Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 91.djvu/866

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An Entire Air Fleet versus One Destroyer

There were sixteen German aircraft, but the little destroyer held its own against them

THE airplane has met a worthy foe in the modern tor- pedo boat destroyer. In a recent thrilling battle, a whole fleet of German planes, sixteen in all, engaged a single Russian torpedo boat destroyer. Instead of blowing the little destroyer up with the first bomb dropped, they suf- fered considerable punishment themselves and failed to do anything more than give the little wasp of the sea an exciting time.

One-sided as the contest seems, it was not so in reality. The aircraft were at a constant disadvantage. In order to hurl their bombs with any degree of accuracy or with any hope of affecting the slender- hulled destroyer, they had to put them- selves within excellent target range of the heavy - caliber, quick - firing, anti - aircraft guns which the destroyer carried. On the other hand, the destroyer, protected by its gun-shields from the damage that might have been done by the machine-gun bullets from the airplanes, darted in and out and round about with such lightning-quick maneuvers, that the bombs had not a chance to do any damage.

This battle incidentally demonstrated an essential improvement which has been made in airplane tactics, and throws light upon recent maneuvers of German bomb- ing expeditions. The improvement con- cerns a system of inter-communication which has been established, by means of which an "admiral" of an air fleet can keep his battleplane fleet as well in hand as does the commander of the naval force. Without such intercommunication the six- teen planes would merely have "shuffled" around one another, doing more damage to their fleet, perhaps, by collisions than their bombs and machine guns could have done to the destroyer. The battleplanes are now able to receive as well as send wireless messages notwithstanding the roar

���Not with- standing the mobility and speed of the aircraft, the maneuvers of the destroyer were still swifter. The bombs did little damage and the ma- chine-gun bullets rained harmlessly upon the de- stroyer's gun-shields

��of the motors. The attack in question un- doubtedly required some definite formation by means of which the greatest number of bombs could be concentrated on the small- est space in the least time, and yet not offer a massed flock of airplanes to the de- stroyer's guns. This would necessitate very rapid shifting, in which the whole fleet would move as one in accordance with a general plan, yet each one acting inde- pendently to meet unforeseen conditions. This would require uninterrupted wireless communication.

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