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Our Big Reveal continues today with our Duel series. From the First Sino-Japanese War to the Vietnam War, there's a lot of machine-on-machine action in our 2019 titles. Which has caught your attention?
DUE: F6F Hellcat vs N1K1/2 Shiden/Shiden-Kai
By the late summer of 1944 in the Pacific, the US Navy’s burgeoning force of carrier-based F6F-3/5 Hellcats had pretty much wiped the skies clear of Japanese fighters during a series of one-sided aerial engagements. However, starting in October, they faced the superb Kawanishi N1K1/2 Shiden/Shiden-Kai, a formidable fighter with improved armament, a powerful engine and excellent manoeuvrability.
Japanese pilots using this aircraft would claim more than 170 aerial victories over Kyushu in defence of the Home Islands and whilst escorting kamikaze attacks on Allied ships off Okinawa. US Navy Hellcat pilots in turn were credited with downing a number of Shidens over Formosa and the Philippines and Shiden-Kais attempting to defend Japan.
DUE: German Flak Defences vs Allied Heavy Bombers 1942–45
Often dismissed as ineffective and a waste of valuable material and personnel, the German flak arm (German anti-aircraft defences) made a major contribution to the defence of the Third Reich. At least half of the American aircraft shot down over Germany fell to flak (5380 lost to flak, 4274 to fighters and 2033 to other causes), and according to the RAF Official History it was estimated that flak accounted for 1229 of 3302 aircraft lost by Bomber Command between 1942 and April 1945.
Anti-aircraft fire had two roles to play. One was to shoot down enemy aircraft and the other, more important, role was to force bombers to drop their ordnance sooner or from a higher altitude, thus reducing bombing accuracy. Flak also damaged aircraft, causing them to slow down and lose altitude, thus becoming easy pickings for marauding German fighters.
DUE: Me 262 vs P-51 Mustang
Making its operational debut in the summer of 1944, and powered by the Jumo 004 jet engine, the Me 262 outclassed anything the Allies had in terms of speed and firepower ratio, offering a formidable punch with four 30 mm MK 108 nose-mounted cannon. But the problem the Luftwaffe faced was one of numbers – to the end of the war, availability of machines and trained pilots was to prove an insurmountable problem. In the P-51, fitted with the Rolls-Royce (Packard) Merlin engine and drop tanks, and in the hands of the right pilot, the USAAF finally had a fighter that had the ‘legs’ to escort its heavy bombers deep into Reich airspace, and back, for well over 1000 miles. If flown to its strengths, the P-51 was more than capable of taking on the feared Me 262 on an equal footing, despite the differences in powerplant, armament and top speed.
DUE: Spitfire VC vs A6M2 Zero-sen
Just weeks after Pearl Harbor, Darwin was mauled by a massive Japanese attack. Without a single fighter to defend Australian soil, the Australian government made a special appeal to Britain for Spitfires.
A year later the Spitfire VC-equipped No 1 Fighter Wing, RAAF, faced the battle-hardened 202nd Kokutai of the IJNAF, equipped with A6M2 Zero-sens, over Darwin. This was a gruelling campaign between evenly matched foes, fought in isolation from the main South Pacific battlegrounds. Pilots on either side had significant combat experience, with the RAF units sent to defend Australian including several Battle of Britain veterans within their ranks. The Spitfire had superior flight characteristics but was hampered by short range and material defects in the tropical conditions, while the Japanese employed better tactics and combat doctrine inflicting serious losses on the over-confident Commonwealth forces.
DUE: Tempest V vs Fw 190D-9
The long-nosed Fw 190D-9, designed by Kurt Tank, first appeared in the skies over the Western and Eastern Fronts in the late summer of 1944. Fast, and with an exceptional rate of climb, it quickly bettered almost every fighter that the Allies could field.
The Hawker Tempest V entered service in early 1944, initially proving itself a stalwart performer when it was deployed to intercept V1 flying bombs over southern England. From the autumn of 1944, the Tempest V also equipped squadrons of the 2nd Tactical Air Force, operating in support of the Allied armies advancing across northwest Europe. It became a potent ground-attack aircraft, armed with underwing rockets, but also a first-class interceptor when pitted against the Luftwaffe’s advanced Fw 190D-9 and Me 262.
DUE: USAF F-105 Thunderchief vs VPAF MiG-17
The F-105D Thunderchief was originally designed as a low-altitude nuclear strike aircraft, but the commitment of US forces to the growing conflict in southeast Asia led to it being used instead as the USAF’s primary conventional striker against exceptionally well-defended targets in North Vietnam and Laos. F-105 crews conducted long-distance missions from bases in Thailand, refuelling in flight several times and carrying heavy external bombloads.
The MiG-17 was the lightweight, highly manoeuvrable and heavily armed defending fighter that it encountered most often in 1965-68 during Operation Rolling Thunder. A development of the MiG-15, which shocked UN forces during the Korean War, its key strengths were simplicity and ease of maintenance in potentially primitive.
DUE: Chinese Ironclad Battleship vs Japanese Protected Cruiser
The 1894–95 war between China and Japan, known in the West as the First Sino-Japanese War, lasted only nine months, but its impact resonates today.
The Chinese Beiyang (Northern) Fleet was led by its flagship, Dingyuan, and her sister ship, Zhenyuan, which were the biggest in Asia; German-built armoured turret ships, they were armed with four 12in guns and two 6in guns, plus six smaller guns and three torpedo tubes. For their part the Japanese fleet, including the protected cruiser Matsushima and her sister ships Itsukushima and Hashidate, each armed with a single 12.6in Canet gun and 11 or 12 4.7in guns, plus smaller guns and four torpedo tubes. The scene was set for a bloody confrontation that would stun the world and transform the relationship between China and Japan.
DUE: Panzerfaust vs Sherman
From the Allied perspective, there were few encounters with the two standard German infantry antitank rocket launchers, the Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck, until the summer 1944 fighting in Normandy. As a result, there was not dedicated effort to develop a means to defend a tank against such weapons. The Ordnance Department in the United States began to examine whether various types of composite materials might be a solution to the threat.
There were a variety of local schemes to develop “home-brew” anti-rocket protection. The protective effects of these early schemes were dubious, but they offered some psychological reinforcement to the crews. One of the most dramatic cases of the was the fighting in the Alsatian town of Herrlisheim on January 17, 1945 when the 43rd Tank Battalion, 12th Armored Division was nearly wiped out by defending German infantry armed with Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck weapons, losing 28 of its tanks. The action at Herrlisheim is the focus of this study.
DUE: T-34 vs StuG III
In the summer of 1944, the Red Army staged a massive armoured assault up the Karelian Isthmus with the intent of eliminating any remaining German and Finnish forces facing the Leningrad region.
Most of the Soviet units sent into Finland were new to the sector, moving mainly from the fighting in the Leningrad area. As a result, some had the latest types of Soviet equipment including the new T-34-85 tank, fielded alongside the older T-34-76. Germany refused to sell the Finns new tanks without a reinforced military alliance, but in 1943 began selling them a few dozen StuG III assault guns. This made the StuG III battalion the most modern and powerful element of the Finnish armoured division, and it saw very extensive combat in the June–July summer battles.
DUE: Walker Bulldog vs T-54
During the Vietnam War, both the United States and the Soviet Union supplied all manner of weapon systems to the opposing sides, including tanks and armoured vehicles. Two tanks in particular took momentary prominence in the later years of the conflict. On the South Vietnamese side, it was the US M41 Walker Bulldog; for the communist North Vietnamese, the Soviet-supplied T-54 main battle tank was the core of their armoured power.
In their first major engagement, during Operation Lam Son 719 (February–March 1971), it was the Walker Bulldog in the ascendant, but in later battles the T-54s inflicted heavy losses on their lighter opponents, taking the advantage through their superior manoeuvrability and gunnery.