Dirigible-Launched & Parasite Fighters -1 reply

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Fuzzy Bunny

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#1 12 years ago

Hi Kids,

today's issue of Uncle Fuzzy's Weird War II concerns US Navy dirigibles, also known as "Zeppelins". I know this isn't strictly WWII (bit early for it), but it's kind of zippy nonetheless. Specifically, we'll be talking about air-launched airplanes.

As you no doubt know, Germany used a large number of Zeppelins in WWII. Despite questions as to the advisability of this (right, Fritz, ve vill take zis gigantic, slow, unmaneuverable bag full of high ecksplosive gas, und load it up vit ze bombs, und zen ve vill fly it 300 km over ze city vit ze anti-aircraft guns at nacht, und ze fighter planes, und zen victory vill be ours, jawohl!) quite a number were employed in bombing raids on London--there's a great scene of this in the film Hell's Angels -- check it out.

These needed protection, and their slow speeds didn't really help them cover great areas as scouts, so the idea of parasite fighters was born. Germany had toyed with the concept during WWI (couldn't find any info on this), and the RAF experimented with Sopwith Camels and a D.H.53 Hummingbird launched from the Airship R.33 in 1918, but nothing came of this

[ATTACH]43742[/ATTACH]

After WWI, Dr. Hugo Eckener built an airship to be known as the USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), which was delivered to the US as part of the German war reparations package. From http://aerostories.free.fr/appareils/compopara/page13.html:

in 1931, it was the world's largest dirigible. Length: 240 meters. Diameter: 48 meters. Volume: 208,000 cubic meters. Equipped with machineguns, it had a range of over 20,000 kilometers at 74 kilometers per hour cruising speed [ATTACH]43737[/ATTACH]

A number of other airships, including the USS Akron (ZRS-4 -- Zeppelins were maintained by the US Navy, as they're, er, ships, right) and USS Macon (ZRS-5 -- both destroyed in storms and accidents in the 1930s) were equipped under the "Skyhook" project with landing and launching hooks for Vought UO-1 and Curtiss FC-9 Sparrowhawk biplane fighters, designed for fighter protection and reconaissance capabilities. These fighters were equipped with a hook above the upper wing, from which they were launched and retrieved in mid-air.

[ATTACH]43733[/ATTACH][ATTACH]43734[/ATTACH][ATTACH]43738[/ATTACH][ATTACH]43739[/ATTACH][ATTACH]43740[/ATTACH]

The late 1920s and early 1930s were a time of heated arguments between pretty much every branch of the US armed services as to who was responsible for what; the dirigible crews and Navy as a whole were no different; pilots wanted the fighters to be tasked with reconaissance, dirigible proponents wanted them to to the scouting, while the rest of the Navy was generally suspicious of anything airborne--remember that this is in the context of Gen. Billy Mitchell basically demonstrating that air power would always trump battleships in the 1920s, so that didn't make anyone particularly happy.

In any case, the "flying aircraft carriers" never went into action, both Akron and Macon being destroyed in storms and accidents prior to WWII, with the USS Los Angeles being decommissioned and scrapped in 1939.

The US Naval Historical Center has some of the best shots of the heavier-than-air groups of the ZRS-4 and ZRS-5, as well as of the ZR-3:

http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/ac-usn22/z-types/zrs5-m.htm http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/ac-usn22/z-types/zrs4-m.htm http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/ac-usn22/z-types/zr3.htm The idea of "parasite fighters" was not abandoned completely. Heavy losses of US daylight heavy bombers in Europe launched the idea of the parasite fighter. In 1945, the Army Air Corps created issued specifications for a bomber-launched and -retrievable lightweight fighter, in response to which the McDonnell XF-85 Goblin was born. Good info at

http://www.fiddlersgreen.net/AC/aircraft/McDonnell-F85/info/info.htm

[ATTACH]43735[/ATTACH][ATTACH]43736[/ATTACH]

It didn't prove practical, especially in view of the emerging likelihood of high-speed jet bombers and defense cutbacks and was cancelled.

The US was by no means the first country to play with the idea; The Soviet Union in the 1930s had experimented heavily with massive aircraft, such as the Tupolev TB-3. Vladimir Vakhmistrov started playing with the idea of parasite fighters in 1931, launched from the wings of a bomber

According to http://www.unrealaircraft.com/forever/vakhmistrov.php, this concept actually was used once in WWII:

A squadron of six TB-3/AM34s and twelve SPBs was formed in the last months before Russia went to war with Germany, and in summer 1941, a Zveno group took off from an airfield on the Black Sea to attack the Negru Voda bridge across the Danube, in Rumania. The SPBs separated near the target and attacked with their 250 lb. bombs, then escorted the parent aircraft home. This was the first and only offensive use of the parasite aircraft unit. [ATTACH]43741[/ATTACH] Also see the following pages for more info:

http://www.unrealaircraft.com/forever/ficon.php http://www.unrealaircraft.com/forever/shorts_s20-21.php




Gauntlet

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#2 12 years ago

FuzzyBunnyHi Kids,

today's issue of Uncle Fuzzy's

Its as nasty everytime I hear it...I cant stop thinking of Michael Jackson...

As you no doubt know, Germany used a large number of Zeppelins in WWII. Despite questions as to the advisability of this (right, Fritz, ve vill take zis gigantic, slow, unmaneuverable bag full of high ecksplosive gas, und load it up vit ze bombs, und zen ve vill fly it 300 km over ze city vit ze anti-aircraft guns at nacht, und ze fighter planes, und zen victory vill be ours, jawohl!) quite a number were employed in bombing raids on London--there's a great scene of this in the film Hell's Angels -- check it out.

I guees you mean WWI, not WWII! :p

The idea of "parasite fighters" was not abandoned completely. Heavy losses of US daylight heavy bombers in Europe launched the idea of the parasite fighter. In 1945, the Army Air Corps created issued specifications for a bomber-launched and -retrievable lightweight fighter, in response to which the McDonnell XF-85 Goblin was born. Good info at

http://www.fiddlersgreen.net/AC/aircraft/McDonnell-F85/info/info.htm

[ATTACH]43735[/ATTACH][ATTACH]43736[/ATTACH]

Yeah, actually many nations experiented with parasite fighters on heavy bombers.

Btw, speaking of escorting bomber formations...do you have any information of the few B-17s converted to carry like 30 MGs, and no bomb load?

The US was by no means the first country to play with the idea; The Soviet Union in the 1930s had experimented heavily with massive aircraft, such as the Tupolev TB-3. Vladimir Vakhmistrov started playing with the idea of parasite fighters in 1931, launched from the wings of a bomber

Yeah, the TB-3/SPB combo were realy interesting. Its damn fun doing it in the IL2 series games!

According to http://www.unrealaircraft.com/forever/vakhmistrov.php, this concept actually was used once in WWII:

A squadron of six TB-3/AM34s and twelve SPBs was formed in the last months before Russia went to war with Germany, and in summer 1941, a Zveno group took off from an airfield on the Black Sea to attack the Negru Voda bridge across the Danube, in Rumania. The SPBs separated near the target and attacked with their 250 lb. bombs, then escorted the parent aircraft home. This was the first and only offensive use of the parasite aircraft unit. [ATTACH]43741[/ATTACH]

Sure this were the only incident were it happened...? I'm sad...:(




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#3 12 years ago

i like Zeppelins but i dont like led Zeppelin:lookaround:




Fuzzy Bunny

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#4 12 years ago

GauntletIts as nasty everytime I hear it...I cant stop thinking of Michael Jackson...[/quote]

How do you know it's bedtime at the Neverland Ranch? When the big hand is on the little hand.

I guees you mean WWI, not WWII! :p

Gak, I even saw that, thought I'd edited it, and then probably decided to add more NIFTY COOL PICTURES instead.

Btw, speaking of escorting bomber formations...do you have any information of the few B-17s converted to carry like 30 MGs, and no bomb load?

Yes, that was the other possibility I was thinking of today, funny enough, but in the shower I decided that Zeppelins are just way cooler. You're thinking of the YB-40, a number of elements of which found their way into the B-17G, including the chin turret. I may do a post on it some other time.

Sure this were the only incident were it happened...?

No I'm not, but that's sort of the whole point of all these postings--to get people interested and to start them googling on the topics. It's amazing what you can dig up if you have half an hour and a web browser.

[quote=ANZACSAS]i like Zeppelins but i dont like led Zeppelin

That's because you're an evil devil-worshipper with no taste. Down, you hun, back under your rock!




Gauntlet

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#5 12 years ago
FuzzyBunnyYes, that was the other possibility I was thinking of today, funny enough, but in the shower I decided that Zeppelins are just way cooler. You're thinking of the YB-40, a number of elements of which found their way into the B-17G, including the chin turret. I may do a post on it some other time.

Cool...I guess we have similiar minds then...scary...

Funny thing about it is that it still had a crew of 9. I find that sorta weird since they had 4 or so new machine guns. But it seems that the radio operators rear-dorsal position were upgraded to a twin MG turret, instead of the single MG on the regular version. Also the waist gunners MGs were also twin...anything else as you know of?

But anyway, I found som pictures on Google of it:

yb402.jpgyb401.jpgb40-1.jpgb40-2.jpg




Fuzzy Bunny

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#6 12 years ago

Cool, nice one. Almost deserves its own thread.

It should be noted that the 21 B-17Es converted to YB-40s were a failure, because, while they kept up nicely with the heavily bomb-laden B-17 groups on the way in, by definition bombers didn't have exactly those heavy bomb loads on the way back. Meaning lighter, faster, higher, so the regular bombers had to end up escorting the YB-40s back home. It didn't help that they had no mechanism to auto-jettison unused ammo. And .50cal ammunition is _really heavy_. The YB-40s that saw service were part of the 327th bomb squadron; they shot down 5 fighters but lost 2 planes from May 29, 1943 untill July 29, 1943.

Cool: I found a great layout plan for guns on the things.

[ATTACH]43748[/ATTACH]

The gunship idea had quite a few proponents--it's vaguely related to the German Zerstoerer idea which spawned the Me-110/210/410 series. The thinking was also a throwback to an age before anyone had come up with putting cannon on fighters. The YB-40 was not the only US example of this plan; the XB-41 was a converted B-24 Liberator:

[ATTACH]43749[/ATTACH]

This was only a prototype tested at Eglin airfield, and was abandoned based on experiences with the YB-40. This site has more technical details:

http://home.att.net/~jbaugher2/b24_12.html

Found on the Aces High BBS, a quote from 'Flying Guns – World War 2: Development of Aircraft Guns, Ammunition and Installations 1933-45' "On combat operations, the American bombers in the ETO expended 26.3 million rounds of .50" ammunition in 1943, and 36.2 million in 1944; the wartime total was 72.3 million rounds. (In October 1943, the ammunition consumption reached a peak of 632,773 rounds per operational day.) That corresponds to nearly 12,000 rounds for every enemy aircraft claimed shot down by the bombers. Because, as we have seen above, these claims were often far higher than the actual German losses, a more realistic average would probably exceed 40,000 rounds for every destroyed German fighter. " and: "In comparison, the American fighters expended 26.6 million .50" rounds and 262,189 20 mm rounds, and claimed the destruction of 5222 enemy aircraft in the air and 4250 on the ground. That corresponds to 2810 rounds per enemy aircraft claimed as destroyed. Because the fighter claims were usually much closer to reality, a very rough but reasonable estimate would be that a fighter was ten times more efficient as a gunnery platform than a bomber." and: "Some commanders were quite sceptical about the effectiveness of this form of defensive armament. In April 1943 Colonel Claude E. Putnam, commander of the 306th BG, gave as his opinion that four gunners needed to fire simultaneously at an enemy fighter to have a 50% probability to bring it down. Worse, he estimated that to only one in ten of the gunners who theoretically had a firing opportunity actually opened fire. His colleague of the 308th BG, T.R. Milton, shared his doubts, and feared that the defensive guns were often more a hazard than a protection, because the danger of “friendly fire” in a dense formation was high." On a vaguely related note, I may do a brief article on German Wilde Sau/Zahme Sau night fighter tactics, as well as other exotic methods of bringing down bombers, including dropping time-fused bombs into bomber formations, etc.




oscar989

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#7 12 years ago

I think this is one of the coolest German prasite fighter projects. A Arado 234 was too take a little rocket parasite fighter called the Arado E. 381, take up above allied bombers, and then release it. The fighter would fly around a bit, shoot up some bombers, and then glide back down to earth. They actually took a wood mock-up into the air and tested it, but they decided to cancle the project and the war was pretty much lost at this time. http://www.luft46.com/arado/are381.html gm381-1.jpggm381-4.jpg




Gauntlet

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#8 12 years ago

Hey, Fuzzy? Ever heard about the B-24 modified with an B-17's nose?

http://www.ww2forum.net/WW2Films/B-17_nose_on_a_B-24.wmv




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#9 12 years ago

i want to know more about this plane

04038.jpg



Fuzzy Bunny

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#10 12 years ago

GauntletHey, Fuzzy? Ever heard about the B-24 modified with an B-17's nose?[/quote]

Yeah--saw a reference to it on one of the forums I searched when looking for pics today, and didn't pursue it further. Cool idea, though. Makes sense, given that the B-24 had weak forward firepower compared with the B-17G chin turret.

[quote=ANZACSAS]i want to know more about this plane

That's a Short Stirling. Mainly relegated to towing target gliders and reconaissance later in the war. Look it up.

oscar989: that rocks, nice find. luft46.com has some great junk like that. Too bad a lot of it never went past concept stage (viz. Amerika Bomber :-)