posted on Jul, 19 2005 @ 04:39 AM
The Gladiator could outperform all other WW2 fighters in exactly two areas, loop and turn. It was still early enough in the war, and biplanes were
just recent enough, that no-one had yet proved that speed CAN ALWAYS be used to an advantage over manouverability IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING and
HAVE TRAINED FOR IT. For this exact reason when Me 262 appeared Mosquito ran like hell and Mustang hunted it when it was on final approach.
I think a Haybusa with the butterfly flaps would put in a good score. In any case, fighters win in pairs using double attack or loose deuce methods
to bleed the threat down on the first turn and then shoot the strafe rag in #2. In this, the Axis fighters were crippled by low ammo loads and poor
layout of guns IMO, as the best way to force and 'airspeed, altitude, ideas' kill on a super agile threat is to saturate the volume where it /could
be/ rather than pressing in to fill-the-canopy range where every foot of offset is lead error is magnified at 200-300fps. Wing guns using point
harmonization to spread out 300rpg of .50 caliber actually beats the 'nose on perfect' approach of a 109 or 190 and certainly the majority of bipes.
Of course they were getting hard over thoughts of Spitfires. Galland got hard over thoughts of Spitfires. Aussies stuck with Wirraway trainers and
Boomerangs got hard over thoughts of Spitfire. But that doesn't change the fact that in this one case biplanes killed monos. But we immediately get
into the caveats, ifs, buts and qualifications.
Which is why I qualified my F-4 answer as 'against the widest spread of historical entanglements'. Leave it this way then, if FH&C had faced /any
other/ threat, would they have been dominant? _Dominant_ to the point where they not only won but pushed the enemy back and thus succeeded in
defeating the threat to whatever it was they were PDI protecting?
But back to earlier, Gladiator and Harrier are two cases of pilots using the strengths of their aircraft against the deficiencies of their opponents'
flying. (So I guess we agree about pilot skill then.)
The SHAR won for three reasons:
1. Because the AIM-9L gave it competent ALASCA functionality at all levels including fairly dense saturated low level backgrounds. Again noting that
the only 'near-effective' FQ attack was actually an R530 or P3 off an Argie Mirage which forced a SHAR pilot to put his jet into a 10,000ft dive
from which the missile STILL steamed by at danger close distances because junior _had no flares_).
2. Argie High Command failed the numero uno of air warfare which is to secure operational penetration airspace and then _saturate_ the target with as
many jets as possible. In the end, using my earlier example, this is easy to do so long as every jet there is effectively a light weight fighter
bomber. Because the Argies can afford to do 1:1 trades with the RN. Even 2:1. Just so long as they bust the CAP over the amphib anchorage long
enough to get a decent surround sound attack going which ALSO destroys the AAW escorts with their miserable Seacat and clutter bound Seawolf
3. Having failed to do 2, the Argentinians then pulled the Mirage assets out entirely and thus failed to 'get' that they could no longer afford to
do long sortie interval raids when what they had (again, _in place available_) was the best secondary option, using FFAR and cannon. In this it
should be noted that for all the publicity it got, the raids on Pebbles and Goose Green were attacks on airpower that had largely already been
destroyed by air days before such that, while the Argies were foolish in neither massing NOR dispersing (behind or under every civillian building they
could find) their available airpower; the Brits wasted massive SOF efforts on targets that were so huge, any 'normal' infantry asset could have
taken them. While missing out on the TPS-44, the Skyguard, the Commandancia (Governor's House) and of course the Exocet.
IOW: You are talking as much about command mistakes in doctrine that led to poor deployment of forces. Poor utilization of airpower. And
_indecisive_ displays of capability by either pilots or airframes.
Such is not how one rates a fighter's capability. Not ever. Because you are simply measuring the depth of your enemy's mistakes. Not your own
tactical innovation. Or the ability of a platform to meet the 'new need' that you create for it.
Given that the pilots sharing the three Gladiators were able to play their tricks at all, let alone survive multiple missions, what would the result
have been if there had been a couple of squadrons of the things on the island? (Probably the Italians would have been mauled the first time and the
Germans come riding straight to their rescue, thereby dooming two complete squadrons to swift deaths.)
The Italians were incompetent baboons that didn't half hardly 'begin to fight' until we hit some of their elite mountain troops crawling up the
boot. Yet the Germans were the real idiots because not only was Malta an obvious 'fort in the wilderness' that they could not allow to freely
ravage both air and sea support. But it was also largely unnecessary for them to BE THERE. at all. If I want Alex and the Canal, I don't come
halfway across the freakin' Libyan desert! I go through Turkey and Palestine and thus expose the soft petro-belly of the trans-Caucausus' region
and Sevastopol from the SEA SIDE.
God knows, they'd bled heavily enough getting Crete and making the Aegian into a Nazi pond as a function of their /last/ bailout of the Italian's in
Greece. For pities sake, it only takes ONE glance at a map to see that the shortest LAND route (no torpedoes, no radio comms intercepts) is in fact
the 'long way round'. Not least because that also potentially gives you the 100 years backward (we're talking cavalry here folks) states of the
Persian Gulf and a chance to flip the bird to the Brits and their 'Empire Never Sets' naval superiority by sortieing out of the PG.
Sigh. Having said that, the way you beat back airpower of any sort is to mass, mass, mass, mass. Rinse and Repeat. Push their DCA effort so hard
that you eventually start getting them in the sortie regeneration turnaround.
You can magnify this effect, if you know the local threat is incredibly weak in it's VnE, by coming in high and low, fast and slow, surround sound,
to pull the intercept away from the very base it's defending. You can further aid your efforts by making use of 'Sunrise Further East' and 'Range
over Threat' (illuminated bomber airfields) to hit the enemy while they are just getting up. Or after they expect you have ceased air operations for
The key here is most likely that Hitler bled his precious little Fallschirmjaeger's white and thus Malta was never more than a sidebet while he
prosecuted his Lebensraum campaign.
But in any case, the moment your enemy can mass airpower over you sufficient to make you have to /land/ under attack; it's time to shelter or
disperse and conserve assets for the inevitable sea or airborne landing repulsion effort.
There is no pride in dying by inches, no matter how 'brave a front' you put up. Because if Kesselring and/or Hitler had gotten their act together
or even bothered to /read/ what their AARs were saying, they would have steamrolled Malta in about a week to ten days.
After all, the Germans allowed Boulton Paul Defiant a few days of flying so they could figure out ways to kill it more swiftly, allowing the crews
those few days of false confidence. As they did again against B17E when it first arrived. Take a few days, keep your distance, look it over and
discover that it's only got a pair .30 cals at the front. One bath water level moment later and you come at it head on.
I have never believed in deep penetration strategic bombing to be honest. You can't generate enough subsonic sorties of any sort to maintain
pressure and the notion that a brick falling on a multiton machine tool is going to do anything other than 'add insulation' just never seems to have
lit a bulb over anyone's head.
Indeed, I knew, ten years before DS and /twenty/ before OIF, that the rate of mechanized advance was such that you could FORCE an enemy to take to the
field in a maneuver phase to cut off vital penetrations and prevent occupation of LOC/LOT. And then butcher him as he tried to move up and array
himself, tactically, using light bombs (in numbers) from short radii and virtually ZERO high density (towed tube or sited SAM) IADS threat to worry
As a function of WWII methodology, you are looking less at the failure of airpower to provide sufficient escorts or defensive firepower/armor, than
you are the inability to _deploy it properly_.
Given that the Germans 'showed us how it's done' and then virtually abandoned in place their occupational achievements so as to go fight the Slavic
Hordes, there is simply no excuse.
For both Harris and Spaatz KNEW (from reports) the value of Transport Plan attacks as early as 1942 yet they remained ardent (hot and _heavy_)
pursuants of the Trechard/Mitchel/Douhet rnolded vision of Strategic Bombardment as a 'pure' terror/anti-production weapon approach that would avoid
And /lo the poor soul/ who thought we should fight like the Huns just had.
This is criminal because it _did not_ save lives on our side. Since we ended up losing just as many in worthless 'peripheral' theaters like Africa
and Italy. And because Hitler finally got some defenses to the Atlantic wall while generally improving his mechanized systems to the point where
(lacking air) they wiped the field with us.
All of which is pathetic. Because Circus/Rodeo/Rhubarb efforts had largely eliminated the Luftwaffe aerodromes in France by early 1943 and made the
Low Country 'BARCAP speedbump' (Tank Dumper) Luftwaffe efforts _very_ costly.
Something we could have continued to assure simply because the 109 had about 60nm combat radius (90 with tanks) and the 190 not more than about 150.
So that they came to their fights by rail.
And without real, effective, fighter-air to work with we could have chopped the bridges, blown the rail, and generally isolated the entire French
state with _equal efficiency_ (the Norden works /great/ at 10-12K) in 1943 as we did in 1944.
At which point, it doesn't matter where the fighter finds a Herraschluss weakspot. Because (adequate lead sweeps from P-38 and P-47 as a
precondition), the biggest threat is going to be flak. And that in turn should be the job of the mediums and more fighters to directly suppress.
Bluntly put, I will _never_ forgive 'Winning Winnie' (or the weak minded fool Roosevelt who listened to him) for sending U.S. to the minor leagues
for a 'year of practice' against secondary theater forces, hell bent as he was upon securing a post-war British Empire in the Med.
The ONLY way that plan works (Italy ends at the Alps idiots) is if you make a Balkans campaign attack the logistical links through SE Europe towards
the Russian front. And there was no reason to help the Russians gain what we've subsequently spent FIFTY YEARS (and trillion$ more) retaking,
'armed peacefully'. When their sole moral contribution to the war was switching sides after finding out there is no honor among bad guys.
There simply was no need to be playing around elsewhere. Not when we could have been on the Continent no later than summer 1943.
And in Berlin by Spring 1944.
In this, the one 'fighter relevant' thing that the Series-60 Merlin Spit (with the power to take a combat tank) would bring would be ease of fighter
sweep reach over most of the Western occupieds. While the Lightning and TBolt could have served as 'U.S. Mosquitoes' in supporting small, company
sized, deployments of forces which retired to NGS sheltered areas at night. And in the day /dared/ the Germans to come looking for a fight under an
aluminum overcast of airpower. Until we decided which commando forces we wanted to expand into real beacheads.
Here too, it's not so much the pilot or the crate but the /doctrine/ which fails to highlight a significant winner among the many also-rans of
improperly deployed and utilized fighter airpower.