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Arado Ar 234 with nose covered

Arado Ar 234 with nose covered

Arado Ar 234 with nose covered

An Arado Ar 234 on a muddy airfield, with the glass nose protected against the weather.

Photos courtesy of Huib's Aviation Books and Flying Wings Page


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The Ar 234 V9 prototype seen with a 1,000-kilogram bomb on March 15, 1944. Note the lack of a cockpit periscope that became standard in the production Ar234B, and the stores pylons beneath the engines. Robert F. Dorr Collection

At high altitude east of the Rhine bridgehead at Remagen on March 13, 1945, American fighter pilot 1st Lt. Ed Lopez looked down from his P-47 Thunderbolt at a sight none of his buddies had ever seen. Lopez spotted three Arado Ar 234 Blitz jet bombers, flying in a wide “V” 10,000 feet below. Lopez and his fellow fighter pilots rolled into a dive, straining for a chance to attack the faster, seemingly untouchable jets.

“We were doing at least 500 miles per hour and closing in on them very fast,” wrote Lopez, probably exaggerating his own velocity. “The German pilots knew what they were doing. They let us get close to them but not within range. Just when it looked like we were going to get some easy targets the German pilots gave their planes full power and took off at a 45-degree angle and left us like we were standing still.”

Capable of 461 miles per hour at 20,000 feet and faster than any Allied fighter it was likely to face in the sky during its era, the Arado Ar 234 was the world’s first operational jet bomber. It was initially used for reconnaissance. Adolf Hitler considered it to be one of the wunderwaffen, or “wonder weapons” that would reverse his fortunes at a time when Nazi Germany was losing the war.


Arado Ar 196 A-5

The Arado Ar 196 was the last combat floatplane built in Europe. It was obsolescent by the end of World War II but during the war, this airplane served Germany well in all theaters of operation. The type flew in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean, Baltic, Aegean, Black, and North Seas. When the Third Reich came to power in 1933, the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) was equipped with the Heinkel He 60 biplane. This type served through the Spanish Civil War and had excellent seagoing performance but it was slow, weakly armed, and very vulnerable by the start of World War II. An interim type, the Heinkel He 114, had poor water-handling characteristics and only slightly better performance in flight than the He 60.

During the fall of 1936, the Reichs Air Ministry (RLM) Technical Office released a specification that called for a 2-seat aircraft powered by a single 800-900 horsepower engine with either a single- or a twin-float arrangement. Heinkel choose to continue trying to improve the He 114 but Arado, Dornier, Gotha, and Focke-Wulf responded to the specification. Arado offered an advanced monoplane design designated the Ar 196 and the RLM ordered four prototypes. However, conservative elements in the Technical Office continued to favor biplanes over monoplanes and awarded Focke-Wulf a contract for two, more conservative, Fw 62 aircraft. The RLM later canceled the Fw 62 when the Ar 196 design showed clear superiority over its biplane rival.

Arado delivered the first two prototypes during the summer of 1937. Both were equipped with twin floats. Two more prototypes soon followed but these airplanes carried a single, large, central float and two small outrigger floats. Testing in the laboratory and on water did not conclusively prove that one configuration was significantly better than the other. The single float withstood rough seas during a landing better than the twin floats because it attached directly to the fuselage, the strongest part of the airplane. However, the twin floats had more stability when taxiing and maneuvering. Weight and drag were comparable, too, so the RLM directed Arado to ready both types for production.

Officials at the RLM awarded a pre-production contract for 10 twin-float Ar 196A-0s and Arado built the first one at its Warnemünde facility and delivered it to the Kreigsmarine in November 1938. Shakedown tests left naval authorities very pleased and by June 1939, Arado began delivering the first production floatplanes (designated Ar 196A-1) to the fleet. By the start of hostilities, the Kreigsmarine had selected many of their finest warships to upgrade to the new airplane including Admiral Graf Spee, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Deutschland, Admiral Scheer, and Prinz Eugen.

Production Ar 196 floatplanes flew well-armed with one 20 mm MG FF cannon in each wing, a 7.9mm MG 17 forward-firing machine gun in the fuselage nose, and one or two 7.9mm flexible guns in the aft cockpit. The floatplane could also haul a 50 kg (110 lb) bomb under each wing.

The Arado Ar 196 first put to sea aboard "Admiral Graf Spee" when the commerce raider set sail from Wilhelmshaven in August 1939. For four months, the ship cruised the South Atlantic searching for merchant ships and launching its complement of two Ar 196s from catapults set amidships. The Arados projected the battlecruiser's "eyes" hundreds of miles to look for prospective targets. They found most of the battlecruiser's 11 British victims.

Many Ar 196s flew coastal patrol missions from land bases. A notable action occurred on May 5, 1940, when two Ar 196A-2s from Aalborg, Denmark, captured a British submarine. The HMS "Seal" was sewing mines in a narrow waterway called the Kattegat when it struck one of its own mines. Drawn to the commotion, patrolling Arados attacked the sub with guns and bombs and inflicted such damage that the boat could not submerge. One of the Arados landed alongside the stricken sub and her captain surrendered to the pilot. Other Ar 196 units that operated along the French coast of the Bay of Biscay successfully intercepted RAF Whitley bombers attacking German U-boats sailing to and from their pens.

The Arado Ar 196 was the last combat floatplane built in Europe. It was obsolescent by the end of World War II but during the war, this airplane served Germany well in all theaters of operation. The type flew in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean, Baltic, Aegean, Black, and North Seas. When the Third Reich came to power in 1933, the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) was equipped with the Heinkel He 60 biplane. This type served through the Spanish Civil War and had excellent seagoing performance but it was slow, weakly armed, and very vulnerable by the start of World War II. An interim type, the Heinkel He 114, had poor water-handling characteristics and only slightly better performance in flight than the He 60.

During the fall of 1936, the Reich Air Ministry (RLM) Technical Office released a specification that called for a 2-seat aircraft powered by a single 800-900 horsepower engine with either a single- or a twin-float arrangement. Heinkel choose to continue trying to improve the He 114 but Arado, Dornier, Gotha, and Focke-Wulf responded to the specification. Arado offered an advanced monoplane design designated the Ar 196 and the RLM ordered four prototypes. However, conservative elements in the Technical Office continued to favor biplanes over monoplanes and awarded Focke-Wulf a contract for two, more conservative, Fw 62 aircraft. The RLM later canceled the Fw 62 when the Ar 196 design showed clear superiority over its biplane rival.

Arado delivered the first two prototypes during the summer of 1937. Both were equipped with twin floats. Two more prototypes soon followed but these airplanes carried a single, large, central float and two small outrigger floats. Testing in the laboratory and on water did not conclusively prove that one configuration was significantly better than the other. The single float withstood rough seas during a landing better than the twin floats because it attached directly to the fuselage, the strongest part of the airplane. However, the twin floats had more stability when taxiing and maneuvering. Weight and drag were comparable, too, so the RLM directed Arado to ready both types for production.

Officials at the RLM awarded a pre-production contract for 10 twin-float Ar 196A-0s and Arado built the first one at its Warnemünde facility and delivered it to the Kriegsmarine in November 1938. Shakedown tests left naval authorities very pleased and by June 1939, Arado began delivering the first production floatplanes (designated Ar 196A-1) to the fleet. By the start of hostilities, the Kriegsmarine had selected many of their finest warships to upgrade to the new airplane including Admiral Graf Spee, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Deutschland, Admiral Scheer, and Prinz Eugen.

Production Ar 196 floatplanes flew well-armed with one 20 mm MG FF cannon in each wing, a 7.9mm MG 17 forward-firing machine gun in the fuselage nose, and one or two 7.9mm flexible guns in the aft cockpit. The floatplane could also haul a 50 kg (110 lb) bomb under each wing.

The Arado Ar 196 first put to sea aboard "Admiral Graf Spee" when the commerce raider set sail from Wilhelmshaven in August 1939. For four months, the ship cruised the South Atlantic searching for merchant ships and launching its complement of two Ar 196s from catapults set amidships. The Arados projected the battlecruiser's "eyes" hundreds of miles to look for prospective targets. They found most of the battlecruiser's 11 British victims.

Many Ar 196s flew coastal patrol missions from land bases. A notable action occurred on May 5, 1940, when two Ar 196A-2s from Aalborg, Denmark, captured a British submarine. The HMS "Seal" was sowing mines in a narrow waterway called the Kattegat when it struck one of its own mines. Drawn to the commotion, patrolling Arados attacked the sub with guns and bombs and inflicted such damage that the boat could not submerge. One of the Arados landed alongside the stricken sub and her captain surrendered to the pilot. Other Ar 196 units that operated along the French coast of the Bay of Biscay successfully intercepted RAF Whitley bombers attacking German U-boats sailing to and from their pens.

These operations typify the Arado floatplane's roles and capabilities. This is not the most famous German aircraft of the war but the Ar 196 served ably, if quietly, nearly everywhere that German forces put to sea. It was the primary German maritime reconnaissance aircraft and its counterpart in the U. S. Navy was the Vought OS2U Kingfisher.

Slow but steady production continued throughout the war and the Kriegsmarine accepted only 94 aircraft during in 1942. The Germans prepared a French factory at St. Nazaire to augment Warnemünde's efforts, but this firm built just 10 airplanes before transferring production to the Fokker facility in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. By the end of 1943, Fokker had become the primary builder. The Ar 196 became increasingly vulnerable to faster, better-armed, Allied airplanes that ranged deeper and deeper into German-held territory. The RLM finally terminated production in August 1944. In addition to the German Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine, Romania and Bulgaria also used the aircraft in limited numbers. The final and definitive version was the Ar 196A-5. NASM's collection contains this type of aircraft.

Only three Ar 196 floatplanes still exist from the total production run of 526 aircraft, excluding the prototypes and pre-production aircraft. The Bulgarski Vozdushni Voiski Muzeum in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, displays an Ar 196A-3, one of twelve the Bulgarian Navy operated during World War II from Varna on the coast. The Allies recovered two others aboard the German battlecruiser "Prinz Eugen" when she surrendered at Copenhagen, Denmark. The U. S. Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, owns one and the other belongs to the National Air and Space Museum.

When the US Navy took custody of "Prinz Eugen," they were more interested in the catapult system used to launch the floatplane rather than the Ar 196 but they nonetheless saved the two floatplanes. The NASM airplane has only 14 hours of operational flying time and U. S. Navy pilots added just four more hours during testing and evaluation at the Naval Air Materiel Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 餜 Werk-Nummer (serial number) is 623167 however, the Navy evidently repainted the airplane with markings copied from a different aircraft. That floatplane bore the code letters GA+DX and Werk-Nummer 68967. Today, the NASM Ar 196A-5 still carries the bogus paint and markings of GA+DX. After years in storage, the Navy transferred the airplane to the NASM in 1961. It is now in storage at the Paul E. Garber Facility in Silver Hill, Maryland.


The definitive collection of secret Nazi weapons

Underwater missiles that could have hit New York, jet-powered bombers that were nearly impossible to intercept, sub-orbital bombers, vertical launch rocket fighters, or infrared visors are just a few of many in this definitive collection of incredible Nazi weapons. Be happy that those bastards never got to mass produce them.

Secret weapons of the Luftwaffe

"The Rocket U-boat was an abandoned military project to create the first ballistic missile submarine. It was conceived of by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Plans for the rocket U-boat involved an attack on New York City with newly invented V-2 rockets."

"The Henschel Hs 117 Schmetterling (German for Butterfly) was a TV guided German surface-to-air missile project developed during World War II. There was also an air-to-air version. The operator used a telescopic sight and a joystick to guide the missile by radio control."

"The Henschel Hs 293 was a World War II German anti-ship guided missile: a radio-controlled glide bomb with a rocket engine slung underneath it."

"Rheintochter was a German surface-to-air missile developed during World War II. Its name comes from the mythical Rheintöchter (Rhinemaidens) of Richard Wagner's opera series Der Ring des Nibelungen."

"The Ruhrstahl X-4 was a wire guided air-to-air missile designed by Germany during World War II. The X-4 did not see operational service and thus was not proven in combat. The X-4 was the basis for the development of experimental, ground-launched anti-tank missiles that became the basis for considerable post-war work around the world, including the Malkara missile."

"Silbervogel, German for silver bird, was a design for a rocket-powered sub-orbital bomber aircraft produced by Eugen Sänger and Irene Bredt in the late 1930s for The Third Reich/Nazi Germany. It is also known as the RaBo (Raketenbomber or rocket bomber)."

"The Arado Ar 234 was the world's first operational jet-powered bomber, built by the German Arado company in the closing stages of World War II. Produced in very limited numbers, it was used almost entirely in the reconnaissance role, but in its few uses as a bomber it proved to be nearly impossible to intercept. It was the last Luftwaffe aircraft to fly over England during the war, in April 1945."

"The Junkers Ju 287 was a Nazi Germany aerodynamic testbed built to develop the technology required for a multi-engine jet bomber. It was powered by four Junkers Jumo 004 engines, featured a revolutionary forward-swept wing, and apart from said wing was assembled largely from components scavenged from other aircraft."

"The Bachem Ba 349 Natter (English: Viper, Adder) was a World War II German point-defence rocket powered interceptor, which was to be used in a very similar way to a manned surface-to-air missile. After a vertical take-off, the majority of the flight to the Allied bombers was to be controlled by an autopilot. The primary mission of the relatively untrained pilot, was to aim the aircraft at its target bomber and fire its armament of rockets. The pilot and the fuselage containing the rocket motor would then land under separate parachutes, while the nose section was disposable."

"The DFS 346 (Samolyot 346) was a German rocket-powered swept-wing vehicle subsequently completed and flown (with indifferent success) in the Soviet Union after World War II. The prototype was still unfinished by the end of the war and was taken to the Soviet Union where it was rebuilt, tested and flown."

"The Fieseler Fi 103R, code-named Reichenberg, was a late-World War II German manned version of the V-1 flying bomb produced for attacks in which the pilot was likely to be killed or at best to parachute down at the attack site."

"The Focke-Wulf Ta 283 was a German low-wing jet interceptor designed during World War II."

"The Focke-Achgelis Fa 269 was a tiltrotor VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) fighter project designed by Heinrich Focke."

"The Junkers Ju 322 Mammut (Mammoth) was a heavy transport military glider, resembling a giant flying wing, proposed for use by the Luftwaffe in World War II."

"The Focke-Wulf Ta 400 was a large six-engined bomber design developed in Nazi Germany in 1943 [. ] Designed as a bomber and long-range reconnaissance plane by Kurt Tank [. ] one of the most striking features was the six BMW 801D radial engines, to which two Jumo 004 jet engines were later added."

"The Junkers Ju 390 was a German aircraft intended to be used as a heavy transport, maritime patrol aircraft, and long-range bomber, a long-range derivative of the Ju 290."

"The Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant ("Giant") was a German military transport aircraft of World War II. It was a powered variant of the Me 321 military glider and was the largest land-based transport aircraft of the war. A total of 213 are recorded as having been made, a few being converted from the Me 321."

"The Heinkel He 162 Volksjäger (German, "People's Fighter"), made primarily of wood as metals were in very short supply and prioritised for other aircraft, the He 162 was nevertheless the fastest of the first generation of Axis and Allied jets."

"The Heinkel He 176 was a German rocket-powered aircraft. It was the world's first aircraft to be propelled solely by a liquid-fuelled rocket, making its first powered flight on 20 June 1939 with Erich Warsitz at the controls."

"The Heinkel He 178 was the world's first aircraft to fly under turbojet power, and the first practical jet aircraft."

"The Heinkel He 280 was the first turbojet-powered fighter aircraft in the world. It was inspired by Ernst Heinkel's emphasis on research into high-speed flight and built on the company's experience with the He 178 jet prototype. A combination of technical and political factors led to it being passed over in favor of the Messerschmitt Me 262.[citation needed] Only nine were built and none reached operational status."

"Henschel's Hs 132 was a World War II dive bomber and interceptor aircraft [. ] The unorthodox design featured a top-mounted BMW 003 jet engine (identical in terms of make and position to the powerplant used by the Heinkel He 162) and the pilot in a prone position. The Soviet Army occupied the factory just as the Hs 132 V1 was nearing flight testing, the V2 and V3 being 80% and 75% completed."

"The Horten H.IX, RLM designation Ho 229 was a German prototype fighter/bomber. It was the first pure flying wing powered by jet engines. It was the only aircraft to come close to meeting German Luftwaffen Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring's "3×1000" performance requirements, namely to carry 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb) of bombs a distance of 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) with a speed of 1,000 kilometres per hour (620 mph). Its ceiling was 15,000 metres (49,000 ft)."

"The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet, designed by Alexander Lippisch, was a German rocket-powered fighter aircraft. It is the only rocket-powered fighter aircraft ever to have been operational. Its design was revolutionary, and the Me 163 was capable of performance unrivaled at the time. German test pilot Heini Dittmar in early July 1944 reached 1,130 km/h (700 mph), not broken in terms of absolute speed until November 1947. Over 300 aircraft were built[2] however, the Komet proved ineffective as a fighter, having been responsible for the destruction of only about nine Allied aircraft[2] (16 air victories for 10 losses, according to other sources)."

"The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe (English: "Swallow") was the world's first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. Design work started before World War II began, but engine problems prevented the aircraft from attaining operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944."

"The Messerschmitt P.1101 was a single-seat, single-jet fighter project [. ] A characteristic feature of the P.1101 prototype was that the sweep of the wings could be changed before flight, a feature further developed in later variable-sweep aircraft such as the Bell X-5 and Grumman XF10F Jaguar."

"The Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri ("Hummingbird") is a single-seat open cockpit intermeshing rotor helicopter, or synchropter, produced by Anton Flettner of Germany. According to Yves Le Bec, the Flettner Fl 282 was the world's first series production helicopter."

"The Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 Drache ("Dragon" in English) was a helicopter developed by Germany during World War II. A single 750 kilowatt (1,000 horsepower) Bramo 323 radial engine powered two three-bladed 11.9 metre (39 feet) rotors mounted on twin booms on either side of the 12.2 metre (40 ft) long cylindrical fuselage."

"The Aggregat series was a set of rocket designs developed in 1933–45 by a research program of Nazi Germany's army. Its greatest success was the A4, more commonly known as the V-2. The German word Aggregat refers to a group of machines working together. A9/A10 was proposed to use an advanced version of the A9 to attack targets on the US mainland from launch sites in Europe, for which it would need to be launched atop a booster stage, the A10. The A12 design was a true orbital rocket. It was proposed as a four-stage vehicle, comprising A12, A11, A10 and A9 stages. Calculations suggested it could place as much as 10 tonnes payload in low Earth orbit."

"The Enzian was a German WWII surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile that was the first to use an infrared guidance system. During the missile's development in the late stages of the war, it was plagued by organisational problems and was cancelled before becoming operational."

"The V-1 flying bomb was an early pulse-jet-powered predecessor of the cruise missile. The first of the so-called Vergeltungswaffen series designed for terror bombing of London, the V-1 was fired from launch sites along the French (Pas-de-Calais) and Dutch coasts. At its peak, more than one hundred V-1s a day were fired at south-east England, 9,521 in total, decreasing in number as sites were overrun until October 1944, when the last V-1 site in range of Britain was overrun by Allied forces."

Image source: Keystone/Getty Images

"Fritz X was the most common name for a German guided anti-ship glide bomb used during World War II. Along with the USAAF's similar Azon weapon of the same period in World War II, it is one of the precursors of today's anti-ship missiles and precision-guided weapons."

Orbital weapons

"The sun gun or heliobeam was a theoretical orbital weapon that was researched by Nazi Germany during World War II."

Secret weapons of the Wehrmacht

"The V-3 (Vergeltungswaffe 3) was a German World War II supergun working on the multi-charge principle whereby secondary propellant charges are fired to add velocity to a projectile."

"The Fliegerfaust (lit. "pilot fist" or "plane fist"), also known as the "Luftfaust" (lit. "air fist"), was a prototype unguided, man-portable, German multi-barreled ground-to-air rocket launcher, designed to destroy enemy ground attack planes."

"The Flakpanzer IV Kugelblitz ("lightning ball") was a German self-propelled anti-aircraft gun developed during World War II. Unlike earlier self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, it had a fully enclosed, rotating turret."

"Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus (Mouse) was a German World War II super-heavy tank completed in late 1944. It is the heaviest fully enclosed armoured fighting vehicle ever built."

"Schwerer Gustav and Dora were the names of two German 80 cm K (E) railway guns. The fully assembled guns weighed nearly 1,350 tonnes, and could fire shells weighing seven tonnes to a range of 47 kilometres (29 mi)."

"The StG 44 (Sturmgewehr 44, literally "storm [or assault] rifle [model of 19]44") was an assault rifle developed in Nazi Germany during World War II that was the first of its kind to see major deployment and is considered by many historians to be the first modern assault rifle."

"The StG 45(M) (Sturmgewehr 45 literally "storm rifle" or "assault rifle 1945") sometimes referred to as the MP 45(M), was a prototype assault rifle developed by Mauser for the Wehrmacht at the end of World War II, using an innovative roller-delayed blowback operating system. It fired the 7.92×33mm Kurz (or "Pistolenpatrone 7.9mm) intermediate cartridge at a cyclic rate of around 450 rounds per minute."

"The Krummlauf (English: Curved barrel) is a bent barrel attachment for the Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle developed by Germany in World War II. The curved barrel included a periscope sighting device for shooting around corners from a safe position."

"The Zielgerät 1229 (ZG 1229), also known in its code name Vampir, was an active infrared device developed for the Wehrmacht for the Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle, intended primarily for night use."

Secret weapons of the Kriegsmarine

"German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin was the lead ship in a class of two carriers ordered by the Kriegsmarine. [. ] The carrier would have had a complement of 42 fighters and dive bombers. [. ] Graf Zeppelin was not completed and was never operational, due to shifting construction priorities necessitated by the war.

"Type XXI U-boats, also known as "Elektroboote" (German: "electric boats"), were the first submarines designed to operate primarily submerged, rather than as surface ships that could submerge as a means to escape detection or launch an attack."

Atomic research

"The German nuclear energy project, was an attempted clandestine scientific effort led by Germany to develop and produce atomic weapons during World War II. The program eventually expanded into three main efforts: the Uranmaschine (nuclear reactor), uranium and heavy water production, and uranium isotope separation."

Know of other secret Nazi weapons? Please ad it in the comments. with the same format: Photo and summary linked to Wikipedia page.


Lotfernrohr Lofte 7 D-1 bombsight, German

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[4] ARADO E.560 / HEINKEL HE 343 / JUNKERS JU 287

* Arado also investigated a number of new-design, swept-wing follow-ons to the Ar 234 -- but since the company was overstretched to get the Ar 234 into production, there were no resources to seriously pursue such projects. Late in the war, the company also investigated a series of larger swept-wing medium-bomber concepts under the general designation of "E.560", with a span of about 18 meters (59 feet), in contrast to the 14.1-meter (46 foot 4 inch) span of the Ar 234. Various engine and armament fits were considered, but it was far too late, and these projects were never more than pipe dreams.


While Arado was working on the Ar 234 and considering follow-ons, other German aircraft manufacturers were developing their own jet bomber schemes. Heinkel came up with a series of concepts under the general designation of "P.1068", but in early 1944, when the military situation was beginning to look extremely grim for the German Reich, the decision was made to give up on the P.1068 concepts, and simply scale up the Ar 234 design to get an aircraft in service as fast as possible.

The result was the "He 343", which looked very much like the Ar 234 V6, with a span of 18 meters (54 feet) a mid-mounted wing four engines, with each engine in its own nacelle and a "bugeyed" style cockpit, something like that of a Ju 188. Various engine fits were considered, but it initially was to be powered by the Jumo 004B. Bomber and reconnaissance variants were considered, as well as a heavy interceptor, with a belly cannon tray and, somewhat oddly, a twin-cannon tail "stinger" between twin tailfins, the tail cannon being directed by periscope. Work on prototypes was in progress by the end of 1944, with some sources saying one was actually completed, but then the program was called off since the resources couldn't be spared for it. No He 343 ever flew.

The only German jet bomber besides the Ar 234 that actually more or less flew during the war was the Junkers "Ju 287". Junkers began work on a heavy jet bomber in 1943, at first focusing on a design with swept-back wings with a 25-degree sweep. However, low-speed handling appeared to be a problem with this approach, and so the design team decided to change the wings to a forward sweep.

Model tests in a wind tunnel showed that this did improve low-speed handling, but that the forward-swept wings were subjected to high levels of stress. Clearly, a proof-of-concept demonstrator needed to be flown to validate the forward-swept wing design, and so such a demonstrator was thrown together with whatever assemblies were available. The demonstrator, designated the "He 287 V1", performed its first flight on 16 August 1944. It was built around the fuselage of a Heinkel He 177A Grief heavy bomber, with the tail assembly of a Ju 388 and the new forward-swept wing. It was powered by four Junkers Jumo 004B turbojets, with one engine attached to each side of the fuselage behind the cockpit, and one engine slung under the rear of each wing.

Since the He 177's main gear retracted into its engine nacelles, which didn't exist with the new wing, the Ju 287 V1 was fitted with fixed landing gear in spats. The nose gear was salvaged from a downed American B-24 Liberator and the main gear was borrowed from a Junkers Ju 352 transport. Rauchergeraet units were used to get the contraption off the ground. It actually flew very well, though the concerns about excessive stress on the wings were justified and worrisome.

A total of 17 flights was performed with the Ju 287 V1, leading to work on a proper prototype, the "Ju 287 V2". It was to have retractable landing gear, with the nose gear retracting backwards and the main gear hinging in the wings toward the fuselage a "bugeyed" cockpit and was to be powered by six BMW 003A turbojets, arranged in clusters of three under each wing.


The Ju 287 V2 was unarmed. The production prototype, the "Ju 287 V3", was expected to have a 4-tonne (8,800-pound) maximum warload, and a remotely-controlled tail barbette with twin MG-131 13-millimeter machine guns, aimed through a periscopic sight.

Unsurprisingly, construction on the Ju 287 V2 prototype was abandoned in the summer of 1944, due to the dire military situation. However, the engineering team continued to play with the design, and for some bizarre reason, they were told to restart work on the prototype in early 1945. They were almost done when the Red Army arrived and spirited the prototype off to the USSR, along with most of the design team. It actually flew in 1947. The Soviets didn't put it into production, but it helped give them a long-standing interest in forward-swept wing designs, leading up to the Sukhoi S-37 Berkut experimental fighter of the 1990s.


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Sleek. Rakish. Seemingly poised to thunder into the wild blue yonder sits an Air Force Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber, guarding the south entrance to the Seattle Museum of Flight. Contemporary in appearance and perhaps the best-looking Boeing aircraft, the Stratojet flew for the first time on December 17, 1947. Swift and lethal, the B-47 introduced to production aircraft the sweptback wing with under-wing, pylon-mounted turbojet engines. This basic airplane configuration is now the accepted standard worldwide for all large turbojet powered airliners and transports. Just over five years separated the initial flights (in 1942) of the B-29 Superfortress, a very advanced propeller-driven bomber, and the B-47, its turbojet driven, nearly twice as fast, younger brother.

Birth of a Turbojet Bomber

In 1943, before any turbojet aircraft had entered service, the Army Air Force issued requirements for a turbojet-powered bomber. (The turbojet engine is the basic engine of the jet age. It works by compressing air, forcing it into a combuster, which sprays fuel on it and ignites it. The air burns continuously like a blow torch, through the turbine, which extracts energy to work the compressor, and out the back to thrust the aircraft forward.)

Boeing responded by redesigning its most advanced extant airplane, the B-29 Superfortress, with turbojet engines. This approach proved unfeasible, and eventually a new straight wing design with on-wing engine nacelles (enclosures) emerged with reasonable performance expectations. Not satisfied that Boeing had a competitive bomber design, engineer George Schairer, who in 1945 was in Germany examining sweptback wing research data, suggested using such a wing.

Looking into the future, in 1943 Boeing also began to study and design gas turbine engines (that is, jet engines), which it would build and market beginning in 1946.

Concerned about the short range of operational jet aircraft, the Air Force also funded development of several new piston engine bombers. Boeing’s B-50 Superfortress, a more powerful, faster enhancement of the B-29, flew six months before the B-47, on June 25, 1947. The two bombers were produced concurrently 372 B-50s were built.

Sweptback Wings

Boeing’s first jet airplane would be a technological blockbuster, not a piston engine design with turbojets hung on. The 35° swept back wing was chosen to attain high speed, as much as 100 mph faster than competing designs. Its advantages were known and tested in the U.S. (and elsewhere) during World War II by the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA). Nor was the B-47 Boeing’s first swept wing design. Way back in 1935, the model 306 fighter design (before the 307 Stratoliner airliner) featured a 30° swept wing, tricycle landing gear, and a pusher propeller.

Sweptback wings date to the first decade of the powered airplane. Britain’s John Dunne flew a sweptback wing biplane with inherent stability (the reason he used swept wings) in 1910. The U.S. Army and Navy evaluated his later swept wing designs, as armed warplanes in 1914-1915 the first military services to do so. Interestingly, their 32° wing sweep was nearly the same as the B-47. In the late 1930s, U.S. light planes with 25° sweptback wings were in production.

Under Wing Pylon Mounted Engines

With the wing design settled, the next issue was where to mount the engines. Fuselage and on-wing positioned engines had aerodynamic drag and safety problems. Engineers hit upon the idea of using under wing pylon mounted engines, which gave a low drag, aerodynamically clean wing, and being distanced from the airframe, were safer in case of fire. The final design paired two engines near the fuselage (the central body of the aircraft) and another close to the tip on each wing.

This time the Russians were first. Ilyushin’s IL-22 bomber beat the Stratojet into the air by five months, flying on July 24, 1947. A small, straight winged, slow airplane, the Il-22’s four turbojet engines were individually mounted on pylons below the wing. Only one bomber was built it crashed two months later and was lost. Douglas added two turbojets on pylons beneath the straight wings of its experimental piston-engined XB-42A Mixmaster bomber, which flew even before the Ilyushin, on May 24, 1947.

A Fighter-Like Bomber

Accentuating the Stratojet’s long, streamlined fuselage, perched near the forward end, was an elongated bubble type canopy that was usually associated with considerably smaller fighters. Under its pressurized Plexiglas cover sat the pilot followed by the co-pilot/tail gunner, who were joined by the navigator/bombardier below in the forward fuselage. In contrast to this crew of three, the shorter and much lighter B-29 had an 11-member crew.

Bicycle type landing gear with fuselage mounted paired wheels fore and aft, gave the B-47 its pronounced nose up attitude while on the ground. Two small outrigger wheels were mounted below the inboard engine nacelles for lateral balance.

Motive Force: the J-47 Turbojet

In the last year of World War II, the highest-flying jet airplane over Europe with the most powerful engine was the U.S. Lockheed YP-80A Shooting Star fighter. General Electric’s J-33 turbojet engine powering the YP-80A, produced 4,000 lb. of thrust, twice that of any other operational engine. General Electric (GE) had entered the aircraft gas turbine field on July 7, 1941, prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, and before England’s Frank Whittle graciously licensed GE to develop his pioneer jet engine further. By the end of the war, in addition to the J-33, GE had produced the most powerful, by far, axial flow (the dominant type today) turbojet running, and a turboprop engine. (The turboprop engine uses the thrust of hot gasses to turn a propeller.)

Germany pioneered the use of the axial flow jet engine, building several thousand that powered the first operational jet fighters and bombers used in combat. (Axial flow engines have rotating compressors that push air along the axis of rotation. In centrifugal flow compressors, air enters in the center and is spun to the outside.)

Germany's axial flow engines were heavy, unreliable and had a major fault -- they did not function well above 30,000 feet altitude. The Shooting Star had a nearly 15,000-foot altitude advantage over its German adversaries, a serious advantage in combat.

Great Britain flew an axial flow jet engine powered airplane during the war, as did the U.S. and Japan, while Russia ground tested engines. Britain went on to great postwar success by manufacturing centrifugal flow (like the earlier J-33) engines, while the U.S. took up the gauntlet and developed the first truly successful axial flow jet engines. GE further refined its wartime J-35 into the J-47 turbojet engine, which was capable of problem free flight to nearly 50,000 feet altitude.

Six J-47s powered production B-47s to high speed and stratospheric altitude. It was the engine of choice for numerous airplanes. In the North American Aviation F-86 Sabre fighter, the J-47 powered it to supersonic speed in a slight dive -- the second successful supersonic airplane and the first in production. During Korean War combat against the centrifugal flow jet engine powered Mig-15 fighter, the Sabre prevailed mightily. More than 35,000 J-47s were built, probably the most of any turbojet engine.

The Stratojet even with six jet engines was underpowered during certain takeoff conditions consequently it also had rocket engines. Eighteen, later 33, solid fuel rocket engines were mounted in or under the lower aft fuselage. The rocket engines gave the B-47 a spectacularly steep climb angle, and produced a vast smoke cloud and horrendous noise.

Into Service

The initial B-47B production version entered squadron service during 1952. Its high speed convinced the Air Force that only radar controlled twin tail guns were needed for protection. Two jet bombers preceded the Stratojet, including the combat-proven World War II German Arado Ar 234 Lightning. Boeing’s B-47 would serve the Air Force long and well. At peak usage the Strategic Air Command had more than 1,500 Stratojets on strength in its bomber wings. As the first successful, large 600+ mph jet aircraft, the B-47 was followed into service three years later by the similarly capable Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 Badger (a twin jet with three gun turrets a development of the Tu-4, the B-29 replica) and the British Vickers Valiant B.1 (four jet engines, unarmed). That same year, 1955, the Stratojets’ successor, the eight-turbojet engine Boeing B-52B Stratofortress heavy bomber entered service.

Propellers turned by powerful turboprop engines replaced the inboard pair of engines on two test B-47Ds. The stated purpose of the conversion was to test the new engines the Air Force had long since abandoned the turboprop engine as a means to extend a bomber’s range. Interestingly, the B-47D was nearly as fast as the normal bomber, at 597 mph. At the time, in 1955, the Soviet Tu-20 Bear bomber became known to the West -- it had swept back wings and four turboprop engines. Several versions of the 540 mph Bear remain in Russian service in 2002.

Time line comparison: both the B-47 and F-86 Sabre began as straight wing designs during World War II, changed to 35° swept back wings, were powered by the J-47, and flew in 1947. The Sabre took flight first, on October 1, a meager 2.5 months before the Stratojet. Early in the B-47’s career, the F-86 was one of only two airplanes that could keep pace (the Mig-15 was the other, it also flew in 1947, on December 30). Being considerably less complex than the Stratojet, the Sabre entered Air Force squadron service three years earlier.

Many Roles, no Combat

In addition to serving as a bomber, the Air Force also procured specialized B-47s for photo-reconnaissance, Elint (electronic intelligence/eavesdropping) and weather reconnaissance (a WB-47E is displayed at the Seattle Museum of Flight) missions. Although the Stratojet entered service during the Korean War, it did not join the B-29s, B-50s, and B-17s used in that conflict. The B-47, in fact, never attacked a foe or dropped a bomb in anger in its career. No foreign air forces operated the Stratojet, but the Navy used three for test purposes.

During the course of many Elint missions flown near (and over?) Iron Curtain countries, two RB-47Hs were attacked by Communist fighters. In July 1960, shortly after the U-2 incident in May (in which an American spy plane, the U-2, piloted by Francis Gary Powers, was brought down in the Soviet Union), a RB-47H flying near Murmansk was shot down. Four of its six crewmen were killed and the two survivors were captured and imprisoned in Moscow’s Lubyanka prison for seven months before being released. In 1965, North Korean Mig-17s attacked a second RB-47H off the coast of Korea. Cannon fire from the Stratojet’s tail guns drove off the fighters, and the damaged bomber was able to land in Japan, without any injury to crewmen.

During the course of many Elint missions flown near (and over?) Iron Curtain countries, two RB-47Hs were attacked by Communist fighters. In 1960, shortly after the U-2 incident in May (in which an American spy plane, the U-2, piloted by Francis Gary Powers, was brought down in the Soviet Union), a RB-47H flying near Murmansk was shot down, and its six crewmen lost. In 1965, North Korean Mig-17s attacked a second RB-47H off the coast of Korea. Cannon fire from the Stratojet’s tail guns drove off the fighters, and the damaged bomber was able to land in Japan, without any injury to crewmen.

Finis. On October 31, 1969, the B-47 ended its long, 17-year Air Force career. A weather reconnaissance WB-47E flew to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, for storage.

Misguided, Sincere Flattery

Late into the 1950s, an East German company attempted to enter the jet airliner business by emulating the Stratojets’ features closely, and as it transpired, far too closely. The four engine VEB BB-152 was to carry 72 passengers for 1,500 miles at 500 mph, with a crew of three. It featured a high sweptback wing with under wing pylon mounted paired turbojets, and a bicycle type landing gear with outrigger wheels. Even the B-47’s front fuselage windows were faithfully included. All in all, a very atypical airliner design. The sole prototype crashed shortly after flying on December 4, 1958, which ended the program.

Production Pool

The two XB-47 prototypes were the last airplanes to be manufactured in Boeing's original Plant 1 production aircraft were built in Boeing’s Wichita, Kansas, facility. During the Korean War the Air Force wanted Stratojets faster than Boeing could build them, therefore a shared production program similar to that of the B-17 and B-29 was implemented. Douglas and Lockheed built B-47s under license in government factories. Of the 2,040 bombers constructed, Boeing assembled 1,373, 67 percent of the total. More Stratojets were built than any other jet bomber.

The second XB-47 is displayed at the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum in Rantoul, Illinois.


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A Flash in the Sky: Meet the Luftwaffe’s Arado Ar 234 Blitz

The Ar 234 was one among several wartime innovations that stood as testaments to Germany’s brilliance with science and technology.

While the Messerschmitt Me 262 was the world’s first operational jet-powered fighter, the Ar 234 was the world’s first jet-powered bomber.

However, it spent limited time in action as a bomber aircraft, instead spending most of its service time as a reconnaissance aircraft. But when it was employed as a bomber, the Ar 234 was almost impossible to intercept.

Ar 234 B Blitz

A golden bird in the hands of the Luftwaffe, it was the very last German aircraft to fly through Britain’s airspace at the end of the war.

With the development of the Heinkel He 178 in the 1930s, Nazi Germany had shown keen mastery of the nuts and bolts of jet engine technology. The country was poised to develop much larger, even faster jet-powered aircraft that would be instrumental in Hitler’s dreams of conquest.

As a result, the following years would see the arrival of the Messerschmitt Me 262 and the Arado Ar 234.

Messerschmitt Me 262

In the autumn of 1940, the Reich Air Ministry offered a tender for a jet-powered, superfast reconnaissance aircraft. The aircraft was also supposed to have a range of 2,156 km (1,340 mi). However, only the Warnemünde-based Arado Flugzeugwerke Company responded.

Arado Ar 234 V3 fitted with tricycle take-off trolley and auxiliary rocket booster units

Arado offered up their E.370 project, an aircraft design which had one Junkers Jumo 004 turbojet engine under each wing. This design was estimated to have a range of 1,995 km (1,240 mi) which did not make the Reich Air Ministry’s cut.

However, the Air Ministry liked the design and issued an order for two prototypes which were designated the Ar 234.

The aircraft’s unique ability would, to a large extent, be attributed to its power plant: the Junkers Jumo 004 axial-flow turbojet. This engineering masterpiece was designed by a small team headed by Dr. Anselm Franz and would go on to become the world’s first mass-produced turbojet engine.

However, owing to lags in the delivery of flight-qualified Jumo 004 engines, the first flying Ar 234 did not emerge until July 30, 1943.

Prototype Arado Ar 234 V1 taking off from a trolley

The Ar 234 was not a very large aircraft. With a wingspan of 47 feet and a height of 14 feet, the plane was to be crewed by just one pilot who had a crystal clear view in all directions through the Plexiglas.

The first five prototypes of the Ar 234, ranging from the V1 to the V5, were all powered by the Jumo 004 engines.

But as more prototypes continued to roll out, the manufacturers of the Ar 234 began adopting four BMW 003 jet engines in place of the two Jumo 004 engines. This was seen in the Ar 234 V6 and V8, with the Ar 234 V7 being powered by a Jumo 004.

Arado Ar 234 V8

On August 2, 1944, Luftwaffe airman Erich Sommer made history with the Ar 234 V7 prototype, as it became the first jet-powered aircraft ever to fly a reconnaissance mission.

The Ar 234 generally had a high-mounted unswept wing and a slim fuselage cross-section which precluded the fitting of a typical undercarriage.

Estimated to weigh about 8 tons, the aircraft was not fitted with conventional retractable landing gear. This decision was made by Arado in a bid to maximize the aircraft’s internal fuel and reduce its weight.

As an alternative to the retractable landing gear, the Ar 234 was made to take off from an ejectable three-wheeled trolley. For landing, there was a retractable landing skid on each nacelle of the aircraft, and a third one on the center of the fuselage.

An Arado Ar 234 jet propelled aircraft destroyed on the airfield at Rheine, Germany.

Flying and landing the aircraft turned out to be an unpleasant experience for the pilots. Each time the aircraft was to take off, it needed to be lifted onto a trolley upon landing, the pilots were barely able to control the aircraft as it made its landing run down the runway.

According to Eric Sommer, landing the skid-equipped prototypes on wet-turf airstrips was like “landing on soap,” owing to the landing skid system’s complete lack of braking capability.

The bomber version of the Ar 234, known as the Ar 234B, incorporated a broader fuselage which allowed the use of typical landing gear.

Arado Ar 234 140312 on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Photo: Nick-D – CC BY-SA 3.0

The Ar 234B, being a bomber version, was heavier and slower than the recon versions. It weighed 21,720 pounds and carried its bombs on external racks because of the limited space within the aircraft.

The B model also had a 20 mm MG 151 cannon as an extra measure of defense.

In its years of service, the Ar 234 played the role of both a reconnaissance aircraft and a bomber. Its speed was something to marvel at. It could easily reach a top speed of 461 miles per hour, making it almost impossible to intercept.

Arado Ar 234 B-2 nose at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

The first recon mission occurred on August 2, 1944. The aircraft shot through the skies that overlooked the Normandy beachheads at 460 miles per hour. The aircraft returned to base unscathed, bringing home pictures of the area which it had captured using two Rb 50/30 cameras.

The bomber versions were equally impressive. They were said by their pilots to be quite fast and aerobatic.

The most notable use of the bomber version came during the Battle of Remagen. The Allies had captured the critical Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, and the Luftwaffe sought to destroy it by sending Ar 234Bs on bombing missions over the bridge.

The bridge suffered continuous bombardment from Ar 234Bs carrying 2,200 lb bombs, from the 7 th of March 1945 until the 17 th when the bridge finally collapsed.

From 1943 to the end of the war, only 214 aircraft were built, including the prototypes and all variants of the aircraft. Today, only one Ar 234 aircraft still exists.

The last surviving aircraft, an Ar 234B-2 Bomber, is on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, at Washington Dulles International Airport.


The Arado Ar-234

* The German Arado 234 was the very first purpose-built jet bomber. While the Ar-234 had very little influence on the outcome of World War II, being much too late and too few in number, it had influence on later aircraft designs. This document describes the origins, design, and operation of the Ar-234, as well as the experimental Junkers Ju-287 jet bomber.

* The Ar-234 was originally conceived in early 1941 by an engineering team under Professor Walter Blume, director of the Arado aircraft company. The design project was codenamed "E370", and was in response to a German Air Ministry requirement for a fast reconnaissance aircraft.

The E370 was to be a sleek, high-winged aircraft with a pair of Junkers Jumo 004 turbojets, one under each wing. The Air Ministry wanted a range of 2,150 kilometers (1,340 miles), and so to reduce weight, Arado proposed that the E370 would take off on a wheeled tricycle trolley that would be dropped on five parachutes take-off. The aircraft would land on skids at the end of the flight. Skids would also be built under the engines to prevent them from being damaged on landing. The pilot would be able to steer the nosewheel of the take-off trolley, while the main wheels would have hydraulic brakes, controlled by the cockpit rudder pedals.

Arado projected a maximum speed of 780 KPH (485 MPH), an operating altitude of almost 11,000 meters (36,000 feet), and a maximum range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles). The range was a little less than what the Air Ministry wanted, but they liked the design anyway, and ordered two prototypes. The aircraft was given the military designation "Ar-234". Additional prototypes would be ordered later.

The two prototypes, designated "Ar-234 V1" and "Ar-234 V2", where "V" stood for "Versuchs (Prototype)", were largely complete before the end of 1941. However, the Jumo 004 engines weren't ready and wouldn't be ready for over a year. In February 1943, Arado finally got a pair of Jumo 004As. However, these engines were only cleared for static and taxi tests. At the time, Messerschmitt had priority for engine deliveries for their Me-262 fighter, and Arado had to accept what they could get.

* Flight-qualified engines were finally delivered late that spring, and the Ar-234 V1 made its first flight on 30 July 1943. The initial flights went smoothly, except that on the first two takeoffs the parachutes that were intended to permit recovery of the take-off trolley didn't deploy, and the trolley was wrecked in both cases.

By September, four prototypes were flying. However, back in early July, even before the first flight, the Air Ministry had been seriously considering building a bomber version of the Ar-234. Orders were placed for two prototypes of such a bomber variant, with the designation "Ar-234B" and the name of "Blitz (Lightning)".

Since the aircraft was too slender to carry the bombs internally, the bombs would have to be carried on external racks. It would also have conventional tricycle landing gear. The skid landing scheme had proven conceptually flawed. Skid landings were a rough and doubtful proposition, and once an Ar-234 had landed, it was effectively immobile for the twenty minutes it took to jack it up and put it back on its trolley. With Allied air attacks increasing over the Germany, skid landing made the aircraft far too vulnerable to destruction on the ground.

* The Ar-234 program suffered a tragic setback when the Ar-234 V2 crashed due to an engine failure on 2 October 1943, killing the pilot. Nonetheless, Adolf Hitler and other top-ranking Nazis saw a prototype on static display at an airshow in East Prussia in late November and were very impressed. The program was given the highest priority.

Work intensified on a prototype of the Ar-234B variant, while four more trolley-mounted Ar-234 prototypes were completed. The fifth prototype, the "Ar-234 V5", incorporated new Jumo 004B-0 preproduction engines, which had the same thrust rating of 8.2 kN (840 kg / 1,850 lb) as the Jumo 004A prototype engines used in the first four Ar-234 prototypes, but weighed 90 kilograms (200 pounds) less. The seventh prototype, the "Ar-234 V7", was similar to the Ar-234 V5.

The sixth and eighth prototypes, the "Ar-234 V6" and "Ar-234 V8" respectively, were intended to study powerplant schemes to be used on advanced versions of the Ar-234. They were both powered by four 7.85 kN (800 kg / 1,760 lb) thrust BMW 003 turbojets. The BMW 003 had less thrust than the Jumo 004B, but the BMW engines were much lighter, and increased the overall thrust-to-weight ratio of the aircraft.

The sixth prototype had the four BMW engines in separate nacelles, while the eighth prototype clustered them in pairs under each wing. The paired nacelle scheme proved more satisfactory than the four separate nacelles, which led to aerodynamic troubles.

All the prototypes starting with the third had provision for "Rauchergeraet" or rocket-assisted takeoff boosters. A rack was fitted under each outer wing to carry a bottle-shaped Walter 109-500 rocket, powered by hydrogen peroxide and sodium permanganate. Each rocket weighed about 280 kilograms (617 pounds), and was capable of generating 4.9 kN (500 kg / 1,100 lb) of thrust for 30 seconds. The rockets were dropped by parachute after the Ar-234 was airborne. The aircraft incorporated a scheme of pressure switches that sensed whether the rocket units were delivering thrust or not. If one did not generate thrust, the other was automatically shut down to prevent it from slewing the aircraft around.

The ninth prototype, designated "Ar-234 V9" or "Ar-234B-0", was the first Ar-234B, with a built-in undercarriage, and first flew on 10 March 1944. By this time, production lines were being set up to build the aircraft in quantity, and the first of 20 pre-production Ar-234Bs came off the line in June.

However, ambitious plans for massive production of new variants had to be scaled back. During the last week of February 1944, the Allies pounded German aircraft factories and seriously damaged production capacity. While the "Big Week" raids had spared Arado production facilities, as they were too far east and out of range, the following reshuffling and dispersal of production meant that resources originally planned for building new types of aircraft had to be reserved for manufacturing existing types.

* That same March, the fifth and seventh prototypes were equipped with cameras and handed off to a special Luftwaffe reconnaissance unit for operational readiness tests, in preparation to fielding the Ar-234B. The Allied invasion of France was to then give the aircraft an excellent opportunity to prove themselves. Allied fighters were doing such a good job of protecting the Normandy beachhead from German reconnaissance aircraft that Wehrmacht commanders were completely in the dark about enemy intentions.

The Ar-234, with its high speed, seemed likely to penetrate Allied fighter screens, and on 25 July the two aircraft left Germany for France. One had to turn back, but the other arrived safely, only to wait a week for the take-off trolley, rocket booster units, and other kit to arrive by truck.

The first operational flight took place on 2 August 1944, when Leutnant Erich Sommer took his Ar-234 on a reconnaissance flight over the beachhead, cruising at about 740 KPH (460 MPH) at above 9,200 meters (30,000 feet). Two Rb 50/30 aerial cameras were mounted in the rear fuselage, each canted 12 degrees from the vertical in opposite directions. At operating altitude, they took one set of pictures every 11 seconds, imaging a swath almost 10 kilometers wide across the direction of flight.

Sommer came and went unhindered. Altitude and speed kept him safe, and in fact he wasn't even detected. The images he returned showed a buildup of more than 1.5 million men and a matching amount of supplies and weapons.

That day the second Ar-234 finally arrived, and over the next three weeks the two machines flew 13 more missions without interference from Allied defenses. They returned high-quality intelligence data, but they only confirmed in detail what the Wehrmacht ground commanders knew only too well: the Germans were being beaten by an overwhelmingly superior adversary.

The results of this became apparent to the jet pilots, when they were forced to withdraw to Holland in early September. This did not take them out of harm's way their airfield at Volkel was plastered by 100 Royal Air Force (RAF) Lancasters in a daylight raid on 3 September 1944. The Ar-234s were then withdrawn back to Germany. By this time, Ar-234Bs were available for operational use and the prototypes were no longer needed.

* The Ar-234B could be configured either as a bomber or reconnaissance aircraft. Maximum bomb load was about 1.5 tonnes (3,300 pounds), carried externally. A typical bomb load was a single 500 kilogram (1,100 pound) bomb under the fuselage centerline and under each engine nacelle, but a single 1,000 kilogram (2,000 pound) bomb or 1,400 kilogram (3,080 pound) bomb could be carried on the centerline. When used as a reconnaissance aircraft, the Ar-234B carried a 300 liter (79 US gallon) drop tank under each engine in place of the bombs.

The powerplants consisted of a pair of full production Junkers Jumo 004B turbojets, with 8.83 kN (900 kg / 1,980 lb) thrust each. Maximum speed without bombs or drop tanks was 740 KPH (460 MPH) at 6,100 meters (20,000 feet), but the speed dropped to as low as 660 KPH (410 MPH) with external loads. The prototypes had actually been a good 30 KPH (19 MPH) faster than the Ar-234B, as the lack of landing gear made them more streamlined. Tricycle landing gear was fitted, with single wheels on all assemblies, and low-pressure tires for rough-field operation. The nose gear retracted backwards, while the main gear retracted inward and forward into the sides of the fuselage.

As the Ar-234 landed at high speed, it had a drag chute as standard equipment it was one of the first aircraft to do so. The rounded nose of the aircraft was covered with plexiglas, giving the pilot an excellent view to the front, but no view to the back except through a periscope. The periscope, which was not provided in the Ar-234 prototypes, also served as a sight for dive-bombing attacks.

Although an ejection seat had been fitted to some of the prototypes, the Ar-234B did not have such a nicety. The pilot got into and out of the aircraft through a transparent hatch on top of the cockpit. Getting out of the Ar-234 in an emergency was not a trivial task.

The Ar-234 handled very well at all speeds and was capable of all aerobatics. The worst operational problem was the unreliability of the Jumo 004B engines, which required overhaul or replacement after as little as ten hours of operation. The brakes also tended to wear out after about three landings and so had to often be replaced.

The fuel consumption of the Jumos varied widely with altitude. At 10,000 meters, it was a third of what it was at sea level. This meant that for low-altitude bombing missions, the operational radius of the aircraft was only about 190 kilometers (120 miles), while in high-altitude reconnaissance operations the range was as much as 720 kilometers (450 miles) with the drop tanks.

When operated as a bomber, the Ar-234 could be used in shallow dive attacks, low-level horizontal attacks, or high-altitude horizontal attacks. In shallow dive attacks, the pilot would drop from about 5,000 meters to under 1,500 meters (16,400 to 4,920 feet), aiming the bombs through the periscopic sight that stuck up above the cockpit.

In low-level horizontal attack, used only when the target was obscured, the pilot simply flew level and dropped the bombs when it seemed appropriate. Results were not generally very impressive.

High-altitude horizontal attacks were particularly interesting. Since the Ar-234 was a single-seat aircraft, the pilot had to double as the bombardier, and did so with the help of a sophisticated Patin autopilot system. The pilot would fly to within about 30 kilometers of the target, engage the autopilot, swivel the control column out of his way to the right, and then lean over and sight the target through the Lotfe 7K bombsight.

The bombsight was linked to the autopilot. As long as the pilot held the target in the crosshairs, the autopilot would change the aircraft's heading accordingly, and then the bombsight would automatically drop the bombs at the right moment.

In principle, the Ar-234B had a pair of fixed rearward-firing 20 millimeter MG-151/20 cannon for protecting its tail, with the pilot sighting the guns through the periscope. Not only did the pilot have to be his own bombardier, he was his own tail gunner as well. However, in practice the guns were not always fitted and were never an important feature of the aircraft. Armor plate was attached to the rear wall of the cockpit to give the pilot a little protection.

* The Luftwaffe conducted reconnaissance operations with the new Ar-234Bs through the fall, including some reconnaissance missions over England, beginning in October, to determine if the Allies were preparing a follow-up amphibious landing in the Netherlands. Despite the activity, it wasn't until 21 November 1944 that Allied pilots reported spotting an Ar-234B, when P-51s escorting bombers over Holland observed one of the jets overflying their formation. Detected, the German pilot immediately applied power and disappeared.

Bomber sorties did not take place until Christmas Eve, when nine Ar-234Bs, each carrying a single 500 kilogram (1,100 pound) bomb, took off from a German airbase single file to attack Liege in Belgium, in support of the Wehrmacht's ground offensive then underway in the Ardennes. Such attacks continued until the weather became too nasty in early January to allow operations to be safely continued.

An inventory of Ar-234s at that time indicated 17 of them in service, with 12 configured as bombers and 5 as photo-reconnaissance machines. This quantity was surprisingly small, since 148 had been delivered to the Luftwaffe by the end of 1944. The small number of the aircraft in service was almost certainly due to the disruptions caused by Allied air attacks on German industrial and military infrastructure.

The continuous, harrassing presence of Allied airpower made operations increasingly risky. When 18 Ar-234s were relocated to a new airfield in early January 1945 and came in to land, they were bounced by Spitfires who shot down three of them and damaged two others, killing two German pilots.

Nonetheless, as the weather improved again, Ar-234s performed as many sorties as they were able, attacking targets in the Low Countries and mounting a large number of attacks in the defense of Aachen, Germany, on 21 February 1945.

On 24 February, an Ar-234B suffered a flameout in one of its engines and was forced down to a hard landing by an American P-47 Thunderbolt fighter near the village of Segelsdorf. The jet was captured by the advancing Allies the next day. It was the first example of the type to fall into Allied hands largely intact.

* Pilots found the Ar-234 pleasant to fly, but engine flameouts were a problem, particularly as increasing fuel shortages meant the engines had to be run on inappropriate grades of fuel. With proper fuel, the engines could be relit below 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) and at speeds between 400 to 500 KPH (250 to 310 MPH) otherwise, it was impossible to do so. Once a flameout occurred, the pilot had to shut off fuel to the engine, since it would flood and become an extreme fire hazard.

Pilots new to jets often had troubles understanding the long take-off run and high landing speed, leading to a high accident rate. One unit obtained a two-seat Me-262 jet trainer to familiarize Ar-234 trainees, and the number of accidents fell off considerably.

* While the Ar-234 was conducting reconnaissance and bombing operations in defense of the Reich, the type was still being modified and improved.

One enhancement was a field modification. A few Ar-234Bs were pressed into service as night fighters by being fitted with FuG 218 "Neptun" longwave radar, featuring nose-mounted aerials, and a belly pack containing two 20 millimeter MG-151/20 cannon. The radar operator was crammed into the fuselage behind the wing. There is no evidence that any of these few improvised Ar-234B night fighters ever scored a kill.

The experiments with the BMW 003 engine performed with the Ar-234 V6 and Ar-234 V8 prototypes, as well as with an Ar-234B that was also fitted with the paired BMW 003 installation, also led to a next-generation variant, the "Ar-234C".

The Ar-234C was fitted with four BMW 003's, each rated at 800 kilograms (1,760 pounds) thrust, clustered in pairs on each wing. It had a raised canopy to give better visibility, and incorporated many small aerodynamic improvements. The result was a much faster aircraft, with a maximum speed of 870 KPH (540 MPH). The first prototype for the Ar-234C, the "Ar-234 V19", was flown in October 1944. Once production lines were tooled, in principle all further Ar-234 production would be based of different variants of the Ar-234C. These variants included reconnaissance, bomber, night-fighter, and "general-purpose" variants, with orders in the thousands. The BMW 003 had not been refined to the point where it was very reliable, but given the military situation they had to be used anyway.

* The failed Ardennes offensive was the very last chance the Germans had to take the initiative in the West, and since that time they had remained on the defensive. Their defense was seriously breached on 7 March 1945, when the Americans seized the Ludendorf Bridge over the Rhine river at the town of Remagen.

While German demolition specialists had attempted to destroy the bridge, it remained usable, though badly damaged. Reichsmarshall Goering ordered it to be destroyed at all costs, and over the course of the next ten days, Ar-234Bs flew several sorties in attempts to take it down. The jets failed, with losses to themselves. On 17 March, the bridge finally collapsed, but the Allies had obtained a solid foothold on the east bank of the Rhine and had built pontoon bridges to flood men and supplies into the Reich.

The last Ar-234s were delivered early in March. At the end of the month, demolition teams destroyed the main Arado plant to deny it to the advancing Soviets.

A total of 210 Ar-234Bs and 14 Ar-234Cs were delivered to the Luftwaffe, but with Germany in chaos, only a handful ever got into combat. A final inventory taken on 10 April 1945 listed 38 in service, including 12 bombers, 24 reconnaissance aircraft, and 2 night fighters.

These aircraft continued to fight in a scattered and ineffective fashion until Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945. Some were shot down in air combat, destroyed by flak, sometimes their own, or bounced by Allied fighters when they came in to land. Others performed their missions and then fled too fast for enemy fighters to follow, to land and then wait for scarce fuel to be found so they could fly other missions.

* The end of the war terminated a number of interesting Ar-234 development efforts.

A number of different variants of the Ar-234C were in the planning stage, including a two-seat night fighter. There was also design work under way for two-seat "Ar-234D" bomber and reconnaissance variants, to be powered by a pair of Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011 turbojets with 12.8 kN (1,300 kg / 2,850 lb) thrust each, and for a series of "Ar-234P" two-seat night fighter variants, with a variety of different powerplant options and Berlin centimetric radar.

One particularly fascinating Ar-234 variant was under construction when the Allies overran the factory building it: a "crescent-wing" Ar-234, consisting of an Ar-234B fuselage mated to a concave-curved swept wing, and powered by a pair of BMW 003R combined-turbojet-rocket engines. The BMW 003R combined a turbojet with a liquid-fuel rocket that could give three minutes of enhanced power for take-off or climb. The prototype was scrapped, but the crescent-wing idea was resurrected up by the British and fielded in the 1950s on the Victor V-bomber.

Another odd development was the "Deichselschlepp", or "air trailer", in which a winged fuel tank with its own undercarriage would be towed behind the Ar-234, with a tube that provided both a linkage to the trailer and a fuel feed back to the Ar-234.

Plans were made to similarly tow a Fieseler Fi-103 flying bomb (better known as the V-1 buzz bomb) or a winged SC 1400 bomb. In the case of the Fi-103, it was decided instead to mount the flying bomb on a cradle on the back of the Ar-234 that would hydraulically lift the aircraft above the bomber before launch.

Arado also investigated a number of new-design, swept-wing follow-ons to the Ar-234, but since the company was overstretched to get the Ar-234 into production there were no resources to seriously pursue such projects. Late in the war, the company also investigated a series of larger swept-wing medium-bomber concepts under the general designation of "E.560", with a span of about 18 meters (59 feet), in contrast to the 14.1 meter (46 feet 4 inch) span of the Ar-234. Various engine and armament fits were considered, but it was far too late and these projects were never more than pipe dreams.

* Once the shooting stopped, a race began to collect the rewards of victory. Ar-234s were scattered all over Western Europe, and the British obtained about a dozen of them. The Soviets apparently only recovered one. For whatever reasons, the Ar-234 had been primarily used in the west.

Four Ar-234s were buttoned up with an assortment of other advanced German aircraft and shipped to the USA on the "jeep" carrier HMS REAPER. Three were given to the US Army Air Force and one to the US Navy, though the Navy's aircraft turned out to be in permanently unflyable condition.

One of the three obtained by the USAAF was put through intensive tests at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and ultimately handed on to the Smithsonian Institution's Air & Space Museum, where it is now prominently on display. It is likely the only Ar-234 that survives to this day.

As a bomber, the Ar-234 was something of a failure. It could not carry enough of a bombload to match the destructive power of the big heavy bombers that were smashing the Reich. However, as a reconnaissance aircraft it proved able to bring back intelligence from airspace denied to prop-driven aircraft.

* While Arado was working on the Ar-234 and considering follow-ons, other German aircraft manufacturers were developing their own jet bomber schemes. Heinkel came up with a series of concepts under the general designation of "P.1068", but in early 1944, when the military situation was beginning to look extremely grim for the Germans, the decision was made to give up on the P.1068 concepts and simply scale up the Ar-234 design to get an aircraft in service as fast as possible.

The result was the "He-343", which looked something like an Ar-234 with a span of 18 meters (54 feet) a mid-mounted wing four engines, with each engine in its own nacelle and a "bugeyed" style cockpit, something like that of a Ju-188. Various engine fits were considered, but it initially was to be powered by the Jumo 004B. Work on prototypes was in progress by the end of 1944, with some sources saying one was actually completed, but then the program was called off as the resources couldn't be spared for it. No He-343 ever flew.

* The only German jet bomber besides the Ar-234 that actually more or less flew during the war was the Junkers "Ju-287". Junkers began work on a heavy jet bomber in 1943, at first focusing on a design with swept-back wings with a 25-degree sweep. However, low-speed handling appeared to be a problem with this approach, and so the design team decided to change the wings to a forward sweep.

Model tests in a wind tunnel showed that this did improve low-speed handling, but that the forward-swept wings were subjected to high levels of stress. Clearly a proof-of-concept demonstrator needed to be flown to validate the forward-swept wing design, and so such a demonstrator was thrown together with whatever assemblies were available.

The demonstrator, designated the "He-287 V1", performed its first flight on 16 August 1944. It was built around the fuselage of a Heinkel He-177A Grief heavy bomber, with the tail assembly of a Ju-388 and the new forward-swept wing. It was powered by four Junkers Jumo 004B turbojets, with one engine attached to each side of the fuselage behind the cockpit, and one engine slung under the rear of each wing.

As the He-177's main gear retracted into its engine nacelles, which didn't exist with the new wing, the Ju-287 V1 was fitted with fixed landing gear in spats. The nose gear was salvaged from a downed American B-24 Liberator and the main gear was borrowed from a Junkers Ju-352 transport. Rauchergeraet units were used to get the contraption off the ground. It actually flew very well, though the concerns about excessive stress on the wings were justified and worrisome.

* A total of 17 flights were performed with the Ju-287 V1, leading to work on a proper prototype, the "Ju-287 V2". It was to have proper retractable landing gear, with the nose gear retracting backwards and the main gear hinging in the wings toward the fuselage a "bugeyed" cockpit and was to be powered by six BMW 003A turbojets, arranged in clusters of three under each wing.

The Ju-287 V2 was unarmed. The production prototype, the "Ju-287 V3", was expected to have a 4 tonne (8,800 pound) maximum warload, and a remotely-controlled tail barbette with twin MG-131 13 millimeter machine guns, aimed through a periscopic sight. Unsurprisingly, construction on the Ju-287 V2 prototype was abandoned in the summer of 1944 due to the dire military situation. However, the engineering team continued to play with the design, and for some bizarre reason they were told to restart work on the prototype in early 1945.

They were almost done when the Red Army arrived and spirited the prototype off to the USSR, along with most of the design team. It actually flew in 1947. The Soviets didn't put it into production, but it helped give them a long-standing interest in forward-swept wing designs, leading up to the Sukhoi S-37 Berkut experimental fighter of the 1990s.