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
USA (1946) Fictional Prototype Fighter Bomber – 11 Built
Inspired by the Kyushu J7W and Curtiss-Wright XP-55, the P-later-F-74’s radical wing designs lifted its position in aviation history to the jet age’s dawn. With a canard layout and its inverted, swept-back gull wings, this little-known fighter-bomber was a broad new attempt at close air support by Republic Aviation. Meet the unnamed member of the “Thunder family” – F-74 Thundercloud.
After Japan’s surrender in 1945, the U.S. Naval Technical Mission to Japan immediately commenced. Found at an abandoned hangar of the Itazuke Air Base, an aircraft with a radical design caught everybody’s eyes. This is the Kyushu J7W Shinden, an interceptor with a canard layout and a pusher engine at the back, similar to the U.S. Army’s XP-55 Ascender. Along with other interesting Japanese designs, the J7W was dismantled, crated, and shipped to the U.S.
Immediately after the Second World War, USAAF launched their next generation multirole strike fighter program. The winning project of the contract would be awarded the codename P-74. However, most major companies such as North American and Lockheed were busy creating their first jets, leaving Republic Aviation the only participant. Impressed by the J7W’s perfect integration of nose-mounted weapons and the large but streamlined fuselage that houses powerful engines, Republic decided to give it a shot, as a then-intermediate candidate of the P-84 Thunderjet.
The F-74 was an all-metal, monocoque, low-wing cantilever monoplane. Its unique canard layout consisted of a pair of compound delta wings that integrated an inverted “gull wing” design with a pair of dihedral wing tips that houses the ailerons, and a pair of smaller, less swept back trapezoidal canards at the front of the aircraft, immediately behind and above the modular weapon bay. Two vertical stabilizers are positioned at the joint between the main wing and the wingtips, with anti-skid wheels on the bottom. A pair of long and narrow side intakes drew upcoming air into the rear-mounted, air-cooled radial engine (R-3350 or 4360) that drove a set of four wide paddle blade style constant speed propellers .
The nose-mounted weapon bay could be easily swapped at any frontline airfield to suit different combat scenarios, ranging from the basic “six-pack” .50 machine guns to a pair of powerful 37mm cannons. The powerful R-4360 engine also allowed an assortment of weapons to be carried under its wing pylons, ranging from unguided rockets, general purpose and napalm bombs, to machinegun pods that further enhance the aircraft’s firepower.
Not Your Average Cumulonimbus
Only one year after Republic “won” the contract by being the sole participant, on 17th August 1946, the XP-74-A-0-RE prototype flew for the first time. With a R-3350 engine and simulated counterweights instead of guns, the aircraft displayed favorable control characteristics. Its low-speed handling was surprisingly well for an aircraft this size, thanks to its large wing area and powerful pitching leverage provided by the front-placing canards. The only two complaints of the test pilot were its large torque on the takeoff roll and the fragile rear propeller he broke on landing. The first problem was addressed by applying more trim, with the second one solved by adding a pair of anti-skid wheels under the vertical stabilizers.
However, the Army paused the XP-74 project in favor of the jets. The project was also overshadowed inside Republic themselves, because their jet replacement of the P-47 Thunderbolt – the XP-84 Thunderjet – already took to the skies six months before XP-74 did. All testings were halted and the project group was dissolved, despite the emergence of another high-altitude interceptor variant, the XP-74B.
Luckily, the newly-formed USAF changed the fate of this plane one year later. Facing threats of probable “Communist-containing” wars (Korean War and subsequently Vietnam War), the Air Force needs a reliable attacker with a large payload as a suitable backup to the new and unreliable jets. The Thundercloud was revived under the name of F-74. Republic offered the USAF an improved version, dubbed as the F-74D. With a powerful R-4360 radial engine and four 20mm AN/M3 cannons, this machine could rain down deadly ordnances at an incredible efficiency . Five D-variants fought during the Korean War, with one of them later modified for the Project GunVal, carrying four T-160 cannons as an experimental configuration. After the retirement of all F-74s, some were acquired by NACA and later NASA as X-74s for experimental airfoil research.
XP-74A-0-RE – Initial prototype for the USAAF. First flight on 15th Aug. 1946. No armament, R-3350 engine.
YP-74A-1-RE – Small pre-production series starting from Dec. 1946. Armed with 6 Browning M3 12.7mm MGs. 5 built.
P-74B – High-altitude heavy interceptor variant. 2x 37mm M10 cannons and 2x M3 12.7mm MGs. R-4360 engine with supercharger. None built.
F-74D-1-RE – Ground attack variant for the USAF. 4x 20mm AN/M3 cannons, R-4360 engine without supercharger. 5 built, 3 converted from A-1 variant in 1949.
F-74D-2-RE – Testbed for T-160 autocannons during Project GunVal in 1953. 4x 20mm T-160 cannons. 1 converted from F-74D-1.
X-74A – Two aircraft served for NACA and later NASA for experimental airfoil research. R-4360 engines with supercharger. 2 converted from YP-74A pre-production models.
[USA] – Evaluated by the U.S. Army and later Air Force. 8 deployed in the Korean War. Retired 1953. 2 used by NACA/NASA. Fate unknown.
Republic XP-74/YP-74/F-74 Specifications
41 ft 2 in / 12.54 m
44 ft 2 in / 13.46 m
15 ft 1 in / 4.59 m with landing gears
322.05 ft² / 29.92 m²
1x R-3350-23 (2,200 hp) (A model only)
1x R-4360-31 (3,000 hp) (other variants)
11,000 lb / 4763 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight
19,000 lb / 8618 kg
1514 L internal, up to 3x 416L drop tanks
15m/s at sea level (D-1 model)
430 mph / 692 kmh at 10,000 ft / 3,048 m
400 mph / 644 kmh
750 mi / 1207 km on internal fuel, D model
Maximum Service Ceiling
36,900 ft / 11,200 m for A-1
26,000 ft / 7,925 m for D-1
6x 12.7mm Browning M3 (400 rpg)
2x 12.7mm Browning M3 (400 rpg)
2x 37mm Browning M10 (60 rpg)
4x 20mm AN/M3 (250 rpg)
4x Ford T-160 (150 rpg)
“Literally Fake News”, The Fake News Department of the United States of America, September 1946., “The Republic F-74D” official promotion booklet, Republic Aviation, 1949., “A Brief History of the Rice Field Attackers in Korea and Vietnam”, Tingwong Sum, 1983., Images: Side Profile Views by Ed Jackson – Artbyedo.com
Empire of Japan (1941) Strategic Bomber- 1 Scale Mockup Built
The Mitsubishi G7M “Taizan” (泰山/Great Mountain) was a planned long range strategic bomber for Imperial Japan’s Army Air Service. Developed out of the need for a bomber capable of striking the continental United States, the Taizan would face a series of developmental problems, ultimately leading to the cancellation of the project.
Prior to the start of World War II, Japan had foreseen that in a potential future conflict with the United States, it would require a long range bomber capable of striking the US mainland. In order to fulfill this requirement, a review was conducted in 1941 of all the Imperial Japanese Navy’s bomber aircraft in service. It was revealed that the entirety of the Japanese bomber arsenal was incapable of striking targets in the United States from the Japanese airfields. The Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” was one of Japan’s newest aircraft being pushed into service. Despite its superior range of 3,749 mi (6,043 km) compared to previous IJN bombers, it still was not sufficient enough to strike the US mainland or targets deep in the Soviet Union. As a result of this, the Naval Kōkū Hombu (Aviation Bureau) issued the 16-shi specification in 1941 for a long range bomber. The 16-shi specification would call for a bomber capable of flying at least 361 mph (580 km/h) with a maximum range of 4,598 mi (7,340 km).
Interested in this specification, Mitsubishi’s staff began work on a design that would meet the criteria set by the Kōkū Hombu. Mitsubishi engineer Kiro Honjo (the designer of the G3M and G4M) proposed a four engine design, but this was promptly rejected by the Kōkū Hombu. As a result, another Mitsubishi engineer by the name of Kijiro Takahashi submitted his own design. Upon inspection by the Kōkū Hombu, Honjo’s design was approved and given the green light to proceed. Within Mitsubishi, the 16-shi design was known as the “M-60”. Takahashi’s design was to be powered by two “Nu” engines. The Nu was a 24 cylinder liquid cooled engine which was able to provide 2,200 hp at 16,404 ft (5,000 m) but, due to the start of Operation Barbarossa, Germany was unable to export machinery and tools needed to manufacture the Nu engine. Unfortunately for Takahashi, this turn of events would prevent his design from being completed. As a result of this, Takahashi fell out with the Kōkū Hombu and Kiro Honjo would take over the M-60 project. This time, Honjo followed the Kōkū Hombu’s suggestion and used two engines instead of his idea of four. Under Honjo’s lead, the Taizan’s power plant was changed to two 18 cylinder Mitsubishi Ha-42-11 engines capable of generating 2,000 hp each. It was also seen that Honjo’s design was less aerodynamic than Takahashi’s due to the weaker engines and heavier armament.
On October 31st of 1942, an evaluation was conducted on the work done so far, and a performance estimation gave the Taizan a range of 3,454 mi (5,559 km) and a speed of 332 mph (518 km/h) at 16,404 mi (5,000 m). Falling short of the original 16-shi specification, Mitsubishi scrambled to make adjustments but further revised estimates stated that the design didn’t see any improvements, and actually saw some deterioration. By the time the Taizan’s design was completed in late 1942 and ready for construction of a wooden mockup, a new 17-shi specification was released calling for a new bomber design. Kawanishi took up the design and created the K-100 bomber project. Seeing promise and a better alternative to the Taizan, the Kōkū Hombu ordered all work on the Taizan to be halted until the K-100 could be completed and evaluated. Kawanishi completed initial work on the K-100 and a comparison was made between K-100 and Taizan in the summer of 1943. The Taizan’s range differed significantly from the proposed normal range from 2,302 mi (3,705 km) to 1,726 mi (2,778 km). Due to the significant range reduction, the Kōkū Hombu stopped supporting the Taizan. With no more interest and reason to develop the Taizan, Mitsubishi would finally shelve the project and stop all work on it.
From an exterior aesthetic point of view, the Taizan bears a striking resemblance to the German Heinkel He 177. The nose of the Taizan was rounded and glazed over, a new design not in use by any Japanese bombers at the time. The wings of the Taizan were mounted mid fuselage, and were to be constructed out of metal. Fabrics, however, were to be used for the cover of the Taizan’s ailerons and rudder.
Ordinance wise, the Taizan was to carry a maximum bomb load of 1,764 lbs (800 kg). The defensive armament underwent several changes. Takahashi’s Taizan design was to be armed with two 20mm Type 99 Mk.2 cannons and two 7.7mm Type 97 machine guns. Honjo’s initial design would carry two 20mm Type 99 Mk.2 cannons, two 13mm Type 2 machine guns and two 7.92mm Type 1 machine guns. Later on, the armament finalized at two 20mm Type 99 Mk.2 cannons and six 13mm Type 2 machine guns. There would have been one Type 99 Mk.2 in the nose and one in the tail. There would have been two Type 2 machine guns in the forward upper fuselage turret, two in the rear fuselage turret and two in ventral position, firing rearwards.
Empire of Japan – The Taizan would have been operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service.
Mitsubishi G7M1 “Taizan” *
*Estimated performance of Mitsubishi’s G7M1 proposal
Sweden (1997) Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEWC) Aircraft- 12 Built
The Saab 340B AEW&C and the Saab 2000 AEW&C are airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) airplanes that were developed from the basic Saab 340B airplane, a twin-engine turboprop regional airliner developed and built in partnership with the now defunct American aircraft manufacturer Fairchild Aircraft . The model was named “Metro III” when manufactured by Fairchild Aircraft. The Saab 2000 AEW&C is based upon the Saab 2000 airliner,it being a variant of the basic Saab 340B model. These airborne radar models came from the inventiveness of the Flygvapnet, as the idea of fitting the basic transport model already in service emerged considering the gaps the Flygvapnet had regarding the type of air asset. This paid off as the Nordic nation is now equipped with an airborne and air control (flying) system that provides a very valuable tool for the Flygvapnet to monitor the Swedish skies and even abroad, as the post-Cold War era meant new missions beyond national defence for the Swedish Armed Forces in general. The basic 340B version was, despite its initial non-military use, a display of technological advancement with advanced avionics and a product of the company’s desire to revive its interests in the civil market after the not entirely successful Saab Scandia 90, in the 50’s.
The Saab 340B AEW&C (Saab 340B) is a twin-engine turboprop medium size airliner, capable of carrying more than 30 passengers and with a conventional design, mainly for short-range regional flights. The main airframe is cylindrical, with the wings placed near the middle section of the airplane and of trapezoid and thin configuration. The nose is not rounded being rather sloped downwards, and the wings and horizontal control surfaces being angled upwards. The engines are not beneath the wings, as the configuration is that of a low-wing airplane; instead, they are placed above the wings and logically enrooted in them. The Saab 2000 differs from the basic model in the sense that it is larger, wider, slightly taller and with more wing area.
The Saab 340B AEW&C is powered by two General Electric CT7-9B turboprops of 1870 hp with a Dowty Rotol (or Hamilton Standard) 14RF19 four-blade constant speed propeller each, allowing the airplane to reach a cruise speed of 522 km/h (325 mph). The Saab 2000 AEW&C also has a different powerplant, being 2 Allison/Rolls Royce AE 2100A turboprop engines of 4,591 hp with a Dwoty Rotol six-bladed constant speed propellers each, having improved performance than the 340B version: for instance, the cruise speed it can reach is up to 629,68 km/h (391,26 mph).
Given the role of the airframes, both are fitted with an Ericsson Erieye (PS-890) radar installed above the main airframe, with a range of S-band, 3 GHz (GigaHertz) with a range of 160 degrees on each side. The radar is a rectangular pod, in contrast with the radars one would see on more classical AEW&C planes (for example the Boeing E-3 Sentry or the Ilyushin A-50). The radar has a range of 300-400 km capable of detecting sea and airborne targets.
The A 340B AEW&C (S 100B Argus) came to be with the idea of having a Swedish modified AEW&C asset and an alternative to the comparatively more expensive Boeing E-3 AWACS. The Flygvapnet was already operating with a Saab 340B for VIP transport, designated TP 100A, and that same airframe was to be the basis for the new airborne defence and air control radar. By the mid-90s, the first unit entered in service with the Flygvapnet. A total of six airframes were ordered: four with the radar already installed and two without the radar, prepared to have it installed when needed and serving as VIP transports during peacetime. As mentioned above, the Saab 340B AEW&C (S 100B Argus) is based upon the commercial airliner Saab 340B, which is a good platform given its structural characteristics, avionics, and performance. This airframe began its development in the 70s, with the propulsion system that it has being chosen as it was more economic than the jet propulsion system back then. It is reported that cost/efficiency considerations and the effects of the 1973 Oil Crisis made the company to pick the turboprop propulsion system. The US Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 gave further impulse for the basic model to be developed. This airplane was developed and built jointly with Fairchild Aircraft, mainly due to the fact that Saab thought the production capacity would not be enough. As a result, from 1980 to 1987, Fairchild was tasked with manufacturing the wings, the tail, and the engine nacelles. Saab, in turn, was tasked with manufacturing the main airframe, covering the 75% of development costs and the system integration and certification. The first Saab 340 flew in 1983, with the first airplane serving with an airline in 1984. After Fairchild ceased operations, Saab began to fully manufacture the Saab 340, doing so until 1999. The Saab 2000 came to be due to a decision in 1988 by Saab to develop an elongated version of the Saab 340 capable of carrying up to 50 passengers, having the same economic efficiency along with better climbing performance. Its first flight was in 1992, entering into service in 1994.
Currently, the S 340B AEW&C (S 100B Argus) operates in the Flygvapnet with 4 units sporting radar equipment and two additional units serving as VIP transports, ready to have the radars installed when needed. Its production was also finished in 1999, with 12 AEW&C units built: six for the Flygvapnet, 2 for the Royal Thai Air Force and 2 for the Pakistan Air Force, with 2 more under production for the United Arab Emirates Air Force. 2 modified airframes were loaned for the Hellenic Air Force from 2000 to 2003, while Greece received two Embraer RJ-145 AEW&C aircrafts fitted with the same Ericsson Erieye radars. It is noteworthy to state that of the basic airliner version, 460 units were built. Of the Saab 2000 airliner version, 63 were built; in turn, the Saab 2000 AEW&C version was introduced in 2010 for the Pakistan Air Force, with 8 units built so far and operating with the Pakistan Air Force, the Royal Saudi Air Force and the United Arab Emirates Air Force. Three more units would be delivered for the Pakistani Air Force.
The Saab 340B AEW&C design is based on the Saab 340B commercial airliner, while the Saab 2000 AEW&C is based on the Saab 2000 commercial airliner. As such, the airframe is the basically the same except that the former has the radar placed above the airframe, and other electronic equipment installed in the airplane. The airplane is of a dihedral wing design, which means the wings are placed at the base of the airframe and angled upwards. It had two turboprop engines and an airframe built entirely of aluminium with the same construction techniques other Saab military fighters had: usage of bonding instead of rivets, reducing the overall weight of the airplane. It also has wider horizontal stabilizers, a vibration control system in the cabin to reduce the noise from the engines, and more powerful engines (the two General Electric CT7-9B turboprops of 1870 hp).
The wing and the horizontal control surfaces or stabilizers are dihedral, with the angle of the former being more prominent than the angle of the main wings. Both the wings and the horizontal stabilizers are both of trapezoid shape, being very thin – or simply not having that much of surface area. The engines are located at a quarter of the main wings, close to the main airframe. The main wings are located at the middle of the airframe, with the airframe being of tubular shape. The bow section of the airframe has a shape that varies according from the view or perspective. From an upper view, it has a parabolic nose cone; from a side view the shape is divided, with the area between the very roof and the windscreen having and inclination of around 38 degrees negative, and from the lower section of the windscreen to the tip of the nose, an angle of 30 degrees negative. The tip of the nose from a side view is placed at the lower section of the airframe, with the interior bow section from where the frontal landing gear is placed, to the tip, having an angle upwards of 10 degrees. The central section of the airplane is of cylindrical shape.
The aft or stern section of the airplane comprises the horizontal and vertical control surfaces, and two ventral tails fins. The tail is of conventional type with a sort of “double-delta” configuration; this is, the surface having at the forward area different angles. The forward section of the tail, from the central area of the airframe to the area where the horizontal control surfaces are placed, has an angle of nearly 15 degrees. From the aforementioned section to the tip of the tail the angle is of 45 degrees. From an upper view, the rear section is of conical shape, whereas from a side view the upper area of the aft section is lightly going downwards, and the interior part has an upwards angle of around 15 degrees. The ventral fins are placed right beneath the horizontal control surfaces. The rudder dominates half of the tail. And there is an elongating radome at the very rear part of the aircraft. The landing gear is of tricycle configuration, with the frontal landing gear placed at the nose cone (beneath the cockpit) and the two landing gear trains placed beneath the engine gondolas, them being retractable with storage inside the engine gondolas.
The Saab 2000 AEW&C has a similar structure to that of the 340, except that it is more elongated in width and length, the inferior section of the nose being entirely straight and the engines having more distance from the main fuselage. It also lacks the ventral tail fins the Saab 340B AEW&C (S 100B Argus) has.
The engines powering the aircraft are two General Electric CT7-9B turboprops of 1870 hp with a Dowty Rotol (or Hamilton Standard) 14RF19 four-blade constant speed propeller. Thanks to the powerplant, the airplane can reach a maximum cruising speed of 524 km/h (325,60 mph). The aircraft is fitted with devices to reduce the noise generated by the engines. The Saab 2000 AEW&C is powered by two 2 Allison/Rolls Royce AE 2100A turboprop engines of 4,591 hp with a Dwoty Rotol six-bladed constant speed propellers each, allowing a cruise speed of 629,68 km/h (391,26 mph).
The AEW&C version has the Ericsson Erieye radar placed above the central section of the airframe, supported by a series of pillars that connects it to the main airframe and with a slight inclination downwards from stern to bow. Ventral antennas are installed at the inferior area of the fuselage.
The canopy is of conventional type, typical of any commercial or transport aircraft, with two frontal windscreens, and a lateral windscreen at each side of the cockpit. The crew on the Saab 340 AEW&C (S 100B Argus) is normally six.
Fitting a civilian for defence duties
Perhaps surprisingly, the Flygvapnet lacked an airborne AEW&C system during the late Cold War, relying instead on either smaller airborne assets for surveillance or land radar stations. The Flygvapnet decided to close this gap by ordering Ericsson Microwave Systems to develop the PS-890 Erieye radar by the late 80s, with the airframe that would be used undergoing the first trials by the same period. This idea was, in fact, proposed back in the 70s but rejected. It was revived again in the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) in 1982. As the Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS was deemed too expensive, it is no surprise that the Saab 340 airliner was chosen by the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration as the platform for the airborne radar system. the Flygvapnet was already operating with a Saab 340B which was being operated as a VIP transport. In any case, it was a very good decision, considering the Saab 340B is a very economic airplane thanks to its powerplant’s configuration and the advanced basis avionics and electronics, which was hence an economic alternative to the E-3 Sentry. In combination with the Erieye radar, it makes a suitable platform for an airborne radar for Sweden. The Saab 2000 is an example of how this concept has evolved by incorporating the Erieye into an equally economical yet very capable airframe, which a derivative from the basic model.
The Eye of Odin
The radar installed in the Saab 340B AEW&C (S 100B Argus) is the Ericsson Microwave System Erieye PS-890 multi-mode active electronically scanned array (AESA) pulse-doppler radar, which makes the airplane a very remarkable AEW&C aircraft, considering its capacities. Its development began in 1985 after the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration, with a dummy dual-sided phased antenna being tested on the future platform, which was tested in trial two years later. It has 200 solid-state modules mounted in the antenna, with an S-band frequency and 3 GHz, with a ‘look’ on each side of 120 degrees and a reach of up to 300-400 km at an altitude of 6096 meters (20,000 ft). It has an altitude reach of up to 20 km (65,000 ft), yet leaves the nose and tail areas as blind spots. This shortcoming is compensated by the fact the radar – with this design in particular – can provide improved detection and better tracking thanks to the electronically scanned beam, at the point of being able to scan other areas while concentrating on a single target. Moreover, the PS-890 Erieye can detect and track fighters, helicopters, cruise missiles and even very small targets at the sea, as it has also a sea surveillance mode. Moreover, sectors deemed important can be scanned with different modes at a single moment, being capable of performing in electronically saturated environments and as an all-weather device, and can discern between friend and foes through its IFF capacities and devices.
This is suitable for the Flygvapnet considering that the dimensions it has to watch for are the air and the sea (even more as the Baltic sea is the most important body of water at the East, an area from which most of the threats have come historically, and even currently). As such, it can perform air and sea surveillance missions, Command and Control, Intelligence, control of own assets, surveillance and control of national borders, national assets and national economic zones, search and rescue, alert warning and air policing. The system is compatible with NATO airborne systems and standards.
The Erieye PS-890 radar has other electronic features, such as adaptive waveform generation with digital; pulse-coded electronic frames; signal processing and targeting, a track while scan device; low and medium pulse repetition frequency operating modes; frequency agility; target radar-cross section display; and air-to-air and sea surveillance modes.
Interestingly and despite the system being capable of receiving four multifunction workstations for airborne controllers, it can spare them as it has instead an onboard automatic systems datalink that can transmit to ground station the information gathered by the airborne radar, and with those same stations being capable of transmitting orders to the platform. The airplane and radar are both connected to the integrated Swedish Air Defence System and network StriC-90, thanks to this network, the airplane can maximize its operational performance, complementing in turn and even enhancing the capabilities of such system; this fact makes the Saab 340B AEW&C (S 100B Argus) airplanes very valuable assets in the Flygvapnet. And the same design of the radar module was the first of its kind, being also an alternative to the disc-shaped classical airborne radars. The radar developed by Ericsson is fitted in other similar airborne platforms such as the Embraer EMB-145/E-99 and the Bombardier Global 6000. It has now evolved into the Global Erieye airborne radar.
Variants of the Saab 340 AEW&C (S 100B Argus)
Saab 340 AEW&C / S 100B Argus – Airplanes having the PS-890/FSR-890 radar, and operated by the Royal Thai Air Force.
Saab 340B AEW&C 200 – Version fitted with the IS-340 Erieye radar
Saab 340B AEW&C 300 / S 100D Argus – Airplanes fitted with the upgraded PS-890/ASC-890 radar, capable of admitting from 1 to 4 operators.
Variants of the Saab 2000 AEW&C
Saab 2000 Erieye AEW&C – Version fitted with an airborne Erieye radar
Saab 200 MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft) – Version for Maritime Patrol and capable of performing ASW, ASuW, anti-piracy/anti-narcotics/anti-people smuggling, maritime counter-terrorism operations, search and rescue, support for special forces, SIGINT, and fisheries patrol, among other sea-based security tasks.
Sweden – The Flygvapnet operates four Saab 340 AEW&C (S 100B Argus) fitted with the Erieye radar, alongside 2 additional airframes serving as transport planes, ready to have the radar installed in case it is needed. The first airframes were received in 1994, entering fully in service between 1997 and 1999, and serving in the F16M wing at Malmstatt. Normally, there are no operators onboard, being rather used as a part of the integrated air defence network.
Greece – The Hellenic Air Force decided to acquire the Erieye radar system with 4 units to be installed in Embraer RJ-145 airplanes. While waiting for the newly acquired system to arrive, 2 Saab 340B AEW&C airplanes were loaned by the Greeks in the year 2000. The loaned units were modified, having two to three operator consoles, NATO IFF, communications and datalinks having a ground bases system for information processing fitted for Greek standards, but lacking the Swedish ECCM and also the cockpit display processing information from ground stations. These airplanes were returned to the Flygvapnet by 2003.
Thailand – The Royal Thai Air Force has two Saab 340 AEW&C that received in October 2012.
United Arab Emirates – The United Arab Emirates Air force requested 2 airplanes, with the units delivered being Saab 2000 AEW&C. Now operational.
Saudi Arabia – The Royal Saudi Air Force reportedly operates two Saab 2000 AEW&C for border surveillance.
Pakistan – This country operates four Saab 2000 AEW&C airplanes. 2 more are reportedly on order.
Saab 340 AEW&C – S 100 B Argus Specifications
70 ft 4 in / 21.44 m
66 ft 8 in / 20.33 m
22 ft 11 in / 6.97 m
450 ft² / 41.81 m²
Two General Electric CT7-9B turboprops of 1870 hp with a Dowty Rotol (or Hamilton Standard) 14RF19 four-blade constant speed propeller.
22,707 lb / 10,300 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight
29,101 lb / 13,200 kg
7,500 lb / 3,401 kg
2,000 ft / 10,2 m/s
285 mph / 528 kmh
285 mph / 528 kmh
900.988 mi / 1,450 km
Maximum Service Ceiling
25,000 ft / 7,620 m
An Ericsson Erieye (PS-890) radar.
Länk 16, HQII, IFF, secure voice, m.m.
Saab 2000 AEW&C Specifications
81 ft 3 in / 24.76 m
89 ft 6 in / 27.28 m
25 ft 4 in / 7.73 m
600 ft² / 55.7 m²
Two Allison/Rolls Royce AE 2100A turboprops of 4152 hp with a Dowty Rotol six-blade constant speed propeller.
30,424 lb / 10,800 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight
50,625 lb / 22,800 kg
13,010 lb / 5,900 kg
2,250 ft / 11,4 m/s
391,26 mph / 929,68 kmh
391,26 mph / 929,68 kmh
2,301.55 mi / 3,704 km
Maximum Service Ceiling
30,000 ft / 9,144 m
An Ericsson Erieye (PS-890) radar.
Länk 16, Self-protection systems, IFF/SSR, secure voice, ESM/ELINT, AIS; Command and Control devices such as consoles and a latest generation HMI.
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.
Republic of China (1942)
Prototype Fighter Plane – 10 Built
The 1st AFAMF XP-0 was a prototype fighter designed by China during the early stages of World War 2. Based off of the American Curtiss Hawk-75’s (P-36 Hawk) design, the XP-0 was essentially an improvement with performance increases. Relatively obscure to the Western world, the XP-0 is a unique plane to study as it came from the Republic of China, a nation with relatively poor industrial capabilities and a heavy reliance on aid from other countries such as the USA and USSR.
Prior to the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the ROCAF (Republic of China Air Force) was looking to modernize their equipment. Seeing an opportunity for economic gain, many American aviation companies such as Beechcraft, Consolidated, Ford, and Curtiss began to send out demonstration aircrafts and salesmen. On June 8th 1937, the first Curtiss H-75H (serial number 12327) made its way to Nanjing (Nanking) for demonstration flights. Flown by Curtiss representative pilot, Peter Brewster, in August, Chinese air force officials were very impressed with the characteristics of the H-75H and immediately bought the demonstrator aircraft. After more test flights, the decision to import more H-75s was approved, and as such, thirty models of the H-75M (serial numbers 12625-12654) with non-retractable landing gears were bought and imported some time between May and August, 1938. The final H-75 to be bought by the ROCAF is a H-75Q (serial number 12898), which arrived in Rangoon (nowadays Yangon) in December, 1938, where it was test flown against various other aircrafts in service with the ROCAF such as the Soviet Polikarpov I-15 and I-16 and proved superior to them.
When the Second Sino-Japanese war began on July 7th, 1937, there became an obvious increase in demand for combat aircraft. In 1940, wanting to take advantage of the H-75’s advanced design, the executive of the 1st AFAMF (Air Force Aircraft Manufacturing Factory) Zhu Jia Ren (朱家仁) proposed the idea to design a fighter plane based on the H-75 – the H-75 itself was no longer provided to China as the US could no longer supply China with weapons without ruining their diplomatic relationship with Japan. Once Zhu was given the go-ahead by the Chinese government, work immediately began on designing a fighter based on the H-75. After a very lengthy design stage, the final draft of the design was completed, allowing for a prototype to be built in 1942. After the prototype was manufactured, it was ready for flight evaluations. As such, the prototype was transferred to Yanglin (杨林) Airfield located near Kunming (昆明). The test pilot chosen was Lieutenant Wang Zhong Xiao (王中校), an experienced pilot who had considerable flight time in H-75 Hawks. Xiao was able to take off successfully without any problems, and flew around the airfield before coming down to land. During the landing, Xiao noticed that the XP-0’s landing speed was considerably higher than the H-75’s, and this threw him off. The left gear leg of the XP-0 hit the ground first, and caused the plane to tumble and crash into the ground. The wings, rear fuselage and landing gear were all torn off, with the cockpit area smashing onto the ground and leaving the plane belly up. Miraculously, Xiao was able to climb out of the cockpit unharmed. The conclusion of this mishap was that it was caused by pilot error. Xiao, however, was not punished or berated for this. Instead, the design team was even more determined and encouraged to keep on improving and polishing the design seeing as according to Xiao, the XP-0 performed similar to the H-75 in some aspects, but superior in other aspects such as speed.
After further adjustments and improvements to the XP-0 design, two examples were produced some time in 1944, with two more following in early-mid 1945. There are many indications that more test flights were made which were met with no mishaps and positive results, but the details of these alleged flights is unknown. After the victory against Japan, the ROCAF began to demobilize in 1946. Due to this, the XP-0 was no longer seen as a top priority, and new materials were not supplied to the 1st AFAMF for production of more examples. However, the 1st AFAMF used materials in storage to produce five more XP-0 fighters before stopping production once and for all. In total, ten XP-0 fighters were produced including the first one from 1942 to 1946. Unfortunately, the fate of these other nine fighters produced is not known, much like many other indigenous Chinese planes designed during the war. It would be reasonable to assume that these were probably destroyed or scrapped by the Nationalists to prevent them from being captured by the Communists, or the Communists captured the prototypes but destroyed them soon afterwards.
As mentioned earlier, the XP-0’s design was based off of the Curtiss H-75’s design. It is not a direct copy of it, although they share many aesthetic characteristics. The first XP-0 prototype was constructed using parts from crashed H-75s, namely the landing gears, the cockpit’s instrumental gauges (airspeed, oil pressure, fuel load, etc.), and perhaps spars. It is unknown to what extent the XP-0 used recycled or salvaged parts from the crashed H-75s. The fuselage itself is indigenously made using a combination of metal and wood taken from the Outer Mongolia region of China. With regards to armament , many sources stated the armament would consist of a single .50 calibre (12.7x99mm) M2 Browning and a single .30 calibre (7.62x63mm) M1919 Browning. However, this is debated. (See the Common Misconceptions section below) The first XP-0 prototype was unarmed and it is unknown whether or not the other nine machines were armed. Unfortunately due to relatively scarce reliable sources available publicly, the finer details of the XP-0 are unknown. As for the other nine examples produced between 1944 and 1946, it is unknown whether or not they continued using salvaged H-75 parts or indigenously produced parts. Seeing as the war situation gradually improved in China’s favor, it is not unreasonable to assume that the quality of the other machines went up too.
One of the most common mistakes people make is calling the XP-0 either the “Chu X-PO”, “X-PO” or anything similar. The official designation is “XP-0”, as the ROCAF structured their designation system similar to how the USAAF structured theirs. It would be illogical to have a such a name deviation for this project.
Another misconception is that the XP-0 was a stepping block to develop the XP-1, meaning that the XP-0 was some sort of a “prototype” to the XP-1. However, these two machines are not related in any way except for the fact that it is being manufactured by the same factory and both share the common “XP” (研驱) designation, which refers to a prototype plane.
The last notable dilemma to discuss is the armament of the XP-0. Many sources state that the XP-0 was to be armed with two or four 20mm Madsen cannons or Hispano-Suiza cannons while many other sources states that the intended armament was one 12.7mm M2 Browning and one 7.62mm M1919 Browning machine gun. While it is not impossible that cannons were to be used, it is very unlikely, as the airframe of the XP-0 was based off of the H-75A, and the H-75A was designed and armed with machine guns. The most probable and reasonable armament would therefore be the single M2 Browning and M1919 Browning setup. With the deviation of these armament setups, it is possible that the nine machines produced from 1944 to 1946 may have been armed with different guns.
Republic of China – The XP-0 was going to be solely operated by the Republic of China Air Force.
The Breda Ba.65 was an Italian ground attack plane that first saw action during the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930’s. It was built in both single and two seat configurations, and was exported to various nations during the buildup to the Second World War, but only saw active combat with the Regia Aeronautica in Northern Africa.
According to Italian Colonel Amadeo Mecozzi, a WWI veteran fighter ace, the best use of aerial forces was the fast neutralization of military targets rather than unnecessarily wasting resources by attacking civilians or civil industry.He placed a big emphasis on the development of attack aircraft that could perform several different roles. Per his request, the major Italian aircraft manufacturers were to present their proposed planes that would be used by the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force) in the future.
Two aircraft were selected to test the Mecozzi concept. The Caproni A.P. 1 and Breda Ba.64, which were both ready for use in 1933-34. Both of these monoplanes were relatively modern in appearance. The low performance of the Caproni A.P. 1 in the Spanish Civil War led to withdrawal from the front line, with some 54 – 57 being produced.
The Ba.64 prototype was powered by a Bristol Pegasus radial engine, license-built by Alfa Romeo, but was later replaced by a better new Alfa Romeo 125 RC35 engine with 650 hp. It was armed with four 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT guns in the wings and the bomb load was around 500-550kg. But despite the stronger engine the speed was low for an fighter or an attack aircraft (350km/h). A few were tested in the Spanish Civil War in 1938 but flight performance was disappointing and it was removed from service and replaced with the Ba.65.
The Ba.65 made its first flights in September of 1935. It was designed to be a multi-role aircraft as a light bomber/attack aircraft, reconnaissance, and interceptor aircraft. Ba.65 was a cantilever low-wing monoplane with the main landing gear units retracting rearwards into the underwing fairings. The materials used on the Ba.65 was the chrome-molybdenum steel alloy tubing, covered overall with duralumin sheet, except for some parts of the wing’s trailing edges which were fabric-covered.
The engine used on the prototype was the French Gnome-Rhone K-14 700 hp (522 kW) or 900hp according to some sources. The same engine would be used to equip the first production series of some 81 aircraft. The remaining planes would be built with one 1,000hp (746 kW) Fiat A.80 RC.41 18-cylinder radial piston engine. Maximum speed with the stronger engine was 267 mph (430 km/h) with the effective range of some 342 mi (550 km) and a service ceiling up to 20,700 ft (6,300 m).
The main armament was two 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT heavy machine guns and two 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns. All were placed in the wings plus a bomb load of around 500kg, with 300kg in the fuselage bomb-bay and 200kg more on the underwing racks. Theoretically it could carry around 1,000kg of bombs, but after some heavy load tests, the result was unsatisfactory and disappointing. The pilot claimed that the plane was impossible to fly with this heavy load. So as a result of this, the weight of the payload was limited to around 500 kg. This improved the flight performance but also reduced the offensive strength and the combat potential of the Ba.65.
Besides the single-seat, a new two-seat version, the Ba.65bis had been developed mostly for export orders and for training and use by the Regia Aeronautica. Besides the pilot, a rear observer/gunner, who used the rear 7.7 machine gun, was positioned in an open cockpit above the trailing edge of the wing. Small numbers were built with a new hydraulically operated Breda L dorsal turret mounting a 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine gun, but it was used mostly for export.
First combat action conducted by this aircraft was in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1939. 13 single-seat aircraft, equipped with Gnome-Rhone engine, were sent by the Italians in order to support the fascist forces. They were attached to the 65a Squadriglia Aviazione Legionaria. The Ba.65 saw heavy action in several battles during the Spanish Civil War such as the Battles of Santander, Teruel and River Ebro. Squadriglia Legionaria was reinforced with 10 new aircraft in 1938, 6 with Fiat engines, and 4 with the older Gnome-Rhone engine. Depending on the source, around 10-12 Ba.65’s survived the Civil War, and were all given to the new fascist regime. The experiences gained during the battles of the Spanish Civil War, had shown that the Ba.65 was capable only in the role of the attack aircraft, a role in which they would serve until the end of the North African Campaign.
By the start of WWII, most if not all Ba.65’s, were involved in the battle for North Africa against the British forces stationed there. The Ba.65 was not used in any other front during the war. Most of the Ba.65’s in Africa were the two-seat versions, with a relatively small number of aircraft equipped with the Breda L turret. Due to difficulty of the desert conditions, low performance and superiority of the enemy’s fighters heavy losses were suffered and almost all Ba.65’s were lost by the end of 1941. Some of the last Italian Ba.65’s were abandoned at Benghazi airfield and were captured by the British on the December of 1941. Few if any survived by the beginning of 1942. Surviving pilots were transferred either to fighter squadrons or to dive-bombing units equipped with German Ju-87B.
Due to the lack of technical capabilities to improve the flying performance of this aircraft and the failing of the Ba.88 aircraft project, Italy was left with no adequate and contemporary attack aircraft, forcing them to use the older Fiat C.R.32, some modified SM.79s, German Ju-87 and later some modified fighter planes for this role.
In addition to the combat units, several B.65 were flown for a short time in flight schools. They were utilized alongside several Ba.64 and A,P.1 to train pilots for attacking and bombing operations.
They were used by Iraq, in the Anglo–Iraqi War during May 1941. All Iraqi Ba.65’s were stationed near Baghdad in the 5thSquadron and saw some limited action against British positions and airfields. Despite some military aid from Germany and Italy, the Iraqis failed to drive the British out, who were set to invade Iraq. On the 31st of May, an armistice was signed ending the Iraqi revolt.
Production and modifications
Production of this aircraft began in 1936, running several production series. First was in 1936 with 81 aircraft produced with the 700 kW engine. The second series ended in July 1939 with a total of 137 aircraft produced, 80 by Breda and 57 by Caproni-Vizzola, equipped with the Fiat A.80 engine. Total production run was 215 operational aircraft. Of the total produced, 55 were sold to Iraq, Chile and Portugal. Few modifications to the original aircraft were ever made:
Ba.65 – Single-seat version
Ba.65 – Two-seat trainers version
Ba.65 bis – Two-seat attack aircraft version (some equipped with a rear gun turret)
Italy – Utilized mostly the two-seat version and a few with the Breda L turret.
Iraq – Bought around 25 Ba.65 two-seaters aircraft in 1938. Next to two dual-control trainers, the rest were equipped with the Breda L turret. They were used in limited combat against British in 1941.
Chile – Bought 17 single-seaters, with Piaggio PXI C.40 engine, in 1938, and 3 dual-control trainers.
Portugal – In November 1939 had acquired 10 Fiat engined two-seat versions with the Breda L turret.
China –Planned to acquire some Ba.65, but no deliveries were made.
Fascist Spain – Used all surviving Ba.65s left by the Italians after the end of the Civil War.
With recent study trips to Russia, the Plane Encyclopedia team has been working closely with the Russian Archives to record and scan aircraft performance data and various other aviation related documents. While doing this, the team has accidentally rediscovered a series of then-classified documents regarding a secret biological weapon designed in 1941 intended to be used on Berlin in an attempt to stop or at least delay the German advance on Moscow. Classified “Project 337” by the Soviets, the weapon would have been able to bring havoc on any city it was deployed on. Come read the story of the newly discovered Project 337!
In the early stage of Operation Barbarossa during the shift of fall to winter, the Soviet high command became increasingly worried and desperate for a way to halt or at least delay the seemingly unstoppable German advance. On September 29th of 1941, a top secret meeting was held at the Kremlin to discuss the current losses of the Soviet Union, and how to replace the lost equipment. With mostly desperate ideas such as using outdated equipment such as 19th century rifles and cannons taken from stockpiles. Finally, a serious and feasible idea was brought up, which was to bomb Berlin with biological weapons, causing the city to plunge into chaos, and to warrant the retreat of the Germans. With Stalin liking the idea, he immediately agreed and ordered the project to be finished no later than November 29th.
Unfortunately, the dimensions, location, team and materials used to develop Project 337 is unknown as the documents that specifies these are still classified and withheld by the Russian government. What is known however, is that the disease which would be used in Project 337 was tularemia.
With extensive research in the Russian archives, two photos of Project 337 were able to be obtained. The first photo shows the roof of the weapon, which consisted of a bowl shaped canopy with more than a dozen holes. This would have been how the tularemia bacteria would be released. The second photo shows what seems to be the finished Project 337 prototype, which looked like a huge metallic peanut with the black canopy.
On December 1st of 1941, Project 337 was completed and was now ready to be tested on Berlin. To carry such a weapon, the Soviet Air Force began looking for a capable heavy bomber which would be able to fly at tall heights. Although scarce, the bomber chosen was the Petlyakov Pe-8 bomber. A single Pe-8 was transferred from the Far East Regiments and modified to carry Project 337. As for personnel, experienced pilots Lieutenant Igor N. Timoshenko, Junior Lieutenant Dima I. Pokryshkin and Lieutenant Mikhail Gorkin were chosen to complete the task of dropping the prototype biological weapon on Berlin. These pilots were not told of the contents they were carrying, and was only instructed to fly to Berlin, drop the payload and return to base as the Soviets still wished to maintain the secrecy of the project.
On December 5th, Lieutenant Igor N. Timoshenko, Junior Lieutenant Dima I. Pokryshkin and Lieutenant Mikhail G. Gorkin took off in the Pe-8 carrying Project 337 at 8:31 PM from an undisclosed secret airfield. With the intent of maintaining stealth, the Pe-8 crew would have maintained radio silence in order to not get detected. Approximately 1 hour and 14 minutes into the flight, the Soviet ground crew were surprised to receive an emergency radio call from the aircrew. According to the recently declassified Soviet documents, the ground crew reported that Lieutenant Gorkin shout in the radio in panic that the Pe-8’s inner starboard engine caught fire, and that the plane was rapidly losing altitude. Lieutenant Gorkin decided the best thing to do was to perform an emergency landing, and he made this decision known to the ground crew. Unfortunately, the documents stated that contact was lost with the crew during the botched emergency landing. One of the documents dated April 1st of 1944 stated that efforts to locate the Pe-8 has failed, and that the plane likely crashed into a body of water. Due to the loss of the sole bomb, tests were unable to be completed and the project was set back. This led to the eventual abandonment of the project as the Soviets couldn’t afford to spend more time development such a weapon.
The final document which referenced Project 337 dated April 20th of 1948 mentioned that the incident which caused the destruction of the Pe-8 was improper maintenance. It is said that the mechanics responsible for the maintenance were executed, while the radio crew were sent to the gulag. Timoshenko, Pokryshkin and Gorkin’s families were all sent a letter stating that they died in combat as heroes. In conclusion, Project 337 can be considered a failure. With the current evidence that the Plane Encyclopedia team has, it is reasonable to assume that the Pe-8 carrying Project 337 is perhaps still out there buried beneath layers of mud, sand, or water, never to be seen by mankind again.
Rep. No. Поддельный источник, используемый для апрельских дураков (04.01.1944) (1944).
Rep. No. Полностью реальный источник, а не подделка (04.20.1948) (1948).
Empire of Japan (1943) Prototype Fighter Interceptor – 1 Built
The Kawasaki Ki-88 was a fighter interceptor designed in 1942 with the intent of intercepting enemy aircraft heading towards vital military locations. The Ki-88 would never see service, as it was cancelled in 1943 after a mockup and partial prototype were constructed. Although considered by many to be the Japanese copy of the American Bell P-39 Airacobra due to the exterior aesthetic similarities, this is only speculation.
The origins of the Kawasaki Ki-88 began in August of 1942 when Tsuchii Takeo, a designer for Kawasaki, responded to a design specification put forward by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service (IJAAS). The IJAAS determined that they needed an interceptor aircraft that would defend important military assets like airfields, gun emplacements, and others. The specification also stated that the aircraft had to be heavily armed, provide a stable gun platform and be easily flyable by new pilots.
Takeo began work on the Ki-88 and chose to use a 37mm Ho-203 cannon as the plane’s primary armament, with two 20mm Ho-5 cannons to complement the Ho-203. The placement of the guns prompted Takeo to place the engine behind the cockpit. Many sources state that this was done to copy the American Bell P-39 Airacobra, but that claim is debated. The P-39 Airacobra was in service at the time the Ki-88 was developed, but saw limited service with the United States. It did however, see service during the Battle of Guadalcanal. The Japanese were certainly aware of its existence and possibly captured an example of the P-39. If they did indeed capture an example, Takeo could have simply copied the gun and engine placement. It is important to note that such a “rear-engine” fighter configuration was a rarity in plane design at the time. Another common theory is that Takeo came to the same conclusion as H.M Poyer (designer of the P-39) did during the planning phase and designed the plane without copying the P-39. Other than the engine and gun placement, the two planes are quite dissimilar.
Takeo completed the Ki-88’s design in June of 1943. A full scale mockup and prototype were in the works in mid/late 1943, and estimated that the prototype would be completed in October of 1943. However, after the mockup and plans were inspected by representatives of the IJAAS, it was concluded that the Ki-88 had no real improvements over other designs of the time, and the top speed was only slightly better than the Kawasaki Ki-61 after calculations. The IJAAS immediately lost interest and ordered Kawasaki to cease all work on it.
The Ki-88 was a single seater, single engine fighter powered by a Kawasaki Ha-140 engine producing 1,500hp while driving a propeller using an extension shaft. The radiator was placed under the cockpit at the bottom of the fuselage. There was an air intake placed beneath the fuselage on the left to provide cooling for the supercharger in the Ha-140.
The Ki-88 used a conventional landing gear, in which the main wheels could be retracted into the wings while the tail wheel stayed fixed. There was a fuel tank in each of the wings, beside the landing gear wells.
The size of the Ho-203 canon prevented Takeo from placing the engine into the nose which led him to place it behind the pilot’s cockpit, much like the American P-39 Airacobra. Moving the engine to the back of the cockpit was a smart move, as it theoretically would have made the plane a more stable gun platform. Under the Ho 203, on both sides of the nose, there were two 20mm Ho-5 cannons.
Empire of Japan – The Ki-88 was supposed to have been operated by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service, but never did so due to the design being deemed as inferior to the Ki-61 and was thus cancelled.
Fighter Bomber and Reconnaissance – 155 Built
The Breda Ba.88 Lince, Italian for Lynx, saw service with the Reggia Aeronautica during the early days of WWII. The Lince prototype was initially touted as a propaganda tool for fascist Italy with its bona fide world records for airspeed. However it’s eventual service life was cut short by drastic performance problems by the time the weight of military armaments, eventually earning it a popular reputation as one of the worst aircraft failures of all time.
On January 20th of 1936, the Italian Air Force (Reggia Aeronautica) put in a request to all Italian aviation companies for a new multi-purpose twin-engine aircraft. The new aircraft’s specification is that it should be capable of achieving a top speed of least 300 mph (470 km/h), have a service ceiling of 20,000 ft (6000 m), a flight range of 1,250 mi (2000 km), and good takeoff and landing characteristics. The armament was to consist of several 12.7 mm machine guns or a few 20mm cannons. Several companies responded to this request, with their suggestions. In the end the Breda Ba.88 aircraft was chosen.
Italian designers Antonio Parano and Giuseppe Panzeri had plans to make the Ba.88 a multi-purpose two-seat aircraft, which in essence meant that it would be suitable for long-range reconnaissance, bombing operations, and to serve as a heavy fighter aircraft similar to the German Messerschmitt Bf 110.
The Ba.88 was a twin engine all-metal high-wing monoplane. The engines on the prototype were two 900 hp (671 kW) Gnome-Rhone K-14 radials. It had a retractable tailwheel landing gear. The prototype at first had a single vertical tail assembly but it was later changed to a new modified tail unit with twin fins and rudders.
The Ba.88 prototype, designated MM 302, had its first test flight in October 1936. The first test pilot was Furio Niclot Doglio, Breda’s main test pilot. In February 1937 the Ba.88 prototype was sent to the Guidonia for more army flight tests. In April 1937 two new speed over distance world records were achieved, with average speed of 321 mph (517km/h) over 62 miles (100km) and the second of 295 mph (475km/h) over a distance of 621 mi (1000km). These records were set by Furio Niclot Doglio. Later that year he reached a top speed of 325.6 mph (524 km/h) and 344.2 mph (554km/h). The results of these test flights were more than satisfactory, and often used by the Italian fascist regime for propaganda purposes. But this string of successes did not last for long.
With the installation of military equipment and weapon armament the performance and flight characteristics fell off dramatically, which affected the operational efficiency and history of this Lince. Top speed achieved with the full military equipment and armament was much lower than that on the test flights. This gave rise to a question of its use in the role of a fighter aircraft. Italian army test pilots expressed concern over its flight characteristics, since even the simple maneuvers were hard to achieve. In order to try to fix some of these issues, a number of weight saving modification were done, such as reducing the main armament and installing two new 1000 hp Piaggio engines. Later during the war, even the rear gun position was removed in order to save weight. But these problems would be never solved completely. Despite this an order was placed for 88 new Ba.88 aircraft.
The Ba.88 production model was powered by two 1000hp (746 kW) Piaggio P.XI RC.40 14-cylinder radial piston engines. Maximum top speed with the new engines was 304 mph (490 km/h), effective range was 1000 mi (1640 km) and the service ceiling was up to 26,000 ft (8000m).
The main armament consisted of three 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT heavy machine guns plus one 7.7mm machine gun also Breda-SAFAT type, used by the rear gunner. Total bomb load was around 2,200 lbs (1000kg), in the fuselage bomb-bay or three 200kg bombs carried semi-exposed in individual recesses in the lower fuselage.
After the German attack on the Allies in France in May 1940, Italy also declared war on the Allies on 16 June 1940 and started to attack the French positions to the south. The Lince saw its first combat actions during those operations. Some 12 planes from the Regia Aeronautica 19° Gruppo Autonomo (independent group) made several bombing attacks raids on airfields in Corsica. A few days later a group of nine Ba.88 planes made a new bombing raid. But after the end of the Battle of France, Italian combat analysis of this air attacks had led to the conclusion that the Ba.88 aircraft had only limited value as a effective operational aircraft.
The next combat use of the Ba.88 was in North Africa. The Linces of the 7° Gruppo Autonomo were used in Libya against the British forces. Although they were equipped with special sand filters, the engines overheated and failed to deliver their designed power. Many planned attacks, such as the one on targets at Sidi Barrani in September 1940, had to be aborted. The Ba.88 aircraft had failed to gain sufficient altitude or even maintain formation, but the biggest problem was the inability to reach the speed that the manufacturers claimed it had.
Because of these problems, most if not all surviving Linces were been stripped of all useful equipment and armament and were scattered around major airfields mostly to act as decoys for British attacks. Ironically at that time, a further two batches of new Ba.88s were being delivered. Some 19 from Breda and 48 examples from IMAM were mostly sent straight to the scrapyard.
But the story of the Ba.88 does not end there. Three or more Ba.88 examples were modified by the Agusta aircraft plant in 1942 to be used as a improved ground-attack aircraft. Sources are not precise of how many were modified, the number of modified aircraft ranges from 3 to 14. The modification included increasing the wingspan by 6.5 feet (2m) in the hopes of alleviating wing loading problems. Two new Fiat A.74s engines were installed and the armament was increased up to four 12.7mm machine guns and dive brakes were installed. This modified Ba.88, now called the Ba.88M, were delivered and used by the 103° Gruppo Autonomo Tuffatori (independent dive-bombing group) stationed at Lonate Pozzolo on 7 September 1943. They were also used and tested by Luftwaffe pilots. Their fate is not known.
The Breda Ba.88 has a popular reputation as the “worst operational aircraft.” This is in part due to the vast difference in performance from the sleek and advanced-for-the-time prototype that was able to set world speed records, until production aircraft fitted with the weight of wartime armament drastically hampering the plane’s flight characteristics as previously mentioned. However it should be noted that by most accounts there are no prominent records of catastrophic structural failure, crashes, accidents, or combat losses. Perhaps the primary reason for this reputation is how quickly the aircraft’s operational service life was dispensed with, the marked difference in the performance of the prototype versus the fully outfitted wartime production model, and the premature relegation to the scrapyard or the duty of airfield decoy.
Production of initial production run of the Lince started in May of 1939 and ended in October of that same year. The first batch of some 80 aircraft, plus eight dual-control trainers were built by Breda. Later, by the second half of the 1940 some 67 more examples were built in small batches, 19 by Breda and 48 by IMAM. In the end total production was 155 aircraft plus the initial prototype.
Ba.88 Prototype – Initial prototype, set several world speed records, 1 built
Ba.88 Lince – Main production model, 155 built
Ba.88Trainer – Dual-control trainers, 8 built
Ba.88M – Three modified aircraft in order to improve flight performance
Breda Ba.88 Lince Specifications
51 ft 3 in / 15.6 m
35 ft 4 in / 10.79 m
10 ft 2 in / 3.1 m
358.8 ft² / 33.3 m²
Two 1000 hp (746 kW) Piaggio P.XI RC.40 14-cylinder radial piston engines.
10,250 lb / 4,650 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight
14,900 lb / 6,750 kg
419 U.S. Gal / 1,586 L
9,843 ft / 3,000 m in 7 minutes & 30 seconds
304 mph / 490 km/h
1,000 mi / 1,640 km
Maximum Service Ceiling
26,250 ft / 8,000 m
1 pilot & 1 rear gunner
Three nose mounted 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT heavy machine guns