It’s worth starting with the fact that over the course of the war one night fighter was purposefully created and launched in a series. Purposefully - this means that it was created just like a night fighter, and nothing else. All the rest of his colleagues are rework products.
Advanced and connoisseurs have already realized that we are talking about the "Black Widow" P-61, the aircraft is very difficult in appearance and in content.
But it was already told about it in due time, so we will leave the “Widow” to stand aside (as a joke, after all, I fought), and we will do comparisons in the series “OVM”. And do not put Ne.219 here, it was not created as a "night lamp".
We start right with the night aviation Luftwaffe. It was Germany’s nightlights that fought the most fierce battles. And from the very beginning of the war, because day pilots very quickly explained to the British, who had begun to bomb German cities, who was the master in the sky. Just as the British quite normally won the Battle of Britain. The parity has developed by 1940.
In general, the British realized that turning German cities into dust, coupled with the population, was a little more convenient at night. If only because you can easily navigate the stars, and if you lost your way, you could drop bombs on the first town that came across. The Germans, for the sake of justice, we note, acted in exactly the same way.
The Luftwaffe night fighter aircraft was much smaller than the daytime one, but Kammhuber somehow managed to usurp and adapt all the technical achievements in the field of radio electronics, radar, guidance systems and friend-or-friend recognition systems.
By the way, many understanding people believe that the level of training of the night-night pilots was so high that nothing was shining for the “victorious” people like Hartman. It was the real elite of the Luftwaffe. Moreover, personal mastery did not play a special role here, more important was working in a team with a locator operator, guidance stations on the ground and aircraft in a group.
Well, plus almost "blind" flights in the night sky, and even with combat episodes.
You can probably not say what the locators of that time were, and how accurate they were.
Nevertheless, all this progressive electronics as it could cope with the tasks for air defense along with anti-aircraft batteries and fields of searchlights and ... required night fighters!
What the Germans could accomplish can be called a small technological feat, because they coped with the release of night fighters.
So, what properties should have had a normal night fighter?
1. Speed. Even to the detriment of maneuverability, because a night fighter is unlikely to fight with colleagues. But to catch up with the bombers - yes.
2. Range / duration of flight.
3. Maximum protection ahead of the fire of bomber shooters.
4. Minimal rear hemisphere protection.
5. Space for placing tracking equipment.
In general, officially the first night fighter, according to the documents, was the Arado-68, but this completely obsolete biplane with weapons from two machine guns was suitable exclusively for training, nothing more.
So the first one was
He had a more or less decent speed, sufficient to catch up with "Blenheim" or "Wheatley", had sufficient weapons, but with the discovery of 110 it was all sad. And only in 1942, in the 110 modification G, did they finally install the Liechtenstein radar and add a third crew member - the radar operator.
In general, the Messerschmitt designers did a great job from the C-1, C-2 and C-4 modifications, because in the G-4 / R-3 modification this was already a very serious opponent.
Model C had a crew of 2 people, flew at 510 km / h on 5 000 m, the ceiling was 9600 m, the offensive armament consisted of two 20-mm guns and four 7,92-mm machine guns.
Model G had a crew of 3 people, a speed at an altitude of 550 km / h, a ceiling of 11 000 m, a range of about 1000 km, offensive armament of the 2 gun 30-mm and two guns 20-mm. And radar, which increased the chances of detecting the enemy.
Realizing that a twin-engine aircraft with a locator is what we need, the Germans parted in earnest. And there were night fighters, converted from bombers.
The first night "Junkers" redid, not very much straining. The nose was made all-metal, the nose compartment was separated from the pilot’s by the 11-mm armor plate, which served not so much as a defense, but as a support for mounting weapons. Well, they placed one 20-mm gun and three 7,92-mm machine guns in the nose.
The aircraft could still take up to 500 kg of bombs into the front bomb bay, but instead of bombs, an additional fuel tank was placed in the rear compartment.
In general, it turned out to be somewhat weaker in armsthan the Bf.110, but the converted bomber could fly a much greater distance. Plus, for the aircraft, field exhaust arrestor kits were produced, making the Ju-88C-2 very difficult to detect.
By the way, cunning Germans almost immediately began to paint glazing on their nose just in case, so that the crews of enemy aircraft would take them for a regular bomber.
The maximum speed of the Ju-88C-2 was 488 km / h at an altitude of 5300 meters, the practical ceiling is 9900 meters, and the flight range is 1980 km.
The latest creation of the Junkers from the 88 model was the modification of the Ju.88 G. The aircraft received new engines that accelerated it to an altitude of up to 640 km / h and allowed to raise a rather impressive battery:
Forward: four MG-151 / 20 guns with 200 shells per barrel.
At an angle to the horizon up: two MG-151 / 20 guns with 200 shells per barrel.
Back on the mobile unit: MG-131 machine gun with 500 cartridges.
In general, Ju.88 turned out to be a very good heavy fighter. The range from the bomber allowed the planes to meet the British far from the guarded objects and successfully hit British and American bombers. Although the Americans stopped flying at night at the end of the war, their British allies continued the practice of night raids.
The last time the massive use of the Junkers night fighters took place on the night of March 4 1945 as part of the Gisella operation, when the 142 Ju.88G-1 and G-6 seized an armada of bombers over the sea and staged a formidable battle in the air. Despite the fact that the British radars detected the Junkers approach and the British managed to raise Mosquito fighters, the Germans shot down the 35 four-engine Lancaster at the cost of 30 of their aircraft.
With Dornier, everything was similar to Junkers. Actually, why not? The same opaque nose fairing, the same supporting armor plate with weapons mounted on it, the same 20 mm gun and three 7,92-mm machine guns. And the possibility of carrying bombs also remained, only in Dornier, unlike Ju.88, the bombs were left in the rear compartment, and the fuel tank was placed in the front.
The crew of the fighter consisted of 3 people: a pilot, a radio operator-gunner and a flight engineer, who in the future is a radar operator. Until they set up the radar, the main responsibility of the flight engineer was to conditionally control the engines and ... change gun stores.
The maximum speed of the Do-17Z was 410 km / h, the cruising speed of 300 km / h. Practical range 1160 km, practical ceiling 8200 meters.
Born at the same time as the Junkers fighter, the Dornier plane actually lost the competition and by the 1942 year had been removed from the night squadrons.
But this does not mean that Dornier dropped their hands. No, another bomber began to redo there: Do-217.
Work on the conversion of the Do 217-2 into a night fighter began in March 1941. The new aircraft received the designation Do 217J. It differed from the bomber only in an opaque pointed nose cone, inside which were four 20-mm MG-FF guns and four 7,92-mm MG.17 machine guns. Defensive armament consisted of two 13-mm MG 131 machine guns, one of which was at the top in the electromechanical turret, and the other at the bottom in the usual bomber redan.
The aircraft, like its predecessor Do-17, retained bomb holders for eight 50-kg SC 50 bombs in the rear of the fuselage, in the front also placed a fuel tank for 1160 liters.
It immediately became clear that the plane was completely unsuccessful. Do 217J was so overloaded that its maximum speed was 85 km / h lower than that of the "source", Do.217Е bomber, and amounted to only 430 km / h.
Moreover, the fighter did not have an advantage in speed over the British heavy bombers. True, in a dense combat formation, English pilots never flew at maximum speed.
Since at the beginning of the war night fighters did not yet have an airborne radar and aircraft within the framework of the general air defense system, they were aimed at the target by commands from the ground. Accordingly, the slow-moving fighter simply often did not have time to take a position for the attack.
It is not surprising that most of the Do.217J-1 night fighters by the end of the 1942 year were in training units.
With the advent of the efficient FuG 202 "Lichtenstein" B / C radar, the following modification of the Do.217J-2 night fighter arose.
It differed from its predecessor in the absence of an unnecessary bomb bay and the appearance of an airborne radar inside the aircraft.
It is clear that the flaws remained the same. The Do.217J-2 was still the heaviest Luftwaffe night fighter and was notable for its low speed and poor maneuverability.
But this was somewhat offset by the presence of an airborne radar, which allowed the pilot to independently detect the enemy’s aircraft and prepare in advance for an attack.
The maximum speed of Do.217J-2 was 465 km / h, practical ceiling 9000 m, practical range 2100 km.
It is worth noting another attempt to remake the Dornier bomber. This is Do-215. Actually, this is the same Do-17, but with DB-601 engines. Yes, with them the plane flew better than the original 17, but also did not show outstanding results, and therefore was released in a scanty series.
It’s a paradox, but this wonderful machine was created like anything, but not like a night fighter. It is noticed that in those days it was a frequent occurrence when alterations led to remarkable results. Here is the "Eagle Owl" - the best example of this, because it was developed as a scout, torpedo bomber, high-speed bomber, in general, as a universal aircraft.
Heinkel’s designers created a truly advanced machine, with real “excesses” like a pressurized crew cabin, a nose wheel, catapults and remotely controlled defensive weapons. Therefore, in fact, the plane did not go into production until Kammhuber took up it and offered to remake it into a night fighter.
In 1940, Kammhuber submitted to the Luftwaffe command (read Goering) a memorandum in which he substantiated the creation of a more powerful fighter than the Messerschmitts armed with. Kammhuber noted that Bf.110, effectively opposing the Wheatley, the Hampden and Wellington, are unlikely to cope with the new English bombers, Stirling, Halifax and Manchester, as soon as they appear in sufficient numbers.
It was very difficult to “push” Ne.219 even for testing, but when during 10 days of test flights in Holland Ne.219 shot down 26 British bombers, moreover, 6 Mosquito, which were previously considered invulnerable.
He.219 proved to be easy to maintain, as from the very beginning easy access to all units was provided. In the field, even large units were easily replaced, and six fighter jets were generally assembled from spare units by maintenance personnel.
Unfortunately for the Germans, Heinkel was unable to build He.219 in sufficient quantities. In total, 268 machines of all modifications were built, which is clearly not enough. And the car was pretty decent in all respects.
Maximum speed 665 km / h, practical range 2000 km, practical ceiling 10300 m. Armament: 6 guns (2 x 30 mm + 4 x 20 mm or 6 x 20 mm) and 1 machine gun 13 mm.
What Me.262 is, we recently dismantled the whole world, so it remains to add only that as a "night light" they also tried to use it. Even with installed radar. However, it immediately became clear that the pilot was not able to pilot, shoot and stare at the screen of the radar. This is not modern youth for you.
So the first full-fledged interceptor team, the команда Stamp team ’, was armed with the Me.262A-1 and was aimed at by targets from the ground.
Later, full-fledged Me.262В reactive interceptors appeared, in which instead of the rear tanks (their absence was compensated by the outboard tanks), by extending the 78 cm cabin, they organized a place for the gunner-operator.
Electronic weapons consisted of a FuG 218 Neptune radar and a FuG 350 ZC Naxos direction finder. Established weapons consisted of two 30-mm guns.
Until the end of the war, the Germans managed to create only one night interceptor air group on Me.262-1 / U-1, respectively, we are not talking about any significant achievements.
And ending with a review of German night fighters, it is worth mentioning another "eagle owl", but from another company.
In general, it turned out that there were two “owls” on different fronts: Ne.219 and FW.189.
We are considering a special night fighter developed by Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau AG to perform a highly specialized task on the Eastern Front. I emphasize - ONE task.
The task was at least some intelligible confrontation with the armada of Po-2 “sewing machines”, which actually created chaos at night on the front line of the German defense, and the headquarters received regular greetings.
The use of the Ju.88С and Bf.110G night fighters, which were then in service, proved to be ineffective. And the Messerschmitt, and even more so, the Junkers did not have sufficient maneuverability at low altitudes, at which Po-2 was usually used. In addition, both aircraft had too high a speed for this. The Germans even tried to use the already mentioned Arado-68 biplanes, but nothing good came of it either.
And then they decided to use the "frame". Moreover, by the summer of 1944, the aircraft became impossible to use. 189 th won such tender "love" from the entire Soviet army that knocking him down despite the cover was a matter of honor and further respect.
So from the beginning of the 1944, the serial FW.189А-1 began to be equipped with the FuG.212C-1 Liechtenstein radar with a conventional antenna group in the bow of the crew’s nacelle, which excluded the possibility of placing any effective fighter weapons there.
To conduct air combat, the upper pivot mount with the 7,92-mm machine gun MG.15 or the coaxial 7,92-mm machine gun MG.81Z was dismantled, and instead a rigidly mounted 20-mm MG.151 / 20 gun was installed.
Sometimes even the 20-mm gun was considered too powerful a weapon to deal with the Po-2 plywood-percale biplanes, and its analogue MG.151 / 15 with the 15-mm caliber was installed on the Filin. To ensure blackout, exhaust flame filters were mounted on the exhaust pipes of the engines.
At these three improvements, the conversion of the reconnaissance aircraft into a night fighter ended. The aircraft was named FW.189 Behelfsnachtjoger - "Auxiliary Night Fighter."
Thus, about 50 aircraft were converted. There were no documented successes in their work, I would suggest that they were near-zero, because it was impossible to locate the M-11 motor in space with the locator of that time. And there were no more metal parts there.
Another plus in the karma of a small airplane, which forced to admit to being equal to real bombers. You must admit that it’s one thing to develop a night fighter for the sake of the huge Lancaster, and quite another to do at least something with Po-2.
This ends the first part of the story. It would be possible to add Ta-154 from Fokke-Wulf to this company, but the whole история This aircraft was more than sad, and it was released in quantities of less than 50 pieces. But the main thing - the plane could not provide decent resistance to the British fighters.
But in general, despite some general mess and a lack of understanding of the essence of the problem, the Germans did a tremendous job of creating and producing night fighters. In particular, "Junkers" and "Heinkel." Another question is that the small number of night-lights failed to prevent the British from making night raids on Germany. Well, what happened after the 1944 year, everyone already knows. The need for night fighters virtually disappeared.
In the next part, we will talk about those who fought on the other side of the front, and then we will deal with comparisons and identifying the best.