Monday, December 30, 2019

German Helicopters of World War II

FA 223 Drache worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
A view of the cockpit of a Fa 223 Drache.

Luftwaffe Helicopters

There are many areas in which the Third Reich is claimed to be in the lead, such as in tanks, where that claim is at least debatable. One thing that is not debatable is that the Luftwaffe was far, far ahead of any of the Allies in the development and the use of helicopters.

Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Anton Flettner 265.
Anton Flettner was an aviation inventor with World War I experience. His company, Flugzeugbau GmbH, focused on rotary-wing aircraft, i.e., helicopters and autogyros. His first aircraft flew in 1932, and the Germany Navy (Kriegsmarine) soon became interested. Some of his early designs had three rotors, and the Fl 265 had a counter-rotating rotor system and a single Bramo Sh 15A 7-cylinder radial piston engine delivering 160 horsepower.

Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com

The Kriegsmarine preferred single-rotor machines that could operate from U-boats, which needed a way to spot targets over the horizon. The Fl 282 was an improved version that incorporated many improvements from the six or so versions of the Fl 265 that had been produced.

Flettner Fl 282B Kolibir worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Flettner Fl 282B Kolibri, 1942.
The United States was working on helicopters, and one or two even made it to the war zones in the Pacific. After the war, the Americans took the lead in helicopter development.

German helicopter worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri ("Hummingbird") is a single-seat open cockpit intermeshing rotor helicopter, or synchropter, produced by Anton Flettner of Germany. According to Yves Le Bec, the Flettner Fl 282 was the world's first series-production helicopter
However, the Germans were using helicopters on ordinary, everyday basis years ahead of the United States or, for that matter, anyone else.

Focke Achgelis FA 223 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Focke Achgelis FA 223.
In February 1938, the world's first helicopter was demonstrated by the test pilot Hanna Reitsch indoors at the Deutschlandhalle sports stadium in Berlin, Germany. Knowing that the world media would not want to credit Germany with the invention, they concocted a scheme to fly it during a nearby motorcar exhibition at which the world media was in attendance. However, even though the Germans wanted the publicity, the media still did not give much ink to the strange new invention. Thus, the helicopter remained semi-secret, at least to the public at large, until well after the war.

Flettner Fi-282 Kolibri 3 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Flettner Fi-282 Kolibri.
Called the Focke Wulf Fw 61, it subsequently set several records for altitude, speed and flight duration culminating, in June 1938, with an altitude record of 3,427 m (11,243 ft) and a straight line flight record of 230 km (143 mi).

Focke Wolfe FW 61 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
FW 61, of the type flown by Hanna Reitsch. Focke-Wulf Fw 61. The Focke-Wulf Fw 61 is often considered the first practical, functional helicopter, first flown in 1936. It was also known as the Fa 61, as Focke began a new company—Focke Achgelis—for helicopter manufacture after development had begun.
The first production series helicopter was the Flettner Fl-282. It was quite small, but with a very modern look. The body of the aircraft obviously was adapted from an airplane design, and the absence of a rear rotor makes one wonder about its stability in flight. However, there is no question that it flew.

Flettner Fl-282 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Flettner Fl-282 on a warship.
The German Navy was very interested in the Flettner Fl-282. Many landings were staged on the German cruiser Köln. The Siemens-Halske Sh 14 radial engine of 150-160 hp was very reliable and only required servicing every 400 hours.

Flettner Fl-282 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
This is a colorization of that previous shot of the Flettner Fl-282 at sea.
The Fa-330 was a tiny autogyro that was actually used by the Kriegsmarine. It was stowed in the conning tower of a submarine in a watertight canister. It would be launched from the conning tower of a moving U-boat attached to a cable. Presumably, this worked best in a strong wind. The cable would be let out like a kite until the Fa-330 had reached sufficient altitude to scan the horizon for merchant ships. This greatly increased the scanning horizon, from perhaps 8 kilometers from the conning tower to 50-60 kilometers at a few hundred feet.

Retrieval involved either winching the contraption down slowly or cutting it loose to come down by auto-rotation. The pilot could either come down with it - fairly dangerous since the blades would be spinning until they hit the water, where the pilot's head would be bobbing - or parachute (or simply jump) out.

Training to handle this autogyro was given in a wind tunnel at Ghalais Meudon in France. An original Fa 330 is still preserved in the French Air Museum.

A Focke Achgelis FA 223 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Focke Achgelis FA 223, considered to be the largest and most efficient helicopter of the 1940s, was based on the principle of the FW 61. Eleven units were manufactured, which distinguished themselves especially by their quality as a transport and resupply helicopter. EADS Heritage photo
Another common Luftwaffe helicopter was the Focke-Achgelis  FA 223. It was armed with a 1  x  7.92  mm  MG15. It had a crew of two and was substantially larger than the other early types, though it came into service in 1942, around the same time as the Fl-282.

FA 223 Focke Achgelis worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Focke  Achgelis  FA  223.
Famed German Hanna Reitsch recalled the first public demonstration of a helicopter, made in order to evade media bias against German aviation, in 1938:


The Americans, with relatively unlimited resources, certainly had some experimental helicopters in the works, but there is no dispute that the Germans were far ahead in this area. Only a couple dozen Luftwaffe helicopters were made because the Allies bombed the main production facility, and those that were made were used primarily as artillery spotters, operating out of the test field at Rangsdorf. If the Germans had had better luck, the order the Wehrmacht placed for 1000 of them would have been filled and they would have been everywhere.

Focke-Achgelis FS-223 Drache worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Focke-Achgelis Fa-223 "Drache."
Luftwaffe helicopters were not even that rare, they just didn't have a defined role yet, such as helicopters gained during the Vietnam War as troop carriers.

Flettner Fl-282 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com Fi-256
A Flettner FL-282 taking off behind a Fieseler Fi-256.
The German helicopters may look sketchy because they don't look like later helicopters, but they were capable of lifting cannons and even airplanes.

Focke-Achgelis Fa-223 Drache worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Focke-Achgelis Fa-223 "Drache."
Below is some rare footage of Luftwaffe helicopters of World War II, set to "Where Eagles Dare," the theme to a 1968 Clint Eastwood film (which, incidentally, features a German helicopter, though not a real one):


Several Fl-282 survive, one in Russian hands, one with the Americans at Dayton, and one with the British in Coventry.

Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Rare Intel photo of Focke-Achgelis Fa 225: German experimental rotary wing glider of 1942 constructed from the fuselage of a DFS.230 glider, with the wings replaced by a Fa 223 rotor. This is the only one ever built. Note the camouflage paint, which only would have been useful if it flew high.

FA-336 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
1944 Focke Achgelis FA-336 

Flettner Fl-282 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Flettner Fi-282 Kolibri

Flettner Fl-282 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Flettner Fi-282 Kolibri

Fa 223 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
September 6, 1945: A captured German Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 V14, makes the first helicopter crossing of the English Channel when it is moved from Cherbourg to RAF Beaulieu. The US had intended to ferry two captured aircraft back to the USA aboard a ship, but only had room for one. Luftwaffe helicopter pilot Helmut Gerstenhauer, with two observers, flew another aircraft across the Channel to the base in Hampshire.

Focke-Achgelis Fa-223 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Focke-Achgelis 223. Photographs and movies of stunts like this were taken for propaganda effect.

Focke-Achgelis Fa-223 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 V12 Drache, 1940, cargo helicopter
Focke-Achgelis FA-223 Drache worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Focke-Achgelis FA 223 Drache

Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 Drache worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
A captured helicopter. "The Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 Drache ("Dragon" in English) was a helicopter developed by Germany during World War II. A single 750 kilowatt (1,000 horsepower) Bramo 323 radial engine powered two three-bladed 11.9-meter (39 feet) rotors mounted on twin booms on either side of the 12.2-meter (40 ft) long cylindrical fuselage." The Luftwaffe prided itself on not letting intact aircraft fall into enemy hands; they must have thought this so cool they just couldn't bear to blow it up.

Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
The earliest military helicopters were built by Germany and mainly saw service in the Mediterranean, but a few were also used in the Aegean and Baltic theatres. Both the Flettner 282 and the Focke Achgelis 223 (shown here) were never built in large numbers as a result of the production facilities being destroyed by Allied bombers.

Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Focke-Achgelis Fa-223 "Drache."

Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com

Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Fa 330 bachstelze as exhibited at Royal Air Force Cosford, the UK in 2007. 

Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Focke-Achgelis Fa-330.

Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Focke-Achgelis Fa-330.

Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
The Focke-Achgelis FA 330 Bachstelze (English: Wagtail) was a type of rotary-wing kite, known as a gyro glider or rotor kite. They were towed behind German U-boats during World War II to allow a lookout to see farther.
Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
A Wagtail in use. Development was completed by August 1942. In April 1943, one deployed to the Indian Ocean aboard U-177, a long-range Type IX U-boat. Yes, in the Indian Ocean. Yes, these puppies actually were used.

Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Focke-Achgelis Fa 269 was a tiltrotor VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) fighter project designed by Heinrich Focke."
Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
1943 Focke Achgelis FA-269 

Third Reich helicopters worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
1943 Focke Achgelis FA-284

Japanese Autogyros

It is easy to focus solely on German helicopters and the like because the country most certainly had the leading helicopter developer of World War II. However, the Allies had their share of experimental types, and the Japanese did as well. Here is the Kayaba Ka 1.

Kayaba Ka-1 worldwartwo.filminspector.com

It operated as an ASW patrol aircraft from the Akitsu Maru.

Kayaba Ka-1 worldwartwo.filminspector.com

2019

The Brilliant ME-262 German Jet Fighter

ME 262 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
ME-262

ME 262 - First Operational Jet Fighter

ME 262 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com

The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe (English: "Swallow") was the first operational jet fighter plane. Although it only appeared in the closing months of the war, the ME 262 was far from a last-ditch move of desperation or panacea fantasy project, of which there are many other examples. Instead, it was a carefully developed and extremely capable machine that actually did what it purported to be able to do, and did it very well.

ME 262 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com

The Allies also had jet aircraft either in development or in provisional use behind the front lines during the closing months of World War II. None saw combat, and none matched the capabilities of the ME 262. Its pilots claimed 542 kills, which did not affect the strategic situation but did badly scare Allied planners and also likely saved the lives of some German civilians.

ME 262 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
They are lined up and ready to roll in quick order. Any Allied bombers in the vicinity are in for a treat!
The Germans built their first jet engine in 1936, designed by Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain. A test plane, the Heinkel He 178, flew in 1938. Development on a fighter version began at once, led by Messerschmidt designers Dr. Woldemar Voigt and Robert Lusser.

ME 262 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Me-262 Nachtjager (night fighter)- with radar for night interceptions. This one shows signs of heavy use.
It took time to develop the fighter, and the hold-up was the engines. The entire design had to revolve around the fragile new engines. Also, the Germans were overconfident and did not think they would need the plane quickly, as the war was going well.

ME 262 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com

The design team was slashed in February 1940. Other aircraft were easier to make and needed immediately. Nevertheless, progress continued, and the first successful jet-powered flight was on July 18, 1942.

ME 262 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
The major permutations of the Me 262. "Jabo" is short for "Jagdbomber" and means "ground attack plane" or "fighter-bomber." Almost all Luftwaffe combat planes were expected to have some dive-bomber capability. In the case of Jabos, they would release their bombs and then effectively become fighters. That this was a somewhat ridiculous capability for the Me 262 is fairly obvious, but Hitler wanted it, envisioning the Me 262 as being part of an effort to rain death and destruction on an attempted Allied landing in Northwestern Europe. In the event, the Jabo version was basically a non-starter and saw virtually no action - but it did cost ReichsLuftfahrtMinisterium boss Erhard Milch his job when Hitler found out that his fighter-bomber version order basically was being ignored. 
Another hold-up was interference by Adolf Hitler, who wanted a ground-attack bomber rather than another fighter. However, this only resulted in a variant being designed, the Sturmvogel, and development on the main fighter version continued regardless of the wishes of higher-ups. The engines were the problem that had to be overcome, not Hitler. Those who claim that he personally kept the aircraft from appearing in the skies are misguided.

ME 262 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
A fleet of ME-262s ready to go, parked under the open sky - no worries in the world.
The initial ME 262s were organized into Erprobungskommando 262 at Lechfeld near Augsburg in the spring of 1944, based at Achmer and Hesepe. The first combat success was on July 26, 1944, when a ME 262 damaged (and may ultimately have caused the destruction of) a Mosquito bomber.

ME 262 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Messerschmidt Me 262 at RAF Cosford, 2002.
This was significant, as the fast and nimble Mosquito was considered a difficult aircraft to destroy. Around this time, the unit became operational as an Einsatzkommando known as Kommando Nowotny after its commander, Major Walter Nowotny. The Allies noticed the new fighters appearing in the skies over Germany that August and this unexpected development began to worry USAAF General Carl Spaatz and the intelligence boys.

ME 262 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Motor: Jumo 004 Me 262 A.
Sporadic ME 262 missions continued through the fall. Nowotny himself was shot down on November 8, 1944. The unit was reorganized into a fighter squadron (Jagdgeschwader), JG 7, commanded by Macky Steinhoff, but it was withdrawn until January 1945. Lieutenant General Adolf Galland took over a unit in February 1945 and created a "superstar of the Luftwaffe" unit, staffed by the best pilots. This unit hit the Allies hard in March 1945, operating in numbers for the first time and scoring kills. One Luftwaffe pilot, Hauptmann Franz Schall, was credited with 17 kills, and another, Oberleutnant Kurt Welter, claimed 25 kills. Oberstleutnant Heinrich Bär claimed 16 kills.

Captured ME-262 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Things got crazy toward the end. Here, after it was all over, we find the top fighter of its time had been converted in the final days into a tankbuster.
As always with any good plane, weak pilots were still shot down, while the best racked up the kills. That any pilots could creditably claim that many kills in the short time that the ME 262 squadron flew is remarkable and illustrates the power of the design.

Armament varied. Some versions had four 30 mm MK 108 cannons, others only two. Some were armed with rockets, 24 x 55 mm R4M rockets. The ground attack versions, which were not successful, carried 2 x 250 kg bombs or 2 x 500 kg bombs.

Captured ME-262 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
This is a captured Me-262.
The ME 262 was superior for its time, but it was far from perfect. It had a relatively short combat range, and the engines were vulnerable to enemy fire. The engines themselves burned out quickly and only lasted a certain number of hours before having to be replaced.

ME 262 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com

Perhaps the best test pilot of all time was Captain Eric "Wink
le" Brown, one of aviation's legends. He was asked in 2010 (minute 6:30):
"Was there any German aircraft that you evaluated during the war where you thought, 'this is so much more advanced we should just put it into production ourselves in the UK'?" 
"Oh Yes. The one which was... which staggered us, frankly, with its quantum jump in performance was the jet - twin jet - Messerschmidt 262. When I tested it here at Farnborough, it was 125 miles an hour faster than any Allied fighter. Now, this puts it in a league by itself, and it was virtually untouchable. And that rattled us, frankly, to find that, and it's just as well that they were unable to produce them fast enough to really make a nuisance of themselves. Anyway, at this stage in the war, which is very late, the Germans were running out of pilots and running out of fuel, but the thought of them perhaps having pilots and fuel and a lot of these jets was a bit sobering."
Several ME 262 survive, in museums and in private hands. Some replicas are in flying condition. The ones being built today are considered part of the original production run begun during World War II.

Below is Wink Brown's interview in 2010.


 ME-262A-1A basic specifications:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   Spec                              Metric                       English
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                      12.5 meters               40 feet 11 inches
   wing area                      21.70 sq_meters       233.58 sq_feet
   length                           10.58 meters             34 feet 9 inches
   height                           3.83 meters              12 feet 7 inches

   empty weight               3,795 kilograms        8,380 pounds
   max loaded weight       6,390 kilograms       14,080 pounds

   maximum speed           870 KPH                   540 MPH / 470 KT
   service ceiling              12,200 meters           40,000 feet
   range                            1,050 kilometers        650 MI / 565
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

ME-262 worldwartwo.filminspector.com


2019