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20mm Gatling for WW2 Tail Gunners

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  • 20mm Gatling for WW2 Tail Gunners

    Heres a question i've been mulling for a couple of years, its a quiet day,thought i'd post it.
    We have all seen gatling guns in the history books and movies, hand cranked, and gravity fed for the most part. Likewise we have seen B-52s using 20mm gatling guns in the tail section (if the concept needed proving, the B-52 was it).
    Anybody who has studied the bomber campaign during WW2 will know the importance of gunners and tail gunners in particular (a tail shot requires no deflection shooting so is the most devastating and most popular position to fire from). No man suffered in a bomber like the tail gunner! Bottom turret wasn't too comfortable either.
    Anyway, since the importance of the tail gunner, why then was the 20mm gun not trialled until the end of the war? Why was there not a .50 cal or 20mm gatling gun installed in the tail? This would have made a massive difference in the air war in my opinion. Germany ably improved their 20mm guns, creating i think the C38 (was C30) fast firing 20mm. They then paired these two 20s to devastating effect and also created a "quad" that tagged just about anything you pointed it at! Whereas the Hispano Suiza (French) was continually used by the allies...It was a heap of crap! The Brits tried to improve it, the US tried to improve it, but all failed...Why?? What about a .50 calibre gating gun in the tail? Or in any of the other positions for that matter..?

  • #2
    Toss a wild guess since as you put, it's a slow day. Perhaps they were a maintenance headache in confined space. A tiny area, keeping the brass policed and from jamming other gear?

    Just feeding the beast and the rate of accuracy. The gun may be used in aircraft like the Warthog/Thunderbolt but isn't the rate of fire extremely limited. In aircraft like Puff or Jolly Green it is kind of blind point and shoot air to ground.

    The action you suggest is air to air targeting. I never got to learn about them on the A-3/B-66 because they removed them (fired them blind), and they couldn't justify the weight.
    Live, from a grassy knoll somewhere near you.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by guamainiac View Post
      Toss a wild guess since as you put, it's a slow day. Perhaps they were a maintenance headache in confined space. A tiny area, keeping the brass policed and from jamming other gear?

      Just feeding the beast and the rate of accuracy. The gun may be used in aircraft like the Warthog/Thunderbolt but isn't the rate of fire extremely limited. In aircraft like Puff or Jolly Green it is kind of blind point and shoot air to ground.

      The action you suggest is air to air targeting. I never got to learn about them on the A-3/B-66 because they removed them (fired them blind), and they couldn't justify the weight.
      - Yes, some good points. I have thought of those myself...but kept coming up with negating arguements. A maintenance headache? For sure, but so was just about everything mechanical. The shear volume of shell casings gave me pause, but a couple of drop shafts would do the trick surely...One wouldn't want the uneccessary extra weight of empty casing anyway. I hadn't thought of an accuarcy issue, because i didn't know there was one. As i said the B-52 installed a 20mm gatling (skipped the .50 cal idea it seems - Never seen a .50 cal gatling, why?) So the idea was sound in officialdom for while at least...and most fighters these days carry 20mm Vulcans or equivalent. Rate of fire is adjustable - as i'm sure you know - wind it down too far and you negate the whole point of a gatling in the first place.
      I'm thinking that with a zip line of 20mil tracer rocketing toward you NO enemy fighter would be game to come close or stay on station for more than a few seconds before getting the hell out! I think tail gunners are about spoiling aim more than bringing anything down - but thats just me.
      You never got to learn air to air shooting? Neither did 95% of gunners! Learn on the job was the order of the day...Oh they had gunnery school but the mock-ups were woeful and they didn't get much time, or ammo to practice. Another argument for a huge rate of fire.
      I am chuffed an ex-US Airforce pilot gave this one a crack though.

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      • #4
        Ammo weight would be a huge problem.....the 6 barrelled 20mm we had onboard ship fired 3000 rounds per minute at the "Low" setting IIRC!!! .... but the main reason was I suspect that noone tried the concept out.

        Even as a 50 cal the same problem would exist... the B-17 only carried 500 rounds per gun (officially) Wouldn't last long in any sort of gatling... to increase the ammo just adds to the weight problem... With fuel/bombs/limited ammo those aircraft were pretty much at max all up anyway....

        The MODERN "Gatling" comes from (I've been told) a USAF project back in the 50's or 60's. With the speed of aircraft constantly increasing someone decided that "normal" machine guns/cannon didn't have a high enough rate of fire.. which is probably a good point.

        Some bright spark involved in the project apparently thought about the Gatling concept.. and got hold of an original (well.. of course.. they were the ONLY ones in existence!) .. attached an electric motor to it and - even with the old gun - achieved a stunning rate of fire..

        Went on from there...

        I have shot modern reproductions.. one in 308 and one (much more satisfyingly) in 45-70.... both 10 barrelled and mounted on Artillery style carriages. The owner caimed to have emptied the 100 round "Doughnut" magazine in 3 seconds.. and that is hand-cranked of course....

        Amazing concept.....and huge fun to shoot!!!

        P.S. The main 20mm used by the Brits/Commonwealth in WWII for ground/shipboard mounting was the Oerlikon (Swedish design?).... nothing crap about it!!! I believe there were teething troubles with the early aircraft 20mm (Hurricane IID??) but obviously they got it "sorted"....
        Holed up in a cabin in the woods.. with 3 years worth of canned goods.. and a whole bunch of guns.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Luka View Post
          Heres a question i've been mulling for a couple of years, its a quiet day,thought i'd post it.
          We have all seen gatling guns in the history books and movies, hand cranked, and gravity fed for the most part. Likewise we have seen B-52s using 20mm gatling guns in the tail section (if the concept needed proving, the B-52 was it).
          Anybody who has studied the bomber campaign during WW2 will know the importance of gunners and tail gunners in particular (a tail shot requires no deflection shooting so is the most devastating and most popular position to fire from). No man suffered in a bomber like the tail gunner! Bottom turret wasn't too comfortable either.
          Anyway, since the importance of the tail gunner, why then was the 20mm gun not trialled until the end of the war? Why was there not a .50 cal or 20mm gatling gun installed in the tail? This would have made a massive difference in the air war in my opinion. Germany ably improved their 20mm guns, creating i think the C38 (was C30) fast firing 20mm. They then paired these two 20s to devastating effect and also created a "quad" that tagged just about anything you pointed it at! Whereas the Hispano Suiza (French) was continually used by the allies...It was a heap of crap! The Brits tried to improve it, the US tried to improve it, but all failed...Why?? What about a .50 calibre gating gun in the tail? Or in any of the other positions for that matter..?
          The 20mm gun was used a lot during WW2,and not at the end of it.The Bf-109E4 I think carried 3 20mm cannons and 2 7.62mm machineguns.And the early versions of the 110 in WW2 used 2 20mm i think,one in the gunner spot and the other in the nose.The P-400 used the Hispano.Your right-it is a piece of crap.And fast firing wasnt always best in fighters at least.Faster firing means you run out of ammo faster,and less likely to hit something.Remember also that they had the mk-108 30mm cannon,which I think fired faster then the 20mm,but only had like 60-80 shots in each gun.


          P.S. Trooper, the oerlikon was used by the germans.It was their early-mid WW2 20mm cannon.And it was a swedish design.And the Hurricane IIC had 4 Hispano cannons.I think that was the only aircraft is was good on.
          August 29th will be the worst day of the year.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by BoeingKing77 View Post
            P.S. Trooper, the oerlikon was used by the germans.It was their early-mid WW2 20mm cannon.And it was a swedish design.And the Hurricane IIC had 4 Hispano cannons.I think that was the only aircraft is was good on.
            Nope Oerlikon is SWISS not Swedish....

            And The Hispano was very widely used in many many famous WW2 planes like the F4U-1C, The P-38, The Tempest, the Beaufighter, the Mosquito...

            Alex

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Omar Alex Saffe View Post
              Nope Oerlikon is SWISS not Swedish....

              And The Hispano was very widely used in many many famous WW2 planes like the F4U-1C, The P-38, The Tempest, the Beaufighter, the Mosquito...

              Alex
              Swiss,Swedish,same thing.....lol jk jk


              Huh,forgot about those other ones.But Id rather have the 6 .50 cal on the F4U-1C then 4 guns with less ammo.The P-38 could have 1 Hispano cannon+4 .50cal,and an option for 4 more 50cals on the wing.With the 50cals right there thats the same amount of firepower with guns as the P-47.
              August 29th will be the worst day of the year.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by trooper View Post
                Ammo weight would be a huge problem.....the 6 barrelled 20mm we had onboard ship fired 3000 rounds per minute at the "Low" setting IIRC!!! .... but the main reason was I suspect that noone tried the concept out.
                Spot on. As per this link (http://www.mkek.gov.tr/english/foUru...Kategorisi=119) , the 20mm x 102 cartridge as used by the M61 (as found in F/A-18 etc) weighs 255g.

                Assuming you wanted to load 30 seconds worth of ammo on board the B-17 at the highest cyclic rate of 6000RPM - that would mean 3000 rounds. - over 750kg's worth of ammo for the tail turret alone! Then you need feed mechanisms to keep that hungry gun fed. IIRC, the 8th airforce tried a few B-17 flying gunships that carried no bombs but extra MG's and ammo. Things were OK formation wise until the bombers dropped their bombs, then with the bombers being lighter they would fly faster than the gunships - leaving the gunships exposed.

                one of the many links revealed when I googled this: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=84&t=4035

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                • #9
                  Yeah,Ive heard about those B-17 gunships.But anyone hear about "Black Thursday"??The B-17s on that raid crammed in as much ammuntion as possible.
                  August 29th will be the worst day of the year.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Where do i start?....
                    -Ammo weight would be a huge problem.....the 6 barrelled 20mm we had onboard ship fired 3000 rounds per minute at the "Low" setting IIRC!!! .... but the main reason was I suspect that noone tried the concept out.

                    Even as a 50 cal the same problem would exist... the B-17 only carried 500 rounds per gun (officially) Wouldn't last long in any sort of gatling... to increase the ammo just adds to the weight problem... With fuel/bombs/limited ammo those aircraft were pretty much at max all up anyway....

                    Okay, i'm talking a 3 maybe four barrelled deal here not an anti missile gatling that is cranked up for maximum chance of a hit. One can store almost unlimited 20mm ammo inside a ship. So this wouldn't be cranked up to 50 rounds a second (couldn't do it back then anyway - and is uneccessary for a hit to an enemy plane (much bigger and slower than a missile).
                    The WEIGHT is a very good factor. I understand the give and take, the compromise between defence and bomb load, (and this is where things get gray- because one realises at this point that crew safety, indeed survuivability WASN'T the general's highest priority!) but the increased survivability i have maintained for years would have changed the war with combatants becoming more and more experienced and being able to have less people and have a greater effect. But thats a another thread for another time. (and maybe another site).
                    Suffice to say i'm a beleiver in experienced fighters instead of a steady stream on newbies. I guess what i'm saying is the extra weight should have been borne, or other gunstations being sacrificed for it. The "GUN SHIP" idea was sound and could have introduced the idea, at least for experimentational purposes.

                    BK - I realise the 20mm was extensively used (proving the importance of the calibre) - My end of war comment was in reference to the 20mil being taken seriously, particularly by the US. Only at the end of the war do you see new US 20mils coming out and new ways of mounting them being experimented. The Oerlikon was a 20mm...hmmm the less said the better. I remember they strapped a couple to the spats of a Lysander! Even as a ground defence weapon it was a liability...Okay, it wasn't a peice of crap, but it was a product of its earlier time...very average. Needed a re-design to be belt fed and didn't have any sort of rate of fire.
                    - And BK, for what its worth, my ultimate gun spread for a fighter is 4X50s and 2X20s, allows it to do just about anything. Firing that rack would excite me as much as the 8 50s used to excite its pilots! Imagine spitting flame and destruction at a target and watch it dissapear before you eyes! Better than sex for young blokes!

                    - Things were OK formation wise until the bombers dropped their bombs, then with the bombers being lighter they would fly faster than the gunships - leaving the gunships exposed.
                    Couldn't the lead bombers slow down? Couldn't the gunship bombers dump their ammo?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Luka View Post
                      I guess what i'm saying is the extra weight should have been borne, or other gunstations being sacrificed for it.
                      Problem was german pilots weren't idiots - they knew that approaching the B17E from behind or abeam wasn't the smartest ides due to the tail guns, waist gunts and dorsal turrets that could be bought to bare. So they started to attack formations head on - as there used to be only a single 30cal hand aimed gun in the nose. This lead to the B17G with more guns particularly facing forward to cover this weakness. The moral to this tale: You cannot sacrifice other guns in other quadrants or the Luftwaffe would just change tactics and stay clear of the tail.


                      Originally posted by Luka View Post
                      Couldn't the lead bombers slow down? Couldn't the gunship bombers dump their ammo?
                      Dump their ammo? Then they'd be defenceless. Even dumping their ammo may not have been sufficient - "Ma deuce" (M2 50 cal was and is not a light weapon - but fun to fire!) Unfortunately formations flew as quickly as the fuel load and overboosting the engines would allow. If an aircraft was slower due to losing an engine, the main bomber stream would not slow down to protect it - the slower aircraft had to limp home as best it could. The thought was the greater good of the rest - faster speeds meant less time in the danger zone and a lower chance of losing aircraft or more importantly, aircrew.

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                      • #12
                        [quote=Luka;557591]



                        - And BK, for what its worth, my ultimate gun spread for a fighter is 4X50s and 2X20s, allows it to do just about anything. Firing that rack would excite me as much as the 8 50s used to excite its pilots! Imagine spitting flame and destruction at a target and watch it dissapear before you eyes! Better than sex for young blokes!

                        quote]
                        What plane has 4 50mm and 2 20mm??The strongest gun spread Ive seen is the Me-262 with 4x30mm cannons.
                        August 29th will be the worst day of the year.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SYDCBRWOD View Post
                          Problem was german pilots weren't idiots - they knew that approaching the B17E from behind or abeam wasn't the smartest ides due to the tail guns, waist gunts and dorsal turrets that could be bought to bare. So they started to attack formations head on - as there used to be only a single 30cal hand aimed gun in the nose. This lead to the B17G with more guns particularly facing forward to cover this weakness. The moral to this tale: You cannot sacrifice other guns in other quadrants or the Luftwaffe would just change tactics and stay clear of the tail.


                          Dump their ammo? Then they'd be defenceless. Even dumping their ammo may not have been sufficient - "Ma deuce" (M2 50 cal was and is not a light weapon - but fun to fire!) Unfortunately formations flew as quickly as the fuel load and overboosting the engines would allow. If an aircraft was slower due to losing an engine, the main bomber stream would not slow down to protect it - the slower aircraft had to limp home as best it could. The thought was the greater good of the rest - faster speeds meant less time in the danger zone and a lower chance of losing aircraft or more importantly, aircrew.

                          -Yes, the B-17 was defenceless against a head-on attack... The 17 grew chin turrets and the definitive B-17G was born. But a head on attack is, like a rear attack, a straight shot, every round a chance for a hit. Forcing the enemy into defelction shooting reduces hits and kills dramatically. Some are born deflection shooters, most aren't and need plenty of practice. The US was shortsighted not to arm the 17 with chin turrets from the get-go, but they didn't have the knowledge and experience the British had of the German Yaegers. A system where-by the waist gunner position is traversable or interchangeable should have been trialled too. Depending on where the bomber is planning to sit in the stream, the waist gun can be positioned to cover the outside of the formation. It's far from perfect, but i think would have "improved" (with a gatling) the survival of the crew and aircraft.



                          - I mean dump excess ammo after drop point. Obviously an emergency stash could be held. When aircraft were slow 99% of the time it was because they were hit, engines out or damaged. So in this situation we are talking 1 to maybe 3 "limpers" that will be targeted because they are crippled AND because they are left by the rest of the formation. Now, if a GUN SHIP(s) are slow then the formation would do well to STAY with the gun ships, the gun ships would give protection to the formation and Vice Versa. If i was formation leader, i'd be buggered if i'd leave my gun ships! I'd be sitting in their pockets all the way home.

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                          • #14
                            [quote=BoeingKing77;557621]
                            Originally posted by Luka View Post

                            quote]
                            What plane has 4 50mm and 2 20mm??The strongest gun spread Ive seen is the Me-262 with 4x30mm cannons.
                            - Ummmm.....!!!? Nothing i can think of off the top of my head...Britain didn't take up the .50 cal and the US didn't take up the 20mm (Who would have thought there'd be such a thing as contractual obligation in a TOTAL WAR??)
                            Wasn't until after the war you start seeing this mix. From memory, FU-4 Corsair as an example, dropped two 50s and picked up 2 20s during the Korean conflict.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Luka View Post



                              - I mean dump excess ammo after drop point.
                              Are you crazy!!!Before Britain and America liberated france the german pilots would sometimes follow the bomber stream back over the channel!!Some bombers would retract the bottom ball turret,and then bf-109s or 110s or whatever would attack from below.Just because they reached the target doesnt mean fighters are gonna stop attacking.
                              August 29th will be the worst day of the year.

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