Gotterdammerung: The Twilight of the Gods
Wargaming WW2 beyond May 1945 by Charles Dickinson
(part two Air and Sea Warfare)
The Air War
Without a doubt the dominant feature of aviation in the late 40's was the dawning of the jet age. Germany led the way in jet aircraft development and was at least two years ahead of the allies in 1945. I say this because although the allies had a number of jet aircraft in production the German aircraft were aerodynamically much more advanced especially in their use of swept wing designs. Swept wing design allows aircraft to approach the speed of sound without facing the dangers of airflow compression over the wing and is also more aerodynamically efficient. This phenomenon had been observed first in the late 30's by pilots of monoplane fighters in highspeed dives. It resulted in loss of control and often in loss of the aircraft. The upshot of this is that the later German fighters (Horten and Focke-Wulf) would have been able to achieve higher speeds than the Allied jets, especially in a dive. Before the real war ended the Germans had deployed operationally the Me 262, the Me 1.63 rocket plane and the Arado 234 jet bomber. In the pipeline were the He 162 (about to go operational), the Horten XXX, the swept-wing Focke-Wulf Ta-183 and a variety of less likely fighter and bomber projects.
Another area the Germans led in was surface to air missiles (SAMs). They had a number of designs ready for production and these would primarily have been used against the massed allied bomber formations, which would have defended themselves with jamming, radar seeking missiles and window (chaff).
The first thing to remember if setting up any Fatherland scenario is that while the Germans might have some very sexy kit the Allies will fill the skies with their aircraft. Although the Germans ted the field in jet aircraft she had fallen behind in most other areas. A major weakness of the late war Luftwaffe was the inexperience of many pilots.
A major tactical advantage that Allied pilots possessed in 1944-45 was the introduction of the gyroscopic gun sight. This gave the pilot a much better chance of scoring a hit in deflection shooting, that is, when engaging a target flying across your sights rather than in the same direction. Historically it had required that the pilot lead' the target airplane when shooting at it, something few pilots found easy and a skill that often made an 'ace' what he was. The gyroscopic sight gave even average pilots a good chance of success and the squadrons equipped with it during the last year of the war saw their kill rates per mission double.
Perhaps the biggest advantage the Allies had was in the field of electronic warfare. The Allies held a decisive advantage in both radar technology and in countermeasures. In radar the Allies were able to deploy centimetric (microwave) radar which was more accurate, powerful and harder to jam than the long wave devices used earlier in the war and still the mainstay of the German air defence network. This would express itself in a number of advantages the Allied player should have.
Compared to German units the Allied units should have better search, gunnery fire control and nightfighter radar and they were effectively unchallenged in the use of radar for 'blind' bombing through cloud or at night and for hunting surfaced U-boats at night. The Allies were also introducing radar for counter-battery work. To put it in context one should realise that the Allies regarded microwave radar (yes, the same technology as the thing in your kitchen) as their most significant technological program after the A-bomb. In terms of electronic counter measures the Allied player should always be given a good chance of either jamming or seriously degrading the accuracy and range of German radars and guided missiles.
In the air the Allies could have fielded some aircraft that would make a 1947 scenario very interesting. For fighters the Americans had the P-80 Shooting Star, their first production jet fighter, whilst the British had the Meteor and Vampire. The Meteor was a first generation jet of mediocre performance but the P-80 and Vampire were as good as the Me 262. The Americans would also have been able to field the B-29 Superfortress, without a doubt the most advanced bomber of the day, able to fly above much of the Flak and at the altitude limits of many piston engined fighters. In the bomber field the Allies were still heavily committed to piston engined aircraft, possibly because they assumed the bombers would always be escorted by jet fighters. It is worth noting that comparatively few medium bombers designs were built in the post war years. This seems to be as a result of a realisation that many missions originally flown by medium bombers such as the Boston, Mitchell or Blenheim were by 1945 being carried out by the powerful and long ranged fighters of the late war, especially the Thunderbolt, Mustang and Tempest. These fighter-bombers could deliver their bombs in shallow angle dive bomb runs which were more accurate than level bombing from 1.0,000 feet and did not need to be escorted, particularly once the had dropped their bombs.
Like the Germans the Allies were developing operational helicopters of which the first was a light two man Sikorski, the RH-4 Hoverfly. It was being tried out in anti-submarine warfare but was also being tested at the end of the war for casualty evacuation in the jungles of Burma. Another, and surprisingly important, use was to recover ditched pilots at sea. This had previously required a frigate or destroyer to detach from the fleet and slow to a halt, something not entirely desirable in combat and consequently not always risked, which was a bit rough on the pilot.
The Russians were not particularly innovative in the air war and they would not have deployed anything radically different from what they already had in service. Any jets would probably have been Lend-Lease American or British models or at least used Allied engine designs.
Imagine a 1947 bombing raid over Berlin with B-29 bombers escorted by P-80 'Shooting Stars' against Me-262s, He 162 Salamanders (with Hitler Youth pilots) and Focke-Wulf Ta-183 fighters. On the ground there would be 'Wasserfall', 'Enzian' and 'Rheintochter' SAM sites with P-51G Mustangs and A-26 Invaders flying Flak Suppression and 'Wild Weasel1 missions. Alternatively one could play out a raid by Arado 234 bombers on the vital Allied port of Antwerp. Escorted by Me-262s or Focke-Wulfs it would be opposed by RAF Vampires and anti-aircraft guns firing the highly effective proximity fused shells. Another scenario might be a Search and rescue mission over Russia for a downed Me 262 pilot with German helicopters escorted by ground attack Fw 190's. (Ed note: anyone interested in the imagery of an extended WW2 airwar is advised to check out the Luftwaffe 1946 graphic novels published by Antarctic Press)
The War Against Japan
Well what can I say. Japan was doomed to lose its war sometime before lunch on Sunday 7th December 1941. Unlike Germany the Japanese did not have a single significant technological advantage over the Allies. Their early success was due almost entirely to surprise, superior battle tactics and Allied complacency. Unfortunately, as their Admiral Yamamoto had predicted, they were defeated by the sheer industrial strength of America because Japan was still only a minor industrial power and could not hope to compete with the production lines of Detroit, Seattle and San Diego, Even if Japan had survived longer her forces in a war in 1946-47 would have been only marginally different to those with which she lost in 1945.
In the air Japan was seriously outclassed as she had few fighters able to challenge the 'tremendous bulls' (B-29s) that flew daily over her cities. In theory there were a few superior piston-engined aircraft coming into production but not enough. Japan had also received blueprints for the Me-262 and Me-163 but these were still at the prototype stage.
At sea Japan had lost out to superior numbers air supremacy and radar and an American submarine campaign that turned German wolf pack tactics against Japan with a devastating results. On land the Army was fighting with equipment practically identical to that with which she invaded China ten years earlier.
Scenarios are, as a result, hard to suggest as even an invasion of the mainland (Operation Olympic) would have been a re-run of the battle for Okinawa. For inspiration it would also be worth looking at the battles of the Korean War (1950-53). Many elements of the fighting there would be similar to fighting on mainland Japan as they have similar geography and the terrain is very different to the jungles and atolls normally associated with the war in the Pacific. In the air the Japanese could be given a smattering of copied jets, perhaps escorting some last desperate kamikaze attacks
Germany and the Naval War
Germany had lost the U-boat war pretty comprehensively by late 1943 and even had she been more successful she could not have seriously challenged the Allied dominance of the seas as Germany was completely out numbered, particularly in the all important field of carrier warfare. However there are still some potential scenarios. The most plausible would involve the advanced Type XXI or XXIII U-boats with their high underwater speeds and ability to schnorkel allowing them a realistic chance against an allied convoy protected by late war escorts, escort carriers and perhaps early Sikorski helicopters carrying homing torpedoes. Less likely, but more colourful, might be a re-visit to 'Hunt the Bismarck' with the German battleship, the Tirpitz this time, being accompanied by it's own carrier such as the 'Graf Zeppelin'
Modelling 1946 and later
There is now quite a wide range of suitable kit for this 'period1. Below are some suggestions but is by not means absolute, especially if you are willing to convert vehicles or figures. Most of the companies below also do historical ranges that are also suitable. Finally, check out the Luft'46 for German jets, amazing artwork and links.20 mm Aircraft: Revell, PM, Huma and Condor do a range of kits of Luftwaffe 46 jets and missiles, I suggest you check out the Laft 46 website and Hannants for these, especially as PM, Huma and Condor are East European imports and may be awkward to source otherwise.
In 1/300th (and l/285th): Heroics and Ros - He 162, Me 262, Horten Flying wing aircraft, Junkers jet bombers, German Flettner helicopters, Almost all late-war and post war Allied and Russian equipment. Basically, get their list and buy some samples of what looks interesting, H&R is not that expensive.
- Luft '46 - WWII German aircraft projects
- Technical Virtue - German '1946' tank projects
- Chiltern Miniatures
- Figures Armour Artillery
- Platoon 20
- RH Models
- S&S Models
- Previous article: Conflicts of the Third Age
- Next article: Sir Harry and the Dinosaurs
- Index of all articles in Ragnarok 39
- Index of all articles by Charles Dickinson
- Alternative History > WWII Continues