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In the real world, combat aircraft are generally classified into two main groups; ground attack planes, which deploy weapons against land targets, and fighter planes, which are meant to destroy other aircraft. How would airplane development change when faced with a nearly entirely different threat?

For the sake of the question, when I mean combat against flying monsters, I mean creatures that will close to a distance where they can climb onto or grab ahold of a plane, before attempting to physically tear the aircraft apart, or kill flight crew.

Airborne monsters show up as two main types in the setting:

  • 7ft tall, humanoid creatures with wings (Think night-gaunts), that show up in swarms of 20-30. Weigh roughly 140kg on average, though are capable of putting out a disproportionate amount of power and can reach a flight ceiling of 10,000 metres if neccessary, being somewhat supernatural entities. Maximum speed of 530km/h, cruise speed of 330km/hr with a climb rate of 16m/s
  • Dragon like monsters as large as oversized Saltwater crocodiles (7-10 metres), with nominally larger limbs, and skin tough enough to resist .30 caliber bullets, and to an extent, .50 calibers. Largely solitary, though may appear in groups of 2-3. Weigh roughly 2,000 to 3,000kg. Can reach altitudes of 7,500 metres for short periods of time(20-30 minutes), though prefer the 4,000 to 5,000 range. Can maintain a maximum of ~500km/hr for short bursts, with a normal cruising speed of 250km/hr, and a rate of climb of 14.5 m/s

Both types can be assumed to have a flight speed equal to any aircraft in the setting (Unrealistic, yes, but so is the notion of flying humanoids or crocodiles), with great maneuverability.

What sort of aircraft or aircraft features would be best suited to would be best suited to fighting small, highly maneuverable, extreme-close range airborne combatants?

Aircraft technology in the setting can be roughly equated to the interwar period, 1930s or so.

Note: This is in regard to the usage of aircraft to fight the creatures, not anti-air guns or other systems.

Edit: For the sake of the question, the flight characteristics of the night gaunt can be considered analogous to the statistics of the Model 21 Mitsubishi Zero, being highly maneuverable and capable of rapid climbing, whereas the dragons can be equated to the A-1 skyraider, being more sluggish in accordance with their armored qualities. Both, however are capable of rapidly stopping their velocity, folding their wings to achieve a vastly more aerodynamic profile, or vertically taking off.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Oct 27, 2022 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ As the Zero was as good or better than any fighter at the beginning of WW2, any 1930s aircraft will struggle against it. I guess the Zero itself would be a sound choice, as Zero with guns > Zero without. Hurricanes and BF109s are your other options. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Oct 27, 2022 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ Are the specs of humanoid creatures negotiable? :) $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2022 at 19:40
  • $\begingroup$ @postoronnim Sure, why not. I just used those airplane statblocks because I hadn't gotten around to developing true specifications for them yet. $\endgroup$
    – ebinbenis
    Oct 28, 2022 at 23:23

13 Answers 13

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Airship. Barbed wire.

enter image description here

original https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HMA_R_23_Airship_With_Camel.jpg with edits by me.

You don't want those things to close with your flying machine. It will just take one to tear your airplane apart. You want to keep them away.

Barbed wire is a good method to keep things away. This is thirties technology and the people calling the shots will all be veterans of the First world war. They will remember how barbed wire works. Plus if I may say, an airship wrapped in wire is an awesome visual.

You don't need to worry about ranged weapons puncturing your airship because your enemy has none. You worry about monsters getting close. Use the wire to keep them away. But just a little way away, and easy to shoot. You will note this monster fighting airship has crewed stations on top and bottom. The guns in these stations are "trench brooms"; shotguns for use at close range.

For more distant enemies the ship has cannons that fire white phosphorus munitions.

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    $\begingroup$ @DWKraus A bullet would be fine if you can hit the creature. Shrapnel would be ok but might not be enough to discourage the big monsters. The airburst would produce a field effect, and pieces of phosphorus that stick and burn will discourage the big ones and could incapacitate a wing. Truly WP is included for rule of cool and would be one type of munition among many. Re flammable: airmen will be encouraged to aim away from the airship. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Oct 26, 2022 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ Nice. Can be combined with electrifying the barbed wire. Though I'm a bit concerned about the weight of the wire required, but that can probably be designed around. But the dragons have a skin tough enough to deflect small bullets, so they will just smash through the barbed wire without feeling anything. $\endgroup$
    – JanKanis
    Oct 26, 2022 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ @JanKanis - the idea is that this is high tensile wire and so dragon may not be hurt but will be hung up in wire long enough to get shot up. Airmen with shotguns keep "dragonball" ammo handy. Some are just expanding steel jacketed slugs. Some are flechettes with poison. Different groups have their own preferences. I like the idea of sleeping dragons being dislodged from the wire after the airship comes down. Dragons are then stored for later use. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Oct 26, 2022 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Schwern - the wire is moored to extensions of the frame that extend outwards and end in badass spikes. If you would like to draw this please do and add image to this answer. the wire is thus reasonably robust. Kamikaze dragons would get thru. If a monster crashes into a turret it will blow up and the airmen will be thrown out into the barbed wire. Later one of these guys, still with shotgun, hanging upside-down from the wire takes out 2 night gaunts who think they will get thru where the turret used to be. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Oct 27, 2022 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk I'd watch that anime. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Oct 28, 2022 at 15:56
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Keep them on the ground (probably)

First, strategic bombing doesn't work. Suggest that you read this recent article. As noted, air forces around the world claim that strategic bombing does work, or at least it could if it was done 'properly' because otherwise their funding would dry up and/or command structures would become subordinate to surface forces. (Note the USAF's extreme resistance over the years to the highly effective A-10.) So, if the intent stated in comments is to gain air superiority solely in order to allow strategic bombing, best to save a lot of wasted lives and resources and stay at home.

The other problem with strategic bombing in this environment is that the crew of any aircraft that are shot down are apparently doomed based on the description of the ground environment. You may have trouble finding volunteers.

If, on the other hand, you are aiming to gain air superiority in order to support a ground invasion to seize control of the territory, then you need to ensure that you can replace aircrew and aircraft faster than the enemy can breed more monsters. This seems like a dubious proposition, when the most numerous monster is a mere 140 kg and hunts in large swarms. Scoring hits on enemy aircraft required considerable skill back in the days when the most sophisticated air-to-air instrumentation was the Mark I eyeball, trying to hit a target an order of magnitude smaller and more maneuverable while not getting clawed out of the sky by its friends seems like an exercise in futility. So dogfighting with single-seat fighters is a losing proposition and the WW2 bomber campaigns showed that fighters working together still get through to the bombers even if they have turrets pointing every which way. We'll get back to the dragons later...

The only hope of success I can see against the small critters is if they are non-sapient levels of stupid. Build a tow-plane with a very powerful engine and have it tow a glider with colour/sound/images that will attract the small critters to attack it. Fly around well above the dragons' flight ceiling until the night-gaunts (?) start pursuing. Drop the glider and run like hell, hoping that the night-gaunts will go for the easy prey instead of a long stern chase. The glider is equipped with an autopilot that will keep it in a slow descent (yes, they had simple mechanical autopilots in the 30's) and a fuse mechanism that will arm after a minimum time and detonate the shrapnel-filled explosive payload once it registers enough damage. Rinse and repeat until there are no more night-gaunts.

Once the sky is clear of night-gaunts then send squadrons of fighters in to attack the dragons. Fly around up near their operational ceiling until the dragon/s come to the party, then dive down to attack them and climb back up above the dragons' flight ceiling. Hope that with enough .50 shots you can take them down, because that was the best available for aircraft in the thirties.

If the flying critters are intelligent then stay home - you can't win until you have at least late 1940's or better aircraft available. Small chance of success if you are operating with good coordination with ground forces if you lure the enemy flyers back into range of your anti-aircraft weapons, though you said that's not allowed. It's a shame it's not allowed, because unlike human vs human conflicts, the AA crews will have absolutely no difficulty telling the difference between friendly and enemy forces in the air, so there would be much less fratricide than has occurred historically.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good though out answer. I was thinking of having several Yb-40 type gunships to cover the dedicated bombers, but I can see that could be inaccurate. That being said, claiming the Warthog is highly effective at the role it was made for (Tank-busting/ ground attack in near peer conflicts) is optimistic, to say the least. I recommend this video, it says more than I can with a 500-character limit. youtube.com/watch?v=WWfsz5R6irs $\endgroup$
    – ebinbenis
    Oct 26, 2022 at 2:42
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    $\begingroup$ Strategic bombing as defined by your article is a very narrow cross-section of what airpower is used for. It also claims that Tactical and Operational bombing are highly effective and reasons enough to want to control the skies. Also, the A-10 is not a strategic bomber. Strategic bombers are things like B-52s. A-10s would be tactical bombers in this context. If you are responding to DKrawses's assessment of strategic bombing, his assertion is that against a population of 100% flying combatants, strategic bombing and tactical bomb become pretty much the same thing. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Oct 26, 2022 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ I would take that article about strategic bombing with a pinch of salt. Author does not possess impartiality neccesarry for a historian, and some of his findings are far-fetched. Strategic bombing worked just fine in Serbia for example (not that it is an isolated case). $\endgroup$
    – Negdo
    Oct 27, 2022 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ Also, A-10 is highly effective when air superiority is achieved. If met with proper resistance it would, probably, drop in minutes. $\endgroup$
    – Bartors
    Oct 27, 2022 at 13:41
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Logistics are Key:

You need to understand the economics of your world and your races before this question can be really answered. Do the monsters breed rapidly and mature quickly or does it take 15-20 years? Are these creatures abundant or in short supply? Can they be conjured from (hell?) or do they have homes/cities/breeding facilities? If you can kill them from over 10,000 meters in altitude, you can kill them with impunity. Strategic bombing may be minimally effective at destroying strategic targets, but for inflicting mass casualties on civilian monster population centers (essentially "monster factories") they should work well. Kill them on the ground and they can't kill you. If they are slow to replace, attrition means you can grind them up and keep building new planes and training new pilots. If cheap and easy, your goal will be to concentrate as much firepower as possible to achieve local superiority. defensively, anti-aircraft guns will allow your planes to retreat to protected zones to escape pursuit.

GENERALLY:

Assuming the creatures are better fighters but don't use guns, You will want to strafe them from a distance. Because these things will want to melee with aircraft, but don't want to collide with an aircraft going at high speed, rear gunners will be very critical for these planes as pursuing creatures attempt to follow up. A squadron of fighters would fly into the enemy, spraying bullets from a few small nose-mounted cannons and a lot of lighter machine guns. The monsters would be forced to dodge or change direction to avoid collision unless monster life is cheap and reckless (likely shedding critical speed). Any injury to a monster is likely to disable it enough they it can't fly and falls to its death. After flying through a formation, fighters would fly away from the enemy until pursuit broke off. Rear gunners would be able to leisurely pick off monsters pursuing the aircraft.

enter image description here

Unique features:

The enemy has a near-suicidal task to achieve, namely getting to melee range with something moving hundreds of miles an hour that will kill you if you hit it. Your planes should be ready to suffer mid-air collisions with monsters. Strong propellers, reinforced wingtips, and frightful designs to make the planes look unpleasant to hit will all be effective. The planes are much more likely to survive such a collision than monsters. Claymore-like devices may be useful to kill monsters that have closed to point-blank ranges. Self-destruct devices may be useful to achieve pyrrhic victory and also assure your pilots are spared capture by the forces of darkness.

Bombers with turrets and rear guns might be surprisingly efficient as front armor allows killer head-on collisions, while multidirectional guns allow massive firepower to be leveled on closing monsters. They can be engaged from many directions at once and still kill quite effectively at a distance.

Assuming the monsters are as maneuverable as WW2 fighters but faster, you may find that some of the most maneuverable WW1 fighters may be quite effective. The fighters would be extremely maneuverable (possibly more than monsters!), and the monsters would be forced to slow down to engage them. Since the monsters can't shoot, the ability to maneuver becomes more critical than speed. Once again, those pesky rear gunners make your relatively cheap biplanes quite deadly.

enter image description here

Since monsters must pursue your planes to engage, and monsters must have exposed skin and membranes to fly, chemical weapons such as blister agents might be extremely effective (especially at close range). Sealed planes and closed air systems will allow you to spray from what will amount to crop dusting equipment and keep your crews safe.

Extremely high altitude bombers would be invaluable. Exceed the ceiling of the monsters and they can't build a better monster (or can they?). Flack cannons could always be built to shoot higher, but those are not a factor in these designs.

To engage those annoying dragons, rear-fired, radar-triggered rockets somewhat like the taifun or Z-battery (akin to radar-fused flack shells) might be just the ticket. A nice big shell, exploding near a dragon, might not kill it, but the multiple lacerations will likely make flying difficult, painful, and much slower.

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking about loading the bomber gunner idea. Attaching a couple of YB-40 type gunships to a bomber group to lay down enormous quantities of fire (A YB-40 is more or less a B-17 modified to fit up to 30 .50 cals in it). The claymore idea is very good, same with the poison gas. The only issue with WW1-type fighters, I feel, is that if you get scratched or nicked, since your plane is made of canvas and wood, you're kind of buggered. $\endgroup$
    – ebinbenis
    Oct 26, 2022 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ @ebinbenis In that case, it would be a logistics decision. The biplanes could be made cheap and fed into a meat grinder. War is cold-hearted. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Oct 26, 2022 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ "Assuming the monsters are as maneuverable as ww2 fighters but faster" -- I checked on WP and found that the monsters would be SLOWER than the best inter-war fighters. The Curtiss P-36 Hawk (first flew in 1935) could cruise at 430 kph, sprint at 500 kph, and climb at 17 m/s; this is a faster cruise and full-power climb than even the night-gaunts. Mid-war planes were even better; the Lockheed P-38 Lightning could sprint at over 600 kph, climb at 24 m/s, and had an operational ceiling of 13 km. $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2022 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Codeswith Hammer You only make my case stronger. I'm giving the monsters the benefit of the doubt based on the assumption that they perform like wartime fighters, while the humans planes are equivalent to prewar fighters. Just assuming the monsters have a slight edge, regardless of the math. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Oct 28, 2022 at 23:31
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You'd use a normal fighter aircraft, perhaps a turret fighter, using basic fighter tactics and their guns.

You brought a knife claw to a gunfight.

For the sake of the question, when I mean combat against flying monsters, I mean creatures that will close to a distance where they can climb onto or grab ahold of a plane, before attempting to physically tear the aircraft apart, or kill flight crew.

This grappling attack seems a great disadvantage when the opposing aircraft has guns. Your monsters have to, effectively, ram the enemy aircraft. This puts them at an enormous disadvantage.

All the same dogfighting tactics which prevent the enemy from shooting and ramming you also prevent your enemy from grappling with you, with the bonus that the enemy can't shoot back! This allows the aircraft to freely maneuver when not in very close combat.

Example Tactic: Thatch Weave

There are numerous tactics designed to ensure that any attack is always met with a counter attack. The Finger Four is one, the Thatch Weave is another.

The Thatch Weave was specifically designed to counter the superior maneuverability and rate of climb of the Zero vs the Wildcat. Two wingmen would turn into each other, weaving back and forth, always covering each other's tail. This negates the enemy's superior flight characteristics. When an enemy attempts to attack, the wingman is always on the enemy's tail.

enter image description here

The Thatch Weave was very successful against gun-armed Zeroes. Your monsters have no guns and would be mincemeat.

Example Tactic: Boom & Zoom

Aka a high-side guns pass. This is another tactic used against more maneuverable aircraft. This is a single high speed powered dive through an enemy formation, shooting in a single pass, then using the energy from the dive to zoom climb back to safety.

Lacking guns, the monsters would have no way to attack in its dive, nor in its rapid retreat. They would only have a brief moment to attempt a grapple as it dives at high speed through their formation. If they pursue, they would rapidly lose speed attempting to climb after the high energy attacker leaving them slow and vulnerable to additional attacking aircraft.

Resurrect the turret fighter?

One of the failed aircraft concepts was the turret fighter. This was an interceptor without fixed guns. It instead carried a turret (or turrets) for all round attack.

With its all-round defense, and the lack of the enemy's ability to shoot back, a turret fighter could fend off approaching grapplers from all angles of attack. A flight of turret fighters flying in formation could defend against multiple attackers.

Since the turret fighters can fire to the rear, they can gain an advantage by simply turning away from their attackers forcing them into a tail chase. This drastically reduces the rate the grapplers can close with the fighters, and limits the grapplers' maneuverability, giving the turret gunners plenty of time to shoot the grapplers down.

Since the grapplers lack guns the turret fighters can fly straight and level giving them a steady firing platform, and allowing them to fly faster making the job of grapplers catching up even more difficult.

.50 cals and cannons

...with nominally larger limbs, and skin tough enough to resist .30 caliber bullets, and to an extent, .50 calibers

Historically, while some fighters of the era would carrier .30 cals, after combat experience these would often be combined with a 20 mm cannon and/or upgrade to .50 caliber (or equivalent) to ensure a kill.

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  • $\begingroup$ Another advantage of turret fighters: the beasts have no central command. Early on turret fighters would fly in formation and enemy fighters attacked them from the side, facing a sudden wall of lead which cut them down. Adapting their attack so they wouldnt face that wall of death made turret fighters obsolete. But for beasts that wouldnt be able to reform and communicate their findings effectively (assuming some even survive) these aircraft would absolutely massacre would-be attackers. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Oct 28, 2022 at 21:08
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A few counter monster approaches that are viable with 1930's tech:

  • High voltage discharges. Wire up the exterior panels of your airplane to a high voltage capacitor, and watch any monsters burn as soon as they touch down on the aircraft.
  • Poison gas. Assuming the monsters don't have gas masks but the pilots do, and they don't have magical gas resistance. Release a fast acting poison gas if you have tailing monsters, or once they touch down on your airplane. Alternatively, build your plane with a double skin and fill the void in between with gas. It releases automatically once a critter starts tearing into the skin.
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Ideal late-30s monster killer: supercharged P-38/IL-2 hybrid

Late 1930's and especially 1940's aircraft of all belligerent parties were built under the assumption that they will be shot down a lot.

Creating an overpowered engine is simple; the hard part is making it endure it's own heat and power without making it ridiculously expensive and vulnerable to incoming fire.

However, 'ridiculously expensive' is less of a concern when you don't expect to lose them by the thousands. Fighters are expected to face bullets and shrapnel; this is why manufacturers sticked to air-cooled engines which, on paper, were inferior to water cooling: one bullet in the wrong place and a water-cooled engine is dead in five minutes, air-cooled engines were known to bring crews home even when half-destroyed.

This logic does not hold when facing a melee monster. In this case, an aircraft is either perfectly safe or already done, so, water cooling all the way!

This enables you to build heavy-powered twin-engine fighters that simply out-climbs both kinds of monsters. If they are stupid enough, they will keep going upwards until they stall, this is when you flip and shred them. Even if not, they'll never be able to catch or outrun you.

Good old Boom-n-Zoom never grows stale.

As far as weapons come, never underestimate the sheer power of early tank-busters like the VYa-23, as found on the IL-2. At 80 KJ muzzle energy (as opposed to early M2's 17-ish), it was known to literally rip humans in half on occasional direct impact. It will be more than enough to shred the gaunts outright and inflict deadly damage to the dragons.

TL;DR: just build a P-38-ish single-seater, strap two badass supercharged engines for that sick 25 m/s climb, and arm it up to the chin with 23mm autocannons. No rockets required. Just don't forget your separate gun triggers.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting point on the engine. 23mm is dragon-good, but clouds of smaller bullets might work better for gaunts. You might want to put in a link to show why your plane has such great speed & climb. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Oct 26, 2022 at 15:04
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    $\begingroup$ @DWKraus "clouds of smaller bullets" I believe the term you are looking for is called "flak". $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Oct 27, 2022 at 5:09
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen I generally assume flack is from the ground, not from another aircraft. I also tend to think of flack as air burst shells as well. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Oct 27, 2022 at 11:22
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    $\begingroup$ @DWKraus In real life, yeah, but this ain't real life. It's like hunting birds with a shotgun while on an airplane. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Oct 27, 2022 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen Flak IS similar. Just trying to explain my logic in terminology. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Oct 28, 2022 at 12:04
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Aircraft wont be designed for "fighting" flying monsters

An aircraft is by definition an expensive platform for mounting relatively cheap weapon systems. Take the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk for example. It had a total manufacturing cost of about \$ 40,000(~\$1 million in today's currency) and was armed with 6 50 cal machineguns which had to be fired in parallel to make up for accuracy issues with aiming a plane at another plane

However, if your goal is to fight a war against these flying monsters, you could deploy ground forces with 20 independently operated heavy machineguns for about the same cost. Stabilized guns on the ground are easier to aim; so, each guy with a single barrel will likely have no more difficulty shooting down a flying enemy than a fighter with 6. So by focusing on ground troops, you can take out the enemies for about 1 20th the cost of investing in air-power.

By the 1930, methods for waging a ground war in pretty much every terrain had already been figured out. Armies deployed into thick forests or mountains could rely on pack mules or donkeys for supplies as they covered large distances by foot. Low traction terrain like deserts, tundra, and shallow marshes could be managed with tracked vehicles. Jungles and swamps could be invaded using flat bottomed fan boats. Amphibious vehicles were already a thing if you are somewhere you need to alternate a lot between dry land and crossing water. There is no where on Earth the monsters can go that men could not follow with ground troops.

Remember, when justifying the cost of airpower, you are typically sacrificing a lot of firepower per cost in exchange for the ability to hit an enemy who cant hit you back. Since the monsters lack ranged weapons but are so effective in the air, there is no real draw back to fighting with infantry. The mobility disadvantage that is there is made mostly irrelevant by having such a superior reach. Since your infantry can always get the first strike advantage and fighters can not effectively fly outside of the threat zone of any enemy combatants, ground forces just make a lot more since.

Furthermore, the monsters don't have any factories, comm centers, or other strategically significant targets to destroy. With a maximum enemy population in any one place of 30, thier hives will be way too small of targets to hit using the technology at your disposal. So, bombing them would not be a helpful use of air superiority either.

But aircraft will be designed to defend against the flying monsters

While there may not be any general purpose fighters or bombers in your setting, aircraft may still be used for various other roles like logistics and reconnaissance.

The most common use of planes may be backline rapid cargo and troop carriers for doing things like resupplying the front line. By in large, these will be heavy cargo planes making them to unmaneuverable for fixed guns. But, they will use ball turrets for just in case the occasional monster finds his way into theoretically secured airspace. While ball turrets were only kind of effective against large fighter formations, these planes would never fly where large engagements would be expected; so, a small convoy of armed cargo planes could shoot down the occasional threat as needed.

The second most common aircraft would be for recon. Ground forces would be at a huge recon disadvantage with the monsters without any eyes in the sky. These planes would be special built for maximum speed; so, while your normal fighter plane might be too slow to outrun or out climb a gaunt, these planes will sacrifice however much armor and firepower it takes to be faster and fly higher than the monsters. These planes would always operate near friendly ground forces; so, if the monsters start chasing one, it simply needs to run away and fly over the ground forces to deal with any monsters who don't want to give up.

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  • $\begingroup$ They're fighting an air war over hostile territory, to soften it up for a ground invasion by bombing ground targets. These include large "hives" of the things, cultist hideouts, and the known locations of particularly dangerous monsters (Boss monsters, if you will). The ground is swampy dense mangrove type marshes that make logistics difficult and the utilisation of armored vehicles or mechanised transport harder, and while the air has some pretty unpleasant monsters, the ground is much, much worse. $\endgroup$
    – ebinbenis
    Oct 27, 2022 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ @ebinbenis You defined these monsters as operating in packs of no more than 30. So, there are not going to be any large hives to bomb. 1930's tech is not suited for striking anything that small from the air, especially if its obfuscated by jungle terrain. Keep in mind that until the invention of guided munitions, a "small" bombing target would have been a factory complex big enough for several thousand workers. And it often took 100+ planes dropping bombs over several square miles to score enough lucky hits to matter. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Oct 28, 2022 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ As for swamps, fan-boats had already been around for over 20 years. So, the needed technology for infiltrating a swamp by "ground" was much more mature than by air. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Oct 28, 2022 at 13:16
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Laser weapons

You don't need to kill them. Blinding them with lasers would work find plus allow you to cover a large area quickly.

None of the monsters would be any good if they can't see.

Blinding lasers are so effective and nasty that they are banned by the United Nations.

You take your plane up. When you get followed by monsters, you turn your laser weapons on them and they crash badly when they can no longer see.

enter image description here

Who cares how fast they are or what armour they have when their eyeballs are burnt out?

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    $\begingroup$ They didn't have lasers in the 1930s, but they did have flash bangs. Not sure how many flashbangs you would need though to fill the sky. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Oct 27, 2022 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ Missed the 1930s bit. Powerful spotlights could do something similar but not as good. $\endgroup$
    – Thorne
    Oct 31, 2022 at 5:13
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Use electrified B-17 powered by 5 engines

Assuming the two types of dragons don't ram because it hurts their advanced wings, and don't have guns because humans would stand no chance,

the biggest threat seems to be dragons that grab the tail of the plane, remove the horizontal control surfaces, and watch the crash. Other control surfaces and other lifting surfaces are targets for them too.

Therefore any fighter and any aircraft having no defensive turrets is easily defeated by monsters, since they're far more agile than any fighter of 1930s'

Instead, a bomber equipped with turrets, like a B-17, could have its bomb bay packed with say 50 large capacitors, and one large generator. (the fifth engine)

A ramified electrical grid could cover the whole aircraft's skin, and zap the enemies away, when and where needed.

the grid could be operated by turrets crew, each responsible for a zapping zone they have in sight.

The first electric bug zapper was invented in 1911, and could have been scaled up for the occasion.

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I think it depends on the strength of the monsters. If we're talking, say, "demonic strength", can pop open a modern battle tank like a tin can then I can't fathom anyone wanting to fly around in any sort of airplane to go fight them -- unless you stick entirely to "boom and zoom" tactics. If we're talking, say, grizzly bear strength then I should think you have some real "flying tank" options:

Cover the entire plane in a very thin layer of armor. Titanium, perhaps.

"Grizzly bear strength" is pretty bad for a ground troop to face (especially if most of them are going to also be immune to standard 5.56 or 7.62 infantry rounds) but a grizzly bear can't do much to even light vehicle armor. I imagine you could up-armor a plane well enough that while it's in no way invulnerable to .50 cal, it's entirely invulnerable to grizzly bears. I would bet even 1cm of steel or titanium is probably about twice what you actually need. (As body armor, the problem is even if the grizzly-strength creatures can't claw you or bite you to death, the sheer force of impact is going to give your flimsy human guts problems. But people go filming polar bears in vehicles that I don't think would even stop a bullet. You just need a vehicle that's sturdy.)

Then I would place turrets on the plane such that they can cover each other as well as every surface of the plane. The turrets could consist of, say, 3 weapons: .50 cal machine gun for general use, a 20mm cannon for the dragons, and something like a 30mm "non-lethal round", like a giant beanbag round, purely for knocking things off the plane. Fight them like enemy aircraft as they fly around and if they land on you, one of the turrets thumps them off with the beanbag round, with minimum risk to the aircraft (maybe a wad of birdshot would work too. Something that won't likely penetrate your thin aircraft armor but will still deliver a solid "punch" to something on the plane that you can't safely hit with the .50 or 20mm. Getting hit with a 30mm cannon round of birdshot from 10m away is bound to have an effect just from the sheer force of it.)

I don't think weight would be too much of an issue. By not carrying bombs, you have several thousand pounds to play with. (B-17 is kind of what I'm imagining. It was first flown in 1935 so the time is right. Mainly need to rethink turret placement because "shooting Germans off the fuselage" was probably not in the specs.)

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    $\begingroup$ Basically, this is the IL-2 Sturmovik. Except it actually was immune to 7.62mm fire and partially to 13.2. $\endgroup$
    – Cheetah
    Oct 26, 2022 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Cheetah Yeah, at least armorwise. For turrets to cover the fuselage, though, I'm thinking more of a modified B-17 setup. Chiefly, you need something that can sweep the wings, right up next to the main body. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Oct 26, 2022 at 20:01
  • $\begingroup$ The Night-Gaunts strength is pretty high, but not ridiculous. You wouldn't want to fight one hand-to hand, and they can cause a good deal of strife to exposed parts of an aircraft or punch through a cockpit, but they will have trouble tearing through sheet metal. $\endgroup$
    – ebinbenis
    Oct 26, 2022 at 22:33
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I don't think you would be able to hit small fast targets that also do not need speed to stay airborne like a night gaunt with 1930s tech unless you're using flak shells. You're not going to be able to dog fight them or boom and zoom them. You're also probably going to need auxilliary defenses on your fighters like static shotgun ports or claymores all over your aicraft to get them off you if they get within grabbing distance.

Perhaps even rear mounted flak to get the night gaunts so you can deal with them if they get too close from behind well before they get within grabbing distance. This doesn't work in encounters between fighter planes because fighter planes shoot and neither need nor try to close the distance like that. An enemy fighter plane being so far away in the rear means it requires aiming which is too much of a control burden. But it's much more effective if you know your opponent is trying to get close because they you don't really need to aim a rear-facing spread weapon.

Large multi-engine aircraft that cannot maneuver with turrets just reduces the problem to a cowboys in a fort problem, except the indians are very fast and if they get close you can't blast them away without damaging your fort at the same time. They would probably be of limited use if your sole purpose of the large plane is to fight any airborne creatures.

You might also want to have accommodations to open the cockpit and have a firearm onboard WW1 style.

I imagine you will need to make the airplanes more collision proof than normal too. I would expect many mid-air collision events.

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Flex. And then give them both barrels of a sawn off.

There is an ancient parable that says a storm which can fell an oak tree nevertheless leaves river reeds unharmed. It is talking about pride, but I mean it literally. If a demonic beast is trying to tear the wing from the aircraft, the best thing to happen is probably for the wing to bend limply in its grasp. That gives you a few seconds to trigger (if the wing bend isn't wired up to trigger it automatically) a spray of point blank gunfire from weapons nested around the aircraft body.

Setting up such flex would be an engineering challenge for sure. What you would probably want is a tension based (ie wires) structure in normal flight, where the wires get automatically released when there is a sudden unbalanced load.

If it's all calibrated correctly, limping a wing will drop you into a roll, conveniently dumping the demon body even if it was above. You would then need something resembling fishing line to reel the wing wires back into the sockets once you're done in plenty of time to recover from the tumble.

Another related approach to soft defence to melee fighting, inspired by nature, is to apply a hairy/feathery "mane" to vitals or even the wing surface. Against simple bullets, a rigid wing can often just keep going with two small holes in. In this case, we have to consider slashing actions, which would damage a wider area. Since that's the threat a lion wants his mane to protect his jugular against, similar disruption is probably more helpful than just layering on metal. Obviously aerodynamics forbids an actual giant furball, but the principle can be adapted.

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BF 109

The BF109 was first produced in 1935, clearly qualifying it as an interwar plane. It was the best dogfighter in the European theatre when the war began and was only outclassed once the later model Spitfire IX's and Mustangs got going. They're roughly comparable to the Zero (less manouverable but tougher, more heavily armed, and with a higher ceiling, similar speed), which means they should easily beat night gaunts, which only have melee weapons.

They were cheap to produce and had cannon which ought to send the dragons packing.

It also creates an interesting Nazi monsters vs other monsters scenario. A bit like the real life Hitler vs Stalin dynamic.

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