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1st Search Attack Group
Active 1942-1944
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Role Research & Development of Antisubmarine Warfare Tactics and Weapons

The 1st Search Attack Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with the First Air Force, based in Langley Field, Virginia. The mission of the group was the development of equipment and tactics best suited for aerial Antisubmarine warfare.

It was inactivated on 15 Oct 1943





  • Constituted as 1st Sea-Search Attack Group (Medium) on 8 Jun 1942
Activated on 17 Jun 1942
Redesignated as: 1st Sea-Search Attack Group (Heavy) in Jun 1943
Redesignated as: 1st Search Attack Group) in Nov 1943
Disbanded on 20 Apr 1944


Attached to: I Bomber Command, 17 Jun-15 Oct 1942
Attached to: Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command, 15 Oct 1942-31 Aug 1943
Attached to: I Bomber Command, 31 Aug-10 Nov 1943



  • Equipped with B-17, B-18, and B-24 aircraft



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 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 SeaSearch 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 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 B-24 Liberator, which has a much longer range than the B-18. Equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks, microwave radar, and a powerful search light, the B-24 very long range bomber was ideal for extended anti submarine 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 USAAF 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 USAAF established a squadron of the group to train ground personnel in its proper maintenance.

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


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.

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