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Thread: How heavy was "Light Flak?"

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    Default How heavy was "Light Flak?"

    Hi
    In my fathers log book he often notes. Light flak, Medium Flak or Heavy Flak.
    Are these different sorts of flak from different guns or just the rate of fire?
    Also what is the difference between MT (mechanized transport) and HDT (which I assume means Heavy Duty Transport)
    Cheers
    Motherbird

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    As it is in a log book I would say it is density of flak encountered rather than calibre so it would be subjective, a few shells exploding in the area would probably be light right up to flying through shrapnel with constant flashes being heavy.

    If it was in calibre terms then I would have said 20mm to be light, 37mm to be medium and 88mm heavy.
    Alan Clark

    Peak District Air Accident Research

    http://www.peakdistrictaircrashes.co.uk/

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    Default Types of Flak

    Motherbird,

    The convention from the pilot's I've discussed flak with is that for the Tac/R pilots, when they talked about flak as being light, medium or heavy was to do with the type or calibre of the flak, not its intensity.

    Light flak would be from small calibre weapons, from pistol up to say 20mm cannon, so basically anything that might have a rapid rate of fire, but have a limited range. Would have to hit the aircraft to damage it

    Medium flak would be anything in the range from 20mm cannon up to around 57mm, so the autoloading anti aircraft cannon, very similar to the Bofors type style. Majority would be in the 37mm to 40mm calibre size. Reasonable rate of fire, but key difference here is that the projectiles fired could be either contact fused (would explode if they contacted the aircraft) or time fused (exploded after being in flight for a certain time, then creating a shower of shell splinters). Have a greater effective range, fixed or mobile installations eg placed on flak wagons on trains.

    Heavy flak is 57mm upwards. Most noticeable the dreaded 88mm flak/anti tank gun. Long range, time fused, throws out a lethal spread of shell splinters. The sizes of some of the heavy flak went up to 128mm and their effective range was well within the normal operating heights of the Mustang if they were not operating 'nap of the earth'. The rate of fire was slower, but often they were grouped in batteries so you had three or more of these heavy guns firing a pattern of shells designed to 'bracket' the target. Because they were timed fuses normally rather than contact, we do have a couple of instances where 88mm shells hit low flying Mustangs, did not explode but passed through, still causing considerable damage.

    The type of flak would then be graded by the amount being thrown up at the aircraft, so for example, "sporadic light and medium flak", "moderate light flak LMG and HMG", "intense heavy flak mixed with some medium flak".

    Types, locations and intensity of flak would be reported to the Intelligence Officer at the debrief at the end of a sortie and that information was used to plot types and locations of enemy flak installations for use in planning future sorties. So for example, pilots would plan to cross in over the enemy coast at locations where there were gaps in flak coverage or where it was not as intense or the type could be countered by tactics such as high speed, low level entry and exit over coast.

    MT or MET, mechanised transport, mechanised enemy transport (distinguishing between a truck on the road and what was obviously an enemy military vehicle - depends on how the pilot and Intelligence Officer reported it); HDT is HORSE drawn transport - Germans still used an awful lot of it, particularly in pulling field artillery, supply wagons, mobile kitchens; AFV is Armoured Fighting Vehicle. Specialised MT such as fuel tankers, ambulances, staff cars and similar would normally be identified and reported as such where possible.

    Regards,
    Last edited by ColFord; 30th December 2009 at 21:32. Reason: Typos
    Colin Ford
    Canberra
    Australia

    No.268 Squadron Royal Air Force 1940-1946
    Historian by Appointment
    (by the surviving Squadron members)

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    Light flak - 15 - 40 mm
    Medium flak - 40 - 75 mm
    Heavy flak - above 75 mm

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    Thanks for those most comprehensive replies
    Motherbird

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    Here is the record for the operation to Oberhausen, November 1-2, 1944, from the 6-Group ORB:

    “There was slight to moderate to intense heavy flak in barrage form and also some predicted [flak] which caused some damage and fatal casualties in some aircraft. Slight to moderate light flak was also encountered.”

    This gives an idea of the "adjectives" to describe the intensity of the types of flak in the ORBs and it was probably also used in briefings. The entries in my dad's logbook also include similar terms.

    Jim
    Last edited by JDCAVE; 7th January 2010 at 22:09.

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    I think it is possible there are different definitions of these terms, based on who used them and when.

    I'm sure the definitions based on gun size are official, and were probably used by the gunners and in intelligence reports. From some ORBs I've read I think the aircrew reports were sometimes much more subjective. In other words, one "heavy" sized gun with poor aim might look like "light flak" to a pilot, whereas a large number of well aimed "light guns" probably seemed pretty heavy to those on the receiving end.

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    Default Flak

    Motherbird

    Thanks for asking about the flak I had been wondering that.. Its a really useful piece of information.

    Dee

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    I would suggest that Al Clark's explanation of the entry in the log book refering to "Light Flak" is correct. Aircrew were more concerned with the amount of AA fire coming up at them than they were with the calibre of it. I see that Motherbird's father noted, "light flak" which points to the intensity rather than the calibre. Had the latter been the case I would have expected the word "some" or "much" to have preceeded the term "light flak".
    Hope this makes sense.
    Bill.

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    Default Context

    An important part in this discussion is to put the question in the context of the type of operational flying being conducted by the aircrew, the training of the aircrew in question and how they were expected to observe and report.

    From Motherbird's previous posts it is clear her father was on one of the fighter reconnaissance/tactical reconnaissance squadrons, not a fighter or bomber squadron. The pilots on these squadrons were trained and were expected to report with a higher degree of accuracy and to a set of definitions that ensured consistency in their reporting. Also given the range of altitudes that they operated in, from 'zero' feet up to around 8,000 to 10,000 feet, classifying flak in its different types that presented different threats within that range of operating altitudes was important to them. Quite different to how you would report flak if you are consistently operating at heights above say 20,000 ft.

    As a part of the training for fighter reconnaissance/tactical reconnaissance pilots, when they flew training sorties they would get quizzed during the post sortie debrief about what they had seen. Great attention was paid to getting detail correct, but also the ability to recognise anything that could have potential intelligence value. From what is included in diaries and what has been recounted to me, FR/Tac-R pilots as a part of their training even in the class room, included exercises designed to improve and enhance their powers of observation and recall. This naturally enough largely revolved around different types of enemy aircraft, enemy vehicles, railway rolling stock, defensive installations of various types and flak.

    When flying operationally that same quizzing by the Intelligence Officer and/or Army Liaison Officers would occur after each sortie. In reporting flak it came down to location(s), types, calibres, estimate of number of guns, amount of flak and accuracy and any other features of the flak encountered eg. unusual tracer colours or types, pattern of fire and so on.

    As indicated in my previous post, for the FR/Tac-R pilots recording flak by its calibre (light, medium, heavy) by its intensity (sporadic, some, intense) and accuracy (inaccurate, accurate) was a part of their stock in trade.

    So therefore Motherbird will take the information provided and put that in the context of her father's log book, how he has recorded his observations of flak in that log book.

    Having had access to a good number of original log books of FR/Tac-R pilots, how they have recorded flak has a degree of consistency and that is what I have conveyed in my posts. Also in discussions and correspondence with surviving FR/Tac-R pilots, how they have described flak they have encountered continues to have a degree of consistency, even after all these years - proves all that training and 'nagging' by the IOs and ALOs paid off.
    Colin Ford
    Canberra
    Australia

    No.268 Squadron Royal Air Force 1940-1946
    Historian by Appointment
    (by the surviving Squadron members)

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