Luftwaffe and Allied Air Forces Discussion Forum  

Go Back   Luftwaffe and Allied Air Forces Discussion Forum > Discussion > Luftwaffe and Axis Air Forces

Luftwaffe and Axis Air Forces Please use this forum to discuss the German Luftwaffe and the Air Forces of its Allies.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 2nd March 2005, 03:04
Christer Bergström Christer Bergström is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 352
Christer Bergström
The Effect of Numerical Superiority in the Air War

Since some people have complained about a thread on theories on La-7 performances being transformed into a discussion about the effect of numerical superiority in air war, I hereby open a new thread dedicated to this subject. I hope that everyone participating in this discussion will be prepared to listen without prejudices or patriotic blindfolds, that every post will be motivated by a desire to add new facts, and that new facts will be supported by at least a source reference.

In an analysis on the air war during the Winter War in particular and numerical superiority in general, Cdr (USN Ret) Robert L. Shaw (Author of "Fighter Combat") writes:
“Quantity is typically much better correlated with the final outcome of a conflict than with aircraft exchange ratios. If the side with superior numbers is willing and able to make good on its losses, it can accomplish its goals in support of the overall effort and eventually achieve victory. The price, however, may be great.”
See the Fighter Tactics Academy website:
http://www.sci.fi/~fta/winter-w.htm

This was precisely the case during the air war over Normandy in the summer of 1944, which cost the Allies many more aircraft than the Luftwaffe lost, but being “the side with superior numbers”, and willing and - above all! - able to make good on its losses, the Western Allies could “accomplish their goals in support of the overall effort and eventually achieve victory.”

Here are the aircraft loss figures for the air war over France during the period 6 June 1944 - 30 June 1944:

2nd TAF: 322 aircraft (Clark: “Angels Eight”, p. 170)
9th AF: 302 aircraft (Rust: “The 9th Air Force in World War II”, p. 90)
8th AF: 359 aircraft (137 bombers, 222 fighters) (Freeman: “The Mighty Eighth War Diary”,
pp. 259 - 283 - only losses in France included)

Total losses by 2nd TAF, 9th AF and 8th AF in France 6 June 1944 - 30 June 1944: 983.

Since losses sustained by ADGB, RAF Bomber Command (which alone lost over 300 bombers in June 1944, many of them over France), and other commands must be added to the figures above, the total number of Allied aircraft lost over France during the period 6 June 1944 - 30 June 1944 definitely exceeds one thousand, I would say approximately 1,200 Allied aircraft were lost over France during this period.

During the same period, the Luftwaffe lost 646 fighters, fighter-bombers and medium bombers in France. (Clark: “Angels Eight”, p. 170)

Thus, while almost two Allied aircraft were lost for every German aircraft loss, these losses should be compared with each side’s numerical strength. During this period, the Allied air forces performed 99,000 sorties over France (Clark, p. 98 ), while the Luftwaffe only flew 13,315 sorties over France (Prien, “JG 1/11”, p. 1051). Thus, the Allied loss rate was only around 1 % while the German loss rate was almost 5 %.

Out of a total of 13,000 Allied aircraft on 6 June 1944, less than 10 % were lost over France between 6 and 30 June 1944.
Out of 1,300 Luftwaffe aircraft in France (the peak number, reached on 10 June), around 50 % were lost between 6 and 30 June 1944.

Indeed a magnificent illustration of what Robert L. Shaw (Author of "Fighter Combat") writes:
“Quantity is typically much better correlated with the final outcome of a conflict than with aircraft exchange ratios. If the side with superior numbers is willing and able to make good on its losses, it can accomplish its goals in support of the overall effort and eventually achieve victory. The price, however, may be great.”


All best,

Christer Bergström

http://www.graf-grislawski.elknet.pl/index.htm

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/bc-rs/

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/...-ace/index.htm


PS: I have to say this because of some objections in another thread: Please don’t give us objections like “but many Allied aircraft were lost to AAA”, or "but many German aircraft were destroyed on the ground". Some people’s perspective may be the slightly romanticized perspective of “individual dogfighting and let’s see who triumphed most in air combats”. My perspective here is aimed at analysing the two sides’ respective ability to sustain losses - which is a key factor to achieving victory at the end - and the reasons to that ability. That reason clearly is spelled quantity.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 2nd March 2005, 07:17
NickM NickM is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 489
NickM
Christer: interesting post but I am REALLY THRILLED....

...That you are working on the biography of another Luftwaffe Ace--Walther Schuck! I am always on the lookout for a good read & I am very much looking forward to this book!

NickM
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 2nd March 2005, 07:44
Dick Powers Dick Powers is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 78
Dick Powers
As Lenin Said..

"Quantity has a quality all its own."

I believe David Glantz included that quote in one of his histories.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 2nd March 2005, 14:28
Nick Beale's Avatar
Nick Beale Nick Beale is offline
Super Moderator
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Exeter, England
Posts: 3,997
Nick Beale is on a distinguished road
Effects of numerical superiority

Many years ago, I borrowed a couple of library books by Edward H. Sims about fighter combat and pilots. He analysed a lot of actions and pointed out that when numbers get above a certain level, casualties do not increase correspondingly. He suggested this was partly because everyone was too busy trying to avoid a collision.

It seems to me (luckily I've never had to test my theory) that 10 aircraft may not be at such a disadvantage if they attack a formation of 100 and that is the only action during their mission. Their exposure to hostile fire will last no longer and many of the defenders may never achieve a firing position.

If they have to try and fly a mission where they encounter several smaller groups of hostiles at intervals then their chances of casualties increase: fuel and ammunition get low, pilots get tired, earlier material damage is compounded and more of the enemy get the chance to take a shot.

Having read a small sample of Ultras from the Jagdkorps II in Normandy campaign (which was refought in the recent thread) my impression was that Allied superiority manifested itself as a near-constant presence – i.e. the Luftwaffe was often lucky to get to its target (or off the ground) without running into opposition. The refrain seems to have been “task not carried out owing to …”

It wasn’t so much 15 aircraft versus 100 but 15 versus 20 and then another 20 and then another 20 and so on.
__________________
Nick Beale
http://www.ghostbombers.com
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 2nd March 2005, 15:42
Juha's Avatar
Juha Juha is offline
Alter Hase
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Finland
Posts: 1,383
Juha is on a distinguished road
I agree with Nick on base of Finnish combat reports. Some times too many enemies could be a blessing in disquise but being forced to fight one combat after another during one mission tended to break formation and is stressing and even depressing.

Juha
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 2nd March 2005, 16:39
Christer Bergström Christer Bergström is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 352
Christer Bergström
Nick, how refreshing with someone who gives explicit and credible source references:

Quote:
“Having read a small sample of Ultras from the Jagdkorps II in Normandy campaign (which was refought in the recent thread) my impression was that Allied superiority manifested itself as a near-constant presence – i.e. the Luftwaffe was often lucky to get to its target (or off the ground) without running into opposition. The refrain seems to have been ’task not carried out owing to …’
It wasn’t so much 15 aircraft versus 100 but 15 versus 20 and then another 20 and then another 20 and so on.”
Yes, that is exactly the impression I have, and the same description is repeated over and over again by German sources. What was even worse - from the German POV - was that already the first combat caused the German unit to get dispersed into twos or threes - hence the American observation which I quoted earlier: “enemy aircraft were sighted . . . mostly Me 109s and Fw 190s in twos and threes”. These twos and threes then often were left on their own, with tired pilots and aircraft running low on both ammunition and fuel - against “fresh” Allied formations of 20, 30, 40 or more fighters which bounced them from above. (An air combat often has the tendency to drift downward in altitude, so that fighters which have come out of one combat often are flying lower than newly arriving fighters.)

I was challenged by Franek to present even a single combat where we know the exact number of aircraft on both sides, where the Germans were outnumbered by ten to one (“Please give a single sample of a Staffel, 6-9 aircraft, fighting with two or three Wings or Fighter Groups, 60-90 aircraft”). I found the request strange, but since Franek wanted to see such a case, I gave him a row of even worse cases in the “Luftwaffe Aces KIA in Normandy” thread (25 German fighters versus twelve hundred US fighters and bombers, 10 German fighters versus 524 US fighters at Chartres) - only because he wondered if there ever were such cases. Cases of a Staffel, 6-9 aircraft, fighting with two or three Wings or Fighter Groups, 60-90 aircraft were not uncommon over France in the summer of 1944, but of course, the nature of precisely that kind of scenario tells us that most air combats were fought in smaller formations.

I can understand that if one limits his study to only Allied accounts on the unit level - together with a tendency to dismiss any German account on the simple grounds that it is a German account - the perspective of the huge Allied numerical superiority which you describe, Nick, is diminished.

If we go to the case which I described on page 7 in the “La-7Vs??”:

Quote:
“Let’s first listen to our friend Don Caldwell, who in his excellent “JG 26 War Diary” writes on page 292 (dealing with 27 June 1944): “134 Fw 190 and 196 Bf 109 sorties during the day, in thirty-five ordered missions. It is probable that a ‘mission’ in this context represented an effort by one Gruppe; a Gruppe mission thus contained an average of fewer than ten aircraft”.

In other words, an average of no more than nine German fighters participated in each mission on 27 June 1944.

The largest single mission performed by the Luftwaffe over France on 27 June 1944 probably was that which involved I. and II./JG 27 in the evening, with approximately 20 Bf 109s. These were attacked by the Thunderbolts of 353 FG, and then Thunderbolts of 56 FG joined in, followed by the Mustangs of 352 FG and 355 FG. It is possible that the Mustangs of 339 FG also participated in the onslaught on I. and II./JG 27’s little formation, since this fighter group claimed a victory against a German fighter in the same area and at the same time, while there are no records of other German fighter units in the vicinity by the same time. However, it doesn’t matter whether I. and II./JG 27’s little formation was battered by four or five different US fighter groups; what matters is that the Bf 109 pilots stood no chance and lost nine Bf 109s (the Americans claimed 14 victories) while they only managed to shoot down two US fighters. (See Clark, book, p. 94, and CD for 27 June 1944.)”
. . . only the surviving German pilots would for sure be able to describe the actual numerical odds they were up against. To the US pilots of each involved fighter group or fighter squadron, it could have appeared as “us 50 (or 15 to 18 if the individual squadron was reporting, or even 4 if the individual flight was the perspective) against 10 or 20 Germans (or even 30 - 40, due to fighter pilots’ tendency to exaggerate the number of enemy aircraft which they engage)”.

Many accounts and combat reports start with “together with my flight, I attacked. . .” Often, the pilots who gave the combat report didn’t mention the presence of other friendly fighters, because that wasn’t entirely relevant. And often they simply were not aware of the fact that another fighter group had bounced these German planes ten minutes previously, and ten minutes afterward, a third fighter group would bounce those unfortunate Germans one more time - followed maybe by a fourth fighter group, unbeknown to the other three, another ten minutes later.

Yes, Nick, this is the reality of the air war over Normandy, as you correctly mention was noted in German radio messages intercepted by Ultras. As always, it is necessary to study reports from both sides, and treat both sides equally seriously, in order to arrive at a picture which is as close as possible to the reality.

BTW, I am reading your “Ghost Bombers”, which is a great piece of research and text! I am deeply impressed! Before that one, I wouldn’t have believed that it was possible to find such a wealth of information on a Nachtschlachtgruppe in Italy (of all places!) in 1944 - 1945 (of all years!). It is a great read, and your illustrations are just marvellous! Sometimes it gets so personal that it feels like a biography: There is a photo of the German pilot who was shot down, a photo of the last page in his logbook (ending with a comment by a superior, noting that he was KIA), then a photo of the British pilot who shot him down, and finally a photo of the last page in his logbook (with an entry of the shootdown), and maybe also a copy of the corresponding page in that guys’ personal diary - plus colour profiles of both involved aircraft! Breathtaking! Where did you find all that material? I also noticed that there are some “the battlefield then and now” photos. Have you been to those places and taken those photos?

Oops, I realise that this should fit better in the review section, so I’ll post it there too.

All best,

Christer Bergström

http://www.graf-grislawski.elknet.pl/index.htm

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/bc-rs/

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/...-ace/index.htm
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 2nd March 2005, 17:51
Franek Grabowski Franek Grabowski is offline
Alter Hase
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Warsaw, Poland
Posts: 2,005
Franek Grabowski
Quote:
Originally Posted by Christer Bergström
What was even worse - from the German POV - was that already the first combat caused the German unit to get dispersed into twos or threes - hence the American observation which I quoted earlier: “enemy aircraft were sighted . . . mostly Me 109s and Fw 190s in twos and threes”.
It was rather unability of German pilots to keep in formation. Exactly the same comments were done by Hungarian Stuka pilots flying in Southern Poland at the time.

Quote:
I found the request strange, but since Franek wanted to see such a case, I gave him a row of even worse cases in the “Luftwaffe Aces KIA in Normandy” thread (25 German fighters versus twelve hundred US fighters and bombers, 10 German fighters versus 524 US fighters at Chartres) - only because he wondered if there ever were such cases.
You did not prove anything I asked for. Strenght of Allied formation performing a single operation was tremendous and included apart of extra fighter sweeps also reconnaisance, pathfinder, elint and ASR aircraft if flown over sea. It does not mean that they were all present at one place. It was a standard procedure for close escort to disperse in sections of three or four along the bomber stream. In effect your figures are just only stats or big lies.

Quote:
I can understand that if one limits his study to only Allied accounts on the unit level - together with a tendency to dismiss any German account on the simple grounds that it is a German account - the perspective of the huge Allied numerical superiority which you describe, Nick, is diminished.
I have checked all available (to me) accounts of both sides as well as documents and books for my article covering D+1 operations of 133 Wing. I admit I have not get through diaries and combat reports of every Allied unit flying that day as it was only a 'short' article. Nonetheless I think it is a representative work with a little marigin of error. How many documents and accounts have you cross checked before drawing your conclusions presented here?

Quote:
Many accounts and combat reports start with “together with my flight, I attacked. . .”
Basic principle of aircombat that fully evolved in 1930s, mostly due to availability of radio sets, was that there is no more individual dog-fight but only team effort.

Quote:
Often, the pilots who gave the combat report didn’t mention the presence of other friendly fighters, because that wasn’t entirely relevant. And often they simply were not aware of the fact that another fighter group had bounced these German planes ten minutes previously, and ten minutes afterward, a third fighter group would bounce those unfortunate Germans one more time - followed maybe by a fourth fighter group, unbeknown to the other three, another ten minutes later.
What was not clear then, becomes apparent today. Having claims, times and locations it is easy to ascertain if it was a single German formation bounced by several Allied units. This was not the case of units engaged by Poles (and Brits of 129 Sqn) on 7 June 1944.

Quote:
Yes, Nick, this is the reality of the air war over Normandy, as you correctly mention was noted in German radio messages intercepted by Ultras. As always, it is necessary to study reports from both sides, and treat both sides equally seriously, in order to arrive at a picture which is as close as possible to the reality.
In case of Normandy, wireless and Ultra intercepts are almost useless for research of combats that occured there. Ultra is great to prepare a general view of situation not available from (lost) German sources.
Christer, have you ever seen any Allied war diaries or combat reports? I assume you did not because of the nonsense you spread here. I cannot take seriously an account of a German pilot claiming his formation was attacked by 150+ Thunderbolts when it is apparent only a single Squadron of Mustangs was engaged at the place and location. But I am happy to have it because there are almost no German accounts for the period.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 2nd March 2005, 19:33
Christer Bergström Christer Bergström is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 352
Christer Bergström
Quote:
Christer, have you ever seen any Allied war diaries or combat reports?
Eh. . . yes.
I used some for the Graf & Grislawski book. There's no point in being rude.
Allow me to ask you: Do you have such Allied war diaries or combat reports from the summer of 1944? I mean, apart from Polish ones?

Quote:
I cannot take seriously an account of a German pilot claiming his formation was attacked by 150+ Thunderbolts when it is apparent only a single Squadron of Mustangs was engaged at the place and location.
Please tell me exactly which account you have in mind? And please give us a source reference, which you unfortunately often tend to forget to do. I think many of us would like to see a reference to your sources, Franek! I am not the first one to say so.

And please - for the fourth time - let's remain calm and stay friends.

Remember: This is only a hobby, no one here is a professional historian, no one here approaches the subject with the methods of a professional historian, and we should all be involved in this interesting discussion only because it enriches us and it helps us to learn more about a tiny piece of forgotten history which makes us all happier to study.

I am here only in a pause in my editing of a book which will be out next year. I enjoy talking to other people who share this interest, and I like to exchange information.

It's only Rock 'n' Roll but I like it! :P

- That's the way it should stay. 8)


All best,

Christer Bergström

http://www.graf-grislawski.elknet.pl/index.htm

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/bc-rs/

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/...-ace/index.htm
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 2nd March 2005, 19:54
Six Nifty .50s Six Nifty .50s is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 246
Six Nifty .50s
Quote:
Originally Posted by Franek Grabowski
I cannot take seriously an account of a German pilot claiming his formation was attacked by 150+ Thunderbolts when it is apparent only a single Squadron of Mustangs was engaged at the place and location.
Does anyone have a German language copy of Alarm im Westen by Willi Heilmann? I believe this pilot flew with JG 54 and I'd like to know if his text contains any comments regarding the death of Walter Nowotny.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 2nd March 2005, 20:18
Christer Bergström Christer Bergström is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 352
Christer Bergström
"Alarm im Westen" maybe is not the best book one can use as a source to understand the air war during WW II, if I may say so. Regard it as a book review, if you like.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Air war over North Africa Christer Bergström Luftwaffe and Axis Air Forces 13 3rd November 2013 01:34
NEW BOOK - LUFTWAFFE & THE WAR AT SEA DavidIsby Books and Magazines 27 29th June 2012 01:15
War over SE Asia part deux Jim P. Japanese and Allied Air Forces in the Far East 7 21st April 2005 14:46
Discussion on the air war in Tunisia Christer Bergström Luftwaffe and Axis Air Forces 14 1st April 2005 19:47
Eastern vs Western Front (was: La-7 vs ???) Christer Bergström Allied and Soviet Air Forces 66 1st March 2005 20:44


All times are GMT +2. The time now is 08:26.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ©2004 - 2018, 12oclockhigh.net