Making History II – WWII Heavy Fighter Aircraft
Muzzy Lane Software, producers of Making History II: The War of the World, scheduled for release in February 2010, provide ArmchairGeneral.com‘s readers this glimpse into some of the units that will be included in the game – heavy fighter aircraft. Earlier, ACG published a developer’s diary featuring insights into how this sequel will differ from the earlier Making History: The Calm & the Storm. ACG presents this information as a game preview and for the aircraft data’s historical interest. A gallery of model photos appears at the end of this article.
Heavy fighters were versatile and powerful aircraft that made use of the emerging aeronautical technologies and air doctrines of the 1930’s and early 1940’s. They were used in virtually all theatres of WWII in many roles: bomber escorts, night-fighters, dive bombers, interceptors, long-range reconnaissance and as torpedo bombers against ships. Most were far better armed and armored than the previous generation of fighters, bristling with rows of machine guns, cannons, rockets, and bombs. In Making History II, these fighters include some of the most famous and effective aircraft ever made, such as the Soviet Ilyushin IL-2 or the US P-38 Lightning, as well as aircraft that were either minimally or never produced at all due to invasion, such as the Czechoslovakian Praga E.51 or the French Potez 630.
Role: Heavy Fighter-Bomber
Manufacturing Nation: United Kingdom (and Australia)
• Crew: 2
• Maximum speed: 320 mph (280 kn, 515 km/h) at 10,000 ft (3,050 m)
• Range: 1,750 mi (1,520 nmi, 2,816 km)
• Armaments: Four 20 mm Hispano Mk III cannon (60 rpg) in nose, four .303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns (outer starboard wing), two .303 in (7.7 mm) machine gun (outer port wing), eight 60 lb (27 kg) rockets or two 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs
The twin engine "Beau" was a British long-range heavy fighter modification of the Bristol Aeroplane Company’s earlier Beaufort torpedo bomber design. It had a long career– 5928 were built–first as a radar-equipped night fighter, then as a fighter bomber and eventually as a torpedo bomber. The plane was fast enough to catch German bombers even when fully loaded, and it was an effective counter to Luftwaffe night raids. As the faster de Havilland Mosquito took over in the night fighter role, the heavier Beaufighters were used for anti-shipping, ground attack and long-range interdiction in every major theatre of operations. The various models of the Beaufighter were soon deployed overseas, where its ruggedness and reliability soon made the aircraft popular with crews. In the Pacific War, Japanese soldiers referred to the Beaufighter as "whispering death", because attacking aircraft often were not heard (or seen) until too late. The Beaufighter’s Hercules engines used sleeve valves which reduced noise level at the front of the engine.
During the Battle of the Bismarck Sea Beaufighters flew in at mast height to provide heavy suppressive fire for the waves of attacking A-20 and B-25 Mitchell bombers. The Japanese convoy made the fatal tactical error of turning their ships towards the Beaufighters, leaving them exposed to skip bombing attacks by the bombers. The Beaufighters inflicted maximum damage on the ships’ anti-aircraft guns, bridges and crews during strafing runs with their four 20 mm nose cannons and six wing-mounted machine guns. Eight transports and four destroyers were sunk for the loss of one Beaufighter and four other aircraft.
Role: Long-range heavy fighter-bomber
Manufacturing Nation: United States
• Crew: 1
• Maximum speed: 443 mph (712 km/h)
• Range: 1,300 mi combat (1,770 km / 3,640 km)
• Armaments: Hispano 20 mm cannon, four .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns, (combined rate of fire was over 4,000 rpm with roughly every sixth projectile a 20 mm. ), four three-tube rocket launchers, 2,000 lb (907 kg) bomb payload (or drop tanks, ten outer Hardpoints carrying 5 in (127 mm) HVARs (High Velocity Aircraft Rocket) or bombs.
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. Named "fork-tailed devil" by the Luftwaffe and "two planes, one pilot" by the Japanese, this unique aircraft was used in a number of different roles including dive bombing, level bombing, ground strafing, photo reconnaissance missions, and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings. General Jimmy Doolittle, Commander 8th Air Force, piloted a P-38 during the Invasion of Normandy to assess the progress of the air offensive. Of the P-38, Doolittle said that it was "the sweetest-flying plane in the sky".
The P-38 was used most successfully in the Pacific and China-Burma-India Theaters of Operations. In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of the P-51D Mustangs toward the end of the war. When American codebreakers discovered Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of Japan’s naval strategy in the Pacific including the attack on Pearl Harbor was flying to Bougainville Island, 16 P-38G Lightnings were sent on a long-range fighter-intercept mission, flying 435 mi (700 km) at heights from 10–50 ft (3–15 m) above the ocean to avoid detection. The Lightnings intercepted and shot down Yamamoto’s plane, killing him.
The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in active production throughout the duration of American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to VJ Day, and over 10,000 were built.
Role: Heavy Fighter, night fighter
Manufacturing Nation: Germany
• Crew: 2 (3 for night-fighting operations)
• Maximum speed: 560 km/h (348 mph)
• Range: 2,410 km (1,500 mi)
• Armaments: Two 20 mm cannons, four 7.92 mm (.312 in) machine guns, one 7.92 mm (.312 in) twin machine guns for defense
The Messerschmitt Bf 110, often (erroneously) called Me 110, was a twin-engine heavy fighter in the service of the Luftwaffe during World War II. Hermann Goring nicknamed it "Ironsides". The Bf 110 was employed throughout the war in various roles, alongside its replacements, the Me 210 and the Me 410. Over 6000 were built.
The Bf 110 served with success in the early campaigns, the Polish, Norwegian and Battle of France. The Bf 110’s lack of agility in the air was its primary weakness. This flaw was exposed during the Battle of Britain. After very heavy losses it was redeployed as a night fighter, a role to which the aircraft was well suited. The Bf 110 enjoyed a successful period following the Battle of Britain as an air superiority fighter and strike aircraft in other theatres. During the Balkans Campaign, North African Campaign and the Eastern Front it rendered valuable ground support to the German Army as a potent fighter-bomber.
Later in the war, the Bf-110 was developed into the major night-fighting aircraft of the Luftwaffe. After upward firing cannons were installed, it was used to devastating effect against a blind spot in British Lancaster bombers, which lacked ventral turrets. Taking advantage of the darkness, the Bf-110 would attack from below without using tracer rounds, in many cases destroying the bombers without being detected. Many RAF crews witnessed a sudden explosion of a friendly aircraft, but assumed, in some cases, it was very accurate flak. Few of the German fighters were seen, let alone fired on. This tactic helped reduce bombing raids deep into Germany until the British began equipping their escort fighters with radar. Later in the war, Goring committed the Bf-110 to daylight operations, and its attrition rate rose dramatically. Eventually the losses became unrecoverable as the allies gained air superiority.
Role: Heavy Fighter
Manufacturing Nation: Italy
• Crew: 1
• Maximum speed: 490 km/h (304 mph)
• Range: 1,640 km (1,019 mi)
• Armaments: Three 12.7mm (.5 in) machine guns firing forward, one 7.7mm (.303 in.) rearward firing.
The Breda Ba.88 Lynx was a ground-attack aircraft used by the Italian Regia Aeronautica during World War II. Although its streamlined external shape and retractable undercarriage made it look highly advanced for the time, its operational career was cut short when the production aircraft were loaded down with military equipment, resulting in a greatly reduced performance. It represented, perhaps, the most remarkable failure of any operational aircraft to see service in World War II. The Ba.88 had all the design specifications to be a very effective heavy fighter-bomber. It had a slim, streamlined shape (noted by all aviation observers), a rugged structure, heavy firepower, long range and high speed (a prototype set a new speed record), with the same horsepower of medium bombers such as the Br.20 (but at 9 tonnes/10 tons vs. 5 tonnes/6 tons). Despite its promising beginning, the addition of military equipment in the production series aircraft resulted in high wing loading and detrimental aerodynamic effects with a corresponding loss of performance, below any reasonable level. The contract was subsequently canceled, but production was later resumed, mostly for political reasons to avoid closing production lines of Breda and its satellite company IMAM. By mid-November, just five months after the start of the war on 10 June 1940, most surviving Ba.88s had been phased out as bombers and stripped of useful equipment, and were scattered around operational airfields as decoys for attacking aircraft.
Role: Heavy Fighter
Manufacturing Nation: Japan
• Crew: 2
• Maximum speed: 540 km/h (292 kn, 336 mph)
• Range: 2,000 km (1,081 nmi, 1,243 mi)
• Armaments: Machine guns and cannon (many variations and combinations used)
The Ki-45 Toryu "Dragon Slayer" was initially used as a long-range bomber escort. 1,675 Ki-45s of all versions were produced during the war. They were deployed in June 1942 in Guilin, China where they encountered, but were no match for Curtiss P-40s flown by the Flying Tigers. In September of the same year, they met P-40s over Hanoi with similar results. It became clear that the Ki-45 could not hold its own against single-engine fighters in aerial combat.
It was subsequently deployed in several theaters in the roles of interception, ground, ship attack and fleet defense. Its greatest strength turned out to be as an anti-bomber interceptor, as was the case of the Bf 110 in Europe. In New Guinea, the JAAF used the aircraft in an anti-ship role, where the Ki-45 was heavily armed with one 37 mm and two 20 mm cannons and could carry two 250 kg bombs on hard points under the wings. Later, the craft’s heavy armament proved effective against the B-29 raids which started in June 1944. However, its performance was insufficient to counter B-29s flying at 10,000 m (32,800 ft). A later version was developed specifically as a night fighter and took part in night defense of the Home Islands from the autumn of 1944 to the War’s end. They obtained notable successes, and one squadron obtained 150 victories and downed eight USAAF B-29 Superfortresses in their first combat.
Role: Heavy Fighter
Manufacturing Nation: France
• Crew: 3
• Maximum speed: 425 km/h (264 mph)
• Range: 1,500 km (932 miles)
• Armaments: Machine guns and bombs
The Potez 630 and its derivatives were a family of twin-engined aircraft developed for the Armée de l’Air in the late 1930s. The design was a contemporary of the British Bristol Blenheim and the German Messerschmitt Bf 110. More than 700 were delivered by June 1940, of which more than 220 were destroyed or abandoned, despite the addition of extra machine gun armament; the heaviest losses of any French type. The Potez continued in service with the Vichy air force and with the Free French forces in North Africa seeing action with both. Production was resumed under German control and significant numbers appear to have been impressed by the Germans, mostly in liaison and training roles.
Role: Heavy Fighter, dive-bomber
Manufacturing Nation: USSR
• Crew: 2
• Maximum speed: 414 km/h (257 mph)
• Range: 720 km (450 mi)
• Armaments: Two forward-firing 23 mm cannons, two fixed forward-firing 7.62 mm machine guns, one manually aimed 12.7 mm machine gun the in rear cockpit, up to 600 kg (1,320 lb) of bombs and/or up to eight rockets
The Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik was a legendary ground attack aircraft in the Second World War, produced by the Soviet Union in large numbers. In combination with its successor, the Ilyushin Il-10, a total of 36,163 were built, making it the single most produced military aircraft design in all of aviation history as well as the third most produced aircraft in history behind the Cessna 172 and the Polikarpov Po-2. It was a prominent aircraft for tank killing with its accuracy in dive bombing.
To Shturmovik pilots, the aircraft was simply the diminutive "Ilyusha". To the soldiers on the ground, it was the "Hunchback," the "Flying Tank" or, the greatest of compliments, the "Flying Infantryman". The Il-2 aircraft played a crucial role on the Eastern Front, and in Soviet opinion it was the most decisive aircraft in the history of modern land warfare. Joseph Stalin called the Il-2: "…as essential to the Red Army as air and bread."
The Il-2 was equipped with high explosive anti-tank bomblets which were highly effective against German tanks. At the battle of Kursk Ilyushin Il-2’s destroyed 70 tanks from the German 9th Panzer Division in just 20 minutes! The Il-2 could take a great deal of punishment and was very difficult to shoot down. Its biggest vulnerability was to enemy fighters, so later models added a rear facing gunner. These poorly armored positions had a high death rate, and were sometimes manned by personnel from penal companies considered "enemies of the state". The plane was continuously upgraded throughout the war with better weapons, aerodynamic improvements, increased range and more powerful engines.
Role: Heavy Fighter
Manufacturing Nation: Poland
Introduced: 1939 (Prototype)
• Crew: 2
• Maximum speed: 560 km/h
• Range: 1500 km
• Armaments: Two 20 mm cannon fixed in nose, two 7.92 mm machine guns fixed in nose, two 7.92 mm machine guns movable at the upper rear, up to 300 kg of bombs.
The PZL.48 Lampart (Leopard) was a Polish heavy fighter-bomber design that remained only a project, owing to the outbreak of World War II. It was a twin-engine low-wing cantilever monoplane of metal construction, metal covered. The crew of two – pilot and rear gunner/bombardier/observer – sat under separate canopies, far from each other, fitted with dual controls. It had retractable landing gear, with main wheels retracting into engine nacelles, and a rear skid. Building of a prototype started in 1939. It was planned to fly the prototype in the first half of 1940. Further plans were to produce 110 Lamparts for the Polish Air Force in 1941. Owing to the German invasion on 1 September 1939, all plans were cancelled.
Role: Heavy Fighter
Manufacturing Nation: Czechoslovakia
• Crew: 2-3
• Armaments: Machine guns and Bombs
The Praga E.51 used a split tail design similar to the Fokker G.1 or the P-38 Lightning. It had a crew of three, a pilot, a bombardier/gunner and rear gunner. It saw limited production prior to the German invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia. A number of them were captured but after the Germans examined the plane they scrapped it in favor of their own designs.
Role: Heavy Fighter
Manufacturing Nation: Netherlands
• Crew: 2-3
• Maximum speed: 475 km/h (295 mph)
• Range: 1510 km (938 mi)
• Armaments: Eight 7.9 mm forward-firing machine guns in the nose, one 7.9 mm machine gun in rear turret, up to 400 kg (881 lb) of bombs
The Fokker G.I was a Dutch heavy twin-engined fighter plane comparable in size and role to the German Messerschmitt Bf 110 and the British Mosquito. It had just begun production and only about 50 had been produced when the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940. Early performance indicated excellent performance as a dive bomber. The aircraft were actively involved in border patrols and in order to insure neutrality. During testing in 1937, twelve G.1’s were ordered by the Republican government in Spain. Despite receiving payment, the order was destined never to be fulfilled as the Dutch government placed an embargo on the sale of military equipment to Spain.
On 10 May 1940, when Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands, 23 G.1a aircraft were serviceable. The German invasion started with an early morning (0350 hours) Luftwaffe attack on the Dutch airfields. While 4th JAVA received a devastating blow, losing all but one of its aircraft, at least two 3rd JAVA G.1a fighters were launched in time to down three of the Heinkel He 111 bombers. The two squadrons continued to fly but with mounting losses bringing their numbers down to three airworthy aircraft by the end of the first day. At the Fokker factory, the embargoed Spanish aircraft along with aircraft from a Finnish order were confiscated. Several were hastily fitted with a four nose-mounted machine gun armament array, and deployed in ground attack missions, strafing advancing German infantry units but also used to attack Junkers transports. Although reports are fragmentary and inaccurate as to the results, G.1 fighters were employed over Rotterdam and the Hague, scoring up to 14 confirmed kills. At the conclusion of hostilities, several G.1’s were captured by the Germans. These, along with other aircraft under production, were completed at the Fokker plant by mid-1941 and used by the Germans as fighter trainers for Bf 110 crews.