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"How many planes in a squadron?" Topic

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23,328 hits since 27 Mar 2005
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Comments or corrections?

Belkor Inactive Member27 Mar 2005 10:09 a.m. PST

How many planes did a squadron consist of?

PigLatin Inactive Member27 Mar 2005 10:37 a.m. PST

Depends on the nation, in the American Pacific, I believe that a unit had to have able to fly at any one time 14 planes to be considered a squadron and the base I think was 21. I would ask my Grandfather as he was at Henderson Airfield repairing it for many flights, the most famous guy he met was Boyington. But since my Grandfather died a couple of years ago, its impossible to ask him now. He had some great stories about WW2 and hated McArthur, thought he was a jerk, but thats understandable as he was in the Navy.

Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Mar 2005 10:38 a.m. PST

Depends whose and when, but 12 a lot of the time, either 4 flights of 3 (eg. early war British) or 3 flights of 4 (eg. German fighters.)


OldGrenadier Fezian27 Mar 2005 12:14 p.m. PST

Twelve to fourteen operational A/C seems to be an average. Actual establishment could vary considerably, depending on the time of the war, the type of unit, and the combat status.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP27 Mar 2005 1:05 p.m. PST

USN Pacific early war carrier squadrons: Scout and
Bombing squadrons and Fighter and Torpedo squadrons had
18 each on strength, with a general reserve of 8
aircraft carried aboard. At the start of the war, a
carrier had 4 squadrons as above. Typically operational
at any one time (without regard to damage due to
operations, combat, etc.) was 12-14, the remainder down
for various maintenance activities. This is the Fleet
Carrier organization. Land-based USN and USMC squadrons
had generally the same organization, but combat erosion
drove squadron strengths down significantly, to the
point that early in the war, the VF and VMF squadrons
on Henderson rarely could put more than 6-8 aircraft
up on one mission.

Later in the war, and with the introduction of light and
escort carriers the aircraft strength could be quite
different, especially with the introduction of the
TBM in a bombing and torpedo role. Generally, light
carriers tasked with CAP would be 'fighter heavy' in
their equipage (up to 48 aircraft) while escort carriers
might be a wild mix, given their role as maids of all
work AND carrying replacements for the bigger ships.

'Enterprise' late in the war was tasked as a Night
Operations carrier and had about a 1/3 to 2/3 ratio
of TBM's (radar equipped) to fighters, generally a
TBM/fighter pair working under the FDO until close
enough to target that the TBM's radar could guide the
fighter to an intercept. She also had some TBM's
equipped for night bombing operations, but I'm not sure
of the number.

USAAC fighter squadrons were organized initially as
USN (18 aircraft; 24 pilots) but as the war went on,
the USAAC organization changed as roles were more
defined, the escort squadrons remaining at about that
number, while point-defense and ground attack units
were reduced to 12 aircraft per squadron.

USAAC bombing squadrons started the war with 12 aircraft
each, but with the advent of the bombing campaign in
Europe, were reduced in some cases to 9, due to the
basing requirements and the difficulty in assembling
larger squadrons prior to proceeding to target. Medium
and light squadrons stayed at the 12 level.

Generally, a squadron would carry 1/3 more pilots on
strength than aircraft.

Please bear in mind that all the foregoing are optimum
organizational/administrative numbers. Cases can be
found in which a 'squadron' consisted of 4 very different
aircraft, or 24 of all the same type. Wartime needs
dictated many ad hoc arrangements.

Sorry, I don't know anything about Allied/Japanese/
German organization.

'Squadron,' in Quick, is defined as (first definition)
'Two or more flights (USAAC) or Divisions (USN; USMC)
organized under a common headquarters, of the same or
similar types of aircraft.' A 'flight' typically is
two airplanes, but could be four.

John Armatys27 Mar 2005 3:13 p.m. PST

Battle of Britain RAF worked on the following basis:
A full strength squadron would have 20 aircraft and two reserves, plus 16 operational pilots, and would be expected to fly 12 aircraft, either as four flights of three or three flights of four. If the strength fell below 9 they should have been relieved and posted to another Group, however some squadrons suffered exhaustion from persistent combat and heavy losses, and were far from efficient before being withdrawn. Some squadrons lasted 4 to 6 weeks, others had to be replaced after only a week to ten days. On 2.9.40 seven squadrons were reduced to less than half strength, and by 7.9.40 it was impossible to exchange squadrons quickly enough as their strength in operational pilots ran down.

A system of grading squadrons was introduced in early September:
A 11 Group, plus Duxford and Middle Wallop, maintained constantly at a minimum of 16 operational pilots. Those in 10 and 12 Group had non-operational pilots in addition “as convenient”.
B Most of 10 and 12 Groups, kept up to strength a strength of 16 operational pilots plus six non-operational pilots - to relieve 11 Group squadrons.
C In the quieter parts of the country, a minimum of three operational pilots act as leaders (except three named squadrons, which had eight), used for training pilots as replacements for 11 Group

Wargamer Blue27 Mar 2005 4:43 p.m. PST

Are there any good books out there about each nations air organisation?

RockyRusso Inactive Member28 Mar 2005 12:37 p.m. PST


Germans and Italians used 9 plane squadrons.

U.S. squadrons were not always as big as described above. In the case of B24 and B17, 6 planes made a squadron. Partly, this is tactical, and partly, a squadron is an organization unit for the U.S. with a command structure. Thus, a B17 with 10 man crews has more people in 6 airplanes, than a 20 plane fighter squadron.


Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP28 Mar 2005 7:05 p.m. PST

Rocky, the organization for the heavies (17's and 24's)
was indeed 9 Aircraft for the ETO and intially for the
PTO. I served (40 years + ago) with some WWII vets and
also availed myself of a lot of info when I was in the

PTO squadrons (especially the late-war B-32 squadrons,
which only ever flew 1 or 2 operations) were 6 aircraft,
but that had more to do with logistics than anything else.
The base admin unit was indeed the squadron, but most
service personnel were assigned to what was called an
Airbase Unit, which provided maintenance, food service,
personnel, security and ordnance/fuel services. From
a tactical standpoint, the real HQ element was the Group,
two or more squadrons. Two or more Groups would make
up a Wing, and Wings were subordinate to Air Divisions.

Frag orders were generally only sent as low as Group level
for most missions, although there could be specialized
missions the planning for which took place at the
squadron level, but those were pretty rare. Planning
mostly was at the Group level, with Wing providing over-
sight and co-ordinating with escorts, etc.

At a base on which I served there was an A-26 Group which
had been re-activated as a COIN unit(1963). It had
2 squadrons of 12 each, and generally could mount 8-10
aircraft from each squadron at any particular time.

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