WW2 Air Supremacy

Air supremacy is an air force capacity to control the sky over a battlefield or a war zone, allowing its bombers and ground-attack aircraft to operate and carry out their bombing missions almost withouth hindrance. For that, it is necessary to possess fast, maneuverable, and powerful fighter and interceptor aircraft in great numbers in order to be able to secure that air space, shooting down any intruder, in the form of an enemy fighter or bomber, that flies in. During the first three years of World War II, the German Luftwaffe had air supremacy in Europe, being able to implement, along with the Wehrmacht, its Blitzkrieg warfare, with the Junkers Ju 87 “Stuka” providing, without hindrance, fire support to ground troops. Having the industrial capacity to manufacture a large number of advanced and fast fighter aircraft, such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the Focke-Wulf FW 190, and flown by excellent pilots allowed Germany to control the skies over most of Europe. With air supremacy, the Third Reich was able to successfully carry out the invasion of Poland in September 1939, to defeat Allied troops and conquer French territory in 1940, and to invade large tracts of the Soviet Unions, with the German divisions at the gates of Moscow, in 1941 (Operation Barbarossa).

However, the Luftwaffe failed to achieve air superiority in the air space over the Channel and the British Isles, since the Germans could not defeat the RAF. It was the Supermarine Spitfire aircraft  and the radars set up in the coastal regions that helped the British avoid defeat. Not only was it as fast as the German Messerschmitt Bf 109, but it was also more maneuverable than the German fighter, thanks to its elliptical wing design and powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin supercharged V12 engine. The Spitfire had also been designed as an interceptor, which became a real threat to the German bombers, whose main problem was not having enough range to carry bombs beyond London’s countryside area. By June 1944, with the introduction and mass production of the British Hawker Tempest and the North American P-51 Mustang, the Luftwaffe had lost the air supremacy in Europe. Under constant attack of Allied bombers, the German industry was unable to catch up with the Allied aircraft production.

In the Pacific Theater of Operations, it was the Japanese who enjoyed air superiority at the beginning of the war. Maintained until 1942, it was exerted through the Imperial Japanese Navy’s carrier force, whose most important aircraft was the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero”. This fast and maneuverable aircraft was the best fighter in the Pacific until the arrival of the US F6F Hellcat and, specially, the F4U Corsair in 1943. Since it was through the carriers that the Japanese exerted air superiority, the first blow to this war capacity took place in the Battle of Midway in 1942, when the Americans were able to sink four Japanese aircraft carriers: Hiryu, Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu. By June 1944, with the Corsairs and Hellcats on the US Navy’s ship flight decks, the Allies had already acquired air supremacy in the Pacific; this was proved in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, during which the US Navy’s F6Fs and F4Us wiped more than 600 Japanese planes out of the sky and its dive bombers sank three more Japanese carriers.

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Thor is Carlos Benito Camacho, the manager and writer of this blog.