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1st Search Attack Group
Active 1942-1944
Country  United States
Branch United States Army Air Forces
Type Antisubmarine
Role Development of Tactics and Weapons
Part of First Air Force

The 1st Search Attack Group was a United States Army Air Forces (AAF) unit. Its last assignment was with the First Air Force. The mission of the group was the development of equipment and tactics best suited for aerial anti-submarine warfare. It was based at Langley Field, Virginia throughout its existence, and equipped with B-17, B-18, and B-24 aircraft. It was disbanded on 20 April 1943, but was reconstituted in 1985 as the 365th Electronic Warfare Group.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

A RADAR-equipped B-24D (42-40483) modified for Antisubmarine use. The retracted antenna for the RADAR is visible just aft of the open bomb bay doors in the place where the ventral gun turret would normally be installed

The 1st Search Attack Group tested equipment and developed techniques and tactics for aerial use against submarines and surface craft. It also helped develop an effective depth bomb with shallow fuse settings for about 25 feet. Eventually, the Americans and British developed a blunt depth bomb that sank slowly and exploded at the desired depth to destroy a submarine. This depth bomb became standard in early 1943.

Perhaps the most important task of the 1st Sea Search Attack Group was to develop techniques for using Airborne Surface Vessel Detection (ASV) radar to find surfaced submarines. The radar that eventually went into production was 10-centimeter wave equipment, known as ASV10. By February 1943, a skilled radar operator could identify surfaced submarines at more than 40 miles (64 km) and even the conning tower of a boat running decks awash at 15 to 30 miles (24 to 48 km).

Initially the ASV10 radar sets were placed on Douglas B-18 Bolo medium bombers flying antisubmarine patrols. Some 90 B-18's carried the equipment by the end of June 1942, but the Allies needed the microwave radar on the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, which had a much longer range than the B-18. Equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks, microwave radar, and a powerful searchlight, the B-24 long range bomber was ideal for extended antisubmarine patrols. The USAAF outfitted its first two microwave radar equipped B-24's in September 1942, and the 3d Search Attack Squadron was equipped with B-24s in December 1943.

Using the B-18's and B-24's assigned to it, the 1st SeaSearch Attack Group trained combat crews in the tactical employment of new equipment. In general, the USAAF employed three broad types of anti submarine operations: (1) routine aerial patrol of waters in which an enemy threat might exist; (2) air escort or coverage of convoys within range of land based aircraft; and (3) intensive patrol of an area in which one or more submarines had been spotted, an operation the AAF termed a "killer hunt" (in contrast to the U.S. Navy expression "hunter killer"). At various times, each of these operational tactics had its place in the antisubmarine war.

However, World War II era radar sets were notoriously unreliable and difficult to maintain, and scientists assigned to the 1st Sea Search Attack Group found much of their time consumed by seminars in the field on basic functions and maintenance of equipment. Consequently, the AAF established a squadron of the group to train ground personnel in its proper maintenance.

With the redesignation of the Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command as I Bomber Command, the group became concerned primarily with radar training for combat crews until its disbanding in April 1944.

Lineage, assignments, squadrons[edit | edit source]

Lineage[edit | edit source]

  • Constituted as 1st Sea-Search Attack Group (Medium) on 8 June 1942
Activated on 17 June 1942
Redesignated as 1st Sea-Search Attack Group (Heavy) in June 1943
Redesignated as 1st Sea-Search Attack Unit in September 1943
Redesignated as 1st Search Attack Group ca. 22 November 1943
Disbanded on 20 April 1944
  • Reconstituted on 31 March 1985 and redesignated 365th Electronic Warfare Group

Assignments[edit | edit source]

Squadrons[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Department of the Air Force/MPM Letter 648q, 31 July 1985, Subject: Reconstitution, Redesignation, and Consolidation of Selected Air Force Organizations
  2. The two I Bomber Commands to which the group was attached were different commands. The first became XX Bomber Command and trained very heavy bombardment units, and was replaced by the former Antisubmarine Command

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.

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