Luftwaffe at War, Air war over the Atlantic

An addition to another popular pictorial history series. Text is limited to a brief introduction, captions and extended captions. – Highly Recommended.

NAME: Luftwaffe at War, Air war over the Atlantic
FILE: R2506
AUTHOR: Manfred Griehl
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
PAGES:  72
PRICE: £12.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War 2, World War II, Second World War, maritime 
patrol aircraft, maritime attack aircraft, dive bomber, torpedo 
bomber, guided missiles, long range aircraft

ISBN: 1-84832-791-9

IMAGE: B2506jpg
DESCRIPTION: An addition to another popular pictorial history series. 
Text is limited to a brief introduction, captions and extended 
captions.  -  Highly Recommended.

The photo essay of Luftwaffe activity in the Atlantic includes rare 
photographs and some shot in full colour. This is another stunning 
selection of images.

When WWII opened, the Luftwaffe was better equipped than the RAF 
Coastal Command. This was partly due to inter-war year paucity of 
funding for the RAF, but mainly because the RAF had been more 
interested in denying the Royal Navy its own aviation than in 
honouring the mandate and providing it effectively through Coastal 
Command. Even the name 'Coastal Command' suggested a total lack of 
understanding of the needs for air power at sea. Fortunately the 
Royal Navy had retained full control of ships capable of launching 
aircraft at sea and, in 1938, had finally rested control of shipboard 
aviation from the RAF. There were far too few carriers and aircraft, 
but at least the RN had control of its Fleet Air Arm and had a good 
understanding of carrier aviation. However, it still needed to have 
patrol and attack capabilities from flying boats and land-based long 
range aircraft. 

The RAF considered its maritime duty could be discharged by providing 
Coastal Command with an odd job collection of old bombers and flying 
boats to patrol close to the shores of the British Isles and for a 
few remote outposts of Empire. The Sunderland flying boat was almost 
a happy accident, based on the passenger carrying Empire Flying boats, 
but in the main the flying boat force was comprised obsolete biplane 
machines that carried a poor bomb load and defensive armament at slow 
speed, seriously limiting their ability to serve as maritime attack 
aircraft. As patrol and communications aircraft on the long air 
routes of Empire, they were individually adequate, but in 
insufficient numbers. 

Land-based aircraft were no better. The RAF was primarily tasked with 
strategic bombing, a theoretic function that had yet to be tried out. 
To meet that primary duty, the RAF had to rely on light and medium 
bombers that had less than sparkling performance, range and bomb load, 
and were sitting ducks for modern metal monoplane fighters. That 
meant that the RAF could not fulfil its primary duty even with every 
bomber on strength. There was nothing available for issue to Coastal 
Command except those old obsolete bombers that were not even good 
enough to make up the numbers in Bomber Command. To that was added 
the challenge of building and deploying an adequate number of modern 
fighters for home defence. In conserving those Hurricanes and 
Spitfires that had reached the Squadrons, for what was to become the 
Battle of Britain, meant that even fighter cover for coastal convoys 
was unavailable. In the opening months and through 1940, the 
Luftwaffe had very little opposition at sea. What was encountered 
was aircraft from those carriers that were loaned to convoy escort, 
or operating with the Fleet in contested waters.

The Luftwaffe had a number of aircraft that made effective attack 
aircraft, where long range was not a requirement. The Stuka dive 
bomber was a very effective attack aircraft that could be deployed 
against capital ships and was more effective because it did not have 
to face modern fighters. The Ju 88 was able to carry an effective 
selection of weapons for use against ships, had a good speed and was 
capable of accurate bomb aiming. Even the He 111 was a useful 
maritime attack aircraft with medium range. The training of these 
crews, to closely support a fast moving mechanised army, translated 
well to maritime attack and the large modern fighter force was able 
to provide good escort service in coastal operations.

In flying boats and long range land-based aircraft, the Luftwaffe 
began WWII with good equipment and, although it suffered later, 
along with the other military units, it continued to developed new 
types and new weapons that were generally ahead of technology 
available to the Allies. The increasing deficiency came through 
protracted development periods and insufficient numbers, while the 
Allies were producing so many aircraft they could afford to transfer 
modern first line heavy bombers and very capable flying boats to 
maritime patrol and attack. They were also taking aircraft to sea in 
increasing numbers, using small effective escort carriers. That 
production capacity saw escort carriers also becoming available to 
join hunter/killer groups of anti-submarine warships. As the U-Boats 
were coming under increasingly heavy attack in the Atlantic, the 
Luftwaffe was becoming a rare sight, except in attacking the final 
stage of Allied convoys to Russia, where Luftwaffe bases in Norway 
were close to the Russian ports and attack aircraft were able to 
follow the convoys in perpetual summer daylight from West of Norway.

The first long-range Luftwaffe patrol aircraft was the Kondor, 
originally built as a fast passenger plane. It had good range 
capability, a defensive armament including 20mm canon, and an 
effective weapons load for attack. In the early days of war it 
ranged out over the Atlantic, directing U-Boats onto convoys and 
directly attacking warship escorts and merchantmen. It did have a 
technical weakness that saw main spars breaking on landing, and it 
was not available in the numbers needed to fully exploit its initial 
dominance, but it did fill a role effectively and was to later carry 
Fritz X guided bombs. Its dominance was challenged when the RN 
started operating escort carriers with US Wildcat fighters and flying 
clapped out ex-RAF Hurricanes on catapults mounted in the bows of 
merchant ships. To make things hotter for the Kondors, the RN 
continued to include MAC ships in convoys. These were merchant ships 
carrying a full cargo, but equipped with a full flight deck with 
fighters and Swordfish biplanes carried on deck, lacking only hanger 

The He 115 float plane proved an effective attack aircraft capable of 
carrying bombs and torpedoes, but the Luftwaffe also had a few giant 
Viking flying boats, more numerous Dornier and Blomm and Voss flying 
boats and a number of new Junkers designs that were built in very 
small numbers but were advanced aircraft with advanced guided weapons.

This photo essay provides a good picture of the maritime operations 
of the Luftwaffe.