Focke Wulf Ta 154 Moskito

Nazi flag Nazi Germany (1943)
Heavy Fighter – 52 ~ 97 Built

V1 being piloted by Kurt Tank. (Monogram Close-up 22)

Designed as a stopgap to combat the ever-growing numbers of Royal Air Force bombers and de Havilland Mosquitos, the Focke-Wulf Ta 154 was a project plagued with problems, from the glue used for its wooden construction to the unreliable landing gear. After the construction of dozens of prototypes and variants the project was eventually canceled due to inadequate performance and the lack of skilled workers available able to handle the plane’s specialized wooden construction process.

Development

Until the large RAF (Royal Air Force) bomber offensive on Cologne (Köln), Essen, and Bremen in mid-1942, the Luftwaffe had focused on developing offensive aircraft. Shortly after these raids, Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal) Erhard Milch, the Minister of Air Armaments, held a development conference to spark ideas for possible uses of the Jumo 211 engine. Afterward, Milch made it clear that using “homogenous wood” was a viable option for producing light airplane airframes. The term ‘homogeneous’ refers to the fact that the construction material was all of the same type of plywood. Coincidentally, Milch was also very interested in the creation of a new light, high-speed night bomber.

Blueprint of the Ta 154 before receiving its final designation. (Monogram Close-up 22)

In September of 1942, Focke-Wulf presented the concept of developing a plane equivalent to the De Havilland Mosquito to the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM, the Nazi Ministry of Aviation). It was detailed as being a high-speed, dual-engined, and unarmed bomber. Focke-Wulf’s proposal would be constructed of 50% wood, 39% steel, and 11% fabric (it is not specified whether this was by weight or volume). The RLM immediately gave Focke-Wulf a high-priority contract. The design continued to be refined as a high-speed bomber until 16 October 1942, when Generalfeldmarschall Milch decided to voice the importance of the aircraft’s secondary role as a night fighter. At the time, Germany was in dire need of twin-engine fighters with a large operational range in order to combat the growing waves of Allied bombers, which carried out their missions day and night. In order to satisfy Milch’s requirements, the aircraft was now to be equipped with a FuG 212 search radar and a fixed armament of two MK 103 and two MG 151 cannons.

Cutaway of the Ta 154’s wing spar. (National Air and Space Museum Archives)

With the Ta 154 being constructed mostly of plywood and having promising performance estimates, the Technische Amt (Technical Research Office) was highly interested. They believed they had finally found a second generation night fighter that could adapt to the material shortages facing the Reich at that point and capable of replacing the aging Bf 110. Consequently, Erhard Milch focused his attention even more on the Ta 154’s night fighter capabilities and decided to stop pursuing high-speed bomber research. On 13 November 1942, the Technical Research Office continued their support for the project, then known as the “Ta 211” or the “Focke-Wulf Night Fighter,” and urged Focke-Wulf to continue developing the aircraft. Shortly after, the aircraft received the designation “Ta 154,” which it would keep for the duration of its existence.

On 8 January 1943, just days after Focke-Wulf was told to construct ten prototypes of the Ta 154, the “Ta 154 Startup Conference” took place. At the conference, it was made clear that while the project was promising, there were not enough skilled woodworkers to produce the aircraft. In addition, it was correctly theorized that the Jumo 211 wouldn’t produce enough horsepower at altitude to match the enemy’s aircraft development. The Technische Amt requested an armament of four MK 103 cannons, but in March of the same year, an analysis of the plane revealed that the nearly eight foot long cannons would not be able to fit. It was decided in June 1943 that production of the Ta 154 would be separated into three areas, Silesia, Thuringia, and the Warthe District, with the Warthe District being responsible for the most variants.

Kurt Tank at the controls of the V1 shortly before takeoff. (Tank Power No.304: Focke-Wulf Ta 154)

After only 9 months in the making, the first prototype took flight in early July 1943, flown by Hans Sander. It is often publicized that Kurt Tank, designer of the plane, piloted the Ta 154 on its maiden flight, but this is incorrect, as he was too important to risk in such a potentially dangerous test. Sander later described the plane as being easier to control than the Heinkel 219, which he had flown prior. However, performance was not up to par with the estimates Focke-Wulf started with. Problems continued when it was speculated that installing the FuG 212 radar, flame dampers, and drop tanks requested by the Technische Amt would slow the Ta 154 down to an estimated 360 mph (580 km/h) at altitude. Not only would it slow the aircraft significantly, but it would also lower the service ceiling from 34,100 ft (10,400 m) to 30,800 ft (9,400 m). Due to this, Focke-Wulf demanded the delivery of the more powerful Jumo 213 engines the aircraft desperately needed. Focke-Wulf was promptly declined and were told the engines would be ready in mid-1944.

Kurt Tank taxiing the V1. (Monogram Close-up 22)

On 29 October 1943, a very successful Luftwaffe pilot by the name of Thierfelder test flew the Ta 154. Although he praised the Ta 154, RLM’s head of planning, Oberst Diesing, criticized the plane just months later, stating that any ordinary pilot would not have the same positive experience. The Oberst’s critiques didn’t stop there, however, as he alleged that pieces of the aircraft fuselage fell off when firing the guns and airframe vibrations would discourage pilots from flying the aircraft.

During another conference on 17 March 1944, a date for the start of production could not be set due to the lack of trained workers experienced with handling the plane’s bonding materials and insufficient bonding resin. In addition, the delivery of the Jumo 213 engines was set back further, and it was decided to complete the first production model in the coming months. On 12 April 1944, flight captain Hans Sander, who test flew both the Fw 187 and Ta 154, presented a prototype to Hermann Göring. Göring already had a massive interest in the development of the Ta 154, and the demonstration only fortified his overinflated view of the plane. Soon afterward, the prototype construction program called for prototypes V1 through V9 to be fitted with new metal control surfaces. Unfortunately, the V3 had recently crashed, and the V4 was being repaired after it had crashed.

V1 being towed prior to taking off. (National Air and Space Museum Archives) [Colorized by Michael Jucan]
In mid-1944, trials at Langenhagen uncovered more problems, including the weakness of the landing gear and its hydraulics. Focke-Wulf released a report soon after detailing the total number of crashes so far. V1, V3, V4, V5, V8, and V9 had all crashed from 1943 to May 1944. The crash of the V8 had been caused by an engine fire, resulting in both the pilot and radio operator dying in the crash. Had the cockpit been made of metal, the crew would have survived. This motivated all those working on the Ta 154 to produce a metal fuselage or continue working on the C model, which possessed a metal nose and cockpit.

On May 29, 1944, RAF bombers bombed the factory in the Posen province, as well as destroying the glue manufacturing facility owned by the Goldschmitt Company (Tegofilm). There was also an attempt by Allied fighters to strafe the Langenhagen airfield where the Ta 154 was being tested. This was planned by the Allies to stop the planned production of the Ta 154, as it was believed that it could prove a worthy opponent to their air superiority. In the end this, along with shifting priorities, contributed to the termination of the Ta 154 program.

The V7 at Langenhagen shortly before takeoff. (Monogram Close-up 22)

More problems continued to arise in late-1944, as the mounts for the MK 108 cannons could not handle the recoil of the large caliber gun. Consequently, any Ta 154’s that did see combat were only fitted with the remaining two MG 151/20 cannons and did not have a metal fuselage. Those aircraft were deployed in Northern Germany. Furthermore, finding a suitable source for resin was proving ever more difficult. More prototypes had been planned under the names V1a, V11, V14a, and V24, with the last two being planned for static testing of the C variant. During another meeting on May 24th between Kurt Tank, Milch, Galland, Heinkel, Vogt, Frydag, Saur, and Göring, Tank finally admitted that the project was stalled because of the lack of the necessary resin. Moreover, Göring was becoming disappointed in the engine’s performance affecting the entire aircraft and feared that upgrading to the Jumo 213 would still leave much to be desired. Göring continued to voice his concerns with the wooden underside of the aircraft which made belly landings impossible. Tank’s Ta 154 was now on the chopping block. On 6th July, 1944, GFM Milch notified Focke-Wulf that the Ta 154 and Ta 254 programs would be terminated immediately.

All the remaining aircraft were left to sit at airfields. This resulted in most being destroyed in air raids and strafing attacks by Allied planes. Of the few remaining Ta 154’s used by separate night-fighter groups, many were destroyed to prevent capture by Allied troops. Of the 50-100 complete aircraft and many incomplete airframes, the Allies found a single Ta 154 A-1 intact, formerly used by NJG 3 (Nachtjagdgeschwader 3 / Night Hunter Squadron 3) at Lechfeld. The Ta 154 was placed behind a stack of jet engines waiting to be scrapped. It is likely that any captured Ta 154’s were scrapped, as none survive today. There is, however, a replica of the forward sections of the V3 at the Luftfahrttechnisches Museum in Rechlin, placed there in 2006. Many replicas exist at the museum, including the Me 262 HG I, He 162, and Ju 388.

Variants

V1 after it has received its designation. (Monogram Close-up 22)

There were many different variants of the Ta 154 built or proposed despite its relatively short lifespan. The first prototype was completed in July 1943, with prototype numbers ranging from V1 to V23. V1 through V10 were the first batch of prototypes ordered by the RLM. V11 through V14 were static airframes meant for destructive tests, with the former three resembling A models, and V14 resembling the C variant. V15 was a prototype of the A-2 variant. The use of V16 through V21 is not clear, but V20 is thought to have been the prototype for the C-1 variant, which was never produced. V22 was particularly special because of its lengthened fuselage, and there exists a photo of its wreckage. V23 is less known, but both the V22 and V23 were test beds for the Jumo 213 A. There is close to no information detailing prototypes past V10. Only brief explanations of their purpose is available.

The A-0 model was the pre-production version, of which a total of about twenty-two were constructed. They were equipped with FuG 220 radar, but had their flame dampers removed. The A-1 was the first production variant, very similar to the A-0, of which six were built. The A-2 variant was almost identical to the A-1 in all aspects, and four were built. The A-4 variant featured the addition of upturned wing tips to aid in lateral stability. Only two A-4s are known to have been built.

After the first A model Moskitos were tested, the B model was drawn up. It was based on the A-4, but incorporated a bubble canopy and a metal nose section to protect the pilot in case of belly landings. In early December 1943, however, Technische Amt decided to abandon the Ta 154 B model, and instead focus on the production of the C model, which also had a bulbous canopy, but now had an extended fuselage. It was during this time that the D variant was also realized, but was soon renamed the Ta 254. It would be equipped with Jumo 213 engines, MW 50 injection, and larger wings. No B, C, or Ta 254 models were built.

Production

The backside of the A-1. (Tank Power No.304: Focke-Wulf Ta 154)

The process to build the Ta 154 was not expensive in regards to the amount or costs of the necessary materials, but was pricey in terms of the manpower required for its careful assembly. The fuselage of the Ta 154 alone took four hundred hours to complete. All kinds of jigs and presses were constructed to aid in the process of molding the wood to the correct shape. The key to making so many Ta 154s was having as many workers as possible, but the curing process for the glue resin that was used took up to a full day to cure, which meant lots of time was spent waiting rather than working. Unfortunately for Focke-Wulf, the amount of workers that were experienced in working with these materials were few and far between. This meant the quality of the planes came down to the craftsmanship of each individual worker. Compared to the quality of the RAF Mosquito, the Ta 154 was inferior. The German wood workers were not used to the pressures of wartime production that the British were accustomed to.

The Ta 154 was trialed in some unorthodox ways. To test the strength of the components, a mockup missing both engines and a large portion of its wings was built specifically to be dragged underwater by a towing unit. This was done in 1943 at Lake Alatsee in Füssen, Bavaria. The towing unit was an “FGZ”, a trio of pontoon boats with a large crane in the center of the three. The mockup was dragged underwater at speeds up to 8.45 m/s (16 knots, 30 km/h) to simulate the pressure of flying. There were a total of six of these tests, and on the sixth test, the damage to the mockup became extensive. The nose cone became deformed, each end of the cut-off wing sections were mangled, and the canopy was broken.

Role

The Ta 154, although originally intended to be a high-speed bomber, was fully realized as a night fighter. The purpose of a night fighter is to counter aircraft, specifically bombers in this case, at night or in low visibility conditions. Such an aircraft was highly valued by the Luftwaffe in their efforts to counter the nightly RAF bombing raids targeting German industrialized zones.

Operational Service

Very limited information is available on the actions of the Moskitos assigned to 3.NJGr 10 and NJG 3, however, on March 22, 1945, four Ta 154s were spotted at Stade Airfield. They were observed next to Ju 88 and He 219 night fighters, as well as one undergoing armament tests at a range on the base. Three of the four Ta 154s were covered in light-colored paint, while the last was in a spotted camouflage. To back up the evidence that several were in operational service, a document from Junkers on March 16, 1945, details several Ta 154s being assigned to III./NJG 3. The document proceeds to tell of the experience of the Ta 154s against De Havilland Mosquitos, a fight during which the British plane usually came out on top. Another document from the British, ATI 2nd TAF Report A 685, was made on May 10, 1945. This report detailed the discovery of a crashed Ta 154 in operation as a night fighter on May 6, 1945. The camouflage pattern was a light blue on the majority of the aircraft, with gray spots decorating the top half of the plane. The crew of the aircraft was nowhere to be found, and the aircraft was looted by locals. In addition, the horizontal stabilizer was completely metal, and an angled wing tip device was fitted to improve stability. This points to one of two A-4s produced.

Design

V1 in its original paint scheme. Note the absence of flame dampers. (Monogram Close-up 22)

The Ta 154 “Moskito” was a twin-engined heavy fighter with shoulder-mounted wings, fuselage-mounted horizontal stabilizers, a tricycle landing gear arrangement, while being composed almost entirely out of wood. Perhaps the least noticeable characteristic of the Ta 154 that gave it major problems was its wings. They had no dihedral, which resulted in instability in turns. This problem was fixed in the A-4 variant that took advantage of upturned wingtips. The problem that affected the Ta 154 the most was failure of the front landing gear assembly. Because of the tricycle landing gear arrangement, the front gear had to be long enough to allow clearance for the propellers on the ground. The length of the front landing gear and the lack of thick supports meant failures happened often. The crew of the Ta 154 almost exclusively consisted of a single pilot and a radio operator. The Ta 154 was equipped with a multitude of different radio and radar instruments. This includes the FuG 212 or FuG 220 search radar, FuG 17 VHF Transceiver, PeilG VI direction-finding set, FuBL 2F, FuG 101 altimeter, FuG 25 IFF set, and FuG 28a transponder.

The Ta 154 was often equipped with flame dampers, which are fitted to the exhaust of the engines. The purpose of flame dampers is to dampen engine noise and decrease the visibility of flames exiting the exhaust. The Ta 154, with the exception of very few variants, was equipped with two Jumo 211 F/N/R engines. The variants that did not have those specific engines were provided with Jumo 213 A/E engines that marginally improved the Ta 154’s performance. The A-1 and A-2 variants were equipped with MW 50 injection, which was a combination of water and methanol that both increased boost pressure substantially and allowed the engine to suck in more air. This injection could result in up to hundreds more horsepower than the engine would normally run, but could only be used in short bursts. GM 1, a nitrous-oxide injection system, was also proposed for the A-2 variant. Concerning armament, the Ta 154 was armed with two 20 mm MG 151/20 and two 30 mm MK 108 cannons, although field modifications were made to individual planes. Some modifications included replacing the original armament with two or four MG 151/20’s, or, in rare cases, four MK 108 cannons. The typical ammo count for an armed Ta 154 was 300 rounds total for the MG 151s, and 200 round total for the MK 108 cannons. A bomb load of a single 500kg bomb was proposed for the A-2 variant, but it is unknown whether or not this was attempted. More than one Ta 154 is alleged to have been converted to A-2/U4s, which were equipped with Schräge Musik. Schräge Musik was the German name for upward firing guns that allowed an aircraft to fire on enemies without facing directly at them. This allowed night fighters like the Bf 110 and Do 217 J to catch enemy bombers unaware with gunfire from below them.

At the end of the Ta 154 program, a radical idea to rig up an Fw 190 on a superstructure above spare Ta 154s was realized. The interior of the Moskito would be filled with explosives, as well as replacing unneeded fuel tanks with more explosives. The Ta 154 fly unmanned, and the pilot of the Fw 190 would maneuver both planes on a course into an enemy bomber formation, where the pilot would detach from the Moskito fully laden with explosives. Once the Moskito reached the middle of the formation, it would be remotely detonated by the pilot of the Fw 190. Just like many variants of the Ta 154, this was also never completed.

Variants

Prototypes

  • Ta 154 V1 – First prototype, designated TE+FE, not fitted with armament or flame dampers and equipped with Jumo 211F engines powering three-bladed VS 11 propellers, later retrofitted with Jumo 211N engines. Its first flight took place on July 1, 1943, and it crashed during testing on 31 July 1943 due to landing gear legs collapsing upon landing.
  • Ta 154 V2 – Second prototype, designated TE+FF, fitted with flame dampers and FuG 212 C-1 radar but unarmed. Later retrofitted with Jumo 211N engines. Destroyed in an air raid on August 5, 1944.
  • Ta 154 V3 – Third prototype, designated TE+FG, identical to V2 except for a larger vertical stabilizer. Crashed on 28 February 1944 due to the nose wheel buckling and destroying the nose section. Later damaged beyond repair in an air raid in mid-1944.
  • Ta 154 V4 – Fourth prototype, designated TE+FH, first flight took place on 19 January 1944. Later retrofitted with a raised canopy and an MG 81 in the dorsal position behind the pilot. Crashed on 18 February 1944 due to landing gear experiencing an uncommanded retraction upon landing.
  • Ta 154 V5 – Fifth prototype, designated TE+FI, crashed on 7 April 1944 due to landing gear failure on landing.
  • Ta 154 V6 – Sixth prototype, designated TE+FJ. Possibly captured by Soviet troops at Rechlin.
  • Ta 154 V7 – Seventh prototype, designated TE+FK, painted in RLM 75/76 camouflage pattern, fate unknown.
  • Ta 154 V8 – Eighth prototype, designated TE+FL, first Ta 154 equipped with Jumo 213 engines and VS 111 propellers. Crashed on 6 May 1944 due to an engine fire, both crew members, Otto and Rettig, were killed on impact.
  • Ta 154 V9 – Ninth prototype, designated TE+FM, crashed on 18 April 1944 due to the right wingtip striking the ground, killing H. Meyer on the ground.
  • Ta 154 V10 – Tenth prototype, designated TE+FN, equipped with Jumo 213A engines, fate unknown.

Production Variants

  • Ta 154 A-0 – Pre-production variant fitted with FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN-2 radar and flame dampers removed.
  • Ta 154 A-1 – Production variant, fitted with Jumo 211F, N or R engines
    • Ta 154 A-1/R1 – equipped with GM 1 and an MG 81 in a new dorsal position.
  • Ta 154 A-2 – Fitted with two MG 151/20s and two MK 108 cannons, proposed to equip GM 1 NOS injection and one 500 kg bomb.
    • Ta 154 A-2/U4 – Night fighter variant, same armament as A-2, with the addition of two diagonally placed MK 108 cannons in the rear fuselage. (Schräge Musik)
  • Ta 154 A-4 – Fitted with two MG 151/20 (200 rpg) and two MK 108 (110 rpg) cannons and FuG 218 radar. The most interesting part of the A-4 was the addition of upturned wingtips.
  • Ta 154 B-1 – Proposed two-seat night fighter variant with a raised canopy, metal nose section, drop tanks, and Jumo 211N engines. Research discontinued in favor of the C variant with Jumo 213 engines.
  • Ta 154 C – Proposed variants to be fitted with Jumo 213A engines and incorporating a metal nose section as well as a raised canopy.
    • 5 cm B.K. armed Ta 154 C – A concept of a Ta 154 C variant armed with a 5 cm B.K. 5 cannon conceived in early 1944. None were produced.
  • Ta 254 A – Proposed variant family with Jumo 213E engines, MW 50, four broad-blade VS 9 airscrew assembly and longer wings, enlarging the wing area to 452 ft2 (42 m2)
  • Ta 254 B-1 – Proposed two-person night fighter variant with metal nose section, powered by two DB 603L engines driving VDM propellers.
  • Ta 254 B-2 – Proposed three-person day fighter variant with metal nose section, powered by two Jumo 213F or G engines equipped with three-bladed VDM propellers.
  • Ta 254 B-3 – Proposed one-person all-weather fighter, powered by two DB 603L engines and to be fitted with MW 50 field modification.
  • Ta 154 Mistel – A proposed variant of an unmanned Ta 154 A-4/U3 filled with explosives with an Fw 190A attached above via a detachable superstructure. The 190 pilot would fly the two planes into an enemy bomber formation, detach the superstructure, and detonate the Ta 154’s explosives.

Operators

  • Nazi Germany – A-1 variants were used by the 3rd Staffel of the Nachtjagdgruppe 10 (3.NJGr 10) and Nachtjagdgeschwader 3 (NJG 3). It is not known whether they were lost in combat or achieved any air victories.

Focke-Wulf Ta 154 A-0 Specifications

Wingspan 52 ft 6 in / 16 m
Length 41 ft 4 in / 12.6 m
Height 11 ft 10 in / 3.6 m
Wing Area 348¾ ft² / 32.4 m²
Wing Loading 56.58 lbs/ft2 / 276.23 kg/m2
Engine 2x 1,410 hp (1036 kW) Jumo 211F/2 liquid-cooled inverted V12 piston engine
Propeller 2x 3-blade VS 9 broad-blade airscrew assembly
Powerplant Ratings
Horsepower output Revolutions per minute (rpm) Altitude
Take Off 1,340 hp 2,600 rpm Sea Level
Normal

(Approx. 84% Throttle)

1,006 hp 2,050 rpm 7,200 ft / 2,200 m
853 hp 2,100 rpm 12,500 ft / 3,820 m
907 hp 2,240 rpm 19,400 ft / 5,900 m
670 hp 2,340 rpm 27,900 ft / 8,500 m
Military

(100% Throttle)

1,198 hp 2,270 rpm 6,200 ft / 1,900 m
1,004 hp 2,450 rpm 11,500 ft / 3,500 m
1,046 hp 2,420 rpm 17,400 ft / 5,300 m
865 hp 2,470 rpm 23,000 ft / 7,000 m
Fuel Grade 87 Octane Leaded Gasoline
Fuel Capacity 422 US Gal / 1,600 L
Oil Capacity 42⅓ US Gal / 160 L
Weights
Empty 13,580 lbs / 6,160 kg
Combat 17,840 lbs / 8,090 kg
Maximum Take Off 19,730 lbs / 8,950 kg
Maximum Landing 15,490 lbs / 7,025 kg
Climb Rate 1,770 ft / 540 m per minute
Maximum Speed 385 mph / 620 km/h at 19,700 ft / 6,000 m
Cruising Speed 332 mph / 534 km/h at 9,800 ft / 3,000 m
Landing Speed 115 mph / 185 kmh
Range 990 mi / 1,600 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 31,200 ft / 9,500 m
Crew 1 pilot + 1 radar operator
Armament
  • 2x MK 108 (100 rpg)
  • 2x MG 151 (150 rpg)

Gallery

Focke-Wulf Ta-154 V1 TE+FE – July 1943
Focke-Wulf Ta-154 V3 TE+FG – March 1943
Focke-Wulf Ta-154 V7 TE+FK – March 1944

Focke-Wulf Ta 154 Replica, Luftfahrt Technisches Museum, Rechlin
Ta 154 V3 replica at Luftfahrttechnisches Museum Rechlin by Peter Cook / CC BY-SA 2.0

Videos

Sources

Primary:

  • D.(Luft) T.3803 Junkers Verstelluftschrauben-Anlage Jumo 211 F und J. (1943)
  • Jumo 211 F und J – Baureihe 1 – Leistungsschaubild. (1941)
  • Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau GmbH Nr.26a-Mistel Ta 154 A – Fw 190 A-8 “Beethoven”. (18 July 1944)

Secondary:

Heinkel He 162 Volksjäger

Nazi flag Nazi Germany (1944)
Jet Fighter – 116 ~ 270 Built

The Volksjäger Fighter colorized by Michael Jucan

The combined American, British and Soviet Air Forces began to take over the skies above Europe in the later part of the war. Germans were desperate to find a way to fight the combined Allied bomber raids that were slowly destroying German industry which was necessary for continuation of the war. A cheap and easy to build jet fighter was believed to be the solution to the Allied bombing raids. From these aspirations the Volksjäger, “The People’s Fighter,” project was born.

Emergence of the Volksjäger Concept

The men responsible for the creation of the Volksjäger idea and concept were civil engineers Hauptdienstleiter Dipl-Ing Karlo Otto Saur, who was also a member of the Nazi party, and Generaloberst Alfred Keller.

Otto Saur was quick to realize that by 1944 the Luftwaffe was a shadow of its former glory. This was most obvious for the fighter force, which was engaged in a desperate struggle with a more numerous and better equipped enemy. Otto Saur’s conclusion was that a cheap and easy to build jet fighter could tip the balance of power in Germany’s favor again. He was quick to present his idea to Hermann Göring, Reichsluftfahrtminister, the Reich’s Minister of Aviation, who immediately supported it.

Generaloberst Alfred Keller, who was in charge of the flying, training and sports association (Nationalsozialistisches Fliegerkorps – NSFK) also supported the Volksjäger idea. The NSFK organization was also involved in offering several courses, The Flying Hitler Youth (Flieger Hitlerjugend) on how to build model aircraft and glider flying training for schoolboys. In support of Otto Saur’s proposal, Alfred Keller came with his own proposal to use these young boys, with ages between 15 to 17, as pilots for the mass produced Volksjäger. In Keller’s opinion, all that was needed was some short training with gliders which would be supplemented with more training on the Volksjäger.

Many in the Luftwaffe command opposed this project and the idea of using young boys as fighter pilots against the numerous and well-equipped and trained Allied air forces. The greatest advocate against this project was Generalleutnant Adolf Galland, being supported by Willy Messerschmitt, chief designer of the famous Messerschmitt company, and Kurt Tank, the most well-known designer at Focke-Wulf. The most important reason behind this opposition was the fact that, towards the end of the war, Germany was lacking fuel, materials, pilots, production capacity and many other elements. They argued that all available resources should be directed to the development and production of the already existing Me 262 jet fighter.

In the years prior to the collapse of the Luftwaffe, such a concept would most likely never have gained any support from Luftwaffe officials. However, by 1944, the Germans were in a desperate need for a wonder weapon to turn the tides. As Hermann Göring was no longer in Hitler’s good graces, he was desperate to find a way to appease Hitler. The best way to do this was to somehow find a miraculous solution to salvage the Luftwaffe, stop the incessant Allied bombardment of Germany, and provide much-needed support to the beleaguered Wehrmacht. Through these psychological lens, Otto Saur’s and Alfred Keller’s proposals looked like an ideal solution. Despite the great opposition, Hermann Göring kept insisting that the Volksjäger development should begin as soon as possible. The Volksjäger would later be supported by Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer (the Minister of Armaments and War Production).

First Steps

In the search for a new low-altitude fighter, Oberst Siegfried Knemeyer was named responsible for the Volksjäger’s initial requirements. He was in charge of the Technical Equipment Office for flight development of the Ministry of Aviation (Reichsluftfahrtministerium, RLM). Siegfried Knemeyer was an experienced military pilot and engineer who participated in the test flights of many different experimental aircraft designs. From 1943 onward, he was part of Hermann Göring’s cabinet from where he actively supported the development of the new Me 262.

While the Me 262 jet fighter was superior to piston powered Allied planes, it was far from perfect. The most significant problem with the Me 262 was the poor performance at low altitude, where it was an easy prey for Allied fighters. This is also where Allied fighters and close support aircraft were very active and often attacked German airfields, supply trains and ground troops. The already existing Me 109 and Fw 190 were becoming outdated and insufficient by late 1944 standards. In order to effectively counter enemy planes at low altitude, a new design was needed according to Siegfried Knemeyer, who noted (Source: Robert F. He 162 Volksäger Units):

“… It became absolutely essential to develop a high-speed, single-seater fighter that had a sufficiently good performance which would enable it to take off when enemy aircraft were actually sighted. In addition, due to the bombing of our large airfields with long runways, these new fighters had to be able to take off in a very short distance and thus enable small landing grounds to be used. The mass production of such an aircraft had to be on such a scale as would enable the enemy to be engaged at any point and during the entire duration of their flight …… By limiting the endurance and the armament requirement for this new aircraft, the existing jet fighter (the Me 262) would have fulfilled the requirements. However, this aircraft had to be ruled out since it was not possible to produce the numbers that would have been required for combating these low-flying attacks and, in particular, because the provision of two power units per airframe was quite beyond the capacity of industry… “. Based on this, Siegfried Knemeyer gave a list of specifications which the new low-altitude fighter had to conform with:

  • This plane should be able to take off from runways less than 1970 ft (600 m) long.
  • It should be powered by a single jet engine, in order to lower the costs.
  • As the Jumo 004 engine could not be produced in sufficient numbers, another engine was needed. The new BMW 003 was recommended.
  • Maximum speed at sea level should be at least 465 mph (750 km/h).
  • The production process had to be as simple as possible without disturbing the production of the Me 262 and Ar 234.
  • The main building material should be wood. A larger number of furniture manufacturers and carpenters should be included in the production as they had the skill and experience in working with wood that would be needed.

Based on these requirements, the RLM placed an initial order for the new Volksjäger low-altitude jet fighter in July 1944. The first mockup needed to be ready by 1st October, 1944, and a fully operational prototype should have been ready by early December the same year. The main production was planned to begin in early 1945.

The Race for the Volksjäger

The first prototype, V1, built in late 1944. [worldwarphotos.net]
For some time, the Volksjäger seemed like it would remain only a paper proposal, as little progress was made until September 1944. On 7th September, a high priority teleprint message arrived at the Heinkel company. This message was sent by Dipl-ing Karl Frydag, Heinkel’s General Director at the Ministry, but also the leader of the Main Committee for Aircraft Construction and an acquaintance of Otto Saur. The high priority message was addressed to Prof. Ernst Heinkel and his main engineer team. This illicit message contained information including not-yet-published RLM tender requirements for the new Volksjäger jet fighter.

As the official tender request was to be issued by RLM in only a few days, Ernst Heinkel and his team moved quickly to use the small time advantage they had over other possible competitors. The first thing Ernst Heinkel did was to give instructions to reuse the P 1073 paper project that was intended for an RLM request from July. P 1073 was, according to the original plans, to be powered by two HeS 011 or Jumo 004C turbojet engines. One engine was to be mounted on top of the fuselage behind the cockpit and the second one below, right under the cockpit. The maximum speed using the HeS 011 engines was estimated to be around 630 mph (1010 km/h) at 19700 ft (6000 m). P 1073’s wing was swept back at 35° with a “V” shaped rear tailplane. The armament would include two 1.18 in (30 mm) MK 108 and two MG 151/20 0.78in (20 mm) cannons.

Later, due to the new specifications for the Volksjäger, P 1073 was modified to be powered by a single BMW 003 engine. Other changes, such as increasing the dimensions, a new straight wing design and adding new rear twin tail fins. The name was changed to P 1073-15. Further modifications were conducted at the Rostock-Marienehe plant. These included a high unswept wing design, the engine mounted above the fuselage, an armament of only two MG 151/20 0.78 in (20 mm) cannons, a tricycle undercarriage and a weight around 2.5 t. The maximum speed at ground level was 500 mph (810 km/h). It was possible to increase the offensive armament with bombs and 1.18 in/30 mm cannons. The name was again changed to P 1073-18.

By 9th (or 8th, depending on the source) September 1944, other German aircraft manufacturers received the RLM requirements for the new Volksjäger project. According to these, the Volksjäger fighter had to be able to take off in less than 1640 ft (500 m). It had to be powered by one BMW 003 jet engine and the total weight must not must not exceed 4410 lbs (2000 kg). The maximum speed at sea level had to be at least 460 mph (750 km/h). The flight endurance at full thrust had to be at least 30 min. The main armament had to consist of either two MK 108 (with 80 to 100 rounds per gun) or two MG 151/20 (with 200-250 rounds per gun) cannons.

The main construction material would be wood with a smaller amount of steel used. Protection for the pilot, fuel tanks and the main gun ammunition was to be provided. However, since great attention was dedicated to the short take off distance, the manufacturers were allowed to reduce the armor and ammunition load if needed. First proposals from all interested aircraft manufacturers were to be ready in only a few days, as a draconically unrealistic deadline was set for the 14th (or 20th depending on the source) September.

Despite being planned to be put into mass production, only limited numbers of the A-1 version were ever built. [worldwarphotos.net]
Besides Heinkel, which was “unofficially” familiar with the details of this tender a few days before its publication, others aircraft manufacturers participated and submitted their own proposal. The competitors included Arado (E 580), Blohm und Voss (P 211.02), Junkers (marked either as EF 123 or EF 124) and Focke-Wulf. Focke-Wulf actually presented two different proposals (Volksflitzer and Volksflugzeug). Others, like Fieseler and Siebel, lacked the manpower and production capacity to successfully participate in this tender. Messerschmitt did not participate in this competition as Willy Messerschmitt was against the Volksjäger concept from the beginning. He was a great opponent of this project, arguing that increasing the production rate of the Me 262 should have a greater priority and that the Volksjäger was a waste of time and materials which Germany was sorely lacking.

By the end of the competition period, all proposals were submitted to the RLM. After two days, a conference was held in Berlin with the representatives of all five companies, together with officials from the Luftwaffe and RLM. The Arado, Focke-Wulf and Junkers projects were immediately rejected. Even Heinkel’s original proposal came close to being rejected, as it would be complicated to build. It was judged that the best proposal was the Blohm und Voss P 221-02 project, as it was (at least on paper) easier to build and used a smaller quantity of duralumin. At this point, Heinkel representatives were trying to win the competition by arguing that, due to the cancelation of the He 177 and the He 219 programmes, they would have enough production capacity to manufacture the Volksjäger in great numbers. They also proposed to make the entire design far simpler for mass production.

In the following days, there were many difficult and exhausting discussions around the Heinkel and Blohm und Voss projects. There was a sharp debate between Heinkel Dipl-Ing. Francke and the RLM Generaldirektor Frydag which supported the Blohm und Voss project. These discussions caused some delays in making the final decision for the implementation of the Volksjäger project. At the same time, at the Heinkel factory at Schwechat near Vienna (EHAG – Ernst Heinkel AG), work began on calculations and drawings in preparation for the production of the first models of the Volksjäger, marked as the He 500.

The final discussion regarding the competition was held at Hitler residence in Rastenberg, in East Prussia. Hermann Göring enthusiastically and actively supported the He 500 without even considering the Blohm und Voss P 221-02 project. He also gained the support of Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer. Thus, in the end, the Heinkel project was chosen. This decision was also based on the experience that Heinkel had accumulated with the construction and development of jet technology (with the He 178 and He 280) but also due to the significant lobby that this company had.

Although Heinkel’s design won, there were requests for some alterations. For easier production and construction, the design of the tail, fuselage and the landing gear had to be simplified. As was originally planned, the first mockup was ready by 1st October 1944 and the first prototype was to be built by 10th December of the same year. The main production was to begin in January 1945 with 1000 planes per month, which would be increased to 2000 per month. These dates and numbers were, taking Germany’s economic and military situation into consideration, unrealistic and understandably never achieved.

According to Ernst Heinkel, the final designation for the new Volksjäger was meant to be He 500. However, the RLM officials, in the hope of somehow hiding its original purpose from Allied intelligence, gave it the designation “8-162”. In some sources, it is also called “Salamander”. This was actually a code name given for wooden component production companies. The He 162 is also sometimes called “Spatz” (Sparrow), but this name is, according to some sources, related to the He 162S training glider prototype.

Construction of the First Prototypes

The work on the final design was given to the engineers Siegfried Günter and Karl Schwärzler. A large design staff of some 370 men was at their disposal. The design work was carried out at the Heinkel workshop (at Schwechat Air Base) near Vienna. By 15th October, the first sketches and production tools were ready.

The Heinkel factory (in Vienna) was responsible for beginning the serial production of the He 162. In the hope of speeding up production, other factories were included along with many smaller companies. Each of these were to be responsible for producing certain parts and components of the He 162. When all necessary parts for the construction of the first prototype were built, they were to be transported to Vienna for the final assembly. Due to a lack of transport capability and insufficient quality of wooden parts (especially the wings), there were some delays.

Side view of the He 162. The cannon compartment’s wooden door is removed. [warbirdsresourcegroup.org]
Despite the fact that wood was easier to work with, there were huge issues with the quality of the delivered parts. Some of the problems encountered were that the production procedures were often not carried out according to regulations, the glue used was of poor quality, sometimes parts would not fit together. There were situations in which large numbers of wooden parts were returned to the suppliers simply because they could not be used. There were also problems with the first prototype’s engine as it was damaged during the transport and had to be repaired. All the necessary parts arrived by 24th November and the assembly of the first He 162 prototype could begin.

The He 162 V1 prototype (serial number Wk-Nr 200001) was ready for testing by 1st December, 1944. The first series of prototypes had the “V” (Versuchmuster) designation. Later, starting from V3 and V4, the designation was changed to “M” (Muster – model). If it is taken into account that, from the first drawing to the first operational prototype, no more than two months had passed, this was an impressive feat. The V1 prototype was to be tested at Heidfeld but, due to some stability problems with the undercarriage, only limited ground test trials were held.

These problems were addressed by 6th December, when the He 162 made its first test flight piloted by Heinkel’s main test pilot, Flugkapitän Dipl-ing Gotthold Peter. The flight lasted around 20 minutes at speeds of 186 mph (300 km/h). During this flight, probably due to the poor quality of production, one of the three landing gear doors simply broke free and the pilot was forced to land. Beside that, the whole flight was considered successful, there were no other problems and the engine performed excellently.

At the same time, three more prototypes (V2, M3 and M4) were under construction to be used for future tests. The second prototype was transported to Heidfeld (arrived 7th December). During the production of the first series of prototypes, a problem with the wing construction was noted. The main issue was the use of poor quality glue, but at that time this problem was largely ignored.

The moment when a V1 prototype was lost, when the right aileron failed. Unfortunately, the pilot did not survive. [worldwarphotos.info]
On 10th December, another flight was performed for the Luftwaffe military officials at Schwechat. Like in the previous flights, the pilot was Gotthold Peter. In the hope of impressing the gathered crowd, the pilot made a low pass (at 330 ft/100 m) at 456 mph (735 km/h). This flight was going well until the moment when a part of the wing and ailerons were torn off, which caused the pilot to lose control and crash to the ground. Despite having an onboard ejection seat, Peter failed to activate it (possibly due to high G-forces) and was killed in this accident.

The whole flight was captured on a film camera by one of the Luftwaffe officers. The film and the wreck were thoroughly examined by Heinkel engineers who immediately noticed a few things; the wing parts were joined by using low quality glue, the poor aerodynamics of the wing design and the instability of the prototype lateral axis led to the tear off of the wing parts. As a result of this accident, the wing design was strengthened and the maximum flight speed was restricted to only 310 mph (500 km/h). Also, the size of the horizontal stabilizer was increased, the main fuel tanks were reduced in size and the wings’ connection to the main fuselage was reinforced. This accident did not have any negative impact on the continued development on this project which proceeded without interruption.

After this accident, other pilots were reluctant to fly on the He 162. Due to this, Ernst Heinkel was forced to offer a sum of 80,000 Reichsmarks for any pilots who were willing to test fly the He 162. A pilot who agreed to fly was Dipl.-Ing. Carl Francke, who was the technical director of EHAG. He made the first test flight with V2 (serial number Wk-Nr 200002) on 22nd December, 1944. Later that day, a second pilot, Fliegerstabsingineur Paul Bader, made more test flights. Flight trials with the second prototype were carried out without much problems. The V2 prototype was used for testing different wing designs and different weapon installations (two 1.18 in/30 mm Mk 108 cannons). After this, V2 would be used mostly for ground examinations, conversions, equipment testing and for attempts to simplify the overall design in order to ease production.

The third prototype was ready by 20th December, when it was tested by Paul Bader at Heidfeld. While the flight went on without many problems, the pilot noted the poor front ground visibility and vibrations during takeoff and landing. In order to improve the He 162’s wing design, the experienced Dr Alexander Lippisch (who worked on the Me 163) was contacted and included in the project. His proposal for improving the He 162’s stability was to fit small “Ohren” (ears) to the wingtips. As these were later implemented on all produced He 162, they were generally known as the ‘Lippisch ears’.

The M3 and M4 prototypes were the first fighters to be equipped with these wingtips. These two models had strengthened and redesigned wing construction with thicker plywood covering, also to shift the centre of gravity, extra weight was added to the plane’s nose. These modifications improved the He 162’s overall performance and stability significantly. The M3 improved prototype was tested in late February 1945 when it managed to reach an incredible speed of 546 mph (880 km/h). The M4 prototype was ready by the end of 1944 but, due to some engine problems, the first flight was only possible at the beginning of 1945. The first flight tests were carried by Dipl-Ing Schuck on 16th January, 1945. As the M3 and M4 wing design and shape proved satisfactory, they were chosen to be used for the upcoming production of the first He 162A combat operational variant.

The M5 prototype was built but it was never used operationally nor did it ever fly. The M6 prototype, which was intended to be used as base for the He 162A-1 production model, made its first test flight on 23rd January, 1945. The M7 (the base for the He 162A-2) was used for vibration tests and trialing the braking parachute. The M8 was the first to be equipped with two MG 151/20 cannons (120 rounds of ammunition per gun). The M9 and M10 were intended as two seat trainer aircraft versions but none were built. The M11 and M12 were powered by the much stronger Jumo 004D Orkan turbojet engine. These were to be used as base for the He 162A-8. The M13 moniker was never assigned to any prototype due to the belief that this number was unlucky. The prototype models M14 to M17 were never built. The M18 and M19 were powered by the new BMW 003E-1 jet engine which was intended to be used for the He 162A-2 production model. The M20 was used for testing different and simpler undercarriage designs. The M21 and M22 were used for main weapon testing. The M23 and M24 were used for installation of new wing root filters and for handling flight tests.

These prototypes were extensively tested and examined in detail from 22nd January to 12th February. In this period, over 200 test flights were carried out. Not all test flights were successful and without accidents. On 24th February, M20 was damaged during landing due to undercarriage malfunction. The next day, while testing the M3, there was a malfunction that led the pilot losing control of the aircraft. He managed to get out but his parachute did not fully extend, leading to his demise. At the beginning of May, one more prototype was lost in an accident. In total, there were more than 30 prototypes built. It is interesting that, even before the testing of the prototypes was completed, preparations for production of the He 162 were already underway.

He 162 A-1 and A-2

Despite the original plans requiring the start of the production in early 1945, this was never achieved. Due to the chaos in Germany at that time, there were many delays with the arrival of the necessary parts. There were shortages of nose wheels, rudders, interior equipment, weapons parts, poor quality glue and many others. For example, at Rostock, there were more than 139 partly built fuselages which could not be completed due to a lack of parts. There was also a problem with the large number of wings and tails built that were defectuous and unusable. A generalized lack of fuel, transport vehicles and electricity, Allied bombing raids and the use of slave labour also negatively influenced the overall production. Around ten pre-series He 162A-0 (with different prototype numbers) were built and stationed at Schwechat to be used for more testing needed in order to eliminate more problems.

The Soviets flight tested some captured examples of the He 162, but their overall performance proved to be poor. [airpages.ru]
The production of the first series of operational aircraft was delayed and began only at the end of March 1945. The first production series were marked He 162 A-1 and A-2. There are few visual differences between these two models. The only major difference was the armament. The A-1 was equipped with two 1.18 in (30 mm) cannons and the A-2 with two 0.78 in (20 mm) cannons. As the production of 1.18 in (30 mm) cannons was halted due to Allied bombing and the Soviets capturing the production factories, the few remaining cannons were to be allocated to the Me 262. The production of the A-1 was stopped and the exact number of manufactured aircraft is unknown. Due the lack of 1.18 in (30 mm) cannons, the He 162 manufacturers were forced to use the lighter and weaker 0.78 in (20 mm) caliber weapons.

A number of serially produced A-2 aircraft were not used for troop trials, but were instead sent to test centres for future modifications and testing. A small number would eventually reach the German troops in April. While the production of the A-2 would go on until the war’s end, the total number of produced aircraft is unknown.

The He 162 Design

He 162 top view [warbirdsresourcegroup.org]
The He 162 was designed as a high-wing jet fighter with a simple fuselage with clean lines, tricycle retracting landing gear and built using mixed construction. The simple fuselage was built by using a cheap and light metal alloy (duralumin – a combination of aluminium and copper) with a plywood nose and (one-piece) wooden wings.

The fuselage was a semi-monocoque design covered with duralumin. The front part of the fuselage was egg-shaped and had good aerodynamic properties. The nose was made of plywood and was fixed to the fuselage by using bolts. The middle top part of the fuselage was flat and the engine was connected to it. The wood was also used for the undercarriage doors.

The wings were made out of wood and connected to the central fuselage by using four bolts. In order to ease production, the wings were built in one piece. The flaps and ailerons were built using a wood frame which was covered with plywood. The flaps were controlled by using a hydraulic system while the rods were controlled with wire. To help with the stability at the end of the wing, two wingtips (one on each side) were added. These were angled at 55° downwards and made of duralumin. The two-part rear tail was made of metal and was connected to the end cone of the fuselage. The tail rudders were controlled using wires and rods.

The He 162 used a tricycle landing gear design, with one wheel at the front and two more located in the centre of the fuselage. The landing gear was hydraulically lowered and raised. The dimensions of the front nose wheel were 500×145 mm and no brake system was provided for it. Interesting to note is that the front nose wheel, when retracting, partly reached into the lower part of the front cockpit. A small window was provided for the pilot so that he could see if it was fully operational. The two central landing wheels were larger, 600×200 mm. Both the front and the rear landing wheels retracted to the rear. To help with landings, hydro-pneumatic dampers were provided.

The plexi-glass cockpit was made of two parts, the front windshield and the rear hinging canopy which were screwed into the inner bar frame. In order to make the whole construction simple as possible the cockpit was not pressurized. For better ventilation on the left side a small round ventilation window was installed. The pilot cockpit was more or less a standard German design but much simpler. It provided the pilot with good all-around view of the surroundings, but there were some complaints by some pilots for poor front ground view.

The control panel was made of wood, on which the necessary instruments were placed. Only a few were provided for the pilot and these included the speed indicator, panel lights, turn and bank indicator, rate of climb, FK 38 magnetic compass, temperature indicator, AFN-2 display, oil and fuel pressure gauge, fuel level gauge, chronometer, ammunition counters and engine tachometer. The fighter controls were placed as standard in front of the pilot. On the pilot’s left-side, the fuel valve, flap controls, landing gear control, throttle lever and trimming control were located. On the opposite side was placed the radio system (FuG 25A). The pilot seat was of a simple design but equipped with Heinkel’s ejection system with a parachute. The He 162 was one of the first German aircraft to be equipped with an ejection seat as standard equipment. The cockpit was separated from the rest of the plane by a sloped metal plate. This plate was installed in order to provide the pilot some protection in case of emergency (like fuel tank fire etc.). Behind this plate were the oxygen supply tanks with a 3 l capacity.

The engine chosen for the He 162 A-2 was the BMW 003E-1/2 turbojet (in some sources the A version was used). The engine was fixed in a nacelle placed above the central fuselage. The engine consisted of a seven-stage axial compressor, injection nozzle, annular combustion chamber and one single-stage axial turbine equipped with sheet metal heat-resistant blades which were air-cooled. The exhaust nozzle was controlled by an adjustable needle which could be mechanically moved into four positions: Position A for idle, S for start, F for flying at altitudes lower than 26.200 ft (8.000 m) and M for flying at altitudes above 26.200 ft (8.000 m). The BMW 003E-1/2 turbojet could achieve maximum thrust of 1.800 lbs (800 kg).

One He 162 was put on display in London after the war. It still had German markings on it. [aviation-history.com]
When flying at a speed of 500 mph (800 km/h) at 36.100 ft (11.000 m), the maximum thrust would fall down to only 740 lbs/340 kg. To start the engine, a small Riedel piston engine (9.86 hp) was used. This engine could be started either by using an electric starter motor or manually with a ring-pull. The He 162 engine was 11 ft (3.6 m) long with a diameter of 2.3 ft (69 cm) and a weight of 1.375 lbs (624 kg). The estimated life cycle of the engine was only 50 hours. As the engine was positioned above the fuselage, in order to avoid any damage caused by exhaust gasses, a steel plate was placed under the jet nozzle. The position of the engine also means it was easier to mount and repair. It was also easier to replace it with a new one.

The fuel tank was positioned in the middle of the fuselage. In order to save weight and to ease the production, a rubber fuel tank was used. The main fuel tank had a capacity of 695 l and there were also two smaller 175 l tanks located in the wings. For takeoff, up to two smaller auxiliary Ri 502 rocket engines could be installed. They would be located in the lower rear part of the fuselage.

The He 162’s original weapon system consisted of two MK 108 cannons, but the most built version was equipped with weaker MG 151/20 cannons. The two cannons were placed in the lower front part of the fuselage. The main gun’s ammunition was stored behind the pilot, with 120 rounds for each gun. In order for the ground support crews to have access to the gun and ammunition, wooden door panels were provided. For the gunsight, the Revi 16G or 16B models were used. There was also a gyroscopic EZ 42 gunsight tested on one He 162, but this was never adopted for service.

Other Versions and Prototypes

Despite the improvements done to the main production versions, there were still room for enhancements and modifications of the He 162. Most efforts were devoted to the installation of stronger engines and various aerodynamic improvements in order to achieve the highest speed possible. There were also plans to make the He 162 much cheaper and easier to produce. Different armament loads were also tested or proposed. Most of these proposals remained on paper only, but some received limited testing.

The first in line of the intended improved He 162 was the A-3 version. This was meant to be armed with 1.18 in (30 mm) MK 103 or MK 108 cannons (depending on the source) located in a redesigned front nose, but it is unclear if any were ever built. Later, an identically armed version (A-6) with a redesigned and longer fuselage (30 ft/9.2 m) was proposed but, like the previous version, none were probably built.

In order to increase the He 162’s maximum speed, it was intended to install the Jumo 004D “Orkan” (2.866 lbs/1.050 kg of thrust) engine to replace the standard jet engine used. The new engines were to be transported to Schwechat and tested there on fully operational prototypes. The whole process was too slow, and only as late as March 1945 were the few prototypes almost finished, but due to the war’s end, none were ever fully completed or tested. This modification is known under the name He 162 A-8. The A-9 (in some sources marked as He 162E) was to be powered by one BMW 003R engine, supported by a second BMW 718 rocket engine for extra power. The engines were tested but they were never installed on any He 162. While Heinkel conceived up to 14 different proposals for the “A” version, beyond those mentioned above, almost nothing is known about the others.

Note that the following designations (B, C and D) were never found in any EHAG official documentation and are not known to have been used by the Germans. This article will use them for the sake of simplicity only. (Source: Miroslav B. and Bily B.)

Despite the fact that the He 162 was designed to be simple and easy to build, the engine was still relatively difficult to produce in great numbers. In hope to increase the number of engines being built, the Germans began testing the less demanding technology of pulse jet engines (used on the V-1 flying bomb). The first proposed pulse jet engine to be mounted on the He 162 (generally known as He 162B) was the Argus As 004 (with 1,102 lbs/500 kg of thrust). This was followed by a second proposal to mount two Argus As 014 (each with 739 lbs/335 kg of thrust) pulse jet engines. The single engine version is named, in some modern sources, as B-2 and the two engine version as B-1. None were ever built and tested, possibly because the pulse jet was considered inferior to jet engines.

Two different wing configurations proposed, often incorrectly marked as the “D” and ”C” versions. [airvectors.net]
There were many experiments with different wing designs and shapes in order to improve the flying performance and ease production. Two similar designs were based on all-metal swept wings. The first (today called the He 162C) had a back swept wing design with the second half of the wings bent down at a sharp angle. The second (often nowadays referred to as the He 162D) had an unusual forward swept wing design. Both of these models were to be powered by one Heinkel-Hirth 011A turbojet engine (2,866 lbs/1,300 kg of thrust). Both models also had different rear tail designs. The maximum estimated top speed with this engine was up to 620 mph (1000 km/h). There were also other proposed wing designs but, beside these two, none seem to have been tested. Only a few incomplete prototypes were built and they were captured by the advancing Allied forces by the end of the war.

In autumn of 1944, it was suggested to use the He 162 for the German “Mistel 5” weapon projects. This configuration would consisted on one unmanned Arado E 337a glide bomb that would be guided by an He 162 connected on top of it. As the Arado E 337a was never built, this project remain on paper only.

At the end of January, there was a proposal to modify a few He 162 to be used as “Behelfs-Aufklarer”, in essence improvised reconnaissance planes, but this was never implemented.

The Volksjäger Training Versions

As the Volksjäger project got a green light for its implementation and orders of planned production in the thousands, a solution on how to train such large numbers of new pilots was needed. One proposal was to begin training with gliders (including a glider version of the He 162) and, after a short period of time, the pilot (usually from the Hitler Youth) would learn to fly on the training versions of the He 162. The glider version was named He 162 S “Spatz” (Sparrow). According to other sources (M.Balous and M.Bily), the “S” stands for Segelflugzeug (glider).

These gliders had to be designed and built to emulate the He 162’s takeoff and landing properties as much as possible. In order to stay in the air, the gliders were to be connected to a 1 km long cable which was attached to a 150 hp motorized winch. The gliders were to have two seats, one for the future pilot and one for the instructor. One prototype was flight tested in late March 1945 by Ing Hasse. Even the famous German woman test pilot Hanna Reitsch made at least one flight in it. The He 162 S was very similar to the original He 162, with some modifications like larger wings and fixed landing gears. The choice for using gliders as replacement for training planes was based on the general lack of fuel. Around ten of these gliders were ordered and, if testing showed good results, some 200 were meant to be built. But, due to the bad economical situation in Germany at the time, only a few were ever built at Schönhage (Hannover).

The second training aircraft was a fully powered two seat trainer version. There is no official military marking or name for this version, but today it is often known as the He 162 Doppelsitzer (two seater). This version was to be powered by a BMW 003E-1 or E-2 engine. It was to have a second seat for the instructor placed behind the main cockpit. In order to make more room in the unmodified He 162 fuselage, the gun, ammunition and oxygen tanks had to be removed. The production of this version was planned to begin by the end of 1944 and was to be built by DLH (Deutsche Lufthansa) at Oranienburg. Only one incomplete prototype may have ever been constructed.

To help the training of new pilots at the Luftwaffe test center (Rechlin), a simulator model was built. It had the exact same cockpit like an operational He 162 with all instruments. Its primary purpose was to be used for combat and fire simulator training.

Main Armament Proposal

As already stated, the 0.78 in (20 mm) cannons were, by 1944/45 war standards, simply inadequate and the lack of stronger 1.18 in (30 mm) cannons forced the Germans to search for different (somewhat unconventional) weapons for the He 162.

To increase the offensive armament, the 2.2 in (55 mm) R4M air-to-air rocket was proposed to be installed under the He 162’s wings. Another proposal was to arm the He 162 with the SG 118 Rohrblocktrommel weapon system which consisted of three 1.18 in (30 mm) barrels (connected in a circle), each armed with 7 rounds. The last proposal was to use the 3.14 in (8 cm) Panzerblitz missiles. There were planned to use the EZ 42 gyroscopic gun sight on the He 162, but the single prototype was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid. If any of these proposals were ever been implemented or allocated a version name is unknown but very unlikely.

Production

The Germans were forced to relocate some production facilities deep underground. The Volksjäger was produced in one such underground production base at Hinterbrühl, Austria. Colorized by Michael Jucan [aviation-history.com]
It was hoped by the Luftwaffe military officials that the He 162 would be built in great numbers. They counted on the fact that, by using cheap materials (mostly wood) and by employing many smaller subcontractors (woodworkers and furniture manufactures), the overall costs and time necessary for the production would be reduced.

Several factories were responsible for the production of the He 162 at Heinkel-Nord in Rostock-Marienehe, Heinkel-Sud, Hinterbühl (underground factory), Vienna-Schwechat (prototype production) and Mittelwerke (Nordhausen). In order to increase the production, Heinkel and Junkers made an agreement to use the vast Junkers production capacities. Junkers would be responsible for the production of the majority of the new He 162 planes at Bernburg. Also, a large number of smaller subcontractors were to be included, like EHAG Walldwerk or Pütnitz. The main engine suppliers were Spandau and Zühlsdorf. The armament was to be provided by Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabrik at Posnan. The wooden elements would be made at Erfurt, Orla and Stuttgart-Esslingen (these were also building components for the Me 163 and Ta 154). Some 750 man-hours were needed for the He 162, together with 300 man-hours for the engine production. Due to slow production, Hitler gave an order on 27th March, 1945 for the SS to take over the whole Volksjäger project. However, this had only limited (if any) effect on the speed of production.

As it was only built during the last month of the war, when confusion and chaos were ever-present in almost all spheres of political or military life in Nazi Germany, exact information about how many aircraft of this type were built is impossible to find. Depending on the sources, the total production was in the range of 116 to more than 200. According to different Authors: C. Chan (240), D. Mondey (116), F. Crosby (200), A. Ludeke (270), D. Nešić (120). According to the German General Staff Department 6 (Generalstab Abteilung 6), the total number of He 162 built was 116 aircraft. After the war, around many airfields, some 100 He 162 in different conditions were found. Additional 800 aircraft were found in different stages of factory assembly, which also complicates determining the exact number of produced He 162.

On 7th April, 1945 Hitler gave orders to stop any further development and production of the He 162 in favor of the Me 262 and Arado 234. It is hard to say for sure, but as the He 162 was produced until the end of the war, this order seems to never have been fully implemented.

Operational Service

Lineup of Volksjäger captured by the British at Leck in May 1945 [worldwarphotos.info]
The delivery of He 162 fighters to Luftwaffe front units was limited due to many reasons, including slow production, lack of fuel and spare parts and the Allied advance, but eventually, a few units equipped with this aircraft would be formed.

The first operational unit to be equipped with the new He 162 was Erprobungskommando 162 located at Rechlin-Roggenthin. In April, due to the rapid Allied advance, the unit had to reposition near Munich. This was actually a test unit and, for this purpose, a number of the most experienced German pilots (some of them having experience in flying jet aircraft) were allocated to this unit. Once these pilots had gained enough experience flying the He 162, they were to be used as base for forming the first operational unit, 1./JG 80. Immediately after the start of production, a large training process at the NSFK gliding school began. As there was only one He 162 S glider aircraft available, other simpler gliders (like the DFS SG 38 Schulgleiter) had to be used as a temporary solution. The training process did not go the way the Luftwaffe Officials hoped it would go. It was too slow and, when the first group of new pilots was tested on the Arado Ar 96B (trainer version), the results were disappointing. At this point, the plan to use Hitlerjugend members as He 162 pilots was discarded, which was somewhat expected. The experiment with the young and inexperienced pilots proves that only the most experienced pilots could successfully fly the He 162. Beside pilot training, at the same time, the training of ground support staff was carried out at Fliegertechische-Schule 6 in Neumarkt and Wiedenberg.

In order to form the first operational combat unit with the He 162, an already-experienced unit would be needed. For this purpose, Jagdgeschwader 1 “Oseau” (JG 1) was chosen. It was commanded by Oberst Herbert Ihlefeld and it was equipped mostly with Fw 190 aircraft. On 8th February, 1945, the first orders were given by General der Jagdflieger (General of Fighters) Oberst Gordon Gollob to the 2nd and 3rd Staffels (first Gruppe JG 1) commanders to prepare their pilots to be moved to the Parchim Airbase near Rostock. Once there, the first flight training with the new He 162 was to be carried out. In late February, a group of 10 pilots (from 2nd Staffel) was moved to Vienna for more training. For pilot training, two prototype aircraft were used, as the production of operational “A” variant was slow. Despite being experienced pilots, there were some accidents caused either by pilot errors or due to some mechanical faults. The He 162 M8 was lost due to engine failure on 12th March, but the pilot survived. Only two days later, one pilot was killed when he made a mistake during landing. As there were no other He 162 aircraft available, this group was forced to return to Parchim Airfield. In late March 1945, around 10 pilots of the I./JG 1 (first Gruppe) were moved to the Marienehe factory (near Rostock). They were supplied with a number of He 162 that where previously used by the mechanics and test pilots of this factory. Once the handover was completed, the group with the He 162 returned to its original base of operation.

The RLM’s next plan was to begin re-equipping II./JG 1 with the He 162 as soon as possible. The unit was moved to Rostock at the end of March 1945, where the training should have begun. Other units were expected to be formed (I and II./JG 400, III./JG 1, JG 27 and JG 77), but nothing came of this. In May 1945, a Volksstume Jagdeschwader (in essence, an improvised militia unit) was to be formed at the Sagan-Küpper airfield by using mostly volunteer pilots. However, Allied occupation of this airfield prevented the implementation of this proposal. The only unit beside JG 1 to be supplied (in limited numbers) with He 162 was I.EJG 2 (Ergänzungsjagdgeschwader, auxiliary fighter training unit), but these were probably never used operationally.

By the end of March, JG 1 was supplied with around 58 operational He 162A-2 aircraft with some 25 more on the way. At the same time, I./JG1 was moved to Ludwigslust, where it was supposed to be supplied with new He 162 aircraft. Due to the rapid Allied advance, the unit was moved in April to the Schleswig-Holstein region (Leck airfield), near the Danish border. This unit had orders to defend Berlin from Allied bombers coming from over the North Sea. The I./JG1 was to be ready for operational service by 20th April. The first combat loss happened on 19th April, when one He 162 was shot down after a take-off by an American P-47 Thunderbolt. By the end of April, II./JG 1 was moved quickly to the Leck airfield to join the first Gruppe.

He 162 side view [worldwarphotos.info]
The first operational combat mission of I./JG1 was to attack an RAF front airfield on 20th April. While on their way, the He 162’s were intercepted by a group of Hawker Tempests (3 Sqn. RAF). In this engagement, only one He 162 was shot down and the pilot managed to survive without any injuries. At the same time, one P-51 Mustang scout pilot (12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron) reported to have shot down one He 162, but this was never officially confirmed.

The He 162’s first allegedly air victory (and possibly the only one) was achieved by Lt. Rudolf Schmitt from I./JG 1, when he shot down a British fighter. However, this fighter was later claimed to have been shot down by German ground AA fire. While Lt. Rudolf Schmitt may not have made the first air victory, he did successfully manage to use the ejection seat in a combat zone. Due to the Allied advance, on 5th May, 1945, JG 1 received orders to stop any further action and to destroy all operational aircraft. For some reason, the order was later recalled. The Leck airfield would be captured by British forces on the 8th, which ended the He 162’s short operational combat story.

Precise information on the He 162’s combat or deployment is hard to find mostly due the chaotic state in Germany at that time. According to some authors, like Francus G., none were ever used in combat.

Japan’s military attache, in early 1945, was interested in acquiring the license production of the He 162. After a short negotiation, the Germans gave permission for license production. But there was a problem of how to transport or send the necessary documents and sketches from Germany to distant Japan. The only solution was to use radio by converting the sketches into numerical code. Unsurprisingly, this did not work well and only limited information was send before the end of the war in Europe. Due to this reason, Japan never received the complete He 162 sketches.

In Allied Hands

As the British forces captured Leck airfield, they acquired a number of fully operational He 162s. Some 11 planes were selected by the British Technical Intelligence Team to be transported to the UK. Once there, all were sent to the Farnborough airfield, which was the headquarters of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE). The He 162 aircraft were thoroughly examined and divided into groups either for part analysis or for flight testing. On 9th November, 1945, while flying an He 162 (AM61) at the Exhibition of German Aircraft at Farnborough, the pilot Robert A.M. lost his life in an accident.

One of the tested He 162 (marked AM 59 by the British) would be donated to the Canadian Museum in Ottawa together with another one received later that year. Later, two were given to British museums, one to the Imperial War Museum and the second to the RAF Hendon Museum. One would be given to France, possibly either AM 63 or AM 66.

The British also supplied the American with some He 162 captured at the Leck airfield. The Americans also managed to capture some abandoned He 162s across Germany. Some would be tested at the Wright and Freeman Field research centre. One He 162 was even kept in good flight condition up to 1946. This aircraft is today privately owned by the Planes of Fame Museum in California.

The French received or captured (it is not known precisely) five He 162, of which two were airworthy. These two were tested, but one was damaged during landing and the second was lost in May 1948 with the loss of the pilot’s life. One He 162 is preserved and can be seen at the Paris Aviation Museum.

During their advance through Germany, the Soviets managed to capture about seven planes, two of which were airworthy. These would be tested and and analyzed in great details. As the Soviets lacked any advanced jet technology at that time, adopting German captured technology looked like a logical step. Most interesting for the Soviets were the Jumo 004 and the BMW 003 jet engines that would be, in later years, copied and produced in some numbers. There were also some consideration from the Soviet military to copy and produce some of the German jet aircraft, including the He 162. One He 162, with the fuselage marking 02, was tested by the Soviet Flight Research Institute (near Moscow). The second, marked 01, was tested at the Central Aero-hydrodynamics Institute. He 162 02 would be flight tested on several flights in 1946. The results of these tests were disappointing for the Soviets and a decision was made not to further consider them for service, and they did not have any influence on the later Soviet aviation development.

Conclusion

The idea for the He 162 was born out of a mix of desperation, chaos and hope for some miraculous wonder weapons that could turn the air war’s tide to the German side again. It was designed to be cheap and built in great numbers. The impressive fact is that it was designed and built in only a few months, but, on the other hand, it was built in too small numbers, the engines used were often of poor quality and there was a lack of trained pilots, which, along with other problems, meant that the He 162 did not have any major impact on the war itself or on post war jet aircraft development. In the end, it was not the ‘Wunderwaffe’ that the designers hoped for, but it was still impressive, at least because of the speed with which it was designed and built.

Variants

As only a small number of He 162 were built, there were very few operational versions. Beside the prototype series, only the “A” version was built in some numbers.

Prototypes

  • He 162 V– Prototype series
  • He 162 A-0– Around 10 pre-production aircraft built used for testing

Main production version

  • He 162A-1 – Version equipped with two MK 108 cannons, a few were possibly built
  • He 162A-2 – The main production variant armed with two MG 151/20 cannons

Training versions

  • He 162S – Two seat glider trainer version, a few built
  • He 162 Doppelsitzer – Two seat powered trainer version, only one incomplete aircraft built

Experimental prototypes based on “A” versions

  • He 162A-3 – Proposed version armed with two MK 103 or 108 cannons
  • He 162A-6 – Proposed version with redesigned and longer fuselage armed with two MK 108 cannons
  • He 162A-8 – Version equipped with the Jumo 004D jet engine, only a few incomplete prototypes built
  • He 162A-9 – The A-9 was to be powered by one BMW 003R engine and supported by a second BMW 718 rocket engine. None built
  • He 162A Mistel 5 – Paper project, a combination of an He 162 and one Arado E 337 glide bomb.
  • He 162 “Behelfs-Aufklarer” – Proposed version to be built in limited numbers as reconnaissance planes. It was never implemented and remained a proposal only.

Note that the B, C and D designations were not official and are used in this article only for the sake of simplicity.

  • He 162B – Proposed version equipped with a pulsejet engine (similar to the V-1 flying bomb engine)
    • He 162B-1 – two engine version
    • He 162B-2 – single engine version
  • He 162C – Version with back swept wing, powered by Heinkel-Hirth 011A turbojet engine
  • He 162D – Version with forward swept wing designs powered by the same Heinkel-Hirth 011A turbojet engine

Operators

  • Nazi Germany – A few hundred built, but only small numbers were allocated to front units and saw limited combat action.
  • United Kingdom – Captured a number of operational He 162, 11 would be transported and tested in the UK.
  • United States – Received a small number of He 162 from the British but also captured some in Germany.
  • France – Received or captured at least five He 162 aircraft.
  • USSR – Captured seven completed He 162 which were tested after the war.
  • Japan – Military officials tried to acquire the license for production of the He 162 but the war’s end prevented this.

Specifications (Heinkel He 162 A-2)

Wingspan 23 ft 7 in / 7.2 m
Length 29 ft 8 in / 9.05 m
Height 8 ft 6 in / 2.6 m
Wing Area 38 ft² / 11.6 m²
Engine One BMW 003E-1 with 1,760 lbs/800 kg of thrust
Empty Weight 3,666 lbs / 1,663 kg
Maximum Takeoff Weight 5,324 lbs / 2,466 kg
Fuel Capacity 1,045 l
Maximum Speed at 6 km 560 mph / 840 km/h
Range 385 mi / 620 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 39,370 ft / 12,000 m
Climb speed 9.9 m/s
Crew One pilot
Armament Two 20 mm fixed forward firing cannons in the lower sides of the fuselage

Gallery

Illustrations by Ed Jackson artbyedo.com

Heinkel He 162 Volksjäger – 20222
Heinkel He 162 A-1 Volksjäger – 120235
Heinkel He 162 A-2 Volksjäger – 120077 “Nervenklau”
Heinkel He 162 A-2 Volksjäger – wearing Soviet colors as it undergoes testing after capture – Spring 1946

Credits

  • Duško N. (2008) Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Tampopring S.C.G.
  • David M. (2006) The Hamlyn Concise Guide To Axis Aircraft Of World War II, Aerospace Publishing.
  • Alexander L. (2007). Waffentechnik Im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Parragon books
  • Francis C. (2006,2010) The Complete Guide To Fighters And Bombers Of The World, Anness Publishing
  • Richard S. and William C.(1967), The Heinkel He 162, George Falkner and Sons Ltd England,.
  • Balous M. and Bily M. (2004), Heinkel He 162 Spatz, MBI Bily.
  • Robert F.(2016) He 162 Volksjäger unit, Osprey Publishing.
  • Michael S. (2007) Attack and Interceptors Jets, Orange Books.

 

Yakovlev Yak-10

USSR flag USSR (1946)
Multipurpose Aircraft – 41 Built

An impressive photo of freshly produced Yak-10 sit on the Dolgoprudny airfield awaiting delivery. [Yefim Gordon]
The Yakovlev Yak-10 was a four-seat multipurpose light aircraft designed in 1944 as a replacement for the Polikarpov U-2 (Po-2), a biplane which served as a liaison and passenger transport aircraft. Although the Yak-10 successfully passed state acceptance trials in January of 1945, it proved rather unsatisfactory with Soviet Air Force pilots, and thus, only 41 examples, including the prototype, were produced in 1946 before being replaced by the redesigned and superior Yak-12 light aircraft in 1947. Though unsuccessful in service, the Yak-10 provided valuable experience in light aircraft design and served as a stepping stone for the more successful Yak-12.

History

In early 1944, the Soviet High Command was beginning to realize the obsolete nature of the Polikarpov U-2 (Po-2) in its liaison role. In the wake of the quickly advancing aircraft industry, Yakovlev OKB (Experimental Design Bureau) was called upon to design a multipurpose light aircraft capable of performing liaison missions, ferrying passengers, cargo, and aerial ambulance duties for the Air Force to replace the Po-2. In response, Yakovlev OKB initiated a project with G.I. Gudimenko assigned as chief engineer and work commenced on a four-seat, high-wing monoplane using the firm’s pre-war AIR-6 design as a basis, which had similar traits. The new aircraft design was assigned the designation of Yak-14.

Due to the rather obscure nature of the project’s development, it is unknown when the first prototype was produced, but it is most likely sometime before or in early January of 1945. First flown by test pilot F.L. Abramov, the Yak-14, powered by a 5-cylinder, air cooled Shvetsov M-11FM radial engine producing 145 hp, proved to have unacceptable handling characteristics. This prompted minor redesigning and modifications to the prototype which would address the issues that emerged from the test flight. Amongst the various modifications, the aircraft was also redesignated as the Yak-10 (the Yak-14 designation would later be reused for a 1947 assault glider project). With the completion of modifications, the Yak-10 was resubmitted for state testing. The aforementioned handling characteristic issues appeared to have been addressed, and the Yak-10 passed state trials in June of 1945.

Yak-10 Blueprint Drawing

Now authorized for service, production of the Yak-10 was assigned to the No. 464 aircraft plant in Dolgoprudny (Долгопру́дный), approximately 12 mi / 20 km north of Moscow. A total of 40 models were produced in 1946, which were then delivered to air force units. An important difference between the prototype and production models was the conversion from the 145 hp M-11FM engine to the 160 hp M-11FR engine. During the Yak-10’s service life, several variants were designed. These included a dual-control trainer variant known as the Yak-10V, an aerial ambulance variant capable of carrying two stretchers and a doctor known as the Yak-10S, an experimental floatplane variant known as the Yak-10G, and an experimental ski landing gear conversion without a proper designation. Due to the scarcity of documents regarding the Yak-10, it is unknown how many Yak-10V and Yak-10S models were produced, but the Yak-10G and Yak-10 with ski gear were converted from standard Yak-10 models. Curiously, the Yak-10 also had a competitive experimental low-wing development in 1944 known as the Yak-13 (originally designated the Yak-12, which is unrelated to the 1947 development) which featured a split landing flap and various smaller modifications. Though the Yak-13 was superior to the Yak-10 in speed, the Yak-10 possessed operational advantages and thus won the favor of the Soviet high command. Though the Yak-13 was considered to be produced alongside the Yak-10, the act was deemed economically unviable and thus the Yak-13 remained a one-off prototype.

The Yak-10 prototype, still known as the Yak-14 at the time this photo was taken. [Yefim Gordon]
In Soviet service the Yak-10 proved to be lacking in terms of performance, which also impacted the aircraft’s ability to be adapted to more roles. Within a year of the Yak-10’s fielding, the Yakovlev OKB was once again called upon to produce a better aircraft. In early 1947, the bureau initiated another project to fulfill the demands of the Air Force. G.I. Gudimenko was once again assigned as chief engineer, but now M.A. Shchyerbina, M.N. Beloskurskii and L.L. Selyakov joined the team as designers. The new project was designated as the Yak-12 (recycled from the Yak-13’s initial designation) and was essentially a redesigned Yak-10 that featured a redesigned rear fuselage contour and a shallower upper decking. Along with some other modifications to the wings, structure and fuselage, the Yak-12 would undergo flight testing within the same year. Though slower than the Yak-10 in speed, the Yak-12 proved to be more versatile for other roles and had greater operational characteristics. Such improvement was deemed satisfactory by the Air Force and mass production thus commenced. The success of the Yak-12 overshadowed the Yak-10 and all examples were withdrawn soon afterwards. The Yak-12 would be produced in the thousands with dozens of variants and conversions designed. It would see service with several Eastern Bloc countries, as well as the People’s Republic of China, Mongolia and possibly Cuba (it is unknown if they operated this type). The Yak-12 was saw military service well into the 1970s but were all retired prior to the 21st century. Several Yak-12 models are still flown to today for recreation, airshows and other roles.

The Yak-10, despite passing state acceptance trials, was still an operational failure and saw only limited production. However, the Yak-10 was an important stepping stone in the development of the Yak-12, which was much more successful and had a fruitful service life within the Soviet Union and several other countries.

Design

A Yak-10 flies over the Moskva River near the Moscow suburbs. [Yefim Gordon]
The Yakovlev Yak-10 was a four-seat, high-wing, single-engine multipurpose light aircraft designed in 1944. The standard production Yak-10 was powered by a 5-cylinder air-cooled Shvetsov M-11FR radial engine providing 160 hp, accompanied by a two blade aluminum VISh-327 propeller. The Yak-10’s fuselage and tail was of metal construction while the wings were wooden. The wooden wings possessed a thickness to chord ratio of 11% and utilized the Clark YH airfoil. The fuselage consisted of a welded tubular steel truss while the tail possessed duralumin frames. Fabric was utilized throughout the entire aircraft for skinning. Twin bracing struts constructed of airfoil section steel tubes joined the wings and fuselage. The Yak-10 also had a non-retractable undercarriage in a taildragger configuration. It consisted of pyramid type, rubber-sprung main units and had a castoring tailwheel.

The same Yak-10 above parked at the Chkalovskaya AB during state acceptance trials at NII VVS. [Yefim Gordon]
The Yak-10V dual control trainer variant would have featured a new set of controls next to the regular pilot seat. This would allow a co-pilot to fly while both pilots sat side by side. The Yak-10S ambulance variant would have a hatch on the port side of the fuselage for loading stretchers. A total of two stretchers could be accommodated in the Yak-10S along with a seat for a doctor. The Yak-10G featured the replacement of the conventional landing gear with floats previously used in the Yakovlev OKB’s previous AIR-6 multipurpose light aircraft design. Little is known about this variant, but it is known that it did not go into production due to the loss of performance caused by the floats’ drag. The experimental Yak-10 ski conversion had the landing gear replaced by Canadian manufactured wood skis of 6 ft 3 63/64 in x 1 ft 25/64 in / (1,930 x 340 mm). These skis weighed 44.7 lb (20.25 kg). The tail wheel was also replaced by a ski which measured at 1 ft 6 7/64 in x 4 47/64 in (460 x 120 mm) and weighed 4.25 lb (1.93 kg). This modification caused the aircraft’s performance to deteriorate and proved to be only capable of operating in rolled-down airfields. Consequently, the type was not adopted for use.

Variants

  • Yak-10 – Standard production variant powered by a 5-cylinder air-cooled Shvetsov M-11FR radial engine providing 160 hp.
    • Yak-10V – Dual control trainer variant of the Yak-10. An unknown amount were produced.
    • Yak-10S – Medical variant of the Yak-10 which featured a hatch on the port side of the fuselage for loading stretchers. The passenger compartment could accommodate two stretchers and one doctor. It is unknown how many Yak-10S models were manufactured.
    • Yak-10G – Experimental floatplane variant of the Yak-10. A single Yak-10 was modified to carry AIR-6 type floats in 1946. The Yak-10G underwent manufacturer’s tests but this type was not accepted for mass production, likely due to the degradation of performance generated by the floats’ drag.
    • Yak-10 (Skis) – Experimental conversion of a Yak-10 to replace the conventional landing gears with Canadian manufactured wooden skis. A single example was converted from a standard model in February of 1947 but was rejected for service as the skis caused the Yak-10’s performance to deteriorate. The ski variant was also deemed only capable of being operated from rolled-down airfields, thus limiting the operable areas.
  • Yak-13 – Development of the Yak-10 in 1944 which saw a redesigned low-wing configuration, a split landing flap and various smaller modifications. The engine was also switched to a M-11FM radial engine producing 145 hp. The Yak-13 was superior to the Yak-10 in terms of performance, but this aircraft was not accepted for mass production as the Yak-12 was deemed better in some regards and as a result, the Yak-13 remained a one-off prototype. This variant was originally designated as the Yak-12 but the name was changed to Yak-13 during trials and the designation was reused for the 1947 development project of the Yak-10.
  • Yak-12 – Redesigned variant which first appeared in 1947. The Yak-12 featured a redesigned rear fuselage contour and a more shallow upper decking. Though the base model was slightly inferior to the Yak-10 in speed, the redesigned variant proved more capable in other aspects and was thus mass produced and replaced the Yak-10 in service.

Operators

  • Soviet Union – The Yakovlev Yak-10 and it’s variants were briefly operated by the Soviet Air Force from 1946 to 1947 before being replaced by the superior Yak-12.

Yakovlev Yak-10 Specifications

Wingspan 39 ft 4 ½ in / 12.0 m
Length 27 ft 8 ⅝ in / 8.45 m
Wing Area 237 ft² / 22 m²
Wing Airfoil Clark YH Airfoil
Thickness / Chord Ratio 11%
Engine 1x 5-cylinder air-cooled Shvetsov M-11FR-1 radial engine (160 hp)
Propeller 1x two-blade aluminum VISh-327 propellers
Empty Weight 1,746 lb / 792 kg
Normal Loaded Weight 2,535 lb / 1,150 kg
Maximum Loaded Weight 2,712 lb / 1,230 kg
Fuel Weight 207 lb / 94 kg
Oil Weight 31 lb / 14 kg
Climb Rate 3,280 ft / 1,000 m in 5.5 minutes
Maximum Speed 124 mph / 200 kmh – Normal Loaded Weight

122 mph / 196 kmh – Maximum Loaded Weight

Landing Speed 49 mph / 79 kmh – Normal Loaded Weight

52 mph / 84 kmh – Maximum Loaded Weight

Takeoff Distance 853 ft / 260 m – Normal Loaded Weight

1,115 ft / 340 m – Maximum Loaded Weight

Landing Distance 919 ft / 280 m – Normal Loaded Weight

984 ft / 300 m – Maximum Loaded Weight

Range 358 mi / 576 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 11,155 ft / 3,400 m
Crew 1x Pilot
Load Capacity 3x Passengers

Yakovlev Yak-10S Specifications

Wingspan 39 ft 4 ½ in / 12.0 m
Length 27 ft 8 ⅝ in / 8.45 m
Wing Area 237 ft² / 22 m²
Wing Airfoil Clark YH Airfoil
Thickness / Chord Ratio 11%
Engine 1x 5-cylinder air-cooled Shvetsov M-11FR radial engine (160 hp)
Propeller 1x two-blade aluminum VISh-327 propellers
Empty Weight 1,808 lb / 820 kg
Normal Loaded Weight 2,579 lb / 1,170 kg
Maximum Loaded Weight 2,756 lb / 1,250 kg
Fuel Weight 207 lb / 94 kg
Oil Weight 31 lb / 14 kg
Climb Rate 3,280 ft / 1,000 m in 5.5 minutes – Normal Load Weight
Maximum Speed 128 mph / 206 kmh – Normal Load Weight
Landing Speed 45 mph / 73 kmh – Normal Load Weight
Takeoff Distance 748 ft / 228 m – Normal Load Weight
Landing Distance 633 ft / 193 m – Normal Load Weight
Range 376 mi / 605 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 11,483 ft / 3,500 m
Crew 1x Pilot
Load Capacity 2x Stretchers + Injured Personnel

1x Doctor

Gallery

Illustrations by Haryo Panji

Yakovlev Yak-10 – Standard Model
Yakovlev Yak-10 – Standard Model in Alternate Livery
Yakovlev Yak-10 – Air Ambulance
Yakovlev Yak-10 – Float Variant

The prototype Yak-10G floatplane variant sits in a river awaiting flight trials. [Yefim Gordon]
A Yak-10 flies over the Moskva River near the Moscow suburbs. [Yefim Gordon]
A white painted Yak-10S ambulance variant. The port hatch for loading stretchers is visible beside the cross. [Yefim Gordon]

Credits

Boulton-Paul P.105 & P.107

UK Union Jack United Kingdom (1944)
Strike Fighter – None Built

Static model of the standard P.105. [British Secret Projects]
The Boulton-Paul P.105 is a little known single-engine aircraft meant to fill a variety of carrier-based roles. To do so, the P.105 would utilize a unique and innovative design that involved having interchangeable fuselage and cockpit modules that would pertain to a certain mission, and could be changed quickly to fill a needed role aboard carriers or other airbases. The design was not picked up for unknown reasons but its story doesn’t end there. The design would develop further into the P.107, a land-based escort version of the P.105. The P.107 would have a rear-facing turret and a twin boom tail design to allow greater traverse of the gun. This design wouldn’t be adopted either and the program would conclude before the war’s end.

History

Late in the Second World War, the Royal Naval Air Arm began seeking out an aircraft design that would be able to fill both the fighter and bomber roles. Having one aircraft perform multiple roles would eliminate the specialization of carrier-borne aircraft needed to fill the fighter, dive bomber, and torpedo bomber roles. No official requirement was ever put out to build such an aircraft, but several companies had begun developing aircraft that would fit this role, which had become known as the “Strike Fighter”. Westland, Blackburn, Fairey and Boulton-Paul would all develop designs that correspond to the strike fighter role. Boulton-Paul’s aircraft design would be known as the P.105.

Boulton-Paul is a lesser-known aircraft company which only had a single major type of aircraft enter mass production during the Second World War: the Defiant. The Defiant reflected a lot of their aircraft designs, which were all somewhat unorthodox. . In the Defiant’s case, it was a fighter with a rear turret. Boulton-Paul were much more successful in developing turrets for use on other aircraft, such as the Handley-Page Halifax, Blackburn Roc (which they co-developed alongside Blackburn), Lockheed Hudson and the late war Avro Lincoln. Despite having only one combat aircraft enter production, Boulton-Paul had a very active development section, although most of their designs would stay on the drawing board, with a few being lucky enough to receive prototypes. The designs came from an engineer named J. D. North, who was the main aircraft designer for Boulton-Paul. Before work started on their Strike Fighter design, North had been working on their P.103 and P.104 designs for the Naval Air Arm. The P.103 was an ultra-fast fighter design that utilized a contra-rotating propeller and a Griffon 61 or Centaurus engine. The P.103 wasn’t picked up for production, but North would use many aspects of the P.103 in the P.105. The contra-rotating propeller would once again be used, while the engine would start as a Griffon 61 but shift over to a Centaurus engine later.

3 way drawing of the P.105. Note the spotter’s lower window. [British Secret Projects]
The P.105 was meant to be a small, high-performing aircraft that could easily be converted to fill other roles, even carrier duties. To do so, it would use a unique idea. To fill the variety of carrier-borne roles, the P.105 would have modular cockpit and bomb bay sections. The interchangable modules included a torpedo-bomber (P.105A), reconnaissance aircraft (P.105B), fighter (P.105C) and dive-bomber (No designation given). Each section would have minor differences between them that fit their respective roles. With this system, more P.105 airframes could be stored in hangars and carriers, while the additional modules would take up less space than other aircraft specified for specific roles, thus increasing the combat capacity of the carrier the P.105 would be stationed on. Boulton Paul expected the aircraft to be very high performance and the P.105C version would be an excellent penetration fighter. Before any specifications were estimated, it was decided to switch from a Griffon 61 engine to the Centaurus inline engine. The brochure on the details of the aircraft was submitted to the RNAA, but no order for production came about. Exactly why it wasn’t adopted is unknown. The reasoning may come from the module system, as it could have been novel in concept, but complex in reality. Another reason could be that current aircraft at the time were deemed to have been performing adequately and didn’t need such a replacement.

3 way drawing of the P.107. Note the sliding aft canopy and smaller profile of the twin tail rudders. [British Secret Projects]
Although the P.105 wasn’t granted production, its story continues in the Boulton-Paul P.107. The P.107 is an intriguing design since very little information pertaining to its development history is available, but its design and specifications has been found. It can be assumed the P.107 began development during or shortly after the P.105 had been created. The P.107 wouldn’t be operated by the RNAA, but instead by the Royal Air Force as a long-range escort fighter. Major differences between the P.107 and P.105 include the lack of folding wings, the removal of the torpedo blister, the addition of a turret and the switch from a single rudder to a twin tail design to improve the firing angle of the turret. The P.107 could also be configured for different roles, but it is unknown if it used the same module system the P.105 used. The P.107 wasn’t selected for production either.

Design

The Boulton-Paul P.105 had a conventional fighter layout. In the front, it would utilize a contra-rotating propeller that had reversible pitch. Originally, the design would have mounted a Griffon 61 engine but was changed in favor of the Centaurus engine instead. The wings on the P.105 were inverted gull wings, much like those on the Vought F4U Corsair or Junkers Ju 87 Stuka. To conserve space in carriers, the wings would be able to fold. The fuselage had the most interesting aspect of the P.105 overall and that was its interchangeable cockpit and lower fuselage modules. Each variant of the P.105 would use different modules that would pertain to the intended role it served. The P.105A was a torpedo bomber and would use the torpedo blister present under the tail. The P.105B was a reconnaissance aircraft, and its cockpit would sit a pilot and observer. It would use a glass hull beneath the observer to assist in spotting. The P.105C was an escort fighter and would be a one-man aircraft. The last was a dive-bomber version, which only has very sparse details available. The dive bomber would carry two 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs, most likely in an internal bomb bay module. The tail of the aircraft would be a conventional rudder and tailplane arrangement. The armament of the P.105 was a standard two to four 12.7mm machine-guns in the wings of the aircraft, with the only deviation being the P.105C, which would use four 20mm cannons instead.

Papercraft model of the P.107 [Kartonbau.de]
The P.107 borrowed many aspects of the P.105 design, but changed some details to better fit its role. The engine and frontal section would stay the same, keeping the contra-rotating propellers and Centaurus engine. Reference materials refer to the aircraft as being able to convert from an escort fighter to either a fighter-bomber or photo reconnaissance aircraft. However, whether it was conventional conversion or via the module system the P.105 used is unknown, the latter being most likely. The wing design would stay the same, with the inverted gull wing style. Given its land-based nature, the wings no longer folded to conserve space and the torpedo blister under the tail was removed. Behind the pilot, a gunner would sit and remotely control two 12.7mm machine guns. The machine-guns would be housed within the aircraft, with only the ends of the barrel protruding out. To give the gunner a better firing arc, the single tailfin was switched to a double tailfin. The turret and twin tail design are the most obvious differences between the P.107 and P.105. The aircraft’s fuel would be stored in a main tank and two smaller drop tanks. Fuel amount was expected to give the aircraft a 3,000 mi (4,827 km) range, with up to 30 minutes of combat. The drop tanks could be switched for 2,000 Ib (900 Kg) of bombs. For offensive armament, the P.107 would use four 20m cannons mounted in the wings.

Papercraft model of the P.107 [Kartonbau.de]

Variants

 

  • Boulton Paul P.105A– Torpedo bomber version of the P.105.
  • Boulton Paul P.105B– Reconnaissance version of the P.105. This version would have a glazed hull for the observer.
  • Boulton Paul P.105C– Fighter version of the P.105.
  • Boulton Paul P.105 Dive bomber– Dive bomber version of the P.105. No designation was given to this design.
  • Boulton Paul P.107– Land-based escort fighter derived from the P.105. The P.107 was near identical to the P.105 but had a twin boom tail to allow better vision and turn radius for a rear mounted turret. Photo reconnaissance and fighter bomber versions of the P.107 are also mentioned.

Operators

 

  • Great Britain – Had it been built, the P.105 would have been used by the Royal Fleet Air Arm. The P.107 would have been used by the RAF for escort duty had it been built.

Boulton-Paul P.105 Specifications

Wingspan 38 ft / 11.6 m
Length 34 ft 5 in / 10.5 m
Folded Width 15 ft 4 in / 4.67 m
Wing Area 250 ft² / 23.3 m²
Engine 3,000 hp ( 2,200 kW ) Centaurus CE.12.SM engine
Fuel Capacity 260 gal (1,180 lit)
Weights 12,285 Ib / 5,572 kg with torpedo

12,509 Ib / 5,674 kg with bombs

Climb Rate 3,660 ft/min / 1,110 m/min
Maximum Speed 469 mph / 755 km/h at 20,000 ft / 6,000 m
Cruising Speed 407 mph / 655 km/h
Range 1,300 mi / 2100 km – 3,320 mi / 5340 km
Crew Pilot

Other crew member (Depending on the variant)

Armament
  • 2-4 12.7mm machine guns (All versions)
  • 1x Torpedo (P.105A)
  • 2x 1,000 Ib (454 kg) bombs (Dive Bomber)
  • 4x 20mm cannons (P.105C)

Boulton-Paul P.107 Specifications

Wingspan 38 ft / 11.6 m
Length 34 ft 8 in / 10.6 m
Wing Area 250 ft² / 23.3 m²
Engine 3,000 hp ( 2,200 kW ) Centaurus CE.12.SM engine
Fuel Capacity Main: 495 gal (2,250 lit)

Drop Tanks: 140 gal (640 lit)

Weight 15,900 Ib / 7,200 kg
Max Speed 470 mph / 755 km/h at 22,000 ft / 6,700 m
Range With Drop Tanks: 3,000 mi / 4,800 km

Without: 2,200 mi / 3,540 km

Fighter-Bomber: 700 mi / 1,120 km

Crew 1 Pilot

1 Gunner

Armament
  • 4x 20 mm guns + 2x 12.7mm machine guns
  • 2,000 Ib (907 kg) of bombs

Gallery

Illustrations by Haryo Panji

Boulton-Paul P.107 Illustration by Haryo Panji
Boulton-Paul P.105 Reconnaissance Illustration by Haryo Panji

Credits

North American XP-86 Sabre

USA flag old United States of America (1945)
Prototype Fighter – 3 Built

The first XP-86 Prototype 45-59598, flown by George Welch

The North American F-86 Sabre is one of the most well-known fighter aircraft of all time, marking the transition from the propeller to the jet turbine. It first entered service with the newly formed U.S. Air Force in 1949, and was instrumental in denying air superiority to Communist forces during the Korean War. After the war ended, many Sabres entered service with dozens of foreign air arms, becoming the primary fighter equipment of many Allied nations. It was built under license in Canada, Japan, Italy, and Australia. Its service was so long-lived that the last operational F-86 was not withdrawn from service until 1993.

History

The F-86 Sabre began its life as North American Aviation’s company project NA-134, which was originally intended for the US Navy. As the war in the Pacific edged toward its climax, the Navy was making plans to acquire jet-powered carrier-based aircraft, which it was could be pressed into service in time for Operation Olympic-Coronet, the invasion of Japan planned for May 1946. The Navy had planned to acquire four jet fighters, the Vought XF6U-1 Pirate, the McDonnell XFD-1 Phantom, the McDonnell XF2D-1 Banshee, and the North American XFJ-1 Fury.

Work on the NA-134 project began in the late autumn of 1944. The NA-134 had a straight, thin-section wing set low on a round fuselage. It featured a straight through flow of air from the nose intake to the jet exhaust that exited the aircraft under a straight tailplane. The wing was borrowed directly from the P-51D, and had a laminar-flow airfoil. It was to be powered by a single General Electric TG-180 gas turbine which was a license-built version of the de Havilland Goblin. The TG-180 was designated J35 by the military and was an 11-stage axial-flow turbojet which offered 4000 lb.s.t. at sea level. The Navy ordered three prototypes of the NA-134 under the designation XFJ-1 on January 1, 1945. On May 28, 1945, the Navy approved a contract for 100 production FJ-1s (NA-141).

At the same time that North American was beginning to design the Navy’s XFJ-1, the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) issued a requirement for a medium-range day fighter which could also be used as an escort fighter and a dive bomber. Specifications called for a speed of at least 600 mph, since the Republic XP-84 Thunderjet already under construction promised 587 mph. On Nov 22, 1944, the company’s RD-1265 design study proposed a version of the XFJ-1 for the Air Force to meet this requirement. This design was known in company records as NA-140. The USAAF was sufficiently impressed that they issued a letter contract on May 18, 1945 which authorized the acquisition of three NA-140 aircraft under the designation XP-86.

The Navy’s XFJ-1 design had to incorporate some performance compromises in order to support low-speed carrier operations, but the land-based USAAF XP-86 was not so constrained and had a somewhat thinner wing and a slimmer fuselage with a high fineness ratio. However, the XP-86 retained the tail surfaces of the XFJ-1.

The XP-86 incorporated several features not previously used on fighter aircraft, including a fully-pressurized cockpit and hydraulically-boosted ailerons and elevators. Armament was the standard USAAF equipment of the era–six 0.50-inch Browning M3 machine guns that fired at 1100 rounds per minute, with 267 rounds per gun. The aircraft was to use the Sperry type A-1B gun/bomb/rocket sight, working in conjunction with an AN/APG-5 ranging radar. Rocket launchers could be added underneath the wings to carry up to 8 5-inch HVARs. Self-sealing fuel tanks were to be fitted, and the pilot was to be provided with some armor plating around the cockpit area.

In the XP-86, a ten percent ratio of wing thickness to chord was used to extend the critical Mach number to 0.9. Wingspan was to be 38 feet 2.5 inches, length was 35 feet 6 inches, and height was 13 feet 2.5 inches. Four speed brakes were to be attached above and below the wings. At a gross weight of 11,500 pounds, the XP-86 was estimated to be capable of achieving a top speed of 574 mph at sea level and 582 mph at 10,000 feet, still below the USAAF requirement. Initial climb rate was to be 5,850 feet per minute and service ceiling was to be 46,000 feet. Combat radius was 297 miles with 410 gallons of internal fuel, but could be increased to 750 miles by adding a 170 gallon drop tank to each wingtip. As it would turn out, these performance figures were greatly exaggerated.

A mock-up of the XP-86 was built and approved on June 20, 1945. However, early wind tunnel tests indicated that the airframe of the XP-86 would not be able to reach the desired speed of 600 mph. It is highly likely that the XP-86 project would have been cancelled at this time were it not for some unusual developments.

Saved by the Germans

After the surrender of Germany in May of 1945, the USAAF, along with a lot of other air forces, was keenly interested in obtaining information about the latest German jet fighters and in learning as much as they could about secret German wartime research on jet propulsion, rocket power, and ballistic missiles. American teams were selected from industry and research institutions and sent into occupied Germany to investigate captured weapons research data, microfilm it, and ship it back to the US.

The First XP-86 Prototype in Flight Testing [San Diego Air & Space Museum]
By the summer of 1945, a great deal of German data was pouring in, much of it as yet untranslated into English. As it turned out, German aeronautical engineers had wind-tunnel tested just about every aerodynamic shape that the human mind could conceive of, even some ideas even only remotely promising. A particular German paper dated 1940 reported that wind tunnel tests showed that there were some significant advantages offered by swept wings at speeds of about Mach 0.9. A straight-winged aircraft was severely affected by compressibility effects as sonic speed was approached, but the use of a swept wing delayed the effects of shock waves and permitted better control at these higher speeds. Unfortunately, German research also indicated that the use of wing sweep introduced some undesirable wing tip stall and low-speed stability effects. American researchers had also encountered a similar problem with the swept-wing Curtiss XP-55 Ascender, which was so unstable that it flipped over on its back and stalled on one of its test flights.

In 1940, these German studies were of only theoretical interest, since no powerplants were available even remotely capable of reaching such speeds. However, such studies caught the attention of North American engineers trying to develop ways to improve the performance of their XP-86.

Going Supersonic

The first XP-86 prototype in what would be a temporary white paint scheme

The optimal design for an aircraft capable of high speeds produces a design that stalls easily at low speeds. The cure for the low-speed stability problem that was worked out by North American engineers was to attach automatic slats to the wing leading edges. The wing slats were entirely automatic, and opened and closed in response to aerodynamic forces. When the slats opened, the changed airflow over the upper wing surface increased the lift and produced lower stalling speeds. At high speeds, the slats automatically closed to minimize drag.

In August of 1945, project aerodynamicist L. P. Greene proposed to Raymond Rice that a swept-wing configuration for the P-86 be adopted. Wind tunnel tests carried out in September of 1945 confirmed the reduction in drag at high subsonic speeds as well as the beneficial effect of the slats on low speed stability. The limiting Mach number was raised to 0.875.

Based on these wind-tunnel studies, a new design for a swept-wing P-86 was submitted in the fall of 1945. The USAAF was impressed, and on November 1, 1945 it readily approved the proposal. This was one of the most important decisions ever made by the USAAF. Had they not agreed to this change, the history of the next forty years would undoubtedly have been quite different.

North American’s next step was to choose the aspect ratio of the swept wing. A larger aspect ratio would give better range, a narrower one better stability, and the correct choice would have to be a tradeoff between the two. Further tests carried out between late October and mid November indicated that a wing aspect ratio of 6 would be satisfactory, and such an aspect ratio had been planned for in the proposal accepted on November 1. However, early in 1946 additional wind tunnel tests indicated that stability with such a narrow wing would be too great a problem, and in March the design reverted to a shorter wingform. An aspect ratio of 4.79, a sweep-back of 35 degrees, and a thickness/chord ratio of 11% at the root and 10% at the tip was finally chosen.

All of these changes lengthened the time scale of the P-86 development in comparison to that of the Navy’s XFJ-1. The XFJ-1 took to the air for the first time on November 27, 1946, but the XP-86 still had almost another year of work ahead before it was ready for its first flight.

The first XP-86 prototype in flight during testing [North American Aviation]
On February 28, 1946, the mockup of the swept-winged XP-86 was inspected and approved. In August of 1946, the basic engineering drawings were made available to the manufacturing shop of North American, and the first metal was cut. The USAAF was so confident of the future performance of the XP-86, that on December 20, 1946 another letter contract for 33 production P-86As was approved. No service test aircraft were ordered. Although the 4000 lb.s.t. J35 would power the three XP-86 prototypes, production P-86As would be powered by the General Electric TG-190 (J47) turbojet offering 5000 lb.s.t.

The first of three prototypes, 45-59597, was rolled out of the Inglewood factory on August 8, 1947. It was powered by a Chevrolet-built J35-C-3 turbojet rated at 4000 pounds of static thrust. The aircraft was unarmed. After a few ground taxiing and braking tests, it was disassembled and trucked out to Muroc Dry Lake Army Air Base, where it was reassembled.

Test pilot George “Wheaties” Welch took the XP-86 up into the air for the first time on October 1, 1947. The flight went well until it came time to lower the landing gear and come in for a landing. Welch found that the nosewheel wouldn’t come down all the way. After spending forty minutes in fruitless attempts to shake the nosewheel down into place, Welch finally brought the plane in for a nose-high landing. Fortunately, the impact of the main wheels jolted the nosewheel into place, and the aircraft rolled safely to a stop. The swept-wing XP-86 had made its first flight.

On October 16, 1947, the USAF gave final approval to the fixed price contract for 33 P-86As, with the additional authorization for 190 P-86Bs. The P-86B was to be a strengthened P-86A for rough-field operations.

XP-86 number 45-59597 was officially delivered to the USAF on November 30, 1948. By that time, its designation had been changed to XF-86. Phase II flight tests, those flown by USAF pilots, began in early December of 1947. An Allison-built J35-A-5 rated at 4000 lbs of static thrust was installed for USAF tests. The second and third XP-86 prototypes, 45-59598 and 45-59599 respectively, joined the test program in early 1948. These were different from the first prototype as well as being different from each other in several respects. Numbers 1 and 2 had different fuel gauges, a stall warning system built into the control stick, a bypass for emergency operation of the hydraulic boost system, and hydraulically-actuated leading-edge slat locks. The number 3 prototype was the only one of the three to have fully-automatic leading-edge slats that opened at 135 mph. Numbers 2 and 3 had SCR-695-B IFF beacons and carried the AN/ARN-6 radio compass set.

The original XP-86 prototype was used for evaluating the effects of nuclear blasts on military hardware at Frenchman Flats. It was later scrapped. [This Day in Aviation]
In June of 1948, the new US Air Force redesignated all Pursuit aircraft as Fighter aircraft, changing the prefix from P to F. Thus the XP-86 became the XF-86. XP-86 number one was officially delivered to the USAF on November 30, 1948. The three prototypes remained in various test and evaluation roles well into the 1950s, and were unofficially referred to as YP-86s. All three prototypes were sold for scrap after being used in nuclear tests at Frenchman Flats in Nevada

Design

The three XP-86 prototypes flying in formation together in 1948 [National Archives]
Evolving from the NA-134 project with wings borrowed from a P-51, the XP-86 would eventually end up with a low swept wing mounted to a tubular fuselage, with a large jet intake opening at the nose. The plexiglass bubble canopy gave the pilot great visibility, and afforded the pilot a pressurized cockpit. The tail featured a swept back rudder with tailplanes angled upwards, marking a departure from the largely perpendicular angles seen on most of the Sabre’s propeller driven predecessors. The landing gear was a tricycle configuration, which helped balance the weight of the jet engine at the rear.

The wing of the XP-86 was to be constructed of a double-skin structure with hat sections between layers extending from the center section to the outboard edges of the outer panel fuel tanks. This structure replaced the conventional rib and stringer construction in that area. This new construction method provided additional strength and allowed enough space in the wing for fuel tanks.

The wing-mounted speed brakes originally contemplated for the XP-86 were considered unsuitable for the wing design, so they were replaced by a hydraulic door-type brake mounted on each side of the rear fuselage and one brake mounted on the bottom of the fuselage in a dorsal position. The speed brakes opened frontwards, and had the advantage that they could be opened at any attitude and speed, including speeds above Mach One.

The maximum speed of the XP-86 was over 650 mph, 75 mph faster than anything else in service at the time. The noise and vibration levels were considerably lower than other jet-powered aircraft. However, the J35 engine did not produce enough thrust, and the XP-86 could only climb at 4,000 feet per minute. However, this was not considered an issue, since the production P-86As were to be powered by the 5000 lb.s.t. General Electric J47.

The XP-86 could go supersonic in a dive with only a moderate and manageable tendency to nose-up, although below 25,000 feet there was a tendency to roll which made it unwise to stay supersonic for very long. Production Sabres were limited to Mach 0.95 below 25,000 feet for safety reasons because of this roll tendency.

For the second and third prototypes, the ventral brake was eliminated, and the two rear-opening side fuselage brakes were replaced by brakes which had hinges at the front and opened out and down. These air brakes were adopted for production aircraft.

Prototype number 3 was the only one to be fitted with armament. The armament of six 0.50-inch M3 machine guns were mounted in blocks of three on either side of the cockpit. Ammunition bays were installed in the bottom of the fuselage underneath the gun bay, with as many as 300 rounds per gun. The guns were aimed by a Mk 18 gyroscopic gunsight with manual ranging.

Possibly the First Supersonic Aircraft

George Welch Circa 1947 – [San Diego Air & Space Museum]
There is actually a possibility that the XP-86 rather than the Bell XS-1 might have been the first aircraft to achieve supersonic flight. During some of his early flight tests, George Welch reported that he had encountered some rather unusual fluctuations in his airspeed and altitude indicators during high speed dives, which might have meant that he had exceeded the speed of sound. However, at that time, North American had no way of calibrating airspeed indicators into the transonic range above Mach 1, so it is uncertain just how fast Welch had gone. On October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager exceeded Mach 1 in the XS-1. Although the event was kept secret from the general public, North American test crews heard about this feat through rumors and persuaded NACA to use its equipment to track the XP-86 in a high-speed dive to see if there was a possibility that the XP-86 could also go supersonic. This test was done on October 19, five days after Yeager’s flight, in which George Welch was tracked at Mach 1.02. The tests were flown again on October 21 with the same results. Since Welch had been performing the very same flight patterns in tests before October 14, there is the possibility that he, not Chuck Yeager, might have been first to exceed the speed of sound.

In any case, the fact that the XP-86 had exceeded the speed of sound was immediately classified, and remained so for several months afterward. In May of 1948, the world was informed that George Welch had exceeded Mach 1.0 in the XP-86, becoming the first “aircraft” to do so, with an aircraft being defined as a vehicle that takes off and lands under its own power. The date was set as April 26, 1948. This flight did actually take place, but George Welch was not the pilot. In fact, it was a British pilot who was evaluating the XP-86 who inadvertently broadcasted that he had exceeded Mach 1 over an open radio channel. However, the facts soon became common knowledge throughout the aviation community. The June 14, 1948 issue of Aviation Week published an article revealing that the XP-86 had gone supersonic.

Variants

  • XP-86 45-59597 – The first prototype Sabre produced, was reconfigured many times with various test configurations. May have been the first aircraft to have gone supersonic in October 1947 with George Welch at the controls.
  • XP-86 45-59598 – The second prototype, had different production model speedbrake and flap configuration, various sensors and equipment installed for testing purposes.
  • XP-86 45-59599 – The third prototype, and the only Sabre prototype to have been armed, fitted with the standard six M3 Browning guns

Operators

  • United States – The prototypes were extensively tested by North American Aviation before being handed over to the U.S. Air Force in 1948.

North American XP-86 Specifications

Wingspan 37 ft 1.5 in / 11.32 m
Length 37 ft 6.5 in / 11.44 m
Height 14 ft 9 in / 4.5 m
Wing Area 299 ft² / 27.8 m²
Engine 1x Chevrolet J35-C-3 Turbojet Engine

4000 lbst

Fuel Capacity 410 US Gal / 1,552 L

750 US Gal / 2,839 L with wingtip drop tanks

Weights
Empty 9,730 lb / 4,413 kg
Gross 13,395 lb / 6,076 kg
Maximum Take Off 16,438 lb / 7,456 kg
Climb Rate
Rate of Climb at Sea Level 4000 ft / 1219 m per minute
Time to 20,000 ft / 6,096 m 6.4 minutes
Time to 30,000 ft / 9,144 m 12.1 minutes
Maximum Speed
Sea Level 599 mph / 964 kmh
14,000 ft / 4267 m 618 mph / 995 kmh
35,000 ft / 10,668 m 575 mph / 925 kmh
Takeoff Run 3,030 ft / 924 m
Range 297 mi / 478 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 41,300 ft / 12,588 m
Crew 1 pilot
Armament
  • 6x Browning M3 machine guns, 267 rounds per gun
  • Sperry type A-1B gun/bomb/rocket sight
  • AN/APG-5C ranging radar
  • Underwing Rocket Launchers, up to 8x 5-inch HVAR

Gallery

Illustrations by Ed Jackson

XP-86 – 1st Prototype 45-59597 circa 1947 note it bears the P for “Pursuit”
XP-86 – 1st Prototype 45-59597 circa June 1948 in white paint scheme, note the wingtip pitot probes
XP-86 – 1st Prototype 45-59597 circa 1948, note the additional test equipment behind the pilot’s seat
XP-86 – 2nd Prototype 45-59598 circa 1948
XP-86 – 3rd Prototype 45-59599 circa 1948

Credits

Shangdeng No. 1

PRC flag People’s Republic of China (1958)
Helicopter / Bus / Boat Hybrid – None Built

Perhaps the only known photo of the original Shangdeng No.1 model. (中国飞机全书: 第3卷)

Shangdeng No.1 was an overambitious design undertaken by the Chinese Shanghai Bulb Factory in 1958 to produce a multipurpose vehicle which could serve as a helicopter, a bus and a boat for the National Day celebrations. Vastly unknown both inside and outside of China, the Shangdeng No.1 can be considered one of the People’s Republic of China’s more obscure designs of the 1950s. Quietly canceled after the conclusion of National Day, the Shanghai Bulb Factory would never fulfill their promise of completing the design and preparing it for mass production. This could be attributed to a plethora of reasons, but information is scarce.

History

On October 1st 1958, the People’s Republic of China celebrated the ninth anniversary of the founding of the nation. As their personal way of celebrating this national holiday, representatives of the Shanghai Bulb Factory unveiled a model of a hybrid design as a gift to the government. Unorthodox and, some may rightfully argue, ridiculous in concept, this design (dubbed the “Shangdeng No.1” / “上灯” 1号) was meant to have served as a versatile multipurpose vehicle capable of acting as a helicopter, a boat and a small bus. Upon presenting this model to the government, they proclaimed that design and manufacturing work would be completed in 1959 thus allowing for mass production. However, this would never happen, as work on the project ceased shortly after the model was presented and the conclusion of National Day.

The reason for the cancellation is unknown, but one could speculate a number of reasons. First and foremost, the Shanghai Bulb Factory specialized in the production of lightbulbs, therefore they completely lacked any expertise, experience, qualified personnel and machinery required to design and in turn produce such a conceptually complicated vehicle. A second possible reason why the project was canceled was due to Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” campaign, which would have the entire country struggle to industrialize and collectivize. The Shangdeng No.1 could have been deemed as useless and thus canceled by the government so that the factory could focus its resources to fulfill government mandated quotas of lightbulb production. Lastly, the Shanghai Bulb Factory could have had no intention of developing the Shangdeng No.1 in the first place, and the model presented could have been just a demonstration to show off Chinese ingenuity and to boost the morale of the Chinese people in a small show of fanciful propaganda. These, however, are just theories to speculate on why the Shangdeng No.1 was canceled. Only one photo is known to exist of the Shangdeng No.1’s scale model presented during National Day.

In conclusion, the Shangdeng No.1 was an overambitious design concept explored by the Shanghai Bulb Factory which resulted in the presentation of a scale model on the ninth National Day of the People’s Republic of China. Absurd in concept, the Shanghai Bulb Factory would have had no possible way of delivering on their promise to produce such a vehicle as they certainly had little to no experience on vehicle design and machinery intended for light bulb production could only produce so little. The fact that a light bulb factory conceptualized this vehicle is quite interesting though, and, to their credit, an intended helicopter/bus/boat hybrid design would most certainly have raised a few eyebrows in the country and in the Western world, assuming that the design was feasible and successful.

As details on this project are so scarce, it has led to some debate on the legacy of the design. A popular claim by numerous online sources is that, after the project was canceled, documents on the Shangdeng No.1 was transferred to the American Boeing firm, and that the Shangdeng’s tandem rotor design served as the inspiration of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter. This claim is unrealistic and vacuous, as the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America had no formal relations until the late 1960s / early 1970s, nearly a decade after the Chinook was serviced. Therefore, the concept of a Chinese light bulb factory transferring documents to and influencing a world-renowned aviation corporation would be extremely illogical and, frankly, impossible. The United States of America was also no stranger to tandem bladed helicopters designs, as numerous helicopters (eg. Piasecki HRP Rescuer, Piasecki H-21, etc) formerly and currently in service had these designs prior to the conceptualization of the Shangdeng.

Design

The design of the Shangdeng No.1 resembles a rectangular box with rounded edges. A tandem rotor blade configuration was used, and the conceptual power plant of the Shangdeng would have been an unspecified radial engine model capable of producing up to 450 hp, connected to both the front and the rear rotors. The cockpit located at the front of the helicopter would have allowed space for two pilots. Four passengers (or the weight equivalent in cargo) could have been held in the compartment located behind the cockpit. Windows were planned to be installed in the fuselage as can seen in the scale model. Relatively speaking, the Shangdeng’s dimensions are quiet small for a tandem rotor helicopter design. The Shangdeng was only 6 ft 7 in (2.00 m) tall, which would have likely made the interior compartment quite cramped.

Four static wheels were mounted in pairs in the front and rear part of the fuselage which would have moved the Shangdeng in its bus configuration. It is unknown whether or not the design would have allowed the tandem helicopter rotors to be folded in this configuration. If not, the blades could potentially be damaged in urban areas or crowded spaces. It is unknown if a separate transmission would have been connected to the wheels, but this would have certainly greatly complicated the design. If the vehicle in its bus configuration was meant to be propelled by the rotors, that would have been not only unacceptably inefficient, but would have also limited the paths it could travel and would have been highly dangerous to be next to. Steering in the wheeled mode is also unclear.

In its naval configuration, the Shangdeng would have been propelled by an unspecified amount of 15 in / 40 cm propellers in the rear, possibly with assistance from the wheels which would have provided limited propulsion in the water. Again, this would have probably been highly fuel-inefficient. Also, why would a helicopter, which can easily get between any two points by flying, be used as a boat is hard to fathom. How steering was achieved in the boat mode is unclear.

In the helicopter configuration, the Shangdeng would have just been propulsed by the rotor blades and radial engine. The problem of having someone trained both as a pilot, driver and skipper at the same time seems to have gone unnoticed by the designers. As the project did not progress beyond the conceptual model stage, intricate details regarding the Shangdeng No.1 are unknown. However, basic dimensions and estimated performances are provided by 中国飞机全书: Volume III, a book written by People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) general Wei Gang (魏钢), former PLAAF model maker and artist Chen Yingming (陈应明) and aviation magazine author Zhang Wei (张维).

Operator(s)

  • People’s Republic of China – The Shangdeng No.1 would most likely have been operated by the various military branches and likely some civilian institutes if it were to see mass production.

Shanghai Bulb Factory Shangdeng No.1*

* – Statistics taken from中国飞机全书 (Vol. 3)

Length 32 ft 10 in / 10.00 m
Height 6 ft 7 in / 2.00 m
Engine 1x Unspecified Multi-Cylinder Radial Engine Model (450 hp)
Rotor Blade Length 26 ft 3 in / 8.00 m
Rotor Blade Spacing 22 ft / 7.00 m
Boat Propeller Length 15 in / 40 cm
Wheel Diameter 27.5 in / 70 cm
Maximum Takeoff Weight 4000 lbs / 1,800 kg
Climb Rate 6.6 ft / 2 m per second
Maximum Speed (Flying) 95 mph / 150 km/h
Maximum Speed (Driving) 60 mph / 100 km/h
Maximum Speed (Sailing) 7 mph / 12 km/h
Range 400 mi / 650 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 9,800 ft / 3,000 m
Crew 2x Pilot

4x Passengers

Gallery

Side Profile View Illustration by Ed Jackson

Sources

Yermolayev Yer-2ON

USSR flag USSR (1944)
VIP Transport – 3 Converted

A 1/4 view of the Yer-2ON. (AviaDejaVu)

The Yer-2ON was a VIP passenger transport aircraft designed in 1944 by Vladimir Grigoryevich Yermolayev and his Yermolayev OKB (design bureau). Based off of the firm’s preexisting Yer-2 bomber, the Yer-2ON was meant to fulfill the role of a government VIP transport aircraft which would carry government members to and from meetings in or out of the Soviet Union. Shortly after Vladimir Yermolayev died on December 31st of 1944 from a typhoid infection, the Yermolayev OKB firm was integrated into Pavel Sukhoi’s Sukhoi OKB firm where the project continued. Despite showing relatively promising performance, the Yer-2ON would eventually be cancelled due to the conclusion of the Second World War and the Sukhoi OKB’s need to concentrate resources on other projects. Thus, the three produced Yer-2ON would never be used for their intended purpose and were presumably scrapped some time post-war.

History

Diplomacy between the Allied countries during the Second World War was an essential step in defeating the Axis powers. With the increasing successes of the Allies during the war, meetings between representatives from the United States, Soviet Union and United Kingdom were held to discuss the future of Europe along with battle plans. In order to attend these meetings, the Soviet government became aware of the need for a long-range VIP passenger transport aircraft capable of carrying 10 to 12 people while maintaining comfort, reliability, cruising abilities at 13,000 ft to 16,400 ft (4,000 m to 5,000 m) and range of 2,500 mi to 3,100 mi (4,000 km to 5,000 km). After Joseph Stalin himself made a request for an aircraft meeting these requirements in January of 1944, a meeting was held between government and Soviet Air Force officials discussing the feasibility of converting existing bomber aircraft to meet this need. Not only would this save time, but also had the benefit of sharing the same airframe as aircraft already in production. In the end, the Yermolayev OKB’s liquid-cooled Charomskiy ACh-30B V-12 diesel engine powered Yer-2 bomber was chosen for conversion. Curiously enough, Yer-2 being used as a transport aircraft is quite ironic, as it reflects on Roberto L. Bartini’s 1937 Stal-7 transport aircraft, from which the Yer-2 bomber was originally developed from.

A frontal view of the passenger compartment. (AviaDejaVu)

Shortly after the NKAP (People’s Commissariat for Aviation Industry) approved Order 351 on May 23, 1944, the head designer of the Yermolayev OKB firm, Vladimir Grigoryevich Yermolayev, began work on converting the Yer-2 into a VIP passenger transport aircraft. In his address to the NKAP on that day, he promised that a completed example would be converted by Factory No.39 and be ready for tests by November 15th. This new variant would be designated Yer-2ON (Osoboye Naznachenie – Special Purpose). With most of the groundwork already completed, Yermolayev was able to complete the conversion blueprints by August. An inspection was conducted on the Yer-2ON’s plans on August 28th and was approved for production. The difference between the Yer-2ON and the standard bomber variant was the removal of all armament and replacement of the bomb bay with a passenger compartment. The passenger compartment would have been able to hold 9 passengers, as well as a flight attendant. All relevant technical drawings were sent to Factory No.39 in the Irkutsk Oblast. A total of four Yer-2 bombers were ordered for conversion, but standard Yer-2 production would run into difficulties as the diesel powered Charomskiy ACh-30B engines manufactured at Factory No.500 were found to have defects and needed to be addressed. As such, the project was put on hold for a considerable amount of time.

A rear view of the Yer-2ON. (Одноклассники)

On December 31st, Vladimir Grigoryevich Yermolayev passed away due to a typhoid infection. As a result, the Yermolayev OKB and its assets were integrated into Pavlov Sukhoi’s Sukhoi OKB firm. It would appear that N.V. Sinelnikov took over as head designer once the project was integrated into Sukhoi OKB. Once the issue with the engines was resolved, three Yer-2 bombers were set aside and were prepared to be converted into the Yer-2ON. Due to the relatively poor documentation of the Yer-2ON’s development, it is unknown when precisely the first Yer-2ON was completed, but most sources allege it was completed at the end of December. The manufacturer’s flight tests and maiden flight appeared to have taken place sometime in February of 1945. Through these tests it was revealed that the Yer-2ON was capable of covering a distance of 3,230 mi / 5,200 km while maintaining a flight ceiling of 19,700 ft / 6,000 m and a top speed of 270 mph / 435 kmh.

On April 16th, the first Yer-2ON made a record non-stop flight from the Irkutsk Aviation Plant’s airfield in Eastern Siberia to Moscow. This flight was accomplished by Heroes of the Soviet Union M. Alekseev and Korostylev over a flight time of 15 hours and 30 minutes and covered a distance of approximately 2,611 mi / 4,202 km. It would appear that a second flight would be conducted sometime near the end of April with the second converted aircraft once it was ready. The second flight had identical circumstances as the first flight (same pilots, destination, fuel load, etc). Interestingly enough, both flights concluded with enough fuel for four more hours of flight, attesting to the Yer-2’s long-range capabilities. A third Yer-2ON was converted at an unspecified time, but details of its tests (if it performed any at all) are unknown. Some internet sources claim that a fourth example was completed on May 10th of 1945, but this cannot be confirmed and disagrees with most publications.

One of the passenger seats of the Yer-2ON. (AviaDejaVu)

Despite the Yer-2ON performing relatively well and passing the manufacturer’s flight tests, the aircraft was never used for its intended role of government VIP passenger transportation. This was likely the result of the project being deemed as low priority within the Sukhoi OKB firm. At the time, Sukhoi was invested in other more pressing projects which led to the Yer-2ON being eventually canceled. Joseph Stalin himself was reputed to have aviophobia (a fear of flying) and the Yer-2ON not entering service did not appear to have consequences for the Sukhoi OKB. Nonetheless, the Yer-2ON project was dropped some time post-war and the three manufactured prototypes were likely scrapped as a result.

Design

A cutout drawing of the Yer-2ON’s interior. (AviaDejaVu)

The Yermolayev Yer-2ON was a two engine VIP passenger transport aircraft based on the Yermolayev Yer-2 bomber aircraft, powered by two liquid-cooled Charomskiy ACh-30B V-12 diesel engines capable of producing 1,500 hp each. The Yer-2ON was identical to the standard Yer-2 bomber in most respects, though armaments and turrets were removed and the bomb bay was converted to a passenger compartment with seats for 9 passengers and 1 flight attendant. The crew would have consisted of a commander pilot, a co-pilot, a navigator, a radio operator, and a flight attendant. In the passenger compartment, the left side (aircraft facing forward) had 5 seats while the right side had 4. The flight attendant’s seat was located behind the last seat on the right side, and was retractable. A luggage compartment was also provided. Another notable feature was the addition of a toilet compartment, as the aircraft’s long-distance travel routes required such a feature. Several windows were installed on the side of the fuselage for the passengers.

Operators

  • Soviet Union – The Yer-2ON was intended to be used as a passenger transport aircraft for government VIPs traveling in and out of the country to attend meetings.

Yermolayev Yer-2ON*

* – Statistics taken from “OKB Sukhoi: A History of the Design Bureau and its Aircraft” by Dmitriy Komissarov, Sergey Komissarov, and Yefim Gordon

Wingspan 75 ft 5.51 in / 23 m
Length 53 ft 7.31 in / 16.34 m
Height 15 ft 9.76 in / 4.82 m
Wing Area 850.35 ft² / 79 m²
Engine 2x liquid-cooled Charomskiy ACh-30B V-12 diesel engines
Engine Ratings 1,500 hp (1,120 kW) – Maximum at Sea Level

1,250 hp (930 kW) – Regular

Empty Weight 38,800 lb / 17,600 kg
Takeoff Gross Weight 41,890 lb / 19,000 kg
Maximum Speed 270 mph / 435 kmh at 19,680 ft / 6,000 m
Ranges 3,040 mi / 4,900 km – Standard

3,230 mi / 5,200 km – Maximum

Maximum Service Ceiling 19,700 ft / 6,000 m
Takeoff Run 3,445 ft / 1,050 m
Landing Run 3,346 ft / 1,020 m
Crew Pilot / Commander

Co-Pilot

Navigator

Radio Operator

Flight Attendant

Accomodation 9 Passengers

Gallery

Yermolayev Yer-2ON Side View Illustration
A side view of the Yer-2ON. (AviaDejaVu)
The entrance to the passenger section. (AviaDejaVu)
This photo shows what appears to be a retractable seat in the rear of the passenger compartment. This seat most certainly would be for the flight attendant. (AviaDejaVu)
Toilet compartment of the Yer-2ON. (AviaDejaVu)

Sources

 

Bolkhovitinov S-2M-103

USSR flag USSR (1936)
Experimental Light Bomber – One Prototype Built

Bolkhovitinov’s light bomber was a truly unusual design, with two engines mounted in the same fuselage.

Prior to the German invasion, the Soviet air industry was in the process of developing a series of new experimental ideas and concepts. While generally unknown around the world, some of these were interesting designs, such as the Bolkhovitinov “S” experimental twin-engine fast attack bomber. Due to the German advance and the need for immediately operational planes, the development of this model was terminated.

An Unusual Idea

The leader of the whole S-2M-103 project, aircraft engineer Viktor Federovich Bolkhovitinov.

The S-2M-103 was designed and developed by a Soviet aircraft engineer team led by Viktor Federovich Bolkhovitinov (Ви́ктор Фёдорович Болхови́тинов). Bolkhovitinov (February 1899 – 29 January 1970) was a Soviet professor at the Zhukovsky Air Force Academy in Moscow, and also an aircraft engineer. One of his best known designs was the four-engined Bolkhovitinov DB-A bomber that was intended to replace to aging TB-3 bomber.

During 1936, Bolkhovitinov and his team were looking for a solution for the lack of a high-speed light bomber in the Soviet Air Force. Their answer would be an unusual twin-engine aircraft with a peculiar wing configuration. Instead of a conventional wing placement, the wings were mounted very low on the fuselage, and the tail was a twin fin design.

When they began working on the first calculations and drawings, their greatest concern was how to reduce drag. Usual bomber designs with wing-mounted engines slowed down the plane due to excessive drag. Fighters, on the other hand, had much better aerodynamic properties as they were designed to achieve the highest possible speeds. Bolkhovitinov and his team decided that, for their purposes, they would reuse elements from other bombers (two engines, bomb-carrying capacities, defensive armament) and a one-part fuselage.

The problem was how to position the two engines in order to reduce the drag as much as possible. They quickly came up with the idea of putting them both on the same line (one behind the other) and in the same fighter-like fuselage. While this configuration would make the new plane longer, it could be designed with much better aerodynamic properties.

The development and design of the unusual twin-engine system began in 1936, while work on the aircraft design itself began the next year. By 1938, the design was completed and preparations for the construction of a fully operational prototype began in July that year. The prototype was completed in 1939 and flight tests were scheduled to begin in July 1939 (or in early 1940 according to some sources).

Designation

This was the single-engined version tested during the winter of 1940/41.

The aircraft’s original designation was simply “Bolkhovitinov S” or “Sparka/Cпаренный”, which means twin. Today it is generally known under the “S-2M-103” designation, where the “2” stands for twin-engine configuration and “M-103” is the name of the engine. There were other designations used for this plane, such as “BBS-1” (Ближний бомбардировщик скоростной, fast short-range bomber), “LB-S“ (легкий бомбардировщик спаренный, light twin-engined bomber) оr “BB“ (Болхови́тинов Бомбардировщик, Bolkhovitinov Bomber). As the plane is best known as the the S-2M-103, this article will use this designation.

Technical Characteristics

The S-2M-103 was designed as a low wing, all-metal construction, two-seater, two-engined fast attack bomber. The S-2M-103’s main fuselage had an elliptical cross-section. The fuselage consisted of four (bottom, top and left and right side) panels that were held in place by using four strong angled-section longerons. The S-2M-103’s structure was covered with a modern light alloy stressed-skin.

The wings were constructed using a structural box with flanged lightening holes (to save weight). The wings’ interior sheet ribs were covered on both sides (upper and lower) by metal skin and held in place by flush riveting.

The two three-bladed propellers turned in the opposite directions in order to provide better stability during flight.

The rear twin-finned tail was covered with duralumin skin. For better stability, the rudders were equipped with inset balanced hinges. For the tailplanes’ movement, an irreversible trimming motor was used. The elevator had trim tabs with a variable geared drive.

The S-2M-103 had a completely retractable landing gear that was operated electrically. The front wheels and the smaller rear tail wheel was able to retract backward 90 degrees. During the winter of 1940/41, the wheeled landing gear was replaced with fixed skis.

Drawing of the twin-engined configuration.

This aircraft had an unusual two tandem engine arrangement, placed in the same mounting in the fuselage. The rear-mounted engine’s shaft passed through the front engine’s cylinder blocks. Both engines were connected to the two propellers (with six blades in total) which, when powered, turned in opposite directions, which provided better stability during flight (at least in theory). The S-2M-103 was powered by two 960 hp (716 kW) Klimov M-103’s V-12 liquid cooled engines. This engine was based on the French Hispano-Suiza 12Y which was produced under license by the Soviet Union as the M-100.

The water radiators were placed under the fuselage and had controllable exit flaps. Two oil coolers were located on the ducts on both sides of the two engines. The fuel was stored in four fuel tanks that were placed in the wings (between the wing spars). Unfortunately, there is no information available about the capacity of these tanks.

The two crew members were positioned in an unusually large cockpit fully enclosed with a plexiglass canopy. The crew consisted of the pilot and the navigator. The navigator was also provided with a bombsight. The navigator’s position was covered with plexiglas on all sides, which provided him with an excellent all-around view, including under the plane. His additional role was to operate the rear-mounted machine gun.

The S-2M-103 lacked any forward-firing offensive armament. While it was planned to equip it with weapons mounted in the wings, this was never accomplished. For self-defense, one 0.3 in (7.62 mm) ShKAS machine gun was provided for the navigator/gunner. Due to its tail design, the rear machine gun had a wide firing arc. Later, it was planned to replace the single 7.62 mm rear gun with heavier twin 0.5 in (12.7 mm) UBT machine guns. There were also alleged plans to equip the S-2M-103 with a rear-mounted remotely controlled ShKAS machine gun. Whether this was ever implemented is unknown, as there no photographs or precise information are available. The bomb bay, which could carry 880 lb (400 kg) of bombs, was located under the pilot cockpit. The bomb bay opening doors were opened electrically.

Operational Tests

Side view of the S-2M-103.

The S-2M-103, piloted by D.N. Kudrin, made its first test flight in late 1939. More tests were carried out by the Army from March to July 1940, the plane being piloted by D.N. Kudrin and A.I. Kabanov. During these flight tests, the S-2M-103 proved to be able to achieve a maximum speed of 354 mph (570 km/h) at 15,400 ft (4,700 m). The tests also proved that the concept of installing two engines in the same fuselage had some advantages over the wing-mounted configuration. The most obvious was the reduced drag, which lead to increased speed and improved flight performance.

There were also some problems with the design. Immediately noticeable were the poor take-off and landing performance during these tests trials. Due to its high weight of 12,460 lb (5,650 kg), the S-2M-103 needed a 3,430 ft (1,045 m) long airfield. More tests were carried out by removing any extra weight. With the weight being reduced by some 1,100 lb (500 kg), the S-2M-103 now only needed a 2,800 ft (860 m) long airfield. During landing at speeds of 103 mph (165 km/h) the aircraft needed a 2,130 ft (650 m) long airfield. Some problems with the twin propellers were also noted. The rear-mounted propeller drive shaft was damaged due to strong vibrations. Unfortunately, there are no records of cruising speed, climbing speed, or maximum service ceiling.

The Single-Engine Version

For testing during the winter of 1940/41, instead of the standard landing gear, fixed skies were provided.

In the following months of 1940 and 1941, the S-2M-103 received a number of modifications in the hope of solving the issues observed during preliminary testing. The twin-engine configuration was replaced with a single M-105P engine with a power of 960 hp (or 1,050 hp depending on the source). The area where the second engine was previously located was filled in order to maintain the stability of the aircraft. Due to the removal the second engine, the second contra-rotating propeller was no longer needed. The new engine’s oil coolers were placed in the main radiator duct. The designers had a dilemma about what to do with the extra interior space left by the removal of the second engine, but this was never solved completely. With these modifications, the weight was reduced from 12,460 lb (5,650 kg) to 8,820 lb (4,000 kg).

The wing design was also changed to one done by Z.I. Iskovich by increasing its size and using a new aerofoil shape. The previous wing design had an area of 246.5 ft² (22.9 m²), while the new one had 252 ft² (23.4 m²). The last change was made to ease testing during winter, replacing the landing gear with fixed skis.

It appears that no official designation for this version existed but, using the same logic as for the two-engine version, it could be called S-M-105, but this is only speculation at best. According to some sources, the single-engined variant was marked as the S-1.

There were plans to improve the performance of the projected fighter version by mounting two M-107 engines. The new fighter was to be designated simply as the “I” or “I-1”. Due to the later cancellation of the S-2M-103 project, the I-1 was also abandoned.

The Fate of the S-2M-103 Project

More flight tests were carried out during the first half of 1941. While there is no precise information, the newly modified single-engined version of the S-2M-103 allegedly had poor performance. Despite the modifications, the new single-engined version managed to achieve a much lower top speed of 248 mph (400 km/h) at 14,440 ft (4,400 m). The poor performance, preparation for Pe-2 production at the factory where it was built, and the German Invasion of the Soviet Union led to the cancellation of the S-2M-103 project.

Operators

  • The Soviet Union – A single prototype was tested in 1940/41, but was not adopted for production.

Variants

  • S-2M-103 – Twin engine fast bomber
  • S-2M-103 (possibly S-M-105) – Single-engine version
  • I-1 – Improved fighter version equipped with two M-107 engines, due to cancelation of the S-2M-103 none were built.

Conclusion

The concept of installing two engines in the same fuselage had some advantages over the wing mounted configuration. It reduced drag, which lead to increased speed and flight performance. The S-2M-103 proved this by achieving speeds of up to 350 mph (570 km/h). However, its design had issues that were never resolved. Given enough time, those might have been solved. Alas, in 1941, the German Invasion and the need to increase production of already existing aircraft stopped all unimportant projects.

Bolkhovitinov S-2M-103 (original twin-engine configuration) specifications
Wingspan 37 ft 5 in / 11.4 m
Length 43 ft 4 in / 13.2 m
Wing Area 246.5 ft ² / 22.9 m²
Engine Two 960 hp (716 kW) Klimov M-103
Maximum Takeoff Weight 12,460 lb / 5,650 kg
Maximum Speed at 4.6 km 354 mph / 570 km/h
Range 435 mi / 700 km
Crew The pilot and the navigator
Armament
  • One 0.3 in (7.62 mm) ShKAS machine gun
  • Bomb load of 880 lb/400 kg

Gallery

Illustrations by Haryo Panji https://www.deviantart.com/haryopanji

Drawing of the S-2M-103.
View of the engine compartment interior.
Rear view of the S-2M-103.

Credits

 

 

Manfréd-Weiss XNI-02 Kaméleon

Hungarian Flag Kingdom of Hungary (1944)
Fictitious Jet Attacker / Dive Bomber – 1 Scale Model Built

The original photo published on the XNI-02. (Repülés Magazine)

The Manfréd-Weiss XNI-02 Kaméleon (Chameleon) is a fictitious Second World War Hungarian jet-powered attacker aircraft written about in the April 1980 edition of the Hungarian aviation magazine Repülés (Flight) as an April Fools joke. The brainchild of Hungarian author György Punka, the XNI-02, though meant as a harmless April Fools joke, unfortunately fooled unsuspecting readers and caused controversy within the military aviation fanbase. As a result, numerous websites, magazine authors, armchair historians and casual readers are still convinced to this day that the XNI-02 Kaméleon was an authentic project undertaken during the war and believes it existed.

Alleged History

According to the April 1980 edition of the Hungarian aviation magazine “Repülés”, while working for the Hungarian Manfréd Weiss Steel and Metal Works, (Weiss Manfréd Acél- és Fémművek, also known as “Csepel Works”) engineer Pál Nemisch designed a jet attacker aircraft in 1944. Due to the frequent Allied bombing and Hungary’s shortage of supplies, Nemisch presumably decided to base his design off pre existing components taken from other aircraft. Christened the “XNI-02”, the aircraft gained the nickname of Kaméleon (Chameleon) due to the number of parts incorporated from foreign designs. The XNI-02’s construction consists of a concoction of German, American and indigenously manufactured parts. Further details of the XNI-02’s design process are unknown, as Punka did not expand on them.

The mock guncam footage of the XNI-02 getting shot down. (Repülés Magazine)

Construction of the XNI-02 is presented as having began in mid to late 1944, after parts for the aircraft were collected. The prototype began assembly in Kőbánya, Hungary, but construction was relocated to an underground aircraft production facility near Augsburg, Germany. This can possibly be accredited to Operation Margarethe, the German occupation of Hungary to ensure their loyalty to the Axis. The XNI-02’s development team would once again be relocated to Austria, near Wiener Neustadt prior to November. The XNI-02 prototype was presumably completed by the Wiener Neustädter Flugzeugwerke factory and made its maiden flight on November 6th.

On April 1st of 1945, Lieutenant R. Taylor from the USAAF 385th Fighter Group was patrolling Austrian airspace in search of Axis fighters with his North American P-51 Mustang. While flying near the town of Linz, he spotted a rather peculiar looking aircraft flying to his starboard side at an altitude of approximately 9,840 ft / 3,000 m. While trying to get behind the mysterious fighter, Lt. Taylor inadvertently revealed his presence to the aircraft which led to it speed away. Determined to chase down this mysterious aircraft, Lt. Taylor proceeded with the chase. For some odd reason, the aircraft Lt. Taylor was chasing began to slow down and extended its landing gears. Now in a position to engage the aircraft, Lt. Taylor fired towards the unidentified aircraft. Failing to shoot it down in the initial pass, Lt. Taylor pulled off and reengaged it. This time, the burst of gunfire from his Mustang seemingly crippled the unidentified aircraft and thus forced the pilot to bail out. The aircraft crashed shortly thereafter. After returning to the 385th Fighter Group’s homebase in Foggia, Italy, the guncam on Lt. Taylor’s Mustang was examined and the film revealed that the mysterious aircraft Taylor shot down was the sole XNI-02 (the guncam still frame in the magazine was created using Punka’s model). This, however, was unknown to them at the time. This information would be revealed later on from an unnamed technician who provided pictures and some information regarding the XNI-02 after the war. On that day, the XNI-02 was supposed to be performing a weapon firing flight test, but this would never occur as Lt. Taylor was able to successfully shoot down the prototype. In Lt. Taylor’s private log book, he recorded the victory as: “Unidentified jet over Linz. 10:35, 1945 April 1st”. The reasons why the XNI-02 test pilot decided to slow down and extend his landing gear are up for personal interpretation, as the story is fictitious in itself. The test pilot may have believed he lost Lt. Taylor and decided to prepare for landing, or this was an indication that the XNI-02 was experiencing mechanical problems and needed to perform an emergency landing. Realistically though, the story was written in this way to cover up Punka’s XNI-02 model’s inability to retract its landing gears. It is unknown whether or not the radioman was present onboard the aircraft at the time of its shootdown.

The Wiener Neustädter Flugzeugwerke factory was also in the process of building the reconnaissance variant of the XNI-02 in 1945. The incomplete fuselage of this variant was destroyed by advancing Soviet troops when they overran the factory. Other than the attacker / dive bomber and reconnaissance variant, there was also plans to produce a night fighter and trainer variant for the XNI-02. These plans, however, were never acted upon due to the advancing Allied troops. Details of these variants are unknown as Punka did not write about them.

Supposed Design

 

As mentioned before, the XNI-02 Kaméleon is a fictitious jet fighter created by Hungarian author György Punka. All known photos of the XNI-02 are sourced from a model Punka created. Using components from several model kits, Punka was able to create a fairly realistic and convincing model. The XNI-02 model uses a North American P-51B Mustang’s fuselage, a set of the iconic gull wings from the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka (the model also uses the Ju 87’s horizontal stabilizer as an anhedral outer section of the regular wings), the Lockheed P-38 Lightning’s nose, and the BMW 003’s two engine cowls were taken from a Sud Aviation Caravelle passenger jet model. The combination of parts used for this aircraft is attributed to the fact that Hungary was unable to manufacture its own aircraft components. However, parts of the tail and nose were constructed using plastic and wood. In the original article written by Punka, only Stuka parts were mentioned. This could mean that the P-51 fuselage was either taken from captured models or the Hungarians reverse engineered it and indigenously produced them with modifications. The fuselage would have been reinforced with steel plates for protection, though every other part of the aircraft was constructed using wood and plastic.

The XNI-02 would have had space for two crew members, a pilot in the plexiglass cabin and a gunner / radio operator which would be housed in the nose (likely in a prone position). The gunner would be able to remotely control two 12.7x81mm Gebauer GKM 1940.M machine guns located under the nose help from a monitor. (The machine guns are not believed to have been installed on the prototypes.)

The XNI-02 was powered by two BMW 003 turbojet engines given to the Hungarians by the Germans. They are mounted on the rear fuselage on either side accompanied by a slight bulge in the fuselage which would have held the fuel tanks. It would appear that the fuel weight impacted the performance of the XNI-02 but guaranteed an increase in endurance and distance. The exact variant of the engines is unknown. The armaments consisted of two 30x184mm Rheinmetall-Borsig MK 103 autocannons and two remote-controlled 12.7x81mm Gebauer GKM 1940.M machine guns. The MK 103 cannons were mounted in the nose while two Gebauer GKM 1940.M machine guns were envisioned to be mounted under the nose. As an attacker, the XNI-02 prototype theoretically would have been able to mount two 550 lb / 250 kg bombs or four 8.26 in / 21 cm Werfer-Granate 21 rockets under the fuselage or wings.

The production variant of the XNI-02 would have had ejection seats for both crewmen, but this feature was not installed on the prototype. Curiously enough, the original prototype concept would have had a propeller-driven engine, but due to time constraints this experimental concept was not tested and jet engines were mounted right away.

Conclusion

Though the XNI-02 Kaméleon is a fictitious aircraft, the design of it would have been quite modern and advanced, but also unusual and with plenty of quirks that signal it as a fake design. The monitor assisted remote gunner system is an example of this. Though Punka was able to sell a convincing story of the XNI-02 Kaméleon, there are some questionable details which impact the veracity. For one, the fact that the Hungarians would have received BMW 003 turbojet engines in 1944 is quite unrealistic. At that time, German would have likely reserved their resources for use against the Allied forces. The basis of the design, although creative, would have imposed an issue for production facilities. The basis of the design resides on the availability of spare parts from existing aircraft, and if such parts were not available, the XNI-02 would have needed extensive modification to accommodate different parts.

Despite these flaws, Punka’s creation most certainly made an interesting and, to some degree, convincing story which made a great April Fools article. However, not everyone realized that this was, in fact, an April Fools joke and some took this as a real aircraft. This caused many other magazines and websites to write their own articles on the XNI-02, stating that it was a real project. The XNI-02 was even able to convince some Hungarian veterans, which led them to contact each other to see if anyone knew if this was a real project.

Variants

 

  • XNI-02 Attacker / Dive Bomber – Attacker variant powered by two BMW 003 turbojet engines. One prototype was built and was destroyed on April 1st of 1945 when Lieutenant R. Taylor of the 385th Fighter Group shot it down during a test flight.
  • XNI-02 Reconnaissance – Reconnaissance variant of the XNI-02. One incomplete prototype was in construction presumably at the Wiener Neustädter Flugzeugwerke factory in Austria. The prototype was destroyed by the Soviet troops.
  • XNI-02 Night Fighter – Intended night fighter variant. Details unknown.
  • XNI-02 Trainer – Intended trainer variant. Details unknown.
  • XNI-02 Night Bomber – Intended night bomber variant. An IR (Infrared Radiation) bombsight would have been installed in the nose for use by the radio operator / gunner (bombardier in this context).

Operators

  • Kingdom of Hungary – The XNI-02 Kaméleon was intended for use by the Royal Hungarian Air Force.

Gallery

Credits

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Lloyd 40.08 Luftkreuzer

Austro Hungarian Empire flag Austro-Hungarian Empire (1916)
Triplane Bomber Prototype – 1 built

Frontal shot of the Luftkreuzer colorized by Michael Jucan [dieselpunks.com]
The Lloyd 40.08 was a prototype triplane bomber built for Austria-Hungary under an order for a new bomber by the Luftfahrtruppen (LFT, Aviation Troops) in 1915. The 40.08 “Luftkreuzer” (Air Cruiser) was a twin boom design that would have carried 200 kg of bombs into battle. The aircraft had frequent problems with its design, such as being front-heavy and the center of gravity being too high. Attempts to fix the issues were minimal and it would never fly. The aircraft was sent to a scrapyard in the end, but it was an interesting venture of a now-defunct empire.

History

World War I showcased the first widespread use of combat airplanes and the subsequent specialization of aircraft to fit certain roles. Bombers proved their effectiveness and most countries involved developed some sort of bomber for their early air forces. One shining example is the Gotha series of bombers, which were able to bomb London and eventually replace Zeppelin raids entirely. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was no exception to building their own bombers. At the time, in 1915, Austria-Hungary was fighting on several fronts, with the ongoing Russian front dragging on and by May, Italy had joined and had begun fighting its neighbor. A new bomber would be a helpful addition to Austria-Hungary’s military.

Direct frontal view of the Luftkreuzer [armedconflict.com]
In 1915, the Luftfahrtruppen sent out an order for a 3-engine bomber design. The exact date the order was given in 1915 is unknown, but it is very likely the order was a reaction to Italy joining the war, as similarly, Austria-Hungary attempted to buy Hansa-Brandenburg G.1 bombers to bolster their aircraft complement. The requirement specified that two engines would be mounted inside fuselages and the main engine in a central hull. The bomb payload would be 440 Ibs (200 kg) and defenses would be six machine guns mounted around the aircraft. Expected flying time was up to 6 hours. Given the long flying time, strategic bombing might have been in mind but the bomb load is much smaller compared to other bombers in the role. Tactical bombing would be more practical in the long run for the aircraft. Three companies would submit their designs and would be awarded funding: Oeffag, Phönix, and Lloyd.

Lloyd was one of several aircraft manufacturers in Austria-Hungary. Most of their aircraft that entered production were reconnaissance planes, but they had designed and built several experimental designs as well, some of which had unique and unorthodox designs, such as their FJ 40.05 Reconnaissance/Fighter hybrid. Their bomber design would also verge on to the strange. This would be the only bomber the company would produce. Lloyd came forward with two designs in January of 1916, the Luftkreuzer I and the Luftkreuzer II. The first would eventually be redesignated the 40.08 and the second would be redesignated the 40.10. A complete 40.08 was constructed by June 20th, 1916 and was ready for testing. Given there is no further evidence of work on production examples of the 40.10, it can be assumed the 40.08 was chosen over this design.

Engine testing would shortly begin with the 40.08 at the Aszod Airport. Early testing showed the design was severely flawed. The center of gravity was too high and the aircraft was too front heavy. During ground testing, this problem became clear with the aircraft tipping forward, resulting in damage to the front. A frontal wheel was added to fix this problem, as well as other minor changes. With the modifications completed in Aspern (a section of Vienna), the aircraft was slated to finally take off, with a pilot being assigned to the aircraft. The aircraft would attemp a take off in October of 1916, with Oberleutnant Antal Lányi-Lanczendorfer at the controls. Attempts at flight proved the aircraft was too heavy as well and it would never get truly airborne. A solution came with reducing the bomb load to decrease the takeoff-weight, but at the cost of ordnance.

Little work was done on the aircraft between October and November. In December, large rails were fixed to the bottom of the aircraft, replacing the tailings on the aircraft in February of 1917. With the number of problems the Luftkreuzer faced, it was obvious it would not be possible to improve the plane fast enough for it to have any value on the battlefields of Europe. In March of 1917, all work had stopped on the Luftkreuzer after an attempt to revise the aircraft was denied. The sole Luftkreuzer was sent to storage where it would remain for almost a year. In January of 1918, what was left of the aircraft was taken to an aircraft boneyard and destroyed in Cheb (located in soon to be Czechoslovakia). Thus concludes the story of Austria-Hungary’s attempted triplane bomber.

Austria-Hungary itself wouldn’t survive by the end of the year and would dissolve into Austria and Hungary and new national states such as Czechoslovakia. This wouldn’t be the only bomber built nor used in Austria-Hungary. Several other companies had designed large bombers, but none of these would enter production either. The only bombers that would be operated by the Luftfahrtruppen and see combat would be German and license-built Hansa-Brandenburg G.1s. These were bought in 1916 and would go on a single sortie before being sent to training duty, as they were found to be heavily outdated by the time they arrived on the battlefield. In the end, Austria-Hungary wouldn’t see itself using a mass-produced bomber.

Design

Side view of the Luftkreuzer, notice the absence of a frontal wheel and the side window of the cockpit. [armedconflict.com]
The Luftkreuzer was a large triplane, twin-boom design. On the end of each boom, an Austro-Daimler 6-cylinder engine was mounted in tractor configuration (engine faced forward) and ended with a wooden propeller. These propellers did not counter rotate. Each boom itself was a reused fuselage taken from the Lloyd C.II aircraft. Each wing on the aircraft was actually a different length; with the top wing having a 76.3 ft (23.26 m) wingspan, the middle wing with a 73.42 ft (22.38 m) wingspan and the lower wing being 55.2 ft (16.84 m) wingspan. The central wing would be connected to the main fuselage and booms while the upper and lower wings would be connected via struts.

The main hull was rather tall and was one of the causes for why the aircraft was so front heavy and had such a high center of gravity. The cockpit was located beneath the upper wing and had several windows on both sides. The lower extended area was where the bombardier would sit, and was between the middle and lower wings. The central hull also contained the main engine, an Austro-Daimler 12-cylinder water-cooled engine in a pusher configuration. This engine was linked to a wooden two-bladed propeller. The hull was designed in a way so that the gunners would have a clear field of vision. Despite its prototype status, the aircraft was fully marked with the Luftfahrtruppen’s insignia, including one very large symbol painted directly in the front of this aircraft. The Luftkreuzer originally only had two main landing gear legs, with 4 wheels being mounted to each leg. When it was realized the aircraft was front heavy, a 3rd landing gear leg was directly in front of the central hull. No photos exist that show this third landing gear leg.

The armament would consist of 4 machine guns and 440 Ibs (200 kg) of bombs. The bombs would be mounted in the main central hull. The machine guns would most likely be Schwarzloses. These guns would be placed around the airframe, with two being in the central hull and the other two being located in the side hulls. Certain gunner stations would be equipped with a searchlight to aid in night missions. The aircraft was never fully armed before being scrapped, but it is likely it was loaded with bombs or ballast, given that the aircraft had weight issues before taking off and the solution given was to lower the bomb load.

Variants

  • Lloyd 40.08 – The only version of the aircraft built. Never truly flew.

Operators

  • Austro-Hungarian Empire– The Lloyd 40.08 was built in and for the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Lufthahrtruppen, but did not see action.

*Given that the aircraft never truly flew, speed and similar flight statistics were never found.

Lloyd 40.08 Specifications

Wingspan 76 ft 3 in / 23.26 m
Length 31 ft 3 in / 9.6 m
Height 16ft 5 in / 5 m
Wing Area 110.0 ft² / 10.2 m²
Engine 1 × Pusher Austro-Daimler 12-cylinder water cooled engine 300 hp (224 kW)
2 × Tractor Austro-Daimler 6-cylinder inline water-cooled engines 160 hp (120 kW)
Weight 10,670 Ibs / 4840 kg
Endurance Maximum 6 hours of flight
Crew 4-5
Armament
  • 440 Ibs (200kg) of bombs
  • 4 × 0.315 in (8 mm) Schwarzlose machine guns

Gallery

profile view
Lloyd-40.08 Side Profile View by Ed Jackson
Frontal shot [dieselpunks.com]

Credits