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"US Bomber Boxes" Topic

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alan L08 Oct 2019 2:53 a.m. PST

US bomber boxes

Working (very) tentatively on some home rules for Defence of the Reich against B17 and Liberators to game with around 24 bombers on the table. For such numbers, I would not be focusing on individual planes, just the formation in which they are flying. Hopefully this gives a game finish in an evening.

The bombers will of course be in their box formations of at least 6 models. If a box loses more than a couple of planes, would there be any attempt to form a new box with other box which also had lost planes or at least rearrange the positions of the surviving planes. Perhaps this would only invite catastrophic collisions especially when under attack.

Also, any thoughts on a curve for depletion of the defensive firepower of a box through losses? I would assume that the loss of the first plane would give a smaller proportionate reduction compared to the loss of two or three.
Any suggestions/thoughts would be much appreciated.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2019 7:01 a.m. PST

If you can find a copy of _B-17's Over Berlin_
(published in the 1990's as one of Brassey's
WWII Commemmorative series) there are excellent
schematics of how a heavy bomber Group (the book
is mainly personal accounts of crewmen of the
95th Bomb Group [Heavy]) would re-organize
in flight during mission transit.

In particular, pp 159 shows how the Group of
3 squadrons (19 aircraft) at the assembly point
in the UK re-organized on the way to the target
after 10 of the aircraft aborted, leaving 9
to complete the mission.

As far as combat maneuvers causing collisions,
it seems that after getting to the Initial Point
(the point at which the actual bombing run began)
there was little maneuvering – aircraft followed
the lead (experienced) aircraft/bombardier and
dropped when the lead dropped.

There were many more collisions/near-miss collisions
while climbing to altitude and formation assembly
in clouds, usually while still in UK airspace.

The book also has schematics of how the different
squadrons of the Group (high, low and lead)
were deployed as the Group approached a target.

By March/April of 1944, the Luftwaffe's tactics
versus the 8th AF were to concentrate on the lead
squadron (the most experienced, generally speaking)
in an effort to severely disrupt the efficacy of
the bomb run.

Hence, losses of individual aircraft would not so
much diminish the defensive firepower of the entire
Group formation since the formations were designed
to provide interlocking fields of fire.

This became even more apparent after the B-17G
(more forward-striking defensive fire) entered
service in Fall, 1943, coupled with the G's
increase in firepower (from 7 in the original B
model to 13 in the G model).

Hope you found this to be useful information.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2019 8:50 a.m. PST

This also has some good information:

Skies above the Reich: link


Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2019 11:11 p.m. PST

I've read and seen accounts of 18, 20, 21, and other quantities of bombers.

Some even, I think, with 24 – 27, though 18 – 21 seem to be more the norm.

For simplicity, I'd just go with a proportional reduction in the bomber unit's defensive firepower, due to losses, if desired. Actual kill rates were quite low, bomber crew "claims" notwithstanding.

Many more fighters were damaged, or forced off from the bombers, but the actual kill rates by the bombers against them seems to run about 1% – 3% for many/most air battles.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP09 Oct 2019 7:45 a.m. PST

Looking at rosters of four different B-17 squadrons
prior to overseas deployment, the average number
of pilots in each was 10, counting the squadron
commander as a pilot.

The average number of navigators was 8 and of
bombardiers 9.

This suggests to me a squadron strength of 9
aircraft, hence a Group (3 squadrons) strength
of 27, minus units dead lined for xxx-hour maintenance
(engines, but also airframe) and damage repair.

Examining more post-mission reports, I see an
average of 7 aircraft at mission depart, with an
average of 2 aborts per, leaving on average 5
aircraft to fly the mission. With a Group strength
of 3 or 4 squadrons per Group, 15-20 aircraft to
fly the missions in late '43 through Spring, '44
seems about right.

Post D-Day, the averages go up significantly, but
aborts decrease significantly.

alan L09 Oct 2019 11:26 a.m. PST

Many thanks

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