Saturday, 5 January 2013

Big Wing theory?

TrT is reading some old notes (Yes, I am rockstar) and has come across "Big Wing" theory again.


Now, as I frequently point out, I have no practical experience of these matters, but "big" and "little" wings are not competitors, they are mutually supportive.

Group your light/fast fighters into small groups, their purpose is to ensure that every incoming bomber wing faces at least some resistance.
At the time, it didnt take much to force a bomber off course, with navigation limited to a compass and a guess at speed, any damage, or evasive maneuver would introduce errors into navigation, and the earlier they were introduced, the greater the eventual margin of error when the bombs were released.

Group your heavy/slow fighters into large groups, their purpose is to ensure some incoming bomber wings face total losses, or as near as.

Note, numbers made up

I've never really had anything back me up on this, but I am convinced that an experienced fighting force can lose 50% of its man power, have them replaced with recruits fresh out of basic and suffer only a minimal loss of its combat effectiveness.
A unit that loses 80% of its manpower is destroyed as a fighting force.  The "veteran" soldiers force multiplication effect is overwhelmed by the force division effect of the newbies.

Hence my view that efforts should be put in to destroying sub units as thoroughly as possible.


  1. Historically, good divisions usually yielded after taking 10-20% casualties. Extremely stubborn divisions kept fighting to about 40% casualties.
    50% casualties works only if there's no way to escape, for at 50% almost every army formation would have lost practically all its combat troops. Don't treat the troops as equals.

    Combat troops are not homogeneous either. 20% losses among combat troops can suffice to stymie all offensive efforts!

    Also don't assume TO&Es as static. A melted force will temporarily disband subdivisions. Battalions may end up having having two instead of four companies, with two instead of four platoons each. This weakens your 80% guess, for the ratio of veterans to newbies can be selected by adapting the TO&E.

    In the end, I came to a different conclusion: Army manoeuvre formations (brigades) are likely to lose many of their combat troops and go into a recovery phase (a rotation well known from World Wars) if they face capable opposition.

    My conclusion isn't about the thorough destruction of small units (the bulk of the trained troops - the support troops - would still get away), but rather a shattering of high-level organised resistance with subsequent annihilation of the whole formation. (Almost) no escape of support troops.

    Breaking the few combat troops is the big stunt, so when you do it you should also bag the many more support troops.

    You need an encirclement or a close substitute for this.

    About big wings; note how years after the Battle of Britain Galland worked fiercely on assembling a fighter force (and fuel stocks) for one big blow against 8th AF bombers in 1944. 500+ fighters were considered necessary to deal a blow sufficient to stall the bomber offensive for a while.

    These fighters did not need to attack all at once, but the effects are cumulating (bombers and escorts run out of ammo, escorts run out of fuel due to high power dogfights and early release of drop tanks, damaged bombers become downed bombers etc.).

    It was also common tactic to combine two fighter groups (each about 30 fighters) against the 8th AF raids; one against bombers and one as anti-escort escort.

    The big wing tactic was probably impractical in 1940 due to the small depth available to the British, but this was an exception to the rule of its effectiveness.

  2. True enough regarding the different types of man within a brigade.

    But in the case of a bomber wing, its much more difficult to slip away.

    Although trying to crush an entire Air Army in a few days would be an impressive achievement, my point was more to do with wiping out individual squadrons.

    Its better to wipe out half of the squadrons, than to shoot down half of the bombers of all of the squadrons.

    Or so I believe anyway.


Go **** yourself