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Russian plane ammunition capacity.


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Apologies if this has been asked before, or is common knowledge to experts, but none of my books allude to it.

 

I have to ask: why is Russian ammo capacity so low in WWII planes?

 

I would be able to explain the cannon capacity as being equal to American and British, since 120-150 rounds-per-gun seems the going rate for the P-38, the Spitfire, and the Tempest. But why the low 12.7mm ammo capacity? 250-300 RPG seems the standard for most countries. The Yak's 200 seems exceptionally low.

 

And why is the Yak-1B the outlier of all Yaks, with the slight increase for cannon and machine gun storage? Does this mean all Yaks could squeeze those extra rounds in, but it just wasn't common practice?

 

And why do German planes have such ridiculously high cannon capacities compared to Allied planes? I know the 109's magazine extended into the wing root, but that still doesn't explain how the Fw-190 can carry over double the cannon rounds of a Spitfire.

 

For the record: this is not a complaint about how the game handles ammo capacity. This is strictly a series of technical questions on design differences.

Edited by oc2209
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1 hour ago, oc2209 said:

 

 

And why do German planes have such ridiculously high cannon capacities compared to Allied planes? I know the 109's magazine extended into the wing root, but that still doesn't explain how the Fw-190 can carry over double the cannon rounds of a Spitfire.

 

 


Well it does. There's a butt-load more space in a wing-root.

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Early Bf-109E and Spit VB carried 60 rnd magazines for their 20mm cannons... it was only later that ammunition capacity was doubled. One sees a similar climb in Hawker aircraft (Typhoon carries more than the Hurricane, and the Tempest could carry even more).

 

One of the issues was the propensity for earlier autocannons to jam... which meant that they wouldn't be certain to get through all of the ammunition. Another factor was the gradual shift from drum feeds to belt feeds for the cannons. This was pretty new technology.

 

With regard to the Yakovlevs ... a minimum number of guns (i.e. two), mounted centrally to combine their firepower, with enough ammunition for just a couple of kills has a logic to it: The minimum weight to produce a truly effective armament. The weight savings can then go into performance... manoeuvrability without sacrificing speed... which allow the pilot to get into position to fire. If one only recently industrialised... it seems like a good solution.

 

Also, the wing of the Yak wasn't designed to carry guns... so it makes it harder to add them after the fact. What I find interesting is the popularity of the Yak-9T and Yak-9K used a giant cannon to increase the armament - rather than carrying a second UB (as is the case with the Yak-7)... some of the later Yaks carried 20mm cannons in place of the UB and sometimes combined them with the engine mounted 37mm - so they did increase firepower as the war went on. However, they didn't increase magazine depth (at least not substantially)... which is interesting... I guess the small magazines were deemed to be enough?

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1 hour ago, oc2209 said:

And why do German planes have such ridiculously high cannon capacities compared to Allied planes? I know the 109's magazine extended into the wing root, but that still doesn't explain how the Fw-190 can carry over double the cannon rounds of a Spitfire

The ammo storage for the FW 190's wingroot guns was in the fuselage under the front of the cockpit, in front of the front fuel tank, so plenty of space for ammo.

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As others have mentioned there is different amounts of room for ammo in different planes.

 

Also early spit and 109 (and 190) wing cannons were drum fed and not belt fed. This limited their ammo capacity to 60 rounds per gun.

 

Later Fws have belt fed inner wing cannons and apparently there is room for 250 rpg. 

 

Also weight is a factor. Few guns with just enough ammo for a kill or 2 keeps a plane light.

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32 minutes ago, Avimimus said:

...

With regard to the Yakovlevs ... a minimum number of guns (i.e. two), mounted centrally to combine their firepower, with enough ammunition for just a couple of kills has a logic to it: The minimum weight to produce a truly effective armament. The weight savings can then go into performance... manoeuvrability without sacrificing speed... which allow the pilot to get into position to fire. If one only recently industrialised... it seems like a good solution.

...

 

I think something like this about hits the answer on the head - I think the reality was that the soviets were focusing on ramping up production and putting as many cheap and easy to produce aircraft in the sky as they could. Real engagements on the eastern front featured many 100's of planes in the sky at once. If each one of them carried enough ammo for a few kills,  the combined effect was satisfactory, and the cost per unit (both in terms of production expense up front and war materiel lost per unit destroyed in battle) remains low. 

 

Unfortunately for us as simmers, this results in a loadout that feels light when compared against our desire to blast as many virtual planes out of the sky as possible in a short action packed sortie. 

 

As for the exceptional capacity of the German aircraft weapons - I think there's a few things at play, firstly I think it's fair to say the Germans had a pretty significant technological head start in aircraft and armament design from the mid 30's on which the allies only caught/surpassed by the end of the war because the US industry could work on a massive scale and without fear of attack. Secondly the German's primary driving focus in fighter design and armament through most of the war was countering the Allied daylight bombing threat, which meant packing as much firerpower as possible onto each fighter.

 

As  a fun in-game experiment, run a quick mission duel scenario against a bomber like the B25 with enemy waves set to "until ammo gone" and compare the number of kills you can get with a yak or really any allied aircraft and compare that to something like a FW190A8 or 'A5 with the 6x 20mm cannon mod. that thing basically disintegrates bombers. The only allied aircraft that comes anywhere close is the Tempest for shear firepower and even that requires judicious marksmanship to make the best use of its 150 rpg. 

Edited by Krasp28
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15 minutes ago, Mollotin said:

Later Fws have belt fed inner wing cannons and apparently there is room for 250 rpg. 

The inner belt fed 20mm guns were already in the A2. Only the outer belt fed 20mm guns were not added before the A6.

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6 minutes ago, vonGraf said:

Wasn't there a 90 round drum for the outer 20mm cannons of the Fw-190 too?

At least there is one in the A-8 from DCS. Don't know how it was in reality.

I read somewhere, that the 90 rounds magazine was developed for the A5, but I have no idea, if this is correct.

The A8 doesn't have drum magazines, as the outer guns are MG151/20s like the inner guns, which were belt fed. The ammo amount is 145 rounds for the outer guns IIRC.

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1 minute ago, Yogiflight said:

I read somewhere, that the 90 rounds magazine was developed for the A5, but I have no idea, if this is correct.

The A8 doesn't have drum magazines, as the outer guns are MG151/20s like the inner guns, which were belt fed. The ammo amount is 145 rounds for the outer guns IIRC.

 

Ah, I may have mixed it up with the versions we have in this game. My bad.

I'm jumping between the FW models from DCS and IL-2 a lot at the moment.

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I think most soviet fighter pilots had very few chances to fire at the enemy, and for those few chances the ammo loadout was enough. In fact, there are accounts of some pilots limiting La-5 loadouts for 60 shells per gun, for the exactly same reason. I remember a very notable interview with a fighter pilot who flew Yak-9 43-45, and all he did was escorting Il-2s. He said that 99% of the engagements with enemy fighters were going as follows: 109s appear up high, Il-2s form a defensive circle, and Yaks slightly higher trying to prevent 109s from having effective attacks on Sturmoviks. Yaks only fired when a 109 was diving, and they tried to spoil the attack by firing short warning bursts. One does not need a lot of ammo for that. Rinse and repeat, day after day. He did manage to shot down two 109s, but those were completely different situations and he had very short time windows to fire. No need for many rounds to exploit that.

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Most important thing to understant is that typical fighter sortie is not like a Ace Combat mission, with dozens of enemies you absolutely have to shot down. You get couple of windows of shooting, if you see enemy at all.

Yakovlevs were efffectively made to protect Il-2, and they approached it in a simmilar manner you see defence in sports, you don't need to tackle your opponent, just keeping him from scoring is enough. As someone said earlier, pilots send to these protective missions ussually didn't care much for airkills, since they were rated by number of Il-2 not shot down rather than number of 109 shot down. 

About the larger capacity of 1B, both the guns are belt-fed, there isn't much issue making the belt longer, you surely would find bit of space for it. Another thing you can find is that you can increase the capacity of base belt by loading the bullets manually, rather than by the machine. Yak-9T can get 32 shots for 37mm, as opposed to 30 when loaded by machine. UB could get to 220 in a simmilar manner. There was not much of demand by pilots, so it wasn't common. Some even removed some ammo or even guns to save weight. In sim, flying Yak with a single UB machine gun seems almost retarded, but it was done IRL.  

And Germans, of course, were going with the idea that every pilot is a heroic knight to kill dozens of enemies around him, which together with having to face many well armored Il-2 and B-17 led to powerfull armament and high ammo loads.

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19 minutes ago, [DBS]Browning said:

These are all sound reasons, but it could also simply be that the amount of ammo needed was underestimated by the plane's designers and the problem was never fully fixed.

 

My guess:

 

Seems to be a matter of design philosophy.  Just look at the ammo capacity disparity of more modern fighters such as the F-16 and Mig-29.  It's a theme of Russian design:  Mig-15 vs F-86, F4E vs Mig-17 or 19.  They like light and fast point defense fighters that can climb and ingress quickly, get on station and do their job very effectively for a bit, and then fly home.  

 

The Germans had to contend with the unrelenting onslaught of the four-engined heavy bombers, so that became a part of the equation for them.  Hence the heavy cannon and large ammo loads, etc..

 

Edited by cmorris975
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Wasn't there a common preference among Russian pilots for even more decreased ammunition

 

I think it was here that I read an excerpt from a book about this on a Russian ace flying some variant of the La-5. That was a far ways back so I don't recall which one of you fine folks put it up, but I distinctly remember there was this particular preference for having a bare minimum of munitions for one or two kills just so they'd be able to reduce weight. 

 

Struck me as particularly odd at the time but I can't really argue with that idea. These Russian planes are really well-behaved and I could see why they'd want to maximize their characteristics. 

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But reducing the weight of a 3 ton aircraft for 20 kg seems quite odd. If it was in the wings, ok, but in the center in the fuselage doesn't make too much sense. If you need these 20 kg less weight feel free to unload your mag partially with a burst.

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One other thing to consider is not all 20mm rounds used the same size cartridge. 

 

The MG151/20 used a 20x82 mm shell, while the HS.404 used a 20x110mm round, and the ShVAK used a 20x99R mm shell: 

 

20mm1.jpg (567×403)
20mm1.jpg

 

The MG151/20 is one of the smaller and lighter 20mm rounds of the war, which enabled more of them to be carried for the same weight and space. 

 

Further, one of the major weakness of the Russian planes during the war was lack of powerful engines, so when you are that close on the power curve, and weight reduction helps performance a cross the board. 

 

Finally, there was logistics to consider. Someone had to build and ship every round they fired, and given that the VVS pilots were generally inexperienced, and the factories were overloaded, it just made sense to use a limited ammo load. The aces could still make kills with is, and the Barney Fifes would only waste a limited amount of ammo at a time. 

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10 hours ago, Pahec97 said:

Some even removed some ammo or even guns to save weight. In sim, flying Yak with a single UB machine gun seems almost retarded, but it was done IRL. 

 

Now you've done it! The Devs are going to have to put up with me mentioning this cool 'feature' for the next ten years!

 

P.S. Amusingly, just the other day I was trying to figure out how much of my Mig-3's firepower was in the ShKAS ...so I spent some time downing bombers with just my single UB! I remember thinking 'this is sufficient'.

 

Edited by Avimimus
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11 hours ago, Pahec97 said:

And Germans, of course, were going with the idea that every pilot is a heroic knight to kill dozens of enemies around him, which together with having to face many well armored Il-2 and B-17 led to powerfull armament and high ammo loads.

 

The thing about extra ammo is, as I see it: it's not so much that you, as the designer, assume your pilots will be shooting down 5 planes per sortie. The greater advantage to high ammo capacity is that even a rookie who's a terrible shot will likely be able to get one kill even if it takes 500 cannon shells to do so. If you expect a bad shot to do anything with 120 rounds, you'll lose that bet 9 out of 10 times.

 

Also, let's recall that the 109--not designed as a bomber killer--still carries more cannon ammo for its one cannon, than any other plane in the game aside from the Fw-190 for its two default cannons (200 versus 250 rpg). And the Fw-190 was designed with this much ammo capacity well before the Germans learned how hard Sturmoviks and B-17s were to shoot down. So when the Fw-190 began its career beating up British incursions into northern France, it was mostly using those cannon against fighters and light bombers.

 

Evidently the Germans believed, on a fundamental level, in large ammo capacity even against fighter-sized enemies.

 

3 hours ago, Yogiflight said:

But reducing the weight of a 3 ton aircraft for 20 kg seems quite odd. If it was in the wings, ok, but in the center in the fuselage doesn't make too much sense. If you need these 20 kg less weight feel free to unload your mag partially with a burst.

 

This is my sentiment exactly. Some of the people here have mentioned the lightness of the Yak's overall armament--but that's not what I'm questioning. I don't mind having only one 12.7mm instead of two. I understand the logic of shaving off the weight of a whole other gun plus its ammo. What I fail to understand is how it would make any significant performance difference to carry 50-100 more rounds for the one 12.7mm.

 

I know for a fact that if I carried even 50 extra 12.7mm rounds and 30 extra 20mm (for a total of 250 and 150, respectively) in a Yak, it'd be the difference between getting a kill and having an enemy escape back to base with only non-fatal damage.

 

Since there is seemingly no definitive answer for why Russian ammo capacity is lower than every other nation, I must assume it was a choice on Russia's part. Not a design limitation. Presumably the choice was made primarily to conserve overall ammunition stores, and this likely would have been an administrative choice more than a tactical one. If some Russian pilots chose even smaller ammo loadouts, it likely would have been seen as patriotic to save resources, as well as macho. Some combination thereof. But realistically, there is zero logic in going into combat with small ammo loads when you're already carrying few guns. The only rational reason to limit ammo count is if there is a chronic shortage of ammunition, or a fear of a shortage.

 

Even if you wanted to argue that many early to mid-war Russian pilots were hastily-trained novices and would just waste the ammo anyway--wasting ammo is only a problem if you don't have enough to waste. I'm pretty sure American logistics officers didn't care when their planes came back missing 2000 rounds of ammo from one sortie.

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I believe it was Rommel that said, in a one on one combat, the man with more rounds in his magazine will win.

 

He was correct.

 

K98: 5 rounds.

 

M1 Garand:  8 rounds.

Edited by BlitzPig_EL
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1 hour ago, BlitzPig_EL said:

I believe it was Rommel that said, in a one on one combat, the man with more rounds in his magazine will win.

 

He was correct.

 

K98: 5 rounds.

 

M1 Garand:  8 rounds.

 

Due to the plethora of MGs in the German TOE, the combat supply of a German division was provided for and expected to expend nearly twice as much small arms ammunition as a US division in combat. They mythos of the Garand was aimed rifle fire beats "wasteful" saturation fire, hence the US squad was not provided with a machine gun but rather a BAR. The controversy between rapid saturation fire and marksmen was a competing idea in US military small arms since the introduction of the Henry and Spencer repeating rifles in the American Civil War, where many Union brass thought that giving troops repeaters just made them wasteful of ammunition and dissuaded them from bayonet charges.

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9 minutes ago, cardboard_killer said:

The controversy between rapid saturation fire and marksmen was a competing idea in US military small arms since the introduction of the Henry and Spencer repeating rifles in the American Civil War, where many Union brass thought that giving troops repeaters just made them wasteful of ammunition and dissuaded them from bayonet charges.

What infantryman doesn't love a good bayonet charge?...

This is why we joined the air corps.

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Consider yourself lucky. In early WW2, due to scarce resources, they gave one airplane with guns but without ammo to one pilot, and one airplane without guns but with ammo to the pilot next to him. If either died, the other could get the guns/ammo.

 

Am I doing this right?

Edited by Sybreed
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Guys, you should play a round of Hell Let Loose (its a semi-realistic 100 player multiplayer with Normandie-Scenario, in my opinion one of the greatest shooters of the last years, i always name it "Battlefield for Adults")

 

Americans vs Germans

M1 vs K98

 

In each and every 1on1 situation, i win when i play the American, because i can pump 8 shots in short time into the directions of the German Soldier.

The German though has 5 shots, needs to reload after every shot.

 

The faster gun with more ammo always is the advantage that counts.

😁

Edited by PaladinX
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32 minutes ago, PaladinX said:

In each and every 1on1 situation, i win when i play the American, because i can pump 8 shots in short time into the directions of the German Soldier.

The German though has 5 shots, needs to reload after every shot.

 

The faster gun with more ammo always is the advantage that counts.

So I as German soldier would go for the MG 42:hunter:

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17 hours ago, Sybreed said:

Consider yourself lucky. In early WW2, due to scarce resources, they gave one airplane with guns but without ammo to one pilot, and one airplane without guns but with ammo to the pilot next to him. If either died, the other could get the guns/ammo.

 

Am I doing this right?

 

Yeah, you're mostly correct.

 

There were also anecdotes* of PPSh guns being taped to Yak wings. The pilots would have to get out of the cockpit and climb on the wings to reload manually. How do you say 'hoorah' in Russian?

 

 

*that I just totally made up right now.

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9 minutes ago, oc2209 said:

There were also anecdotes* of PPSh guns being taped to Yak wings. The pilots would have to get out of the cockpit and climb on the wings to reload manually.

Remembers me of the anecdote of IL-2 gunners, who held their machinegun out of the aircraft to shoot at fighters under their IL-2. Soviet Rambo:hunter:

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