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Airborne Cigar? No thanks.

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Airborne Cigar? No thanks.

Old 24th Feb 2019, 16:06
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Angel Airborne Cigar? No thanks.

I've long been aware that Bomber Commands 101 Squadron suffered the biggest losses of all Bomber Command units. However, until recently picking up Raymond Alexanders limited edition booklet 'Special Operations' I wasn't aware that their ABC Lancs attracted night fighters like bees to honey. Active from Jan 1940 to May 45 they lost 98 aircraft, most of them after becoming the jamming specialists.
Question are Elint aircraft always so vulnerable?
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Old 24th Feb 2019, 18:09
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Originally Posted by Prangster View Post
I've long been aware that Bomber Commands 101 Squadron suffered the biggest losses of all Bomber Command units. However, until recently picking up Raymond Alexanders limited edition booklet 'Special Operations' I wasn't aware that their ABC Lancs attracted night fighters like bees to honey. Active from Jan 1940 to May 45 they lost 98 aircraft, most of them after becoming the jamming specialists.
Question are Elint aircraft always so vulnerable?
Yes.

​​​​​​Today the RN has two handy phrases. Hack the Shad which meant kill any enemy aircraft shadowing the fleet. In WW2 that was the FW Condor. In the Cold War the ubiquitous Bear Delta.

The other one was Hammer the Jammer. The jammer was the precursor for an attack and screening attacking aircraft as long as possible.

In WW2 ABC would be sending out jamming signals to confuse the German night fighter radars and conceal the main force bombers. Of course the emissions on the German AI radar frequencies could be used to home on to the emitter.

In the 1970s the Vulcan carried a self defence jammer which could have suffered the same problem. To get around this the jammer would stop jamming and check if the AI was transmitting. This jam-look-​​​​​​jam was designed to interrupt any intercept and avoid HOJ (Home on Jam).
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Old 24th Feb 2019, 19:15
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In the 1970s the Vulcan carried a self defence jammer which could have suffered the same problem. To get around this the jammer would stop jamming and check if the AI was transmitting. This jam-look-​​​​​​jam was designed to interrupt any intercept and avoid HOJ (Home on Jam).
Like virtually all Vulcan ECM kit, largely obsolete and frankly useless...

It was only when I left the Vulcan world to fly the F-4 that I realised how useless most Vulcan ECM actually was - and the tactics we knew were manna from heaven for any intercepting fighter.
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Old 24th Feb 2019, 19:40
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The German night fighters were homing on to Monica a couple of days after it was introduced.
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Old 25th Feb 2019, 06:48
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'In WW2 ABC would be sending out jamming signals to confuse the German night fighter radars and conceal the main force bombers. Of course the emissions on the German AI radar frequencies could be used to home on to the emitter.'

Umm, I always thought that the ABC was to jam the ground controller instructions to the night fighter.
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Old 25th Feb 2019, 09:02
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I read somewhere that false instructions were relayed by German speaking WAAFs to the German fighter pilots. At one time there were arguments between the pilots and their real controllers as to what instructions to follow.
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Old 25th Feb 2019, 14:51
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Originally Posted by Fareastdriver View Post
I read somewhere that false instructions were relayed by German speaking WAAFs to the German fighter pilots. At one time there were arguments between the pilots and their real controllers as to what instructions to follow.
Operation Corona. The WAAFs were based at Kingsdown in Kent.
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Old 25th Feb 2019, 15:09
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Originally Posted by staircase View Post
'In WW2 ABC would be sending out jamming signals to confuse the German night fighter radars and conceal the main force bombers. Of course the emissions on the German AI radar frequencies could be used to home on to the emitter.'

Umm, I always thought that the ABC was to jam the ground controller instructions to the night fighter.
staircase, me too but I looked at Wiki, it may be wrong.
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Old 25th Feb 2019, 15:22
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BC - ABC

Wiki may well be wrong Pontius!
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Old 25th Feb 2019, 15:33
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'Special Operations' does indeed pick up on the jam.listen.jam, specific to nightfighter control frequencies using a trio of kit. I assume the poor WOP was flailing about like a one armed paperhanger.When on active jam he was disconnected from the intercom and his only contact with the pilot was a light bulb illuminating on his desk. Extraordinary......you couldn't make it up. Tinsel jamming was a bit of a bludgeon transmitting engine noise on GCI frequencies but Mr Alexander makes no reference to 101 using Tinsel.I once overflew Ludford Magna in a chippe with the pilot almost in tears at 101's losses
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Old 25th Feb 2019, 16:50
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To correct my earlier error in ABC, here is an extract from the BBC.

Upon arrival the first thing was a few day's introduction to the equipment we were to operate. It went under the codename 'ABC', which stood for Airborne Cigar; I have no idea why they named it that. It consisted of three enormous powerful transmitters covering the radio voice bands used by the Luftwaffe.

To help identify the place to jam there was a panoramic receiver covering the same bands. The receiver scanned up and down the bands at high speed and the result of its travel was shown on a timebase calibrated across a cathode ray tube in front of the operator. If there was any traffic on the band it showed as a blip at the appropriate frequency along the line of light that was the timebase. When a 'blip' appeared, one could immediately spot tune the receiver to it and listen to the transmission. If the language was German then it only took a moment to swing the first of the transmitters to the same frequency, press a switch and leave a powerful jamming warble there to prevent the underlying voice being heard. The other two transmitters could then be brought in on other 'blips'. If 24 aircraft were flying, spread through the Bomber stream, then there were a potential 72 loud jamming transmissions blotting out the night fighters' directions.

The Germans tried all manner of devices to overcome the jamming, including having their instructions sung by Wagnerian sopranos. This was to fool our operators into thinking it was just a civilian channel and not worth jamming. I think ABC probably did a useful job, but who can say what difference it made.

Anyway, it was an absorbing time for keen, fit, young men who thought only of the challenges and excitements of their task and little of the risks they were about to run.


In the Cold War, through the 1960s, the C bombers had a comms jammer called Green Palm. This was a very simple version of ABC. It didn't have a dedicated operator as it was far less complicated. Basically on/off and channels 1-4.

It was known the the Russian fighters only had a 4-channel VHF radio. Rather than try and select a particular channel all bombers were directed to jam on channel 3. We were told that this was their broadcast frequency. That they only used one broadcast frequency in all the air defence districts was probably nonsense. It was replaced by the X band jammer.
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Old 26th Feb 2019, 12:11
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Originally Posted by Pontius Navigator View Post
To correct my earlier error in ABC, here is an extract from the BBC.

Upon arrival the first thing was a few day's introduction to the equipment we were to operate. It went under the codename 'ABC', which stood for Airborne Cigar; I have no idea why they named it that. It consisted of three enormous powerful transmitters covering the radio voice bands used by the Luftwaffe.

To help identify the place to jam there was a panoramic receiver covering the same bands. The receiver scanned up and down the bands at high speed and the result of its travel was shown on a timebase calibrated across a cathode ray tube in front of the operator. If there was any traffic on the band it showed as a blip at the appropriate frequency along the line of light that was the timebase. When a 'blip' appeared, one could immediately spot tune the receiver to it and listen to the transmission. If the language was German then it only took a moment to swing the first of the transmitters to the same frequency, press a switch and leave a powerful jamming warble there to prevent the underlying voice being heard. The other two transmitters could then be brought in on other 'blips'. If 24 aircraft were flying, spread through the Bomber stream, then there were a potential 72 loud jamming transmissions blotting out the night fighters' directions.

The Germans tried all manner of devices to overcome the jamming, including having their instructions sung by Wagnerian sopranos. This was to fool our operators into thinking it was just a civilian channel and not worth jamming. I think ABC probably did a useful job, but who can say what difference it made.

Anyway, it was an absorbing time for keen, fit, young men who thought only of the challenges and excitements of their task and little of the risks they were about to run.


In the Cold War, through the 1960s, the C bombers had a comms jammer called Green Palm. This was a very simple version of ABC. It didn't have a dedicated operator as it was far less complicated. Basically on/off and channels 1-4.

It was known the the Russian fighters only had a 4-channel VHF radio. Rather than try and select a particular channel all bombers were directed to jam on channel 3. We were told that this was their broadcast frequency. That they only used one broadcast frequency in all the air defence districts was probably nonsense. It was replaced by the X band jammer.
Thanks for that Pontious, My old man was a squadron signal leader before all this 'new fangled' wizzard war stuff took to the skies. I recall he read Dr Alfred Prices' Instruments of Darkness' in the late 1970's wearing an appalled expression from beginning to end

Thanks for that Pontious, still looks like an invitation to the ball if you ask me!
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Old 26th Feb 2019, 21:27
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Just last evening I was reading about the jamming aircraft (Lancasters). It would seem that they carried an additional German speaking radio operator and indeed, it was mentioned about pilots arguing with ground controllers. They, as well as carrying out jamming duties also carried a (reduced) bomb load, Harris not wanting to waste bombing opportunities.
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Old 27th Feb 2019, 03:24
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The Germans also homed onto H2S (ground mapping radar), the IFF and Monica (rear radar). The always knew when the bomber streams were coming and in some cases could locate individual aircraft. It wasn't fully appreciated by the RAF despite warnings form the scientists. R V Jones' excellent book, Most Secret War' covers this in detail.
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Old 27th Feb 2019, 07:10
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''they carried a reduced bomb load''.

The weight I have seen quoted for ABC was 650lb's, plus the weight of the extra crew member, so effectively a 1,000 reduction in payload.

As for Harris not wanting to miss an opportunity. In my (long ago) youth I once was talking over the bomber offensive with an old Lancaster man. I suggested that it may have been worth trying to remove all the guns, and fair over the turrets. The point being that the decease in load and drag would have given the aeroplane a much better chance of survival since it would be flying a lot higher and faster.

He burst out laughing and said that if they took off what I had suggested, they would not be flying higher or faster, since the first thing Harris would have done, would have been to increase the load! He had no doubt they would have been back where they started only with no guns.

Last edited by staircase; 27th Feb 2019 at 19:59.
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Old 27th Feb 2019, 14:46
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Slightly off thread but, when we were happily floating round the night sky using our Orange Putter and Tinselling, was any use was made of them by the NF Meteors and Venoms sent up to intercept us?
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Old 27th Feb 2019, 20:30
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Originally Posted by Dan Winterland View Post
The Germans also homed onto H2S (ground mapping radar), the IFF and Monica (rear radar). The always knew when the bomber streams were coming and in some cases could locate individual aircraft. It wasn't fully appreciated by the RAF despite warnings form the scientists. R V Jones' excellent book, Most Secret War' covers this in detail.
I think it was known, but squadrons didn't always mention it. It was standard practice in 5 Group to keep IFF on even up to 1942, in the belief it jammed German radar. IFF would never normally be activated once they climbed to height, until they made near to landfall back. Monica was withdrawn in summer 44, after the capture of a German nightfighter.
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Old 27th Feb 2019, 20:45
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I suggested that it may have been worth trying to remove all the guns, and fair over the turrets.
Bomber Command's Operational Research Section calculated that in 99% of combats the mid-upper turret needed no more than 1,000 rounds, while for rear turrets the figure was 2,000 - the total stowage capacity was for 18,000 rounds (around 1,000 lbs weight). They recommended that rear turrets should have 3,000 rounds, rather than 10,000, but it's not clear whether this was implemented.

The ABC Lancasters would have been flying in the bomber stream and thus over the target, so it would seem to be a waste not to drop at least some bombs.
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Old 27th Feb 2019, 21:42
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Originally Posted by staircase View Post
''they carried a reduced bomb load''.

The weight I have seen quoted for ABC was 650lb's, plus the weight of the extra crew member, so effectively a 1,000 reduction in payload.

As for Harris not wanting to miss an opportunity. In my (long ago) youth I once was talking over the bomber offensive with an old Lancaster man. I suggested that it may have been worth trying to remove all the guns, and fair over the turrets. The point being that the decease in load and drag would have given the aeroplane a much better chance of survival since it would be flying a lot higher and faster.

He burst out laughing and said that if they took off what I had suggested, they would not be flying higher or faster, since the first thing Harris would have done, would have been to increase the load! He had no doubt they would have been back where they started only with no guns.
Freeman Dyson advocated this during the war, calculating a Lancaster would have increased top speed of 50mph. The reason it was never implemented was to do with disruption of production and moral. Aircrew felt they had something to fight back with by keeping turrets.
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Old 27th Feb 2019, 21:45
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Originally Posted by Innominate View Post
Bomber Command's Operational Research Section calculated that in 99% of combats the mid-upper turret needed no more than 1,000 rounds, while for rear turrets the figure was 2,000 - the total stowage capacity was for 18,000 rounds (around 1,000 lbs weight). They recommended that rear turrets should have 3,000 rounds, rather than 10,000, but it's not clear whether this was implemented.

The ABC Lancasters would have been flying in the bomber stream and thus over the target, so it would seem to be a waste not to drop at least some bombs.
IIRC correctly, Cheshire implemented a reduced ammunition policy to save weight, when Halibag losses became critical.
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