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Best Ground Attack Plane of WWII


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#1 GregP

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Posted 31 October 2003 - 12:18 AM

I see the best/worst fighter, bomber, and transport in here, so I thought I'd take an opportunity to put a plug in for the ground pounders.

For my money, I nominate the Repiblic P-47 with its eight 12.7 mmm MG and ability to both dish out and take punishment.

If I had more information on it, I might nominate the Ilyushin IL-2. All I know about it is that they made over 36,000 of them and it was very hard to shoot down. Truthfully, I haven't seen much information on its combat effectiveness as a ground attack plane, though I'd imagine they were effective or the USSR would not have made so many.

The Typhoon / Tempest would rank right up there, but the P-47 was around in greater numbers longer with its 8-12.7 mm armament, so I infer more "targets of opportunity" for the P-47's than for the Hawkers.

What do YOU think?

#2 simon

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Posted 01 November 2003 - 02:04 AM

Hmmm, well I'd say just because it was built in greater numbers doesn't mean it was better, maybe the type as a whole achieved more, but based on the logic of numbers you could say the B-24 was better than the B-29...

Personally I'd say for light anti-vehicle work the Tempest's 20mm were better than the Browning .50 cals.

Going purely by the statistics the Il-2m is actually a pretty poor aircraft, ignoring the armour which was thick, but not impenetrable and in any case only protected the underside of the aircraft, and as is quite well reported not the poor rear gunner. It was slow, had poor defensive weaponary, and had a poor ceiling.

I'd vote for the Yak-9 anti-tank version (Think it was the Yak-9T but not certain), with a 45mm cannon in the nose and provision for rockets and bombs it could take out quite a range of German tanks, whilst retaining the speed and manouevrability and lighter weapons to take on other aircraft.

Runners up, in the fighter-bomber category would be the Thunderbolt, Tempest and the often overlooked Hurricane MkIIE/MkIV. For the dedicated ground attack plane, I'd say probably the Henschell Hs129, Il-2m, then Ju87G. I really haven't been able to find out enough about the He177P (Complete with 75mm cannon in the nose), or the Ju88P (75mm cannon in a disposable arrangement similar to that in the Hs129B) to be able to say, my guess is they were good, or at least effective, although not built in large numbers.

#3 Corsarius

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Posted 01 November 2003 - 09:02 PM

I'll vote for the HS129, because I really do like it.

Thinking of which, I have recently seen a 'front view' photo of just the nose/cockpit of the HS129 and then the Su-25 'frogfoot'. There is more than just a superficial resembalence there, I assure you!

Maybe it's why I like the Sukhoi product so much...

#4 GregP

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Posted 02 November 2003 - 11:29 AM

So, you guys are voting on the plane you THINK was the best or on the plane that achieved the most destruction in the war?

I think the plane that achieved the best combat record was the best. You could have the greatest attack plane in the world, but if you only made one and never precipitated any damage to the enemy, who cares?

The P-47 destroyed more ground targets than any other Western Allied aircraft. I can't really compare it with the Hs-129 without data. The Yak-9T was a VERY hard hitting. What did they DO? I have little to no Russian information on sorties , armoer, transports, or other ground vehicles destroyed by Yaks, much less the Yak-9T.

The B-25 also had a version modified in the Pacific to mount a 75 mm Cannon and they sank several Japanese destroyers and other shipping. I used to work with a guy who was a crew chief on one. He said they only used old, war weary B-25's (Pappy Gunn's squadron), and that the aircraft were good for 10-15 shots before the recoil made ovals out of the rivet holes in the aircraft's skin and the planes had to be scrapped since they were literally coming apart after less than 20 shots (the cannon had no recoil-absorbing capability, so it was transmitted to the entire airframe).

Whether or not this is true, I can't say, but his name was Paul Cherry and he had plaenty of authentic photos of the palne and the effects of the recoil.

#5 Corsarius

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Posted 03 November 2003 - 06:49 PM

quote:Originally posted by GregP

So, you guys are voting on the plane you THINK was the best or on the plane that achieved the most destruction in the war?

I think the plane that achieved the best combat record was the best. You could have the greatest attack plane in the world, but if you only made one and never precipitated any damage to the enemy, who cares?.


OK. The way I work these things is one-on-one. You seem to have a broader view of things, which would lead (in sufficient quantities) us to have the Bristol Bulldog IV as the greatest aircraft of an alternate WWII as maybe England and it's allies just built nothing else, and sent ten thousand of them everywhere in each sortie.

I mean, fine, it would have been outperformed and outgunned at every turn, but hey, it would have been the plane that won the war: Lanchester's Law in action.

Ergo, you choose the P-47 not as it is a fantastic plane (which it is, and one of the few american planes I really like), but because of tonnage destroyed/ammo expended/etc.

It is my belief that to favourably compare them, you would have them lined up, theoretically, with cloned pilots that act identically, and sent individually to do a specific task. Whichever aircraft completed the task in a superior manner becomes the 'best'. After all, this is only speculation.

So while the P-47 is a good contender, I would put the Tempest ahead of it, as well as the Henschel.

As for things like the monstrous B-25 with the mega-gun, and the He-117 likewise (and, if I recall, a Japanese toryu with a 75mm gun, but that was for shooting B-29s), these aircraft are really in a seperate area, something like 'anti-shipping platform', rather than the ubiquitous 'air to ground'.

Hmmm. Rambling a bit, but I think saying the best 'air to ground' is almost like claiming a 'best fighter'. After all, aren't bombers air-to-ground? [:P]

#6 simon

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Posted 03 November 2003 - 08:50 PM

I've got to agree with Corsarius here, quantities do not equate to quality. Who is the better shot? The machine-gunner who expends a 1,000 rounds per minute, therefore probably scoring more actual hits on targets, or the Sniper who fires a single bullet an hour, but hits with every one?

Don't forget just because an aircraft was effective in whichever role it ended up in, does not necessarily mean that they were the best. It could mean as was the case with many Soviet and American aircraft in particular that they were available in sufficient numbers that the enemy were overwhelmed, that the training of their pilots was superior, the training of the enemy pilots was inadequate, or a combination.

I make my choices based on performance data available and where possible actual experiences and accounts, and OK I think for the most part none of us can help a little national bias.

If you take the combat record and divide it by sorties flown you would have a more meaningful figure, since this would give a rating per flight, meaning that you don't get a default winner just because it flew far more missions, but for most aircraft this detail is not easily accessible, or still cloaked in mystery and propaganda as is the case with many Soviet aircraft.

OK if only a few of an aircraft type were made it makes it far more difficult to assess it's capabilities, and makes a "Rogue" entry too influential, this is why I would only tend to use this method for aircraft that were built in significant numbers, up to individuals to determine what this means.

My understanding of the He177P was that was intended for anti-tank work, carrying the same modified Pak-40 as the Hs129, although like I say, I have no solid information on this.

Going OT, but theI think it the Ki67 "Hiryu" or "Peggy" with the 75mm gun was an experimental lash-up of which few were made, it proved incapable of reaching the altitudes or even matching speeds with the B-29s it was supposed to intercept, and as far as I'm aware never even flew a combat operation. In any case the combination of an apparently inaccurate handloaded cannon and bulky, slow bomber was supposedly virtually impossible to aim.

Definitions are pretty hard. I'd say a Bomber is an aircraft designed to attack a target on the ground with bombs.

A Dive-bomber is an aircraft which delivers bombs in a diving attack.

A Ground Attack aircraft is one which attacks enemy ground combat formations with cannon, rockets, bombs or missiles, with the intention being tactical support of friendly ground units. Anti-shipping is the same, except the targets must be shipping.

There is a bit of overlap here, especially between Dive-bombing and Ground Attack or anti-shipping aircraft, but these are what I use as a rule of thumb...

Oh yeah, apologees for the ramble too...

#7 tenmmike

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Posted 09 November 2003 - 02:33 PM

ill pick the il-2 and end of war il-10 as the two best dedicated ground attack a/c......any study of these 2 dedicated a/c will show their merits.. the hs -129 was a disapointment in performance..although the idea was good, the p-47 was used as ground attack and was good but not a true ground attack a/c

#8 simon

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Posted 09 November 2003 - 09:39 PM

I'm not overly convinced by the arguments that the Il-2m and Il10 were necessarily so superior. I still lean to the opinion that they were adequate, but that basically the Russians could afford the casualties. My own cursory studies of the Il-2m seem to indicate that it was far from invulnerable or even an impressive performer, and was slow, had poor manourevrability and a poor ceiling.

Why then was it so successful? To me I think the answer lies in the fact that around 36,000 of them were built, not a great aircraft, but it just had the ability to swamp the enemy.

The Petlyakov Pe2FT Peshka was a much better machine alround, but tends to get much less publicity.

Welcome onboard, tenmike.

#9 tenmmike

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Posted 10 November 2003 - 06:05 AM

thanks for the welcome ..i think the ft was a light bomber http://www.ctrl-c.li...ram/pe-2ft.html perhaps this is the version your talking about http://www.ctrl-c.li...ram/pe-2sh.html ........ gotta go ill come back to argue later LOL

#10 GregP

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Posted 10 November 2003 - 12:59 PM

I understand what you guys are saying, and there is some merit to it, but I strongly disagree in principal.

The Martin-Baker MB-5 and the Commonwealth Ca-15 were absolutely stunning piston fighters, but did nothing for the war effort. So, while technically they may have been the best of the best, they actually did nothing to win WWII.

The P-47 may not have been designed as a dedicated ground attack aircraft, but certainly destroyed more targets than any other US or British ground attack aircraft, if only because there were more of them available sooner than there were Typhoons and Tempests, so they flew more sorties. The P-47 flew 423,435 combat sorties. The next closest American single engined aircraft in Europe was the P-51 at 123,873 sorties.

I have no data on the British aircraft, but seriously doubt the Typhoon or Tempest come cloase to the P-47. So, while they may, in fact, have been better-quality ground-attack planes, the P-47's did more damage and contributed more to the war.

In any 5-year war, there is a lot of technical development. The best machine may well be the last one produced, but it certain that it was not available for the bulk of the war.

What kept the UK alive during WWII? The Liberty Ship. Would anyone seriously that it was the best freighter ever made? Nope. But it DID deliver more cargo than any other type of vehicle used in WWII.

OK ... rambling.

Getting back to it, the IL-2 / IL-10, and the P-47 were the major Allied ground attack aircraft of WWII, Typhoon and Tempest notwithstanding. They simply did more to win the war ... ergo, they were the best of the best at WINNING THE WAR. If any German ground attack machine was even close, it failed miserably since it DID NOT DESTROY OR STOP the attackers. We pushed into Berlin and won.

I fail to see how the Henschel can even be considered. It had horrible flight characteristics and was pretty much ineffectual in the outcome. That pretty much describes a loser. The Ju-87 did more for Germany than the Hs-129, and it couldn't survivie in the absence of air superiority by the Luftwaffe.

Being a pilot, if I had to choose one to fly in WWII, I'd take a Tempest due to weight of fire per second, muzzle energy, and the reliable radial engine. But if I wanted to fly one and attack something in in 1942 I'd be out of luck since they hadn't been invented yet.

Combat results speak for themselves. Go back to the statement made earlier by someone, "the Mustang couldn't do what a Spitfire could do, but it could do it over Berlin." Ditto the P-47, IL-2, and IL-10. They did it EVERYWHERE to ANYTHING that looked like a target.

So, exactly on what are you basing your opinions in here? Only the "potential" of a design? if so, then the Germans surely had the technological edge and made many more experimental prototypes than anyone else. That also cost them valuable resources that MIGHT have helped their beleagured forces had it not been diverted thusly.

C'mon guys, the Hs-129 doesn't even figure as a major player in a single battle victory that I know of, much less the war.

The P-47, IL-2, and IL-10, on the other hand, figure prominently in anyone's book on ground attack in WWII.

They desrerve their reputations because they earned them in combat.




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