Brief description: This picture gallery contains aircraft models of World War II on a scale 1:72 as injection moulded, resin- and vacu- formed kits as well as home-made conversions.
Here, you will find photos of aircraft models of World War II on a scale 1:72. e.g. those of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF), the United States Navy (USN), the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Royal Navy (RN) , the Japanese Imperial Air Army Force (IAAF), the Japanese Imperial Navy Air Force (INAF), the German Air Force (Luftwaffe, GAF) and the Air Force of the Soviet Union. Within these branches of the services you can select between fighters, fighter-bombers, bombers, trainers etc. Also you can select projects, designed on the drawing board as well as post-war developments, whose origin dated back into the time of WW II.
Important notice: Among the aircraft models shown here there are many aircraft from the former German Air Force (Deutsche Luftwaffe). They all show the swastika as a national symbol of that time. I would like to point out that this is not a political statement, but rather a source of historical information on the types of aircraft flown by the German Luftwaffe before and during the Second World War. It is to be taken as a reference for all aviation enthusiasts, and not taken as an expression of any sympathy for the Nazi regime or any Neo-Nazi or Right wing hate Groups.
I have built all these models just for fun and never, it has been my intention to show them anybody or to present them at a show. Over the years more then 1.500 models have emerged, and many more kits have not been completed yet, or are still waiting for the finish or the last little detail.
POWER PLANT: Two Nakajima NK1F “Sakae 21” air-cooled radial engine, rated at 1,130 hp each
PERFORMANCE: 315 mph at 19,160 ft
COMMENT: The Nakajima J1N1 “Gekko” (“Moonlight”) was a twin-engine aircraft used by the Japanese Imperial Navy during WW II and was used for reconnaissance, night fighter and “Kamikaze” missions. The first flight took place in May 1941. It was given the Allied reporting name “Irving”, since the earlier reconnaissance version the Nakajima J1N1, was mistaken for a fighter.
In mid-1938 the Japanese Imperial Navy requested a twin-engine fighter designed to escort the principal bomber used at the time, Mitsubishi G3M “Nell”. The operating range of the standard Navy fighter, the Mitsubishi A5M “Claude”, was only 750 m), insufficient compared with the 2,730 mi of the G3M. Moreover, at the time, the potential of the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero”, then still under development, remained to be evaluated, stressing the need for a long-range escort fighter, much as the German Luftwaffe had done with the Messerschmitt Bf (Me) 110 “Zerstörer” (“Destroyer”), introduced the year before.
In March 1939, Mitsubishi and Nakajima began the development of a project 13-Shi. The prototype left the factory in March 1941 equipped with two 1,130 hp Nakajima Sakae 21/22, radial engines. There was a crew of three, and the aircraft was armed with a 20 mm Type 99 cannon and six 7.7 mm Type 97 machine guns. Four of these machine guns were mounted in two rear-mounted powered turrets, the weight of which reduced the performance of the aircraft considerably. Because of the sluggish handling, being used as an escort fighter had to be abandoned. Instead, production was authorized for a lighter reconnaissance variant, the J1N1-C, also known by the Navy designation Navy Type 2 Reconnaissance Plane. One early variant, the J1N1-F, had a spherical turret with one 20 mm Type 99 Model 2 cannon mounted immediately behind the pilot.
In early 1943, Commander Y. Kozono of the 251st Kokutai in Rabaul came up with the idea of installing 20 mm cannons, firing upwards at a 30 degree angle in the fuselage. Against orders of central command, which was skeptical of his idea, he tested his idea on a J1N1-C as a night fighter. The field-modified J1N1-C KAI shot down two Boeing B-17s “Flying Fortress” of 43rd Bomb Group attacking air bases around Rabaul on 21 May 1943.
The Navy took immediate notice and placed orders with Nakajima for the newly designated J1N1-S night fighter design. This model was christened the Model 11 “Gekko” (“Moonlight”). It had a crew of two, eliminating the navigator position. Like the J1N1 KAI, it had twin 20 mm Type 99 Model 1 cannon firing upward in a 30° upward angle, but added a second pair firing downward at a forward 30° angle, allowing attacks from above or below. This arrangement was effective against B-17 “Flying Fortress” bombers and Consolidated B-24 “Liberators”, which usually had Sperry ball turrets for ventral defense. The “Gekko’s” existence was not quickly understood by the Allies, who assumed the Japanese did not have the technology for night fighter designs. Early versions had nose searchlights in place of radar. Later models, the J1N1-Sa Model 11a, omitted the two downward-firing guns and added another 20 mm cannon to face upward as with the other two. Other variants without nose antennae or searchlight added a 20 mm cannon to the nose. Many “Gekkos” were also shot down or destroyed on the ground. A number of “Gekkos” were relegated to Kamikaze attacks, using 250 kg bombs attached to the wings. A total of 479 Nakajima J1N1 “Gekkos” were built before the war in the Pacific area was ended (Ref.: 24).
ACCOMMODATION: Crew of four plus troops or freight
POWER PLANT: Four Wright R-3350-35 “Duplex-Cyclone” radial engines, rated at 2,200 hp each
PERFORMANCE: 330 mph at 10,000 ft
COMMENT: Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States entering WWII, the assembly lines at the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation were taken over by the American government for the war effort. Along with the assembly lines, the Lockheed L-049 “Constellation” airliner was also requisitioned and designated C-69 and was to be used as a cargo and personnel transport by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF).
Due to the direction the war was heading during summer 1942, the need for a large troop transport capable of crossing the Atlantic Ocean o Pacific Ocean (by flying from island to island) became more important. This would help avoid the risks the convoys in the Atlantic were facing due to U-Boat attacks.
The Douglas C-54 “Skymaster” planned for these roles was not completely capable. So on September 1942, the American War Department signed contract with Lockheed for nine L-049 aircraft under construction for TWA. Soon after 150 more C-69A and C-69B aircraft were ordered along with C-69C and C-69D VIP transport versions. In reality, only one C-69C was produced out of all these planned variants.
Around the same time the prototype XC-69 was completed and rolled out in December 1942. The aircraft was painted in olive green and grey camouflage colors and the civilian registration. However, problems developed with the aircraft’s powerplant, the Wright R-3350 “Duples Cyclone”. A consideration to replace the R-3350 engines with Pratt & Whitney R-2800 had been taken up.
On July 1943, the XC-69 was symbolically handed over to the USAAF and later that same day, the XC-69 returned to Lockheed for further testing. It is worth mentioning that the C-69 was able to attain a higher maximum speed than the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighter.
Major problems, however, surfaced with the Wright R-3350 powerplant that powered the C-69 and finally the USAAF ceased production of the R-3350 until the troubles that plagued the engines were solved. This caused the development of the C-69 to slow down and furthermore, the C-69 was not declared a priority. Lockheed continued to focus on building combat aircraft while the Douglas C-54 “Skymaster”, the C-69’s competitor was already flying and officially ordered.
Unfortunately for Lockheed, the C-69 became less important to the war effort as time progressed, especially since the tide of the war had turned in favor of the Allies. Only a small number of C-69 aircraft would see service in the last year of the war. Even so, Lockheed was able to conduct tests at the expense of the government to solve problems with the aircraft’s design. Although the problems with the R-3350 were being solved, the B-29 had priority for the engines over the C-69. Even with all the effort put forth by Lockheed, the USAAF favored the C-54 “Skymaster” over the C-69. At the end of the war, only 22 Lockheed C-69s “Constellations” were produced, seven of which were never delivered (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: Two Daimler-Benz DB 603B liquid-cooled engines, rated at 1,860 hp at 6,900 ft each and one Daimler-Benz DB, rated at 1,475 hp driving “HZ-Anlange” supercharger in fuselage
PERFORMANCE: 379 mph at 45,900 ft
COMMENT: The Henschel Hs 130 was a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft and bomber developed in WW II, but never used operationally, only existing as prototype airframes due to various mechanical faults.
Development of the Hs 130 began with two Hs 128 prototypes, which first flew on 11 April 1939, with the second prototype flying on 20 February 1940. Both prototypes were research aircraft, used for testing pressurized cabins, engine superchargers, and cantilever wings. Different engines powered the two prototypes; the V1 by Daimler-Benz DB 601s and the V2 by Junkers Jumo 201s. Both had fixed landing gear.
While trials of the two prototypes were not successful, the potential of a high altitude aircraft caught the attention of the commander of the Luftwaffe’s’s special reconnaissance unit. The interest in the Hs 128’s potential for high-altitude reconnaissance missions led the RLM (Reich Air Ministry) to instruct Henschel to continue development of the Hs 128 as a reconnaissance aircraft under the designation Hs 130A. Three prototype aircraft Hs 130As were built, the first flying on May 1940. Five pre-production Hs 130A-0 followed, being delivered in early 1941, and featured Daimler-Benz DB 601R engines – each with a single-stage supercharger, retractable landing gear, and a bay in the rear to house two Rb75/30 cameras for reconnaissance. The five Hs 130A-0s subsequently underwent trials and testing, which revealed significant problems with the aircraft performance, and reliability problems which prevented operational use.
Two further modified Hs 130A-0s were produced under the designation Hs 130A-0/U6 and featured a greater wingspan, Daimler-Benz DB 605B engines, Hirth superchargers, GM-1 nitrous oxide power boosting, and under-wing drop tanks, and being ready for flight testing in November 1943, demonstrating an absolute ceiling of 50,570 ft. The Hs 130A-0/U6 variant as well as the other Hs 130A-0s proved unsatisfactory and were never flown operationally.
Further development of the Hs 130 led to bomber variants. The planned Hs 130B was almost the same as the Hs 130A, but with a bomb bay in place of the camera bay, but was never built. The Hs 130C was built as a competitor for the “Bomber B” project, and was very different from the Hs 130A, featuring a shorter wing span, remotely controlled defensive armament, a more extensively glazed but still pressurized cabin and up to 4,000 kg of bombs. Further development of the Hs 130 as a reconnaissance aircraft continued with the Hs 130D, which was planned to have DB 605 engines and a complex two-stage supercharger, but was again unbuilt.
The Hs 130E was a re-working of the Hs 130A with the “Höhen Zentrale” or “HZ-Anlage” (High-altitude gear center) in place of conventional superchargers. The “HZ-Anlage” operated by a third engine, a Daimler-Benz DB 605T, was installed in the fuselage the only purpose of which was to power a large supercharger to supply air to the wing-mounted DB 603B engines. Another difference from the Hs 130A was the nose, which was extended forward to offset the weight of the “HZ-Anlage” engine in the fuselage. Also underwing fuel tanks could be fitted to provide fuel for three engines, and air scoops were fitted under the fuselage to supply the fuselage engine.
Three prototype Henschel Hs 130Es were built; Hs 130E V1 first flew in September 1942, and could reach 41,010 ft when “HZ-Anlage” was employed. Hs 130E V2, first flown in November 1942, was lost on its seventh flight due to an engine fire; V3 was built to replace it. An order for seven pre-production Hs 130E-0s followed, first flying in May 1943, together with a production order was placed for 100 Hs 130E-1s which were to have a remotely controlled defensive armament and provisions for underwing bombs. The order was cancelled due to continuing problems suffered by the Hs 130E-0’s “HZ-Anlage” system. A four engine version Hs 130F was planned, which was hoped to solve the problems with “HZ-Anlage”, by using four supercharged BMW 801 radial engines, but was never built (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Mitsubishi Ha 112-II radial engine, rated at 1,500 hp
PERFORMANCE: 360 mph at 19,700 ft
COMMENT: In mid-1944, the Kawasaki Ki-61”Hien” (Allied code “Toni”) was one of the best fighters of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service. It was the only production Japanese fighter to have an in-line Kawasaki Ha-40 power plant, a Japanese adaptation of the German Daimler-Benz DB 601 engine, as well as the first one with factory-installed armor and self-sealing fuel tanks. It also had respectable performance, more in line with contemporary American and European designs of the time, with speed and rate of climb emphasized instead of maneuverability and range. It was an effective design, but suffered from engine shortages and reliability problems.
hese problems as well as the performance advantage of enemy fighters, especially the Grumman F6F “Hellcat”, led to the development of an improved model, the Ki-61-II (later Ki-61-II-KAI), powered by the new 1,500 hp Kawasaki Ha 140 engine, which was unfortunately heavier than the Ki-61-I-KAIc it replaced. Maximum speed increased from 370 to 380 mph as well as general performance. However, it was never able to perform as planned due to the continued degradation of quality of the engine’s assembly line, with far fewer engines produced than were required, while many of the engines that were built were rejected due to poor build quality. At this point of the war, the IJAAF was in desperate need of effective interceptors to stop the enemy bomber raids over the Japanese mainland, so in October 1944 it was ordered that a 1,500 hp Mitsubishi Ha 112-II “Kinsei” (“Venus”), a 14-cylinder, two-row radial engine should be installed in those airframes. The need for the re-engined fighter was made yet more urgent on January 1945, when a Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” raid destroyed the engine’s production plant, leaving 275 finished Ki-61s without a power plant.
The Mitsubishi Ha-112-II was some lighter than the Ha-140 and produced the same power more reliably. After the study of an imported German Focke-Wulf Fw 190, an example of an aircraft in which a wide radial engine had been successfully installed in a narrow airframe, three Kawasaki Ki-61-II-KAI airframes were modified to carry this engine and to serve as prototypes. As a result, on February 1945, the new model, Kawasaki Ki-100, was flown for the first time. Without the need for the heavy coolant radiator and other fittings required for a liquid-cooled engine, the Ki-100 was lighter than the Ki-61-II, resulting in a reduction of wing loading. This had an immediate positive effect on the flight characteristics, enhancing landing and takeoff qualities as well as imparting increased maneuverability, including a tighter turning circle.
The army general staff was amazed by the flight characteristics of the plane, which surpassed the Ki-61 in all but maximum speed (degraded by a maximum of 18 mph]by the larger area of the radial engine’s front cowling, and the model was ordered to be put in production. The company’s name was Ki-100-1-Ko. All of the airframes were remanufactured from Ki-61-II Kai and Ki-61-III airframes; the integral engine mount/cowling side panel was cut off the fuselage and a tubular steel engine mount was bolted to the firewall/bulkhead. Many of the redundant fittings from the liquid-cooled engine, such as the ventral radiator shutter actuator, were still kept. The first 271 aircraft, or Kawasaki Ki-100-1-Ko, with the raised “razorback” rear fuselage were rolled out of the factory between March and June 1945. A further 118 Ki-100 I-Otsu are built with a cut-down rear fuselage and new rear-view canopy from May through to the end of July 1945. This version also featured a modified oil cooler under the engine in a more streamlined fairing. In total 396 Kawasaki Ki-100 were built before Japan surrendered (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: Two General Electric J31-GE-5 turbojet engines, rated at 750 kp each
PERFORMANCE: 413 mph at 30,000 ft
COMMENT: The Bell P-59 “Airacomet” was a twin turbojet-engine fighter aircraft, the first produced in the United States, designed and built by Bell Aircraft Corporation during WW II. The United States Army Air Force was not impressed by its performance and cancelled the contract when fewer than half of the aircraft ordered had been produced. Although no P-59s entered combat, the fighter paved the way for another design generation of U.S. turbojet-powered aircraft, and was the first turbojet fighter to have its turbojet engine and air inlet nacelles integrated within the main fuselage.
Major General H. H. “Hap” Arnold became aware of the United Kingdom’s turbojet program when he attended a demonstration of the Gloster E.28/39 in April 1941. He requested, and was given, the plans for the aircraft’s powerplant, the Power Jets W.1, which he took back to the U.S. He also arranged for an example of the engine, the Whittle W.1X turbojet, to be flown to the U.S in October 1941 in the bomb bay of a USAAF Consolidated B-24 “Liberator” along with drawings for the more powerful W.2B/23 engine and a small team of Power Jets engineers. On 4 September, he offered the U.S. company General Electric a contract to produce an American version of the engine, which subsequently became the General Electric I-A. On the following day, he approached L. D. Bell, head of Bell Aircraft Corporation, to build a fighter to utilize it. Bell agreed and set to work on producing three prototypes. As a disinformation tactic, the USAAF gave the project the designation “P-59A”, to suggest it was a development of the unrelated Bell XP-59 fighter project which had been canceled. The design was finalized in January 1942, and construction began. In March, long before the prototypes were completed, an order for 13 “YP-59A” preproduction machines was added to the contract.
In September 1942, the first XP-59A was sent to Muroc Army Air Field in California by train for testing. While being handled on the ground, the aircraft was fitted with a dummy propeller to disguise its true nature. The aircraft first became airborne during high-speed taxiing tests on October although the first official flight one day later. A handful of the first “Airacomets” had open-air flight observer later cut into the nose; over the following months, tests on the three XP-59As revealed a multitude of problems including poor engine response and reliability – common shortcomings of all early turbojets – , insufficient lateral stability, i.e., in the roll axis, and performance that was far below expectations. Chuck Yaeger flew the aircraft and was dissatisfied with its speed, but was amazed at its smooth flying characteristics. Nevertheless, even before delivery of the YP-59As in June 1943, the USAAF ordered 80 production machines, designated P-59A “Airacomet”.
The 13 service test YP-59As had a more powerful engine than their predecessor, the General Electric J 31, but the improvement in performance was negligible, with top speed increased by only 5 mph and a reduction in the time they could be used before an overhaul was needed. One of these aircraft, the third YP-59A was supplied to the Royal Air Force, in exchange for the first production Gloster “Meteor”. British pilots found that the aircraft compared very unfavorably with the turbojets that they were already flying. Two YP-59A “Airacomets” were also delivered to the U.S. Navy where they were evaluated as the YF2L-1 but were quickly found completely unsuitable for carrier operations.
Faced with their own ongoing difficulties, Bell eventually completed 50 production “Airacomets”, 20 P-59As and 30 P-59Bs; deliveries of P-59As took place in the fall of 1944. Each was armed with one 37 mm M4 cannon and 44 rounds of ammunition and three 12.7 mm machine guns with 200 rounds per gun. The P-59Bs were assigned to the 412th Fighter Group to familiarize USAAF pilots with the handling and performance characteristics of jet aircraft. While the P-59 was not a great success, the type did give the USAAF experience with the operation of jet aircraft, in preparation for the more advanced types such as the Lockheed P-80 “Shooting Star” that would shortly become available. Nevertheless, early in 1944 Bell designers began the development of a turbojet powered fighter of similar configuration as the P-59 “Airacomet” but improved performance, the Bell XP-83. But the performance was somewhat disappointing, too, and the project was cancelled, only two prototypes were built (Ref.: 8, 24).
POWER PLANT: Two BMW P.3302 (BMW 003) turbojet engines, rated at 550 kp thrust each, plus one Junkers Jumo 210G liquid-cooled engine, rated at 720 hp
PERFORMANCE: 350 mph
COMMENT: Several years before World War II, the Germans foresaw the great potential for aircraft that used the turbojet engine constructed by Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain, engineer with the Heinkel Company, in 1936. After the successful test flights of the world’s first jet aircraft—the Heinkel He 178, Messerschmitt and his design bureau adopted the turbojet engine for an advanced fighter aircraft. As a result, the Messerschmitt Me 262 was already under development as “Projekt 1065” (P.1065) before the start of World War II. The project originated with a request by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM, Ministry of Aviation) for a turbojet aircraft capable of one hour’s endurance and a speed of at least 530 mph. Dr. Waldemar Voigt headed the design team, with Messerschmitt’s chief of development, Robert Lusser, overseeing.
Plans were first drawn up in April 1939, and the original design was very different from the aircraft that eventually entered service, with wing root-mounted engines, under development by BMW as 003 or by Junkers as Jumo 004, rather than podded ones, when submitted in June 1939. The progression of the original design was delayed greatly by technical issues involving the new turbojet engine. Because the engines were slow to arrive, Messerschmitt moved the engines from the wing roots to underwing pods, allowing them to be changed more readily if needed; this would turn out to be important, both for availability and maintenance. Since the BMW 003 jets proved heavier than anticipated, the wing was swept slightly, by 18.5°, to accommodate a change in the center of gravity. Funding for the turbojet engine program was also initially lacking as many high-ranking officials thought the war could easily be won with conventional aircraft.
Test flights began on 18 April 1941, with the Me 262 V1 example, bearing its “Stammkennzeichen” (radio code letters) of PC+UA, but since its intended BMW 003 turbojets were not ready for fitting, a conventional Junkers Jumo 210 piston engine was mounted in the V1 prototype’s nose, driving a propeller, to test the Me 262 V1 airframe. After successful trials demonstrating good flying characteristics of the design two prototypes of the BMW P.3302 turbojet engines, forerunner of the BMW 003 turbojet engine, were installed. The Jumo 210 piston engine was retained for safety, which proved wise – so often reported in literature – as both turbojet engines failed during the first flight and the pilot had to land using the nose-mounted engine alone. Original test-flight protocols published some years ago show reasonable doubt on that report.
In total the Messerschmitt Me 262 V1 successfully completed 74 flights but only one under turbojet power. The prototypes V2 through V4 were purely turbojet driven, but with the more powerful Junkers Jumo 004 turbojet engines.
The V1 through V4 prototype airframes all possessed what would become an uncharacteristic feature for most later jet aircraft designs, a fully retracting conventional landing gear setup with a retracting tailwheel. Indeed, the very first prospective German “turbojet fighter” airframe design ever flown, the Heinkel He 280, powered by a Heinkel HeS 8A turbojet engine, used a retractable tricycle landing gear from its beginnings, and flying on turbojet power alone as early as the end of March 1941. From prototype Me 262 V6 onwards all aircraft featured a fully-retractable, hydraulically-operated tricycle undercarriage. Dubbed unofficially the “Schwalbe” (“Swallow”), the first production sub-type off the new warplane, the Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a single-seat interceptor fighter entered service with the “Erprobungskommando (EKdo) 262” at Lechfeld in July 1944 (Ref.: 7, 24).
POWER PLANT: One Toku-Ro.2 /KR10) bi-fuel liquid rocket, rated at 1,500 kp thrust
PERFORMANCE: 559 mph at 32,808 ft
COMMENT: The Mitsubishi J8M “Shūsui” (literally “Autumn Water”, used as a poetic term meaning “Sharp Sword” deriving from the swishing sound of a sword) was a Japanese WW II rocket-powered interceptor aircraft closely based on the German Messerschmitt Me 163 “Komet” (Comet”). Built as a joint project for both the Japanese Navy and the Army Air Services, it was designated J8M (Navy) and Ki-200 (Army).
The Ki-200 and the J8M1 differed only in minor items, but the most obvious difference was the JAAF’s Ki-200 was armed with two 30 mm Type 5 cannon (with a rate of fire of 450 rounds per minute and a muzzle velocity of 720 m/s, while the J8M1 was armed with two 30 mm Ho-105 cannon (rate of fire 400 rounds per minute, muzzle velocity 750 m/s). The Ho-105 was the lighter of the two and both offered a higher velocity than the German MK 108 cannon of the Messerschmitt Me 163 (whose muzzle velocity was 520 m/s).
The Toko Ro.2 (KR10) rocket motor did not offer the same thrust rating as the original, and Mitsubishi calculated that the lighter weight of the J8M1 would not offset this. Performance would not be as good as that of the Me 163 “Komet”, but was still substantial. The engine still used the German propellants of T-Stoff oxidizer and C-Stoff fuel (hydrogen peroxide/methanol-hydrazine), known in Japan as “Ko” and “Otsu” respectively.
At the end of the war “Shusui” production was already under way. Additionally, the Navy had instructed Mitsubishi, Nissan and Fuji to design a further Navy version as J8M2 with only one cannon thus giving additional space for more fuel and by that more endurance, while the Army ordered Rikugun Kokugijutsu Kenkyujo the development of an enlarged version of the Ki-200 with increased fuel tankage, known as Rikugun Ki-202 “Shusui Kai” to be built by Mitsubishi (Ref.: 1, 24).
POWER PLANT: One Wright R-2600-20 “Twin Cyclone” radial engine, rated at 1,900 hp
PERFORMANCE: 295 mph at 16,700 ft
COMMENT: The Curtiss SB2C “Helldiver” was developed to replace the Douglas SBD “Dauntless”. It was a much larger aircraft, able to operate from the latest aircraft carriers and carry a considerable array of armament. It featured an internal bomb bay that reduced drag when carrying heavy ordnance. Saddled with demanding requirements set forth by both the U.S. Marines and United States Army Air Forces, the manufacturer incorporated features of a “multi-role” aircraft into the design.
The first prototype made its maiden flight on December 1940. It crashed on February 1941 when its engine failed on approach, but Curtiss was asked to rebuild it. The fuselage was lengthened and a larger tail was fitted, while an autopilot was fitted to help the poor stability. The revised prototype flew again on October 1941, but was destroyed when its wing failed during diving tests on December 1941.
Large-scale production had already been ordered on November 1940, but a large number of modifications were specified for the production model. Fin and rudder area were increased, fuel capacity was increased, self-sealing tanks were added and the fixed armament was doubled to four 12.7 mm machine guns in the wings, compared with the prototype’s two cowling guns. The SB2C-2 was built with larger fuel tanks, improving its range considerably.
The program suffered so many delays that the Grumman TBF “Avenger” entered service before the “Helldiver”, even though the “Avenger” had begun its development two years later. Nevertheless, production tempo accelerated with production at Columbus, Ohio and two Canadian factories.
The U.S. Navy would not accept the SB2C until 880 modifications to the design and the changes on the production line had been made, delaying the Curtiss “Helldiver’s” combat debut until November 1943. Among its major faults, the “Helldiver” was underpowered, had a shorter range than the Douglas SBD, was equipped with an unreliable electrical system, and was often poorly manufactured. The solution to these problems began with the introduction of the SB2C-3 beginning in 1944, which used the R-2600-20 Twin Cyclone engine with 1,900 hp and Curtiss’ four-bladed propeller. This substantially solved the chronic lack of power that had plagued the aircraft
In operational experience, it was found that the U.S. Navy’s Grumman F6F “Hellcat” and Vought F4U “Corsair” fighters were able to carry an equally heavy bomb load against ground targets and were vastly more capable of defending themselves against enemy fighters. The “Helldiver”, however, could still deliver ordnance with more precision against specific targets and its two-seat configuration permitted a second set of eyes. A “Helldiver” also has a significant advantage in range over a fighter while carrying a bombload, which is extremely important in naval operations.
The advent of air-to-ground rockets ensured that the SB2C-4 was the last purpose-built dive bomber produced. Rockets allowed precision attack against surface naval and land targets, while avoiding the stresses of near-vertical dives and the demanding performance requirements that they placed on dive bombers.
Crew nicknames for the aircraft included the “Big-Tailed Beast”, or just the derogatory “Beast” due to its size, weight, and reduced range compared to the SBD it replaced. A total of 7,140 Curtiss SB2C “Helldivers” were produced in World War II (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Walter R II-203b bi-fuel liquid rocket, rated between 150 to 750 kp
PERFORMANCE: 550 mph
COMMENT: In early 1941, based on the success by the DFS 194, production of a prototype series, known as the Messerschmitt Me 163, began. Secrecy was such that the RLM’S “GL/C” airframe number, 8–163, was actually that of the earlier, pre-July 1938 Messerschmitt Bf 163. It was thought that intelligence services would conclude any reference to the number “163” would be for that earlier design. Five prototypes (V1 to V5) were ordered designated Messerschmitt Me 163A “Komet” (“Comet”).
In May 1941 the Messerschmitt Me 163A V4 was shipped to Peenemünde to receive the Walter HWK RII-203 engine. By 2 October 1941, the Me 163A V4, bearing the radio call sign letters, or Stammkennzeichen, “KE+SW”, set a new world speed record of 624.2 mph. Piloted by Heini Dittmar, the fully tanked up aircraft was towed to an altitude of 13,120 ft behind a Messerschmitt Me 110C. After casting-off from the tow-plane, the rocket engine was fired. At about Mach 0.84 compressibility effects resulted in a sudden loss of stability, and the Me 163A V4 went into a dive. Dittmar promptly cut the rocket motor, the aircraft decelerating rapidly and full control being restored. The aircraft was landed on skids with no apparent damage to the aircraft during the attempt.
During further flight testing, the superior gliding capability of the Me 163A proved detrimental to safe landing. As the now un-powered aircraft completed its final descent, it could rise back into the air with the slightest updraft. Since the approach was unpowered, there was no opportunity to make another landing pass. For production models, a set of landing flaps allowed somewhat more controlled landings. This issue remained a problem throughout the program. Nevertheless, the overall performance was tremendous, and plans were made to put the Messerschmitt Me 163 squadrons all over Germany in 40-kilometre rings (25 mi) around any potential target. Development of an operational version was given the highest priority.
Five prototype Me 163A V-series aircraft were built, adding to the original DFS 194 (V1), followed by eight pre-production examples designated as “Me 163 A-0”.
Note: Some postwar aviation history publications stated that the Messerschmitt Me 163A V3 (CD+IL) was thought to have set the record. The 1,004 km/h record figure would not be officially approached until the postwar period by the new British and American turbojet-powered aircraft. It was not surpassed (except by the later Me 163B V18 in 1944, but seriously damaged by the attempt) until the American Douglas D-558-I “Skystreak” turbojet-powered research aircraft did so on 20 August 1947 with no damage (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Kayaba Model 1 ramjet engine rated at 750 kp thrust at 457 mph and four solid fuel rocket boosters for take-off, rated at 7.200 kp thrust
PERFORMANCE: 559 mph (estimated)
COMMENT: The Kayaba “Katsuodori” (“Booby Gannet”) was the result of the endeavor to design a single-seat, ramjet-powered interceptor-minded platform which utilized a short, tailless fuselage configuration with swept-back wing main planes. The cockpit would be held well-forward and offered exceptional vision for the pilot. The mid-mounted main planes were affixed ahead of midship with each tip capped by small vertical stabilizers. The ramjet propulsion system was buried within the tubular fuselage and a rocket-assist scheme (consisting of four externally-held rocket pods) was to be used. The rocket pods were installed under the wing roots and jettisoned once their usefulness had run out. Having achieved the required speeds, the aircraft would then continue on under ramjet power with a flying window of about 30 minutes being estimated. To aspirate the ramjet, the nose section featured an air intake. No conventional undercarriage was provided. Instead the aircraft would glide back home powerless and land on a belly-mounted skid. The ramjet under consideration for the project became the Kayaba Model 1 which promised 750 kp thrust output.
Since the aircraft never achieved prototype form, performance specifications were estimated and this included a maximum speed of 560 miles per hour with a rate-of-climb around 11,000 feet-per-minute. The latter would prove a good quality to have in interception sorties. The service ceiling was listed at 49,215 feet
As an interceptor attempting to tackle very large, slow-moving (but well-defended) targets, it was seen to arm the fighter appropriately through 2 x 30mm Ho-301 series cannons – this was a suitable arrangement to counter even the high-flying and technologically advanced Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” which had made its presence known since mid-1944. The cannons would have been embedded in the sides of the nose.
Design work on the “Katsuodori” progressed into 1943 and plans were underway to begin construction of a working prototype for the following year. However, Japan’s fortunes in the war had worsened into 1944 and the attention of authorities turned to more viable military weapons such as the Rikugun (Mitsubishi) Ki-202 “Sharp Sword”, based on a rocket-powered interceptor developed by Mitsubishi as Ki-200 “Shusui” for the IJAAF and J8M-1 for the IJNAF on the basis of the German Messerschmitt Me 163 “Komet” (Ref.: 24).