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Which was better?Zero./P38 Lightning


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#21 CORSNING

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 11:35 PM

The hard concept to soak in is that at the P-38J's best angle of climb, where it is traveling

160 mph., the Zero may only be able to manage about 145 mph (this figure is just for

reference and may not be exact).

 

Actually flying kiwi, I thought you said it pretty well.


Edited by CORSNING, 18 December 2016 - 11:37 PM.

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#22 Rick65

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Posted 19 December 2016 - 03:25 AM

And the better zoom climb ability of the P-38 increased any advantage.

 

Eric M Bergerud. Fire In The Sky: The Air War In The South Pacific

"He (C.L Jones) described the basic tactics employed at the beginning  of a melee:

 

I'd let the Zero do all the little maneuvers in the world, but if you had a '38 and saw him and came down on him with good altitude advantage you'd take your shot and if his little tricks worked you'd sail right on by, climb, and try again. You'd keep it up until you or your wingman hit him. You knew he couldn't match your dives or climbs. Maneuverability and combat characteristics had to suit the environment. A lot of things fit the circumstances that wouldn't fit others. We had speed, climb, and much better high-altitude performance. We could go anywhere we wanted. It was important to avoid fighting on their terms: a low-altitude melee."



#23 GregP

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 09:14 PM

I believe the P-38 was quite a bit better than the Zero, but not in every category.

 

The P-38 is faster, climbs better, has vastly superior systems and pilot comfort / conveniences, and is much more rugged.

 

On the Zero's plus side are a more reliable engine, better maneuverability, and lower wing loading.

 

The only aircraft that I am aware of that made better use of maneverability while being mostly slower than the opposition is the FM-2 Wildcat, which had an unmatched combat record in aviation until the F-15 came along just a bit later. It is likely that the engagements the FM-2 was employed in favored that combination seeing as how they were almost exclusively over water, implying Naval aircraft against Naval aicraft a LOT of the time, and that the Japanese pilots were much greener than their US counterparts when the FM-2 was employed. I am doubtful the FM-2 would have been able to continue its kill-to-loss ratio against the Luftwaffe over Europe.

 

All other slower but more maneuverable aircraft seem to have come out worse on the kill-to-loss end of things.

 

I have no doubt that, if properly employed, the Zero could hold it's own or better versus most competition, but it's weakness of having only modest power available dictated the other flaws, such as lack of self-sealing tanks, armor, and heavier construction. Given the modest power assigned to the airframe, the Zero was probably the best-performing fighter built during the war. I can think of nobody else who came even close with less than 1,200 HP on tap. Even the plucky little Sewdish FFVS J-22 had more power. The highest HP Zero model was the A6M5 Model 52, and it has 1,180 HP at full rattle. Almost all other models had less, and the prototype started out with only 880 HP!

 

Given what is known about proper tactics, I'd take a P-38 any day, but it DID take our guys some time to develop proper operating procedures and tactics to deal with the Zero, which coul be thrown about with little regard for stalling or concern over anyone following too closely.



#24 Rick65

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Posted 24 December 2016 - 12:27 AM

The P-38 was well suited to the largely offensive action that were common by the time it was in service in the Pacific.

It might have been a different story if it was in service earlier during the days of defence.

Would the big relatively cumbersome P-38 have been better than a P-40 at taking off from a field already under attack to try to defend against Zeros at low level?

While originally designed as an interceptor this was in the context of taking off from a prepared field with sufficient warning to be able to reach the high altitudes the P-38 was designed for. This was not the situation in the Pacific.



#25 [email protected]

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Posted 29 December 2016 - 10:27 PM

I'm incline to agree with the above,however I think that the Zero was probably one of best carrier bornfighters until the beginning of 1944. Very interesting debate,Thankyou for your input.
Best regards
Keith...

#26 Armand

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 02:36 AM

I'm incline to agree with the above,however I think that the Zero was probably one of best carrier bornfighters until the beginning of 1944. Very interesting debate,Thankyou for your input.


The aircraft losses above Midway was 150 USN against 248 IJN.
As it was the humble F4F wich took the brunt in that fight, it is to consider better than it's heritage became (shadowed by the later F6F) hence the Zero was neither as dominant as history claims.
In dry numbers was the overall score of the Wildcat 6,9:1:-o

#27 TheArtOfFlight

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 11:37 AM

I  think it's worth taking into account the P-38 E variant nicknamed "The castrated lightning" was purchased by the British for test and evaluation and despite Lockheed's insistence that they wait for the fully turbo charged gremlin free model they went ahead with the order then criticized the model for poor altitude performance. It's also worth nothing that compressibility problems dogged the P -38 for all of it's combat history. In a high speed dive the airflow was so strong it would jam the rudder/ailerons at the rear and many pilots were lost trying to pull out of a dive. Im not too familiar with the Zero except to say its was an excellent dogfighter but just could not take any battle damage. Mostly because of no self sealing fuel ranks. The high hitting power of US fighters would literally blow a Zero into flaming pieces. But having said all that, when it come to one on one in a dogfight with equal pilot skill. I think the Zero was the better aircraft. The P-38 was mostly pulled out of the E.T.O. because it simply was not agile enough to dogfight against the single engine aircraft of that time. It kinda reminds me of a Bf 110 only slightly better. A great idea but simply not practical in combat. If Wildcats had severe problems with Zero's i really dont see how P-38s could have done so well. And yes i am aware of Richard Bong. And there is speculation there that he wasnt the top American ace at all. It was Gregory "Pappy" Boyington flying the F4U corsair that claimed he shot down more aircraft but just didnt get the last two or three confirmed because he lost his wingman. 

 

The only problem with some ww2 aces is, they were not always great dogfighters. They simply followed a set of rules from pilots during ww1. Namely go up high as you dare, always attack your enemy from behind and out of the sun. Make one high speed diving pass and when the enemy aircraft literally fills your gunsight open up with every gun you have. Never engage in a battle you cant win and only commit when the odds are in your favour. The Red Baron himself followed these simple rules and i think Bong did too. I understand air warfare is not about being fair or honorable. It's about creeping up on your enemy and shooting him in the back. But you could hardly call that a skill. Least thats my opinion.



#28 Wuzak

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 12:41 PM

If Wildcats had severe problems with Zero's i really dont see how P-38s could have done so well.


The Wildcat was around 100mph slower than the P-38, didn't have the climb rate, nor, I believe, the range.

And the F4F bettered the Zero in combat. The kill:loss ratio was better than 1:1.


The only problem with some ww2 aces is, they were not always great dogfighters. They simply followed a set of rules from pilots during ww1. Namely go up high as you dare, always attack your enemy from behind and out of the sun. Make one high speed diving pass and when the enemy aircraft literally fills your gunsight open up with every gun you have. Never engage in a battle you cant win and only commit when the odds are in your favour. The Red Baron himself followed these simple rules and i think Bong did too. I understand air warfare is not about being fair or honorable. It's about creeping up on your enemy and shooting him in the back. But you could hardly call that a skill. Least thats my opinion.


Most fighter on fighter victories in WW2 were by aircraft that the victims never saw coming.

And it makes good sense to fight the enemy using your strengths compared to the other aircraft. No sense in engaging in a turning fight if your intended victim can turn better than you.
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#29 Heräkulman Ruhtinas

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 02:32 PM

 

 

The only problem with some ww2 aces is, they were not always great dogfighters. They simply followed a set of rules from pilots during ww1. Namely go up high as you dare, always attack your enemy from behind and out of the sun. Make one high speed diving pass and when the enemy aircraft literally fills your gunsight open up with every gun you have. Never engage in a battle you cant win and only commit when the odds are in your favour. The Red Baron himself followed these simple rules and i think Bong did too. I understand air warfare is not about being fair or honorable. It's about creeping up on your enemy and shooting him in the back. But you could hardly call that a skill. Least thats my opinion.

 

Actually, that is the best skill. Keep cool head, stay aware of surroundings, hit hard and get out. I doubt that there actually are many "aces" whose claims come from routinely trying to dogfight their opponents. Hartmann dubbed the dogfighting as flying by muscle, opposite of flying by brains.


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#30 TheArtOfFlight

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 03:00 PM

Absolutely. Agreed it is the best basic tactic. But there are plenty accounts of actual dogfighting (simply fighting for survival)

Has anyone here read up on Captain S.W. "Swede" Vejtasa who in a SBD Dauntless divebomber was attacked and  took on multiple A6M Zeros and quite simply had to dogfight. He managed to shoot down 3 Zero's. In a SBD! Considering his rear gunner was effectively neutralized in such a high speed high G turn, Swede had to resort to turning, head on attacks and pure and simple dogfighting tactics to survive. Infact his rear gunner was so quiet (probs being incapacitated by the violent turns and G's that Swede thought he was dead until they landed back on the carrier Yorktown. After that he was transferred to flying Wildcats and later on in the war shot down a record seven Zero's in one day. Now that has to be down to good old aerial combat and not simply attacking an enemy who cant even see it coming. But of course i agree most airmen were probably killed by a pilot they didnt even see. Im just saying there were some very good actual dogfighters. 


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