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    Hitler's Stealth Fighter
    In the final months of WWII, a jet powered flying wing made its first test flight from a remote airfield deep inside Nazi Germany. Generations ahead of its time, the Horten 229 had been designed to be a lethal high speed fighter-bomber and more importantly, virtually undetectable to Allied radar.|Read More|

    The aircraft was conceived in the early 1930's by brothers Reimar and Walter Horten, established German pioneers of flying wing aircraft. The brothers had become interested in the flying wing design as a method of improving the performance of gliders. The German government was funding glider clubs at the time because production of military aircraft was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles after World War I.

    In 1943, Reichsmarschall Göring had issued a request for designs for a bomber capable of carrying a 1,000 kg load over 1,000 km at 1,000 km/h ; the so called 3 X 1000 project. At the time there was simply no way to meet these goals — the new Junkers Jumo 004B turbojets could give the required speed, but had excessive fuel consumption.

    The Hortens deduced that the low-drag flying wing design could meet all of the goals: by reducing the drag, cruise power could be lowered to the point where the range requirement could be met. The Government Air Ministry (Reichsluftfahrtministerium) approved the Horten proposal, but insisted that the plane be armed so that it could also serve as a fighter.

    Flight tests started in early 1944 with the V-1, which was built as an un-powered glider. The initial tests were considered to be highly satisfactory, and the go ahead was given for the turbojet powered Ho IX V-2.

    The V2 displayed very good handling qualities, with only moderate lateral instability (a typical deficiency of tailless aircraft). There are reports that during one of these test flights the Ho IX V2 undertook a simulated "dog-fight" with an Messerschmitt Me 262 in which the 229 apparently out performed it.

    The V-2 was tested successfully several times before tragedy struck on the 18th of February 1945. The aircraft experienced an engine failure on it's return to Oranienburg, lost control and crashed just outside the boundary of the airfield. The test pilot Lt. Erwin Ziller was killed and prototype aircraft completely destroyed.

    Despite this setback, in the summer of 1944 the Gotha Company (producer of the famous Gotha bombers of WWI) received a contract for the production of the new aircraft under the designation of Ho-229. Two 30mm cannons, an ejection seat and hard points were installed under the wings for bombs or auxiliary fuel tanks as well as strengthened landing gear. Additionally the Gotha team added a system to carry cold air to cool the engine's outer casing to prevent the wooden wings from igniting.

    The 229 was designed from the outset to save on resources by using steel tubing and wood. Wood being both cheap and plentiful as opposed to aircraft grade Duraluminum, which was like many other materials, in extremely short supply in war torn Germany.

    The center section was built from steel tubes covered with a composite skin comprised of two 1.5mm ply wood sheets which sandwiched a 12mm layer of sawdust, charcoal and glue. The wings were made entirely from wood and were also covered in the same radar absorbent composite skin. Along with its shape, this made the aircraft virtually invisible (by 1940's standards) to radar, making it the first true "Stealth Fighter"

    By the time the factory was occupied by American troops in late April 1945, the first 20 pre-production aircraft were in a advanced state of construction. The facilities were seized as part of "Operation Paperclip", an effort by the U.S. Army in the last weeks of the war to capture advanced German weapons research, and also to deny that research to advancing Russian troops.

    Five partial airframes were also found at the Gothaer Waggonfabrik factory assembly line and destroyed by soldiers of U.S. VIII Corps of Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army in April 1945 to prevent capture by the Soviets.

    A Horton glider and the V2 Ho-229 were then sent to Northrop Aviation in the United States for evaluation, who much later used a flying wing design for the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. During WWII Northrop had been commissioned to develop a large wing-only long-range bomber (XB-35) based on photographs of the Horton's record-setting glider from the 1930's. But their initial designs suffered controllability issues that were not resolved until after the war.

    Had the Germans been able to put them into production, they might well have been able to wipe out the Chain Home radar system that the Luftwaffe from gaining air-superiority during Battle of Britain. Flying just above the surface of the English Channel at 600mph, even once it had been detected, there would not have been sufficient time to intercept it. The Ho-229 would have also vastly outperformed any propeller powered interceptor of the day had they been able to meet it.

    The Horten Brothers had plans to scale up the 229 into the Ho XVIII, a six-engine transatlantic bomber proposed for the Amerika Bomber project. Hitler was desperate to hit back at the Americans and the Ho- 19 potentially the range to deliver bombs to America's Eastern seaboard. Had the Nazi's nuclear weapon program been successful, then the Fuehrer may well have realised his desire to see the skyscrapers of New York burn.

    - Reimar Horten from his autobiography:
    Our final contract to develop a six jet long range bomber, was received on March 12, 1945. To gain some experience with large flying wings, I had proposed to double the size of a Ho III, equip it with six 640 HP pusher engines, give it an endurance of 20 hours at 500 km/h, and the ability to carry a few bombs.

    Such an aircraft would be useful in the North Atlantic war. The official argument against it was that "our bombers already do 500 km/h!". The order to proceed with the building of the Ho XVIII came, despite my arguments that preliminary calculations were not completed. Construction was started in Kahla near Weimar in April 1945. Much too late again.
    Construction was never finished.

    The only surviving Ho 229 airframe (V3) is located at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Paul E. Garber Restoration Facility in Suitland, Maryland, USA.

    1) wikipedia.org

    | More

    Ho IX V-1 glider test vehicle

    Ho IX V-2 being prepped for testing

    A nearly finished Ho IX V-2 under construction

    Side view of the IX V-3 without wings

    Ho IX V-3 under construction

    Rear view showing the engines.

    Center section of an Ho IX being loaded for transport after capture by the Americans

    Artist impression of the proposed Ho-19 Amerika Bomber

    Ho IX middle section in the NASM. Photo by Douglas Bullard

    Ho IX in the NASM (the swastikas were added post war). Photo by Douglas Bullard
    Posted on Wednesday, April 28 @ 21:12:43 MDT by sonicbom
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