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Old 11-17-2018, 12:41 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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What was the point of a dive bomber?

Why were there dive bombers in WWII? Did it give greater accuracy in delivering the bomb? How hard was it to pull out of the dive? Are there still dive bombers?
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Old 11-17-2018, 12:44 PM
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Oops - meant to put this in GQ. Have self-reported asking for a move.
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Old 11-17-2018, 12:52 PM
MichaelEmouse MichaelEmouse is offline
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Greater accuracy. Put a target on the floor, like a plate. Try to throw a coin so that it lands on the target. Make your first throw from a low angle and your second throw from a high angle. The high angle will be easier. The lower the angle, the greater the potential range error.

Digital ballistic computers, munition guidance and the general improvements in anti-vehicle weaponry have rendered dive bombers largely moot although I'm sure there's some jungle army with one somewhere.

Last edited by MichaelEmouse; 11-17-2018 at 12:53 PM.
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Old 11-17-2018, 01:05 PM
Figaro Figaro is offline
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Agreed - accuracy was the upside. The more vertical release path lessened the chances of over/under shooting the target due to horizontal travel. The downsides were the need for speed management (most dive bombers had aerodynamic speed brakes to prevent them from getting too fast and breaking up in a dive...these also created the cause of the classic "Stuka" whine), and exposure to ground fire.
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Old 11-17-2018, 01:08 PM
BrickBat BrickBat is offline
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Originally Posted by Figaro View Post
Agreed - accuracy was the upside. The more vertical release path lessened the chances of over/under shooting the target due to horizontal travel. The downsides were the need for speed management (most dive bombers had aerodynamic speed brakes to prevent them from getting too fast and breaking up in a dive...these also created the cause of the classic "Stuka" whine), and exposure to ground fire.
The Stuka whine of the JU-87 were from air-driven sirens. Basically small two-bladed propellers mounted on one of the main landing gear strut spats leading edge.

Last edited by BrickBat; 11-17-2018 at 01:09 PM.
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Old 11-17-2018, 01:48 PM
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Bombing was notoriously inaccurate until well after WW2, and dive bombers could be much more accurate.

Bombing was revolutionised by GPS and laser guidance. Now you can pretty much guarantee accuracy. Nowadays a bomb knows where it is and where it needs to go and can fly its way there.
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Old 11-17-2018, 02:15 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Nowadays a bomb knows where it is and where it needs to go and can fly its way there.
Soon we'll be discussing phenomenology with them.
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Old 11-17-2018, 02:19 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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Thanks, that helps explain it.

How much training did the pilots need? Was it physically difficult to pull the plane out of the dive after bomb's away?
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Old 11-17-2018, 02:46 PM
MarvinKitFox MarvinKitFox is offline
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The main advantage of delivering a bomb in a dive is that you don't move over the ground so much, so your bomb delivery spot does not move around so much if your timing is a fraction of a second off.
Also, the sight (and sound, in the case of Stukas) of a diving bomber terrifies the guys on the ground, quite out of proportion to the actual danger posed to them.
And to a lesser extent, the bomb hits more vertically, and harder, than a bomb dropped from a similar altitude but level flight. This helps somewhat to penetrate bunkers etc.

The main disadvantages of divebombing are:
1) You are flying into the ground. More, a spot of the ground that will very,very,very soon be the ground zero of an exploding bomb. You need to turn away from that spot of ground *pronto*
2) To someone on the ground, your plane is briefly an almost stationary target in the sky. In addition, your exit line is 100% predictable. This tends to lead to increased involuntary ventilation holes for you and your plane.
3) Diving makes speed. Too much speed can rip off wings. Too much speed can make your turn altitude be 10 feet under ground. Too much speed can make you black out when pulling out of your dive. All of these are Bad Ideas.

As for skill requirement.
Divebombing just requires steady nerves and "normal" good piloting skills, nothing extraordinary. It is *much* easier to get right than accurate high-altitude bombing, and utterly trivial compared to air-to-air dogfighting skills.

All the above info based on books written by British and German WW2 flyers. Stuff like "the decisive duel", "Stukas over the steppe", etc..
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Old 11-17-2018, 03:51 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is online now
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There are another couple of advantages- you come in high and fast, thus less time for flak. You can come in from the clouds, making the run a surprise.

The IJN was so busy with the American torpedo bombers at Midway, they they had their fighter cao down low and they were caught rather by surprise by the dive bombers.

But yeh, the main reason is accuracy.
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Old 11-17-2018, 04:47 PM
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Dive-bombers, once they had made it to their initial point, were almost unstoppable.

Bombers of all type (dive, level, and torpedo) were vulnerable to fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft fire when flying predictable paths.
Level bombers and torpedo bombers, by their nature, tended to fly straight paths from their initial point to their release point with no variation in altitude or in course, a course that could take several minutes to complete. This made them easy targets for fighters right up until release and allowed anti-aircraft gunners to predict where the bombers would be so that shells could be properly timed to explode near them.

Dive-bombers added a third dimension, altitude, to the equation. Very few fighters could follow a dive-bomber into the dive as they were not designed for the same kind of stress the dive bombers were. Anti-aircraft fire had to adjust to a target that was rapidly shedding altitude and thus range.

Anti-aircraft fire isn't "there's the plane, everyone shoot at it." Most of the time there would be a battery of several weapons controlled by a single fire control point. Fire control would predict the path of the target and calculate a point for a barrage that intercepted that path. The battery would fire as rapidly as possible to fill the sky with shells at that point. Fire control would move the box but changes in course or altitude would easily throw the calculations off and delay the next barrage as the guns and shells were reset for the new range (the introduction of the radar proximity fuse changed this equation dramatically). Even with the best tachymetric systems available, a firing solution could take 10-20 seconds to develop. On top of that you have to not only aim the gun, but adjust the timed fuses so they might go off near the target.

Dive-bombers took about a minute from their initial point to their release point. Spending 20-30 seconds of that time generating and adjusting a firing solution is not a recipe for defensive success.

In WWII, the US Navy trained for vertical dives. Once you added in the lift component from the wings, this resulted in an apparent angle of about 70 degree path. Not sure how steep an angle was used in the most recent wars, I think most aircraft came in pretty low to avoid missiles.

If you've got about 20 minutes or so, here's the training film.

Last edited by txtumbleweed; 11-17-2018 at 04:50 PM. Reason: needed an editor
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Old 11-17-2018, 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
How hard was it to pull out of the dive?
As to this question, dive bombers were, of course, designed to pull out of dives, usually by deploying control surfaces specifically for that purpose.
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Old 11-17-2018, 09:20 PM
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I understand it was designed to pull up. But did it take greater physical strength from the pilot than normal flying manoeuvres? Was it a hydraulic-aided system like power steering?
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Old 11-18-2018, 12:21 AM
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Yes, control surfaces had hydraulic power. That was, by that time, pretty standard fare in warplanes. The US Navy's SBD Dauntless, the plane responsible for the destruction of four Japanese aircraft carriers at Midway, was noted for the quality of its hydraulic dive brakes. Pilots of dive bombers were no stronger than pilots of other planes.
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Old 11-18-2018, 12:33 AM
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Soon we'll be discussing phenomenology with them.
I didn't even need to look at the link to know what it was going to.
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Old 11-18-2018, 01:00 AM
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I once heard that The Admiralty was moved to Bath in WWII in the belief that the hills surrounding it would make it more difficult for dive bombers. Is that true?
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Old 11-18-2018, 01:24 AM
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The stuka in particular actually had a sophisticated system to pull the plane out of a dive using a form of autopilot, which meant that it would pull out of a dive even if the pilot blacked out. It didn't just pitch the elevators - it was rather sophisticated and controlled diving brakes, flaps, engine settings, aircraft trim, etc.
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Old 11-18-2018, 06:39 AM
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Apparently there are only two intact Stukas left in the whole world. There are also some wrecks.

Last edited by Quartz; 11-18-2018 at 06:39 AM. Reason: Added cite
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Old 11-18-2018, 06:41 AM
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I remember a scene in an old war film where a squadron leader is talking to veteran pilots explaining that he himself being 25 was too old for aerial combat in fighters. Pilots blackout when all the blood drains from their upper body during dives. The younger, fitter pilots were better able to survive. The old fogeys became pilot trainers and probably lived a lot longer. Was that accurate?

I guess this was before they developed the pressure suit. Not sure when that came in to use.
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Old 11-18-2018, 07:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern Piper
I understand it was designed to pull up. But did it take greater physical strength from the pilot than normal flying manoeuvres? Was it a hydraulic-aided system like power steering?
Dive bomber pilots tended to be selected from fighter pilot candidates as opposed to bomber ones, but otherwise, were not particularly strong. And, unlike a fighter, its a predictable, timed dive, so a lot easier technically and physically than the often violent and "as required" manoeuvres of a fighter. On the other hand, if AAA saw you once yiu began your dive and they started firing, you were screwed, a fighter at least has a chance to avoid.

Stukas were withdrawn from the Battle of Britain due to mounting losses to the Hurricanes.
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Yes, control surfaces had hydraulic power. That was, by that time, pretty standard fare in warplanes. The US Navy's SBD Dauntless, the plane responsible for the destruction of four Japanese aircraft carriers at Midway, was noted for the quality of its hydraulic dive brakes. Pilots of dive bombers were no stronger than pilots of other planes.

As an aside, I recall reading a USAF study from the late 1970's or early 1980's. They looked at the physical requirements for flying then modern fighters versus the WW2 era planes and concluded that something like 70% of the WW2fighter pilots, if magically teleported to the era , would not qualify.
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Old 11-18-2018, 07:24 AM
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I remember a scene in an old war film where a squadron leader is talking to veteran pilots explaining that he himself being 25 was too old for aerial combat in fighters. Pilots blackout when all the blood drains from their upper body during dives. The younger, fitter pilots were better able to survive. The old fogeys became pilot trainers and probably lived a lot longer. Was that accurate?

I guess this was before they developed the pressure suit. Not sure when that came in to use.
The film was a James Cagney flick, Captains of the Clouds. And the age was 28.
In real life, it was not just age, but the fact that there was a near limitless supply of volunteers for fighters and they could be picky and younger men would have a longer shelf life.
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Old 11-18-2018, 08:13 AM
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Then there's the fuel issue.
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Old 11-18-2018, 08:21 AM
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I remember a scene in an old war film where a squadron leader is talking to veteran pilots explaining that he himself being 25 was too old for aerial combat in fighters. Pilots blackout when all the blood drains from their upper body during dives. The younger, fitter pilots were better able to survive. The old fogeys became pilot trainers and probably lived a lot longer. Was that accurate?

I guess this was before they developed the pressure suit. Not sure when that came in to use.
In addition to Ak84's reference, I suggest Dive Bomber (1941) starring Errol Flynn and Fred MacMurray as a navy doctor and pilot trying to solve the pilot-blackout problem (now known as G-LOC, I guess).
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Old 11-18-2018, 08:58 AM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
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Wow. Sorry for the delay.

Let me move that over for you.
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Old 11-18-2018, 10:14 AM
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Yes, control surfaces had hydraulic power. That was, by that time, pretty standard fare in warplanes. The US Navy's SBD Dauntless, the plane responsible for the destruction of four Japanese aircraft carriers at Midway, was noted for the quality of its hydraulic dive brakes. Pilots of dive bombers were no stronger than pilots of other planes.
The drive brakes were hydraulically actuated, not the basic flight controls (rudder, elevators, ailerons). Hydraulically boosted flight controls were unusual on WWII a/c. Even the B-29, a then large a/c with lots of complicated then state-of-the-art systems had manually powered flight controls. Late models of the P-38 had hydraulically boosted ailerons because roll rate was important for fighters and a weakness of previous models of the ac/, but an innovation at the time.
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Old 11-18-2018, 11:21 AM
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For an accuracy comparison, high-level bombers at Midway attacked a number of Japanese ships, but scored no hits (and in most cases were far off target). On the upside, they were at too great an altitude to be attacked by Japanese fighters.

The American dive-bombers did a lot better.
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Old 11-18-2018, 12:24 PM
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For an accuracy comparison, high-level bombers at Midway attacked a number of Japanese ships, but scored no hits (and in most cases were far off target). On the upside, they were at too great an altitude to be attacked by Japanese fighters.

The American dive-bombers did a lot better.
True and also of almost all other countries' attempts at medium altitude bombing (with unguided bombs) against moving ships (the Japanese Naval Air Force was a partial exception to that). Besides accuracy in terms of a static aim point, the bombs took too long to get there, and even if aimed accurately at the correctly predicted position of the ships on their course when the bombs were released, the ships could maneuver out from under the bombs by the time they hit the water.

Very low level horizontal bombing, called 'skip bombing' in the USAAF but several other air arms had similar tactics, could be very effective v ships .However, it exposed the attacking a/c more to ships' AA. The USAAF method of countering that was a strong strafing armament in the a/c, and/or support by separate strafing a/c (as for example RAAF Beaufighters in the Battle of Bismarck Sea) to tamp down ships' AA first.

Against stationary targets, the advantage of dive bombers in accuracy could sometimes be offset by their greater vulnerability to light AA, as compared to medium altitude level bombers. The French AF used A-24's (the USAAF version of SBD) in the 1944-45 European campaign. Could be effective, but suffered heavily to German Army light AA. Level bombing B-26's or even high speed 'glide bombing' fighter bombers were less accurate, but less vulnerable. Depended in part on the value of the target. A big warship in a key battle like Midway, it was make or break, sink at all costs. Attacking an army in the field it was more harassment, you had to come back every day, and losses to AA could pile up for dive bombers. Also dive bombers were typically more vulnerable to enemy fighters certainly compared to fighter bombers, if there were any enemy fighters around.

Last edited by Corry El; 11-18-2018 at 12:26 PM.
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Old 11-18-2018, 01:42 PM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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What was the point of a dive bomber?

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Wow. Sorry for the delay.



Let me move that over for you.


I just assumed the thread was moving so fast you couldn't get a bearing on it. :d

Last edited by Northern Piper; 11-18-2018 at 01:46 PM.
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Old 11-18-2018, 01:45 PM
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This thread sent me down a rabbit hole that led to this fascinating document about the development of the SBD-1 Dauntless. Apparently, it's predecessor (the BT-1) had satisfactory diving performance, but poor handling at low speeds, which was just a bit of a problem for a carrier-based aircraft.

The series of tests on the XBT-2 aircraft were largely focused on changing the control surfaces to improve low-speed handling and stall characteristics. With each change, dive tests were also done to make sure the high speed and pull out characteristics were still acceptable. To answer the OP's question, there's a reference to the amount of stick force necessary to pull out of a dive:

Quote:
An intermediate location [of the elevator hinge line] of 4 13/16 inches, 1/16 inch aft of the final location on the XBT-2 (Flight IV:18), was finally used upon the basis that it would be more satisfactory to favor improvement of the stalling characteristics in the carrier-approach condition than to reduce the dive pull-out forces. With this location the stick force necessary to pull out of a dive with an acceleration of 7.5g was approximately 40 pounds with the dive flaps open and with the 1000-pound bomber loading. The only remaining change which was made on the SBD-1 was to increase the nose-up trim-tab travel 6 degrees in order to provide additional trimming power for power off, flaps and gear down.
A single 40-pound pull should be easily within the abilities of any pilot with a minimal amount of physical training. For comparison, the stick-pull forces listed for level flight handling of the XBT-2 is typically under 12 pounds.
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Old 11-18-2018, 06:29 PM
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I once heard that The Admiralty was moved to Bath in WWII in the belief that the hills surrounding it would make it more difficult for dive bombers. Is that true?
The Admiralty moved its entire warship design operation from London to Bath, but German intelligence thought that just a few high ranking staff officers had decamped there and were staying in hotels. Thus Bath was officially “a lesser town without specific aiming points”. To maintain that fiction, Bath was deliberately undefended, having neither a balloon barrage nor anti-aircraft guns.

In April 1942, Bath itself was the target, in a reprisal for the RAF bombing of Lübeck. During two nights and the following morning at the end of April, many hundreds of high explosive bombs and countless incendiary devices were dropped. The official figures show that around 900 buildings were completely destroyed and around 12,500 buildings were damaged during these raids. Over 400 people were killed, many of them women and children.
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Old 11-18-2018, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by filmstar-en View Post
I remember a scene in an old war film where a squadron leader is talking to veteran pilots explaining that he himself being 25 was too old for aerial combat in fighters. Pilots blackout when all the blood drains from their upper body during dives. The younger, fitter pilots were better able to survive. The old fogeys became pilot trainers and probably lived a lot longer. Was that accurate?

I guess this was before they developed the pressure suit. Not sure when that came in to use.
Not so much. Many WWII aces were over 25. 'Pappy' Boyington was in his 30's when he flew with the 'Black Sheep' squadron. Stanford Tuck was 29 when the war ended. Johnnie Johnson was 30. David McCampbell, the Navy's top scoring ace in WWII, was 35 when the war ended. Some of those pilots went on to fly in Korea as well.

From what I have read, one of the key requirements for fighter pilots in WWII was great vision. Chuck Yeager reportedly had 20/10 vision, and still had 20/15 vision in his 70's. Pappy Boyington was most often the man who spotted enemy fighters first.

Next in imortance was situational awareness and tactics. Those all improve with age.

The reason most WWII fighter pilots were young is because aviation was fairly young and there weren't that many pilots around, so new recruits fresh out of school were brought in and trained. That created a huge cohort of pilots born around 1920. In the axis countries they were young for the same reason, plus the casualty rate was so high that very few survived to be older pilots. Those that did were often promoted to positions that took them out of the cockpit or putnthem in training roles.

Finally, if you were successful in the sky you often got rotated out to go home and sell war bonds like Boyington, or rotated home to train other pilots and test airplanes like Dick Bong. So pilots in action in WWII tend to skew young, but it has little to do with physical aging.

For example, consider test pilots, especially after WWII. Dangerous, high stress, physically demanding flying, yet many of those test pilots were in their 40's and even 50's. Scott Crossfield, one of the most famous test pilots, didn't even solo in an airplane until he was 29, and when he was flying the X-15 he was in his mid to late 30's.

Chuck Yeager, born in 1923, was still flying Phantom fighters in Vietnam in 1968, and was still test-flying for NASA and the USAF in the 1970's. He broke the sound barrier again in an F-15 Eagle in 1997 at 74 years old, then did it again (with a mandated backup pilot) in 2012 at age 89. As far as I know, he still has a pilot's license today, and he is now 95.

Last edited by Sam Stone; 11-18-2018 at 07:58 PM.
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Old 11-18-2018, 08:02 PM
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I thought the whole dive bomber thing was because it was impossible to time AA fuses to hit a diving target, so they were a lot likelier to hit AA positions.
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Old 11-18-2018, 08:38 PM
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In addition, your exit line is 100% predictable. This tends to lead to increased involuntary ventilation holes for you and your plane.
Strategically, this is not very important -- it's after the bomb has been released toward its target. So tough for that pilot & his plane, but them's the odds in war. His commander knew that there would be some percentage of losses. If they managed to hit the target before being lost, that was a success, despite the loss of a pilot & plane. (And dive bombers had lower losses than other bombers.)
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Old 11-18-2018, 08:42 PM
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Another way to consider the dive bombing problem is to think about how much effort and secrecy was invested in the Norden bombsight. This was, for its time, a highly advanced mechanical computing bombsight that was integrated with the plane flight controls and bomb release mechanisms.

Even with all that, it STILL wasn't that accurate by today's standards. And that's from a large, stable heavy bomber flying more or less straight and level on the bomb run. Smaller planes pretty much needed the Force, or something like dive bombing to get close to the target.
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Old 11-18-2018, 10:43 PM
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The Norden bomb sight never came close to the accuracy that was claimed for it in operational condtions. In fact, Britain achieved similar results with its own, much simpler Mark XIV bombsight.

One of the problems was that the Norden sight could only be used from high altitude, and therefore the bombs were subject to atmospheric changes as they fell. The Norden could calculate ground speed of the aircraft, and therefore the winds aloft at altitude, but it had no way of knowing how the winds changed on the way down. Even mild wind shear would throw the bombs off target.

Also, the Norden was connected to the controls of the plane to ensure that it was tracking straight and no yaw, pitch or roll inputs were being added as it calculated the release points and dropped the bombs. This made the bombers sitting ducks, and forced them to fly a looser atrack formation so they wouldn't fly into each other. This meant it was even more difficult to saturate a small area with bombs, which was necessary because even with the Norden the bombers had a hard time dropping their bombs within 1000' of the target.

Unfortunately, dive bombing was not a reasonable tactic for strategic bombing. It's great against ships and tanks and soldiers, but not so much against industrial targets. The dive bombers just couldn't carry enough load, and their draggy designs limited their range and speed. For example, the famed Stuka only had a range of 199 miles, and a cruise speed of 198 mph - so slow that fighter escorts couldn't fly slow enough to stay with them. So they were sitting ducks in the sky. And they could only carry one 500lb bomb, making them useless for area bombing. They were, however, great for taking out ships and tanks and such when the Germans had air superiority.
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Old 11-19-2018, 12:03 AM
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For an accuracy comparison, high-level bombers at Midway attacked a number of Japanese ships, but scored no hits (and in most cases were far off target). On the upside, they were at too great an altitude to be attacked by Japanese fighters.



The American dive-bombers did a lot better.
The Navy dive bombers did better, the Marines operating the same SBDs did not, as they were too inexperienced and the commander, Major Henderson decided they were too inexperienced to attempt a dive bomb attack. He lead them in a suicide mission with a glide bombing attack, the worse of both worlds as it puts them low and slow, but with decreased accuracy.

Henderson was killed (the airstrip at Guadalcanal was named in his honor) as were many more in the squadron without inflicting any damage to the Japanese carriers.
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Old 11-19-2018, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by filmstar-en View Post
Pilots blackout when all the blood drains from their upper body during dives.
Nitpick:
During the dive isn't the problem. It's after the dive, when the pilot attempts to pull out of the dive, that the plane and pilot are sustaining high positive G loads; that's when blood tends to leave the head.
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Old 11-19-2018, 10:07 AM
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The Norden bomb sight never came close to the accuracy that was claimed for it in operational condtions.

<snip>

Unfortunately, dive bombing was not a reasonable tactic for strategic bombing. It's great against ships and tanks and soldiers, but not so much against industrial targets. The dive bombers just couldn't carry enough load, and their draggy designs limited their range and speed. For example, the famed Stuka only had a range of 199 miles, and a cruise speed of 198 mph - so slow that fighter escorts couldn't fly slow enough to stay with them. So they were sitting ducks in the sky. And they could only carry one 500lb bomb, making them useless for area bombing. They were, however, great for taking out ships and tanks and such when the Germans had air superiority.
Oh, I know. My point was that if they couldn't handle getting bombs from a big, stable heavy bomber flying straight and level within 1000' of the target using the state of the art in mechanical computers, they definitely needed something like dive bombing for smaller scale bombing missions- no bombsight on a Stuka was going to be particularly helpful considering that it was difficult for the big bombers.

At some point though, digital computers came into their own w.r.t. bombsights, and suddenly pilots had very accurate and fast bombsights that could be projected onto their heads-up displays- in various video game simulations, they've looked like lines or dots showing where the bomb will land, although I'm not sure how realistic that is.

But modern day planes like the F-16 are drastically more accurate than the older ones, even without guided bombs of some sort- the Israeli strike on the Osirak reactor was with unguided bombs, and HALF of the bombs hit the reactor.
  #39  
Old 11-19-2018, 10:53 AM
AK84 AK84 is online now
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A performance which would get the squadron commander sacked these days.
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Old 11-19-2018, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by BrickBat View Post
The Stuka whine of the JU-87 were from air-driven sirens. Basically small two-bladed propellers mounted on one of the main landing gear strut spats leading edge.
Thanks for correcting this.
  #41  
Old 11-19-2018, 04:17 PM
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The old fogeys became pilot trainers and probably lived a lot longer. Was that accurate?
.
Training wasn't as dangerous as some of the other jobs, but it was by no means safe. And you couldn't even take evasive action or shoot back.

The father of one of my friends recalls the "fump" that you'd hear periodically from the training base near him.
  #42  
Old 11-19-2018, 04:54 PM
Reindeer Flotilla Reindeer Flotilla is offline
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Not so much. Many WWII aces were over 25. 'Pappy' Boyington was in his 30's when he flew with the 'Black Sheep' squadron. Stanford Tuck was 29 when the war ended. Johnnie Johnson was 30. David McCampbell, the Navy's top scoring ace in WWII, was 35 when the war ended. Some of those pilots went on to fly in Korea as well.

From what I have read, one of the key requirements for fighter pilots in WWII was great vision. Chuck Yeager reportedly had 20/10 vision, and still had 20/15 vision in his 70's. Pappy Boyington was most often the man who spotted enemy fighters first.
I'm unable to find a cite, but I sort of recall reading the Boyington also had the advantage of being able to endure higher G loads than other pilots. Whether that was due to stronger abdominal muscles, genetics, body geometry or all of the above for just plain toughness, I can't say. I'm assuming being able to pull more G's, and for longer than your enemy pilots, results in a aerial combat advantage with WWII fighters - meaning the pilot was the weakest link in performing maneuvers in those planes.
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Old 11-19-2018, 05:39 PM
Corry El Corry El is offline
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Originally Posted by Reindeer Flotilla View Post
I'm unable to find a cite, but I sort of recall reading the Boyington also had the advantage of being able to endure higher G loads than other pilots. Whether that was due to stronger abdominal muscles, genetics, body geometry or all of the above for just plain toughness, I can't say. I'm assuming being able to pull more G's, and for longer than your enemy pilots, results in a aerial combat advantage with WWII fighters - meaning the pilot was the weakest link in performing maneuvers in those planes.
It started out on divebombers. Back in the 30's when this tactic was devised, the recognizable WWII tactic I mean, not releasing a bomb in any kind of descending flight path which goes back farther, there was a fair amount of public to-do about requirements and health risks of high-g pullouts. But the g's weren't really that high or sustained for that long by today's standards. And note that fighter pilots now don't always wear g-suits (the USN Blue Angels demonstration team does't) nor do g-suits make pulling g's a physical non-event (g-suits were introduced during WWII though not really common in that war).

This was even more true of g in horizontal maneuver. A P-40 or F4U (Boyington's a/c in the AVG and later with USMC in South Pacific) had very low sustained g capability compared to today's fighters. The were structurally strong enough, but the engine wasn't powerful enough to pull the plane along in a steady state at a wing angle of attack high enough to produce lift equal to several times the plane's weight, what you has to do to produce sustained g's. Pilots could suffer from G induced loss of consciousness from transient high-g, and g-suits again were figured worth introducing, but WWII fighters could only pull significant g's for a limited time before they bled off speed down to a low sustained g capability easy to physically endure. High g could be extended somewhat by losing altitude, same way even lower powered dive bombers pulled significant g at the bottom of their dives.

Speaking of the AVG, its pilots were on average quite old compared to the cross section of age in mass produced WWII air units in the US military services. Senior peacetime military pilots, from which the AVG recruited, were fairly old in the 30's. They didn't spend money training people in peacetime and then rush them right out of flying. Pilots were younger in WWII mainly because the air arms were expanded enormously in a short time, and they took younger rather than older *untrained* men as raw material. Which probably made sense. But in the peacetime decades even since the WWII pilots went into retirement in the 60's (one of the highest claiming USAF pilots in Vietnam, Robin Olds, also had victory claims as a very young pilot in WWII), full training is really expensive and lengthy now. It's wouldn't be economically feasible (even if it were military desirable) to keep the average pilot age anywhere near as low as it was in WWII.

At least a couple of older AVG pilots hung it up quickly after the war started (the AVG was organized before Pearl Harbor but first combats were after) in recognition of their own sense of mortality, in their 30's, vs that of younger men, another potential factor.

But in skill sets, reflexes counted for a lot in WWI, vision not as much as later though important. In WWII as the radii and time of fighter turns increased, reflexes were less important, vision more so. In the afterburning jet era reflexes became relatively unimportant, vision and ability to strategize a relatively slowly unfolding combat (paradoxically, planes faster, but take more time to turn around) became paramount, as well as pulling significant sustained g's, though generally with the help of g-suits. Improvements to vision devices (eg. the F-35's all around vision FLIR system) and decision aids (the a/c getting smarter) might change this in the future. But vision became more not less important in the era when all fighters starting being fitted with radar. It was still critical to catch view of the enemy, even where the radar said to look, as early as possible, all the more if not approaching in the radar's field of view. And with the enemy carrying weapons, air to air missiles, of much longer range than the guns only air combat of the world wars and Korea.

Last edited by Corry El; 11-19-2018 at 05:44 PM.
  #44  
Old 11-19-2018, 05:52 PM
Reindeer Flotilla Reindeer Flotilla is offline
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Thanks Corry El, great info. Vision it is! (Plus of course all the other skills sets, mental and physical, that great WWII combat pilots individually brought to the table.)
  #45  
Old 11-19-2018, 06:59 PM
EdelweissPirate EdelweissPirate is offline
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Minor note of clarification for Corry El’s comprehensive post: “AVG” expands to “American Volunteer Group,” much better known as the Flying Tigers. They flew P-40 Warhawks in China and Burma prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The US hadn’t entered the war, obviously, so these Americans were volunteers who fought for our future WWII allies, not technically for the US.

Also, “FLIR” expands to “Forward-Looking InfraRed,” and is a somewhat outdated term. FLIR is also a company that makes infrared cameras, though not the ones on the F35. I believe the current term is SWIR (short-wave infrared) and LWIR (long-wave infrared).
  #46  
Old 11-19-2018, 07:13 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is online now
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Another reason why high-g manoevers were not as necessary in WWII - flying in underpowered fighters is all about energy management. As Corry El says, high G manoevers bleed energy like crazy. The high angle of attack of the wing causes induced drag to go through the roof. Any private pilot who has done steep turns can tell you what happens if you don't add power.

If pilots yank their airplanes around the sky, they slow down. To speed up, you either lose altitude or add power, but if you are already at max power you just have to wait for that power to be converted back to speed and altitude, and in the meantime you are at a significant disadvantage.
  #47  
Old 11-19-2018, 08:35 PM
Corry El Corry El is offline
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Originally Posted by EdelweissPirate View Post
Minor note of clarification for Corry El’s comprehensive post: “AVG” expands to “American Volunteer Group,” much better known as the Flying Tigers. They flew P-40 Warhawks in China and Burma prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The US hadn’t entered the war, obviously, so these Americans were volunteers who fought for our future WWII allies, not technically for the US.
To further clarify and repeat, the AVG didn't actually encounter Japanese a/c till after Pearl Harbor, first on December 20, 1941. The intent was for the unit to function as a nominal unit of the Chinese Nationalist AF regardless of whether the US and Japan were yet at war, but in the event was not ready until the eve of the Pacific War and didn't happen to encounter Japanese a/c till after it started.

Greg Boyington was a member, though had no official victories (he recalled some in at least some later accounts) and it seems unlikely in the details he downed any Japanese a/c while with the AVG. Later he returned to active duty with the USMC and was a high claiming F4U pilot in the Solomons Islands from 1943 until shot down and captured in early 1944.
  #48  
Old 11-20-2018, 01:44 PM
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Another clarification -- the sirens on Stukas -- somewhat dramatically known to the Germans as Jericho Trumpets -- were intentionally designed to terrorize people on the ground. Early in the war, during the period of Luftwaffe dominance, this was pretty effective, as depicted in the recent movie Dunkirk.
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Old 11-21-2018, 11:33 AM
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Isn't one of the benefits of the dive bomber is that the bomb is striking the ship's deck, thereby bypassing the armor belts which protect against shellfire from other ships?
  #50  
Old 11-21-2018, 11:40 AM
EdelweissPirate EdelweissPirate is offline
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Originally Posted by Corry El View Post
To further clarify and repeat, the AVG didn't actually encounter Japanese a/c till after Pearl Harbor, first on December 20, 1941.
Yikes! You’re totally right! I realized my error on when the AVG group started fighting just now and hurried here to correct myself. I figured you probably beat me to the correction, but I wanted to acknowledge the error. Thanks for correcting me!

Also, had you previously expanded “AVG?” If so, my post was both erroneous and redundant, in which case: darn.

Last edited by EdelweissPirate; 11-21-2018 at 11:42 AM. Reason: Added redundancy check
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