Home Forums WWII Firing small arms at aircraft

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  • #156332
    Sane Max
    Participant

    ‘lo

    My family were watching ‘Dunkirk’. I am doubly blessed – 3 daughters, and they all like a good movie regardless of what it’s about.

    So youngest asked a question – ‘why don’t all those men with rifles shoot at the stuka? There’s a lot of them, wouldn’t it just possibly help?’

    What’s the general answer? I know naff all about air warfare, but given how low and slow a stuka got, and given that it was diving AT them, so no need for deflection shooting, wouldn’t there be a fair chance of doing some harm?

     

     

    #156337
    Stephen Holmes
    Participant

    The RAF considered 8 browning machineguns (1150 rounds per minute each) necessary to knock down enemy aircraft.

    The bullet is the same as the PBI’s rifle, but you would need a lot of Tommies to match that volume of lead.

    Light AA fire served more to hurry enemy aircraft and prevent them loitering over a target, there was little expectation of causing kills.

    Only automatic weapons were provided with specialized AA sights.

     

    Weird Fact: The Japanese service rifle (Arisaka) was issued with a crude anti-aircraft sight.

    #156338
    Nathaniel Weber
    Participant

    I’m sure a freak bit of luck could happen (ground fire caused a lot of attrition), but infantry small arms then, mostly not automatic, probably aren’t gonna generate enough firepower to make it worth the risk to the troops, not to mention the nerve aspect of troops without cover standing and firing rather than hitting the deck.

    #156341
    McKinstry
    Participant

    The ‘big sky, little airplane’ theory is usually pretty good except when enough stuff gets tossed into the air the opportunity for Murphy’s Law increases. When I was doing my Southeast Asian tour, I know pilots and crew used to refer to some fellow on the ground getting simply dumb lucky as a Golden BB.

    Also the lower and slower the airframe getting shot at, the greater the effect of small arms. The US lost over 5,000 helicopters and the majority were not to traditional AAA.

    The tree of Life is self pruning.

    #156345
    jeffers
    Participant

    My understanding was that in the retreat to Dunkirk the BEF was cut off from a lot of its supplies: the ammunition that was available was redistributed to those troops defending the perimeter. The priority was getting people out, rather than delivering more ammo that would probably be lost, so most of the AA defence was from the RN off the coast and RAF inland. Once the army AA ran out of ammo it was ‘spiked’.

    More nonsense on my blog: http://battle77.blogspot.com/

    #156390
    MartinR
    Participant

    The answer to the OP is that, yes, there were drills for conducting AA  fire with small arms with both rifles and LMGs. Whether anyone on the beaches at Dunkirk had the unit cohesion, inclination and surplus ammo to do this is anyone’s guess. It was recognised that it wasn’t going to be hugely effective, but plenty of planes were downed by SA fire in WW1. iirc 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment claimed to have downed two Argentinian jets in the Falklands with massed SLR and GPMG fire.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #156392
    Etranger
    Participant
    #156397
    jeffers
    Participant

    Regardless of drill:

    “As retreating units came into the perimeter, they were instructed to destroy vehicles and heavy equipment and in many cases, they were relieved of ammunition and automatic weapons by the rearguard soldiers to bolster the defender’s armoury.”

    From here: http://dunkirk1940.org/index.php?&p=1_17

    There’s the answer for your youngest. 😄

    More nonsense on my blog: http://battle77.blogspot.com/

    #156419
    John D Salt
    Participant

    iirc 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment claimed to have downed two Argentinian jets in the Falklands with massed SLR and GPMG fire.

    Since I have just been trawling through the excellent “Falklands — The Air War” by Burden, Draper, Rough, Smith and Wilton, I can fling in the factoid that two Argentine aircraft were downed by small-arms fire.

    2 Para shot down a Pucara on 28 May 82; the pilot, Teniente Cruzado, ejected safely and was captured

    Keith Mills’ RM detachment shot down a Puma at Grytviken on 03 Apr 1982; the crew were OK but 2 passengers were killed and others wounded.

    Two out of 64 enemy aircraft destroyed may not seem a lot, but it is better than any of the British GBAD missiles. McKinstry’s point about lowness and slowness is borne out by the fact that neither small-arms shootdown was a fast jet.

    [Edited to add…]

    Having just had a gander at British losses, small arms are actually the best-performing air defence means the Argentines seem to have had. Of 8 air kills, the scores are Roland 1, Blowpipe 1, Pucara 1, 35mm AAA 2, and small-arms 3, bagging two Gazelles and a Harrier (although the Harrier was a long kill; Sqn Ldr Jerry Pook was eventually forced to bail out because a bullet had caused a fuel leak). Again, small arms do better than any of the GBAD missiles.

    All the best,

    John.

    #156435
    Darkest Star Games
    Participant

    Well, we know AKs can shoot down planes.  In January of 1968 a pair of North Vietnamese AN-2 biplanes were knocked down when they attacked the secret Lima Site 85 TACAN radar in Laos.  One one shot down by a Thai guard as it dove in to attack and the other was shot down when a UH-1 helo delivering supplies caught up to it and a crewman hosed it with an Ak-47.  Probably some of the most rare aerial victories in history.

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    #156439
    Sane Max
    Participant

    all very interesting stuff – ‘they could have, might have worked but a long shot – but most of them had almost no ammunition’ – good general answer?

    #156447
    MartinR
    Participant

    A brief google reveals that the Luftwaffe mounted almost 4,000 sorties over Dunkirk, and lost 100 aircraft, so presumably someone was shooting them down.  I am sure that between them 300,000 soldiers might have managed to hit the odd plane with small arms.

    Interestingly, the bulk of the 120 Stukas lost overall were lost to ground fire – ‘low and slow’.

     

     

     

     

     

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #156448
    John D Salt
    Participant

    all very interesting stuff – ‘they could have, might have worked but a long shot – but most of them had almost no ammunition’ – good general answer?

    A small and evil voice in my head is suggesting the anachronistic, doctrine-piggish and wildly misleading answer

    “Because their weapon control state is Weapons Tight”

    or, more wargamerly but equally wildly misleading

    “Because the WRG 1925-50 rules say “Anti-aircraft fire is limited to proper flak weapons or pivot-mounted M.G. H.M.G, or cannon”, and you don’t want to argue with Phil Barker.”

    All the best,

    John.

    #156449
    jeffers
    Participant

    Yes, Max. That’s the good general answer. The ammunition was of more use on the perimeter, as were Brens etc.

    More nonsense on my blog: http://battle77.blogspot.com/

    #156466
    deephorse
    Participant

    A brief google reveals that the Luftwaffe mounted almost 4,000 sorties over Dunkirk, and lost 100 aircraft, so presumably someone was shooting them down. I am sure that between them 300,000 soldiers might have managed to hit the odd plane with small arms. Interestingly, the bulk of the 120 Stukas lost overall were lost to ground fire – ‘low and slow’.

    The problem with brief Googling is that it won’t necessarily give you the true picture.  My attempt at this brought back figures of “under 100” German aircraft lost, and RAF Fighter Command claims of 97 German aircraft shot down.  So from this can we conclude that no-one on the ground shot down any aircraft, and that the RAF got them all?

    I think the 120 Stukas were lost during the course of the entire campaign, and it’s not particularly surprising when one considers their role, and the fact that they didn’t start to carry any armour plate until after the Battle of Britain IIRC.

    Less enthusiasm, please. This is Britain.

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