• Hi Guest! Forum rules have been updated. All users please read here.

Battle of France and RAF light bomber choices.

pathology_doc

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Joined
Jun 7, 2008
Messages
858
Reaction score
47
I've caught papacavy's "What If" disease, but this is purely for interest rather than literary purposes.


As we all know, the Fairey Battle was an airplane which, once tested in combat, did not imbue its crews with any confidence that they would come home from attacking defended targets. Let's change things, and equip all Battle squadrons wholesale with Blackburn Skuas instead, with conversion training managed by RN units that already operate the beast, or maybe even have some FAA squadrons operating from land bases in support of the RAF, in the way that the RNAS operated Sopwith Triplanes alongside the RFC in World War 1.

What changes?

For one, we now have an RAF dive bomber, with potential benefits for accuracy and target effect (what was the largest bomb the Battle could carry?), and one which we know from history to be at least competent or it wouldn't have sunk the Konigsberg. Furthermore, the forward-firing armament is much stronger than the Battle's. Flown by aggressive pilots, with a far more substantial gun armament that might be used for ground strafing/flak suppression or taking pot-shots at any enemy fighter careless enough to overshoot or to concentrate too hard on another victim, how might the culture of the RAF's light bomber squadrons have (been) changed?

Barrett Tillman's book on the Dauntless dive-bomber describes numerous air combats that ended successfully for the SBD (either in an outright kill or with the enemy fighter driven off), and the key there seems to be a smoothly-working team with a keen interest in not just surviving but actively killing enemy aircraft once engaged. Yes, the SBD did have the advantage that it had more than a token forward gun armament in later variants - two Browning fifties vs. the four .303s of the Skua, and with two .30 vs one .303 in the rear quarter, and with the Japanese aircraft being more lightly built than German ones - but four .303 is still nothing to sneeze at if your shooting is good enough and I still don't think I'm asking the impossible here.[/size]
[/size]
[/size]Who can fill me in on the Skua? I get the drift that the culture was primarily "bomber crew with a minor in dogfighting", but switch that around or give them a "double major" and I think you could end up with something very different - and potentially superior.

(MODS: I'd considered putting this in the Bar, but it's here because it's a debate of a service's whole culture changing rather than a simple one-for-one type replacement and thus justifies the alternative-history "tag".)
 

uk 75

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
1,450
Reaction score
95
I am not very up on this aspect of air warfare but using the TOP GEAR favourite film Battle of Britain I do recall that when the Luftwaffe tried to use Stukas against Britain the RAF gave them a pasting and they were withdrawn.
By the time we used close support aircraft more effectively we had already got air superiority in 1944 over France.
Perhaps a better mix of fighters and bombers would have helped, but mainly much more of both.
 

GTX

All hail the God of Frustration!!!
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2006
Messages
2,695
Reaction score
50
Website
beyondthesprues.com
One option instead of the Skua would be for the RAF's Specification P.4/34 requirement to have proceeded as originally planned and have entered service. This would have seen either the Fairey P.4/34 or the Hawker Henley in service.

Fairey P.4/34:



Hawker Henley:



The Hawker Henley in sharing some aspects with the Hurricane might have offered some logistical benefit.
 

pathology_doc

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Joined
Jun 7, 2008
Messages
858
Reaction score
47
GTX - true, but I'm dealing with what was actually put into the front line as opposed to what only made it to prototype stage.


I did some reading around further use of the Skua in Norway, and it became clear that it did NOT do that well as an attack aircraft, but again, I do wonder whether this was a product of the aircraft itself or the training its crews received. The question I'm mainly getting at is "In France, might it have given a better account of itself, in terms of effectiveness and survivability, than an airplane which could not lift as large a single bomb as the Skua, and which only had a quarter of its forward-firing armament? And if so, might it have changed the RAF's ground-support culture in so doing?"


ETA: A differing perspective of the Skua as a ground-support aircraft: http://freespace.virgin.net/john.dell/Dunkirk.htm
 

JFC Fuller

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Joined
Apr 22, 2012
Messages
3,220
Reaction score
99
I dont see any reason why a Skua would have done any better in France than the Battle did, pretty much anything operating un-escorted that was in service during the battle of France and was a bomber/attack aircraft took heavy losses. And a large part of the problem was fighter command (designed as a home defence force) being unwilling to sacrifice what it saw as its already inadequate strength for the sake of France.

See what happened to the Ju-87 over southern England for reference.
 

pathology_doc

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Joined
Jun 7, 2008
Messages
858
Reaction score
47
Looking again at the linked website, it's apparent that the Skua was a long way from being the effective airplane it needed to be for my hypothesis to be valid, i.e.


No voice radio (so RAF type fighter tactics and cab-rank attacks out of the question).
No self-sealing tanks.
No armour worth speaking of.
Needing a couple of hundred extra hp to drag all that extra stuff around.
Godawful speed and climb performance.


So it clearly seems to have been the sort of "interceptor" that could be relied on to chase off or nail a shadowing enemy flying boat, but not much more. Oh well. Still, I'd rather have four .303 machine guns pointing forward than one - if nothing else, I could at least feel as good about my forward defensive armament as the Gladiator pilots did about their offensive weapons.
 
Top