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WW2 Luftwaffe - what if strategic vision had prevailed?

pathology_doc

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Bombers: Do 19? Junkers 90? Or just go straight for the four-engined variant of the Heinkel 177 that should have been built in the first place?

Clearly a medium bomber is a good thing to have. The Junkers 88 was a very good one, which proved to have immense development potential, and I think it would have been best for Junkers to continue with that rather than divert effort into a heavy bomber. Not sure whether to continue Dornier's efforts alongside it, or have them channel more of their efforts into the follow-on generation. Perhaps the Do17 family and the Ju88 family pick up the slack in terms of numbers once Heinkel drops the 111 for the 177?

Fighters: Galland wanted to ditch everything except the Fw190 and the Me262, and I can't help but think this should have been done a lot earlier. Any reason why it wouldn't have worked?

Maritime patrol - developed He177, or go with one of the Ju 90 outgrowths (290 or 390)?

When I was a kid I used to think "Germany had a four-engined heavy bomber (Fw200) with gun turrets all over the place! Why did they not build hordes of them to bomb London?" That was before I learned just what the limitations of the Condor really were, how much of a stop-gap it was, and how many of them broke in half on landing.
 

Kadija_Man

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The real problem facing adoption of the Me262 earlier was not just a lack of vision. It was a lack of metallurgy. The Jumo 004 was held up because of an inability forge turbine blades of sufficient quality and duration that a single flight could be easily conducted without an engine failure occurring. Once that was overcome, in early 1944 engines with more than tens of hours of MTBF were possible and so it was the Luftwaffe was then able to order the Me262 into full production. There was the excuse that the aircraft had to be adopted to be a fighter-bomber which was bollocks.

The Luftwaffe would have been much better off with the He100 back in 1940 and the Fw187. Both were superior to the Bf109 and the Bf110. This would have enabled them to contest the Battle of Britain on an even footing with the RAF.

The Luftwaffe always lacked a true strategic vision. What it needed was both strategic and tactical bombers. The Ju88 was an excellent aircraft but overcomcentration on the He111 and Do17 had meant that the Ju88 was lacking in 1940. Without an adequate strategic bomber they didn't have the range to strike the fUSSR's industries, particularly after they had moved to beyond the Urals, while without a strategic fighter, they could not escort their bombers to the north of England.
 

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A strategic bomber force runs into the same problems as they had without them; manpower manpower manpower. As it was the production side of things took far too long to switch over to assembly line techniques and low skilled labor. Starting the war focused on heavies will only mean production figures for bombers will be lower. That is a big issue as the He-111s, 88s and 217s couldn't be produced fast enough to make up for the attrition from poland and france. How do things fair when you are around half those figures?

There was also some issues with the Jumo at higher altitude. A lot is made of hitlers demands to produce the 262 as a bomber, but in actuality there was quite a bit of debate over that within the RLM. When you have an aircraft that can barely fight over 20k ft, using it as a low altitude bomber where its engine works makes a lot of sense.

Germany would have been better off focusing on one transport aircraft to replace the 52, ideally in production just at the start of the war. Something fairly cheap, using a minimum of aluminum and easy to service+operate in rough field conditions. Keep the design to as few variants as possible (a big ask for the germans, I know!) and just standardize the manufactiuring side of things with every subcontractor using the same tooling. This would make more difference than just about any other what-iff imho.
 

zen

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Frankly based on post war evidence and some from before 1939, strategic bombing was an enormously costly effort for not exactly sparkling results.
It all shifted with the arrival of atomic weapons.
But it has been argued that the UK could have better used those resources for the Army and tactical airpower.

They key weapon the Germans had against the UK was the U-Boat and so the key flaw beyond numbers from resources would be the maritime reconasense aircraft able to give target locations.

However for Russia the problems were exacerbated by the cost/complexity of German systems. The whole business of trying to take Moscow or Stalingrad was pointless. Ukraine and the Caucasian oil fields mattered most.
But their tanks became far too expensive for what you got out of them.

However all this avoids the deeper strategic vision and planning/debate they needed. Which would result in never trying to fight the UK and the USSR at the same time.
To quote a certain Cold War film "the only way to win is to not fight".

Sane German leadership would have sought friendship with the French and British and presented themselves as the bulwark of European defence against the Communist threat.
 

riggerrob

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Except for long range maritime patrol, 4-engined bombers would have been frivolous. They still need 4 engines to lift all that fuel and more crew equals more eyes for spotting ships.

Far wiser to focus on faster versions of Ju 88, minus guns … similar to DH Mosquito.

And yes, Luftwaffe Transport Command really needed a standard freighter more capable than Ju 52. Junkers pioneered rear cargo ramps before WW2, but ignored them until Gotha 242 assault glider. Rear ramps would have allowed them to dump cargo at Stalingrad and be gone before Russian artillery knew they had landed. Maybe a German parachute engineer (e.g. Theo Knacke) could have invented Low Altitude Parachute Extraction a few decades earlier.
 

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I would urge all to read the assessments of the German economy before WW2, and in particular the fact that Germany was truly overextended with the effort it mde, such that rather innovative financing was carried out (including outright theft). Whilst strategic bombing would have been great to have, the cost would have certainly crippled the rest of the war effort. I recall Overby's analysis and a gem of a read, Hitler's Beneficiaries by Gotz Aly, showing the socialist policies of guns and butter truly demanded a kleptocratic state in order to function.
 

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I would urge all to read the assessments of the German economy before WW2, and in particular the fact that Germany was truly overextended with the effort it mde, such that rather innovative financing was carried out (including outright theft). Whilst strategic bombing would have been great to have, the cost would have certainly crippled the rest of the war effort. I recall Overby's analysis and a gem of a read, Hitler's Beneficiaries by Gotz Aly, showing the socialist policies of guns and butter truly demanded a kleptocratic state in order to function.
I would urge all to read the assessments of the German economy before WW2, and in particular the fact that Germany was truly overextended with the effort it mde, such that rather innovative financing was carried out (including outright theft). Whilst strategic bombing would have been great to have, the cost would have certainly crippled the rest of the war effort. I recall Overby's analysis and a gem of a read, Hitler's Beneficiaries by Gotz Aly, showing the socialist policies of guns and butter truly demanded a kleptocratic state in order to function.
You hit the nail on the head. German engineering also tended to be on the other side of "the perfect is the enemy of the good enough" . Why use some sheet metal stamping when a precisely machined carbon steel fitting would do just as well?
 

JFC Fuller

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If one were to mash the 1940 Luftwaffe into the 1940 RAF you would end up with a well balanced air force. The Luftwaffe providing the tactical air force that the RAF lacked and the RAF providing the strategic bombing and air defence capability the Luftwaffe lacked. That is one way of saying they were very different beasts, the Luftwaffe worked well as a tactical air force in direct support of offensive land operations but proved to be inadequate for much else and when faced with a combined strategic bomber and air superiority offensive it was destroyed. In the specific case of the Battle of Britain it is fair to say the Luftwaffe lacked higher level strategic direction, it ambled through three separate strategies in the space of four months, none of which it was especially well equipped to execute, all against an opponent that had been designed from the outset to defeat strategic air attack against the UK. Overall though, the Luftwaffe had a well crafted and executed strategic vision in that it was coupled to the Wehrmacht as an offensive continental weapon, but that was inadequate once the UK entered the war.
 
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zen

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And then there are deeper issues....
Logistics, Logistics, Logistics.
The God of Long Wars.
Germany just wasn't geared to fight them.

But the German approach was shall we say 'cavalry' style? Involving speed over endurance.
Which to be fair, squashed between France and Russia is a perfectly sensible one.
But this not only suffused their approach to war. But reached the level of fielding certain drugs, which had a deleterious effect on their longterm performance.
 

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First shoot Fat Hermann.

The problem wasn't so much an engineering one* as a leadership and logistics one. Think how many aircraft (and pilots/ground crew) could have been provided without the idiocy of building and supporting Fallschirm-Panzer Division Herman Goering from the Luftwaffe budget. On a separate tack, the aircraft were just about there for a sensible maritime patrol/attack capability, but Goering's ego inserted itself and demanded all aircraft be Luftwaffe, running down the naval air arm, denying the navy it's needed air support, and then having to rebuild it when it turned out they did need to fight a naval air campaign.

ETA: I forgot about Fallschirm-Panzergrenadier Division Herman Goering making it up to the full Fallschirm-Panzer Korps Herman Goering funded from the Luftwaffe budget. So double that number of aircraft, pilots and ground crew.

* Metallurgy excepted
 
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MJBurmaster

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Yes, recalling again that what was it, budgeting something on the order of four tonnes of aluminium for each fighter aircraft (Overby?) which of course rewarded waste, as a good example of non-scientific planning.
 

kaiserd

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The most illuminating example/ comparison I can give here is Nazi Germany’s Navy.
Due to its pre-war strategic planning it was left being neither fish-nor-foul.
By aiming at the (overly) ambitious strong surface fleet Z-plan which aimed for 1945-1946 (and actual delivery would have taken longer) the German entered WW2 with an insufficient surface force and with too few u-boats and then had to improvise the best they could.

It would have likely been similar story if the Luftwaffe had pre-war gone down the strategic bomber route. The odds are quite high that it would have ended up with a relatively small ineffective and under-developed strategic bomber force (which in fairness would also be a reasonably fair review of the contemporary early WW2 RAF strategic bomber force) while also as a result having a smaller and less effective tactical bomber and support aircraft force than it actually ended up having. So ending up less effective at the things the early WW2 Luftwaffe was actually good at. And all for a strategic bomber force that would have probably ended up ineffectively night bombing the UK while suffering ongoing decline due to the likely rate of attrition as other (more effective/ important) parts of the Luftwaffe are prioritised.
 
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Desertfox

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Germany really did not need strategic bombers. All they would have required for victory was going with He100s and Fw187s over the Bf109s and Bf110s for escorting the bombers during the Battle of Britain. We all know how effective the US strategic bombing campaign was (at destroying the Luftwaffe) once enough escorts where available. Give the Luftwaffe proper long-range escorts and keep the bombing campaign of the British airfields (instead of switching to London) and I believe the RAF collapses. They were already stretched quite thin when the Luftwaffe switched to bombing London. The bombers themselves don't matter as much as their role is to be bait. The problem was Messerschmidt's outsizes influence in Luftwaffe acquisitions.
 

zen

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RAF retreats not collapses. North to the industrial heartland of the UK (where most aircraft are made).
Range is an issue.
Loosing air defence over the South East isn't the end of the British involvement in the War.

Germany was out produced by the UK in aircraft and out ran in producing pilots.
Worse theGerman system for training pilots was less than ideal. Goering's baleful influence hampered the Luftwaffe in all aspects. But it was also wider Nazi philosophy that was undermining them.
 

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By aiming at the (overly) ambitious strong surface fleet Z-plan which aimed for 1945-1946 (and actual delivery would have taken longer) the German entered WW2 with an insufficient surface force and with too few u-boats and then had to improvise the best they could.
OTOH, planning for 45/46 is valid, as that was the intended date for the war.
 

zen

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By aiming at the (overly) ambitious strong surface fleet Z-plan which aimed for 1945-1946 (and actual delivery would have taken longer) the German entered WW2 with an insufficient surface force and with too few u-boats and then had to improvise the best they could.
OTOH, planning for 45/46 is valid, as that was the intended date for the war.
Except their economy would suffer sever reduction well before then.
 

kaiserd

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By aiming at the (overly) ambitious strong surface fleet Z-plan which aimed for 1945-1946 (and actual delivery would have taken longer) the German entered WW2 with an insufficient surface force and with too few u-boats and then had to improvise the best they could.
OTOH, planning for 45/46 is valid, as that was the intended date for the war.
Except their economy would suffer sever reduction well before then.
I’m not as such having a go at the planners in the German Navy; Hitler gave assurances that turned out to be less than reliable and hence even in just that regard (ignoring likely resource constraints, miss-conceived designs etc) their planing was fatally flawed.
And these or very similar or related issues would have likely similarly impacted any plans for a strategic bomber force.
 

DWG

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even in just that regard (ignoring likely resource constraints, miss-conceived designs etc) their planing was fatally flawed.
And these or very similar or related issues would have likely similarly impacted any plans for a strategic bomber force.
I'm not certain of that. There are systematic weaknesses in the naval design process: unreliable engines even in the designs that saw service, a tendency to overgun designs, a ridiculous tendency to gigantism (destroyer designs that became light cruisers etc). But I'm not sure those weaknesses carry over into aircraft design. You have some designers with specific bees in their bonnets, asymmetric aircraft, for instance, but in general designs were fully feasible. The only really questionable design-decisions that come to mind are stressing the Ju 88, and, worse, He 177, for dive-bombing (and even that was driven by tactical doctrine) and the choice of the coupled DB-606 for the He 177.
 

Foo Fighter

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Sometimes, when I see a member of a production team or a voice box for a documentary, talking about the 'one' thing that won/lost THE war I wonder why they even bother making the program. It is obvious to me at least that so many decisions were made on either side of these conflicts, that could have produced a different result. Could the MB-5 for example have made a difference? If Martin Baker had been a little more interested in producing a fighter rather than a perfect fighter, would we have more of these aircraft than other types actually in service? They were much better maintenance friendly machines apparently.
 
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Kadija_Man

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I'm always interested in people who blame the failure of the He177 on the DB606 engines. There was basically not much wrong with the DB606. Where the He177 went wrong - and this was admitted to by Ernst Heinkel - was how the DB606s were mounted - too rigidly and too close to the firewalls, which caused the oil system to bend too sharply which in turn caused the oil to froth and thereby failed to cool the engine effectively. When this was discovered, Heinkel wanted to temporarily cease production and put it right but the RLM stopped him from doing so. The DB606 was actually quite a good engine, apart from the mounting problems.
 

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This TL is an honest-to-God atempt at a more strategic LW performing better during an hypothetical Sea lion / BoB.

 

pathology_doc

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I'm always interested in people who blame the failure of the He177 on the DB606 engines. There was basically not much wrong with the DB606. Where the He177 went wrong - and this was admitted to by Ernst Heinkel - was how the DB606s were mounted - too rigidly and too close to the firewalls, which caused the oil system to bend too sharply which in turn caused the oil to froth and thereby failed to cool the engine effectively. When this was discovered, Heinkel wanted to temporarily cease production and put it right but the RLM stopped him from doing so. The DB606 was actually quite a good engine, apart from the mounting problems.
Interesting. What's your source?

One gets the feeling that a fairly large historical tome could be written, entitled "Stupid decisions of the RLM". I guess that's what I was driving at here. How much that should have been done was not, either because the RLM dropped the ball or someone with too much clout for their own good pushed things in the wrong direction?
 

Kadija_Man

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I'm always interested in people who blame the failure of the He177 on the DB606 engines. There was basically not much wrong with the DB606. Where the He177 went wrong - and this was admitted to by Ernst Heinkel - was how the DB606s were mounted - too rigidly and too close to the firewalls, which caused the oil system to bend too sharply which in turn caused the oil to froth and thereby failed to cool the engine effectively. When this was discovered, Heinkel wanted to temporarily cease production and put it right but the RLM stopped him from doing so. The DB606 was actually quite a good engine, apart from the mounting problems.
Interesting. What's your source?
Green's German Warplanes of the Third Reich.

One gets the feeling that a fairly large historical tome could be written, entitled "Stupid decisions of the RLM". I guess that's what I was driving at here. How much that should have been done was not, either because the RLM dropped the ball or someone with too much clout for their own good pushed things in the wrong direction?
These tomes are or have been written. What is needed is to draw all the lessons together. I think the biggest problem was promoting Milch to the head of the RLM however, that was a political decision by Goring, rather than a technical one.
 

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Interesting analysis of why the Luftwaffe failed, from 1947, it's the Military Review version of a RUSI article. Its basic conclusions are an utter failure of leadership and staff work. Pure serendipity I found it, I was actually looking for the article on Force V in Burma.

 

pathology_doc

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Green's German Warplanes of the Third Reich.
Over the weekend, I rediscovered Green's "Famous Bombers of the Second World War", and yep, it's all in there in the section on the He 177. The true irony is that according to this source, they actually constructed a Versuchs example with all the multitudinous issues fixed and it gave no problems... but rejigging the production line would have sapped too much effort.

I think the biggest problem was promoting Milch to the head of the RLM however, that was a political decision by Goring, rather than a technical one.
That was pretty much the story of Nazi Germany in a nutshell, though, wasn't it?
 

Kadija_Man

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Green's German Warplanes of the Third Reich.
Over the weekend, I rediscovered Green's "Famous Bombers of the Second World War", and yep, it's all in there in the section on the He 177. The true irony is that according to this source, they actually constructed a Versuchs example with all the multitudinous issues fixed and it gave no problems... but rejigging the production line would have sapped too much effort.
I've often wondered about that reasoning. Surely just introducing longer engine bearers and revised oil piping couldn't have been that bigger a problem? Give the workers a day off while you change the parts and jigs 'round and bring in the next shift happy and rested and you really don't have to explain all that much to them.

I think the biggest problem was promoting Milch to the head of the RLM however, that was a political decision by Goring, rather than a technical one.
That was pretty much the story of Nazi Germany in a nutshell, though, wasn't it?
That is what you get with neo-Feudalism. Goering reckoned he had the dirt on Milch's parentage and so he had Milch where he wanted him - in the palm of his hand. Shame it didn't work out all that well...
 

robunos

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I've also read of another problem, in that Himmler didn't trust Ernst Heinkel, as he believed Heinkel had 'Jewish Blood in him'. Also, since Junkers was effectively owned and controlled by the Nazi Party, contracts and resources tended to be funneled towards Junkers, the best example of this would be the cancellation of the He 219 in favour of the various Ju 188 and 388 based night fighters.

cheers,
Robin.
 

pathology_doc

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Surely just introducing longer engine bearers and revised oil piping couldn't have been that bigger a problem? Give the workers a day off while you change the parts and jigs 'round and bring in the next shift happy and rested and you really don't have to explain all that much to them.
No, it's not that easy. It's one thing to scratch-build a working example, another to introduce the redesigned components into mass production.
 

Kadija_Man

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Surely just introducing longer engine bearers and revised oil piping couldn't have been that bigger a problem? Give the workers a day off while you change the parts and jigs 'round and bring in the next shift happy and rested and you really don't have to explain all that much to them.
No, it's not that easy. It's one thing to scratch-build a working example, another to introduce the redesigned components into mass production.
Why? All your doing is introducing redesigned parts that are already used...
 

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And then there are deeper issues....
Logistics, Logistics, Logistics.
The God of Long Wars.
Germany just wasn't geared to fight them.

But the German approach was shall we say 'cavalry' style? Involving speed over endurance.
Which to be fair, squashed between France and Russia is a perfectly sensible one.
But this not only suffused their approach to war. But reached the level of fielding certain drugs, which had a deleterious effect on their longterm performance.
Always struck me how the Wehrmacht rise and fall fits so well with the effects of meth. Even on time scale.
 
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Archibald

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pervitin drove their soldiers to madness and suicide.
 

pathology_doc

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Surely just introducing longer engine bearers and revised oil piping couldn't have been that bigger a problem? Give the workers a day off while you change the parts and jigs 'round and bring in the next shift happy and rested and you really don't have to explain all that much to them.
No, it's not that easy. It's one thing to scratch-build a working example, another to introduce the redesigned components into mass production.
Why? All your doing is introducing redesigned parts that are already used...
Because I suspect the scratch-build version's parts were modified from standard. THAT is where the rejigging of the line comes in.
 

kaiserd

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even in just that regard (ignoring likely resource constraints, miss-conceived designs etc) their planing was fatally flawed.
And these or very similar or related issues would have likely similarly impacted any plans for a strategic bomber force.
I'm not certain of that. There are systematic weaknesses in the naval design process: unreliable engines even in the designs that saw service, a tendency to overgun designs, a ridiculous tendency to gigantism (destroyer designs that became light cruisers etc). But I'm not sure those weaknesses carry over into aircraft design. You have some designers with specific bees in their bonnets, asymmetric aircraft, for instance, but in general designs were fully feasible. The only really questionable design-decisions that come to mind are stressing the Ju 88, and, worse, He 177, for dive-bombing (and even that was driven by tactical doctrine) and the choice of the coupled DB-606 for the He 177.
To clarify what I am saying is that a prospective Nazi Germany strategic bomber force would have almost certainly ended up being caught in an early undeveloped state by the start of WW2 in 1939 having been given similar assurances as the German Navy has received.
And Germany would then have been unable to build then maintain the size of strategic bomber force of remotely necessary capability - given other demands such as the German army and u-boat force they could never have spared the associated resources to even remotely approach Allied (US & UK) strategic bomber forces.
While the Germans actually built a surprising number of He-177’s the decline of their bomber forces through the war both in numbers and relative capabilities (and later decisions to go to fighters only) indicates what may have occurred (but rather more rapidly) to a potential strategic bomber force.
 

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While the Germans actually built a surprising number of He-177’s the decline of their bomber forces through the war both in numbers and relative capabilities (and later decisions to go to fighters only) indicates what may have occurred (but rather more rapidly) to a potential strategic bomber force.
To put into context though:

Germany built some 1169 He177s (plus 6000+ He111s and 15000+ Ju88s and 1900+ Do217s) whereas the Allies built the following:

Avro Lancaster: 7000+
HP. Halifax: 6000+
Short Stirling: 2000+
B-17: 12000+
B-24: 18000+

Therefore, even if the Luftwaffe had decided to produce either the Ju89 or Do19 or something else, they would most likely still come up fairly short plus would have been robbing other programs for resources especially in regard to common things such as engines.
 
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kaiserd

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And almost 4,000 B-29s (massively complex beasts and the most advanced strategic bomber of the war) and almost 10,000 B-25s, etc, etc.
I was more referring to that per the He-177’s reputation one may have expected a lot fewer than actually got built.
From at least this perspective WW2 was a very unequal contest and some slight (or even quite major) moving around Germany’s priorities wouldn’t have remotely moved the scales in this regard.
 

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It is ironic that the RAF bomber force owed its origins to the WW1 Gotha bomber and the impact of German raids on Britain.
The UK continued to believe in the knock out blow. Kordas film Things to Come showed hoards of bombers smashing a city. Chamberlain flying to meet Hitler remarked how fragile the little houses looked from the air.
British politicians were terrified of the impact of German air power. Neville Shute describes in It happened to the Corbetts.
The raids by the Condor legion in Spain led British planners to predict nuclear level casualties.
When German bombing failed in actual war to live up to these levels the RAF tried to do better in Germany.
The main role of Bomber Command had been, laughable as it seems now, to deter Hitler. When that failed it justified itself as the only British force able to take the war to Germany. Dresden was sacrificed to assure Stalin we were doing our bit in the West.


l
 

royabulgaf

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Sometimes, when I see a member of a production team or a voice box for a documentary, talking about the 'one' thing that won/lost THE war I wonder why they even bother making the program. It is obvious to me at least that so many decisions were made on either side of these conflicts, that could have produced a different result. Could the MB-5 for example have made a difference? If Martin Baker had been a little more interested in producing a fighter rather than a perfect fighter, would we have more of these aircraft than other types actually in service? They were much better maintenance friendly machines apparently.
Not really. From what little I understand of Martin-Baker's plan was they would design and prototype an aircraft and the Air Ministry would be so impressed
 

zen

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It is ironic that the RAF bomber force owed its origins to the WW1 Gotha bomber and the impact of German raids on Britain.
The UK continued to believe in the knock out blow. Kordas film Things to Come showed hoards of bombers smashing a city. Chamberlain flying to meet Hitler remarked how fragile the little houses looked from the air.
British politicians were terrified of the impact of German air power. Neville Shute describes in It happened to the Corbetts.
The raids by the Condor legion in Spain led British planners to predict nuclear level casualties.
When German bombing failed in actual war to live up to these levels the RAF tried to do better in Germany.
The main role of Bomber Command had been, laughable as it seems now, to deter Hitler. When that failed it justified itself as the only British force able to take the war to Germany. Dresden was sacrificed to assure Stalin we were doing our bit in the West.


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The irony is practical tests of the ability to navigate to targets and hit them were carried out by the RAF before WWII and the results rather matched reality. Devastatingly those results showed how hard it was and how easy it was for things to fail.
A bunch of air frames on Salisbury Plain were used and the bombers either failed to find them or simply missed the targets......
But that was just too inconvenient a result.
 
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