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Most Dominant Aircraft In History

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In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 4:36:25 PM PDT
Allan says:
'' Among contemporaries, the B-24 and B-17 did a much tougher job (than the Lancaster) against a much more developed opponent.''

Who were they, exactly?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 4:39:22 PM PDT
IGS says:
Yes John

I agree with you. This is what I posted above

"Good point, if we expand to bombers which, to be frank, do not establish air dominance, lots of planes match and exceed the Lancaster. Among contemporaries, the B-24 and B-17 did a much tougher job against a much more developed opponent. Although over time the night skies over Germany became quite deadly (e.g., Nuremberg, March '44).

But even among contemporaries it was outclassed and dwarfed by it's great contemporary, the B-29. Nothing in that era even comes close.

But among bombers, among all eras, there really is only one. The B-52.

Although the F-117 and B-2 are interesting newer developments."

If bombers are about payload delivery in WWII the B29 wipes out the competition. The B-29 could carry 22,000 lbs, on it's wings, and another 20,000 internal if required. If we are talking range ... off the scale. Indeed no other bomber in the war could fly the long distance strikes required of the B-29 as a matter of course.

The Lancaster got some pretty exotic missions though.

But in the WWII era, the 4 big heavies are all awesome weapons. The B17, B24, Lancaster, B-29. All rugged weapons.


Good mention though. I was not even thinking of bombers. But it is a good addition.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 4:40:24 PM PDT
Allan says:
''B29 wasthe parexcellence bomber of WWII''

In terms of dominance, how many B29s were built?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 4:43:53 PM PDT
Allan says:
You're welcome.

Enjoyed the interlude, but I'm back to the real war, battling the fundies on the religious forums ;-)

Posted on Jul 28, 2012 4:48:48 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 28, 2012 4:49:24 PM PDT
Since you didn't specify warplanes, I'll go for the Boeing 707. It was the first really practical jet airliner and revolutionized air travel. Second I'd place the Gooney Bird. The first practical transport aircraft in the world.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 4:59:48 PM PDT
Allan says:
Richard M. Smith says: Surfin, Since you didn't specify warplanes, I'll go for the Boeing 707.

Allan: Couldn't resist it.

Despite its problems, if De Havilland had not conducted an open inquiry on the Comet which cost the company heaps in terms of providing information to its competitors, it could have taken a long time to develop manufacturing techniques which made airliners safer.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 5:11:08 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 28, 2012 5:20:35 PM PDT
IGS says:

Please leave the fundamentalists alone. They have their own issues and will not change. Leave them to it. I am a religious person myself. But I tend to think god is a heck of a lot more forgiving than the bible thumpers do.

But I am content to not care what others believe.

But as to your great point.

I'd have to say that the Luftwaffe day forces were a great deal more effective than the Nachtjagd. They could be more effectively concentrated, more easily see the target, and more easily determine where they were going. That made them very dangerous.

However, the night game presented its own challenges, but the Luftwaffe at night generally was not as dangerous as it was during the day. That is my only point.

Please don't take it as disparagement against the Bomber Command. They had some horrible nights up there and suffered from very poor doctrine. The actual numbers of losses are sort of difficult to figure out and it depends on whether you count Halifaxes as part of the BC losses. If not, and you limit it to Stirling and Lancasters you have BC losses of about 4000 with USAAF losses of B-17's and B-24's at around 4000 as well. But the numbers seem to be a bit dicey. But the BC had been flying from the beginning of the war.

I do understand one thing. That next to U-boat crew, being a Bomber Command crew was the most dangerous job in the war (excepting the kamikaze's who intended to be dead). About half the Bomber Command crews never saw the end of the war. Unlike US crews which flew 25 missions and were done. The BC crews flew 30 and them were given a "rest" for up to 6 months and they were in the sky again. 55,000 dead.

No disrespect to the BC.

Here is a factor that is very frightening about the war in the sky. You are fighting about 4 miles up ... it is cold up there even in the middle of summer. Everest cold. Then you add a wind chill caused by 150-200 mph wind and it is shockingly brutal up there. Then I thought about what it must have been like for the Bomber Command pilots, at 2 a.m. in the middle of January. When I think about it, it really strikes me what your country can ask of you during a war.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 5:15:50 PM PDT
Allan says:
''Please don't take it as disparagement against the Bomber Command.''

S'OK, I never read it that way.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 5:29:28 PM PDT
Bubba says:
When I was in the Air Force I was working on B-52Ds that were built before I was born. Although the D models are no longer in use, the B52's still in use are not all that much younger than I am.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 5:50:28 PM PDT
Bubba says:
Boeing had designed the 707's rounded windows before it was found that the square corners of the DeHavilland Comet's windows were found to be causing metal fatigue.

Long before the Comets had started crashing, the US CAA had refused to grant the Comet an airworthiness certificate due to concerns about the design of the Comet's square cornered windows.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 6:24:34 PM PDT
Allan says:
Without getting too deeply into Conspiracy Theory, Bubba ;-) I think there was much more to it than the shape of a window or two.

Posted on Jul 28, 2012 6:45:57 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 28, 2012 6:52:52 PM PDT
DarthRad says:
The F-15 has been dominant only because it has mostly run into limited export versions of Soviet/Russian aircraft during a time when the Soviet Empire was in decline. With its big radar and suite of missiles, most of the F-15 kills have been from distance, well before its under-equipped opponents could even attack.

My guess is that the resurgent Russians now have something much better that can counter the F-15 - like the US, they do not export their top of the line stuff, and although the exported Mig-29 and SU-35s are very maneuverable and can out-dogfight the F15, unless they are equipped with state of the art Russian radar systems, they are just going to get shot out of the skies before even getting close to the F-15s.

I've been reluctant to enter this thread because it's always a moving target in the real world of armed conflict as to whether your technology is enough to crush your enemy or not. Behind the scenes is always an arms race to try to top the enemy's latest advance. How long a weapons platform can stay relevant depends solely on how quickly the enemy can develop technology to defeat your latest stuff.

The P-51 is often extolled by Americans as the greatest fighter ever. But, if you read the biographies of German pilots, the most they will ever say about the P-51 is that there was a LOT of them. Which was true. By the time the Merlin powered long range P-51 showed up in numbers in 1944, most of the best Luftwaffe pilots had been killed off, and the rest would be quickly killed thereafter, often jumped by five or more Mustangs simultaneously. So hardly a fair fight.

Just like most of the F-15s were hardly fair fights. Their opponents were not equipped with the big radar and AMRAAM, and the improved sparrow, etc. which is what really accounted for the high kill ratio.

Same thing with the B-29 versus Japan. Not a fair fight. Japan had no high altitude air defenses, it barely had any AAA at all, compared to the Germans.

The B-29 against veteran Soviet pilots flying the Mig-15 in Korea was a totally different story. The Mig-15 was designed specifically to kill a big slow bomber like the B-29. And a lot of them were shot down, forcing all B-29 missions to fly at night and bomb by radar. This realization that the B-29 was obsolete and that the concept of long range fighter escorts simply did not work in the jet age drove the development of jet bombers, the B-47, B-52, B-58, F-105, and the B-70. All were designed to dash in alone, at ever faster speeds, unescorted, drop their bombs, and then try to fly back.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 8:05:53 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 28, 2012 10:28:12 PM PDT
IGS says:

I think your post is perceptive and true. The bit about the F-15 especially so. The avionic suite on that aircraft is second to none. Half the trick is killing your enemy before he even has a shot at killing you. That is the point of low observable technologies (stealth).

And yes. Today's top dog is tomorrows crater in a big hurry.

The P-51 was a good solid plane that could fly with or outfly what they faced. You art not going to beat one in a 109G or a 190A, you need the 190D's to stay in the game. It was not the best plane ever built but it was way good enough to do the job. Many, many Luftwaffe aces will tell you that. I have been to a couple meet and greets with a number of these pilots and they will tell you how good the Mustang was. Greatest ever? Probably not, probably not even the best piston engined plane of the war (Ta 152's and all), but given the pilot quality, the ease of manufacturing, the numbers at the front line, and its overall excellent performance, at range, it is a worthy competitor. And their were 1000's of "fair fights" with the 51. It was the dominant fighter of the war.

And I just have to say one thing to you. As a soldier (or indeed as a martial artist), if you ever find yourself in a "fair fight", you have done something wrong. And it's a team sport.

As for the F-15. It wasn't just a high kill ratio. It was phenomenal unprecedented. They have never lost one in combat. Ever. And the plane/weapon system are the tool in modern warfare.

As for the B-29. They flew only a small fraction of those sorties at anything approaching high altitude. The majority of the damage was done at altitudes of 6,000 or under. They had real problems at high altitude over Japan, range, reduced bomb load, inaccuracy, jet stream, nav problems, it was a pain. And they had a good deal more AA than you seem to think. I have read a few books on the B-29 campaigns. They are really different than the 8th AAF stuff in Europe. But like it's smaller cousin the B-17, the B-29 could take a great deal of punishment.

Bombers are always going to be vulnerable to an aircraft that is 350 mph faster than they are. I think that the US knew the B-29 was obsolete long before Korea. I think that even the need for speed disappeared with the advent of the high altitude high speed long range air-to-air missiles and surface-to-air missiles. Funny thing is, when you look for detailed information on this stuff, it's hard to find. There is a reason for it. But modernly, air domination and ground fire suppression are the key elements. That is what those early F-117 strikes were early in the war. To take down the radar grids and suppress the known SAM clusters.

I think the B-70 would have been a great weapon. I do not recall what the bomb load was.

But you are absolutely correct, it is a game that never ends.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 8:08:40 PM PDT
John M. Lane says:
I second your point on a "fair fight," surfin.

If it's a "fair fight," you've already made a tactical error. They don't pay you to fight fair. They pay you to win.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 8:41:32 PM PDT
Allan says:
''Please leave the fundamentalists alone. They have their own issues and will not change. Leave them to it.''

Was going to let that one through to the keeper until I saw 'if you ever find yourself in a "fair fight", you have something wrong'.

I fight dirty, so I win ;-)

Posted on Jul 28, 2012 10:09:18 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 29, 2012 7:15:29 AM PDT
DarthRad says:
A couple of excellent books on this topic:


Unlike the big high scoring German aces, Heinz Knocke flew the majority of his missions in the West, against the mostly American daylight bombing campaign. As a result, he was not a particularly high scoring ace (his job was to shoot the bombers down and avoid the fighters if he could) and towards the end, almost every single one of his missions ended with him getting shot down, usually after having been chased away from the bombers by a series of US fighters. He describes bailing out of a burning plane as a routine he mastered.

One of his last missions involved him being ordered by his superiors to attack a 1000-bomber raid with the last five remaining fighters in his squadron and a group of rookie pilots. Two of the planes can barely fly. He gets in one and leads his sad flight off the runway. The two bad planes both immediately fail and crash on takeoff. Knocke survives his crash, the other pilot is killed. The remaining three planes can't get past the fighter escorts and are shot down.

The book is harrowing in its detail about just how overwhelming it was to be a Luftwaffe pilot in the last years of the war. More than anything else, it was a matter of numbers which favored the Allies.

The other book:

Black Tuesday

The US planners of this raid had no clue about the B-29 being obsolete. They sent the raid off with jet fighter escorts, which had to fly in loops around the B-29s because of the 100 mph speed difference. The escorts could not keep the Mig-15s out - they were just too fast and whizzed in and out, past the escorts to shoot at the bombers.

The jet powered B-47 and B-52s were still under development at the time, and the B-36 was just as slow. So the B-29s got painted black and started night bombing

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 10:23:42 PM PDT
The B-29 wasn't a slow bomber in WWII. It was as fast or faster at altitude than the piston engined fighters trying to intercept it. In fact the Mig15 was designed to kill B-29s, look at the armament. One 37mm and 2 23mm cannons, all slow firing and powerful. Not an anti-fighter armament at all.

I think you're missing what made the P-51 a great fighter. No other single engined fighter was able to take the fight into the enemy's home airspace and meet the defenders on even terms. The German's had all the same advantages aa the RAF had in the BoB. They had radar direction, they could pick their time and place for combat and when shot down could be back at their base in hours. The P-51 pilots were flying 4 to 6 hours just to get into combat, then had to manage their fuel in order to make the equally long return trip.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 11:26:36 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 28, 2012 11:27:43 PM PDT
Bubba says:
If you are speaking of the Comet's (lack of) CAA airworthiness cert, that thought crossed my mind too.

Metal fatigue caused by the design of the square windows was found to be the cause of the crashes. The failure at the window corners has been attributed to the small radius corners of the windows and that the window-mounts were punched and riveted, not drilled.

DeHavilland did a water tank test of a pressurized airframe, using jacks to simulate stresses on the airframe in flight. The test resulted in structural failure of the airframe, which was caused by metal fatigue at a window corner; they also later recovered pieces of a crashed Comet that was found to have experienced a catastrophic structural failure of the airframe, which was caused by metal fatigue at a window corner.

DeHavilland replaced the Comet with the Comet II -- which had round windows. I wish it had been successful, the design of the engines fully faired into the wing is pretty cool.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2012 11:47:53 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 28, 2012 11:54:28 PM PDT
Good point about the P-51's ability to mix it up at RANGE. As a long-range escort, the P-51 was without peer. I have read, however, that in fly-offs, the Bearcat probably would have emerged as a superior dogfighter.

BTW, regarding the Lancaster, my 50th coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, and as it so happened, my Mom noticed that the Canadian heritage flight was bringing a Spitfire IX and one of the last two flying Lancs down to Republic Airport on Long Island, which is about a 20 minute drive from home. So she asks if I wanted to go for my birthday?

Well, heck, it's not everyday that one can get to see a Spitfire and a Lancaster in the US on one's 50th, so I'm all for it. So we go down to the airfield, and there's a line to take a crawl through tour of the Lanc. When am I ever going to get a chance to that again? So I'm game.

The thing that you've got to understand though, in order to make this work, it has to be set up so that people enter through one hatch and exit through another. In practice, this means that you have to enter by climbing up a ladder into the nose through a hatch into the bombardier's position. This hatch is so small that to get through it I had to turn my shoulders diagonally just to squeeze through. I can't imagine doing it in a heavy flight suit and parachute. Next, you have wiggle up under the control panel into the cockpit. (Imagine entering a Mini Cooper on a lift by climbing up a ladder into the engine compartment, then squeezing under the dashboard into the passenger's seat. When I said it was a "crawl through" tour, I wasn't kidding.) This puts you into a narrow "aisle" in the cockpit next to the pilot's seat. (The flight engineer's "seat" actually has to be folded up in order to get by.) A bit further back, the navigator's position is spacious by comparison, but then you have climb over the wing spar (which roughly is the size of double wide coffee table). The top turret is barely large enough to accommodate your head, let alone your shoulders. After which, it's a fairly straight shot down the fuselage to the starboard side hatch, from which you exit.

Of course, I don't know any of this yet, because I'm still waiting on line.

So is my mother.

Mom's a few months shy of her 82nd birthday.

She's decided that she wants to take the "tour" too.

I'm looking at the ladder...

Then I'm looking at her...

Then I'm looking back at the ladder, and that tiny hatch, and imagining all of the contortions ahead....

I'm wondering whether she knows what she's getting herself into...

Are you sure?

She's sure. Me, not so much...

Mom's turn comes, and up the ladder she goes, me right behind her, my fingers splayed out, ready to catch her if she even looks like she's going to slip. I have no idea whether she's going to be able to crawl through the tight spots, or how I'm going help her if she gets stuck. I mean this is a genuinely awkward aircraft to move through for anyone, let alone someone in her eighties.

As it turns out, she manuevers her way through like she was 30 years younger! Hardly a moment of hesitation going through the difficult spots. I am utterly in awe!

Suffice it to say, BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 29, 2012 12:59:59 AM PDT
Allan says:
Sounds marvellous.

''I can't imagine doing it in a heavy flight suit and parachute.''

Except, of course, the tail gunner did not have a parachute.

Posted on Jul 29, 2012 5:41:17 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 29, 2012 5:41:41 AM PDT
DarthRad says:
The P-51 had one single great attribute - it had a terrifically aerodynamic airframe that allowed it to fly faster and farther with an engine that was no longer state of the art by the time it finally came into its fame and glory. The Packard V-1650-7 was the American version of the Rolls Royce Merlin 60, which was 1942 era British technology - the British were no longer installing it in their planes by 1944, having developed better versions and the Griffon.

Was it the best fighter ever? No, there are lots of accounts from pilots who flew in P-40s and Spitfires and Me-190, who say that those planes, although not as fast and lacking the range of the P-51, could out-turn the P-51, i.e., out-dogfight it.

All plane designs are engineering tradeoffs - an aerodynamically slick plane that can fly very fast and far isn't going to have the same airfoils and wings that will allow it to be great at turning at low speeds.

And ultimately, in WWII, most fighter aircraft that got shot down were shot down by an enemy that had surprised it and got the jump on it first. It didn't matter how good a plane or pilot was if the pilot didn't see the shooter coming first. In a big chaotic dogfight melee, anybody could get shot down. The smartest aces avoided those, it was a good way to get killed.

Mostly the U.S. won the air war in WWII on "quantity, not quality", which was the conclusion of the many pilots and contractors asked to evaluate a variety of fighter aircraft in 1944:

Report of Joint Fighter Conference: : NAS Patuxent River, MD - 16-23 October 1944 (Schiffer Military History)

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 29, 2012 5:41:34 AM PDT
F. Gleaves says:
That's what I meant when caling the Harrier a 'niche' fighter - it had some unique capabilities (as a fighter, vectored thrust was found to be very useful in combat) which were vital for certain missions, but never gained preference as an air superiority fighter or fighter-bomber.

The Lancaster was a great payload hauler and the best of the RAF four-engined bombers, but I've always preferred the Mosquito. Offerring its crew a much better chance of survival IIRC.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 29, 2012 6:17:33 AM PDT
F. Gleaves says:
'Except, of course, the tail gunner did not have a parachute.'

I recall from the story of the Lancaster tail-gunner who survived a fall of over 15,000' into a snowy pine forest that his 'chute was at the wrong end of a long, narrow tunnel in a burning Lanc.

Not much use to him!

It looked like he'd be the subject of a Gestapo interrogation as a spy, but fortunately the Luftwaffe checked out his story and found his chute.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 29, 2012 1:23:25 PM PDT
R. Largess says:
Good story, RG. Maybe you should set me up with a date with your Mom? Bubba, it seems to me that the Nimrod is a Comet spin-off and has flown for many years very successfully.

Posted on Jul 29, 2012 4:47:29 PM PDT
No helicopter love? UH-1B, AH-64? What about ground attack? A-10, AC-130?
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Discussion in:  History forum
Participants:  28
Total posts:  220
Initial post:  Jul 27, 2012
Latest post:  Sep 4, 2012

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