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Old 1st February 2006, 19:33
Pathfinder Pathfinder is offline
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Luftwaffe Fight Tactics (early 1944)

I have read that when attacking B-17 formations, German fighters would normally attack from behind and try to knock out the tail gunner. Later, I believe the tactics changed and the German fighters then began head-on attacks into the front of the Fortress formations. Why would they change tactics to head-on attacks later, as the B-17s were beginning to have chin turrets in early 1944?

Can anyone elaborate on these details and maybe tell me the tactic that might have been employed by German fighters in the April-May 1944 time-frame.

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Old 1st February 2006, 20:32
shooshoobaby shooshoobaby is offline
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Re: Luftwaffe Fight Tactics (early 1944)

Head on attacks were the main reason the Chin Turret was adapted for the B - 17. It was first used on B - 17s modified as Gun Ships called YB - 40s. Head on attacks had a faster rate of closure , less exposure to return fire , the idea being to try and eliminate the formation leaders to create confusion and break up the formations.
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Old 1st February 2006, 21:44
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Re: Luftwaffe Fight Tactics (early 1944)

Not to mention both pilots are basically unprotected by armor from the front - with better chance to kill the flight crew.

As I recall Egon Meyer was one of the early proponents of the 'head on/company front' techniques in 1943... and was the top B-17 killer until KIA by Walter Gresham on 2 March 1944.
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Old 11th February 2006, 11:33
Jon Jon is offline
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Re: Luftwaffe Fight Tactics (early 1944)

Also you need to remember that all the NCO trained gunners were in the rear of the B17 and B24 apart, from the top gunner. They had all been taught 100% day in day out how to use the weapons where as the nose weapons on US Bombers were usually operated by Officers who were trained mainly in other roles with gunnery as a small part of the training eg: the bomb aimer.
However the slow closing speed was the main reason, attacking a US formation from the rear certainly exposed the Luftwaffe pilot to more chance of getting hit than a swift head on attack, breaking under the formation and away if Mustangs were about.
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Old 11th February 2006, 18:11
kb kb is offline
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Re: Luftwaffe Fight Tactics (early 1944)

In the timeframe you enquired about (Apr/May 1944) the primary tactic by the Luftwaffe was to mass their single engined fighter units in combat groups (Gefechtsverband) at an assembly point ahead of the US bomber formations, then vector the formation into position to execute a mass frontal attack against the US combat wings which could overwhelm the return fire of the bomber formation and preempt interception by US escort fighters; when executed properly as done for example on 6 March 1944, the effect was devastating.

During this time an experimental Luftwaffe unit known as Sturmstaffel 1 was completing experiments with tactics to successfully launch mass attacks from the rear against US bombers. This was pioneered in part by recognition that the declining level of training of fighter pilots hindered their ability to successfully execute the high speed frontal attacks initially favored. Utilizing heavily armed and armored FW190s Sturmstaffel 1 would approach to close range in a line abreast formation before opening fire on US bomber formations, with the initial objective of silencing the rear gunner, then destroying the enemy aircraft. The results attained persuaded the Luftwaffe to form specialized fighter groups called Sturmgruppen, which conducted their first sorties later in May.

From June 1944 onward what significant successes the Luftwaffe achieved against US bomber formations can be credited almost entirely to the Sturmgruppen (IV/JG3, II/JG4, II/JG300).
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