Monster Machines: The First Flying Wing Jet Could Have Won WWII For The Nazis

The First Flying Wing Jet Could Have Won WWII for the Nazis

The B-2 Spirit blew more than a few minds when it made its public debut in 1988. But America's flying wing was not the first of such aircraft. In fact, one such plane nearly darkened the skies over Washington at the end of WWII with a nuclear present from the Fuhrer.

The head of the German Luftwaffe, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, was a notorious stickler, often demanding exceedingly stringent performance standards from the aircraft under his command. In 1943, he unveiled his most ambitious requirement set to date, quickly dubbed the "1000/1000/1000 rule". It dictated than any future aircraft purchased by the German air force must be capable of hauling a 1000kg load over a distance of 1000km at a speed of 1000km/h. And given the state of jet engine technology at the time, that requirement eliminated just about every aircraft currently in development.

There was one however. A prototype built by brothers Reimar and Walter Horten and based on their dozen years of unpowered glider design and research. And it quickly caught the Reichsmarschall's eye and purse strings. He paid the brothers a whopping 500,000 reichsmarks ($US2.76 million in 2014, adjusted for inflation) for it. It would become the Horten Ho 229, the world's first flying wing jet. Had it entered the fray, this long range bomber could have done to Washington DC what the Enola Gay did to Hiroshima.

The Ho 229, which is also commonly referred to as the Gotha Go 229 because Gothaer Waggonfabrik actually constructed them, were single seater long range bombers capable of carrying two 500kg, nuclear tipped bombs clear across the Atlantic, drop them on DC, then fly back to Germany.

The flying wing design -- wherein all vertical control structures (i.e. the tail) are removed to decrease drag -- was nothing short of revolutionary and promised the same degree of performance advancement that jet engines provided over turbo-props. The prototype 229 measured 8m long with a 17m wingspan. Its central cockpit was constructed from welded steel tubing, but the wings were made from a pair of plywood panels glued together with a mix of adhesive, sawdust and charcoal. It's conical inlet caps were crafted from multiple layers of carbon-impregnated laminate.

These materials were impregnated with charcoal dust as one of the earliest forms stealth. The coal's carbon content absorbs radar, thereby drastically reducing the plane's radar cross-section and making it appear much smaller than it really was, about the size of conventional twin engine prop aircraft of the day.

The jet was powered by a pair of 2576Nm Junkers Jumo 004B turbojet engines that propelled the aircraft up to and estimated 977km/h (not quite what Göring wanted but could likely have been achieved in later iterations) with a 18,000m service ceiling.

But, as the first of its kind, the Ho 229 was plagued by development issues and the first prototype crashing multiple times. But the Luftwaffe was undeterred, fast tracking the plane's development and even going so far as to assign it to an active bomber wing. Luckily, the 229's development came too late to help the German War effort. By the time it entered production in early 1945, the Allies were already marching on Berlin. The Gothaer Waggonfabrik factory, where the planes were being built, fell in April of that year.

The First Flying Wing Jet Could Have Won WWII for the Nazis

Though all but one of the 229 prototypes were destroyed before being completed, Operation Paperclip (which sought to spirit German scientists away to America at the end of the war) ensured that the technology was not lost. Today, the only Nazi jet prototype left on Earth is represented by a static model at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Paul E. Garber Restoration Facility in Maryland while the genuine item undergoes a piecemeal restoration. [Smithsonian - Wiki - Military Factory - Fiddler's Green - Horten Conservation]

Picture: The Ho 229's canopy on static display at the Smithsonian, by Eric Long

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    Monster Machines: The First Flying Wing Jet Could Have Won WWII For The NazisHyperbole..!
    Maybe if it was developed a few years earlier, it might have made a difference, but it most certainly would not have made that much difference..!

      Came here to say the same thing.

      Not pissing off and invading the soviets couldhave one WWll for the nazis.

    Nothing is as simple as painted! "...promised the same degree of performance advancement that jet engines provided over turbo-props." The fact is that at mid altitudes, around 15,000' - 25,000' turboprops are more efficient than fan jets (high-bypass ration jet engines). Both are substantially more efficient that simple turbojet engines which are no longer in production.

    I doubt that the Ho-229 could have ever flown from Germany to Washington DC and back again without refuelling. The Luftwaffe did have a bomber that was capable of flying from Germany to New York and back. It was a Messerschmitt design with 4 piston engines and it was actually flown, without bombs, on that route. Only 2, I think, were ever completed. Germany never had enough fuel for heavy bombers, which is the reason they had none in the Luftwaffe.

    Ah Battlefield 1942 Secret Weapons of WWII game all over again. Now about that jet pack...

      You kids and yer fancy pants new games with all its three deeeee and its stereyo sound and all that shamozzle! Lucasarts SECRET WEAPONS OF THE LUFTWAFFE is where it's at!

    Pretty sure Captain America crashed this into the Arctic sea....

    The German nuclear scientists were not able to cause fission without needing thousands of pounds of fissionable material. I think the american nukes in 1945 only needed about 4 pounds for fissionable material each.

      It wasn't that they were unable, it was that they grossly overestimated/miscalculated the necessary quantity.

        that, and the the nazis were stupid enough to either murder or chase most of their brightest minds out of the country

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