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bogamol
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 6:06 am    Post subject: The role of formations in aerial combat (WWII era) Reply with quote

I've been wondering about the logistics of aerial combat lately and have come to the conclusion that bomber formations make sense because bombers are generally stationary with respect to their counterparts and the bomber formation (usually the combat box) is designed so that the various guns cover the weakspots of the other planes in formation.

However, what about fighter tactics? What, (besides go fast, pull lots o g's and get lots of bitches) is going through the mind of a fighter pilot in this sort of combat? What sorts of considerations do they have and how do they work together to break down a bomber formation? Anyone know anything about this?



I should say that ground tactics make more sense to me (though of course I am no real tactician) for example an eschelon used by a tank platoon works because the side armor of the vehicle beside protects the tank from fire to the rear, the general weakspot of tanks and also allows for a full field of fire when running up the flank, though this would seem to be of limited use with something like a German Stug which does not have a full turret.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A unit formation is situation dependent, but is mostly driven by optimizing their use of available sensors and weapons. It's more about sectors of fire than armor.

A unit of <whatever> enroute to a designated target will be seeking to avoid detection. To minimize use of radios, they remain in easy visual contact of each other. Depending on the likelihood of enemy contact, their formation will be based more or less on maximizing their ability to respond to an attack (from the expected direction(s)) versus facilitating movement.

Once the reach their target or make contact, the commander will change formation based on the planned actions at the objective. It is often desirable to take advantage of mass, overwhelming the enemy with a high volume of fire. This requires changing to formation to bring many weapons to bear at once on the same target(s).

Combat is a sequence of events. A formation may also be based on an expectation of the enemy's actions (or reactions), and a commander may break his unit into several moving parts. For example, much like a boxer, he might attack the enemy with part of his force, then after they have deployed to respond to this, hit them again from another direction from which they are now vulnerable, then bring in a third element to attack other forces maneuvering to aid those initially attacked.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Come out of the sun or clouds. Height is a big advantage. Aim for enemy's engine first.

Don't attack head-on (chances are too even). Manoeuvre behind him, and fire in short burts.

If your plane is less manoeuverable, attack from above, then turn & run away while in his blind spot.

From video of tactics.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bomber formation to maximise coverage, flying formation for minimised fuel usage and radar cross section to mask true numbers
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Obama has made that obsolete with the use of drones.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

notageek wrote:
Obama has made that obsolete with the use of drones.


Drones don't carpet bomb Germany.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

They will.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

notageek wrote:
They will.


I suspect that when they do, they'll use similar tactics and formations. :P

Thanks, BK. So let me describe what I think.

In order to minimize losses on the way to the target, bombers would form up in the 'combat box' form in order to present the most guns at the enemy so as to prevent them from shooting down bombers. Defending fighters would have needed to bring more arms to bear to one area (say for example the rear of the box) and so they would target tail gunners first. With them eliminated, they would follow from the rear and fire at engines to down the planes.

In order to prevent the defending fighters from being able to get into position to pick apart a weakness in the combat box, then fighter escorts would come along and their role is to disrupt their formations minimizing the bomber's exposure.

Attackers need to bring heavy fighters with longer endurance (better fuel capability and heavier armor) so as to last the entire trip. This is a weakness against lighter fighters who would be able to outmaneuver the attackers.

The impact of light fighters necessitates that airstrips become a high priority target. If defenders are not able to distribute lighter faster fighters along the attacker's route, then the defenders require heavier fighters which more closely match the capabilities of escort fighters.

Hows that?
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Last edited by bogamol on Sat Dec 28, 2013 5:59 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

notageek wrote:
They will.


they can't. Without silicium wafers for the electronics.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bogamol wrote:
notageek wrote:
Obama has made that obsolete with the use of drones.


Drones don't carpet bomb Germany.
Whatever you do, don't firebomb their cities. They tend to get all pissy about it
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On the plus side you get to plan those cities from scratch.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

notageek wrote:
They will.
No they won't. They do not have flight clearance from the EASA.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 1:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wildhorse wrote:
notageek wrote:
They will.
No they won't. They do not have flight clearance from the EASA.


As if flight clearance from a belligerent ever deterred a bombing run...
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 2:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bogamol wrote:
wildhorse wrote:
notageek wrote:
They will.
No they won't. They do not have flight clearance from the EASA.


As if flight clearance from a belligerent ever deterred a bombing run...


times are changing
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Didn't bombing formations back in the day have fighter escort?
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 5:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bogamol wrote:
notageek wrote:
They will.


I suspect that when they do, they'll use similar tactics and formations. :P

Thanks, BK. So let me describe what I think.

In order to minimize losses on the way to the target, bombers would form up in the 'combat box' form in order to present the most guns at the enemy so as to prevent them from shooting down bombers. Defending fighters would have needed to bring more arms to bear to one area (say for example the rear of the box) and so they would target tail gunners first. With them eliminated, they would follow from the rear and fire at engines to down the planes.

In order to prevent the defending fighters from being able to get into position to pick apart a weakness in the combat box, then fighter escorts would come along and their role is to disrupt their formations minimizing the bomber's exposure.

Attackers need to bring heavy fighters with longer endurance (better fuel capability and heavier armor) so as to last the entire trip. This is a weakness against lighter fighters who would be able to outmaneuver the attackers.

The impact of light fighters necessitates that airstrips become a high priority target. If defenders are not able to distribute lighter faster fighters along the attacker's route, then the defenders require heavier fighters which more closely match the capabilities of escort fighters.

Hows that?

Pretty good, I'd say. There are some other factors. Flying very low reduces the ability of radars to lock on, track you, figure out where you're going, shoot you down with guided missiles, but it makes you very vulnerable to fighters. Flying at an intermediate altitude is ideal for bombing, but makes you vulnerable anti-aircraft artillery. Flying at great altitude minimizes vulnerability, but makes (made) precision bombing impossible (and the alternative is often morally unacceptable, unless they've done it to you first, like the Germans did to the British).

Before aerial combat primarily used guided missiles, it was difficult to hit anything except from behind, because otherwise you didn't have long enough to aim. That's why tail and waist gunners were necessary. Today it's more about having better sensor coverage and better missiles
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Neat! Thanks.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BoneKracker wrote:
bogamol wrote:
notageek wrote:
They will.


I suspect that when they do, they'll use similar tactics and formations. :P

Thanks, BK. So let me describe what I think.

In order to minimize losses on the way to the target, bombers would form up in the 'combat box' form in order to present the most guns at the enemy so as to prevent them from shooting down bombers. Defending fighters would have needed to bring more arms to bear to one area (say for example the rear of the box) and so they would target tail gunners first. With them eliminated, they would follow from the rear and fire at engines to down the planes.

In order to prevent the defending fighters from being able to get into position to pick apart a weakness in the combat box, then fighter escorts would come along and their role is to disrupt their formations minimizing the bomber's exposure.

Attackers need to bring heavy fighters with longer endurance (better fuel capability and heavier armor) so as to last the entire trip. This is a weakness against lighter fighters who would be able to outmaneuver the attackers.

The impact of light fighters necessitates that airstrips become a high priority target. If defenders are not able to distribute lighter faster fighters along the attacker's route, then the defenders require heavier fighters which more closely match the capabilities of escort fighters.

Hows that?

Pretty good, I'd say. There are some other factors. Flying very low reduces the ability of radars to lock on, track you, figure out where you're going, shoot you down with guided missiles, but it makes you very vulnerable to fighters. Flying at an intermediate altitude is ideal for bombing, but makes you vulnerable anti-aircraft artillery. Flying at great altitude minimizes vulnerability, but makes (made) precision bombing impossible (and the alternative is often morally unacceptable, unless they've done it to you first, like the Germans did to the British).

Before aerial combat primarily used guided missiles, it was difficult to hit anything except from behind, because otherwise you didn't have long enough to aim. That's why tail and waist gunners were necessary. Today it's more about having better sensor coverage and better missiles


the Brits were the first to bomb civilian targets. Nice try there BK.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually it was the Germans.
It turned out the Germans accidently bombed a civilian target during ww2 but air command did not know this (and neither did the Germans at the time...) The only interpretation was that Germany was putting civilian targets on the table and so Britain legitimately targeted German civilian targets

Doesn't change the fact Germany hit British civilian targets first
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bomber Harris' whole strategy was to kill as many German civilians as possible to lower the morale of the people.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Naib wrote:
Actually it was the Germans.
It turned out the Germans accidently bombed a civilian target during ww2 but air command did not know this (and neither did the Germans at the time...) The only interpretation was that Germany was putting civilian targets on the table and so Britain legitimately targeted German civilian targets

Doesn't change the fact Germany hit British civilian targets first


nope. Germany bombed Scapa flow and some civilian running around was killed. Brits bombed a hospital.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Old School wrote:
Bomber Harris' whole strategy was to kill as many German civilians as possible to lower the morale of the people.
That's why we won :D
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Old School wrote:
Bomber Harris' whole strategy was to kill as many German civilians as possible to lower the morale of the people.


Quote:
The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Butts McCracken wrote:
Old School wrote:
Bomber Harris' whole strategy was to kill as many German civilians as possible to lower the morale of the people.
That's why we won :D


Technically the Russian thing - Stalingrad and all that jazz - helped.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

John-Boy wrote:
Old School wrote:
Bomber Harris' whole strategy was to kill as many German civilians as possible to lower the morale of the people.


Quote:
The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.

Whatever the wartime propaganda, Butcher (as he was known by his own flight crews) Harris' strategy was to kill civilians. Harris tried to get the USAAF to blindly carpet bomb cities at night, but the US continued precision (for the time) daylight bombing.

He would be a war criminal by today's standard.
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