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Thread: WWII Bomber comparison I Flying Fortress vs Lancaster

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    WWII Bomber comparison I Flying Fortress vs Lancaster

    B-17

    First combat (in Europe) August 42.
    cruising speed- 180mph
    empty weight-36135lbs
    horsepower-4800hp
    bomb load (Berlin)- 4500lbs
    defensive armament 13x .50 cal
    crew- 10
    standout feature- low wing construction with joined spars and radial engines made the plane incredibly tough.
    weakness- wing spar cut the bomb bay in half, limited forward firing arcs.
    number built 12371
    Number lost in combat- 4750 (37.3%)
    Crew losses- 47500 left England and did not return at the end of the mission.

    Lancaster-

    first combat 3 March 42
    cruising speed- 180mph
    empty weight 36,828
    horsepower-5120hp
    bomb load (Berlin) 14,000lbs
    defensive armament- 8x .30cal
    crew-7
    standout feature- massive bomb load
    weakness- lack of a belly gunner, high wing designed compromised structural strength, liquid cooled engines.
    number built-7377
    Number lost in combat 3249 (44%)
    Crew losses- 22743 left England and did not return at the end of the mission.

    OK, I must confess to a certain level of awe. I did not know going into this just how bad the loss rate was. While the rate will be lower for crews since aircraft would cycle through crews (more crews from 42-45 than airframes) the percentages still suggest massive losses in air crew and air frames. The number who did not return also do not reflect the number who returned on damaged planes as dead or wounded.

    Although both planes started combat within a few months of one another, losses clearly show the Lancaster suffered a higher loss rate. While the 8th Air Force gets most of the glory and flew in to the teeth of the Luftwaffe, Bomber Command had its own issues.

    The Lancaster lacked a belly gun and had flaming exhaust which made it an easy target for the Luftwaffe night fighters. Plus what ever bomber got painted with searchlights was as doomed as the formation leaders in a daylight raid. She made up for this with a massive bomb load.

    The B-17 had a much smaller bomb load, both in weight and in the size of of bombs that could be carried. This was due to its very rugged low wing construction. The spar linking the two wings cut the bomb bay in half. However this wing spar gave the B-17 its legendary robustness.

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    IIRC the casualty rate for bomber crews over Europe in 1942-44 was the highest for any allied combat unit anywhere, air OR ground. It was supposedly the most dangerous job in WW2. The German submariners may have had it worse, though. It'd be an interesting (if grim) investigation.

    The insistence of the B-17 to do daylight bombing was part hubris, part over-estimation of the capabilities of the Norden Bombsight. The Norden was good, but the German counterpart was every bit as good. In retrospect, shifting more 8th AF operations to night area bombardment would have been wise, and saved a large number of crews and airplanes.

    It is true that the B-17 ended up being a bit of a glory-hog, and Lancaster (and Liberator) crews were a bit bitter about it. I'm not sure of why this happened, as all of the heavy bombers did a superb job.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    OK, I must confess to a certain level of awe. I did not know going into this just how bad the loss rate was. While the rate will be lower for crews since aircraft would cycle through crews (more crews from 42-45 than airframes) the percentages still suggest massive losses in air crew and air frames. The number who did not return also do not reflect the number who returned on damaged planes as dead or wounded.
    but probably include crews that made it to neutral countries like Turkey ?
    J'ai en marre.

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    IIRC, SM Stirling asserts that had most of strategic bombing resources used against germany shifted to CAS or tactical bombing, the allied punch in 1943-44 would have been far, far stronger.

    it was only when the allies focused on a few key sectors like oil rather than industrial production that we finally created the bottlenecks that killed the nazis. it took a while for the technology to become good enough where the strategic bomber could fulfill its potential of "always getting through".
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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    Although both planes started combat within a few months of one another, losses clearly show the Lancaster suffered a higher loss rate.
    You'd really have to know the number of sorties to calculate loss rates, Zraver.

    I do know that for the period between July and December '43, US sorties were only 64 percent of the number flown by Bomber Command.

    The tonnage dropped was only 38.9, which has to do with the smaller bomb loads, as you've pointed out ... in fact, it's not until January 1945 that 8th Air Force is dropping the majority of the bombs on Germany.

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    I think one clue as to the dangers of the job was the "25 Missions accomplished" by the Memphis Belle. Layman wonder "25 missions? What's the big deal?"

    It was the first United States Army Air Forces heavy bomber to complete 25 combat missions with its crew intact.
    With U.S. bombing starting in 1942, it wasn't until May of 1943 that any single bomber completed 25 missions without crew grounding casualties or catastrophic damage.

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    The comparison between B-17 and the Lancaster is a bit unfair. The B-17 is an early 30's design. While extremely advanced when it debuted, it was approaching obsolescence by 1942. It was available, rugged and dependable, and relatively forgiving to fly. Few aircraft of it's vintage had an impact on the war, and served until 1945.
    The Lancaster was a second generation heavy.

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    A couple of points here.

    The Bomber Offensive of the 8th AF & 15th AF forced the Luftwaffe Fighter forces to come up and defend the Reich...which resulted in their destruction and Allied air supremacy.

    There were twice the B-24s used in the ETO than B-17s. 1 of the 3 air divisions of the VIIITH Bomber Command was B-24 equipped. 4 of the 5 Bomber Wings in the 15th AF were Liberator equipped.

    Not sure if the metrics exist to compare a Fort to a Lanc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chogy View Post
    In retrospect, shifting more 8th AF operations to night area bombardment would have been wise, and saved a large number of crews and airplanes.
    Chogy, the evidence insicaes that the RAF's night time strategy was the failure (in terms of protecting the bombers), not daylight bombing. Once the B-17's got in 44 escorts losses plummetted. However the Lancasters never had escorts and German night fighters made an art of sliding up under one and gutting its belly with cannon fire. It was impossible to fly in formation with coverign gunfire or provide escorts to the night missions. The RAF's only asnwer was window (chaff).

    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    A couple of points here.

    The Bomber Offensive of the 8th AF & 15th AF forced the Luftwaffe Fighter forces to come up and defend the Reich...which resulted in their destruction and Allied air supremacy.
    It also force the Luftwaffe to abandone Russia and France to concentrate on defending the Reich.

    There were twice the B-24s used in the ETO than B-17s. 1 of the 3 air divisions of the VIIITH Bomber Command was B-24 equipped. 4 of the 5 Bomber Wings in the 15th AF were Liberator equipped.
    Not sure if the metrics exist to compare a Fort to a Lanc.[/QUOTE]

    there were 12,700 of so fortresses built and over 16,000 liberatros. So while the liberator was more common overall, production numbers indicate it wasn't that much more common. Many of the liberatros also got diverted to the SW Pacific, other USAAF's and the RAF. The B-17 also dropped 1/3 of the total tonnage of American bombs (500,000 tons) dropped on Germany which implies a bigger number of sorties.

    The B-17 dropped more bombs on Germany than the B-25 (500,000v 456,000 tons) despite a smaller bomb load again indicating the B-17 was the most common American heavy over Germany.

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    You can check out a propaganda film about the Lancaster at another forum I'm a member of:

    Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History - View Single Post - Royal Air Force

    Along with the usual 'You production workers are winning this war, too!" stuff, we get to see a newly constructed Lanc being put through its paces, and then they give a camera to one of the crew members of a squadron that's taking part in a night raid over Germany.

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    Quote Originally Posted by clackers View Post
    You'd really have to know the number of sorties to calculate loss rates
    via Murray :

    APPENDIX 4
    Eighth Air Force, Percentage Sortie
    Loss Rate (Heavy Bombers)'
    Based on tables in"Statistical Summary of Eighth Air Force Operations, European Theater, 17 Aug 1942-8 May 1945 .-
    Loss Rate as Percent of
    Credit Sorties
    Year -Bombers-Fighters
    Aug 1942 0% 0.9%
    Sep 1942 1.9% 0%
    Oct 1942 4.5% 0.5%
    Nov 1942 2.9% 0.5%
    Dec 1942 5.8% 0%

    Average, 1942 3.5% 0.5%
    Jan 1943 7.5% 1.7%
    Feb 1943 8.1% 1.1 %
    Mar 1943 3.2% 0.8%
    Apr 1943 7.8% 1.2%
    May 1943 5.4% 0.6%
    Jun 1943 6.4% 0.5%
    Jul 1943 5.5% 0.6%
    Aug 1943 6.0% 0.5%
    Sep 1943 3.9% 0.5%
    Oct 1943 9.2% 0.5%
    Nov 1943 3.9% 1.6%
    Dec 1943 3.6% 0.8%

    Average, 1943 5.1% 0.8%
    Jan 1944 3.8% 1.1%
    Feb 1944 3.5% 1.1%
    Mar 1944 3.3% 1.6%
    Apr 1944 3.6% 1.3%
    May 1944 2.2% 1.4%
    Jun 1944 1.1% 1.0%
    Jul 1944 1.5% 0.9%
    Aug 1944 1.5% 1.5%
    Sep 1944 2.2% 1.9%
    Oct 1944 1.1% 1.0%
    Nov 1944 2.2% 1.8%
    Dec 1944 1.2% 1.2%

    Average, 1944 1.9% 1.3%
    Last edited by 1979; 10 Apr 11, at 16:04.
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    total Lancaster missions were 156,000 with 8325 shot down for a wartime loss rate of 5.33% per sortie.

    Total B-17 missions 291,508 with 4688 shot down for a wartime loss rate of 1.65% per sortie.

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    2.08 % per sortie for Lancaster .
    Last edited by 1979; 11 Apr 11, at 11:44.
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    I am getting 5.3356%

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    I would too, if I'm to use the 8325 shot down figure :
    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    number built-7377
    Number lost in combat 3249
    but that would mean that the germans shot down more Lancaster's than the british could build.

    overall it seams that the average crew could survive 48 missions in the LANCASTER and 60 missions in B17.
    but in 1943 the chances were much slimmer.
    Last edited by 1979; 11 Apr 11, at 17:43.
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