HOW DID AIRPOWER AND DEVELOPMENT OF AN AIRFORCE CHANGE BRITISH WAR…
HOW DID AIRPOWER AND DEVELOPMENT OF AN AIRFORCE CHANGE BRITISH WAR STRATEGY?
EXPANSION AND LOGISTICS OF THE RFC
Stayed a sustainable part in the final Western Front offensives.
Eventually the Air Ministry was set up - in January 1918 - By the end of the war it had 300,000 personnel and 22,000+ aircraft
Politicians agreed to separate air service - a logical step
THE SMUTS REPORT AND IMPACT OF THE USE OF AIR POWER
absolutely no limit"
to use aviation as military arm.
17th August 1917 General Jan Smuts presented British government a report on the future of airpower.
Hugh Trenchard commanded the RDC on the Western Front for much of the war.
-A career soldier - Trenchard’s policy for the army’s aviation corps was three-pronged and ambitious:
Co-operate with the army through reconnaissance bombing
Maintain British morale and weaken the morale of the Germans
Attack whenever possible
IMPORTANCE OF AIRPOWER IN ACHIEVING VICTORY
:red_cross: 6,166 - B
:red_cross: 5953 - G
aviation casualties by end of war
:red_cross: 2,872 - F
🇫🇷 - keener of strategic bombing and encourages British participation
Attacks on Britain by German Zeppelin airships led to demands that British aircraft retaliate - yet bombing German - strategy RFC and RNAS lacked adequate technology, without any Zeppelins and at first no heavy bombing planes.
In 1917 there was a suggestion by well-known aviation writer C.G Grey of what he called the "invasion of Germany from the air" - chimed with popular mood. (Letter to Air Board).
Air Board were confident of their production surplus and thought that they could provide a new aircraft for such offensive.
RFC command were wavy - Henderson arguing bombing was "unimportant". - Haig insisted "terrorising civil population" was not a way to win the war.
1917 No.41 Wing formed to attack the German's using new HP 0/100, 0/400 - heavy bombers and DH4 light bomber.
June 1918 Air Ministry created Independent Air Force - new bombing force
USE OF AIRPOWER
RFC - main role was to support the army.
ground attacks became increasingly effective- 1917 - Passchendaele more than 300 British aircraft attacked German ground troops.
by 1918 - a variety of military roles were used - predominantly reconnaissance, combat and bombing
4th of July 1918 allied aircraft flew in ammunition to replenish infantry fighting near Villers-Bretonnelux
1914-18 aircraft too small for transports but planes occasionally used to carry supplies - including ammunition
losses were high since pilots flew very low in face of enemy fire to bomb or strafe trenches and key positions.
August 1918 - there were 243 aircraft lost in four days trying to knock out bridges over the Somme.
commanders hoped air attacks would "isolate" key sectors of battlefield by destroying road, railways, river bridges - to prevent the enemy from receiving reinforcements and supplies
IMPORTANCE OF THE WESTERN FRONT
Eastern Front G had advantage over Russia
On Western Front, air forced & technology evenly matched until mid 1918
Italy’s bombing campaign against Austria-Hungary effective yet not critical to the outcomes
Middle East, B and Australian pilots destroyed Turkish and German air power, leaving G commander Liman von Sanders w/o reconnaissance “eyes”
THE DEVELOPMENT OF FIGHTER AIRCRAFTS
At the start of the war, aircraft had no guns.
August 25 1914, during the Battle of Mons in Belgium, three unarmed RFC planes forced down a German two-seater, one RFC aircraft landed, and the two-man crew chased the Germans into a wood and set fire to the enemy aircraft.
Struggle for air superiority led to the rapid development of fighter aircraft and air-battle tactics.
By 1915, aircraft had largely taken over the reconnaissance role on land which was done by cavalry.
Numbers of scout planes were small – in March 1915, the RFC had only 85 aircraft in France.
Most were two seaters.
Observer manned a machine gun.
ACES AND FIGHTER TECHNIQUES
Technology was matched by new air-fighting techniques and aerobatic manoeuvres such as attacking from out of the sun or from below.
British squadrons adopted formation flying, usually in flights of three planes, pilots using hand signals for communication.
Formations included line abreast, line astern (planes at slightly different heights), and echelon (each aircraft slightly to the side of the one ahead).
Improved air gunnery and tactics made lone flying risky for all but the experts.
War’s most celebrated ace was Germany’s Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, the Red Baron, was credited with 80 victories before he was killed on 21st April 1918.
IMPACT OF THE FOKKER INTERRUPTER GEAR
In July 1915, the German Fokker El Eindecker monoplane proved superior to the British opponents because of the interrupter gear.
This resembled the Fokker design by coincidence, purely because no captured Fokker was examined until April 1916
This allowed pilots to shoot through the arc of his propeller, without hitting the propeller blades.
In April 1915, the Germans captured a French plane with Garros-type deflector blades, and Dutch engineer Anthony Fokker improved the concept by linking the gun’s firing mechanism to make the first interrupter gear.
TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN BOMBING
To avoid AA fire, bombers took to raiding at night
Counter night raids – searchlights used from 1916 to detect & deter bombers
Low-flying ground attack aircraft needed metal armour to protect pilot & fuel tank
Bombing planes became larger w 2 more engines
Mid 1915 more scientific bombsight developed at Central Flying School
1916 improved Wimperis Drift Sight