fewer pilots had any knowledge of the difficult but productive extreme low alltitude attack technique.

Related was a lack of knowledge of open ocean navigation, experience at the nuances of long range radio comm. over water, target identification of ships, oceanic reconissance or search techniques. Despite that the Baltic & North Sea were important to Germanys defense the German AF was unprepared for any useful operations. The October 1939 fiascos against British fleet ops in the North Sea & Baltic are a understudied illustration of the German problem.

Attention to a productive torpedo development program would probablly be part of a larger program of developing a maritime air warfare capability. Without at least partial development of the rest of it good torpedos would be nearly unnoticeable due to a inability to find targets or properly coordinate attacks.

Getting back to the low level or 'skip' bombing techniques. Were those well developed from 1938 a torpedo would not be needed. Some special fuzes would be useful but otherwise some six months of widespread training is likely all it would take. When USAAF leaders revived experimentation with low level attacks in 1942 they were able to achieve large scale operational capability in about six months.

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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by phylo_roadking » 13 Apr 2013 21:51

Please read

LUFTWAFFE MARITIME OPERATIONS IN WORLD WAR II:
THOUGHT, ORGANIZATION AND TECHNOLOGY
http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA476401

..as previously suggested; there has to be a want and a need for this purchase for it to happen; in 1939/half of 1940 there wasn't either...it conflicted with doctrine then, and for some time after...
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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by BDV » 13 Apr 2013 22:22

Once SHTF on September 3rd 1939, tight cooperation with Benito must start in earnest. 1942 strikes me as slightly tardy for that. Both countries sea operations could have benefited tremendously (e.g. RM from the german naval radar advances).
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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by phylo_roadking » 13 Apr 2013 22:58

Well, there was no actual need for "cooperation" until Luftwaffe aircraft started operating in the Med in late 1940 ;) The Med was an Italian lake up until then...at Musso's request!
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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by BDV » 14 Apr 2013 16:15

phylo_roadking wrote:Well, there was no actual need for "cooperation" until Luftwaffe aircraft started operating in the Med in late 1940 ;) The Med was an Italian lake up until then...at Musso's request!
I was thinking know-how exchange, and some hardware, rather than joint maritime operations. For joint operations, joint presence in a theater is a sine qua non.
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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by phylo_roadking » 14 Apr 2013 19:55

I was thinking know-how exchange, and some hardware, rather than joint maritime operations.
Well - the same thing applies - for the Germans still have to identify the lack ;) Their "period" coastal/maritime patrol aircraft I.E. up until September 1st 1939...were FINE for the environment they operated in - the Baltic ;) They have to be operating off Norway for a need to arise - so the earliest it can appear is April/May 1940...and THEN there's months of training after the ordnance arrives, aircraft modified etc. I wouldn't see them operational until towards the end of 1940 at the very earliest...

Remember discussions elsewhere; WESERUBUNG as an actual working plan doesn't appear until into 1940 ;) And Norway was never a Nazi preoccupation until the very last months of 1939; if anything, they'd have wanted to have it....like Denmark, and Holland - stay OUT of the war as channels for foreign exports/imports etc. like they had been inWWI if at all possible...
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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by stg 44 » 14 Apr 2013 20:28

phylo_roadking wrote:
I was thinking know-how exchange, and some hardware, rather than joint maritime operations.
Well - the same thing applies - for the Germans still have to identify the lack ;) Their "period" coastal/maritime patrol aircraft I.E. up until September 1st 1939...were FINE for the environment they operated in - the Baltic ;) They have to be operating off Norway for a need to arise - so the earliest it can appear is April/May 1940...and THEN there's months of training after the ordnance arrives, aircraft modified etc. I wouldn't see them operational until towards the end of 1940 at the very earliest...

Remember discussions elsewhere; WESERUBUNG as an actual working plan doesn't appear until into 1940 ;) And Norway was never a Nazi preoccupation until the very last months of 1939; if anything, they'd have wanted to have it....like Denmark, and Holland - stay OUT of the war as channels for foreign exports/imports etc. like they had been inWWI if at all possible...
The Luftwaffe was ordered to start looking at the British as a potential enemy in 1938, so it would make sense to consider the North Sea as a battle zone. Pre-war there were clearly efforts in the direction of having naval bombers, both within the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine; it was institutional infighting that kept development from going forward, just as national pride apparently kept them from working with the Italians in an area they had much greater expertise prior to 1941.

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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by phylo_roadking » 14 Apr 2013 21:23

The Luftwaffe was ordered to start looking at the British as a potential enemy in 1938, so it would make sense to consider the North Sea as a battle zone.
Have you actually read that article yet???
Pre-war there were clearly efforts in the direction of having naval bombers, both within the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine; it was institutional infighting that kept development from going forward
See above.
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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by stg 44 » 14 Apr 2013 22:03

phylo_roadking wrote:
The Luftwaffe was ordered to start looking at the British as a potential enemy in 1938, so it would make sense to consider the North Sea as a battle zone.
Have you actually read that article yet???
I have and haven't seen what contradicts my statements. Felmy was ordered to start wargaming for a war against Britain and had his resulting report buried when he demonstrated how badly prepared for war against the British the Luftwaffe was.
phylo_roadking wrote:
Pre-war there were clearly efforts in the direction of having naval bombers, both within the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine; it was institutional infighting that kept development from going forward
See above.
The paper supports exactly what I said: the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe focused on naval air forces separately from one another and didn't coordinate until the war started. Then they had a limited amount of air dropped torpedoes which had a 49% failure rate. According to the paper the limited cooperation ended in late 1939 and wasn't really resumed until 1941 withe Fliegerführer Atlantik. There was of course the Küstenflieger and Air Corp X, but they didn't really coordinate their operations, which operation Wikinger demonstrated. I do have to take issue with the part where the author claims that the Luftwaffe wanted nothing to do with aerial torpedeos until 1941; there was interest demonstrated, but there simply was not a supply and Jeschonnek wasn't interested in using his resources to build any; contrast this with the bitter fight over magnetic mines and radar and we can see how Göring and Jeschonnek focused on other things first, pretty much ending any cooperation talk that Wever started in 1935 with his LW regulations. Instead the LW was focused on a different strategy, so was looking at some different weapons, while ignoring what the naval lessons of the SCW were. Had the LW and KM worked together as they did starting in 1941 pre-war, they would have had a significant naval air arm with major capabilities, plus the knowledge of the SCW where Harlinghausen pioneered many later tactics and called for aerial torpedo development; he was ignored historically because the LW didn't want to make their own and the KM didn't want to give the LW naval air unit any copies:
http://www.amazon.com/Luftwaffe-Aerial- ... 395&sr=1-1
http://www.amazon.com/Sea-Planes-Legion ... dp_product
The Condor Legion's anti-shipping unit was using aerial torpedoes in 1938, but because the KM didn't want to share its torpedoes and the LW didn't want to worry about buying them themselves, the LW naval air arm didn't have them at the start of the war.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Harlinghausen
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condor_Le ... operations

http://www.oocities.org/swansea_unleashed/wwii.html
The German realisation that they would have to fight a strategic air war over Britain emerged in August 1938 when senior Luftwaffe planners embarked on a wargame simulating likely air war operations. The identification of Swansea as a likely target probably emerged at the Luftwaffe's spring planning conference of 1939. General Felmy (Commander of Luftflotte 2) devised a strategy to attack Britain's food, munitions and weapons centres.
Last edited by stg 44 on 14 Apr 2013 22:16, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by phylo_roadking » 14 Apr 2013 22:15

The paper supports exactly what I said: the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe focused on naval air forces separately from one another and didn't coordinate until the war started.
The Luftwaffe was ordered to start looking at the British as a potential enemy in 1938, so it would make sense to consider the North Sea as a battle zone.
That's EXACTLY the point; they considered it, and THAT mess/doctrine was the kludge they came up with historically! They didn't develop the doctrine/requirement early enough historically...

But the fact is that they DID examine it and DID come up with what they did - which means that any possible POD has to come after that I.E. well after the start of the war, not before it. They looked at the issues and opted away from what you suggest towards the OTL for the various reasons discussed in the article. Thus any possible POD for anything different can only be Norway at the earliest...and starting THEN there's a lead time issue.
Pre-war there were clearly efforts in the direction of having naval bombers, both within the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine; it was institutional infighting that kept development from going forward
As in - small, very small efforts....
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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by stg 44 » 14 Apr 2013 22:20

phylo_roadking wrote:
The paper supports exactly what I said: the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe focused on naval air forces separately from one another and didn't coordinate until the war started.
The Luftwaffe was ordered to start looking at the British as a potential enemy in 1938, so it would make sense to consider the North Sea as a battle zone.
That's EXACTLY the point; they considered it, and THAT mess/doctrine was the kludge they came up with historically! They didn't develop the doctrine/requirement early enough historically...

But the fact is that they DID examine it and DID come up with what they did - which means that any possible POD has to come after that I.E. well after the start of the war, not before it. They looked at the issues and opted away from what you suggest towards the OTL for the various reasons discussed in the article. Thus any possible POD for anything different can only be Norway at the earliest...and starting THEN there's a lead time issue.
Pre-war there were clearly efforts in the direction of having naval bombers, both within the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine; it was institutional infighting that kept development from going forward
As in - small, very small efforts....
Of course we could always dip into the Walter Wever POD. :D
According to the paper, he was willing to coordinate with the KM on naval aviation, at least doctrinally.
This is backed up by James Corum's work on the subject:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Luftwaffe-Cre ... 0700609628

Sadly I cannot find any links to the chapters on the naval aviation efforts he made online and don't want to have to type up huge sections of the book to make my point.

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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by phylo_roadking » 14 Apr 2013 22:36

The thing is - right there in 1938 (and into 1939) we can see a real live historical POD acutally happening ;) And this is what they came up with.

The Wever POD...all that would do is add more demands to the RLM/LW prospective budget, more requirements and specifications to be landed on the heads of designers to try and fit into and compromise their designs with...

Let's take an example - the bombload of the B-17 :wink: To get the range necessary for a "patrol bomber" the bombload was severely limited and couldn't be stretched; in fact, to get greater range it specifically had to be reduced...

Imagine a mid-1930s LW bomber force spec'd to attempt to carry out everything Wever would have wanted of it... :P How small would LW bombloads have been in 1939-40 if patrol range had been among the main design factors...
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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by stg 44 » 14 Apr 2013 22:46

phylo_roadking wrote:The thing is - right there in 1938 (and into 1939) we can see a real live historical POD acutally happening ;) And this is what they came up with.

The Wever POD...all that would do is add more demands to the RLM/LW prospective budget, more requirements and specifications to be landed on the heads of designers to try and fit into and compromise their designs with...

Let's take an example - the bombload of the B-17 :wink: To get the range necessary for a "patrol bomber" the bombload was severely limited and couldn't be stretched; in fact, to get greater range it specifically had to be reduced...

Imagine a mid-1930s LW bomber force spec'd to attempt to carry out everything Wever would have wanted of it... :P How small would LW bombloads have been in 1939-40 if patrol range had been among the main design factors...
Whoa, the goals were tiered for the LW, meaning some gave greater weight than others. The He111 and Ju88 were products of the Wever era and didn't see themselves 'stretched'; the He177 as we've gone over in other threads, was supposed to be the aircraft with range. The He111 and Ju88 proved to have plenty of range and payload to operate as torpedo or naval strike bombers in the North Sea. The technology wouldn't change, but rather the organization would. If anything the He115 wouldn't be necessary if the He111 was made available, which is why once the He111 did become available for naval operations He115 production was stopped. Pooling resources with existing technology would have resulted in a much better prepared naval air force, as historically the two services pulled in different directs and diverted resources to separate projects, instead of pooling them and getting more of the better and necessary project (He111 vs. He115/other sea plane bombers). Having the Italian torpedoes for such a force would come at the expense of the existing non-functional torpedoes and some of the bomb stocks, which given how many were used fruitlessly, it only seems to me to be an improvement over the historical 'kit'.

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Re: Die Seeadler: Luftwaffe with torpedoes

Post by phylo_roadking » 14 Apr 2013 23:00

The He111 and Ju88 were products of the Wever era and didn't see themselves 'stretched';
The He111 and Ju88 proved to have plenty of range and payload to operate as torpedo or naval strike bombers in the North Sea.
The Ju 88 was definitely "stretched" - in range terms AND physically! Which is a bit of an admission that there were functions and requirements it NEEDED maximum range for over other considerations... http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 9&t=197853
Having the Italian torpedoes for such a force would come at the expense of the existing non-functional torpedoes and some of the bomb stocks, which given how many were used fruitlessly, it only seems to me to be an improvement over the historical 'kit'.
But when exactly did the Germans identify those non-functioning torpedoes? I mean the naval ones as well? ;) ;) ;) The word "Norway" comes to mind again...
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