European Front Reports

RAF squadrons are calling the Bell Airacobra "The best pursuit plane in the air …. Better than anything we or the Germans have in operation," according to United Press dispatch. Some pilots told UP that RAF had removed the 37-mm cannon from the Airacobra and replaced it with 20-mm gun because they wanted faster shooting and more rounds of ammunition. Whether this change has been general is not told.

Shell guns on airplanes are proving extremely destructive, to enemy planes and to ground objectives. They penetrate the boilers of railroad locomotives and ships, putting them out of business. They've been knocking out "invasion" barges, too.

Two thirds of the American Eagle Squadron in England learned to fly in the CPTP, according to a report from Harold Strickland, a Chicagoan now with AES in London, to the Civil Aeronautics Authority. Boys who first hopped in a Cub 12 months ago are now hitting the Jerries.

A Martin B-10 bomber of the Netherlands Army was forced down in the Java Sea, floated for an unstated time until rescue planes arrived. Martin officials long have claimed that this airplane would float at least 48 hours.

Early in November, the Russians transported "several divisions" of ski troops from the Ural Mountains up to the Moscow front. A division might be 10,000 to 25,000 men. Thus the Russians may have airborne what amounts to an army. Armies may some day move in the air, as the Marines now move on water, and strategists everywhere are thinking about the possibility.

A Bristol Blenheim, making a low-level attack on a Nazi convoy off Holland, was hit in the starboard engine by a shell. The plane hit the water, dipped its propellers, but, almost incredibly, stayed in the air and, after smacking the water once more, got home, "making some remarkable noises."

The Hurricane II is armed with 12 machine guns or four 20-mm cannon, the most heavily gunned fighter in service. It has a two-speed supercharger which is said to give it a higher ceiling than the eight-gun Hurricane I, a better rate of climb at high levels, and better top speed. The Messerschmitt 109F, newest version, has one 15-mm cannon and two machine guns. The cannon, however, fires at rate of 900 rounds per minute.

The British Beaufighter, a twin-engined fighting ship, has four cannon, presumably 20-mm size, and six machine guns, probably including some .50-caliber.

Society of British Aircraft Constructors says that German airplane manufacture is now extended to its limit, but they admit they do not know what reserves the Germans have on hand. SBAC says its own construction program will soon turn the Battle of Britain into the Battle of Germany. A recent census shows that about 30 percent of all the British aircraft workers are women.

The Russians are showing up with hundreds of a new bomber of the YAK-4 type, said by the British to be extremely fast and devastating. Persons who watch reports on Nazi-Russ air action observe that claims of planes destroyed on both sides are now sometimes only 10 or 15 a day, as against previous bags of over a hundred a day. They wonder whether both sides' air forces are so badly depleted that few planes are engaged. This seems improbable.

Conflicting with reports of more and more speed in fighting planes on the front, are other reports of a tendency to sacrifice speed for other advantages. Certain it is that human endurance of blackout and pressure on internal organs due to turns and pullouts has about reached its limit, unless the flight medicos find some remedy.

This report is excerpted from the "Aviation Defense" column in the December, 1941, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 40, no 12, p 145.