Monday, 6 August 2007

Arado Ar 234 - Der erste Strahlbomber der Welt (Eine Dokumentation)



Luftfahrt Dokumente LD 21, compiled by Karl R. Pawlas, Publizistisches Archiv Karl R. Pawlas, Nuremberg, Germany, 1976, ISBN 3-88088-211-8. Illustrated, softcover, published in German.

Cover image © by Publizistisches Archiv Karl R. Pawlas, 1976.


Establishing his Publizistisches Archiv in 1956, Karl R. Pawlas made a name for himself by publishing a series of magazines, books, and booklets containing almost exclusively original aviation documents. The 1970s, in particular, saw some of Pawlas' most important aviation releases. Albeit aircraft of every nation and from every period of aviation history were covered, the focus was clearly on the German Luftwaffe of the Second World War.

The idea of utilizing only original documents and information was quite unique at the time and transcended the approach largely common in the then fledgling Luftwaffe publications scene. Instead of petrifying myths or errors committed or copied by previous authors since the 1950s, the publications of Karl R. Pawlas provided a wealth of extremely detailed and factually accurate technical and historical information, illustrations, and photos, most often directly gathered from material compiled by the respective German aircraft manufacturers or former Luftwaffe test establishments.

It is fair to say that Pawlas provided those interested in aviation history with a quantum leap as far as the availability of quality information was concerned. Pawlas, along with a number of further Luftwaffe research pioneers such as Karl Ries, Heinz Birkholz, Hans Redemann, J. Richard Smith, Eddie J. Creek, or Thomas Hitchcock, to name but a few, inspired countless later equally serious historians and researchers and thus laid the base for the abundance of truly excellent Luftwaffe publications available today. Moreover, most of the publications by Publizistisches Archiv Karl R. Pawlas still retain their significance to this day. That alone is an enormous accomplishment, given the major advances in Luftwaffe research since the 1970s which often render even cutting edge publications obsolete only a few years after they are released.

Next to the Luftfahrt International magazines, this comprehensive book on the Arado Ar 234 is probably the most notable legacy of Karl R. Pawlas. It contains 480 pages (!) of reprinted original German-language flight test reports, notes, data sheets, graphs, records, along with an appendix of 68 b/w photos. The Ar 234s covered range from the first prototype Ar 234 V1 TG+KB to the Ar 234 C prototypes V19, V21, and V22. The information contained in these flight test reports is stunningly interesting and makes for riveting reading.

It goes without saying that noteworthy facts contained in these documents have in the meantime found their way into subsequent standard publications such as, for example, J. Richard Smith & Eddie J. Creek's Arado 234 Blitz (Monogram Monarch 1, 1992) or Arado Ar 234 A (Midland Publishing, Military Aircraft in Detail series, 2006). But the mere page count of Pawlas' book alone indicates the sheer quantity and bandwidth of original information contained therein; an amount of data and details which goes far beyond the scope or capacity of any commercially viable book released by any modern publishing house.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Messerschmitt Bf 109 Nightfighter



Previously unpublished photo of a rare late-war Messerschmitt Bf 109 G with FuG 217 Neptun antennae under the port wing. It is most likely an NJG 11 aircraft. Date and location unknown. (Fischer collection, additional information kindly supplied by Erich Brown and Lynn Ritger)

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Schnell-Bomber/Schnell-Aufklärer EF 131



Dr. Hermann Schmidt-Stiebitz, originally produced by Junkers Flugzeug- und Motorenwerke, Dessau, Germany, 1946, for submission to the Soviet armed forces, self-published facsimile edition by Dr. Peter Korrell, Wolfenbuettel, Germany. Illustrated, softcover, published in German.

This 55 page illustrated brochure was produced in 1946 by former Junkers designer Dr. Hermann Schmidt-Stiebitz. Dr. Schmidt-Stiebitz had been involved with the design of the Ju 252, Ju 352, Ju 488, and Ju 635, and he had also been in charge of the weekly status reports submitted by Junkers to the German air ministry (RLM). He was one of many Junkers engineers who, after the war in 1946 to 1953, worked for the Soviet aviation industry.

Just why Dr. Schmidt-Stiebitz produced this brochure a year after the German defeat remains something of an enigma. It was possibly intended as an overview of the technical capabilities of the then revolutionary EF 131 design for the Soviet occupiers. Moreover, it appears that the brochure was never printed as intended. Until now, that is.

It is due to Dr. Peter Korrell's labor of love that this rare treasure trove of information on one of the most intriguing German late-war aircraft projects is now available to enthusiasts and researchers. Over the years, Dr. Korrell has gained a distinguished reputation by painstakingly restoring and reassembling German aviation handbooks and documents from the 1940s and 1950s. Dr. Korrell's facsimile editions are printed to the original specifications, i.e., format, materials, and layout are closely patterned after the original. If anything, they are better than the originals, as Dr. Korrell meticulously researches and repairs faded drawings and missing information. The resulting publications are unique expert glimpses into exceptional German aviation history. They are essential reading material for any serious student of the topic.

The EF 131 brochure is significant because of the close relation between the EF 131 and the Ju 287 forward-swept-wing jet bomber, two prototypes of which were built and flown before the end of the war. The Ju 287 concept was revolutionary enough to be pursued by the Soviets after the war, and a further prototype, labeled EF 131 (after the Junkers in-house EF designation, for Entwicklungs-Flugzeug, i.e., development aircraft), was completed and flown at Ramenskoye near Moscow. In contrast to the Ju 287 V1 prototype, the EF 131 featured six Junkers Jumo 004 jet engines, mounted in triple-engine nacelles under the wings.

The subtitle of the EF 131 brochure reads EF 131: Entwurf, Erprobung und Einsatz [EF 131: Design, Testing, and Operations]. Accordingly, the brochure covers a broad range of topics and is very detailed. Covered are, for example, operations on the ground, take-off, landing, engines, landing gear, icing, emergency egress, engine fires, turbine blade failure, armament operations, and more. Nearly every page is illustrated by means of black & white drawings or graphs and tables. The information contained therein reveals a highly advanced state of affairs within the Ju 287/EF 131 project, much more so than could be assumed, given the production of only three Ju 287/EF 131 prototypes under late-war/post-war conditions.

The text is in German, and the brochure contains a German-language leaflet by Dr. Korrell, detailing the history behind both the original publication and the restoration process.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Der erste bemannte Raketenstart der Welt (Geheimaktion Natter)



Horst Lommel, Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany, 1998, ISBN 3-613-01862-4. Illustrated, hardcover, published in German.

Cover image © by Motorbuch Verlag, 1998.


When it was originally published, this book was an overdue and welcome study on the relatively little-known but nevertheless highly intriguing Bachem Ba 349 Natter rocket-powered manned interceptor program of late-war Germany. Due to the desperate nature of the Ba 349 idea (so representative of many contemporary German programs), the small number of aircraft built, and the failure to achieve actual combat operations with the Ba 349, the information published up to then was scarce at best, and no combined study of all available facts existed: Moreover, much of what was available had been copied and reprinted countless times, regardless of many uncertainties and obvious errors.

This book, then, went a long way towards rectifying this situation. On 204 pages, it contained a wealth of pictures, drawings and facsimile documents, making it worth acquiring even though it was only available in German. The author's research answered many open questions and the Ba 349 is unquestionably a very exciting and visionary aircraft in technical terms, even to people indifferent to late-war German projects. Also, the fact that several dozen Ba 349s were built and actually launched clearly sets this aircraft apart from mere "paper projects". Lommel's book covered this aspect in great detail, along with the world's first vertical manned rocket launch by Lothar Sieber in March 1945. Further chapters portrayed the development of the Ba 349, testing of the aircraft as a glider in various configurations, manufacturing, armament, the vertical launch concept, planned combat operations, surviving aircraft. Included were numerous outstanding pictures of the Natter, particularly the photos of the manned glider prototypes on pages 29 and 39.

Even so, there remained questions. For example, no explanation was given on why the well-known series of pictures of the M52 prototype being readied for launch (p. 63 to 66) shows the aircraft with a significantly enlarged horizontal stabilizer.

In spite of this, Lommel's pioneering work would only be eclipsed in 2006, when Classic Publications released Brett Gooden's landmark work, Projekt Natter - Last Of The Wonder Weapons.

Secret Aircraft Designs Of The Third Reich

 photo Myhra_Secretsm.jpg

David Myhra, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., U.S.A., 1998, ISBN 0-7643-0564-6. Illustrated, hardcover, published in English.

Cover image © by Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1998.

When it was announced in 1998, I was looking forward to this book. Due to its sheer size and the inclusion of hundreds of illustrations, it could have become a standard work of reference.

And yet I feel that the publication of incorrect reference material is detrimental to historical accuracy, to truth, to our interests, and to our hobby. I am afraid that this book's effect is simply to petrify previous misinformation and to amplify the prejudice against what is actually a highly interesting and influential part of Germany's aviation industry during Word War II. It is disappointing to find that this book contains numerous misinterpretations and inaccuracies, some trivial, many grave, which the detailed research that one expects to go into a publication of this size should have avoided. To randomly pick a few:

- In spite of the fact that correct information finally found it's way into the public in the course of the 1990s, the book fossilizes the ancient misconception of what the Heinkel He 176 looked like. Myhra uses the often-printed, outdated, and fictitious artist's impression originally based on Hans Regner's incorrect interpretation of the aircraft's shape (p. 162). In view of the importance the He 176 assumes in aviation history, it would have been appropriate for Myhra to refer instead to photos and three-view drawing published by Dr. Volker Koos in Germany's Jet & Prop (issue 1/1994) and Flieger Revue (issue 5/1995) magazines. Even more so as the author in fact avoided the comparable and equally popular ancient artist's impression of the Henschel Hs 132 and instead featured photos of the actual unfinished prototype.

- The picture of the "warhead" of Heinz Sombold's So 344 (p. 328) is obviously really the forward fuselage of the C 2 Wasserfall ground-to-air missile.

- The artist's impression of a "collection of anti aircraft missiles" (p. 24) shows, in reality, a variety of pulse-jet and rocket-powered manned aircraft and unmanned missiles, among them ground-to-ground weapons.

- The postage stamp "showing ground-to-air missiles" (p. 25, top) actually portrays the launch of ground-to-ground Nebelwerfer rockets (an artillery weapon used by German infantry).

- Countless three-view drawings are rendered unusable by pixel distortion beyond recognition.

- The picture on page 299 does not show the "Messerschmitt Me 262 C-1a" (V 186, Werknummer 130186) as stated in the caption. It is instead the Me 262 C-1b (V 074, Werknummer 170074) which featured a completely different dual rocket motor installation.

- The Bachem Ba 349 Natter did not carry "Henschel Hs 217 Föhn" air-to-air rockets (p. 49) but RZ 73 Föhn or R4M Orkan air-to-air rockets (as later correctly stated on p. 51 and p. 54).

- The Consolidated Vultee (Convair) XF-92 was not named "Cutlass" (p. 277, top). The name "Cutlass" was assigned to Chance Vought's F7U fighter. The XF-92 bore the unofficial name "Seven-Balls-Two" (as in model 7002).

- Perhaps the most significant characteristic of the Lippisch P 15 is not even mentioned (p. 289). According to Lippisch himself (in Ein Dreieck fliegt, Stuttgart, 1976, by Lippisch and Trenkle), the P 15 was to be a combination of existing parts from other contemporary aircraft: He 162 forward fuselage and cockpit, Me 163 wings and vertical tail, Ju 248 landing gear. Lippisch also states that the P 15 was to be powered by the HeS 011 A turbojet (as opposed to David Myhra's Jumo 004 D).

- Also according to Lippisch himself, the air raid on the Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt Wien (LFW), which killed 45 members of his staff, took place in June 1944, not in April 1945 (p. 281). It is also hardly possible that the "coal fuelled P 13" was destroyed in this raid (also p. 281), as the aircraft actually had not yet been built. What existed was a large-scale free-flight model of the P 13, which might have been destroyed in the raid (as later correctly stated on p. 288).

- The rocket-powered Hatry Flugzeug was not the important Lippisch-Opel collaboration (p. 271). According to Lippisch, the partnership between Sander, Opel and Lippisch resulted in the installation of rockets in the Lippisch-typical Ente [duck] trial design in 1928, with which Fritz Stamer subsequently made a number of powered flights. A further aircraft, which Lippisch designed specifically for Opel's rocket experiments, was never completed due to disagreements between Opel and Lippisch. This aircraft, the Raketen-Versuchsflugzeug [Rocket Trial Aircraft], was a very advanced concept for its time (1929) - it was to be a swept-back flying wing.

- The translation of the German-language inscription on the air war memorial in Dresden is entirely incorrect (p. 337). The actual translation would read: "How many died? Who knows the number? In your wounds, one can see the agony of the nameless who burned in the man-made hell fire. - To the memory of the victims of the air attack on Dresden on February 13 - 14, 1945."

- The Fieseler Fi 103 shown on page 136 (centre) is not a Reichenberg version, but a regular Fi 103 as air-launched by KG 53. Also, the manned Fi 103 was named Reichenberg, not "Reichenburg", as mistakenly stated in several places.

- The picture on page 142 (top right) does not show a "Vampire".

- The "Russian flying test bed for the Soviet-redesigned Jumo 022-K turboprop" is, in fact, a heavily modified Junkers Ju 252, used for flight tests of the Junkers Jumo 222 24-cylinder liquid-cooled radial engine.

- The aircraft on page 156, top left, is not a "Heinkel He 70", but a He 64.

- The "Messerschmitt Bf 108" on page 290 (bottom right) is, in fact, a Bücker Bü 181.

- The "Messerschmitt Me 209 V1 in flight" (p. 291) is, in fact, a retouched picture of the Me 209 V4.

- The Henschel Hs 295 was not a "high-tech air-to-air anti aircraft missile" (p. 183, bottom), but an air-to-ground missile.

- The model on page 229 (bottom) does not represent the "Ho 9 V2", but rather what the V3 perhaps would have looked like with armament.

This list could be continued almost indefinitely.

There are many positive points about this book. The obvious use of computer-generated images was overdue at the time of its publication, and the author is to be commended for his openness towards this tool. There are also some astonishing b/w pictures, such as the one on page 266, top. But this also serves to expose a (presumed) negligence and simplistic approach that characterizes Secret Aircraft Designs of the Third Reich, especially if one considers the book's retail price: the mere accumulation of uncounted illustrations fails to make up for a lack of research and accuracy.