Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

The Luftwaffe and "four engined" bombers

Discussion in 'What If - Other' started by T. A. Gardner, Nov 9, 2007.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,945
    Likes Received:
    764
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    It is often brought up that had the Luftwaffe developed a four engine bomber and had a "strategic bombing" capacity that it would have had a significant impact on the outcome of the war. Assume that the Germans do develop such an aircraft....feel free to pick one or several of the prototypes or small run designs they did produce to use as the basis of this discussion...and deploy it in some strength.
    The questions here are: Could the Germans have maintained such a force in operations? Would such a force of aircraft have made an operational or strategic difference? How would such an aircraft be deployed? Against what targets?
     
  2. chocapic

    chocapic Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2006
    Messages:
    723
    Likes Received:
    48
    Given the actual figures dor combat aircraft production in Germany, as long as their life expectancy and the fuel issue, I reach the conclusion that their average strategic bomber would have been fit with only 2,32 running engines out of 4, and enough fuel to make a 152 miles range mission per day.

    The shortage in trained crewmembers would have forced the pilots to switch to tailgunner and stewardess roles during each sortie.

    More seriously, I think that WWII strategic bombers could have any impact only if used in very large numbers.

    And I think that the design, production, use and maintainance of such a very large number of strategic bombers was out of reach for Germany, unless they make some huge cuts in more important domains.

    The USSR case is interesting, as a comparison.

    USSR was a pioneer in long range heavy bombers just before the war.

    But USSR was unable to to organise a rational wide scale production of heavy bombers during the war, given the fact that their industry had to be devoted to the "frontline", and could not allow itself to divert a significant part of ressources to a strategic bomber force, whose efficiency was questionable.

    I think that, from 1941 on, with its historical industrial output, Germany coud not afford the luxury of a strategic bomber force.
     
    Za Rodinu likes this.
  3. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Messages:
    8,809
    Likes Received:
    372
    Location:
    Portugal
    To add to Terry's postulation, and in order to avoid killing discussion in the egg I'd like to add the following:

    a) Disregard the fuel issue
    b) Disregard the lack of trained crews issue
     
  4. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

    Joined:
    May 13, 2001
    Messages:
    14,439
    Likes Received:
    617
    and ............. open the can of worms please............dealing with four engines or jet, wonder if the bombing campaign would of been brought to Americas seaboard then ... ? I apoligise if I am tainting Terry's original thought(s)
     
  5. Shadow Master

    Shadow Master Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2006
    Messages:
    287
    Likes Received:
    19
    Another excellent question! :)

    I'll look at this question from my own {warped} point of view, of course.

    Lets take a look at what a large bomber force could do for Germany from a 'target first' perspective.

    I can think of two different targets classes; Industrial (Strategic) bombing and Naval Aviation (Anti-Shipping) bombing.

    Looking at Germany's primary enemies (UK, US, USSR), only some of the UK's industry would have been within bomber range. Most European Russian Industry had been relocated east of the Urals, and virtually all of the US Industry would be out of range. Add to this the defending fighter force, as well as anti aircraft attrition, and Strategic bombers for Germany do not look too attractive too me.

    IMO, a naval aviation force (capable of operating outside allied land based aircraft range) that target merchant shipping would make the most of Germany's aircraft production capacity. At least in this regard, you would make the allied (land based) fighters irrelevant.

    Other things to consider as pro's and con's:
    Over enemy soil, your planes/pilots are lost while those of your enemies may well fly again. Over water, Both sides downed planes are lost.

    Any thoughts?
     
    Za Rodinu and Slipdigit like this.
  6. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

    Joined:
    May 13, 2001
    Messages:
    14,439
    Likes Received:
    617
    I'll go back like tErry mentioned which 4 engine in the LW arsenall would be capable of having the range and the payload equal to the US B-17/B-24 and the RAF Lancaster/Halifax as examples

    Ju 290 ?, Fw 200 Kondor ? or ......... that is alot of ocean to scream over at 20-25 feet of height for many miles to attack Americas eastern seaboard, and even ther everse towards the eastern area of the Soviet Union and beyond
     
  7. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    May 21, 2007
    Messages:
    17,654
    Likes Received:
    2,202
    Location:
    Alabama
    Good point, Shadow. I put a ding on scales for you.
     
  8. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

    Joined:
    May 13, 2001
    Messages:
    14,439
    Likes Received:
    617
    Depends totally on the year, the US had no local defense for something like this at the time period of the Blitz-schlacht of Poland era.....had the LW been able to stab right to Moscows heart, one can imagine the terribleness that would of been further inflcited in the east
     
  9. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Messages:
    8,809
    Likes Received:
    372
    Location:
    Portugal
    Judging by the Japanese success or lack thereof, I don't think it would work, considering the Allied ability in building escort (and bigger) carriers and things to put on them.
     
  10. FramerT

    FramerT Ace

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    Messages:
    1,570
    Likes Received:
    37
    I think even if they could find a bomber with the range to make it to the east coast and back, first, they had no fighters that could cover them so they'd be on their own.
    After 2-3 attacks, the USAAF would have fighters stationed to intercept. Even a 'wounded' bomber would have a hard time trying to make it back across the Atlantic.
    And we could move our factories further west out of range if need be.
     
  11. tikilal

    tikilal Ace

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2007
    Messages:
    1,133
    Likes Received:
    66
    Gah were to start.

    The main reason that Germany did not build a large fleet fo 4 engined bombers was that Goering and others in the LW thought that the 2 engine bombers woudl be enough at the time. They had the crews and the potential and the fuel until 44.

    In 41-42 most of Russian industrial production was in the west. only in 43 was the bulk from the urals ast aroudn 60%. 80% of Russian oil production was in the Caucases an the lower Volga.

    Germany posesed the most accurate bomb in the Ftiz-X (radio guided)

    By the time that Germany wanted to start Bombing the LW was generally too busy to do it.

    In 38 plans for a bomber capable of bombing anywhere in the world and out running any fighter in the world was turned down because, the LW felt there was no need.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that if Germany had intended to take up stratigic bombing from the get go, they could have seriously hampered Russian production and interfered greatly with American early war efforts. Great Britian was set up to defend agasint air attacks and did quite well at this during and after the battle of Britian, which is why I feel that Strat Bombing would not have been that usefull against them.
     
  12. john1761

    john1761 Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2006
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    0
    I read a book called "Luftwaffe victoriuos" . It preposes that if one Luft. Gen. had not died in the thirties the germans might have had a stat. bomber force. It would have been used to interdict allied shipping and british ship builting by use of 1200 kg and larger bombs. Also while being able to destroy russia's production in the urals it along with the tac. bombers could have seriously interdicted their rail lines. Thus lowering the amount of weapons reaching the front. Very interesting reading.
     
  13. Shadow Master

    Shadow Master Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2006
    Messages:
    287
    Likes Received:
    19

    Thanks bud! :)
     
  14. Shadow Master

    Shadow Master Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2006
    Messages:
    287
    Likes Received:
    19
    True. I have too agree with ya there Za.

    Couple things, tho...

    In any event the German Bombers trying too attack UK Industrial targets were forced to go un-escorted {Read as "Lambs too the slaughter"}. This is going to be even more pronounced for US and USSR targets.

    Building Naval Aviation Bombers costs Germany aircraft production capability. While building CV's costs the Allies quite allot of additional shipbuilding capacity in addition too that needed for building the fighters themselves.

    I think we can agree that for Germany too get a good return for a "Heavy Bomber" force, they are going too have to build & deploy them in such a way as too cost the Allies more industrial/logistical capacity than just that of fighters alone. Because they never really were (Industrially) capable of significantly outbuilding the RAF let alone all three.
     
  15. eeek

    eeek Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2007
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    2
    Yeap it sounds about right. The General was Wever and he followed the directive established by Robert Knauss, the director of Lufthansa who was tasked with estabilishing a mission for the yet to be created Luftwaffe. Their "Raison d'etre", was strategic bombing from the start. When the debat for the Panzerschiff reached parliment it was argueed that the funding for one Panzerschiff could produced 400 multi engined bombers supported by many recon squadrons and army cooperation squadrons. They were envisaging the Ju-52 transport as bomber but this was the early 1930s.

    Wargames in the mid 1930s revealed that such bomber force could not guarantee destruction of the regional threats to Germany or prevent enemy bombers from attacking Germany. So the Me-109 was developed as a bomber interceptor and the 88mm flak gun was upgraded to the 1936 model. So the Luftwaffe became a strategic/tactical airforce.Through the mid 1930s the concept was formalised into contracts for development of two competing designs the Do-19 and Ju-89 multi engined bombers. But problems arose as this concept was examined in detail through the late 1930s.

    The best the level bombers with bomb sights like the Goerz-Visier 219, could do was 1-2% hits @ 4km altitude , on point targets like buildings/ships etc....and that was training wings, combat results would be alot worse. During the War US B-17 were getting this accuracy with 700 meter CEP [circular error of probability- the radius where 50% of all bombs can be expected to land within]. During the Battle of Britain, reportedly German bombers demonstrated CEP of 1 mile and 2 miles at night. Meanwhile RAF bombers are said to have missed their targets by 5 miles in 2/3 of cases in studies in 1941 [night bombing?]. Level bombers just had horrible accuracy.

    To have any chance to hit one building/ship you'd need to drop more than ~150 bombs. That meant alot of very large expensive bombers would have to be build and crewed. Germany couldn't afford to fight war of attrition if the rate of bomb consumption was that high. It was believed that schnell bombers excuting low level swooping attacks could narrow this down to 200m CEP, but thats still ~ 10-12 bombs to hit a single target. The schnell bombers also had better chance of surviving the increasing power of fighter interceptors due to there speed. For bombers the solution sought was higher and higher altitude, since this takes fighters 10-15 minutes longer to reach, buying enough time to hit and run? If the altitude could be made high enough, the fighters could not even reach the bombers, however accuracy would fall off directly.,...which means even more bombers would be needed.

    In the late 1930s the Spanish Civil war demonstrated that dive bombers could average CEPs of 50 meters . Thus a mad dash occured to turn every bomber into a dive bomber no matter how practical this became. The worse example of this became the strategic dive bomber He-177. Such dive bombers were much better as small tactical aircraft , so strategic bombing looked in trouble.

    To revive the strategic bomber concept in the late 1930s several ideas emerged. A 1937 study had shown that without a strategic bomber and even including divebombing Ju-88, the best the Luftwaffe could accomplish in a war with the UK was to bombard southern England. So they concluded they could not win such a war. A "Piratenflugzenge" bomber [pirate bomber] was proposed to attack enemy shipping , while it was also proposed to develope guided missiles to give the high altitude long range strategic bombers the accuracy of dive bombers. The "Piratenflugzenge" bomber made most immediate sence, since the time to put a new armament into mass production was ~ 4 years assuming no technological problems so the guided missiles could not be put into production until the end of 1942.

    The "Piratenflugzenge" bomber was based on the fact that 3/4 of all commerical shipping went un escorted through out the war and the best way to hunt these down was to dispatch long range maritime bombers to hunt such targets and attack them. Failing that they could radio the position of the ship for others to attack [uboats surface raiders other bombers]. Trouble was Goering controled Luftwaffe and was in no hurry to fill a role that was the navys role and anyway by this time Hitler was demanding more and more bombers and the only way he could furfill his masters demands was to make twice as many medium bombers instead of strategic bombers.


    Orders were placed for a bomber with 600km top speed 500km cruise speed and payload range of 2 tons @ 3600km or 1 ton @ 6000km endurance. This became the He-177 ,but since the dive bombing requirement stayed the bomber became overweight by 6-7 tons I've heard. That rulled out high altitude survival penetration. Worse the need to reach higher speed and make a better dive bombing, lead the designers to couple the 4 engines into pairs mounted on each wing with little or no access panels to allow maintenance. Apparently to remove plugs the entire engine had to be removed?

    In operational squadrons often only 10% of the He-177 bombers were operartional and the engines overheated often resulting in fires and many times the loss of the bomber and crews. Finaly in the last years of the war the HE-277 was developed which was a non divebomber version of the He-177 with 4 independently mounted engines and guided bombs. This reportedly could reach 15km altitude which meant it could overfly all enemy fighters of the day.

    So their is little doubt that a better thought out approach with more support could have yeilded a small effective multi engined high altitude strategic bomber force throught out the war. In the first years airdropped magnetic mines could have been hoarded to mass attack british shipping choking the country , while the missiles would be ready by mid war ,to deal with the soviets and later the yanks.
     
  16. von Rundstedt

    von Rundstedt Dishonorably Discharged

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Messages:
    678
    Likes Received:
    29
    I was going through some Luftwaffe sites and several aircraft came up

    1, the Messerschmitt Me-264 the first prototype flew in late 1942.
    2, the four engine nascelled Heinkel He-277 (a redesigned He-177)
    3, Ju-90 and the Ju-290
    4, Fw-200 Condor

    Each sounded like impressive aircraft to me if Germany could have made them in high numbers. I could imagine say they use the four engined heavies strategically against Britain and use their two engined mediums tatically against the Soviets.
     
  17. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Messages:
    8,809
    Likes Received:
    372
    Location:
    Portugal
    That's a bif if, isn't it? And look at the size of the effort ot the US and UK bombing effort and the time they took to have a marked effect on Grman economy. Could Germany sustain the same?

    Were the Soviet Union so bereft of strategic targets as to not merit a full strategic bomber campaign? Explain why, please.
     
  18. von Rundstedt

    von Rundstedt Dishonorably Discharged

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2007
    Messages:
    678
    Likes Received:
    29
    It depends if the head of the Luftwaffe decided that prior to WWII that there would be a doctrine of either a heavy strategic or medium tatical airforce. And i must say trying to change that during the war (if an attempt was made) would not have worked, Germany's ecconomy mid war would not allow mass production of 4 engined heavies.

    Well yes the Soviets did have alot of strategic targets but i don't think that the Germans were capable of getting that kind of information with the aircraft available, i mean in reality thet at that time had no real ultra long range recon planes that could photograph east od the Urals, unless that converted say the Me-264 into photo recon aircraft. Also the Luftwaffe never learned efficiently the art of strategic bombing.
     
  19. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,945
    Likes Received:
    764
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    I really don't think having a four engined strategic bomber would have done much for the Germans, even one that was produced in reasonable numbers.

    Of the choices they built or prototyped originally in this category I think the Ju 488 showed the most potential. It was really a pretty simple modification of a standard Ju 88 / 188. Just insert an additional wing section with engines and lengthen the fuselage a bit. The original use of a Ju 288 tail assembly might not have been necessary. Adding a panner to increase the bomb bay size was also done. The only real weakness of the aircraft is it has poor defensive armament; a charge that could easily be leveled at any German bomber.

    As for use, the first problem is just having the bombers doesn't translate into being able to make use of their range efficently. Without escort fighters the bombers would have been relatively easy targets. Night bombing might have been an option but with its poor accuracy unlikely to get a good return on the investment in equipment.

    The second problem is sustainability. Germany probably couldn't have maintained much more than a couple of hundred such aircraft in service. They lacked production facilities to keep up with losses on a larger force. There would also be the fuel situation. A bomber of this sort would require something in the neighborhood of five to eight tons (and possibly more) of fuel per sorte. That's alot of avgas per month and Germany isn't producing that much to begin with. It certainly would have put a crimp in other operations to keep this force flying on a regular basis.

    Lastly, the four engined aircraft does not bring a commensurate increase in bombload compared to a twin aircraft. Maybe half again as much but, certainly not a massive increase. This means that for many missions a twin would suffice so the four engined bomber would just be wasted effort in many cases.

    If anything, what the Germans really needed was one or two much better twin engine bomber designs capable of hauling a substancial load while carrying a decent defensive armament. The closest they appear to have come to this is the Do 217.
     
  20. wolfheart

    wolfheart Member

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2007
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    3
    First thing for sure is assessing whether Germany would have been capable of producing four engined bombers in sufficient numbers for the possible tasks they could have been assigned to.

    1) From the technological point of view: Germany in the 1930"s was certainly capable of designing and putting into production 4 engined bombers of a quality that would have matched those of their enemies. Some have pointed out that they were facing severe technical problems for instance with the Heinkel 177, true, but had from the mid thirties on emphasis been laid on the production of heavy bombers, such problems would have been stamped out with time.
    2) From the production capacity point of view: Even with Germany's limited airplane production capacity in the late "30"s, they could have produced certain numbers of 4 engined bombers, but certainly nothing like the US and the British produced out of the hat lateron. In order to have been effective against either Great Britain or the Soviet Union, large numbers would have been needed.
    3) From the raw materials point of view: Certainly the achilles heel for Germany. Aluminium, (and other vital raw materials for airplane production), was scarce and choices had to be made. A decision in the mid thirties to embark on building a fleet of heavy bombers would have had dire consequences for the output number of fighters and other bomber types. When Goring informed with his planning staf in 1937 how many two engined bombers he could built for one 4 engined one. The answer he got was "about two and a half". Logically Gorings reaction was to cancel the 4 engined programs: "The fuhrer only ask me how many bombers I have, not how big they are"

    But for now let us assume that the actual situation had been different and Germany would have built fair numbers of heavy bombers what would they have brought it?

    Britain - industrial targets; Given the fact that the British very early in the conflict gained a clear fighter superiority over their territory, soon any precision bombing in daylight would have been out of the question, as heavy bombers are easy targets for fast fighters. Given the very poor precision of German night bombing such a strategy would have done only minor harm to Britains production capacity

    Britain - terror bombing of population centers: As this can be done by night this would have been a more realistic option if it had to deliver results. However, improved radar, anti aircraft techniques and night fighters in time would have made such missions ever more perilious for the attackers. The only time that some real impression could have been made with this most unelegant way of air warfare, would have been in the very beginning of the conflict. Had large amounts of heavy bombers been available in September 1939 and would the political will have been there, (which wasn't as Hitler was seeking to spare Britain the worst in the hope he could still come to and understanding with her), a number of British cities could have been badly mauled. But what later failed to destroy German morale, would certainly also not have brought the British to their knees.

    Soviet Union - industrial targets: In the early stages of the conflict for certain large numbers of heavy bombers could have produced considerable successes, but given the fact that the Russians easily overcame tremendous industrial losses caused by other means, it would not have been enough to be decisive. With the resettlement and rearranging of Soviet war production, by the end of 1941 the major industrial goals would have been to scattered over the enormous expanses of the Soviet Union and for a good part out of reach for even heavy bombers, to campaign with any reasonable chance of considerable destruction.

    Soviet Union - terror bombing of population centers: Given the relative weakness of Soviet fighter power and air defence systems in the beginning of the conflict, certainly for the first year of the war fearsome havoc could have been wrecked on numerous Soviet cities, had a sufficient fleet of heavy bombers been available. But imagine: A country that without a wimp or tear overcomes a million citizens starved to death in the besieged city of Leningrad! They would also have shrugged their shoulders at one million more in other cities. Remember the the entire world war 2 bombing effort of Britain and the USA killed less than a million Germans and did not break the morale or fighting capacity of the country.

    Other theaters of operation: Except for attacking oceangoing ships, a field in which a certain effort was made by German long range aircraft, in all the other theaters of war in which Germany was involved, there was not much use for large numbers of heavy bombers. A certain impression would certainly have been made by bombing raids on the USA, but the, only partly, realistic plan of ship carried normal bombers would have only delivered pin pricks. And the wishful talk about trans atlantic bombers was just way before its time: Even as late as the Falkland war the British bombers coming from the homeland still had to be refuelled in mid air, a technique unknown to the era of the second world war.

    Concluding: No, a considerable force of heavy bombers would not have brought Germany any considerable advantage, rather would it have disrupted output numbers of other, essential war material.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page