Thursday, April 25, 2013
Adam was witnessing an odd sight, waves of planes flying not in the usual V or Box or even Finger Four formation but in kind of a school of fish formation. He did not have firsthand knowledge or had ever seen a Soviet bomber or even fighter before but here they were in the hundreds. Droning overhead in their odd formation going much faster than the US and RAF heavy bombers. They were traveling closer to the speed of the few Mosquito formation he had seen. He had joined the Anti-Aircraft regiment after the Blitz and had not seen many large formations of similar German medium bombers. The numbers were staggering and disconcerting.
He had read that the largest daylight raid ever mounted by the Luftwaffe was around 800 planes during the first Battle of Britain…First Battle of Britain. He could never in his wildest imagination think that he would ever utter or even think that phrase. Yet here it was. This was of course the second day of raids. That first couple of raids a week ago had decimated the airfields and maintenance units used to repair RAF planes. It had been a stunning success for the VVS or Red Air Force. Hundreds if not a thousand repairable planes laid to waste and ruin. Then came the debacle over the beacons.
From what he was observing this raid was stating out like the other ones. He could not imagine why they would once again hit the same targets. From what he understood they were decimated. So his thinking was that something else was in store for the RAF. His 3.7” gun was ready for action. Screw the German 88 this baby hit just as hard. Cases of the super accurate VT proximity fuses were ready to be mated with the 3.7” shells. The VT fuse possibly stood for Veritable Time fuse. This more commonly called proximity fuse exploded when it even got near an enemy plane. It increased the accuracy of an anti-aircraft shell by a factor of at least three and certain circumstance seven. It was a nasty piece of work and some say responsible for decimating the Japanese Kamikaze effort. The factor of seven comes into play when a plane is coming straight at you or on an easily determent course. Most Kamikaze came right at you or at your buddies without deviation. The factor or three came into play when a plane was dodging around and not flying straight.
They had not had much practice with the shell towards the end of the war and even now only a few shots here and there until today. Today they would be using a lot of them he was sure. There was not a real shortage but a shipment of close to a million fuses when down from a lucky hit by one of those midget submarines he heard.
His friends in the Navy had told him that the Seehund Soviet style midget submarine was a real hard nut to crack. Too small to show up on most sonar yet capable of sinking a good size freighter, it was something to be reckoned with and a lot of resources were being spent in defeating it. So far with not much luck. The point being that the loss of those million fuses prevented much of the usual practice with them. They had fired hundreds of practice shots with un-fused shells. The theory was that if you could come close or even hit the towed targets with a regular fuse then using a VT fuse would be almost like cheating.
From what he observed from afar the Soviet bomber formations where kind of like a swarm or ball of their medium bombers staying as close as possible to what looked like an American B25. They appeared to be just out of 40 mm Bofers range but easily within altitude range of his 3.7”. The action was going to be hot and furious today, he could feel it. The AA batteries were set up in the usual formation with a central command unit and radiating batteries of guns. 3.7” guarded by 40 mm Bofers . in turn guarded by 20 mm and finally heavy machine guns. They were unusually close together. The theory being that with the VT fuse they would be safer if closely guarding each other at their optimum range rather than spread out. Furthermore the high and mighty had decided that the target of the Soviet Red Air Force would be the fighters and their airfields. Believing that the Soviets had learned their lessons, they were sure that the Soviets knew how close the Germans had come to defeating the RAF in the First Battle of Britain by attacking the airfields.
Many a paper and memo had been written about the fact that the RAF was almost out of planes and trained pilots at one point during the first battle and would have been defeated if the Germans had not been tricked into ignoring Fighter Command. Ignoring them just long enough for them to catch their breath and then to tear into the German bomber formations once again with a vengeance. This broke the spirit of the German command and pilots.
They remembered how they themselves had defeated the superior speed and firepower of the first German jets by catching them while they attempted to land and take off. The only time when they were vulnerable to the slower Allied fighters. The Germans countered by concentrating flak batteries around the airfields used by the jets and it had been very effective but not effective enough. The Germans did not have the VT fuse. We did.
The concentrated firepower, superior fire direction of our radar directed guns and the VT fuse promised a safe haven for our little returning friends from Fighter Command and a hot reception to any VVS scum who tried to enter our airspace. Flak Traps were the common name for what we had set up around the various airfields. Killing zones was another term. Curtains of lead came to mind as well. The amount of concentrated firepower is truly amazing. It was felt that the Soviets could not effectively bomb cities so they had to concentrate on the air fields and the fighters based within. With their new found range thanks to the use of external fuel tanks and overwhelming odds it was certain that they could loiter just out of range waiting for returning planes. Even a SU 2 medium bomber, code named Bat, could easily shoot down the best RAF fighter pilot in the newest Spitfire if that pilot was out of fuel and attempting to land or take off. Just as it had been the case when many a German ace flying the Me262 had fallen to lessor pilots in lessor planes while vulnerable. Not very sporting but this war was far from a sport.
With our superior fire control, VT fuse and concentrated firepower we would be ready to defend our little friends when they came back from a hard day’s work. There was a nagging thought in his mind however. Is it wise to rely on the lessons of the last war? Could not the enemy adapt if he knew your tactics? He had heard that they were outnumbered 5 to one. In the first Battle of Britain it was about 1 and a half to one. Well what did he know? He was just a gun pointing piece of the grand puzzle that was going to save Britain once again.