Original U.S. WWII Norden Bomb Sight MK 15 Mod 7 with USAAF Stabilizer & Auto-pilot on Carrier

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. These are rare as hens teeth and this is a wonderful example! This is a very nice U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance marked Mark 15 Mod 7 Bomb Sight or "bombsight football", serial N 5816, manufactured by CARL. L NORDEN, the designer of the sight. It has the correct data plate, with the U (Anchor) S Navy inspection marking and others, though the lower right corner was cut off for some reason.

The sight is attached to the top of a USAAF marked Stabilizer / Autopilot, which normally already be attached to the mechanical and electrical hookups at the bombadier / chin turret station in the bomber. The stabilizer was manufactured by subcontractor MINNEAPOLIS-HONEYWELL REG. CO., as indicated by the data plate. Below this is the U.S. Army Air Forces data plate, marked with serial number R1344 and a 1944 contract date. It is marked at the bottom of the plate by CARL. L NORDEN, and also has the U (Anchor) S Navy inspection marking, so while it is a USAAF order, it was used by the U.S. Navy and bears their inspection marking. It is mounted on the carrier used to load it into the bomber and store it when not installed.

The Bomb Sight and Stabilizer / Autopilot are in very good condition, though we cannot guarantee functionality, as we have no Bomber on hand to test them with. This is a fantastic set, and usually we are only able to track down the bomb sight "football", and not the other components.

A fantastic piece, ready to display!

NOTE: due to the delicate nature of the bomb sight, the "football" may need to be removed from the stabilizer and shipped separately.

The Norden Mk. XV, known as the Norden M series in Army service, was a bombsight used by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) and the United States Navy during World War II, and the United States Air Force in the Korean and the Vietnam Wars. It was the canonical tachometric design, a system that allowed it to directly measure the aircraft's ground speed and direction, which older bombsights could only measure inaccurately with lengthy in-flight procedures. The Norden further improved on older designs by using an analog computer that constantly calculated the bomb's impact point based on current flight conditions, and an autopilot that let it react quickly and accurately to changes in the wind or other effects.

Together, these features seemed to promise unprecedented accuracy in day bombing from high altitudes; in peacetime testing the Norden demonstrated a circular error probable (CEP) of 23 metres (75 ft), an astonishing performance for the era. This accuracy allowed direct attacks on ships, factories, and other point targets. Both the Navy and the AAF saw this as a means to achieve war aims through high-altitude bombing; for instance, destroying an invasion fleet by air long before it could reach US shores. To achieve these aims, the Norden was granted the utmost secrecy well into the war, and was part of a then-unprecedented production effort on the same scale as the Manhattan Project. Carl L. Norden, Inc. ranked 46th among United States corporations in the value of World War II military production contracts.

In practice it was not possible to achieve the expected accuracy in combat conditions, with the average CEP in 1943 of 370 metres (1,200 ft) being similar to Allied and German results. Both the Navy and Air Forces had to give up on the idea of pinpoint attacks during the war. The Navy turned to dive bombing and skip bombing to attack ships, while the Air Forces developed the lead bomber concept to improve accuracy, while adopting area bombing techniques by ever larger groups of aircraft. Nevertheless, the Norden's reputation as a pin-point device lived on, due in no small part to Norden's own advertising of the device after secrecy was reduced late in the war.

The Norden saw some use in the post-World War II era, especially during the Korean War. Post-war use was greatly reduced due to the introduction of radar-based systems, but the need for accurate daytime attacks kept it in service for some time. The last combat use of the Norden was in the US Navy's VO-67 squadron, which used them to drop sensors onto the Ho Chi Minh Trail as late as 1967. The Norden remains one of the best-known bombsights of all time.

As U.S. participation in the war started, the U.S. Army Air Forces drew up widespread and comprehensive bombing plans based on the Norden. They believed the B-17 had a 1.2% probability of hitting a 30 metres (100 ft) target from 6,100 metres (20,000 ft), meaning that 220 bombers would be needed for a 93% probability of one or more hits. This was not considered a problem, and the AAF forecast the need for 251 combat groups to provide enough bombers to fulfill their comprehensive pre-war plans.

After earlier combat trials proved troublesome, the Norden bombsight and its associated AFCE were used on a wide scale for the first time on the 18 March 1943 mission to Bremen-Vegesack, Germany; The 303d Bombardment Group dropped 76% of its load within a 300 metres (1,000 ft) ring, representing a CEP well under 300 m (1,000 ft) As at sea, many early missions over Europe demonstrated varied results; on wider inspection, only 50% of American bombs fell within a 400 metres (1⁄4 mi) of the target, and American flyers estimated that as many as 90% of bombs could miss their targets.[37][38][39] The average CEP in 1943 was 370 metres (1,200 ft), meaning that only 16% of the bombs fell within 300 metres (1,000 ft) of the aiming point. A 230-kilogram (500 lb) bomb, standard for precision missions after 1943, had a lethal radius of only 18 to 27 metres (60 to 90 ft).

Faced with these poor results, Curtis LeMay started a series of reforms in an effort to address the problems. In particular, he introduced the "combat box" formation in order to provide maximum defensive firepower by densely packing the bombers. As part of this change, he identified the best bombardiers in his command and assigned them to the lead bomber of each box. Instead of every bomber in the box using their Norden individually, the lead bombardiers were the only ones actively using the Norden, and the rest of the box followed in formation and then dropped their bombs when they saw the lead's leaving his aircraft. Although this spread the bombs over the area of the combat box, this could still improve accuracy over individual efforts. It also helped stop a problem where various aircraft, all slaved to their autopilots on the same target, would drift into each other. These changes did improve accuracy, which suggests that much of the problem is attributable to the bombardier. However, precision attacks still proved difficult or impossible.

When Jimmy Doolittle took over command of the 8th Air Force from Ira Eaker in early 1944, precision bombing attempts were dropped. Area bombing, like the RAF efforts, were widely used with 750 and then 1000 bomber raids against large targets. The main targets were railroad marshaling yards (27.4% of the bomb tonnage dropped), airfields (11.6%), oil refineries (9.5%), and military installations (8.8%). To some degree the targets were secondary missions; Doolittle used the bombers as an irresistible target to draw up Luftwaffe fighters into the ever-increasing swarms of Allied long-distance fighters. As these missions broke the Luftwaffe, missions were able to be carried out at lower altitudes or especially in bad weather when the H2X radar could be used. In spite of abandoning precision attacks, accuracy nevertheless improved. By 1945, the 8th was putting up to 60% of its bombs within 300 metres (1,000 ft), a CEP of about 270 metres (900 ft).

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