Thursday, 3 May 2018

Controlled Impact

"Order to the Red Army Air Force #0194
September 23rd, 1944
Moscow

Commanders of the Air Armies report that fighter pilots still use one of the most complicated attacks, namely ramming, to this day. 

In many cases, ramming does not only destroy the enemy plane, but also leads to a loss of our airplane, and, often, the death of the pilot.

I order that:

It must be explained to pilots of the Red Army VVS that our fighter aircraft have excellent and powerful modern armament, which surpasses all German types of fighters. The use of ramming in air combat with enemy aircraft that have poorer characteristics is senseless. 

Ramming must be performed only in exceptional cases and as a last resort.

Commander of the Red Army VVS, Chief Marshal of Aviation, Novikov
Member of the VVS Military Council, Colonel-General Shimanov
Acting Chief of Staff of the VVS, Lieutenant-General Krolenko"

Via RKKA 100.

20 comments:

  1. Having great guns in ones aircraft is fine and dandy. But many early Russian aircraft had older sights which made deflection shots virtually impossible. Hence pilots tend to find themselves approaching to very close ranges in order to get a shot. It might be hard to tell the difference between the patriotically inclined who deliberately rammed and those who just collided with enemy planes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure what you mean by that.
      From memory, every gun-armed production aircraft the USSR used in the second world war (apart from some models of the IL-2) had reflector sights.

      If you're referring to computing sights, then only later models of British and American fighters had them (in the form of the later K-series sights). Nobody else had anything close.

      If you're referring to gyro sights, then the Brits and Americans had them early on, the Germans had them by the late war (1944) and the USSR didn't produce their own until after the war but used British and American aircraft which had them fitted.

      In any case, the Germans were as well (or badly) equipped as the Soviets in this regard, and don't seem to have become famous as inadvertent aircraft rammers.

      Delete
    2. Thom S Actually I was referring to Gyro sights. I have often heard that while the Soviets were not very impressed with our Lend Lease aircraft they liked the Gyro sights. Without good gunnery training and sites one tends to depend on chase attacks or side approach attacks from nearby. I'm sure during at least the first half of the war Soviet pilots were hounded about pressing home attacks. And to be fair they loved their country and were well motivated to take chances. Thanks for the clarification.

      Delete
    3. Accidental collisions in dogfights were, AFAIK, rare in the extreme even in Great War air combat which was waged with comparatively pissant levels of firepower (one or two rifle-caliber MGs) and quite primitive gunsights.

      In WW2 I'd imagine genuinely accidental rams were mostly in the context of the offensive dives typical of "zoom and boom" energy tactics and I was under the impression those weren't really a major feature of East Front air combat.

      Deliberate rams OTOH are well enough documented from both sides, especially the periods when hastily trained raw replacements had to be thrown into combat. IIRC the Soviets did them fairly regularly in the early years ("taran", they called it), and towards the end it wasn't too uncommon for Luftwaffe pilots to try it on heavy bombers.
      I understand the German military brass was rather uncomfortable with the phenomenom but predictably enough some high-ranking Nazis got intrigued by the idea (see the "Leonidas Squadron" and Sonderkommando "Elbe" for spin-offs).

      Anyways, would assume the cases criticized here were deliberate enough. Over-eagerness and hatred of the "Fascist invader" overruling training and good sense perhaps? Or sheer unwillingness to let an enemy get away after running out of ammunition?

      Delete
    4. William Sager; again, the Soviets and Germans had roughly the same level of technology in regard to aircraft sights during the second world war. The Germans only got an operational gyro sight out in 1944, and didn't ever replace their reflector sights with it.

      From experience with sims, I can say that gyro sights are a bit too fiddly to make shots against fighters easier. They do, however, make deflection shots against bombers flying straight and level much more likely to land. Computing sights like the K-14, on the other hand, do indeed deserve the title of 'Ace maker'.

      Delete
  2. Accidental collisions getting reported as patriotic sacrifices to make everyone look better?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who ever heard of a dictator with complete control of the media misrepresent to truth just for reasons of propaganda.LOL Don't get me wrong, some ramming's were deliberate. But for the life of me, how can one tell in most cases.

      Delete
    2. This isn't exactly something from the media but the military's internal correspondance though. Rather doubt any of it was particularly meant for public consumption.

      It may be connected that the tactic wasn't taken out of the relevant training manuals until Sept '44 (sez Wiki) - wouldn't be surprised if this exchange was related that.

      Delete
  3. "It must be explained to pilots of the Red Army VVS that our fighter aircraft have excellent and powerful modern armament, which surpasses all German types of fighters."

    This is fantasyland ... While the 109s were underarmed, the Fw190A-6 carried two MG 17 fuselage machine guns and four 20 mm MG 151/20E wing root and outer wing cannon with larger ammunition boxes than previous models. The La-5FN, which was pretty well armed as Soviet fighters went, carried a pair of 20mm ShVaks with 200 round each. The Yak-9D had only one ShVak and a single UBS, which was simply inadequate against medium bombers.

    Among Lend-Lease aircraft, the Bell P-63 King Cobra had adequate armament (one 37mm and quad .50s), while the P-40s had six .50s: again adequate, but not overwhelming. (The P-40N then dropped down to quad .50s for a while before pilot complaints restored the lost firepower.)

    The bulk of the aircraft available to the Soviet Union, then, did not match the armament the better German fighters, and were, at best, roughly equal to that of the Bf109s (1x20mm and 2x13mm mounted in the nose).

    Even if we stipulate that the Soviet aircraft carried armament generally equivalent to that of the bulk of the German fighters (the 109s), saying that the armament of Soviet fighters "surpasses all German types of fighters" is not true.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 109s were a *lot* more common though, especially in the East as 190s were used more in the West.

      Soviet pilots (and designers) seem to also have had a preference for agility over raw firepower (IIRC they actually stripped some guns off some L-L planes by preference) and AFAIK generally felt the armament of their mid- to late-war birds to be sufficient for the air combat they had to deal with, so keep that perspective in mind.
      Not like there were massive streams of heavy bombers turning their cities into smoldering rubble after all.

      Delete
    2. I'm a fan of centrally mounted guns, myself. They cluster better and aren't as affected by distance to target (ie: convergence effects). The burst mass on soviet guns was also very good due to their unusual ability to wring high rates of fire out of them.

      I'd personally rate 2 ShVAKs or B-20s mounted on the centreline as equivalent to 4 hispanos in the wing.

      What the Soviets never got right, in my view, was in providing enough ammunition for their guns. 120 rounds per gun is only 9 seconds of fire, which means that with good trigger discipline you can take 8-9 shots at an enemy before running dry. For a mediocre sim pilot like myself, this usually means two or three passes at a target before I'm out - at which point I often end up ramming my enemy out of sheer frustration!

      Delete
    3. The ace Heinz Lange was in the opinion that the 109s gun arrangement was better than the 190s for fighter to fighter combat, specifically due to the accuracy considerations. The German assessments quoted on the Wiki seem to generally speaking consider the former a better pure fighter and the latter a better fit for "heavy fighter" duties - ground attack, bomber busting (Il-2 included) etc.

      Apparently Soviet pilots considered the 109 to be generally the more challenging opponent. Though their opinion on the 190 may have been skewed by the heavily armoured (and duly comparatively slow and cumbersome) F and G ground-attack variants they often encountered in the late years which were externally nigh indistinguishable from the "pure" fighter versions.

      Delete
    4. "I'm a fan of centrally mounted guns, myself. They cluster better and aren't as affected by distance to target (ie: convergence effects)."

      That's true to a degree, but you either have a single hub-mounted cannon, or you have interrupter gear reducing the actual rate of fire of the guns. There was also the tendency to mix calibers, which presented its own problems, since the lighter rounds of the smaller calibers lost speed faster, causing their arcs to drop below those of the cannon. Definitely annoying, and even more confusing in hard, fairly horizontal turns, where the bullet stream would both fall behind and down, thanks to gravity being largely perpendicular to the turning plane ...

      "The burst mass on soviet guns was also very good due to their unusual ability to wring high rates of fire out of them."

      So far as I can tell, this only really applied to the B-20. Are there specific guns you're thinking of? I admit that I don't know the stats of all of the Soviet guns just off hand.

      Delete
    5. Just off the top of my head, the ShKAS, UB, ShVAK, B20 and NS-23 were all lighter and faster-firing than contemporary allied weapons.

      As for differing calibres, this is less of an issue where the muzzle velocities are similar - which is pretty much the case here.

      A final, and overlooked, advantage is that keeping your weapons close to the engine means that icing up isn't an issue.

      I'm not saying that it's the perfect approach or anything, just that it has compelling advantages and reflects careful thought rather than just blind preference.

      Delete
  4. "This is fantasyland ... While the 109s were underarmed, the Fw190A-6 carried two MG 17 fuselage machine guns and four 20 mm MG 151/20E wing root and outer wing cannon with larger ammunition boxes than previous models."

    Yes but Fw 190 A were used as fighter bomber, there were not that many used as fighters in the Eastern Front. Priority was given to the Wester Front because it's heavier armament was more effective against bomberb.

    Some pilots would remove the outer 20mm guns.

    In terms of performance I would consider Soviet armament superior to Soviet. You forget that in January 45 the La-7 with 3 B-20 guns was introduced.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Also, the introduction of the B-20 reduced the total ammunition capacity from 400 rounds to 300 (200 rpg to 100 rpg). While the higher total rate of fire probably made this a worthwhile trade-off against fighters, I'm less sure about medium bombers.

      By the way, I absolutely do not understand how the B-20 achieved its performance at a drastically lower weight and/or drastically higher performance than other 20mm cannon (ShVak, MG-151/20, H.S.404, etc.). The B-20's replacement, the NR-23, is fairly light, but sacrificed both muzzle velocity and rate of fire to double the weight of the shell.

      Delete
    2. "Yes but Fw 190 A were used as fighter bomber, there were not that many used as fighters in the Eastern Front."

      That's true, but it doesn't change the absolute statement made in the order. The idea that Soviet fighters were better armed than ALL German fighters would have come as a surprise to the VVS pilots fighting JG 54 along the Baltic.

      Delete
    3. As noted below this order is hardly concerned with literally accurate comparison of planes... and the twin-engined heavy fighters blew the single-engines out of water in terms of firepower in any case.
      Not exactly a major issue in the context, that.

      Delete
  5. "You forget that in January 45 the La-7 with 3 B-20 guns was introduced."

    No, I'm not. The document above is dated September 23rd, 1944. Nothing after that is relevant to my point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your point is, well, rather missing the point itself though. The order, naturally enough, is not interested in literally accurate comparisons between the multitudinous planes and their variants; it is basically saying "why are these dumbshit pilots throwing away their planes and lives when they have quite enough gun to just shoot down the enemy, tell them to stop."

      Delete