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Why so few airborne successes?

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  • #16
    There would have been better chances for a Market Garden scale attack on the open plains of Russia. The problem with Market Garden is easily seen on its map, but consider all of the snags that it hit just across the Belgian frontier! That highway may as well not have been there. Far better to attack across open and somewhat rough ground than to be stuck on that highway so many times.....and then the stopping at night.

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    • #17
      In the opening days of Op. Barbarossa the Soviet air force lost some 2000 aircraft in 48 hours (see Alan Clark's Barbarossa). The loss of fighter support for their transports would probably have condemned any airborne troops to a flaming death at the hands of the Luftwaffe pilots, who racked up surreal kill scores (Erich Hartmann racked up 352 kills whereas the Anglo-American record is 40) on the Ostfront. One element that airborne troops suffer is that they are partially dependent on the strength of the air force's fighter wings.

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      • #18
        I notice that while the RKKA did not have very many airbourne operations of brigade or larger there was a divsion to corps size group of airbourne soldiers designated and formed for 1942 to 1945. The many small para drops of secion or company size seem to the the primary reason for maintaining this organization.

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        • #19
          In the mid-1980's, I did a detailed study of the Kanev drop which I entitled, The Bukrin Drop: Limits to Creativity (Military Affairs July 1986; republished in Red Army Legacies). Researching what was available in Soviet military literature (outside of the unavailable Red Army Archives) and the German unit war journals, I came to the conclusion that a lot of fundamental skills must come together to pull off a complex airborne operation.

          As previously mentioned, it was not only the limited number of air transports which required turning aircraft around for additional pick up, but also the pilots were inexperienced in flying in formations (primarily as a work around to avoid the German air superiority), let alone in an airdrop formation. Marshalling the aircraft on the ground to line up with the pre-formed jump sticks was missed, so jumpers were loaded and then unloaded, walking across the tarmac to reload--scrambling men and equipment.

          Captured tactical unit mission notes and instructions were obviously hastily written and incomplete indicating very little planning time at the tactical level.

          Coordination of fuel at the required airfields required Zkukov intervention and accounted additionally against the aircraft marshalling plan, because of staff miscalculated timetables for rail movements and fuel trucks.

          The 5th Abn Corps was hastily trained in individual training and very limited in tactical unit exercises. From German POW reports, unit identification, training bases, extent of individual/unit training were developed. [Note: these elements of information were not available in Soviet literature.]

          Pilots could not hold steady course or altitude through the German flak coverage resulting in Soviet airborne troops being dropped on the east side of the Dnepr, in the Dnepr and all over the west side. The jumpers exited at altitudes anywhere from 600 to 2000 meters with some aircraft moving at 200kph.

          The Soviet leadership clearly saw an opportunity and showed a willingness to accept the risks of an airborne operations. But, the general inexperience exacted steep costs. All the above factors, and more, began to limit the initiative and creativity of the operation. When one has the opportunity on the battlefield, one must act fast. So elusive is opportunity that it often disappears before inexperience.

          rna
          Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 11 Mar 08, 13:56.
          Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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          • #20
            Thank you!!

            So, it was like the German experience, in that they tried it, the Germans prepared better, but still had high casualties, thus it was abandoned, not to be thought of again by higher Commanders. Is that about right, or something quite different?

            Cheers, great post!!

            Tom

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            • #21
              Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
              Pilots could not hold steady course or altitude through the German flak coverage resulting in Soviet airborne troops being dropped on the east side of the Dnepr, in the Dnepr and all over the west side. The jumpers exited at altitudes anywhere from 600 to 2000 meters with some aircraft moving at 200kph.

              rna
              I sense the same problem in the US airbourne forces. It seemd to derive from a idea that specialized training for the transport pilots was not required, & thus neglected. Consewuntly the US paratroops were badlyscatterd in the Sicilly and Normandy para drops. The problems of the Normandy paradrop sound particularly inexcusable since there was previous experince from the Sicilian and Salerno battles.

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              • #22
                Plus

                One has to wonder what the Russians thought of the Allied use of all these men and equipment, no "lessons learned", or more likely, did'nt need to do this by the time the Allied drops were evaluated by them......

                Cheers, just a guess!!

                Tom

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                  I sense the same problem in the US airbourne forces. It seemd to derive from a idea that specialized training for the transport pilots was not required, & thus neglected. Consewuntly the US paratroops were badlyscatterd in the Sicilly and Normandy para drops. The problems of the Normandy paradrop sound particularly inexcusable since there was previous experince from the Sicilian and Salerno battles.
                  I need to check my book, but I think part of the Normandy drop issue was the switching troop carrier commands, mixing up the pilots with night experience into carrying the least important troopers, and the green pilots carrying important sticks into well controlled flak zones.
                  "This life..., you know, "the life." You’re not gonna get any medals, kid. This is not a hero business; you don’t shoot people from a mile a way. You gotta stand right next to them... blow their heads off."

                  BoRG

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by TRDG View Post
                    So, it was like the German experience, in that they tried it, the Germans prepared better, but still had high casualties, thus it was abandoned, not to be thought of again by higher Commanders. Is that about right, or something quite different?

                    Cheers, great post!!

                    Tom
                    Kanev was in September 1943. There was another operation in October and another Corps size drop to join partisans in November 1943 south of Nevel. Another large effort was in 194 spporting the operations at the Dukla Pass, and I'm not sure what was dropped and what was airlanded. Troops were airlanded during the Manchurian operation August 1945.

                    During WWII, airborne operations required more than any army/supporting air arm could give. From wargaming experience, I have used them as road bumps to buy time for main forces which kind of makes them sacrificial troops.

                    rna
                    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                    • #25
                      Even when they possessed the element of surprise it seems that WW2 airborne operations, with all their technical complexity and operational imponderables, were incredibly risky and potentially costly ventures. Crete, the Dnieper operation, Overlord and Market Garden have been mentioned, but even as late as 1945 with a mass of experience under its belt the 18th Airborne Corps nearly came to grief in support of the Rhine crossings when it landed on the 84th Volkgenadier Division. No matter how elite they may be, lightly armed troops behind enemy lines and with an unreliable supply system are bound to be at a disadvantage against conventionally equipped troops.
                      "Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against infection of peoples by the mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships."
                      Hero of the Soviet Union, Andrei Sakharov 1968

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                      • #26
                        Some Qs:

                        Given their apparent inexperience with airborne troops in the Great Patriotic War, what made the Soviets concentrate on building up a huge airborne arm in the Warsaw Pact days?

                        How effective have the Russian airborne been more recently in Afghanistan and Chechnya?

                        And as we are talking Ost Front:
                        Why did the Germans - who certainly employed massive offensives over vast fronts in the East, many of which were dependent upon seizing bridgeheads across rivers - not employ paratroopers themselves in coup de mains operations in this theatre?
                        A massive attack...a brigade against an army...three nights of battle...an unforgettable tragedy.
                        Sixty years later, the full story is told at last:
                        http://tothelastround.wordpress.com/

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Andy_S View Post
                          Some Qs:

                          Given their apparent inexperience with airborne troops in the Great Patriotic War, what made the Soviets concentrate on building up a huge airborne arm in the Warsaw Pact days?

                          How effective have the Russian airborne been more recently in Afghanistan and Chechnya?

                          And as we are talking Ost Front:
                          Why did the Germans - who certainly employed massive offensives over vast fronts in the East, many of which were dependent upon seizing bridgeheads across rivers - not employ paratroopers themselves in coup de mains operations in this theatre?
                          Hitler had forbid future large airborne operations due to the battle of Crete. It was a major overreaction on his part. From then on FJ units fought as infantry, and the last major airborne operation was against Tito's HQ at Drvar in 1944(this was carried out by a special SS FJ unit).

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                          • #28
                            and my opinion is that the Russia army could not afford the higher costs in transports to fund such and operation.
                            also, once the huge pincer movements that the Russians developed began to reap such larger rewards that they stayed with this game plan and worn the german down.

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                            • #29
                              Off topic a bit here, sorry but......

                              What do you guys think the German reaction would have been, as in the German aircraft and ground forces, IF there was a big Para drop somewhere. Myself, I think the Germans would have been so ed and ed that it might have worked real well for them (Russians), if the Russians had good air cover for the transports........

                              Cheers

                              Tom

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                              • #30
                                Because they didn't need them. They had plenty of T-34s to go around, and there's nothing but land and men between Germany and Russia, so airborne drops are not really needed, or at least not on a large scale. Makes more sense to use the planes to supply the partisans.
                                http://chickencrap.com/images/1472.jpg

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