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"Antiaircraft Searchlight Dazzle Tactics" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on German antiaircraft searchlight tactics during WWII is taken from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 6, August 27, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Protection of German cities and strategic centers against night raids depends in part on huge concentrations of searchlights. Once a raider is picked up, sharp needles of light focus their points in a blinding cone of billions of candle power. A single light can often be shaken off with comparative ease. It is extremely difficult to escape from the effect of 20 or 30 lights pointing up at the same time.

The terms "dazzle" and "glare" are often confused with One another. Dazzle is the direct blinding effect of the powerful rays on pilot and bombardier, glare is the light interposed between observer and target in such a way that the target is obscured.

The success of dazzle clearly depends on the height of the aircraft, conditions of atmosphere, and positions of searchlights relative to the aircraft's course, and probably to some extent on individual reactions.

The following are some inferences drawn from recent trials:

a. Dazzle does not occur unless the aircraft is directly illuminated by one or more beams.

b. A single beam will not produce the effect except at fairly short range.

c. A concentration of several beams can cause acute difficulty to pilot or bombardier.

d. Head-on illumination causes far more difficulty to aircraft than does illumination from abeam or astern.

e. Short-range engagement of enemy aircraft by searchlights has apparently caused pilots to lose control and crash, but this inference is difficult to verify.

The dazzle or glare effect is most pronounced between 2,000 and 4,000 feet, and is effective up to 15,000 feet. Dazzle effect of British searchlights has in several cases brought down British fighters and bombers. British pilots report that dazzle or glare at altitudes even exceeding 10,000 feet (as used by the Germans) blinds pilots, makes location of target and accuracy of bombing difficult, impairs night adaptation of eyes, and has a pronounced psychological effect. It is most disconcerting to pilots and gunners to be thus illuminated, and rendered unable to see a fighter plane approaching to attack. The glare effect of a searchlight trained upon a low-flying aircraft is so great that it makes low-flying attacks hazardous. The glare effect of antiaircraft searchlight beams does not interfere materially with crews of aircraft not directly in the beam; it is therefore important to keep the beams constantly on the enemy aircraft, giving defending fighters full opportunity to attack.

The Germans are reported to indicate to their fighters the course of an enemy aircraft by dipping the beam of a searchlight, or by controlled travel across the sky of the intersection of searchlight beams.


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