Nightfighting in World War Two
By Lee Brimmicombe-Wood Part 5-2. Tame Boars
Now that Hermann had introduced uncontrolled 'free' fighting with the Wild Boars the door was open for a second technique developed by Oberst von Lossberg, codenamed Zahme Sau
('Tame Boar'). This relied on a system known as Y-control. Instead of using a Würzburg-Riese
radar to track the location of a friendly nightfighter, as in the Himmelbett
system, a fighter's position could be triangulated from its radio broadcasts. Though a lot less precise than Würzburg-Riese
tracking, this permitted ground controllers to handle larger numbers of nightfighters over a wider area and direct them to infiltrate the RAF bomber streams. Once in the streams the fighters could freelance, following the bombers for hundreds of miles, shooting down whatever they could find. ILLUSTRATION: In the Zahme Sau system, nightfighters would stack up in orbit around a radio beacon near the bomber stream, having been directed their by their controllers. Then, using the Y-system to track their position, the controller could direct each nightfighter into the bomber stream. Once infiltrated, the fighter was on its own, able to freelance in a 'target rich' environment.
Kammhuber feared the nightfighting system would collapse into chaos by introducing two systems of 'free' fighting at once, but Zahme Sau
was bullied through by Göring and his ADC, Oberst von Brauchitsch. At first the technique, though successful, did not live up to its full promise. Von Lossberg had assumed that once infiltrated into the stream the bombers would be easy to follow, but without a running radio commentary on the bombers' course (which was often jammed) this proved difficult. Also the Lichtenstein BC
AI radars aboard the nightfighters had too narrow a beam to find bombers easily. What was desperately required was the new Lichtenstein SN-2
radar, with its greater range and wide angle of coverage. Once the SN-2
arrived in numbers in early 1944 Zahme Sau
reached its full potential and it was not unknown for a single crew, once embedded in the stream, to rack up three, four or more kills in a single sortie. (The record was eight.) ILLUSTRATION: This diagram compares the coverage of the Lichtenstein BC AI radar to the beams of the SN-2. The SN-2's wide angle made Zahme Sau nightfighting a practicality, as it could more easily pick up bombers tightly packed within the stream. However, the SN-2 was in some ways a technical step backwards. At a time when the Allies were trying to develop microwave AI, to counter the low-level bomber threat, the SN-2 used metre waves. Fortunately, the RAF flew mostly at high altitudes where the long wavelength wasn't a major issue. Meter waves gave the SN-2 a greater range than the Lichtenstein BC, and later models could switch frequencies to avoid jamming. The SN-2 was to be the Luftwaffe's primary AI radar to the end of the war.
The perfection of Zahme Sau
was still in the future and in the autumn of 1943 the success of the Tame Boar technique had fluctuated as the RAF got the measure of it and instituted countermeasures. Coming so soon on the tragedy of Hamburg, which had been gutted by a firestorm, Göring's confidence in the night fighting force began to wane and heads had to roll. Josef Kammhuber relinquished command of XII Fliegerkorps
in September, to be replaced by GeneralMajor 'Beppo' Schmid, and the month after Kammhuber stepped down as General of Night Fighters.
The organization Schmid inherted was a mess. Instead of RAF Fighter Command's centralized command system, the Reich Air Defence was a muddle of conflicting organizations and jurisdictions. The RAF raid on Kassel in October 1943 exposed all sorts of deficiencies with the air reporting system, with flak and fighters acting in a completely uncoordinated fashion. Kammhuber had resisted reorganization, believing it would throw everything into chaos. Now that he was gone, Göring rearranged the chairs, in theory tightening things by combining the day and night fighter command posts, but at the same time breaking up XII Fliegerkorps
into a number of divisions under I Jagdkorps
. Now there were four completely independent higher commands in Central Europe, all drawing up their own tactical air situations. The defects of this decentralization were to become increasingly apparent with time.
The adoption of Wild Boar and Tame Boar tactics did not replace the old Himmelbett
system. Controlled night interception would continue until almost the end of the war. But 'free fighting' supplemented the line of Himmelbett Raum
and, in the case of Zahme Sau
, increasingly bore the brunt of the fighting. However, time was not on the side of the tame boars. Attrition and Allied superiority in a new form of electronic combath were to gradually grind them down. Next:
Confound and Destroy: The Electronic War.
You can order Nightfighter: Air Warfare in the Night Skies of World War 2