After a radical turning point in the war and Germany's transition to strategic defense, which took place in the summer of 1943, the task of fighting the Soviet tanks became a priority for the Luftwaffe. For this, existing combat aircraft were actively used and new ones were created. Main aviation the means of destruction with which the German air tank destroyers were armed were high-explosive fragmentation, high-explosive and cumulative bombs, cannons and rockets.
The use of armored attack aircraft Hs 129 in the second half of the war
With reliable fighter escort, the Hs 129 was, on the whole, a good anti-tank aircraft capable of severely damaging or destroying 1–2 tanks during a sortie under the control of an experienced pilot. The armored "Henschel" had good survivability against anti-aircraft weapons of 7,62 caliber and partly 12,7 mm.
The aircraft was easily repaired in the field, and in most cases combat damage was quickly repaired at field airfields. With a forced landing "on the belly", due to the presence of an armored capsule, the pilot had a good chance of surviving. At the same time, in the absence of fighter cover, the Hs 129s often suffered heavy losses. This slow and low-maneuverable aircraft was considered easy prey for our fighters.
According to German sources, 878 Hs 129 were built. But combat squadrons never had more than 100 aircraft at a time, and the proportion of aircraft capable of performing a combat mission did not exceed 80%. It is quite obvious that, given the scale of hostilities on the Soviet-German front and the number of Soviet armored vehicles, such a number of anti-tank aircraft could not have a noticeable effect on the course of hostilities. The release of Hs 129 continued until the autumn of 1944, but by April 1945 there were almost no serviceable machines left in service.
Despite the obvious shortcomings of the "Henschel" and low flight data, until mid-1944, German designers did not abandon attempts to improve its combat effectiveness.
So, in 1943, a 129-kg bomb cassette equipped with 2 SD 250-HL cumulative fragmentation bombs was introduced into the armament of the Hs 44B-4.
Cluster bomb AB-250
Larger aircraft also used 500-kg cassettes containing 118 HEAT submunitions.
AB-500 cluster bomb loaded with SD-4
The SD 4-HL cumulative fragmentation bomb weighing 4 kg was created on the basis of the SD 4 fragmentation cluster bomb, it had a length of 315 and a diameter of 90 mm. As a legacy from the fragmentation bomb, the SD 4-HL received a cast-iron body, which gave a large number of fragments. The bomb was equipped with a 340-gram charge of an alloy of TNT with RDX. The charge was detonated by an instantaneous piezoelectric fuse. The armor penetration of the SD 4-HL at an angle of 60° was 60 mm, which was quite sufficient to penetrate thin upper armor.
Cumulative fragmentation bomb SD 4-HL
Compared to the Soviet PTAB 2,5–1,5 HEAT bomb, the larger SD 4-HL had a much stronger fragmentation effect and could effectively hit the infantry accompanying the tanks. At the same time, the German aviation ammunition SD 4-HL cost more than the Soviet PTAB 2,5–1,5 and had a much more complex device. Unlike the PTAB, loaded into the internal bomb bays of the Il-2 and into small bomb cassettes, the German SD 4-HL was used only from bomb cassettes that opened in the air, the opening height of which was set before the sortie.
Dropping bomb clusters from SD 4-HL was carried out from a dive with aiming at a specific object. At the same time, it was necessary to very accurately monitor the height of the compartment of the bomb cassette, since the accuracy of bombing and the magnitude of bomb dispersion directly depended on this. The experience of the combat use of cassettes has shown that they are quite difficult to use. The opening height was considered optimal, at which an ellipse of gaps 50-55 m long was formed on the ground. With a smaller SD 4-HL dispersion, the target could not be covered, and with a larger one, the tank could be between the gaps. In addition, up to 10% of cumulative bombs did not work due to the unreliable operation of the fuses, or the bomb had time to split, hitting the armor before the fuse worked. In most cases, one bomb cluster on the battlefield managed to cover a maximum of 1-2 tanks.
SD 4-HL HEAT cluster bombs remained in service with the Luftwaffe until the end of the war, but their use was limited. This was due to both the complexity of use and the longer preparation for a sortie compared to other German types of bombs. In addition, the combat effectiveness of the SD 4-HL could not but be affected by their greater weight compared to the PTAB 2,5–1,5, due to which one carrier took a smaller number of anti-tank submunitions. Although cartridges loaded with SD 4-HL bombs were more effective than conventional bombs of the same caliber, Hs 129 pilots preferred to use cannons against armored vehicles, as they were easier to use.
The largest-caliber artillery system installed on the Hs 129 was the 75 mm VK 7.5 cannon, in the artillery unit similar to the 75 mm 7,5 cm Pak 40 anti-tank gun.
Based on the experience of creating the 50 mm VK 5 gun, a pneumoelectric mechanism of a similar design with a radial magazine for 75 rounds was used to load the 7.5 mm VK 12 gun. The mass of the gun with the mechanism for sending shells and ammunition was 705 kg. To reduce recoil, the gun was equipped with a muzzle brake.
75 mm VK 7.5 gun without fairing
The armor penetration of the VK 7.5 gun was high. An armor-piercing tracer with a mass of 6,8 kg left a barrel 3 mm long with an initial speed of 920 m / s, and at a distance of 732 meters normally pierced 500-mm armor. At the same distance, at a meeting angle of 130 °, 60-mm armor made its way. A sub-caliber projectile with a carbide core weighing 104 kg with an initial speed of 3,18 m / s under the same conditions pierced 990 and 154 mm, respectively. During field tests, the shells reliably penetrated the armor of the turrets of captured Soviet medium and heavy tanks. A full cycle of reloading the gun after a shot took 115 seconds.
In August 1944, tests began on the Hs 129B-3/Wa attack aircraft (also known as the Hs 129B-2/R4), armed with a 75 mm VK 7.5 cannon. For sighting, 7,92-mm machine guns with tracer bullets were used.
Tank destroyer Hs 129B-3 / Wa
The 75-mm gun on the attack aircraft was placed in a bulky suspended gondola. Even with the use of a fairing, aerodynamics have deteriorated significantly. Although the 75 mm VK 7.5 gun had excellent ballistics and could destroy any Soviet tanks, the increase in takeoff weight and drag had the most negative effect on flight data. The maximum flight speed decreased to 300 km / h, and immediately after the shot it dropped to 250 km / h.
German sources claim that the anti-tank capabilities of the Hs 129B-3/Wa were very high, in connection with which this aircraft was nicknamed "Can Opener" (Buchsenoffner) by the flight and technical staff. However, according to archival data, before the cessation of production of all variants of the Hs 129 in September 1944, only 25 attack aircraft armed with 75-mm guns were built, and several more machines were converted from Hs 129B-2.
Tank destroyers based on the Ju 88 bomber
In the initial period of the war, Ju 88s often attacked Soviet troops from a strafing flight. However, after the strengthening of the Soviet military air defense, the pilots of fairly large twin-engine bombers ceased to carry out bombing and assault strikes from low altitudes.
At the final stage of the war against the advancing Soviet troops, the enemy tried to use the Ju 88C heavy night fighters, which were built on the basis of the Ju 88А-5 bomber.
Heavy fighter Ju 88С-2
Heavy Ju 88C fighters had frontal armored glass and nose armor that protected against 12,7 mm bullets fired from a distance of more than 400 m. Armament on different modifications could vary greatly. Offensive armament usually consisted of several 20 mm cannons and 7,92 mm machine guns. On external nodes it was possible to hang up to 1 kg of bombs. The maximum speed near the ground was 500 km / h. Practical range - 490 km.
In the middle of 1943, combat tests of an experimental batch of Ju 88P-1 anti-tank attack aircraft took place in the central sector of the front. A total of 18 aircraft of this modification were built.
Heavy attack aircraft Ju 88P-1 carried a 75 mm Pak anti-tank gun. 40L with a barrel length of 46 calibers, equipped with an effective muzzle brake and adapted for installation on an aircraft. A 7,92 mm MG 81 machine gun was used to zero in the guns. The rear hemisphere was protected by two twin MG 81Zs, in the lower and upper defensive installations. The crew of the car consisted of three people.
A semi-automatic gun with a horizontal wedge gate was reloaded manually. The rate of fire of the 75-mm cannon was low; during the attack, the pilot managed to fire no more than 2 shots. For firing from a 75-mm aircraft gun, the entire range of ammunition for the Pak.40 anti-tank gun could be used.
The cannon and large fairing greatly increased the drag of the Ju 88R-1, making the aircraft very difficult to fly and vulnerable to fighters. The maximum speed near the ground decreased to 390 km / h. The gondola with the gun could be dropped using pyrotechnic devices in an extreme situation, for example, in the event of failure of one of the engines.
Apparently, the tests of heavy attack aircraft Ju 88P-1, armed with a 75-mm gun, were not very successful, and an order for the construction of a large batch was not followed. In Germany, work was also underway to create assault versions of the Ju 88, equipped with guns with automated reloading: with two 37 mm VK 3.7 cannons or one 75 mm VK 7.5.
However, at the beginning of 1944, the Ju 88Р-4 aircraft with the "intermediate" 50-mm VK 5 gun went into production.
50 mm VK 5 aircraft gun
The aviation 50-mm automatic gun was created by alteration from the tank semi-automatic gun KwK 39 with a vertical wedge breech and a barrel length of 60 calibers. The gun was powered from a closed metal tape. The ammunition load was 21 rounds. The projectile was sent using an electro-pneumatic mechanism. The rate of fire reached 45 rds / min. The gun had high armor penetration. At a distance of 500 meters, an armor-piercing projectile weighing 2 g, which flew out of the barrel at a speed of 040 m / s, pierced 835-mm armor at an encounter angle of 60 °. A projectile with a hard-alloy core weighing 60 g and an initial velocity of 900 m/s under the same conditions could penetrate 1-mm armor.
Thus, an attack aircraft armed with a 50-mm gun could theoretically fight medium tanks, attacking them from any direction, and heavy tanks were vulnerable to fire from the stern and side. The reliability of the artillery system was high, but it turned out to be very heavy and weighed about 540 kg.
Heavy anti-tank attack aircraft based on the Ju 88 were built a little - no more than 40 units. Apparently, this number included prototypes and aircraft converted from other modifications. The small number of attack aircraft with heavy artillery weapons is largely due to the narrow specialization of these aircraft, on which only pilots with a high level of training could successfully fight.
Due to the small number of Ju 88Ps produced, it is difficult to assess their real combat effectiveness. Battlefield aircraft with 50–75 mm cannons could have effectively operated in the initial period of the war, but then the main tasks of destroying ground targets were successfully solved by dive bombers and fighter-bombers. After the Germans lost air supremacy and the multiple growth of the power of the Soviet tank armies, the Ju 88P attack aircraft, appearing over the battlefield during the day, were doomed to heavy losses.
Fighter-bombers and attack aircraft based on the Fw 190 fighter
The Ju 87 dive bombers and attack aircraft, which were the main striking force of the Luftwaffe in the initial period of the war, were an excellent blitzkrieg aircraft when exposed to the defense line and close rear areas, but they turned out to be too vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire and, with the loss of unconditional air supremacy, could not perform a combat mission without fighter cover. After realizing that the war was dragging on, the German military leadership came to understand that the front needed a tenacious high-speed strike aircraft with powerful built-in weapons and a decent bomb load, capable of holding its own in aerial combat if necessary.
In 1939, the Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau GmbH created the Fw 190 fighter, which appeared on the Soviet-German front in September 1942. Due to the lack of high-speed bombers in the Luftwaffe capable of operating in the daytime without fighter escort, Fw 1943G fighter-bombers were produced from the spring of 190, designed to deliver bombing strikes at ranges up to 600 km.
Fw 190G-3 with 300 liter tanks and 500 kg bomb
To reduce take-off weight and be able to take on more fuel, the fighter-bombers had almost no armor, no machine guns, and the ammunition load of two 20-mm cannons was reduced to 150 rounds per gun. Dropped fuel tanks were suspended under the wing. Since the aircraft of the Fw 190G-8 modification could take 1-kg bombs, the landing gear of the aircraft was strengthened.
Although the Fw 190G fighter-bombers did not have special large-caliber cannon armament and were not armored, they were often used to attack Soviet tanks. At the same time, the bombs were dropped from a gentle dive in a volley, after which they left at maximum speed with a decrease. For attacks on armored vehicles, cassettes with SD 4-HL cumulative bombs were often used.
The fighter-bomber versions of the Fw 190 had a significantly larger bomb load than the assault ones. But due to the increased takeoff weight, the Fw 190G could not operate with a full load from unpaved airfields.
At the final stage of the war, assault modifications of the Fw 190 fighter were used to provide close air support and fight tanks. Even without additional armor, the Fw 190 pilot was covered in front by a fairly tenacious air-cooled radial engine, and powerful built-in small arms and cannon weapons made it possible to effectively strike at ground goals.
The first variant specially adapted for assault operations was the Fw 190A-3/U3. On this aircraft, the cockpit canopy was made of armored glass 50 mm thick. A bomb rack was installed under the fuselage for the suspension of one 500-kg or 250-kg, two 100-kg or four 50-kg bombs. The built-in armament consisted of two MG 17 rifle-caliber machine guns in the fuselage and two MG 151/20 cannons in the wing.
Due to the need to act in conditions of strong anti-aircraft resistance, armor protection was strengthened. The aircraft of the next shock modification Fw 190A-4/U3 had an increased power engine, and the total armor weight reached 138 kg. The pilot was covered by an 8 mm armored back and a sliding 13,5 mm armored head. Rear cab protection was provided by an additional armored partition.
To reduce the vulnerability of the oil cooler, two armored rings were installed on the front of the engine hood. However, this was not enough, and on the Fw 190A-5 / U3 modification, the armor weight was increased to 310 kg. On the sides and bottom, the cockpit and the lower part of the engine were covered with sheets of armored steel 5–6 mm thick.
In April 1943, the technical department of the Ministry of Aviation, in order to avoid confusion and in connection with the need to distinguish between fighter, fighter-bomber and assault modifications, introduced a new designation system. The attack aircraft were assigned the index "F", the index "G" was given to fighter-bombers. Accordingly, the Fw 190A-4/U3 was designated Fw 190F-1 and the Fw 190A-5/U3 was renamed Fw 190F-2.
The shock versions of the Fw 190 were mainly equipped with 14-cylinder air-cooled BMW-801C / D engines. During production, the engine was constantly improved, and the developed power increased from 1 to 560 hp. With. In May 1, the Fw 700F-1943 with a 190 hp BMW 3D-801 engine went into production. With. Thanks to a more powerful engine and improved aerodynamics, the maximum speed of the aircraft increased by 2 km/h compared to the previous modification.
In general, this aircraft was quite successful and had good performance. With a maximum takeoff weight of 4 kg, taking into account the bomb load, the flight range was 925 km. With one 530-kg bomb, the Fw 250F-190 accelerated to 3 km/h in level flight. After dropping the bomb load, the aircraft could develop a speed of up to 585 km / h in level flight. Having bombed, he had a good chance to break away from the Soviet fighters.
The first assault modifications of the Fw 190 had good security and good flight data. But by the standards of 1943, the built-in small arms and cannon weapons were no longer powerful enough. The Fw 190F-8 attack aircraft, created on the basis of the Fw 190A-8 fighter, received a 13-mm MG 131 instead of rifle-caliber machine guns.
Fw 190F-8: 59 kg bombs are suspended under the planes, 500 kg under the fuselage
The bomb load could reach 700 kg. On the modification of the Fw 190F-8 / R3, the wing nodes had the possibility of hanging two 30-mm MK 103 cannons.
The introduction of 30-mm guns into the armament increased the anti-tank potential. The armor penetration of 30 mm shells without a carbide core was quite enough for the confident destruction of lightly armored vehicles, but certain tactics were required to combat the T-34.
The best option was to attack the tank from the stern, at an angle of about 30–40 °. That is, not too flat, but not cool, so as to easily get out of the dive after the attack. Taking into account the fact that the aircraft quickly accelerated in a dive and sagged heavily when exiting it, it was necessary to carefully control the height and speed of the flight.
In parallel with the growth of capabilities in terms of combating armored vehicles, the flight data of an attack aircraft with suspended 30-mm guns fell. The increase in drag did not allow the aircraft to be accelerated in level flight to a speed of more than 610 km/h. The weight of each MK 103 cannon with ammunition was close to 200 kg, and their placement on the wing made the aircraft "thoughtful" when performing maneuvers. In addition, for effective shooting at tanks, it was necessary to have a high flight qualification.
There are three variants of outboard installations with 30-mm MK 103 guns, differing in size, shape of the fairing and muzzle brake.
30-mm cannon MK 103 under the wing of an attack aircraft Fw 190F-8/R3
During the development of the Fw 190F-8 / R3 weapons, an attack aircraft with an increased ammunition load of 30-mm cannons was tested (according to some reports, up to 50 rounds). But such a suspended gondola turned out to be too cumbersome, and this option was abandoned.
During the serial production of the Fw 190F attack aircraft, an increase in their security was observed. But the planes, heavily armored, hopelessly lost in air battles to Soviet fighters. It is known that all Fw 190s developed high speed at the peak, and often the only trick that allowed you to get out of the battle was a dive, but this required a reserve of height. Subsequently, the armor of the attack aircraft was reduced to a minimum according to the type of Fw 190A-8 fighters, thereby increasing flight data. A notable innovation that appeared in the second half of 1944 was the extended cockpit canopy. This made it possible to improve forward and downward visibility, which was very important when attacking ground targets.
The latest serial assault modification was the Fw 190F-9 with a boosted BMW 801TS engine with a power of 2 hp. with., capable of developing a speed of 000 km / h in horizontal flight. The armament of the attack aircraft remained at the level of the Fw 685F-190. Externally, the aircraft was distinguished by an enlarged cockpit canopy. Due to the acute shortage of duralumin, on some of the machines the tail, flaps and ailerons were wooden.
"Focke-Wulf" with built-in standard weapons could not become a full-fledged tank destroyer. With the exception of a few Fw 190F-8/R3s, all assault variants were inferior to the Hs 129B-2. In this regard, German designers tried to equip attack aircraft with a special anti-tank weaponsplaced on external hangers.
In addition to the already mentioned AB-250 and AB-500 bomb cassettes equipped with SD 4-HL cumulative bombs, the Fw 190F arsenal included various rockets.
The first type of rocket armament used was the 210 mm rocket, known as the Wfr. Gr. 21 Doedel (Wurframmen Granate 21). This ammunition was developed on the basis of a rocket-propelled mine from a five-barreled 210-mm rocket mortar Nb. W. 42 (21 cm Nebelwerfer 42).
The launch of an aviation rocket was carried out from a tubular type guide 1,3 m long. The guides were fixed in slots for external fuel tanks. Like tanks, they could be dropped in flight. The stabilization of the projectile on the trajectory occurred due to rotation. The rocket projectile weighed 112,6 kg, of which 41 kg fell on a fragmentation warhead containing more than 10 kg of an alloy of TNT with RDX. At a maximum speed of 320 m / s, the effective launch range did not exceed 1 meters.
Wfr equipment. Gr. 21 launchers on Fw 190
Initially, the Wfr. Gr. 21 was used to shoot at a dense formation of heavy bombers. Fw 190 took 1-2 rockets under the wing. Attempts were also made to use 210-mm rockets from attack aircraft. These missiles showed good results against troop concentrations and other area targets, but large-caliber rockets turned out to be of little use for hitting point moving objects. They gave too much dispersion, and the number of missiles on board was limited.
Unsuccessful were attempts to use 280-mm high-explosive rocket mines Wfr against tanks. Gr. 28, the warhead of which contained 45,4 kg of explosives. Launchers in the form of a welded metal frame in the amount of two to four were suspended under the wing of the Fw 190F-8 attack aircraft.
280 mm underwing mine Fw 190F-8
The adaptation of a rocket-propelled mine, intended for firing at areas from a ground-based launcher, as an aviation ammunition was initially doomed to failure. When fired, a heavy reactive mine gave a strong drawdown, which had to be taken into account when aiming. The suspension of the bulky launcher had a negative effect on the flight data of the attack aircraft. When launched from a distance of less than 300 meters, there was a real danger of running into their own fragments.
In 1944, specialists from the Czech company Československá Zbrojovka Brno were able to do what the USSR failed to do. On the basis of the Soviet aviation rocket RS-82, a fairly effective anti-tank aviation missile R-HL Panzerblitz 1 (German - tank lightning) was created. It had characteristics close to the Soviet prototype, but the firing accuracy was significantly higher than that of the RS-82. The electric fuse was placed on one of the leading belts, which made the rocket more reliable.
The rocket projectile weighed 7,24 kg. Speed - up to 374 m / s. The warhead used was an 88 mm HEAT warhead RPzB Gr. 4322 weighing 2,1 kg from the Panzerschreck RPG. Armor penetration at a meeting angle of 60 ° was 160 mm.
For the use of Panzerblitz 1 from October 1944, 115 Fw 190F-8 / Pb1 attack aircraft were equipped with beam launchers. 12-16 missiles were suspended for each aircraft. The best result was achieved with a salvo launch of six missiles. From a distance of 300 meters, on average, one hit the target.
Another specialized anti-tank missile was the R4 / M-HL Panzerblitz 2, created on the basis of the aviation 55-mm NAR R4M Orkan. The new NAR differed from the basic version in the warhead of the cumulative grenade RPzB Gr. 4322. The missiles were suspended on beam-type guides.
Anti-tank missile R4/M-HL Panzerblitz 2
The stabilization of the rocket after launch was carried out by folding feather stabilizers. The curb weight was 5,37 kg, the mass of the warhead was 2,1 kg. Speed - 370 m / s. Firing range - up to 1 m.
The Panzerblitz 2 missiles demonstrated high combat effectiveness. When salvoed from a distance of 300 m, twelve NAR 1–2 fit into a circle with a diameter of 7 m. In 1945, another version of this missile, known as the Panzerblitz 3, appeared, with a smaller caliber warhead and increased flight speed. But, despite some success in the creation of anti-tank unguided missiles, they appeared too late. In the context of the overwhelming superiority of Soviet aviation, a few attack aircraft equipped with anti-tank missiles did not have a noticeable effect on the course of hostilities.
In general, the creation of shock variants of the Fw 190 justified itself. Although the Fw 190G fighter-bombers could not be compared with the Ju 87 dive bombers in terms of bombing accuracy, and the assault modifications were inferior to the Hs 190B-8 in terms of the power of artillery weapons, with the exception of a few Fw 3F-129 / R2, the Focke-Wulf became a universal flying platform, which, depending on the version of weapons, could solve various problems.
In total, during the war years, about 20 Fw 000s of all modifications were built, about half of them are attack aircraft and fighter-bombers. The priorities are displayed very interestingly, according to which the German command distributed various options in the theater. On the Western Front and in the air defense of Germany, fighters were mainly involved, and on the Eastern Front, about 190/2 of the Fw 3 were attack.
To be continued ...