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TOPIC: Air to Air Firing Practice

Air to Air Firing Practice 10 Dec 2014 23:34 #1

  • Peter Kirk
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I have been looking at armament training manuals for the late 1920s and one element of firing practice that is not mentioned is air to air firing at towed sleeves or flags. The armament training stations don't appear to have had any air to air facilities at their ranges either, although Holbeach (Sutton Bridge) may have first used a Bristol F2B as a target tower in 1929.

A.P. 1492 (AIR 10/2050), the towed target equipment manual, has its first edition dated 1934 and the major focus is for anti-aircraft gunnery practice and not "interception machine gunnery". Does this mean that towed targets were new in the late 1920s? I thought they were used in WW1?

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Air to Air Firing Practice 26 Nov 2016 17:46 #2

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Tentsmuir (Leuchars) Ranges increased its danger area in 1934 to incorporate air to air firing and also to sneak in another bombing target.

I did find it strange that although air to air firing was practised during WW1 it never continued. I suspect it was that the majority of the RAF was, at that time, overseas and engaged on dropping bombs on unruly locals who didn't possess a flying machine. It seems to be another one of those lessons that were learnt during WW1 that was forgotten or ignored.

So far all my information regarding its revival is indirect but I do know that night air to air firing was trialled at Holbeach in 1934 and brought about the use of searchlights on the Armament Training Camp ranges.
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Air to Air Firing Practice 12 Apr 2017 19:33 #3

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I found another document from 1925 that suggests formations of bombers would be best attached broadside rather than by diving at them. I suspect this was to reduce the concentration of defending firepower. It also suggested that twin engine fighters with two flexible firing positions would be better for this than single engine aircraft.

Although this was a suggestion I wonder if the fighter of that period was not suited to front gun firing and that this was partly the reason why air to air firing was not practised and that only firing at surface targets was?

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Air to Air Firing Practice 15 Apr 2017 09:23 #4

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Peter, the bombers of the 20s didnt have turrets, so I would have thought attacking broadside would be the sensible option.

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Air to Air Firing Practice 15 Apr 2017 14:00 #5

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Attacking an aircraft flying in formation from the beam forces the attacker to fly a 'curve of pursuit' When in range forward firing guns, usually fixed, could be brought to bear but as the course of the attacker turns to parallel the enemy aircraft the flexible guns could be brought to bear. Beam on there is a bigger target than a tail or head-on attack. The defensive guns of enemy aircraft inside the formation could not be brought to bear on the attackers without danger of hitting their own.

It is likely that bombers flew in tight formations to prevent attacks from the beam except to those aircraft on the outside yet enabling concentrated defensive fire into the top hemisphere. OK clever clogs, why not attack from below......? There again, perhaps the bombers referred to were Zeppelins....

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Air to Air Firing Practice 15 Apr 2017 17:22 #6

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There was discussion in the original document about mounting guns on bombers underneath but they then reasoned that the preferred attack would shif to above and behind. It seems at the time they couldn't have both, possibly a limitation in power at the time?

Although they didn't posses turrets the Scarfe ring was the equivalent. The problem for the bombers at the time was the many blind spots due to two wings and large tails.

The impression I got was that the fighters would fly a parallel course and bring to bear the flexible guns or guns to rake the side of the bomber. I think this was the broadside they referred to and the reason twin engine fighters were proposed, to enable more flexible gun positions.

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