Sola Airfield

Arado Ar 234

The Arado Ar 234 Blitz (Lightning) was the world's first operational jet powered bomber, built by the German Arado company in the closing stages of World War II. In the field it was used almost entirely in the reconnaissance role, but in its few uses as a bomber it proved to be nearly impossible to intercept.

Design and development

Background and prototypes

In the autumn of 1940 the RLM offered a tender for a jet-powered high-speed reconnaissance aircraft with a range of 2,156 km (1,340 miles). Arado was the only company to respond, offering their E.370 project, led by Professor Walter Blume. This was a high-winged conventional-looking design with a Junkers Jumo 004 engine under each wing. The projected weight for the aircraft was approximately 8,000 kg (17,600 lb). In order to reduce the weight of the aircraft and maximize the internal fuel Arado did not use the typical retractable landing gear; instead the aircraft was to take off from a wheeled trolley and land on retractable skids.

Arado estimated a maximum speed of 780 km/h at 6,000 m (485 mph at 19,700 ft), an operating altitude of 11,000 m (36,100 ft) and a range of 1,995 km (1,240 miles).

The range was short of the RLM request, but they liked the design and ordered two prototypes as the Ar 234. These were largely complete before the end of 1941, but the Jumo 004 engines were not ready, and would not be ready until February 1943. When they did arrive they were considered unreliable by Junkers for in-flight use and were only cleared for static and taxi tests. Flight-qualified engines were finally delivered that spring, and the Ar 234 V1 made its first flight on June 15 1943. By September four prototypes were flying. Of the eight prototype aircraft to be fitted with the original arrangement of trolley-and-skid landing gear, the sixth and eighth prototypes were powered with four BMW 003 jet engines, the sixth having its four engines housed in individual nacelles, and the eighth flown with them paired in a single nacelle on either wing; the remainder were all Jumo 004 powered, with the V7 prototype destined to make history on August 2, 1944 as the first jet aircraft ever to fly a reconnaissance mission.

Variants

Ar 234B

The RLM had already seen the promise of the design and in July had asked Arado to supply two prototypes of a schnellbomber ("fast bomber") version as the Ar 234B. Since the aircraft was very slender and entirely filled with fuel tanks, there was no room for an internal bomb bay and the bombload had to be carried on external racks. The added weight and drag of a full bombload reduced the speed, so two 20 mm MG 151 cannon were added in a tail mounting to give some measure of defence. Since the pilot had no direct view to the rear, the guns had to be aimed through a periscope mounted on the cockpit roof. The system was generally considered useless and many pilots had the guns removed to save weight.

The external bombload, and the presence of inactive aircraft littering the landing field after their missions were completed (as with the similarly dolly-geared Me 163) made the skid-landing system impractical, so the B version was modified to have tricycle landing gear. The ninth prototype, marked with the Stammkennzeichen (radio code letters) PH+SQ, was the first Ar 234B, and flew in March 10, 1944. The B models were slightly wider to hold the landing gear, and with full bombload the plane could only reach 668 km/h (415 mph) at altitude. This was still better than any bomber the Luftwaffe had at the time, and made it the only bomber with any hope of surviving the massive allied air forces.

Production lines were already being set up, and twenty B-0 pre-production planes were delivered by the end of June. Later production was slow, however, as the Arado plants were tasked with producing planes from other bombed-out factories hit during the Big Week. Meanwhile several of the prototypes were sent forward in the reconnaissance role. In most cases it appears they were never even detected, cruising at about 740 km/h (460 mph) at over 30,000 ft (9,100 m).

The few 234Bs entered service in the fall and impressed their pilots. They were fairly fast and completely aerobatic. The long takeoff runs led to several accidents; a search for a solution led to improved training as well as the use of rocket-assisted takeoff. The engines were always the real problem; they suffered constant flameouts and required overhaul or replacement after about ten hours of operation.

The most notable use of the Ar 234 in the bomber role was the attempt to destroy the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen. Between March 7, when it was captured by the Allies, and March 17, when it finally collapsed, the bridge was continually attacked by Ar 234s of III/KG 76 carrying 1,000 kg (2,204 lb) bombs. The aircraft continued to fight in a scattered fashion until Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945. Some were shot down in air combat, destroyed by flak, or "bounced" by Allied fighters during takeoff or on the landing approach. Most simply sat on the airfields awaiting fuel that never arrived.

The normal bombload consisted of two 500 kg (1,100 lb) bombs suspended from the engines or one large 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) bomb semi-recessed in the underside of the fuselage with maximum bombload being 1,500 kg (3,300 lb). If the war had continued it is possible that the aircraft would have been converted to use the Fritz X guided bombs or Henschel Hs 293 air-to-surface missiles.

Overall from the summer of 1944 until the end of the war a total of 210 aircraft were built. In February 1945 production was switched to the C variant. It was hoped that by November 1945 production would reach 500 per month.

  • Ar 234B-0 : 20 pre-production aircraft.
  • Ar 234B-1 : Reconnaissance version, equipped with two Rb 50/30 or Rb 75/30 cameras.
  • Ar 234B-2 : Bomber version, with a maximum bombload of 2,000-kg (4,409-lb).

Ar 234C

The Ar 234C was equipped with four BMW 003A engines, mounted in a pair of twinned nacelles based on those from the eighth Ar 234 prototype, to free up Junkers Jumo 004s for use by the Me 262. The utilization of four engines improved overall thrust, especially in take-off and climb-to-altitude performance. Airspeed was found to be about 20% faster than the B series and range was increased. Although Hauptmann Diether Lukesch was preparing to form an operational test squadron, the Ar 234C was not developed in time to participate in actual combat operations. There were two primary versions of the C, the C-1, a four-engined version of the B-1, and the C-2, a four-engined version of the B-2. At least seven other versions of the C were designed, or were in the planning stages before the war ended, including bombers, armed reconnaissance, night-fighters and a heavy bomber. Fourteen prototypes of the Ar 234C, which included the C-1 and C-2 models, were completed before the end of the war.

  • Ar 234C-1 : Four-engined version of the Ar 234B-1.
  • Ar 234C-2 : Four-engined version of the Ar 234B-2.
  • Ar 234C-3 : Multi-purposed version, armed with two 20-mm MG 151/20 cannons beneath the nose.
  • Ar 234C-3/N : Proposed two-seat night-fighter version, armed with two forward-firing 20-mm MG 151/20 and two 30-mm MK 108 cannons, fitted with a FuG 218 Neptun V radar.
  • Ar 234C-4 : Armed reconnaissance version, fitted with two cameras, armed with four 20-mm MG 151/20 cannons.
  • Ar 234C-5 : Proposed version with side-by-side seating for the crew. The 28th prototype was converted into this variant.
  • Ar 234C-6 : Proposed two-seat reconnaissance aircraft. The 29th prototype was converted into this variant.
  • Ar 234C-7 : Night-fighter version, with side-by-side seating for the crew, fitted with an enhanced FuG 245 Bremen O centimetric radar.
  • Ar 234C-8 : Proposed single-seat bomber version, powered by two 1080-kg (2,381-lb) Juno 004D turbojet engines.

Ar 234D

A two-seat aircraft intended to be powered by a pair of the never-produced Heinkel HeS 011 turbojet engines. No 234D was produced.

  • Ar 234D-1 : Proposed reconnaissance version. Not built.
  • Ar 234D-2 : Proposed bomber version. Not built.

Ar 234P

A two-seat night-fighter version, differing in powerplant options and several options of radar. Several were in the planning stage, but none made it into production.

  • Ar 234P-1 : Two seater with four BMW 003A-1 engines; one 20-mm MG 151/20 and one MK 108 cannon.
  • Ar 234P-2 : Also a two seater, with redesigned cockpit protected by a 13mm (1/2in) armour plate.
  • Ar 234P-3 : HeS 011A powered P-2, but with two each of the cannon.
  • Ar 234P-4 : as P-3 but with Jumo 004D engines.
  • Ar 234P-5 : Three seat version with HeS 011A engines, one 20-mm MG 151/20 and four MK 108 cannon.

Survivors

Only one Ar 234 survives today. The aircraft is an Ar 234 B-2 bomber variant carrying Werknummer (manufacturer's serial number) 140312, and was one of nine Ar 234s surrendered to British forces at Sola Airfield near Stavanger, Norway. The aircraft had been operating with 9. staffel III./Kampfgeschwader 76 (later reorganised as Einsatzstaffel) during the final weeks of the war, having operated previously with the 8th squadron. This aircraft and three others were collected by the famous "Watson's Whizzers" of the USAAF to be shipped back to the United States for flight testing. The aircraft was flown from Sola to Cherbourg, France on June 24, 1945 where it joined thirty-four other advanced German aircraft shipped back to the U.S. aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Reaper. The Reaper departed Cherbourg on July 20, arriving at Newark, New Jersey eight days later. Upon arrival two of the Ar 234s were reassembled (including 140312) and flown by USAAF pilots to Freeman Field, Indiana for testing and evaluation. 140312 was assigned the foreign equipment number FE-1010. The fate of the second Ar 234 flown to Freeman Field remains a mystery. One of the remaining two was reassembled by the U.S. Navy for testing, but was found to be in unflyable condition and was scrapped.

After receiving new engines, radio and oxygen equipment 140312 was transferred to Wright Field near Dayton, Ohio and delivered to the Accelerated Service Test Maintenance Squadron (ASTMS) of the Flight Test Devision in July 1946. Flight testing was completed on October 16, 1946 though the aircraft remained at Wright Field until 1947. It was then transferred to Orchard Place Airport, Park Ridge, Illinois, and remained at Orchard Place Airport until May 1, 1949 when it, and several other aircraft stored at the airport were transferred to the Smithsonian Institution. During the early 1950s the Ar 234 was moved to the Smithsonian's Paul Garber Restoration Facility at Suitland, Maryland for storage, and eventual restoration.

The Smithsonian began restoration of Ar 234 B-2 140312 in 1984 and completed it in February, 1989. All paint had been stripped from the aircraft prior to the Smithsonian receiving it, so the aircraft was painted with the markings of an aircraft of 8./KG 76, the first operational unit to fly the "Blitz". The restored aircraft was first displayed at the Smithsonian's main museum building in downtown Washington D.C. in 1993 as part of a display titled "Wonder Weapon? The Arado Ar 234." In 2005 it became one of the first aircraft moved to the new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport. Today 140312 is displayed next to the last surviving Dornier Do 335, an aircraft that had accompanied it on its voyage across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Reaper over sixty years earlier.

This aircraft is displayed with a pair of Hellmuth Walter designed, liquid-fueled RATO units mounted under its wings. These RATO units may be the only known surviving examples in existence.

Operators

Specifications (Ar 234B)

See also

References

Notes

Bibliography

  • Bateson, Richard P. Arado Ar 234 Blitz (Aircraft in Profile 215). Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1972.
  • Fleischer, Seweryn and Ryś, Marek. Ar 234 Blitz (Aircraft Monograph 10). Gdańsk, Poland: AJ-Press, 2nd expanded edition, 2004. ISBN 83-7237-146-2.
  • Griehl, Manfred. Arado Ar 234 (Luftwaffe Profile Series no. 15). Atgle, PA: Schiffer Books, 2001. ISBN 0-7643-1431-9.
  • Griehl, Manfred. Strahlflugzeug Arado Ar 234 'Blitz'. Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch Verlag, 2003. ISBN 3-61302-287-7.
  • Kobel, Franz. The World's First Jet Bomber - Arado Ar 234. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Books, . ISBN 0-88740-203-8.
  • Kranzhoff, Jörg Armin. Arado, History of an Aircraft Company. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7643-0293-0.
  • Murawski, Marek J. Arado Ar 234 Blitz (Kagero Monograph 33) (bilingual Polish/English). Lublin, Poland: Kagero, 2007. ISBN 83-6044-566-2.
  • Myhra, David. Arado Ar 234C, An Illustrated History. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Books, 2000. ISBN 0-7643-1182-4.
  • Smith, J. Richard and Creek, Eddie J. Arado Ar 234 Blitz (Monogram Monarch Series no.1). Monogram Aviation Publications, 1992. ISBN 0-91414-451-0.
  • Smith, J. Richard and Creek, Eddie J. Arado Ar 234B (Monogram Close-Up 23). Boylston, Massachusetts: Monogram Aviation Publications, 1984. ISBN 0-914144-23-5.
  • Smith, J. Richard and Creek, Eddie J. Military Aircraft in Detail: Arado Ar 234A. Midland, 2006. ISBN 1-85780-225-X.

External links

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