Yes, today’s history is one of those. Unconventional. And our hero is an airplane that was awarded such a very unflattering nickname as “Judas the goat.”
The term is American. “Judah’s goat” is a specially trained goat around which sheep gathered (a normal practice on the prairie grazing), and the goat led them to the slaughter. The goat, of course, survived, which can not be said about the sheep.
We called such a goat a provocateur.
By the way, it is logical, because “provocateur” in Latin means challenging / starting a fight. Skirmisher, if that’s our way.
But our story has nothing to do with the world of gladiators, we are talking about airplanes.
It all began in 1942, when the British launched massive raids on Germany. In general, they began to fly much earlier, in 1940. But the Reich’s air defense and fighters instantly cooled the ardor of the British pilots and the raids became nighttime.
It is worth talking about the effectiveness of these raids separately, if the Germans are to be believed, until the end of 1943 the damage from the raids was minimal.
But the raids were carried out with ever larger masses of aircraft.
Now it is enough for us to imagine this nightmare show, when dozens and hundreds of planes rose from different airfields and flew … We flew somewhere, in the direction. Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin …
It is in the direction. Because the accuracy of reaching such a “small” target as a city depended on the navigator, who, in principle, flew over a pack of “Belomor”. Nothing, to put it mildly, not differing from the guys on sailing frigates, sailing somewhere there in the stars and the sun.
The principle was the same.
Therefore, if the navigator was good, the plane flew. No – well, excuse me, there were plenty of factors capable of dropping a bomber to the ground. Plus air defense, plus fighters, both day and night …
Luftwaffe fighters are a separate headache, because the Germans knew how to shoot down something. And they practiced everywhere. It was necessary to somehow defend against this, especially since at the time of 1943 there were not yet sufficient numbers of Mustangs or Thunderbolts. There were Lightnings, but for the Focke-Wulfs this is just a very desirable goal …
The British didn’t even have that. Therefore, the entire first part of the Second World War, British bombers could rely only on themselves and on their machine guns. Let’s be honest – they had so-so with protection.
This means that salvation is only in close formation, where aircraft can concentrate fire on enemy fighters and cover each other.
“Box”. As practice has shown – the best formation in order to somehow fight off fighters. An echeloned formation, in which the aircraft had a chance to reach the target and repel the attacks of enemy fighters.
The American “box” consisted of 12 aircraft, which were lined up in echelon and could defend themselves with 150 onboard heavy machine guns.
It is clear that this increased the likelihood of hitting machines by anti-aircraft fire from the ground. The “minus” of a dense construction. It happened that bombs from the “upper” floors hit the planes flying below, about such “trifles” as friendly fire, we do not even touch. The fever of battle, we understand.
And here we come to the essence of our story.
Dozens of airfields from which hundreds of planes take off. This was normal, especially when the Air Force Commander-in-Chief Harris announced a “thousand bombers” raid program.
A thousand had to be raised. It is not easy, the planes circled in the air for two or three hours, waiting for everyone to take off. The Germans weaned off flying according to the principle “who where, and me to the north” very quickly.
So, it was necessary to lift the plane into the air. Next – to find “friends”, that is, the link that made up the “box”. Take your place in the formation. And then start moving towards the goal.
And all this was in complete radio silence, because with the Germans’ radio interception service, everything was just fine.
As a result, one can imagine what a mess reigned in the air. The planes took off from different airfields at different times. Hundred. The planes got confused, united with foreign groups, collided. On average, there was one collision for every two missions.
It is not known for certain who came up with the idea of using individual aircraft as a reference point. It was definitely someone from the US Air Force, because the Americans were the first to paint such aircraft. Apparently, from the number of crews operating from British airfields.
This is how the “Assembly Ship”, that is, the assembly aircraft, appeared.
Each battle group was given such an aircraft, which was painted by the forces of the group in the most flashy and bright colors. The plane was supposed to be recognizable for the pilots of its group both day and night.
It was a kind of beacon for other aircraft, to which they attached themselves and by which they guided themselves.
Usually, machines that have exhausted their resource have been used for this purpose. They were made easier by removing the armor and part of the weapons, the crew was reduced (mainly at the expense of the riflemen), and the bombing equipment was removed. But they added a lot of aeronautical lights and equipped them with a large number of signal flares.
And “Goats” usually did not fly on combat missions. More precisely, they flew, but only up to the German air defense zone. Usually – because there were some that flew normally from start to finish.
What was the essence of the application?
They were flying beacons. After taking off and finding himself in the group gathering square, the pilot of each plane began to look for his “goat”. And when he found it, he flew up and took his place in the order.
Further, the “goats”, in the crews of which were the best navigators, gathered groups around themselves and led them to the target. Near the enemy air defense zone, the “goats” turned around and returned to their airfield.
That is why the American pilots called the assembly planes “Judas Goats.” There was an element of truth in this, yes.
In the end, however, the use of “Assembly Ship”, or assembly planes, despite the offensive nickname, was deemed so successful that even when Mustangs and Thunderbolts appeared in delivery quantities, the “Judas Goats” still assembled planes in groups. and led them to the enemy lines.
The case when a rather unconventional solution turned out to be a “golden improvisation”.