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Old Warhorses

Old 11th Nov 2020, 21:51
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Old Warhorses

It's well known that conflict accelerates technological advances. The conflict of 1939 - 1945 witnessed a quantum leap in aviation advances culminating in the jet powered Gloster Meteor, Bell P59, and a plethora of advanced designs from the German aircraft manufacturers of Arado, Heinkel, Messerschmit. This is all well covered ground focussing on the latter years of the war but what continually amazes me is the obsolescence of the aircraft at the onset of hostilities. I find it incredible that in 1942 Vickers Vildebeests operating from Singapore were used against the Japanese invaders. Vickers Valentias were used in the North African desert campaign of 1940. Handley Page Heyfords continued to be used as target tugs and even the venerable H.P.42 saw active service with 271 Sqn.

I'd think twice about getting in to one of these old crates let alone riding one into combat. The bravery of the crews flying operational missions in such hopelessly obsolescent aircraft demands respect. Have any Ppruners got details of how these aircraft fared when confronted with modern equipment?
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Old 12th Nov 2020, 09:52
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Come the late 70's early 80's, I would have felt the same about trying to go to Russia in a Vulcan.
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Old 12th Nov 2020, 10:15
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It seems pretty astonishing to see KC-135s, B-52s and some U-2s, all built more than 50 years ago still plying their trade, albeit with various upgrades. There's even a couple of C-5s which are about 50 years old now...

It is amazing though; the Stringbags used against the Channel Dash, Bismarck and other operations, what fantastically brave crews they were... and an aeroplane that seems to have been better than its intended replacement, the Applecore...
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Old 12th Nov 2020, 10:54
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staircase:

that's exactly why the deterrent switched to Polaris before that period
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Old 12th Nov 2020, 11:40
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Originally Posted by treadigraph View Post
It seems pretty astonishing to see KC-135s, B-52s and some U-2s, all built more than 50 years ago still plying their trade, albeit with various upgrades. There's even a couple of C-5s which are about 50 years old now...

It is amazing though; the Stringbags used against the Channel Dash, Bismarck and other operations, what fantastically brave crews they were... and an aeroplane that seems to have been better than its intended replacement, the Applecore...
I think the Swordfish explains a great deal - one of the classic volumes (?Mason?) said that the Swordfish was really obsolescent by 1940 BUT it was able to operate in places where there was little or no real aerial opposition - such as out in the Atlantic, or at night. When it did operate against modern fighters in daylight it was a slaughter (think the Channel Dash here). And as it could operate in austere environments it was useful in all sorts of places & roles to the end of the war - at which point it was retired rater quickly.

This is exactly paralleled by the B-52 and the U2 - they wouldn't stand a chance in a full on war - the U2 has been restricted to "non-opposed" roles since Cuba, the B52 after Vietnam but they are able to fill a lot of niches that it would frankly be too expensive to fill with new designs and, like the Swordfish, seem eminently capable of infinite modification.

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Old 12th Nov 2020, 14:43
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It wasn't just the Brits that had to climb aboard outclassed steeds. During the summer of 1940 the Regia Aeronautica flew the Fiat CR42 against the Hurricanes and Spitfires of 11Group. The RAF still had Gladiators on front line strength but these were down the far south west corner of 10Group, and they had canopies!
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Old 12th Nov 2020, 15:47
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Originally Posted by Akrotiri bad boy View Post
It wasn't just the Brits that had to climb aboard outclassed steeds. During the summer of 1940 the Regia Aeronautica flew the Fiat CR42 against the Hurricanes and Spitfires of 11Group. The RAF still had Gladiators on front line strength but these were down the far south west corner of 10Group, and they had canopies!
From mid-1940 to early 1941, the RAF were using the Gladiator as a front line fighter in North Africa against the Italians, Pat Pattle, the RAF's highest scoring pilot, accounted for over 10 Italian aircraft, plus about half that number again as 1/2 shared during that time while flying the Gladiator.
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Old 12th Nov 2020, 15:59
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From mid-1940 to early 1941, the RAF were using the Gladiator as a front line fighter in North Africa against the Italians, Pat Pattle, the RAF's highest scoring pilot, accounted for over 10 Italian aircraft, plus about half that number again as 1/2 shared during that time while flying the Gladiator.
And of course there was Faith, Hope and Charity........
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Old 12th Nov 2020, 19:52
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Don't forget the poor sods flying Fairey Battles against the bridges in Belgium in 1940..or Devastators in Torpedo 8 at Midway in 1942...
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Old 13th Nov 2020, 00:24
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Originally Posted by treadigraph View Post
It is amazing though; the Stringbags used against the Channel Dash, Bismarck and other operations, what fantastically brave crews they were... and an aeroplane that seems to have been better than its intended replacement, the Applecore...
I'd like to ask a question about the Swordfish and the Albacore. In a thread on the Military part of PPRuNe, I saw a statement that the Albacore was phased out before the Swordfish because the crews preferred the older aircraft.

My question is how would this preference work its way up the chain and become effective? Whenever a new piece of equipment is introduced, some users will prefer the old gear (I assume that somewhere there were pilots asking for their Hurricanes back instead these new Spitfire things). How would it become known that the preference for the Swordfish wasn't just ordinary change resistance? Was there a concerted effort (in the 1930s and '40s) to understand aircrew preferences, and how often did it make a difference?

Sorry for thread drift, if it is--perhaps you could find some people who had some kind of loyalty to the old equipment, and so weren't too bothered? Or were content if they were facing similarly obsolete enemy aircraft.

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Old 13th Nov 2020, 02:29
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wasn't just ordinary change resistance
That certainly existed, witness the reluctance to accept monoplanes and the canopy.
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Old 13th Nov 2020, 08:44
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According to Wikipedia:
The Albacore remained less popular than the Swordfish, as it was less manoeuvrable, with the controls being too heavy for a pilot to take much evasive action after dropping a torpedo
This apparently is based on info in Francis K Mason's book The British Bomber Since 1914. Not one of the few Putnam books I have sadly...
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Old 13th Nov 2020, 09:00
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The lack of modern design air force aircraft types at the start of the war has perhaps more to do with the idea in the 1938s, 39s, that war was far away so there was not really a need to spend money in advanced designs. But around 39 ideas changed, and a frenzy came along to design and build modern types. But by then it was already to late, the German built-up was not to be overtaken.
The story goes, that the small Dutch airforce wanted desparately modern fighters and bombers, but all the major foreign manufacturers were busy supplying their own countries, so the Dutch turned to acquiring anti aircraft guns instead, by the hundreds. The Nazi's didn't realise that and the 700 or so air force of Ju 52's used in the occupation of the Low Countries was suddenly decimated. That force was supposed to be used for the invasion of the UK.
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Old 13th Nov 2020, 09:01
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As I posted on the other thread that chimes in with what I was told by a pilot who'd flown both in action in WW2. I don't think there was any formal consultation system

However in the war pilots were not afraid to voice their opinions - most of them were young, they weren't career pilots and they were likely to die if someone gave them shoddy kit - so opinions were voiced and listened to

The Manchester was a case in point - the pilots loathed it's engines - there were several others that also only had very limited frontline service due to feedback from the front.
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Old 13th Nov 2020, 09:04
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Washout - the specs for things like the Spitfire and the Hurricane were written in the early 1930's and they first flew in the mid '30's. the old biplanes had reached the limit of development.

What spurred on orders in vast numbers was the Spanish Civil War - everyone could see that the Bf-109 was streets ahead of any biplane fighter.
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Old 13th Nov 2020, 10:41
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Interesting to think that what many consider one of the most well known “Warbirds”, the Supermarine Spitfire, was in RAF service for less than twenty years. By then, the design had got as far as the Mk24. The latter aircraft were almost twice as heavy and twice as powerful as the original.

Today’s military aircraft seem to go on far longer, retaining more their original form.
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Old 13th Nov 2020, 10:49
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Thank you. I'm sure pilots were very prone to express their opinions. I suppose my question is really, what caused them to be listened to? One gets the impression that above the squadron level, the services were quite hierarchical in the 1940s, and information flowed in one direction only. Is this mistaken? Or did it take time for front line pilots to get promoted to more senior positions for their opinions to count? And, indeed, was the Navy different in this respect from the RAF?
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Old 13th Nov 2020, 11:14
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According to Bob Tuck, in the aftermath of Dunkirk experienced pilots such as he (firstly as temporary S/L i think - promoted following the loss of Roger Bushell) were summoned to Uxbridge or wherever several times - even regularly perhaps - to be questioned about the fighting and I believe were able to get across their perceptions of problems, ideas for solutions and so on.

Regarding the Fiat CR-42, I can't get hold of my copy of Fly For Your Life at the mo, but I'm pretty sure the 257 Sqn pilots involved in seeing off the Chianti raid were incensed by the British press portraying the Italian pilots as hopeless. They considered them to have been brave and skilled, hampered by a very manoeuverable but hopelessly outclassed aircraft. I recently saw a picture of Fighter Collection's CR-42 looking very complete at Duxford - hopefully we may see this amazing little aeroplane performing at Duxford Sywell next year.
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Old 13th Nov 2020, 13:50
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The great Winkle Brown flew the CR42 and noted it was extremely agile but hopelessly outclassed in terms of armament and speed. Nevertheless the Regia Aeronautica mounted a number of daylight bombing raids along the Thames estuary using CR42s to escort BR20s, each time pounced on by the defending Hurricanes of 11Group. Despite these Italian aviators being the aggressors I've got to admire their bravery in "having a go" with such outdated equipment.
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Old 13th Nov 2020, 14:06
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Parrott - treadigraphs story about Bob Tuck agrees with the bits I've read - there was a constant 2 way flow of information up and down the commands - for example the squadrons were apparently warned about the existence (if not the performance) of Fw190 a while before it ever appeared in action

I don't think it as ever codified - it was just what good officers did - talk to the troops - although there were post op debriefings that were always written up of course
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