Military Review

UK Air Defense System (part of 1)


During the Second World War, Great Britain was forced to spend significant resources to protect against destructive German raids. aviation. In September 1939, the British air defense was completely unprepared for war. The air attack warning network was in its infancy, and command and communication centers had to be created from scratch. Fighters of modern types were clearly not enough, and anti-aircraft guns capable of hitting targets at medium and high altitudes, at best, there were 10% of the required number. By the start of hostilities, 29 regular and territorial anti-aircraft artillery batteries covered the skies of Britain, while London was protected by a total of 104 76-94-mm guns. To remedy this situation, the British leadership had to take emergency organizational measures, invest huge amounts of money in setting up production at their enterprises and purchase the missing weapons, raw materials, materials and intentional equipment in the United States (more details here: British anti-aircraft defense during the Second World War).

Compared to the United States, whose continental part was not raided by enemy bombers, the United Kingdom during the war paid much more attention to building an air defense system that included a network of radar stations, observation posts, communications centers, numerous anti-aircraft batteries, searchlight installations and squadron day and night interceptors. The bet was made on the fighter cover, as well as on the local air defense zones around the main cities and ports.

After the start of the air battle for Britain, when the German command tried to achieve the surrender of Great Britain with the help of Luftwaffe bombers, the British soon realized that effective air defense could only be achieved with centralized control and close coordination of interceptors and anti-aircraft artillery. And although the creation of territorial air defense districts with a single centralized leadership began as early as 1936, this process was completed only after the start of massive attacks by German bombers.

In addition to the main command headquarters, where all the information from VNOS and radar posts flowed, the entire territory of the country was divided into sectors, each with its own command post, capable in the event of loss of communication with the central command, to act autonomously.

Full-scale production in the UK of large-caliber anti-aircraft guns and fighters lasted until the summer of the 1945 year. In addition to the guns and interceptors of their own production, in the British air defense units there were a lot of radars, anti-aircraft guns and fighters received from the United States.

Until the middle of 1945, the British industry delivered more than 10 000 94-mm anti-aircraft guns 3.7-In QF AA. In 1947, a little less than a third of these guns still served in positions. By the end of the war, the British were able to significantly improve the efficiency of the 94-mm anti-aircraft guns, improving the fire control system and equipping the gun with a mechanical rammer and an automated fuse unit. As a result, the rate of fire of the gun, which threw 12,96 kg projectile to a height of more than 9 km, increased to 25 shots per minute.

In the ammunition of all large-caliber anti-aircraft guns from 1944, shells with a radio fuse were introduced, as a result of which the probability of hitting an air target increased significantly. Thus, the use of radio pickups in combination with PUAZO, information on which came from radars, made it possible to bring the number of V-1 destroyed when they were fired by anti-aircraft guns from 24% to 79%.

UK Air Defense System (part of 1)

113-mm anti-aircraft gun QF, 4.5-In AA Mk II

Although after the end of the war the number of British anti-aircraft artillery units was more than halved, there were more 1947 heavy 200-inch (4,5-mm) QF anti-aircraft guns in 113 in the vicinity of the naval bases and other strategic facilities at stationary positions, 4.5-In AA Mk II. An 113-mm projectile with a weight of 24,7 kg, launched at a speed of 732 m / s, could hit air targets at a distance of 12000 m. The fire rate of QF, 4.5-In AA Mk II was 15 rds / min.

The 133-mm 5,25 QF Mark I 1942 universal guns were the heaviest and most long-range British anti-aircraft guns. In the 60 year in the vicinity of London, three twin turrets were mounted on concrete foundations. both in Great Britain and in the colonies. These units were in service until the beginning of the XNUMXs.

133-mm universal tower installation 5,25 "QF Mark I

They were entrusted with the tasks of coastal defense and the fight against high-flying aircraft. 133-mm guns had a rate of fire to 10 shots / min. Reaching 14000 m height made it possible to fire 36,3-kg with fragmentation shells at enemy aircraft flying at heights inaccessible to other anti-aircraft guns. These large-caliber anti-aircraft guns after the appearance of projectiles with radio-fuses showed very good results in the fight against high-altitude aerial targets. After the first sighting volley, to adjust the pickup from the radar, they immediately went to cover the target. Although the adoption of 133-mm guns occurred after the cessation of mass raids by German bombers, single Luftwaffe planes making bomber and reconnaissance raids very soon began to avoid areas covered by these guns. However, the major disadvantages of the 133-mm anti-aircraft guns were the high cost of the projectiles and the facilities themselves and the stationary nature of the deployment.

In 1942, the construction of air defense forts began on the approaches to major British ports at sea. Each of these forts consisted of 7 interconnected towers armed with 94 and 40-mm anti-aircraft guns and searchlights.

Anti-aircraft guns in the towers were located just like on land batteries and had the opportunity to conduct a concentrated fire in any direction. During the war years, anti-aircraft forts mainly covered the naval bases and ports from attacks by German bombers flying at low altitudes, and proved to be very good. However, their post-war service was short-lived; in the 50, the air defense forts were mothballed and then completely written off.

Before the advent of radars, the main means of detecting approaching enemy planes were the posts of visual observation and acoustic means recording the sound of working aircraft engines. In the year 1940, there were 1400 observation points in the United Kingdom mainly on the south and southeast coasts. In the first half of the 30-s on the south coast in Kent, construction of permanent concrete acoustic acoustic stations, known under the romantic name “Echo Mirrors”, was carried out.

With the help of a concrete “cup” with a diameter of 8-10 meters and a microphone with a tube amplifier and band-pass filter, it was possible to detect approaching enemy bombers at a distance of up to 40 km in calm weather.

In addition to the “cups”, on the coast, three ellipse-like concrete walls with a length of more than 30 meters and a height of about 60 meters were built on the coast in 10. With the help of microphones, these facilities were supposed to record the low-frequency rumble of approaching enemy bombers and, in a given sector, determine the direction of flight of the aircraft at a distance of up to 50 km. The acoustic “cups” and “walls”, which had no analogues in other countries, before the advent of radars, were used to detect airplanes flying to the British Isles from the continent. The construction of concrete sound collectors ceased after impressive advances were made in the field of radar. However, acoustic installations were used until the spring of the 1944 year, and not only for the detection of aircraft. In a number of cases, with the help of sound absorbers, it was possible to detect the dislocation of the enemy's coastal batteries, the movement of heavy equipment and artillery salvos of warships. It is noteworthy that the blind volunteers were often sound-catching operators.

Fire control of all British large-caliber anti-aircraft guns, starting from the middle of the 1944 year and up to their removal from service, was carried out according to radar data. The first radar stations for detecting airborne targets in England were commissioned as early as 1938, but they began to really pay attention to radars only after the launch of air raids.

In 1940, the radar network already had 80 stations. Initially, these were the bulky AMES Type 1 stationary radars, whose fixed antennas were suspended on metal masts 115 m in height. Receiving antennas were placed on 80-meter wooden towers. The antenna had a wide radiation pattern - an aircraft flying at an altitude of 5000 meters could be detected in the 120 ° sector at a distance of up to 200 km. In 1942, the deployment of stations with a rotating antenna began, which carried out a search for targets in a circular sector.

Type 7 Radar

The first stationary Type 7 radar with a rotating antenna operating in the 193-200 MHz band was able to detect high-altitude air targets with a fairly high accuracy in determining the coordinates at a distance of up to 150 km. Thanks to the circular view, it was possible to view the airspace from all directions and adjust the actions of fighter-interceptors. Operation of the upgraded radars of this type continued until the end of the 50-s. The British became pioneers in creating a system of "friend - foe". Beginning with 1943, RAF aircraft began to receive transponders, allowing them to be identified on radar screens.

In addition to stationary early warning radar, from the beginning of 1940, surveillance mobile stations began to be attached to anti-aircraft batteries, which, in addition to detecting enemy bombers at a distance of 30-50 km, corrected anti-aircraft artillery fires and controlled the actions of anti-aircraft searchlights.

Radar GL Mk. III

During the war years, several types of fire control radars were used in the British anti-aircraft units. The most massive station was the GL Mk developed in Canada. Iii. In total, from 1942 to 1945, more than 300 of such radars were installed in the British air defense units, while British sources claim that 50 of such stations was sent to the USSR. Also very widely used American radar SCR-584. Operation GL Mk. III and SCR-584 in the UK continued until the 1957 year, until the last large-caliber anti-aircraft batteries were eliminated.

In the early postwar years, the British Isles air defense system relied on numerous Spitfire piston fighters, Mosquito and Bowfighter night interceptors equipped with compact radars. After the British twin-engine night fighters received radars, their performance increased 12 times.

10 radar cm range used on Mosquito and Bowfighter night fighters

Back in July, the Royal Air Force adopted the Gloster G.1944A Meteor F.Mk I. fighter jet. Soon the Meteors achieved their first successes by shooting down the Fau-41 projectile 2 (all of them were shot down by 1 “flying bombs”) . In November 14, a specially prepared Meteor F.Mk IV set the world speed record - 1945 km / h.

Gloster G.41A Meteor F.Mk I

The release of improved versions of the fighter continued in the postwar years. Although by the beginning of the 50-x aircraft is outdated and inferior to the Soviet MiG-15, its production lasted until the year 1955.

In 1943, the design of the de Havilland DH.100 Vampire jet fighter, built using a two-beam system, began. The first fighter modification Vampire F.1 entered service in the spring of the year 1946. The plane in horizontal flight accelerated to 882 km / h and was armed with four 20-mm guns.

Vampire F.1

According to its flight data, the jet "Vampire" slightly surpassed the post-war piston fighters. But this small two-beam plane was very simple and not expensive, and therefore it was built in large series. Only in the UK built 3269 aircraft. However, due to the fact that “Vampire” could not compete on equal terms with “Sabra” and MiGs, their main part was produced in the version of a fighter-bomber. Single “Vampires” in the combat squadrons of the Royal Air Force flew to the end of 50-x, the operation of the double training machines continued until the 1967 year.

To replace the piston "night lights" "Mosquito" in the 1949, a two-seat night fighter Vampire NF.10 with the radar AI Mk.10 was created. The pilot and the operator were sitting there shoulder to shoulder. Total built 95 night "Vampire", they were in service with the 1951 on 1954 year.

A further development of the Vampire fighter was the de Havilland DH 112 Venom. The aircraft, put into service in the 1953 year, differed from its predecessor with a new thin wing and discharged fuel tanks at the tips. Armament compared to the "Vampire" remained the same, but the maximum speed increased to 1,030 km / h and the range increased slightly. All single cars were originally built as fighter-bombers.

Venom NF.MK 3

The twin night fighter Venom NF.Mk.2, equipped with radar, was put into service in 1952 year. From the single-seat fighter-bomber, it was distinguished by an extended and elongated fuselage. Three years later, the improved Venom NF.Mk.3 entered service with Royal Air Force, but already in 1957 in the night interceptor squadrons it began to be replaced with an all-weather Gloster Javelin.

Before it became known in 1949 that the Soviet Union carried out an atomic bomb test, in the UK, which was quite remote from Soviet airfields, the Soviet bombers were not considered a great threat. Now even a single nuclear bomber weapons on board could destroy a major city or a naval base. The Tu-4 piston bombers could not reach the United States and return, but the flight range for action on the British Isles was abundant. The probability of launching a nuclear strike on England was very high, since the bases of American strategic bombers were located there, and as the United States developed medium-range ballistic missiles, they were deployed on British territory.

To impart stability to the British air defense system in the context of the use of nuclear weapons, a completely secret program ROTOR was initiated. At the bases of the Air Force and on the east coast, 60 built heavily fortified bunkers equipped with communication lines and isolated life support systems. About half of the bunkers capable of withstanding a close explosion of a nuclear charge with a power of 20 kt were two or three levels. The entire territory of the country in the framework of the program "Rotor" was divided into 6 sectors of the "Operational Command".

It was assumed that of these bunkers, linked into a single automated alert network, in the context of a nuclear war, air defense and strategic forces would be guided. Work on the creation and technical equipment of the Rotor system was laid on the Marconi Company, while thousands of kilometers of underground cable lines were laid to command posts from surveillance radars and communications centers. However, by the beginning of the 50s in the UK, there were no own modern early warning radars, and as a temporary measure they had to be urgently purchased in the USA.

Radar AN / FPS-3

The American radar AN / FPS-3 of the centimeter range was able to detect air targets at a distance of 250 km. In conjunction with the radar AN / FPS-3, radar meters AN / FPS-6 were used. Prior to the deployment of their own production radars in the UK, 6 radar posts based on AN / FPS-3 and AN / FPS-6 radars were put into operation.

AN / FPS-6

In 1954, the first Type 80 "Green garlic" radar, created by Marconi, was commissioned. In accordance with the British "rainbow code" designation of weapons models, the radar was named "Green Garlic". Even compared with the rather large American station AN / FPS-3, it was a real monster with a peak power up to 2,5 mW operating in the 2980-3020 MHz band. The detection range of high-altitude targets by Type 80 radar reached 370 km.

Type 80 Radar

In total, 50 stationary radar stations were deployed in the UK in the 64s. Paired with the Type 80 radar, the Deca HF-200 radio altimeters often worked. In the second half of the 50-s, it became clear that the main threat to Britain was represented not by bombers, but by medium-range ballistic missiles and submarines. In this regard, in order to save part of the radar Type 80 and HF-200 sold in Germany and Sweden.

Despite the fact that in the UK earlier than in the United States they created an efficient fighter jet, by the beginning of the 50's the Royal Air Force did not have a truly effective interceptor. Taken into service in 1954, Hawker Hunter as a whole was not bad and surpassed the American F-86 Saber in a number of parameters. But even with the very powerful built-in armament, consisting of four 30-mm air cannons Aden, and targeting commands from ground-based radars, the British Islands could not fully protect the British Isles even from outdated piston bombers.

Hunter F.6 Fighters

To carry out an independent search of air targets in difficult weather conditions and at night the Hunter’s pilot was not capable, as the fighter had very simple aiming equipment: a radio range finder for determining the distance to the target and a gyroscopic sight (in more detail here: Hawker Hunter Fighter - Air Hunter).

In 1955, the RAF adopted the Gloster Javelin all-weather interceptor, capable of operating at any time of the day. For its time, it was a very advanced machine, equipped with a radar and armed with a battery of four 30-mm guns. In connection with the need for separation of duties, the radar operator was introduced into the crew. The first serial modification of the FAW Mk.I was a British-made airborne radar AI.17, but it was soon replaced by the American Westinghouse AN / APQ-43 (the British licensed copy was designated AI.22).

Gloster Javelin FAW Mk.I

In 1956, the interceptor was equipped with de Havilland Firestreak rockets with TGS, which had a launch range of a little more than 6 km. The Javelin was able to reach speeds of up to 1140 km / h with a practical range of 1500 km. To increase the duration of air patrols, some aircraft were equipped with an air refueling system. By the middle of the 60-x, when in the USSR long-range aviation shelves were received in large numbers by Tu-16, Tu-95, M-4 and 3М bombers, the subsonic Javelins ceased to meet modern requirements and were replaced by more advanced interceptors. The operation of the aircraft continued until the 1968 of the year, the 436 Javelins was delivered to the RAF.

The analogue of the Gloster Javelin interceptor used in Royal Navy was de Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen. "Sea Vixen", adopted in the 1958 year, became the first British interceptor fighter who did not have built-in gunshot weapons. The deck-mounted interceptor had an archaic two-beam scheme inherited from the de Havilland Vampire and Venom fighters. Another feature was the radar operator's cabin. Due to the fact that the AI.18 radar screen was very dim, the operator’s chair was “drowned” entirely in the fuselage, covering the cabin with an opaque cover to ensure minimum illumination, effectively “immuring” the second crew member. For a side view, the operator was left a small window, covered by a curtain.

Sea Vixen FAW.1

In the 50s in the United States, the NAR launched by volley was used as the main weapon for air defense interceptors. The Americans took over this method of fighting the flying dense bombers from the Luftwaffe. It was believed that in this way it is possible to destroy enemy bombers without entering the zone of effective fire of their defensive weapons. The British also did not avoid dragging unguided rockets and the main weapon of "Si Vixen" were originally four 18 charging units 68-mm HAP SNEB. Subsequently, the naval interceptors could carry on four nodes of the suspension, guided missiles Firestreak or Red Top.

Compared to Javelins naval The Sea Vixens built much less - only 145 aircraft. But, despite the smaller volume of issue, their service was longer. At the very end of the 60s, British subsonic interceptors with short-range missiles from the deck of the aircraft carriers HMS Eagle and Ark Royal replaced the supersonic Phantoms carrying medium-range missiles. However, the operation of the last British double-beam interceptor fighters on coastal airfields continued until 1972.

However, in the UK, despite the advanced aviation industry and the vast experience of creating combat aircraft, until the end of the 50s of the last century there were no own truly effective fighter-interceptors capable of adequately countering Soviet long-range bombers. All British post-war fighters of the first generation were subsonic machines, focused mainly on the solution of percussion tasks or conducting close maneuverable air combat. Many aircraft, despite the archaic design characteristic of the 40-s, were built in large batches for a long time.

By the beginning of the RAF 50s, it became clear that the existing fighter fleet was not able to protect the British Isles from Soviet bombers, and in the middle of the 50s it was predicted that air-launched supersonic cruise missiles would be launched in the USSR. interceptor actions. Under these conditions, a supersonic fighter with a large radius of action and good acceleration characteristics, with powerful radar and homing missiles, was required. Simultaneously with the design of modern interceptors, work began on the creation of long-range anti-aircraft missiles and radars of new types.

Based on:

To be continued ...
Articles from this series:
North America Air Defense System
Swedish air defense
The current state of the air defense of the countries of the former Soviet Union republics
NATO air defense system in Europe

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  1. avt
    avt 1 February 2017 15: 14
    good Cool historical excursion! The author decided to please the continuation of the topic with a new monograph. good
  2. Amurets
    Amurets 1 February 2017 16: 22
    With the help of a concrete “cup” with a diameter of 8-10 meters and a microphone with a tube amplifier and band-pass filter, it was possible to detect approaching enemy bombers at a distance of up to 40 km in calm weather.

    Sergei! An excellent overview, especially since I read about concrete sound absorbers for the first time. Before that I read with M.M. Lobanova in the book "We Are Military Engineers," about the tarpaulin horns of the sound pickups that they first saw at English stations and with electronic signal amplifiers. But still, they could not cope with noise interference. Neither in the USSR, nor in England.
    And on the history of radar on the network, you can find this book here.

    Description of large-caliber anti-aircraft tower, or rather universal installations also came across for the first time.
  3. EvgNik
    EvgNik 1 February 2017 16: 49
    I can’t stand the Britons. But the main enemy must be remembered and monitored. Thank you, Sergey
  4. Andrei from Chelyabinsk
    Andrei from Chelyabinsk 1 February 2017 17: 30
    Great stuff! I did not know about sound pickups. Thank!
    1. avt
      avt 1 February 2017 18: 18
      Quote: Andrey from Chelyabinsk
      Great stuff! I did not know about sound pickups. Thank!

      good It is always interesting to freshen up the long-running path of development and formation of the System and learn something new, actually any. Cyril won on this branch with flamethrowing delights of nightmare shaved thoughts. bully
      1. Andrei from Chelyabinsk
        Andrei from Chelyabinsk 1 February 2017 20: 09
        Yes, you need to go read :))) Alex did the wonderful article about MiG and Su, Alex, his soul is happy :)))
    2. Crimean partisan 1974
      Crimean partisan 1974 2 February 2017 14: 37
      about the sound pickups on the islands ... a very interesting case, in a night fight at 21.02. 1945 Schnaufer slammed 7 Lancaster, but he injured the eighth, but did not declare victory, but after the war he was credited with the 122nd aircraft, because the sound pickup determined the place of the fall of the Lancaster damaged by the Schnaufer crew in the Lanche, the crew of the NG329 YuO-Z lancaster from 463 squadron RAF was saved, so like that
  5. Kibl
    Kibl 1 February 2017 17: 45
    And where is the British combat aircraft now? The answer is known ........ Any rubbish like “Tornado” and “Harrier.” The British aircraft industry was under the mattresses, there was nothing left of it.
    1. Walanin
      Walanin 14 May 2017 02: 04
      Yakovlev Design Bureau has not mastered the analogue of Harrier.
      And Eurofighter 2000 lives well. But your fantasies are certainly interesting ..
      BAE systems and Airbus look at you in bewilderment.
      And with even greater bewilderment, Rolls Roys engines are looking at you on the Superjet 100 and other unmatched analogs like Tu-204
  6. Tochilka
    Tochilka 1 February 2017 22: 58
    Nice to read such reviews. Many thanks to the author! I look forward to continuing.
  7. Potter
    Potter 2 February 2017 13: 15
    A good review on a topic rarely raised now. English marine advanced tower batteries are a very witty thing. Immediately carried the line of interception far ahead. As for large-caliber tower installations - these are almost pure marine universal installations, only in marine literature the 114mm caliber is usually called - the destroyer caliber. 133 mm - this is on battleships and air defense cruisers.
  8. Crimean partisan 1974
    Crimean partisan 1974 2 February 2017 14: 19
    yeah, an interesting fact, the shavers already pulled 1943 centimeters into their Bofayters already in 10, only that. John Braham used his 19 night-lights of Germany, plus another 10 in daytime battles, total 29 if If we consider that Richard Bong did the most for the 40 Western allies, the effect was clear from the radar.
  9. iouris
    iouris 4 February 2017 17: 01
    The essence of the article is that, for the defense of the islands, Great Britain, a superpower of the time, developed and used many advanced technologies, which testifies to the highest level of science, but the development of weapons of war led to a rapid depreciation of these technologies. The hit of one king bomb in the middle of the island could invalidate all these achievements. The USA is also an island of its kind, only very large.