Sunday, July 26, 2015

Night Raid

Peter Stahl, a former pilot of the Ju 88 Kampfgeschwader 30, 30 Squadron bombers of the Luftwaffe, describes a night raid with this classic bomber at the time of the blitz on England.

The scream of the engine suddenly left when the automatic command inserts the turbocharger wakes me.

Next to me, Hans, my navigator, is sitting tight in his harness, his head leaning against the window of the cabin. I call Theo and Hein intercom, sleep. Our Ju 88 rose after take-off at 4,200 meters; the temperature of the engine is too low because the shutters of the radiators are still open and the normal fuel tanks are nearly exhausted.

Nobody brings oxygen masks if we continued to sleep we passed quietly from sleep to death.

Fly, sleep, eat and go fly here our routine in recent weeks. This evening, the report on the mission, Stoffregen warned entire squadron that Hermann Goering had personally ordered that night operations against the Island not only had to continue with the current intensity, but should even be increased by all means possible.

The Supreme Command was informed that the population of the Island will give up in the next weeks. My navigator, Hans, loud enough to be heard, commented: The Pot Belly and his scribblers of command with their pink pants (the German staff officers wore a red stripe down the sides of his trousers, hence the allusion ) they should go on a mission, so let's see who surrenders first.

There was a moment of dead silence, in the meeting room. Stoffregen then resumed as if nothing had happened.

Well then, a good journey.

What could he say to us on the other airmen who know what is the truth?

The people of the command is so far from the war that no longer thinks of us as human beings, but simply as numbers. A growing number of crews reached the limits of endurance nervous and does not take into account the forces, as no account is taken of the actual situation in the air war on Britain.

England has had to endure an air war against a superior opponent by more than 6 months and still does not give signs of weakness. On the contrary, its defenses become stronger every week.

The profile of the coast is emerging before us, the photoelectric we seek, but the flak is silent. Gunners enemies do not sleep, and then it means that there are around night fighters. Some reflectors were gathered in groups of five.

And as a result, our path is accurately indicated by a pyramid of light beams that moves with us.

Very often, the light of a photoelectric takes us in full and the glare is blinding me. The light beam is following us for moments that seem interminable, before leaving us, which shows that, when we are at a good level, our bombers with matte paint can no longer be followed in view of earth.

I plan to have the moon at an oblique angle behind us. If I had it directly behind it would be easier for night fighters recognize us against the sky clearer, after being guided by photoelectric. Are all lessons learned with operational experience?

Sighted a twin-engine night fighter that I cut the route to a hundred meters. Fortunately the moon's position is such that there sighted. Then my gunner warns calmly intercom night fighters tail, on the left.

Cast down our Ju 88 with a bicycle kick on the left, and let myself fall, upside down, into the night. I just leveled when Hein repeated the warning. What the hell. Down a second time, like a stone, in the pitch darkness below. Then again a third time.

We are now just 800 meters, with 2 tons of explosives on board and a long climbing to be done to bring us to a decent share for attack.

The Ju 88 is something special, so different from everything I knew before, that the riders are allowed to put commands only after a minuziosissimo technical training on the ground.

To begin with, there is a complicated plumbing, which activates the cart, flaps, brakes sharply, the device for the automatic callback of beaten and locking the tail wheel, while the manual controls of respect are triggered by a hand pump. A further innovation compared with the previous modern types of airplanes around the world is that the Ju 88 was designed as a single-seater plane, which means that although it has a crew of four (pilot, bombardier / navigator, radio operator and gunner) , if necessary, the pilot can only play from his seat during a flight operating all necessary functions.

The location and arrangement of the cockpit is ideal.

Thanks to the fully glazed nose is full visibility in all directions, including downward and toward the front. The pilot's task is facilitated by the different shape of the various knobs, which can be recognized as the right ones simply by touch (very important factor in the dark and in the heat of the battle, when you have to look out all the time).

The Ju 88 seems to know to be a nice and interesting (just as capricious actress) and acts accordingly. And that can give you an incredible surprise without warning.

These quirks can be seen especially in takeoff, but just in the air, just masters of the aircraft, the Ju 88 responds like a dream, really a dream aircraft.

As I return to the attack rate expected, we run into the clouds and begins to form ice. At 6,000 meters the temperature dropped to -30 ° C, but does not form more ice. It's cold in the cabin, and each slit apertures filters a powder of icy needles. The clouds go away and almost immediately the flak we shot.

The batteries seem to know not only our exact share but also our speed and our route.

Grenades explode in front and behind us and every maneuver to dodge it seems unnecessary. However I try to try all the tricks you know, all the maneuvers of diversion possible, but to no avail. The situation is becoming so difficult that I am several times to think it would be better to unhook my mine blindly into the night.

These mines have on board are of the LM-B ships, seem big barrels, weighing 1,000 kg each and are expected to arrive at the target hanging from a parachute. Our squadron has used for the first time in land operations against the city of Coventry, this month.

Now we finally arrived on the main path to attack other air all around. The aircraft batteries can choose their targets and for a few minutes let alone us. Beyond the horizon we see a reddish reflection. We no longer need to study the route and I can vary my path towards in order to avoid major concentrations of flak. The closer we get to the target, the more we realize that there must be in a living hell.

Mines dropped from planes that have gone before exploding in regular series.

As we approach, the shooting antiaircraft thickens and it seems that every sector of the sky is searched by thousands of light curtains. The adjustment path, through the inferno, punctuated by explosions of anti-aircraft shells, seems to have no end, and I am compelled again and again to grope the dodges.

But what we feel above the lens exceeds any possible imagination. It seems that the whole city is in flames, and we are only the vanguard; a large number of our bombers is yet to come, and will not have some navigation problems with the reflection of flames in the sky. Furthermore the aim is illuminated by flares that light up at irregular intervals.

With the engine idling begin to glide toward the goal that was assigned to me.

Suddenly my Ju 88 is located in the midst of a strike-aircraft precisely that forces me to turn and walk away. I wait until the shot is focused against another plane, then I take advantage of that moment to throw with a fast swooping to the point of release.

Beneath us everything is red and the heat of the fires raises a huge black cloud, fed by the flames below. Our target is closed in the Docks area.

Hans did not find it hard to take aim for our mines. I fly over the harbor on fire following his instructions. We can recognize, as if we were in broad daylight, all the details that we have studied the photo reconnaissance. My stopwatch turns and the exact second we spot two large explosions in our area, are our mines.

A row of flares hanging from the parachute we suddenly explodes in front and on the left, to our exact share. I discarded immediately to the right. It changes all the time, at irregular intervals, my route and the speed of the engines, in order to change its roar. The minute one another without end, until we spot the coast. My nerves are going to give in.

Without wasting any more time it reduces the engines idling, and I'll throw in a glide fast and decisive, even knowing that this will bring me a shot of the shore batteries of anti-aircraft light. I do not care anymore and count on luck to avoid areas of higher concentration-aircraft.
And then it happens. A blinding flash. They were impressed.

Recall our Ju 88 and cast a quick look at the instruments.

It seems completely normal and no one aboard was injured.

Reduce the speed to the engines, but as pull back the throttle, the engine continues to turn left at full capacity. A splinter has probably sliced the lead. There is no aircraft engine that it can withstand long, in these circumstances.

I decided off and the Ju 88 continues drifter in the dark of night.

Those beams rummaging heaven before us are our curtains, and we're happy to have them spotted. We launch rockets of recognition, but the spotlight continues to dazzle us in full. Another set of rockets of recognition. Suddenly the flak it takes lightly at gunpoint, and are forced to make a series of maneuvers to avoid it. Hazardous, with the engine stopped.

This deadly game with the curtains and lightweight batteries continues along the coast. We are already exhausted by fear and lack of sleep, and my crew vents his anger returning fire with machine guns. Shoot at their fellow soldiers.

I can not blame them.
The fear of the fire engulfs, we would like to jump out of the plane and flee, but the roof of the cab crashed. Soldiers rushed to the split and we can roll out.

Firefighters and doctors arrive quickly. The soldiers say to the doctor, a young guy just arrived at the front, that none of us is seriously hurt. And we see that the slips in the plane and he goes out with the clock edge, which intends to keep as a souvenir.

Hans for this gesture of the doctor is the last straw that breaks the camel. Go to him calmly, he takes off of the clock hand and plant a fist in the face with such force that the medicine man slips on the wing and it ends up on his back on the grass.

And this is the end of another mission to London.

A 14 year old boy would already recognized as a friendly aircraft.

As we approach the base prepare the crew to the difficulties of a landing on one engine only. I want to download the excess fuel but the control of the discharge must be dead. Visibility is excellent, so, contrary to accepted practice, down with the cart instead of groped a belly landing.

The operation requires time, since I have only half of the normal hydraulic pressure. After a final check, turn the engine good for approach and landing. On board no one speaks. I value my share while plane to land along the lighted path.

Too low.

We bump with the left wing and we run into the ground in complete darkness. The swath on the ground seems to never end. The right engine begins to creak and there's no way to stop it.

The fear of the fire engulfs, we would like to jump out of the plane and flee, but the roof of the cab crashed. Soldiers rushed to the split and we can roll out.

Firefighters and doctors arrive quickly. The soldiers say to the doctor, a young guy just arrived at the front, that none of us is seriously hurt. And we see that the slips in the plane and he goes out with the clock edge, which intends to keep as a souvenir.

Hans for this gesture of the doctor is the last straw that breaks the camel. Go to him calmly, he takes off of the clock hand and plant a fist in the face with such force that the medicine man slips on the wing and it ends up on his back on the grass.

And this is the end of another mission to London.


Spitfires and Bf 109Es were rarely seen together in such close proximity on the ground in 1940, but when Pilot Officer Bill Caister’s Spitfire was damaged he was forced to down his aircraft in France.

On the morning of 23 May, Spitfires from No. 74 Squadron had engaged a Henschel Hs 126 observation aircraft and shot it down. However, defensive fire from the aircraft had hit the radiator of one of the fighters and forced its pilot, Squadron Leader F. L. White, to land at nearby Calais-Marck airfield. The latter was under threat from advancing German troops, so it was decided that a rescue mission needed to be launched, involving a two-seat Miles Master trainer and two escorting Spitfires from No. 54 Squadron. Flying the latter were future aces pilot officers Johnny Allen (who would be killed in action by Hauptmann Adolf Galland on 24 July 1940 – the first Spitfire downed by the German ace) and Al Deere.

Once over the French airfield, they were engaged by a number of Bf 109Es, but with the Master safely on the ground, the two Spitfire pilots entered combat and claimed three destroyed. Al Deere recalled:

This was my first real combat, and the first recorded combat of a Spitfire with a Bf 109. My abiding memory was the thrill of the action – there was no sense of danger at that early stage in the war. So much so that I stayed behind the second of the two Bf 109s that I encountered after I had run out of ammunition just to see if I could do so. I only broke off when petrol became a factor. My prolonged fight with this Bf 109 allowed me to assess the relative performance of the two aircraft.

In early engagements between the Hurricane and Bf 109 in France, the speed and climb of the latter had become legendary, and were claimed by many to be far superior to that of the Spitfire. I was able to refute this, and indeed was confident that, except in a dive, the Spitfire was superior in most other fields, and was vastly more manoeuvrable. My superior rate of climb was, however, due mostly to the type of Spitfire with which my squadron was equipped. We had the first Rotol constant-speed airscrews on which we had been doing trials when the fighting started. Other Spitfires were, at that stage, using a two-speed airscrew (either fully fine pitch or fully course), which meant they lost performance in a climb. The constant-speed unit changed its pitch as the engine revs went up.

There was a great deal of scepticism about my claim that the Spitfire was the superior fighter, but the big thing for me was that we shouldn’t have any fear of the Bf 109 in combat.

Deere’s experience on 23 May was the first recorded clash between the Spitfire and Bf 109, but it was not the first time that these machines had come up against one another in the air. On 22 November 1939, Feldwebel Karl Hier landed a Bf 109E-3 intact at an airfield in France, after he had become disorientated in thick fog. His Bf 109E was thoroughly tested by the Armée de l’Air, after which it was flown to the UK in May 1940 for trials at the RAE at Farnborough.

In a series of mock combats fought between the German fighter and a Spitfire I fitted with a two-speed airscrew, the Bf 109E was found to be superior in all aspects bar its manoeuvrability and turning circle. The margins reduced rapidly when the Spitfire was fitted with a constant-speed airscrew, however, as Al Deere proved over France later that month.

In level flight, the Spitfire had little trouble staying behind the Bf 109E, nor did a dive present the pursuer with many problems. When the Spitfire was being pursued in a turning fight at medium altitude, the trials proved that the RAF fighter was the superior aircraft. Thanks to its outstanding rate of roll, the Spitfire pilot could shake off the Bf 109E by performing a flick half-roll and quickly pulling out of the subsequent dive.

The Bf 109E drew praise from the RAF trials team for its excellent handling and response, good low-speed climb angle, gentle stall, lack of any tendency to spin and short take-off run. However, it was criticised for its control heaviness at the upper end of its speed range – the Spitfire was just as difficult to fly at around 400mph, losing any clear advantage in manoeuvrability that it enjoyed over the Bf 109E.

Dr Alfred Price, commenting on the results of this trial in Spitfire At War, noted:

Overall, the Spitfire I and Bf 109E matched each other fairly evenly. If they fought, victory would almost invariably go to the side which was the more alert, which held the initiative, which understood the strengths and weaknesses of its opponent’s aircraft, which showed better team work and which, in the last resort, could shoot the more accurately.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Do 217J

In 1941, with Germany under increased night-time attack by the bombers of RAF Bomber Command, and with shortages of the Messerschmitt Bf 110 and the preferred Junkers Ju 88C night fighters, it was decided to supplement the night-fighter force with a version of the Do 217E, despite its much greater size and weight. This aircraft, the Do 217J, was fitted with a new "solid" nose ,similar to that used by Dornier in night fighter versions of the Do 17 and Do 215, with four forward firing cannon and four machine guns. By October 1940, the production of heavy night fighters, and night fighters such as the Do 217 and Ju 88, had been discussed comprehensively and by 5 November 1941 these discussions had been concluded. On 23 November the Technische Amt (T.A) had ordered the Dornier bomber fleet to be withdrawn in accordance with a decision made earlier that year on 23 May. Dornier designated the subject of their new project the "Do 217Z", later renamed the Do 217J. The Japanese Imperial Navy and Japanese Army Air Force had also taken an interest in license building the type in the summer, 1942 demonstrating the types potential. The Luftwaffe had no intention of delivering the Do 217 to Japan. Owing to this none were ever exported. The Dornier encountered many problems in procuring the BMW 801 engines required for the night fighter versions. Junkers had also struggled with BMW deliveries, its Ju 88C variants were to be powered by the BMW as the initial Jumo 211B/F engine plan had been abandoned. The Do 217s competitor, the Ju 88C, had only five fixed guns, whereas the Dornier could hold eight. In most cases, the Ju 88C carried only one MG 151 and up to four MG 17s.

In January 1941 Junkers concentrated on the C variant designs. It planned on producing 60 C-4s and 374 C-6s powered by Jumo 211s. It later transpired to Dornier that Junkers also wanted the BMW 801 to power the C-6. The power plants would also be supplemented with GM-1 nitrous oxide injection engine performance boosters for greater performance or alternatively, using the new, more powerful Jumo 213. The Ju 88s weaponry was improved by the addition of one or more MG FFs in the fuselage. Both the Do 217 and Ju 88 used the FuG 202 Lichtenstein BC sets, but later Ju 88s were given FuG 212 Lichtenstein C1s and later FuG 220s. The equipment of the Dornier did not change. Against this competition Dornier needed to improve the types abilities as a night fighter. The first problem Dornier attempted to overcome was long and short range capabilities. A modified E-1, (Wrk Nr. 42) was used to test the equipment for the forthcoming Do 217J. During testing the characteristics of the various types fire extinguisher hardware were carried out. Performance trials were carried out in January 1942 using a E-2, Wrk Nr 1122 which was put through its paces at the Löwental testing facility.

Dornier intended the prototype to ready by February 1942. The machine, Wrk Nr 1134, was a modified E-2 was equipped with FuG202 and a Spanner-Anlage Infrared gun sight. These systems enabled the Dornier to detect the heat signature heat seeking detection at limited range making the Dornier a good proposition for the Defense of the Reich campaign. Unfortunately the prototype crashed owing to engine failure. The continuing slow development of the IR equipment precluded its use in the J-1. Work on the IR program was sped up until late 1943. Modified IR equipment appeared in 1945 and was installed in the Ju 88G-6.

Delays of BMW 801 engine deliveries forced the project to be temporarily abandoned. In November 1941 the directive for the design team had been a J-1 with a spanner, IR system, and a J-2 with Lichtenstein radar. In 1942 the directive changed slightly, and the J-2 was to be fitted with AI radar. Specifically, the Dornier was to be armed with four MG FF and MG 17 fuselage mounted cannon for bomber assault, and one MG 131 in the B-Stand and C-Stand positions for defence from RAF night fighters. Curiously, the night fighter version was ordered to be able to carry eight 50 kg bombs so the type could act as a night fighter and intruder over enemy territory.

The electronic equipment to be installed was listed as the FuG X, 16, 25 Peil G V air-to-ground communications and blind landing devices. The FuB1.1 was also listed as a potential piece, and if possible a FuG 101 radio equipment was to be fitted as standard. It was intended to J-1 with the Lichtenstein DB FuG 202, which had an effective range of 4,000 metre, with three tubes and a rear-mounted aerial. The weight of the equipment would reduce the performance of the J-1 by 30 – 40 km/h so in January 1942, Dornier opted to install the IR spanner equipment instead of the Lichtensten. A rear braking system had also been in the original plan, but it was deemed unnecessary. The design was declared ready on 5 January 1942 and first flew later that month. The prototype was delivered to the Tarnewitz test facility where gunnery trials took place with MG FF and MG 17 weapons. Satisfied with the performance, series production began in March 1942.

Do 217 J-1
The operational Dornier night fighter, redesignated J-1, before entering operations was powered by BMW 801L engines. It was fitted with a revised crew compartment housing a crew of three, with a solid nose housing four fixed 7.92-mm MG 17 machine guns, with four 20 mm MG FF/M cannon in the forward part of the ventral gondola. It retained the MG 131s in a dorsal turret and ventral position of the bomber, and was could carry eight 50 kilograms (110 lb) bombs in the rear bomb-bay, with a fuel tank in the forward bomb-bay.

Production had commenced in March 1942, during which eight J-1s were built. In April, 13 followed and 55 were built in May. Despite this start production declined in June and this trend continued until November 1942, when only four were built. Dornier had been ordered to withdraw Dornier airframes for unspecified. Owing to this, by 31 December 1942, only 157 J-1s had been completed. Dornier kept a production run of 19 aircraft for evaluating equipment. These were to be used when Josef Kammhuber, General of the Night fighters demanded the J-1 to have a modified fuselages made available for upward firing cannon installed within the dorsal areas of the fuselage, above the wing roots. This armament configuration was called Schräge Musik ("slanted" or "oblique" Music). A prototype was given four MG 151s in place of its MG FFs and named J-1/U1. The prototype was modified in September 1942 and sent to the Tarnwitz Experimental Establishment on 14 October for tests on gunnery performance. The guns delivered 125,000 rounds during tests without problems. The concept was available for adoption, although Dornier had some reservations about the slow firing pattern of the MG 151/20.

The Dornier appeared to be a very effective night fighter with significant hitting power. However it attracted strong criticism from the Luftwaffe. The first J-1 was delivered to 4./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 in March 1942. The crew complained it was too heavy, criticised its takeoff and landing characteristics. The pilot complained it had "too little performance reserve". The aircrafts high service loading and its poor manoeuvrability in aerial combat did not enhance its performance reputation. Part of the types performance issues lay with the fact the MG 131 defensive guns and bomb release mechanisms had remained, and been built into the J-1 to allow for its use as a bomber. With eight machine guns mounted in the fuselage and the supporting ammunition, the weight was increased and outweighed the Do 217E by 750 kg.

Do 217 J-2
The J-2 night-fighter version of Do-217J was fitted with FuG 202 Lichtenstein radar in nose, and having the rear bomb-bay plated over. The MG FF/M of the J-1 were replaced by 20-mm MG 151 cannon. The J-1 was withdrawn from intruder duty following an order stopping night intruder raids against England,[77] while the J-2 proved disappointing as a night fighter, showing poor performance and manoeuvrability, although they were used for early trials of the Schräge Musik arrangement of upward firing cannon, three Js being used for tests in July 1942.[80] Between 130 and 157 were built.

There was little difference in design between the J-1 and J-2, save for the FuG 202 Lichtenstein C1 radar fitted to the later. The first C1 had been used in the Dornier Do 17Z-10. Production of the C1 began in full only after the Do 217J production had ceased. FuG 202 Lichtenstein radar continued to be used in Dorniers, although historian Manfred Griehl points out this was only according to the manuals.

Complaints were made by crews about the performance of the Dornier in comparison to other German types. On 12 May 1942 Erhard Milch ordered that Dornier cease all night fighter design. It was decided that the Ju 88 series only (Ju 88C-6) would continue to be developed and serve as a heavy night fighter. Strangely, the order was not passed onto the Dornier design team who continued to produce the N variant.