POWER PLANT: One Walter HWK 109-509A-2 liquid-fuel rocket engine rated between 1,500 kp to 100 kp full variable
PERFORMANCE: 559 mph at all altitudes
COMMENT: The Messerschmitt Me 163 “Komet” (“Comet”) was a German rocket-powered interceptor aircraft. Designed by A. Lippisch, it was the only rocket-powered fighter aircraft ever to have been operational and the first piloted aircraft of any type to exceed 1000 km/h (621 mph) in level flight. Its performance and aspects of its design were unprecedented. The Messerschmitt Me 163 “Komet” was among the most technically advanced and inherently dangerous military aircraft ever to see service. The radical ‘tailless’ design was developed by Dr Alexander Lippisch as the DFS 194 at the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug, (German Research Institute for Sailplanes) at Darmstadt in the 1930s. In January 1939, project work on the DFS 194 was transferred to Messerschmitt AG at Augsburg responsible for fitting a rocket motor. Lippisch also moved to Messerschmitt AG to head the development project team. The rocket-powered sailplane DFS 194 made its first flight on August 1940 what was very successful. Although Messerschmitt was not impressed by the concept of a rocket-powered interceptor, Lippisch and his team continued work on the project. Officially designated Messerschmitt Me 163 the aircraft was first flown under rocket power in 1940 becoming the first aircraft to exceed 1000 km/h, experiencing control problems on the edge of the sound barrier.
Five prototype Messerschmitt 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. These aircraft were intensively tested by the Luftwaffe and although its extraordinary acceleration, climbing characteristics and speed inspired the authorities the handling of this tiny aircraft especially during take-off and landing showed tremendous problems. The rocket engine gave power for only a few minutes and the rest of the flight had to be continued as a glider.
Five prototypes and eight pre-production examples were followed by 30 completely redesigned production aircraft Messerschmitt Me 163B-0. These aircraft were armed with two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon and some of these were allocated to “Erprobungskommando16” (EKdo 16) (“Testing-command 16”) that was formed March 1943 in Peenemünde-West, as a test unit for the rocket fighter, and later based at the Luftwaffe airfield in Bad Zwischenahn for a considerable period of time. This EKdo 16 had some of the aircraft painted completely in red and was the first Luftwaffe unit to perform a combat mission.
The performance of the Me 163 far exceeded that of contemporary piston engine fighters. At a speed of over 200 mph the aircraft would take off, in a so-called “Scharfer Start” (“sharp start”, “sharp take-off”) from the ground, from its two-wheeled dolly. The aircraft would be kept at level flight at low altitude until the best climbing speed of around 420 mph was reached, at which point it would jettison the dolly, retract its extendable landing skid and then pull up into a 70° angle of climb, to a bomber’s altitude. It could go higher if required, reaching 39,000 ft in an unheard-of three minutes. Once there, it would level off and quickly accelerate to around 550 mph or faster, which no Allied fighter could match. Flight endurance under power was just eight minutes after which the aircraft became a glider, and the time available to attack enemy aircraft using two 20mm cannons was very limited. Once the rocket’s fuel supply was exhausted the Me 163B “Komet” was an easy target for fighter aircraft, particularly during the landing phase (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Mitsubishi “Zusei” 11 radial engine, rated at 870 hp
PERFORMANCE: 171 mph
COMMENT: The Kawanishi E7K was a Japanese 1930s three-seat reconnaissance floatplane. It was allocated the reporting name “Alf” by the Allies of WW II.
In 1932 the Imperial Japanese Navy requested the Kawanishi Aircraft Company to produce a replacement for the company’s Kawanishi E5K. The resulting design, designated the Kawanishi E7K1, was an equal span biplane powered by a 620 hp “Hiro Type 91W-12 liquid-cooled inline engine. The first aircraft flew on 6 February 1933 and was handed over to the navy for trials three months later. It was flown in competition with the Aichi AB-6 which was designed to meet the same 7-Shi requirement. The E7K1 was ordered into production as the Navy Type 94 Reconnaissance Seaplane and entered service in early 1935. It became a popular aircraft, but was hindered by the unreliability of the “Hiro” engine. Later production E7K1s were fitted with a more powerful version of the “Hiro 91”, but this did not improve the reliability. In 1938 Kawanishi developed an improved E7K2 with a Mitsubishi “Zuisei 11” radial engine. It first flew in August 1938 and was ordered by the Navy as the Navy Type 94 Reconnaissance Seaplane Model 2. The earlier E7K1 was renamed to Navy Type 94 Reconnaissance Seaplane Model 1.
The type was used extensively by the Japanese Navy from 1938 until the beginning of the Pacific War, when E7K1 were relegated to training duties but the E7K2, despite their obsolescence, remained in first-line service until 1943. The aircraft was initially used for convoy escort, anti-submarine patrol and reconnaissance. Later in the war, the E7K2s were retained in the liaison and training role and as mother aircraft for the MXY4 radio-controlled target plane. Also both versions were used in Kamikaze operations in the closing stages of the war (Ref.: 1, 24).
ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only in prone position in pressurized cockpit
POWER PLANT: One Walter HWK 109-509 bi-fuel liquid rocket engine, rated at 1,650 kp at 40,000 ft
PERFORMANCE: 435 mph at 75,459 ft
COMMENT: Beginning in 1940, the DFS (Deutsches Forschungsinstitut für Segelflug, German Research Institute for Sailplanes) started an ambitious program to achieve supersonic flight. Since the only engines powerful enough and available at the time were rocket engines, it was realized that the solution was to have the assault on the sound barrier take place at a high altitude. It was decided to divide the program into three sections:
The first part was concerned with developing and testing of the pressurized cockpit section, the method of pilot escape in case of emergency and performance testing of rocket engines at high altitudes.
The second part was to discover the performance of various sweptback wing configurations. The DFS acquired the Heinkel P.1068 designs for a four-engined turbojet bomber with various wing sweep angles.
The third and last part was to actually build a supersonic aircraft with information learned in the above two steps, which was eventually to become the DFS 346.
The DFS decided to design a new aircraft (although much was learned in an earlier design, the DFS 54) to investigate the first part of their three-step program. Thus, in 1941, the RLM assigned the number 228 to the aircraft, and requested that the DFS 228 also be designed for high-altitude reconnaissance duties as well as research work.
The first prototype of the DFS 228 (coded D-IBFQ) was completed in 1943 by the DFS, although the control sections and landing skid were built by Schmetz Company. The fuselage of the DFS 228 V1 consisted of three circular sections: the nose section containing the cockpit; a center section which contained the landing skid, fuel tanks and a Zeiss infra-red camera; and the tail section with the Walter HWK 509A-1 or A-2 rocket engine. The wing was attached at the mid-fuselage point, and featured 4.5 degrees of dihedral. Wooden construction was used for the entire wing, with a single laminated wooden spar running from wingtip to wingtip, wooden ribs and a plywood covering. Wide-span divided ailerons were fitted to the wing (the inner section acted as landing flaps), and lift spoilers were also fitted to the upper and lower wings. A conventional tail unit was used, also with all wooden construction. Landing was done on a retractable skid. Since the DFS 228 was to operate in extremely high altitudes, a completely pressurized cockpit was designed. Although it was thought at first that the pressure cabin could be of wooden construction, a metal compartment was built after the wooden one failed to hold sufficient pressure. The nose section was double-walled constructed with aluminum foil insulation. The V1 prototype had a conventional seated pilot’s position, but the V2 and later aircraft were to have a prone pilot position, due to the difficulty of of sealing such a large compartment with the pilot seated upright. All glazed areas were made of double layered Plexiglas and were provided with warm air circulation between layers to prevent frosting of the Plexiglas.
After pressure sealing problems became apparent on the V1 cockpit, it was decided to go with a prone pilot. An adjustable horizontal couch was provided for the pilot to lay on; all controls, oxygen supplies and cockpit equipment mounted directly to the steel tube structure which was then attached directly to the main fuselage bulkhead at the back of the cockpit. This also had the added advantage of keeping the pressurized area small. Thus it was easier to keep sealed. The new cockpit arrangement was incorporated in to the DFS 228 V2 and later aircraft.
A very interesting flight plan was arranged for the operational recognizance DFS 228. It was to be mounted above (or could be towed behind) a carrier aircraft (usually a Do 217K), where it was then carried to approximately 32.808 feet. Upon release, the DFS 228 would then ignite its rocket engine until an altitude of about 75.460-82.021 feet was reached. By this time, the DFS 228 would be over its photographic target area and after its reconnaissance mission was fulfilled, the aircraft would then make a long glide back to base.
In the case of an emergency at high altitudes, the complete pressurized nose section (with all life support equipment attached) could be jettisoned by firing four explosive bolts, or it could take place automatically when the cockpit pressure dropped below a minimum level. An automatic parachute would then deploy to stabilize and slow the descent. When a safe altitude was reached, the pilot was ejected by compressed air, and would then descend to the ground using his personal parachute. This escape procedure was successfully tested by the Soviets after the war, with a captured DFS 346, which had a similar escape system.
DFS 228 V1 flight trials were made at Hörsching, southwest of Linz, by the DFS and also by Erprobungsstelle Rechlin in late 1944. Over 40 test flights were made, and although powered flight was to take place in February 1945, none were actually made using rocket power, and none exceeded 32.808 feet. It was in these tests that the upright pilot’s position was found to be unsuitable for proper cockpit pressurization. The decision was made to go with the prone position cockpit, and was included into the DFS 228 V2, which was built and also flight tested.
The main faults found with the 228 were that it suffered from poor aileron effectiveness at high altitudes and that the elevators were very sensitive. Other than the early pressurization problems, the general handling was satisfactory and the problems would not hamper the intended role of the aircraft. A potential problem could have arisen with the use of the Walter HWK 509A1 or A-2 rocket engines, due to the fact that the flight profile meant for the rocket engine to be intermittently operated, and the possibility existed of valves and pumps freezing up at the extreme altitudes and low temperatures in which the flight was to take place. Of course, newer rocket engines were continually being developed, and perhaps some sort of heating system or the possibility of using M-Stoff and A-Stoff (methanol and oxygen) for fuels, which could have operated at much lower temperatures, could have been developed.
Although powered flight had not been attempted at the time of Germany’s collapse, the construction of a pre-production batch of 10 DFS 228A-0 aircraft had begun at Griesheim, near Darmstadt.
The DFS 228 V2 was destroyed at Hörsching in May 1945, only the forward section had parts worth salvaging. The DFS 228 V1 survived the war, and was surrendered at Ainring in the US Zone of Occupation. On June 18, 1945, it was taken by road to the US Air Technical Intelligence Unit at Stuttgart. It was later sent to the RAE Farnborough in June 1946, and although allegedly was sent to the scrap pile in 1947, another report has the DFS 229 V1 being sent to Slingsby Sailplanes Ltd. at Kirkbymoorside in Yorkshire. Strangely enough, Slingsby offered a design for their T44, a stratospheric research sailplane which incorporated several DFS 228 features, including the detachable pressurized cockpit section (Ref.: 17).
POWERPLANT: Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-44W Double Wasp radial engines, rated at 2,400 hp each plus one Allison J33-A-10 turbojet engine, rated at 2,040 kp thrust
PERFORMANCE: 471 mph
COMMENT: The North American AJ-1 “Savage” was designed shortly after WW II to carry atomic bombs and this meant that the bomber was the heaviest aircraft thus far designed to operate from an aircraft carrier.
At the end of World War II, the U.S. Navy began a design competition on August 1945 for a carrier-based bomber which could carry a 4,536 kg bomb that was won by North American Aviation. Later that year, the Navy decided that it needed to be able to deliver atomic bombs and that the AJ Savage design would be adapted to accommodate the latest Mark 4 nuclear bomb the next step in development from the more sophisticated imploding Plutonium sphere design Mark 3 “Fat Man” used on Nagasaki. A contract for three XAJ-1 prototypes and a static test airframe was awarded on June 1946. The first prototype made its maiden flight two years later on July 1948. That same year the US Navy began an interim capability program employing the Lockheed P-2 “Neptune” carrying a crash program reproduction of the smaller simpler all uranium ‘gun’ design Mark 2 “Little Boy” nuclear bomb as its first carrier launched nuclear bomber aircraft until the “Savage” was in service. The “Neptune” launched using Jet Assisted Take-Off (JATO) rockets but could not land on existing carriers; if launched they had to either ditch at sea after its mission or land at a friendly airbase.
The AJ-1 was a three-seat, high-wing monoplane with tricycle landing gear. To facilitate carrier operations, the outer wing panels and the tailfin could be manually folded. The two piston engines were mounted in nacelles under each wing with a large turbocharger fitted inside each engine nacelle, and an Allison J33-A-10 turbojet that was fitted in the rear fuselage. Only intended to be used for takeoff and maximum speed near the target, the jet was fed by an air inlet on top of the fuselage that was normally kept closed to reduce drag. To simplify the fuel system, both types of engines used the same grade of avgas. Self-sealing fuel tanks were housed in the fuselage and each wing. The aircraft usually carried 300-US-gallon tip tanks and it could house three fuel tanks in the bomb bay with a total capacity of 1,640 US gallons. Other than its 5,400 kg bombload, the bomber was unarmed.
Two of the three prototypes crashed during testing, but their loss did not materially affect the development of the aircraft as the first batch of “Savages” had been ordered on October 1947. The most significant difference between the XAJ-1 and the production aircraft was the revision of the cockpit to accommodate a third crewman in a separate compartment. The first flight by a production aircraft occurred in May 1949 and Fleet Composite Squadron FIVE (VC-5) became the first squadron to receive a “Savage” in September. The squadron participated in testing and evaluating the aircraft together with the Naval Air Test Center (NATC) in order to expedite the “Savage’s” introduction into the fleet. The first carrier takeoff and landing made by the bomber took place from the USS “Coral Sea” on April and August 1950, respectively.
When first deployed, the AJ-1 was too large and heavy to be used by any American aircraft carrier except for the “Midway” class. The modernized “Essex” class carriers with reinforced decks and the very large “Forrestal” class could also handle the “Savage”. The aircraft was not popular aboard ship as it was too big and cumbersome that it complicated any other flight operations the ship was required to conduct. One problem was that the wings had to be folded one at a time by a crewman on top of the fuselage with a portable hydraulic pump, a time-consuming process, so that the bomber could be moved out of the way to allow other aircraft to land or take off. One pilot reported that the AJ-1 was “a dream to fly and handled like a fighter”, when everything was working properly. The aircraft, however, was not very reliable, possibly because it was rushed into production before all the problems could be ironed out. The bomber was replaced by the Douglas A3D “Skywarrior” beginning in 1957. In total140 aircraft were built plus three prototypes (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Argus As 10c air-cooled inline piston engine, rated at 240 hp
PERFORMANCE: 103 mph
COMMENT: German helicopter development began with Focke-Wulf’s acquisition of the rights to manufacture Cierva autogyros during the 1920’s. Over 30 Cierva C.19 and C.30 autogyros were built during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, and from this experience, Heinrich Focke, the engineering half of the Focke-Wulf company, decided to develop an original autogyro design to compete in the Luftwaffe’s contest to provide a utility-liaison aircraft. The Focke-Wulf entry, designated Fw 186, was essentially a Focke-Wulf Fw 56 “Stösser” (Goshawk) parasol wing advanced trainer, with wings removed, tail unit and landing gear redesigned, and configured for two seats in tandem. The engine remained unchanged, with a clutch arrangement installed to start the blades rotating for takeoff. An autogyro, similar in principle to today’s gyrocopters, uses the main power plant for forward thrust, while the rotors freewheel in flight. The aircraft could take off and land in very short distances, but it could not hover or take off and land vertically.
The first flight of the Focke-Wulf Fw 186 was on July 1939 and although very successful, it was beaten out by the Fieseler Fi 156 “Storch” (Stork) for the Luftwaffe contract, and disappeared from the scene afterward. Only two examples were built (Ref.: Planet Models).
Scale 1:72 aircraft models of World War II
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