The Douglas Bomber Model 7B project that eventually matured into the Douglas Boston/Havoc/A-20 series of light attack bombers was purchased by France, Douglas' first client for the series, in 1938. The DB-7 in French use was an early export version and the later variants in British and US service saw considerable improvement in engines, construction and weaponry.
The wing loading and aspect ratio of the basic design gave the DB-7 amazing performance for such a large aircraft. Its ruggedness and stability as well as its versatility and manoeuvrability proved to be primary reasons for its long life span. The Boston/Havoc/A-20 saw action on all fronts including Russia, North Africa and the Far East in a multitude of roles including anti-shipping, intruder and night-fighter, and laid the foundation for the next great Douglas design, the A-26 Invader.
Out of 270 ordered and 100 delivered before the French armistice with Germany, only 64 DB-7s were in service at the time of the German western offensive. They were immediately rushed from their deployment in North Africa to France, to be committed piecemeal in desperate attempts to halt the German advance. The first DB-7 combat sortie occurred on May 31, 1940, when 12 aircraft attacked enemy columns near St. Quentin. Some seventy sorties were flown against troops and panzer concentrations, supply convoys, depots and road bridges. The French DB-7s performed well in their assigned role despite the chaotic operational circumstances, suffering at least fourteen losses to ground fire and fighter attacks. Following the fall of France the units in shipment were diverted to the UK where they were reengined and had their instruments and control arrangements reconfigured. The RAF called the aircraft Boston I and II, the reconfigured French aircraft were initially known as the Ranger, eventually renamed as the Havoc.
Loaded with up to 950kg (2,094 lb) worth of bombs and four forward-firing 7.5 mm machineguns in fuselage fairings the DB-7 can deal devastation to any target. For defensive purposes this relatively nimble bomber relies on a good turn of speed and a surprising amount of manoeuvrability to combat enemy fighters, and when all else fails it has two gunner stations covering its rear aspect. This is one "bomber" that can pretend to be a fighter, which many an enterprising Messerschmitt has found to his consternation.
It is as a fast and reasonably well-endowed bomber that this aircraft earns its dues in WWIIOL:BE. Good against German factories as well as against shipping and tactical targets in the frontline, the DB-7 has the punch and the speed to get quickly in and out of harm's way. Because of its high speed the DB-7 can be put to use at all altitudes and with less precaution than is required of the Blenheim IV and the Heinkel 111, aircraft that are comparably more difficult to bring safely into and out of battle. That is not to say that the DB-7 can be flown with abandon or recklessness – it is still a large and grateful target, and cannot outrun any Axis fighter.
Speed is a great asset and the wise DB-7 pilot makes the most of it by cruising at superior altitude where his speed advantage is multiplied, as interceptors must spend an inordinate amount of time and effort in chasing it down, or display exemplary foresight in positioning themselves at altitude in the DB-7's path. If found at a disadvantage the DB-7 can be put into a long dive to the deck so as to minimize the bandit's closure and force him into a long tail-chase where escorts and fellow DB-7s can add their guns to the equation.
The DB-7 is currently the Allied Air Force's most potent bomber inasmuch its bombs yield more explosive power than those carried by the Havoc, in addition its bombsight is better suited for level bombing due to its telescopic ability and slew function.
The DB-7 is a comfortable and easy aircraft to fly that makes formation flying a gratifying experience, and blessed with dedicated fighter escort this is one ship that can punch hard and return to tell about it. Make the most of your bombing experience by signing up a separate bombardier/air gunner with the multi-crew feature.
The DB-7 is also fully capable of delivering Close Air Support, particularly in the early stages of a WWIIOL:BE campaign when enemy high-performance fighters have yet to make a showing. It can be employed for low altitude hedge-hopping strikes where its speed and durability makes it especially survivable, as well as for glide bombing attacks from medium altitude.
Low altitude precision bombing
The DB-7 bombsight can be used for precision bombing at very low level, despite the minimum bombing altitude setting of 1000 m, due to its slew function. The practice allows the bombardier to strike small and specific targets such as FB's, individual units marked by ground troops, bridges and even ships. However, as the method hinges on manipulation of the available settings, the bombardier must commit its detailed settings to memory or practice extensively to become familiar with it.
This method works best for groups of three or more bombers flying a close formation and targetting a relatively large area such as an armybase or forward base where enemy units can be found in a radius of several hundred meters from the aiming point. Beginner pilots can also use this method successfully by flying a close formation and dropping their bombs on the lead bomber's cue.
- The method works only for the DB-7.
- The method requires an airspeed of 440 km/h at bomb release, which can only be attained by flying at max throttle and WEP engaged.
- Target altitude must be known, and the pilot must maintain an exact bombing altitude AGL or the results will be widely off the mark. E.g if the target altitude is 230 m ASL, and the bombrun is to be made with settings for 300 m AGL, the pilot must fly at precisely 530 m ASL.
- The bombsight must be moved fully forward in the line of flight, i.e. misaligned fully forward from its neutral position. Perform this action before takeoff, in the bombardier position (2).
Bombsight settings and pilot instructions
200m AGL: Set sights to 3000m , set IAS to Max
300m AGL: Set sights to 4000m , set IAS to Max
500m AGL: Set sights to 5800m , set IAS to Max
700m AGL: Set sights to 6000m , set IAS to 411km/h
Benefits and Drawbacks
- The low altitude approach limits exposure to enemy observation and ground fire.
- Individual units are relatively easy to spot in comparison to a medium or high altitude approach.
- Exact altitudes AGL are difficult to maintain due to the DB-7 altimeter being hard to read.
- Battle damage reduces airspeed considerably: therefore this method can only be used reliably by pristine aircraft.
|Air Units in Battleground Europe|
|Bf 109E-1 | Bf 109E-4 | Bf 109F-4 | Bf 109G-6/U4 | Bf 110C-4 | Bf 110C-4/B | Blenheim IF | Blenheim IV | C47 'Skytrain' | Dewoitine D.520 | Douglas DB-7 | Fw 190A-4 | Havoc Mk.I | Hawk 75 | Hawk 81 | Hawk 87 | Heinkel 111 | Hurricane Mk I | Hurricane Mk IIb | Hurricane Mk IIc | Junkers 52 | Junkers 87 'Stuka' | P-38 'Lightning' | P-39 | Spitfire Mk Ia | Spitfire Mk Ib | Spitfire Mk Vb | Spitfire Mk IXc|