Nazi Germany (1945)
Rocket Interceptor Trainer – 1 Built
The Messerschmitt Me 163S (Schulflugzeug / Training Aircraft) Habicht (Hawk) was an unarmed two-seat training glider based off of the famous Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet. Originally designed for the purpose of training novice pilots for landing, the Habicht ultimately never saw active service with the Germans and only a single example was produced through the conversion of a serial Me 163B-1. With the sole example captured by the Russians after the war, the Habicht underwent extensive testing by the Soviet Air Force which helped them understand the flying characteristics of the Komet and prepared Soviet pilots for flying the powered Komets. The Habicht undoubtedly played a part in helping Soviet engineers understand the Komet and thus played a part in the future development of Soviet rocket aircraft.
The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet was one of Nazi Germany’s most famous aircraft produced during the Second World War. Although bearing the title of the world’s first mass-produced rocket-powered interceptor, the Komet did have its fair share of flaws, such as the volatile and sometimes dangerous Walter HWK 109-509 rocket engine, which prevented it from becoming an effective weapon against the Allies.
As the Komet was designed to have a limited amount of fuel to engage Allied bombers, pilots were expected to glide the Komet back to friendly airfields once they disengaged from combat. With gliding landings as a potential problem for the less experienced pilots, one of the ideas proposed by Messerschmitt designers in 1944 was to introduce a dedicated trainer variant of the Komet which would have a student pilot accompanied by an instructor pilot. Designated as the Messerschmitt Me 163S (Schulflugzeug / Training Aircraft) Habicht, the trainer glider differed from the production model with the addition of an instructor’s cockpit behind the forward cockpit. This addition was accompanied by the removal of the Walter HWK 109-509 rocket engine and the Habicht would have to be towed by another aircraft in order to get airborne. Another interesting addition to the Habicht was a second liquid tank behind the instructor’s cockpit for counterbalancing. All the liquid tanks would be filled with water for weight simulation and ballast. A total of twelve examples were planned for production, but only one was produced due to wartime production constraints.
The sole example of the Habicht was built by converting an earlier Me 163B-1 production model. Due to the scarcity of information regarding the Me 163S, it is unknown exactly when the Habicht was produced and what sort of testing it may have undergone during German possession. However, it is known that the Soviet Union was able to capture the only example during the final stages of the World War II’s Eastern Front. The sole Habicht was sent to the Soviet Union along with three Me 163B Komets during the Summer of 1945 for thorough inspection and testing. In historian Yefim Gordon’s book “Soviet Rocket Fighters – Red Star Volume 30”, he claims that in addition to the three Komets, seven Habicht trainer models were also captured. This, however, remains quite dubious as there is no evidence that more than one Habicht existed, and all current photographic material, research materials, and books all suggest that only a single example was produced.
As the Soviets were particularly interested in rocket propulsion aircraft, the State Defence Committee issued a resolution which called for the thorough examination of the Walter 109-509 jet engine and the Me 163 Komet along with captured German documents on rocket propulsion. The three Me 163B Komets, of which only one was airworthy, and the Me 163S Habicht were sent to the Flight Research Institute (LII), the Valeriy P. Chkalov Soviet Air Force State Research Institute (GK NII VSS), and the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI). The Habicht and Komets saw extensive testing in Soviet hands, undergoing several structural, static and wind tunnel tests. During the initial flight testing period, the Komet only flew as a glider as Soviet pilots and engineers were unsure of whether or not the Walter rocket engine was ready for use since bench tests were not completed. Securing the T-Stoff and C-Stoff propellants for the rocket engine was also a problem. In order to understand the handling characteristics of the Komet, the Habicht was flown numerous times at different altitudes, as was the unpowered Komet. A Tupolev Tu-2 bomber was responsible for towing the Habicht to these altitudes. Under Soviet ownership, the Habicht was given the nickname of “Карась” (Karas / Crucian Carp) due to the glider’s distinct silhouette. The test pilot responsible for flying the Habicht was Mark Lazarevich Gallaj. In general, the Habicht was considered relatively easy to handle by the Soviet test pilots. It is unknown how many test flights the Habicht underwent, but the aircraft certainly aided Soviet pilots in understanding the handling characteristics of the Komet. The Habicht’s service came to an end once the Soviet state trials of the Komet concluded. The sole example was scrapped sometime in 1946, along with seemingly all the other Komets.
If the Me 163S was able to be mass produced and flown with the Luftwaffe, the aircraft would have been a valuable tool to train German pilots. Landing the Komet was a problem for some pilots and in some cases resulted in fatalities but, with the use of the Habicht, the number of accidents would have certainly decreased.
The Messerschmitt Me 163S Habicht was a semi-monocoque aluminum based two-seat training glider developed off the standard tailless Messerschmitt Me 163B-1 Komet. The sole example was converted from a production Komet, which meant dramatic modifications had to be made to the aircraft. The Walther HWK 109-509 rocket engine was removed and in its place was a cockpit for an instructor. The fuel tanks in the airframe were all filled with water to simulate fuel weight while another water tank was added behind the instructor’s cockpit for ballast purposes. There was no armament fitted to the glider. There was a small transparent section between the student pilot’s cockpit and the instructor pilot’s cockpit, presumably for the purpose of communication. As there are no known German documents on the Habicht and Russian documents are scarce, not much is known on the other differences the Habicht may have had. Detailed specifications of the Habicht are unknown, but theoretically it should have been identical to the standard Me 163B-1 Komet except for possibly weight, air drag and center of gravity.
Nazi Germany – The intended operator and producer of the Me 163S Habicht.
Soviet Union – The main operator of the Me 163S Habicht. A single Habicht was captured and tested by the Soviets after the war. The Habicht was scrapped in 1946.
*Editor’s note: As noted above, the exact specifications of the Me 163S Habicht are unknown. However they are presumed to be similar to that of the Me 163B-1 Komet.
Nazi Germany (1942)
Experimental Aircraft – 1 Prototype Built
The Akaflieg Berlin B9 was a German experimental twin engine aircraft designed with the pilot placed in the prone position. It was designed to withstand extremely high g-forces. One prototype was built and tested by a glider production workshop in 1943 but it would not be adopted for mass production. The author would like to especially thank Carsten Karge from the Archiv Akaflieg Berlin for providing information on this generally unknown aircraft.
Why prone position?
During sharp up and down turns while flying an aircraft, strong g-forces appear that act on the pilot, potentially leading to loss of consciousness. Under normal flying conditions, the g-forces that appear are relatively harmless. The first effect of the g-force which the pilot notices is the difficulty of moving his body normally, as normal movements feel much heavier. Another effect of strong g-forces, which is much more dangerous, is the loss of oxygen flow to the brain. In some cases, the flow of oxygen and blood to the human brain can be greatly diminished, which can lead to the pilot losing consciousness momentarily. This effect lasts a short time, but it is enough for the pilot to lose control of the plane with a potentially fatal outcome.
While today, devices such as advanced anti-g suits help the pilot withstand strong g-forces, during the World War Two, other solutions had to be found. The Germans had noticed that, especially during sharp dive bombing actions, the pilots often lost consciousness. One way to tackle this was to put the pilot into a prone position, which in essence means to fly the plane while lying on the belly. In this position, the pilot has both his heart and his brain at the same level, which means that blood is no longer stopped from travelling to the brain during high-g maneuvers. Thus, this flying position allows the pilot to endure much greater g-forces than he would normally be able to if he would be in an ordinary sitting position. Other advantages of the prone position are the reduced aircraft size, smaller fuselage, less drag due to the smaller cockpit, and it would be easier for the pilot to operate the plane when conducting bomb sighting and ground attack, among other advantages.
During the war, the Germans would test several such aircraft designs, sush as the Henschel Hs 132 or B9, mostly for the ground attack role. Beside a few prototypes built, none were ever used operationally.
In order to test the idea of an aircraft with the pilot in the prone-position, the Aero-Technical Group (Flugtechnische Fachgruppe/FFG) of Stuttgart designed and later built the FS 17 all-wood test glider. It was especially designed to withstand forces up to 14 G. It made its first test flight on 21st March, 1938. In the spring of 1939, FFG Stuttgart made the first design drawings and calculations for a prone-piloted aircraft. This aircraft was to be powered by two Hirth HM 50 engines with an estimated speed of 250 mph (400 km/h).
FFG Stuttgart never completed this project as it was forced, for unknown but likely politicaly reasons, to hand over the project to Akaflieg (Akademische Fliegergruppe/Academic Aviator Group) Berlin. It is possible the order came from the German Experimental Department for Aerospace (Deutsche Versuchanstalt für Luftfahrt e.V. Berlin-Aldershof) DVL or even from the Ministry of Aviation (RLM – Reichsluftfahrtministerium), but precise information is lacking. Akaflieg Berlin, founded in 1920, was one of the oldest gliding clubs in Germany and it still exists today.
The RLM designation for this aircraft was “8-341” but Akaflieg used the simpler B9 designation. The technical characteristics that the new plane was supposed to have were a good field-of-view for the pilot in the prone position, a high degree of safety for the pilot, a high speed during diving, good general flying characteristics and being able to withstand forces of up to 25 G, or 22 G depending on the sources.
Akaflieg Berlin had a small number of engineers and workers and an adequately equipped workshop to complete the task given. For this purpose, a design team was formed with Theodor Goedicke, Leo Schmidt and Martin G. Winter, which was responsible for the creation of this new aircraft design. The first prototype was to be ready by August 1942 but this was never achieved, and the prototype was only completed in early 1943. It made its first test flight on the 10th April, 1943 at the Schönefeld airfield, near Berlin.
The B9 was a single-seat, low wing, mixed construction aircraft with the pilot in prone position. It consisted of a metal airframe, made of steel ribs, covered with wood and canvas. The main fuselage’s cross-section was trapezoidal shaped. As the B9 was specifically designed to withstand forces of up to 25 G, it had to have a strong fuselage.
The wings were made of wood covered with duralumin sheets. In order for the wooden wings to withstand the strong torsional forces which occur during high acceleration maneuvers, the spaces between the spars were heavily reinforced. The middle part of the wings viewed from above have a square shape and then narrow towards the wing tips. The wings were held in place by four bolts on each side. The rear tail design was a simple one, with standard rudder and elevators.
The B9 had a standard retractable landing gear copied from the Me-108, which consisted of two larger wheels and one smaller non-retractable wheel at the back. The landing gear was lowered and raised manually. The front wheels retracted into the engine nacelles, but they were not fully enclosed.
The B9 had a large 4.9 ft (1.5 m) long glazed cockpit with good all-around view. But, as the pilot was in a prone position, the above and the rear views were limited by the human body’s inability to turn the head in these directions. The glazed cockpit was made of two parts, the front windshield and the rear larger canopy that opened to the right side. The cockpit interior had to be especially designed for a pilot lying in the prone position. The usual flight controls were almost useless in this situation and, thus, certain changes were necessary. It was important to divide the controls on both sides of the cockpit, in order to avoid the pilot crossing hands, which could lead to complications in flight. On the right side were the controls for ailerons and elevation. The pilot would use his right hand to gain access to the harness and the canopy release mechanism. For controlling the rudders and brakes, the pilot would use his feet. Using his left hand, he would operate the remaining instruments, the throttles, flaps, ignition switches, emergency pump, fire warning, undercarriage control and others. Additional engine and flight instruments were located behind the pilot. These included, among others, the distance indicator, climb indicator, compass, oil and fuel pressure gauges and airspeed indicator. For the pilot to be able to see them, a small mirror was provided. There were also inclined and horizontal line markers on the inner windshield to help the pilot with orientation. For flying at high altitude, an oxygen supply system with a mask was provided to the pilot.
The aircraft was powered by two Hirt HM 500 air-cooled engines, with 105 hp each. The maximum speed was around 140 mph (225 km/h) but, according to some sources, it was as high as 155 mph (250 km/h). The four fuel tanks, with a total capacity of 25 gallons (95 l), were located between the spars on both engine sides. The B9’s effective operational range was 250 mi (400 km). Originally, the B9 was meant to be equipped with two variable-pitch propellers, but it was instead fitted with ordinary wooden fixed pitch propellers made by the Schäfer company.
As the B9 could be used as a ground attack aircraft, a bomb rack was meant to be installed, but it is not clear if this was ever implemented.
The operational prototype was ready by the summer of 1943. The first test flights were carried out by Ing. L. Schmidt and Dipl.-lng. E. G. Friedrichs. On one flight, L. Schmidt had an accident, the details of which are not known, but the plane probably suffered only minor damage.
The B9 was meant to make a series of test flights in order to ascertain if the prone position design had any merit and to test the general flying and overall structural performance. If these proved to be successful, the B9 would serve as base for future development and be put into active service. The B9 aircraft received the ”D-ECAY” marking, which was painted on both sides of the fuselage.
The tests were carried out from July to October 1943, during which time around thirty pilots had the opportunity to fly it. The test flights were conducted without any major problems and only one accident was recorded. This accident was caused not by any mechanical problems, but by a pilot mistake during takeoff. The B9 was damaged, but it was repaired and put back into service in only a few weeks.
The pilots did not have many objections to flying in the new prone position. They described it as comfortable and that it was relatively easy to adapt to the new commands. There were some issues, like fatigue and tiredness of the neck and shoulder muscles because of the constant moving of the upper arms. There were also some complaints about the chin supporter, which was deemed as unpleasant during flight but it was essential during high g-force maneuvers. During these test flights, the control panel and the controls did receive some changes in design. The large and fully glazed cockpit provided the pilot with good front and below fields of view, while the rear and upward view was somewhat problematic due to the prone position.
These tests showed that this type of aircraft was well suited for bomber, ground attack, high speed reconnaissance and possibly even in a high-speed fighter role. But it was also noticed that, due to the somewhat restricted view, the use of low speed prone pilot aircraft without air support was not recommended. Despite being designed to withstand forces of up to 25 G, the maximum achieved was only 8.5 G. One of the reasons for this was the use of low rotational speed propellers.
For 1944 and 1945 unfortunately, there is no information about the B9’s operational use. The B9 was found abandoned at the Johannisthal airfield near Berlin after the war. In what condition it was by the time of capture is not known. What is unusual is that the B9 was captured by the Americans and not the Soviets (according to author Hans J.W.). What the Americans did with the plane is unknown to this day, but it was most likely scrapped.
Only one B9 plane prototype was ever built. By 1943 and 44, a large amount of resources were invested in the production of fighters for the defense of the Reich and there were neither the time nor the resources needed to develop and test such an aircraft.
Nazi Germany (1938)
Armored Ground Attack Aircraft – 1 Replica Built
The Hütter 136 was an interesting concept for a ground attack aircraft that employed numerous experimentations in its design. The cockpit was fully armored, the landing gear was replaced by a skid, and the entire propeller would be jettisoned off during landings. The aircraft came in two forms: the Stubo I, a short design with the ability to carry an external 500 kg bomb, and the Stubo II, a lengthened version that could carry two internal 500 kg bombs. The program never progressed as far as production and work stopped on the project shortly after the Henschel Hs 129 was ordered for production.
During the years leading up to the Second World War, Nazi Germany found itself needing a competent air force to rival those it would soon face. Restrictions set by the Treaty of Versailles severely hindered the German military both in size and equipment in order to ensure that German power would not threaten the continent again, as it did during the First World War. History notes that the Germans broke this treaty, at first covertly and then overtly, with the Allies showing no response or protestation to the blatant violations. Germany began amassing a massive military force in preparation for war. New programs and requirements were laid down in preparation for the inevitable war. These projects included many newly tested concepts, such as dive-bombing. The Junkers Ju-87 Stuka proved the effectiveness of dive bombing in the Spanish-Civil War, with a famous example being the Bombing of Guernica, but a newer attacker was eventually needed to complement it. An order in 1938 was put out by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Aviation Ministry, “RLM”) to develop a new armored ground-attacker. One of the companies that would participate in this requirement would be Hütter.
The designs of Ulrich and Wolfgang Hütter are relatively unheard of when it comes to aircraft. They began their aviation career designing glider aircraft in the 1930s, such as the popular Hü 17, some of which were used post-war. The Hütter brothers built a career in designing aircraft for the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) between 1938 and 1944 under the codename of Ostmark. The two began working on the project mentioned before for an RLM request for a new ground-attacker in 1938. The requirement laid down very specific guidelines to be followed. The new aircraft needed to have good flight performance and an armored airframe for extra protection, as well as enough speed to evade fighters. In preparation for the new designs, the RLM notified designated factories that would begin to produce these airframes upon adoption into service. The Hütter brother’s response would be the Hü 136. Other competitors included the Henschel Hs 129 and the Focke-Wulf Fw 189V-1b, an armored ground attack version of their reconnaissance plane. Not all projects for a new attacker were armored at this time. Other new designs included the Junkers Ju 187 and Henschel Hs P 87.
The Hütter Hü 136 was nicknamed the Stubo, a shortened version of the name Sturzbomber (Dive Bomber). The aircraft itself would be a single-engine design. Two versions of this aircraft existed. The first, Stubo I, was meant to fill the need for a heavily armored attacker and would be used in ground-attack and dive-bombing tactics. The second was the Stubo II, a two-seater which was essentially a longer version of the Stubo I and carried twice the bomb load internally. The flight performance of the Stubo II was estimated to be the same as that of the Stubo I although, given the design characteristics, that estimation is highly doubtful. The two designs did not meet the requirements for bomb load and range. To make the aircraft more efficient, the brothers took an interesting design change. Taking a note from their glider designs, they removed the conventional landing gear and replaced it with an extendable landing skid, which made the aircraft lighter and freed more space for fuel. This, however, posed serious designs problems. The Hü 136 now had to take off using a detachable landing gear dolly, similar to how the Messerschmitt Me 163B rocket plane would take off a couple years later. Due to this, the propeller would not have enough clearing and would hit the ground during landings. To fix this, the two brothers made the propeller detachable. During landings, the aircraft would eject the propeller, which would gently parachute to the ground above an airfield for recovery and reuse. To assist in landings, a new surface brake was also added to the aircraft.
The far more conventional Henschel Hs 129 would be designated the winner of the competition. Subsequently, no construction was ever started on either the Stubo I or II. The Stubo proved to be an interesting but flawed concept. The limited visibility from the armored cockpit would negatively affect the aircraft in all operations. Dogfighting, bombing and even flying in general would be affected by the cockpit’s design. The change in landing gear design may have extended the range and lowered weight, but pilots now had to learn how to land using a skid. The fact the entire propellor evacuated the aircraft was a huge issue in itself. Once ejected, the landing could not be aborted, and if the landing attempt failed, there was no chance to loop around and try again.
This, however, would not be the last project designed by the Hütter brothers for the Luftwaffe. Wolfgang would begin working on a long-range reconnaissance version of the Heinkel He 219 called the Hütter Hü 211. Another project is the rather unknown Hütter Fernzerstörer (Far Destroyer), a long-range turboprop attacker meant to be used on the Eastern Front. With the war ending, no further Hütter aircraft were designed. One would think the story of the Stubo ends with its cancellation, but the story continued rather surprisingly recently. The Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, VA, acquired a full-scale replica of the Stubo I in 2017 and it is currently on display in their German Experimentals section, along with full-scale replicas of other “Luft 46” designs.
The Stubo I was a single-engine armored ground attacker. In the front, it mounted a detachable propeller and a Daimler-Benz DB 601 inline engine. In the fuselage, a large gap was present between the engine and cockpit. This was most likely the fuel tank where the fuel tank was placed. Beneath the aircraft, a single 1010 Ibs bomb (500 kg) was mounted on an external hardpoint. This hardpoint most likely would be in the way of the landing skid, implying the payload had to be dropped before making an attempt at landing. For takeoff, a dolly would have to be mounted beneath the aircraft. This would be jettisoned shortly after the Stubo would be airborne. For landing, the aircraft would use an extendable skid. The wings of the aircraft had slight dihedral, which meant the wings were angled upward from the body. The Stubo I had an armored steel cockpit that was completely enclosed. For visibility, a small sight in the front and two side portholes were given. Had the aircraft been produced, peripheral vision would have been nonexistent and dogfighting would have been near impossible if it needed to defend itself. Normal operations, such as navigation and landing would have also been hindered, while combat operations such as target acquisition and attack run planning would have been exceedingly difficult. A tailfin was mounted directly behind the cockpit and not in a conventional tail design. Sources also mention the Stubo I would have mounted machine-guns, but the plans do not show exactly where or of what type these would have been.
The Stubo II was virtually identical to the Stubo I, aside from its extended fuselage. This lengthened design would allow the Stubo II to carry two 1010 Ibs (500 kg) bombs in a bomb bay, compared to the single bomb carried on a hardpoint by the Stubo I. Among smaller differences, the Stubo II’s wings had no dihedral compared to the angled dihedral of the Stubo I. With the lengthened fuselage, the landing skid was also extended to accommodate the longer airframe. It most likely also carried over the machine guns used on the Stubo I. The Stubo II uses nearly identical sized wings to the Stubo I, which gives the Stubo II a rather odd design, having the body lengthened but the wing size remaining the same. This would have definitely affected performance and possibly would have made the aircraft more unstable in maneuvering with the extra weight.
Stubo I – Armored ground-attacker that would carry a single external 500 kg bomb. Sources also mention machine guns, but documents don’t show where exactly they would have been located.
Stubo II – A lengthened version of the Stubo I, the Stubo II had an internal bomb load of two 500 kg bombs.
Nazi Germany – If the Hütter 136 would have entered production, Nazi Germany would have been the main operator of the craft.
Hütter 136 “Stubo I” Specifications
21 ft 4 in / 6.5 m
23 ft 7 in / 7.2 m
5 ft 3 in / 1.6 m
1x 1,200 hp (894 kW) DB 601 Inline Engine
8,160 lbs / 3,700 kg
348 mph / 560 km/h
1,240 mi / 2,000 km
Maximum Service Ceiling
31,170 ft / 9,500 m
1x 1010 lbs (500 kg) bomb
At least 2 machine guns of unknown type (Most likely MG 15 or MG 17)
Nazi Germany (1937)
Twin Engined Fighter – 9 Built
The Fw 187 Falke was a twin engine fighter that was built by Focke-Wulf in 1936, at a time when the newly-formed Luftwaffe did not consider such an airplane type necessary. Despite receiving significant negative feedback, several prototypes were built and three pre-production versions were also constructed. The three pre-production types saw limited service defending the Focke-Wulf factory in Bremen against Allied bombing in 1940. Aside from that, they saw no other combat.
The twin-engined fighter was a concept few countries pursued in the early days of flight. The type only started serious development in the years directly preceding the outbreak of the Second World War, with planes such as the American Lockheed P-38 Lightning entering service. Most officials across the globe agreed that two-engine fighter aircraft would be rendered unnecessary by cheaper and lighter single-engine designs. In the early 1930s, Germany had no plans to develop such an aircraft either.
However, an aeronautical engineer by the name of Kurt Tank showed an interest. Kurt Tank was the main aircraft designer of the Focke-Wulf company, who developed most of the company’s most famous aircraft. During WWII, he would go on to create the iconic Fw 190 and would later have an aircraft designation named after him, with the Ta 152 and Ta 154. He began work on the new twin-engine project, despite there being no current requirement for such an aircraft. Tank had his first chance to reveal his design at a weapons exhibition held at a Henschel plant in 1936. Tank showed off his innovative design, claiming the twin-engine layout would offer a great speed of 348 mph (560 km/h) if the aircraft mounted the newly developed Daimler Benz DB 600 engines. One of the attendants of the event was Adolf Hitler himself, who found the design particularly interesting.
But to the Technischen Amt (Technical Research Office), the design was unnecessary, as it was believed single-engine designs could perform just as well as the twin-engined concept. Another pre-war doctrine was that the current bombers would be fast enough to outrun the fighters of the enemy, and escort fighters wouldn’t be needed. Tank, not happy with this response, took his design to Oberst (Colonel) Wolfram von Richthofen, the head of the Development section of the Technischen Amt. Tank persuaded him that technological advances would eventually allow the construction of more powerful fighters that would be able to catch up with the bombers which would thus require an escort fighter. Convinced by his claim, Richthofen agreed that it would be better to have a countermeasure now rather than later. Richthofen’s term as chief was short, but in this time he authorized three prototypes of Tank’s twin-engine design. The design was officially given the name of Fw 187.
Work began on the Fw 187 soon after, but, to Tank’s dismay, the requests for the DB 600 engine were turned down. Instead, he had to work with Junkers Jumo 210 engines, as DB 600s were only allocated to projects which were viewed as being highly important. The design work was handed over to Oberingenieur (Chief Engineer) Rudi Blaser, who was the one of the most experienced members onboard Focke-Wulf. Blaser had previously headed the design of the failed Fw 159 monoplane fighter, but he was ready to continue work and move on from his failure. Blaser wanted to achieve only one thing with this design: maximum speed.
The first prototype Fw 187 was completed in early 1937. The Fw 187 V1 (designated D-AANA) was first flown by test pilot Hans Sander. In the initial flights, the aircraft reached speeds of up to 326 mph (524 km/h). The Luftwaffe was surprised to learn that despite weighing twice as much as the Bf 109, the Fw 187 was still able to go 50 mph (80 km/h) faster. They accused the team of having faulty instruments. Blaser was determined to prove them wrong and had a Pitot tube (a device that measures air speed using the total air pressure) installed on the nose of the V1, which would accurately tell the performance. Sander once again flew and confirmed the aircraft indeed had attained such a speed. Further flight trials showed the aircraft had superb maneuverability, climbing and diving. These great characteristics led Kurt Tank to name the aircraft his “Falke” or Falcon. This name became official as well, and wasn’t just a nickname the creator gave to his creation.
In the summer of 1937, the airframe had an impressive wing loading of 30.72 Ibs/sq ft (147.7 kg/m2), something no other fighter could equal at that point. Further tests by Sander put the airframe to the extremes to try the limitations of the aircraft in diving. The rudder, during dives, was predicted to begin fluttering after 620 mph (1000 km/h), but Blaser was more cautious, and thought it would start at a lower speed. To counteract this, a balance weight was attached to the rudder. Blaser assured Sander that the aircraft would perform better in dives as long as he didn’t exceed 460 mph (740 km/h). With the new weight attached, Sander took off to begin trials. Hitting 455 mph (730 km/h), Sander noticed the tail had begun violently shaking. With the tail not responding, Sander had started to bail when he reported a loud noise came from the rear. Sander’s control over the aircraft had returned and all vibrations had ceased. Upon landing, it was found that the weight itself had been the culprit of the vibrations and the sound Sander heard was the weight breaking off the rudder.
Several modifications were made to the V1 during testing. The frontal landing gear was switched out for a dual wheeled design at some point, but was found it offered no benefit over the single wheel and thus was reverted. The propellers were also changed from Junkers-Hamilton to VDM built ones. Weapons were eventually added as well, but these were just two 7.92mm MG 17s. The 2nd prototype arrived in the summer of 1937. Visually, the V2 was identical to the V1, but had a smaller tailwheel, modified control surfaces, and Jumo 210G engines with enhanced fixed radiators.
However, in 1936, there was a change of leadership in the Technischen Amt. The supportive Richthofen was replaced by Ernst Udet. Udet was a fighter pilot, and his experience reflected upon his decisions. He made sure no more biplane designs were being built and all designs were now of monoplane construction. He had a major focus on fighters, and believed them to be the future. The modern fighter had to be efficient, with speed and maneuverability being the utmost importance. And, from this viewpoint, he saw twin engine fighters as not being as capable as single engine fighters. With this mindset, the Luftwaffe now saw no real reason to continue developing the Fw 187 as a single seat interceptor, but it could be developed as a Zerstörer (“Destroyer” heavy fighter), the same role the Bf 110 occupied. This required a crew of more than one and much heavier armament. Tank was reluctant, and felt his design was still as capable as single engine designs were, but he knew continuing to go against the Technischen Amt would result in his aircraft being terminated, so he regretfully obliged.
The V3 was in the middle of construction and changes had to be made as a result of this. The V1 and V2 had already been produced, and any drastic changes would further affect development, so no attempt to convert the two initial planes into two-seaters ever occured. To accommodate a radioman, the cockpit had to be lengthened. This worried Blaser, who was concerned these changes would affect the size and overall performance of the aircraft. Thus, he tried making the changes that affected the aircraft’s performance as little as possible. The fuselage was increased lengthwise, the tailfin was shortened, and increased cockpit volume demanded the fuel tank be moved farther back. Engine nacelles were also shortened to allow installation of landing flaps for when the aircraft carried larger ordnance. The 7.92mms were now complemented with two 20mm MG FF cannons, although V3 never mounted any actual weapons, only mock-ups.
The Fw 187 had good luck up until this point, but this good fortune ran out shortly after the V3 was produced. A few weeks after it was finished in early 1938, the V3 was doing a test flight when one of its engines caught on fire. The aircraft was able to safely land and the fire was extinguished, but the airframe had taken some damage and needed repairs. Tragedy struck once again not too long after, on May 14th. The V1 was lost and its pilot, Bauer, was killed during a landing accident. These two events happening so close together made the already negatively viewed Falke seem not only an unnecessary weapon, but now an unreliable one as well. Two more prototypes were built late in 1938, the V4 (D-OSNP) and V5 (D-OTGN). These two were mostly identical to the V3, but had several slight modifications, such as a modified windshield. Judging by photos, one obvious trait V4 and V5 had over V3 is the lack of the radio mast mounted on the cockpit of the V3. V4 and V5 were sent to the Echlin Erprobungsstelle, a major aircraft development and testing airfield for the RLM (Reichsluftfahrtministerium, German Ministry of Aviation). The trials at this site yielded favorable evaluations of the aircraft and three pre-production examples were ordered.
While all of this was going on, Tank was finally able to acquire two DB 600A engines for his Falke. The plane that mounted these engines would be the V6. Before the V6 was built, Tank had shown interest in surface evaporation cooling, a drag reducing novelty which had been researched and developed by Heinkel and was soon to be worked on by Messerschmitt. With the V6 now under construction, Tank drew plans to apply the feature into the prototype to give it peak performance. V6 (CI+NY) first flew in early 1939 and showed how well the new engines and surface cooling made the aircraft perform. On takeoff, the V6 had 1,000 HP from each engine, a 43% boost over the previously used Jumo 210s. During one test flight, the V6 was flying 395 mph (635 km/h) in level flight.
The three pre-production examples previously mentioned were designated Fw 197A-0. These were were fully armed. The A-0s added armored glass to the windshield and carried two more MG 17s. The A-0 planes also returned to using the Jumo 210 engines. Due to the additional weight, the performance of the A-0s was a bit lower than the prototypes. However, the RLM continued to argue against the Falke, claiming that, because it had no defensive armament, the Fw wouldn’t be as effective as the Bf 110 in the same role (despite it being able to outperform the 110 performance-wise). The final decision related to the Falke was an idea to turn it into a night-fighter in 1943. Nothing ever came out of this proposal.
The Factory Defender
Although the Bf 110 seemingly took the Falke’s place, its story continued. As the Royal Air Force (RAF) began its attacks over mainland Germany in 1940, aircraft firms scrambled to defend their valuable factories. Several firms formed a “Industrie Schutzstaffel”, which was an aerial defence program which would have aircraft company’s factories and testing sites be defended by aircraft piloted by test pilots and to be managed by on-site personnel. Focke-Wulf was one such firm and, luckily for them, three fully operational Fw187A-0s were ready and waiting to be used in combat. These examples were sent to the Focke-Wulf factory at Bremen and were sent on numerous missions to defend the plant from Allied bombing. Allegedly, Dipl.-Ing (Engineer’s degree) Melhorn claimed several kills while flying one of these aircraft. After the stint in Bremen, the three were put back into armament and equipment testing. In the winter of 1940 to early 1941, the three were sent to a Jagdstaffel unit in Norway, where they were evaluated by pilots. One of the three was sent to Værløse, Denmark in the summer of 1942 and temporarily assigned to Luftschiess-Schule. It is likely the remaining 3 and prototypes were either scrapped or destroyed by Allied bombing, as no examples are known to have survived the war. Some sources claim the aircraft Melhorn flew was the V6 converted into a single seater and armed for combat, but no proof supports this.
The Fw 187 was no secret weapon. After the fighting in France died down, the Propaganda Ministry began producing film and photos of the Fw 187 in 1940-1941 to persuade the Allies into thinking the Falke was fully operational and replacing the Bf 110 as the Luftwaffe’s all new Zerstörer. In reality, the latter was taking over the role of the former. The campaign sort of worked, as the Fw 187 was now a part of the rogue’s gallery that the Allies expected to fight. Identification cards, models and even movies were made to train pilots in the event they should encounter the two engine terror in combat. One such film denotes that the Fw 187 is “a rare bird” and that they should comically “make it extinct”. This shows that the Allies didn’t completely fall for the propaganda that claimed it was being produced in mass quantity.
The Fw 187 had a twin engine design. The airframe was of all light metal construction. To reduce drag, the airframe was actually narrower at its widest point than other fighters of the time. The wings were of metal construction and divided into three sections. The connected segments carried the fuel and the outer segments had the flaps installed. The first and second prototypes had a single seat cockpit. The cockpit was covered by a canopy that slid aft. The cockpit itself wasn’t built for comfort, as it was built for an average sized pilot. The cramped cockpit lacked the necessary space to mount certain instruments and had these mounted outside on the engine cowlings. V1 had tail sitting landing gear, with all three wheels being able to retract into the hull. V2 was similar to V1, but had modified control surfaces. Beginning after the first two, all examples of the Fw 187 had an extended greenhouse cockpit to accommodate the radioman. The cockpit now opened up in two sections, one to the front and one to the rear. The fuselage was lengthened to some degree as well. The extended cockpit required the fuel tank to be moved down the fuselage. The engine nacelles were shortened to allow landing flaps to be added. V3 also had a radio mast mounted on the rear part of the cockpit. V4 and V5 had this removed.
For engines, the majority of the Falke’s used the Jumo 210 engine. V1 mounted the 210Da, V2-V5 using the 210G, V6 using the powerful DB 600A engines and the A-0 reverting back to 210Gs. The aircraft performance stayed the same overall, with the V6 having peak performance speedwise.
For armament, V1 mounted two MG 17 machine guns. V3 had accommodations for two more MG FF cannons but only mockups were added. When the A-0s were rolled out, an additional two MG 17s were added to fill the Zerstorer role. The extra two had their ammunition mounted in front of the radioman’s seat.
Fw 187 V1 – First prototype. Mounted two Junkers Jumo 210Da engines. Originally mounted Junkers-Hamilton propellers but was changed to VDM airscrews. Originally had two wheeled forward landing gear which was switched to single during development. Fitted with two MG 17 machine guns.
Fw 187 V2 – Second prototype, had different rudders and a semi-retractable tail-wheel. Had fuel-injection Jumo 210G engines.
Fw 187 V3 – Third prototype. Two seat version, the cockpit was lengthened to accommodate the radioman. The engine nacelles were shortened some degree to allow new landing flaps.V-3 also mounted two MG 17 machine guns and two MG FF cannons.
Fw 187 V4/Fw 187 V5 – Fourth and fifth prototypes. Nearly identical to V-3, aside from several small modifications, such as having different windscreens.
Fw 187 V-6 – Sixth prototype. High speed version that mounted Daimler Benz DB 600A engines.
Fw 187A-0 – Pre-production version. Three were constructed. Armed with two MG FF cannons and four MG 17 machine guns. Frontal armored windshields were added. These three were tested and sent to various locations for trial and defensive purposes.
Nazi Germany – The sole operator was Nazi Germany, which reportedly used the Falke during the air defense of Bremen in 1940.
Nazi Germany (1939)
Experimental Jet Plane – 2 Built
On the 27th of August 1939, test pilot Erich Warsitz made the first test flight above the Rostock-Marienehe factory airfield with the new Heinkel He 178. With this flight, the He 178 went in to history as the world’s first fully operational jet-powered aircraft.
In March 1936 Dr Hans Pabs von Ohain, a pioneer of the gas-turbine engine, and Max Hahn were hired by aircraft designer and manufacturer Ernst Heinkel, founder of Heinkel Flugzeugwerke. Their objective at Heinkel was to design and build a working turbojet engine. The concept of a jet turbine engine was not something new at the time, but no one had applied it efficiently or used its potential for the development of the future of aviation.
Other German firms also showed interest in the radical and revolutionary idea of new jet engine technology, especially Junkers Flugzeugwerke. Junkers engineers would eventually develop the first operational combat jet fighter in the world, the Me-262. Heinkel hoped to achieve building the first operational and functional jet engine before all other firms, as quickly as possible.
In September of 1937, the first prototype of the new turbo-jet engine, named HeS 1 was demonstrated. It could achieve a thrust of 551 lbf (250 kgf). The next version, the HeS 2, was deemed a complete failure, with only some 198 lbf (90 kgf) of thrust and subsequent work on this design was abandoned.
The next developmental model, the HeS 3 was ready and tested in 1938. The HeS 3 reached 970 lbf (440 kgf) of thrust, weighing 793 lbs (360 kg) and had a diameter of 3 ft 11 in (1.2 m). Heinkel used one modified He 118 plane and equipped it with this test jet engine slung under its fuselage. This was however not the first operational jet aircraft, as the testbed took off and landed under its own piston engine’s power. This flight is generally considered to be a success.
A new upgraded HeS 3b, upgraded from the earlier 3a version, with some 1,100 lbf (500 kgf) of thrust, was ready to be tested in 1939 in a specially designed aircraft, the He 178 which had been completed earlier that year.
The He 178 was a shoulder wing aircraft, made mostly of wood with a semi-monocoque metal fuselage. The He 178 was equipped with retractable landing gear. The pilot’s cabin was located well forward of the wing’s leading edge. The jet engine drew in air from the front nose inlet, with the jet exhaust emerging from a long narrow pipe at the rear of the aircraft, in the tail. Later a new HeS 6 engine was installed, with 1,300 lbf (590 kgf) of thrust.
The characteristics of the He 178 were as such: maximum speed with the HeS 3b was 580 km/h (360mph). The theoretical estimated maximum speed was much higher, up to 700 km/h (435 mph), but the question of whether it could have been successfully achieved lingers. Service ceiling was 7000m and the effective range was some 200 km.
On its first test flight the engine ingested a bird which caused some minor internal engine damage, but the pilot managed to safely land the plane. Despite this incident this first test flight was considered a success. After several more test flights were accomplished, the first He 178 (V1) was placed in the air museum in Berlin, where it would eventually be destroyed in a 1943 bombing raid. Soon after, the assembly and production of the second plane was ready with some modifications, most importantly larger wings. The second prototype (V2) never flew, and it is not known if it was ever completely built. It’s fate is unknown.
Luftwaffe officials showed little interest in jet aircraft with fuselage mounted engines, due to the increased complications involved in their design and maintenance. Fuselage mounted engines required more rigorous technical inspections, presented production complications, and were overall seen as less efficient designs. Officials instead preferred fighter aircraft with wing mounted turbojet engines, such as the later Me 262 and He 280. In the end the He 178 project as a fighter aircraft was abandoned.
The first airframe was designated V1, with the second unfinished airframe with larger wings designated the V2.
He 178 V1 – Experimental jet-aircraft
He 178 V2 – Second prototype jet-aircraft
Heinkel He 178 Specifications
23 ft 7 in / 7.2 m
24 ft 6 in / 7.48 m
6 ft 10 in / 2.1 m
86.04 ft² / 7.9 m²
One HeS 3b centrifugal-flow turbojet
3,572 lb / 1,620 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight
4,405 lb / 1,998 kg
360 mph / 580 kmh
Estimated (theoretical) maximum possible speed up to 435 mph / 700 km/h
Nazi Germany (1940)
Prototype Passenger/Transport Plane – 2 Built
Born out of Deutsche Lufthansa’ vision of an advanced airliner to replace the aging Ju 52 after the war, the BV 144 is arguably one of the rather unique looking passenger airliner planes of the 20th century. Although designed by Blohm & Voss in 1940, the first flying prototype wouldn’t take to the air until 1944, when the development of the BV 144 was no longer relevant to its original purpose and the Germans were in full retreat.
With rapid advances in Western Europe throughout 1940, Nazi Germany was confident that the war would be over soon. With such conditions in mind, it was very reasonable for Deutsche Lufthansa to start drafting up plans for their commercial airliner services after the war. Looking for a new aircraft to replace their aging Junkers Ju 52 transport, Deutsche Lufthansa turned to Blohm & Voss in 1940 in hopes of an advanced airliner. The design was finalized in early 1941, and was ready to be constructed. With France recently defeated, the Germans decided to take advantage of the French industry and ordered two prototypes to be constructed at the Louis-Breguet Aircraft Company factory in Anglet, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine province of France.
Although construction started in 1941, the first prototype would not be completed until sometime between July and August of 1944. By this point, the war situation for Germany had became alarmingly worse and the BV 144 was no longer seen as important. Another factor which may have been the cause of the slow construction was the deliberate low effort put into construction by the French workers, as they didn’t wish to help Germany progress. Finally, in August of 1944, the first prototype of the BV 144 would take to the sky. Unfortunately for the Germans however, the Allied forces were moving rapidly through France after Operation Overlord. This meant the Germans were forced to abandon the BV 144 prototype due to their retreat.
After the Liberation of France, the Louis-Breguet Aircraft Company factory fell back into French hands, as well as the completed BV 144 prototype and the second unfinished prototype. Both were transported to Toulouse via road and received French registration numbers. Intrigued by the relatively advanced design, the French would continue testing the BV 144 post war. The second unfinished prototype was also completed by the French post war, but it is unknown whether or not this prototype flew before the termination of the BV 144 project once and for all. Both prototypes were scrapped.
The BV 144 was an all metal monoplane with a distinguishing high wing design and a tricycle landing gear configuration. It would have been powered by two BMW 801 MA 18-cylinder engines generating 1600 horsepower. The wings were located at the shoulder position of the fuselage, giving the engines a large ground clearance. Combined with the relatively short tricycle landing gear, the design would be advantageous to passengers as the fuselage would be close to the ground, allowing much easier boarding and disembarking.
The cockpit consisted of a pilot and a co-pilot in a stepped cabin, as well as a compartment for a radio operator. Following this compartment, there would have been a cargo storage, a passenger compartment, a toilet and another cargo storage. At the cost of some cargo and a less spacious passenger compartment, the passenger count could have been raised to 23 from the original 18.
Foreseeing problems with takeoff and landing, Blohm & Voss designed the plane with variable incidence wings, which meant there were electric-mechanical systems fitted into the BV 144 that allowed the wing to rotate 9 degrees around its tubular main spar within the plane. Such a system was previously tested in 1940 on the Blohm & Voss Ha 140V-3 hydroplane with success. This interesting system would have allowed the pilot to change the sweep angle of the wings during low speed landing and takeoffs without having to shift altitudes. It would also allow the pilot to have a slightly better view during landing. Along with that, long slotted flaps were also provided to aid in landing.
Another interesting feature of the BV 144 was the aforementioned tubular main spar, which was patented by Richard Vogt, the chief designer for Blohm & Voss. Although quite light in terms of weight, the spar would have been able to provide excellent load carrying characteristics. On top of this, as a surprising feature, the spar could also have been used to carry extra fuel. The last notable feature of the BV 144 was the defrosting system located at both wingtips and the tail section. The system would have allowed the tips and tail to stay warm using heated air provided through an oil burner.
Nazi Germany – The BV 144 was intended to be used by the Deutsche Lufthansa, and possibly even the Luftwaffe as an advanced airliner meant for short-medium distance routes.
France – The French took over both prototypes of the BV 144 once the Germans retreated out of France and continue development of the plane postwar for a while before ultimately scrapping the project in the end.
The Messerschmitt Me 209 (also known as the Bf 109R) was a racing plane designed by Willy Messerschmitt in 1938. The Me 209 would later establish a new world record which would not be beaten until 30 years later. Although commonly associated and confused with the Me 209 fighter plane designed in 1943, it holds no association at all other than the name. To this day, only the fuselage of Me 209V1 has survived and is now on display in a museum in Krakow.
Conceived in late 1937 by Willy Messerschmitt, the primary and sole focus of the Me 209 was speed. On August 1, 1938, the first test flight of the Me 209V1, piloted by Hermann Wooster, had lasted only 7 minutes due to engine and coolant problems.
Even though established practice dictated that if an aircraft had more than a dozen problems, it was to be abandoned, however Nazi officials were unwilling to give up on this promising aircraft due to the potential impact the aircraft could generate. Eventually, on April 26, 1939, piloted by Fritz Wendell, the Me 209 set the speed record it would hold for 30 years, though the He 100, the previous record holder, was suspected to have been able to break this record had it flown at a higher altitude but was prohibited from doing so by Nazi officials.
The designation Bf 109R was used for propaganda uses in order to cause confusion with the Luftwaffe’s primary fighter, the Bf 109, to maintain an image of invincibility which persisted until the Battle of Britain.
The Me 209 had a unique design, featuring a cockpit placed far back at the rear and a cross shaped tail section. A difference between the Me 109 and 209 was that it had a broad-track, inward-retracting undercarriage mounted in the wing section, instead of the fuselage. There was no tail wheel, instead using a spring loaded metal skid, which retracted into the lower part of the tail.
Because of the success of the racer, the Nazis attempted to arm it. The main factor that had inhibited adding weaponry was the fact that wings were almost entirely taken up the engine’s liquid cooling system, which was massive. The engine consumed 2 gallons (9 liters) of coolant water a minute. Holding 50 gallons (450 liters) of coolant, it had a flight time of approximately 35 minutes.
On August 1st of 1938, the Me 209V1 flew for the first time. Piloted by Hermann Wurster, the test flight lasted only 7 minutes. Unfortunately, Wurster found the plane very unsatisfactory. In a Messerschmitt AG document found post-war by the Allies, it was found that Wurster made several complaints about the Me 209.
The engine ran unevenly
The high temperature reached by the coolant fluid resulted in unsatisfactory cooling
Cockpit ventilation was inadequate, and engine gasses entered the cockpit, which necessitated the constant use of an oxygen mask
The landing gear could not be extended at speeds greater than 155 mph (250 km/h)
The main wheels tended to drop out of their wheel wells during high speed maneuvers
Fuel filler caps loosened at high speed
Undercarriage hydraulic oil escaped from its reservoir and sprayed on the windscreen
The takeoff run was excessive, and the takeoff characteristics dangerous
Visibility from the cockpit was limited
Marked instability noted during climbing maneuvers
The rudder was inadequate to control the plane’s yaw movement
When banking at full throttle, the plane rolled itself over
Stick forces were excessive and tiring
At speeds around 100 to 105 mph (160 to 170 km/h) the controls softened up
Landing characteristics were extremely dangerous
On touchdown, the plane swerved violently
It was impossible to employ the brakes during the landing run, as immediately when they were applied, the aircraft swerved from the runway
The only remaining Me 209V1’s fuselage, formerly part of Hermann Göring’s personal collection, currently lies in the Polish Aviation Museum in Kraków, Poland. Germany has offered to purchase the Me 209 but has been unable to do so.
Me 209V1: The first version of the Me 209, which used the Daimler-Benz DB 601A and had steam cooling.
Me 209V1 (mod. 1939): This was the variant that set the speed record of 755.138 km/h (~469.22 mph). It was fitted with the DB 601ARJ engine, a modification of the DB 601A, which brought the total horsepower up to 2,300, from 1,800. It suffered greatly from overheating when operating at full power.
Me 209V2: It crashed during a test flight and was completely destroyed, and was subsequently abandoned.
Me 209V3: Originally intended to break the speed record, it was made too late. Instead, it became a test bed for improvements.
Me 209V4: One built. It was to be armed with two 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns in the cowling and 20 mm MG FF/M cannon firing through the propeller hub. It also would have had lengthened wings and vertical stabilizer, strengthened undercarriage, a stock DB 601N engine, and did not feature a surface evaporation cooling system. Tests showed that the modifications made the plane inferior to the Bf 109E series, and was therefore abandoned.
Nazi Germany (1942)
Light Transport and Trainer – 1,216 Built
The Siebel Si 204 was a twin engined light transport and trainer aircraft built by Siebel for the Luftwaffe in World War II.
The story of the “Siebel” factory starts in the 1934, with the founding of “Hans Klemm – Flugzeugwerke Halle“ that was a branch of “Leichtflugzeugbau Klemmin Böblingen”. In December 1937 the name changed to “Siebel Flugzeugwerke“ when it was taken over by Friedrich Siebel.
Initially Siebel had a license to produce the Focke-Wulf Fw 44 “Stieglitz” and later during the war Heinkel He 46, Dornier Do 17 and the Junkers Ju-88. In addition to the production of licensed aircraft, in 1937, “Siebel” produced its own aircraft under the name Fh 104. It had its first test flight that same year, and some 46 planes where build during the period of 1938-42. The Fh 104 made a number of notewortly flights:
In March of 1939 flying a 39975 km tour of Africa,
Winning the “Littorio rally in Italy”,
And flying a 6200 km across 12 countries in 1938 (Europa Rundflug).
By the end of 1930, “Siebel” company was commissioned by the Luftwaffe to design a new type of all-metal twin-light light transport aircraft with a capacity of eight persons with two crew members. In 1940 the first prototype of the twin engine and larger and also heavier Si 204 appeared with originally a conventional stepped cockpit and a powerplant of two 360 hp (268 kW) Argus As 410 engines . The prototype made its first flight during the period of May to September 1940. Second prototype made it first test flight in early 1941. The third prototype was re-designed as a trainer aircraft for blind flying. Because of this, its first test flight was only possible at the end of 1941 or the beginning of 1942. The other 12 planes produced by “Siebel” were used for general flight evaluation. After this small production run Siebel stopped building this aircraft, and future planes would be built in France and Czechoslovakia.
Model A was build in relatively small number by the French “SNCAC” (Société Nationale de Constructions Aéronautiques du Nord) factory. It was designed as a transport and communication aircraft.
The next model D appeared in 1942, with a new glazed nose and cockpit with no separate flat windscreen for the pilot. Almost all German bomber aircraft during the war shared this design. The D model also had more powerful 600 hp As 411 engines. The D model was used for radio navigation and for training. This model was mostly used during the war.
The production of the D-3 version start in October 1944 by the “Aero” company. The D-3 had wooden wings and a tail-plane made of wood because due to material shortages. In France, production of this aircraft was stopped in August 1944 as a result of the Liberation.
“BMM” produced the aircraft until October 1944 and then changed to producing spare parts for the Si 204. The “Aero” was scheduled to cease production of the D-1 in March 1945 after building 486 aircraft and then switch to D-3 only. The E version was built in limited numbers and can be considered as an experimental series.
After the war, production of Si 204 continued in Czechoslovakia and France. Czechoslovakia produced some 179 Si 204D, developed into military trainer variants Aero C-3A, passenger variant C-103 and military transport variant D-44. France produced 240 transport NC.701 Martinets and a number of passenger NC.702 Martinets.
During the war the Luftwaffe put the plane to use for transport, communication while also seeing use as an advanced trainer and blind flying trainer.
It was generally regarded as a good plane, but with some drawbacks like the lack of any armament, which prevented many exercises for the combat training program and possible use as a combat aircraft, although for this role it is not designed.
Designers in Halle had developed few different military projects, like installing bomb racks, machine gun turrets and other necessary equipment, but none of these plans were ever realized. This problem was attempted to be solved with some modified Si 204D airplanes with three 13mm MG 131 machine guns, intended to be used as a night combat aircraft but this model was not used in combat and was built in limited numbers.
Despite these unsuccessful attempts, Germans tried to make a new bomber variant, in order to be used in anti guerrilla fighting with a built to this specification. Three Si-204E were sent to the military tests in Belarus. They were treated as special anti-guerrilla aircraft. The scope of the actions of the Belarusian partisans forced the Germans to throw against them not only regular troops, but armored vehicles and aircraft. The extent to which they were used in this role remains unknown.
Si 204 is reported to has the “honor”, of being the last German aircraft shot down on the Western Front. On May 8, 1945 an Si 204 was shot down by an American P-38 Lightning, three miles southeast of Rodach, Bavaria.
Because Siebel produced the Junkers Ju-88 under licence and the need for as many military aircraft as possible, Germans decided to increase the volume of production for this aircraft. This was done by moving the production to French “SNCAC” and Czechoslovakian “Aero”, and “ČKD-BMM” factories. The “SNCAC” produced some 168 aircraft and the “Aero” and “ČKD-BMM” produced 1033 aircraft, Siebel produced only the first 15 prototype Aircraft, before the production was stop in favor of Ju-88. In total some 1,216 aircraft of this type where build, during the war.
Si 204 – Prototype version with 15 plane build by Siebel (Number V1 to V15),
Si 204A – Model A was a transport and a communication aircraft, with crew of two and eight passengers.
A-0 – Passenger plane version,
A-1 – French built version.
Si 204B and C – Were paper projects
Si 204D – Model with a new glazed nose and cockpit and with two 600 hp As 411 engines. Model D was used for radio navigation and for flying training.
D-0 – Blind flying trainer,
D-1 – Czechoslovakian production version,
D-3 – This model had wooden wings and tailplanes, in order to save on metal.
204E – Experimental night fighter plane. This model had on its nose two 13mm MG 131 machine guns plus one more machine gun (same caliber) in a glazed cupola on the upper hull of the plane. This model was not used in combat and was build in limited number using rebuild Si 204D planes.
E-3 – Proposed version to be armed with bombs, and to be used in anty guerrilla fighting, possibly only few were build.
Flying carrier – Paper project that was originally intended to carry one DM-1 (Doctor Alexander Lippisch plane) on the back of a Siebel Si 204. Little is known about this project
Aero C-3 – Used for flying and crew training,
Aero C-103 – Used for Civilian transport,
Aero D-44 – Military transport version.
SNCAC NC.701 Martinet – Military transport version with SNECMA 12S-00 air-cooled V-12 engines,
SNCAC NC.702 Martinet – Improved Passenger transport version.
Germany – Most produced planes where used by the Luftwaffe as advanced schools training, transport, blind flying trainer (usage in this role was at best was sporadic) and communication. There were plans for arming this plane for night fighter and anti-partisan operatons, but it all left on paper only with few model build and not a single one was used in combat.
Czechoslovakia – Used German build planes and the new Aero C-3 version after the war.
France – Used some captured German planes and also the NC. 701 version which was build by France after the war.
Hungary – Operated some C-3 Aero version after the war.
Poland – Used six NC.701 version.
Soviet Union –They were captured in some numbers at the end of the war. At first, the captured Si-204 was mostly used by the military. The headquarters of many regiments and divisions stationed in Germany used the Siebel for official flights, but only for short period.
Sweden – Operated five NC.701 (1962-1970) for mapping photography.
Switzerland – Operated some Si.204 D planes.
Specifications (Si 204D)
70 ft / 21.33 m
39 ft 3 in / 12 m
14 ft / 4.25 m
495 ft² / 46 m²
2x Two Argus As 411 12 cylinder inverted piston engines (447kW/600 hp)
Nazi Germany (1940)
Prototype Wooden Glider – 2 Built
The Ju 322 “Mammut” was a prototype wooden glider developed by Junkers in 1940 in anticipation of the Invasion of Britain. The design was riddled with flaws and eventually scrapped in 1941 after two prototype models were made. Instead, the RLM decided to use the Me 321 as their main heavy glider. No part of the Ju 322 is known to have survived to the present day.
History of the Mammut
Operation Sealion (Invasion of Britain) was to commence in the fall of 1940, and the Germans lacked a means of transporting supplies and troops effectively. In that same year, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium, the German Ministry of Aviation or RLM, issued a demand to Messerschmitt and Junkers to design and develop a glider capable of carrying a very heavy payload. The conditions were that the glider was to be able to carry some of the heaviest equipment in service with the Wehrmacht. Messerschmitt developed the Me 321 as a result, and Junkers with the Ju 322.
The Ju 322 “Mammut” (Mammoth) was designed as a fully wooden heavy transport glider which was originally designed to carry at least 44,000lbs (19,900kg). This weight was around enough for a Panzer III/IV, FlaK 88, or a StuG III/IV or a full load of 100 troops and all necessary support equipment. The Ju 322 was designed so that cargo was to be loaded into the plane from the nose, which could be folded. The cockpit had a single position, and was located on the outside of the cargo hold on the left wing. The glider would be on a carriage which would be dropped right after take off or while airborne. The designers noted that the carriage was extremely heavy, and could not be dropped from a high altitude without it breaking. They also noted that if the carriage were to be dropped from a lower altitude, there was the risk of it bouncing back up and hitting the glider. Many different kinds of gears were experimented on, using from as little as 8 wheels to 32 wheels. As for landing, the glider was fitted with four sprung landing skids. The production variants were suppose to be fitted with three turrets armed with MG 15s. Two turrets would be located on either side of the nose, near the front of the wings and the other turret would be located near the back of the cargo compartment. The Ju 322V1 and V2 were not armed.
After two prototype models were produced, stationary tests began. It was found that the Ju 322V1 had troubles with the materials it was built with. An observation made by engineers were that the wooden structure of the glider were weakened by rot. It was agreed that this was to be blamed on poor manufacturing techniques.
When a Panzer III was loaded onto the plane, the floor broke and the Panzer III fell straight through it. This incident was partly to be blamed on the ramp design and poor wood quality. Due to this flaw, the original design was not able to be met and the maximum cargo weight was reduced twice. The first reduction was to 35,280lbs (16,000kg), the second reduction was to 24,255lbs (11,000kg). The reduced weight of cargo and reinforced floor solved the problem of loading tanks and equipment on, but at the expense of payload. As a result of this along with other changes, the designers had to reduce the plane’s maximum cargo weight to 24,255lbs (11,000kg).
A common misconception is that there was a competition between Messerschmitt and Junkers to develop the best glider and dominate the glider market. However, it was not a competition at all and each company were given specific guidelines. Messerschmitt was allowed to use steel while Junkers was only allowed to use wood. This was because the RLM was anticipating a shortage of steel, in which case the RLM could fall back on the Junkers design. It is also worth noting that the Ju 322V1 used eight tons of steel to strengthen the airframe, despite the RLM’s orders.
As the Ju 322 was in prototype stage, only two models were ordered and constructed. The only two models are known as Ju 322V1 and Ju 322V2. V1 was the only model to see testing, while V2 stood by in case V1 was destroyed. During testing of the V1, construction began on 98 airframes, although none were completed.
The Ju 322V1 made its first and only flight in April of 1941 at Merseburg Airfield. According to the reports, the Ju 90* towplane failed to lift the glider off the ground on full throttle. In a subsequent attempt, the glider was able to get off the ground. However shortly after takeoff, the tow plane pilot noticed two immediate flaws. First, the glider could not maneuver or change direction and it had no pilot during the test. Second, the glider had extremely poor vertical stability such that its wings would sway in small arcs which swung the tow plane dangerously. Because of this, the glider was immediately cut from the tow plane after take off. The glider ended up landing in a field not far from the airfield. It took over two weeks for the glider to be transported back to the airfield by towing. This was the Mammut’s only test flight, and it was deemed a failure.
* – It is interesting to note that the Ju 90 which towed the Ju 332 on it’s maiden flight was one of the two Ju 90s meant to be sent to South Africa before the war, and were therefore fitted with Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp engines which had 900hp each.
Financially exhausted and convinced that the Ju 322 will not be successful, Junkers finally terminated the projected in May 1941. As a result, the two Ju 332s were cut up and used as firewood, along with all the uncompleted airframes and spare parts still in factories.
Trainer & Sport Plane – 3,000 Built
The Focke-Wulf 44 (Fw 44) was the most famous Focke-Wulf design after the famous Fw 190 fighter. The aircraft was a biplane with a fabric-covered welded steel-tube fuselage sporting wooden wings with fabric and plywood coverings, powered by a 140hp (104kW) Simens Sh 14 radial engine. This aircraft was primarily designed as a two-seat aerobatic civilian training aircraft but was later used for military purposes.
The origin of the Fw 44 Stieglitz (Goldfinch) started in 1932 when designer Kurt Tank, conceived the two-seater double-decker of mixed construction. In its prototype stage it had a number of unacceptable flight characteristics. The frst prototype was making its first flight in the late summer of that year with pilot Gerd Achgelis at the controls who problems with oscillations.
Kurt Tank had joined The Focke-Wulf Company in November 1931 from BFW, later Messerschmitt, and headed the design and flight test department for Focke-Wulf at the same time, replacing Heinrich Focke who was preoccupied with rotary-wing activities. Tank would remain in the position until the end of the World War II.
After further extensive flight testing, undertaken by Kurt Tank himself, he found the root of the problem. While flying the prototype back from a test flight, he happened to be looking at the shadow of the plane on the ground and he noted that the tail’s shadow blurred which indicated some kind of vibration in that area. Then the whole aircraft shook. Having landed he and his engineers check the tail of the aircraft and they found that the vibrations were being caused by separate cables operating the elevators. By joining these together to make the elevators act as one unit, the vibration problem was eliminated.
With this issue solved the Focke-Wulf 44 “Stieglitz” soon proved to have excellent handling characteristics and powerful aerobatic capabilities that won many prizes in numerous competitions, such as the Artificial Flying World Championship. The Fw 44 was popular, and known aircraft all over the world as a simple training glider. Following many successful aerobatic displays around Germany, demand for this aircraft was so great that other German manufacturers manufactured the Fw 44 under license. In addition to the export models, production began in several other countries, such as Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria and Sweden. It served as a standard training aircraft at the German transport school and the Luftwaffe.
One interesting fact about Fw 44 is that the body of one plane, the design retaining both the fuselage and engine, was used as the basis for the world’s first “practical” helicopter known as Focke-Wulf Fw 61.
Stieglitz’s Sporting Success
The Fw 44 was known for participation in numerous flight competitions, especially in the 1930s and always scored high, thanks to pilots Gerd Achgelis and Count Otto von Hagenburg.
1935 Stuttgart Seventh German Art Flying Championship Gerd Achgelis achieved second place after Willi Stor who flew in a Messerschmitt M35 plane.
1936 Eighth German Aerobatics Championship at Munich-Oberwiesenfeld Count Otto von Hagenburg won second place. Willi Stor was victorious again with his Me. M35 plane.
1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin
Perhaps the most publicized aviation event in pre-World War II Germany was held in conjunction with the 1936 Olympic Games. Adolf Hitler, who wished to impress the world with the strength of Germany’s aviation industry, arranged the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics Games to include the first ever aerobatics competition. This flying event took place within the track and field stadium. Graf Otto von Hagenburg as a pilot won the men’s competition, flying the new Fw 44. It’s very likely that the aerobatics competition was staged in a way to enhance Germany’s potential results. Either way, the German built planes and their pilots were well regarded as exceptional.
1934 Paris World Championship
An enormous event, with some 150,000 spectators crowded into the military parade-ground at Vincennes which had been modified for this occasion.
The initial compulsory competition required a list of manuevers to be performed within a time limit of eight minutes, including a right-hand and a left-hand spin, a bunt, a negative loop forward and upward, and an inverted 360 degree turn. Each contestant was also afforded the opportunity to fly their own routine for ten minutes. The sequence was to be submitted in advance to the judges, and each maneuver was assigned a difficulty coefficient set in the rules. New maneuvers were also awarded appropriate coefficients, but most were found to be already in the catalogue of 87 maneuvers. The judges’ task was to assign each figure a mark between 1 and 5 points for quality of performance, with a zero for figures not executed. These were then multiplied by the difficulty coefficients, the totals of all the judges were then averaged to obtain the final score.
Gerd Achgelis achieved third place with a score of 527.6 points. The winner was the German pilot Gerhard Fieseler, designer of the Fieseler Storch, with a score of 645.5 points.
Thanks to its exceptional flying characteristics, it was ordered by many nations around the world. In addition to export orders from Turkey, Switzerland, Bolivia, Chile, China, Czechoslovakia, Finland and Romania, it was produced under license in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria and Sweden. The Fw 44 was built in substantial numbers for the Luftwaffe, serving as a trainer until the end of the World War II. It was also in use by the Deutsche Luftsportverband and Deutsche Verkehrfliegerschule. Exact production numbers are not known, due to production in Germany by Focke-Wulf and and many other subcontractors such as AGO, Bucker and Siebel, in addition to other license agreements worldwide. It is assumed that the production numbers are between 1900 to more than 3000 planes. Focke-Wulf had to build another factory just to keep up with demand for the plane.
The production variants differed from each other in minor equipment details. The most numerous variants were the Fw 44C, Fw 44D and Fw 44F, with all three models utilizing the same Siemens Sh 14a engine. The final production Fw44J model had a 160 hp Siemens Sh 14a-4 seven-cylinder radial engine.
Fw 44A The Fw 44A was powered by a 150hp Siemens Sh14a engine, and was used for flight tests. This model was in production until the end of 1932.
Fw 44B The improved Fw 44B first appeared in 1933, with production commencing in 1934. The Fw 44B, had an Argus As 8 four-cylinder inverted inline air-cooled engine of 90 kW (120 hp). The cowling for this engine gave the plane a more slender, aerodynamic nose. The other change was in the extension of the fuselage from 6.6 to 7.3 meters, which was tested on this model.
Fw 44C This model was used extensively by the Luftwaffe at advanced training schools throughout the Second World War. The Fw 44C, was powered by the Siemens Sh 14a engine, which offered the best overall performance.
Fw 44D The D model was same as the Fw as 44 C, but with different exhaust manifold. The plane got a small luggage compartment made of fabric, which was attached to the rear cockpit. From 1934 onwards, improvements were taken into series production. Due to the high demand for this model, it was temporarily produced in other plants (Bücker Flugzeugbau – 85, AGO – 121, and an additional 515 planes under license). The Luftwaffe ordered some 1,600 examples of this model.
Fw 44E Basically identical with to the D model, it was equipped with an Argus As 8 engine. It was built in limited number, only 20, in 1934.
Fw 44F An upgrade of the D model. With some luggage compartment modifications, and the replacement of the rear pad with a landing wheel.
Fw 44H Only one plane of this model was produced in 1936, and was used only for testing. This model was equipped with a six-cylinder engine (118hp).
Fw44J The J model was mainly intended for export and was equipped with the 160 hp Siemens Sh 14a-4 seven-cylinder radial engine. This model was demonstrated in Sweden in late 1935, and in February 1936. The testing resulted in a license agreement between the Swedish aviation administration and Focke-Wulf on September 29, 1936. Two test aircraft were ordered, receiving the Swedish designation P2.
Germany The Luftwaffe used the Fw 44 until the end of the World War II, mainly as a trainer aircraft in the Flugzeugführerschulen. The Germans used more than 1,600 planes. Many famous German aerobatic pilots flew the Fw 44 aircraft, including Gerd Achgelis, Adolf Galland, Emil Kopf, Ernst Udet and perhaps most famously Hanna Reitsch, who flew on almost all aircraft models.
China China purchased around twenty Fw 44’s which were all used during the Second Sino-Japanese War where all were lost in action. Some of them were modified for combat missions.
Bulgaria In November 1936, the first six Fw 44 J were delivered and in May 1939 ten more followed. By February 1940 twenty more planes were delivered to Bulgaria, making a total of 46 J models. After the war surviving planes were handed over to Yugoslavia.
Sweden In late 1936, 14 aircraft were ordered from Focke-Wulf. ASJA, AB Svenska Järnvägsverkstädernas Aeroplanavdelning, and the Swedish Railway Workshops Aircraft Department placed an order for 20 more aircraft in June 1937, while the Central Verkstaden at Västeras (CVV) placed an order for 37 more aircraft in 1939. Another 12 were ordered from Focke-Wulf in 1940, however, these were produced by Flugzeugwerke CKD at Prague, Czechoslovakia.
These were used for elementary and aerobatic training. Other training units flew this plane, and after withdrawn from basic training in 1946-1947, it was used for liaison, observation, glider-tug, and other ancillary roles. After being withdrawn from use, many came ended up on the civil registries in Sweden and Germany.
Turkey 8 planes were ordered and delivered in 1939.
Finland As the Fw 44 was suitable for operation in polar regions, Finland required the aircraft for basic pilot training. In April 1940, a contract was signed between Finland and Focke-Wulf, for delivery of 30 Fw 44 J models.
Norway Norway placed an order for ten Fw 44 Js, which were delivered in April 1940.
Austria From 1936 onwards Austria’s Federal Army used the Fw 44 as a basic school training aircraft, with some ten aircraft were purchased from Focke-Wulf. The Fw 44 was also produced under license. Some 40 Fw 44J models were produced by Hirtenberger Patronenfabrik, (Wiener Neustadt).
Argentina Argentina ordered fifteen Fw 44 Js in January 1937, and built another 60 under license.
Brazil Built a production facility to produce the plane in some numbers.
Chile In September 1937, Chile signed an agreement to buy 15 Fw 44 J models.
Yugoslavia Some war trophy aircraft were taken from the Bulgarians as war reparations and used after the war as trainers.