How often were planes used in tank battles?

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Postby lifeofbrian » Fri Mar 02, 2018 1:30 am

The reason I ask is because I play War Thunder and nothing bugs me more that getting bombed in the middles of a good tank battle.
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Postby Estnische » Fri Mar 02, 2018 4:05 am

Planes were used as tank busters by the major players, as witnessed by the use of rockets and cannons. Generally, I would assume it was whether either had time enough to call up fighter support, but specifically after D-Day the Allied air forces hunted constantly and it was not safe for the Germans to move tanks during the day. Similarly the Battle of the Bulge ebbed and flowed during the bad weather until the skies cleared and the Allied air forces smashed 'em.

I could be wrong, I'm not that much of a history buff.
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Postby jarndice » Fri Mar 02, 2018 6:37 am

The Cannon Armed Hawker Hurricanes of the Desert Air Force gained a solid reputation among the front line troops in the North African Campaign,
They would come in at very low level and open up a PZ111 or 4 quicker than you could open a tin of beans, :thumbdown:
In Russia the Soviet Air Forces Sturmovik Attack aircraft which were often flown by a female crew (Pilot/Gunner) played hell with the German Armour.
And of course the Tempests and Typhoons working the "Cab Rank" system to clear the German Armour from the French fields and lanes claimed a famous name when Field Marshall Rommel was severely injured when his Staff car was hit by Machine gun and Rocket fire.
And often forgotten is Clair Chenault's gang of American freelancers with their Curtiss Warhawk's and Tomahawk's in China and Burma who would shoot up anything Japanese that moved,
So it is fair to say that Aircraft in all areas of the Second World War saw airborne intervention against Armour.
Shaun.

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Postby Raminator » Fri Mar 02, 2018 7:17 am

lifeofbrian wrote:The reason I ask is because I play War Thunder and nothing bugs me more that getting bombed in the middles of a good tank battle.

I am sure it bugged the tank crews of the Wehrmacht, Red Army, British Army, and US Army too. :haha:

The close air support concept really matured by the middle of the war, and air attack was just as much a part of the battlefield as other tanks, AT guns and infantry AT weapons. Consider that both the Germans and Soviets each had about one aeroplane for every two tanks at the beginning of the Battle of Kursk.
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Postby HERMAN BIX » Fri Mar 02, 2018 10:31 am

Just look at the slaughter/wonderful but inconclusive victory that was Falaise..................... :problem:

In my humble opinion, Air Power was a decisive strategic victory for the allies, but tactical air interdiction greatly assisted in local areas.
B17's & Lancasters reduced the number of tanks, troops, fuel and aircraft available to the front, the Typhoons, Thunderbolts, and Il'2's further reduced the ones that made it further forward.
German design, and infighting, non-standardised production and political meddling did the rest...............

Rudel and many similar others tell a fraction of what was done on both sides from air-to-ground at a tactical level, well worth the research.
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Postby jarndice » Fri Mar 02, 2018 11:15 am

The Battle of the Falaise Gap can be usefully compared with the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the Dunkirk area four years earlier,
The Germans saw Dunkirk as a rout of the BEF from France and while no one in the British High Command thought of it as a victory they were aware that the core of the British Army minus almost all of their heavy equipment was safe and back home to defend the Nation against an expected invasion,
The Allied view of the Falaise battle was success in so far as almost all the heavy equipment was captured or destroyed and many German Prisoners were taken,
The German High Command saw it as the escape of the bulk of its army that was able to fight in the defence of Germany against the imminent invasion of the Homeland,
There is surely no argument that the sealing of the Falaise Gap by the Allies was botched allowing many German Service personnel to escape to Germany who should never have got out just as the perceived cock up by the German High Command which allowed many Allied Soldiers to get out of Dunkirk and Back to the relative safety of the UK who should have been captured.
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Postby Rad_Schuhart » Fri Mar 02, 2018 11:21 am

At the beginning of the war the german used their Stuka planes as dive bombers for killing tanks and artillery with a lot of success.

At the last years of the war, with the luftwaffe almost gone, the allied warbirds were a pain for the tanks.

Entire companies of tanks were wiped out by planes that did not get not even a scratch. Most of the tanks did not have AA machine guns, and those who had it it seems it was not very effective. Looks like a MG34 is not the best way for killing a warbird... And also I guess it is not easy to hit a plane.
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Postby silversurfer1947 » Fri Mar 02, 2018 11:32 am

The last operational variant of the Stuka was the JU87G, specifically designed as a tank buster with the addition of 2 30mm cannon. However, the production models were fitted with 37mm cannon in underwing pods, each loaded with 2 6 round magazines of armour piercing tungsten carbide cored ammunition.
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Postby AlwynTurner » Fri Mar 02, 2018 12:09 pm

I believe the RAF did quite a lot of work in N Africa against Rommel, and used a Hurricane variant fitted with cannons and a bomb, they also used kittyhawks/tomahawks.

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Postby lifeofbrian » Fri Mar 02, 2018 12:34 pm

So I suppose we're just talking about open country tank battles, probably not much air to ground in inner city tank battles?
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Postby gp100 » Sun Mar 04, 2018 12:20 am

I was in the movie "Saving Private Ryan".. And I do know that in WWII they used the P-51 Mustang in battle against the German Tanks..

They were called "P-51 Tank Busters".. And believe me, they were very effective at it.. The pilots that were assigned to the P-51 were considered some of the best pilots in the world.. And could do things with the P-51 that most pilots couldn't do..

The P-51 was the official "badass" of the skies at the time.. Just one of these planes could take out a tank in short order.. The moto was, "One shot, one kill."

In fact, there's a scene at the end of the film where Tom hanks is on the bridge dying.. And a P-51 takes out a Tiger 1 with one shot..

Great shot.. And historically accurate as well.. Those pilots were the best of the best.. They made a huge difference in the war.. They saved thousands of lives with their skill and bravery.. And they had the plane to support them..

We made this movie historically accurate. We took no literary license with it.. All of us on this film worked very hard to give the audience the true bravery of the men who fought and died in that war.. To us, it was about honor.. The sacrifice of these brave men, shall never be forgotten.. May they rest in peace..
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Postby 43rdRecceReg » Sun Mar 04, 2018 12:53 am

jarndice wrote:The Battle of the Falaise Gap can be usefully compared with the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the Dunkirk area four years earlier,
The Germans saw Dunkirk as a rout of the BEF from France and while no one in the British High Command thought of it as a victory they were aware that the core of the British Army minus almost all of their heavy equipment was safe and back home to defend the Nation against an expected invasion,
The Allied view of the Falaise battle was success in so far as almost all the heavy equipment was captured or destroyed and many German Prisoners were taken,
The German High Command saw it as the escape of the bulk of its army that was able to fight in the defence of Germany against the imminent invasion of the Homeland,
There is surely no argument that the sealing of the Falaise Gap by the Allies was botched allowing many German Service personnel to escape to Germany who should never have got out just as the perceived cock up by the German High Command which allowed many Allied Soldiers to get out of Dunkirk and Back to the relative safety of the UK who should have been captured.
Shaun.


Curiously, I was watching a documentary today on the Typhoon and Tempest. It said that the Hawker Typhoon virtually eliminated the 10th SS-Panzer Division in the Falaise Pocket, destroying as many as 175 tanks in a single day. Overall, it's probable that aircraft in WW2, and anti-tank weaponry, destroyed more tanks than tanks, and tank hunters, ever did. Even the Tiger 1 and King Tiger were easily preyed upon by rocket and cannon firing aircraft (IL-2 Sturmovik, Hawker Typhoon, Hawker Tempest etc...)
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Postby 43rdRecceReg » Sun Mar 04, 2018 1:02 am

gp100 wrote:I was in the movie "Saving Private Ryan".. And I do know that in WWII they used the P-51 Mustang in battle against the German Tanks..

They were called "P-51 Tank Busters".. And believe me, they were very effective at it.. The pilots that were assigned to the P-51 were considered some of the best pilots in the world.. And could do things with the P-51 that most pilots couldn't do..

The P-51 was the official "badass" of the skies at the time.. Just one of these planes could take out a tank in short order.. The moto was, "One shot, one kill."

In fact, there's a scene at the end of the film where Tom hanks is on the bridge dying.. And a P-51 takes out a Tiger 1 with one shot..

Great shot.. And historically accurate as well.. Those pilots were the best of the best.. They made a huge difference in the war.. They saved thousands of lives with their skill and bravery.. And they had the plane to support them..

We made this movie historically accurate. We took no literary license with it.. All of us on this film worked very hard to give the audience the true bravery of the men who fought and died in that war.. To us, it was about honor.. The sacrifice of these brave men, shall never be forgotten.. May they rest in peace..


I thought the main US 'Tank Buster was the P-47 'Jug' Thunderbolt. It was the ground attack and tank busting specialist. The P-51 was primarily an interceptor, and escort fighter, although it did range far and wide attacking ground targets from time to time. The 'Jug' could take more punishment from ground defences, than the more delicate Mustang; that's why it came to occupy the ground attack role.It had once been the premier long-distance escort fighter for the USAAF, before the P-51D began to supplant it. :think:
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Postby gp100 » Sun Mar 04, 2018 5:10 am

43rdRecceReg wrote:
gp100 wrote:I was in the movie "Saving Private Ryan".. And I do know that in WWII they used the P-51 Mustang in battle against the German Tanks..

They were called "P-51 Tank Busters".. And believe me, they were very effective at it.. The pilots that were assigned to the P-51 were considered some of the best pilots in the world.. And could do things with the P-51 that most pilots couldn't do..

The P-51 was the official "badass" of the skies at the time.. Just one of these planes could take out a tank in short order.. The moto was, "One shot, one kill."

In fact, there's a scene at the end of the film where Tom hanks is on the bridge dying.. And a P-51 takes out a Tiger 1 with one shot..

Great shot.. And historically accurate as well.. Those pilots were the best of the best.. They made a huge difference in the war.. They saved thousands of lives with their skill and bravery.. And they had the plane to support them..

We made this movie historically accurate. We took no literary license with it.. All of us on this film worked very hard to give the audience the true bravery of the men who fought and died in that war.. To us, it was about honor.. The sacrifice of these brave men, shall never be forgotten.. May they rest in peace..


I thought the main US 'Tank Buster was the P-47 'Jug' Thunderbolt. It was the ground attack and tank busting specialist. The P-51 was primarily an interceptor, and escort fighter, although it did range far and wide attacking ground targets from time to time. The 'Jug' could take more punishment from ground defences, than the more delicate Mustang; that's why it came to occupy the ground attack role.It had once been the premier long-distance escort fighter for the USAAF, before the P-51D began to supplant it. :think:


Hi 43rd,

Dunno.. Cannot honestly answer that one.. I just know what they told us when we were doing the film.. This information came down from some of the movie studio historians at the time.. Hence why they put the P-51 in the final scene.. I'm only 50 years old.. So not being around in that time period, I honestly cannot tell you much about it.. I was told that the P-51 was used in assaults against the German tanks along with other planes.. But the P-51 had the maneuverability to do things other planes couldn't do..

However, that being said, you could be right on what you say.. I just know it was called the "The Tank Buster" in the film..
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Postby HERMAN BIX » Sun Mar 04, 2018 10:45 am

I SPR, my only real bitch was that a Thompson SMG could not fire through the drivers vision slit on a T1

That aside, the film was a genuine benchmark for its time, and a real emotive portrayal of those desperate days.


As for air power interdiction on tanks, there is plenty to know how it worked and how it all ended...............

History, the ultimate in Hindsight..............
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Postby HERMAN BIX » Sun Mar 04, 2018 11:16 am

If anyone was to ask me what the best tank to be in when being attacked by an aircraft at that time, my answer is, the one on the same side as the plane !!!
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Postby Zapper » Sun Mar 04, 2018 11:52 am

gp100 wrote:I was in the movie "Saving Private Ryan".. And I do know that in WWII they used the P-51 Mustang in battle against the German Tanks..

They were called "P-51 Tank Busters".. And believe me, they were very effective at it.. The pilots that were assigned to the P-51 were considered some of the best pilots in the world.. And could do things with the P-51 that most pilots couldn't do..

The P-51 was the official "badass" of the skies at the time.. Just one of these planes could take out a tank in short order.. The moto was, "One shot, one kill."

In fact, there's a scene at the end of the film where Tom hanks is on the bridge dying.. And a P-51 takes out a Tiger 1 with one shot..

Great shot.. And historically accurate as well.. Those pilots were the best of the best.. They made a huge difference in the war.. They saved thousands of lives with their skill and bravery.. And they had the plane to support them..

We made this movie historically accurate. We took no literary license with it.. All of us on this film worked very hard to give the audience the true bravery of the men who fought and died in that war.. To us, it was about honor.. The sacrifice of these brave men, shall never be forgotten.. May they rest in peace..


Never heard of the P51 being used as ground attack or being called tankbusters. The Mustang made a poor ground attack aircraft not least because of its comparative fragility but also because of its poor payload and ground accuracy.

The ground attack was given to the Thunderbolts due to their robustness and larger payload, USAF used very few rockets in WW2 so it was mainly bombs. The Mustangs replaced the Thunderbolts in the escort role due to their greater range even though the Thunderbolts had better high altitude performance. It should also be noted that the US often left the ground attack sorties to the RAF with its Typhoons as they were the preferred aircraft.

A final point is that the role of aircraft in actually killing tanks is hugely overstated. Post war analysis shows the number of actual tanks destroyed by aircraft was far lower than claimed. The real value was in the harassment and psychological effect on the enemy as well as the destruction of the logistics train behind the frontline (trains, railway yards, bridges etc).

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Postby silversurfer1947 » Sun Mar 04, 2018 1:56 pm

Some tests were done with rocket firing Typhoons against 2 stationary Panthers. They had a 5% hit rate. In the heat of battle, it was reckoned to be even lower. However, if you were the poor unfortunate that got hit, I would not hold out much hope for your chances. The consequence was, apparently, that tank crews were very fearful of them and it was not unknown for the crew to just bail out of the tank when the aircraft appeared.
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Postby 43rdRecceReg » Sun Mar 04, 2018 3:51 pm

Here's a fascinating little article listing causes of British tank losses in the main theatres of WW2 operations. In N.W.Europe, for example, only slightly over 14% of tank losses were to Tank on Tank action (where that figure was over 38% in North Africa). Mines, S.P.Guns, and anti-tank guns claimed almost 70% of total kills in Northwest Europe.
The article doesn't seem to take into account the effects of ground attack aircraft, but nonetheless, it's still well worth a peek :thumbup:
https://panzerworld.com/german-tank-kill-claims
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Postby jarndice » Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:14 pm

Thw German Armed Forces did not go in for specialist Anti-Tank Aircraft
Most of what was used was a derivative of an existing in service type such as the JU 87,
But there was the Henschel HS 129B-2 Which was a single seat close support and anti-tank aircraft,
The Pilot sat in a 12mm thick welded armoured tub,
The worst part of the aircraft apart from its restricted vision and awful handling properties was the twin Gnome -Rhone engines that were notorious for their unreliability,
But they did bear an impressive array of armament depending on what weapon fit it carried,
The standard weapons fit was 2 x 7.9mm MG17s / 2 x 20mm MG151 cannon / 1 x 30mm MK101 cannon and sometimes a 37mm BK3.7cannon,
One of the operations was "Citadel" and on July 8 1943 4 Staffeln of Hs 129B-2 intercepted a Russian Tank Brigade and attacked from the side and the rear, In relays the aircraft made their attack,
The Armoured Brigade scattered in confusion and was all but destroyed.
Most of these types saw service in Russia although they began their trials in North Africa,
I am not aware of them seeing service in Western Europe.
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