British anti-aircraft defense during the Second World War. Part 2
The first British medium-caliber anti-aircraft system was the 76,2-mm anti-aircraft gun QF 3-in 20cwt model 1914 of the year. It was originally intended to arm ships and was put into production at the beginning of 1914. For firing at air targets, shrapnel shells were used; after upgrading the guns, a fragmentation grenade with a remote fuse with a mass of 5,7 kg, which had a velocity at the muzzle of 610 m / s, was developed to improve the shooting. The rate of guns - 12-14 shots / min. Reach height - to 5000 m.
Total British industry has released about 1000 76-mm anti-aircraft guns modifications: Mk II, Mk IIA, Mk III and Mk IV. In addition to the British armed forces, the guns were delivered to Australia, Canada and Finland.
When it became clear that the army needed a more mobile gun, a special four-support platform was designed for the gun, with which it could be transported in the back of a heavy truck. Later, a four-wheel vehicle was created for the gun.
Although by the beginning of World War II the gun was clearly outdated, it continued to be popular among the troops. The anti-aircraft gun was the basis of air defense batteries as part of the British Expeditionary Force in France. By the 1940, some batteries were equipped with newer, 3,7-inch anti-aircraft guns, but gunners still preferred the lighter and more versatile 3-inch guns with which they were well acquainted. During the evacuation of the remnants of the British Expeditionary Force, all 3-inch anti-aircraft guns were destroyed or captured by the Germans.
A significant number of these guns were installed on stationary concrete foundations along the British coast, to protect port facilities.
They were also mounted on railway platforms, which allowed, if necessary, to quickly relocate anti-aircraft batteries to cover transportation hubs.
Soon after World War I, it became clear that the projected increase in combat capabilities aviation will require the replacement of existing 76,2 mm anti-aircraft guns with more powerful guns. In 1936, the Vickers concern proposed a prototype of a new 3,7-inch (94-mm) anti-aircraft gun. In 1938, the first production samples were submitted for military tests. Only in 1939, guns, designated 3.7-Inch QF AA, began to enter the arsenal of air defense batteries.
The anti-aircraft gun was made in two versions. Along with the portable installation, the guns were mounted on stationary concrete bases; the latter had a special counterweight behind the breech. Because of the fairly significant weight of the cart with a gun (9317 kg), the gunners, after they met, the troops met them rather coolly.
To facilitate and simplify the carriage, several options have been released. The first serial gun carriages received the Mk I index, carriages for stationary installation began to be called Mk II, and the latest version - Mk III. At the same time for each modification there were sub-options. Total released about 10000 guns of all modifications. Production continued until 1945, an average of 228 guns per month.
However, it was impossible not to admit that the combat characteristics of the 94-mm anti-aircraft guns, despite some shortcomings, significantly exceeded those of the old three-inch rifles. By 1941, the guns of this brand became the basis of the British anti-aircraft artillery. 94-mm anti-aircraft guns had excellent height reach and good projectile striking effect. A fragmentation projectile with a mass of 12,96 kg with an initial velocity of 810 m / s could hit targets at altitudes up to 9000 m.
Gradually, the developers improved the fire control system, supplied the gun with a mechanical rammer and an automated fuse unit (as a result, the rate of fire increased to 25 shots per minute). By the end of the war, most of the guns of this type received effective remote control, after which only the guns and the maintenance of the automatic loader remained for the guns.
During the North African campaign, 94-mm anti-aircraft guns were used to combat German tanks, however, due to excessive weight and low maneuverability, they were not very successful in this role, although with their shot they could destroy almost any enemy tank.
In addition, 94-mm anti-aircraft guns were used as a means of long-range field artillery and as coastal defense weapons.
In 1936, the 113-mm QF 4.5-inch Mk I received a test of the sea. Soon it became clear that it could be successfully used as an anti-aircraft gun. In 1940, deliveries of the first 113-mm anti-aircraft guns began. Ordnance, QF, 4.5 in AA Mk II.
With an initial speed of 24,7-kg 732 projectile, m / s, the range of air targets exceeded 12000 m. The rate of fire was 15 shots / min.
In most cases, the guns fired with fragmentation shells. True, special shrapnel shells were sometimes used to destroy planes flying at low altitudes.
For transporting guns weighing more than 16000 kg, special trailers were required, due to excessive weight, they were all mounted in fixed stationary positions. In total, more than 1944 guns were deployed for the 370 year. As a rule, four guns were part of an anti-aircraft battery. To protect against fragments, the gun was covered with a shield.
The 113-mm anti-aircraft gun had many signs of naval weapons inherited from it: a tower-type machine mounted on a heavy steel base, a mechanical rammer, a heavy counterweight over the breech breech and a mechanical fuse installer on the charging tray. The ammunition dispenser was also by no means superfluous, which was especially appreciated by servants in the conditions of prolonged firing, since the weight of a full combat charge reached 38,98 kg.
At the first stage of deployment, anti-aircraft batteries were located in close proximity to naval bases and large cities, since it was in these places that the most powerful and long-range anti-aircraft guns were required. In 1941, the British Admiralty somewhat relaxed the stringency of the requirements for the mandatory placement of 4,5-inch (113-mm) guns near the objects under its jurisdiction. It was allowed to install anti-aircraft guns on the coastal fortifications. Here, 4,5-inch guns could be used simultaneously as anti-aircraft guns and coastal defense weapons.
However, the number of tools used in similar quality was relatively small, since their relocation was associated with great difficulties and costs.
In 1942, around London, three towers with twin 133-mm QF Mark I 5,25 universal guns were installed on concrete foundations.
Installation of towers required the creation of infrastructure for their use, similar to that available on a warship. Subsequently, due to the large difficulties with the installation on the coast of the two-gun towers refused.
Towers with one 133-mm gun mounted on the coast and in areas of naval bases. They were entrusted with the tasks of coastal defense and the fight against high-flying aircraft. These guns had a 10 firing rate per minute. A high altitude reach (15000 m) at an elevation angle of 70 ° allowed 36,3-kg to be fired with fragmentation shells at high-flying targets.
However, due to the fact that shells with mechanical remote fuses were used for long-range shooting, the probability of hitting the target was small. Anti-aircraft shells with radio-explosives began to be enacted en masse by the British anti-aircraft artillery only in 1944 year.
The story of the British anti-aircraft defense systems would be incomplete without mentioning of unguided anti-aircraft missiles. Shortly before the outbreak of war, the British military leadership decided to compensate for the insufficient number of modern anti-aircraft guns with simple and inexpensive rocket projectiles.
The 2-inch (50,8-mm) anti-aircraft missile used a warhead with thin steel wire. At the highest point of the trajectory, the expelling charge threw away the steel wire, which slowly descended by parachute. The wire, as conceived by the developers, should have become entangled in the screws of enemy aircraft, thus causing them to fall. There was also an option with 250-gr. fragmentation charge, which had a self-liquidator tuned to 4-5 from flight - by this time the rocket had to reach an estimated height of about 1370 m. .
More promising was the 3-inch (76,2-mm) anti-aircraft missile, the warhead of which had the same mass as the anti-aircraft 94-mm projectile. The rocket was a simple tubular structure with stabilizers, the engine used a charge of smokeless powder - cordite brand SCRK. The UP-3 rocket with a length of 1,22 m was not rotating, but stabilized only by the tail. She carried a fragmentation warhead with a remote fuse.
To start used single or twin launcher, served by two soldiers. The unit’s ammunition was 100 missiles. Missile launches from these first installations were not always reliable, and their accuracy was so low that only barrage anti-aircraft fire was possible.
Anti-aircraft rocket launchers were used to defend the most important objects, where massive bombings by enemy bombers were expected. On the carriage of 76,2-mm anti-aircraft guns, mobile installations were created which, with 36-rail guides, could launch volleys on 9 missiles. By December, 1942, such installations were already 100.
In the future, increasing the efficiency of anti-aircraft rocket launchers went by increasing the number of missiles on launchers and improving proximity missile fuses.
And the most powerful was the stationary coastal defense installation, firing 4 with volleys on 20 missiles, which entered service in the 1944 year.
Improved themselves anti-aircraft missiles. The 3-inch (76,2 mm) upgraded missile had a length of 1,83 mm, a starting weight of about 70 kg, a weight of the warhead - 4 kg and reached a height of the order of 9 km. When firing at altitudes up to 7,5 km, the rocket was supplied with a remote fuse, and when fired at great heights, with a non-contact photoelectric fuse. Due to the fact that the photoelectric fuse could not work at night, in the rain, in the fog, in the second half of the war a non-contact radio-fuse was developed and adopted.
At the end of the 30s, the British anti-aircraft artillery clearly did not meet modern requirements, both in number and in technical condition. On 1 September 1938, the British air defense had only a medium-caliber 341 anti-aircraft gun. In September, 1939 (declaration of war) anti-aircraft guns was already 540, and by the beginning of the “Battle of Britain” - 1140 guns. This is in view of the fact that several hundred medium-caliber guns were lost in France. However, the British leadership understood the importance of anti-aircraft cover of cities, industrial enterprises and naval bases and did not spare funds for the production of new anti-aircraft guns and the arrangement of positions for them.
The Luftwaffe, in its raids on England, also had to face active opposition from anti-aircraft artillery of the air defense. For the sake of justice, it must be admitted that during the “Battle of Britain” the main burden of fighting German aircraft fell on fighters, and relatively few German bombers were shot down by anti-aircraft guns. The heavy losses suffered by the Luftwaffe during the daytime raids on the British Isles forced them to take action at night. The British night fighters were not enough, the defense of London, like other cities, in this crucial period depended mainly on anti-aircraft artillery and searchlights.
The anti-aircraft artillery of the metropolis was part of the ground forces (just as in the British expeditionary forces), although in operational terms it was subordinated to the fighter command of the Air Force. The key to British resistance was that at least a quarter of anti-aircraft guns covered the kingdom’s aviation companies.
During the “Battle of Britain,” anti-aircraft artillery shot down relatively few German bombers, but its operations made it difficult for German bomber aircraft to fly and, in any case, reduced the accuracy of bombing. Dense anti-aircraft fire forced to rise to great heights.
Soon after the start of the air battle over England, it turned out that British coastal shipping and ports from the sea were very vulnerable to low-altitude operations by enemy bombers and torpedo bombers. At first, they tried to fight this threat by patrolling on the path of probable overflight of British warships. But it was very expensive, and not safe for sailors. Later they decided to neutralize this threat by creating special stationary air defense forts located at a distance from the coast.
In August 1942, the Brothers Holloway Company launched an order for the army to build several army anti-aircraft forts designed by engineer Guy Maunsell. It was decided to install anti-aircraft forts from the mouths of the Thames and Mersey rivers, as well as to protect the approaches from the sea to London and Liverpool. 21 tower was built as part of the three forts. The fortifications were erected in 1942-43 and armed with anti-aircraft guns, radars and searchlights.
At the army forts guns are dispersed, like a conventional land anti-aircraft battery, at a distance of about 40 meters from each other. The anti-aircraft armament of the towers consisted of L / 60 Bofors caliber 40 mm and QF 3,7 caliber inch (94 mm).
It was decided to use a group of seven separate towers and connect them with the help of walkways located high above the water. This arrangement made it possible to concentrate the fire of all the guns in any direction and made the fortification much more tenacious in general. The forts were intended to counter enemy aircraft and were part of the country's air defense system. They were equipped with various means of communication in order to notify in advance of an enemy raid and intercept German aircraft.
At the end of 1935, the first 5 radars installed on the east coast of Britain began operation. In the summer of 1938, the air defense network consisted of an 20 radar. By 1940, a network of 80 radars was located along the coast, providing air defense systems.
Initially, these were bulky Chain Home (AMES Type 1) radars, which were suspended on metal masts with a height of 115. The antenna was fixed and had a wide directivity pattern - the aircraft could be detected in the 120 ° sector. Receiving antennas were placed on 80-meter wooden towers. In 1942, the deployment of stations with a rotating antenna began, which carried out a search for targets in a circular sector.
British radar could detect enemy bombers at a distance of 200 km, the height of the aircraft located at a distance of 100 km from the radar was determined to the accuracy of 500 m. Often, Luftwaffe aircraft were detected immediately after taking off from their airfields. The role of radar in repelling enemy raids is difficult to overestimate.
13 June 1944 of the year London was dealt the first blow by German V-1 projectile aircraft. Anti-aircraft artillery played a big role in repelling these attacks. A breakthrough in military electronics (the use of radiopackers in combination with PUAZO, the information on which came from the radar) made it possible to bring the number of V-1 destroyed during shelling by anti-aircraft guns from 24% to 79%. As a result, the effectiveness (and intensity) of such raids decreased significantly, 1866 of the German “flying bombs” were destroyed by anti-aircraft artillery.
Throughout the war, British air defense was continuously improved, reaching its peak in 1944. But by that time, even the reconnaissance flights of German aircraft over the British Isles had practically ceased. The landing of the Allied forces in Normandy made the raids of German bombers even less likely. As you know, at the end of the war the Germans relied on rocket technology. The British fighters and anti-aircraft guns could not intercept the V-2, the most effective way to combat missile strikes was the bombing of the launch positions of German missiles.
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