Jerry's field of fire

by J D Freudy

To men who go up and at 'em it's the range of Jerry's guns — not the number — that counts

One burst of hot lead from a wicked little gun hidden away under the fuselage of a Jerry plane can be more deadly than the most formidable concentration of firepower — if the Allied opponent doesn't know that gun is there. Know what you are up against and half your battle is won. Know the enemy's fields of fire and no matter how effective his firepower, you are still at least one jump ahead of the game.

Blind spots on a warplane are spaces between various cones of fire. Such spots leave the bomber vulnerable to enemy attack, but most bombers today are designed to avoid them by having the cones of fire overlap and as many guns as possible firing in one cone. Of course, if a bomber is highly maneuverable, it can protect itself by side-slipping or otherwise maneuvering to avoid exposing its blind spots to enemy fire. But here we are concerned chiefly with plane armament and cones of fire.

For example, the Heinkel 111 and He-115 are not adequately defended, having two large blind sections along the front. They have been replaced on vital fronts by more heavily armed bombers.

The Junkers 88s are also open to oblique frontal attack. The crew is grouped in the nose with the top rear gunners almost back to back with the pilot and the top machine guns stuck through holes in the rear glass of the cabin. An armored structure under the nose affords some protection from attack from below. But our planes can come down at an oblique angle on the front of either wing and easily remain outside the cones of fire covered by the front and side guns. However, the Ju-88s are now being supplanted by the Ju-188 and Ju-288, which are much more heavily armed, having two or more gun turrets — one nose turret, one 13-mm top turret.

The old Dornier 215 is very vulnerable to frontal attack. But this ship has been replaced by the streamlined Do-217E Flying Pencil, a formidable defensive proposition. The Do-217E bristles with single flexibly-mounted guns, boasts at least one movable 20-mm cannon, plus one fixed 15-mm cannon firing forward. Even this heavily armed aircraft, however, has its weak spots. The rear air just aft of the tail, for example, is not covered by the field of fire of any gun.

Impressively armed and comparable to our B-17 Fortress is the German Focke-Wulf 200K, which has no actual blind spots.

Time was — and not so long ago — when the Nazis aimed chiefly at speed and simplification of production, had only scorn for the complicated English and American designs which called for power turrets and heavy armament. But recent months have brought forth new German bombers with many guns and turrets and fierce concentration of firepower. Despite the havoc we have wreaked upon her factories, Germany is trying to beat us at our own production game. Now, with the invasion in full swing, the final showdown is soon to come.

This article was originally published in the August, 1944, issue of Air News magazine, vol 7, no 2, pp 21-23.
In addition to the 8 field-of-fire diagrams shown above, the original article includes diagrams for Ju-52 Tante Ju transport and Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber.