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View Full Version : What was behind Russian fighters having so few guns?



Ba5tard5word
12-14-2010, 11:43 AM
I don't think I've seen it come up here. Until I played Il-2 I didn't realize that many Russian fighters had less guns than those of other nations, I guess I assumed that planes would at least have a symmetrical setup. Most Yak's and LaGG-3's just have the one cannon through the prop and then one MG set to the side, and often the ammo count for even the MG is pitifully low, forcing you to be very careful with ammo.

- Was it due to not enough guns to go around? Or was it to reduce weight? Or were the Russian guns so powerful that they figured they didn't need many of them? Someone here posted some tests they did showing that Russian MG's are more effective than any others but just having one is still tricky for me and I don't know how reflective of reality Il-2's gun damage is. The first LaGG-3 we have in Il-2 has a cannon, 2 12.7mm MG's and 2 7.67mm MG's which is a pretty fearsome load, but pretty much every plane after that has fewer guns up until the Yak-3's and La-5's which only have 3 and 2 guns respectively. Also IIRC all Russian-built planes have their guns in their nose instead of the wing, was there a design philosophy behind this?

- Seems to me like having more guns would make it easier for rookies to get hits in, and the VVS as far as I know didn't have a reputation for skilled pilots, or were they trained well enough to handle the tiny ammo count and small number of guns? Or was the VVS's policy to just throw as many planes up in the air as they could and see what happened?

JtD
12-14-2010, 12:13 PM
There's a couple of reasons, but first let's check the truth behind that statement. For a quick overview, feel free to look at this (http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/WW2guneffect.htm) site. You can see that while the Soviet standard armaments are on the low end of the scale, with an armament about as powerful as that of the Bf 109 (no gondolas) or the P-51B. However, they are not completely outclassed.

But now on to the reasons.
First would be economy, it is simply cheaper to build a plane with less guns, in particular if they have a low live expectancy like the Soviet planes mostly had.
Second would be performance, the LaGG-3 for instance had much of the armament of the early versions removed because the plane desperately needed the resulting performance boost.
Third would be the type of war fought on the Eastern front, the Soviets never faced a massive strategic bombing effort, and most of their opponents were single engine fighters, ground attack aircraft or medium bombers. These did not necessitate the heavier armament the British installed after BoB, the Germans installed to counter the Western Allies bombing campaign and the Japanese installed to counter the late war US bombing campaign.

Kurfurst__
12-14-2010, 12:33 PM
I guess the armament was considered adequate for the job. As noted, the armed-to-teeth late war German fighters-interceotors were a result of their enviroment, very large bombers that required massive structural damage, and later, overwhelming escorts that didn't allow for a second attack run.

The Soviet cannons and HMGs were excellent, lightweight and hard hitting weapons, and in fact their firepower was pretty average for a WW2 fighter, considering the technical excellence of their guns and their concentrated installation in the nose. I'd doubt that availability, IOW a shortage of guns would be a factor (in the USSR?? http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif ), but perhaps structural considerations come into play, ie. afaik Soviet fighters had entirely wooden wing structure, including the spars, and possibly this didn't allow for much installation of guns that would require a hole in the main spar.

stalkervision
12-14-2010, 02:00 PM
It is a direct result of the earlier war era when ammunition and Mg's and all kinds of weapons were in short supply.

quite frequently many soviet soldiers were sent into battle with out even a rifle or if they had one no ammo to use it.

They were instructed to grab the first available rifle or ammo found on the battle field from other dead russians.

The Soviet airforce was no different early in the war.

many times soviet pilots took off with one machine gun and limited ammo or no weaponry at all.

They were instructed to ram german aircraft inn this case or chew the germans rudders and tailplanes off with their propellers.

When more weapons became available and much more ammo this situation changed but because of this earlier situation Soviet aircraft were always light on firepower.

http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

Dance
12-14-2010, 02:23 PM
The Soviets even preferred a less is more attitude post war, the Mig 15's armament as opposed to the F-86 for instance. Although the 15 was designed as an interceptor and the cannon armament was designed to down bombers not fighters.

VW-IceFire
12-14-2010, 02:58 PM
If you look at the development of the Yak and LaGG fighters you'll see that some critical design decisions and constraints limited what was possible with the armament.

Yak and LaGG designs started out with a fairly modern but standard two machine guns in the nose and a hub mounted cannon. The LaGG had two light MGs, two heavy MGs, and a variety of cannons fitted in the very early days.

The biggest problems were then engine power and the designs of the aircraft. Compared to contemporary British designs, the Russian fighters had smaller wings and the wings rarely changed sizes very much so wing loading was definitely higher. With only the Klimov inline making between 1000hp and 1200hp there wasn't much to work with. While the Germans and everyone else were pushing the power levels up significantly... it took longer for the Russians to get the more powerful engines.

So combine these design factors/constraints... the way to make high performing fighters was to remove everything but the necessary components. So a cannon for heavy hitting and single heavy machine gun as a backup was all that was absolutely necessary to shoot down enemy aircraft. In the case of the long range Yak-9DD only the cannon was retained with the MG removed.

Later when there was more powerful engines available you saw the armament increase. The La5 got twin ShVAK 20mm and the La7 was eventually modified to fit three of the lightweight B20 cannons. The all metal La9 had four B20s crammed into the nose. The Yak-9U got the extra machine gun back that had been missing since the Yak-7B.

Also the Yak-3 was sufficiently light weight that the added machine gun could be added without causing a huge performance hit despite using essentially the same engine as the earlier Yaks.

Also you have to give credit for the late war B20 cannon which was very light weight compared to the ShVAK 20mm cannon and is similar overall to the Berezin UB 12.7mm machine gun.

CzechTexan
12-14-2010, 07:27 PM
Icefire has the best and most informative answer.

The major factor was for aircraft performance. Soviet aircraft designed in the earlier years struggled with weight problems. The best remedy was to remove guns and any excess equipment.

The progression of the LaGG-3 is a great example of this method. By 1943, the LaGG was a much different a/c than the one in 1941, due to lightening, removing of guns, and more horsepower.

Another opinion could be that they didn't want wasted ammunition. Instead, take good aim at the target and make every round count.

M_Gunz
12-14-2010, 10:43 PM
Don't forget the effect of the higher rate of fire and generally equal or higher velocity of the Russian UBS and cannon.
Check Tony Williams site, every rehash on this topic should include references from there, good solid info.

Xiolablu3
12-15-2010, 02:56 AM
They were generally smaller and lighter than those of other nations. 40 mins of endurance is the shortest of a modern fighter in WW2 I believe. Spitfire and Bf109 had just over an hour on internal fuel IIRC

Wildnoob
12-15-2010, 08:03 AM
Originally posted by VW-IceFire:
Also the Yak-3 was sufficiently light weight that the added machine gun could be added without causing a huge performance hit despite using essentially the same engine as the earlier Yaks.

Don't forget that starting in April of 1945, the P version started to be produced with x3 B-20 cannons.

About the Soviet planes, well, the three early war modern designs were designed as specific planes in the following way:

Yak-1: fighter for low and medium altitude. I guess there's nothing insufficiente with the Yakovlev's design. At the time the tendency for fighters was the inline liquid cooled engine, which was rather vulnerable in spite of the gain of performance the designers thought it would provide by the lesser drag from the frontal area. Also for 1941 the armamment was by not way lighter. The Bf 109 F had initially a 15mm MG 151/15 cannon and two MG 17 light mg's. The Soviet fighter had a clear advantage here with the single ShVAK cannon and two ShKAS mg's. Starting the Yak-1B, the armamment was improved with the removal of the ShVAK's and the add of a single Berezin heavy machine gun. In reflex, the Bf 109 also had a improvemment in armamment, with the removal of the mg's and add of two MG 131 heavy ones, too. Surely it a comparable armamment for these two main opponents. Against the Focke Wulf on the other hand, things could be more hard if the pilot was not skillful enought to shoot with precision and at close range. Anyway, a good burst at the cockpit and/or engine area was in most cases enough to sent the guy down.

LaGG-3: intended to destroy bombers and ground targets. This plane had a heavy armamment from the start and could fulfill it's task very well. But later the armamment was cutted for performance reasons (not to mention the production issues that plagued badly this plane start plane). Still it was the same armamment as the one of the Yak-1B. Against most German planes it was adequated if well used.

La-5/7: same thing as my last line for one above. Late in the war, especially against the Fw 190 the firepower was starting to become insufficient, so the La-7 was improved to the x3 B-20 cannons. Although the production of models with this armamment started only in the end of the war and not many planes saw combat with it.

Mig-3: meant to fight at high altitude and intercept bombers. Really the armmment of this plane was weak. A handful of them were fited with ShVAK cannons. I guess the designers thought it would later have an improved firepower and actually had it. Altough only in a handful of production planes as I already said. If we considerate these twin cannons plus the fact the Germans used mostly twin engine medium bombers like the He-111 and the Ju-88, yes, it was acceptable. But the actual fact of the Mig-3 was that most versions were really handicapped in firepower.

I Think the firepower was in most cases enough for Soviet planes the problem was capable pilots in aerial gunnery.

horseback
12-15-2010, 01:27 PM
I get the impression from reading Soviet era descriptions of the aircrafts' development that the primary concerns were weight and space for the guns and ammo. Wooden, or largely wooden airframes weighed more than their metal alloy equivalents, and the basic Soviet aircraft engines tended to be less powerful and harder to cool than their German/Western counterparts.

Couple that with the prejudice that a fighter must be small, sleek and single engined, add Stalin's lack of concern about casualties; basically, that an individual pilot or plane would be thought of as one of a hundred thousand interchangeable parts--it only need last long enough to to the job. Thus, the concept of a pilot and aircraft needing any more than a minimum of firepower/firing time could be countered by simply sending more pilots and airplanes to do the job. It's that "quantity has a quality of its own" mentality at work.

By the time that the Soviets had the capability of more powerful and lighter aircraft, their doctrine called for less firepower and firing time; they didn't correct that until almost after the war, when their jets and some later prop fighters were up-gunned considerably over early war standards.

Certainly, the MiG 15 was considerably more heavily armed than the Sabre over Korea.

cheers

horseback

Woke_Up_Dead
12-15-2010, 02:15 PM
The theory that fewer guns improved weight and performance makes most sense, the Soviets even removed wing guns from the P-39's they received.

ImpStarDuece
12-15-2010, 03:58 PM
Originally posted by stalkervision:
It is a direct result of the earlier war era when ammunition and Mg's and all kinds of weapons were in short supply.

quite frequently many soviet soldiers were sent into battle with out even a rifle or if they had one no ammo to use it.

They were instructed to grab the first available rifle or ammo found on the battle field from other dead russians.



This is an unfortunate myth perpetuated by some of the more sensationalist 1950s and 1960s Cold War influenced histories and trash like Enemy at the Gates.

There were penal batallions that were forced into combat wit minimal ammunition ammunition, but regular troops were reasonably well armed and equipped, to some extent better than their German counterparts, particularly from 1943 onwards.

There are exceptions to this, particularly in formations that were cut off from resupply in the great battles of encirclement in 1941/1942. Troops would often scavenge ammunition from the dead, a practice not unknown in the German, US and British armies of the period either.

However, as a general rule, the suicidal 'grab the weapons off the dead' tactics were not used.

LEBillfish
12-15-2010, 06:09 PM
Lets consider something else that most likely would not be part of the logic past seeing the results.

In IL2 dogfights might last for a half hour, players only running when out of ammo or fuel. In fact contrary to r/l where if a pilot sees 5 opponents he may say "kewl, can ace it in one sortie", r/l they'd be high tailing it home.

It would be my guess that most dogfights only lasted seconds against one or two opponents. Oh sure, there are always exceptions. Yet here when we talk about evading to go back with advantage and hit them again, then again....Most tales I've read are "saw him on my 6, evaded and raced home"..."got a kill and high tailed it home"..."we dove on 10 ememy, everyone going in different directions...in 30 seconds couldn't see another plane in the sky".

So if aircraft are coming home with ammo and lots of it, or speaking of kills with little ammo or few guns.....Yet it in reality in that dogfights would not last that long so having few chances.

Then why heavy up an aircraft with tons of guns and ammo that won't be used?

K2

VW-IceFire
12-15-2010, 07:48 PM
Originally posted by CzechTexan:
Icefire has the best and most informative answer.

The major factor was for aircraft performance. Soviet aircraft designed in the earlier years struggled with weight problems. The best remedy was to remove guns and any excess equipment.

The progression of the LaGG-3 is a great example of this method. By 1943, the LaGG was a much different a/c than the one in 1941, due to lightening, removing of guns, and more horsepower.

Another opinion could be that they didn't want wasted ammunition. Instead, take good aim at the target and make every round count.
Thanks http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

You may be right about the limited ammo as well. The Russians experimented with different calibres and options in an effort to see what gave them the biggest bang for the buck. I also think they assumed that the average pilot at best would be able to down a single aircraft in a battle so there was enough ammo to satisfy that given an average accuracy rate.

There was a lot of experimentation with 20mm, 23mm, 37mm, 45mm and so forth to see what the best combinations were. Even late in the war there were numerous variations.

Romanator21
12-15-2010, 07:58 PM
In IL2 dogfights might last for a half hour, players only running when out of ammo or fuel. In fact contrary to r/l where if a pilot sees 5 opponents he may say "kewl, can ace it in one sortie", r/l they'd be high tailing it home.

That's because our lives are not on the line. And because of this it's more "fun" to have unrealistic dogfights. The majority of online servers are devoted this style.

I don't think a lot of people want to fly for a long time, constantly stressed out if they're going to be bounced or not, just to have a fight which lasts a few seconds.

My Ju-87 coop failed miserably, maybe for that reason.

My favorite though is when people high-tail it and say in chat "don't shoot, I'm out of ammo" as they turn on their lights 10 miles from base.

Well, ya should'a thought about that earlier when you had the ammo! I can't explain why I don't just thrash them right there, laughing maniacally. (Actually, last time I did that, they complained that I was "abusing" the landing-light code of immunity).


This is an unfortunate myth perpetuated by some of the more sensationalist 1950s and 1960s Cold War influenced histories and trash like Enemy at the Gates.

A person asked my mother if in the USSR they put new-borns in ice-water (by cutting a hole in the top of a frozen lake) in order to weed out the weak ones. My mother responded, that it was true, and that bears roamed the streets of the cities. That lady didn't get it, and simply stared, mouth open. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

VW-IceFire
12-15-2010, 08:18 PM
I always tell people who put their lights on that I assumed that they were calling for help from their friends and the lights were to signal them.

I know the other meanings but that one is just as valid. Often they shut up http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

PhantomKira
12-16-2010, 01:37 AM
landing-light code of immunity

That's got to be one of the goofiest things I've ever heard! Understand, I'm a bit of a realism nut. "Landing light immunity". Seriously??? What do they think this is? A game? http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

M_Gunz
12-16-2010, 04:52 AM
If it's server rules then time to find a different server. There is room for that kind of play because someone made it so. It's your choice to stay around or not but don't knock em just cause they're dweebish and weird. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

M_Gunz
12-16-2010, 06:50 AM
Originally posted by Woke_Up_Dead:
The theory that fewer guns improved weight and performance makes most sense, the Soviets even removed wing guns from the P-39's they received.

In the early war they were trying poorly to keep up with 109's only sometimes better armed but always longer legged.
In the early war, the Russians had trouble getting enough planes that could intercept fast bombers.

TheCrux
12-16-2010, 12:24 PM
Originally posted by Woke_Up_Dead:
The theory that fewer guns improved weight and performance makes most sense, the Soviets even removed wing guns from the P-39's they received.

Yes, they did the same with the early ( pre "E" model ) P-40's as well. I read a great interview by a VVS pilot who flew several A/C types not too long ago...it's probably still available online ) where he said that while they were flying P-40's they removed the 4 0.30 caliber guns from the wings, retaining just the 2 cowl mounted .050 cal / 12.7mm guns. The interviewer seemed surprised and asked the the pilot if that was enough armament. The pilot replied most emphatically that it was more than enough. In fact I do remember he replied after yet another inquiry "If you can't hit something with 2 guns, you won't hit something with 5".

In fact, I just found it, part 2 of 4: http://lend-lease.airforce.ru/...golodnikov/part2.htm (http://lend-lease.airforce.ru/english/articles/golodnikov/part2.htm)

Here's the same site with scores of fascinating info and interviews: http://lend-lease.airforce.ru/...h/articles/index.htm (http://lend-lease.airforce.ru/english/articles/index.htm)

PhantomKira
12-16-2010, 01:47 PM
^^ Nice find, and a good read.

@M_Guns: "dweebish and weird" You said it, not me! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

@VW-Icefire: I'm aware of the "I surrender" meaning of lowering one's gear after having violated someone's airspace. What are the other meanings?