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"Glider ranges and ops?" Topic


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4th Cuirassier12 Jun 2023 3:41 a.m. PST

After casting off its tow, roughly how far could a heavy glider such as a Hamilcar or Gigant actually glide, assuming full load and normal operating conditions? Are we talking five miles, or a hundred miles?

I'm assuming it's more like the former, because the D-Day landing zones were about 100 to 125 miles from the nearest take-off strips in southern England. If a large glider could travel 100 miles, they'd be casting off the tow almost as soon as they crossed the English coast – which isn't what you read.

Relatedly, given that they landed at night for D-Day at least, how did the pilots know where to set down? I wonder about this both broadly (how did they know they were in the right area) and narrowly (how did they avoid trying to set down into powerlines and ploughed fields). Did advance parties illuminate the landing areas, or something?

advocate12 Jun 2023 3:56 a.m. PST

The only gliders that landed on D-day at night were around Pegasus Bridge, a small and carefully planned operation. The remainder arrived on the early evening of the longest day.
Glider landings attempted at night on Sicily were largely unsuccessful for a variety of reasons.

pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2023 4:04 a.m. PST

I believe the US also used gliders on D-Day?

Heedless Horseman Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2023 4:05 a.m. PST

Without load, a large Glider could glide a fair distance. With load, would probably stay with powered tow until couple of miles off.
Setting down… Pegasus bridge, anyway… intense briefing. Used watercousrses to indentify LZs… possibly some reflection.

Major Mike12 Jun 2023 4:36 a.m. PST

Tactical glide speed for a Waco is listed at 60 mph with a rate of sink of 400 ft per minute and a landing run out of anywhere between 600 to 3000 ft depending on weight and landing speed.

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2023 6:52 a.m. PST

Release points were within one to three miles at predetermined altitudes.

A glide depends very much on the gliders flying characteristics, payload, wind conditions, altitude and very much more. All military gliders were cargo or troop carriers and were incredibly efficient at coming out of the sky as opposed to staying in it.

Personal logo enfant perdus Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2023 10:31 a.m. PST

Not immediately relevant to the question but perhaps of interest to some:

The Great Glider Grab – Salvaging Operation Market Garden Gliders 1944

YouTube link

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2023 12:49 p.m. PST

A glider would want to be cast off as near to the LZ as possible. While under tow it was going as some sort of speed, which was good idea if facing AA. Once travelling at 60 mph that is one slow large, very fragile, target……. often carrying stuff that would react badly to anything explosive hitting it.

US used Wacos and Horsas on D Day but the latter did very badly in landing.

UshCha13 Jun 2023 12:41 a.m. PST

Major Mike's numbers give a glide slope of about 13:1. This is not that bad, on my failed attempst to fly hang Gliders (at a school) they had about 7:1 glide slopes on the early days so 13:1 is not that bad. So you drop say 10 times your height away from your target you need some margin for headwinds and other eventualities.

So working back glider relesae height for 1 to 3 miles is 500 to 1500ft release height. Interesting, the tow pilot is doing much of the navigation at that.

4th Cuirassier13 Jun 2023 2:05 a.m. PST

I was mulling here over whether you could have landed troops in Iceland by glider. Most glider assaults or supply drops seem to have been over short ranges though – D-Day, Market Garden, Varsity. The Germans' drops to north Africa were actually quite long haul.

When you get into, say, landing in Iceland by glider from Norway, it gets interestingly difficult. You need a tow aircraft that has the range to get there and back. The shortest distance between western Norway and Reykjavik is about 850 miles. Typically aircraft with those sorts of ranges achieved them by flying at 250 mph and 20,000 feet. You couldn't tow gliders at that speed nor, as they were unpressurised, at that altitude. So you'd need an aircraft that could tow a glider 900 miles at its never-exceed speed of 100mph and about 5,000 feet. I don't think anything of the kind existed.

Heedless Horseman Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2023 2:43 a.m. PST

4th. Something did. Think, maybe a Whitley. But could have been bigger.

Murvihill13 Jun 2023 3:46 a.m. PST

Have the Germans seize Jan Mayan and use it for staging.

4th Cuirassier13 Jun 2023 5:42 a.m. PST

@ heedless

A.W. Albemarle possibly? They towed Hamilcars. The problem is that for a long-range tow you need a long-range tug, but the tug's log range almost certainly requires an airspeed at an altitude neither of which the glider can withstand.

@ Major Mike: interesting – so if you cast off the tow at 4,000 feet a Waco would glide about ten miles?

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2023 6:01 a.m. PST

" Major Mike: interesting so if you cast off the tow at 4,000 feet a Waco would glide about ten miles?"

Keep in mind that the gliders were for oversized and over parachute weight items. Also, they would have been stuffed to the limit for each combat drop. So glide rates would have been stated as optimal for empty weights.

Excepting everyone with a sling shot is now targeting you, you still have to navigate your way to your targeted landing site and a twenty minute glide without power will have the troops in the back willing to kill you upon a successful landing. Troops will want down and out as fast as possible.

Could it glide for ten miles, perhaps. But you'll have better luck having the message in a bottle wash up on shore after having thrown it in the sea twenty years back.

Usually the release point is within and upon visual confirmation of seeing the targeted landing zone for a good reason.

4th Cuirassier13 Jun 2023 6:12 a.m. PST

I've found PDF pilots' notes for the Hamilcar online.

PDF link

This says that at full load the maximum towing speed is 150mph and it gives Whitley, Halifax, Albemarle, Wellington, Lancaster, Dakota, and Stirling as tugs. Unfortunately it doesn't say anything about sink rate or altitude…

42flanker13 Jun 2023 11:02 p.m. PST

All military gliders were cargo or troop carriers and were incredibly efficient at coming out of the sky as opposed to staying in it.</>

Rather like the principle that aerial bombardment is always 100% accurate: all bombs hit the ground.

Major Mike14 Jun 2023 5:37 a.m. PST

Old pilot adage, "never stretch a glide". Find you a close place to land and go for it. Not all operations occur in daylight, so you want a location that can be seen from the air in the dark.

Some Hamilcar info is here. Some technical info is in the section "The Hamilcar is born". link

For combat, most gliders were to be delivered at low altitude not far from their landing zone with a steep descent prior to landing to reduce time in the air and vulnerability to ground fire.

Starfury Rider15 Jun 2023 2:23 a.m. PST

The thing I recall most from looking into the Horsa and its use with the various Air Landing units of a British Airborne Division was the attention required to loading. It wasn't just about the weight limit it was the physical distribution within the Horsa to achieve balance relative to the centre of gravity. At least one unit officer was designated as the Loading Officer and was responsible for checking that gliders met these requirements, making him a not necessarily popular figure as it could mean removing items that troops thought were fine to stuff on top of Jeeps and the like, not realising they could throw off the weight distribution.

I don't recall ever seeing a range limit, I think it was pretty much governed by that of the towing aircraft but that in itself was subject to change as towing a bloody great glider had an impact on the handling of the tug as well.

Aside from the ever changing T/O&Es I never had much luck with the US Glider Infantry in terms of how they allocated troops and vehicles among their Wacos and how many gliders they were likely to have. The few replies I ever got were along the lines of 'it depends' as in terms of loading. I'd expect US units to have to take similar care though in splitting subunits and HQs over multiple gliders to allow for losses and in weight limits. I thought there was a US glider landing on D-Day as well and was probably thinking of these.

link

After Normandy the later Airborne operations were daylight affairs, the mass landing on 7th June by 6th Airborne Division being I think the first such attempt. Prior to that Allied airborne ops were used night time events as I recall. To the best of my recollection there was no pathfinder equivalent for use with glider borne units, it was very much a case of having the LZ designated beforehand, get to it if you can, if not find somewhere else; as noted above everything that goes up will come down eventually, even though it might not land where it was intended. Also on crowed LZs there was always a risk of collisions and not much room for evasive manoeuvres in unpowered aircraft.

I know parachute units get the majority of the attention but the big Allied airborne ops all included a substantial glider borne element, which are a subset of study in themselves.

Gary

Gary

4th Cuirassier15 Jun 2023 6:42 a.m. PST

The Hamilcar's all-up weight including payload was north of 16 tonnes, to tow which you needed something with the heft of a Halifax or even a Lancaster. 16 tonnes was well beyond what either of them could lift, but as the payload has wings (so will lift itself at the right speed), it was possible for a bomber that carried 8 tonnes to pull 16.

I've read of ill-advised attempts by glider passengers to armour the glider's floor with sheet metal, which would cause an instant crash the moment the glider came off the ground.

It does seem like you towed the glider basically all the way and let it glide just the last few miles. I had the idea in my head that you could extend the range of air-landing ops by maxing out the length of the glide, but it sounds like a few miles was what you got.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Jun 2023 7:40 a.m. PST

The advantage of the gliders was that assuming they didn't crash they could deliver the soldiers and their gear as a unit with everyone together in one spot and instantly ready for action. Even the best possible parachute jump is going to see the stick spread out with nearly a half mile between the first to jump and the last to jump. It's going to take time to get them all gathered together.

Oh, and a Public Service Announcement. My dad worked in the WACO plant during the war making the CG-4 gliders. WACO is pronounced Wahh-Ko, not Way-ko like the town in Texas. WACO is an acronym for the Weaver Aircraft Company of Troy, Ohio. :)

Blutarski16 Jun 2023 10:26 a.m. PST

My neighbor was a USAF loadmaster for C130s (and other US military cargo aircraft like the C119 for example) operating out of Thailand during the Vietnam War. He says that proper weight distribution when loading any cargo plane is highly important – the aircraft's loaded center of gravity needs to match its center of lift; otherwise flight characteristics can be dangerously affected.

FWIW.

B

Andy ONeill16 Jun 2023 11:11 a.m. PST

I thought gliders were released pretty close to landing. Found this:
link

DBS30320 Jun 2023 3:42 a.m. PST

A couple of points:

The accuracy of the Pegasus Bridge Horsa night landings were described by ACM Tedder as the finest feat of airmanship of the entire war. The Horsa pilots were only able to see the bridge and canal sixty seconds before touchdown. Their achievement was due to excellent navigation by the RAF tug crews, who would have had Gee as an aid, and the Glider Regiment pilots flying with meticulous accuracy by stop watch on instruments.

The really long range example of which I can think was the failed attempt to infiltrate commandoes into Norway to attack the heavy water plant at Telemark. Operation Freshman. Two Halifax tugs towing Horsas (the first use of the Horsa). Sadly, both the Horsas and one of the Halifaxes crashed in Norway due to appalling weather and navigational challenges, and all the personnel who survived the crashes were murdered by the Wehrmacht and Gestapo under the Commando Order.

The heavy water production was of course later disrupted successfully by a Norwegian SOE operation, as immortalised in the Hollywood film.

Heedless Horseman Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2023 5:46 a.m. PST

DBS303. Thanks. Thought it might have been a bit TOO long for twin Whitley. Sad for involved.

majed438520 Jun 2023 3:32 p.m. PST

The IX Troop Carrier Command Air Plan called for the tow planes to assemble at 1500 feet above mean sea level (MSL). Cross the French coast at 1000 MSL and deliver the gliders to the landing zones at 700 ft MSL. On a website for the CG-4 WACO glider a pilot said they got a 12:1 glide ratio while carrying a "standard load". Depending on the ground elevation you had to be very close to you landing area when released. The main idea was to stay below radar and AAA batteries and get on the ground as quickly as possible.

4th Cuirassier02 Jul 2023 2:50 p.m. PST

For those interested I found this attempts to tow Waco gliders across the Atlantic in 1,000-mile hops behind DC3s.

It took 8 days to do 3,500 miles.

YouTube link

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Jul 2023 7:28 a.m. PST

During the 30s the Russians experimented with using gliders to transport troops long distances. I believe they managed to transport an infantry division (minus heavy equipment, of course) from Moscow to Vladivostock. Not sure how long it took.

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