* war and social upheaval: World War II -- technology air campaigns weapons types fixed-wing aircraft








World War II Technology: Air Weapons--Fixed-wing Aircraft


Figure 1.--Reich Marshal Göring assured the German people that foreign planeswouldnevr fly over the Reich. Here is Hitler's Berschesgarten retreat after American aurcraft had finished with it. An American P-47 Thundrbolt is flying overhead at the end of the War. The P-47 was one of the finest ground support aircraft of the War. It was designed before the U.S. Army Air Corps had a ground support combat doctrine.

There are two basic types of aircraft depending on the propullsion.--propeller and jet driven. There are also rocket planes, but they were of only minor importance. World War II in the air was primarily fought with propeller-driven fixed-wing aircraft. There were several types of fixed-wing planes: fighters, bombers, reconisance, and cargo planes. All of the imporant air battles were fought primarily with fixed-wing propeller-driven aircraft. Both the Germans and Allies built excelent fighters. The Germans led the way in building sleek-all metal fighters. Britain almost entered the war with Royal Air Force squadrons of biplanes. (The Royal Navy did begin the War wuth carrier biplanes--the reputable Fairey Swordfish .) Industry was a cedntral factor in the air war. The Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a major factor in the early years of the Pacific War, bur was effective primarily because it had no armor protection for the pilot. Japan unlike the United States did not have the idustrial capacity to build the larger engines to drive the heavily armored planes which the Americans built in huge numbers. While the Zero cut a blazing path across the Pacific, by the end of the first year of war when improved American fighters began to arrive, many of Japan;'s experienced pilots had been lost. The Germans did not have the idustrial capacity to build heavy bombers. The Americas and the British built the iconic B-17 Flying Fotresss, B-24 Liberator, and Avro Lacaster as well as other types in huge numbers. And the Americans at the end of the war introduced the ultr-modern B-29 flying fortress. Both fighters and bombers were mostly propeller drivem. And the War brought about the development of propeller technology to the limits. It was not possible to develop a fighter faster than the P-51 Mustang or the F4U Corsair simply because the propeller itself was an obstacle to air flow. This meant that it was not physically possible to break the sound barrier with a propeller plane, although in steep dives the planes approached the soud barrier. The Germans led in the development of jet aircraft and the ME-262 Schwalbe proved to be an effective fighter. The British and Americans were also working on jets, but were far behind the Germans. Thanks to Hitler and the Allied stratehic bombing campaign, the Germans were unable to turn their technological achievements into a meaningful battlefield advantage. The Germans also developed ram jets (V-1) and rocket planes. None proved to be an important factor in the War, although the V-1 was the forerunner of the cruise missle which became a major weapons system after the War. (Modern versions are in the missle category because the high powered jet engines do not require a wing for lift like the V-1.) The V-1 is often grouped with the V-2 because it was pilotless and had a programable on-board guidance system.

Propeller Planes

The propeller was part of the first airplane built by the Wright Brothers. World War I was fought by propeller plnes and huge advances were made duting the War. World War II in the air was also primarily fought with propeller-driven fixed-wing aircraft. There were several types of fixed-wing planes: fighters, bombers, reconisance, and cargo planes. All of the imporant air battles were fought primarily with fixed-wing propeller-driven aircraft. Both the Germans and Allies built excelent fighters. The Germans led the way in building sleek-all metal fighters. Britain almost entered the war with Royal Air Force squadrons of biplanes. (The Royal Navy did begin the War wuth carrier biplanes--the reputable Fairey Swordfish .) Industry was a cedntral factor in the air war. The Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a major factor in the early years of the Pacific War, bur was effective primarily because it had no armor protection for the pilot. Japan unlike the United States did not have the idustrial capacity to build the larger engines to drive the heavily armored planes which the Americans built in huge numbers. While the Zero cut a blazing path across the Pacific, by the end of the first year of war when improved American fighters began to arrive, many of Japan;'s experienced pilots had been lost. The Germans did not have the idustrial capacity to build heavy bombers. The Americas and the British built the iconic B-17 Flying Fotresss, B-24 Liberator, and Avro Lacaster as well as other types in huge numbers. And the Americans at the end of the war introduced the ultr-modern B-29 flying fortress. Both fighters and bombers were mostly propeller drivem. And the War brought about the development of propeller technology to the limits. It was not possible to develop a fighter faster than the P-51 Mustang or the F4U Corsair simply because the propeller itself was an obstacle to air flow. This meant that it was not physically possible to break the sound barrier with a propeller plane, although in steep dives the planes approached the soud barrier. While the figters and bombers are the planes of greatest interest to military historians, the American C-47 cargo plane, often called the Goony Bird, played a major role in the War.

Jet Planes

Jet aircraft were first developed during World War II. The Germans led in the development of jet aircraft necause of the cresources available throughhb the rearmament campaign and the resulting ME-262 Schwalbe proved to be a fast, effective fighter. Most observers believe it to be the most formidable fighter of the War. And that was just one pf the Germnan jets. While the Germans had a clear lead on jet technology. The German advatage was undercut by Hitler. He ordered the jet project suspended to concentrate on proven tevhnologies (1942). A when the ME-262 appeared, he demanded it be used as a bomber rather than what it was clearly designed for--a fighter. The ME-262 had weaknesses and the most important was that the axial engenine design generate enormous temoeratures. And the Germans did niot have alloys for the rotors that coukld tolerate the temperatures. Thus the ebgines had to be serviced after about 25 hours of flight time and thec rotors replaced. The Germans had only a few ME-262s and the service rquiremebnt limnited tghe numbers tghat coukld be put up at any given time. The British and Americans were also working on jets, but were far behind the Germans--particularly the Americans. Thanks to Frank Whittle's persistancer, the Glocester Meteor was deployed at the end of the War. And his choice of a centrifuical engenine design avoided the alloy problem ebcountered by the Germans. . Thanks to Hitler and the Allied stratehic bombing campaign, the Germans were unable to turn their technological achievements into a meaningful battlefield advantage. The American jet program lagged because of the iknability to develop a powerful jet engine. The Germans also developed ram jets (V-1 Buzz Bomb ) and rocket planes. None proved to be an important factor in the War. The V-1 was the forerunner of the cruise missle which became a major weapons system after the War. The V-1 might have disrupted the Allied D-Say landings, but intelligence alerted the British and most of the fixed laubnch sites along the Channel were destroyed by aerial bombardment. (Modern versions of the V-1 are in the missle category because the high powered jet engines do not require a wing for lift like the V-1.) The V-1 is often grouped with the V-2 because it was pilotless and had a programable on-board guidance system.

Rocket Planes

The Axis powers were the only World War II combatant to develop a rocket plane. One of the secret German weapons was the Messerschmitt (ME) 163B rocket plane, the first combat rocket plane. The plane was not ready for comat use as the Allies poured into Germany. The Luftwaffe was, however, desperate and pushed by the NAZIs, deployed it against Allied bombers. The ME-163B Komet was the only operational rocket-powered aircraft of World War II. The plane was capable of spectacular performance, it had higher climb rates and speeds than any other plane deployed in the War. It was also the most dangerous. It used highly combustible rocket fuels and was difficult to land. One especially serious problem was the wheels were part of a undercarriage that was jetesoned after takeoff. We have onbe account from a Flieger HJ piot. The Japanese deployed the Baka flying bomb used in Kamikazee attacks on American shios, It flew at about the speed of sound but entered the war too late to be used very often.







CIH







Navigate the CIH World Wr II Pages:
[Return to Main World War II air weapon types page]
[Return to Main World War II air weapons page]
[Return to Main World War II air technology/tactics page]
[Return to Main World War II technology/tactics page]
[Biographies] [Campaigns] [Children] [Countries] [Deciding factors] [Diplomacy] [Geo-political crisis] [Economics] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[POWs] [Resistance] [Race] [Refugees] [Technology]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War II page]



Created: 3:49 AM 4/9/2011
Last updated: 3:50 AM 1/26/2019