During World War II, night fighters were either purpose-built or day fighters modified to be effective night fighting combat aircraft, often employing radar or other systems for providing some sort of detection capability in low visibility. Many WW II night fighters also included Instrument landing systems for landing at night as turning on the runway lights made runways into an easy target for opposing intruders.
The war opened on 1 September 1939, and by this time the RAF was well advanced with plans to build a night fighter fleet. The Airborne Interception Mk. II radar (AI Mk. II) was well on its way to becoming operational, and the Bristol Blenheim was increasingly available for fitting. The first operational system went into service on November 1939, long before the opening of major British operations. Several improved versions followed, and by the time The Blitz opened in 1940, the AI Mk.IV was available and offered greatly improved performance with a range between 20,000 feet down to a minimum range of 400 feet. This greatly reduced the load on the ground component of the night fighter system, who only had to get the fighter within four miles before the fighter's radar would be able to let them take over during the attack. Due to the relatively low performance of the Blenheim (a converted bomber) the British experimented with using RDF-equipped Douglas Havoc bombers converted to carry a searchlight, illuminating the enemy aircraft for accompanying Hurricane single-engine fighters to shoot down. Known as the Turbinlite, the idea was not a success, and in time, both the Blenheim and the Turbinlite were replaced, first by night fighter versions of the Beaufighter and then by the even higher-performing de Havilland Mosquito, which would later accompany the Bomber stream on raids over Germany. In this role support was provided by No. 100 Group RAF with Mosquitos fitted with an assortment of devices, such as Perfectos and Serrate, for homing-in on German night fighters. The British also experimented with mounting pilot-operated AI Mark 6 radar sets in single-seat fighters, and the Hurricane II C(NF), a dozen of which were produced in 1942, became the first radar-equipped single-seat night-fighter in the world.It served with 245 and 247 Squadrons briefly and unsuccessfully before being sent to India to 176 Squadron, with which it served till end-1943.
German efforts at this point were years behind the British. Unlike Britain, where the major targets lay only a few minutes flight time from the coast, Germany was protected by large tracts of neutral territory that gave them long times to deal with intruding bombers. Instead of airborne radar, they relied on ground based systems; the targets would first be picked up by radar assigned to a "cell", the radar would then direct a searchlight to "paint" the target, allowing the fighters to attack them without on-board aids. The searchlights were later supplanted with short-range radars that tracked both the fighters and bombers, allowing ground operators to direct the fighters to their targets. By July 1940 this system was well developed as the Kammhuber Line, and proved able to deal with the small raids by isolated bombers the RAF was carrying out at the time.
At the urging of R.V. Jones, the RAF changed their raid tactics to gather all of their bombers into a single "stream". This meant that the ground based portion of the system was overwhelmed - with only one or two searchlights or radars available per "cell", the system was able to handle perhaps six interceptions per hour. By flying all of the bombers over a cell in a short period, the vast majority of the bombers flew right over them without ever having been plotted, let alone attacked. German success against the RAF plummeted, reaching a nadir on 30/31 May 1942 when the first 1,000 bomber raid attacked Cologne, losing only four aircraft to German night fighters.
It was not until 1942 that the Germans first started deploying the initial B/C low UHF-band version of the Lichtenstein radar, and at that time in extremely limited numbers, using a thirty-two dipole element Matratze (mattress) antenna array. This late date, and slow introduction, combined with the capture of a Ju 88R-1 night fighter equipped with it in April 1943 when flown to RAF Dyce, Scotland by a defecting Luftwaffe crew allowed British radio engineers to develop jamming equipment to counter it. A race developed with the Germans attempting to introduce new sets and the British attempting to jam them, with the British holding the upper hand throughout. The early Lichtenstein B/C was replaced by the similar UHF-band Lichtenstein C-1, but when the German night fighter defected and landed in Scotland in April 1943, that radar was quickly jammed. The low VHF-band SN-2 unit that replaced the C-1 remained relatively secure until July of 1944, but only at the cost of using huge, eight-dipole element Hirschgeweih (stag's antlers) antennas that slowed their fighters as much as 25 mph, making them easy prey for British night fighters who had turned to the offensive role. The capture in July 1944 of a Ju 88G-1 night fighter of NJG 2 equipped with an SN-2 Lichtenstein set, flown by mistake into RAF Woodbridge, revealed the secrets of the later, longer-wavelength replacement for the earlier B/C and C-1 sets. The Luftwaffe also experimented with single-engine aircraft in the night fighter role, which they referred to as Wilde Sau (wild boar). In this case, the fighters, typically Focke-Wulf Fw 190s, were equipped only with a direction finder and landing lights in order to allow them to return to base at night. In order for the fighter to find their targets, other aircraft which were guided from the ground would drop strings of flares in front of the bombers. In other cases, the burning cities below would provide enough light to see their targets. Messerschmitt Bf 109G variants had G6N and similar models fitted with FuG 350 Naxos "Z" radar receivers for homing on to H2S emissions of RAF bombers. The Bf 109G series aircraft also were fitted with FuG 217/218 Neptun active search radars, as were Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-6/R11 aircraft: these served as radar-equipped night-fighters with NJGr 10 and NJG 11. A sole Fw 190 A-6 Wk.Nr.550214 fitted with FuG 217 is a rare survivor.
The effective Schräge Musik offensive armament fitment was the German name given to installations of upward-firing autocannon mounted in large, twin-engine night fighters by the Luftwaffe and Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service during World War II, with the first victories for each occurring in May 1943. This innovation allowed the night fighters to approach and attack bombers from below, where they would be outside the bomber crew's field of view. Few bombers of that era carried defensive guns in the ventral position. An attack by a Schräge Musik-equipped fighter was typically a complete surprise to the bomber crew, who would only realize that a fighter was close by when they came under fire. Particularly in the initial stage of operational use until early 1944, the sudden fire from below was often attributed to ground fire rather than a fighter.
Rather than nighttime raids, the US Army Air Forces were dedicated to daytime bombing over Germany and Axis allies, that statistically were much more effective. The British night-bombing raids showed a success rate of only one out of 100 targets successfully hit. At the urging of the British who were looking to purchase U.S. made aircraft, US day fighters were initially adapted to a night role, including the Douglas P-70 and later Lockheed P-38M "Night Lightning". The only purpose-built night fighter design deployed during the war, the American Northrop P-61 Black Widow was introduced first in Europe and then saw action in the Pacific, but it was given such a low priority that the British had ample supplies of their own designs by the time it was ready for production. The first USAAF unit did not move to Britain until February 1944; operational use did not start until the summer, and was limited throughout the war. Colonel Winston Kratz, director of night fighter training in the USAAF, considered the P-61 as adequate in its role, "It was a good night fighter. It did not have enough speed". The U.S. Navy was forced into the night fighting role when Japanese aircraft successfully harassed their units on night raids. The Japanese Navy had long screened new recruits for exceptional night vision, using the best on their ships and aircraft instead of developing new equipment for this role. To counter these raids, the Navy fitted microwave-band, compact radar sets to the wings of its single-engined Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair fighters by the close of the war, operating them successfully in the Pacific.In several cases these aircraft were used on raids of their own.
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... at last some photoshopped pictures of my models :
During restauration in 2014 added details . . .