Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

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Dave Saxton
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Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:33 pm

I was thinking this morning about the factors that resulted in the defeat of Germany by April 1945 as oppossed to later. The common denominator on all fronts during the war's later phase is the collapse of the Luftwaffe in early 1944. There are of course many different reasons combined that brought about Germany's defeat; the Battle of the Atlantic and the defeat of the U-boats, Stalingrad, Kursk, Barbarossa to start with, El Alemein, Overlord....Nonetheless, beginning with the Battle of Britain right up to end the common denominator is the inadequacies of the Luftwaffe.

The Luftwaffe was built mainly as a close support system for offensive operations of ground/panzer forces during Blitzkrieg warfare. The close support aircraft depended on local air superiority and the German fighters were well suited to provide it. However, when the time came engage in strategic air warfare and to project airpower over distances, or over the sea lanes, the Luftwaffe was suddenly out of its element, as proven by the Battle of Britain.

Likewise, the Luftwaffe was not well suited for a long war of attrition. They never developed long range heavy bombers or effective long range escort fighters. Once the Luftwaffe was overstretched on broad fronts it did not provide support, or even protection, of naval forces at sea, or even in their bases. Goering's denial of a seperate naval airforce under naval command, even a coastal force, cost the Germans dearly.

The organization of the Luftwaffe did not provide a steady supply of highly trained replacement pilots as was needed in long term air warfare during WWII. The Luftwaffe put up a good fight in defence of the fatherland its self for sometime, but when the Allies finally went after their fuel supplies and forced the German day fighters to fight against the bomber offensives with escort fighters, and give up daily losses it quickly collapsed. This paved the way for the invasion. During last year of the war the Allies enjoyed air superiority anywhere in Europe. Needless to say it made operations or even survival of the Kriegsmarine impossible.

Is my thinking here off base?
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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by frontkampfer » Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:10 am

Dave,

I concur on all your points! The failure of the Luftwaffe to project deep behind enemy lines, coordinate with the KM in vital maritime operations, provide front as well as homeland support while providing for adequate replacement planning was what doomed it to failure. The Japanese had many of the same issues and suffered the same fate. Placed side by side, allies vs axis, one strategy over time produced victory while the other ultimately led to defeat.
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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by alecsandros » Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:40 pm

Hello ,
I would think mostly about shortages in pilots, and then in fuel and raw materials.

Coordonation between navy and air force was just a theory for all major powers which fought the war [sinking of Repulse and Prince of Wales anyone ?], and the strategic bombing offensives were incredibly costly undertankings, which required enormous amounts of resources with questionable results.
The Russians did not have a strategic air arm either, and still they got their job done, by wining the land war.

I consider the Luftwaffe as a very effective organization, which helped enormously the war effort. The big battles lost by the Luftwaffe (Battle of Britain, Battle for North Africa, defence of the Fatherland), were lost due to insuficient manpower and planes in comparison with the enemies. [I doubt the Luftwaffe could "win" the Battle of Britain, meaning elimintating the RAF in less than 1 year, just as the combined US+British strategic air offensive over occupied Europe lasted over 2,5 years before "kneeling" the Luftwaffe]

Just remember the devastation done during 1st and 2nd raids over Schweinfurt, were almost 50% of all USAAF bombers present were destroyed, scrapped or heavily damaged. [all USAAF raids were cancelled for 5 months after that !]
But the number of available pilots for the defence of the Fatherland could not hope to match that of the CommonWealth+USA. Also, the number of serviceable fighters could not hope to match that of the USAAF + RAF.

Thus, they slowly lost during this attrition war.

my opinion...

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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Dec 04, 2013 3:55 pm

The Luftwaffe had some of the best and most skilled personal in the world and most of their equipment were good throughout. For example, in the hands of skilled pilot the BF-109 was still competetive late war and the FW-190 should be ranked along with such as the Spitfire and the Mustang among fighters. In defense, the Jagdwaffe under Galland performed extremely well as long as they could.

However, what I'm really talking about is what roles the Luftwaffe was designed for. It was not well suited to project offensive power beyond the ground battle field, particularly in a naval context in the west and the Med. It never developed the capability to bomb Soviet industry and transportation/staging infrastructure.

It may have been that they did not have the resources and numbers of skilled personal to build both a tactical and a strategic airforce. Add to this the imperative of absolutely needing a naval airforce under naval command. But Goeing's lust for power and control didn't help in this regard.
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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by tommy303 » Thu Dec 05, 2013 12:25 am

The Russians did not have a strategic air arm either, and still they got their job done, by wining the land war.
Actually the Russians did, by proxy anyways--the Royal Airforce and the United States Army Air Force. The British night-time strategic bombing campaign and the USAAF daylight precision bombing campaign directly affected the German situation on the Russian Front by striking at the German supply and production centers. This made development of a Russian strategic bomber force unnecessary and they could concentrate on a tactical air arm to influence war on the ground.

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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by alecsandros » Thu Dec 05, 2013 6:59 am

... The bombings certainly helped the Russians in their efforts, but they would have got the job done regardless of that.
The German collapse in the east started 1 year before the strategic air offensive started to bear fruit...

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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by alecsandros » Thu Dec 05, 2013 7:21 am

Dave Saxton wrote: However, what I'm really talking about is what roles the Luftwaffe was designed for. It was not well suited to project offensive power beyond the ground battle field, particularly in a naval context in the west and the Med. It never developed the capability to bomb Soviet industry and transportation/staging infrastructure.
It may have been that they did not have the resources and numbers of skilled personal to build both a tactical and a strategic airforce. Add to this the imperative of absolutely needing a naval airforce under naval command. But Goeing's lust for power and control didn't help in this regard.
A naval airforce... would have been a formidable weapon... And having 2 carriers early in the war... equipped with the naval variants of the Me109 and Ju87 would have been remarkable...

But I don not know if the strategic air force would be a feasible weapons for the Germans... They were fighting a very fast-paced war, with tanks claiming up to 500km/week. The heavy bombers needed dedicated airfields and logistics, that could not be set up fast enough for them to catch up with the mobile land forces. In the first 6 weeks of Barbarossa, the German units penetrated over 1500km from the Russian border. [the GErmans lost the war in the east because the ITalians failed to stand their ground in Africa, and the Japanese did not threaten the eastern borders of the bolsheviks. Imagine Rommell's force attacking along with Manstein's armored corps and crushing the soviet ring which encircled Stalingrad... ]

I still believe the Luftwaffe was deadly effective in most of her missions... What made things bad, and then worse, was the lack of concentration of the German air force.
For instance, during the final stages of the Battle of Britain, several hundred front-line aircraft were withdrawn and deployed in the Balkans, to help the land forces.
Later in the war, the Luftwaffe was fighting in North Africa, the eastern front, and also protecting the skies of France and the lower countries.
They could not hope to keep up with that....

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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by alecsandros » Thu Dec 05, 2013 11:36 am

Dave Saxton wrote:The Luftwaffe had some of the best and most skilled personal in the world and most of their equipment were good throughout. For example, in the hands of skilled pilot the BF-109 was still competetive late war and the FW-190 should be ranked along with such as the Spitfire and the Mustang among fighters. In defense, the Jagdwaffe under Galland performed extremely well as long as they could.
... I think the Me-109K and FW-190D were overall superior aircraft to the late-war Spitfires and Mustangs. They lacked the range of the ALlied fighters, but they carried a much heavier armament.

At the same time, the Me-262 was head and shoulders above the Tempest, Meteor, and any other contemporary fighter.

Cronic lack of pilots, fuel and spare parts made the technological advance of the Luftwaffe insufficient to make a lasting impression on the war.

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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Dec 05, 2013 2:20 pm

alecsandros wrote:Later in the war, the Luftwaffe was fighting in North Africa, the eastern front, and also protecting the skies of France and the lower countries.
They could not hope to keep up with that....
Correct. They did not plan for the scale of the war they got stuck with. They had built up a formidable tactical and close support airforce, but their planning turned out to be short sighted. Still they did a remarkable job of improvisation. For example, they developed an effective night fighting capability during the war to meet a demand not really foreseen.
A naval airforce... would have been a formidable weapon... And having 2 carriers early in the war... equipped with the naval variants of the Me109 and Ju87 would have been remarkable...
Carriers would have been nice to have, but even a relatively small coastal naval airforce under naval command would have been quite useful and made a difference in terms of security of bases, and of warships and U-boats operating in the North Sea, Bay of Biscay, Artic, and the Med..... The Ju-88 was an amazingly versatile and effective aircraft, but a naval airforce operating from ashore would still need the development of a larger (more capable than the Kondor) long range heavy marine bomber much like the B-24, to take it a step farther for an offensive capability in support of offensive naval campaigns. Then this brings along the need for a longe range fighter and not a BF-110. But this would have been in competition to the heavy production needs of the Luftwaffe itself once the war started and progressed the way it did. The Luftwaffe did have finite numbers of some excellent flying boats such as the B&V- 138 and so forth
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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by alecsandros » Thu Dec 05, 2013 6:58 pm

As I was thinking about your considerations, I realised that I do not know of any long range daylight fighter aircraft produced for the Luftwaffe. The high hopes for the Me-110 proved misplaced, as it failed to obtain the air superiority it was designed to do. It became, later on, a very good defensive night-fighter, but that was about it.

A day-time long range fighter was never produced... The Allies had the Tempest, Typhoon, Spitfire Mk IX, Thunderbolt, Lightining, Mustang, all of which had considerably larger range than the Me-109 and FW190... I wonder why ?

===

About the land-based naval aviation: something of the sort was developed, but never in the dimension required.
I'm thinking about the torpedo-planes and dive bombers sent to attack shiping in the Mediteranean and in the Arctic...
With more dedication, and a true naval command (and coordination with the naval forces), the He-111s and Ju-88s could have been formidable. Yet, the lack of a long-range escort fighter would be, once again, a great deterrent to the effectiveness of such a force: when attacking convoys, or task forces, that were covered by carriers, the bombers were easy prey for the enemy fighters... they needed protection, that was not available....

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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Dec 05, 2013 9:18 pm

The only fighters I know of which had the type of range required were the P-38, P-51, the recon Mossy, and the Zero. Not sure about Hellcats and Corsairs with their big guzzling radials? The Spitfire could get that kind of range if it carried extra fuel tanks instead of any weapons as in the recon versions. The P-47 even with belly tanks could only make it as far as Achen. (Which reminds I got flown over by a P-47D in 56th Group livery a couple months ago-they are big).

The P-38 and Mossy are of course twin engines but can carry more fuel than a single engine fighter because of the larger wings and fusalage. (plus Allison and especially Merlin V12s are relatively fuel efficient. Big R2800 radial engines are usually not). This was the concept behind the Twin Mustang; even though it had two engines it could carry even more fuel per engine than a single engine Mustang. In one test an F-82 flew from Honolulu to IIRC NYC non stop (if not New York maybe Denver? or Kansas City?).

The German twin engine fighter replacement for the 110 was the ill fated Me-210/410 which had all kinds of problems and a protracted development. But it was still designed with close air support of panzers in mind.

Messerschmitt built a few twin 109s called the Me-109Z in a concept like the Twin Mustang, but the 1st prototype was destroyed by a bombing raid in 1943 and by late 1943 there was no point in producing a long range fighter anymore. Really Messerschmitt should have dropped all other production except the 262 even before then.

But if the Kriegsmarine had need for a long range fighter who is to say that some company in Germany could not design one from a fresh sheet of paper?
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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by ede144 » Thu Dec 05, 2013 9:28 pm

The Luftwaffe had plans for a strategic bomber like the Ju 89 as early as 1936. After Walter Wever died, plans were changed because one could build 2.5 medium bomber like the HE111 for one Ju89. In the 30s the HE 111 was faster than Allied fighters.The LLuftwaffe did count on it. And did not develop a long range fighter

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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Dec 05, 2013 9:30 pm

alecsandros wrote:... I think the Me-109K and FW-190D were overall superior aircraft to the late-war Spitfires and Mustangs. .
The 109K got saddled with those terrible under wing gun tubs that ruined its performance, but without those the K was indeed a hot number. The 190D lost some of the agility of the A models but it was faster. Trade offs....
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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Dec 05, 2013 9:41 pm

ede144 wrote:The Luftwaffe had plans for a strategic bomber like the Ju 89 as early as 1936. After Walter Wever died, plans were changed because one could build 2.5 medium bomber like the HE111 for one Ju89. In the 30s the HE 111 was faster than Allied fighters.The LLuftwaffe did count on it. And did not develop a long range fighter
Ede, do you have any info on the Ju-89?
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Re: Formula for defeat? The Luftwaffe

Post by Byron Angel » Fri Dec 06, 2013 1:06 am

alecsandros wrote:... The bombings certainly helped the Russians in their efforts, but they would have got the job done regardless of that.
The German collapse in the east started 1 year before the strategic air offensive started to bear fruit...
..... A component of the German failure in the East that is not often discussed is the withdrawal not only of numerous fighter formations, but also the withdrawal of numerous bomber groups, whose pilots were re-assigned to fighter duty in defence of the homeland. Tactical air support was a very important part of German armored forces tactical doctrine and the departure of the bombers from the Eastern battlefront was deeply felt.

B

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