Airborne Awesomosity

B-24 Liberator Versus HE-177 Griffin


Consolidated B-24 Liberator

File:Heinkel He177.jpg

Heinkel HE-177 Griffin












Which was the better heavy bomber of World War 2?




File:He 177 A-5.jpg

HE-177 Griffin


Most people are unaware that Germany had a heavy bomber aircraft during the second World War. The Griffin has the distinction of being a four engine bomber with two props. The Griffon utilized two DB 610 engines which were two Daimler Benz 601 engines on a common prop shaft. This is similar in approach to the Allison V-3420 we saw last week.  Which was two Allison V12 engines merged together to form one new engine type. This would eventually be the types downfall. That and the design limitations that made it far to heavy by including provisions for dive bombing.

Overheating issues of the coupled engines doomed the aircraft to a smaller part of the war then it should have played. Like all German aircraft though when you take a look at the performance of the production aircraft you see how close the came to beating the Americans and British at the heavy bomber game.

  • Powerplant – 2 Daimler Benz DB 610 liquid cooled 24 cylinder engines of 3000 HP each
  • Maximum speed – 351mph
  • Combat radius – 957 miles
  • Defensive armament – 5 machine guns and 2 20mm cannon
  • Bomb load – internal 13,200 pounds, alternative external 15,800 – capable of carrying guided missiles
  • Production – 1137



B-24's visiting Ploesti

The B-17 may be the better known bomber but the B-24 was the far more capable aircraft. Designed like a land based flying boat the B-24 had a spacious bomb bay to go with it’s good performance. Even seventy years later the Davis wing looks to small to carry that aircraft through the air. For our British friends this was the same argument that Halifax fans would have against the Lancaster. Sometimes the better designed aircraft isn’t the one that is remembered.

The airframe was large enough too have been easily converted to cargo use later in the war as well. Consolidated had a winner on their hands that would get relegated to second place in the minds of enthusiasts.

  • Powerplant – 4 Pratt and Whitney R-1830 Turbo Supercharged air cooled radials of 1200 horsepower each
  • Maximum speed – 290mph
  • Combat radius – 1050 miles
  • Defensive armament – 10 50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns
  • Bomb load – Short range 8,000 pounds, long range 5,000 pounds
  • Production – 18,482


File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-461-0220-07, Russland, Flugzeug Heinkel He 177.jpg

I thought the door was up here?

Although a close fight in the end the HE-177 edges out it’s American counterpart for several reasons. The performance of the Greif was much higher then that of the Liberator or any of the Allied bombers of the war. It had a slightly longer range as well. Add in the ability to not only carry double the bomb load but to also carry guided missiles and the Greif just leaves the poor land based flying boat B-24 in the dirt.

This is if you take out one very large part of the equation which was reliability. Had the HE-177 4 engine variant gone into production it would have likely given the Germans a truly capable heavy bomber to cause damage to the Russian industrial machine on the other side of the Ural Mountains. Not to mention the damage it could have done to the farther out bases of the English.

In the end it would being a none point while it was saddled by the coupled engines and had to deal with the overheating issues. For now then let’s be happy the Germans never quite realized how good a heavy bomber they had in their Greif.

[image credit – all images]

  • thomasmac

    ""The Griffin has the distinction of being a four engine bomber with two prop""
    "'design limitations that made it far to heavy by including provisions for dive bombing""
    …..Those wacky Germans!

    • fodder650

      I missed i S in there apparently and need to do an edit.

      Although listed as being powered by two DB 610 the reality is that each of those is actually two engines sharing a common crankshaft. It's the same approach as we saw with the Allison V-3420 which was actually just two Allison V-1720's smashed together.

      And yes it was built to be able to do some dive bombing. Which is truly wacky. Unfortunately is also requires a heavier wing, dive brakes, and other provisions. All, of which, actually slowed the plane down

      • thomasmac

        It made me think of this ill fated engine

        • fodder650

          That's the first I saw of the British doing the same thing with the Napier engine. The most famous is likely to be the Allison which almost made it into production. They were bound and determined to put it into production actually

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    Speed is not the only measure of bomber performance, The Davis airfoil wing on the B-24 gave it some extraordinary handling for such a large aircraft. I read a memoir by a B-24 pilot where he recounted barrel rolling an unloaded B-24 while playing with some P-51s. The Liberator also made an excellent maritime patrol aircraft with more fuel tanks and less equipment for even longer range.
    The HE-177 does score points for bomb load but is overshadowed by the Avro Lancaster with a standard load of 14,000 pounds and special operations load of 22,000 pounds.
    Interesting the Lancaster started out as the Rolls Royce Vulture powered and very unreliable Manchester and was salvaged by conversion to four Merlins.

    • fodder650

      We need to give credit to the Brits for not giving up on the Manchester and being willing to convert it to a 4 engined aircraft.

      As for the Liberator it was an exceptional aircraft anyway you look at it. The HE-177 was just an unusual design. I guess it might have made more sense to put the B-24 against the Condor since they were both patrol bomber designs.

  • Actually, probably the biggest advantage the B-24 had was 18,482 vs. 1,137. If Axis and Allied defensive forces had a 1:1 shootdown ratio for attacking bombers, that leaves 0 HE-177s vs 17,345 B-24s. the Russians weren't the only ones that used sheer numbers to overcome technical superiority.

    • fodder650

      For future versions of this "Versus" series why don't I do two separate types

      First are the "Technical" battles. Which plane or piece of military equipment was engineered better and was the superior item

      or the Zerg approach which would be "Which was better the T-34 or the Panzer 4" since the T-34 had a 10 to 1 or more number advantage.

      • Sometimes the ability to mass produce is sort of a technical ability. Along the same lines, at late as the first Gulf War most of the bombs we dropped were "dumb" bombs. They were cheaper and we had more in inventory.

        Most of Nazi Germany's great weapons could be summed up as too little too late: Me-262, STG-44 assault rifle, Tiger II tank, type XXI U-boats, etc.

        • fodder650

          You right it was not only two little to late but bad decisions. Like the ME-262 for example. Had the directive not been to put bombs on it. It would have been in production in 43 and likely changed how we did daytime bombing

          • Number_Six

            It amazes me that the German high command, elements of which were brilliant enough to come up with the fake glider schools and other strategic gambits that gave them a huge advantage, yet they ignored the work that Doolittle did on strategic bombing before the war. One could argue that lack of strategic bombers alone cost the Nazis the war.

          • fodder650

            On the flip side they embraced dive bombing after seeing a demonstration of it in the US where our Air Force chose to ignore it.

            The Germans truly thought it was going to be a 3 month war. Why wouldn't they? Everything looked like a walk over for them

  • Number_Six

    Heinkel wins on style points alone. Justlookatit!