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What if helicopter development was accelerated in World War 2?

Discussion in 'What If - Other' started by Falcon Jun, Apr 8, 2008.

  1. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    I saw a post in WWII weapons by Southwest Pacific Vet mentioning Waco gliders and that led me to asking this question.
    What if helicopter development was accelerated during the course of World War 2? Given the resources available at that time, I think it was possible to have this aircraft developed rapidly. The technological development curve during the course of World War II was very rapid.
    One thing sure, if a good utility helicopter or gun ship was developed at that time, things would've been a lot different for several ground battles, especially those involving airborne operations. Of course, such a development would also include new doctrines for its use. I just can't help but think that losses in Waco glider landings would've been cut if an effective helicopter had been available at that time.
    It would've been of great use in the Atlantic campaign for spotting U-boats and island hopping for both the Japanese and the US. For the Germans, I see them developing it as a transport/gunship, which would've been very useful in the Russian terrain. Of course, once this is developed, an entirely new doctrine for defeating helicopters would've followed suit.
     
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  2. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Member

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    Helicopter development was surprisingly slow, mainly because of the initial reliance on heavy piston engines. It wasn't until efficient gas turbines were adopted that their payload/range began to look respectable, and that was really in the 1960s. Until then, they had limited usefulness.
     
  3. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    Even if the helicopter has been developed and put into 'circulation' of the industry they still would never be as effective at there roles as you are proposing. They would have limited range compared to a PBY or a Condor. There horsepower would never be effective enough to carry enough troops to do the island hopping without the use of many many helicoptors. They would also be very vulnable to aircraft and groud fire.

    Although if they could be fitted with rockets or a heavy machine gun they could be used effectively in the close support role, such as, in an assualt like D-day, but again there would have to be minimal air defense.
     
  4. USArmySoldierMP

    USArmySoldierMP Member

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    The Germans invented the first helicopter, the fa 223 drache or dragon. It was made too late into the war. The helicopter would of have benefited both sides in dropping in supplies and men quickly. But to make that work, air superiority is a must. It would of worked for the Germans in the Eastern front and the Allies in 1944
     
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  5. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    Thankyou for the information about the helicopter mate didn't know that.

    But from what I have read, it is just too slow with not enough load capacity to of any real use, except as we both said earlier which was only in certain areas.
     
  6. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    There was one at least :)
    [​IMG]

    Now seriously, there was some German incipient work with Focke Achgelis (here is Hanna Reitsch fooling around)
    [​IMG]

    And also:
    [​IMG]

    See the the site for the full story.

    Sikorsky R-4 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    In any case it would still take years post war to make a really developed helicopter, so it would be difficult to xcompress all this development work to make a useful and reliable machine to go into quantity service.
     
  7. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Yes, I agree with all of you that the helicopter around World War II was at its infancy. Still, what I am saying is that it is plausible that a better type of helicopter could've been developed had more resources been allocated for its development.
    The helicopter wouldn't be suitable for an air-to-air mode, of course, but as pointed out in one of the replies here, it could conceivably contribute to the battlefield as a transport or close support role. I doubt, though, that a helicopter could've helped the paratroopers at Arnhem because that is generally a built up area. Lots of hidden places there to shoot down a chopper.
    There are, I think, many WWII campaigns whose results could've been altered had this aircraft type been available. One such campaign could be North Africa.
     
  8. Joe

    Joe Ace

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    Za, your second picture looks to me like an autogyro, which is not a helicopter. They where in (minimal) use throughout the war, mostly in the early stages.
     
  9. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    But had more resources been moved from somewhere else, then that particalular area would have suffered, especially if it was tank or aircraft research. ALthough removing the super weapon resoureces could have obtained the resources need for the development of the helicopter.

    I guess you have to look at range and vulnability, is the risk worth the payoff? I dont think the payoof would be enough, they wouldn't be more then a mobile heavy machine gun platform, probably very unstable making accuary difficult. The enemy would surely figure this out and in the case of the Germans do a today rebel attack in an urban area with an RPG (panzerfaust) fired right at the helicopter blowing to pieces, also losing the crew. Also just a few good bursts at a helicopter from a machine gun mounted on an AA mounting or from an STG would probably be enough to finish of the helicopter.

    So there disadvantages would probably rule it out of combat situations and it could not be more then a troops transport, wounded, reinforcments although small in number, something is better then nothing, or even a heavy machine gun or infantry antitank weapons, onto a lacking infantry platoon would be good. So it would be only used in a support role not a combat one.
     
  10. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Yes, it would probably have been a combat support role given the technological level of that time. Let's presuppose that it is in that role that any of the combatants of WW2 had been able to utilize it properly. Even this role, a chopper of some sort would have improved immeasurably the logistical operations of, for instance, the early stages of almost any campaign in World War 2.
    Also I have to add this, I belatedly realized that a chopper of this level wouldn't be as effective as I envisioned in the first place. Even today's hi-tech combat equipment and vehicles still have problems with sand.
     
  11. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    By Jove, you're right, it's an autogyro !!! A Focke-Wulf 61, actually :)

    All right, here's a genuine egg-beater for you, a Focke Achgelis 223

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Twitch

    Twitch Member

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    Well the actual development of rotary-winged craft was amazing enough as it was-


    Dr. Heinrich Karl Johann Focke developed several helicopters that flew during WW II. The FA 269 tilt-rotor concept will be seen but there were several viable models of normal rotary wing craft too.

    In late 1940, pilot Karl Bode flew the Fa 223 Drache (kite) V1 over to the Rechlin test center where its performance set a new world helicopter speed record of 113 MPH with a climb rate record of 1,732 feet per minute and an altitude record of 23,294 feet. In America 1944 Igor Sikorsky’s R-4B had a top speed of only 75 MPH with a ceiling of 8,000 feet.

    Five versions were envisioned- an anti submarine helicopter carrying either two 550-lb. bombs or depth charges, a reconnaissance helicopter; for search and rescue; a transport helicopter; and a dual control trainer.

    The Fa 223 made 115 flights before a crash destroyed it. Other prototypes continued to test lift capabilities in field operations. 1,100 lbs. could be hauled 6,500 feet high in seven minutes. In actual combat conditions in February 1945 a 223 picked up a downed Bf 109 pilot near Danzig and overflew Russian forces to safety. The mission, commencing at Templhoff Airdrome, racked up 1,041 miles proving the machines usefulness.

    This machine would have rescued Mussolini had it in service the day of his mountain top rescue.

    At the war’s end a Luftwaffe pilot escaped to France then on to England making the first crossing of the English Channel by helo. Most of the Allies got their hands on surviving Fa 223 examples and the rest is history.

    The Fa223 weighed 11,000 lbs. with its twin rotors spanning 39.3 feet in diameter. The fuselage was 40.2 feet long. Takeoff power came from a fan-cooled 1,000 HP BMW Bramo 323 9-cylinder radial aft of the cockpit. Normal output was 620 HP. It could cruise at 76 MPH for 435 miles with auxiliary fuel, had a 109 MPH top speed, a climb rate of 1,100 FPM and a ceiling of 16,000 feet. This type of performance would not be seen till much later in post-war machines.

    Focke was not left behind in performance helos either. The Fa 283 was to mount an unnamed jet engine in the fuselage driving a three-blade rotor. The jet was not to turn those blades directly but instead would provide thrust to make an auto-gyro effect. It had fully retractable landing wheels. No other specifications exist.

    The much later Sikorsky Skycrane notion was already considered in the Fa 284. The 2-seater was to use two 59.5-foot side-by-side, outrigger rotors above a 45-foot fuselage that made it about half again the size of the Fa 223. 1,600 HP BMW 801 radials mounted on the outriggers so complex gearing or shafts were not needed. Empty it would weigh 8,100 lbs. and loaded 26,460 lbs.

    It would cruise at 129 MPH with a top speed around 155 MPH and be able to climb at 1,000 FPM. Range was estimated at 248 miles but lifting weights were not proposed.
    It was proposed that two Fa 223s be combined to accomplish the same job with four rotors and the venture was cancelled in 1943.

    With his pioneering work in helicopters, Dr. Heinrich Karl Johann Focke had already built and flown several designs. The Fa 223 was quite progressive with a twin rotor layout and seating for four in a fully enclosed fuselage. Three survived the war in airworthy condition.

    But Focke predated the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor craft by half a century with his Fa 269! It was called a convertiplane back in 1943 during its design. The 32.9-foot wings each had a DB 605 at mid-span driving large diameter (16 feet proposed) three-blade pusher props. The fuselage of 29.1 feet in length sat on a very snout-high landing gear with a transparent nose floor housing a 2-man crew. The possible uses in WW II are the same as today’s making it a handy aircraft.

    In Focke’s layout he didn’t envision the whole wing rotating like the Osprey, only the engines and their props downward at 85-degrees. There was a special pivoting gearbox at the front of each engine, from which a drive shaft passed back between the engine cylinder banks to drive its propeller behind the wing’s trailing edge. In the completely down position, the propellers were almost parallel to the ground. For this reason a very long tail wheel was needed, which retracted into the fuselage.

    Maximum speed was reasoned to be about 373 MPH depending on the horsepower and engine model. Further specs are not known. The project was dropped in 1944 since considerable development was needed for the special gearboxes, drives, pivoting mechanisms and prop pitch controls for landing and taking off. Since the wings didn’t tilt they could continue to provide lift even during slow forward travel as transition of the engines occurred.

    I'd say that if helos had been developed a bit earlier they would have contributed to logistics in Korea with the ability to lift larger payloads in rescue work and deploying troops with the concept of armed rotor craft being experimented with about then.
     
  13. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    What you mean to say is that Herr Focke had a lousy patents lawyer, or else his descendants would be rich with all the concepts he invented and others put to good use instead :D
     
  14. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    I believe Classic pubs or another known publisher did present some info in picture/text form on German heli's. id you know that some of the KM transport ships had them aboard and used them for recon purposes like the U-boot arm ?

    as said much too slow, would of made an ideal ground attack tank destroyer type but prone obviously to simply being shot down by ground AA
     
  15. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    I looked at my various stuff for more info on helicopter development in the 1940s and this is what I found. It's an article (again) dated June 3, 1940 from Time magazine.

    Vertical Flight

    Big drawback of the airplane for private use is that it must have broad, obstacle-free fields for take-offs and landings. To complete with the automobile, air transport needs a machine that takes off straight up, land straight down, remains under control at any speed or no speed. Beginning with Leonardo da Vinci, air designers have tinkered with vertical-lift machines. They wound up definitely nowhere.
    Last week, a shy voluble fringe haired Russian, Igor Sikorsky (now a US citizen) made his first public flight in a helicopter. Sikorsky and his helpers had puttered for months over a strange, spindle-shanked machine across the road from the municipal airport at Bridgeport, Conn. Last week, mechanics trundled it on the field and a crowd gawked at its three-bladed, 14-foot overhead rotor, its spraddle-legged landing ear, its conventional airplane controls. Into the pilot's seat crawled Designer Sikorsky.
    The 75-hp engine back of the seat of his pants began to buzz, the rotor began to whilr. Three tiny propellers in an outrigger tail, used for stabilizer rudder and elevators whistled into shimmering discs. Down over his balding head Igor Sikorsky pulled his hat. With his right hand on the control stick, his feet on the rudder pedals, he grasped with his left hand the lever that controls the lift of the motor by varying pitch of the blades.
    Mechanics (who had held the helicopter with ropes while Designer Sikorsky learned to fly it) backed away. Sikorsky pulled back the pitch control lever. Into the air jumped his bug. Fifteen to 20 feet off the ground, it came to a stop, hung there. Sikorsky moved the control stick forward, and down the field for about 200 feet, flew the helicopter. It stopped in the air, backed up a few feet, stopped again. Sikorsky looked over the side, chose the spot he wanted to hit, set the ship down, picked it up about a foot, set it down again.
    Sikorsky thinks a helicopter could be used for carrying military messages, getting in and out of roads, backyards. Armed with a cannon, it could be used for defense of battleships, ground establishments, would have a good chance of protecting itself against pursuit planes by stopping dead in the air, backing, hopping up to higher altitudes to get out of machine gun fire.

    (The helicopter did not really come into its own as a military aircraft until the US began using it as a weapon and attack transport in South Vietnam. In Korea, it was used primarily as an air ambulance.)
     
  16. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri
    [​IMG]
    </B>A Fl 282B awaiting delivery.



    The Kolibri "Humming Bird" was the first helicopter put into mass production and the only helicopter to make any significant contributions in World War II.

    [​IMG]
    Flettner Fl 282 V6 Kolibri aboard the minelayer "Drache", Aegean Sea, Winter 1942-43
    In October, 1942, two Fl 282 helicopters were delivered to Triest with their personnel, including Cpt. Claus von Vinterfeldt, Flettner's pilot Fuisting, other pilot (his name is unknown) and three technicians. Since November, 1942 until January/February, 1943, the first helicopter Fl 282 V6 GF+YF had been employed as the recco' craft over Aegean Sea, basing upon improvised helicopter carrier Kriegsmarine's minelayer "Drach" ("Schiff 50", ex-Yuogoslavian "Zmaj").
    The second Fl 232 - CJ+SC was a reserve machine that stayed ashore.

    http://www.warbirdsresourcegroup.org/LRG/fl282.html
     
  17. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    [​IMG]
    Flettner Fl 282 helicopter

    The innovative Flettner Fl 282 was one of the first (if not the first) operational helicopter that was used on board of ships. Being the successor of the Flettner Fl 265 which first flew in May 1939, the Flettner 282 was only build in small numbers, 30 prototypes and 15 pre production vehicles were completed. The prototypes were build in different variants, one or two seater, closed or open cockpit, and other modifications.
    Unlike today's helicopters, the Fl 282 did not have a tail rotor to compensate the drag of the main rotor. Instead it had a twin interlaced rotor system, similar to a "kitchen mixer". These synchronized, side-by-side, rotors were typical for Flettner helicopters.
    In 1941/1942 the Kriegsmarine used a Fl 282 for tests on board of the CL Köln . With a landing platform mounted on turret Bruno, several operational patterns were successfully tested. The Kolibri proved to be very maneuverable, reliable and a stable platform even at bad weather conditions.
    As a result of this test, 20 of the prototypes were used on board on Kriegsmarine ships operating in the Mediterranean for reconnaissance and escort duty. Over 1000 helicopters were ordered, but because of the damages caused by heavy allied air attacks, the production was never started.
    At the end of the war, only three Flettner Fl 282 were still operational and none of this remarkable aircraft survived until today.
    Flettner Fl 282 History
     
  18. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    Sure looks like a war winner!
     
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  19. Grommo

    Grommo Member

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    Hi. Actually the FW 61 is not an Autogyro at all. It was the worlds first successful helicopter and took off vertically. The image shown earlier of the FW 61 is of Hanna Reitsch flying the FW61 indoors at the Berlin motorshow in 1938 in front of a crowd of thousands. You can't do that with an Autogyro. Many people are fooled by the engine on the front and the tiny engine cooling propellor. It provides no significant forward thrust at all and is only the same diameter as the engine itself. You can watch all of the German operational helicopters including the Doblhoff jet tip chopper on my youtube channel .
    YouTube - Where Eagles Dare - The real German WW2 Helicopter
    The Germans tested and operated their choppers in combat and it was the bombing of the jigs and factories plus shortages that prevented their wider adoption. Flettner tested and flew his own design single rotor chopper. He deemed the idea of a single main rotor and anti torque rotor ineffective and difficult to fly. The intermeshing flettner synchrotor principle is actually much easier to fly than a tail boom design and more reliable. It was possible to fly the highly aerobatic 282 completely hands off, and backwards, sideways etc. A houswife with no flying experience was able to master one after only 3 hours instruction. The Fa223 above was easy to fly and had fingertip control and precision. They were able to perform some feats not matched by American helicopters till the 1950s
     
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  20. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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