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Why were Japanese fighters so poor compared to Allied?

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by Wolfy, Jul 3, 2009.

  1. JagdtigerI

    JagdtigerI Ace

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    Well all three of those planes came too late in the war to make any significant difference. By the time they were first coming into production the allies had already secured naval superiority and had drawn out Japanese resources and industral capabilities to the point where Japan couldn't afford to produce many aircraft (there was also the problem of the bombing of factories which help to halt George production). Also air groups such as the 343rd might have hurt the Japanese more than they helped, concentrating a lot of thei most experienced pilots remaining into one air group.
     
  2. 343

    343 Member

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    I understand that they came to late to effect the outcome of the war, but my point is not addressing that, it is addressing the question "Why were Japanese fighters so poor compared to allied fighters?" my answer was, not all Japanese fighters performed poorly against allied forces and there existed some that were a match for most allied fighters, and I listed them.
     
  3. Miguel B.

    Miguel B. Member

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    the problem was that they came late in war and in fewer numbers. The Japanese never managed to fully wrap themselves around a reliable engine plus, the Zero was no match for the F4F... The F4 was a much better machine. Similar performance at all altitudes and better in dives and speed, with the plus of self-sealing tanks and pilot armour. Something only the latest version of the Zero got at the expense of what made the Zero a legend; their extreme manoeuvrability.
    [jab] I think it is suffice to say that the best plane the Japanese built during the war was German made.[/jab]




    Cheers...
     
  4. 343

    343 Member

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    To say the zero is an inferior machine to the F4F is somewhat absurd. In terms of performance the Zero is for the most part superior, it is faster, has more range, is far more maneuverable, and has a better rate of climb. It is true however that the Wildcat had some advantages of its own such as better dive, more armor, self-sealing fuel tanks. In the end the two fighters proved about equal, the ingenuity of the American pilots, and the ruggedness of the Wildcat allowed the Wildcat to hold its own against the Zero.
     
  5. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Good Lord, what were those people thinking over there when they decided to pick a fight with the "Sleeping Giant?" Or anyone with capability to put up a good fight for that matter? Geez....

    Only 40 hours of flight training and no combat training, no aerial gunnery and no navigational training???? In addition to the war trials, the brain surgeons who devised that training schedule should have been put on trial for murder....Not that I feel sorry for those people, they started the war, but that is just plain "ignernt." In essence, the IJN pilots of 1944 and later were not much better off than the Kamakaze pilots, imho that is....

    Ok, now back to the original subject matter of the thread....
     
  6. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    There are really three answers to this question:

    First, the Japanese did not improve their tactics for aerial combat during the war to any great degree. Their standard fighter formation was a loose three in which the fighters flew in a echeloned vee formation. They did not adopt the "finger four" or two pair formation other nations did. This left their fighters more rigidly locked into a formation with less flexibility.
    Japanese CAP tactics were also far inferior. For carrier planes they were largely on their own to intercept and stop attacking aircraft. There was no coordianted fighter control using radar and a director / plotter system like the US had. Even late in the war such systems simply didn't exist for the Japanese. So, even with radar the Japanese fighters often found themselves being bounced from disadvantageous positions and left largely on their own individual abilities to take on the enemy.

    Second: As the war progressed Japanese aircraft became more and more technologically inferior to those the West possessed. Many Japanese fighter pilots even from early in the war removed their radio equipment as superfluious to their mission as but one example. Without good direction the Japanese simply found themselves being out thought more than outfought.
    Japanese aircraft also had the disadvantage of having poor armament. Their mainstay aircraft guns were simply too light, too low velocity, supplied with too little ammo etc., to make them really effective against US fighters.
    Then there are airframe and engine issues, maintenance issues and, a whole plethora of other problems the Japanese suffered from as the war progressed.

    Third is pilot quality. A pilot with hundreds or thousands of hours flying time will simply run rings around a pilot with something less than 100 hours in the air and maybe as little as 20 or 30 in the aircraft he's flying. The Allies by 1943 were fielding pilots with literally 1000+ hours time in the air mostly in first line aircraft. Even in 1941 the USN, USAAF and USMC had pilots that were on average as good or better than anything the Japanese had. They were let down more by inferior aircraft that left them at parity or at some slight disadvantage compared to the Japanese. Once they got newer planes like the P-38 or F6F the Japanese were finished.
     
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  7. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    They were running a huge deficit in oil procurement and refining. It was a case of either providing fuel for combat or training, so guess which activity got the fuel? With the US, on average, producing more oil in 10 days than the Japanese produced the entire war, it is little doubt that fuel use was a substantial problem for the Japanese Empire.
     
  8. 343

    343 Member

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    I thought that Japan did adopt the four plane formation toward the end of the war when it realized that its three plane formation was inferior to those used by the allied nations
     
  9. JagdtigerI

    JagdtigerI Ace

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    Some technical info on some of the aircrafts that are being discussed:

    F4F Wildcat

    Max speed: 318 mph at 19,400 ft
    Initial climb rate: 594 m (1,950 ft) per minute
    Service ceiling: 10638m (34,900 ft)
    Range: 1239m (770 miles)
    Armament: six forward-firing 12.7-mm machine guns; provision to carry two 113-kg (250lb) bombs or six 127mm (5in) rockets

    A6M2 Zeke

    Max speed: 351 mph at 19,685 ft
    Climb rate: 857 m (2,812 ft) per minute
    Service ceiling: 11740m (38,517 ft)
    Range: 1,891 miles
    Armament: one 7.7 mm type 97 and one 13.2 mm type 3 machine guns in nose and two wing-mounted 20mm type 99 cannons; provisions for two 60 or 250 kg (132-or-551-lb) bombs

    So in this case I would say the Zero would probably have the edge with a superior speed, service ceiling, climb rate and range according to these numbers. As for armament, it is hard to say, personally I wouldn't mind flying a plane with either set of armaments.

    Now I will accept the N1K2, Ki-84, and Ki-100 as possible matches for the F6F but as for the F4U and the P-51....

    F4U Corsair

    Max speed: 417 mph at 19,900 ft
    Initial climb rate: 881 m (2,890 ft) per minute
    Service ceiling: 11247m (36,9000 ft)
    Range: 1633 (1,015 miles)
    Armament: six forward-firing 12.7 mm machine-guns in the wings

    P-51 Mustang

    Max speed: 437 mph at 25,000 ft
    Climb rate: 2,308 ft per minute
    Service ceiling: 12770 m (41,900 ft)
    Range: 3347 m (2,080 miles)
    Armament: six 12.7 mm machine-guns in the wings, plus provision for up to two 454 kg (1,000 lb) bombs or six 127 mm (5 in) rocket projectiles

    N1K2 George

    Max speed: 363 mph at 19,357 ft
    Climb rate: 780m (2,523 ft) per minute
    Service ceiling: 12770 ( 41,010 ft)
    Range: 1432 km (890 miles)
    Armament: two 7.7 type 97 machine guns in nose and four wing-mounted 20-mm type 99 cannons

    Ki-84 Frank

    Max Speed: 392 mph at 20,079 ft
    Climb rate 847 m (2,780 ft) per minute
    Service ceiling: 10500m (34,449 ft)
    Range: 1695 m (1,053 miles)
    Armament: two nose-mounted 12.7 mm Ho-103 machine-guns and two wing-mounted 20-mm Ho-5 cannon, plus provisions for two 250 kg (551 lb) bombs under wings

    Ki-100

    Max speed: 367 mph at 32,810 ft
    Climb rate: 500 m (1,640 ft) per minute
    Service ceiling: 10670 m (35,007 ft)
    Range: 2000 km (1,243 miles)
    Armament: two fuselage-mounted 12.7 Ho-103 machine guns and two wing-mounted 20-mm Ho-5 cannons, plus provisions for two drop tanks or two 250 kg (551 lb) bombs

    The P-51 and Corsair come out far superior in speed and range by far to any of these three fighters, and their climb rates are equal or better.

    Now these are just brute stats, there is clearly still more to be brought into the discussion (mobility, reliability, etc.) but IMO it does not look too good for Japan.
     
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  10. acker

    acker Member

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    According to Fire in the Sky, the standard Japanese formation was called the shotai. It was a variant on the Vic (3-plane formation) used by most countries before and during the early war. The shotai put the two rear planes much further back from the leader, and the wingmen weaved left and right while the leader looked for an opening. On the attack, instead of attacking simultaneously, the wingmen trailed the leader and attacked in sucession. Consequently, the shotai was much more flexible than other varieties of the Vic, and served the Japanese well for the early war. In some ways, this "improvement" was a blunder; it made the flaws in the 3-plane system more difficult to identify, and made the transition to the 4-plane system slower.

    By 1944, the Japanese converted to the 4-plane formation. However, things had gone too far downhill for this to make any noticable impression.


    A note on weapons stats: the Japanese weapons layout for the Zero was not exactly the best choice they could have made. For the Zero, the muzzle velocity and rpm for the 20mm cannons was rather poor. The 20mm cannon for early-model Zero had the barrel cut, making muzzle velocity even poorer. And, to top it off, early-model zeros only had 60 rounds for each 20mm cannon.

    The 7.7mm machinegun on the Zero wasn't a good choice, either. Rifle-caliber MGs lack the firepower to put much hurt on a well-armored fighter. US fighters were well-armored. It's true that a close-in burst from any aircraft gun would rip apart any fighter, but, seriously, 2 rifle-caliber machineguns...

    Since there were only 2 20mm cannons with limited ammo quantities, the Zero couldn't put much *relative* hurt on enemy bombers, a crucial part of any fighter plane's duties. The low muzzle velocity/rpm of said cannons made fighter engagement more difficult than necessary. Finally, the choice of 2 7.7mm MGs was, to put it lightly, outdated by 1941.

    The US layout of .50 HMGs was much better. The United States never had to kill off well-armed, heavily-armored bombers. Therefore, US fighters didn't need high-power cannons. For fighter engagements over long distances against fragile aircraft (aka Zero), .50 cal was enough to rip them apart, and held enough ammo to draw out engagements.
     
  11. Bob Guercio

    Bob Guercio Dishonorably Discharged

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    I couldn't agree more with this response!

    However, it is my understanding that Nimitz went to Washington for permission for this operation for fear that it was bordering on assassination. Did Nimitz behave totally illogical on this issue or was there some merit to his thinking?

    Also, in war, especially a war of the nature of World War II, why shouldn't civilian leaders be targeted if deemed beneficial by the enemy.

    Bob Guercio
     
  12. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The Japanese also did not use supporting tactics such as the Thach Weave or variants thereof where supporting fighter sections sicssored to prevent attacks. They did occasionally use the WW 1 Luftberry circle as did other air forces but this was decidedly inferior to a sicssoring defense.


    The early war Zero had what was essentially the equivalent of an Me 109E's armament. The two 20mm were almost identical copies of the early war MG FF which itself was a copy of a pre-war Oerlikon cannon design. In 1939 it was enough. In 1942 it was outdated. The biggest problem was that 60 round magazine capacity. Many pre-war Japanese fighter pilots would open fire only with the 7.7mm machine guns initially (yes, the Zero allowed selective fire). Then when the rounds hit home they would turn on the 20mm to finish the job. The problem became that they often would have to empty the 20's to shoot down a US aircraft and even then sometimes it wasn't enough.
    So, I can't really fault the Japanese here. Their early war Zero had the armament to do the job it just wasn't enough 18 months later.

    This was explained above. Where the Japanese really failed was with the IJA figher, the Oscar. Now that aircraft was a mistake. It took maneuverability to a whole new extreme beyond that of the Zero while leaving the pilot initially with just two 7.7 mm machineguns. By 1942 it generally had two .50 machineguns but that, much like the Italian fighers was never going to be anywhere near enough.

    As the Zero was intended primarily as a carrier fighter the big problem was that the small ammunition capacity meant shifting CAP frequently during defensive operations. This, coupled with Japanese carrier flight operation doctrine, was what doomed the Japanese at Midway.

    But, on the offense as the US generally was they needed a gun to kill interceptors and defending fighers, not bombers. Most US aircraft had options tested for 20mm and 37mm cannon but, these went unused. For example, the P-47 was tested with 4 x 37mm at one point! The nightfigher versions of the F6F and F4U both had 4 x 20mm installed from 1944 on, so the option was there.
     
  13. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    I think it was more a question of strategy than ethics; one of the questions that Nimitz, (or somebody on his staff asked), was "do they have anyone better to replace him?" The Americans were aware of Yamamoto's standing as one of Japan's great naval strategists; Nimitz didn't want to be the one to have taken the decision to eliminate him, only to have someone better take his place, and make the situation worse for the Allies.

    As for the question of "civilian" leaders, in a "Total War" situation, I think they should be targeted, but obviously, the civilian leadership has a different take on that issue. If it's "OK", in a total war, to bomb civilian workers on the theory that killing the workers degrades war production, why isn't it OK to kill the civilian leadership, on the theory that it disrupts their planning?

    Anyway, if you ask me, any member of the armed services, on active duty, and wearing the uniform, is fair game for hostile fire, regardless of rank.
     

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