Potentially game changing WWII technologies - if they had matured more quickly

#21
Medicine and treatment. Not just in the battlefield sense, but for those supporting the war effort at home too. I imagine that would have put us far ahead of any adversary, simply by having more healthy bodies and a better way of fixing those who have suffered.

Also, smaller calibre select fire weapons. In fact, you can keep all your tanks and artillery. The ability to put 30 rounds down within a few seconds from a hand held, lightweight, magazine fed weapon with low recoil - across your entire force - was a huge development.
 

Sixty

ADC
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#22
such as? I mean, WW2 saw the move from biplane fighters to swept wing jets, the Battle to the B-29, from 250lb GP bombs to Fat Man and Tallboy. and that's just on the air warfare side of things.
Warfare in the air, if we're going down that route, came of age. Tanks, obviously, but also accepting they were a bit clunky. Submarines. Artillery usage.

Not to mention tactical and strategic evolution that saw the BEF move to being the finest Army that the UK ever fielded over three and a bit short years.
 

goodoldboy

MIA
Book Reviewer
#23
The list is vast in the UK's case. From decent footwear, breathable waterproof fabrics and Velcro; through advanced diesel engines and swimming tanks that could swim; to very high altitude bombers and stand-off guided weapons powered by cheap jet engines.
Even relatively straightforward things like good nutrition, availability of antibiotics, better clothing and structured training would have made a great difference. We would still have won but in a faster and easier fashion!
 
#24
The RAF didn't need anything as radical as a jet-powered fighter during the Battle of Britain, it simply needed one armed with something better than .303 MGs. Both Germany and France, inter alia, were already arming single-seat fighters with 20mm cannon in 1940, while the RAF was still using rifle-calibre armament.
They knew this, but finding a suitable weapon was problematic - the Air Staff settled on the 20mm Hispano, but the process of setting up a UK production line, etc, meant that the first workable weapons appeared in 1941. Had it been possible to get the 20mm into a Spitfire in, say, 1939, the trials would've demonstrated that tipping a weapon meant to be rigidly mounted firing through the propeller boss rather than wing mounted onto its side would be an issue, and the drag caused by the bulge to accommodate the cannon would've been accepted and on the Spitfire Mk II by the later stages of the Battle at worst.

Trials with the .50 suggested that the Spitfires and Hurricanes would've been little better off, as they'd have had fewer guns (because of weight) and a slightly lighter weight of fire; it was concluded that the best bet was to accept the gap in firepower for a bit and go with the 20mm.

A big 'what if' is possibly the FN-made Browning M2, which was chambered for 13.2mm rather than 12.7mm. The slightly larger round FN developed had an HE option and greater muzzle energy than the .50. We were interested, but the Germans unsportingly occupied Belgium before we could get our paws on the blueprints. If we'd pursued the option earlier, if we'd had a production line established by early 1940.... There are a number of obvious issues in that counter-factual, but there are those who wonder if Spitfires and Hurricanes using 13.2mm Brownings might not have done some rather significant damage to the life prospects of a fair number of Luftwaffe crews who got back home in one piece.

The irony, of course, was that the Germans didn't up-armour their aircraft to the extent that the Air Ministry's projections suggested, and the 0.5 in round did a more than admirable job on the USAAF's fighters and the Spitfires (with the E wing) , Mustangs and Thunderbolts employed.
 

Sixty

ADC
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#25
In some aspects yes, I.E. Aircraft, but WWII had newer technologies that were also rapidly developed fast I.E. Hedgehog
Oh aye; I'm not saying that WWII technological progress was terrible; just that WWI wasn't far off Napoleonic/Crimean initially then morphed into what we'd recognise as a 'modern', mechanised war.
 
#26
German fly by wire / radio air to sea anti ship missiles with TV monitoring ... surely very much a forerunner of today's smart missiles .

Edited to add ...

 
Last edited:

Helm

MIA
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#27
Oh aye; I'm not saying that WWII technological progress was terrible; just that WWI wasn't far off Napoleonic/Crimean initially then morphed into what we'd recognise as a 'modern', mechanised war.
Agreed and as you pointed out, the 1918 BEF was possibly the best army Britain and possibly the world has ever fielded, with it's all arms tactics etc.
 
#28
Warfare in the air, if we're going down that route, came of age. Tanks, obviously, but also accepting they were a bit clunky. Submarines. Artillery usage.

Not to mention tactical and strategic evolution that saw the BEF move to being the finest Army that the UK ever fielded over three and a bit short years.
Good points well made, and I would include the development of the aircraft carrier. However, how many of these breakthroughs took place right at the end of the war or in the few years afterwards, and would have changed the course of the war had they occurred in 1914 or before?

The Germans were using U boats from 1914, and I think aircraft soon followed. I am not sure how much of a game changer the early tanks were.
 
#29
Since the Centurion’s engine was a Meteor, which was a de-rated Merlin, yes, it did.
Probably not available for powering tanks until it was in reality though, as it was rather important for aeroplanes.
This has always baffled me. Why did Nuffield put the Liberty engine into production for the Crusader?
Crusader tank - Wikipedia

An American aero engine designed in 1917 and not exactly state of the art even then.
Liberty L-12 - Wikipedia

Not as if we could not have come up with vastly superior - but obsolete in 1939 - engines. Like the Napier Lion. Napier Lion - Wikipedia.

Not exactly unknown in motoring circles!! Napier-Railton - Wikipedia

440px-Napier-Railton_at_Brooklands.jpg

Golden Arrow (car) - Wikipedia

560px-1929_Golden_Arrow.JPG


Some say that Lord Nuffield had lost it by the late 30's and this might explain what is otherwise a more than somewhat strange decision.
 
#30
Do think of atomic weapons. If the Nazis got this to work The Man in the High Castle would be on the History Channel instead of Amazon.



With world leading Nobel laureates like Werner Heisenberg and Otto Hahn working on the German bomb it's surprising that they didn't make more progress. There's speculation that the scientists balked at the prospect of handing a nutter like Hitler nuclear weapons and made a fair few critical "mistakes" like estimating that a bomb would require 100 tons of uranium.

If the war had lasted longer, the Lebensborn programme might have come to fruition. Selective breeding and indoctrination of children to become fanatical Nazis who worshipped Adolf Hitler as a god and who would fight to the death. The Boys from Brazil might have been a history documentary too.

By the end of the war, Hitler himself was on his last legs. A combination of drug addiction, Parkinson's disease and, allegedly, tertiary syphilis would have seen the Fuhrer's brain turn to mush if the war had lasted much longer. His hands shook so much that, when he pointed at the big map, his minions would not have known whether to invade Greenland, Canada or the USA.

Nerve gases like sarin and tabun were discovered by Germans in the 1930s. By the end of the war, they hadn't gone in to mass production due to the difficulty of handling such toxic substances and their highly corrosive precursors. A few more years of war and the V2 rockets that fell on London might have been full of gas instead of explosives.
 
#31
Even simpler the Navy had a large stock of 3" high velicity guns in storage. They could have been mounted into a tank in place of the 2 pdr giving us an armoured corp capable of stopping Guderian. Needless to say the RN wasn't giving them away.
I read somewhere that we could have considered using the Brit AAA - I think it was 3.7" - in the same way the Hun re-purposed the 88mm from flak to anti armour - but the RA wouldn't even consider it due to an inability to be flexible.
 
#32
I read somewhere that we could have considered using the Brit AAA - I think it was 3.7" - in the same way the Hun re-purposed the 88mm from flak to anti armour - but the RA wouldn't even consider it due to an inability to be flexible.
I've also read that the construction of the 3.7in's carriage didn't so readily lend itself to the ground role. It was used on occasion but not habitually.
 
Last edited:
#34
Heisenberg was never going to develop a working, viable nuclear device. And for one simple reason. A Hungarian told some other Hungarians and an Austrian NOT to send him a letter that would have detailed the use of carbon (in the form of graphite) as a neutron moderator in nuclear reactions. (Leo Szilard being the killjoy, Fermi et al being the other Hungarians, and Einstein being the Austrian).

Fermi and his buddies wanted to blab to Heisenberg about their discovery and use of graphite - oh yeah, and just how nuclear fission actually worked, something Heisenberg had the square root of sod all idea about - almost as soon as it happened, out of some sense of scientific brotherhood or some such rot, but Szilard knew just how bad an idea that was because of the imminent war and so on and convinced them not to.

He then, with Einstein, co-wrote a letter to FDR in 1939, which laid the groundwork for the American and British nuclear weapons projects, "Manhattan" and "Tube Alloys"

There's an excellent book on the subject of nuclear weapons, and their unlikely inspirations, "Doomsday Men: The Real Dr Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon" by the British author, Peter Smith, that sits on my Bookshelf of Nasty Ways to Die, which really lays all this out in much more detail. It's on Amazon Kindle for about eight quid, and you can get used paperback and hardback versions for cheaper on Amazon as well.
 
#35
The list is vast in the UK's case. From decent footwear, breathable waterproof fabrics and Velcro; through advanced diesel engines and swimming tanks that could swim; to very high altitude bombers and stand-off guided weapons powered by cheap jet engines.
Even relatively straightforward things like good nutrition, availability of antibiotics, better clothing and structured training would have made a great difference. We would still have won but in a faster and easier fashion!
This. Not necessarily glamorous in comparison with guided weapons, etc., but game-changers in terms of troops' resilience.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#36
All this talk of developments late in the war(s). It's precisely because of the war that development raced ahead. I read somewhere 40 years ago that what would take 20 years to develop in peacetime would take six months in wartime.

Think. End of war, Centurion. Jumps to Chieftain, CR1, CR2.

Start of war, Vickers VIb. Jumps to Crusader, Cromwell, Comet, Centurion.
 
#38
They knew this, but finding a suitable weapon was problematic - the Air Staff settled on the 20mm Hispano, but the process of setting up a UK production line, etc, meant that the first workable weapons appeared in 1941. Had it been possible to get the 20mm into a Spitfire in, say, 1939, the trials would've demonstrated that tipping a weapon meant to be rigidly mounted firing through the propeller boss rather than wing mounted onto its side would be an issue, and the drag caused by the bulge to accommodate the cannon would've been accepted and on the Spitfire Mk II by the later stages of the Battle at worst.

Trials with the .50 suggested that the Spitfires and Hurricanes would've been little better off, as they'd have had fewer guns (because of weight) and a slightly lighter weight of fire; it was concluded that the best bet was to accept the gap in firepower for a bit and go with the 20mm.

A big 'what if' is possibly the FN-made Browning M2, which was chambered for 13.2mm rather than 12.7mm. The slightly larger round FN developed had an HE option and greater muzzle energy than the .50. We were interested, but the Germans unsportingly occupied Belgium before we could get our paws on the blueprints. If we'd pursued the option earlier, if we'd had a production line established by early 1940.... There are a number of obvious issues in that counter-factual, but there are those who wonder if Spitfires and Hurricanes using 13.2mm Brownings might not have done some rather significant damage to the life prospects of a fair number of Luftwaffe crews who got back home in one piece.

The irony, of course, was that the Germans didn't up-armour their aircraft to the extent that the Air Ministry's projections suggested, and the 0.5 in round did a more than admirable job on the USAAF's fighters and the Spitfires (with the E wing) , Mustangs and Thunderbolts employed.
I wrote a post on another thread about how the Hispano-Suiza came into service, including links and quotes, so I won't repeat the details here but just make a summary.

To make a long story short, in the mid 1930s the UK evaluated the future development of aircraft weapons and concluded that .303 was the best option for the then current aircraft. The main challenge then was to hit something that would actually disable an aircraft. A .50 bullet would simply make a marginally larger hole in the skin as it passed through while fewer rounds fired compared to .303 decreased the chances of actually hitting something vital.

The thing that would be a game changer however would be the ability to fire a worthwhile explosive shell as the fragments would greatly increase the probability of doing damage to something vital. The smallest practical explosive shell was considered to be 20mm. Therefore the RAF concluded that once .303 was not enough, there was no point in going to intermediate calibre (.50) weapons, the next stage should instead be 20mm.

So, the army and the RN adopted the Vickers .50, while the RAF passed on it. The Vickers .50 round design was also widely exported. Italy did develop an explosive bullet for it. However, apparently those who said that an explosive .50 calibre would be ineffective were correct, and the fuse took up so much space that there was little room left for explosive.

The RAF had people keeping an eye on 20mm developments abroad. One gun stood out as greatly superior in their view, the 20mm Hispano Suiza in France. The French invited both the UK and the US to a demonstration of the prototype. On the strength of that demonstration, the UK was ready to sign a license contract on the spot. Hispano Suiza countered with offering to build a factory in the UK provided they were given a minimum order. The UK agreed and the contract was signed. I believe this was 1939 and the war was already on at this point.

Meanwhile, the US representative was also greatly impressed and made strong recommendations to obtain a production license so that US aircraft could be armed with this weapon as well. However, the US military did not feel any sense of urgency, as the US were not in the war and had no intention of getting involved. Instead they decided to put the gun through a trials and evaluation process once they could obtain a production batch from the French.

The first guns came off the production line in France. The first dozen guns went to the French, and the next couple of dozen were split between the UK and the US.

Meanwhile a factory to produce them was being set up in the UK. One year after the contract was signed (on the basis of a demonstration of the prototype), the factory was ready and the king test fired the first gun in front of a group of dignitaries.

The UK had also signed a license with another French company for a cradle which would allow the gun to be mounted in the wings. The gun was originally designed to be mounted to the engine block of a plane which was designed to accommodate it, and this is how the French had intended to use it.

It took another year however before the UK fighters were equipped with the new gun in significant numbers. I don't know the reasons for this delay and it is conceivable that this integration stage is where some time could have been saved. However, I do recall reading elsewhere that the wings of the fighters had to be redesigned to accommodate the guns and their recoil, so it is possible this timing could not have been improved upon.

Meanwhile in the US things dragged along at a snail's pace, until the US suddenly found themselves pitched into the war, the last major power to be drawn in. The 20mm project suddenly received a higher priority, but what followed was a procurement fiasco as the project was kicked from one department to another while the ordnance department tried to push their own .90 calibre gun based on their rather dismal 1.1 inch AA gun. Then after finally getting a large stockpile of guns built the production of ammunition caught up, at which point they discovered that someone had made a mistake in converting millimetres to inches and the ammunition didn't fit the guns. Things continued in that vein, and the US finished the war still armed primarily with the intermediate .50 calibre.

I'm not familiar with the 13.2mm FN round that you mentioned. Was that not just the round from the Hotchiss? The latter was one of the better selling guns used primarily as a light AA gun and saw a fair bit of export. If so, then it was more or less just the .50 Browning cartridge case necked up by 0.5 mm. It wasn't a game changer and the explosive bullet for it was unlikely to have been any more effective than the Italian take on the Vickers .50.

If the UK wanted a .50 gun for aircraft, they had several. The RAF had evaluated and turned down the Vickers .50 aircraft gun. Vickers also had a second .50 design based on a more powerful round, but this gun saw few sales and none in the UK. The UK also had a 15mm Besa gun in service with the army that was closely equivalent in performance to the modern 14.5mm Russian gun (twice as powerful as a .50 Browning). The goal however was 20mm, and perhaps anything else was considered to be a diversion of effort that would slow down getting 20mm.

The 20mm Hispano Suiza was put into production in the UK as soon as humanly possible. If there was any delay, it was in getting the planes built to accommodate them. I don't know what happened there, but it is conceivable that in the rush to get more planes built as quickly as possible to face the Germans, it was felt that it was too risky to build them around a new gun as opposed to the tried and proven .303 Browning.
 
#39
Warfare in the air, if we're going down that route, came of age. Tanks, obviously, but also accepting they were a bit clunky. Submarines. Artillery usage.

Not to mention tactical and strategic evolution that saw the BEF move to being the finest Army that the UK ever fielded over three and a bit short years.
Also the use of combined ops on the Allied side, communications, creeping barrages and a costly lesson regarding naval warfare. And for the Axis, shock troops, air formations, submarine warfare and a taste for French cuisine.

I would say that overall, WW1 advanced military techniques far more than WW2, it also introduced more new ideas.

WW2 took these ideas and made them more lethal than anyone could imagine.
 
#40
Didn't the Krauts have basic night vision optics towards the end on their Jagdpanthers?
 

Similar threads


Latest Threads

Top