Mythbuster: German 4-engined bombers

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Mythbuster: German 4-engined bombers

Postby Ricky » Wed Jan 30, 2008 9:55 am

Originally posted by Simonr1978 - link to old topic

I’ve been wanting to write this one for a while, but somehow the time to sit down and put it altogether has seemed lacking.

This is one of my favourite of the WWII myths and one that crops up from time to time.

The lack of a dedicated 4 engine bomber early on is often used as reason for German defeat both in the Battle of Britain and on the Eastern Front.

Firstly the Battle of Britain.

The argument usually put forth is that with a long range bomber and a heavier bomb load, the Luftwaffe could have attacked RAF aerodromes throughout the country at will and kept a consistent pressure on Fighter Command throughout the Battle, squadrons could not have been rested, nowhere would have been safe and fighter command would have crumbled.

This is quite simply not true. At no point during the Battle of Britain was the range or bomb load of the existing Luftwaffe twin engine types an issue. They had the range to bomb practically anywhere in the Great Britain and could do so with bomb loads that were more than ample for cratering grass airstrips or destroying the RAF’s flimsy hangers. What was lacking, and what would remain lacking even with a 4 engine heavy, was a single engine fighter that could escort the bomber’s far enough to make the range count.

Unescorted raids to the North and Midlands were tried and abandoned in the face of heavy losses, had 4 engine heavies been available these would undoubtedly have faired no better and the Luftwaffe would have fought basically the same battle by day, but with fewer planes. With the historic diversion of resources to the reprisals against London, they still would have lost.

The Soviet Union.

Mostly, the arguments used imagine a Luftwaffe strategic bombing campaign causing massive disruption to Soviet industry that was apparently unreachable having been moved beyond the Urals, having a decisive impact on the ground war.

I do not believe this would have been at all effective. Considering the advantages the Allies enjoyed bombing Germany, in terms of intelligence and having the full weight of two air forces directed against the enemy by night and day (And considering that it is now largely believed to have been far less effective than believed at the time) it seems doubtful that the Luftwaffe alone could have had a decisive impact lacking effective intelligence, numbers or an effective escort fighter.

Whilst initially Luftwaffe bombers would prove difficult to intercept by the Red Air Force, MiG-3s would prove effective in the long term as these held their performance at altitude far better than their Soviet contemporaries (historically scoring one of the first kills against high-altitude Ju86 reconnaissance craft). The Luftwaffe would soon find themselves having to effectively carpet bomb the Urals by night in the hope of hitting something that mattered.

Also unlike their Allied counterparts relatively safe in the UK, the Luftwaffe would not enjoy the stability of such permanent bases in such secure surroundings.

As the war in the east progressed, the need for tactical aircraft over strategic ones required the twin engine types of the Luftwaffe far more than heavier types, which would have used up far more resources (The usual yardstick seems to be that two 4 engine planes required the same resources as five 2 engine planes), resulting in a much smaller air force. Such a heavy bomber force would probably suffer heavy casualties supplementing the transport fleet trying to bail out the 6th Army at Stalingrad.

Well, that’s my thoughts on the matter, anyone care to comment?

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