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Death By Day - Bomber Command Over the Ruhr

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Death By Day - Bomber Command Over the Ruhr - 4/22/2020 3:59:58 AM   


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In an AAR that is currently underway, there is a good bit of discussion going on as to the viability of responding to Bomber Command going to daylight, and whether the mechanics fundamentally undermine a realistic result.

In essence the argument goes that it is unrealistically suicidal for the Germans to try to fight off BC doing daylight bombing in the Ruhr due to three items:

1. Fighter Sweeps that RAF fighter command did not do, but players will, cause exorbitant losses on the Germans.
2. Allied Nightfighters perform well by day.
3. German NFs don't.

Since its an MP game, neither one of us want to try something stupid to test. Fortunately, we have our previous game on file - which shows some pretty standard strategies and an outcome.


I am using my opponent's file for turn 4, running both his typical fighter sweep over the Ruhr, and his typical BC bombing mission after adjusting for his preferred morale cut off of 52. I have swapped the attack plan from night to day, but otherwise left the details of the AD unadjusted.

FC Sweep

BC Day Raid in The Ruhr - notice that 110 NF escorts are following ~350 heavy bombers, a high escort ratio.

Parameters - LW

On the assumption that the German player has been witnessing this happen and wants to do something about it, I planned a Xhoel style air ambush. The NF were already in place around the Ruhr, but have been switched to daylight intercepts, and the single engine fighters were flown into Ruhr bases and put onto the intercept orders in the same turn. This represents LW Reich committing 25/68 air groups with 17 day FBs and 8 NFs. They were organized in a single tight AS AD over the reasonably suspected target, the center of the Ruhr.

The Ambush

Results - RAF

Both bomber command and fighter command got hammered. About one third of the bombers (over 100 in all runs) were shot down, as were two thirds of the night fighters (65+ in all runs) , and just below half of the committed spitfires (over 85 in all runs.)

This represents 1/7th of the entire British bomber fleet (100+/728 aircraft), 4/9ths of BCs nightfighters (65+/144 aircraft), and 1/6th of fighter command (85+/480 aircraft.) in every run. On some outliers the numbers can go higher by up to 30 aircraft in a given category.

Results - LW

The long stream of engagements doesn't photo well, but there's a sample below. The price isn't cheap - somewhere between 80-90 aircraft losses in each run, with a corresponding loss 55-65 pilots, - but represents 5-6% of the LW Reich's available fighters and NFs (1483 aircraft.)

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RE: Death By Day - Bomber Command Over the Ruhr - 4/22/2020 4:19:41 AM   


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Now, you may conclude what you will about the strategic implications, but the fundamental issue - does the combat model prohibit a defense of the Ruhr by day - is pretty clearly addressed. If you put the same effort into killing the BC by day that you would intercepting one hotspot for 8th AAF, it will be murderous for both the bombers and the night fighters. And it won't be a great day for Spitfires at the limits of their tanks. And that sounds right, in terms of modelling the combat.

The strategic issues come down to do you take an accelerated loss rate in the LW to slow down the allied air war gain in '43. For comparison, in an earlier game where my opponent conducted night bombing, he had lost ~650 heavy bombers from BC by February of '44. The Germans had, by comparison, lost about ~550 Zestroyer/NF aircraft, and ~2150 non-Italian single engine fighters across all fronts - an average of 93 planes a turn.

(in reply to GloriousRuse)
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RE: Death By Day - Bomber Command Over the Ruhr - 4/22/2020 7:15:27 AM   


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That's interesting. It means that a small packets approach is not effective : to achieve results you have to massively commit air defense assets. Especially the first raid over Essen : 833 LW fighters committed !

Makes sense.

Now it would be intersting to have loki's opinion on this ! And it's just ONE case of successful interceptions so the test would have to be carried out over a longer period (and you may not have the time to do this, as I understand that besides this, you have an invasion to carry out elsewhere ;-)

(in reply to GloriousRuse)
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RE: Death By Day - Bomber Command Over the Ruhr - 4/22/2020 7:45:18 AM   

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From: Utlima Thule
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few comments.

a) don't think this says anything about the efficacy or otherwise of German NF at day, there were so many conventional axis fighters around that they were protected. In the original game, one turn GR made a mistake and put his NF up over the day and my usual FC operation slaughtered them - we agreed that was a turn to redo.

b) doesn't address the long term. Either the Luftwaffe stays over the Ruhr and 8 AAF wreaks havoc or you move it around. This cat and mouse is a standard part of 1943 [1] and both sides will mix up their deployments partly looking for something that works and partly hoping for a turn when it all comes together. In the current game I've run mixes of all in the same zone, layered defenses to strip out drop tanks so that the bombers are then unprotected, AS, auto-intercept, 3 similar size clusters. I've had a few good weeks and mostly not - and its luck in effect which of that pattern pays off.

c) this doesn't answer the core question. BC by day will net more VP than BC by night. The occasional awful week may slow this, but at the cost that 8AAF gets a free rein, and also those weeks when the entire allied airforce goes where the Luftwaffe isn't. Xhoel's approach in the end paid off as (i) his opponent seems to have not grasped the importance of sustained pressure; and, (ii) he knew that at some stage the Allied player would have to address the escalating loss of U-Boat VPs. Most allied players keep whacking the U-boats simply to avoid building up that sort of obvious point of commitment - as in our last game, I was happy to run this with marginal parts of 8AAF, accept the inevitable losses and return for more 3 turns late. GR has done it in a more systemic way but both approaches avoids the utterly obvious mission run in an attempt to redeem a major problem.

[1] - in effect, this in a full game is a good guess at a likely operation but esp if BC is going in by day it is less tied to the Ruhr, if your opponent had decided on Hannover this week all those German fighters would be wondering what all the fuss was about. That is the risk of the all in one place defense - it can be devastating when it pays off, it can leave you feeling rather silly if the Allies go somewhere else

edit - now of course, if the axis player uses the single tight AS model and gets lucky, well they can trash BC one turn, 8 AAF the next and leave the allied player really struggling to get a viable campaign going. So a low probability/high reward strategy, which is fine if it comes off. The more likely outcome is 9 turns out of 10 you miss the main bombing focus completely ..

< Message edited by loki100 -- 4/22/2020 8:52:29 AM >


(in reply to EddyBear81)
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RE: Death By Day - Bomber Command Over the Ruhr - 4/23/2020 2:13:44 AM   


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An item of clarification - that is actually a 500x aircraft AS for the LW, which I now see the photo doesn't show. The allied battle report is inflating the numbers pretty dramatically. To that end, the LW basically has enough aircraft to either set two of these up, set one truly massive thousand fighter attack up (you struggle to base more than this close enough to matter), and leave 400 second class formations as the thin cover else where.

As to Loki's well made points:

A) Yes, this does not prove the night fighters are efficacious. They seem to operate much like the ZGs, which makes sense given they are mostly the same airframes. Alone, they are easy meat. Packed in behind single engine fighters, they add some serious killing weight to the mission. To the allied side though, it is clear that the Mosquitos and Beaufighters mostly rely on outnumbering the smaller intercepts the Germans send up and don't have the weight of numbers or aircraft performance to stay in a contested day campaign. Half of BC's inventory is gone in one bad raid. I dare say 110 P-38s would have killed more and lost less in this exchange - and had far more replacements coming down the pipe.

B) The long term question is one of strategy. BC east of the Ruhr no longer has FC sweeping for it, and is very exposed to a daylight hit as a result. At which point it is playing 8th AAF cat and mouse, only with worse tools for the job. Or the 8th re-designates its precious long range escorts to assist BC, opening up holes somewhere else. If the allies pull it off successfully, it isn't because the combat model screwed the Germans. If BC stays over the Ruhr under FC coverage, they telegraph pretty hard and the odds of taking a crippling hit like this go up. Moreover, the decision loop allows the Germans to put in an air ambush and then redeploy or go to ground before the next allied decision.

As for the Germans, it means putting more of the LW on the line in '43. But that isn't inherently invalid - the combat model lets them deal killer hits to the BC by day if done well, presumably slowing VP gain down. And if the German is willing to concede the day time airspace when the combat model is legitimate, he is doing it for strategic reasons.

Essentially, BC going in by day ups the risk ante, and the German has to stay in the hand or fold. And so long as staying in the hand is not unrealistically constrained by the game mechancis, it is a plyer decision driving who gets what VPs, not a mechanical error.

C) As far as VP, as your trials concluded, day bombing does more damage per bomb dropped. Which seems accurate to reality. This higher per bomb drop comes at the risk of annihilation that the brits have a longer refill delay on. I guess the point here is that we reward players with VP for achieving things. If the BC can bomb in daylight while the combat model says they take serious risks for doing so, it means they've achieved air superiority over west Germany by '43 - well exceeding their historical analogs. That is a success, just like taking Rome before June of '44. The fact that they earn more VP for a success, given the combat model isn't handing it to them by default, seems to be in keeping with the idea of VP? I agree that there are political and organizational constraints that would have changed this course of action in reality, but that is true of a great many of the decisions WitW lets players make.

(in reply to loki100)
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