If you hear the phrase, “top secret flying wing”, you may think of the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber. Decades before the B-2, there was the Horten Ho. 229; a German WWII aircraft with design goals of delivering a 1,000 kg weapon over a 1,000 km range at the speed of 1,000 kph, as requested by Luftwaffe Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. The Ho. 229 was the world’s first jet powered flying wing. Evidence suggests that it would have been an extremely effective bomber/interceptor, but it never flew operationally.
The Horten Brothers made two prototypes; first the H.IX V1, an unpowered glider first flying on March 1, 1944, then a jet powered H.IX V2, making its initial flight on February 2, 1945. During testing, the H.IX V2 engaged in a mock dogfight with a Messerschmitt Me 262, outperforming the aircraft in speed and maneuverability. On February 18, 1945, test pilot Leutnant Erwin Ziller experienced a fire in flight which ultimately caused his death and the loss of the H.IX V2.
By this time, the Ho. 229 V3 was in the works, a larger pre-production prototype of this Horten flying wing. Work feverishly progressed on this prototype, but WWII ended before it could fly. The nearly completed aircraft was captured by US Armed Forces and transported back to America under Operation Paperclip, an attempt to collect Germany’s engineers and technology before the Soviet Union did the same. It was under this same operation that Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team of rocket engineers were initially brought to the United States.
For decades, the Ho. 229 V3 rested behind closed doors in Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Paul E. Garber Restoration Facility. Over the decades, a privileged few have been allowed to poke and prod this aircraft. Among these people was a group from the Northrop-Grumman Model Shop. Funded and documented by the National Geographic Channel, they build a high-fidelity mockup, accurate in not only size and shape, but also radar cross-section (RCS). Any flying wing characteristically gives a smaller radar return than a conventional aircraft. Reimar Horten built the aircraft’s skin out of plywood bonded together with glue impregnated with sawdust and charcoal. The jury is still out about whether this was done to reduce RCS, or just find a glue that could effectively hold their plies together, but it certainly would have helped the former. Northrop engineers tested the stealth characteristics of the Ho. 229 V3 at the Tejon Ranch RCS Facility. Their findings showed a reduction in RCS of 60% compared to similarly sized aircraft of the day. This reduced RCS could have made the Ho. 229 a very effective weapon, drastically reducing an early warning radar’s effectiveness, delaying defense response time.
Now, Northrop’s model hangs in the San Diego Air & Space Museum in California (shown above). This is the only physical connection the public has to a Ho. 229 until the Smithsonian Air & Space museum soon begins restoration of the airframe acquired in Operation Paperclip.
Did I say ‘dragons, man’? I meant, ‘dragon-man’. Haha, I spent two hours making this. I really like it. There are about 18 or 19 separate layers on this. Mostly all of pngs. I won’t say which are separate though as it may ruin the illusion. But this is still really cool and it seems like the quality of my edits are improving. So, that’s awesome.