Gliders in the Second World War

Gliders have been used by the military of various countries for carrying troops and heavy equipment to a combat zone during the Second World War. These engineless aircraft were towed into the air to their target by military transport planes, like the C-47 Skytrain or Dakota, or bombers relegated to secondary activities such as the Short Stirling. Once released from the tow craft, they were to land on any convenient open terrain close to their target and hopefully with as little damage to this cargo and crew as possible as most landing zones (LZ) were far from ideal. The one-way nature of the missions meant that they were treated as disposable leading to construction from common and inexpensive materials such as wood and canvas.

Troops landing by glider were referred to as air-landing and glider riders as opposed to paratroops. Landing by parachute caused the troops to be spread over a large drop-zone, whereas gliders could land troops in greater concentrations precisely at the target landing area. Furthermore, the glider, once released at some distance from the actual target, was effectively silent and difficult for the enemy to identify. Larger gliders were developed to land heavy equipment like anti-tank guns, anti-aircraft guns, small vehicles, such as jeeps. This heavier equipment made otherwise lightly armed paratroop forces a much more capable force in WW2. The Soviets also experimented with ways to deliver light tanks by air, including the Antonov A-40, a gliding tank with detachable wings.

Published on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 7:24 PM