I read somewhere that there were two "best" times for anti-aircraft to shoot down a dive bomber (of World War II vintage). One was when the plane was going into the dive. The other was when the plane is coming out of the dive. The time NOT to try it would be during the dive itself.

Was this true? Were there other reasonable times/tactics for trying to shoot down dive bombers?

  • 1
    Another reason why hitting the dive bomber during the dive would be less productive is that the plane and bomb might well hit the ship anyway.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 16:34

2 Answers 2


It is true in the case of heavy anti-aircraft guns (3-K, 52-K, FlaK 18, M1, etc.). But for a small-caliber AAA it will be hard to shoot down an attack plane after the dive when it comes out at low altitude and high speed or on high altitude before the dive. However, since such guns (Oerlikon, Polsten, 61-K, Flakvierling, etc.) often used shells with a contact fuse (HE, APHE, HEIAP) and have a great rate of fire, they can shoot down a plane more easier during the dive than heavy AA-guns with time-fused shells.


When the aircraft was reasonably close to the target, a light on the contact altimeter came on to indicate the bomb-release point, usually at a minimum height of 450 m (1,500 ft). The pilot released the bomb and initiated the automatic pull-out mechanism by depressing a knob on the control column. An elongated U-shaped crutch located under the fuselage swung the bomb out of the way of the propeller, and the aircraft automatically began a 6 g pullout. Once the nose was above the horizon, dive brakes were retracted, the throttle was opened, and the propeller was set to climb. The pilot regained control and resumed normal flight. The coolant flaps had to be reopened quickly to prevent overheating.

– Wikipedia about Ju-87, a german dive bomber.

Shells for AA-gun 61-K:

  • УОР-167 (UOR-167) - FRAG-T.
  • УБР-167 (UBR-167) - APC-T.
  • УБР-167П (UBR-167P) - APCR-T.

(letter "T" means "tracer").

Fuses for fragmentation rounds - МГ-37 (MG-37) - contact, with self-destruction at 4000 m.

– from Wikipedia article 37-мм автоматическая зенитная пушка образца 1939 года (61-К)

  • 1
    Excellent information; a source /citation would make this a splendid answer.
    – MCW
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 12:24
  • @MarkC.Wallace ok, I'll add sources
    – spyder
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 4:06

Anti-aircraft rounds often had time-delayed fuses (e.g., German FLAK), making a plane flying at a consistent altitude much easier to hit (e.g., bombers flying straight and level). A dive bomber in its dive is rapidly losing altitude, making time-delayed fuses useless and even aiming the gun at a rapidly moving target very difficult.

With Japanese kamikaze planes, any time is the best time as there is no "coming out of the dive".

  • 1
    that would depend on the direction of the dive. If it's coming straight at you a change in trajectory isn't going to be in effect :) And most shells had both time delay and impact fuzing, though an 88mm hitting you in the prop even without exploding would seriously ruin your day.
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 5:47
  • 2
    @Doug Domeny: Are assertions of "uselessness" and "difficulty" based on any sources or are they just your own expertise?
    – kubanczyk
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 8:57
  • 1
    @jwenting, yes, a dive bomber targeting AAA would increasingly become a larger target. On land, though, AAA was not usually the target so the plane would not be heading directly toward the gun. The target would often be trains or tanks. At sea, a ship's AA guns would have the planes coming more directly at them. Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 10:52
  • @kubanczyk, assertions are based on common sense and what I've learned from reading/documentaries. I do not believe the fuses could be programmed electronically, thus it would be impossible to alter their times quickly. Sometimes flak would be fired into the path of the plane. Radar guidance, if available, would help aiming, but I've seen WW I & II pictures of men rapidly spinning knobs to change gun elevation. Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 10:57
  • 2
    @jwenting - The point of the time-delay fuse was that a somewhat-near miss would still result in a kill, as the explosion and schrapnel would be enough to do the plane in. A direct hit is much harder to achieve. Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 11:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.