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  • Flood
    Senior Member
    • Jun 2003
    • 9520

    Chief of Chaff dies

    Comet pioneer Fred Whipple dies
    By Dr David Whitehouse
    BBC News Online science editor

    Fred Whipple - the astronomer who first correctly described comets as "dirty snowballs" - has died aged 97.
    He revolutionised the study of comets when in 1950-51 he proposed that they were not "sandbags" but small bodies made of rock, dust and ice.

    He also predicted the coming of artificial satellites and was prepared with a satellite tracking network when Sputnik was launched in 1957.

    He discovered six comets, all of which were named after him.

    Chief of Chaff

    Fred Whipple began work at the Harvard College Observatory in 1931 and from 1955 to 1973 directed the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, helping it to become the renowned Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    Working for the US Air Force during World War II he came up with the idea for chaff - little bundles of shredded aluminium foil that could be dropped from US aircraft to confuse German radar. Air Force wits dubbed him the "Chief of Chaff" as a result.


    Story taken from from BBC NEWS:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/h...re/3614064.stm

    Published: 2004/08/31 14:00:17 GMT

    BBC MMIV


    Was he really the first to come up with the idea of chaff?

    Flood
  • whalebone
    Hanging by a thread
    • Jan 2000
    • 1005

    #2
    Was he really the first to come up with the idea of chaff?

    I think that the pace of change during those times was so fast that different people came up with alternative ideas so quickly, and it was by necessity that the one that worked best was adopted ASAP.

    Watson Watt was not daft enough to realise that he was not the only one to be thinking along the same lines and he certainly knew that what he was perfecting at Bawdsey could be countered, as indeed it was to an extent.

    The high density magnetron at the heart of 1940's radar was perfected (in the UK) by Randall & Boot in 1938/9.
    A closely guarded secret until "given" to the US by Henry Tizard, the UK govenments chief scientific advisor, on the instruction of HM Government as a sweetener to the US to enter the war in Europe.
    A little like all of Whittle's research and Miles Aircraft's supersonic designs post war.
    Who invented the jet engine ? Discovered the principal of the all moving tailplane that allowed a straight winged design to penetrate the sound barrier ? ( just take a look at those Miles designs for goodness sake ) Made radar work ?

    If you ever caught the BBC 2 series "Jeremy Clarkson meets the neighbours" when he 'did' America you will understand what I mean, it was one of the funniest programmes I have seen in years.

    Depends on which side of the pond your reference book or 'inventor of x' website originates from.
    There is no element of 'yank bashing' intended here, just telling it how it is/was/may have been.
    Last edited by whalebone; 1st September 2004, 01:02.
    I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them."

    Comment

    • RadarArchive
      Total pedant
      • Aug 2003
      • 1033

      #3
      Well, I have to say I've NEVER heard of Fred Whipple before ...

      That's not to say that he wasn't the first to come up with the idea of chaff (or Window as we Brits called it then), but I do think that if he had been the first, I would probably have heard of the chap before. What I find interesting is no date is given for when he supposedly came up with the idea. Without some idea of timescale, it's almost impossible to say whether or not he came first. I do have a lot of information on the work carried out by the Air Ministry Research Establishment on the development of Window, which I suspect probably came before the US work, but I can't be certain. And, of course, the Germans were working on their version, Dppel, at roughly the same time.
      Ian Brown

      Comment

      • Flood
        Senior Member
        • Jun 2003
        • 9520

        #4
        Yes, that is what I thought: to come up with something to to confuse RADAR wouldn't you first have to have RADAR so that you could see what you were doing? Can't imagine that there was much of a need for it when most of the American missions over occupied Europe took place in daylight in aircraft that gradually became more and more uncamouflaged as time progressed anyway!

        Ha - soon they will be claiming it was an American that put the hole in the toilet seat!!!

        Flood

        Comment

        • RadarArchive
          Total pedant
          • Aug 2003
          • 1033

          #5
          The US did have radar before the outbreak of war - in fact the term radar is a US creation. It was called RDF by British forces up until 1943.

          The USAAF was using chaff during their bombing offensive. Yes, it was daylight but anything which would reduce early warning times, or enable smaller diversion operations to seem like large formations and therefore attract more fighters away from the real bomber force, would all work just as well against radar during the day as at night. Even by daylight, a bomber force would only be visible a few miles away - the range of radar was much greater and therefore the USAAF employed extensive radio countermeasures against them (not just chaff!)
          Ian Brown

          Comment

          • Flood
            Senior Member
            • Jun 2003
            • 9520

            #6
            Whoops - forgot about its failed use at Pearl Harbour! My bad...
            So at what point was chaff allowed to be used over occupied territory?

            Flood

            Comment

            • RadarArchive
              Total pedant
              • Aug 2003
              • 1033

              #7
              The first use of Window by the RAF was on the night of 24/25 July 1943 during the attack on Hamburg.

              The German Air Force used Dppel for raids on Britain in January 1944, and possibly earlier (but certainly not before July 1943).

              I don't know off-hand when the USAAF first used chaff, but I daresay someone else may be able to answer this.
              Ian Brown

              Comment

              • EN830
                Ex UNGUE LEONEN
                • Jan 2000
                • 5107

                #8
                This was taken from the NASA website:- www.hq.nasa.gov

                July 24-August 3: German city of Hamburg subjected to a series of massive RAF attacks, totalling 3,000 planes, which exploited first use of "chaff" or "window" to saturate radar early warning and resulting in a severe "fire storm."

                So I would assume that the RAF used it first.

                Does anyone have the TV Series the "Secret War" on video, I seem to recall one programme covering the use of radar and countermeasures.
                Ian

                Government Volunteer

                Comment

                • Flood
                  Senior Member
                  • Jun 2003
                  • 9520

                  #9
                  So was the Hamburg raid positioned to come in from over the sea, just out of interest?
                  My memory was that chaff was utilised initially only over sea/unoccupied territory so as not to give the game away, and a long over land journey would not benefit if they couldn't use chaff.

                  Flood

                  Comment

                  • RadarArchive
                    Total pedant
                    • Aug 2003
                    • 1033

                    #10
                    I've never actually seen dates for when Germany began development of Dppel, so I don't know who developed it first. I do know that both Germany and Britain had come up with the idea independently but neither side was prepared to use it for fear of giving the idea to the other side. By 1943, however, Germany did not have the strength to launch a concerted bombing campaign against Britain, so the value of Dppel was not great. However, it was of immense use to Britain in its attempts to reduce losses in Bomber Command. Hence Britain used it first, but the Germans used it on later air attacks on Britain.
                    Ian Brown

                    Comment

                    • EN830
                      Ex UNGUE LEONEN
                      • Jan 2000
                      • 5107

                      #11
                      Soon to feature in a film called "Chaffing Eck" starring Brad Pitt/Denzil Washington as a dis-effected American flier who discovers Window after throwing a can of Pepsi cola out of the side window of his B52 over Germany in 1953, thus saving the world from the invading hoards.
                      Ian

                      Government Volunteer

                      Comment

                      • Flood
                        Senior Member
                        • Jun 2003
                        • 9520

                        #12
                        Originally posted by EN830
                        Soon to feature in a film called "Chaffing Eck" starring Brad Pitt/Denzil Washington as a dis-effected American flier who discovers Window....
                        And where does Bill Gates come into this...?

                        Flood

                        Comment

                        • cnam100
                          Junior Member
                          • Aug 2004
                          • 18

                          #13
                          Watched the messages ref Window with interest yesterday.

                          We think that this counter measure against radar was first thought of in 1937 by R V Jones following a visit he made to Bawdsey Manor. Jones was at that time working on an infrared system of detecting aircraft, this was in competition with the work being done at Bawsey on radar.

                          R V Jones was of course British!

                          Two books that cover this subject are;

                          Instruments of Darkness by Alfred Price and Most Secret War by R V Jones. Both are out of print, so a visit to a libary or second hand book shop is needed to find them.

                          The German's discovered that their own version of Window had a devasting effect on the efficency of their radar systems in 1941/2. When presented with the findings of this research Goring was so shocked that he promptly ordered all work to cease and the reports on the experiments that had been carried out to be destroyed in case the results should fall into Allied hands. After the RAF had used Window, the Germans introduced their own version, but by this stage were well behind British research.

                          Sure that the US was also working on this type of countermeasure at the same time, but cannot find any reference to their 'invention' of Window or Chaff.

                          In 1943, the RAF formed 100 (Bomber Support) Group to bring together all the various forms of electronic counter measurers together under one command. 100 Group operated from a number of Norfolk airfields and in addition to heavy bomber types also had a number of squadrons operating Mosquito nightfighters in the bomber support role.
                          The RAF 100 Group Association collection is on display here at the City of Norwich Aviation Museum.

                          Comment

                          • RadarArchive
                            Total pedant
                            • Aug 2003
                            • 1033

                            #14
                            Watson-Watt, in his autobiography, Three Steps to Victory, credits the idea of Window to Professor Lindemann who gave the idea to Churchill to present to the Air Defence Research Committee in 1937. The idea was largely dismissed and no investigation of Window was carried out until 1942.

                            I was surprised by this, which seems to be the first good idea that Lindemann came up with. He dismissed radar in the early days, preferring aerial minefields, and also stated that long-range rockets (ie the V2) were impossible because they could only use solid fuel and would therefore need so much fuel as to be too heavy to get off the ground!
                            Ian Brown

                            Comment

                            • RadarArchive
                              Total pedant
                              • Aug 2003
                              • 1033

                              #15
                              I always suspected that the original obituary at the start of this thread, from BBC News Online, struck me as the kind of information that comes from a little bit of a source and is not quite understood correctly and misinterpreted. However, I couldn't rule it out altogether.

                              Now, however, an obituary for Fred Whipple has appeared in today's Guardian which seems much more likely and fits whith the known facts about Window/chaff. The Guardian notes: "At the office of scientific research and development within the Harvard radio research laboratories from 1942 to 1945, he directed the American programme for the development, production and operational use of "confusion reflectors", the strips of reflecting aluminium dropped from aircraft to disable enemy radar."

                              This confirms what I thought may be the case: Fred Whipple didn't come up with the idea of chaff, but rather he was responsible for its development (presumably confirming the best lengths for different German radars, etc) and introduction into US service.
                              Ian Brown

                              Comment

                              • dhfan
                                Still cantankerous
                                • Jan 2000
                                • 2797

                                #16
                                As an aside to this thread, seeing the mention of Lindemann, anywhere his name comes up he appears to be a menace to the development of anything.
                                Unfortunately, Churchill thought the sun shone out of his a***.

                                A 20th century equivalent of Dr Dionysus (sp) Lardner in the 19th C.

                                Comment

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