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








World War II Technology: Air Weapon Types


Figure 1.--One of the most effective plane at the onset of the War was the Junkers Ju-87 Sturzkampfflugzeug (Stuka) two-man (pilot and rear gunner) dive bomber. It was essentialy aerial artillery and extremely accurate. It was part of the highly effective Whermact Blitzkrieg battle doctrine. It was equipped with a siren which caused terror when used against unprotected civilian popultions. The Stuka was, however, slow and extremely vulneravle unless the Luiftwaffe had established air superiority. This worked admirably in the early campaigns against small countries with tiny small or in the case of France, poorly led air forces. The Stuka failed, however, against larger countries which could not be overwealmed in a short campaihn and which fielded substantial and well-led airforces (Britan. the Sobiet Union, and the JUnited States).

World War II in the air was primarily fought with propeller-driven fixed-wing aircraft. There were several types of fixed-wing plsnes: fighters, bombers, reconisance, and cargo planes. All of the imporant air battles were fought primarily with fixed-wing propeller-driven aircraft. Both the Germnans and Allies built excelent fighters. The Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero was a major factor in thee early years of the Pascific War, bur was effective primsarily because it had no armpr protection and Japan unlike the United States did not have the idustrial capacity to build the larger engines to drive the heavier planes the Americans built in huge numbers. The Germans did not, however, have the idustrial capacity to build heavy bombers. The Americas and the British build the iconic B-17 Flying Fotresss and the Lacaster as well as other types in huge numbers. And the Americans at the end of the war introduced the 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 of course developed 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 real battlefield advantage. The Germans also developed ram jets (V-1), balistical missles (V-2), guided missles, and rocket planes. None proved to be an important factor in the War, although they became major weapons system after the War. Ironically, one World War I technology developed by the Germans, lighter than air craft, proved to be a valuable Allied assett in the Battle for the Atlantic.

Fixed-wing Aircraft

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.

Helicopters

The helicoplter was largely an experimental aircraft in World war II, but they did exist and were ctually used to a limited extent. Both Germany and the Unitd ttes eveloped and deployed a few helicopters.

Missles

Weapons terms are a little confusing and in the case of 'missle, there are differences of opinion. The shoe tossed at President Bush might be considered a missle, but in realistic military terms is a weapon system propelled by a high-powered engine. (In World War II this meant a fast burning rocket engine.) Thus World War II missles were thus types of rockets. Both the Allies and Germans used rockets in World War II. Most of the rockets used, however, were more ordinance than weapons systems. Rockets were fired from both planes and ground devices as well as ships. But rockets did not have guidance systems and had to be aimed before firing like an artillery shgell. Missles were different. Missles are complete weapons systems, rockets equipped with with guidance systems. And during World War II, two types of missles were developed. Balistic missles had progrramavle on-board guidance systems. The system was targeted before launch and the inboard system kept it on target. It was used on a fixed target that could not move. Because of World War II technical contraints limiting accuracy, in Workd war II this essentially meant a city. The Germans were the only country to develop a balistic missle--the V-2. It was a revolutionary weapon which ushered in a whole new generation of welfare. Guided missles on the other hand could be adjusted in flight by opetators monitoring the missle, usually in follow planes. Guided missles were used against moving targets like ships and planes. Both the Allies and Germans were working on guided systems. The Germans made the most progress.

Balistic Missles

NAZI Propaganda Minister Goebbels in his hate-filled broadcasts consantly refrred to secret weapons that would turn the War in the Reich's favor. One of these weapns was the balistic missle. Balistic missles in World War II are entirely a German story. The Germans were so advanced in this area that the Allies were not even working on balistic missles. The German balistic missle was of course the V-2. Fortunately for the Allies, the balistic missle proved to be the weapon of the future. The V-1 was not a missle and could be shot down, but there was no defense against the V-2 balistic missile as a result of the ballistic trajectory and extreme speed. There was not even the buzzing warning of the V-1s. The German fixed launch facilities were destroyed by Allied air power, but their mobile launch system proved highly successful and difficult defeat. They were able to fire as many as 100 missiles a day. As a result of their mobility, ability to use virtually any area, and quick firing time, Allied fighters rarely succeeded in catching V2 convoys on the ground. Thanks to delays in the production phase resulting from the Allied Peenemunde raid, the Germans were unable to deploy the V-2 until several monthas after the D-Day landings when German armies were retreating from France anbd Belgium.

Guided missles

The other type of missle developed during World War II was the guided missle. Guided missles on the other hand could be adjusted in flight by opetators monitoring the missle, usually in follow planes. Guided missles were used against moving targets like ships and planes. Both the Allies and Germans were working on guided systems. The Germans made by far the most progress.

Lighter-than-air Craft

Ironically, one World War I technology developed by the Germans, lighter than air craft, proved to be a valuable Allied assett in the Battle for the Atlantic. The Germans introduced the rigid Zeppelin during World War I, but they proved to be to vulnerable and were taken out of service. In the inter-war era, the Zeppelins for a while proved to be popular for a while as passenger craft. The Hindenburg disaster put an end to that (1936). The United States, especially the Navy, gave considerable effort to develop the non-rigid blimp. Some accidents such as the Akron tragedy were widely covered in the mnedia imperilded the program. The Brirish used barge baloons in the Battle of Britain. The Americans used blimps to great effect in the Battle of the Atlantic. The log range of the blimp helped to cover the mid-Atlantic gap where there was for some time no air cover. U-boats were unable to operate with Allied aircraft overhead. U.S. Navy airships were most important in the Atkantic, but they patrolled an area of over three million square miles, including the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. They used little fuel and thus had enormous ranges. This enabled them to cover ocean areas and spot U-boas and report its position to both convoy and destroyers. The U.S, Navy's blimps operated from bases on the east and west coasts of the United States, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and from Caribbean and Brazilian bases. Later they were deployed from Cuers, France, and Pisa, Italy. Six U.S. Navy K-ships flew across the Atlantic Ocean to Morocco. They set-up a low-altitude anti-submarine barrier across the Strait of Gibraltar.






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Created: 7:41 PM 1/25/2010
Last updated: 8:29 AM 1/1/2015