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

#41
Body armour initially designed by Wilkinson Sword, would have been improved with positive feedback from the troops living to spread the word.
 
#42
The UK also had a 15mm Besa gun in service with the army that was closely equivalent in performance
GF Wallace (Guns of the Royal Air Force 1939-45) was particularly scathing about the short-lived attempt to turn the 15mm BESA into an aircraft weapon, even allowing for the fact that the book has a tendency to slip into the 'my lot of boffins were by far the best and most intelligent when it came to this sort of thing' genre of history - but as the man who was integral to the development of the Hispano (ultimately into its Mk V format) he was just a bit biased...

Like you, I can't quite recall the cause of the delay, but one of the problems was, of course, the need to establish a UK production facility. R Wallace Clark suggests that Hispano were less than keen on the idea of a British production facility, but agreed to it given the scale of the orders,(set up under the anodyne name of British Manufacturing and Research Company).

13.2mm round was based on the Hotchkiss as you say, but the detail as to how good it would have been isn't that clear as the rather limited range of sources vary. The Swedes appear to have developed it into a decent round for their 13.2mm weapons, but the vast amount of surplus 0.5 inch ammo seems to have led to their rebarrelling their 13.2mm weapons to exploit the cheap ammo supply.
 
#43
Didn't the Krauts have basic night vision optics towards the end on their Jagdpanthers?
Probably. They did have night vision scopes for their small arms, particularly the StG-44. I think they called it the "Vampyr". I'm going to go google and check that out - oops, it was the "Vampir". The other thing is some sort of computer roleplay game or other.

Zielgerät 1229 - Wikipedia
 
#44
I wrote a post on another thread about how the Hispano-Suiza came into service ...

... 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.
I heard somewhere that the 20 mm Hispano was trialed on Spitfires from one or two squadrons during the Battle of Britain but there were so many problems with it jamming or failing to feed that the pilots asked for them to be removed and .303's to be refitted. The problems were a consequence of having to rotate the gun 90 degrees to fit in the limited space in the wings and/or of the wings flexing around the feed system when maneuvering and putting things out of alignment just as the gun was fired.

If that is right then the issue would have been the integration of the gun with the aircraft and that would have been a tricky on to fix with having to use 1940's monitoring technology to see what was happening inside the wing in flight under high G!!!
 
#45
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.
All bollocks I'm afraid.
 
#49
I think the main problem was that the 3.7 was too big. AP ammunition was produced for it and it was fitted with a direct fire sight but it was nearly two tons heavier than the German 88 which made it impractial to use in the anti-tank role. Also HAA Regiments were usually held at Corps level and above so they would not generally have been available for division or brigade commanders to use in that role anyway. They were sometimes used in the direct fire role as heavy artillery but only rarely as anti-tank guns.
 
#50
One relatively cheap option for the Navy would been to have built bulbous bows onto it's capital ships and cruisers. With the QE class in particular there was a lot of engine power working aginst a poor froud number so slightly longer added bow sections with a bulb could have gained them quite a bit of 'free' speed.
 
#51
I heard somewhere that the 20 mm Hispano was trialed on Spitfires from one or two squadrons during the Battle of Britain but there were so many problems with it jamming or failing to feed that the pilots asked for them to be removed and .303's to be refitted. The problems were a consequence of having to rotate the gun 90 degrees to fit in the limited space in the wings and/or of the wings flexing around the feed system when maneuvering and putting things out of alignment just as the gun was fired.

If that is right then the issue would have been the integration of the gun with the aircraft and that would have been a tricky on to fix with having to use 1940's monitoring technology to see what was happening inside the wing in flight under high G!!!
The UK had also licensed a cradle mounting system for the 20mm gun from another French company with which to wing mount it. If I recall correctly, this included a recoil absorption system. There may have been problems relating to this system which had to be resolved.
 
#52
For the Germans, AIP and stream lining for submarines might have won them the battle of the Atlantic, they were experimenting with both in 1945. And trucks, if they were fully mechanised instead of being 60% horse drawn or whatever it was, their logistics would have been vastly more efficient and might have delivered a different result in Russia. An unbreakable cipher machine would have helped.

For the French, maybe radio comms to small unit/ individual tank level.

For the UK a systems like Gee and H2S to allow precision bombing right from the start.
 
#53
And trucks, if they were fully mechanised instead of being 60% horse drawn or whatever it was, their logistics would have been vastly more efficient and might have delivered a different result in Russia.
The fuel to run them would have more impact
.
An unbreakable cipher machine would have helped.
more cautious use of what they had would would have the same effect for less effort.
 
#54
Wonder if the British EM-2 rifle would have made any difference if it had been developed a few years earlier, instead of 1951? It was a bullpup automatic rifle firing an intermediate 0.280 round. Reminds you of anything?


I suspect that it would not, whilst the Sten/Bren/No4 Section were under-gunned compared with the Americans and Germans, would indirect fire weapons have accounted for far more casualties anyway?
 
#55
I have read somewhere that the 15mm BESA when fitted in armoured cars the barrel had a tendency to be a bit whippy when fired on full auto, making it very inaccurate. Single shot fire often being used to counter this.
On checking on Wiki there is also note of this, though as a source it can be precarious.

Another aspect of the .303 being maintained as a fighter armament, Douglas Bader who had far too much influence in things, believed the .303 is more than adequate for aerial fighting and he deemed cannons as unnecessary.
His personal mount before being shot down was the MkVa the last version of spitfire with full machine gun armament.
 
#56
GF Wallace (Guns of the Royal Air Force 1939-45) was particularly scathing about the short-lived attempt to turn the 15mm BESA into an aircraft weapon, even allowing for the fact that the book has a tendency to slip into the 'my lot of boffins were by far the best and most intelligent when it came to this sort of thing' genre of history - but as the man who was integral to the development of the Hispano (ultimately into its Mk V format) he was just a bit biased...
I haven't read that, but while I did list the 15mm BESA as being available, I wouldn't have considered it to be promising as a fighter weapon. It had all the size and weight of a 20mm while still being too small a calibre for an effective explosive shell. The Vickers .50 existed in an aircraft fixed mount version and the ammunition was already in production in the UK (the latter being no small consideration).


However, I don't know if it could fit in the wings of existing fighters without modification to the plane, and the gun itself wasn't in production. It may have been judged that there was no real benefit to bringing an intermediate calibre gun such as this into service as an interim measure since the Hispano-Suiza 20mm was already on the way anyway. Interrupting aircraft production to integrate a new gun which offered only a temporary and marginal improvement may not have been seen as the best way to produce as many aircraft as possible in the run up to the war.

Like you, I can't quite recall the cause of the delay, but one of the problems was, of course, the need to establish a UK production facility. R Wallace Clark suggests that Hispano were less than keen on the idea of a British production facility, but agreed to it given the scale of the orders,(set up under the anodyne name of British Manufacturing and Research Company).
My understanding was that Hispano Suiza were the ones who proposed setting up a factory in the UK, preferring that to licensing the design to a UK company. Of course they may have initially preferred to produce them in their own factory in France to avoid the investment cost of a new factory, but the agreement by the UK to a minimum order would have alleviated that concern.

The US insisted on the design being licensed to a US company, but that turned out badly when the licensee turned out to be not up to the job of getting the gun into production. A different licensee had to be brought in, which contributed to the delay for the US getting 20mm guns.

In addition to the Hispano Suiza design, the US had numerous parallel projects for replacing the .50 Browning, in .60 calibre, 20mm, and .90 calibre. None of them worked out. An aircraft machine gun is a very tricky thing to get working reliably to the degree expected for aircraft use and it takes time to work out all the bugs. When the war ended development money dried up and these projects came to an end.

The US .60 calibre projects existed because of bureaucratic turf wars. The department who would normally have been in charge of developing the guns were limited to .60 calibre, and anything larger was considered to be "artillery". Thus the artillery department, who had their own ideas about guns, were handed control of the 20mm project mid stream. There was still a perceived need to get something more effective than .50 calibre into service, so the machine gun department pursued various .60 calibre designs, one of which was simply the Hispano Suiza design necked down to .60 calibre.

13.2mm round was based on the Hotchkiss as you say, but the detail as to how good it would have been isn't that clear as the rather limited range of sources vary. The Swedes appear to have developed it into a decent round for their 13.2mm weapons, but the vast amount of surplus 0.5 inch ammo seems to have led to their rebarrelling their 13.2mm weapons to exploit the cheap ammo supply.
The Japanese licensed the 13.2mm Hotchiss gun and were a major user of it in AA mounts. They also produced a version of the Browning gun for aircraft use using the Hotchiss 13.2mm round as the Type 3. This sounds similar to what you said the Belgians were working on.
Type 3 aircraft machine gun - Wikipedia


They also produced another version of the Browning aircraft gun using the Vickers 12.7mm, called the Ho-103. This also made use of the Italian explosive bullet.
Type 3 aircraft machine gun - Wikipedia

They also had a version in 20mm, using a shortened case version of the same round as the Hispano Suiza.
Ho-5 cannon - Wikipedia


And the Italians had their own version of the Browning called the Breda-SAFAT, also firing the Vickers 12.7mm. The version of round they (and the Italians) used had a semi-rimmed rather than the standard Vickers rimless case, but was otherwise the same as the Vickers. The Italians also used a copy of the Hotchkiss gun in 13.2mm, but only as a ground or ship borne weapon, not in aircraft.
Breda-SAFAT machine gun - Wikipedia


The 13.2mm Hotchkiss was a fairly popular machine gun at the time, but it was quite heavy and so was was used in ground and ship mounts rather than in aircraft. I can imagine it would have made commercial sense for FN to develop a version of the Browning aircraft gun in 13.2mm to sell to those countries already using the 13.2mm round.

On the other hand, I can't think of any major country outside of the US who were using the American 12.7mm round prior to WWII. The Browning design was popular amongst licensees, but the American 12.7mm round was not.

While we're at it, here's the German MG 151 15mm aircraft gun. This was later necked up to 20mm to give them a gun with an explosive shell.
MG 151 cannon - Wikipedia


German MG 131 13mm aircraft machine gun.
MG 131 machine gun - Wikipedia


Soviet Berezin UB 12.7mm aircraft machine gun.
Berezin UB - Wikipedia
 
#57
I have read somewhere that the 15mm BESA when fitted in armoured cars the barrel had a tendency to be a bit whippy when fired on full auto, making it very inaccurate. Single shot fire often being used to counter this.
On checking on Wiki there is also note of this, though as a source it can be precarious.

Another aspect of the .303 being maintained as a fighter armament, Douglas Bader who had far too much influence in things, believed the .303 is more than adequate for aerial fighting and he deemed cannons as unnecessary.
His personal mount before being shot down was the MkVa the last version of spitfire with full machine gun armament.
Iffy indeed, wasn't DB knocked out of the sky by one of our own?
 
#58
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.
The Belgians did use the 0.50in Browning (4 of) in some of their Hurricane Is and a Captain D'Ertsenrijk claimed at least one kill of a HE 111 with them. He later fought in the Battle of Britain.
 
#59
The problem with the original Hispano was feed under "g", as the gun would fire a few rounds and then stop, either with a jammed round or a failure to feed (weak spring in the drum). French pilots found that it would fire fine in a level, straight approach but would jam up if they pulled a tight turn. Sometimes , it would operate as required afterwards but often not at all so they were left with machine guns only. The British came up with a better Belt Feed Mechanism (BFM), which operated just fine under "g" and the problems thereafter related to decent gun heating, better feed chutes, better greases and oils to cope with high altitude and recocking in flight. This wasnt confined to the British as the Germans had lots of fun trying to integrate the Oerlikon 20mm as an engine-mounted gun and they ultimately gave that idea up until the MG 151 came along.
 
#60
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.
We need a "Bloody awesome post, mate" button for stuff like this.
 

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