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Thread: Air to Air Firing / 1944

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    Default Air to Air Firing / 1944

    I understand "air to air firing" at a Bombing and Gunnery School would involve firing at a drogue being towed by another aircraft. But what about at an Operational squadron in England in 1944? Is my Dad's logbook entry just another way of saying "fighter affiliation" or were there drogues used there as well?
    As always, thanks in advance,
    Clint

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    Hi Clint, it would be firing against drogues. Percentage scores by Squadron appear in the Group monthly summmaries.

    Richard

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    I agree, fighter affiliation and air to air firing are quite different exercises. Fighter-type aircraft carrying out "fighter affiliation" with, for instance, heavy bombers, would not be carrying ammunition, but would carry out realistic looking "attacks" against the bombers to give the gunners in latter aircraft some idea of what a real attack would look like, and the guns of the bomber would not have ammunition either, as the gunners were required to "track" the "attackers" through their gun-sights, but were not required to actually kill them! Dog fighting practice for fighter pilots was somewhat similar, using gun-sights but no ammunition.
    David D

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    Fighter affiliation would also make used of the camera gun, on both fighter and bomber, to record and revue later. For night work some units used infra red lamps to record on infra red film but I have not come across much mention of this in unit ORBs. I believe lamps were fitted to both fighter and bomber in such a way that direction and angle of approach could be calculated. Note that this is not the same as the infra red bombing which was against ground based lamps.

    On the drogues, sleeve targets were most commonly used, and it should be noted that when the holes were counted they were divided by two. If flag targets were used this was not required. Another bit of info is that many bomber and fighter units towed their own targets using "self towing" gear. This was to enable operational units a quick and flexible way to carry out air to air firing practice and not have to wait for a slot with a gunnery flight that was normally short of flyable aircraft. The self tow was a small sleeve target and in bombers was attached to the rear using a quick release gear and the sleeve was chucked out of the rear turret in flight. The fighters would drag theirs up from the ground either via a zig zig chord or pulled from a washing line affair. Again they had quick release gear.

    ORBs and Log Books sometimes record the ambiguous "air firing" and this could mean air to air or air to ground - something to watch out for.

    You can tell I'm bored :)

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    Great info gentlemen, thank you!
    This is the first time I have heard of the "self towing" gear, thank you PNK.....so if I understand correctly, the drogue would be tossed out the tail turret and would then "float" to earth, with the Halifax turning and following it down, and the gunners firing at it every time it was in range? Sounds like fun for the pilot as well ! Am I picturing the system correctly...?
    Cheers, Clint

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    Not quite, the sleeve would be pulled along by one aircraft and the gunners from another aircraft would fire at it. Each gunner would use ball ammunition dipped in different colour paint so that each sleeve could be used more than once before being released over the home airfield to be assessed. The holes would be counted and totted up by colour and communicated to the relevant gunner. I can't recall what the length of the tow cable was but was long enough to give room for error.

    Normally a defined range would be used but sea areas outside the coastal ranges could also be used. Inland air firing ranges had been used since 1940 due to restrictions on the east and south coasts as a result of enemy activity, however, by 1944 the danger had reduced and inland ranges were being used less. The inland ranges were laid out over sparsely populated areas to reduce the risk of injury however a few civilian deaths did occur from falling spent rounds. I suspect the ones used for Halifax units would be North York Moors and possibly Trent Valley.

    Most defined ranges operated with specific tow line tracks AB towline were for side or quarter attacks but CD lines were for astern attacks. AB lines would tend to be parallel to the coast with aircraft firing seaward and the CD lines would be at right angle to these and again firing seaward. Inland ranges tried to keep to a similar arrangement but obviously had no coast to be parallel to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PNK View Post
    The inland ranges were laid out over sparsely populated areas to reduce the risk of injury however a few civilian deaths did occur from falling spent rounds. I suspect the ones used for Halifax units would be North York Moors and possibly Trent Valley.
    Tee Emm for July 1943 had a warning story to this very point - poor colonel Blimp of Pondicherry Lodge is incensed to find that the bullet that has just winged in through his dining room window is not German, but British!:

    We’ll repeat it here. In air-to-air firing practice the rule is that guns must not be depressed below 20 above, repeat ABOVE, the horizontal. Otherwise, the bullets arrive in the countryside at velocity, not merely spent.
    Richard

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    I didn't think to look in Tee Emm, however they did have a great piece on the mixing of the inks to dip the rounds in.

    I have never understood the reason for the depression limit surely any round will reach its terminal velocity before it reaches earth. The height limit was also raised at one point because some bright spark forgot that mountains can take up a few thousand feet. It was deemed that a falling ball round, although very painful would not kill and the odds of hitting someone in the remote areas was, well, remote. There were three inland ranges over Salisbury Plain, two for Army Co-op squadrons and one for A&AEE, and I believe the A&AEE one caused some concern when an Army officer lying prone received an unwanted intrusion into one of his buttocks.

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    Ouch!
    I guess a round aimed upwards has to run out of steam before falling so will be max t/v. One aimed down may still be ‘propelled’ by the charge, therefore faster. It seems a a fairly rough and ready ruling though!

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    It had never occurred to me that these firing exercises could endanger those on the ground. Attached is an article from the L.A. Police Department with some sobering facts. 4th of July Gunfire Reduction Program

    In an effort to reduce injuries, death, and property damage associated with indiscriminate gunfire and the increased incidents involving intoxicated drivers, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is promoting the safe celebration of our Country's Independence Day. Along with activating sobriety checkpoints, the LAPD will seek out and arrest any person firing a gun during celebrations. Indiscriminate gunfire will not be tolerated in the City/County of Los Angeles. Discharging a firearm into the air is a felony, punishable by one year in state prison. Anyone arrested for discharging a firearm will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Should a stray bullet kill someone, the shooter will be arrested and charged with murder.
    On July 4, 1999, Brian Perez was celebrating the holiday with family and friends, when a bullet fired aimlessly into the sky and struck him in the head. The following day Brian died from his injuries. He was only nine years old.
    The senseless death of Brian Perez and the potential for others being injured compels the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department to once again ask the community to celebrate the holidays safely and responsibly. Don't fire guns into the air! If you see someone committing such acts, please call the police. Remember, what goes up, will come down, and when a bullet falls back to earth, it travels at a fatal velocity.
    Many times individuals involved in celebrating holidays such as Independence Day with gunfire do not realize the dangers posed in their actions. Research has found that a bullet fired into the sky can climb up to two miles and remain in flight for more than a minute. As it falls, the bullet reaches a velocity of 300 to 700 feet per second. A velocity of only 200 feet per second is sufficient to penetrate the human skull.
    The Los Angeles Police Department has made great strides in reducing the amount of indiscriminate gunfire that occurs during the Independence Day holiday. Comprehensive public education and awareness campaigns have dramatically reduced the threat to the community.
    Lastly, please remember that fireworks of any kind (including the 'Safe and Sane' kind) are prohibited in the City of Los Angeles. We encourage our community to enjoy a professionally organized pyrotechnics fireworks show and to celebrate the 4th of July safely and responsibly.

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