The Luftwaffe: Pilot Training

Luftwaffe pilot training
Figure 1.--There is no doubnt that this Hitler Youth (HJ) boy wants to be a pilot. And he has an opportunity to do just that. The Fliger HJ program helped aquaint boys with flying and then funnel qualified boys into the Luftwaffe. We are not sure about the plane he is examining here. We think it may be a variant of the FW-190. This was the premier German fighter in the air war over northern Europe. Most 190s had a radial engine but this one had some major changes. In February 1945 the D-12 variant went into production, using a Jumo 213F-1 in line engine with a radial radiator built in front of the engine . Best climb rate was up to 3,642 ft./min.), and speed up to 458.5 mph (at 38,080 ft!). The D-12 was armed with a 30mm Mk. 108 cannon firing through the propeller boss and two wing mounted 20mm cannons. Altogether just short of 700 FW 190D models were produced before the end of the war. But most of those 190Ds had the usual radial engine. Most of the FW-190s did not have a cannon firing through the nose like the Me-109. There were versions that had two machine guns and two 20mm cannon on the nose and others with two machine guns on the nose and a 20mm in each wing. There were very few of this variant with the cannon in the center hub. Areader writes, "his is a very powerful picture of a boy very well motivated into flying and becoming a pilot. Its the intence look he gives to the plane and actually touching the propeller well it just adds to the excitement. The German boy is just like lots of other boys the world over who want to be a pilot. In his case was a desire to defend his country from the Allied bombing." Click on the image fior a fuller discussion.

One of the reasons that the Luftwaffe performed so well in the early years of the War was a very effective pilot training program. This began early, even before the Luftwaffe was created. A Hitler Youth unit air unit was formed--the Flieger HJ. Boys began learning about how to build gliders and fly them. As a result when the Luftwaffe was created, there was already a sizeable body of young people that had basic familiarity with flying. When the Luftwaffe was created, older Hitler Youth (HJ) boys were funneled into the military. As part of the Hilter Youth program a boy could select specific services and one of the options was the Flieger HJ which prepared boys for Luftwaffe service. The early German victories were not solely due to better aircraft types and a larger force. The Luftwaffe also had an enormous advantage of well-trained pilots with a well-defined tactical doctrine. There was, however, only one pilot training school. The Luftwaffe like the Wehrmacht was built around a strategic doctrine of campaigns against individual countries which could be quickly overwealmed. No one imagined that the Führer would taken on not only the British and French, but without completing the war in the West, the Soviet Union and the United States as well. One pilot training school might have suficed with the British and French, but not when the Soviet Union and the United States were added to Germnany's foes. Successes in the first 2 years of the War did not lead Luftwaffe planners to question this assessment. Hitler by December 1941, however, had involved Germany with an emensely powerful coalition including, America, Britain, and the Soviet Union with enormous indistrial and scientific resources. The German advantage disapated as the War continued. The Americans and British turned out ever larger numbers of competent air crews. The Luftwaffe unlike the Americans kept their aces in combat until they were killed or wounded. This meant in practice that hard won battle skills were constantly drained from the Luftwaffe. American practice was to bring back the most effective pilots after a tour of duty to train new pilots. Incredibly, the Luftwaffe did not open new pilot schools untill 1944. At first they modified the pilot training program to push more pilots through more quickly. Besides the limited capacity, the Luftwaffe training program failed to make use of the expertise of fighter aces. They were kept on station until they were killed or wounded. This is one reason that German aces racked up higher scores than Allied aces who were rotated. This had predictable results. Not only were cadets lost in the training program, but the new pilots produced had to face effectively trained Allied pilots in increasingly capable aircraft. The Luftwaffe training program by 1944 was severly impaired by increasing shortages of aviation fuel. In the last phase of the War, there were still planes availble, but the Luftwaffe had difficulty finding competent pilots. During the Battle of Britain, the RAF had to send out pilots with minimal training--many of who did not survive their first few sorties. By the end of the War it was the Luftwaffe that was throwing pilots into battle with minimal training.

Early Luftwaffe Training Program

One of the reasons that the Luftwaffe performed so well in the early years of the War was a very effective pilot training program. This began early, even before the Luftwaffe was created. A Hitler Youth unit air unit was formed--the Flieger HJ. Boys began learning about how to build gliders and fly them. As a result when the Luftwaffe was created, there was already a sizeable body of young people that had basic familiarity with flying. When the Luftwaffe was created, older Hitler Youth (HJ) boys were funneled into the military. As part of the Hilter Youth program a boy could select specific services and one of the options was the Flieger HJ which prepared boys for Luftwaffe service.

Strategic Concept

The early German victories were not solely due to better aircraft types and a larger force. The Luftwaffe also had an enormous advantage of well-trained pilots with a well-defined tactical doctrine. There was, however, only one pilot training school. The Luftwaffe like the Wehrmacht was built around a strategic doctrine of campaigns against individual countries which could be quickly overwealmed. No one imagined that the Führer would taken on not only the British and French, but without completing the war in the West, the Soviet Union and the United States as well. One pilot training school might have suficed with the British and French, but not when the Soviet Union and the United States were added to airforces the Luftwaffe had to face.

Demand on the Luftwaffe

Successes in the first 2 years of the War did not lead Luftwaffe planners to question this assessment. Hitler by December 1941, however, had involved Germany with an emensely powerful coalition including, America, Britain, and the Soviet Union with enormous indistrial and scientific resources. The Luftwaffe succeeded in largely destroying the enormous Red Air Force at the onset of Barbarossa (June 1941). Many of the aircraft were destroyed ion the ground , meaning that the oilots survived. And the Soviets moved aircraft planhts beyond the Urals. And when the Red Army stopped the Whermacht before the Moscow (December 1941), i gave the Red Air Firce time to begin to reorganize and fir the aircraft plants to come backn on line. At the sane time, British aircraft plants cintinued to crnk out aircraft, including the icomic Avro Lancaster. German industry did not have the capacity to produce heavy four-engine stratehic bombers, the British did. And even more importantly, after Hitler declared war on America (December 1941), American industry was not only fully mobilized, but expanded faster and beyond all expectations of the Axis or even many Allied planers. The initial German advantage rapidly disapated as the War continued. The Americans and British turned out ever larger numbers of competent air crews.

Pilot Assignment

The Luftwaffe unlike the American Air Force and Navy kept their aces in combat until they were killed or wounded. The Luftwaffe pilots performed phenomenally in the War. The German aces ran up such large kill numbers and there were so many German aces. Major Erich Hartmann, top Luftwaffe ace, was credited with an incredible 352 victories. There were 35 German pilots credited with more than 150 kills and even more with 100 kills. These numbers are much larger than those achieved by the Western Allies whose top aces had only about 40 kills. The top Soviet ace had some 60 kills. These numbers have led to controversy. Some authors claim that the Luftwaffe tallies were absurdly inflated. This is difficult to assess. This may be part of the reason, but there are other matters as well. The Lufwaffe at the beginninbg of the war was thec premoer air force in the world. They were well trained, had excellnt planes, an effectivec tactical docrine, and as a result of Hitler's intervention in Spain had actual combat experience. The air forces they faced at the onset of the War had either obsolete planes or poorly trained pilots and ineffective tactical doctrine. The Battle of Britain was a rare exception to a string of Luftwaffe victory. German polots ran up their kills during this period, but the onset of Barbarossa turned them loose on the huge Red Air Force with many obsolete aircraft and, thanks to Stalin, was largely on the ground when the Germans struck. So it is very likely that large numbers of German pilots had very substantial kills to therir credit, although we can not speak to the precise numbers reported. Along with these kill tallies came an enormous amount of combat experience. The German practice of keep their aces in combat meant hard-won battle skills were constantly drained from the Luftwaffe as the war progressed. This was especially the case as the Luftwaffe faced increasingly large numbers of effective, high-performance Allied planes manned by well-trained pilots. Th American practice was to bring back the most effective pilots after a tour of duty to help train new pilots, providing the trainee pilots with vital combat knowledge. The Germans did not do this and it was part of the shift in air dominance that began in 1942.

Allied Training Program

And the Army Air Corps as well as the Navy opened several pilot and air craft training schools. The British moved pilot trainingb operations to Canada. And unlike the situation in Germany, there was not need to abreviate taing programs because of the pressures of war. Nor was there a need to cut back on training because of fuel shortages.

German Crash Expansion

Incredibly, the Luftwaffe did not open new pilot schools untill 1944. At first they modified the pilot training program to push more pilots through more quickly. Besides the limited capacity, the Luftwaffe training program failed to make use of the expertise of fighter aces. They were kept on station until they were killed or wounded. This is one reason that German aces racked up higher scores than Allied aces who were rotated. This had predictable results. Not only were cadets lost in the training program, but the new pilots produced had to face effectively trained Allied pilots in increasingly capable aircraft. The Luftwaffe training program by 1944 was severly impaired by increasing shortages of aviation fuel. In the last phase of the War, there were still planes availble, but the Luftwaffe had difficulty finding competent pilots. During the Battle of Brutain, the RAF had to send out pilots with minimal training--many of who did not survive their first few sorties. By the end of the War it was the Luftwaffe that was throwing pilots into battle with minimal training.







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Created: 11:23 PM 6/12/2013
Last updated: 10:23 PM 7/7/2013