Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ju-88 A Series

The Ju 88 was the most numerous and versatile German bomber of World War II. It was grafted to every conceivable purpose, and even served as the lower half of a primitive guide missile!

In 1935 the German Air Ministry announced specifications for a new, twin-engine Schnellbomber (fast bomber). One year later Junkers beat out two other contenders with the Ju 88, a highly streamlined, smoothed-skinned airplane with mid-mounted wings. A crew of four sat under a large glazed canopy while a bombardier gondola, offset to the left, ran back from the nose. Test results were excellent, but Luftwaffe priorities were skewed to other craft, and production remained slow. By the time World War II erupted in September 1939, only about 50 Ju 88s had reached Luftwaffe units.

In combat the Junkers design was fast, carried a good bomb load, and could absorb great amounts of damage. Moreover, although originally intended as a bomber, it could be adapted to virtually every mission assigned to it: mine-laying, night-time fighting, reconnaissance, anti-ship patrols, heavy fighter, ground attack, and dive-bombing. Ju 88s accordingly distinguished themselves in combat from England to Russia, Norway to North Africa.

The prototype Ju 88 flew on 21 December 1936 with two 1,000-hp (746-kW) Daimler-Benz DB 600Ae inline engines with annular radiators, giving them the appearance of radials; the use of these radiators was to continue throughout the development of the aircraft. Further prototypes followed, the third having 1000-hp (746-kW) Junkers Jumo engines and this, during evaluation, reached 323 mph (520 km/h). The high performance of the Ju 88 encouraged record-breaking flights, and in March 1939 the fifth prototype set a 1,000-km (621-mile) closed-circuit record of 321.25 mph (517 km/h) carrying a 4,409-lb (2000-kg) payload. A total of 10 prototypes were completed and the first of the pre-production batch of Ju 88A-D bombers flew in early 1939. Production aircraft were designated Ju 88A-1 and began to enter service in September 1939.

Early teething troubles were gradually ironed out and sub-variants began to appear, including the Ju 88A-2 with jettisonable rocket packs for assisting takeoff in overload conditions, the Ju 88A-3 dual-control trainer and the Ju 88A-4, the first considerably modified development. Designed around the new and more powerful Jumo 211J engine, the Ju 88A-4 had increased span and was strengthened to take greater loads.

Because of problems with the new engine the Ju 88A-4 was overtaken by the Ju 88A-5, which featured the new wing but retained the former engines. During the Battle of Britain many Ju 88A-5s were fitted with balloon-cable fenders and cutters to combat the UK's balloon barrage, and in this form they became Ju 88A-B aircraft. Some Ju 88A-5s, converted to dual-control trainers, were designated Ju 88A-7.

By the time definitive Ju 88A-4s began to enter service, lessons learned in the Battle of Britain had dictated heavier armament and better protection for the crew. Several different armament layouts were used, but a typical installation was a single 7.92-mm (0.31-in) MG 81 machine-gun on the right side of the nose and operated by the pilot, and two 7.92-mm (0.31in) MG 81s or one 13-mm (0.51-in) MG 131 machine-gun firing forward through the transparent nose panels, operated by the bomb aimer. The same option was available in the ventral gondola beneath the nose, firing aft, while two other MG 81s were in the rear of the cockpit canopy. Some 4,409 lb (2000 kg) of the bombload was carried beneath the wings, both inboard and outboard of the engines, while the internal bomb bay held another 1,102 lb (500 kg).

Sub-variants of the basic Ju 88A extended up to the Ju 88A-17; space considerations preclude detailed mention of all these, but the Ju 88A-12 and Ju 88A-16 were trainers; the Ju 88A-8 and Ju 88A-14 had cable cutters; the Ju 88A-11 was a tropical variant; and the Ju 88A-17 was the Ju 88A-4 adapted to carry two 1,686lb (765-kg) torpedoes. The Ju 88A-15 with enlarged bomb bay could carry 6,614 lb (3000 kg) of bombs. By the end of 1942 the Luftwaffe had taken delivery of more than 8,000 Ju 88's. While the Ju 88A was in quantity production, Junkers was developing the Ju 88B, the prototype of which flew in 1940 with two 1,600-hp (1193-kW) BMW 80lMA radial engines. Main change in appearance was to the forward fuselage, which was enlarged and extensively glazed, and there was a marginal increase in performance over the Ju 88A, though this was not sufficient to warrant a change in the production lines, and only 10 pre-production aircraft were built.


In January 1940, the Luftwaffe tested the prototype Ju 86P with a longer wingspan, pressurized cabin, Jumo 207A1 turbocharged diesel engines, and a two-man crew. The Ju 86P could fly at heights of 12,000 m (39,000 ft) and higher on occasion, where it was felt to be safe from Allied fighters. The British Westland Welkin and Soviet Yakovlev Yak-9PD were developed specifically to counter this threat.

The Luftwaffe ordered that some 40 older-model bombers be converted to Ju 86P-1 high-altitude bombers and Ju 86P-2 photo reconnaissance aircraft. Those operated successfully for some years over Britain, the Soviet Union and North Africa. In August 1942, a modified Spitfire V shot one down over Egypt at some 14,500 m (49,000 ft); when two more were lost, Ju 86Ps were withdrawn from service in 1943.

Junkers developed the Ju 86R for the Luftwaffe, using larger wings and new engines capable of even higher altitudes - up to 16,000 m (52,500 ft) - but production was limited to prototypes.
In 1933, in defiance of the terms of the Versailles Treaty, the new Nazi government in Germany created a foreign intelligence agency, the Abwehr, headed by Captain Conrad Patzig. He was replaced in January 1935 by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who developed an organization split into three Abteilung devoted to secret intelligence, sabotage, and security. Each of the three sections included air branches, designated as I Luft, II Luft, and III Luft respectively. Although run from headquarters in Berlin, Abwehr operations were dispersed to Abwehrstellen, regional centers corresponding to the German military districts, and to Kriegsorganisationen established in neutral and occupied territories, with internal structures mirroring the head office at 72 Tirpitzufer.

Abteilung I Luft was responsible for preparing a prewar survey of airfields in England, and in 1935 dispatched a lawyer, Dr. Herman Goertz, to tour the country accompanied by a girl he claimed as his niece, but his indiscretion led to his arrest and imprisonment. As a result of this episode, the Abwehr was banned from conducting further similar operations and was obliged to rely on photographs taken from aircraft flown by Theodor Rowehl.

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, the Luftwaffe conducted a series of aerial photographic flights across Europe in an He-111 twin-engined bomber painted in Lufthansa livery and flown by Theodor Rowehl. A reconnaissance pilot in World War I, Rowehl was renowned for having penetrated British airspace in his Rhomberg C-7. After the war, he had continued to fly a chartered aircraft until he began to supply the newly formed Abwehr with photos he had taken over Poland and East Prussia. Having begun with a single Junkers W-34 based in Kiel, Rowehl soon gathered a group of pilots around him to form an experimental high-altitude flight of five aircraft based at Staaken, but training at Lipetsk, the Luftwaffe’s secret airfield in Russia. His work impressed Herman Göring and he was transferred to the command of Otto (“Beppo”) Schmid, head of the Luftwaffe’s intelligence branch at Oranienburg, to fly specially adapted Heinkel 111s equipped with cameras designed by Carl Zeiss.

Under Rowehl’s leadership, the Luftwaffe’s air reconnaissance wing [Aufklärungsgruppe Ob.d.L.] grew from three squadrons to 53 on the outbreak of war in September 1939, amounting to 602 aircraft, by which time much of Germany’s neighboring territories had been mapped. The organization was divided into 342 short-range aircraft, dedicated to tactical support, and 260 longer-range planes, mainly Junker 88Ds and Dornier 17Fs, undertaking strategic missions.

In December 1943, following the death of his wife in an Allied air raid, Rowehl resigned his command. His efforts led to the creation of a unit operating for the Luftwaffe's 5th Branch (air intelligence). The new unit flew high-altitude photoreconnaissance missions over Europe, Africa, Soviet Union and this in a variety of military and even civilian aircraft.

Later he would be replaced by Captain Karl Edmund Gartenfeld. Replaced is not correct as he was to form his own new group in 1942. This would lead to the creation of the famous Kampfgeschwader 200.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Night fighter I - Messerschmitt Bf 110G

It was in the role as a night fighter, often armed with the surprisingly effective Schräge Musik upward firing twin-autocannon offensive armament installation, that the Bf 110 and its pilots achieved their greatest successes. Luftwaffe night fighter ace Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer was the highest scorer in the Defence of the Reich campaign and ended the war with 121 aerial victories, virtually all of them achieved while flying examples of the Bf 110. Other such as Helmut Lent switched to the night fighter arm and built on their modest daylight scores. Other aircraft such as the Dornier Do 17 and Junkers Ju 88 also played a big role, but none so more than the Bf 110

By 1942, production was scheduled to end, and the aging Bf 110 was supposed to be replaced by the new Messerschmitt Me 210. The failure of the latter led to the Bf 110 being reinstated (G version) and modified well beyond its original design.

Though out-dated in 1943, the Bf 110 G was built in larger numbers than all other versions combined. The type found its true niche in the defensive role in which its heavy armament, long range, and ability to carry airborne radar made the Bf 110 useful again. Away from opposition fighters, its destroyer capabilities could work once more. Mainly used as night fighter, the improved G version was powered by two 1,475-hp Daimler-Benz DB B engines, and fitted with flame dampers on the exhausts. Mounting Lichtenstein radar, heavy MG 151 oblique-firing Schräge Musik guns (and eventually 21-cm rocket tubes), the Bf 110 achieved remarkable successes as much as a night fighter as day interceptor.

The Bf 110 would be the backbone of the Nachtjagdgeschwader throughout the war. The first units undertook defence operations over Germany as early as the autumn of 1940. Opposition was light until 1942, when British heavy bombers started to appear.

One of the most notable actions of the Bf 110 occurred on the night of the 17/18 August 1943. Bf 110 units had been mass equipped with the Schräge Musik system, an emplacement of two upward-firing cannon, mounted almost midway down the cockpit canopy behind the pilot, which could attack the blind spot of RAF Bomber Command's Avro Lancaster bombers, which lacked a ventral turret. Using this, NJG 5's Leutnant Peter Erhardt destroyed four bombers in 30 minutes. Despite excellent visibility, none of the RAF bombers had reported anything unusual that would indicate a new weapon or tactics in the German night fighter force. This ignorance was compounded by the tracerless ammunition used by the Bf 110s, as well as firing on the British bombers blind spots. Many RAF crews witnessed a sudden explosion of a friendly aircraft, but assumed, in some cases, it was very accurate flak. Few of the German fighters were seen, let alone fired on.

In September 1943, Arthur Harris, convinced a strategic bombing campaign against Germany's cities would force a German collapse, pressed for further mass attacks. While RAF Bomber Command destroyed Hannover's city centre and 86% of crews dropped their bombs within 5 km (3 mi) of the aiming point, losses were severe. The Ruhr Area was the prime target for British bombers in 1943, and German defences inflicted a considerable loss rate. The Bf 110 had a hand in the destruction of some 2,751 RAF bombers in 1943, along with German flak and other night fighters. Later, the RAF developed a radar countermeasure; Window, to confuse German defences and introduced de Havilland Mosquitos to fly feints and divert the Bf 110s and other night fighter forces from their true target, which worked, initially. At this time, the Bf 110 remained the backbone of the fight-force, although it was now being reinforced by the Junkers Ju 88. In October 1943, General Josef Kammhuber reported the climbing attrition rate as "unacceptable", and urged Hermann Göring to stop committing the German night fighters to daylight operations. Many Nachtjagdgeschwader had taken part in costly daylight battles of attrition. From June-August, it had increased from around 2% to 9.8%. However the fortunes for the mostly Bf 110 equipped force turned during late August/September 1943. The night fighter arm claimed the destruction of 123 out of some 1,179 bombers over Hamburg on one night; a 7.2% loss rate. During the Battle of Berlin, 1,128 bombers were lost in five months. RAF Bomber Command had "nearly burned out". These losses were primarily a result of fighter defences, at the heart of which was the Bf 110. The German defences had won a victory which prevented deep penetration raids for a time. But Luftwaffe losses were high; 15% of crews were killed in the first three months of 1944.

Pilots reported the Bf 110G to be a "mixed bag" in the air, in part due to all changes between the G and F series. However the Bf 110G was considered a superior gun platform with excellent all-around visibility, and considered, until the advent of the Heinkel He 219, the best of the Luftwaffe night fighters.

Bf 110 G
Improved F-series, two 1,085 kW (1,475 PS) DB 605B engines, tail rudders increased in size.
Bf 110 G-1
    Not built.
Bf 110 G-2
    Fighter-bomber, fast bomber, destroyer, often used against Allied heavy bombers. (often equipped with rockets).
Bf 110 G-3
    Long-range reconnaissance version.
Bf 110 G-4
    Three-crew night fighter, FuG 202/220 Lichtenstein radar, optional Schräge Musik, usually mounted midway down the cockpit with the cannon muzzles barely protruding above the canopy glazing.

Specifications (Messerschmitt Bf 110 G-2)
General characteristics
    Crew: 2 (3 for night fighter variants)
    Length: 12.3 m (40 ft 6 in)
    Wingspan: 16.3 m (53 ft 4 in)
    Height: 3.3 m (10 ft 9 in)
    Wing area: 38.8 m² (414 ft²)
    Loaded weight: 7,790 kg (17,158 lb)
    Powerplant: 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 605B liquid-cooled inverted V-12, 1,085 kW (1,455 HP)1,475 PS each
    Maximum speed: 595 km/h (370 mph)
    Range: 900 km (558 mi) ; 1,300 km (807 mi) with droptanks
    Service ceiling: 11,000 m (36,000 ft)
    Rate of climb: 8 min to 6,000 m (20,000 ft)
    Wing loading: max. 243 kg/m² ()
        2 × 20 mm MG 151 cannons 750 rounds: 350 rpg + 400 rpg rounds
        4 × 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns with 1,000 rounds per gun
        1 × 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 81Z twin machine gun installation in rear cockpit, with 850 rounds per gun