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Luftwaffe Zeros?

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by Gromit801, Aug 27, 2009.

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  1. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Here's an interesting "What If" that was inspired by Saburo Sakai.

    He stated that if the Germans had A6M2's during the Battle of Britain, the outcome might have been different.

    The A6M saw it operational debut in September, 1940. Certainly in the right timeframe.

    It had the range to rove all over the UK, and was certainly more maneuverable than the Spitfire or Hurricane, as was proven when the RAF fielded both aircraft in the early days of the Pacific.

    British pilots early on didn't appreciate the Zero's performance, and got their heads handed to them until they paid heed to the guys that had been flying P-40's, and NOT dogfighting the Japanese. Based on an RAF squadron that had fought the Germans, and expected the Zero to be meat on the table. The table turned in a big way.

    So think in terms of 1940. The Germans have a fighter that had the range to attack the RAF anywhere in the UK, stay with the bombers, pretty much the same firepower as the Me-109, not as fast or a high ceiling as the Spitfire.

    How long would it take the RAF to figure out the hit and run tactics to fight the Zero, before they were decimated. They were already teetering by September 1940.
     
  2. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    To add....

    If the Luftwaffe had been able to establish air superiority over the UK, that would have put the RN at great risk, and possibly an alteration to Operation Sealion, the addition of paratroop and glider landings at key airfirelds in perhaps East Anglia. If British attention was drawn to the southern coast where the landings would have taken place, it's conceivable that heavily escorted Ju-52's could have dropped troops to take a few airfields, and then run relay's to resupply and reinforce.

    It's worked later on in Crete. Wasn't pretty, but it worked.
     
  3. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    With all due respect to Sakai, I suspect that the Luftwaffe would have done to the A6M just what the USN did to the Brewster "Buffalo". Loaded it down with pilot armor and self-sealing fuel tanks to the point it was a "dog" instead of a "figther".

    When the Brewster was first tested it out performed the Grumann offering, and "Pappy" Boyinton was one of the test pilots. He said (paraphrasing); "The Brewster handles like a sports car, the Grumann like a truck".

    When the US Navy got done loading it down the Brewster was the dog. The Finns excellent results with the plane were due to their versions being the "un-improved" models (231?), without the USN required armor and such. They called it the "Pearl of the sky", and had an enviable record against all Soviet comers in the Winter War.
     
  4. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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    But then again what worked at Crete against the Medeterranian fleet might not be enough against the Home Fleet and a strike to the British Homeland. In other words look what the RN sacraficed to get their troops back to Egypt now imagine what the RN would do to stop an invasion of the Homeland and did the Luftwaffe at this time have much training at attacking warships or guarding an invasion fleet on this scale? Furthermore I'm thinking the Luftwaffe lost alot of it's transports when invading the netherlands so just how much airlift would the Luftwaffe have????
     
  5. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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    Now as far as Spitfires/Hurricanes versus Zero's over the UK there's just one problem the A6M/2 wasn't in service yet just the A6M/1. Now as far as actual historical combat results go over Darwin even when the Spitfire V's(which have better performance compared to the Spitfires used during the BoB by the way) changed their tatics from dogfighting they still were on the loosing end. Of course the 202nd. Kentai,which were the opponents over Darwin,were very first rate and I'm sure that's one reason they did so well.
     
  6. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    You're quite right, my mistake. Should be A6M1.
     
  7. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    Wrong timeframe.

    The 15 A6M's sent to China in September 1940 were the only operational A6M's at that time.
    So unless a total of 15 A6M's were going to win the battle for the Luftwaffe, the battle is too early for the A6M to make a difference.

    ps; given the extra time needed to ship the A6M's halfway around the world, its unlikely that even these 15 would have seen any service before the end of the battle.


    pps; How are the A6M's or any other Axis aircraft going to stop the RN from wiping out any invasion fleet if the RN attacks during the hours of darkness ?
     
  8. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    Indeed. RAF fighter Command only had 150 more operational Spitfires and Hurricanes, and an extra 200 operational pilots in September than they did at the start of the battle. ;)
     
  9. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    A lot of those extra bodies by then, were the kids with only a handful of hours on the AC. Imagine a sudden influx of an unknown type of EA, more maneuverable than the Spit, and with the flight endurance to hang about until the RAF had to land to rearm and refuel. Sitting ducks on the field.
     
  10. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Well let's say in the course of this "What If," the A6M's were unchanged beyond paint, markings, and maybe radios.
     
  11. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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    Yep and Crete showed just what the RN would do except on a much more massive scale if their Home Islands were invaded.
     
  12. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    How about a much larger Luftwaffe fleet of bombers? Escorted by fighters with as much range?

    No more coastal command to harass U-Boats (remember, the Germans now have air superiority over all of the UK.), just the Luftwaffe and floating targets.
     
  13. Chesehead121

    Chesehead121 Member

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    To be honest, I think the Luftwaffe could have dumped a couple of atomic bombs on Britain and they could have shrugged it off XD. But you bring up an interesting point. Honestly, it wouldn't have mattered. Here's what i'm thinking....... *floats into dream world*...
    Scenario: Somewhere in 1940. The british are being eaten by the Luftwaffe in the skies and on the ground because of the A6M. Now since Japan seemed to really hate America, they would have declared war in 1941, day which will live in infamy, etc. Sooooo, after learning the tactics in the Pacific in, say, 1942? Is that fair? They would have taught it to the Brits and gave them the expertise they needed to do the exact same thing that we did in the Pacific. Lay down the law.
     
  14. Chesehead121

    Chesehead121 Member

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    (sorry I couldn't put this in an earlier post) And btw I think the Brits could have held out until 1942 :D
     
  15. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    The AM2 was fragile and under gunned. From its debute over China & into 1942 the sucess of this aircraft depended more on pilot skill than its advantages. The Japanese naval pilots were well trained, used tactics superior to the largely inexperinced Allied pilots of early 1942, an the IJN pilots were mostly combat veterans. As 1942 passed the Allied fighter wings made significant changes in their tactics drawn from experince and the ratio of Allied victorys over the AM2 increased.

    Vs Britain in 1940 the difference in experience and tactics between the German and British fighter pilots was not so great. This would remove much of the advantage seen in the Pacific or Asia in the early war. The Germans would certainly use their own cannon/MG designs on the aircraft. That would mean a slightly heavier gun/MG and possibly more ammo, leading to a weight increase.

    While the AM2 in the hands of a German pilot with superior skills would be a advantage in one on one combat the fragility of the machine would lead to higher losses of German pilots over several weeks & months. In the BoB pilot replacements were one of the critical resources the Germans could not keep up with. Increasing the loss rate of fighter pilots is not a good thing for the Luftwaffe.
     
  16. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Take plane vs plane performance aside. I find the idea of a plane in the hands of the Luftwaffe, that could stay with the bombers anywhere they wanted to go in the UK, very intriguing. Not having to leave the bombers unprotected because they ran low of fuel, able to protect them to industries in the midlands and back. Able to bomb and strafe training fields, etc.
     
  17. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Intriguing or not, probably not that much of a "battle changer". I think the problem here with the early model of the A6M in the BoB is that there were few of them available at the time, and while they were agile, they were flammable and under armored. They didn’t fare all that well against our (American) F4F Wildcat, and it would be very hard pressed to defeat a Spitfire if the pilots were equal. The early failures of the Hurricanes against the Japanese fighters in the PTO was more tactics than inferior planes or pilots.

    It has always been common belief that the Japanese Navy's frontline fighter, the legendary A6M Zero, was superior to the Wildcat. And in many ways it was. The A6M3 Zero's top speed was 336 mph (later models reached 354), better then the F4F-4's 318 mph. Although the Wildcat could turn well, it couldn't turn with the extremely agile Zero. The A6M3, with its best climb of 4,500 ft/min., could easily out climb the Wildcat. It also out ranged it, with a range of 1,480 miles to the Wildcat's 770. It's armament was debatably better, two 7.7mm machine guns and two Type 99 20mm cannons (although the latter fired slowly and were only effective at close range).

    On the other hand, the F4F-4 had some advantages. It could power dive faster than the Zero; Wildcats could sustain a dive that would shear the wings off a Zero. The Wildcat also had a superior roll rate. Its airframe was sturdier than the Zero's, and it could survive considerably more battle damage. The F4F-4 had self-sealing fuel tanks, which the Zero lacked. American pilots found the lightly built, unprotected Zero would flame easily, and often disintegrate under the fire from their six .50 machine guns. Also, the F4F-4 had a service ceiling of 39,400 feet, the A6M3 topped out at 36,250 feet. And, of course, the F4F had armor to protect its pilot, while the Zero didn't.

    See:

    F4F WILDCAT

    And let’s not forget that the Hurricane and Spitfire would be fighting over their own territory, and they were probably superior fighters to the Navy’s Wildcat, which still had a nearly 2 to 1 kill advantage over the Zero (I’ve seen about 1.1 to 1, as well as 3 to 1 kill ratios). It might have taken the RAF a few failures to get the message as to tactics to use against the A6M, as they did in the first encounters with the Luftwaffe’s Bf-109 in their "finger four" flights. But they surely would have figured the A6Ms out just as the USAAF and USN did.
     
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  18. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    Assuming the Germans had used them according to your post, the Zeros would have been quite formidable in German hands, for a while, and might even have turned the battle. The British pilots would have taken a while to change their tactics to meet the smaller, and more nimble zero that was now escorting the German bombers all the way to the targets and back, and with plenty of fuel left over for lots of dogfighting.

    The japanese guy you cite has a good point since the main, possibly decisive, disadvantage of the Me-109 in the Battle of Britain was its short range; and the Zero had a very long range (1,000 miles). The Me-109 carried only 75 gallons of fuel (in the tank behind the pilot). In 1940 nobody had thought to fit drop tanks to their fighters, those came alot later.

    This oversight probably cost the Luftwaffe the Battle of Britain since no decent fighters could accompany the German bombers, only the clumsy and unmaneuverable twin engine Me-110, which was meat on the table even for a Hurricane.
     
  19. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    The short range of the Bf 109 only became a problem when the focus of the attack moved from the airfields of 11 Group RAF to London, before then the Bf 109 had enough range to accomplish the missions assigned to it.

    The simple truth is that the range of the Bf 109 played no part in the failure of the Luftwaffe to defeat 11 Group RAF Fighter Command in SW England.
     
  20. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    The early A6M (BoB time) simply wasn't that big a deal, and there weren't many of them to spare either.

    The A6M lost maneuverability at speeds over 260 mph (418 km/h) or at altitudes above 15,000 feet, and the Zero’s radial engine coupled with its large propeller generated huge torque resistance, so that its roll rate was much slower to the right than the left as that was against the direction of the prop and engine crankshaft spin. This meant that the A6M could turn on a "dime" to the left (with the torque), but not to the right. It wouldn’t have taken the RAF long to discover that little flaw. In order to save even more weight many of the piss-poor radio telephones of the Japanese were removed to make the plane faster. In the Battle of Britain radio communication would have been paramount. The Luftwaffe wouldn't have put a pilot into a craft with no radio, no armor, and no self-sealing fuel tanks. All of which would have deleted any advantage the Zero had.

    The first model A6M was so fragile that no larger engine could be installed than the puny 950 hp Nakajima Sakae, and that required an overhaul every 150 hours of flight time. So let’s see here; Flammable, non-communicado, fragile, under powered, under armored, under armed (two 303 machine guns were often ineffective against Allied aircraft), their cannons were only effective at close range, only left turns with speed, and wings that would tear off in a power dive.

    The Zero’s armament was much better on paper than in practice. Although the 20mm cannon shells packed a lot of punch, they were of very low muzzle velocity, reducing their accuracy. They also had a rather low rate of fire. Perhaps this was just as well, given the ammunition load of just 60 rounds per cannon. Bergerud quotes Sakai Saburo, the second highest scoring Japanese ace to survive the war:
    Our 20mm cannons were big, heavy and slow firing. It was extremely hard to hit a moving target. Shooting down an enemy aircraft was like hitting a dragonfly with a rifle! It was never easy to score ... our opponents were tough.​
    (Bergerud, Eric M. Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific. Boulder, CO: Westview Press)
     
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